Jerry Blevins

Making Mets Austerity Work

On MMO some of the writers did their own postseason plans.  The guidelines are that we must stick to a budget in the $30-35 million range given what we’ve heard the Mets could spend. 

For signings, MLB Trade Rumors and Jon Heyman’s free agent predictions to come up the contracts for each player.
The Mets have several holes to fill and not a ton of money to work with which had me searching for deals on the free agent market and here is what I think should be done with the limited resources.

Fixing the Bullpen

As the Mets head into the 2018 season, their main goal for the team will be to rebuild a bullpen. Despite handwrining among fans, there is some talent present. Jeurys Familia, AJ Ramos, and Jerry Blevins address three key roles. Around them, the Mets need to find four cost effective options.

The first two parts of this bullpen need to be internal. In lieu of looking for a second left-handed reliever in free agency, the Mets need to utilize Hansel Robles in that role. For his career he has reverse splits, and he needs to be used accordingly. He also provides the benefit of giving the team multiple innings when needed.

Additionally, the Mets need to move Seth Lugo to the bullpen. In short bursts, Lugo is able to ramp up his fastball and use his curveball with more frequency. With that combination, Lugo can be a true late inning option and/or a long man. For those concerned about the loss of him as rotation depth, consider his struggles a third time through the order.

For the final two spots, the Mets should attack free agency. The first option the Mets should pursue is Seung-hwan Oh. Oh has been a dominant closer in the Korean Leagues, and he was dominant in his rookie season with the Cardinals. He had an off-year last year partially driven by an increased BABIP and HR rate as well as a drop in his strikeout rate. With a new pitching coach and a new situation, he could very well recover with the Mets giving the team an additional option at the closer spot.

When it comes to the final spot, the Mets should look to add a power arm like Juan Nicasio. After struggling in the rotation, Nicasio was transitioned to a full time reliever, and he grew into a dominant arm. With his being armed with an upper 90s fastball and good control, he’s probably just tapping the surface, and the Mets would be wise with their new pitching guru contingent to see the next wave.

Veteran Depth & Insurance Policies

Heading into the 2018 season, the Mets aren’t sure Dominic Smith is ready to be the Opening Day first baseman. Even with the best projections, they do not believe Michael Conforto will be ready by Opening Day, and after that, they don’t know what he can contribute. In addition to that, the Mets don’t have a second baseman.

The first part of that solution should be adding Howie Kendrick. The 33 year old had a bounce-back, albeit injury prone, season. Over the past season, Kendrick had a 121 wRC+, which ranks second best in his career. He also played first, second, and the corner outfield positions last year. While he was not outstanding at any of those positions, he was clearly capable of handling those positions. He’s your best bet to have a Jose Valentin type season for the team.

Another player worth taking a flyer on is Jose Bautista. In 2017, he fell apart offensively going from a .234/.366/.452 slash line to .203/.308/.366 leading the Blue Jays to utilize the buy out provision on his contract. At 37 years old, he’s not far removed from a productive season. He’s also just looking for an opportunity.

Fortunately, the Blue Jays helped him in that respect by moving him around the field last year. He played on game at first, eight at third, and 143 in RF. Based on the numbers, he’s no longer an everyday right fielder, but he is still talented enough to be a stopgap for Conforto. If he dedicated himself to getting better at first, he could serve as both competition and a platoon option for Smith.

The Trade

There is no secret some of the Mets biggest issues have been depth, versatility, and second base. While Ian Kinsler would address second base, and he is arguably the best defensive second baseman available, the Mets trade target for the position should be Jason Kipnis.

The Indians second baseman has been pushed out of a job due to injury and the emergence of younger players in his stead. Despite that, he is still a good hitter who hit .276/.349/.429 from 2013 – 2016 while averaging 36 doubles and 14 homers a season. He’s also a gamer willing to do anything to help his team win as evidenced by his playing center field at the end of the season and the postseason because that was what was best for the team. This is the type of attitude the Mets should be looking to instill in their current roster.

