Jay Bruce

Five Prospects Who May Contribute In 2017

Last year, we saw Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, and T.J. Rivera become significant contributors to a Mets team who claimed one of the two National League Wild Cards.  Their contribution was as pleasant as it was surprising.  In fact, no one truly could have predicated the slate of injuries that befell the Mets last year.  This year?  Well, that’s a different story all together.

With David Wright already questionable for Opening Day, and the Mets prospects performing better in Spring Training than many originally anticipated, many fans question not if, but when will we see these prospects contributing for the Mets.  With that in mind, here are five prospects, who have yet to appear in a major league game, we may very well see at Citi Field in 2017.

#1 David Roseboom

Once Akeel Morris was traded to the Braves for Kelly Johnson, Roseboom became the closer for the Binghamton Mets last season.  Roseboom blossomed in the role and made it an eight inning game for the B-Mets.  He saved 14 out of 15 games while posting a 1.87 ERA in 52 games on the year. From July 2 to the last regular season game on September 5, Roseboom held opponents to a .130/.193/.383 slash line, and a 0.92 ERA.  This work has caught the Mets attention, and he was a non-roster invitee giving the Mets coaching staff an opportunity to get an up close look at him.

At a minimum, he could very well be the second left-handed reliever the Mets covet in the bullpen.  With the struggles we have seen from Josh Edgin this Spring, that could be sooner rather than later.

#2 Paul Sewald

What is interesting about Sewald is his terrific results have not gotten him the attention he deserves.  Seemingly every pitcher struggles in Las Vegas, and yet in the second half, Sewald converted 10 save opportunities while posting a 1.85 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP.  While naysayers will point to his high 80s to low 90s fastball, Sewald has clearly shown the ability to get batters out even in the most difficult of pitching environments.  As teams go through multiple relievers year-t0-year, it may only be a matter of time before Sewald finally gets his well earned chance to pitch in the majors.

#3 Dominic Smith

This Spring, we have already seen Wright become questionable for Opening Day, and Lucas Duda need shots in his hip and have back spasms.  For a Mets infield that already had injury questions to start the season, things are already progressing quite poorly.  The Mets have talked about experimenting with Jay Bruce at first.  Wilmer Flores has already shown he can be part of an effective platoon there as well.  Neither player is the long term answer.  That’s Smith.

Smith is a terrific fielding first baseman who reported to his first major league camp in the best shape of his professional career.  So far, the only concern about him is if he will hit for power.  He quieted some of those concerns in the final 58 games of the season.  During that 58 game stretch, Smith hit .355/.426/.537 with 16 doubles, one triple, seven homers and 42 RBI.  Extrapolating that over the course of a 162 game season, that would translate to 45 doubles and 20 home runs.  That type of production can definitely play at first base especially when Smith has the promise to do even more.

#4 Amed Rosario

Across baseball and the Mets organization, Rosario has been dubbed a superstar in the making.  The only question is when his star will begin shining at Citi Field.  Arguably, he is further away from Citi Field than Smith as Smith played a full season in Binghamton last year.  Moreover, you probably want to give both players until the All Star Break before you even begin to consider calling them up to the majors.  And yet, as Michael Conforto proved in 2015, if you are a truly special talent, you can come to the majors and contribute for a World Series caliber team in the thick of a pennant race.

In Rosario, the Mets have a game changer in the field and at the plate.  Should any infielder go down, room can be made for Rosario.  Certainly, Asdrubal Cabrera has shown in his career he can play second and third.  Also, do not discount the Mets trying to play Rosario at third this season so he can become more versatile, and quite possibly open a spot for him on the major league roster this year.

#5 Chris Flexen

Arguably, this spot could go to P.J. Conlon, but Flexen is on the 40 man roster.  Also, Flexen pitched a full season for St. Lucie last year, whereas Conlon only pitched half a season there.  Another issue is Flexen’s stuff plays better in the bullpen as Flexen has a mid-90s fastball and a plus curve ball.  If the Mets were to be willing to move Flexen to the bullpen, he can rocket through the Mets system.

In addition to Conlon, another name to consider is Corey Taylor.  He’s got terrific stuff, and the minor league closer is already drawing Jeurys Familia comparisons.  Overall, the Mets farm system has plenty of players who should be able to contribute at the major league level at some point next year.  It should give you some hope the Mets should be good in 2017 even if there is a rash of injuries.  It should give you more hope that the Mets should be good in years to come.

Editor’s Note: I consulted Michael Mayer while making my list, and he pointed out to me he wrote a similar column for Mets Merized Online.  His list is slightly different as he includes Champ Stuart.  As Michael is one of the most knowledgeable people on the Mets farm system, please give his article a read as well. 

Trivia Friday – Best Mets Outfielders

Watching Michael Conforto rake during Spring Training, you can once again imagine him becoming the MVP candidate we all thought he was going to be when he was hitting home runs in the World Series.  The only things in his way right now are his manager Terry Collins and Jay Bruce.  If those hurdles are cleared, it is possible that Conforto could well emerge as the best oufielder on the Mets.

If he does, he will join a varied group of Mets outfielders who put up the best season in the outfield.  From year to year, there have been good seasons to MVP caliber seasons to nothing to write home about.  Can you name the best outfielders on the Mets since 2000?  Good luck!


