Perhaps no one in the history of the New York Mets has gotten more chances to prove themselves than Rafael Montero. The fact that is true has continued to baffle and irritate Mets fans who have watched him pitch to a 5.38 ERA and 1.705 WHIP in his Major League career.
But it’s more than that. The Mets have questioned his competitiveness and his toughness. They have even had him suffer the indignity to being demoted to Double-A. Nothing seems to work, and yet he remains on the Mets roster. Worse yet, he remains while talented pitchers who have produced are sent packing.
If we are being fair, we should pinpoint the 2016 season as the breaking point. In 2014, Montero acquitted himself well in his limited time, and in 2015, Montero suffered an injury, albeit one the Mets doubted truly existed. Montero would get a chance again in 2016. There’s no sugar coating just how poorly he pitched. About the only place he pitched well was Binghamton, and he wasn’t exactly stellar there going 4-3 with a 3.12 ERA.
And yet, Montero remained a Met.
After the 2016 season, the Mets traded both Gabriel Ynoa and Logan Verrett to the Baltimore Orioles for cash considerations to help clear up space on the 40 man roster. The team would lose Matthew Bowman in the Rule 5 Draft. An injured Sean Gilmartinwas designated for assignment and claimed off waivers by the St. Louis Cardinals.
Because of these moves and because of all the injuries, Montero got another chance in 2017. He would reward the Mets faith and patience by going 5-11 with a 5.52 ERA, 1.748 WHIP, 5.1 BB/9, and an 8.6 K/9.
In an effort to be as fair as possible to Montero, he did get his first real extended chance to prove he belongs in the majors. From June 15th until the end of the season, he was on the Major League roster, and he would make 21 appearances and 16 starts. In that stretch, he was 5-7 with a 4.98 ERA, 1.591 WHIP, 4.5 BB/9, and an 8.5 K/9.
Certainly, that was better, but it was not significantly different than his career numbers, which just have not been the caliber of a Major League starting pitcher. While you may not feel as if the Mets lost much of value in the aforementioned pitchers lost, the healthy pitchers in the group undoubtedly pitched better than Montero last year.
Now, the Mets are repeating their same mistakes. After the conclusion of the 2017 season, the team drafted Burch Smithin the Rule 5 Draft and sold him to the Kansas City Royals. To make room for Jay Bruce and Adrian Gonzalez on the 40 man roster, Kevin McGowan and Chasen Bradford were designated for assignment.
While McGowan struggled in his time in the majors last year, Bradford certainly did not. In fact, Bradford was one of the few pleasant surprises last season. In 28 major league appearances, he was 2-0 with a 3.74 ERA, 1.277 WHIP, 3.5 BB/9, and a 7.2 K/9. Montero would have to significantly improve to match those numbers, and yet, he is the one that remains on the 40 man roster.
At some point, push is finally going to come to shove, and Montero will no longer be a part of the Mets organization. With Montero being out of options, maybe this year is the year. Maybe not. After all, the Mets do have spots open for competition in the Opening Day bullpen, and by now I’m sure the Mets have talked themselves into believing Mickey Callawayand Dave Eiland will turn Montero into the next Dennis Eckersley.
Editor’s Note: This was first published on MMO
After the 2017 season ended, and the Mets set out to build their roster for the 2018 season, the most glaring need was a second baseman. Given the options in free agency and the state of the Mets farm system, it also proved to be one of the most difficult holes to fill.
Initially, the Mets did act prudently by looking to obtain Ian Kinsler from the Detroit Tigers. While he was coming off a down year offensively, he was still a very good defender at the position. If rumors were true, the Mets stepped up and they made the best offer to the Detroit Tigers.
The problem was Kinsler had a no trade clause to the Mets. He used that clause to force a deal to the Angels. Very likely, the reason was all of the gaps in the Mets roster and their limited budget this offseason.
Speaking of the limited budget, yes, we can absolutely blame the Wilpons for not fully investing in this team. While many will defend them on the concept of finances, it should be noted the Wilpons did have money to invest in an eSports team and the Islanders new arena.
With that said, there was money to be spent. Yes, it wasn’t enough, but if spent properly, there was enough to at least build a credible roster. The problem is Sandy Alderson isn’t spending the money wisely.
