Yesterday, the Mets made the announcement of the non-roster invitations to Spring Training. If you follow the minor leagues closely, you saw some interesting names who may help the Mets in 2020 like Kevin Smith, Patrick Mazeika, and Ryley Gilliam. Of course, none of those names garnered attention.
The headline as usual was Tim Tebow.
On the surface, inviting Tebow to Spring Training isn’t that big of a deal. After all, the Mets once invited country music star Garth Brooks to Spring Training in 2000 as part of the singer’s promotion of his Teammates for Kids charity.
It should be noted Brooks participated during the 2000 Spring Training, which was the year the Mets won the fourth pennant in their history. In the end, these celebrity and gimmick appearances at Spring Training really have no impact, and at the end of the day, it really doesn’t serve as any sort of distraction.
To his credit, Tebow hasn’t been a distraction during Spring Training. Rather, he is a draw due to his popularity, especially in the Florida area from which he hails. Honestly, if he is there drawing people to St. Lucie making money for the Mets, it’s not a bad thing at all.
The real problem is what happens afterwards.
To put things in perspective, last year Tebow hit .163/.240/.255 in 77 games for Triple-A Syracuse before succumbing to a season ending hand injury. While you could argue he had handled himself well in the lower levels of the minors, especially with a 106 wRC+ for Double-A Binghamton, he was completely over-matched last year.
Part of the problem appears to be his level of dedication.
We have seen Tebow travel and work with the SEC Network during the offseasons. Of note, he has previously left the Instructional Leagues to attend to those duties. On that note, he has also scheduled his charity golf outings during Spring Training, and as a result, he has left Spring Training for a day or two to attend to the golf outings for the charity he purportedly runs.
Now, you can argue this is not entirely fair to bring up because players do all sorts of stuff during their offseasons and during Spring Training. Plenty of players golf and do TV work as well as other things. While true, the level of dedication needed to be a top analyst is different than a promotional television or radio spot.
More to the point, Tebow has suffered season ending hand injuries in two successive seasons. You can make a very real and fair point he is just not getting himself the necessary training he needs to get himself into baseball shape. This is also besides the point.
Last year, the Mets had Tebow play in 77 of the team’s first 100 games despite the fact he probably deserved to play in none of them. While that was happening, Dilson Herrera was not getting any time in the outfield to help prepare him to be a useful Major League utility player. We also saw players like David Thompson get demoted partially due to a roster crunch.
It’s more than that. There were players like Jason Krizan who waited far too long in Binghamton before a move up to Triple-A. The same could be said for a Sam Haggerty who did eventually receive a call-up to the majors. The overriding point here is the Mets have allowed Tebow’s presence to interfere with the development of players who could have helped contribute in 2019 and potentially in 2020.
While it is fair to say part of the reason Tebow is getting these chances is because of how thin the Mets outfield is at the upper levels of the farm system, we are also seeing Tebow’s presence is serving as a hindrance to the Mets even giving players a look in the outfield.
Ultimately, when you have a player who is 32 years old and cannot get himself in sufficient shape to last a full season, he simply does not merit this amount of playing time. That’s why at the end of the day Brodie Van Wagenen has to do what’s right by the Mets and not by his former client and treat Tebow like the 32 year old non-prospect he is.
With yesterday being Black Friday, people ran out to stores and websites looking for deals, and today, they’re assessing what they got and still need to get. Being Mets fans, we expect the team to spend most of the offseason diving through the discount bins.
To a certain extent, every team needs to do that. The player signed to a minor league deal or on the cheap emerges to be much better than anyone could’ve reasonably expected. Many times, when that happens, your team takes it to the next level. In honor of Black Friday, here are some of the best bargain signings the Mets have made in their history.
For this list, we are only looking at players signed to minor league deals, and as this is the Mets we are talking about, it’s being run on Small Business Saturday.
C Todd Pratt – he went from delivering Dominos to being signed to a minor league deal with the Mets. Three years later, Pratt would hit a walk-off homer off of Matt Mantei clinching the first NLDS in team history.
1B James Loney – in 2016, the Mets were left without a first baseman due to Lucas Duda‘s back injury as well as a host of other injuries on the team. Loney would step in and help the team hitting .305/.367/.463 over his first 22 games to help keep that team afloat and make that push for the Wild Card.
