Gavin Cecchini

Breaking Down Mets Opening Day Bench Options

Assuming the Mets carry five bench spots, which is the norm for a National League team, the race for the last spot on the bench became much more crowded and complicated with the team’s signing of Adeiny Hechavarria. That question becomes further complicated when you question just what exactly the Mets real intentions are with Peter Alonso.

Assuming Alonso begins the season in Triple-A, the Mets already have bench spots allocated to Travis d’Arnaud and Keon Broxton. One of Juan Lagares or Jeff McNeil is going to play everyday meaning the other is going to be on the bench. That is three bench spots spoken for with two remaining. It will be interesting to see how this shakes out.

Considering the Mets parted with a package headlined by Luis Santana in what has been an oft criticized trade, you could see the pressure to carry J.D. Davis. Aside from the pressure, whether it be real or imagined, Davis does have the ability to play both corner infield spots adequately, and despite his deficiencies out there, the does have outfield experience.

The real positive for Davis is the power he could provide off the bench, but in order for that to be realized, he is going to have to increase the launch angle in his swing and his corresponding high ground ball rates. There is also a real question whether Chili Davis is the hitting coach to get him to realize his full power potential.

If the Mets are looking for a versatile infielder who can play the outfield, there is forgotten man T.J. Rivera. Rivera missed last season due to Tommy John surgery, but reports this Spring have been overly positive. While we know Rivera is not a particularly good defender, the Mets also know Rivera can be trusted to start at any position over a long stretch. Between the 2017 season and the World Baseball Classic, we have also seen him able to raise his game in big games.

The issue both players have is neither plays shortstop. For that matter, neither does Jed Lowrie, which arguably led to the Mets signing Hechavarria to a minor league deal. The one thing we do know with Hechavarria is he can play shortstop and play it well. Over the last four seasons combined, he has amassed a 26 DRS. The problem with him is he can’t hit as evidenced by his career 72 wRC+.

Hitting was also an issue for Luis Guillorme. In his brief time with the Mets, he was only able to muster a 53 wRC+ in 35 games. That is partially because Guillorme received uneven playing time. It is also because he has never been considered to be a great hitter. Still, there are two factors in Guillorme’s favor. First, like Hechavarria, he is a good defender. Second, Guillorme did show himself to be an adept pinch hitter last year hitting .273/.467/.364 in 15 pinch hitting appearances.

Now, if the Mets are looking for a more offensive oriented middle infielder who could play shortstop, the team does have Gavin Cecchini. Heading into last season, Cecchini had worked on his swing, and it had paid dividends with him hitting .294/.342/.468 in 30 games for Las Vegas before fouling a ball off his leg effectively ending his season. If Cecchini shows he is able to hit the same way, he could make a case for a bench spot for himself.

Standing in Cecchini’s way is his not being on the 40 man roster and his shortstop defense having pushed him to second base. The same could also be true for Dilson Herrera. For his part, Herrera was never truly considered anything more than a second baseman and that was before his shoulder injury. That shoulder injury cost him some of his offensive output until he rediscovered his stroke last year hitting .297/.367/.465 for the Reds Triple-A affiliate.

One other overlooked name for the Opening Day bench is Dominic Smith. If Alonso were to start the year in Triple-A, the Mets would have to find playing time for Alonso, Gregor Blanco, Rajai Davis, Rymer Liriano, and Tim Tebow between first base, three infield spots, and DH. Even with how down the team may be on Smith, it is difficult to believe they would leave him in Syracuse to fight for playing time between those three spots.

Instead, the team could carry him on the Major League roster. Certainly, Smith reporting to camp with not just his keeping the weight off but also adding muscle, helps improve his chances. His being a good defensive first baseman capable of playing left field in a pinch should also help him.

Of course, Smith would have to compete with all of the aforementioned players as well as Danny Espinosa just to claim a bench spot. He would also have to count on the team not putting Alonso on the Opening Day roster, which judging from the improvements Alonso has made, is not a safe assumption.

Really, when breaking it down, the Mets have plenty of options to fill out their bench, and ultimately for this team to reach its full potential, they are going to have to find the right mix of players to complement their everyday players. Hopefully, everyone comes to play making this as difficult a decision as the Mets will have all year.

Patriots Winning The Super Bowl Is A Bad Omen For The Mets

Last night, the New England Patriots won the sixth Super Bowl in team history. If you look at how the Mets have performed in the other five years the Patriots won the Super Bowl, you may not believe this to be a good thing:

2002
Super Bowl XXXVI
Mets: 79-86

After a disappointing season on the heels of a National League pennant, Steve Phillips decided it was time to make some drastic changes with the Mets. The team would clear out Robin Ventura and Todd Zeile to make way for Mo Vaughn and Roberto Alomar. The team would also reunite with Roger Cedeno and Jeromy Burnitz. A disappointing rotation was “buttressed” with pitchers like Pedro Astacio, Jeff D’Amico, and Shawn Estes.