Certainly, you can justify the Anthony Swarzak signing. If the Mets have any intentions of competing next year, they needed an extra arm to bring to Jeurys Familia in the ninth. With Swarzak joining AJ Ramos to set up for Familia, the Mets have a good 7-8-9 tandem. With Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland, you can reasonably assume the Mets will be able to find an arm or two to join Jerry Blevins to form a good if not formidable bullpen.
The problem is what Sandy Alderson has done with the money since signing Swarzak at the close of the Winter Meetings.
The first issue was a trade for Jason Kipnis was rejected by someone with the Mets. The natural culprits are the Wilpons as the reports said someone higher up. It’s a baffling decision because even if you have your concerns about him, he’s a good fit in the lineup and in the clubhouse. There’s also the benefit of his knowing Callaway from their days in Cleveland.
Of course, this means three things. The first is the team is all but done with Dominic Smith, at least for the 2018 season. The second is Michael Conforto is likely out longer than advertised. The third is the Mets are effectively punting on second base.
Howie Kendrick, who was a viable second base candidate, is now off the board, and with him went the last reasonable shot at getting a starting second baseman in free agency. That is, unless, you believe Eduardo Nunez, will now be healthy, capable of playing second, and the Mets have enough to sign him.
If you want someone in a trade, like Josh Harrison, get in line. Teams with much deeper systems, like the Yankees, have interest in him as well. As a result, this means the Mets are out on him.
Overall, this means the Mets are going to bring back Jose Reyes to play second alongside Amed Rosario. This is the same Reyes who was one of the worst regulars in all of baseball last year. He had a -0.6 WAR, a 94 wRC+, and he accomplished the astounding feat of posting a negative DRS at FOUR positions. One of those was second where he had a -5 DRS in 207.1 innings.
And remember the last time Reyes played second base full time? That would be the 2004 season when the Mets big acquisition was Kaz Matsui. When your offseason plan mirrors the plans of your 2004 plans, you know the Mets are in trouble.
And yes, they are. They’re in trouble because they don’t have the money to spend and because Sandy Alderson isn’t spending it wisely. Consider for a second, Matt Adams and Kendrick, two versatile players that would have been immensely helpful to the Mets for depth and/or platoons, signed with the Nationals for a combined $11 million. That’s less than a million more they are paying Bruce and Gonzalez on a team that already had Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, Wilmer Flores, and Smith.
Overall, the Mets may not have had much money to spend, but whatever money they did have, Sandy Alderson squandered it away on duplicative players. Remember that when the Mets second base situation holds the team back throughout the 2018 season.
With the Mets hiring both Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland coupled with the team possibly only adding Anthony Swarzak to the pitching staff this offseason, it appears much of the hope for the 2018 Mets are tied to the current Mets pitchers improving. Fortunately, the team has both the right coaching staff in place as well as a talented group of pitchers who underwhelmed last year. Here are five different pitchers who may take a step forward next season under Callaway’s and Eiland’s tutelage:
After his 2016 stint in the majors, many believed Gsellman would emerge as one of the front-runners for the Rookie of the Year Award. Instead, he had about as poor a 2017 season as you could imagine with him being ineffective, suffering an injury, and his being dismissive of Sandy Alderson’s critique of his performance.
Looking over his stats last season, none of his pitchers were really working. That should come as no surprise when opposing batters hit .280/.345/.462 off of him. Still, as we saw in 2016, this is a pitcher with talent, and he is now working with a coaching staff that helps get a pitcher maximize his talent.
While much has been discussed about Callaway’s focus on the two seamer, fact is he has also successfully worked with sinkers. As noted by Let’s Go Tribe, Callaway has gotten his sinker ball pitchers to focus less on pounding the sinker and more in mixing their pitches and throwing a more diverse fastball selection. From that, we have not only seen Corey Kluber emerge as a perennial Cy Young candidate, but we have also seen pitchers like Trevor Bauer and Carlos Correa maximize their talent.
A similar handling of Gsellman, who threw his fastball and sinker 63% of the time last year, could well yield similar results to those pitchers in Cleveland.
