So far this season, the New York Mets have disappointed. When a team disappoints to this level, people begin to look for scapegoats, and almost always that is the manager. With the Mets, Mickey Callaway is a ripe target as he had a disappointing 2018 season with some real issues like having Jay Bruce bat out of order. The Mets start this season has done little to instill confidence he’s progressing.
The question is whether he is the biggest issue. Arguably, he isn’t. It’s the offense.
So far this season, the Mets rank 21st in the Majors in runs scored putting them squarely in the bottom third of the league. This is a component in their having been outscored by 27 runs so far this year. For comparison’s sake the Mets pitching staff have allowed the fifth fewest runs allowed.
With the offense, there are a number of problems. Wilson Ramos hasn’t hit at all, and he has a career and Major League worst ground ball rate. Todd Frazier hasn’t hit either, and it should come as no surprise he also has a career worst ground ball rate. Robinson Cano is struggling, and he currently has a career worst strike out rate. The list goes on and on including Brandon Nimmo and Keon Broxton.
When you break it all down, the peripheral numbers are terrible. The Mets have third worst ground ball and GB/FB rates in the majors. As a team, they’ve accumulated the fourth most strikeouts in the Majors. The team is in the bottom third in the Majors in HR/FB, hard hit percentage, and homers. For all the preaching about situational hitting, their five sacrifice flies are the third fewest in the Majors.
In total, the team’s 98 wRC+ puts them in the bottom half of the league. Put another way, this is exactly what a Chili Davis‘ offense looks like, and it is why the Mets are Davis’ third job in as many years. Overall, while his uniform has changed, he hasn’t:
|2015-2017 Red Sox||45.6%||1.34||11.7%||18.7%||101|
At the end of last season, Cubs President of Baseball Operations said, “Something happened to our offense in the second half,. We stopped walking, we stopped hitting home runs, we stopped hitting the ball in the air, and we stopped being productive. Not being able to get to two runs that many times in the second half is really unacceptable.” (MLB.com).
After the 2017 season, Red Sox Owner John Henry said, “I think we would’ve had significant power last year if we had a different approach.” (Mass Live). He would add, “I didn’t think we were nearly aggressive enough and I think our approach was lacking for a good part of the season.”
Ultimately, when you look at the numbers and what the Cubs and Red Sox had to say, the Mets should not be surprised with their offensive output this season. Looking at the numbers, the Mets are getting exactly what they should have expected when they hired Chili Davis.
In 2017, Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith were Top 100 prospects, and they both appeared to be cornerstone players for the Mets. They were supposed to join Michael Conforto as the wave of young position players who could help a pitching staff led by Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard win a World Series.
As we all know that hasn’t happened, and in all likelihood, it’s not going to happen.
Starting in 2017, we didn’t see the results from either prospect. In 46 games, Rosario hit .248/.271/.394. He had a 75 wRC+, 1 DRS, and a 0.3 WAR. He had glimpses of pure excitement, but he didn’t hit, and his fielding was not the Gold Glove level advertised.
Unfortunately, things have gotten worse for Rosario. Since his 2017 debut, he is hitting .257/.296/.380. He has an 85 wRC+, which is fourth worst among Major League shortstops over that span. As bad as that is, his -22 DRS is the worst among Major League shortstops, and it is the fourth worst of all Major League players. In total, he has a -1.5 WAR.
Despite these struggles and his failing to make noticeable progress from a statistical standpoint, Rosario’s stature with the team has never been challenged. In 2018, the team had Jose Reyes as the backup shortstop and mentor. This year, the Mets entered the season with Luis Guillorme, and they sent him down after just 16 games leaving Rosario as the only shortstop on the roster.
While we have not seen Rosario yet develop, we have also not seen him challenged by the Mets in any way, shape, or form. This is a completely different experience than Smith’s.
As bad as Rosario has been since his debut, Smith has been worse. In 2017, Smith hit .198/.262/.395, and he had a -1.1 WAR. Because of his struggles, the Mets brought in Adrian Gonzalez in a first base “competition.” Smith certainly made things easy for the Mets when he was late showing up for the first Spring Training game.
During the 2018 season, the Mets gave time to Gonzalez, Wilmer Flores, and Jay Bruce at first base while they moved Smith to left field, where he faltered. As the season progresses, Smith saw his status of the first baseman of the future complete evaporate with every Pete Alonso homer.
