Dellin Betances

Coronavirus Shutdown Helps Mets

Now that Major League Baseball has finally done the right thing in shutting down Spring Training and postponing the first few weeks of the 2020 season, we can now look at how this will impact individual teams. With respect to the New York Mets, this shutdown is exactly what they needed. That may seem a bit crass, but it is true nonetheless.

At the moment, the Mets were put in a precarious situation as Michael Conforto was dealing with an oblique injury. This injury left the Mets in a position where they needed to go with a couple of first basemen in J.D. Davis and Dominic Smith in the corners or go with Jake Marisnick in an everyday role despite his inability to be even a near league average hitter when he knew what was coming.

This shutdown doesn’t just give Conforto time to heal, but it also gives Yoenis Cespedes more time to heal and get ready for the season. According to all reports, he had been working quite hard to get back on the field, and he was making considerable progress. However, even with all of his progress, he had not yet been playing in full games.

The further back the season is pushed; the more time Conforto and Cespedes have to get ready to play games. With each day the start of the season is pushed back (that’s an unknown at this point), the greater the chance Conforto and Cespedes will be ready for Opening Day.

Even if they are not ready for the new Opening Day, they will miss fewer games as a result of the delay to the start of the season. That means we are this much closer to an outfield of Cespedes-Brandon Nimmo-Conforto. That type of outfield takes the Mets from postseason contender to World Series contender.

It is not just Cespedes who is rehabbing from an injury which robbed him of his 2019 season. Dellin Betances was only able to pitch 0.2 innings for the Yankees last year due to a shoulder injury and then a partially torn Achillies. It was only recently he began pitching in Spring Training games.

As is typically the case, it takes Betances time during Spring Training to go from the low 90s to the upper 90s. When Betances is able to get to that point, he is a completely different reliever. It may be difficult to remember now, but when Betances can ramp up his fastball to the upper 90s he truly is the best reliever in baseball. The more time he has to get back to that pitcher (which may not be a given) the better for him and the Mets.

Generally speaking, the more time the Mets pitching staff has to work on things, the better. This is the first year with pitching coach Jeremy Hefner. There are things he wants to share with players, and there are tweaks in deliveries and pitch sequencing/usage he wants the staff to make. Getting to get some of that out of the way now as opposed to in games helps.

Speaking of more time to prepare for the season, this is Luis Rojas‘s first year at the helm. While he has managed most of these players previously, he has not done it at this level. The more time he has to bond with the team and manage expectations the better he and the team will be set up for success.

Overall, the coronavirus has created a serious situation, and things should not be taken lightly. It may seem crass to say this about a virus which is infecting people at a scary rate leading to the shut down of all pro sports and society as a whole, but this is a bad situation which will help the New York Mets.

Mets Can Be Patient With Dellin Betances

The New York Mets signed Dellin Betances to be a big piece of their bullpen. The question for Betances and the Mets is when exactly that is going to happen.

Betances dealt with shoulder issues entering the 2019 season, and he would never quite regain his full velocity. When he was able to finally pitch he would partially tear his achilles. That set forth a trip into free agency with a number of questions marks and suppressed value on the market.

With there being just weeks before Opening Day, Betances has yet to play in a Spring Training game. Moreover, Betances’ velocity is still down, which isn’t all that unusual for him at this point in the year.

With the velocity down and Betances not appearing in a Spring Training game, the conversation about his availability for Opening Day needs to begin. While he COULD theoretically be ready, the Mets need to discuss whether he SHOULD be there.

No matter what the decision, one thing should be clear – the Mets don’t need to push Betances because the Mets have viable short-term alternatives at their disposal.

At the outset, it should be noted the Mets do have a bit of a Spring Training battle for the last spot in the bullpen. With Brad Brach, Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, Seth Lugo, and Justin Wilson guaranteed spots, there are three bullpen spots up for grabs. One of those is likely going to Michael Wacha, and when he is healthy, Betances takes the other leaving one.

It’s very likely that last spot goes to Robert Gsellman, but the Mets do have him spend the offseason preparing to be a starter. In the potential absence of Betances, he should be all but guaranteed a bullpen spot. That leaves some interesting options behind him.

