Well, it finally happened. Behind the pitching of Jacob deGrom, the Mets finally have a simulated win for the 2020 season.
For a while, it looked like a typical deGrom start with him shutting down the other side and the Mets not scoring runs. Jeff McNeil was thrown out at the plate, and Brandon Nimmo struck out with the bases loaded.
Finally, Robinson Cano hit an RBI single in the third, and Dominic Smith would hit a three run homer to give the Mets a 4-0 lead. Pete Alonso, who has struggled in 2020 (for what very little that’s worth) also homered in the game.
It was a very rude homecoming for Zack Wheeler who only lasted four innings and would take the loss.
The Phillies didn’t get to deGrom until Nick Williams hit a two run homer in the seventh, but that only pulled the Phillies to within 5-2.
The New York Mets signed Dellin Betances to be a big piece of their bullpen. The question for Betances and the Mets is when exactly that is going to happen.
Betances dealt with shoulder issues entering the 2019 season, and he would never quite regain his full velocity. When he was able to finally pitch he would partially tear his achilles. That set forth a trip into free agency with a number of questions marks and suppressed value on the market.
With there being just weeks before Opening Day, Betances has yet to play in a Spring Training game. Moreover, Betances’ velocity is still down, which isn’t all that unusual for him at this point in the year.
With the velocity down and Betances not appearing in a Spring Training game, the conversation about his availability for Opening Day needs to begin. While he COULD theoretically be ready, the Mets need to discuss whether he SHOULD be there.
No matter what the decision, one thing should be clear – the Mets don’t need to push Betances because the Mets have viable short-term alternatives at their disposal.
At the outset, it should be noted the Mets do have a bit of a Spring Training battle for the last spot in the bullpen. With Brad Brach, Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, Seth Lugo, and Justin Wilson guaranteed spots, there are three bullpen spots up for grabs. One of those is likely going to Michael Wacha, and when he is healthy, Betances takes the other leaving one.
It’s very likely that last spot goes to Robert Gsellman, but the Mets do have him spend the offseason preparing to be a starter. In the potential absence of Betances, he should be all but guaranteed a bullpen spot. That leaves some interesting options behind him.
Jacob Rhame is out of options, and as noted, he may be a sneaky candidate to make the Opening Day roster. Walker Lockett is in the same position as Rhame, but he does not have the same spin rates or velocity as Rhame, and he has also been more of a starter in his career.
Paul Sewald is continuously overlooked, but when he gets his chance, he does pitch well in spurts. He has shown versatility as a one inning reliever and as a late inning reliever. With the exception of one poor outing, he allowed one earned or less in 16 of his 17 relief appearances. His penultimate one last year yielded his first Major League win.
As enticing as Sewald may be, Daniel Zamora may be more so. With the new three batter minimum rule, left-handed relievers who can get right-handed batters out become all the more valuable. In his professional career, Zamora has reverse splits, and he has pitched well against them during Spring Training.
In terms of Zamora, with the three batter rule, you could argue he should be a leading candidate for the Opening Day bullpen even if Betances was ready.
Of course, Betances could be ready for Opening Day making this all academic. Still, the Mets need to prepare for that eventuality, and perhaps even if Betances might be ready, they could opt to give him some additional time. After all, Betances has thrown all of 0.2 innings over the past year.
If nothing else, you wonder how deep into the season he can go after not throwing many innings at all last year. No matter what the Mets do, they need to remember it is not about Opening Day. It is about October – how to get there and how to win when they get there. Fortunately, they have the depth options to get Betances there.
The 2019 season was the worst season of Edwin Diaz‘s career. He set career worsts in almost every category with the most alarming being in ERA, home run rate, and contact rate. This was a large reason why he set career worsts in categories like ERA+ and FIP. To sum up, Diaz was bad in 2019.
There were a number of reasons why including the change in the ball and Diaz’s admitted struggles dealing with New York. Of all the Mets players, Diaz is the one who probably needs to get off to a good start to avoid the boo birds from coming.
Well, in his first Spring outing, things did not go well. He needed 25 pitches to get through the inning, and he would take the loss after allowing two runs on three hits. Two of those hits went for extra bases with Aledmys Diaz and Dustin Garneau hitting RBI doubles off of him.
Seeing this happen, Mets fans should meet Diaz’s outing with a shrug and a yawn. That’s about as extreme an overreaction you should have.