Jay Payton Tsuyoshi Shinjo Cliff Floyd Mike Cameron Carlos Beltran Angel Pagan Scott Hairston Marlon Byrd Juan Lagares Curtis Granderson Yoenis Cespedes

Mets Attempting More Versatility

Last season, other than Wilmer Flores, Terry Collins showed an unwillingness to move players out of their natural position.  With the Mets returning four infielders who each had significant injuries last year requiring stints on the disabled list, Collins may not have the same luxury.  To that end, the Mets appear prepared to better handle to withstand injuries next season.

As the Mets report to camp, it appears that each player has come ready to either learn how to play another position or become more proficient at a position they have played in the past.

For starters, Jose Reyes comes into the season having already played shortstop and third base.  In addition to those responsibilities, Reyes is going to spend time in Spring Training learning how to play the outfield.  As Mets fans remember, Reyes once played second base.  Certainly, he can play there in a pinch if needed.

Last year, the Mets were unwilling to move Neil Walker off of second base.  This year might be a different story.  As Walker reported to Spring Training, he brought a third base and a first baseman’s glove with him.  Depending on not only the health of his teammates, but his own health, it is very possible Walker finds himself playing some games away from second.

His double play partner Asdrubal Cabrera has been working away from shortstop this offseason.  During Winter Ball, Cabrera played both shortstop and third base.  Before Carlos Guillen surprisingly left him off the roster, Cabrera was set to play short and third for Venezuela.  Previously when he was a member of the Washington Nationals, Cabrera had played second in addition to short.

While each of these players have infield experience, the Mets are looking to gain some versatility with their outfielders as well.  While Collins has largely shot down rumors of Michael Conforto trying first base, it appears Jay Bruce will get some exposure there during Spring Training.  This move makes sense for both the team and the player.  The added versatility should help the Mets replace Lucas Duda‘s power at first should he suffer another back injury, and the added versatility should help Bruce as he plays his last season before becoming a free agent.

In addition to the aforementioned players, we know that Ty Kelly, T.J. Rivera, and Matt Reynolds can play a multitude of positions as well as left field.  Top to bottom, the Mets promise to have a versatile roster.

The versatility helps because it will allow the Mets to keep the best remaining bats in the lineup in case of injury, but it also can clear room for Gavin Cecchini, Amed Rosario, or possibly Dominic Smith to play everyday when/if they are ready.  Overall, the Mets are in the best possible situation to withstand injuries now.  All that is left is Collins’ willingness to play people outside of their main positions.

That remains to be seen.

Mets Themed Valentine’s Day

With today being Valentine’s Day, it is only right we get into the spirit of things by being as clever as Bobby Valentine was the time he used eye black to make a fake mustache.  Without further ado, here are some “clever” Mets themed Valentine’s Day lines you may see on one of those cards you used to pass out to your classmates in grammar school:

Jerry Blevins – Jerry?  Hello!  Be my Valentine

Josh Edgin – I’m Edgin my way closer to you.

Jeurys Familia – I want to become Familia with your sexy self.

Matt Harvey – If you thought 50 Shades of Grey was seductive, wait until you see the Dark Knight I have in store for you.

Seth Lugo – Lugo you want to get with this.

Rafael Montero – You might as well be my Valentine because we both know there’s not getting rid of me not matter how awful I am.

Addison Reed – You and Me Addison up to a great Valentine’s Day

Hansel Robles – You’re so hot right now

Fernando Salas – If I had to the same again, I would, my Valentine, Fernando

Josh Smoker – You’re so hot, I can see the Smoker from miles away

Noah Syndergaard – Can you handle this god’s thunder?

Yoenis Cespedes – There’s a lot of Potencia between you and I Valentine

Travis d’Arnaud – d’Arnaud it pains me to be apart from you

Lucas Duda – Duda right thing and be my Valentine

Wilmer Flores – I’ll cry if you put me in the Friends zone

Amed Rosario – Don’t Be Surprised Be Ready

Neil Walker – I would Walker 5,000 miles to be your Valentine

David Wright – It’s only Wright we would be Valentines

Jay Bruce – Let me be the Valentine you regret for years to come.

Michael Conforto – It’s a Conforto to know whether in NY or Vegas we’re Valentines

Curtis Granderson – It’s Grandy being your Valentine

Juan Lagares – You’re the only Juan for me

Brandon Nimmo – Nimmo I’m smiling because of you.

Ron Darling – Be my Darling this Valentine’s Day

Keith Hernandez – I mustache you to be my Valentine’s Day OR How about a Valentine’s Day mustache ride?

Happy Valentine’s Day

Michael Conforto Has No Future at First Base

With the news that Jay Bruce is likely going to be the Mets Opening Day right fielder, many are pushing the idea that Michael Conforto should start to learn first base in order to make room for himself on the major league roster.  Sorry, but that is a poor decision.

Now, there is nothing wrong with Conforto learning another position to increase his utility to the Mets.  In fact, if Lucas Duda were to go down to injury, or if he is going to struggle due to any lingering effects from him having gone on the disabled list in consecutive seasons with back injuries, Conforto would be the first person you would want to replace him in the lineup.

With that said, the Mets need to figure out what they want Conforto to be.  Do they want him to be the best outfielder this organization has developed since Darryl Strawberry?  Or do they want him to become the next Eric Valent?

