Jay Bruce

The Center Field Dilemma

The Mets acquisition of Jay Bruce was designed to solve the Mets offensive woes, and more importantly, their difficulty with hitting with runners in scoring position. However, the move coupled with Yoenis Cespedes‘ injury, it exacerbates the Mets center field problem.

As Barry Bloom reports for MLB.com, Sandy Alderson admits, “As people will comment, it’s not an absolute perfect fit for us. You start with the need for offense and go from there.”  The Mets need to go from there as Cespedes can no longer play center field.

In fact, the Mets are unsure what Cespedes is capable of doing after a game where he said he can no longer go “full speed” anymore without experiencing pain. (Matt Ehalt). There is real fear amongst the Mets as Terry Collins said, “To be honest, he could go out there. Could he aggravate it?  Maybe. And if he aggravates it more, we’re looking at three or four weeks. I’m not going to do that.”

Fortunately, the Mets will be able to use Cespedes at DH for the next five games with the Yankees playing two at Yankee Stadium followed by a three game set in Detroit. After an off day Monday, who knows what the Mets can get out of Cespedes, or what the Mets outfield alignment will be.

This is a Mets roster without a true centerfield option. Juan Lagares had thumb surgery will be out for at least six weeks. Imported replacement Justin Ruggiano just landed on the disabled list.Michael Conforto has only played five games there, and Collins doesn’t appear to be eager to put him there or to let him hit against left-handed pitching.

With these injuries, Terry Collins admits, “We’re asking now for three guys to play a position they’re not comfortable playing.”

Curtis Granderson has more center field experience than anyone on the roster, but he hadn’t played there regularly since 2012. For what it’s worth, Collins doesn’t appear eager to play Granderson in center either as he believes it “is going to tax him a lot.”

Given Collins reluctance to play Granderson and Conforto in center, and his other options being injured, he had gone so far as inquiring about newly acquired Met Jay Bruce‘s willingness to play center.

With respect to the center field dilemma, Bruce stated, “[Collins] asked me if I played any center and I told him that I had. But it sounds like the plan is for me to play a lot of right field. I told him I’d be more than willing and happy to play anywhere he needed me. I don’t think there’s a clear cut center fielder on the team. I’m ready for wherever he puts me. I’m ready for anything.”

Despite the inquisition, Collins still intends to keep Bruce in right saying, “I’m going to play him in right field for now. I’m scheduled to talk to Grandy in a little while about moving him in the outfield situation. [Bruce] told me he hasnt played center field since 2008, so that’s quite a while.”

Just like Bruce, Granderson has taken a team-first position on the issue. When the issue first arose, and Granderson got a start out there, he said, “Wherever they put me at – Catch, short, pitch, outfield – I’ll play all of them.”  (Jared Diamond, Wall Street Journal).

The best bet for now might just be Alejandro De Aza who has been the Mets best hitter since July 1st. With yesterday’s perform de, he is hitting .342/.500/.553 with two doubles, two homers, and four RBI in that stretch. Each and every game he hits, it becomes harder and harder for the Mets to sit him. It should also be noted that before Cespedes was re-signed, he was brought in by the Mets to platoon with Lagares in center.

Overall, like it did when he joined the Mets a year ago, everything revolves around Cespedes with Collins saying, “A lot of this is about [Cespedes’] availability. We’re still trying to figure out what path to take as we get down the road a little bit. Health is going to be a big thing for them all.”

Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Merized Online

Trading Dilson Herrera Was a Bad Idea

Coming into the season, the Mets were high on Dilson Herrera, and they viewed him as the second baseman of the near future.  It is why the Mets let postseason hero Daniel Murphy walk, and they eschewed other long term free agent options to trade for Neil Walker who was a year away from free agency.  However, the Mets made it perfectly clear they were willing to forego Herrera as the second baseman of the future if the right player came along.  That is why the Mets doggedly pursued Ben Zobrist in the offseason.  For the right piece or for the right price, the Mets were going to move on from Herrera to make the team better.

It is just hard to believe that player was Jay Bruce.