2B Jose Valentin – the Mets signed Valentin to be veteran depth only for him to fill the vacuum left at second base by Anderson Hernandez‘s offensive struggles and Kazuo Matsui‘s injuries. In addition to his 3.6 WAR in 2006, he would hit two homers in the NL East clincher.
3B Matt Franco – signed a minor league deal with the Mets entering the 1996 season. He’d emerge as a good pinch hitter who hit a game winning single off Mariano Rivera clinching the Mets first series win in the Subway Series.
SS Omar Quintanilla – the Mets let Jose Reyes go due to a mixture of the Madoff scandal and the belief Ruben Tejada was ready to be the every day shortstop. When Tejada wasn’t Quintanilla was a pleasant surprise with a career year before being traded for cash considerations.
LF Melvin Mora – Mora signed a minor league deal coming out of Japan. In the 162nd game of the 1999 season, he scored on a wild pitch enduring the playoff game. In the Grand Slam Single game, he hit the cut off man leading to Keith Lockhart getting cut down at the plate. In that postseason, he hit .400/.500/.600.
CF Endy Chavez – signed as a free agent prior to the 2006 season, a season where he’d have the greatest catch in NLCS history. He’d also have other defensive gems and game winning bunts in his Mets career.
RF Marlon Byrd – back in the cavernous Citi Field days, Byrd came to the Mets on a minor league deal in 2013 and hit 21 homers before getting traded to the Pirates in a deal which netted Dilson Herrera and Vic Black.
RP Pedro Feliciano – soon dubbed Perpetual Pedro due to his rubber arm, he’d be a key piece of a great 2006 bullpen, and he’d emerge as the best LOOGY in franchise history.
SP R.A. Dickey – this is the gold standard. Dickey was signed to a minor league deal in 2009, and a few short seasons later, he would become the biggest surprise Cy Young winner in Major League history. The Mets then selling high on him and getting Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud for him makes signing Dickey all the more legendary.
The New York Mets completely blew it last night. Behind that loss was a a number of players failing. Todd Frazier couldn’t get a hit in two key RBI situations. Steven Matz allowed a grand slam. Brad Brach failed to cover first in time. There’s obviously more.
Behind the players failing was a number of questionable to flat out indefensible decisions from Mickey Callaway.
Callaway should not have let Matz face Jorge Alfaro. With the team having zero margin for error, you cannot use Walker Lockett under any circumstance. There’s no saving the top arms in the bullpen to fight for another day because if you lose, there isn’t going to be another day.
There were other decisions like not starting Brandon Nimmo or allowing Michael Conforto to bat against Brian Moran. You could also question using Rajai Davis as a pinch hitter in the sixth over Nimmo. To be fair, these decisions were mitigated by Juan Lagares going 1-for-3 with a run and a walk, and Amed Rosario hitting a grand slam.
The pinch hitting decisions were mitigated by the actual options available. Tomas Nido and Rene Rivera are not good hitters. Jed Lowrie hasn’t had a hit in his limited pinch hitting appearances, and he has just one right-handed at-bat all year. That’s it for the right-handed bench options against the left-handed pitching the Marlins had out there in the form of Caleb Smith and Moran.
It certainly makes you question why the Mets never made a roster move to add Dilson Herrera to the roster. After all, they lost Eric Hanhold so they can have Chris Mazza and Donnie Hart on the roster, neither of whom have pitched one meaningful inning in September.
Taking that into consideration, you have to look at the bullpen again. Seth Lugo and Justin Wilson are the only reliable arms down there. You can trust Brach against right-handed batters but not left, and vice versa for Luis Avilan. After that, it’s a straight roll of the dice. Sadly, it’s a heavily weighted pair of dice putting the odds stacked against the Mets.
Look at those ERAs again. Lockett wasn’t even the worst ERA available in the bullpen last night. He wasn’t the only one with an ERA over 5.00. In fact, taking away the top two relievers, there were only three relievers with an ERA under that mark, and one of those, Hart, has only pitched 1.0 innings.
Put aside for a moment the Mets entered the season with Tim Peterson in the bullpen putting the team 1-2 relievers short to start the season. At the trade deadline, the Mets went out and got Marcus Stroman, and they didn’t back it up with another move. Sure, they got Brach, but he fell into their laps. It wasn’t a proactive move on the Mets part.
The bench has always been an issue too. We have seen the Mets cycle through Aaron Altherr, Keon Broxton, Carlos Gomez, Adeiny Hechavarria, and Ruben Tejada while rage cutting Travis d’Arnaud. Again, the Mets did little to address this at the trade deadline with Joe Panik falling into their laps like Brach did.
