Give Jason Vargas credit. It only took him just 14 pitches to earn the loss in tonight’s game. That’s a new low for even him.
Sure, there were extenuating circumstances. Four batters into the game, and the Reds already up 1-0, there was an hour and 45 minute rain delay. This necessitated Vargas depart after just one-third of an inning, and it meant the Mets were going to use two pitchers before the Reds even used one.
Vargas left behind two baserunners, each of whom Paul Sewald allowed to score. At that point, the Reds had an impenetrable 3-0 lead.
One of the reasons it was impenetrable was because Reds starter, Sal Romano, who grew up rooting for the Mets, dominated his hometown team. In six innings pitched, he limited the Mets to one run on two hits with three walks and five strikeouts.
The Mets lone run off Romano came courtesy of a Jose Bautista two out RBI single which scored Brandon Nimmo, who had doubled earlier that inning. The Bautista single ended a long 0-fer drought for Bautista. After that single, he would begin a new one as the Mets offense wouldn’t get another hit until the ninth inning.
Overall, the Mets would use six pitchers to differing results.
Other than that, Tyler Bashlor and Drew Smith would combine to pitch four scoreless to both help save the bullpen and to also raise their stock with the organization. It was a good thing they did because when you lose 6-1 like this, many don’t notice the positives many do actually contribute.
Game Notes: Between pitching changes and pinch hitters, the Mets would have nine different players appear in the ninth spot in the order – Vargas, Sewald, Wahl, Luis Guillorme, Bashlor, Jose Reyes, Smith, Austin Jackson, Rhame.
Back in 2013, the Cincinnati Reds had their second consecutive 90 win season. Unfortunately for them, they were not able to make the postseason like they were the previous year when they were bounced from the NLDS by the San Francisco Giants. Due to a number of factors, there was an open question after that season how long the Reds could keep this core group together.
At the same time, the New York Mets finished the season in third place in the National League East with a 74-88 record. In that season, the team saw a rejuvenated David Wright, and Matt Harveywas the talk of the town, at least until he needed Tommy John surgery.
Using that all as a backdrop, imagine explaining to a person from 2013 how the Harvey deal went down . . .
2018: Well, no . . .
2013: So wait, tell me which Reds are members of the Mets now.
2018: Well, no, not exactly.
2013: I’m guessing Davis never got over the Valley Fever.
2018: While I’m not sure if it was Valley Fever, Davis is no longer in the majors. In fact, he’s trying to pitch now.
2013: And I’m guessing despite the team shoving him down our throats, I’m assuming Duda never panned out.
2018: Actually, he became a 30 home run hitter.
2013: Really, so if that’s the case, why are the Mets looking to move him off first? Do they really think he can play the outfield? He was dreadful out there.
2018: No, no, no, no. Duda signed as a free agent with the Royals.
2013: Ok, so the Mets got Frazier to play first.
2018: No, they signed him to play third.
2013: So, Wright is playing first.
2018: About that . . .
2013: Francesca always yammered on and on about how he belongs at third because of his arm. Honestly, I can’t believe the Mets listened to that blowhard. Speaking of which, I’m sure he gloated about that for at least a week.
2018: Believe it or not, Francesca was retired when the Mets got Frazier.
2013: With Francesca retired, who is now on during the drive home?
2018: It’s a long story, but it’s Francesa. He unretired.
2013: Of course he did. And he’s probably telling us all the time how Wright shouldn’t be compared to Derek Jeter because Wright hasn’t won, and Jeter does everything perfect.
2018: Believe it or not, Jeter owns the Marlins.
2013: Like, he’s still playing, and he won the World Series MVP?
2018: No, he’s actually a part owner of the Marlins.
2013: The media must love him and the Marlins now.
2018: People think Jeter is a prick now. He fired a cancer patient while he was in the hospital.
2018: Oh yeah, he’s alienated everyone, including their biggest fan, Marlins Man.
2013: What’s a Marlins Man?
2018: It’s this guy who goes across the country sitting behind home plate of every nationally televised game while wearing an orange Marlins jersey.
2013: That’s a thing?
2018: For a while now.
2013: So let me get this straight. In the future, Jeter owns the Marlins. Francesca pretends to be Brett Favre. There is some guy who is a celebrity because he’s rich and wears an orange Marlins jersey, and the Mets displaced Wright in favor of Frazier.
2018: I hate to tell you this, but Wright’s career is done.
2013: With the Mets? I knew the Wilpons wouldn’t pay him. Where did he go? Please don’t tell me he’s a Yankee.
2018: No, Wright’s baseball career. It’s over.
2013: Shut up. He would be just, what, 34?
2018: He’s 35.
2013: So, what? He’s the Mets Don Mattingly?
2018: He is. Back in 2015, when the Mets went to the World Series
2013: THE METS WENT TO THE WORLD SERIES?!?!?!?!?
2018: They did.
2013: Wow, Terry Collins must’ve really turned things around with better players.
2018: Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves here.
2013: Sorry, you were saying about Wright.
2018: Anyway, Wright was diagnosed with spinal stenosis. He was actually able to play in the World Series, but after that point his career was essentially over.
2013: That’s the most depressing thing I’ve ever heard.
2018: Well, it gets worse.
2013: How could it get worse?
2018: Well aside from the Mets losing the 2015 World Series –
2013: Oh, they lost? To who?
2018: The Royals.
2013: HOW! THEY ALWAYS SUCK!
2018: Well, for two years they didn’t, and they were helped along by some really bad decisions by Collins in that World Series, including leaving Harvey out too long.
2013: Let me guess. Hurt again.
2018: Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, but not because of that. At least, I don’t think.
2013: Thor – what?
2018: No, not Noah Syndergaard. Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.
2013: Wait, Syndergaard calls himself Thor.
2018: Yeah, and he picks fights with Mr. Met on Twitter.