There is a lot to like about Bruce.  He is a traditional slugger who is leading the league in RBI.  He has a very affordable team option.  He is insurance against Yoenis Cespedes missing an extended period of time this year, and quite possibly insurance against him leaving in free agency.  He also helps with a sluggish Mets offense and with the Mets inability to hit with runners for scoring position.  He is also more of the same.

This is a Mets team full of low OBP, high slugging outfielders – Bruce, Cespedes, Curtis Granderson, and Michael Conforto.  With the exception of Cespedes, all of the Mets current outfield options are left-handed batters.  What this team doesn’t have is a center fielder.  Currently, the best defensive center fielder on the team is Alejandro De Aza.  While he is the team’s hottest hitter and best defender, it is hard to imagine he is going to be an everyday player while the team sits one of Granderson or Conforto everyday.  In sum, Bruce is a nice offensive upgrade, but he doesn’t solve the teams problems.  With that in mind, it seems like Herrera was a steep price to pay for someone that doesn’t solve what ails the team.

It’s also selling low on Herrera in what has been a tough year for him.  Herrera has gone from a .327/.382/.511 hitter to a .276/.327/.462 hitter in AAA this year.  He has had nagging shoulder issues, and he has fallen into some bad habits at the plate.  It has been the first time the 22 year old has struggled at the minor league level.  However, given the fact that he is still young for his level, and the fact that his struggles are closely associated with an injury, there is every reason to believe Herrera will rebound and become the All Star second baseman the Mets envisioned he would become.  That is a steep price to pay for a duplicative player that does not solve the Mets problems.

We are just seeing it now with Michael Fulmer in Detroit.  Fulmer was the big time prospect the Mets traded last year.  He is the leading Rookie of the Year contender, and he is certainly in the Cy Young conversation with him going 9-2 with a 2.50 ERA and a 1.089 WHIP.  With each and every dominant start, it is a stark reminder how much the Mets need him this year with Matt Harvey‘s season ending surgery and Zack Wheeler being well behind schedule to return to the rotation.  Overall, the idea behind trading Fulmer was to trade from depth to acquire a missing piece . . . a missing piece that was an imperfect fit.  As we see last year, the Mets supposed depth was an allusion.

Now, the Mets did trade from depth with Herrera.  Gavin Cecchini could move from shortstop to second, which now seems to be his destiny with the meteoric rise of Amed RosarioWilmer Flores could move over there next year.  The Mets could always re-sign Neil Walker or another free agent or make another trade.  Depending on David Wright‘s health, Jose Reyes could move from third to second.  There are any number of factors at play, but as we see again this year, the Mets can never have enough depth as this team seems more snakebitten than any other team in the majors.  With that in mind, the Mets are now less deep at second base, and they are quite possibly without their best second base option for next year.

The Mets traded away another big time prospect for another slugging corner outfielder.  Hopefully, Bruce will have a similar effect on the Mets as Cespedes did last year.  The Mets are going to need that type of performance to help them get back to the postseason.  They are going to need that type of performance to help Mets fans forget about the player they gave away in Herrera.

The Jay Bruce Mets Score Runs & Hit With RISP

Pick a date from this season including last night. If anyone told you Alejandro De Aza and Travis d’Arnaud would lead the Mets offensively to a win, you’d either stare in disbelief, or you’d call that person an outright liar. Frankly, a James Loney stolen base would seem more believable. Well, tonight not only would Loney steal a base, but De Aza and d’Arnaud would lead the Mets offensively. 

It started in the bottom of the third when, at the time, Masahiro Tanaka seemed to have no-hit stuff. The early no-hit bid was broken up by Jacob deGrom, and he would score when De Aza homered to give the Mets a 2-0 lead. 

  
This was more evidence that De Aza has been the Mets best offensive player for more than a month now, and the Mets need to find him playing time especially with the team having no true center fielder on the roster. 

That 2-0 lead would grow to a 3-0 lead when d’Arnaud hit a solo shot to lead off the fifth. 

  
Since the rumored Jonathan Lucroy fell through, d’Arnaud seems like a much more relaxed and better player. 

This was more than enough support for a deGrominant deGrom. The final line for deGrom was seven innings, four hits, no runs, no earned runs, one walk, and eight strikeouts. His velocity and swagger are almost completely back. When he’s this good, you’re reminded why the Mets should not be counted out. 