What would result was an unmitigated disaster as none of the imported players would perform close to their historical levels of production. In fact, only Estes would be playing baseball the next time the Mets made the postseason. Perhaps the biggest indignity to their also-ran season was Estes inability to exact revenge against Roger Clemens.

2004
Super Bowl XXXVIII
Mets:
71-91

This year was probably rock bottom for that era in Mets history. The team proved ill advised at trying to make Mike Piazza a part-time first baseman. Kazuo Matsui looked like a bust leading you to wonder why the Mets not only contemplated signing him, but also shifting Jose Reyes to second base to accommodate him. You also wondered if Reyes was going to prove out to be an injury prone player.  Braden Looper should never have been contemplated as the closer.

As bad as that was, the team made a series of trade blunders. First and foremost, for some reason with the Mets being five games under .500 and seven out in the division, they talked themselves into contender status leading to the infamous Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano trade.

As bad as that was, we would also see the Mets first obtain Jose Bautista only to trade him away for Kris Benson. Again, this was done in the vein of the Mets are contenders despite being so many games out of contention.

Jim Duquette would shoulder the blame for the moves, which probably were not all his idea, and he would be reassigned in September. Without Duquette at the helm, the Mets would completely bungle firing Art Howe leaving him to manage the end of the season knowing he was doing it with the axe swiftly coming down on his head.

2005
Super Bowl XXXIX
Mets:
83-79

With Omar Minaya and Willie Randolph at the helm, this was a new look Mets team. Still, things weren’t quite there. Doug Mientkiewicz proved to be a bit of a disaster. The team leaned on Miguel Cairo too much. At the time, Carlos Beltran seemed to be channeling Bobby Bonilla with a year where he regressed in nearly every aspect of his game. As bad as that was, he had the horrific  collision with Mike Cameron in right-center field in San Diego:

The biggest bright spot of that season was Pedro Martinez, who was vintage Pedro all year long. He flirted with no-hitters, and he led the league in WHIP. He was a throwback to a time when the Mets dominated with their pitching. He would also battle some injuries leading to Randolph smartly shutting him down for the rest of the year.

Except he wasn’t. As Pedro would detail in his eponymous book “Pedro,” Jeff Wilpon forced him to pitch while he was hurt. This would exacerbate his existing injuries and would lead to other injuries. Instead of having Pedro in the 2006 postseason, he was watching with the rest of us.

2015
Super Bowl XLIX
Mets: Lost World Series 4-1

Even when things are going right, they fell completely apart. Alex Gordon jumped on a Jeurys Familia quick pitch. Daniel Murphy booted a grounder. Lucas Duda couldn’t make a throw home. Terry Collins did about as poor a job managing a World Series as you possibly could do. What was once fun ended in bitter fashion.

2017
Super Bowl XLIX
Mets: 70-92

The 2016 Mets made a late furious push to claim a Wild Card spot despite being without Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler in the rotation. The thought was if these pitchers could be healthy in 2017, then the Mets could return to the postseason for a third consecutive year, and maybe, just maybe, the Mets could win the World Series.

Instead, Harvey would have off-the-field issues leading to a suspension. Back then, we thought those issues were affecting his performance. In actuality, it was Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Joining Harvey on the shelf was Noah Syndergaard, who went down with at a torn lat. Matz had ulnar nerve issues costing him most of the season. With Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman unable to reclaim their 2016 magic, the season was history.

Still, during that season there was a glimmer of hope in the form of Michael Conforto. The then 24 year old was playing at a superstar level. He was named a first time All Star, and he was proving himself to be a leader for a Mets team which still had the talent to be contenders in 2018. Instead on August 24, he would swing and miss on a pitch and collapse to the ground with a severe shoulder injury.

As if that all wasn’t enough, this would be the first time since 2003, David Wright would not appear in at least one game for the New York Mets.

2019
Super Bowl LIII
Mets: ?

This past offseason, Brodie Van Wagenen has set out to put his stamp on the Mets. He has rebuilt the bullpen with Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, and Justin Wilson. He has reshaped the lineup with Robinson Cano, Jed Lowrie, and Wilson Ramos. There are still some holes on the roster, but generally speaking, this is a stronger club than the Mets have had over the past two seasons.