After all, it happened on February 26. The 2020 season doesn’t begin for another month. That is a month for Diaz to continue to work with Jeremy Hefner to make the adjustments he needs to make in order to again become the dominant closer he was with the Seattle Mariners. It’s a month for Diaz to shake off the rust of the winter and proceed to striking out the side in regular season games which matter.
Look, this is Spring Training. Everything is a small sample size, and bad outings and struggles are going to be magnified. Really, it is incumbent upon you as a fan to determine how you react to these Spring Training outings and stories.
You could chose to be pessimistic about outings like Diaz’s. You could allow Ryan Cordell‘s big game or Daniel Zamora‘s dominating right-handed batters get you excited about the 2020 season. Or, you could just take everything with a grain of salt and await the beginning of the regular season.
You can choose to do what you like, but it is more fun to take some advice from Bing Crosby and “accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, and latch on to the affirmative.” After all, nothing is on the line in Spring Training, so really choose to have fun by properly compartmentalizing Diaz’s poor outing while allowing yourself to get excited a bit by stories like Cordell or Zamora.
Major League Baseball has implemented new rules which not only restrict the use of left-handed relievers (i.e. LOOGYS), but they have also severely restricted the ability of position players to pitch in games. In fact, according to the new rules, a position player may not pitch unless it is extra innings or “his team is losing or winning by more than six runs when he enters as a pitcher.”
There is a caveat there where a position player can freely enter a game if they are designated as a two-way player. A two way player is someone who has 20 games started as a position player and has pitched 20 innings. As the rule implies, this is a status a player achieves during the course of the season.
Obviously, the 20 way player rule was implemented for a player like Shohei Ohtani who serves as both the Angels DH and a member of their pitching rotation. However, that does not mean other teams should not look to take advantage of this rule.
For the Mets, that means pitching J.D. Davis every opportunity they get.
When the Mets traded for Davis, one of the justifications for the deal was he could step in a reliever if needed. In fact, in his brief Major League career up until that point, Davis had made three relief appearances for the Houston Astros allowing an earned run over 2.2 innings. In those 2.2 innings, he struck out four and walked one.
That was his first pitching experience since college. While at Cal State Fullerton, Davis had 20 appearances. While pitching 43.1 innings, he had a 2.70 ERA, 1.177 WHIP, 2.3 BB/9, and an 8.1 K/9. In his draft report, Baseball America noted ” shows good arm strength off the mound, showing 91-93 mph heat and a decent breaking ball, but his fastball is straight and his arm action isn’t great.”
Put more succinctly, Davis isn’t a Major League quality reliever, but he is a capable pitcher who could help a team out of the bullpen in a real pinch. The thing is you never know when that pinch is going to come.
Far too often, we see times in the season where the Mets pitching staff is completely gassed. The pitchers weren’t giving the length needed. Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman have begun piling up the multiple inning outings. That puts more of an onus on the one inning relievers to push harder than they typically should. Following the Mets, this happens at least twice a year.
With those stretches, an already questionable Mets bullpen will cost the Mets some games they wouldn’t otherwise lose. The job for new manager Luis Rojas and new pitching coach Jeremy Hefner is to find ways to mitigate against that. While being more judicious in how you use your pitching is one element, another is knowing when you send out a position player to pitch.
Early in the season, whenever the Mets have a six run lead or deficit, they should put Davis into the game to accrue innings necessary to achieve that two way player designation. Later in the season, that will allow the Mets to use him in four or five run games when they feel they need to save their pitching staff to give them a break.
Remember, this is an extremely talented Mets bullpen, but it is one with some health issues. Lugo has the torn UCL. Gsellman partially tore his lat. Dellin Betances is coming off an Achillies, and he had shoulder issues prior to that. Justin Wilson pitched through elbow soreness. Edwin Diaz has bone spurs in his pitching elbow. Michael Wacha was shut down with shoulder problems multiple times in his career.
Point is, bullpens, even the best bullpens, need breaks whenever they can get them. That can come in the form of a Jacob deGrom or Noah Syndergaard complete game, and it can come in the form of Davis coming into a game and eating an inning here or there when the opportunity presents itself.
In order to really accomplish that, the Mets should remember a 162 game season is a marathon, and they need to prepare in April and May for problems which may come into play in July and August. Those problems are usually bullpen exhaustion related. To best prepare for that, the Mets should begin implementing strategies to get Davis qualified as a two way player so he is available when they really need help down in the bullpen.
Since David Wright has retired, there has been some question over who should be the next captain of the New York Mets, or even if there should ever be another captain. In the event the Mets do ever seek to name a new captain, they have a roster full of homegrown players who could step up and be exactly that leader the next Mets captain needs to be.
