Edwin Diaz

Mets Needed To Agree To Long Term Extensions With Arbitration Eligible Players

Like it has been for most of their history, the Mets are currently build on starting pitching. That presents a problem for this organization because they will soon be in the unenviable position of having to rebuild their rotation over the ensuing few offseasons.

After the 2020 season, Marcus Stroman and Rick Porcello are going to be free agents. As a result, the Mets are going to have to address 2/5 of their starting rotation after the season.

The Mets will have to face the same exact situation the ensuing offseason as both Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz will be free agents after the 2021 season. That means over the course two years, the Mets are going to have to address how they want to handle 80% of their starting rotation.

Complicating matters is Michael Conforto hitting free agency the same time as Syndergaard and Matz as well as the shallow upper parts of the Mets farm system. How the Mets choose to address their rotation will be vitally important as Jacob deGrom has an opt out after the 2022 season.

After that 2022 season, Brandon Nimmo will be a free agent, Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil will be first time arbitration eligible, and Amed Rosario will be heading into his last season under team control. This means the Mets core is going to be quite expensive and on their way out to parts unknown over the next few seasons.

At this point, we should all be wondering what exactly is the plan here.

At times, the Mets seem all-in. We saw that not just with trading away prospects to get Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz, but we also saw that with the Mets trading away prospects like Blake Taylor, Ross Adolph, Luis Santana, and Adam Hill for what amounted to be nothing more than complementary pieces.

On the other hand, the Mets don’t see remotely all-in when they fail to address the back-up catching situation and let Zack Wheeler, their second best pitcher over the past two years, leave the Mets to go to the Philadelphia Phillies. Couple that with the Mets not making a push for players like Gerrit Cole, Bryce Harper, and Manny Machado, or being active on the trade market for players like Nolan Arenado, Mookie Betts, or Francisco Lindor, this seems more and more like a team without a clear direction.

Now, part of that can just be a result of how ineptly the Wilpons and Brodie Van Wagenen have run this organization. Another aspect can be this team being in a relative holding pattern until Steve Cohen’s purchase of the club is finalized and approved. There may be other factors at play, and really, at this point, we are all just guessing.

What we do know is based on the control over the current core, the Mets window to compete for a World Series is right now, and the team has done little to push the team over the top. We also know that until this core is extended, the Mets window is going to be limited to just these two years.

When you look at things through this prism, you see the need to give extensions to at least some of your core. Certainly, that is the case when the goal is sustained winning and not just short windows. In theory, there is still 10 months to do that, but at the moment, the Mets have missed their biggest and perhaps best opportunity to do it once again leaving the impression this is an organization without a clear direction.

Lias Andersson Problem With Rangers Should Drive Better Player Development In All Sports

In 2017, in a somewhat surprising move, the New York Rangers made Lias Andersson the seventh overall selection in the draft. He was supposed to be the first big move in a Rangers rebuild, and to some he was touted as a future Captain of the Rangers who could led the team to their first Stanley Cup since 1995.

So far, it hasn’t panned out that way, and worse yet, things only seem to get worse and worse.

Andersson struggled in his first year, but he seemed to learn some lessons from it. During training camp, he seemed to prove himself and earned a spot on the roster to open the 2019-2020 season. The optimism quickly soured with him not producing and the ensuing debate/drama over his being on the fourth line.

This entire situation led to Andersson being demoted to the AHL, where he again struggled. Eventually, Andersson demanded a trade and all together up and left the Rangers. Since that time, there was an active debate over handling of him and other prospects as well as Andersson on how he handled the situation.

Recently, Andersson opened up about what has transpired. In an interview translated by Blueshirt Banter, Andersson talked about how he is struggling:

There has been many incidents, but I can’t divulge everything, I will do that at a later stage. There has been many incidents that has hurt me on a personal level, things that has made me struggle mentally. In regards to hockey this might be an idiotic decision but I have to think about my private life too.”, Lias falls silent, “I feel like I have lost the hunger and drive for [hockey] at the moment – and all these incidents has affected me. I feel like I have to get this under control first and foremost.