Jacob Rhame is out of options, and as noted, he may be a sneaky candidate to make the Opening Day roster. Walker Lockett is in the same position as Rhame, but he does not have the same spin rates or velocity as Rhame, and he has also been more of a starter in his career.

Paul Sewald is continuously overlooked, but when he gets his chance, he does pitch well in spurts. He has shown versatility as a one inning reliever and as a late inning reliever. With the exception of one poor outing, he allowed one earned or less in 16 of his 17 relief appearances. His penultimate one last year yielded his first Major League win.

As enticing as Sewald may be, Daniel Zamora may be more so. With the new three batter minimum rule, left-handed relievers who can get right-handed batters out become all the more valuable. In his professional career, Zamora has reverse splits, and he has pitched well against them during Spring Training.

In terms of Zamora, with the three batter rule, you could argue he should be a leading candidate for the Opening Day bullpen even if Betances was ready.

Of course, Betances could be ready for Opening Day making this all academic. Still, the Mets need to prepare for that eventuality, and perhaps even if Betances might be ready, they could opt to give him some additional time. After all, Betances has thrown all of 0.2 innings over the past year.

If nothing else, you wonder how deep into the season he can go after not throwing many innings at all last year. No matter what the Mets do, they need to remember it is not about Opening Day. It is about October – how to get there and how to win when they get there. Fortunately, they have the depth options to get Betances there.

Wilson Ramos Continued Evolution Behind The Plate Key To Mets Success

During the 2019 season, there were rumblings the Mets pitching staff was not happy with Wilson Ramos‘ work behind the plate. While Noah Syndergaard was the only one who went public, we did hear rumblings about other pitchers.

For example, there were issues early on in the season between Ramos and Jacob deGrom. This led to deGrom briefly using Tomas Nido as his personal catcher to get his season back on track and to get him moving towards winning his second straight Cy Young.

Behind the scenes, deGrom and Ramos worked together to get on the same page. Beginning on June 7, Ramos again caught deGrom the majority of the time. From that point forward, deGrom was 8-3 with a 1.88 ERA. In essence, the two figured it out, and once again, deGrom was deGrom.

All we know is that the two worked out what needed to be worked out, but we never quite knew the issue. In a recent interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, Zack Wheeler described what the issue between Ramos and really the rest of the pitching staff might’ve been.

Wheeler mostly tabbed unfamiliarity as the issue saying, “I wanted to go up there [with high fastballs] but he wasn’t calling it, so I didn’t throw it up there. Nothing on him. He was getting used to us also. But I knew I needed to go up there a good bit, even early in the count.”

Looking at Wheeler’s first half, he struggled. In 19 starts, he had a 4.69 ERA. The second half was a different story. As Wheeler noted, Ramos was calling the pitches up in the zone more, as he had wanted, and Wheeler rebounded to have another big second half.

Akin to deGrom and Wheeler, we saw clear first half and second half splits for the Mets. In the first half, the Mets were outside the top ten in most pitching categories including their having a 4.88 team ERA, which was 10th worst in the majors. In the second half, the Mets staff was significantly improved to be among the best staffs in the game with a 3.48 ERA, which was fourth best in the Majors.

Perhaps it is of no coincidence the Mets were a completely different team in the second half. After being 10 games under .500 in the first half, they were 20 games over .500 (.644) in the second half. With Ramos figuring things out behind the plate and getting on the same page with the Mets pitchers, they were a completely different team.

It seems the only pitcher Ramos couldn’t quite figure things out with was Syndergaard, but to his credit Ramos is working on it by changing his stance. This should allow him to better catch and frame for Syndergaard leading to better results.

Across the board, there should be better results. After all, the awkward feeling out period between Ramos and the staff isn’t really present. In fact, aside from Dellin Betances, Rick Porcello, and Michael Wacha, Ramos has worked with this staff. He knows what they need to do to succeed, and more importantly, what he needs to do to help them succeed.