Simply put, at his age and with this talent, Conforto needs to be playing everyday somewhere.  Ideally, that should be at the major league level as we have seen Conforto is ready to play in the majors.  During his second stint in AAA, Conforto hit .493/.541/.821 with three homers and 11 RBI in 17 games.  Those are video game numbers.  A player that can dominate like that at the highest level of the minors does not belong there.  He belongs in the majors.

He belongs in the major leagues where he has already shown glimpses of being a very good hitter.  As a rookie who never played a game above AA, Conforto hit .270/.335/.506 with nine homers and 26 RBI in 56 games.  In April last year, before he injured his wrist, Conforto hit an astounding .365/.442/.676 with four homers and 18 RBI in 21 games.  Even with this subsequent struggles with the wrist injury and Terry Collins giving him irregular playing time, Conforto has shown he can hit at the major league level.

Again, the problem is he needs to play everyday.  The problem is Bruce stands in his way.

This is the same Bruce who hit .219/.294/.391 in 50 games with the Mets last year.  This is the same Bruce who is a career 109 OPS+ and 107 wRC+ career hitter.  The same Bruce who has a career .318 OPB and .295 OBP over the past three seasons.  This is the same Bruce who is just a few years removed from a season where he had a knee injury and hit .217/.281/.373 with 18 homers in 137 games.  This is the same Bruce who is declining defensively posting a -8.9 UZR and -11 DRS last year and has averaged a -6.4 UZR and a -3 DRS over the past three seasons.

Ideally, Bruce is the guy who should be providing power off the bench.  He should be learning first base to provide insurance for Duda.  He should be the guy to step into the lineup should Conforto struggle or Curtis Granderson shows his age.  However, we don’t live in an ideal world.  A guy who has 30 homer 100 RBI potential is going to play everyday.  A guy who is making $13 million is going to play everyday.  A guy the Mets want to showcase so they can trade him is going to play everyday.

That leaves Conforto on the bench if he is in the majors.  With Collins in charge, that leaves you to question when exactly Conforto will play.  You know he’s not going to play him against left-handed batters, which is a problem because Bruce, Duda, and Granderson are all left-handed batters.  Further complicating the matters is Juan Lagares is going to play against left-handed pitchers, and he is going to be a defensive replacement late in games.  On top of that, the Mets are looking to see how Jose Reyes can handle the outfield.  Long story short, Conforto’s not going to play, so why are you wasting time trying to get him reps at a position he’s never going to play?

Moreover, why are you wasting time getting him reps at a position he has no future?  After the 2017 season Bruce, Duda, and Granderson are free agents.  Assuming one or two leave in free agency, there is now a spot for Conforto to play everyday in the outfield whether that be in center or right.  The first baseman in 2018 is either going to be Dominic Smith, if he makes strides in 2017 like he did in 2016, or a one year stop gap.  Keep in mind that if Smith should falter, Peter Alonso, who has shown he has the potential to be a terrific major league hitter, may not be too far behind.

Overall, the Jay Bruce situtation has put Conforto in a terrible position.  He’s either going to be a pinch hitter who gets very little playing time or a minor league player.  This is the exact type of situation where you can mess up a prospect.  The Mets should not compound this by trying to make him a first baseman when Conforto is likely not going to have a chance to play more than 20 games at first base in his entire career.

No, the Mets should instead use the time to focus on getting Conforto to work on the areas of his game that needs improvement.  By doing that, you make him a much better player.  By stashing him on the bench and trying to make him a 1B/OF, you are only going to accomplish making him the next Eric Valent.

At the end of the day, which is the better course of action?

Jay Bruce Should Listen To Kevin Long

In the three seasons before Yoenis Cespedes became a New York Met, he was a .263/.316/.464 hitter who averaged 24 homers and 87 RBI.  Since becoming a New York Met, Cespedes has been a .282/.348/.554 hitter with 162 game averages of 41 homers and 111 RBI.

In Curtis Granderson‘s first year with the Mets, he was a .227/.326/.388 hitter with 20 homers and 66 RBI.  Over the past two seasons, Granderson has been a .248/.350/.460 hitter who has averaged 28 homers and 64 RBI.

In the three years before the Mets acquired Neil Walker from the Pittsburgh Pirates, Walker was a .264/.336/.438 hitter who averaged 18 homers and 67 RBI.  In his Pirates career as a right-handed batter, Walker was a career .260 hitter with just six home runs over the course of seven seasons.  Last year, Walker was a .282/.347/.476 hitter with 23 homers and 55 RBI in just 113 games.  From the right side of the plate, he was a .330/.391/.610 hitter with eight homers.

In the three years before Asdrubal Cabrera signed a free agent deal with the Mets, he was a .249/.307/.405 hitter who averaged 14 homers and 61 RBI.  Last year, Cabrera was a .280/.336/.474 hitter with 23 homers and 62 RBI.  It should also be noted he was one of if not the best hitter over the last two months of the season.

With this quartet of players, we see a definite trend of what happens when the Mets hitters being working with hitting coach Kevin Long.  Whatever it is he specifically does, he has the ability to help batters not only hit for more power, but also improve their OBP.  While Long’s detractors will point out there are players that haven’t performed well under his tutelage like Travis d’Arnaud and Michael Conforto last year, there are players like the aforementioned players and Daniel Murphy who have improved.  The point is overall hitters tend to improve in terms of OBP and slugging under Long.

With Long’s seeming ability to help players in these two key areas, Jay Bruce would be wise to work closely with his new hitting coach this season.