The additions have come at a cost. The Mets traded away arguably their two best prospects in Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn. The team has also parted with well regarded prospects Ross Adolph, Luis Santana, and Scott Manea for J.D. Davis. There was also a further burying of former first round picks Dominic Smith and Gavin Cecchini on the depth charts.

Sure, there is no real correlation between the Patriots winning a Super Bowl and the Mets performance during the ensuing season. To suggest that is foolish. And yet, there is an unsettling pattern where a Patriots Super Bowl begets a disappointing Mets season.

Really, when you break it down, the real analysis to be made here is the disparity between the Patriots and the Mets. Whereas the Patriots are regarded as one of the best run organizations in all of professional sports with a terrific owner, the Mets are regarded as one of the worst run organizations with meddlesome owners. If the Mets are to break this “streak,” it is going to be because the Mets are a much better run organization who has the full resources and backing it needs from ownership.

 

Lowrie, McNeil Insufficient Shortstop Depth

One of the areas that has plagued the Mets in recent years has their being a top heavy team with very little depth. So far, Brodie Van Wagenen has addressed that issue as it pertains to the infield. With the addition of Jed Lowrie, the Mets have a “utility” infielder who is an All Star caliber player. With him and Jeff McNeil, the Mets have to bench players who could very well be starters for a very good Major League team.

The problem is both of them are the team’s backup shortstop options to Amed Rosario. If Rosario goes down to injury, or the Mets plan on giving him days off like they did in the second half last year, the Mets are ill equipped to handle it.

Now, there was a time Lowrie was not just a shortstop, but a good defensive one. In fact, he once posted a 6 DRS and 6.7 UZR. The problem is that was back in 2008 when he was a 24 year old rookie for the Boston Red Sox. Lowrie last played shortstop regularly back in 2014. That year, he had a -10 DRS and a -1.7 UZR. The bright side was that was a massive improvement over the -18 DRS and -6.8 UZR he posted the previous season. The downside is this is proof he should not longer be playing shortstop.

The Athletics realized that. It’s why Lowrie hasn’t played shortstop in two years.

As for McNeil, he only has played 37 games at shortstop as a professional. That includes 17.2 innings at the position last year. That was the first time he played shortstop since he played 55.0 innings at the position in the 2015 Arizona Fall League. Simply put, it is unrealistic to expect McNeil to be able to fill-in at shortstop for a short-term to long-term basis.

Even if you were inclined to bet on McNeil’s baseball IQ and athleticism, you still have to bet against him at shortstop. Getting up to speed at the position would require him working out at that position during the offseason and Spring Training. He is going to have to utilize that time instead getting back up to speed in the outfield as the Mets believe he is the team’s fourth or fifth outfielder.

That leaves the Mets without a shortstop beyond Rosario, and the two options in the minors are Gavin Cecchini and Luis Guillorme.

For his part, Cecchini has struggled enough at shortstop, the Mets have moved him to second base. While you could see his ability to play short be a reason why he could compete for a utility spot, the Mets do not want him to play extended time at short at the Major League level.

With respect to Guillorme, the Mets apparently really soured on him last year. That could be due in part to his hitting .209/.284/.239 in 74 Major League plate appearances. While we know he is certainly capable of playing the position well, there is a real question if he can hit enough for the Mets to trust him enough to get extended playing time at the position.

Overall, the Mets are a deeper and stronger team than they were last year. However, they still do not have sufficient depth at the shortstop position. Fortunately for them, there are some interesting names like Freddy Galvis still available on the free agent market. At some point, the Mets are going to have to seriously pursue one of those options because the team needs more depth at an important defensive position.

Mets All-In Roster Is Approximately $130 Million

While the Mets were trying to sell us under Brodie Van Wagenen this was a new team where anything was possible. As the offseason progresses, we once again learn anything being possible doesn’t include the Mets spending money.

Here’s a look at their current payroll commitments:

Catchers

Wilson Ramos $7.25 million

Travis d’Arnaud $3.52 million

Subtotal: $10.77 million

Infielders

Robinson Cano $20 million (estimated)

Todd Frazier $9 million

Amed Rosario $560k*

Peter Alonso $560k

Jeff McNeil $560k

J.D. Davis $560k

Subtotal: $31.24 million

Outfielders

Juan Lagares $9 million

Brandon Nimmo $560k

Keon Broxton $560k

Subtotal: $10.12 million

Starting Rotation

Jason Vargas $8 million

Bullpen

Edwin Diaz $560k

Jeurys Familia $6.66 million

Seth Lugo $560k

Robert Gsellman $560k

Daniel Zamora $560k

Subtotal: $8.9 million

Arbitration Estimates

(Estimates from MLB Trade Rumors)

Jacob deGrom $12.9 million

Noah Syndergaard $5.9 million

Zack Wheeler $5.3 million

Michael Conforto $4.4 million

Steven Matz $3.0 million

Subtotal: $31.5 million

That’s $100.53 million wrapped up in 22 players who will likely take the field for the Mets next season.