Since the interview, we have learned more about the situation. Andersson was apparently skating on two injured feet, and there have been unspoken incidents which have troubled him. Another important note here is Andersson’s father has been clear this is not some temper tantrum about his demotion to the AHL.

Andersson is struggling with something, is dealing with injuries, and he is not yet ready to talk about it.

With hockey uncovering some bullying issues, especially from coaches, there has been some speculation as to what happened with Andersson with some of it being irresponsible. Still without quite knowing what happened with Andersson, there is a lesson to be learned here about how teams handle prospects.

Before going further, there is an interesting baseball parallel here with Dominic Smith of the Mets.

Smith was drafted by the Mets with the 11th overall pick of the 2013 draft. Since that time, we saw Smith show the tools to be a good Major League player, but there was a narrative emerging about his being overweight and lazy. In terms of his being overweight, you could see it despite his spending much of his offseasons dedicated to getting into shape.

As for the lazy part, aside from it being a byproduct of how some view overweight people, Smith would oversleep and report late to the first Spring Training game of the 2018 season. That seemed to be the final nail in his coffin as the Mets first baseman of the future.

After that point, the Mets went forward with Adrian Gonzalez to start the 2018 season. After they moved on from Gonzalez, the Mets looked to Wilmer Flores, a player they would non-tender after the season, at first base. All-in-all, they never gave Smith a chance to succeed, and eventually without a real direct competition, Smith was passed on the depth chart by Pete Alonso.

After the 2018 season, we discovered Smith had been battling sleep apnea. With it finally being properly diagnosed and treated, we not only saw Smith stay in shape for the entirety of the 2019 season, but we would also see him become an impactful player with a 133 wRC+.

With Smith, you are really left wondering how things would have been different had the team handled his development differently. It is the same exact situation with Andersson.

In recent years, it is becoming increasingly clear teams are not devoting enough time and resources to the actual development of players. While we see teams increasingly looking towards analytics and conditioning to help develop and improve their players, we are not hearing enough about teams looking to help players develop mentally, and/or learn to better handle themselves as professionals.

Many times, we hear about how this manager, coach, or veteran is going to take a certain player under their wing and help them fulfill their full potential. Looking at the Mets, we actually heard Edwin Diaz speak about his problems handling New York, and he was looking forward to new manager Carlos Beltran helping him better handle the city in 2020.

While a manager is supposed to be there to help, players need more, especially when a manager has to handle a roster of 25 players, a full coaching staff, speak with the media, and deal with the front office. It’s too much for any manager to handle players like a Smith or Andersson who are clearly struggling and need the help the team is ill equipped to provide.

The help can come in the form of a mental skills or life coach for the team. Perhaps every team should have a form of a stipend to help players seek the personal help they need but really cannot afford as prospects. Perhaps leagues need to have an ombudsman of sorts to visit minor leaguers to investigate how teams are being run and why they aren’t meeting their goals.

Point is, the Rangers have effectively lost a very talented hockey player in Andersson to something which might have been avoidable. The Mets almost missed out on Smith having a productive career for trying to turn what was a physical ailment into a mental problem. Clearly, these organizations and others are very ill-equipped to handle the mental and life skills issues of players, and as a result, we are seeing players not even be allowed to be put in a good position to reach their full potential.

That is a very real and significant problem. What makes it worse is it is avoidable, and it is time someone starts focusing on how to help these players instead of trying to tell them and everyone else what is wrong with them because clearly, they have no idea.

Mets Have Built Ultimate Boom Or Bust Bullpen

Just look at the names: Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, Seth Lugo, and now Dellin Betances. That is a list of names which is the envy of each and every Major League team, and when you break it down, it has the makings of being an all-time great bullpen.

In 2018, Diaz was as dominant as we have seen any closer be. In 73 appearances, he recorded a Major League leading 57 saves with a 1.96 ERA, 0.791 WHIP, and a 15.2 K/9.

Familia is the best right-handed closer in Mets history. From 2015 – 2016, he was second in the Majors in saves while having the third most innings pitched and ninth best ERA.