2013: I thought Mr. Met doesn’t talk.
2018: Yeah, it’s this whole thing. You know what. Nevermind, it’s even dumber when you explain it.
2013: Fine, what’s the deal with Harvey again?
2018: Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. At best it’s a shoulder condition that changes your career. For some, it ends it. Remember Josh Beckett?
2013: Yeah, he was bad last year.
2018: That’s why.
2013: So wait, the Mets went to a World Series with an injured Harvey and Wright?
2018: Well, Harvey wasn’t injured yet.
2013: But now he is. Well, I got to give it to Sandy. He was able to turn Harvey and Herrera into Bruce, Frazier, and Mesoraco, who was a promising catcher.
2018: Well, the Mets did use Herrera to get Bruce. Frazier was a free agent, and the Mets used Harvey to get Mesoraco.
2013: Wow, that was one first round draft pick which really must’ve worked out for the Reds. You’d hope for more for Harvey, but still, you have to give Sandy credit for getting a young impressive catcher for Harvey before Harvey broke down.
2018: Oh, Mesoraco is broken down himself. He’s had shoulder and hip issues. He can’t play everyday, and he’s been hovering around the Mendoza line for years.
2013: So, let me get this straight.
2018: Go ahead.
2013: Wright is broken. Harvey is broken. They also got Mesoraco, who is also broken. Ike is both broken and a pitcher.
2018: Pretty much.
2018: You know what? I think that’s enough for right now.
After getting outclassed by the Washington Nationals, the Mets are now six games under .500, and they are 10.5 games back in the division. Things are bleaker in the Wild Card race. The Mets are now 12 games out of the second Wild Card spot. One of the teams they are trailing are the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs. While it may be too early on July 20th to say the season is over, realistically speaking, the Mets really need to consider selling.
Aside from Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, and the core group of starting pitchers, the Mets should look to sell everyone on the major league roster. The problem is why would anyone want what the Mets are selling?
Travis d’Arnaud has had another injury this year and has regressed in all aspects of his game. His backup, Rene Rivera has been hitting .162/.205/.297 over his last 10 games. With Rivera, this isn’t too far from what he’s been his entire career.
Across the infield, the situation is no better. Lucas Duda has had his typical hot and cold season with him hitting .175/.283/.375 over the past two weeks. It also doesn’t help that he struggles against left-handed pitching.
Just as Neil Walker was playing great again, he suffered a tear in his hamstring, and he will not be able to come back from the disabled list until after the All Star Break. That leaves little time for him to get back into form before the trade deadline assuming he is even able to return by then.
Asdrubal Cabrera is having a terrible season. He has twice landed on the disabled list with a thumb injury. His already poor range has been further limited. While he’s always been a second-half hitter, his stats this season lag behind last year’s first half stats.
Flat out, Jose Reyes has been the worst infielder in the major leagues. With his poor defense, he is little more than a pinch runner.
In the outfield, Curtis Granderson has shaken off his cold start, and he has been much better of late. However, he’s still hitting .212/.302/.396, and he’s still 36 years old. If a team were interested in Juan Lagares and his Gold Glove defense, that opportunity has passed with Lagares’ thumb injury.
Outside of Addison Reed and Jerry Blevins, the bullpen has been mostly terrible. Josh Edgin has had a nice season there, but 30 year old LOOGYs hardly fetch a large haul at the trade deadline. And for what it’s worth, the Mets still have years of control over Edgin. He’s more valuable to the team as a pitcher than a trade asset.
Certainly, if the Mets were interested in moving Blevins, many teams would be interested in the LOOGY. With his outstanding season, he’s probably going to get a larger return than your standard LOOGY, which still won’t be a prospect who will be a major piece of the future.
No, the only two players really capable of that are Reed and Jay Bruce. With respect to Bruce, the bar has been set fairly high for his return. Last year, the Mets traded Dilson Herrera, who was seen as an important part of the Mets future, and Max Wotell, who is an interesting left-handed pitching prospect. If the Mets can match or come near that, they’ve done well. The problem is Bruce is now a pending free agent making that kind of a return all the more unlikely.
Based on last year’s trade deadline, the Mets can legitimately ask for the moon for Reed. He’s been great as a Met, and he’s been great this year. He’s a great eighth inning reliever, and this year, he is showing he can replicate that success as a closer. At the trade deadline, everyone is looking for relief help meaning everyone should be looking at Reed.
And the Mets better maximize that return because looking at the team as a whole, the Mets aren’t likely to get a whole lot back at the trade deadline. Certainly, it will be paltry compared to the Yankees haul last year. The sad part is if these players were playing better, the Mets return might’ve surpassed that. Then again, if these players were playing that well, we wouldn’t be talking about selling at the trade deadline.
Once Saturday’s game is over, Terry Collins will become the Mets all-time leader in games managed. With this, he will be above Gil Hodges, who may have owned the record himself if not for his sudden and tragic passing. He will surpass Bobby Valentine, who was the first Mets manager to lead the team to consecutive postseasons. Finally, he passes Davey Johnson, who led the Mets to the greatest stretch in team history.
All of the aforementioned managers have had better records then Collins, who owns the Mets mark for most losses as a manger. It leads to the question, why is it Collins lasted longer in New York than either Valentine or Johnson? The answer is a complicated one for a man who has led the Mets over a complicated time period.
Collins took the helm for the Mets after the disastrous Jerry Manuel Era. After bad mouthing his boss, Willie Randolph, he talked his way into the managerial job, and he oversaw his own collapse. Despite that, the Mets decided to retain him as the new team manager as the Mets opened up a new ballpark. In his two full seasons as Mets manager, his teams were 149-173. This was despite having talented rosters with players like David Wright, Jose Reyes, and Carlos Beltran.