This team was ill constructed from the get-go, and for some reason when the Mets doubled down at the trade deadline, they did nothing to fix their two biggest problems – the bench and the bullpen.
Now, it’s possible a very good manager like Terry Francona or Bruce Bochy could’ve navigated their way around these problems, but we know Callaway couldn’t. The Mets knowing that and handing him a roster which feeds into his deficiencies as a manager makes what Brodie Van Wagenen did all the worse.
So, yes, Callaway screwed up yesterday, and he has screwed up in other spots. But make no mistake, this was largely the result of the roster he was given. For that, Brodie Van Wagenen should shoulder the blame he was absolutely unwilling to accept earlier in the year.
So far this season, Aaron Altherr is hitting .085/.141/.169 (-20 wRC+) in 47 games this season. Last year, Altherr played 105 games for the Philadelphia Phillies, and he hit .181/.295/.333 (75 wRC+). As on outfielder this year, Altherr has a -1 DRS in 127.1 innings, and he was a 1 DRS in 524.1 innings last year. That followed a -4 DRS in 837.1 innings in 2017.
Taking everything into account, Altherr is a bad baseball player, and he has been one for two years now. Despite that, the Mets have continued to keep him on the roster, and they do little to challenge his roster status.
When Jeff McNeil went down, the Mets had a need for someone who could fill-in in the outfield. Instead of a Dilson Herrera who has some outfield experience, the Mets instead went with Ruben Tejada, who was no threat to taking away his outfield reps. The team also didn’t call-up Rajai Davis, who also could have presented a threat.
On Davis, most fans remember his Uber ride and his hitting a pinch hit homer. What they don’t see is his hitting .287/.334/.410 with Triple-A Syracuse. That’s not as good as the .274/.384/.565 batting line Altherr put up in admittedly far fewer games with Syracuse. On the one hand, that makes the Mets decision to go with Altherr over Davis defensible. However, it is still curious why you would not even challenge Altherr when you needed that extra outfielder.
What’s all the more baffling is how the Mets let Billy Hamilton go to the Braves.
There are many things you can say about Hamilton and his deficiencies as a player. In 93 games with the Royals this year, Hamilton hit .211/.275/.269 (44 wRC+). That’s actually a step backwards for him as he hit .239/.299/.327 (69 wRC+) in 153 games for the Reds last year. No matter how you look at it, Hamilton is a bad hitter. Terrible actually.
That makes the fact he’s been a significantly better hitter than Altherr all the worse. Hamilton is also a much better outfielder. In fact, Hamilton is an elite defensive outfielder. In 716.1 innings this year, Hamilton has a 9 DRS. Since he was called up in 2013, his 60 DRS trails only Lorenzo Cain among qualifying center fielders.
Right there, Hamilton is a significantly better hitter and fielder than Altherr. When you factor in Hamilton’s great speed and base running, you realize Hamilton does EVERYTHING better than Altherr. Everything.
With rosters expanding in September, and the Mets depth depleted to the point where they have to not only carry Altherr on the roster but also play him, there is zero reason to not put in a claim for Hamilton. He was a significant upgrade, and he was someone the Mets were going to be able to carry on the roster into September. If the Mets were lucky enough to make the postseason, Hamilton would have been a huge weapon as a late inning pinch runner and/or defensive replacement.
Go back and ask the 1969 Mets about the Ron Swoboda and Tommie Agee catches. Go back and ask the 2004 Red Sox about Dave Roberts stealing a base. The ability or a player to make that one impact can make all the difference in the world. Instead, the Mets just let Hamilton go to the Braves, who were lower in the waiver priority, unchallenged.
The Braves will get the benefit of his base running and defense while the Mets cross their fingers on Brandon Nimmo being able to return from a bulging disc in his neck. They’re also hoping Dominic Smith, who is still in a walking boot and using a knee scooter, can return. They’re hoping J.D. Davis‘ leg won’t continue to be an issue. Same for McNeil, who has gone from being able to immediately come off the 10 day IL to needing a rehab stint. There’s also Jed Lowrie, a player who has fewer pictures of him in a Mets uniform than people have photos of Big Foot or the Lockness Monster.
Going into the season, Brodie Van Wagenen kept telling us the Mets were all-in, and the team would have no ifs. It’s August 20, and the team wouldn’t go all-in on improving their roster, and they are seeing IF one of their injured players could contribute. Mostly, they’ve decided the team is better with Altherr, who has been terrible for over a year now, than any of the better alternatives . . . like Hamilton.