The end result was Smith obviously being part of the Mets long term plans. Even though he came into Spring Training in phenomenal shape and having made clear improvements to his game, he didn’t get much of a chance to fight for the first base job, one Alonso arguably won anyway. Smith didn’t even get a small chance like Mike Olt once did while the Cubs waited to get an extra year of control over Kris Bryant.
No, the Mets just passed over Smith. They punished him for not being what they hoped he would be. Ironically, he may just be showing the Mets he’s ready to be that player hitting .400/.516/.480 as a bench player and late inning defensive replacement.
Conversely, Rosario continues to struggle. He’s not hitting or fielding well despite being given every opportunity to do so. At some point, the question needs to be asked if Rosario received the treatment Smith received, would he be a better ballplayer now? We don’t know, and we will never know.
The only thing we do know is there were two different sets of rules for Smith and Rosario. One was allowed to struggle, and the other wasn’t. One was challenged, and the other wasn’t. So far this year, one has improved, and the other hasn’t. Time will tell if the double standard will have cost the Mets the future of both players.
After losing two out of three to the Cardinals, the Mets have lost six of their last eight games, and they are now just one game over .500. In the series and this bad stretch as a whole, we are starting to see some troubling patterns emerge:
- This Mets team was supposedly all-in, and Brodie Van Wagenen had a “Come get us!” bravado. Somehow, this led to Jason Vargas and Chris Flexen starting in back-to-back games. The season isn’t even a month old, and the Mets complete lack of pitching depth is already getting exposed.
- There is no good explanation why the Mets would have Jacob deGrom skip a precautionary MRI when he landed on the disabled list due to an elbow injury.
- Moreover, in a game against a team the Mets may very well be competing for a Wild Card spot this season, the Mets threw Flexen, Luis Avilan, Jacob Rhame, and Paul Sewald.
- If Avilan is not going to be used as a LOOGY but instead as a mop up reliever, you have to question why he is even on this roster.
- At some point you do have to question if this is really a bad team. Through 21 games, the team has a -19 run differential. The only team with a worse run differential in the National League is the Marlins.
- Again, the defense the Mets put behind their pitching is embarrassing. Their -22 DRS is the worst in the National League, and the combination of Amed Rosario and J.D. Davis form the worst left side of the infield in the majors by a pretty healthy margin.
- With respect to Rosario, at some point we have to question if this is who he is. He’s not making real progress in any parts of his game, and it’s getting to the point where he is hurting the Mets (again) on both sides of the ball.
- It is possible Rosario could use a day off. However, the short sighted Mets decided Luis Guillorme again did not merit a fair opportunity and instead chose to carry a string of Four-A relievers. So in addition to no pitching depth, the Mets have no shortstop depth.
- On Davis, there is no way you want him in the outfield. He’s slower than Freddie Freeman, Hanley Ramirez, and Jay Bruce among others.
- Davis’ inability to play third and the fact he can’t hit the fastball (.167), you cannot continue to play him once Todd Frazier is up. Sure, he had one or two nice games, but you cannot let small sample size successes blur the picture, especially when his defense is killing the Mets out there.
- If you look at Noah Syndergaard‘s advanced numbers, he’s the same pitcher he has always been. The biggest issue for him has been the defense. When the ball is in play, it’s a hit as evidenced by his .346 BABIP against (he’s at .311 for his career) and his 50.6% strand rate (career 73.7%).
- Really, Syndergaard has been unlucky because the fielding behind him is putrid. Hence, he has a 2.92 FIP.
- On the subject of Syndergaard, narratives are just tiresome. For example, when Syndergaard is bad in Philadelphia, not one word is said about Wilson Ramos‘ catching, but when it’s Travis d’Arnaud, we hear trumped up charges saying he’s not a good catcher or game caller. In the end, it’s confirmation bias.
- With respect to d’Arnaud, it’s clear he wasn’t yet ready to return. Certainly, you have to question why they rushed him back when the team was winning, and Tomas Nido was doing a quality job in the games he played.
- Robert Gsellman has been terrific of late. Not only did he bail the Mets out of that eighth inning jam, but he also pitched three innings to save the bullpen yesterday. If the Mets aren’t going to do the right thing and sign Gio Gonzalez or Dallas Keuchel, it may be time to start stretching him out to replace Vargas in the rotation.
- Good for Pete Alonso to respond to his first slump by mashing the ball against the Cardinals. Also, you have to love him talking his way into the lineup a day after having to leave the game with his getting hit by a pitch on the hand.
- The umpires handling of Robinson Cano getting hit on the hand was embarrassing for baseball and the umpires. There was no way he swung, and when you make a call that egregious, you cannot throw out Mickey Callaway.