One thing that was clear from Lugo last year was he struggles the third time through the lineup. In his brief Major League career, batters have hit .299/.352/.425 during his third time through the lineup. In that sense, Lugo is not unique as we have seen that happen to other quality pitchers.
However, if utilized properly, Lugo could very well be a very good Major League pitcher. All that is needed is someone to be forward thinking in how he is handled.
One example of this is Kyle Hendricks. He historically struggled the third time through the lineup, so his manager Joe Maddon limited the times Hendricks did this, and the result was Hendricks finishing third in Cy Young voting in 2016.
Another avenue to pursue is to make Lugo a reliever. We have seen Eiland have success converting starters into relievers with his work with pitchers like Luke Hochevar and Wade Davis. Also, given Callaway’s influence on how the Indians utlizied Andrew Miller, Lugo could become a real weapon in that bullpen.
Robles is prone to stretches of both complete dominance and complete ineptitude. For example, from Opening Day to May 18th, Robles had made 18 appearances going 4-0 with a 1.42 ERA, 1.053 WHIP, and a 9.5 K/9. During that stretch, opposing batters hit just .169/.295/.277. After that, he had a three appearance stretch that saw him give up at least four earned in each appearances leading to his demotion to Triple-A where he continued to struggle.
One of the reasons why we see those stretches of dominance from Robles is his stuff. He throws a mid to high 90s fastball with a good mid 80s slider. What he needs is to learn how to become more consistent. That could be accomplished with a more defined role, conservative usage, and really, better coaching.
Smoker has great stuff. He combines a mid to high 90s fastball with a devastating split. It’s a large reason why even when things go wrong, the left-handed pitcher struck out 10.9 batters per nine at the major league level. Aside from the stuff and the good strikeout rate, there were many problems with Smoker.
Smoker had shoulder issues again, likely related to his being overused, and he struggled with left-handed batters, at least until September. Perhaps most alarming, and possibly a reason for his struggles, Smoker walked 5.6 batters per nine last year.
At this point in his career, Smoker needs someone who can help him better command his stuff. With Callaway being an exceptional teacher and proponent of the curveball, he could get Smoker to make that pitch a that could be a weapon against left-handed batters. If so, Smoker can get back to the point where he was entering the 2017 season – a hard throwing reliever with real upside.
Look, 2015 is a long way away, and 2013 is even further away than that. During the last season, we not only saw Harvey broken down physically (again), but we finally saw some cracks in his self confidence. This wasn’t the Dark Knight anymore. This was just plain old Matt Harvey. And we don’t know if Matt Harvey can be an effective Major League pitcher.
What we do know is that he was completely mishandled from the get-go last year. By Dan Warthen‘s own admission, Harvey was not going to be 100% until May. Despite that, Harvey was in the Opening Day rotation, and he pitched and pitched until he could pitch no more. His results were blamed on poor mechanics.
The truth was the muscles in Harvey’s pitching shoulder had atrophied, and he was suffering a stress reaction. Fact is, he wasn’t ready to go. Harvey may very well have pushed to pitch, but the Mets never did stand in the way to protect Matt from himself. Moreover, they never did fix the mechanical issues all parties purported him to have.
With Eiland, the Mets have a pitching coach whose bread and butter is mechanics. Both Callaway and Eiland pushed the Mets to keep Harvey rather than trade him because they believed in him. They believed in him because they see something in him that perhaps no one else sees anymore. With them in place, there are coaches who believe in his talent and know how to get the most out of it. Whether that happens remains to be seen.
If you’ve been paying attention, the Mets seem to be interested in everyone this offseason. If you take those players they’re interested in, you’d have an amazing roster:
1B Todd Frazier
2B Neil Walker
SS Amed Rosario
CF Lorenzo Cain
Wait, you don’t believe any of this is going to happen?
Mets and Angels are very similar in many ways.
Both teams play in major media markets with both teams being overshadowed in said market.
As we know, the Mets are overshadowed by a Yankees team with 27 titles. If you forget for even a nanosecond, don’t worry, a Yankees fan will be there to remind you.
Similarly, the Dodgers overshadow the Angels. The title disparity is somewhat similar with the Dodgers winning six World Series (five in Los Angeles) to the Angels one.
