Jason Vargas

Luxury Tax Should Not Be An Impediment For Mets

The Mets did good by hiring Carlos Beltran as the 22nd manager in team history. In Beltran, they have someone who is a very good communicator who has the ability to unite a clubhouse while also teaching players things to help them significantly improve. Given his skill set, he can be a superstar manager like he was a superstar player.

However, Beltran in and of himself is not going to be enough to take this Mets team over the top.

With Zack Wheeler being a free agent, the team is going to need a fifth starter. At the moment, internal options like Walker Lockett and Corey Oswalt are not ready to step up to fill that void. The team has mentioned Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo as options, but that only serves to further damage what is already a weak bullpen.

In 2019, Lugo and Justin Wilson were the only dependable relievers in that bullpen. When you look at it, even assuming a bounce-back from Edwin Diaz, this team still needs at least two big arms in the bullpen this offseason. They will need more if Gsellman or Lugo move to the rotation making that decision to rob Peter to pay Paul.

The Mets also need a center fielder, third baseman, backup catcher, and just plain old depth. With Juan Lagares having his option declined, they need a defensive replacement. The team cannot rely upon Jed Lowrie to contribute anything. Tomas Nido was a good defensive catcher, but with his complete inability to hit, you wonder how much you can rely upon him to be on the roster for a full season.

All told, this is a Mets roster which needs a lot of work. Given the dearth of prospects at the Double-A and Triple-A level last year, the team is going to have to acquire those players this offseason instead of looking from within. With all the prospects the Mets traded away over the last year, it is going to be difficult to trade their way back to contention.

That leaves the Mets with spending, and with the Mets being owned by the Wilpons, that is a dicey proposition.

Now, there are some who will say the Mets did spend last year. According to Spotrac, the Mets 2019 payroll was $160.5 million which ranked 10th in the majors.

Lost in that was how David Wright‘s $15 million is included in that amount. Wright had a portion of that salary covered by insurance, and the Mets renegotiated future payments with Wright. The figure also included Yoenis Cespedes‘ $29 million salary which was covered by insurance. Between Wright’s full salary and 70% of Cespedes’ salary being covered, the Mets payroll was reduced by $35.5 million.

That reduces the Mets REAL 2019 payroll to $125 million, which would’ve ranked 18th in the majors. That number is all the worse when you consider Adeiny Hechavarria and Carlos Gomez were cut before roster bonuses were due, and Jason Vargas was traded so the team could clear payroll space after obtaining Marcus Stroman.

As of today, the Mets payroll is $168.8 million. Now, that figure includes Wright’s $12 million, Cespedes’ $29.5 million, and the $5.1 projected arbitration figure due Joe Panik. On that front, as noted earlier, Wright’s contract was been renegotiated, and it is very likely Panik is non-tendered. With respect to Cespedes, there will be no insurance protection this year.

When you dig a little more, that $168.8 includes Jacob deGrom‘s $27.5 million salary. On that front, the $27.5 million figure is for competitive balance tax purposes only. In reality, deGrom is only making $13 million meaning $12.5 million of his salary is deferred.

This means the Mets ACTUAL payroll obligations are $139.2million. That is before the Mets go forward looking to add players this offseason. Still, people will point to the competitive balance tax as a reason why the Mets can’t spend. Let’s take a look at it for a second.

Putting reason aside, assuming the Mets sign Wheeler to a deal with a $30 million average annual value raising the payroll obligations to $188.8. That puts the Mets $19.2 million short of the $208 competitive balance tax figure.

Taking a more realistic approach, assume the Mets don’t go and sign Anthony Rendon. For a minute, just assume the Mets sign a Mike Moustakas ($10 million AAV), Drew Pomeranz ($8 million AAV), and a backup catcher like Jonathan Lucroy ($2 million AAV). Assume the rest of the roster is filled out for a cost of around $5 million, which is probably the very low end.

Assuming Panik is non-tendered, that puts competitive balance payroll at $213.8 million. That would incur the “tax penalty.” The amount of the penalty? It would only be $1.2 million. That’s it.

When looking at the $1.2 million remember the Mets already have $12 million off the books with Wright and $12.5 million deferred with deGrom. As a result, the $1.2 million is more than covered. When you look at it, the Mets can really blow past that $208 million this year.

In fact, the Mets should considering they have Cespedes’$29 million coming off the books completely, and the same can be said for Wright’s $12 million. Essentially, the Mets have $41 million coming off the books.

Whether the Mets will be proactive remains to be seen. If history is any measure, they won’t. Just remember, when they don’t, we should not let them invoke the competitive balance tax as a reason because it is not in any way a real impediment.

The only impediment to the Mets spending are the Mets themselves, and that is not in any way acceptable.

Biggest Reason Mets Shouldn’t Hire Joe Girardi As Manager

The New York Mets have begun assembling their list of managerial candidates, and they are beginning to set up interviews with different candidates. Judging from what we heard when he broadcasted Mets games this year, Joe Girardi really wants this job. Given his being a very good manager, the Mets should be doing all they could do to hire him.

But . . .

Even with Girardi being the best candidate available there are some red flags with him. He was fired from the Marlins for an inability to get along with ownership, and there probably aren’t any more meddlesome owners in sports than the Wilpons. While he has managed in New York, and he has worked in the media, he was never great handling the New York press. No, he wasn’t bad, but he does have a tendency to be a bit cantankerous, which does not play well in the press.

In terms of the fanbase, Mets fans who have loudly criticized Mickey Callaway for not having a feel for the game are going to go berserk with Girardi and his binders. There is also the issue of how things ended poorly with the Yankees in terms of communication with the players.