- We are seeing Jeff McNeil in his first real slump as a Major Leaguer. In the series, he was 1-f0r-11. It will be interesting to see if the Cardinals discovered something other teams could emulate, or if St. Louis is just a terrible place where good things go to die.
- With all the troubles the Mets are having right now, Keon Broxton is getting saved from the spotlight, which is good for him because he has been terrible.
- If the only impediment to signing Craig Kimbrel is he wants to close, the Mets are even dumber than you could have imagined for wanting to have Rhame on the roster just so they could have Edwin Diaz close.
The Mets finished their first homestand of the season going 2-3, and now they are embark on a brutal road trip taking them through Atlanta, Philadelphia, and St. Louis. Here are some observations before the Mets set off for that trip:
- Jacob deGrom just didn’t have it. It was bound to happen, but it was still startling to see.
- Anyone who even suggests deGrom’s struggles were related to Travis d’Arnaud behind the plate simply doesn’t know anything about baseball. It wasn’t d’Arnaud who caused the chilly weather, nor was it the weather which caused deGrom to miss his pitches by a foot.
- Baseball is funny sometimes. After thorough research shows Citi Field suppresses exit velocities, the ball was flying out of Citi Field. Of course, when you have power hitters like Pete Alonso and Michael Conforto that will happen anyway.
- In one series, Mitch Garver went from a nameless guy to the second coming of Mike Piazza.
- Jason Vargas was terrible, and it is simply inexcusable he was not so much as challenged for the fifth starter spot.
- The Mets have gotten away with calling up Alonso saying every game matters while carrying Vargas as the fifth starter and having Tim Peterson in the bullpen. Why do fans just let the Mets get away with pushing narratives like this?
- The booing of Brandon Nimmo and d’Arnaud was embarrassing. Mets fans should be better than that.
- And just like that, in his last three games, Nimmo is 4-for-10, with two doubles, a homer, three RBI, a walk, and a HBP.
- What the Mets did to Corey Oswalt is inexcusable. He effectively lost a year getting jerked around by the team, and the first chance this new regime gets, they call him up on three days rest to sit in the bullpen.
- Oswalt should be making Vargas’ start this Saturday, and if he doesn’t the Mets cannot pitch Oswalt until then because they may need him to piggyback that start.
- These two games were miserable creating difficult pitching situations. It led to deGrom’s struggles, and it likely led to Jeurys Familia‘s, but that’s now two bad outings from him. Too soon to overreact, but not too soon to take notice.
- After J.D. Davis‘ two home run game, he’s back to being Davis. He his 42.9% of his balls on the ground, and he has hit 45.8% on the ground this year. His inability to make a play at third led to Familia getting in trouble, and he almost botched a double play only to be saved by Luis Guillorme making an amazing turn.
- With Todd Frazier getting a rehab start at SS, it would seem Guillorme will be the odd man out, which is a shame because he’s doing everything he could do to stay. It’s at the point where he’s having to wear batting gloves because he has blisters from all his extra batting practice. He’s also been really good in the field.
- When you have players fighting this hard to stay in the majors, you will get the best results not just from them, but also from the players they are pushing. We are seeing some of that with this team.
- Robinson Cano has a knack for the moment with two big home runs already and a walk yesterday. That said, his overall body of work has not been good. He may be a slow starter, but he has never been this slow. It’s something worth monitoring with his age, PED suspension, and the Mets history on this front (Roberto Alomar).
- Mets are going to regret waking up the Nationals. They went from a team in trouble to a team who took consecutive road series from the red hot Mets and Phillies.
- There may be some holes and warning signs with Alonso here and there, including his having difficulty on two grounders this series, but pointing them out would be being a killjoy. So far, Alonso has been great, and the only things people should point out is how great he has been.
- We should not care what his final stat line said. Noah Syndergaard was dominant yesterday, and when you consider how everyone else pitched, he looked all the more so. Really, if not for some poor defense, he gets through the eighth unscathed.
- Good for Jay Bruce hitting seven homers so far this season and helping the Mariners to a 12-2 start. He gave the Mets everything he had, and it was not his fault it was a poor fit.
- In waht was promised to be a tight NL East, we have the Mets, Braves, and Phillies tied atop the division with a 7-4 record with the Nationals right behind them at 6-5.
When the Mets were winning the 2015 pennant, there was a push in some circles to refer to that team as Omar’s team. Depending on your point of view, it was intended to either credit Omar Minaya for his leaving behind a better than advertised talent base, or it was to deride Sandy Alderson, who never gained traction with some Mets fans.