Overall, Ramos was a a part of the problem in the first half – a big part. However, he was part of the solution in the second half, and now, he may be a big reason why the Mets win in 2020.

Mets Must Pitch J.D. Davis Early And Often

Major League Baseball has implemented new rules which not only restrict the use of left-handed relievers (i.e. LOOGYS), but they have also severely restricted the ability of position players to pitch in games. In fact, according to the new rules, a position player may not pitch unless it is extra innings or “his team is losing or winning by more than six runs when he enters as a pitcher.”

There is a caveat there where a position player can freely enter a game if they are designated as a two-way player. A two way player is someone who has 20 games started as a position player and has pitched 20 innings. As the rule implies, this is a status a player achieves during the course of the season.

Obviously, the 20 way player rule was implemented for a player like Shohei Ohtani who serves as both the Angels DH and a member of their pitching rotation. However, that does not mean other teams should not look to take advantage of this rule.

For the Mets, that means pitching J.D. Davis every opportunity they get.

When the Mets traded for Davis, one of the justifications for the deal was he could step in a reliever if needed. In fact, in his brief Major League career up until that point, Davis had made three relief appearances for the Houston Astros allowing an earned run over 2.2 innings. In those 2.2 innings, he struck out four and walked one.

That was his first pitching experience since college. While at Cal State Fullerton, Davis had 20 appearances. While pitching 43.1 innings, he had a 2.70 ERA, 1.177 WHIP, 2.3 BB/9, and an 8.1 K/9. In his draft report, Baseball America noted ” shows good arm strength off the mound, showing 91-93 mph heat and a decent breaking ball, but his fastball is straight and his arm action isn’t great.”

Put more succinctly, Davis isn’t a Major League quality reliever, but he is a capable pitcher who could help a team out of the bullpen in a real pinch. The thing is you never know when that pinch is going to come.

Far too often, we see times in the season where the Mets pitching staff is completely gassed. The pitchers weren’t giving the length needed. Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman have begun piling up the multiple inning outings. That puts more of an onus on the one inning relievers to push harder than they typically should. Following the Mets, this happens at least twice a year.

With those stretches, an already questionable Mets bullpen will cost the Mets some games they wouldn’t otherwise lose. The job for new manager Luis Rojas and new pitching coach Jeremy Hefner is to find ways to mitigate against that. While being more judicious in how you use your pitching is one element, another is knowing when you send out a position player to pitch.

Early in the season, whenever the Mets have a six run lead or deficit, they should put Davis into the game to accrue innings necessary to achieve that two way player designation. Later in the season, that will allow the Mets to use him in four or five run games when they feel they need to save their pitching staff to give them a break.

Remember, this is an extremely talented Mets bullpen, but it is one with some health issues. Lugo has the torn UCL. Gsellman partially tore his lat. Dellin Betances is coming off an Achillies, and he had shoulder issues prior to that. Justin Wilson pitched through elbow soreness. Edwin Diaz has bone spurs in his pitching elbow. Michael Wacha was shut down with shoulder problems multiple times in his career.

Point is, bullpens, even the best bullpens, need breaks whenever they can get them. That can come in the form of a Jacob deGrom or Noah Syndergaard complete game, and it can come in the form of Davis coming into a game and eating an inning here or there when the opportunity presents itself.

In order to really accomplish that, the Mets should remember a 162 game season is a marathon, and they need to prepare in April and May for problems which may come into play in July and August. Those problems are usually bullpen exhaustion related. To best prepare for that, the Mets should begin implementing strategies to get Davis qualified as a two way player so he is available when they really need help down in the bullpen.

Mets Entering Spring Training Incomplete

Finally, after an eventful winter, even by Mets standards, pitchers and catchers report tomorrow. While the Mets may have an idea as to what their 26 man roster will be, that doesn’t mean this organization is truly ready for the 2020 season.

First and foremost, they need a third everyday outfielder. Perhaps, that could be Yoenis Cespedes, but no one really knows what, if anything, he can contribute.

The Mets may plan to play J.D. Davis out there, and he could possibly platoon with Dominic Smith. Neither situation is ideal with both ideally being first baseman.

