Jed Lowrie

Phillies Hold NL East In The Balance

Entering this offseason, Phillies part-owner John Middleton said the team was going to spend “stupid money” to improve this roster. So far, that has amounted to free agent deals for Andrew McCutchen and David Robertson as well as a trade for Jean Segura. The interesting part of that trade was the Phillies dumped Carlos Santana‘s salary as part of the deal.

This helped the Phillies in two ways. First, it has improved a Major League worst fielding team (-146 DRS) by moving Segura to shortstop in place of Scott Kingery, but also by moving Rhys Hoskins from left field to first base. The next thing it did was to free up a little more money for the team to spend stupidly.

So far, the Phillies efforts have been rebuffed. While they have been rebuffed, the Nationals added Kyle Barraclough, Patrick Corbin, Yan Gomes, Trevor Rosenthal, Anibal Sanchez, and Kurt Suzuki. The Braves added Brian McCann and Josh Donaldson. The Mets have revamped their roster with Keon Broxton, Robinson Cano, Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, Jed Lowrie, and Wilson Ramos.

Looking at all of that, you’d be hard to argue the Phillies would repeat their third place finish. Even with an improved roster, you’d have to wonder if they take a step back from their 80-82 record. Still, the Phillies have one major advantage over their NL East opponents – they have money to spend.

Not only do they have money to spend, they’re in on Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. While it may be unrealistic for them to add both, they still have the chance to sign one and pair them with multiple players from a group which includes Dallas Keuchel, Craig Kimbrel, A.J. Pollock, and others. Adding those players to a team which already has Jake Arrieta, Cesar HernandezOdubel Herrera, Hoskins, Aaron Nola, and Segura makes the Phillies a much more formidable team. Depending on what they add, they could not only be the best team in the National League East, but also the entire National League.

Right now, the Phillies are in perfect position. They are bidding on players when their main rivals appear tapped out financially. Moreover, the deepest pockets in baseball (Dodgers, Red Sox, Yankees) do not appear in on the top free agents remaining. Really, the only question remaining for them is what they can do.

If you’re the Mets, the question is what you do in response. This was the same team who put Jarred Kelenic on the table to stop the Phillies from getting Diaz. Diaz is a blip on the radar when compared to players like Harper and Machado. Considering the lengths to which the Mets went to stop the Phillies from getting a closer, you wonder why the inertia on the real difference makers.

And the Mets should make no mistake. The Phillies adding two or three from the remaining top end of the free agent pool is a game changer. If the Phillies strike right, it’s possible it makes everything the Mets have done this offseason completely meaningless. That’s not hyperbole. If the Phillies build a juggernaut to compete with a still up and coming Braves team and strong Nationals team, the Mets could get lost in the shuffle. and they’ll be there without some of their biggest prospects to help in a rebuild.

Keep in mind, the Phillies don’t even have to build a better team than the Mets. They could just build a better team which will make the 19 games against the Mets all the more difficult. Those 19 games could be the difference not just in winning the division, but also being in a position to claim one of the two Wild Card spots.

This is a very dangerous time for the Mets, and as such, it is time for them to step up and start acting like a New York team. Otherwise, they’re probably going nowhere.

Todd Frazier Deserves More Respect

Entering this offseason, Mets fans and some analysts have been eager to push Todd Frazier to the bench, or worse, out of town. The call to do that is odd considering Frazier is a good baseball player who has been a positive presence in the clubhouse.

With the Mets, we saw all Frazier could be for this team in April. At that time, the Mets were rolling with an 11-1 record, and the team was doing it’s oddly fun Salt and Pepper thing. It was team that was just “grinding” and having fun. The t-shirts were a hit with the fans, the players, and even the manager. Frazier was not just leading in the clubhouse with kooky stuff like the grinding, but he was also a leader on the field hitting .256/.395/.444.

Then something happened with Frazier that has never happened before in his career – he hit the disabled list.

The injured Frazier was terrible in the six June games he could actually play. In fact, he really wasn’t much better when he got off the disabled list. Given the Mets past history dealing with injuries, it should come as no surprise Frazier needed to land on the disabled list again in July.