Taking all that into account, Girardi is still an excellent manager who would make the Mets better. Yet, there is one massive reason why the Mets should not hire him.

Money.

In Girardi’s last year managing the Yankees, he was making $4 million a year. Even if he accepts some form of a discount, the Mets are still going to owe Callaway $850,000 in 2020. Being that this is the Mets, that money can be damaging.

Adeiny Hechavarria was cut one day prior to his being owed a $1 million roster bonus. Carlos Gomez was cut as he was about to reach bonus levels. That’s at least $1.25 million the Mets could not afford to spend in-season. Connecting the dots further, it appeared the Mets needed to trade Jason Vargas to fit Marcus Stroman into the budget.

The Mets operate with a shoestring budget. Assuming the combined cost of Girardi and Callaway is $4 million, that is going to cost the Mets at least one player, maybe more.

That salary level is just $1 million less than what Justin Wilson will earn in 2020. That means Girardi will cost the Mets a late inning reliever they so desperately need. That puts more of an onus on Seth Lugo and puts the Mets in a position where they will have to completely rely on an Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia rebound.

In addition to the bullpen, the Mets need to add a fifth starter to replace Zack Wheeler. That extra couple of million to Girardi could make the difference between a trusted arm and them having to turn to Walker Lockett or Corey Oswalt.

The Mets could use some bench help too. The money to Girardi likely means the Mets are stuck with Tomas Nido and his bat as the backup catcher. That means there Mets are likely stuck looking at a series of minor league deals to league minimums for an everyday center fielder or defensive replacement. That’s if they can afford that.

Overall, a few million may not seem as much to normal teams, but to the Mets that is crippling to their ability to add players to the roster. In the end, the Mets really need to ask themselves if Girardi alone is enough to overcome a fifth starter, one or more arms in the bullpen, and/or bench depth.

While Girardi is good, he’s not that good. No one is. As a result, the Mets should probably be looking to hire another (read cheaper) manager.

Five Second Half Games Which Helped Cost The Mets The Wild Card

Michael Conforto would put it off for a day, but now, the Mets are officially eliminated from postseason contention. With the Mets falling short in the fashion they have, there are a number of what ifs which occurred during the course of the season.

One of those what ifs is what if the Mets didn’t blow this game or lose that game. While there were several of those games in the first half, that was all the more the case in the second half when the team was playing well and making a charge. With the Mets being five games out, here are five games in the second half which the Mets certainly wish they had back:

Reds 3 – Mets 2
Saturday, September 21

The Mets absolutely had to have this game. For the Mets to actually grab a Wild Card spot, they were going to have to win out or come very close to it. With a big pitching mismatch between Zack Wheeler and Anthony DeSclafani, this seemed like a game the Mets should win easily.

The Reds would score two first inning runs due to a Todd Frazier error and misplay. It would be hard to put this loss on Frazier as he would collect two of the Mets three hits on the day, and he would score one of their only two runs scored.

Ultimately, the team squandered two huge opportunities. They only scored one run after having runners at second and third with no outs in the third. They’d only score one run with the bases loaded and one out with the top of the lineup coming up in the top of the fifth.

The loss was made all the worse with Justin Wilson getting into trouble, and Seth Lugo allowing one of his inherited runners to score. As bad as that was, it would be Christian Colon who delivered the RBI single, off a Lugo curveball to boot, to put an effective end to the Mets season.

Marlins 8 – Mets 4
Friday, July 12

The Mets were 10 games under .500 heading into the All Star Break. Despite the team being that many games under .500, they had a favorable schedule in the second half, and with their being only seven games back of the second Wild Card, they did have an opportunity. The key for them was getting off to a fast start out of the break.

Instead of putting their best foot forward, they started Jason Vargas. Vargas would blow a third inning 2-0 lead allowing homers to Curtis Granderson and Garrett Cooper in the third. Vargas would last into the sixth where he would implode again. Overall, he’d allow six earned over his five plus innings.

After the bullpen couldn’t keep it closer, the Mets ninth inning rally would fall short in an 8-4 loss. Sadly, this would not be the only time the Mets were beaten by Caleb Smith and the Marlins in the second half.

Giants 3 – Mets 2 (16)
Thursday, July 18

Back when the Mets were pairing Noah Syndergaard with Tomas Nido to get the best out of Syndergaard, they’d get a great performance from Syndergaard with him allowing just one earned over seven innings. Much like the 2016 Wild Card Game, the Giants had Madison Bumgarner match him pitch for pitch, and we’d see Bumgarner last nine innings.

After nine, it was tied at 1-1, and the Mets would get an opportunity they didn’t have in that Wild Card Game. They’d get to face the Giants bullpen.

In the 10th, that appeared serendipitous as they loaded the bases with just one out against Will Smith only to see Conforto and Jeff McNeil strike out. The Mets would also squander opportunities in the 13th and 15th as their bullpen put forth their best effort of the season.

Then finally, the Mets broke through as Pete Alonso would break out of his slump hitting a huge go-ahead homer in the 16h inning giving the Mets a 2-1 lead. That’s when seemingly innocuous decisions made previously would present their ramifications.

In Minnesota, the Mets had used Chris Mazza to pitch the final two innings of a blowout 14-4 victory over the Twins. What was curious about that decision was the Mets had Jacob Rhame available for that game, and they knew he had a suspension looming from an April incident. Before the game against the Giants, Rhame agreed to a suspension making him unavailable for this game.