Over the course of his career, Bruce has been a .248/.318/.467 hitter who has averaged a 27 homers and 82 RBI a season with most of his damage being done at The Great American Ballpark where he is a .254/.328/.500 hitter. Basically, Bruce has basically been a slugger that not only does not know how to draw a walk, but he is also a product of his former home ballpark.  At least that was the perception.  That perception was not helped when Bruce hit .219/.294/.391 in 50 games with the Mets last season.

This is a large reason why he did not garner much interest on the trade market.  It may very well be a reason why he will have difficulty getting a large free agent deal next offseason.

It’s odd when you think about it because Bruce has the potential to be a 30 HR/100 RBI hitter.  He is your prototypical slugger who has been a three time All Star, two time Silver Slugger, and has a top 10 MVP finish in his career.  There is real talent there.  He just needs help to become a more well-rounded hitter.  As we have seen with most of the Mets roster, Long has helped the Mets hitters on that front.

If Bruce does improve his OBP and he hits for more power, the Mets are going to have the left-handed power threat they thought they were getting when they acquired him in exchange for Dilson Herrera and Max Wotell.  He is also going to help garner the interest for his services that we just not present this offseason.  Overall, the working relationship between Bruce and Long can be a mutually beneficial relationship.

It’s a relationship both Bruce’s and the 2017 Mets’ future hinges upon.

Mets May Have Enough Internal Bullpen Options

With Baseball America‘s Adam Rubin reporting the Mets are considering using low A starter P.J. Conlon out of the bullpen, the Mets are really giving the impression that they may not sign any relief pitchers this offseason. This would coincide with earlier reports the Mets may not have the budget to acquire another player unless the team is able to trade an outfielder, namely Jay Bruce. When considering the difficulties the Mets have in trading Bruce, it’s becoming increasingly more likely the Mets will use internal options to build their bullpen.

The Mets should have varying degrees of confidence in returning relief pitchers Jeurys Familia, Addison Reed, and Hansel Robles. Last season, Reed and Familia combined to be the best 8-9 combination in baseball. Robles has shown versatility whether it was his bailing Jim Henderson out of a bases loaded no out jam or pitching 3.2 innings because Bartolo Colon left a game in the first inning with an injury.

While the Mets should have confidence in these three pitchers, they still need at least four other arms to complete their bullpen. Here are the leading options:

RIGHT-HANDED RELIEVERS

RHP Seth Lugo – While he should get the opportunity to compete with Robert Gsellman for a spot in the rotation, indications are Lugo will land in the bullpen. In limited bullpen duty last year, Lugo was terrific. In his nine relief appearances, he had a 2.65 ERA, 0.941 WHIP, and an 8.5 K/9. Pitching out of the bullpen should also permit Lugo to ramp his fastball up to 95 MPH and throw his curveball, which has the best spin rate in the majors, making him an even more dominant pitcher.

RHP Zack Wheeler – Like Lugo, Wheeler may get an opportunity to pitch in the rotation, but early indications are he will start the year in the bullpen. Wheeler’s fastball-slider combination should play well out of the bullpen, and it should lead to him recording a high number of strikeouts. Conversely, he may have a high amount of walks as well. Unfortunately, Wheeler may not be able to sustain the same workload of a relief pitcher as the Mets will likely want to ease him back after Wheeler missed two years due to Tommy John surgery.

RHP Paul Sewald – With a high 80s to low 90s fastball with a slider in the low 90s with a low 80s slider, Sewald doesn’t have the dominating stuff you would typically look for in a major league reliever. However, despite having “lesser” stuff, Sewald has succeeded at every level of the minor leagues including his being an effective closer for the 51s last year. Despite pitching in an extreme hitter’s league, Sewald had 10 saves with a 1.85 ERA, 0.945 WHIP, and an 11.8 K/9 in the second half of the season.

RHP Erik Goeddel – If Goeddel can return to his 2014 – 2015 form, the Mets have a reliever they can rely upon. During that time, he was on the New York – Las Vegas shuttle making 41 major league appearances. Over that stretch, he had a 2.48 ERA, 1.000 WHIP, and a 9.0 K/9. For many, it was believed Goeddel did it with smoke and mirrors, an impression that was given credence with his 4.54 ERA and 1.318 WHIP in 2016. With Goeddel able to strike out 9.1 batters per nine last year, he has at least shown he can get batters out, and as a result, should get another chance. His success in 2017 is going to depend on his ability to regain some of his fastball velocity or his ability to adapt to pitching without it.

RHP Chase Bradford – Like Sewald, Bradford has fringy stuff with a low 90s fastball and a low to mid 80s slider. However, unlike Sewald, Bradford has struggled in AAA. Over the past three years, Bradford has pitched to a 4.88 ERA, 1.454 WHIP, and a 7.2 K/9. It should be noted many pitchers, like Lugo, struggle in Las Vegas, only to have success in the majors.

RHP Ben Rowen – The submarine style Rowen was brought in on a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training. The hope is that Rowen can be a modern version of Chad Bradford in what was an excellent 2006 Mets bullpen. However, given his low 80s fastball, and with both right-handed batters and left-handed batters hitting him hard in his brief 12 major league appearances, this seems more hope than reality.