On Sunday, I was invited to join Tim Ryder for the Simply Amazin podcast to discuss the series against the Royals as well as other Mets matters. Off the top of my head, I remember mentioning J.D. Davis, Pete Alonso, Ruben Tejada, Brandon Nimmo, Dilson Herrera, Aaron Altherr, Amed Rosario, Seth Lugo, Jeurys Familia, Justin Wilson, Luis Avilan, Jeff McNeil, Joe Panik, Juan Lagares, Dominic Smith, Zack Wheeler, Steven Matz, Rajai Davis, Luis Guillorme, and others.
Please take a listen and keep an eye (or ear) out for Thursday when I’m next scheduled to appear.
The Mets went to Kansas City looking to sweep, and they wound up having to settle for less than that. Ultimately, they got the job done even if they did not perform well at all:
1. Alex Gordon may be the only Royals player remaining, but it was still good to see the Mets win a series in Kaufman Stadium, and it felt even better seeing Jeurys Familia get the win in a deciding game.
2. It’s also great to see Michael Conforto homer in a game against the Royals and not watch the Mets not blow the game. Seeing where Conforto hit that homer, we should have called that a Blue Moon Shot.
3. Congratulations to Pete Alonso for breaking Cody Bellinger‘s National League rookie home run record. He now joins Mark McGwire and Aaron Judge as the only rookies to hit 40 homers in a season. This has been a great ride, and he’s now in line to join Darryl Strawberry as the only other Mets position player to win Rookie of the Year.
4. It is criminal that when Alonso broke the record the call was made by Wayne Randazzo on the radio side and Gary Apple on the TV side. The Mets have all-time great broadcasters, and somehow that’s what we were left with for this great moment. Mets needs to do better when there are vacations.
5. There were two different times Alonso looked like he was going to break that record. The first ball was called foul, and to his credit, Alonso shook it off and delivered with a huge go-ahead two RBI single. The next time the ball actually hit the foul line towards the top of the right field wall. Many times we see people struggle or slump as they near a milestone; Alonso powered onward.
6. Jacob deGrom had his 12th start of the season pitching 7.0+ innings allowed two earned or fewer. That mark ties him with Hyun-Jin Ryu for the most in the Majors. This should only highlight how great deGrom has been this year and how deserving he is of another Cy Young.
7. Yes, Ryu is having a great year, but deGrom’s year is arguably better. For starters, deGrom has more innings pitched and strikeouts. Moreover, he has a higher K/9, K%, K-BB%, FIP, xFIP, fWAR, and bWAR while leading in other other categories as well.
8. One of the reasons the Mets took this series was Joe Panik playing great. Since joining the Mets, Panik is hitting .333/.379/.444 with a double, triple, and two RBI with two walks. On a side note, he was the second baseman when the Giants beat the Royals in the 2014 World Series.
10. With the way Panik and Lagares are playing, it appears Todd Frazier is the guy who has to go to the bench. Since the All Star Break, he is hitting .192/.239/.377. If he’s hitting this way, he cannot be in the lineup.
11. Going forward, Frazier has hit .283/.359/.543 off left-handed pitching. To that end, he should work out a de facto platoon with Panik, and given his glove, he should be the third baseman when Marcus Stroman is on the mound. Short of that, he should be a power bat off the bench and late inning defensive replacement.
12. These two were needed all the more with J.D. Davis twice going down with a calf injury in this series. With how hot he’s been hitting, the Mets need his bat in the lineup, and they were without it in a series against the Royals. One side point here, good for Mickey Callaway for being cautious in taking him out rather than leaving him to run 90 feet.
13. Davis coming out of Sunday’s game forced Amed Rosario to play left field. It didn’t take long for the ball to find him, and the played the ball like he’s been out there all year. He also doubled in his only at-bat as an outfielder. Maybe this shouldn’t be a surprise because Rosario has been legitimately great lately.
14. Since the All Star Break, Rosario has hit .368/.403/.544. He’s a 3 DRS at shortstop. When McNeil went down, he took over the leadoff spot, and he’s been hitting .333/.383/.535 in the leadoff spot. He is literally doing all that is being asked of him, and he is emerging as a legitimately great player. This has been a real joy to watch.