With Mazza being the last guy in the bullpen, the Mets would look on as a tired pitcher could not record one out as the Giants would score two in the bottom of the inning to win 3-2. This loss was made all the worse because there was a clear hangover with the Mets being unable to score a run over 10 innings leading them to waste yet another Jacob deGrom start.

Braves 2 – Mets 1 (14)
Friday, August 21

The Mets were flying high entering this series having won 16 out of their last 18 games. As a result, they were seven games over .500 for the first time since April 24, 2018. At the time, the Mets were only 1.5 games out of a Wild Card spot putting them in the thick of the postseason race. With a strong series against the Braves here, the Mets had an opportunity to put the division in play.

Instead, the Mets would get swept by the Braves leading to the team losing six straight games. Even though the Mets would make another run at it, they ultimately could not overcome this stretch, and it would being with an absolutely brutal loss.

Mike Foltynewicz, a pitcher with a 6.09 ERA entering this game, would allow just two hits over seven innings. Ultimately, the only batter to get to him was deGrom, who would hit a sixth inning homer to tie the score at 1-1. As bad as the Mets bullpen had been all year, you could argue the Braves bullpen was worse. That combined with the Mets having last licks, you could argue the Mets were in position to pull out this game.

The Mets had a huge opportunity in the 10th against former teammate Anthony Swarzak. The team would put together a two out rally and load the bases, but Amed Rosario would strike out to end the inning.

The Mets blew an 11th inning chance as well. After Joe Panik was hit by a pitch by Sean Newcomb, he’d move to third after two wild pitches during Alonso’s at-bat. Alonso and Conforto would strike out, and the Braves intentionally walked J.D. Davis to force Brad Brach out of the game and to face the Mets last pinch hitter on the bench – Aaron Altherr. He’d ground out to end the inning.

What would make that even more maddening was the Mets passed on the opportunity to claim Billy Hamilton, who would have been a real upgrade to this team, off waivers. As luck would have it, Hamilton would face Jeurys Familia, and he would drive home the go-ahead run.

What made that all the more maddening was it was an Adeiny Hechavarria ground rule double which put the go-ahead run into scoring position. In essence, the player the Mets cut rather than pay him a roster bonus, and the player the Mets would not claim so they didn’t have to pay him more than the league minimum Altherr, would prove to be two players who helped cost the Mets the game.

As we know, that was a winnable game the Mets needed to have. While it did not push the Mets out of contention, it would prove to be the first in a series of losses which took the Mets from the thick of the race to the periphery.

Nationals 11 – Mets 10
Tuesday, September 4

After a potentially season ending sweep against the Cubs, the Mets got off the mat taking two of three from the Phillies, and they took the first game in the series against the Nationals to pull within 4.0 games of a Wild Card spot. They were up 10-4 and about to pull within seven games of the Nationals for the top Wild Card spot.

The Mets had a 99.7 percent chance of winning that game, and they were 806-0 in franchise history when they led by six after nine innings.

That’s when we saw an epic bullpen meltdown; one we have never before seen the Mets have in their history. Paul Sewald, Luis Avilan, and Edwin Diaz combined to record just one out as the Nationals scored seven ninth inning runs. While many in hindsight would question removing Seth Lugo or question not using Justin Wilson against two batters with great numbers against left-handed pitching, the truth of the matter neither of those things were the problem.

The problem was this Mets bullpen was so unreliable that they cannot even be trusted to hold a six run lead. Therein lied the problem with this game, and it was a big problem throughout the season. It was a contributing factor in this and other losses the Mets suffered both in the first and second half. Huge soul crushing losses. That makes this bullpen just one of the biggest reasons why the Mets are not going to be in the postseason this year.

Thank You 2019 Mets Players

Now that the Mets postseason hopes are officially over, there will come a time to write post mortems to assess all that went wrong and how the Mets could improve in the future.

Before doing that, we should first acknowledge these Mets players fought tooth and nail giving all they could give to help make an improbable run. What we would discover is this is a tough and very likeable group who deserves our gratitude.

Pete Alonso – for having perhaps the greatest rookie season in MLB history while being just a good person.

Aaron Altherr – his RBI double and scoring later in the game proved to be the winning run in a game against the Pirates as the team looked to turn their season around.

Luis Avilan – limited LHB to a .104/.189/.188 batting line making him an exceptional LOOGY, perhaps the last true LOOGY with the incoming MLB rule changes.

Tyler Bashlor – had a seven game scoreless streak in May and another four game one from June to July where he picked up his first hold.

Brad Brach – came to the Mets like he always wanted, and he helped stabilize a bullpen which desperately needed his help.

Keon Broxton – had a go-ahead RBI against the Nationals in April helping the Mets get off to another great start.

Robinson Cano – returned from what should’ve been a season ending injury to do all he could to help get this team into the postseason.

Michael Conforto – reminded us how great he is when he is healthy. Yes, great.

Travis d’Arnaud – came back too soon, never complained, and he left the Mets with pride and dignity after a good Mets career.

J.D. Davis – had a season better than anyone could’ve imagined with a number of big hits. More than that, he became a fan favorite as he was a player who clearly loved being a part of this team.

Rajai Davis – the lifelong Mets fan came home, and he would deliver two absolutely huge pinch hits to keep the Mets afloat at times they needed them.

Jacob deGrom – we are experiencing greatness everytime he takes the mound, and at some point we will need to begin having Hall of Fame conversations about him.

Edwin Diaz – there was a real dignity with him when he faced the media everytime he struggled. He made no excuses, and he put the work in to try to get back to where he was in Seattle. From what we’ve seen, he will get back there next year.