The center and outfield possibilities should also be intriguing to the Mets in the event of another Juan Lagares injury or the questions surrounding Conforto.

Kipnis is not going to come cheap, nor should he considering he’s an All Star player with a good contract. Earlier this offseason, Joel Sherman of the New York Post suggested Robert Gsellman and Luis Guillorme as the package to get Kipnis. That may be a little light, and perhaps the inclusion of Wilmer Flores would be enticing to an Indians team heavy with left-handed hitters and could use a corner infield option, could potentially allow the Mets to complete this deal.

Filling In The Rest

In addition to the aforementioned players, the Mets would be well advised to bring in some veteran depth this Spring Training. On the starting pitching front Ubaldo Jimenez previously worked exceptionally well with current Mets manager Mickey Callaway, and Bartolo Colon left an impression with this current Mets staff. Both would make sense on a minor league deal with an invitation to

Hope

From reports, Manny Machado could well be available. However, with the state of the Mets farm system, the Mets are going to have to trade Major League players like Jacob deGrom and Amed Rosario to get him. 

Machado is well worth that return, and knowing the Orioles, they’ll want more – much more.  Again, Machado is worth it, but he’s also an impending free agent. Furthermore, the Mets don’t have the means to replace deGrom with a Yu Darvish or sign Machado to a contract extension. 

The other long shot is Marcell Ozuna.  The Marlins are dangling him, and he’s exactly the type of player that fits the Mets mold – underpaid and under team control for two years. Presuming you take back Starlin Castro and his contract in a deal, you’d probably be able to swing a more palatable deal. 

However, there does not seem to be any traction between the Mets and the Marlins on anything. Even if they were, teams like the Cardinals, Cubs, and Giants are interested. They seem more willing to go that extra mile than the Mets. Considering the Stanton deals that fell apart, there is less leg work for the Cardinals and Giants to do. 

Key Acquisitions: Seung-hwan Oh (1 year, $4 million), Howie Kendrick (2 years, $16 million), Jose Bautista (1 year $5 million), Jason Kipnis (2 years, $28.3 million), Juan Nicasio (2 years, $14M), Ubaldo Jimenez (minor league deal), Bartolo Colon (minor league deal)

Key Departures: Robert Gsellman, Luis Guillorme, Wilmer Flores

Total Cost: $33.9 million

Non-Tendered Free Agents Mets Could Pursue

With the non-tender deadline having passed, the MLB free agent pool has been expanded. These non-tendered players are free agents for a multitude of reasons, but that does not mean they can’t help anyone. In fact, here are six players who could help the Mets in 2018:

1B Matt Adams

2017 Stats: 131 G, 367 PA, 339 AB, 46 R, 93 H, 22 2B, 3B, 20 HR, 65 RBI, .274/.319/.522

After struggling to start the year in St. Louis, the Braves took a flyer on him after the Freddie Freeman injury. He played well enough that the Braves dabbled with Freeman at third base. 

Adams is a good defensive first baseman, and he appeared in 19 games in left playing poorly.  

If the Mets want a cheap insurance option for Dominic Smith, Adams would be a good choice as with his splits against left and right handed pitchers, he’d be an excellent platoon partner with Wilmer Flores

LHP Xavier Cedeno

2017 Stats 1-1, 12.00 ERA, 9 G, 3.0 IP, 3.667 WHIP, 12.0 BB/9, 0.0 K/9

While it was a poor injury plagued year for Cedeno, the left-handed reliever has limited left-handed batters to a .226/.286/.299 batting line in his career. If he’s healthy, he could be the second lefty in the pen, which would allow the Mets to ease Jerry Blevins workload. 

RHP Mike Fiers

2017 Stats: 8-10, 5.22 ERA, 29 G, 28 GS, 153.1 IP, 1.428 WHIP, 3.6 BB/9, 8.6 K/9

Fiers was not the same pitcher in Houston he was in Milwaukee, which is interesting because he has not lost his stuff. There may still be hope for him to be the middle to back end of the rotation starter he was in Milwaukee. In an 11 start stretch this season, he was 6-3 with a 2.63 ERA and a 1.108 WHIP. If he can find a way to get back to that, he will be a real find for his new team. 