RHP Rafael Montero – Despite being terrible for the Mets, he somehow remains a part of the Mets organization. As if his presence on the roster wasn’t baffling enough, Sandy Alderson even mentioned him as a possibility for the bullpen. (ESPN). It figures that this year is the year push comes to shove with Montero. Either he is finally going to trust his stuff and throw strikes at the major league level, or the Mets are going to designate him for assignment for someone who can.

RHP Gabriel Ynoa – Ynoa struggled with the Mets last year, but those struggles could have been the result of him being asked to pitch out of the bullpen when he’s never done that before and the team shifting him between the bullpen and rotation late in the year. Fact is Ynoa has real talent. He has a low to mid 90s fastball that he may be able to consistently get in the mid 90s if he was airing it out in the bullpen. His slider is also effective in generating a number of groundballs. With him in the bullpen as opposed to the rotation, he can primarily utilize his two best pitches to get batters out.

LEFT-HANDED RELIEVERS

LHP Josh Smoker – There are three things we learned about Smoker last year: (1) he strikes out a lot of batters; (2) left-handed batters absolutely crush him; and (3) he is not effective for more than one inning. Now, if Smoker is able to work with Dan Warthen to develop a slider to get help him get left-handed batters out, he’s got closer potential. If not, he’s still an effective arm out of the bullpen so long as Terry Collins acknowledges his limitations.

LHP Josh Edgin – Even with his reduced velocity, Edgin still showed the ability to get left-handed batters out. Until such time he re-gains his velocity, if it ever were to happen, he should primarily be used as a LOOGY. Now, with Familia, Reed, and Robles each being extremely effective against left-handed batters, the Mets are not in dire need of a LOOGY. Still, in a division with Freddie Freeman, Daniel Murphy, and Bryce Harper the Mets could benefit from having more than one pitcher who can get left-handed batters out.

LHP Sean Gilmartin – In 2015, Gilmartin was an important part of the Mets bullpen as the team’s long man. That season, he made 50 appearance pitching 57.1 innings going 3-2 with a 2.67 ERA, 1.186 WHIP, and an 8.5 K/9. Surprisingly, Gilmartin had reverse splits allowing a .216 batting average to right-handed batters and a .260 batting average to left-handed batters. Last, year, Gilmartin began the year in Las Vegas as a starting pitcher. Due to some bullpen issues at the major league level, the Mets had him fly on a red eye and pitch on short rest. Eventually, he would suffer a minor shoulder injury, and his promising season would tail off. Ultimately, the Mets will need a long man in 2017, and there is enough evidence here to suggest Gilmartin can competently fill that roll.

LHP David Roseboom – It’s not common for pitchers to go from AA to the Opening Day roster the next year, but Roseboom may just be capable of doing it. While a closer by trade, who is coming off a season with a 1.87 ERA, he is extremely effective against left-handed batters. Last season, he limited left-handed batters to a .141 batting average. Primarily, Roseboom is a sinker/slider pitcher who also has a change that allows him to remain effective against right-handed batters. While Roseboom primarily sits in the high 80s to the low 90s, he remains effective because he is able to effectively locate his pitches, and he induces a high rate of ground balls.

LHP P.J. Conlon – As touched on above, considering Conlon for the Opening Day roster was a surprise given he has not pitched in AA, he consistently throws in the mid to high 80s, and he was used as a starter last season. Another reason this was a surprise is the Conlon is better against right-handed batters than left-handed batters. The main reason for that is while Conlon is a four pitch pitcher, his out pitch is his change-up. Like with most left-handed pitchers, Conlon’s change-up is more effective against right-handed batters than left. Overall, it is highly unlikely he will make the Opening Day roster, but he should still benefit from the opportunity to further develop his slider.

PREDICTION

Barring unforeseen circumstances, Wheeler seems assured of being in the Opening Day bullpen with Familia, Reed, and Robles. Considering the Mets probably want to add another left-handed pitcher in the bullpen, and the fact that he is out of options, Edgin seems to be the next best guess as to a pitcher who will make the r0ster. Based upon their performance in the bullpen last year, it is likely the next two spots go to Lugo and Smoker. Right there, the Mets have a seven man bullpen with an interesting array of arms that can both register strike outs and induce ground balls to try to get a double play to get out of the inning.

If there is an injury, suspension, or someone proves to be ineffective, the Mets have interesting options behind this group in Rowen, Sewald, and Roseboom. There is also Gilmartin and Ynoa who can provide either a spot start or be able to serve in the bullpen if needed.

Ultimately, while you would feel much better with the Mets having at least one more veteran arm in the bullpen like a Jerry Blevins or a Fernando Salas, there is at least enough quality arms in the Mets system that can conceivably build a good bullpen.

 

Why The Mets Have Not Traded Jay Bruce Yet

With the Toronto Blue Jays nearing a deal for Jose Bautista and the Philadelphia Phillies signing Michael Saunders, the list of teams interested in Jay Bruce has preemptively shrunk by two. This is troubling because the market for Bruce seemed limited from the outset of the offseason.

This begs the question as to why Bruce, a player that is capable of producing 30 homers and 100 RBI in a season has so little interest. Surprisingly, the answer isn’t because Bruce hit .219/.294/.391 with just eight homers and 19 RBI in his 50 games as a Met. Rather, it is because there are better options still available.