Jeurys Familia – you have to say something about someone who loved being a Mets player, and he came back to be a part of another winning team. Hopefully, that will be next year.

Chris Flexen – reinvented himself as a reliever who showed potential with the ability to strike out batters.

Wilmer Font – showed the Mets real value as a reliever before he was inexplicably designated for assignment.

Todd Frazier – provided this team with real leadership and defense, and he had a number of hot stretches which helped the Mets get back into it.

Drew Gagnon – for a month stretch from late April to late May he was an extremely reliable reliever.

Carlos Gomez – came back to the Mets and started the fun “Ye! Ye! Ye!” rallying cry.

Robert Gsellman – before he began to breakdown due to overuse, he was putting together a really good season out of the bullpen.

Luis Guillorme – when he finally got his chance, he proved himself showing this team he needs to be a part of the future. His pinch hit homer was one of the biggest hits of the season.

Sam Haggerty – like Eric Young in 2015, he was a weapon as a pinch runner.

Donnie Hart – albeit in just one appearance, he’s one of the few pitchers in Mets history who has never allowed a run.

Adeiny Hechavarria – showed surprising power and helped keep the Mets going in May.

Juan Lagares – at the end, he reminded us of how great a fielder he can be, and he had one last hurrah with his first two home rungame.

Walker Lockett – his start in San Francisco was the lone win in what was otherwise a lost series.

Jed Lowrie – despite suffering significant injuries, he pushed onward to make himself a viable pinch hitting option.

Seth Lugo – he has been absolutely great, and he has kept an otherwise struggling bullpen afloat.

Steven Matz – for the second straight year, Matz made 30 starts, and he made huge strides forward with a big second half and being dominant at home.

Chris Mazza – a 29 year old rookie is a feel good story, and he had quite the debut against a very good Braves lineup.

Jeff McNeil – proved last year was no fluke, and his versatility allowed the team to get the most out of the roster.

Tomas Nido – was a terrific defensive catcher and framer who helped get the most out of the starters and help them get their minds straight.

Brandon Nimmo – came back from a bulging disc in his neck to pick up where he left off last year. His enthusiasm and love of baseball is always a breath of fresh air.

Stephen Nogosek – put together a great year in the minors to get to the majors.

Ryan O’Rourke – in his low moment, he gave us real human insight into what it was like being cut from a team.

Corey Oswalt – strong year in Triple-A giving the Mets real rotation depth going forward.

Joe Panik – came back home to New York to help keep the team afloat at the time the Mets were in desperate need for a second baseman, and he performed quite well.

Tim Peterson – earned his way onto the Opening Day roster,and he’d pitch fairly well in his limited opportunities.

Brooks Pounders – six of his seven outings were really good.

Wilson Ramos – turned what was going to be an awful year around with a great August, and his ability to frame the high pitch proved to be a real help to deGrom.

Jacob Rhame – before landing on the IL to end the year, he was showing glimpses of being the type of arm who could be a useful part of the bullpen going forward.

Rene Rivera – brought back warm memories from the 2016 season with him combining with Syndergaard to dominate the Nationals.

Amed Rosario – he made a fools out of people who didn’t believe in his work ethic and talent by showing he is going to be an impact player on both sides of the ball in the future.

Hector Santiago – picked up a big win in extra innings against the Tigers.

Paul Sewald – despite being an afterthought, he once again proved he was a Major League caliber reliever, and he would finally get that first win which proved to be so elusive for him.

Dominic Smith – despite his being maligned and dropped down the depth chart, he would get healthy, and he would show everyone just how good a player he is, and he showed himself to be a great teammate more interested in how he could help the team than his role.

Marcus Stroman – the man was born to pitch on the biggest stage, and he would show it to us. A full year of him is going to be a thrill.

Noah Syndergaard – with Nido and Rivera, he showed he’s a Cy Young caliber pitcher, and he has time and again said he wants to be a real part of this team going forward.

Ruben Tejada – there’s a poetic justice in his playing in 2019 and Chase Utley not.

Jason Vargas – he really helped the Mets Wild Card hopes by bombing with the Phillies.

Zack Wheeler – he desperately wanted to be a part of a Mets postseason push, and he not only got that chance, but he would be great down the stretch.

Justin Wilson – he put the elbow problems aside, and he had just a terrific year out of the bullpen.

Daniel Zamora – 13 of his 16 appearances were scoreless, and with his splits, he showed the Mets he could be a modern LOOGY with the changing bullpen rules.

Overall, while you may hate what Brodie Van Wagenen has done as the General Manager, and you can hate the Wilpons for not being invested in this team, you simply have to love each and every one of these players for all they gave this team. We should appreciate them for fighting to the finish and giving us hope for next year.

20/20 Hindsight: Mets Needed To Complete Sweep

After a brief hiatus after a nice family vacation, I’m back watching games at home instead of on the app and able to get back to things like the 20/20 Hindsight. Without further ado:

1. The 1969 and 1973 Mets overcame five game deficits entering September and so can this team, but in order to do so, they need to complete sweeps and not settle for 2/3.

2. There’s a lot of attention on Mickey Callaway for losing Sunday night. No matter your opinion on the moves, when you boil it down, the Mets lost because Jeurys Familia was flat out bad. They also lost because their three best hitters (Jeff McNeil, Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto) didn’t get the big hit in the eighth after the inning was set up for them to deliver.

3. Seeing Luis Guillorme get that bunt down, we see a player who does all the small things really well. It’s also a reminder how much time the Mets wasted on Jose Reyes and Adeiny Hechavarria instead of giving him his chance.