The popular choice is Pete Alonso. That choice is inspired, and Alonso has shown himself worthy. In addition to a record setting rookie season, he showed himself to be a great teammate by and through his friendship with Dominic Smith, and he showed true leadership with the 9/11 cleats.
Another very worthy candidate is Michael Conforto.
In his five year career, Conforto has seen it all. He was the phenom how helped the Mets win the 2015 pennant. He was there for the Mets tearing down that roster to build it back up. He has handled his own injury problems, and he has been bounced around the outfield to suit the Mets needs.
He’s been a future superstar, a platoon player, a bust, an All Star, a what could’ve been, and finally, a good baseball player again who is a part of a team who could win the World Series.
More than anyone, Conforto knows what it is like being a Met when times are a good and when times are bad. In some ways, he had a career arc not too different than what we saw with David Wright, albeit on a truncated and less dramatic scale. On that note, Conforto was there when Wright battled back from spinal stenosis, and he was there to learn from him.
Conforto was also there learning from other leaders like Jay Bruce, Michael Cuddyer, and Curtis Granderson. In fact, when Bruce and Granderson were traded away in 2017, it was Conforto who initially had to step up and fill the leadership void, something which became difficult as he dealt with a potentially career ending surgery.
It has become quite clear Conforto learned from people like Bruce, Cuddyer, Granderson, and Wright.
Right now, the biggest issue in baseball has been the sign stealing. That scandal has impacted the Mets as they have already lost a manager in Carlos Beltran before he even managed a game. One of their best pitchers, Marcus Stroman, has been quite vocal in his issues with the Astros sign stealing. While we haven’t seen public statements, there are reports Jacob deGrom and Edwin Diaz are similarly angry.
With J.D. Davis and Jake Marisnick having been part of that 2017 Astros team, that could be very problematic for this Mets clubhouse. That is an even bigger issue with Marisnick doubling off Stroman in a specific game Stroman commented saying the Astros were “Ruining the integrity of the game.”
This is the type of situation which begs for someone to step up and tackle this issue before it is a problem either in the clubhouse or publicly. Right away, Conforto has stepped up and tried to take control of the message:
Michael Conforto said there won’t be any animosity from Mets teammates toward 2017 Astros Jake Marisnick and J.D. Davis.
“But I’m sure there will be conversations about it.”
Conforto was clear that the Astros crossed a line, but he won’t hold it against Marisnick/Davis.
— Tim Healey (@timbhealey) February 11, 2020
This is exactly what you need from a captain of your team. You need someone to have the savvy to disspell any notion of internal strife and have the status in the clubhouse to make sure that this will in fact be the case. In that statement, we see while he may not be the captain, Conforto remains a leader in that Mets clubhouse.
Conforto has indicated he loves being a Met, and he would be open to a contract extension. If the Mets step up and make him a Met for life, it would be fitting to also named him the next captain in team history as he is showing he is a leader, knows how to handle everything which has come the Mets way, and ultimately, he is the type of player and person who would make a good captain.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported the Mets pursued Francisco Lindor and Mookie Betts this offseason. Sherman is a great reporter, and no one should question any of the information he provided, but when you read the article, there is one real conclusion to make.
The Mets didn’t really have interest in Lindor or Betts. Really, this was more of the same where the Mets try to sell after the fact they tried. The Mets do this all the time, and somehow they once again made the prudent decision once again showing the baseball world they know better than everyone.
Honestly, calling Lindor more of a need than a want is absurd. In his career, he has easily been a top 10 player in the game, and he is very clearly the best shortstop in all of baseball. The Mets and everyone can like Amed Rosario as much as they want, but he’s not anywhere near Lindor’s level, and even at his best, it is difficult to argue he will be at Lindor’s level over the next two years.
Keep in mind, the Mets have to make up 11 games in the standings to the Atlanta Braves. They’re also trying to gain ground on the defending World Series champion Washington Nationals. Significantly improving at any position was a need, not a want.
As for Betts, the Mets attempts to get him were laughable. The Red Sox were looking to move him due to luxury tax concerns, so naturally, the Mets were pushing the Red Sox to take back the back contract of Yoenis Cespedes or Jed Lowrie. Trading Cespedes was increasingly laughable considering how poorly things went for Cespedes in Boston, which was part of the reason the Red Sox traded him to the Detroit Tigers for Rick Porcello.