In the seventh, the Mets would put the game far out of reach seemingly taking out their aggression from last night’s game and a season long struggle hitting with runners in scoring position.  

It started with Wilmer Flores singling and advancing to second on a Brett Gardner error. He would come home to score on a Michael Conforto RBI double. He would score on a Matt Reynolds RBI single. He’d move to third on a deGrom single, and he would score on a Yoenis Cespedes pinch hit infield single. The hobbled Cespedes certainly turned on the jets when he smelled a base hit. Terry Collins would still play it safe pinch running Curtis Granderson for him. The fourth and final run of the inning would score on a Neil Walker RBI double. 

In the inning, the Mets would send nine batters to the plate scoring four runs on six hits. 

Jon Niese made his first appearance since the trade, and he was less than warmly greeted by a fan base who remembered him bad mouthing everyone out the door. He worked his way into a bit of a jam in the eighth before striking out Brian McCann on a borderline pitch to end the rally. However, Niese wouldn’t escape the game completely untouched as Didi Gregorious would hit a solo shot off of him in the ninth to break up the shutout. On the bright side, he pitched much better than Antonio Bastardo, which, admittedly, isn’t saying much. 

One Met that was warmly greeted was Jay Bruce:

The Mets got Bruce, in part, to revitalize the offense and hit with runners in scoring position. On his debut, Bruce would go 0-4 with two strikeouts, but the Mets overriding goal was achieved for at least one night as the Mets scored seven runs while going 4-10 with runners in scoring position. 

Following the 7-1 win, this seems like a different Mets team for at least one night.

Game Notes: Conforto had a great game going 2-4 with one run, two doubles, a walk, and one RBI. 

Why Is Conforto Here?

Newly acquired Jay Bruce is slated to become the Mets new right fielder which would move current right fielder Curtis Granderson to center field. With Yoenis Cespedes currently unable to play the field for the next five days, that means Michael Conforto can play in left. 

However, what happens once Cespedes can play the field?

Cespedes has to play every day, and you didn’t obtain Bruce to sit him. That leaves one position in the outfield to be split between Granderson and Conforto. Given the fact that they are both left-handed batters, you can’t work out a platoon between them. Furthermore, despite all of his struggles this year, Collins has shown no inclination to sit Granderson. He has, however, been comfortable sitting Conforto time and time again. That leaves Conforto as the odd man out. 

There is no reason why the 23 year old Conforto should be on the bench further stunting his development. He’s already not facing lefties and sitting against Jose Fernandez. Why further hamper his development for a couple of pinch hitting appearances a week?

Conforto needs to go to AAA and get regular at bats. There the Mets could give him work at first base so he can take over for James Loney this year and/or provide insurance for Lucas Duda‘s ability to return to full strength next year. It will provide the Mets with another option where to play their best young hitter going forward especially if they intend to re-sign Cespedes in the offseason. 

It’s a better option than him being a bench player further hampering his development. It’s what’s in the best interest for both Conforto and the Mets. 

Once Cespedes can play the field, Conforto needs to go down to AAA. 

Brandon Nimmo Is Going to Homer Tonight

Last year, the Mets seemingly had a trade in place for Carlos Gomez sending Citi Field abuzz, or in this day and age, I should say a-twitter.  Apparently, the only person who was unaware that a trade happened was the Mets manager Terry Collins who kept a crying Wilmer Flores in the field.

As we would subsequently discover, the trade would fall apart due to Gomez’s hip.  As a result, Flores and Zack Wheeler would remain New York Mets.  In the next game Flores would play, he would do this:

Today, Brandon Nimmo finds himself in a similar situation.  He was supposed to be part of the trade that sent Jay Bruce to the Mets.  As one of the Mets minor leaguers in the trade failed a physical, the deal had to be reworked.  The resulting deal was the Mets sending Dilson Herrera to the Reds instead of Nimmo.

As we saw with Wilmer Flores, the only possible result to this fiasco is Nimmo hitting a game winning home run tonight to beat the New York Yankees.