Even if it was said in jest, there was a nugget of truth to it. The core of that team, the pitching, was mostly there because of Omar Minaya. In fact, Minaya was the General Manager who drafted Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, and Steven Matz. The other key starter, Noah Syndergaard, was obtained in exchange for R.A. Dickey, a pitcher who was brought to the organization by Minaya on a minor league deal.
Minaya was also the General Manager who drafted Lucas Duda and Daniel Murphy. Jeurys Familia, Wilmer Flores, Juan Lagares, Hansel Robles, and Ruben Tejada came to the Mets as international free agents signed during Minaya’s tenure. Minaya’s impact on the team went further than this with Sandy Alderson utilizing players brought to the organization during Minaya’s tenure to acquire Travis d’Arnaud and Addison Reed.
Taking it a step further, Minaya was the Assistant General Manager when David Wright was drafted, and he was the General Manager who gave Wright his first contract extension.
Overall, Minaya’s fingerprints were all over that 2015 team much in the same way Alderson’s fingerprints are all over this year’s Mets team.
Yesterday’s starting lineup featured four former Alderson draft picks (Brandon Nimmo, Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, Jeff McNeil) and the player who his regime gave the second highest international signing bonus in team history (Amed Rosario). Robinson Cano came to the Mets when Brodie Van Wagenen traded two former Alderson first round draft picks (Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn) and two players Alderson had signed in free agency (Jay Bruce and Anthony Swarzak).
Looking further, the lineup also had two Minaya holdovers, one of which in Lagares who Alderson gave a contract extension.
Really, when you truly break it down, the only player on the Mets Opening Day lineup who has zero ties to any previous Mets regime was Wilson Ramos.
When you break it down further, the only Mets players who have no ties to previous regimes were Ramos, Luis Avilan, Justin Wilson, and Jed Lowrie, a player who opened the season on the Injured List and who currently has no timetable to return. Considering Familia was a free agent signing, you could potentially credit him solely to Van Wagenen even if he was seeking to return to the team. The other 20 players on the Opening Day roster were either players brought to the team by Alderson, or they were players who were acquired utilizing players Alderson brought to the organization.
Given the narrative which was in place four years ago, the question should be presented whether the 2019 Mets are Sandy’s or Brodie’s team.
The answer is this is definitively Brodie’s team. As the General Manager, he was the one who set into course a series of transactions made to build the Mets in his image. It was he who decided to extend deGrom and to bring in Cano. When you are the General Manager, you are the one making the decisions, and you should receive the credit or blame if your decisions succeed or falter.
As for Sandy Alderson, Mets fans should be appreciative of the talent he acquired during his tenure. Alderson not only left behind a talented group of players, but he left behind a very likeable group of players. In the end, the Mets were better off for him having been the General Manager, and we can only hope we can say the same when Van Wagnen’s tenure as the Mets General Manager ends.
At this moment in time, with perhaps a very minor move or two, it would appear the Mets are done adding pieces this offseason. The different holes in the roster have been noted, but what we have not really seen done is an examination of the Mets decision making process. It is something which should be done more earnestly.
Dumping Swarzak’s And Not Frazier’s Contract
Purportedly, one of the selling points of the trade to obtain Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz was to move the contracts of Jay Bruce (2 years, $28 million) and Anthony Swarzak ($8.5 million). While moving Bruce was certainly understandable, it was curious the Mets moved Swarzak instead of Todd Frazier ($9 million).
As we have seen relievers tend to be mercurial, and it is quite possible with a healthier season, Swarzak could have been much more productive in 2019. Depending on the moves the team made in the offseason, he reasonably could have been the last man in the bullpen.
As for Frazier, we have seen the Mets make his spot on the roster tenuous. Pete Alonso appears poised to be the first baseman sooner rather than later, and the Mets brought in Jed Lowrie with the purpose of playing him everyone, albeit at different positions across teh diamond.
Seeing there being a multitude of free agents who could play third base, wouldn’t it have been better to move Frazier over Swarzak? As we saw, the Mets could have replaced Frazier with Lowrie. Other options included Mike Moustakas, Marwin Gonzalez, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Neil Walker. The Mets could have accomplished the same versatility they sought to accomplish by signing multiple players from this group, and they could have had platoon options over Frazier’s bat. It’s noteworthy with the exception of Moustakas these are switch hitters making them more useful bench players than a player who has never played a reserve role in his career.
Why Didn’t McNeil Play Winter Ball?