The Manuel Era was done in by a number of issues. First, the team was not built well for the then cavernous Citi Field. Second, high priced veterans like Luis Castillo and Jason Bay were playing up the standards of being an average major league player, let alone their contracts. Third, the team deal with a number of injuries – some of which were exacerbated by Manuel’s decision making. Mostly, the mix of manager, ballpark, and roster were doomed from the beginning. It was time for new blood across the organization.
This was the stage upon which Collins entered as the Mets manager in 2011. The team was mostly a mix of veterans nearing either the end of their contracts or their careers and some interesting players who could be talented major league players. In the early part of Collin’s tenure, the Mets were teams that overachieved in the first half of the season, and then with trades, injuries, or players coming back to earth, the Mets would fall apart as the season progressed.
During the early part of Collins tenure as Mets manager, no one realistically believed the Mets were going to be contenders. As a result, judging him by wins and losses seemed counter-intuitive. Rather, you want to look at managers like this through the prism of their ability to get the most out of the talent on their roster. Specifically, you want to see them develop some young players.
Things almost came to a head in 2014. The Mets first real prized free agent acquisition of the Sandy Alderson Era, Curtis Granderson, was struggling. The other, Bartolo Colon, was the staff ace, which meant Zack Wheeler was not progressing like the organization would have liked. There were also struggles from Dilson Herrera, Travis d’Arnaud, and others. It was not how the Mets envisioned this season would go, and if not for the Wilpons intervening, it would have been a different manager that led the Mets to the 2015 pennant.
It’s unsure to pinpoint the exact reason Collins survived. The biggest skeptics will pinpoint Collins was due money, and the Wilpons, who were dealing with the Madoff scandal, were loathe to pay two different managers. It’s possible Collins was saved because the Mets were not exactly under-performing. There were also some positive signs for the team.
Lucas Duda not only won the first base job, but he hit 30 home runs. Daniel Murphy was a first time All-Star. Jenrry Mejia showed he was closer material. Wheeler had a strong finish to the season. Jeurys Familia looked like a closer in waiting. Juan Lagares won a Gold Glove. Jacob deGrom was a surprise Rookie of the Year. Matt Harvey had just been the All Star Game starter the previous season, and he was set to return in 2015. R.A. Dickey won a Cy Young Award that allowed the facilitation of the trade to bring over d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard. Overall, you could see young pieces who could be part of the Mets’ future. These were players who were cultivated under Collins. It should also be kept in mind Collins created a certain atmosphere in the clubhouse that partially led to Wright signing a contract extension in 2012. Overall, the pieces for a future contender were there, and they were all cultivated under Collins.
There’s another factor that is not often discussed with Collins is the fact he’s a good human being. Time and again with Collins we hear little things he does that mean so much to people. He has reached out to grieving Mets fans to offer his condolences. He’s stopped the team during Spring Training to assemble them to spend some time with sick children. He struck the right chord between honoring Jose Fernandez and trying to keep the Mets team competitive in that three game set. That’s a harder job to do than we all give him credit. Having a man like this around your team and leading young men is always a good thing.
And yet, there are plenty of instances where you look at Collins’ tenure and wonder how he’s lasted this long. His usage of Tim Byrdak, Scott Rice, Johan Santana, Jim Henderson, and others have had a negative impact upon their ability to stay healthy. Certainly, it can be argued these pitchers’ arms were ruined by Collins.
There has also been his over-reliance on his veteran players. Despite Collins mantra that you hit you play, it really has only every been applied to young players. It has twice taken a litany of injuries to get T.J. Rivera in the lineup. Collins never would put Michael Conforto back in the lineup last year no matter his raking in Triple-A and his wrist being healthy. Instead, he watched Jay Bruce continue to flail at the plate. This year, we see him keeping Reyes and Granderson in the lineup despite their both hitting under the Mendoza Line.
More to the point, Collins allows the question to be asked over who exactly is in charge. There are always reports Alderson dictates to him what should be done instead of Collins being allowed to manage the team as he wishes. Collins allowed Reyes to pull himself from the last game of the 2011 season to preserve his batting title. One of the lasting images of the 2015 World Series was Harvey telling him not to pull him from the game.
That World Series is certainly one that will haunt the Mets. Collins made a number of questionable moves throughout that series which did not put his team in the best possible position to win. Given how the Mets are struggling now, it does beg the question whether that was this core’s best opportunity to win a World Series. But it’s more than that. We have consistently seen Collins ignore reliever’s workloads and splits when making pitching changes. He will send Wilmer Flores up there to pinch hit against right-handed pitchers even with other players still on the bench. Overall, it is his in-game managing that leaves a lot to be desired.
Despite all of that, Collins is still here. He has survived a lot to get to this point. There was the Madoff scandal. There was a rebuild that took a year or two longer than initially advertised. He has consistently tried to hold a team together that has seen a number of injuries, brutal losses, and disheartening losing streaks. He oversaw the transition from the Mets being a last place team to a team that almost won a World Series.
The Terry Collins’ Era will forever be a complicated one in Mets history. To a certain extent, it does not matter that he is the manager who has managed the most games in Mets history. That is mostly the result of circumstance. Arguably, the circumstances have dictated Collins remain on for as long as he has. Say what you will about the man, but he has always been accountable, never left you questioning his loyalty to the players or fans, and he has had the pulse of his clubhouse. If nothing else, Collins is a leader of men, and as a man, you are hard pressed to find a better human being in baseball.
It does not matter if you believe someone else should have this record. It’s Collins’ now. He deserves everyone’s congratulations for it, and he deserves the respect of Mets fans for his tenure.
In the three seasons before Yoenis Cespedes became a New York Met, he was a .263/.316/.464 hitter who averaged 24 homers and 87 RBI. Since becoming a New York Met, Cespedes has been a .282/.348/.554 hitter with 162 game averages of 41 homers and 111 RBI.