After Bautista and Saunders, Mark Trumbo is arguably the best player remaining on the free agent market. In 2016, Trumbo hit .256/.316/.533 with 47 homers and 108 RBI. He posted a 120 OPS+ and a 123 wRC+. For his career, Trumbo is a .251/.303/.473 hitter who averages 30 homers and 86 RBI as an everyday player. He has a career 112 OPS+ and a 111 wRC+.

Comparatively, Bruce is a career .248/.318/.467 hitter who has averaged 28 homer and 90 RBI since 2010. For his career, Bruce has a 109 OPS+ and a 107 wRC+. Last season, Bruce hit .250/.309/.506 with 33 homers and 99 RBI while posting a 112 OPS+ and a 111 wRC+.

Basically, Trumbo is the better hitter over the course of his career, and he is coming off a better season. While he has a qualifying offer that will cost the team a first round draft pick, Trumbo is not going to cost another team a player. Still, with Trumbo’s high contract demands and the qualifying offer, it is arguable that a team would rather pursue Bruce than Trumbo. Once you look past Trumbo, the reason why teams are not interested in Bruce begins to emerge.

Chris Carter is coming off a season where he hit .222/.321/.499 with 41 homers and 94 RBI. Carter’s 2016 season saw him post a 114 OPS+ and a 112 wRC+. Since becoming an everyday player in 2013, Carter is a .219/.315/.470 hitter who averages 33 homers and 82 RBI a season. For his career, he has a 112 OPS+ and a 112 wRC+.

If a team is more interested in a left-handed power bat, there is Pedro Alvarez. In 2016, Alvarez hit .249/.322/.504 with 22 homers and 49 RBI in just 109 games. In those 109 games, he had a 115 OPS+ and a 117 wRC+. Alvarez became an everyday player in 2012, and since that time he has hit .239/.312/.463 while averaging 27 homers and 73 RBI. In his career, he has a 108 OPS+ and a 107 wRC+.

Looking at Carter and Alvarez, they are comparable if not slightly better players than Bruce. Looking solely at their OPS+ and wRC+, they had a better 2016 season that Bruce, at least suggesting they are in line for a better 2017. More importantly, Carter and Alvarez will likely sign free agent contracts worth less than the $13 million Bruce will receive in 2017. Moreover, the team giving Carter or Alvarez a contract will not have to forfeit a draft pick or a player to acquire them.

Ultimately, that’s the Mets problem in a nutshell. There are players on the free agent market who, at worst, are as good a hitter as Bruce is. Moreover, there are players like Aaron Hill, Brandon Moss, or Mike Napoli, who present a low-cost low-risk gamble.

Quite possibly, the teams you would expect need a power hitter will look to sign Trumbo, Carter, or Alvarez. The teams you think would be willing to roll the dice on a player will look to Hill, Moss, or Napoli. This is the real reason why the Mets have not been able to trade Bruce. It could also be the reason why Bruce may be on the Opening Day roster.

Mets May Get Lucky With the Reliever Market

First and foremost, it should be noted the Mets unwillingness or inability to sign one or more players before trading away an outfielder, namely Jay Bruce, is aggravating.  Despite the Mets attendance growing and the team’s revenues increasing, the Mets still do not have a payroll commensurate with either their position as a potential playoff team or their stature as a big market team in the biggest market in the world.  It is unfathomable the Mets still cannot have more than a league average payroll.  As a result, we have seen players who could help the Mets sign with other teams.

Fortunately, there are plenty of options still available on the free agent market.  At least conceptually, this means there are more relievers than there are teams in need of them.  Ideally, this means the price for these players should be suppressed.  This goes doubly so with pitchers and catchers reporting in less than one month (February 13th).  In sum, this means the Mets may be able to add one or more of the following on a team friendly deal:

LEFT-HANDED RELIEVERS

Jerry Blevins

2016 Stats: 4-2, 2.79 ERA, 73 G, 2 SV, 42.0 IP, 1.214 WHIP, 11.1 K/9

Heading into free agency, it was assumed Blevins was as good as gone as he wanted a multi-year deal worth approximately $6 million per season.  With teams looking elsewhere in free agency, Blevins remains on the market.  Worse yet, it does not appear that many teams are interested in Blevins services.  That is odd considering he had a career best year pitching to right-handed batters, and for his career, he has limited left-handed batters to a .214/.266/.322 batting line.  In the end, this could spell the Mets being able to re-sign him to a one-year deal at a modest raise over his $4 million 2016 salary.

Chris Capuano

2016 Stats: 1-1, 4.13 ERA, 16 G, 24.0 IP, 1.583 WHIP, 10.1 K/9

Back in 2011, Capuano came to the Mets looking for a place to rejuvenate his career, and under the tutelage of Dan Warthen, he largely succeeded.  Now, the 38 year old finds himself with another elbow injury that limited him to 16 games in 2016.  He also finds himself in need of an opportunity.  He could be worth a flyer as a LOOGY with left-handed batters slashing .244/.302/.360 against him in his career and .212/.297/.333 in 2016.

J.P Howell

2016 Stats: 1-1, 4.09 ERA, 64 G, 50.2 IP, 1.401 WHIP, 7.8 K/9

Howell has been effective against left-handed batters in his career limiting them to a .229/.306/.317 batting line.  From 2013 – 2015, he was an extremely effective reliever posting a 1.97 ERA over that time span.  However, last year was a struggle for him due largely to left-handed batters hitting him much better.  In 2016, left-handed batters hit .302/.343/.417 off of him.  The question is whether this is the start of a downward trend or just a one season blip for him.