Welcome Back Jon Niese . . . No Seriously

There were very limited circumstances upon which the New York Mets could bring back Jon Niese, and Mets fans would universally accept the deal.  Sandy Alderson showed off his GM chops, and he found a way by acquiring Niese in exchange for Antonio Bastardo.

Bastardo was an absolutely terrible acquisition by the Mets in the offseason.  With the Mets, he had a 4.74 ERA and a 1.420 WHIP, and he probably wasn’t even that good.  What is most shocking is the fact that he didn’t record one loss with the Mets.  Conversely, it should be a surprise to no one that Bastardo had no wins with the Mets.  It is quite fitting that Bastardo’s lasting image with the Mets was allowing Carlos Gonzalez hit a ball to the Shea Bridge.

In Niese, the Mets actually get an interesting bullpen piece.  Yes, the Mets will utilize him out of the bullpen.  Niese was great for the Mets out of the bullpen in the postseason last year, and he was good for the Pirates in the bullpen in a limited sample size this year.  Overall, there is a real reason to believe Niese could be a very valuable piece out of the bullpen.  Given the fact that he was traded for a player who was absolutely terrible, this was a no brainer for the Mets.

On a side note, this is a good deal as well as Niese has a $500,000 buyout after the year is over whereas Bastardo was slated to receive $6,625,000.  That means the Mets will have approximately $6.1 million for next season to dedicate any number of places including but not limited to Yoenis Cespedes who will most likely opt out of his contract at the end of the season.

Even better for the Mets, they get some measure of revenge against Niese.  For a player that complained about the Mets defense, Sandy Alderson has handed him a defensive outfield of a hobbled Yoenis Cespedes in left, a miscast Curtis Granderson in center, and a declining defensively Jay Bruce.  The lesson as always is to never bad mouth Sandy Alderson or his roster.

The only question remaining with Niese is where he is going to live as Neil Walker is living in his apartment.  Wherever he resides, he is going to be an improvement over Bastardo, so with that, Welcome Back Jon Niese.

Jay Bruce Solves Some Problems While Exacerbating Others

Right now, if you were going to list what the Mets problems were, two things that would be discussed ad nauseaum would be the offense and hitting with runners in scoring position.  While it has not been discussed as frequently, Yoenis Cespedes‘ and Juan Lagares‘ injuries also make center field an issue for the Mets.

The Mets acquisition of Jay Bruce presumably solves the first two Mets problems while only further confounding the center field issue.

First, the offense.  There is no doubt that Jay Bruce is your classic left-handed slugger that should be hitting in an RBI position in your lineup.  This year Bruce is hitting .265/.316/.559 with 22 doubles, six triples, 25 homers, and a major league leading 80 RBI.  He also isn’t a Great American Ballpark creation as Bruce has hit better on the road.  In road games, Bruce has slashed .277/.318/.582.  More importantly to Mets fans, Bruce is hitting .360/.406/.719 with runners in scoring position.  Ideally, the Mets would bat him fifth in the lineup as Bruce has been hitting .290/.340/.603 from that spot in the order.

Still, there is some cause for concern with Bruce.  As we see with his stats, he is not nor has he ever been a great on base guy.  He is also a guy who is a platoon type of bat as he is hitting .250/.287/.491 off of lefties this year.  With that in mind, the Mets might have just added a player that is more of the same.

He is also coming off two straight seasons that saw him hit a combined .222/.288/.406 while averaging 22 homers and 76 RBI.  If his July, where he hit .218/.289/.529, is any indication, he might be becoming that type of player again.  Furthermore, Bruce has not hit well at all in Citi Field.  In 21 games, Bruce has hit .186/.275/.443 with five homers and 13 RBI.  Hopefully, some of that is a short sample size and some of that is Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard.

Regardless, Bruce is an offensive upgrade for an injured and under-performing Mets team.  However, he is not a defensive upgrade for a team that needs a center field solution.

If reports are true, Bruce is being brought here to play right field rather than to play first base in place of James Loney.  That would shift Granderson from right to center.  As we saw in the one game Granderson played in center this year, there is a reason why he has not played center regularly since 2012.  The other issue is that while Granderson has had a down year defensively in right field, he has been much better than Bruce, who has posted a -11.5 UZR and a -13 DRS this past year.  Over the previous two seasons, Bruce has averaged a -5.2 UZR and a -1 DRS meaning he is worse this year than he has been over his career.