In Curtis Granderson‘s first year with the Mets, he was a .227/.326/.388 hitter with 20 homers and 66 RBI. Over the past two seasons, Granderson has been a .248/.350/.460 hitter who has averaged 28 homers and 64 RBI.
In the three years before the Mets acquired Neil Walker from the Pittsburgh Pirates, Walker was a .264/.336/.438 hitter who averaged 18 homers and 67 RBI. In his Pirates career as a right-handed batter, Walker was a career .260 hitter with just six home runs over the course of seven seasons. Last year, Walker was a .282/.347/.476 hitter with 23 homers and 55 RBI in just 113 games. From the right side of the plate, he was a .330/.391/.610 hitter with eight homers.
In the three years before Asdrubal Cabrera signed a free agent deal with the Mets, he was a .249/.307/.405 hitter who averaged 14 homers and 61 RBI. Last year, Cabrera was a .280/.336/.474 hitter with 23 homers and 62 RBI. It should also be noted he was one of if not the best hitter over the last two months of the season.
With this quartet of players, we see a definite trend of what happens when the Mets hitters being working with hitting coach Kevin Long. Whatever it is he specifically does, he has the ability to help batters not only hit for more power, but also improve their OBP. While Long’s detractors will point out there are players that haven’t performed well under his tutelage like Travis d’Arnaud and Michael Conforto last year, there are players like the aforementioned players and Daniel Murphy who have improved. The point is overall hitters tend to improve in terms of OBP and slugging under Long.
With Long’s seeming ability to help players in these two key areas, Jay Bruce would be wise to work closely with his new hitting coach this season.
Over the course of his career, Bruce has been a .248/.318/.467 hitter who has averaged a 27 homers and 82 RBI a season with most of his damage being done at The Great American Ballpark where he is a .254/.328/.500 hitter. Basically, Bruce has basically been a slugger that not only does not know how to draw a walk, but he is also a product of his former home ballpark. At least that was the perception. That perception was not helped when Bruce hit .219/.294/.391 in 50 games with the Mets last season.
This is a large reason why he did not garner much interest on the trade market. It may very well be a reason why he will have difficulty getting a large free agent deal next offseason.
It’s odd when you think about it because Bruce has the potential to be a 30 HR/100 RBI hitter. He is your prototypical slugger who has been a three time All Star, two time Silver Slugger, and has a top 10 MVP finish in his career. There is real talent there. He just needs help to become a more well-rounded hitter. As we have seen with most of the Mets roster, Long has helped the Mets hitters on that front.
If Bruce does improve his OBP and he hits for more power, the Mets are going to have the left-handed power threat they thought they were getting when they acquired him in exchange for Dilson Herrera and Max Wotell. He is also going to help garner the interest for his services that we just not present this offseason. Overall, the working relationship between Bruce and Long can be a mutually beneficial relationship.
It’s a relationship both Bruce’s and the 2017 Mets’ future hinges upon.
We are headed for another season of Mets baseball where we hope that once again these Mets can make it all the way back to the World Series. Since 2015, we have seen a definite pattern emerge with the Mets, and I think as Mets fans, we should all try better this year to not react, some would say overreact, when one of the following things we know will happen, happens:
- The Mets are not going to sign another big name free agent this offseason. It’s not going to happen, and it just may happen that Jose Bautista winds up in the division and on a fairly discounted deal;
- Jerry Blevins will sign an extremely reasonable two year deal . . . with another team;
- Instead of fortifying the bench, the Mets are going to go with this year’s version of Eric Campbell -> Ty Kelly;
- Terry Collins is going to use and abuse Addison Reed to the point where his arm may actually fall off. This will go double if Jeurys Familia gets suspended;
- Hansel Robles is going to go through a stretch in one week where he pitches five innings, 1/3 of an inning, two innings, and three innings, and everyone is going to wonder why his production has fallen off;
- The infield of Lucas Duda, Neil Walker, David Wright, and Asdrubal Cabrera will be ridden hard despite their injury histories and capable backups like Wilmer Flores and Jose Reyes on the bench;
- Just pick a random player on the roster – he’s going to be on the DL for over two months with a back injury;
- There will be a game with Reyes in center and Juan Lagares in right;
- Travis d’Arnaud is going to get injured, and Kevin Plawecki is not going to be able to replace his bat in the lineup;
- Matt Harvey will complain about the six man rotation that will be implemented at some point during the season;
- Robert Gsellman will make an appearance throwing well over 100 pitches in five innings or less;
- Rene Rivera will hit under the Mendoza Line;
- T.J. Rivera will be raking in AAA and not get called up despite the Mets needing some offense;
- Michael Conforto will not face one left-handed pitcher all season;
- Yoenis Cespedes will not dive for a ball, run out a pop up, or run hard to first on a dropped strike three;
- Curtis Granderson will have a better OBP than Reyes, but Collins will continue to lead off Reyes and his sub .330 OBP;
- Collins will not know if Brandon Nimmo is faster than Flores and it will cost them a game;
- No matter where he winds up this offseason, and no matter how poor his year is going, Chase Utley will hit two home runs in a game he faces the Mets;
- Sandy Alderson will mortgage a part of the Mets future because he didn’t make a move in the offseason that he should have made;
- Paul Sewald will pitch well in AAA, but the Mets won’t call him up because they would rather rip Sean Gilmartin or Gabriel Ynoa from the Vegas rotation to make a relief appearance on 2-3 days of rest;
- Both Josh Smoker and Robles will be fully warmed up, and Collins will go to Smoker to pitch to the lefty;
- For reasons the Mets themselves can’t quite explain, Rafael Montero will spend the full season on the 40 man roster;
- d’Arnaud will come off the disabled list, play well for a stretch, and the Mets will lose him and Steven Matz in the same game;
- Matz will have appendicitis, but the Mets will talk him out of the surgery because they need him to start against the Reds;
- Dilson Herrera will tear it up every time he plays the Mets;
- Wherever he lands, Jay Bruce is going to hit 30 homers and 100 RBI;
- Collins will show up in the dugout without wearing pants, and the Mets still won’t fire him;
- Noah Syndergaard will get ejected from a game for throwing inside. A player who takes a bat to one of the Mets infielders in retaliation won’t;
- Fans will clamor for Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith to get called up all season long;
- Seth Lugo will bounce between the bullpen and rotation so much, MLB is actually going to test him to see if his arm is actually made out of rubber;
- Bartolo Colon will pitch so poorly against the Mets, fans will wonder why they wanted a bum like him back;
- R.A. Dickey will not only beat the Mets, but he will throw the team into a week long offensive funk causing some fans to decry the trade;
- One or more pitchers will get hurt, and fans that even question if the Warthen Slider could be an issue will be mocked mercilessly;
- Some way some how Jon Niese will pitch for this team;
- Rather than build Tom Seaver a statue, the Mets will issue #41 to Niese upon his return to the team;
- Daniel Murphy will have another terrific year for the Nationals, and some Mets fans will still defend the decision to let him go;
- Ricky Knapp will make a solid spot start for the Mets causing fans to think he is the second coming;
- Mets will trade a good prospect for Kelly Johnson; and
- Despite all of this the Mets will make it to the postseason
Honestly, I give it until April 9th when Collins declares the last game in a three game set against the Marlins is a must-win game.