15. Rosario having to play left field only highlights the stupidity of the Mets going with Ruben Tejada over Dilson Herrera. What makes the move all the more hilariously stupid was the Mets justification for going with Tejada over Herrera was versatility. Between the two, Herrera is the only one with outfield experience. Since Tejada rejoined the Mets, he is 0-for-8 at the plate with two strikeouts and someone already a -0.3 WAR. Herrera is hitting .294/.368/.706 while playing second base and left field. Again, this decision made zero sense.
16. On the topic of baffling decisions, when Robert Gsellman landed on the Injured List, the Mets called up Walker Lockett over Chris Flexen. Between the two, Flexen has the better stuff, and he has experience pitching out of the bullpen.
17. One area where Callaway was criticized for making a baffling decision was using Edwin Diaz to get out of a bases loaded no out situation. While it was a near disaster with a grand slam overturned on replay, Diaz got out of the inning allowing just two runs. In his next appearance, he pitched a scoreless ninth with two strikeouts. Maybe, just maybe in the long run, this was a great decision by Callaway.
18. Zack Wheeler‘s start against the Royals was disappointing. That’s two straight disappointing five inning starts from him. This time, it was probably more bad luck than anything. However, this is his first real postseason race, so it will be interesting to see how he handles things in his next start.
19. The Mets would have been better off with a sweep, but they still won the series. They’re also just two games back of the second Wild Card. Overall, when looking at this stretch of six games, many are discounting just how hot and grueling that stretch of road games are in Atlanta and Kansas City along with their losing one of their hottest hitters.
20. Good for the White Sox for having Bill Walton and Michael Schur do color commentary with Steve Stone out. As noted on Saturday, that is what the Mets should have been doing by using the multitude of great local broadcasters and fans in Gary Cohen’s and Howie Rose’s absence. On a final note there, John Sadak did a great job on the radio. Here’s hoping there’s a spot for him in 2020.
Depending on how you look at things, the Mets either showed they can play with the Braves, or they showed they are not in the same class as the Braves or the best teams in baseball leaving the postseason hopes all the more futile. Really, this was a wild three game series with a lot happening:
1. The one injury the Mets could ill-afford to handle was Jeff McNeil. His versatility is arguably more important than his bat. In any event, his absence really exposes not the Mets lineup but really their depth.
2. As we saw with the Mets yesterday, they can compete without McNeil. For that to happen, Pete Alonso needs to be the first half Alonso, and Amed Rosario needs to continue his breakout. The Mets need higher levels of production from Michael Conforto, and ultimately, they need Juan Lagares and Joe Panik to be everyday players.
3. It has been a pure joy to see Lagares become good again both in the field and at the plate. Of note, Lagares has had as many hits in this series as he’s had in his previous 15 games combined. If Lagares plays like this, he’s an everyday player especially with that glove in center.
4. With respect to second, Panik has to play everyday because Ruben Tejada isn’t good. In one game, he showed why he hasn’t been in the majors in two years, and he looked skittish with his back turned on double plays. You can point to his Triple-A stats, but that ball is all the more juiced than the Major League ball is.
5. Since the Mets opted to go with Tejada, Dilson Herrera has responded by going 3-for-6 with three runs, two homers, five RBI, and two walks in the past two games. He is red hot with a seven game hitting streak. While you may want to say the juiced ball theory applies to him as well (it does), his production was near this level last season. Tejada’s wasn’t.
6. It should be noted the Mets are carrying an extra pitcher with Drew Gagnon, who was beyond terrible last night, and really that spot in the bullpen has been terrible all year no matter who has filled the role. Given how the Mets need some power off the bench, and Herrera presents another player who could play outfield, there is no reason why he spends another day in Syracuse.
7. While Gagnon was terrible out of the bullpen, the rest of the bullpen has stepped up. Brad Brach looks as rejuvenated as Jeurys Familia does as late. Along with Justin Wilson, this gives the Mets three battle tested relievers who are pitching very well right now in front of Seth Lugo. That’s suddenly a good bullpen.
8. Lugo blew it on Wednedsay. We can try to say he didn’t have time to warm up (he did), or say it was another problem (not really), but he just wasn’t good. Fortunately for the Mets, he’s going to rebound from this and continue to be great.
9. Mickey Callaway was right in lifting Lugo for Steven Matz. There were many factors at play with that decision, and he ultimately went with the team’s best available pitcher in a high leverage spot. When he doesn’t have it, the Mets aren’t going to win those one run games.