RHP Jared Hughes 

2017 Stats: 5-3, 3.02 ERA, 67 G, SV, 59.2 IP, 1.223 WHIP, 3.6 BB/9, 7.2 K/9

Hughes is a bit of a surprise non-tender as he’s coming off a career best year, which was largely driven by an increase in his fastball velocity. The caution with him is he’s a ROOGY as left-handed batters hit .282/.363/.549 off him this year. 

RHP Bruce Rondon

2017 Stats: 1-3, 10.91 ERA, 21 G, SV, 15.2 IP, 1.979 WHIP, 5.7 BB/9, 12.6 K/9

The Tigers finally gave up on a pitcher who had tons of potential but questionable work ethic. If a team can reach through to him, like a Mets team who have a couple of pitching gurus, they may find themselves with a shut down reliever.

RHP Hector Rondon

2017 Stats: 4-1, 4.24 ERA, 61 G, 57.1 IP, 1.221 WHIP, 3.1 BB/9, 10.8 K/9

Rondon has a big arm, and he’s posted big strikeout numbers in his career. He’s coming off a down year which was largely fueled by a big jump in his walk rate. Likely, his being non-tendered had as much to do with his down year as the Cubs not wanting to pay over $6 million for a set-up guy. The Cubs loss is going to be another team’s gain. 


For Thanksgiving, What Each Met Should Be Thankful For

On Thanksgiving, it’s time to go around the Mets 2017 roster and name something each player should be thankful for:

Nori AokiHe looked so much better in September than he did in all of 2017 by being competent while playing on a dysfunctional team.

Jerry BlevinsThroughout all the stress of the season and his extreme workload, the man didn’t even put on one pound.

Chasen BradfordWith his call-up to the majors, he’s now on the short list for best beards in Mets history.

Jay BruceHe learned from his experience last year, and he played well for a team that acquired him in a trade.

Asdrubal CabreraAs we found out this season, all he wanted the Mets to do was to pick up his option so he could provide for him family.  With the Mets having done that, he can now rest easy.

Jamie CallahanOne day when bards tell the tale of the six right-handed relievers the Mets acquired at the 2017 deadline, they will regale us all with stories of how Callahan was the first of them to finish out a game the Mets won.

Gavin CecchiniHe made the switch from short to second where it will be easier for him to make it to the majors.  That goes double if the Mets who are tightening payroll off a poor season don’t bring in a free agent to play the position.

Yoenis CespedesWith Cespedes missing half the season, that left a lot of time for him to hit the course.

Michael Conforto – Collins is gone meaning no one is standing in his way from being a superstar anymore.

Travis d’Arnaud – He became the greatest defensive second baseman in Mets history by posting a 1.000 fielding percentage at the position.

Jacob deGromWith him pitching so well this year, he knows he will finally be able to cash in in arbitration thereby allowing him to afford a haircut.

Lucas Duda – The slugger was the first Mets player traded at the deadline, and he temporarily got to avoid the We Follow Lucas Duda filming.

Josh EdginHe could be the only pitcher in the history of the Mets organization who is capable of getting both Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy out.

Phillip EvansAfter winning a batting title in 2016, having a good Spring Training, and a good second half for Vegas, the Mets finally decided to let him post similarly good numbers for them in September.

Jeurys FamiliaBlood clots in his shoulder costing him most of the season made most people forget why he missed the beginning of the season.

Chris FlexenAs we learned with Mike Pelfrey, being a Mets pitcher who struggled in the majors after completely skipping Triple-A will get you career earnings of roughly $47 million.

Wilmer FloresHe fouled a ball off his face, and he lived to tell about it.

Sean GilmartinWith his going from the Mets to the Cardinals, he was able to prove he wasn’t bad.  It was just the Mets as an organization did not employ anyone capable of knowing he was actually injured.

Erik GoeddelNo matter how much he struggled this season, he will never be the most hated person in pro sports with the last name pronounced GO-dell\n
Curtis GrandersonHe had a front row seat to seeing Chase Utley fail in the postseason.