The title disparity in both situations appears set to expand with Yankee and Dodger, loaded with young talent and farm systems, were so close to winning the World Series.
The Yankees had a 3-2 lead in the ALCS before heading back to Houston.
Both teams are now gearing up so they won’t fall short again.
The Yankees have already added Giancarlo Stanton, and they have re-signed CC Sabathia. The team also has cleared payroll by trading Chase Headley to the Padres leaving them with more money to improve their team without going over the luxury tax.
The Dodgers and Yankees are not done this offseason, which is scary given how their rosters are already good enough to win a World Series. That should promise to put to Mets and Angels further back in the rearview mirror.
This begs the question as to what should you do as the Mets or Angels, two teams who were under .500 last year, should do this offseason.
The Angels have decided to go for it. They have been very active this offseason significantly upgrading their roster, by making the following moves:
- Acquired Jim Johnson
- Re-sign Justin Upton
- Signed Shohei Ohtani
- Acquired Ian Kinsler
- Signed Zack Cozart
In addition to these moves, they also signed Braves prospect Kevin Maitan, which should be a boost to their poor farm system.
The Mets? Well, they have been the Mets this offseason in that they have not done much:
- Hired new coaching staff featuring Mickey Callaway (manager) and Dave Eiland (pitching coach)
- Acquired Burch Smith in the Rule 5 Draft and traded him to the Kansas City Royals for cash considerations
- Signed Anthony Swarzak
- Signed Jose Lobaton to a minor league deal
Perhaps tellingly, the Mets primary targets went elsewhere. Bryan Shaw went to pitch in Coors Field instead of Citi Field with his old pitching coach.
And Kinsler outrighted rejected a trade to the Mets. It’s quite telling he had the Mets and Angels on his 10 team no trade list, and he accepted a trade to the Angels.
Overall, the offseason isn’t over, and perhaps the Mets still have a significant move or two left in them. It’s going to be extremely difficult with the team cutting payroll and outright refusing to answer questions on the topic:
— Marc Carig (@MarcCarig) December 17, 2017
Too bad, the Mets can’t be more like the Angels, who don’t play in the top media market in the country, have played in the same ballpark since 1966, and don’t have their own regional sports network.
With the sixth pick of the Rule 5 Draft, the Mets were not supposed to be able to select Burch Smith. However, by some fortune, the player rated by Baseball America as the top prospect in the Rule 5 Draft, fell to the Mets. Even better, the Mets made the wise decision to pick him.
But they weren’t smart enough to keep him.
In what was likely a prearranged deal with the Kansas City Royals, the Mets traded Smith for cash considerations or a player to be named later.
Look, we don’t know if Smith can be an effective Major League player. There is certainly a reason the Tampa Bay Rays left him unprotected. His joining Zack Wheeler in missing the 2015 and 2016 seasons to Tommy John probably played no small part. Still, this was a talented player Baseball America projects as Major League ready:
Smith sat 94-96 mph with his fastball, flashed a knee-buckling 74-76 mph curveball and showed a swing-and-miss 79-81 mph changeup. Though he’s 27 and has had serious arm health issues, Smith is major league ready and has the stuff to help a team as a back-end starter or move to the bullpen.
Looking at the Mets as constituted now, it is bizarre to think the team could part with Smith without so much as getting real player back or giving him a chance. With stuff like Smith has, and with the arrival of Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland, you would anticipate the Mets organization could get the most out of Smith. Whether that is as a short inning reliever, a long man (like Sean Gilmartin in 2015), or a fifth starter, Smith at least appears to be a MLB pitcher.
Obviously, the Royals believed that to be true with them dangling cash in front of a Mets team that is cutting payroll.
Sarcasm aside, the role Smith would fulfill on this Mets team would be the one given to Robert Gsellman or Rafael Montero. With Gsellman’s not caring what the GM thinks combined with his poor season and with Montero having the career he has had, it begs the question why you would turn your back on a player who could conceivably fulfill the same role and possibly do it better.
Right now, no one is quite sure what Smith is as a Major Leaguer. The same could be said about Pedro Beato in 2010 or Johan Santana in 1999. Point is, we don’t know what or who Smith will be. However, we do know what the Mets have, which makes their decision to just give Smith away all the more troubling.