10. On Matz, he was brilliant, and he has been much improved in the second half. In his six second half starts, he is 2-1 with a 3.06 ERA and a 1.047 WHIP. If you’re getting that from your fifth spot in the rotation, you can beat the good and the bad teams.
11. Don’t make too much about Marcus Stroman‘s “struggles” since joining the Mets. He is adapting to a new team and a new pitching philosophy. The main takeaway from him is he has given the Mets a chance to win in his first three starts. This is probably the floor for his performance, and we should see him take off soon.
12. With Zack Wheeler, it was one poor start. Just one. Don’t overreact and just look forward to his next start against the Royals. On that front, it is interesting he is finally getting that chance to pitch against the Royals after he was supposed to be one of the team’s best starters in 2015 and his almost being traded away for Carlos Gomez that year.
13. The Mets really needed that game from Pete Alonso. He’s been struggling in the second half, and with McNeil down, they really need him to get back to being the All-Star level player. His five hit game was a reminder of just how good he can be. His tying Cody Bellinger‘s National League home run record with more than a month remaining in the season is a reminder as to just how good he has been.
14. Alonso and Rosario each having a five hit game in the same game was not only the first time it happened in team history, but it is a reason to get excited for the rest of the 2019 season and each of the ensuing years.
15. Yet again, we need to point out Rosario has figured things out, and he is now one of the best players on the team and emerging as one of the best shortstops in baseball. Since July 1, he is hitting .364/.399/.536, and in the second half he is a 3 DRS. Don’t be surprised, be ready.
16. Mets should have won this series, but they just couldn’t get that one big hit in either of the first two games. The main culprit was Conforto, but Wilson Ramos was also really bad. It should also be noted in Wednesday’s debacle, almost everyone was bad with the exception of Rosario, J.D. Davis, Luis Guillorme, Panik, and the pitchers not named Lugo.
17. Glass half full is the Mets showed they can play with the Braves. Glass half empty is the Mets chances of winning the division went from realistic to near pipe dream.
18. Starting this pivotal stretch of games 3-3 and being two out of the Wild Card is not a bad start. The Mets now have to make real headway in Kansas City before taking care of business at Citi Field. If they do that, we will have real season to be excited for the meaningful games in September.
19. Congratulations are in order to Howie Rose for being inducted into the New York State Baseball Hall of Fame. This is an honor long overdue, and it should hopefully serve as a precursor to both he and Gary Cohen being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
20. Gary Cohen and Howie Rose are no longer allowed to take time off at the same time. Gary Apple is terrible. He should never be allowed to do play-by-play again. Given his smug attitude, I wouldn’t care if he was gone from SNY all together.
First and foremost, it’s obvious there is no replacing Jeff McNeil. The Mets can’t do that. As noted earlier, the Mets need Juan Lagares and Joe Panik to play like everyday players while hoping the healthy players on this roster raise their games. The Mets are also going to need production from the player who occupies McNeil’s spot on the roster (should he land on the IL).
According to various reports, the first person under consideration is Ruben Tejada. Part of the reason the Mets are considering Tejada is the great year he is having in Syracuse. Through 71 games, he is hitting .330/.408/.476 with 19 doubles, a triple, six homers, and 38 RBI.
It should be noted like the Major Leagues, there has been a juiced ball issue in Triple-A, and Tejada’s numbers could be attributed to that. For example, Tejada hit .230/.291/.298 in 101 games for Triple-A Norfolk last year. Tejada last played in the Major Leagues in 2017 when he hit .230/.293/.283 in 41 games for the Orioles.
The bigger issue with Tejada is the fact he has never played the outfield in his professional career. One of the things which made McNeil so important was his versatility and ability to play almost all seven defensive positions. With respect to Tejada, he has mostly played third base this year along with some time at second and short. Overall, while Tejada may hit, he is not going to be able to provide the versatility the Mets need causing the team to have to lean on Aaron Altherr all the more.
Another former Met on the Syracuse roster who should merit consideration is Dilson Herrera. Unlike Tejada, Herrera has some outfield experience playing 10 games in the outfield for Syracuse and 11 games for the Reds last season. It should be noted Herrera did not rate well with a -2 DRS in 56.2 innings for the Reds last year, but he should have the opportunity to work with Luis Rojas, who has done a fine job helping Dominic Smith and J.D. Davis not be nightmares in left field this year.