Last offseason, the Mets re-signing Yoenis Cespedes put the final touches on the team everyone hoped would compete for a World Series. This year, the re-signing of Cespedes is really just a start for a team that still needs to make a number of moves this offseason. Here is a look at the moves the Mets still need to make:
TRADE JAY BRUCE
With Cespedes back, Jay Bruce likely becomes the outfielder the Mets will trade this offseason. In his nine year career, Bruce has been a .248/.318/.467 hitter who has averaged 27 homers and 82 RBI. At $13 million next season, that production is arguably a bargain. That is probably a reason why teams have been in contact with the Mets trying to inquire what the team will want in exchange for Bruce. While it is hard to believe the Mets will be able to bring in a prospect like Dilson Herrera or a player that will have a similar impact that Bruce will have in 2017, it should not be ruled out that the Mets will be able to acquire a player of consequence that will help the team next season.
DETERMINE MICHAEL CONFORTO’S POSITION
If the Mets are going to trade Bruce, it is another sign that the Mets see Michael Conforto as an everyday player. Where he will be an everyday player remains to be seen. With Cespedes returning for four years with a no trade clause, the only thing we know is that Conforto will not be the teams everyday left fielder anytime soon. That leaves center and right field.
During Conforto’s time in AAA last year, he began learning both positions. In his limited time in the majors at both positions, he showed he may very well be able to handle either position on an everyday basis. However, given the presence of Juan Lagares on this team, the best thing for Conforto and the Mets is to transition him to right field. Let him get fully acclimated there and focus on getting back to where he was April of last year. This will also let Lagares and Curtis Granderson handle center field duties next season, which was a platoon that may work very well for the Mets next year.
OBTAIN A LOOGY
Last year, Jerry Blevins had a terrific year out of the bullpen for the Mets as a LOOGY. In fact, he proved to be a bit more as he had a career best year pitching against right-handed batters. However, he is a free agent now, and the Mets do not appear as if they are able or inclined to give him the multi-year deal that he may command in free agency.
The internal left-handed options are Josh Edgin and Josh Smoker. Edgin did have some success against left-handed batters in limited duty in the majors last year, but with his velocity still not having fully returned after his Tommy John surgery, it is hard to rely upon him in any capacity next year. Smoker had outstanding strikeout rates in the minors and the majors last year, but he has reverse splits. Therefore, the Mets are going to have to look outside the organization to figure out who will be the first lefty out of the pen next season.
OBTAIN ONE OR MORE LATE INNING RELIEVERS
The Mets bullpen really is in a state of flux at the moment due to the Jeurys Familia domestic violence arrest. Pending an investigation by MLB, it is possible that Familia will miss a significant number of games next season. If that is the case, Addison Reed should prove more than capable of closing games in Familia’s absence. This begs the question of who will step up and take over Reed’s role in the short term.
It was a question the Mets faced most of 2016, and they did not find a good answer until they obtained Fernando Salas on the eve of the waiver trade deadline. Given his late inning and closing experience, Salas would be a good option to pitch in the seventh, eighth, or ninth inning next year. However, he is a free agent at the moment meaning the Mets are going to have to presumably sign or trade for someone to take over this role. In fact, the Mets may very well need two late inning relievers to address the bullpen.
SIGN A VETERAN STARTER
The one lesson learned from the 2016 season should be that once again you can never have too much pitching. With the return of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz, the Mets rotation is almost complete. The question is who will become the team’s fifth starter.
The first name that will be mentioned is Zack Wheeler. However, after missing all of 2015 and 2016, no one can be quite certain he is ready and able to assume the fifth starter’s role. The next names that will be mentioned are Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman. Both pitched quite well for the Mets in the stretch run last year, but the Mets may prefer to have a veteran arm who is able to eat up innings and/or can go deeper into the season than any of the aforementioned pitchers. Preferably, the pitcher they do sign would be willing to move to the bullpen in the event Wheeler, Lugo, or Gsellman wins the job in Spring Training or is ready to take over at some point during the season.
FIGURE OUT THE BACK-UP CATCHER SITUATION
Even with Rene Rivera back in the fold and despite his excellent work with Noah Syndergaard, there is still room for improvement on the catching front. Many will mention the recently non-tendered Wellington Castillo, but people should realize he’s an average hitter at best. Moreover, he’s a terrible pitch framer. Mets need to do better than that, but to be fair, that may not be possible.