At that point, April was long gone. Fans were no longer remembering the fun of the season. Instead, they were lamenting what could and should have been. There was plenty of blame to go around, and for the Mets part, they blamed Sandy Alderson, and they pushed the sick man out of the organization thereby leaving the trade deadline to a triumvirate of General Managers reporting to Jeff Wilpon.

In some ways, Frazier was a symbolic of all that was wrong. He was a second tier free agent, who was injured and did not produce. In May – July, when the walls were crumbling down, he hit .191/.226/.346. Lost in the shuffle was him putting together a decent August (partially because he was bad again in September).

More lost in all of that was how good of a baseball player Frazier actually is. From 2016-2017, Frazier posted a 5.8 fWAR and a 6.6 bWAR. He was a player who was improving both his walk and steadying his strikeout rate. In turn, this led to him getting on base at a much better clip. In fact, his walk rate was the fifth best among Major League third baseman over this stretch.

Defensively, Frazier had an 8 DRS which ranked seventh best among third basemen. When you consider Manny Machado has since moved to shortstop, he was really sixth best.

Over this stretch, with his improved plate discipline and good defense, he was arguably a top 10 third baseman. Even pessimistically, he was at least top 15, which still put him in the upper half of Major League starters at the position.

What is interesting with Frazier was even with how much of a nightmare 2018 was for him, he was still a 1.9 bWAR and a 1.5 fWAR player. When you add that to his down 2018 season, he ranks as the 12th best third baseman among active players. Again, Frazier is better than half the league. He’s a starter, not a bench player.

That said, newly signed Met Jed Lowrie is a better player. He’s a better hitter, and he’s a switch hitter. He may not have Frazier’s power, but he gets on base more, and he’s just as good, if not better, defensively. He’s an absolute upgrade over Frazier, and with Robinson Cano at second, Lowrie should absolutely be the everyday third baseman to start the year.

This means Frazier should be the first baseman, not a utility player. This is usually the part where fans clamor for Jeff McNeil or Peter Alonso.

McNeil has absolutely proven himself to be a Major League player. However, at this point, we’re not quite sure what he is. Is he the guy who hit for power in Double-A and Triple-A, or is he the slap hitter with a dubious 5.6 percent walk rate and .359 BABIP? You cannot be sure at this point. If he does prove himself, it’s likely the lineup is better suited to him playing in the outfield, especially with the Mets leaning on an injury prone Juan Lagares in center and a very questionable hitter in Keon Broxton in center.

As for Alonso, who knows? Behind his 36 homers and 119 RBI was a guy who had some issues in Triple-A. For those concerned about Frazier striking out too much (23.7% in 2018), Alonso struck out more than him (25.9% in Triple-A) against lesser competition. He also hit just .260 in Triple-A, which was partially the result of his .344 BABIP in Double-A stabilizing. Sure, we all know Alonso has tremendous power, but the issue is whether he is as complete a hitter as he is purported to be. Judging from his peripherals, including a high pull rates last year, he may not be, and certainly not against shifting Major League teams.

When you take defense into account, you wonder not if Alonso is ready, but just how much of an upgrade over Frazier he could be. In fact, you legitimately have to question if he’s even an upgrade. Even with Alonso’s work ethic, the odds are in Frazier’s favor.

Overall, Frazier is a good, but albeit flawed player. He’s not hitting for as high average, he strikes out at a high clip, and at 32, he’s leaving the prime of his career. We know all of this not just because those are his stats, but those are the negatives which are constantly brought up when his contributions are being marginalized.

Ultimately, with Frazier, the Mets have a good player. He’s not an All Star. However, he’s the type of guy who gives you power at the bottom of the lineup, good defense in the field, and a positive influence in the clubhouse. He’s a good player who should be starting on Opening Day.

Trivia Friday: Mets Best Switch Hitters

With the Jed Lowrie acquisition yesterday, the Mets made themselves deeper and more versatile.  More than that, they added a switch hitter to the lineup who should help them Mets against right-handed and left-handed pitchers. Over the last two years, Lowrie has been a 121 wRC+. If he is able to maintain that level of production, he will be one of the best switch hitters in Mets history.

Can you name the best switch hitters in Mets history?  Good luck!

Carlos Beltran Bobby Bonilla Howard Johnson Asdrubal Cabrera Lee Mazzilli Gregg Jefferies Eddie Murray Lenny Randle Angel Pagan Jose Reyes Brian McRae