When you include Yoenis Cespedes‘ $29 million, the payroll jumps to $129.53 million. That’s $129.53 million with three spots which need to be filled on this roster. Keep in mind this is before you account for a portion of his salary being covered by insurance.

If Hector Santiago makes the Opening Day roster, he’s due $2 million. That’s one fewer roster spot to have to fill, and it raises the payroll to $131.53 million.

That leaves the Mets looking for a utility player who can play SS and one more bullpen arm. Judging from reports, the Mets aren’t going out to get their guy, but rather they’re waiting for a deal for that last bullpen arm.

Where the Mets go from there, we don’t know. What we do know is the Mets are only spending $131.53 million on the players who will play next year.

As for shortstop, we can’t rule out players like Gavin Cecchini, Luis Guillorme, or T.J. Rivera getting that chance, which would push payroll towards an uninspiring $132 million.

Yes, someone will likely raise David Wright and the fact he is owed $15 million next year. Well, fact is he’s been released, and we do not know if there’s been any settlement with the insurance company, Wright, or both. We may have some evidence to what that may be:

But Wright is also a non sequitur. He’s not playing this year, the next, or ever again. Fact is, right now, the Mets are going to battle with a payroll of approximately $130 million. Maybe when all is said and done, it’s higher, but it’s nowhere near what a large market payroll should be.

That’s not the all-in team Mets fans were promised, and when you boil it down, the Mets really have zero excuse as to why they’re not pursuing any other outfielders or why they haven’t pursued Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.

* $560k was estimated salary for for pre-arbitration players.

Mets Need Depth

There is a buzz circulating around the Mets due to the moves Brodie Van Wagenen has been making. On paper, the team he is assembling is better than last year’s team, and the narrative is this team will have a better chance at making the postseason than last year’s team. However, that narrative may not exactly hold up.

Remember, last year the Mets were 17-9 entering May. It was right around that point the injuries started piling up, and the Mets depth or lack thereof became a problem.

Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki were injured leading the way for Jose Lobaton and Tomas Nido. Todd Frazier would have the first disabled list stint of his career leading to the team rushing Luis Guillorme to the majors before he was arguably ready, and with the team playing far more of Jose Reyes than they ever should have done.

Michael Conforto was rushed back from injury before he was ready. Yoenis Cespedes‘ heels wouldn’t let him play anymore, and Jay Bruce‘s plantar fascitiis increasingly became an issue. Matt Harvey‘s Mets career was finished, and Noah Syndergaard was heading to yet another lengthy trip on the disabled list. Wilmer Flores and Juan Lagares would also be making their annual trips to the disabled list.

By the way, this wasn’t the full season’s worth of transactions. That’s just through the end of May.

From there, the Mets would have a 15-39 record over May and June, including a disastrous and soul crushing 5-21 June which all but eliminated the Mets from postseason contention. Remember, this was the same team when healthy that was among the best in all of baseball.

Last year wasn’t an anomaly. The 2017 Mets were a promising team on paper, but they never got off the ground because of injury issues, which would also correlate to under-performance from a number of players. If you go back to 2016, that starting lineup and rotation was built to contend for a World Series, but due to injury issues, that team needed a furious finish and unlikely performances from players like Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, and T.J. Rivera to capture a Wild Card spot.

Until the Mets address their bench, they are running the risk of their season not living up to expectations.

We know Wilson Ramos is an injury prone player as is his backup d’Arnaud. We know Lagares is injury prone. Syndergaard and Steven Matz have their own not promising injury histories. While he has generally been healthy, Robinson Cano is still a 36 year old second baseman, and players in their late 30s do not tend to be durable. That’s nothing to say of the unknown injuries like we saw with Frazier last year.

At the moment, the Mets are ill equipped to handle these injuries. In terms of the infield, the Mets have Guillorme, who was not ready last year, and Gavin Cecchini, who struggled in his limited Major League opportunities and missed much of last year with a foot injury. There is also Rivera, who missed all of last year due to Tommy John surgery and ensuing setbacks. The catching depth may actually be worse with Patrick Mazeika being your last line of defense.

The outfield depth is Dominic Smith, who the Mets don’t even seem inclined to let compete for a first base job, and Rajai Davis, who is a 38 year old outfielder that has not had a good year since 2015.

