J.J. Putz

Vargas Predictable, Great

Even with the Mets having improved pitching depth, the team went out and signed Jason Vargas to a minor league deal.

Based upon the people the Mets brought into the organization the past year, it should come as little surprise Vargas was the guy.

First and foremost, there is Omar Minaya. After the Mets lost in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, Omar began looking to address one of the Mets weak points – starting pitching depth.

In what proved to be an unpopular trade, the Mets sent Matt Lindstrom and Henry Owens for the 24 year old Vargas. The whole of Vargas’ Mets career amounted to two starts where he went 0-1 with a 12.19 ERA.

Roughly two years later, Vargas was one of 12 players in the ill-fated J.J. Putz trade. When you consider Joe Smith was part of the deal, a Mets team looking to improve their pitching wound up trading the two best pitchers in that deal.

With respect to Vargas, that may not have been entirely anticipated. But that is what happened over his three team nine year post-Putz trade career.

The most recent stop was Kansas City where he played for current Mets pitching coach Dave Eiland, who as it turned out, gave Vargas a ringing endorsement.

With that, the Mets have made would could be the most predictable signing of the offseason. It also should prove to be a good one.

Likely, the Mets can count on Vargas to last a full season. That’s important considering you can’t expect the same from Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler. Perhaps more importantly, it’s just another arm to the equation.

As of the moment, the Mets have a somewhat incomplete bullpen. Publicly, the Mets are bandying about getting a second left-handed reliever to compete with P.J. Conlon and Matt Purke. However, the real need, and the one Mickey Callaway has discussed – the long reliever.

With Vargas here, either him or Matz could serve in both roles much like Darren Oliver did in 2006.

If not those two, we can see Eiland attempt to make Harvey or Wheeler the Mets version of Wade Davisor Luke Hochevar.

Really, the possibilities are endless. Same goes for the Mets season if Vargas permits Callaway and Eiland to effectively mix and match to get the most out of this Mets pitching staff.

Former Mets In The Postseason

When determining which team to root for this postseason, the general rule of thumb is to root against the Mets rivals.  With the Mets making a number of trades this season, you could also root for teams according to their Mets connections:

AMERICAN LEAGUE

East – Boston Red Sox

Assistant Pitching Coach – Brian Bannister (2006)

Bannister made the Mets out if Spring Training in 2006. His tenure was short lived as he injured his hamstring, and Omar Minaya rebuilt the rotation in-season pushing a healthy Bannister out. He’d be moved that offseason in an ill-fated trade for Ambiorix Burgos.

RHP Blaine Boyer (2011)

Boyer pitched just five games for the Mets before leaving via free agency. He would not pitch in the majors again until 2014.

RHP Addison Reed (2015 – 2017)

Acquired on the eve of September, Reed quickly became an important seventh inning reliever on the Mets pennant winning team. He was even better the next season helping pitch the Mets back to the postseason. With Jeurys Familia‘s suspension and injury, Reed became an effective closer before being traded for a trio of Red Sox relief prospects at the trade deadline.

OF Chris Young (2014)

After a few down years, the Mets took a one year gamble on Young. He struggled all year, and he was released with the Mets eight games under .500 and 10.5 games back in the division. Since that time, Young has been a much more effective player.

Central – Cleveland Indians

First Base Coach Sandy Alomar, Jr. (2007 – 2009)

Alomar ended his playing career playing eight games with the Mets in 2007.  He would then begin his coaching career with the Mets serving two years as a special catching instructor.

RF Jay Bruce (2016-2017)

Bruce went from bust who struggled mightily after being acquired at the trade deadline last year to fan favorite this year. Fortunately for the Indians, Bruce wouldn’t repeat his struggles helping propel the Indians to 102 wins.

RHP Joe Smith (2007 – 2008)

Smith went straight from being a third round draft pick in 2006 to being a very good reliever for the Mets in two seasons.  Ironically, he moved as part the three team J.J. Putz trade intended to improve the Mets bullpen.

West – Houston Astros

DH Carlos Beltran (2005 – 2011)

Seeing him in the postseason again will certainly evoke memories of Adam Wainwright, but he was so much more than that in a Mets uniform.  Beltran was the best center fielder in Mets history and perhaps their best outfielder ever.

Juan Ceteno (2013 – 2014)

Ceteno is a strong defensive catcher who played just 14 games over two years before he was claimed off waivers by the Milwaukee Brewers.