Robert GsellmanHe has so much self confidence he doesn’t care what anyone things of him.

Matt HarveyBetween the Tommy John, TOS, and the Mets rushing him into the rotation with atrophied muscles in his throwing arm knowing he wouldn’t really be ready until a month into the season, he should be thankful for getting out of the season with his right arm still attached.

Ty Kelly He got out of here after one game thereby preventing Nurse Ratched from getting to him and ending his season.

Juan LagaresWith all the injuries and the Mets looking to cut payroll, he is once again the center fielder of the future.

Seth LugoAs we learned in the WBC and regular season, when he’s blonde, he’s Cy Young the first two times through the order.

Steven MatzWith him suffering the same injury deGrom suffered last year, we all know he can come back from this to be the same exact injury prone pitcher he was before the surgery.

Kevin McGowanHe will always have a special place in Mets fans hearts as it was his call-up that forced Ramirez off the roster.

Tommy MiloneHe was able to find a team that was okay with him having an ERA over 8.00.

Rafael Montero For the first time in his life, he wasn’t a complete abomination as a pitcher.

Tomas NidoEven with his struggles at the plate in Binghamton, he can rest easy knowing the Mets don’t expect an OBP over .300 from their catchers.

Brandon NimmoNo one, not matter what, has been able to wipe that smile off of his face.

Tyler PillIn a year of embarrassing pitching performances by Mets pitchers, Pill actually acquitted himself quite well before suffering his season ending injury.

Kevin Plawecki – He’s so well liked by his teammates that someone left him a present in his locker, which apparently has inspired him to hit the ball harder and longer thereby resurrecting his career.

Neil RamirezSomehow, someway, he was not the absolute worst pitcher on a team’s pitching staff.

AJ RamosTo him, getting traded to the Mets meant he was traded to a team that actually spends money in the offseason.

Addison ReedHe was so good this year he was worth not just one but three right-handed relievers.

Jose ReyesThe Mets didn’t cut him or his playing time no matter how horrible he played during the 2017 season.

Matt ReynoldsHe got that long look in September Sandy Alderson promised him.  Unfortunately, that only amounted to him getting 10 games to show what he could do at the MLB level.

Jacob RhameHe’s with an organization that has had success getting flame throwing right-handed pitchers who have slimmed down since getting drafted reach their full potential.

Rene RiveraAfter failing to whisper loud enough to help the Mets pitchers pitch better, he was able to go to the Cubs to help their pitchers lead them to an NLCS berth.

T.J. Rivera – With Warthen and Ramirez gone, he’s not going to have to worry about anyone mishandling his return from Tommy John.

Hansel RoblesIn his mind every ball hit in the air is an inning ending pop up.

Amed RosarioHe didn’t have to have his development hampered by being expected to be the savior when he was called-up to the majors as the Mets were well out of contention on August 1st.

Fernando SalasDespite his rough stint with the Mets, he was able to land with the Angels to end the season thereby proving it was the Mets handling of pitchers and not him that was terrible.

Paul SewaldAs a reward for all of his hard work in Vegas, he got the privilege of being the arm Collins loved to abuse during the season.

Dominic SmithHe finally got his call-up in August in Philadelphia of all places allowing him to celebrate the accomplishment and the win with a cheesesteak from Pat’s.  (NOTE: not a cheapshot at his weight, this actually happened)

Josh SmokerAfter the Mets finally gave up on using a pitcher with a history of shoulder issues as the long man in the pen, he showed the team in September that he could be as a lefty out of the pen to get lefties out.

Noah SyndergaardMr. Met flipped off someone this year other than him.

Travis TaijeronWith the Dodgers just signing him to a minor league deal, he is now all but assured of becoming the next Justin Turner.

Neil Walker – The Mets moved him to the Brewers where he was able to re-establish his free agency value by being productive and by staying healthy, which was coincidentally was when he was away from the Mets medical team.