The very minute the Mets obtained Cano, it was clear Jeff McNeil was going to play some outfield. Now, it could be argued the amount of outfield he played depended entirely on the other moves made this offseason, but nevertheless, the plan was always to have McNeil see some time in the outfield.
Considering McNeil played exactly 17.0 innings in left field in Triple-A last year and just 56.1 innings in the outfield in his six years in the minors, you would have thought the team would have found a spot for him to play winter ball to hone his craft. After all, the team did try to get Dominic Smith time playing outfield in the Dominican Winter League (it didn’t work out).
Now, because the team couldn’t make any moves to improve the outfield, they are going to play McNeil in left all Spring with the hopes he can get up to speed over the course of less than two months worth of games. It should also be noted this decision is moving Michael Conforto from his best defensive position to right, and it is forcing Brandon Nimmo to center, a position the Mets have been reticent to play him at the Major League level.
Why Trade Plawecki if d’Arnaud Wasn’t Ready?
In his four year career, we have all seen Kevin Plawecki‘s warts, but through it all, he has established himself as a viable backup catcher at the Major League level. While the Mets may have felt the need to choose between him and Travis d’Arnaud, that decision would not have been forced upon the Mets until the moment d’Arnaud was ready to play. As we see now, d’Arnaud is not ready to play.
Instead of keeping Plawecki, they traded him for an underwhelming return in the form of Sam Haggerty and Walker Lockett. The only player of value in the trade was Lockett, and he had been previoulsy traded for Ignacio Feliz, an 18 year old who signed for an $85,000 bonus out of the Dominican Republic two years ago.
Instead of hedging their bets wisely, the team instead signed Devin Mesoraco. Say what you will about Plawecki, but he is far superior to Mesoraco. He’s a better pitch framer, and he is the better hitter (93 to 92 wRC+). And before anyone invokes Jacob deGrom, you need to explain how Mesoraco was the reason why deGrom was so great.
Where Are the Extensions?
There has been a growing trend in baseball for teams to lock up their young players. For example, the Yankees have already locked up Luis Severino and Aaron Hicks, and they are working on locking up Dellin Betances as well. These actions promise to keep the Yankees core together while keeping them cost controlled to what promises to be a team friendly discount.
At the moment, the Mets have free agency concerns of their own. After 2019, Zack Wheeler will be a free agent. After 2020, deGrom will be a free agent. After 2021, a significant portion of the Mets current Mets core will be free agents with Conforto, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz will be headed to free agency.
We know deGrom has put himself on the front burner, but what are the Mets doing besides him? After all, if CAA is in town, it means the team can negotiate extensions for both deGrom and Syndergaard. There is also nothing preventing them from reaching out to the agents for the other players.
Really, this is the biggest part of the offseason which needs examination. What exactly is the plan going forward? Do the Mets have intentions of building something much sustaining, or is this a one year gamble? Are the Mets playing things out in 2019 and reassessing. At this moment, we don’t know. Hopefully, the Mets do.
During his time in the minors, Jeff McNeil wore a couple of different numbers. Last year, he wore 12 with Las Vegas, and he wore 1 with Binghamton. Overall, he’d wear a variety of numbers including 3, 5, and 10. Naturally, when the Mets called him up to the majors, McNeil was assigned the number 68.
The significance of 68? Well, it was just next in line.
It was something the Mets seemed to start in 2016. That year, the Mets gave T.J. Rivera the number 54, and Ty Kelly was given 55. When Kelly Johnson returned, Kelly was given 56. Over the ensuing years, we’d see the number gradually climb up and up to the point Kelly would wear 66 last year, and eventually McNeil wearing 68.
Now, this is not a practice reserved for all prospects, and it has not been a practice always in place. For example, when Jose Reyes and David Wright were called up, they were given their now iconic 7 and 5 numbers. For that matter, when Eric Campbell was called up to the majors in 2014, he went from 24, a number somewhat unofficially retired by the Mets, to 29.
Now, McNeil is going to wear the number 6, a number which was available all of last season. For that matter, Rivera is going to wear 19, which was a number that Jay Bruce had before he was called up to the majors. It should also be noted the 3 he wore with Las Vegas was worn by Curtis Granderson.
Now, there are some restrictions with uniform numbers. For example, recent uniform history suggests Gary Carter‘s 8 and Keith Hernandez‘s 17 are unofficially retired. They may also want to try to preserve numbers for their top prospects like how Peter Alonso was assigned 20 this Spring Training.