Behind the starting pitchers, the Mets have P.J. Conlon, Chris Flexen, Drew Gagnon, and Corey Oswalt, each of whom struggled in the rotation last year.

All told, the Mets are in desperate need of some depth. If they don’t acquire it, you are once again asking the same group who faltered last year to succeed. Those players are still young and can improve, but it is difficult to rely upon them. With that in mind, Brodie Van Wagenen needs to make sure he has money available to address the bench. If he doesn’t, then the Mets may very well suffer the same fate they had over the past two seasons.

Fortunately, he still has time.

Chaim Bloom May Be Interested In Mets Job Due To Mets Terrific Young Talent

Rays Vice President of Baseball Operations Chaim Bloom will not just take any job. At 35 years old, he can be selective, and he has. In the past, Bloom has outright refused to even interview for the Diamondbacks position. However, he not only has decided to interview for the Mets job, but he is also a finalist for the General Manager position.

Bloom’s interesting in the position should have Mets fans excited about the future of this team regardless of who the team hires to be the General Manager.

There is a lot to like with this Mets team. Just like 2015, it all starts with the rotation. Jacob deGrom has emerged this season as the best pitcher in baseball. Zack Wheeler looked like an ace himself posting the second best ERA in the second half. Noah Syndergaard had 13 wins in a down year, and he had a strong finish to the season. Finally, somehow Steven Matz actually made 30 starts last year. Now that Matz is able to navigate a full season, he can take the next step much like how Wheeler did this year.

There are also the y0ung left-handed bats on this roster. Using wRC+ as a barometer, Brandon Nimmo was the second best hitter in the National League last year and in the top 10 of all of baseball. After dealing with the shoulder issues, Michael Conforto hit .273/.356/.539 in the second half. Jeff McNeil emerged from out of nowhere to not just make to the majors but to also claim the second base job for 2019 by posting a 2.4 WAR and 137 wRC+ in just 63 Major League games.

The Mets also have a vastly improving farm system. Andres Gimenez, Peter Alonso, and Jarred Kelenic are viewed by nearly every outlet as Top 100 prospects. After a breakout season, Justin Dunn is on the cusp of cracking those lists as well. David Peterson and Anthony Kay are both left-handers who took steps forward and are not far from the majors.

There are also young players who people have lost enthusiasm but still have talent. Dominic Smith will not turn 24 until August, and there are still many who believe in his talent. For example, Keith Law of ESPN believes Smith could hit better than .262/.346/.459 if given the first base job next year. Before his season ending injury last year, Gavin Cecchini returned to the form he was when he was seen as a future middle infielder for the Mets.

This is before we even consider players like Mark Vientos, Shervyen Newton, Luis Santana, and even Desmond Lindsay with his retooled swing. The overriding point is the Mets farm system has plenty of talent, and Bloom, a Rays executive with a strong player development background knows this.

Ultimately, this is why Bloom is interested in the Mets General Manager job. This is also why Mets fans should be excited about the future of this team even if Bloom does not get the job because whether or not he gets the job, the talent is already here. It’s now just a matter of that talent continuing their development and winning the World Series.

Cecchini’s Injury Cost Him More Than The Season

With Jeff McNeil hitting .300/.417/.500 in his first 14 games in the Major Leagues, Mickey Callaway said of evaluating the second baseman, “Is this guy going to be a kid we might not have to go find a second baseman over the winter? That’s where we’re at right now.”  Seeing how McNeil was coming off three straight injury riddled seasons and how the team made every excuse to keep him in the minors this season, McNeil’s even being considered for the 2019 second base job is quite startling.

It’s all the more startling when you consider if things had been different, McNeil may never have received this opportunity.

Coming off a terrible 2017 season, former first round draft pick Gavin Cecchini set out to rededicate himself and to improve himself in each and every aspect of his game.  Overall, the goal was for the Mets to give him more than just a cup of coffee in the majors.  The next time, he wanted to stick.

As Cecchini noted in an interview with Abbey Mastracco of nj.com, he sought out to improve every aspect of his game.  This meant doing work with Mets hitting coach Pat Roessler to not only change his stance and bat angle, but he would begin studying video.  Cecchini also spent time improving his physique, and he began talking about trying to steal more bases.  Really, he was turning over every stone to become a better baseball player.  Cecchini would describe the result of those efforts:

It feels so strong, like the ball is just exploding off my bat. I never felt the type of pop and power that I have no before. Yeah, I’ve gotten stronger, I gained 15 pounds, but still, the ball is just, I can really tell that my body is always in a good position to hit and the ball is just exploding off my bat.