Then we get to potentially headlining a deal with J.D. Davis. The Dodgers were offering Alex Verdugo, who is a significantly better player with more control, and the Mets counter was Davis, who, even if you buy his bat, doesn’t have a position on the field.
Yes, the Mets also offered Brandon Nimmo in potential deals, but you go back to how much the Mets really offered him, and of course, the packages offered mattered. Clearly, any package offered never really moved the needle as the Mets were well outside of a three team trade, which at a time, appeared to be a four team trade with the Angels nearing getting Joc Pederson and Ross Stripling as a side deal to the blockbuster.
Another funny note from the article was Jeff McNeil.
Supposedly, McNeil was supposed to be a part of the trade with the Seattle Mariners for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz only for us now to believe they Mets turned down trades for J.T. Realmuto because the Marlins wanted McNeil. That’s right, the Mets were willing to potentially trade McNeil for Cano and Diaz but not Realmuto.
Ok, sure, we all buy it just like we buy the Mets were really interested in trading for Lindor or Betts.
Finally, after an eventful winter, even by Mets standards, pitchers and catchers report tomorrow. While the Mets may have an idea as to what their 26 man roster will be, that doesn’t mean this organization is truly ready for the 2020 season.
Even with Dellin Betances and presumably Michael Wacha, you’d ideally want one more big arm in the bullpen, especially when you can’t be sure what you’re getting with Jeurys Familia or Edwin Diaz. That leaves the Mets hoping either they or likely Robert Gsellman can be that guy.
This speaks to overall depth issues. While there enough bodies, we don’t know if they’re the right or good enough ones. We see that with Tomas Nido and Rene Rivera battling for the backup catcher spot.
Part of that money, which, of course, goes back to the ownership issue. We’ve known for over a decade now the Mets needed new owners, but only now do they realize that themselves.
Of course, they won’t go quietly into the night trying to get to run the Mets for five years with someone else’s money. Maybe their best argument to any new owner is they did that effectively in 2006.
Overall, this is a Mets team which could win the World Series. However, it’s going to need some help to get there and a lot to break right. If they get there, no one should bet against Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard in the postseason.
That’s an odd thing to say considering this time last year we were promised no more ifs.
The Wilpons are the worst owners in professional sports, and based on their turning down over a billion in profit, they’re not going anywhere anytime soon. With them and their equally incompetent General Manager, there is a sense of despair and/or anger which comes with being a Mets fan. Still, even with the Wilpons being horrible and their not going anywhere, there are reasons to still root for this team:
Pete Alonso – Rookie Home Run King who got the entire team cleats to honor the first responders of 9/11
Dellin Betances – he waited for the opportunity and came back to sign with the Mets because he wanted to stay in New York
Brad Brach – like you and me, he was wearing a Mets jersey rooting for them to win the 2015 World Series (even if he was an Oriole)
Robinson Cano – a truly charitable person who is working to stop domestic violence
Michael Conforto – willing to play any position to help the team, and when he’s hitting there’s few better
Jacob deGrom – the best pitcher in baseball
Edwin Diaz – it takes a big man to admit he had problems with the city making it easy to root for him to be dominant again.
Jeurys Familia – he came back here because he loves being a Met
Luis Guillorme – when finally given a real chance, he proved he can do much more than catch an errant bat.
Robert Gsellman – despite injury did all he could do to come back to try to pitch the Mets into the postseason like he did in 2016
Jed Lowrie – did everything he could give last year and earned those eight PH attempts
Seth Lugo – the best reliever in baseball
Steven Matz – a true blue Mets fan like us all who works to thank and help first responders
Jeff McNeil – a true throwback player who adopts puppies
Tomas Nido – strong defensive catcher who underwent elective surgery to improve his game.
Brandon Nimmo – his joy in baseball and life is only surpassed by his ability to get on base
Rick Porcello – took less to fulfill his boyhood dream of pitching for the Mets
Wilson Ramos – his learning his wife was pregnant with their next child was one of the most heartwarming parts of the 2019 season
Rene Rivera – keeps coming back to work with this pitching staff
Amed Rosario – as hardworking and exciting a player as there is, and he’s about to breakout.
Paul Sewald – a 10th round draft pick who proves himself in his scattered and limited chances
Dominic Smith – got healthy and proved himself to be a good baseball player and terrific teammate
Marcus Stroman – wants baseball to be fun, and he’s a role model to everyone showing it takes heart to be a great player (HDMH)
Noah Syndergaard – he’s standing 60′ 6″ away, and he’s the last Mets pitcher to win a World Series game.