4. On the bunt, there are actually a few times it’s the right move. This was actually one of those times.

5. Who really wanted to see Familia instead of Daniel Zamora against Bryce Harper?

6. On the call-ups, it was great to see Brandon Nimmo back. His getting a walk and drawing a run shows how terrific a player he is. That said, he needs to throw to second.

7. Zack Wheeler set the tone. Steven Matz slayed some Citizen’s Bank Park demons. Marcus Stroman had his best start as a Met. The starting pitching really stepped up in this series after it disappointed against the Cubs.

8. Speaking of starting pitching it was nice seeing the Mets getting a chance to hit against Jason Vargas, who was his typically bad self on the mound.

9. As usual Joe West is a terrible umpire, but in a surprise twist, he nearly killed Rajai Davis.

10. Just when you want to give up on Todd Frazier, he hits two homers and makes a potentially season saving leaping grab.

11. On those nights, the Mets bullpen has Seth Lugo, Justin Wilson, and Luis Avilan available, this is a great bullpen. When they’re not all available, Sunday happens.

12. Paul Sewald has been a godsend, and it’s at the point where he may be the most reliable right-handed reliever not named Lugo.

13. We should be excited Edwin Diaz had two dominant appearances while remembering it’s just two.

14. Past two weeks, Wilmer Flores is hitting .429/.478/.810, and J.D. Davis is hitting .209/.306/.488. Both have 0.7 WAR for the season with Flores playing fewer games and not costing three prospects. The Diamondbacks are ahead of the Mets in the Wild Card standings.

15. Wilson Ramos hitting streak has come at a critical time. Mets need him to keep hitting at this level if they’re going to have a real chance.

16. The video of Sam Haggerty getting informed by Tony DeFrancesco was great, and you love to see players get their first chance at the MLB level.

17. You’ll note Haggerty was called up while Jed Lowrie was not activated. There is some question whether these decisions were linked.

18. With how he’s slowed down of late, Amed Rosario should move back down the lineup. Even with his slowing down, we’ve seen enough to be excited for the future.

19. After early and justifiable buzz, Joe Panik and Brad Brach are reverting to the players they were before the Mets signed then.

20. Four back of the Cubs is still doable. Three would have been moreso. Of course, this all overlooks how much the Mets blew it against the Cubs.

A Metsian Podcast (The Temperature Mets) Appearance

On Sunday, I had the privilege of being invited back on A Metsian Podcast to discuss the Braves series and all things Mets. During the podcast, I recall mentioning Pete Alonso, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Dillon Gee, Logan Verrette, Aaron Altherr, Tomas Nido, Jed Lowrie, Brandon Nimmo, J.D. Davis, Amed Rosario, Wilson Ramos, Joe Panik, Todd Frazier, Jeff McNeil, Jason Vargas, Carlos Delgado, Endy Chavez, and others.

Please take time to listen. Thank you.

20/20 Hindsight: Mets Sweep Marlins Like Good Teams Do

The Mets are three games over .500 for the first time since April 23rd. They are now just one game behind in the Wild Card race, and they are eight games out in the division. Things are much more interesting in Queens.

1. The Mets went 14-2 against an easy stretch of games which included the Padres, White Sox, Pirates, and Marlins. Malign this all you want, but this is exactly how good teams play against bad teams.

2. The pivotal point in this series was with the Mets trailing 4-2 heading into the bottom of the seventh in the second game of the doubleheader. The homers by J.D. Davis, Michael Conforto, and Pete Alonso saved the game, and it served not just as a launching pad for the Mets winning that game but also sweeping the series. Who knows how much further that inning will take them.

3. Davis has been the Mets best hitter at home. For some reason, Citi Field is like Coors Field to him. With the Mets having a lot of home games remaining, he becomes increasingly more important to the team.

4. Conforto has arguably been the Mets best player in the second half. Since the All Star Break, he is hitting .315/.406/.641. Before his concussion, Conforto was hitting .274/.412/.519. Ultimately, when he is healthy, this is the level of player Conforto is, and that level is being a great player.

5. Alonso has homered in three straight, and he is just two behind Cody Bellinger‘s National League Rookie record. He is four behind the Mets single season record shared by Todd Hundley and Carlos Beltran. He’s followed every bad month with a good month. His defense has been much better than it was last year. What else is there to say about him?

6. Like many of the Mets players, Wilson Ramos has stepped it up. So far in August, he is hitting .417/.440/.708. To a certain extent, this outburst should have been foreseen. Traditionally, August is Ramos’ second best month of the season, and he hit .337/.396/.483 in the second half for the Rays and Phillies last year.

7. The Mets need these bats and others to step up in Robinson Cano‘s absence. While Cano has been frustrating at times, his replacements have not fared that well this year. The combination of Aaron Altherr, Luis Guillorme, Adeiny Hechavarria, and Juan Lagares have combined to go 2-for-26 with a run, three walks, a double, and 10 strikeouts.

8. Seeing this production, the Mets should go out and claim Joe Panik. As noted yesterday, even at a 69 wRC+, Panik would be the best hitter of this group. His defense would also be an improvement over what Cano offered. It should also be noted Panik has some upside as well.

9. On the idea of upside candidates, the Mets need some bullpen help. The Mets appear loathe to use Donnie Hart and Chris Mazza, and the Mets cannot continue to operate with no trust at all with two of the arms in their bullpen. On that front, Cody Allen, Brad Brach, and Greg Holland are available. The Mets also have quality organization options in Chris Flexen, Eric Hanhold, and Paul Sewald.

10 One interesting development with no August trades is we are seeing teams designate players for assignment now instead of floating them through waivers and holding onto them until competing teams look to obtain them right before rosters expand to 40 in September.