Still, there is a wide chasm between not allowing a player to have a certain number and giving them a number in the 50s or 60s. These players have achieved something by making it all the way to the majors. They should be treated as such by giving them a real uniform number, especially as we saw in the case with Dilson Herrera and Juan Uribe, you are going to make the young player switch when a more established player wants the number.
As a side note, it’s more fan friendly as well because if you are someone immediately attached to a player like McNeil, when you go out and get the jersey, or even shirsey, you have the right number and aren’t out money when the player is finally deemed good enough to pick their own real baseball number.
Back in 2015, Wilmer Flores was in tears as he believed he was going to be an ex-Met, he cried on the field. Given his age, how he grew up in the Mets organization, and how he found out about the trade, you could understand why Flores was so emotion. What you cannot understand is how he was so unceremoniously non-tendered.
For all of his faults, Flores was a Met, and he was an improving player. As a player who began to find a role as a platoon player who could hit left-handed pitching, he learned how to hit righties. With there being an increased emphasis on putting the ball in play, Flores has always had a good strikeout rate. He has also shown improved plate discipline. More than any of that, Flores was a player with a sense of the moment as evidenced by his being the Mets all-time leader in walk-off hits. None were better than that fateful July night:
With Flores, most of his faults have been over-analyzed and stated. Yes, we know he is not a good defender anywhere but first base. However, this was a player who was willing to do whatever was asked of him. He played shortstop when everyone but the Mets knew he was ill-equipped to handle the position. He moved all around the diamond, and he accepted whatever role was given him. He was someone who loved being a Met, and the fans loved him for it.
Oddly enough, the reports of his demise may have also been premature. While one of the purported justifications for non-tendering him was his arthritis, there is a chance that was a misdiagnosis. Even if it wasn’t, this was a guy who played first base all summer, and he played well. From June 21st until August 23rd, the game before Jay Bruce came off the disabled list, Flores hit .293/.337/.471.
Over that stretch, Flores’ 118 wRC+ was sixth best among first basemen, who had at least 200 plate appearances. Essentially, he was the seventh best everyday first baseman. That level of production is not easily replaceable. That was made further evident by the Mets trading three good prospects in Ross Adolph, Scott Manea, and Luis Santana to get a worse hitting version of Flores in J.D. Davis.
As an aside, Flores was also great with the fans. He was always one of the last players leaving the field before a game. He was out taking pictures and signing autographs for the fans. The fans loved him, and he loved the fans. When you lose someone like Flores, you lose that connection fans have with a player and a team.
When you look at Flores, you saw a player who loved everything about being a Met. He was a someone who was willing to do whatever was asked. He had a sense for the big moment. He was a fan favorite. He’s also now entering the prime of his career, and he is going to a good hitter’s park in Arizona where he should hopefully have a lot of success.
In an odd sense, you cannot tell the history of the Mets without mentioning Flores. This tells you just how much of an impact he had during his time with the Mets. For that, and for who he was, Mets fans everywhere should wish him well.
Good luck Wilmer Flores.
Right now, the Mets are once again choosing to operate like a mid-market team, which to be honest is a kind characterization. The Mets decision is all the more inexcusable because the team has already mortgaged the future in trading Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn while simultaneously taking back $100 million of Robinson Cano‘s contract.
The Mets have also watched their NL East competition improve their teams to the point where it is entirely possible the Mets finish in third or even fourth place. The team’s chances in 2019 would be significantly improved to the point where they would become division favorites or even World Series contenders/favorites if they went out and signed Manny Machado, which is just not happening, or Bryce Harper, which is not happening but is more likely than Machado.
While the Mets should be chastised for their lack of a pursuit of Harper, they are not the only team immune from cricisim on their front. In fact, almost every team in baseball could use him, and few of them have an excuse:
Red Sox – The defending World Series champions may be one of the few teams with an excuse to not pursue Harper. Arguably, they have the best outfield in baseball, and their DH position is occupied by J.D. Martinez. Still, if Harper is willing to move to first base, you have to question why Mitch Moreland and his $6.5 million should stand in the way.
Yankees – The Yankees need a left-handed power hitter to balance out that lineup. The team seems to have no issue using Giancarlo Stanton as a DH and Brett Gardner as a fourth outfielder. This leaves a team under the luxury tax zero reason to not sign Harper, especially if they do not get Machado.
Rays – The Rays are on the verge of contention and with the moves they’ve made, they’re even closer. Still, that outfield is a disaster, and that lineup as a whole needs a big bat. A team who has issues drawing fans could also use a superstar and gate draw like Harper.