Lugo has been as dominant a reliever as the Mets have ever had, and really he has emerged to be as dominant as any reliever in the game. To put it in perspective of just how dominant and overlooked he has been, over the past two years, he has a better FIP while throwing more innings than two time All-Star Josh Hader.

As great as this group is, you can argue none of them are anywhere near as good as Betances has been. From 2014-2018, he was quite possibly the best reliever in all of baseball. In fact, his 11.2 fWAR was second best. He was best in innings pitched, third in K/9, fourth in fWAR, and fifth in appearances.

When you can line-up this level of relievers in a row, you’re making every game a 5-6 inning game for a starting staff which includes Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Marcus Stroman. That is not only a recipe for success, it is a recipe for pure dominance.

However, it is important to note next year is 2020, and based on the last few years, only Lugo has been pitching at this high a level.

Last year, Diaz had a career worst year. After the offseason, he talked about how he struggled handling New York, and as reported by Laura Albanese of Newsday, the Mets finally admitted he had been dealing with some health issues.

Familia also had a career worst year. With his having an arterial clot removed in 2017 and his dealing with shoulder issues again last year, you wonder if he can ever get back to the pitcher he was in 2018 (3.13 ERA) let alone his dominant form of 2014 – 2016.

Finally, there is Betances. Before partially tearing his Achilles last year, Betances had been shut down at the beginning of the 2019 season due to a bone spur issue in his shoulder, inflammation in the joint, and a strain to his his right latissimus dorsi muscle. When he finally came back, he had lost velocity on his pitches.

That was also before partially tearing his Achillies. The good news on that front is it did not require surgery, and he is expected to be ready for Spring Training. The downside  is no one can quite be sure what type of pitcher he will be in 2020.

Long story, short, this all means Jeremy Hefner has his work cut out for him. He has been handed an incredibly gifted bullpen which needs a lot of help getting back to their respective levels of dominance. If he is able to get this group at or near their apex, this Mets bullpen will be the best in the game, and when you factor in the talent and potential of relievers like Justin Wilson and Robert Gsellman, you could have an all-time great bullpen.

On the other hand, it is difficult to coach away injuries and diminution in stuff. To that end, no one can be quite sure how this bullpen will perform. As such, this “boom or bust” bullpen will be one of the key reasons why the Mets succeed or fail in 2020.

Mets Money Would’ve Been Better Spent On Zack Wheeler

If you look at the Mets bullpen, the theme appears to be “If.” If this bullpen is healthy, and if this bullpen performs to its full potential, it is going to be one of the best in the game.

The flip side of that is if it isn’t, we’re going to see more of the same.

Still, you can absolutely go to war with a bullpen of Edwin Diaz, Seth Lugo, Dellin Betances, Jeurys Familia, Justin Wilson, Michael Wacha, and Robert Gsellman.

In some ways, this is reminiscent of the great 2006 bullpen which added Billy Wagner, Pedro Feliciano, Duaner Sanchez, Chad Bradford, and Darren Oliver.

Then again, it could be the disaster that was the 2007 bullpen which had added Scott Schoenweis, Ambiorix Burgos, and Aaron Sele.

That’s the way it is with bullpens. You just try to acquire as many quality guys as you can, and you hope it works. Perhaps with Jeremy Hefner, this is more primed to work.

One thing we do know is starting pitching can help a bullpen. The deeper starters can go, the less you need to go to the well. This keeps your relievers healthier and fresher which hopefully leads to better productivity.

That brings us back to what the Mets have opted to do with their pitching this offseason.

In signing Betances, Wacha, and Rick Porcello, the Mets have spent $23.5 million guaranteed. That number rises to $30.5 million if Wacha hits all of his incentives.

That $23.5 million figure is important because that’s just a hair off of what the Phillies are paying Zack Wheeler per year.

Essentially, the Mets believed Porcello plus a reclamation project in Wacha and Betances. With Betances, remember prior to the Achillies, he had dealt with a shoulder impingement and lat issue all through the 2019 season.

Even when Betances did return, he admitted to his stuff and velocity not being there. That was before he partially tore his Achilles.