11. As we have seen with Lee Mazzilli and Addison Reed, the player the Mets obtain in August can make a huge different for a team looking to win a pennant and a World Series. Given the team’s depth and bullpen issues, they need to take a hard look at whomever hits the waiver wire over the next few weeks.

12. There was a time where people were calling for Mickey Callaway to be fired, and now, we are seeing writers begin to advocate for his winning National League Manager of the Year.

13. Remember most discussions about the manager are narrative driven and are reflective of a team’s performance. They are rarely, if ever, resultant of actual analysis of player progression and effort.

14. The Mets need better than Wayne Randazzo on the radio. He has no sense of team history, and as evidenced by his being unaware of egg creams, he’s not even well versed in the area. Really, when you break it down, you really have to question what he does well.

15. It certainly isn’t analysis with his attributing Conforto’s success to Alonso. Aside from the studies refuting the concept of lineup protection, it’s absurd a hitter as good as Conforto needed lineup protection to succeed.

16. The Mets radio play-by-play job is perhaps the radio job with the highest standards there are. Two of the greatest to ever do it, Bob Murphy and Gary Cohen, have held that job. Howie Rose is every bit their peer. We need better than Randazzo.

17. The Mets defense has been much better of late. We saw this with the Mets infield turning 10 double plays against the Marlins. When you play defense this way, all the pitchers look better. The real key has been Amed Rosario becoming a plus defender at SS.

18. Jason Vargas getting roughed up by the Diamondbacks is a reminder bad players outplaying their peripherals regress, and the Mets trading him to the Phillies was the one trade which really helped the Mets chances of grabbing a Wild Card.

19. The last time things were like this with the Mets, they had just obtained Yoenis Cespedes right before sweeping the Nationals to tie for the division lead and make a march towards the pennant. This year is starting to have the same feeling.

20. Marcus Stroman‘s first Citi Field start is going to be absolutely electric. That game and the series cannot get here soon enough.

20/20 Hindsight: Mets Wash Away White Sox

Well, now the Mets are just two games under .500, and they are four games back of the second Wild Card. They are now heading to Pittsburgh, a team they just swept, to try to get over .500 and make further headway in the Wild Card race:

1. You know things are going well when Robinson Cano powers the offense, Amed Rosario is playing Gold Glove level defense, Wilson Ramos wasn’t the worst defensive catcher, and Jeurys Familia was pitching a clean inning.

2. If you didn’t believe in the Mets chances, seeing Pete Alonso‘s LFGM Tweet, you see the players believe. If the players believe, there is a real chance this could happen.

3. This is not paid advertising, but with Alonso’s statement, you should consider buying one of the new LFGM t-shirts from Athlete Logos. On a personal note, I have used Athlete Logos for personal projects, and he has done a great job. Seriously, why have you not bought a shirt yet?

4. Now that things are going well again, we hear from Brodie Van Wagenen. This should surprise no one as he was taking victory laps after his big moves in the offseason, and he was nowhere to be seen when the Mets were struggling, and everyone was demanding answers. What makes his suddenly speaking again all the worse was his Tweet was a clear rip-off of Alonso’s. At this point, just let the players be front and center and go hiding like you did previously.

5. As noted yesterday, Jacob deGrom is pitching like he did last year, and suddenly, he is right near the top of the Cy Young race. With Max Scherzer hurt, deGrom can very well pass him over the next month.

6. Noah Syndergaard has four straight outings of seven plus innings with eight plus strikeouts. Just like deGrom is in his Cy Young form, Syndergaard is in his 2016 form.

7. Remember Syndergaard once said the Mets are a second half team. He’s backing up that statement by pitching like the best pitcher in baseball lately. Seeing him pitch like this you have to be happy the Mets did not trade him. Seeing him pitch, you really have to wonder why the Mets aren’t considering giving him a contract extension, especially with him wanting to be here.

8. Speaking of being happy a player who wants to be here wasn’t traded, Zack Wheeler was great yesterday. There are parameters for a contract extension for him with Nathan Eovaldi being a really good comparison. With the threat of the qualifying offer, you would think the Mets have leverage to get something done here.

9. With the Mets not selling, there was a legitimate case to be made the Mets should have added a reliever. While the Mets didn’t directly do that, by replacing Jason Vargas with Marcus Stroman in the rotation, the Mets did just that. With the pitching staff going 6-7 innings or more every night there is less of a need for your bullpen every night.

10. The pitching staff really has been great lately with them having the best ERA in the National League since July, and the best pitching staff in all of baseball since the All-Star Break. This is the result of the starters going deeper into games. This is a replication of the plan in 2015 which served the team quite well.

11. It also works well when Seth Lugo pitches like the best reliever in the game. That should surprise no one because he is that. There is no reliever more versatile and smart. Recently, he has pitched multiple innings, earned a save, and came in to face one batter to get the Mets out of a bases loaded jam.

12. On the pitching front, Mike Petriello of MLB.com points out just how much Ramos’ inability to frame the low pitches has hurt a Mets team heavily reliant on sliders and sinkers. That may be a reason why Syndergaard has thrived with Tomas Nido behind the plate. On that front, the Mets may want to consider pairing Stroman with Nido too.

13. Howie Rose made an interesting comparison between Edwin Diaz and Tug McGraw yesterday noting like Diaz, McGraw really struggled up until August of that 1973 season. On August 1, McGraw had a 5.77 ERA. From August 1 until the end of the season, he had a 1.65 ERA for a Mets team which made a miracle run.