Justin Wilson – pitched through injury to be a very reliable bullpen arm
Ultimately, even with the cheaters on the roster, this remains a very likeable team, and it is guided by a manager in Luis Rojas who Mets fans should soon love. It is hard to stay away from players like this even with their playing for absolutely despicable ownership.
When you account for Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez, and Ron Darling, the Mets broadcasts are unparalleled in their greatness. If nothing else, it is worth watching them do what they do best. It is even better when the Mets have players on the field like they will in 2020.
Combine that with wanting to share baseball with your parents, siblings, and children, and you are going to watch a team you have loved all your life. Ultimately, this is an easy team to root for, which unfortunately, is why boycotts never work, and why the Wilpons will always win.
That’s fine. We can still enjoy life and Mets baseball despite them. We can also make every effort we can to get rid of them and to let them know how much we want them gone. Sooner or later, they will be gone, and we will still be here.
Lets Go Mets!
With Major League Baseball’s new rules, teams can only carry 13 pitchers, and seeing how the Mets have operated the past few seasons, the Mets will very likely carry 13 pitchers in 2020. With the five man rotation, this means the Mets will have an eight man bullpen.
Right now, barring injury, the Mets have Edwin Diaz, Seth Lugo, Dellin Betances, Jeurys Familia, Justin Wilson, and Brad Brach as absolute locks for the Opening Day bullpen. That is going to leave two bullpen spots open with one of them going to the pitcher who loses the bullpen battle. That pitcher is most likely going to be Michael Wacha.
That is where things begin to get a bit interesting.
On the surface, it would seem Robert Gsellman has an inside track for the last bullpen job. After all, he has been a reliever for each of the past two seasons. However, he has not performed well out of the bullpen with an 87 ERA+ and 4.03 FIP over that stretch. When you combine the Mets wanting him to spend the offseason working as a starter, you wonder if a pitcher who still has options remaining will begin the year in Triple-A as a starter.
On the topic of options, Jacob Rhame is out of options, and the Mets will have to expose him to waivers if they are going to keep him in the organization.
Rhame is coming off a season where he had ulnar transposition surgery. That is the same surgery Jacob deGrom underwent in 2016. In his first year after the surgery, deGrom was a good starting pitcher, and in the ensuing two years he emerged as the best pitcher in baseball.
Now, that is obviously not Rhame’s ceiling. However, we do see after undergoing that surgery a pitcher can reach their full potential. While many may debate what exactly that is for Rhame, the Mets clearly have some interest in finding out as they have kept him throughout this offseason despite fully knowing he is out of options.
With Rhame having a career 6.23 MLB ERA and a Triple-A 4.05 ERA, you have to wonder what exactly the Mets are seeing in him.
Looking at Baseball Savant, Rhame throws in the mid-90s, and back in 2018, before he needed the transposition surgery, he had above average movement on that fastball. While he did not get much vertical movement on his splitter, it had very good horizontal movement, which is part of the reason why it was a swing-and-miss pitch for him.
Ultimately, that is what the Mets see in Rhame – his potential. Since the day they obtained him from Curtis Granderson, they knew they were getting a big arm with relatively untapped potential. He still has the ability to generate strikeouts, and as we saw with Rhys Hoskins, he has a bit of a nasty streak where he won’t back down or take anything from the opponent.
Based on what we have seen this offseason, the Mets are going to allow Rhame to work with new pitching coach Jeremy Hefner to show his potential can yield results. Presumably, he is going to get an opportunity to show the Mets he is a better option in the bullpen than Gsellman, who may belong in the rotation, or Walker Lockett, who is also out of options.
In the end, the Mets have kept Rhame around for a reason. Perhaps, that reason is to have him be a part of the 2020 Opening Day roster. With pitchers and catchers reporting soon, he is going to get the opportunity to prove he belongs.
The following people were mentioned: Curtis Granderson, J.D. Davis, Seth Lugo, Jake Marisnick, Marcus Stroman, Noah Syndergaard, Jeremy Hefner, Luis Rojas, Carlos Beltran, Mickey Callaway, Phil Regan, Jeremy Accardo, Steven Matz, Dellin Betances, Edwin Diaz, Justin Wilson, Jeurys Familia, Mo Vaughn, Jared Kelenic, Justin Dunn, Andres Gimenez, Mark Vientos, Rick Porcello, Jason Vargas, Bartolo Colon, R.A. Dickey, Asdrubal Cabrera, Devin Mesoraco, and others.