Adam WilkBecause Harvey was at home one day in his pajamas, he set off on a path where he would become eligible to earn a share of the postseason money awarded to the Twins for claiming the second Wild Card.

Zack WheelerInstead of missing two years due to injury, he missed two months.

David WrightDespite all evidence to the contrary, the Mets still have not given up on him.

Terry CollinsAt the end of the day, he was able to make a friend of Fred Wilpon who had his back no matter what.  We should all be so lucky.

Dan WarthenHe found a new group of pitchers in Texas who have elbows waiting to learn how to throw that Warthen Slider.

Kevin LongAfter departing the Mets, he was able to smuggle the page out of his binders that showed exactly how he turned Daniel Murphy into Babe Ruth.  He can now bring that with him to Washington.

Sandy AldersonCollins was so poor at managing, he was able to convince ownership it was all Collins’ fault and not his for poorly constructing a roster.

Mets FansWell, even if it wasn’t at this post, we all still have a sense of humor, and we can still laugh at what we put up with from this team on a daily basis.

Happy Thanksgiving.

 

Free Agency Won’t Be The Easy Way To Build The 2018 Mets

With free agency beginning last night, the Mets now have the opportunity to fill-in many of the holes the team has in free agency.  In no particular order, those holes are second, third, center, bullpen, fifth starter, and maybe even catcher.  In addition to that, the Mets have to build a bench, which is something they overlook in the offseason year-in and year-out.

During Sandy Alderson’s tenure with the Mets, he predominantly makes his big moves in free agency, and he stays away from the big trades.  That is something he tends to do more during the season to address problems with the roster.  To that end, we will likely see the team’s needs addressed through a combination of free agency and the team’s internal options.

One of the issues in building the roster is the payroll seems to be limited.   That’s not limited by recent standards.  Rather, there are indications the payroll will be going down.  According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the Mets payroll could drop by $20 million to the $135 million range.

Previously, MMO estimated the Mets current payroll commitments, factoring in likely arbitration raises, will be between $109 – $119 million.  That includes the options for Blevins and Cabrera, which the Mets recently picked up. As of the moment, the Mets roster shakes up like this:

C: Travis d’Arnaud
1B: Dominic Smith
2B: Wilmer Flores
3B: Asdrubal Cabrera
SS: Amed Rosario
LF: Yoenis Cespedes
CF: Brandon Nimmo
RF: Michael Conforto

Bench: Kevin Plawecki, T.J. Rivera, Matt Reynolds, Juan Lagares

SP: Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler
RP: Jeurys Familia, AJ Ramos, Hansel Robles, Paul Sewald, Josh Smoker, Jerry Blevins

Judging from the aforementioned 24 players, the Mets have a lot of work to do, and with few exceptions, no one should feel their job is safe.  Still, the Mets really only have somewhere between $15 – $25 million to spend in the offseason. This means the Mets are going to have to spend it wisely.

For starters, this probably means the jobs of d’Arnaud and Plawecki are safe.  It also should mean that even with their comparative struggles, Rosario and Smith will begin the season on the Opening Day roster.  From there, the Mets are going to have to make some tough choices among the players who could fulfill the Mets needs.  It’s an even bigger issue than anticipated considering the MLB Trade Rumors projections:

There are other options, but this seems to be a fair sampling of the types of players the Mets should be targeting to bring them back into the postseason picture in the National League.

Reviewing those options, it seems as if you get one of the top tier players, the Mets are shut out from adding a second impact player.  This means unless the Mets expand the budget, signing a Cain to play center means Cabrera at third and a veteran like Howie Kendrick to compete with Flores at second.  Considering that, the Mets may feel comfortable that Lagares’ defense and Nimmo’s OBP are good enough to handle the center field position.

Considering the Mets real needs, the team’s best bet is going to be a player like a Frazier for third because that would free up some money to pursue another difference making player whether that be a Reed or Walker reunion, or the addition of a Sabathia to take over the Bartolo Colon sized hole on the roster.

In the end, the roster and the budget are going to make this one of Alderson’s toughest offseasons.  Likely, he’s only going to be able to get two bigger named players, and he’s going to have to fill out important roles with internal options that failed last year or veterans who you pray have a Jose Valentin type of season.