Offensively, Herrera has had a very good year in Syracuse hitting .255/.332/.528 with 26 doubles, a triple, 22 homers, and 53 RBI. Now, the juiced ball effect should be taken into account for Herrera like it was with Tejada. That said, Herrera hit .297/.367/.465 in 71 Triple-A games last year. Herrera did not impress during his call-up to the Reds last year hitting .184/.268/.414 in 53 games. However, it should be noted he hit five homers for the Reds last year showing Herrera could help provide some pop off a bench currently bereft of it.
Looking at former Reds currently in the Mets system, the team should also consider Arismendy Alcantara. Looking at his Major League numbers, Alcantara has hit less than Tejada or Herrera. In fact, over the course of his limited playing time from 2014 – 2017, he hit .189/.235/.248. Like Tejada and Herrera, he his having a good year with Syracuse hitting .302/.363/.523 with 12 doubles, five triples, 10 homers, 41 RBI in 73 games.
Defensively, he is much more versatile than either Tejada or Herrera. In fact, over his career, the two positions he has predominantly played have been center field and second base. In many ways, that makes the switch hitter a very good replacement for McNeil as he is going to provide the same level of versatility the Mets need.
If the Mets wanted to look outside the organization, Josh Harrison was released by the Detroit Tigers on August 9. In 31 games for the Tigers, he hit just .176/.219/.265. Part of his struggles could be attributable to his having an injury plagued year with him having a shoulder injury in March and a left hamstring tendon strain which landed him on the IL on May 28. Harrison has not played in the Majors since then.
Harrison has not played well in his seven game rehab stint before his release. Of course, the long layoff could have been a factor. However, it should also be noted Harrison hit .250/.293/.363 in 97 games for the Pirates last year.
One other note with Harrison is he’s not as versatile as you would believe. Since 2016, he has predominantly played second base, and he last played more than one game in the outfield in 2017. He last played more than 10 games there in 2015. Put another way, he is really now just a 31 year old infielder who is on the decline.
Looking at all the options, the Mets need to consider what they want for the bench piece. Are they looking for a platoon for Panik at second? Do they want the best possible hitter to pinch hit? Are they looking to catch lightning in a bottle? Do the Mets value versatility, comfort with a particular player, or possibly a name which could inspire faith among the team and fanbase?
The Mets focus is going to dictate which direction they should go. Ultimately, given the ability to play multiple positions and the team’s need for a bat off the bench, arguably, the Mets should look towards Dilson Herrera. However, the decision is not that clear cut, and the Mets can very justifiably decide to go with any of the other aforementioned players.
UPDATE: According to reports, the Mets are going with Tejada.
As bad as it looked, it sounded worse. Jeff McNeil hit the first base bag awkwardly, and he was clearly in pain hobbling and hopping around in foul territory. After the game, he and Mickey Callaway tried to put a good face on it, but they came across despondent.
Even if this isn’t the worst case scenario, it looks like McNeil will have to miss sometime. We can pray for a game or two, but it’s probably more than that.
If you want to be glass half full, Lagares seems to be locked in recently. We saw a vintage Lagares defensive play when he robbed Yan Gomes of an extra base hit on Saturday. Last night, he was 4-for-4 against the Braves. That matched his hit total for all of July, and it was his fifth four hit game in his seven year career.
Looking back, the last time Lagares had struggled offensively and defensively like this was in 2015. Those struggles led to the Mets first trying to obtain Carlos Gomez, and then later “settling” on Yoenis Cespedes.
In 2015, after the Mets obtained Cespedes and the Mets started playing more meaningful games, Lagares stepped up god game. From August 1 until the end of the season, he hit .287/.326/.471. In that postseason, Lagares hit .348/.375/.435.
Maybe, Lagares has that ability to raise his game in these pressure situations. That’s at least the hope now.
The other hope is Panik can raise his game right now. So far, he hasn’t hit much with the Mets going 2-for-10 with a walk. However, what he has contributed has counted for something.
His single Friday led to Michael Conforto‘s walk off hit. His teaching on an error on Saturday led to J.D. Davis‘ go-ahead sacrifice fly. His RBI single Sunday was part of a three run inning to tie the game at 3-3.
That’s what the Mets need from Lagares and Panik. There’s no way they can match what McNeil gave the Mets. There’s maybe five players in all of baseball who could do that. Maybe. Instead, they need to make their hits count while also reaching back and rediscovering their Gold Glove form.