14. For Diaz, it is time he turns things around. He has a 5.14 ERA, and he has allowed a run in three straight games with a homer in two of his last three games. On the home run front, he has allowed more homers than he did last year, and he is one off of a career worst.

15. Michael Conforto has been great. He had key walks leading to runs in tight games, and when he came up with the Mets needing insurance runs he delivered including his massive 11th inning homer. Yesterday, he had his hitting streak snapped, but he still contributed with a great sliding catch.

16. Jeff McNeil had a great catch of his own flying into the netting in the right field corner to make a catch. Even with his defense, he needs a day to rest what his an ailing wrist. Lately, he has been struggling at the plate. Over his last seven games, he is hitting .174/.240/.435.

17. The Mets are still winning with McNeil and Alonso struggling because everyone around them has picked it up. That includes Rosario who is really breaking out in every aspect of his game. That also includes Conforto who seems to have shaken off the effects of his concussion. There is also Todd Frazier, who has been much better of late.

18. One interesting development of late is the Mets going to Aaron Altherr over Juan Lagares for a late inning defensive replacement. Prior to this year, it would have seemed to be insane, but this year, it looks like the right move.

19. I’m still laughing over this deGrom quote I saw on MMO: “I would’ve hated to see anybody go. We’re staying together and that says they believe in us and hopefully we can keep the ball rolling.” Apparently, deGrom didn’t think Vargas was anybody.

20. The last time the Mets tried to make a run like this was 2016 with Asdrubal Cabrera being the bat who helped push them into the top Wild Card spot. With Cabrera now available, the Mets should really consider bringing him back to be a big bat off the bench.

Jason Vargas Trade Was Fine But Speaks To Larger Organizational Issue

Yesterday, the Mets traded Jason Vargas to the Philadelphia Phillies for Double-A catcher Austin Bossart. Considering Bossart is a 25 year old catcher repeating Double-A hitting .195/.303/.335, this is nothing more than a salary dump. On the surface, there is nothing wrong with that.

Fact is, Jason Vargas hasn’t been good for the Mets, and he is expensive. The team needed to unload him, and it was going to be difficult to do so.

Since the 2017 All Star Break, Vargas has a 5.30 ERA with opposing batters hitting .264/.334/.472 off of him. He has walked 3.5 per nine, and he has averaged 4.2 innings per start over that stretch. No matter how you want to manipulate or massage those stats, that’s not good, and it is not befitting the production you need from a fifth starter.

His pitching that way really hurt the Mets early in the season. It caused them to go to the bullpen much earlier, and it was one of the biggest reasons why the Mets bullpen was so taxed early in the season. It is not even about the Mets being under .500 in his starts over the first few months, it was about the lasting effect on the team.

The counter-argument many will have is Vargas has been much better of late. To that point, over his last six starts, he is 3-2 with a 4.46 ERA and a 1.165 WHIP. In a vacuum, that level of production is more than acceptable from a fifth starter. The problem is he’s not going to be able to maintain that level of production.

Over these six starts, Vargas has yielded a .227 BABIP while walking 3.4 BB/9. He is stranding 76.2 percent of batters. This is nowhere near what he is as a pitcher. In his career, Vargas has a .282 BABIP in his career with a 73.1 percent strand rate.

When you stablize his current BABIP and LOB% to his career norms, you get the pitcher you saw in 2018 and the first few months of this season. Put another way, you are getting a bad pitcher who you need to take out of the rotation. By trading Vargas now, they’re doing just that. They’re getting the bad pitcher out of the rotation now.

Even better, they’re dumping him on the Phillies. If you want to make that miracle run to the Wild Card, weaken one of your top competitors. While a small sample size, he’s allowed batters to hit .250/.362/.563 off of him in four starts there. It’s part of the reason he has a 6.23 ERA at that ballpark. Ultimately, he should prove to be a nightmare for the Phillies over the final two months of the season.

When you break it down, Vargas isn’t good, and every team knows it. None of them are going to buy in on six starts fueled by unrepeatable peripherals. Given what we know and have seen, the Mets were always going to have to salary dump him. They were lucky they found a team.

Really, if you want to criticize the deal it is taking on a complete non-prospect who was a former collegiate teammate of Jeff Wilpon’s son. Looking at that, it looks more like a favor to a friend than an actual baseball move. An actual baseball move here would have been to identify someone at the lower levels of the minors who had potential like the Rays did when they obtained Neraldo Catalina for Wilmer Font or the Brewers did when they got Felix Valerio in the Keon Broxton deal.

Ultimately, that is the result of the Mets not scouting those levels of the minor leagues. If you want to criticize the Mets for that, you absolutely should. Their actions on that front are indefensible. However, their actions salary dumping Vargas are eminently defensible as they are a better team without him, and the Phillies are worse off with him.

Assessing Mets Marcus Stroman Trade

Before going into the weeds on the cost, it should first be noted the Mets are a much better team for getting Marcus Stroman. This is a pitcher who has pitched quite well in the AL East, and he is a pitcher with big game experience being named the World Baseball Classic MVP in addition to some really good postseason performances.

Stroman grew up a Mets fan, and as a result, the Mets are getting a player who should become a fan favorite in short order. Assuming no other moves for a moment, the Mets rotation is very clearly the best in baseball, and you can argue acquiring Stroman makes their chances of making the postseason this year significantly better.