His efforts paid immediate dividends with him getting noticed during Spring Training, but given the Mets infield depth already set, he would begin the season in Triple-A.  With his Spring, and the health issues on the Mets roster, Cecchini looked to be on the verge of getting a shot at a call-up in the event his new and improved approach translated to regular season success.

It did.

Through 30 games, Cecchini was hitting .294/.342/.468 with 11 doubles, a triple, two homers, and nine RBI.  His .174 ISO was the best of his minor league career.  While stats can admittedly be inflated in the Pacific Coast League, his 110 wRC+ indicates he was an above average hitter for the league.

All told, Cecchini was doing everything he needed to do to earn another call-up.  All he needed was a chance.

Ironically, while he was waiting for a member of the Major League roster to get injured for him to get a chance, it would be Cecchini who would be the one to get injured.

On May 9, Cecchini would foul a ball off his foot, fall to the ground, and he would need assistance to get off of the field.  Initially, he sat out some games while he did some work on the side.  The hope he would have a quick return quickly faded as Cecchini was sent to New York to have his foot evaluated by a specialist, who fitted him with the dreaded walking boot.

While the walking boot has been removed, Cecchini remains unable to resume baseball activities.  Last month, Las Vegas manager Tony DeFrancesco indicated Cecchini is feeling a tear in his foot.

Ultimately, this likely means Cecchini is done for the year.  After that is anyone’s guess.

While Cecchini has been unable to play, the Mets have seen Todd Frazier make multiple trips to the disabled list.  Asdrubal Cabrera was traded to the Phillies.  Amed Rosario has struggled leading the team to sit him multiple days a week.  Long story short, the opportunities for Cecchini to prove himself would have been present.

Instead, those chances went to Luis Guillorme and McNeil.  As noted by Callaway, McNeil has at least played well enough to merit consideration for being the Mets 2019 second baseman.  Where Cecchini will be at that point is anyone’s guess.

Blame Sandy Alderson, Not Mickey Callaway

In a scathing article from David Lennon of Newsday set to take Mickey Callaway to task for the Mets recent poor play ultimately concluding that under Callaway’s 57 game tenure as a manager, the Mets are, “A lot of talk, accomplishing nothing.”

Really, it was full of quick barbs and cheap shots like this gem:

So after two more losses, one lousy run scored in the last 24 innings and a pair of Little League-quality blunders in Sunday’s sweep-completing 2-0 loss to the Cubs, we’re wondering what Mickey Callaway has planned next for the Mets.

A how-to seminar on the basics of baseball? A weeklong retreat to restore all of this depleted self-esteem? Maybe a clubhouse visit by Tony Robbins?

This is just emblematic of how Callaway, who is in a no-win situation is now fair game for mocking, ridicule, and blame.  What is interesting is these downright insults really overlook what Callaway has accomplished in his brief tenure.

Jacob deGrom has gone to a level we had never seen him pitch.  For a Mets organization who looked at Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo as enigmas, Callaway has helped turn them into terrific relievers.  Speaking of enigmas, the Mets have recently seen Zach Wheeler and Steven Matz turn a corner.  It that holds true this rotation will be every bit as formidable as we all hoped it would be.

Offensively, Brandon Nimmo has gone from fourth outfielder to a terrific lead0ff hitter who leads all National League outfielders in OBP and OPS.  Amed Rosario has been making continued strides.  After beginning his career hitting .245/.275/.371 with a 27.6% strikeout rate, since May 1st, Rosario is an improved .274/.291/.415 with a 16.4% strikeout rate.  It may not seem like much, but it’s a stark improvement.

We have also seen the Mets go dumpster diving for players like Adrian Gonzalez, Jose Bautista, and Devin Mesoraco.  Somehow, these players have been much improved with the Mets than their prior stops, and they have salvaged their MLB careers.

The obvious question from here is if all this is true than why are the Mets 27-30 and in fourth place after such a terrific start?

Much of that answer, i.e. the blame, is attributable to the Mets front office.

Despite time and again facing the same injury issues over and over again, the team AGAIN mishandled a Yoenis Cespedes leg injury, and they are having Jay Bruce and Asdrubal Cabrera play poorly through their own injuries.  What’s hysterical about this is Sandy Alderson actually utter the words, “Honestly, sometimes I think we’re a little too cautious with how we approach injuries.”

He’s also made a number of blunders with the in-season managing of this roster.

Consider this.  After short start, the Mets designated P.J. Conlon in a series of roster moves to help bring up three fresh arms including Scott Copeland.  After Copeland pitched 1.1 scoreless in his only appearance, the Mets called up Jose Lobaton and his -0.6 WAR for the intended purpose of allowing Kevin Plawecki and his .198/.282/.288 split against left-handed pitchers at first base to face Mike Montgomery

Meanwhile, a Mets organization loses Conlon as the Dodgers claimed him, and a Mets organization who has been wringing their hands to find a second left-handed pitcher in the bullpen, looked on as Buddy Baumann get lit up for four runs on three hits and two walks in the 14th inning of a game the Cubs had not scored a run in over three hours.