After the purported hand-wringing Sandy Alderson was doing over the free agent reliever market, the Mets finally pulled the trigger, and they signed Anthony Swarzak to a two year $14 million deal.
There is a lot to like about Swarzak. Last year, the 32 year old had his best ever season going 6-4 with a 2.33 ERA, 1.034 WHIP, 2.6 BB/9, and a 10.6 K/9. As noted by D.J. Short of Rotoworld, Swarzak had a higher swinging strike percentage than old friend Addison Reed. Part of that could be attributed to the fact he added about two MPH on his fastball.
He’s also been a platoon neutral pitcher his entire career with his best season being in 2017. While limiting right-handed batters to a .218/.259/.346 batting line, left-handed batters were worse against him hitting .198/.294/.281.
These stats are all the more incredible and important when you consider he predominantly worked in the 7th and 8th innings. The Mets needed another set-up man to work with AJ Ramos to hand the ball to Jeurys Familia in the 9th.
Overall, this is all important, and the signing helps the Mets. However it isn’t enough, especially because this is all but a shapshot of Swarzak’s career.
It was just in 2015 Swarzak had a 5.26 ERA and 1.516 WHIP in the Korean Leagues. In 2016, his first season back from Korea, he was 1-2 with a 5.52 ERA for the Yankees.
While he was obviously improved since then, it was mostly on the strength of some outliers. Prior to last season, he yielded a .304 BABIP. In 2017, that number was .272.
Prior to 2017, Swarzak left 69.8% of runners on base, which is right around league average. Last season, his LOB% was a career best 82.9%.
Maybe these numbers were all the result of improved stuff. Maybe it was him becoming more comfortable in the bullpen. It’s just as possible the increased velocity and some of the BABIP and LOB% will regress to league and career norms.
Overall, the Mets did acquire a quality reliever who should prove to better than internal options like Hansel Robles, Paul Sewald, and Josh Smoker. Moreover, Swarzak is getting the opportunity to work with Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland. If there’s a tandem you trust to help Swarzak make 2017 the new norm instead of an outlier, it’s them.
Still, with the stark contrast between the 2017 and career numbers, the Mets need to hedge their bets that Swarzak may very well regress. In the end, this means that while Swarzak may very well prove to be a nice addition, he’s far from being the final piece of the puzzle.
While the New York Yankees were introducing their newest player Giancarlo Stanton and basking in the afterglow of their reemergence as the Evil Empire, the Mets were contemplating an exit strategy for Matt Harvey. According to reports, this includes potentially trading him to the Texas Rangers for Jurickson Profar.
The Mets even contemplating such a move is a dangerous situation for the franchise, and it is a move that can blow up in their faces.
Look, there is no doubt, Harvey is no longer Harvey. Over the past two seasons, he has dealt with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, atrophied muscles in his throwing shoulder, and an ensuing stress reaction. His combined stats are a 9-17 record with a 5.78 ERA and a 1.581 WHIP.
Looking over that, there is every doubt Harvey could get back to being a good Major League pitcher let alone the Dark Knight.
You know what is even more doubtful? Profar will ever live up to the billing of being Baseball America‘s top prospect after the 2012 season.
After receiving the top billing, Profar missed consecutive seasons due to shoulder injuries. Since returning from those injuries, Profar has played in 112 games over the past two seasons hitting .227/.316/.315. That’s good for a 67 OPS+ and a 71 wRC+.
Defensively, he’s played everywhere because when you hit as poorly as Profar, you’re nothing more than a utility player. Albeit in limited sample sizes, he’s capably handled first, second, third, short, and left field. The key phrase here is capably, not well. In the end if you are not outstanding defensively, you cannot afford to have offensive stats as low as Profar.
With how poorly Profar has performed, it begs the question why anyone would have interest in him, let alone a Mets team who already have middling and much better second base and platoon options. Really, the Mets should be hesitant to trade Rafael Montero for Profar let alone Harvey.
With Harvey, you at least have some hope. That’s not just hope in the clubhouse, but also with the fanbase.
The team brought on Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland. The team appears to be bringing in a new person to oversee the training program. All of these things indicate Harvey could very well rebound. Quite possibly he doesn’t, but at the very least, there are the tools in place needed for Harvey to be Harvey.