Blue Jays – The argument the Blue Jays are rebuilding does not hold water for the Blue Jays or any other team. Harper is a 26 year old future Hall of Famer. He is a player who not just helps jump the rebuild, but he is also a huge trade piece in the future should you look to move him.
Orioles – For a 115 loss team with not much Major League or even Major League ready talent, the Orioles could sure use some young talent and a player who can draw fans to the ballpark.
Indians – The Indians are a win-now team whose World Series window is closing as Corey Kluber edges towards free agency. With Michael Brantley departing in free agency, they have absolutely nothing in the outfield. Harper would completely change the dynamics of that team and the postseason.
Twins – With Joe Mauer‘s contract coming off the books, the Twins seem to be going for it a bit this offseason, albeit haphazardly. Adding Harper would make it a real division race between them and the Indians, and it could shift the balance of power in 2020 and beyond.
Tigers – Even if you assume the Tigers and their improving farm system are a few years away, how many chances do you get to add a player like Harper? Wouldn’t you be better off having an in his prime Harper with your young players when your team is about to take off?
White Sox – To their credit, the White Sox understand the opportunity present with Harper and Machado, and they are doing what they can to obtain either or both.
Astros – Even with the team having signed Brantley, this team is still a bat short, which was something which hurt them against the Red Sox. If they want to overtake the Red Sox, they need another bat or two, especially with Marwin Gonzalez likely gone. Adding Harper would make them clear favorites to win the World Series.
Athletics – The Athletics were a surprise 97 win team, which meant they only got a Wild Card Game out of it. One and done. While the Athletics don’t normally swim in the deep end of the pool, Harper could keep them not just in contention, but he could become a face of the franchise as the team hopes to move a new ballpark.
Mariners – For all of their talk of rebuilding, the Mariners have been sneakily building a team which could compete this year with players like Jay Bruce, Dee Gordon, J.P. Crawford, Kyle Seager, Edwin Encarnacion, and Mitch Haniger. Harper could push them into the Wild Card mix.
Angels – As Mike Trout moves towards free agency, the Angels need to do everything they can do to get him a chance to win a World Series in an Angels uniform. An outfield of Trout and Harper instantly makes this the best outfield in baseball, and it may change the dynamics of the American League.
Rangers – The Rangers actually have a young outfield core, and where they are as a on organization, they are probably justified passing on Harper to give their younger players a chance, especially because Harper is not likely looking to move to first base for what should be a last place club.
Braves – Right now, Nick Markakis is a free agent leaving a hole in right field. Also, the team had over $50 million in salary come off the books leaving them with around $30 million to reinvest even after signing Josh Donaldson to a one year deal. In what is an increasingly competitive NL East, the Braves lack of a pursuit may be the most inexcusable.
Nationals – The Nationals know what they had in Harper, and they are rumored to have offered him a contract over the initially reported 10 year $300 million deal. The owner met with Harper right before Christmas. They’re doing what they can to re-sign him to recapture NL East supremacy.
Phillies – The Phillies are doing all they can do to land Harper or Machado including making the team around them better.
Mets – There is no justifying their payroll or their inaction here. For as difficult as it is to hit at Citi Field, Harper has excellent numbers there, and he is a young superstar akin to Carlos Beltran, who can take the Mets to a new level. If you’re mortgaging the future, you need to go for it.
Marlins – This team needs to start somewhere in terms of adding talent, and if they are really intent on wanting to keep J.T. Realmuto in a Marlins uniform, and they seem to be considering how they are handling the trade discussions, it would go a long way to have Harper there to convince Realmuto to stay.
Brewers – Ryan Braun is essentially done being a good MLB outfielder. Brewers should cut their losses, make him a backup and/or first base option (behind Jesus Aguilar), and they should add Harper to make that lineup all the more long and dangerous. Doing so insulates them from some regression from some players, and it probably buys some more time for their starting pitching to truly develop.
Cubs – The Cubs still have a young core, albeit one which needs some help. The team could move Jason Heyward to center to accommodate Harper, or they could trade Kyle Schwarber to help address other needs. Overall, they are facing tougher competition, and they are going to have to find some way to improve.
Cardinals – The Cardinals are right in the thick of teams who are projected to be in postseason contention next year. While adding Paul Goldschmidt makes them significantly better, they probably still need to add one more significant player to move ahead of the Brewers and Cubs. Harper could well be that guy.