The front office’s decision making gets worse and worse the more you look at it.

For some reason, they insist on keeping Jose Reyes on the roster.  This, coupled with the aforementioned Gonzalez and Bautista signings, is emblematic of an organization more willing to trust in done veterans reclaiming their past glory than giving a young player like Nimmo, Jeff McNeil, Peter Alonso, or even Gavin Cecchini (before his injury) a chance.

This was one of the reasons why the Mets signed Bruce to a three year deal this offseason.  No, this was not insurance against Michael Conforto‘s shoulder.  Three year $39 million deals are not that.  Rather, this signing showed: (1) the Mets wanted a Cespedes-Conforto-Bruce outfield for the next three years; and (2) the team did not have any faith Nimmo could handle playing everyday at the MLB level on even a limited basis.

Now, the Mets what looks to be an injured $39 million albatross in right, who doesn’t even know to call off a back peddling second baseman with a runner on third.

That’s bad defense, which is something the Mets actively welcome with all of their personnel decisions.  Really, the team has spent the past few seasons looking to plug non-center fielders in center while playing players out of position all across the infield.

Despite what the Lennon’s of the world will tell us, the poor defense and lack of basic fundamentals isn’t Callaway’s doing.  No, it is the result of an organizational philosophy.

The Bruce signing has such short and long term implications.  With his salary, will the Mets bench him instead of Nimmo or Gonzalez when Cespedes comes back healthy.  Will the organization let his salaries in future years block Alonso or Dominic Smith at first base?  Mostly, will his escalating salaries be another excuse why the team rolls the dice and gives a player like Jason Vargas $8 million instead of just going out and signing the player who really fills a need?

Sure, there are plenty of reasons to attack Callaway.  His bullpen management has been suspect at times.  Lately, he’s been managing more out of fear than attacking the game to try to get the win.  Really, this is part of a learning curve for a first time manager in a new league.

It’s a learning curve that could have been helped by a long time veteran National League manager.  Instead, Sandy Alderson thought it best to hire a Gary Disarcina to be the bench coach because who better to help a young first time manager in a new league than a player who has spent his entire playing, front office, and minor league managerial career in the American League?

Really, that’s just one of several examples of how Alderson has set up both Callaway and this entire Mets team to fail in 2018.

Mets Options Better Than Jose Reyes

Admittedly, this is beating a dead horse, a horse deader than Jose Reyes‘ ability to contribute to a Major League team, but if you are going to complain about something, you need to present solutions.  After all, what is the good in saying Reyes should be released if you are not prepared to suggest improvements?

As much as I like to joke about it, no, David Wright would not be an improvement over Reyes right now, even if the argument could sadly be made.  Jokes aside, there are plenty of better options available to the Mets over what Reyes is giving the team right now and in the future:

Luis Guillorme
MLB Stats:
.400/.400/.500, 2B, RBI
MiLB Stats:
.300/.394/.433, 7 2B, 3B, HR, 15 RBI, 2 SB, CS

The main thing Guillorme brings to the table is great middle infield defense.  Even if his ability to drive the ball will remind you of Luis Castillo, he does have the ability to give you a good at-bat and get on base.  At a minimum, since getting called-up, he has show he is not over-matched, and he is ready right now to contribute as a utility player for the Mets right now.

Ty Kelly
MiLB Stats: .274/.350/.500, 7 2B, 4 3B, 6 HR, 24 RBI, SB

The immediate reaction whenever Kelly is mentioned is he is a Four-A player because he has a MLB career stat line of .211/.297/.340.  Even if you’re right, it bears mentioning this would be a huge upgrade over Reyes’ current stats.  More than that, Kelly is a versatile player and switch hitter who can play all four infield positions and can handle both corner outfield spots.  And for the knocks against him, he is .255/.351/.340 against left-handed pitching.

Tomas Nido
MLB Stats:
.154/.214/.179, 2B, RBI
MiLB Stats: .257/.333/371, 4 2B, 6 RBI

Nido would mean carrying three catchers and pressing Wilmer Flores to become a backup at short as well.  Given Reyes’ -15 DRS at short last year, Flores is not a dropoff defensively.  Nido’s presence on the roster would accomplish a few things.  First, you can give Noah Syndergaard his own personal catcher, which may not be a bad thing given the challenges catching Syndergaard possesses.  Second, having Nido would free up both Devin Mesoraco and Kevin Plawecki for more pinch hitting attempts.  Third, Nido would allow the Mets to take it easier on Mesoraco, who has an extensive injury history, and it permits the team to not over rely on Plawecki, who is still not quite established as a major leaguer.  However, you would ideally keep Nido in the minors once Plawecki returns to give him the regular at-bats he needs to improve offensively.