With Bruce’s struggles, Granderson’s inability to play center, and Yoenis Cespedes playing on one leg, this outfield should be reminiscent, if not worse, than the Cliff FloydRoger CedenoJeromy Burnitz outfield that was seen as an unmitigated disaster defensively.

The other issue is where does this leave Michael Conforto?  After everything that has happened this year, are the Mets really going to make him a bench player?  Is he going to platoon with another left-handed batter?  Does he move to first base?  Aren’t you now forced to send him down to AAA until September call-ups?  This really leaves your best young hitter and future of your team in a lurch.  With all that in mind, it is a very curious move, especially when there was no corresponding move to address any of the Mets other needs.

Overall, Bruce solves some of the Mets problems while exacerbating some others.  The best way to deal with all of these issues is for both he and his new teammates to just go out there and hit.

Did the Mets Just Duda That?

On Friday at 3:00 P.M., things were about as bleak as it could be this season. The Carlos Gomez trade fell apart, and there seemed to be bickering as to whether it was due to Gomez’s hip or the Mets’ finances. On Thursday, the Mets’ bullpen inexplicably blew a six run lead

Then it seemed the Mets would add Jay Bruce until they didn’t. It sure looked like the Mets were never going to add a bat. Worst yet, the Nationals were coming into NY after previously taking 2/3 from the stud muffins. This was a Nationals team that went 15-4 against the Mets last year. 

On the eve of the trade deadline, the Mets acquired Yoenis Cespedes. The attention around the Mets changed from despair to hope. This hope continued to grow throughout the weekend. 

On Friday, it was a dominant Matt Harvey and an emotionally satisfying Wilmer Flores’ walk off homerun. On Saturday, it was the Lucas Duda Fireworks Show. Tonight, Thor was once again the story. Thor went eight innings with two two earned and nine strikeouts. 

Thor made the homerun barrage in the third to stand up. On back-to-back pitches, Curtis Granderson and Daniel Murphy homered. After Cespedes’ first hit as a Met, Duda capped off the five run inning with a homerun of his own. Tyler Clippard, in for Jeurys Familia (who pitched two days in a row), recorded his first save as a Mets. 

The Mets have flipped the script. They swept the Nationals and are now tied for first place in the NL East. I’m so excited that I’ll ignore they’re one behind in the loss column. The Mets are now 38-18 at home. Surprisingly, they’re 7-6 against the Nationals this season.  

The Mets are in a dead heat with the Nationaks and have six head-to-head match ups with them. They have an easy second half schedule. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the Mets are in the driver’s seat in the NL East. We’ve waited seven years for this, and so far, it’s been worth the wait. Lets Go Mets!

Put Me in Coach . . .

“Look at me, I can be Centerfield.”  That is about as fun as the baseball songs get. Another one of my favorites is “Talkin’ Baseball” with it’s famous refrain of “Willie, Mickey, the Duke.” As you can see, Centerfield is an important position with much history in New York City.  You always hear about those good old days of Willie, Mickey, and the Duke playing CF in New York City at the same time. That doesn’t seem fair or possible. The Yankees have had an absurd tradition with their centerfielders with Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle. The Mets tradition hasn’t been as good, but then again whose has? However, we’ve had some fun names and good players come through and man centerfield in Flushing.

In 1969, the Mets had Tommie Agee, who for at least the 1969 World Series, was the best defensive CF to ever play the game: 

Unfortunately, the Mets did try Willie Mays out in CF in the last two years of his career. From what I’ve been told, it did not end well. Then there was fan favorite Lee Mazzilli, who played for some truly awful Mets teams. However, he was the star, if not the MVP, of of the 1979 All Star Game (back when the ASG meant something). Lee Mazzilli then gave way to Ron Darling. They would both win a World Series together with the Mets in 1986.