Yes, Betances is an arm well worth the gamble. Not only has he shown the ability to flat out dominate, but he’s also shown the ability to do it in New York. That’s important.

Still, you really have to wonder about the wisdom of rolling the dice on three relievers when you’re already rolling the dice on two relievers who were supposed to be your top two relievers. Add to that the significant downgrade from Porcello, who you’re also rolling the dice on, from Wheeler, and you’re left wondering if this was the best allocation of resources.

That does double when you consider Wheeler stays in the division making the Phillies significantly better.

Ultimately, the 2020 bullpen and pitching staff as a whole may be better. Then again, the bullpen could be more of the same with the pitching staff as a whole far worse.

Of course, the Mets bullpen could’ve remained the same and been far better as a result of Diaz adapting better to New York, and the elimination of the super ball helping him, Familia, and the rest of the bullpen.

That’s the gamble the Mets took. They decided on adding a group of lesser pitchers being better than the known quantity in Wheeler.

It’s not a smart bet, but it’s still possible the Mets bet pays off. No matter what, the Mets better be right here.

Mets World Series Window Is Just Two Years

For a moment, let’s assume the 2019 season was similar to the 1998 or 2005 season in that it was a stepping stone to real World Series contention.

There is legitimate hope for that. Pete Alonso had an all-time great rookie season. Jeff McNeil proved his rookie year wasn’t a fluke.

Amed Rosario seemingly turned the corner. Michael Conforto looked completely healthy, and Brandon Nimmo showed in September he’s healthy and ready to perform again at his 2018 level.

Jacob deGrom is the best pitcher in the game, and Seth Lugo is the best reliever.

There is reasonable expectation for bounce-back years from Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, and Noah Syndergaard. That goes double with Jeremy Hefner as the new pitching coach.

While we can and should dicker about whether the 2020 team will be better than the 2019 team, there is hope for optimism as Carlos Beltran begins his second act in a New York Mets uniform.

Behind that optimism is a cold dose of reality.

We didn’t know it in 1998, but that Mike Piazza led team had two seasons as a contender. That was basically the same case with the David Wright and Jose Reyes led 2005 team we all thought would be good forever. This will likely be the same fate this core faces.

After the 2020 season, Marcus Stroman and Rick Porcello will be free agents leaving the team to try to scramble to either re-sign them or attempt to sign a starter from a free agent class nowhere as good as the one which saw the Mets lose Zack Wheeler.

After 2021, Michael Conforto, Steven Matz, and Noah Syndergaard will be free agents. That leaves the Mets looking to invest in four spots in the rotation over the next two years as the farm system is not prepared to provide that help in a way it could’ve if Justin Dunn, Anthony Kay, and Simeon Woods Richardson were still with the organization.

Yes, we should see David Peterson grab one of those rotation spots, and a Stephen Gonsalves or Franklyn Kilome may emerge. However, they likely don’t have the same ceiling the 2015 – 2019 rotations had thereby eliminating the key competitive advantage the Mets had.

If you really want a heavy dose of reality look a year past that, and you’ll see Nimmo and Lugo will be a free agents, and deGrom can opt out of his deal. That’s going to happen as Alonso, McNeil, and Rosario are likely getting big arbitration salaries.

This means by 2022 this entire core could be completely gone with Alonso being the player designated to build around much in the same way the Mets opted Wright for that honor.

Overall, this means unless things change dramatically, the Mets have a two year window. That could be opened longer if Steve Cohen flexes some financial muscle, and/or he opts to bring in an actually qualified and competent GM to replace Brodie Van Wagenen.

To that end, there’s hope even if Jeff Wilpon will be running the show. On that point, we can all hope it’s just a title with no real opportunity to drag the organization down.

No matter what the case, it’s imperative the Mets realize this is their shot, and they need to start acting like it instead of making a series of half measures hoping it adds up to a whole competing roster.

Mets Position On Francisco Lindor Trade Enraging

According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the New York Mets are no longer engaged with the Cleveland Indians on Franciso Lindor. In fact, the Mets “backed off because they considered the Indians’ asking price to be too high for a player whose salary might rise to $25 million in 2021.”