Gavin Cecchini
MiLB Stats:
.294/.342/.468, 11 2B, 3B, 2 HR, 9 RBI, SB, CS

After a lost season last year, Cecchini worked on a number of things in the offseason, and he is back to being the player he was just two years ago.  However, this is more on the long-term view as Cecchini has not played since May 9th when he fouled a ball off his foot.

Jeff McNeil
MiLB Stats:
.328/.403/.715, 11 2B, 3 3B, 12 HR, 31 RBI, SB

For all the clamoring over Peter Alonso, many are overlooking his teammate McNeil, who has recently surpassed Alonso in doubles, homers, SLG, and OPS.  The 26 year old is healthy after a few injury riddled seasons, and he’s flat out raking.  With him mashing right-handed pitching, he would be a good platoon partner for Wilmer Flores in Todd Frazier‘s absence.  However, ideally, you’d like to keep him in Double-A longer, and you would want to see him in Triple-A before rushing him to the majors, especially when there are more than sufficient options ahead of him.

In complete fairness, Phillip Evans, who has not gotten a hit in seven at-bats and was not great in Las Vegas was not mentioned.  Also not mentioned is T.J. Rivera because no one can be quite sure when he will be ready to return to playing after his Tommy John surgery.  Really, the Mets need Rivera to return as soon as he can because he would be the best possible internal addition to the Mets bench.

Time for Reyes to Retire

In 29 games this season, Jose Reyes is hitting .143/.176/.204 with a 6 OPS+ and 6 wRC+.  To put it in perspective, a league average OPS+ or wRC+ is 100.  That’s a major reason why Reyes has a -0.4 WAR so far this season.

When he is getting into games, he’s making mistakes like how he was picked off of first base by Jake Arrieta.  We’ve also seen more than a few occasions where he has failed to make the proper read off the bat, or he is just not hustling around the bases.

His struggles are apparent to all including his manager Mickey Callaway.  Even with Todd Frazier on the disabled list, Wilmer Flores is getting the starts at third base against right-handed pitching.  When the Blue Jays pitched J.A. Happ in the series finale, Callaway opted to have Flores play first, Luis Guillorme get his first professional start at third, and have Phillip Evans play left.

Based on the past few seasons, hitting left-handed pitching was one of the things Reyes had continued to do quite well.  Also judging from the past few seasons, Flores and his career -19 DRS at third base should never be called upon to play the position on an extended period of time.

And yet, here we are.  Flores is the top third base option, and Reyes is not getting any real playing time.  When he finally does get to play, he is unable to get any hits.

Put your personal feelings aside.  This applies to all Mets fans.  The group who still adores the homegrown player and sparkplug of the early 2000s.  The fans who can never forgive him for the domestic violence.  The younger crowd who may have seen him as an energetic player who helped the Mets capture one of the two Wild Card spots in 2016.  Everyone.

Ask yourself one simple question: Is Jose Reyes done?

When looking at Reyes’ career, you always thought the last thing which would go was the spark.  That smile.  The energy.  An excitement unlike almost any other player who has ever played the game.

Seeing his lackadaisical effort in his increasingly limited playing time, you don’t notice that same spark anymore.  It’s not that he’s going through the motions.  That’s an unfair statement.  It’s just that he’s not the same guy on the field.  It seems the boundless joy he had is slowing dissipating.

Seeing Guillorme start his MLB career the way he has, and seeing Gavin Cecchini bounceback after a down 2017, Reyes is getting pushed, and based upon this play on the field, he may not be able to push back, at least not hard enough to stem the tide.

Considering how well respected he is by ownership (despite his domestic violence past), it is incumbent upon them to work with Reyes to find him a respectable way to end his Major League career.  Something akin to what the Mariners did with Ichiro Suzuki.

Schedule a day.  Let him leadoff and start at short.  Let him get a bunt hit in his first at-bat, and let him depart the field to the chants of “Jose-Jose-Jose-Jose . . . Jose-Jose!”  Whatever you need to do to make it feel to Reyes like a respectful and fitting end before taking a front office or coaching job within the organization.

Really, whatever the Mets can do to get Reyes to agree to retirement will do because the one thing this Mets team cannot afford is to let him continue to play and drag a team desperate for each every win down.