Whatever the Mets decide to do, they first have to realize that Kevin Plawecki has twice proven he should not be relied upon to be the team’s primary back-up catcher. Next, the Mets have to realize they need a viable backup who can handle playing a number of games due to Travis d’Arnaud‘s injury history.
There are some other matters that need to be figured out as well. For example, do you want Ty Kelly and T.J. Rivera competing for the last spot on the bench, or do you want to re-sign Kelly Johnson? The answer to this and many other questions will largely depend on how much money the Mets have to spend the offseason and/or what the Mets are able to obtain in exchange for Bruce.
Cespedes was a great start to the offseason, but the Mets work is far from over.
Ten years ago, Omar Minaya had his second draft as the manager of the New York Mets. With the team having signed Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran in the offseason, they would not have a first round draft pick. In total, the Mets would draft 49 players, and they would be able to sign 35 of them. Of the 49 players drafted, six of the players would play in the major leagues. Here is review of those players that were drafted and played in the major leagues:
Kevin Mulvey, LHP (2nd Round, 62nd Overall)
Mulvey was a fairly well-regarded fastball-changeup pitcher out of Villanova, who shot through the Mets minor league system. In his first full professional season, he started in AA, and he finished the year with one start in New Orleans, which was then the Mets AAA affiliate.
In the offseason, Mulvey was a significant piece in the trade that brought Johan Santana to the Mets. Notably, he was the only player drafted by Minaya to be included in the deal.
Mulvey would not last long with the Twins. He spent a year and half with the team, and he made a very brief major league appearance with them in 2009. He would become the player to be named later in a trade in which the Twins acquired Jon Rauch to help them not only win the AL Central, but also to help them in the postseason.
Mulvey would not pitch well for the Diamondbacks. In 2009 and 2010, he would only make four starts and four relief appearances. He would go 0-3 with a 6.92 ERA and a 1.615 WHIP. In 2011, the Diamondbacks would designate him for assignment to remove him from the 40 man roster. A year later, he would be outright released.
Mulvey caught back on with the Mets in 2012, and he was assigned to AA Binghamton. After 13 relief appearances that saw him go 0-1 with a 5.59 ERA and a 1.707 WHIP, Mulvey retired from the game of baseball, and he returned to Villanova to be an assistant coach. On July 14, 2016, he was named the head coach of the Villanova Wildcats.
In total, Mulvey only started four games and made six relief appearances over three major league seasons. He finished with an 0-3 record, a 7.90 ERA, and a 1.756 WHIP.
Joe Smith, RHP (3rd Round, 94th Overall)
After losing Chad Bradford to free agency, the Mets decided the side winding Smith was ready to take over Bradford’s role in the bullpen.
Smith would pitch two seasons with the Mets making 136 appearances. In those games, he would go 9-5 with a 3.51 ERA and a 1.402 WHIP. While he could never match what Bradford did for the 2006 Mets, Smith was still a reliable bullpen arm so long as he was called to pitch to right-handed batters.
With the Mets bullpen falling to pieces during the 2008 season, the Mets sought a dominant reliever who could pitch in the eighth inning and who could be a reliable closing option in the event the Mets closer once again succumbed to injury. With that in mind, Smith was included as a part of a three-team deal that netted the Mets J.J. Putz. Ironically, it was Smith who would have the best career out of all the relievers in the deal.
During Smith’s five year tenure with the Indians, he got better and better each season as he got better and better pitching to left-handed batters. He went from being a reliever who got just righties out to an eighth inning set-up guy. Because of that, he got a big three year $15.75 million contract from the Angels when he hit free agency for the first time.
While Smith regressed a bit during his time with the Angels, he was still a very effective reliever. Because he is still a very useful reliever, the Chicago Cubs obtained him after the non-waiver trade deadline. Despite pitching well with a 2.51 ERA in 16 appearances for the Cubs, he was left off the postseason roster. Smith is due to be a free agent after the season.
So far in Smith’s 10 year career, he has averaged 64 appearances and 57 innings per season. He is 41-28 with 29 saves, a 2.93 ERA, and a 1.199 WHIP.
John Holdzkom, RHP (4th Round, 124th Overall)
Holdzkom was a high school pitcher with a big arm whose fastball could reach triple digits. Initially, he posted big strike out numbers in the minors before needing season ending Tommy John surgery in 2008. The surgery caused him to miss the entire 2009 season, and when he returned, he was never the same pitcher.
After six games in the rookie leagues in 2010, the Mets released him. Holdzkom would take a year off from baseball before signing a minor league deal with the Cincinnati Reds. He would struggle for two years in the Reds farm system before being released in June 2012.
From there, Holdzkom went to the Independent Leagues in the hopes of rekindling his hopes of becoming a major league pitcher. With his fastball returning, he was dominant with high strikeout numbers once again, and he caught the attention of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who offered him a minor league deal. In 2014, Holdzkom would actually appear in nine games for the Pirates pitching very well. In those games, he was 1-0 with a 2.00 ERA and a 0.667 WHIP.
Holdzkom would lose his fastball again, and he would never again be able to crack the Pirates major league roster. On the eve of Opening Day, he was released by the Pirates, and he was eventually signed to a minor league contract by the Chicago White Sox. While never appearing on an injury report anywhere, Holdzkom only made one appearance in 2016 for the White Sox rookie league affiliate in July. In two-third of an inning, he allowed four runs on three hits and two walks.
As for this moment, it is unknown what lies in the future of this 28 year old pitcher who is still looking to reclaim his fastball.
Daniel Murphy 3B (13th Round, 394th Overall)
Murphy is the best known player from the Mets 2006 draft. He got his start with the Mets in left field for a 2008 Mets team desperate for offense. Murphy hit well enough that he was named the Opening Day left fielder in 2009. That year it was apparent he was not an outfielder, and he began his transition to second base.