Pirates – The Pirates made an all-in type of move giving up a lot for Chris Archer, but they have not backed that up by signing a position player. Right now, they have fewer prospects, and they are really on the outside looking in when it comes to postseason contention. Really, if their goal is to matter in a loaded NL Central and increasingly top heavy National League, they need Harper to move them into the discussion.
Reds – The Reds just made an interesting trade with the Dodgers to help them try to win now. While many may be skeptical, the Reds are seemingly of the belief they can contend next year. While they already have a lot of names to sort through in that outfield, none of those players are on the level of Harper, nor will they be over the period in which the Reds intend to contend. Tangentially, adding Harper would free up some talented young players to move them in deals for upgrades at other positions.
Dodgers – The Dodgers barely won the NL West last year and made it back to the World Series. During the year, they had more surprising contributions, but they also saw a player like Cody Bellinger regress. Fact is, they could use a player like Harper to help them stave off a team like the Rockies while also helping them capture their first World Series since 1988. After all, the Dodgers are now essentially a World Series or bust team.
Rockies – The common mistake with the Rockies is assuming that just because they are in Coors Field, they are fine offensively. They’re not. In fact, they’re not very good, and they are especially bad in the outfield. Harper is the guy who could put up superhuman numbers there while helping the Rockies potentially nudge past the Dodgers.
Diamondbacks – Even after trading Goldschmidt and with A.J. Pollock a free agent, the Diamondbacks are not intending to strip it down and rebuild. If they’re not, they can replace Goldschmidt’s production with Harper, which could put them back in contention in the division. After all, the Diamondbacks did lead the NL West heading into September last year.
Giants – It may seem like a new age with a new GM with the Giants, but the team still appears to be going nowhere. They have older players and contract which will be difficult to move, and with Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey, they still have the last vestiges of their World Series titles. If the team is not moving towards a rebuild, Harper deepens and lengthens that lineup, and he would put them back in the conversation.
Padres – Much like the Reds, the Padres appear to believe they’ve arrived before everyone else believes they have arrived. Adding Harper to this team may not bear fruit in 2019, but in 2020, when we will see the likes of Fernando Tatis, Jr. and their other top prospects emerge, the team will need Harper. They could have him for what could prove to be an extended period of dominance for the Padres.
So, overall, Harper is an improvement for every team in baseball, and at his age, rebuilding is no excuse. The only excuse is team’s do not want to spend the money, which at the end of the day, is a very lame excuse considering how profitable each one of these franchises truly are.
After an unplanned hiatus, it is time to start the New Year off fresh and to look at everything anew. It is time for change and resolutions to carry us through 2019. Here are the resolutions for each of the Mets players:
Robinson Cano – don’t get caught using PEDs this time
Yoenis Cespedes – find a way to DH in at least two games this year
Jacob deGrom – learn how to hit better so he can finally win some games next year.
Travis d’Arnaud – get the same surgery Wolverine got
Jeurys Familia – convince Callaway Diaz needs to be used in higher leverage situations so he can get his closer job back
Todd Frazier – find a way to sell move boxes of unsold Mets salt and pepper grinders while not falling into the same trap this year.
Drew Gagnon – keep those incriminating photos which have allowed you to survive roster cut after roster cut.
Robert Gsellman – learn how to pitch well for more than just one month out of the season
Juan Lagares – find a way to play at least half a season
Seth Lugo – when he is not given an opportunity to start and is an All Star snub, channel his inner Margot Martindale from BoJack Horseman
Steven Matz – pitch better so his grandfather will begin cheering for him again.
Jeff McNeil – find a way to hit .400 because short of that the Mets are probably not putting him in the lineup
Tomas Nido – sign up for the best travel rewards program there is because by the time 2019 is over he will be able to fly first class to Australia and back at least 10 times a month
Brandon Nimmo – life isn’t that bad, maybe he should smile every once in a while
Kevin Plawecki – hit the occasional ground ball to the left side just to shake things up.
Amed Rosario – take some mommy/baby classes so he can learn how to walk
Paul Sewald – have a print out of his game logs from Baseball Reference to remind the Mets he pitches well in shorter spurts, and that he is not superhuman and cannot handle onerous workloads. Cry when the attempts fail and he finds himself back in Triple-A
Noah Syndergaard – find an open mic somewhere to discover no one actually believes he or his Mr. Met feud is funny.
Jason Vargas – leave the Jeff Goldblum impressions in the clubhouse and stop pitching like him when he takes the mound.
Zack Wheeler – don’t even let a Mets team doctor near his arm in his free agent walk year.
Daniel Zamora – be able to spin his bad outings the way he can spin his slider