Boone Logan

2016 Stats: 2-5, 3.69 ERA, 60 G, SV, 46.1 IP, 1.014 WHIP, 11.1 K/9

In some respects, it is astounding there is not more interest in Logan with him coming off an effective season while pitching half of his games in Coors Field.  The main reason could be his .225 BABIP against which is well below his career .326 number.  Still, he dominated left-handed batters limiting them to a .142/.222/.255 batting line.  Overall in his career, he has limited left-handed batters to a less impressive .233/.308/.361 batting line.

Travis Wood

2016 Stats: 4-0, 2.95 ERA, 77 G, 61.0 IP, 1.131 WHIP, 6.9 K/9

In the last two years for the Cubs, Wood has transitioned to the bullpen for the Cubs.  If judging by ERA+, Wood is coming off the best season of his seven year career.  In his career, he has been extremely effective getting left-handed batters out limiting them to a .206/.276/.316 batting line.  He was even better in 2016 limiting them to a .128/.208/.239 batting line.  In addition to his pitching, we have also seen him handle left field.

RIGHT-HANDED RELIEVERS

Fernando Salas

2016 Stats: 3-7, 3.91 ERA, 75 G, 6 SV, 73.2 IP, 1.113 WHIP, 7.8 K/9

For the past few years with the Angels, Salas was on a downward trend.  However, when he joined the Mets, Salas was seemingly rejuvenated.  Whether it was being in the Wild Card hunt or pitching to much better pitch framers, the results were dramatically different for Salas.  In his 17 games for the Mets, he had a 2.08 ERA, 0.635 WHIP, and a 9.9 K/9.  While it is unrealistic to expect him to put up those numbers, it is reasonable to believe he could perform well for the Mets next season.

Joe Blanton

2016 Stats: 7-2, 2.48 ERA, 75 G, 80.0 IP, 1.013 WHIP, 9.0 K/9

After sitting out the 2014 season, Blanton has come back to the majors as a very good relief pitcher.  According to Brooks Baseball, over the past two seasons, Blanton has predominantly become a fastball/slider pitcher who strikes out a batter per inning.  Generally speaking, Blanton has also shown the ability to keep the ball in the ballpark.  While Blanton is not a closer, he has shown the ability to be an extremely effective late inning set-up man.

Neftali Feliz

2016 Stats: 4-2, 3.52 ERA, 62 G, 2 SV, 53.2 IP, 1.137 WHIP, 10.2 K/9

Feliz began his career as a dominant closer.  However, he began to make multiple trips to the disabled list, and in 2015, it all caught up to him as he struggled throughout the season.  Last year, he began pitching much better in Pittsburgh.  Still, he struggled in the second half, and again he needed to be shut down over the final month of the season due to arm problems.

Luke Hochevar

2016 Stats: 2-3, 3.86 ERA, 40 G, 37.1 IP, 1.071 WHIP, 9.6 K/9

Like Matt Harvey, Hochevar needed seasons ending surgery to alleviate the effect of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.  Unlike Harvey, Hochevar will not be ready for Opening Day.  As we saw in 2013, when healthy, Hochevar is capable of being a dominant reliever.  However, between his Tommy John surgery in 2014 and his most recent surgery, it is debatable whether he can be that pitcher again.

Greg Holland

2015 Stats: 3-2, 3.83 ERA, 48 G, 32 SV, 44.2 IP, 1.455 WHIP, 9.9 K/9

Judging from the rather ordinary 2015 stats, you knew something was wrong with Holland.  From 2011 – 2014, he was 15-9 with a 1.86 ERA, 1.026 WHIP, and a 12.6 K/9.  During this stretch, he averaged 62 appearances, 64.0 innings, and 28 saves.  Holland would need Tommy John surgery robbing him of the remainder of the 2015 and the entirety of the 2016 season.  At this point, Holland is seeking a two year deal worth $11 million per season with an opt out after the first year.  If he returns to form, he may look like a bargain.  If he doesn’t, the contract will be a burden.

Seth Maness

2016 Stats: 2-2, 3.41 ERA, 29 G, 31.2 IP, 1.326 WHIP, 4.5 K/9

Maness’ 2016 season was abbreviated because it was thought he was going to need Tommy John surgery.  Except Maness did not get the surgery.  Rather, Maness opted for a sugery dubbed “primary repair” which seeks not to reconstruct the ligament, but to repair and stabilize it.  He is the first major league pitcher to ever elect this surgery over Tommy John meaning we do not know how successful this will be.  Maness’ 2017 season is going to be an extremely interesting, if not important, one.  If he is truly able to pitch with this surgery, and pitch as well as he has in his career, the Mets may have not only found a quality reliever, but the whole baseball industry may be in the beginnings of a revolution.

Sergio Romo

2016 Stats: 1-0, 2.64 ERA, 40 G, 4 SV, 30.2 IP, 1.076 WHIP, 9.7 K/9

Behind what were some good numbers for Romo in 2016 was an injured plagued year and a drop in velocity.  Still, Romo had a solid season with numbers in line with his career norms.  Unless his elbow injury is worse than believed, it is hard to imagine why a quality reliever like him, one who has closing experience, remains on the free agent market.