Bench Coach Alex Cora (2009 – 2010)

Cora joined the Mets in the hopes of being an important utility player on a playoff caliber team.  Unfortunately, injuries and a ballpark ill-suited for the talents of the players on the roster brought that run to an end.

Hitting Coach Dave Hudgens (2011 – 2014)

Hudgens was the Mets hitting coach who was entrusted with helping the Mets adapt to a new ballpark.  While he was much embattled in the position, Mets offensive highlights during his tenure included Ike Davis hitting 30 homers and the last great season from David Wright.

Pitching Coach Brent Strom (1972)

Strom was the Mets 1970 first round draft pick.  He appeared in just one season with the team going 0-3 with a 6.82 ERA and a 1.615 WHIP.

Third Base Coach Gary Pettis (2003 – 2004)

Pettis served as the first base and outfield coach during the Art Howe Era.

Wild Card – New York Yankees

RHP Luis Cessa

Cessa was the other pitching prospect the Mets sent to the Tigers in the Yoenis Cespedes trade.

Wild Card – Minnesota Twins

Pitching Coach Neil Allen (1979 – 1983)

While Allen had a noteworthy Mets career of his own, he will forever be known as one of the two players traded by the Mets in exchange for Keith Hernandez.

RHP Bartolo Colon (2014 – 2016)

“Big Sexy” became a fan favorite and a mentor to the young pitchers in the clubhouse.  There are a number of highlights you can choose from his Mets career, but the one that keeps coming to mind was the unbelievable home run he hit in San Diego last year.

RHP Dillon Gee (2010 – 2015)

Gee is an example of a pitcher who has gotten everything out of his ability.  He has been resilient overcoming a number of injuries in his career with his career highlight possibly being his named the Mets 2014 Opening Day starter.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

East – Washington Nationals

OF Alejandro De Aza (2016)

De Aza had an interesting year with the Mets.  He was terrible to begin the year, and he then had a great July helping propel the Mets second half run to the Wild Card.

Pitching Coach Mike Maddux (1993 – 1994)

Maddux pitched two years for the Mets pitching to a 4.16 ERA as a reliever before departing via free agency.

2B Daniel Murphy (2008 – 2015)

Somehow Murphy has become one of the most divisive players among the Mets fanbase.  Many still fondly remember his for his time witht he Mets, especially his incredible NLDS and NLCS propelling the Mets to the pennant.  Others see a player who annihilates the Mets since leaving the team.

LHP Oliver Perez (2006 – 2010)

Believe it or not, there was a time where Perez was beloved for his Game 7 performance and his start the final game of the 2008 season.  He then fell off a cliff upon receiving a huge contract.  Things got so bad, he refused a minor league assignment, and his last appearance as a Met would be the team throwing him into the 14th inning on the last game of the season just to get the game over with.

Central – Cubs

Quality Control Coach Henry Blanco (2010)

“Hank White” was brought on as a defensive back-up, and he excelled in the role throwing out 50% of base stealers.

C Rene Rivera (2016 – 2017)

Rivera was a defensive specialist who helped Noah Syndergaard overcome his issues holding on base runners.  It was more than Syndergaard, Rivera served as a mentor for young starters Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman who helped pitch the Mets to the Wild Card.

West – Dodgers

Bench Coach Bob Geren (2012 – 2015)

Geren served as the bench coach for the Mets serving as a mentor for the Mets catchers.  Since his departure, we have seen Mets catchers regress in their pitch framing, and we have certainly seen Travis d’Arnaud regress in nearly every aspect of his game.

OF Curtis Granderson (2014 – 2017)

Granderson is one of the finest men to ever put on a Mets uniform.  He also came up biggest when the Mets needed him most.  Granderson kept the Mets afloat in 2015, and if not for some blown leads, he was in line to be the MVP of that series.  His big outburst to end the 2016 season helped lead the Mets back to the postseason.

3B Justin Turner (2010 – 2013)

Turner was an effective utility player in his years with the Mets who was really non-tendered because he was arbitration eligible.  Turner would find himself a home in Los Angeles where he has become a terrific player.

Third Base Coach Chris Woodward (2005 – 2006)

Woodward was a valuable utility player for the Mets for two seasons having the second best season of his entire career in 2005.