Even with Dellin Betances and presumably Michael Wacha, you’d ideally want one more big arm in the bullpen, especially when you can’t be sure what you’re getting with Jeurys Familia or Edwin Diaz. That leaves the Mets hoping either they or likely Robert Gsellman can be that guy.

This speaks to overall depth issues. While there enough bodies, we don’t know if they’re the right or good enough ones. We see that with Tomas Nido and Rene Rivera battling for the backup catcher spot.

Part of that money, which, of course, goes back to the ownership issue. We’ve known for over a decade now the Mets needed new owners, but only now do they realize that themselves.

Of course, they won’t go quietly into the night trying to get to run the Mets for five years with someone else’s money. Maybe their best argument to any new owner is they did that effectively in 2006.

Overall, this is a Mets team which could win the World Series. However, it’s going to need some help to get there and a lot to break right. If they get there, no one should bet against Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard in the postseason.

That’s an odd thing to say considering this time last year we were promised no more ifs.

Why We Remain Mets Fans Despite The Wilpons

The Wilpons are the worst owners in professional sports, and based on their turning down over a billion in profit, they’re not going anywhere anytime soon. With them and their equally incompetent General Manager, there is a sense of despair and/or anger which comes with being a Mets fan. Still, even with the Wilpons being horrible and their not going anywhere, there are reasons to still root for this team:

Pete Alonso – Rookie Home Run King who got the entire team cleats to honor the first responders of 9/11

Dellin Betances – he waited for the opportunity and came back to sign with the Mets because he wanted to stay in New York

Brad Brach – like you and me, he was wearing a Mets jersey rooting for them to win the 2015 World Series (even if he was an Oriole)

Robinson Cano – a truly charitable person who is working to stop domestic violence

Michael Conforto – willing to play any position to help the team, and when he’s hitting there’s few better

Jacob deGrom – the best pitcher in baseball

Edwin Diaz – it takes a big man to admit he had problems with the city making it easy to root for him to be dominant again.

Jeurys Familia – he came back here because he loves being a Met

Luis Guillorme – when finally given a real chance, he proved he can do much more than catch an errant bat.

Robert Gsellman – despite injury did all he could do to come back to try to pitch the Mets into the postseason like he did in 2016

Jed Lowrie – did everything he could give last year and earned those eight PH attempts

Seth Lugo – the best reliever in baseball

Steven Matz – a true blue Mets fan like us all who works to thank and help first responders

Jeff McNeil – a true throwback player who adopts puppies

Tomas Nido – strong defensive catcher who underwent elective surgery to improve his game.

Brandon Nimmo – his joy in baseball and life is only surpassed by his ability to get on base

Rick Porcello – took less to fulfill his boyhood dream of pitching for the Mets

Wilson Ramos – his learning his wife was pregnant with their next child was one of the most heartwarming parts of the 2019 season

Rene Rivera – keeps coming back to work with this pitching staff

Amed Rosario – as hardworking and exciting a player as there is, and he’s about to breakout.

Paul Sewald – a 10th round draft pick who proves himself in his scattered and limited chances

Dominic Smith – got healthy and proved himself to be a good baseball player and terrific teammate

Marcus Stroman – wants baseball to be fun, and he’s a role model to everyone showing it takes heart to be a great player (HDMH)

Noah Syndergaard – he’s standing 60′ 6″ away, and he’s the last Mets pitcher to win a World Series game.

Justin Wilson – pitched through injury to be a very reliable bullpen arm

Ultimately, even with the cheaters on the roster, this remains a very likeable team, and it is guided by a manager in Luis Rojas who Mets fans should soon love. It is hard to stay away from players like this even with their playing for absolutely despicable ownership.

When you account for Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez, and Ron Darling, the Mets broadcasts are unparalleled in their greatness. If nothing else, it is worth watching them do what they do best. It is even better when the Mets have players on the field like they will in 2020.

Combine that with wanting to share baseball with your parents, siblings, and children, and you are going to watch a team you have loved all your life. Ultimately, this is an easy team to root for, which unfortunately, is why boycotts never work, and why the Wilpons will always win.