Speaking of 1986, the Mets had two other fan favorites who played CF: Mookie Wilson and Lenny Dykstra. Both contributed to the 1986 World Series victory immensely between Dykstra’s leadoff homerun against Oil Can Boyd, and well, we know about Wilson:

After that, we saw a bit of a dry spell with highlights like Lance Johnson, the late Darryl Hamilton, Jay Payton, and Mike Cameron. Then, we were blessed with Carlos Beltran. Say what you will about the Wainwright strikeout, in my opinion, he’s even money on making it into the Hall of Fame, and there’s a significant chance he goes in as a New York Met. Although with the way he was treated here by the fans, and mostly by the Wilpons, he’s probably going in as a Royal.

Now after Juan Lagares’ 2014 Gold Glove season and reasonable contract extension, we’re back to who should play CF. This is important because Lagares has a triple slash line of .254/.280/.333. Even if he was what he was defensively last year, this is unacceptable. Honestly, I think a lot of it has to do with his injured elbow. Regardless, CF is now a problem.

It should be noted his splits against LHP are .279/.338/.412. That is much better especially when you consider his defense. Add to the fact that Kirk Nieuwenhuis has hit .333/.400/.444 over the past two weeks (mostly against RHP), there is a real platoon here. Niewenhuis is a very capable CF, but he’s not in Lagares’ league defensively . . . then again who is?

With the Yoenis Cespedes acquisition, there have been some overtures that Curtis Granderson move to CF, a position he hasn’t played since 2012. This is dangerous because the Mets starting pitchers get more outs in the air than on the ground this year. Here are their respective ground ball percentages:

Matt Harvey 44.4%

Jacob deGrom 43.2%

Noah Syndergaard 45.9%

Jon Niese 54.6%

Bartolo Colon 39.9%

According, with the exception of maybe Niese, the Mets need their best defensive outfield out there are all times. This means Lagares must play as much as possible. Granderson and his good OF defense should stay in a corner OF spot where it will remain good defense. While Lagares isn’t hitting and Nieuwenhuis is, the platoon should remain in place.

While we all agree the Mets need to ride their pitching to the postseason, we should also agree that they need to put their best defense out there to help the pitching. Remember helping a pitcher is more than just scoring runs . . . it’s also about preventing runs with good defense. The only effect the Cespedes acquisition should have on the outfield configuration is to demote Michael Conforto to AAA and put Cespedes in LF, where he has played all year. I think that outfield alignment is the best there is that is ready to go out there and play.

Rumor Has It No More Trade Talk

I’m done with analyzing potential trades and players.  I don’t think the Mets are making any more moves.  I don’t think Sandy Alderson had the money to spend.  He was bluffing at that press conference because that’s his job.  He cannot announce to the world the Mets don’t have the money to add a contract.  That’s foolhardy.  It reduces your leverage in trade discussions, and it could keep fans away from the ballpark.  Both are bad for business, and if anything, Sandy is a good businessman.

Therefore, I’m not going to address how well I think Gerardo Parra will fit on this team, especially given Juan Lagares’ questionable health and offense.  I’m not going to address how a Jose Reyes deal will benefit the Mets on the field and in attendance.  I won’t go into how Justin Upton has been lousy since April and will only drag the Mets offense further down.  I’ve already wasted my breath on Jay Bruce.  We all know Yoenis Cespedes and Carlos Gonzalez are not going to be moved by their teams.

Any other players the Mets get besides the aforementioned players are just background noise.  They are bench parts that don’t have the day to day impact the Mets need on the field.  If the Mets acquire someone, I’ll do a write up on the trade.  If the Mets get one of the above, I’ll concede how very wrong I was.

I’m not being pessimistic.  I’m being realistic.  I do think the team on the field can compete for the postseason and the World Series.  When Travis d’Arnaud returns, the team is that much better.  If David Wright returns, and is at least a shadow of himself, watch out.  If Steven Matz returns, we’re really cooking.

Instead of focusing on what could be, I’m going to focus on what is and enjoy that.  I don’t think people do that enough nowadays.  I’m going to sit down tonight and watch the Mets game with my son until he falls asleep.  I’m going to watch the team on the field, and I’m going to enjoy the game (hopefully).  I’m just not going to sit here anymore and fret over what could be.  I’m going to enjoy what is.