Even if he fails in the rotation, Mets fans can talk themselves into being a dominant reliever. We need not look any further than Brandon Morrow or what Eiland, himself, did with Mike Minor, who coincidentally signed a free agent deal with the Rangers.
That comes to the next point. Harvey brings more than hope. He’s a lightning rod for the Mets. Every fifth day, he demands attention. He’s an interesting and polarizing figure. Put another way, he’s a star.
As Sandy Alderson reminded us when the Mets re-signed Yoenis Cespedes, Major League Baseball is in the entertainment business. Teams need to not only be good. They need to be entertaining. They need to give people a reason to watch.
Harvey does that. Profar never has and never will. Really, any player the Mets would move for Harvey would do that.
At a time when the Yankees are the most interesting they have been since 2009 or even during their last dynasty, the Mets can ill afford to be both bad and boring. With the team plugging holes with players like Profar, they promise to be bad. With the Mets moving players like Harvey, they promise to be boring.
When you’re both bad and boring, no one wants to come to the ballpark. More than anyone else, the Mets should know that with Grant’s Tomb and the Madoff Scandal.
Fortunately for the moment, the Mets do not appear to believe Profar is enough for Harvey. Make no mistake, the trade discussions with the Rangers is but the first step in what may be Harvey’s last day as a member of the Mets organization as the team seems intent to move him.
Overall, the Mets can ill afford to trade Harvey because they can’t replace him or the hope he presents the team. With him goes what fleeting relevancy the Mets have in New York. Love him or hate him, the Mets need him.
With the Giancarlo Stanton trade saga and Shohei Ohtani looking for a team, the hot stove has been rather lukewarm this time of the year. With that said, we have seen some movement on the reliever market both be fore and after Stanton and Ohtani selected their ultimate destinations:
- Luke Gregerson 2 years $11 million
- Brandon Morrow 2 years $21 million
- Miles Mikolas 2 years $15.5 million
- Mike Minor 3 years $28 million
Now, based upon Sandy Alderson’s previous comments and behavior, you would think this would leave the Mets GM emboldened. The only reliever that got a deal more than two years was Minor, who was actually signed to pitch in the Rangers starting rotation.
Instead, Sandy Alderson spoke with reporters and crushed what little hope Mets fans had this offseason.
On the reliever market, which has already seen quality relievers sign to reasonable deals, Alderson said, “And to the extent that the market gets overheated, I wouldn’t think that we’ll jump into the inferno.” (Newsday).
Just wait, it gets better.
Alderson also admitted what Mets fans suspected to be true – the Mets didn’t even try to acquire Stanton. Hopefully, because he thinks we’re all stupid, Alderson didn’t cite that big contract as a reason. No, Alderson actually cited the fact the team had Brandon Nimmo as the reason why.
This is the same Nimmo the team never gave a real shot to start, at least before the fire sale and injuries, and the team won’t give a starting spot in next year’s outfield. Apparently to the amazement of everyone, the Mets don’t need the reigning MVP because Nimmo has gotten dramatically better in the roughly two months since the season ended. He’s now an MVP caliber player.
That’s awesome because as we all know Alderson’s drafts have been spotty at best. His drafts have produced only two All Stars. The first, Michael Conforto, is rehabbing from a significant shoulder injury, and we don’t know if he will ever be the same (NOTE: don’t get a Mets fan started on team injuries). The second, Michael Fulmer, is a Tiger because back in 2014, the Mets thought Michael Cuddyer was the answer to their need for a productive hitter. As we know he wasn’t, and by extension, the Mets lost two first round picks.
But wait, after an offseason that began with the Mets leaking they have soured on Dominic Smith, the team is high on him again saying, “We’re still very high on Dominic — some of my comments earlier in the offseason notwithstanding.”
Apparently, the team is no longer interested in players like Carlos Santana not because of the cost, but rather, because Smith has been on the same postseason regiment as Nimmo where disappointing first round draft picks suddenly transform into MVP caliber players overnight.
Not discussed during the discussion with reporters was the Mets latest bombshell. They are now dangling Matt Harvey this offseason in exchange for a reliever.