While there were some rough spots along the way, everything finally clicked for Murphy last postseason with him hitting home runs in six consecutive postseason games. These home runs were all the more notable when you consider Murphy hit them off Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, and Kyle Hendricks. His key steal and home run in Game 5 helped propel the Mets to the NLCS, and in the NLCS he was the obvious choice for MVP.
He signed with the Nationals, and he went out and proved his postseason run was no fluke. Murphy hit .347/.390/.595 with 47 doubles, 25 homers, and 104 RBI. All these numbers were career bests. He led the National League in doubles, slugging, and OPS.
In his Mets career, Murphy hit .288/.331/.424 while averaging 33 doubles, nine homers, and 57 RBI per season. Among Mets second baseman, Murphy is the all-time leader in games, at-bats, runs, hits, doubles, RBI, and batting average. He is also ranked third overall for the most doubles by a player in a Mets uniform, and he is ranked eighth in batting average.
Tobi Stoner, RHP (16th Round, 484th Overall)
The German born Stoner was used as a starting pitching in the Mets minor league system. However, in his brief time with the major league club, he was used exclusively out of the bullpen. Between 2009 and 2010, Stoner made five appearances going 0-1 with a 3.97 ERA and a 1.412 WHIP.
After his big league call-ups, Stoner actually regressed. That could be in part due to bone spurs in his elbow he had to have removed prior to the 2011 season. Even with the removed bone spurs, Stoner could never get back to being the pitcher he was or who the Mets thought he could be, and he was released on the eve of the 2012 season. Stoner would pitch the 2012 season in the Independent Leagues. In 12 starts, he would have an 8.11 ERA, and his professional career was over after that season.
Josh Stinson, RHP (37th Round, 1,114th Overall)
Stinson was a high school pitcher with a mid 90’s fastball. As he did not truly develop his secondary pitches, he became a bullpen arm. With a his live arm, he got called-up in 2011, at the age of 23, and pitched in 14 games with the Mets recording a 6.92 ERA and a 1.615 WHIP.
The Mets relased him before the 2012 season, and he was claimed by the Brewers. He pitched mostly in the minors for the Brewers. Stinson did get a brief call-up where he actually pitched well. Despite his success in a small sample size, he was released before the 2013 season, and he was eventually picked up by the Orioles. He made 19 appearances with the Orioles, pitching to a 4.50 ERA, before he was granted free agency. Stinson signed a minor league deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and he would not make it to the majors in the 2014 season. The Pirates released him at the end of the year.
In the 2015 season, Stinson pitched for the Kia Tigers of the Korean Leauges. In 30 starts and two relief appearances, Stinson was 11-10 with a 4.96 ERA and a 1.521 WHIP. No one signed him to a professional contract to pitch in 2016. According to Stinson’s Twitter account, the 28 year old still considers himself a free agent pitcher.
Vic Black, RHP (41st Round, 1,234th Overall)
The Mets drafted Black out of high school, but he would not sign a deal with the Mets. Rather, he attended Dallas Baptist University, and he re-entered the draft in 2009 where the Pittsburgh Pirates would draft him in the first round (49th overall). The Mets would acquire Black in 2013 as part of the trade that sent John Buck and Marlon Byrd to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for Black and Dilson Herrera.
In 2014, Black seemed to have a breakout season for the Mets. He began to harness his high 90s fastball, and as a result, he was becoming a reliable bullpen arm. Unfortunately, Black would land on the disabled list with a herniated disc in his neck. When he tried to pitch through it, he eventually developed a shoulder strain. He was first shut down, and then designated for assignment in the offseason.
While Black elected free agency, he hoped that he could re-sign with the Mets. Neither the Mets nor any other major league team were interested in his services. Black has not pitched in professional baseball in two years. At the moment, it is unknown if he will be able to ever pitch again.
Johnny Monell, C (49th Round, 1,463rd Overall)
Like Black, Monell did not sign a contract with the Mets instead choosing to re-enter the draft at a later date. He would be drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the 30th round in the following draft.
From there, Monell has bounced around from organization to organization. Finally, in 2014, he returned to the same Mets organization that had drafted him eight years prior. Due to injuries to Travis d’Arnaud and the ineffectiveness of both Kevin Plawecki and Anthony Recker, Monell would be called-up to the Mets in 2015, and he would play in 27 games hitting .167/.231/.208 with two doubles and four RBI. Monell would be sent back down to AAA where he would remain for the 2015 season.
The Mets would remove him from the 40 man roster after the 2015 season, and Monell would agree to return to the Mets. Monell spent the entire 2016 season playing for the Las Vegas 51s. He hit .276/.336/.470 with 22 doubles, one triple, 19 homers, and 75 RBI. With Plawecki being sent down in favor of Rene Rivera, Monell became the backup catcher. In order to get him into the lineup more, Monell saw some additional time at first base. Monell finished the year tied for the team lead in homers and third in RBI.
At this point, it is not known if the Mets intend to bring back the 30 year old catcher to play for the 51s again in the 2017 season.
Despite slugging .533 over the last two months of the season, and homering in seven consecutive postseason games, including home runs off Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, and Kyle Hendricks, the Mets only made the perfunctory qualifying offer to NLCS MVP Daniel Murphy. At the time, the qualifying offer was made no player had ever accepted the qualifying offer.
The Mets thought process was grounded in several factors. First, they believed they could get Ben Zobrist, who they viewed as a superior player. Second, the Mets could recoup the first round draft pick they lost by signing Michael Cuddyer in the previous offseason. Third, and most importantly, the Mets didn’t foresee Murphy carrying that level of production for a full season in 2016 and beyond.
That last point became all the more apparent when, after the Mets lost out in Zobrist, they traded Jon Niese (who was later re-acquired in exchange for Antonio Bastardo) for Neil Walker. The Mets made this move despite never inquiring what it would take to re-sign Murphy.