That’s fine. We can still enjoy life and Mets baseball despite them. We can also make every effort we can to get rid of them and to let them know how much we want them gone. Sooner or later, they will be gone, and we will still be here.

Lets Go Mets!

Jacob Rhame May Be Part Of Opening Day Roster

With Major League Baseball’s new rules, teams can only carry 13 pitchers, and seeing how the Mets have operated the past few seasons, the Mets will very likely carry 13 pitchers in 2020. With the five man rotation, this means the Mets will have an eight man bullpen.

Right now, barring injury, the Mets have Edwin Diaz, Seth Lugo, Dellin Betances, Jeurys Familia, Justin Wilson, and Brad Brach as absolute locks for the Opening Day bullpen. That is going to leave two bullpen spots open with one of them going to the pitcher who loses the bullpen battle. That pitcher is most likely going to be Michael Wacha.

That is where things begin to get a bit interesting.

On the surface, it would seem Robert Gsellman has an inside track for the last bullpen job. After all, he has been a reliever for each of the past two seasons. However, he has not performed well out of the bullpen with an 87 ERA+ and 4.03 FIP over that stretch. When you combine the Mets wanting him to spend the offseason working as a starter, you wonder if a pitcher who still has options remaining will begin the year in Triple-A as a starter.

On the topic of options, Jacob Rhame is out of options, and the Mets will have to expose him to waivers if they are going to keep him in the organization.

Rhame is coming off a season where he had ulnar transposition surgery. That is the same surgery Jacob deGrom underwent in 2016. In his first year after the surgery, deGrom was a good starting pitcher, and in the ensuing two years he emerged as the best pitcher in baseball.

Now, that is obviously not Rhame’s ceiling. However, we do see after undergoing that surgery a pitcher can reach their full potential. While many may debate what exactly that is for Rhame, the Mets clearly have some interest in finding out as they have kept him throughout this offseason despite fully knowing he is out of options.

With Rhame having a career 6.23 MLB ERA and a Triple-A 4.05 ERA, you have to wonder what exactly the Mets are seeing in him.

Looking at Baseball Savant, Rhame throws in the mid-90s, and back in 2018, before he needed the transposition surgery, he had above average movement on that fastball. While he did not get much vertical movement on his splitter, it had very good horizontal movement, which is part of the reason why it was a swing-and-miss pitch for him.

Ultimately, that is what the Mets see in Rhame – his potential. Since the day they obtained him from Curtis Granderson, they knew they were getting a big arm with relatively untapped potential. He still has the ability to generate strikeouts, and as we saw with Rhys Hoskins, he has a bit of a nasty streak where he won’t back down or take anything from the opponent.

Based on what we have seen this offseason, the Mets are going to allow Rhame to work with new pitching coach Jeremy Hefner to show his potential can yield results. Presumably, he is going to get an opportunity to show the Mets he is a better option in the bullpen than Gsellman, who may belong in the rotation, or Walker Lockett, who is also out of options.

In the end, the Mets have kept Rhame around for a reason. Perhaps, that reason is to have him be a part of the 2020 Opening Day roster. With pitchers and catchers reporting soon, he is going to get the opportunity to prove he belongs.

 

Simply Amazin Podcast Appearance (Preparing For The Universal DH)

I had the honor and privilege of joining Tim Ryder on the Simply Amazin Podcast. During the podcast, I referenced my Kobe, DH, and Sign Stealing articles.

The following people were mentioned: Curtis Granderson, J.D. Davis, Seth Lugo, Jake Marisnick, Marcus Stroman, Noah Syndergaard, Jeremy Hefner, Luis Rojas, Carlos Beltran, Mickey Callaway, Phil Regan, Jeremy Accardo, Steven Matz, Dellin Betances, Edwin Diaz, Justin Wilson, Jeurys Familia, Mo Vaughn, Jared Kelenic, Justin Dunn, Andres Gimenez, Mark Vientos, Rick Porcello, Jason Vargas, Bartolo Colon, R.A. Dickey, Asdrubal Cabrera, Devin Mesoraco, and others.