Before you even contemplate the merits of such a trade, we all need to remember a little more than a year ago, the New York Mets made a trade with the Seattle Mariners, and none of the issues supposedly now present were present then.

In 2021, the New York Mets are set to pay the 38 year old Robinson Cano $21.25 million. At that point, he will be three years removed from a season where he was suspended under Major League Baseball’s PED policy. He will also be five years removed from his last season over a 3.5 WAR.

When it came to Cano paying him that high a salary didn’t matter to Brodie Van Wagenen and the Mets. At this point, it needs to be reiterated again, Van Wagenen represented Cano, and he knew his former client wanted out of Seattle, and he wanted to be back in New York. With the trade which has already blown up in the Mets faces, Van Wagenen obliged.

With respect to that trade, the Mets didn’t exactly get Cano for free. The Mets parted ways with Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn in that deal with also netted the Mets Edwin Diaz.

Ultimately, when it came to Van Wagenen’s former client, paying Cano over $21 million even in his age 38 season was not an issue. An exorbitant asking price was also not an issue. However, when it comes to Lindor, the best shortstop in the sport who is in his prime and can make the Mets real World Series contenders, money owed and asking price was  suddenly an issue.

For Mets fans, this is absolutely enraging.

Three Backup Catching Options Mets Should Pursue

According to reports, the New York Mets are currently looking to upgrade their bullpen and backup catcher situation. While Tomas Nido was a strong defensive catcher, he had just a 40 wRC+, which probably necessitates this search.

Ideally, whomever the Mets acquire can offer the Nido’s defensive abilities while also providing a better bat. Also, given the Mets shoestring budget, the player they acquire is likely going to have to be cheap. Here are five catchers who should meet those requirements:

Kevin Plawecki

The mention of Plawecki may not excite Mets fans who had grown exacerbated with his never quite fulfilling his offensive potential. Even with his offensive struggles in Cleveland, Plawecki’s 63 wRC+ was far better than Nido’s. If he reverts to the catcher who had a 10.8% walk rate and 96 OPS+ in his final three years with the Mets all the better.

Another factor with Plawecki is he has historically been a strong pitch framer. As noted by Baseball Savant, Plawecki was a strong pitch framer on the lower half of the plate. That is of no small significance with a pitching staff which includes Marcus Stroman, Noah Syndergaard, Jeurys Familia, and Edwin Diaz.

Of note with Syndergaard, who had his issues with Wilson Ramos, his 5.33 K/BB with Plawecki behind the plate is the best mark he has had with any catcher not named Rene Rivera.

Russell Martin

On the topic of the Mets pitchers who need the low strike to succeed, there was a Grantland article which described Martin’s strong framing, which included his exceptional work on the lower half of the zone. While he is not the same framer he was in his prime, he is still one of the better framers in the lower part of the zone getting a called strike a little over 50% of the time.

In addition to framing the low strike, Martin had a strong offensive season for a backup catcher with an 83 wRC+. However, it should be noted that was part of a three year drop off offensively, and he is 36 years old. Still, Martin is a respected veteran presence, and that should not be underestimated.

If the Mets do change course and go with the personal catcher route, it would be much more palatable to Ramos and the clubhouse for the Mets to defer to a catcher of Martin’s stature than it probably was with Nido last year. Overall, this should help the clubhouse and the pitching staff. Speaking of saving the pitching staff, Martin can be relied upon as a reliever in blow out games.

Jason Castro

With the Mets hiring Jeremy Hefner as the pitching coach, the organization is looking for an advanced analytical approach to help bring the pitching staff to bring them to the next level. This requires the implementation of a new organizational philosophy across the board. That process could be helped along by the Mets bringing in Castro, who worked with Hefner in Minnesota.

In addition to his knowledge of what Hefner is looking to do, Castro is a strong framer, and like aforementioned catchers, he is strong in the lower parts of the zone. He is also exceptional at getting the corners. Unlike the aforementioned catchers, he was an above average league hitter with a 103 wRC+.