 

Callaway’s Biggest Challenge May Be Hansel Robles

Since he was first called up to the majors in 2015, Hansel Robles has been an enigma for the Mets.  For stretches of time, he’s just unhittable.  For others, he’s pointing at the sky while another homer clears the wall.  For the three years Robles has been performing this Jekyll and Hyde routine, the Mets have been looking for a reliable arm in the bullpen to handle critical innings.

Things got so bad for Robles this year the Mets demoted him to Triple-A in an attempt to straighten himself out.  The move didn’t seem to do much good.  After being recalled on July 17th, Robles would make 25 appearances going 3-4 with a blown save, a 4.11 ERA, 1.200 WHIP, and a 4.1 BB/9.  What’s scary is he is probably due for a regression off of those numbers as he yielded just a .244 BABIP.

Still, there are many who believe in Robles.  The reason is Robles has the type of stuff you want in a reliever.  He throws a fastball in the mid to high 90s.  His throws a hard slider and change-up (even if that’s a big of a misnomer) that has movement.  All three of his pitches can generate swings and misses.

You can also trust him against left-handed batters.  For his career, Robles limits left-handed batters to a .178/.281/.335 batting line.  As a point of comparison, Jerry Blevins, a terrific LOOGY in his own right has yielded a .211/.264/.304 batting line.  If Robles was a lefty, teams would be falling over themselves to give him a multi-year deal.

Another overlooked fact is Robles pitches much better at Citi Field.  At home, Robles has a 3.35 ERA and 1.148 WHIP allowing batters to hit .209/.294/.385 off of him.  On the road, he has a 4.65 ERA, 1.371 WHIP, and batters hit .234/.325/.408 off of him.

Finally, he’s been successful in a myriad of roles.  We’ve seen him pitch four innings out of the pen and come into a bases loaded no out situation and get out of the jam without allowing a run.  We’ve also seen him implode.

The task now for Callaway is to harness Robles in a way where he looks like the best part of Robles and not the part of Robles that has Mets fans doing their own point to the sky.  Essentially, Callaway has to rehabiliate Robles much in the way he once rehabilitated and resurrected Scott Kazmir and Ubaldo Jimenez.

Having watched Robles for three years, we know that is no easy task.  However, it is Callaway’s ability to handle these projects that helped get him this job.  If he can unlock Robles like he has done with other pitchers in the past, the Mets bullpen will move from liability to question mark to strength.

Really, pitchers like Robles is part of the reason why Callaway is here in the first place.  Hopefully, pitchers like Robles will be why Callaway succeeds as a manger with the Mets.

Mets Vets Win Meaningless September Game

Here’s the thing. While you enjoy beating the Nationals, this game didn’t mean much. It’s not that the Mets season is over, and the Nationals have gone into preparing for the offseason mode. No, it’s because the Mets with Terry Collins at the helm aren’t focusing towards next year enough. 

Once again, the top three in the lineup were Nori AokiJose ReyesAsdrubal Cabrera. For his part, Aoki certainly earned his spot in the lineup going 3-4 with a run, double, and two RBI. 

His second RBI was the game winning RBI scoring Juan Lagares

Now, it’s beer. great to see Lagares get regular playing time. There are so few reasons to watch this team, but his defense is certainly one of them. He did it again today. 


He also had a nice day at the plate going 2-4 with two runs and a double. In fact, it was his bunt double to start a huge five run rally in the fifth to tie the game. 

The reason the Mets were down was because Robert Gsellman wasn’t the same pitcher he was in his last start. Gsellman would only last five innings allowing four hits, six runs, five earned, and three walks with four strikeouts. 

The big blow against him was an Adam Lind third inning three run homer. 

However, when all was said and done, it wasn’t the Lind homer, but the Travis d’Arnaud homers. Yes, plural. 

The first homer off Edwin Jackson that gave the Mets a 1-0 second inning lead. Jackson seemed to settle in after that, but the floodgates would open after the aforementioned Lagares bunt single. 