Wild Card – Diamondbacks

RHP Matt Koch (2012 – 2015)

Koch was one of the two minor league pitchers traded by the Mets for Addison Reed.  While Koch is on the 40 man roster, it is not expected he will be on the postseason roster.

Wild Card – Rockies

None

Based on the sheer volume of Mets affiliations, it would appear Mets fans would be pulling for the Astros in the American League and either the Nationals or Dodgers in the National League.  Considering the presence of Chase Utley on the Dodgers and the recent rivalry with the Nationals, most Mets fans will understandably choose rooting interests for different reasons all together.

 

A Look Back at the Mets 2006 Draft

Ten years ago, Omar Minaya had his second draft as the manager of the New York Mets.  With the team having signed Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran in the offseason, they would not have a first round draft pick.  In total, the Mets would draft 49 players, and they would be able to sign 35 of them.  Of the 49 players drafted, six of the players would play in the major leagues.  Here is  review of those players that were drafted and played in the major leagues:

Kevin Mulvey, LHP (2nd Round, 62nd Overall)

Mulvey was a fairly well-regarded fastball-changeup pitcher out of Villanova, who shot through the Mets minor league system.  In his first full professional season, he started in AA, and he finished the year with one start in New Orleans, which was then the Mets AAA affiliate.

In the offseason, Mulvey was a significant piece in the trade that brought Johan Santana to the Mets.  Notably, he was the only player drafted by Minaya to be included in the deal.

Mulvey would not last long with the Twins.  He spent a year and half with the team, and he made a very brief major league appearance with them in 2009.  He would become the player to be named later in a trade in which the Twins acquired Jon Rauch to help them not only win the AL Central, but also to help them in the postseason.

Mulvey would not pitch well for the Diamondbacks.  In 2009 and 2010, he would only make four starts and four relief appearances.  He would go 0-3 with a 6.92 ERA and a 1.615 WHIP.  In 2011, the Diamondbacks would designate him for assignment to remove him from the 40 man roster.  A year later, he would be outright released.

Mulvey caught back on with the Mets in 2012, and he was assigned to AA Binghamton.  After 13 relief appearances that saw him go 0-1 with a 5.59 ERA and a 1.707 WHIP, Mulvey retired from the game of baseball, and he returned to Villanova to be an assistant coach.  On July 14, 2016, he was named the head coach of the Villanova Wildcats.

In total, Mulvey only started four games and made six relief appearances over three major league seasons.  He finished with an 0-3 record, a 7.90 ERA, and a 1.756 WHIP.

Joe Smith, RHP (3rd Round, 94th Overall)

After losing Chad Bradford to free agency, the Mets decided the side winding Smith was ready to take over Bradford’s role in the bullpen.

Smith would pitch two seasons with the Mets making 136 appearances.  In those games, he would go 9-5 with a 3.51 ERA and a 1.402 WHIP.  While he could never match what Bradford did for the 2006 Mets, Smith was still a reliable bullpen arm so long as he was called to pitch to right-handed batters.

With the Mets bullpen falling to pieces during the 2008 season, the Mets sought a dominant reliever who could pitch in the eighth inning and who could be a reliable closing option in the event the Mets closer once again succumbed to injury.  With that in mind, Smith was included as a part of a three-team deal that netted the Mets J.J. Putz.  Ironically, it was Smith who would have the best career out of all the relievers in the deal.

During Smith’s five year tenure with the Indians, he got better and better each season as he got better and better pitching to left-handed batters.  He went from being a reliever who got just righties out to an eighth inning set-up guy.  Because of that, he got a big three year $15.75 million contract from the Angels when he hit free agency for the first time.

While Smith regressed a bit during his time with the Angels, he was still a very effective reliever.  Because he is still a very useful reliever, the Chicago Cubs obtained him after the non-waiver trade deadline.  Despite pitching well with a 2.51 ERA in 16 appearances for the Cubs, he was left off the postseason roster.  Smith is due to be a free agent after the season.

So far in Smith’s 10 year career, he has averaged 64 appearances and 57 innings per season.  He is 41-28 with 29 saves, a 2.93 ERA, and a 1.199 WHIP.

John Holdzkom, RHP (4th Round, 124th Overall)

Holdzkom was a high school pitcher with a big arm whose fastball could reach triple digits.  Initially, he posted big strike out numbers in the minors before needing season ending Tommy John surgery in 2008.  The surgery caused him to miss the entire 2009 season, and when he returned, he was never the same pitcher.