The logic of the Walker trade was the Mets were getting an All Star second baseman in his walk year. Should he perform, the Mets could either re-sign him, or they could make the qualifying offer and recoup another draft pick. Should he falter or leave in free agency, the Mets could turn the position over to second baseman of the future Dilson Herrera.
Walker would have a career year for the Mets both at the plate and in the field. Overall, he would hit .282/.347/.476 with 23 homers and 55 RBI. Those numbers are even better when you consider that the switch hitting Walker was no longer a liability from the right side of the plate. Rather, he was a dominant force.
Unfortunately, Walker would go through part of the summer unable to feel his feet due to a herniated disc. Despite his being in the best stretch of the season and the Mets fighting for the Wild Card, he would have to undergo season ending lumbar microdiscetomy surgery.
While the Mets remain hopeful Walker will recover fully, and that the two sides can agree to a deal, nothing is guaranteed. The Mets need Walker to recover with no issues because Herrera was moved in the trade to acquire Jay Bruce.
Now, many will say this has all been a debacle as Murphy had an MVP caliber season for the rival Washington Nationals. This year, Murphy hit .347/.390/.595 with 47 doubles, five triples, 25 homers, and 104 RBI. He led the league in doubles, slugging, and OPS. Worse yet, he killed the Mets getting a hit in all 19 games against them while hitting .413/.444/.773 with six doubles, seven homers, and 25 RBI.
In response to that, many will say judging the Mets decision on Murphy is unfair as: (1) no one saw this coming; and (2) you are using hindsight to criticize the Mets.
That argument is unfounded. First and foremost, the General Manager is supposed to have foresight. He is paid to make sure what happened with Murphy never happens. Second, and most importantly, the argument is patently false.
As Mets hitting coach Kevin Long told MLB Network Radio, “Daniel Murphy became a monster overnight, once he got it, you knew he wasn’t going to lose it.”
Murphy certainly hasn’t lost it. In fact, he was even better leading the Nationals to an NL East title over the Mets. Tonight, he looks to recreate his incredible Game Five performance against the Dodgers so he can once again torture the Cubs in the NLCS.
Meanwhile, the Mets are looking at their second base options, which assuredly are no better than Murphy, in what is an extremely weak free agent class, after being shutout in the Wild Card Game. It didn’t have to be this way as the Mets coaching staff saw Murphy putting together a season like this.
By the way, Anthony Kay, the pick the Mets received for Murphy becoming a National, had to have Tommy John surgery before he ever threw a pitch as a professional.
One of the reasons the Mets went out and obtained Jay Bruce at the trade deadline is the team felt they needed another power bat in the lineup other than Yoenis Cespedes. Unfortunately, that trade hasn’t panned out well with Bruce hitting just .192/.271/.315 with just four homers and 11 RBI in 36 games as a Met. Worse yet, the Mets gave up Dilson Herrera, who could’ve taken over as the second baseman when Neil Walker required season ending back surgery and Wilmer Flores injured his neck.
Bruce’s struggles could be alleviated if the team was getting production at first base. However, James Loney has similarly struggled. Since the All Star Break, Loney is hitting .249/.276/.329 with only eight extra base hits in 51 games. These numbers are even worse when you consider Terry Collins has done all he could do to help Loney offensively by playing Flores at first against left-handed pitching. Worse yet, Loney’s reputation as a Gold Glove caliber first baseman has been greatly overblown. While defensive metrics for first base can be seen as imperfect, and cannot be fully trusted in a single season sample size, Loney has a -3.2 UZR and 0 DRS. Combining that with the prior two seasons, Loney has averaged a -2.4 UZR and a -1 DRS. Overall, these numbers speak to Loney’s lack of range and his failure to stretch on balls thrown to first base.
The solution to both of these problems would be Lucas Duda. In 2014, Duda beat out Ike Davis to become the Mets first baseman. In his two seasons as the Mets first baseman, Duda was a .249/.350/.483 hitter who averaged 28 homers and 82 RBI. Entering the season, Bruce was a .248/.319/.462 hitter who averages 26 homers and 80 RBI. Accordingly, Duda was a better power hitter and “run producer” who also got on base at a higher clip. Naturally, Duda far surpasses Loney has a hitter.
Defensively, Duda’s poor defensive reputation really rests on one bad throw in the World Series. Over his career, he has a 2.5 UZR and an 11 DRS. Over the two seasons he was the everyday first baseman, Duda averaged a 0.1 UZR and a 5 DRS. Using these advanced metrics, Duda is a much better defender than his reputation suggests, and he is a better defender than Loney. More importantly, as Keith Hernandez consistently pointed out over the past few seasons, Duda cheats to get to each and every ball thrown by an infielder. He stretches as far out as he can to help the Mets get the out calls on the close calls at first base.
Offensively and defensively, Duda is exactly what this Mets team needs for the stretch run and the postseason. Unfortunately, Duda suffered a stress fracture in his lower back. With a few setbacks during his rehabilitation, Duda was supposed to be gone for the season.
As it turns out, he wasn’t. Duda was able to get enough stationary bike riding and batting practice in for the Mets to feel comfortable activating him from the disabled list on Saturday. Even better, he got the surprise start on Sunday.
He would go 0-2 with a strikeout looking rusty at the plate. He was eventually lifted for Asdrubal Cabrera when the Twins brought in the left-handed Buddy Boshers to pitch the sixth. In the field, Duda was back to his normal form stretching out to give his team the best chance possible to get the base runner.
Getting on the field was a good start. However, if the Mets are going to make a run in the postseason, they will need Duda’s bat. There are 13 games left in the season for him to get into form. Hopefully, Collins will give him every opportunity to get going before the Wild Card Game.
If so, we have seen a hot Duda bat carry the Mets for long stretches. It just might carry the Mets to the World Series.