More than anything, if they give the Mets very good to elite defense, the Mets still have a chance. Both players have the skills to do it, so to that end, there’s a legitimate chance.
If they do that, they help the pitching, which in turn, lowers the bar on the amount of runs the Mets need to score to win.
The onus for scoring those runs will have to be shared collectively by the lineup. At the moment, you can’t ask more from Davis than what he’s been giving. The same goes for Wilson Ramos.
The burden shifts to Amed Rosario to pick it back up after going 4-for-23 over his last five games. Todd Frazier needs to return or get close to his June form. Pete Alonso has to get back to his first half form instead of being the guy hitting .188 in that second half hitting the occasional homer. Finally, no matter how good Conforto has been, as a leader and as a guy who’s been here before, he needs to raise his game to another level.
If these things happen, and you get a spark from one of Ruben Tejada, Dilson Herrera, and/or Arismendy Alcantara from Triple-A or a Luis Guillorme and Aaron Altherr from the Major League roster, McNeil missing any time doesn’t have to be a death knell for the season.
Overall, everyone on this roster raising their game is very possible. However, nothing is going to be possible unless Lagares and Panik raise their games. I’d they don’t do that, chances are McNeil missing time will be the reason the Mets moss the postseason.
With Robinson Cano landing on the Injured List, the Mets depth has once again been exposed. Considering how the Mets operate, it is very likely Adeiny Hechavarria will become the team’s everyday second baseman with Luis Guillorme on the bench.
Now, you could argue the Mets should move Jeff McNeil back to the infield, but there are almost no real viable outfield options unless you believe Juan Lagares or Aaron Altherr should play everyday. With them hitting .190 and .111 respectively that is hardly the case. With that in mind, the Mets have few options to upgrade their roster.
Asdrubal Cabrera is about the only free agent available worth investigating. The 33 year old was designated for assignment after hitting .235/.318/.393 in 93 games for a Rangers team falling out of contention. He was not very good in the field either with Cabrera having a -3 DRS in 793.0 innings albeit with a 2.7 UZR.
Cabrera has not been the same player hitting .233/.307/.393 (82 wRC+) since leaving the Mets in the July 27, 2018 trade to the Philadelphia Phillies. Prior to that trade, Cabrera hit .279/.339/.464 as a Met. That includes his phenomenal second half in 2016 which helped propel the Mets to the top Wild Card spot. Part of the reason for that is as Baseball Savant notes Cabrera having below average exit velocity and hard hit percentages. Despite these numbers, it may well behoove the Mets to have Cabrera as a late inning pinch hitter off the bench especially considering his penchant for heroics in big spots.
Tejada is probably the one option who could fill-in at shortstop if needed, and he has arguably been hitting better this year than any point in his professional career. In 64 games for Syracuse, Tejada is hitting 343/.421/.498 with 17 doubles, a triple, six homers, and 35 RBI.
The caution with Tejada is he has not played in the majors since 2017, and he hit .230/.293/.283 that year for Baltimore. Tejada played for Triple-A Norfolk the following year hitting .230/.291/.298 in 101 games. When looking at things from that prism, Tejada has made adjustments this year, and as a result, is a much better player; a player who could help contribute at the Major League level.
Like Tejada, Herrera is having a strong season in Syracuse hitting .250/.331/.538 with 23 doubles, one triple, 22 homers, and 48 RBI. Unlike Tejada, Herrera does not play shortstop. However, he may be more versatile with him playing first (28 games), second (24 games), third (31 games), left field (six games), and right field (four games) this year. Ultimately, if he was added to the roster, Herrera could prove to be a right-handed power threat off the bench which the Mets have not had since J.D. Davis has been pushed into everyday duty with Dominic Smith‘s injury.
Herrera still has played 10 games in the outfield for Syracuse, and he was a -2 DRS in 56.0 innings in left for the Reds last year. While that’s an extremely small sample size, it also speaks to how little experience Herrera has in the outfield.
With that in mind and with the Mets lack of outfield depth, the best option in Syracuse would be Rajai Davis, who notably hit a pinch hit homer for the Mets earlier in the year. Unfortunately, he is not an option as he has been on the IL since July 17. Beyond Davis, none of the other outfielders in Syracuse really present even a hypothetical upgrade.
In the end, the Mets decision may be between signing Cabrera or calling up one of Tejada or Herrera. That assumes Herrera is fine after fouling a ball off his shin on Saturday. If he is not good to go, that further limits the Mets already limited options.