After six games in the rookie leagues in 2010, the Mets released him.  Holdzkom would take a year off from baseball before signing a minor league deal with the Cincinnati Reds.  He would struggle for two years in the Reds farm system before being released in June 2012.

From there, Holdzkom went to the Independent Leagues in the hopes of rekindling his hopes of becoming a major league pitcher.  With his fastball returning, he was dominant with high strikeout numbers once again, and he caught the attention of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who offered him a minor league deal.  In 2014, Holdzkom would actually appear in nine games for the Pirates pitching very well.  In those games, he was 1-0 with a 2.00 ERA and a 0.667 WHIP.

Holdzkom would lose his fastball again, and he would never again be able to crack the Pirates major league roster.  On the eve of Opening Day, he was released by the Pirates, and he was eventually signed to a minor league contract by the Chicago White Sox.  While never appearing on an injury report anywhere, Holdzkom only made one appearance in 2016 for the White Sox rookie league affiliate in July.  In two-third of an inning, he allowed four runs on three hits and two walks.

As for this moment, it is unknown what lies in the future of this 28 year old pitcher who is still looking to reclaim his fastball.

Daniel Murphy 3B (13th Round, 394th Overall)

Murphy is the best known player from the Mets 2006 draft.  He got his start with the Mets in left field for a 2008 Mets team desperate for offense.  Murphy hit well enough that he was named the Opening Day left fielder in 2009.  That year it was apparent he was not an outfielder, and he began his transition to second base.

While there were some rough spots along the way, everything finally clicked for Murphy last postseason with him hitting home runs in six consecutive postseason games.  These home runs were all the more notable when you consider Murphy hit them off Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, and Kyle Hendricks.  His key steal and home run in Game 5 helped propel the Mets to the NLCS, and in the NLCS he was the obvious choice for MVP.

He signed with the Nationals, and he went out and proved his postseason run was no fluke.  Murphy hit .347/.390/.595 with 47 doubles, 25 homers, and 104 RBI.  All these numbers were career bests.  He led the National League in doubles, slugging, and OPS.

In his Mets career, Murphy hit .288/.331/.424 while averaging 33 doubles, nine homers, and 57 RBI per season.  Among Mets second baseman, Murphy is the all-time leader in games, at-bats, runs, hits, doubles, RBI, and batting average.  He is also ranked third overall for the most doubles by a player in a Mets uniform, and he is ranked eighth in batting average.

Tobi Stoner, RHP (16th Round, 484th Overall)

The German born Stoner was used as a starting pitching in the Mets minor league system.  However, in his brief time with the major league club, he was used exclusively out of the bullpen.  Between 2009 and 2010, Stoner made five appearances going 0-1 with a 3.97 ERA and a 1.412 WHIP.

After his big league call-ups, Stoner actually regressed.  That could be in part due to bone spurs in his elbow he had to have removed prior to the 2011 season.  Even with the removed bone spurs, Stoner could never get back to being the pitcher he was or who the Mets thought he could be, and he was released on the eve of the 2012 season.  Stoner would pitch the 2012 season in the Independent Leagues.  In 12 starts, he would have an 8.11 ERA, and his professional career was over after that season.

Josh Stinson, RHP (37th Round, 1,114th Overall)

Stinson was a high school pitcher with a mid 90’s fastball.  As he did not truly develop his secondary pitches, he became a bullpen arm.  With a his live arm, he got called-up in 2011, at the age of 23, and pitched in 14 games with the Mets recording a 6.92 ERA and a 1.615 WHIP.

The Mets relased him before the 2012 season, and he was claimed by the Brewers.  He pitched mostly in the minors for the Brewers.  Stinson did get a brief call-up where he actually pitched well.  Despite his success in a small sample size, he was released before the 2013 season, and he was eventually picked up by the Orioles.  He made 19 appearances with the Orioles, pitching to a 4.50 ERA, before he was granted free agency. Stinson signed a minor league deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and he would not make it to the majors in the 2014 season.  The Pirates released him at the end of the year.

In the 2015 season, Stinson pitched for the Kia Tigers of the Korean Leauges.  In 30 starts and two relief appearances, Stinson was 11-10 with a 4.96 ERA and a 1.521 WHIP.  No one signed him to a professional contract to pitch in 2016.  According to Stinson’s Twitter account, the 28 year old still considers himself a free agent pitcher.