On that note, it was the highest mark he had in six years, and it was just the second time in the past decade he was an above-average league hitter. Of course, some of the impact to that is the ball which was much maligned last year. Despite that, Castro is still a good hitter for the position with strong framing metrics.

Looking beyond these three, it is difficult to find a catcher who would fulfill the criteria of being a better hitter than Nido as well as a strong framer, especially in the lower half of the zone. The framing in the lower half of the zone really needs to be a focus for this Mets team given their pitchers and in their attempts to find a complement to Ramos.

Other popular names like Martin Maldonado may not come as cheap, and others like a Francisco Cervelli do not have the lower half framing numbers you want. Those three catchers should be the overall upgrade at a cheap cost over Nido, who the Mets may very well lose as he is out of options.

 

Brodie Van Wagenen Thinks Mets Fans Are Stupid

Look, when you have a trade with the framework of Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz for Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn blow up in your face while getting absolutely nothing of value from free agent signings like Jeurys Familia and Jed Lowrie, and you are still cheered at a Mets game, chances are you believe you are Teflon.

Better yet, you probably believe no matter what you do people will buy whatever you are saying. We’re seeing the effects of that.

Despite Zack Wheeler and Marcus Stroman appearing in the same rotation last year, Van Wagenen is selling Stroman as a replacement for Wheeler in the rotation. Despite touting a rotation of four aces with Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Wheeler last year, now with the signings of Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha, Van Wagenen is selling the Mets having six starters who are number four or better.

Worse yet, Van Wagenen is now touting the Mets rotation as the deepest in the game. That is despite the fact Wacha has shoulder problems and isn’t really a Major League caliber starting pitcher right now. Porcello has value, and may be in line for a rebound, but he is really no more than a fifth starter. Regardless, overselling this rotation which is clearly worse than the 2019 rotation is evidence of how little Van Wagenen thinks of everyone’s intellect.

It gets worse.

Despite not adding any relievers to the bullpen, Van Wagenen is touting how he improved the bullpen. He has done that by claiming the team has added Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman to the bullpen. If you think you are taking crazy pills or have amnesia, you don’t. Both Lugo and Gsellman were in the bullpen last year. Same goes for Brad Brach.

Saying the Mets have addressed the bullpen by adding Lugo and Gsellman is like saying the Mets have improved the lineup by not trading Brandon Nimmo this offseason, or by having Jeff McNeil in it after his late season injury. Fact is, keeping the same players doesn’t upgrade anything. It is treading water, but Van Wagenen doesn’t think anyone is intelligent enough to discover that.

Believe it or not, it gets better. Van Wagenen actually had the temerity to say this, “We’re in a position now where we can only look to make good baseball deals and not feel like we have to do something.

That’s right. Fifteen months into his tenure as the Mets General Manager, he is boldly saying that now he is only looking to make good baseball deals instead of making moves for their own sake.

Seeing his affinity for his former clients like Robinson Cano and Jed Lowrie, you’re now free to draw your own conclusions about whether they were good baseball deals, or whether there was a compulsion to something. Really, you can make that about any decision made prior to his next one.

Based on his history, it’ll be a bad one, he’ll think we’re all stupid as evidenced by his nonsense explanation, and we’ll just be sitting around waiting for the Steve Cohen Era to truly begin.

Mets Should Be Looking To Bring Back Kevin Plawecki

The New York Mets are in a position where they need to build depth and improve the team, but they do not have the budget to make significant additions. This means they are in a position where they need to make smart decisions to help them improve their roster.

Specifically, the Mets have been looking for an upgrade over Tomas Nido as the backup catcher. One of the reasons why is Nido had a woeful 40 wRC+. Given his approach at the plate, there is a real debate as to how much better he could be as a hitter.

As a defensive minded backup, that’s not the worst thing in the world. However, when you break it down, while Nido does have good framing numbers, they do not appear to be strong enough to justify not looking to upgrade from him especially with him hitting like a pitcher.

When you look at the framing numbers from Baseball Savant, Nido had a strong season, but it was not as good of a year as the season Kevin Plawecki had with the Cleveland Indians. Specifically, Plawecki was stronger on the lower half of the plate where Noah Syndergaard and some of the other pitchers on the staff like Marcus Stroman, Jeurys Familia, and Edwin Diaz like to get outs.