Joe Smith

2016 Stats: 2-5, 3.46 ERA, 54 G, 6 SV, 65.1 IP, 1.250 WHIP, 6.9 K/9

Like his former teammate Salas, Smith had regressed in 2015, and he was performing worse in 2016.  Also like Salas, Smith was traded to a postseason team with a excellent pitch framers, and he thrived.  In 16 appearances for the Cubs, Smith posted a 2.51 ERA, 1.116 WHIP, and a 9.4 K/9.  Despite his success in those 16 appearances, Smith was left off the Cubs postseason roster.

Overall, there are a number of relievers still remaining on the free agent market.  Some of these players may be able to be acquired on a minor league deal.  Others may still command major league deals, and yet some more may still get a multi-year contract.  Each one of these pitchers at least has potential to be a contributor to a major league bullpen in 2017.  With all of these choices remaining, it remains possible the Mets are able to add a quality reliever at a reasonable or even discounted price.

 

New Year’s Resolutions

We are headed for another season of Mets baseball where we hope that once again these Mets can make it all the way back to the World Series.  Since 2015, we have seen a definite pattern emerge with the Mets, and I think as Mets fans, we should all try better this year to not react, some would say overreact, when one of the following things we know will happen, happens:

  • The Mets are not going to sign another big name free agent this offseason.  It’s not going to happen, and it just may happen that Jose Bautista winds up in the division and on a fairly discounted deal;
  • Jerry Blevins will sign an extremely reasonable two year deal . . . with another team;
  • Instead of fortifying the bench, the Mets are going to go with this year’s version of Eric Campbell -> Ty Kelly;
  • Terry Collins is going to use and abuse Addison Reed to the point where his arm may actually fall off.  This will go double if Jeurys Familia gets suspended;
  • Hansel Robles is going to go through a stretch in one week where he pitches five innings, 1/3 of an inning, two innings, and three innings, and everyone is going to wonder why his production has fallen off;
  • The infield of Lucas Duda, Neil Walker, David Wright, and Asdrubal Cabrera will be ridden hard despite their injury histories and capable backups like Wilmer Flores and Jose Reyes on the bench;
  • Just pick a random player on the roster – he’s going to be on the DL for over two months with a back injury;
  • There will be a game with Reyes in center and Juan Lagares in right;
  • Travis d’Arnaud is going to get injured, and Kevin Plawecki is not going to be able to replace his bat in the lineup;
  • Matt Harvey will complain about the six man rotation that will be implemented at some point during the season;
  • Robert Gsellman will make an appearance throwing well over 100 pitches in five innings or less;
  • Rene Rivera will hit under the Mendoza Line;
  • T.J. Rivera will be raking in AAA and not get called up despite the Mets needing some offense;
  • Michael Conforto will not face one left-handed pitcher all season;
  • Yoenis Cespedes will not dive for a ball, run out a pop up, or run hard to first on a dropped strike three;
  • Curtis Granderson will have a better OBP than Reyes, but Collins will continue to lead off Reyes and his sub .330 OBP;
  • Collins will not know if Brandon Nimmo is faster than Flores and it will cost them a game;
  • No matter where he winds up this offseason, and no matter how poor his year is going, Chase Utley will hit two home runs in a game he faces the Mets;
  • Sandy Alderson will mortgage a part of the Mets future because he didn’t make a move in the offseason that he should have made;
  • Paul Sewald will pitch well in AAA, but the Mets won’t call him up because they would rather rip Sean Gilmartin or Gabriel Ynoa from the Vegas rotation to make a relief appearance on 2-3 days of rest;
  • Both Josh Smoker and Robles will be fully warmed up, and Collins will go to Smoker to pitch to the lefty;
  • For reasons the Mets themselves can’t quite explain, Rafael Montero will spend the full season on the 40 man roster;
  • d’Arnaud will come off the disabled list, play well for a stretch, and the Mets will lose him and Steven Matz in the same game;
  • Matz will have appendicitis, but the Mets will talk him out of the surgery because they need him to start against the Reds;
  • Dilson Herrera will tear it up every time he plays the Mets;
  • Wherever he lands, Jay Bruce is going to hit 30 homers and 100 RBI;
  • Collins will show up in the dugout without wearing pants, and the Mets still won’t fire him;
  • Noah Syndergaard will get ejected from a game for throwing inside.  A player who takes a bat to one of the Mets infielders in retaliation won’t;
  • Fans will clamor for Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith to get called up all season long;
  • Seth Lugo will bounce between the bullpen and rotation so much, MLB is actually going to test him to see if his arm is actually made out of rubber;
  • Bartolo Colon will pitch so poorly against the Mets, fans will wonder why they wanted a bum like him back;
  • R.A. Dickey will not only beat the Mets, but he will throw the team into a week  long offensive funk causing some fans to decry the trade;
  • One or more pitchers will get hurt, and fans that even question if the Warthen Slider could be an issue will be mocked mercilessly;
  • Some way some how Jon Niese will pitch for this team;
  • Rather than build Tom Seaver a statue, the Mets will issue #41 to Niese upon his return to the team;
  • Daniel Murphy will have another terrific year for the Nationals, and some Mets fans will still defend the decision to let him go;
  • Ricky Knapp will make a solid spot start for the Mets causing fans to think he is the second coming;
  • Mets will trade a good prospect for Kelly Johnson; and
  • Despite all of this the Mets will make it to the postseason

Honestly, I give it until April 9th when Collins declares the last game in a three game set against the Marlins is a must-win game.