Please listen.

J.D. Davis’ And Jake Marisnick’s Sign Stealing Against Mets Pitchers

While Major League Baseball underwent an investigation, it was a Houston Astros fan who really did the research into the extent of the Astros sign stealing.

Tony Adams set up a website named Sign Stealing Scandal. On his website and on Twitter, he released the results of his investigation into the extent of the Astros sign stealing. It also detailed how often there was the now infamous banging sound during an Astros’ batter’s plate appearance:

Looking at the chart, there was a banging noise 22.8% of the time during Jake Marisnick‘s at-bats and 28.6% of the time when J.D. Davis batted. Both players are members of the New York Mets.

However, in 2017, they were Houston Astros, and they squared off against pitchers who are currently on the Mets pitching staff.

On September 2, 2017, Davis played in both ends of a doubleheader going 2-for-8 with a double, homer, and two RBI. Both of those hits came against Tommy Milone and Jamie Callahan, neither of whom are with the Mets.

On that day, the only pitcher he faced who is still with the Mets is Seth Lugo. While he went 0-for-2, he was in a lineup which handed Lugo the loss.

Lugo, who wants to be a starter, has only started five games after that losing effort.

Marisnick was not in the lineup for either game. It should also be noted Sign Stealing Scandal denotes there was no video from those games. As such, we are not 100% sure the Astros used the banging those days, but it’s reasonable to assume it happened.

It should be noted this wasn’t the only time Davis and Marisnick squared off against current Mets pitchers.

On June 3, 2018, Davis was 0-for-3 against Rick Porcello in a game Porcello picked up the win.

Essentially, Davis’ full extent of facing current Mets pitchers as a member of the Astros was those five at-bats against Lugo and Porcello.

Given his going hitless in those at-bats and how popular he appears among those players from last year’s Mets roster, it appears he may not have to do much, if anything, to smooth things over with his teammates.

Marisnick might be a different story.

In 2017, he was a combined 1-for-5 with a double against Marcus Stroman, Edwin Diaz, and Justin Wilson. The double came against Stroman in a game played at Minute Maid.

If we expand the time period to include 2018 and 2019, Marisnick has faced six of the pitchers currently on the Mets pitching staff. In addition to doubling off Stroman, he has also doubled against Porcello and Brad Brach. He didn’t record a hit against Diaz, Wilson, or Dellin Betances.

With respect to Stroman, he’s been very outspoken about what the Astros did, and like many, he isn’t happy about it.

In that tweet, he specifically addresses the game Marisnick doubled off of him. Clearly, Stroman was baffled by this game, and he’s justifiably upset about the whole sign stealing scandal.

He’s not the only one. Andy Martino of SNY reports Jacob deGrom and Edwin Diaz suspected they were victims of sign stealing, and for his part, deGrom was angry about it.

The Mets were actually one of the more vocal teams about this last year. Kevin Kernan of the New York Post wrote about how much the Dodgers were on top of Diaz’s pitches. While cautioning they didn’t believe it to be illegal, Mickey Callaway and the Mets spoke about how they believed the Dodgers were stealing signs.

Callaway lost his job. We’ve also seen the Astros teeing off on Chris Flexen, who is now pitching in Korea.

Right now, we know Davis and Marisnick cheated, and we’re starting to learn the extent to which they cheated. We also know their cheating has affected Mets new and old. Finally, we know at least some of the Mets pitchers are upset about the Astros sign stealing.

What we don’t know is what, if any, impact Davis’ and Marisnick’s part in the sign stealing will have on the 2020 Mets.

One of the reasons Carlos Beltran was fired was the difficulty in carrying on his managerial duties after discovering his involvement in the scandal. That may or may not have included his ability to handle pitchers like Stroman who he cheated against.

Now, the conversation shifts to those same pitchers reactions to their teammates, how Davis and Marisnick respond, and ultimately how Luis Rojas can manage the situation.

Of course, that presupposes there is going to be an issue. Maybe there won’t be one at all.