Vic Black, RHP (41st Round, 1,234th Overall)

The Mets drafted Black out of high school, but he would not sign a deal with the Mets.  Rather, he attended Dallas Baptist University, and he re-entered the draft in 2009 where the Pittsburgh Pirates would draft him in the first round (49th overall).  The Mets would acquire Black in 2013 as part of the trade that sent John Buck and Marlon Byrd to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for Black and Dilson Herrera.

In 2014, Black seemed to have a breakout season for the Mets.  He began to harness his high 90s fastball, and as a result, he was becoming a reliable bullpen arm.  Unfortunately, Black would land on the disabled list with a herniated disc in his neck.  When he tried to pitch through it, he eventually developed a shoulder strain.  He was first shut down, and then designated for assignment in the offseason.

While Black elected free agency, he hoped that he could re-sign with the Mets.  Neither the Mets nor any other major league team were interested in his services.  Black has not pitched in professional baseball in two years.  At the moment, it is unknown if he will be able to ever pitch again.

Johnny Monell, C (49th Round, 1,463rd Overall)

Like Black, Monell did not sign a contract with the Mets instead choosing to re-enter the draft at a later date.  He would be drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the 30th round in the following draft.

From there, Monell has bounced around from organization to organization.  Finally, in 2014, he returned to the same Mets organization that had drafted him eight years prior.  Due to injuries to Travis d’Arnaud and the ineffectiveness of both Kevin Plawecki and Anthony Recker, Monell would be called-up to the Mets in 2015, and he would play in 27 games hitting .167/.231/.208 with two doubles and four RBI.  Monell would be sent back down to AAA where he would remain for the 2015 season.

The Mets would remove him from the 40 man roster after the 2015 season, and Monell would agree to return to the Mets.  Monell spent the entire 2016 season playing for the Las Vegas 51s.  He hit .276/.336/.470 with 22 doubles, one triple, 19 homers, and 75 RBI.  With Plawecki being sent down in favor of Rene Rivera, Monell became the backup catcher.  In order to get him into the lineup more, Monell saw some additional time at first base.  Monell finished the year tied for the team lead in homers and third in RBI.

At this point, it is not known if the Mets intend to bring back the 30 year old catcher to play for the 51s again in the 2017 season.

 

Additional Bullpen Targets

Earlier today, I posted an analysis regarding some potential bullpen targets the Mets may be pursuing.  Sure enough, there has been some additional reporting on some additional relievers the Mets may be pursuing on the trade market.  In the sake of my sanity and for the sake of completion, here are some additional names the Mets are considering:

Huston Street – Each Perhaps due to his early season oblique injury, Street has lost a tick or two off his fastball. The end result is Street having a career worse season with a 5.03 ERA and a 1.932 WHIP in 23 appearances. The hope with him is Dan Warthen can have a similar effect on him as he has had on Addison Reed, who is having a tremendous year without a mid to high 90s fastball. One major obstacle for Street is his contract. He is due to make $9 million next year with a $10 million option with a $1 million opt out for 2018.

Joe Smith – Strangely enough, Smith might be the player who has played the best out of all the players in the ill fated J.J Putz trade. Since leaving the Mets, Smith steadily improved, and eventually became a very good reliever who could be used against righties and lefties despite his submarine style of pitching. This year, he has struggled a bit this year with a 4.36 ERA and a 1.396 WHIP in 33 appearances. Like his teammate Street, his velocity is down by a hair this year. He will be a free agent this season.

David Robertson – The former Yankee has shown he can pitch well in a pennant race in New York. Since leaving the Yankees, Robertson has been a very good closer, but he has not been as dominant as he was with the Yankees. His early career walk troubles have re-emerged this year as he is walking 5.0 batters per nine innings. On the year, he has 23 saves in 26 chances with a 4.03 ERA and a 1.447 WHIP. Aside from one disastrous appearance in Game Three of the 2003 ALCS against Texas, he has only allowed two earned runs in 16.2 postseason innings while striking out 16 batters. He is still not a realistic option as he has two years and $25 million remaining on his contract.

Overall, the contracts for each of these players will most likely preclude the Mets from acquiring any of these relievers in a potential trade.  Again, the best bet for the Mets is to take a flyer on a guy like a John Axford, for Jim Henderson to get healthy (not likely), or for Antonio Bastardo to start pitching better and become the guy the Mets thought they were getting when they signed him as a free agent in the offseason.