The one ding people will bring up with Stroman is he’s reliant upon a good infield defense to be successful, and the Mets defense has not been good this year. On that note, the Blue Jays have been a below average defensive team this year with a -6 DRS with them having a -4 DRS at first, -9 DRS at second, 1 DRS at third, and a 0 DRS at shortstop. With the Mets having Todd Frazier at third and Amed Rosario playing a to positive DRS in the second half, they fair well in comparison to the Blue Jays. Eliminate the turf, and you can argue this is actually a better situation for Stroman to be even better.

Now, if the Mets were in the position the Braves were in, you understand this trade. Stroman is the piece which arguably puts the Mets over the top. When you roll out Jacob deGromNoah SyndergaardMarcus StromanZack WheelerSteven Matz in your rotation, you’re dangerous in both the regular season and post season. As for the bullpen issues, with that collection of five guys, the Mets could take a page out of Alex Cora‘s book last postseason and utilize their starters to dominate the entire series.

Stroman would be an overpay, but it would be one along the lines of the Cubs trading Gleyber Torres for Aroldis Chapman. If you win the World Series, who cares? In some ways, Stroman is even better than that because he is under control for next year as well. This not only gives you the best rotation in baseball right now, but it puts you in a position where you’ve insulated your team from losing Wheeler in the offseason.

The problem with the Mets is they’re five games under .500, and they are six games out of the division and the Wild Card. They are in real striking distance, but they also have many obstacles in their way.

The Mets have three teams ahead of them in the division, and they have four teams ahead of them in the Wild Card standings. The team just lost Dominic Smith which somehow depletes an already suspect outfield depth even further, and it also stands in the way of the Mets finding some more games for Pete Alonso, who is really struggling so far in the second half.

Speaking of depth, the Mets already suspect starting pitching depth did take a hit. On the one hand, yes, assuming no other moves, acquiring Stroman exponentially improves the depth as he’s a significant upgrade over Jason Vargas, who should now find himself in the bullpen. On that note, the bullpen also looks better. However, that assumes no other moves.

At the moment, it seems the Mets are looking to move Noah Syndergaard in a companion move to help fill out the current roster. Of note, the team still desperately needs a center fielder. It should be noted with the current rumors, Manuel Margot isn’t that guy. He’s yet to be a league average hitter in his career, and he’s a -1 DRS this year in center. On that front, it should be noted he was really good prior to this year with an 8 DRS in 2017 and a 9 DRS in 2018.

If the Mets move Syndergaard, they are again relying on Walker Lockett and Corey Oswalt to be their starting pitching depth this year and the next. Aside from one Lockett start this year, that is misplaced faith. This means the Mets need David Peterson to step up instead of hoping one of him or Anthony Kay are ready.

Like with trading Justin Dunn to the Mariners, trading Kay hurt the depth, and it deprived the organization of real starting pitching upside. It also eliminated the possibility of taking either pitcher to send them out there and try to replicate with Seth Lugo or to a lesser extent Robert Gsellman are doing.

Being fair, in the end a package headlined by Kay was a fair return for Stroman. It did make sense to gamble Kay away for the year plus of Stroman, especially if you are really going to go for it as an organization. On that note, they did not do that after trading Jarred Kelenic and Dunn in the trade for Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano. On the Cano point, the Mets are up against the luxury tax next year, and they seem to be already using it as an excuse not to add despite the team collecting tens of millions of dollars in insurance proceeds on David Wright and Yoenis Cespedes while also deferring $12 million of deGrom’s contract.

From a Mets standpoint, the part of the deal which really hurts is Simeon Woods Richardson. This is an 18 year old pitcher already pitching for a full season affiliate. He is getting his fastball up to 97 MPH with a promising and developing curve and change which could both be plus pitches. Despite being almost four years younger than the competition, he is striking out 11.1 batters per nine while having an incredible 5.71 K/BB. This is a special arm, and the Mets traded him away with a top 100 prospect for one plus year of Stroman.

On the Woods Richardson front, the Mets were beyond loaded with teenage talent heading into this year. In addition to him, the Mets had Kelenic, Ronny Mauricio, Mark Vientos, Francisco Alvarez, Shervyen Newton, Luis Santana, and others along with a pitcher like Thomas Szapucki. This was a group poised to break into the majors around 2022, and when they came up, the Mets could have really had a prolonged World Series window open.

With Brodie Van Wagenen as the General Manager, that is what he has been trading away. He has severely hampered the next window from opening. Of course, that assumes the Mets window is currently open. This is a big reason why many baseball people don’t understand this trade. This seems one of those moments like when they pulled off the Cano deal or Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano the Mets are trying to tell us they are smarter then everyone when they’re really not.

Ultimately, you may not like this trade, but you would have certainly understood it if the Mets were 10 games over .500. They’re not. This trade becomes all the more puzzling when you consider they are supposedly doing this as a precursor to trading Syndergaard. Really, when looking at the entire plan right now, none of this makes sense. It makes even less sense if you are trading Syndergaard for prospects because the Mets just obtained one plus year of Stroman and not five.

Overall, this was an overpay for Stroman, and depending on what the Mets do now, it could be a completely unforced error. Typically in these moments, you like to sit and wait before passing judgment on the total plan, but considering how Van Wagenen has lost every trade he’s made thus far, there shouldn’t be much hope this was the first strike in what is one grand master plan.

In essence, enjoy Stroman while he’s a Met. He’s a fun player and really good pitcher who is coming home to pitch for the team he rooted for when he was growing up. Also, root for another hometown kid in Kay and hope Woods Richardson fulfills his potential. Root for everyone to succeed because it helps the Mets in the short term, and it will also help in the long run to remind the Mets that they’re really not better at this than everyone else. They have been and will continue to be considerably worse until Jeff Wilpon realizes he’s the problem.