In the end, all we know is Davis and Marisnick cheated against former and current Mets pitchers, and at least some of the Mets pitchers are upset about what happened in Houston. Where the Mets go from here could very well be a factor in how the Mets clubhouse holds together and the team performs in 2020.

Mets Have Not Done Nearly Enough This Offseason

While Brodie Van Wagenen was touting Dellin Betances‘ ability to “blow the cover off their ceiling,” the fact of the matter is the Mets offseason has been tremendously underwhelming thus far. Really, when you break it down, it’s difficult to ascertain how this team can make up 11 games on the Atlanta Braves.

With Zack Wheeler departing for the Philadelphia Phillies, that’s 4.1 WAR going to a division rival. While they haven’t yet signed with another team, it is expected Todd Frazier (2.2 WAR) and Juan Lagares (-0.7) will sign with other teams.

Combined, that’s a 5.6 WAR.

With the additions of Betances (0.0), Jake Marisnick (1.2), Rick Porcello (1.1), and Michael Wacha (0.2). the Mets have only brought on players worth 2.5 WAR combined in 2020.

As a result, the Mets have yet to replace the production they’ve lost. What makes this problematic is their offseason appears fairly set.

Yoenis Cespedes and Jed Lowrie are taking up two roster spots, and with their salaries, the Mets are not going to just cut bait. Instead, the Mets are going to hope Cespedes can do what Troy Tulowitzki couldn’t do – return from double heel surgery.

When they finally discover what was wrong with Lowrie that limited him to eight pinch hitting attempts last year, we can then have a conversation about what, if anything, he can contribute.

Remember, this a Mets team which finished 11 games behind the Braves. They also finished behind the World Series Champion Washington Nationals too. The Mets needed to gain ground, not lose it.

Keep in mind, they’re not just losing grounds to the teams ahead of them, they are also losing it to the Philadelphia Phillies. That 4.1 WAR the Mets lost in Wheeler went to the Phillies. Joining him there is Didi Gregorius, who had a 0.6 WAR in limited duty. When you add a healthy Andrew McCutchen, they have not only offset the 1.7 WAR they lost with Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco, but they have improved upon it.

Now, this is where someone may want to point out how the Braves and Nationals are both searching for a new third baseman, and that the third basemen they had last year were their best players. That is true. The Braves losing Josh Donaldson (6.1), and the Nationals losing Anthony Rendon (6.3) were significant losses.

With respect to Donaldson, it should be noted both teams are still in on him and trying to do all they can to sign him. If either team signs him, that narrative is no longer in place as it comes to that team.

Going beyond that, both the Braves and Nationals have made moves to bolster their teams in the event they cannot land Donaldson.

The Nationals have been aggressive this offseason re-signing mid-season acquisitions Asdrubal Cabrera and Daniel Hudson. They have also added Starlin Castro (0.8), Eric Thames (1.6), and Will Harris (2.1). Combine that with the anticipation Carter Kieboom may be ready next year, and the Nationals have at least braced themselves for losing Rendon and missing out on Donaldson.

The Braves have also left third base open while addressing other areas. On the bullpen front, they have brought in Will Smith (2.2) while bringing back Chris Martin and Darren O’Day. They have also added Travis d’Arnaud behind the plate. They also potentially upgraded their rotation signing Cole Hamels to replace Dallas Keuchel.

When talking about the Braves, they also have a wealth of young talent in Ronald Acuna Jr., Austin Riley, Mike Soroka, and others to close the gap on the potential loss of Donaldson. The same can be said with the Nationals with Juan Soto and Victor Robles.

As for the Mets, they could also seek to get some help internally with Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, and Amed Rosario taking the next step. However, the issue with that is whether it is enough to overcome not just the diminution in the talent the team had last year, but also whether it is enough to overcome the significant gap which already existed between them and the rest of the teams in the division.

While it is certainly possible the Mets can win the division in 2020, it is also fair to say they certainly have not done nearly enough this offseason to do that. Really, when you boil it down, the Mets are relying more on luck than anything else. Considering what is ahead and behind them in the division, that is not the best plan, and when you boil it down, they really needed more than just Marisnick.