While Plawecki has frustrated Mets fans, he has shown an ability to work with this Mets pitching staff. With the Mets, he never quite fulfilled his offensive promise, but he still walked 10.8% of the time in his last three years with the Mets, and he had a manageable 96 OPS+.

Of course, he fell apart last year with the Indians putting up his worse offensive season since his 2015 rookie year when he was rushed to the majors. Still, even if he is now a 63 wRC+ level player, that is still a considerably better hitter than Nido with better framing numbers, especially in the zones where key Mets pitchers need help.

Breaking it down, Plawecki is a considerable upgrade over Nido, and with him likely coming cheap, a reunion with the Mets makes a lot of sense.

How Brodie Van Wagenen Damaged Mets Rotation

When looking at the Robinson Cano trade, the main focus has been on Edwin Diaz‘s struggles as well as the loss of Jarred Kelenic. Lost in that is just how much this trade has impacted the Mets starting rotation, which has been the strength of this team.

This offseason, the Mets have already lost Zack Wheeler to the rival Philadelphia Phillies. Wheeler desperately wanted to stay a Met, but he was not offered a contract to stay with the Mets despite giving the team the last chance to sign him. That decision was made all the more damning when you consider Wheeler was not taking the largest contract offered to him, and the $118 million deal he accepted was really less than he was worth.

Realistically speaking, the Mets passed on Wheeler because the team is estimated to be roughly $17 million under the competitive balance tax threshold, and indications are the team will be unwilling to raise their budget to those heights. Signing Wheeler would have required them to go over that threshold. Of course, the Mets would have more money to spend if they were not paying Cano $20.25 million per year. Had the trade not transpired, the Mets could have just reallocated that money to Wheeler.

With this being the Mets, the team let Wheeler walk in free agency because the team does not typically like to invest that much money in free agency. Had the Cano trade not transpired, the Mets could have looked to have Justin Dunn replace him in the rotation.

In fact, Dunn made his Major League debut with the Mariners last year. In his four starts, he held his own going 0-0 with a 2.70 ERA and a 1.650 WHIP. The Mariners had him on a very limited pitch count, so really this served nothing more than to get his feet wet and show he could potentially be a part of the 2020 rotation. Arguably, Dunn did that.

In addition to Dunn, there was Anthony Kay, who was traded along with Simeon Woods Richardson to the Toronto Blue Jays for Marcus Stroman. As noted by Andy Martino of SNY, one of the reasons the Mets obtained Stroman was to prepare for the eventuality of Wheeler departing in free agency.

There’s some problems with that rationale. First and foremost, Stroman isn’t really a replacement for Wheeler when both were in the same rotation last year. The other issue is Stroman is a free agent after the 2020 season, which just delays the problem by a year.

Looking towards 2021, both Dunn and Kay should be established Major League starters. Like Dunn, Kay would make his debut last year, and like Dunn, he would really show he could be a part of a 2020 rotation with his allowing two runs or fewer in two of his three starts.

Ideally, the Mets could have had both Kay and Dunn in the rotation with Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz in 2021. That could have proven to be a formidable rotation, and going back to the Cano trade, Kelenic would have been primed to make his Major League debut playing in the outfield between Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto while also appearing in a lineup with Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil.

However, by 2021, the Mets will likely have a rotation without Wheeler, Stroman, Dunn, and Kay. They will also be in a similar position to where they are now looking for a way to replace Syndergaard and Matz in the rotation. Sadly, while we all focus on Kelenic, and justifiably so, the real ramifications of the Cano trade will be the impact on the Mets rotation.

The only hope we have at the moment is Steve Cohen’s purchase of the team will allow him to keep this core together and build off of it in free agency. Of course, with Van Wagenen remaining the General Manager, the Wilpons staying in charge for five years, and with the team still on an austerity plan at the moment, the hopes seem to be further out than the near distant future. As such, all that Van Wagenen has wrought is still a significant issue.