As we have learned the past two seasons, the one thing the Mets can well afford to do is to be reckless with pitching depth. No, we can’t count on Harvey to be anything. However, the same can be said for Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz.
Considering the Mets heavily invested in their pitching staff by hiring Mickey Callaway as manager and Dave Eiland as pitching coach, why not see if they can get Harvey back to being the Dark Knight, or at the very least a reliable starting pitcher?
Do you really need to trade him for a sixth inning reliever? And if that is the case, why not let Harvey move to the bullpen? With Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman, you already have seven starters for five spots. Someone is going to have to go to Triple-A or the bullpen. If Harvey can’t withstand the rotation, why not find out if he can the bullpen?
And there we have it. The Mets not only have no faith in their coaching staff, but they are already backing off players on the eve of the Winter Meetings.
It was almost yesterday the Mets were discussing Santana, Ohtani, Lorenzo Cain, and Jason Kipnis. Now? Well, we are talking trading Harvey to help fix the bullpen, and Nimmo and Smith as being a significant part of the future when just a month earlier they were not a legitimate starting option.
This is what happens when the Mets aren’t trying to generate hype to get fans to purchase individual game tickets. It’s what happens when the Mets are entering a Winter Meetings when their initial hype and hope are about to get exposed.
With the Mets cutting payroll and having holes and question marks across the 25 and 40 man roster, it is finally time for Juan Lagares to sink or swim.
With respect to Lagares, he was never supposed to have been a question mark. Certainly, the Mets didn’t feel this way when they gave him a four year $23 million contract extension on the eve of the 2015 season.
When giving Lagares the extension, the expectation was Lagares would continue being a Gold Glover out there, and he would eventually learn to hit a little. While hindsight may be 20/20, this was about as good a bet as there could have been with Lagares hitting .281/.321/.382 with a 102 OPS+ and a 101 wRC+ in 2014. His ability to be a league average hitter and otherworldly in center made him a 5.4 bWAR and 3.9 fWAR player that year. That made him the best player on the Mets.
Since that season, things have fallen apart for him. In 2015, he regressed at the plate, which would have been palatable if he didn’t regress even more in the field. In the subsequent two seasons, Lagares seems to have been getting back to the player he was in 2014, but he has suffered significant thumb injuries in successive seasons.
This could be a cause for pessimism, but we saw the 2014 Lagares in the field again last year. That Lagares wasn’t just a Gold Glover, he was the guy you expected to catch everything. He was the guy who was head and shoulders above even the best defensive center fielders in the game.
Among center fielders with at least 550 innings last year, Lagares was third overall and tops in the National League with a 15 DRS. He was also the Major League leader with a 24.7 UZR/150. You could chalk these up to small sample sizes all the like, but consider the numbers he put up in 2013 and 2014:
- 2013: 26 DRS, 33.1 UZR/150
- 2014: 26 DRS, 25.3 UZR/150
At his core this is who Lagares is. And with all of Major League Baseball prioritizing hitting the ball in the air, having Lagares patrolling center field is an imperative.
As we saw, the Mets pitching staff all regressed last year. Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman weren’t the hot shot rookies they were in 2016. Even when “healthy,” Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler weren’t who we expected them to be. Even Jacob deGrom, who had a resurgent year a year after having ulnar nerve transposition surgery, wasn’t the same pitcher posting career worsts in ERA, ERA+, FIP, and HR/9.
So far, the Mets have done a lot to help address these issues. They’ve hired Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland. They’ve discussed not allowing their pitchers go a third time through the lineup. While both could help, it is indisputable having Lagares in center will be an enormous benefit as well.
Now, if you can get Lagares to hit even a little, then you have the player you thought you had in 2014. You have the player you thought would have a collection of Gold Gloves at this point in his career. You have the player the Mets once thought was worth $23 million. You have an answer to one of the biggest question marks on a Mets roster that has more holes in it that a piece of Swiss cheese attacked with a hole puncher.
Overall, the best bet for the Mets in 2018 is a healthy and productive Lagares. He helps the pitching staff return to form, and he allows the Mets to allocate money to other areas of the team that are in more desperate need of addressing. And if that doesn’t work, you at least have a platoon partner for Brandon Nimmo out there . . . .