His second one off Jackson tied the game setting the stage for the bullpen to keep the Nationals at bay. 

The combination of Chasen BradfordPaul Sewald, and Jerry Blevins kept the Nationals scoreless into the ninth handing the ball off to whomever Collins wanted to close. 

At least to start the ninth, it was AJ Ramos. However, Ramos would not finish the inning. 

Ramos struggled again allowing a lead-off walk to Wilmer Difo and a single to Howie Kendrick. This put runners at the corner with one out. It gave Collins the excuse he needed to go to the bullpen. 

Josh Smoker, who has reverse splits in his career, was brought to face Lind.  He rose to the challenge getting him to line out for the second out of the inning. 

Next, just like Collins went back to Jeurys Familia to close it out. For the first time since returning from surgery. It was just like old times with Familia striking out Victor Robles to end the rally and the game.   

Game Notes: Amed Rosario came back after missing three 

Ramos Blows First Save In Mets Loss

This season has mostly been a lost season at the plate for Travis d’Arnaud. Well, that is for everywhere he plays except Marlins Park. 

At Marlins Park, which was designed to be a pitcher’s park, d’Arnaud entered the game hitting .421/.500/.895 with a double, triple, two homers, and eight RBI. 

Tonight, d’Arnaud would continue raking in Miami going 2-5 with a run, homer, and two RBI. Essentially, he was once again Will Smith circa 1997:

Like he was that one glorious game in April, back when we thought this was going to be a special Mets season, d’Arnaud was the difference in this one. In addition to his bat, he did a good job behind the plate catching Seth Lugo

Lugo pitched well with the Marlins only getting to him in the bottom of the fourth on a Christian Yelich opposite field homer. That’s all the Marlins would get with Lugo settling down after a J.T. Realmuto two out double, which put him in scoring position as the go-ahead run. 

Surprisingly, Terry Collins would lift Lugo after five with Lugo having only thrown 83 pitches. It may just be a sign Collins is finally paying attention to the data. With the Mets rumored to replace him, it’s probably too little too late. 

After Lugo, Josh SmokerJeurys Familia, and Jerry Blevins combined to throw three hitless and scoreless innings. 

One thing of note. Even with Familia coming back from surgery and the Mets now hesitant to use him on back-to-back days, it at least appeared Collins was going to test his limits.

After a scoreless seventh, Familia began warming up to pitch the eighth. Once the Marlins announced the switch hitting Tomas Telis as a pinch hitter, Collins went to Blevins. 

It makes you question whether Collins was buying Blevins more time, or if he was trying to get the matchup he wanted. However, considering Giancarlo Stanton was on deck, it’s hard to believe Collins wanted Blevins for him. Then again with Collins, who knows?
One significant note was that with d’Arnaud’s two run homer and homers by Yelich, Justin Bour, and Jose Reyes, all but one run in this game were scored via the home run. It was significant in a season where seemingly every team is hitting homers. 

It was on a night where Alex Gordon hit the 5,694th homer in the majors this season – a new record:

The lone run not scored via the homer was a Reyes RBI single in the ninth scoring Phillip Evans. Evans had led off the inning with a single, and he moved to third after a Matt Reynolds sacrifice bunt and a Nori Aoki groundout. 

The 4-1 lead meant AJ Ramos would get a save opportunity in his first appearance against his former team. He was greeted by a Bour homer. 

Because Ramos likes the high wire act, Realmuto followed the Bour homer with an infield single thereby allowing the tying run to the plate with no outs. 

Even with a couple of strikeouts, you still felt uneasy. Things got worse after an A.J. Ellis pinch hit RBI single. Then, finally, after walking a tight rope for so long with the Mets, Ramos blew a save. 

Ichiro Suzuki lined one just out of the reach of a leaping Reyes. With the ball skimming off Reyes’ glove, the run scored fairly easily. 
If things weren’t bad enough, Stanton and his 55 homers came to the plate. Ramos wanted no part of him, and he walked him. This led to Collins pulling him and bringing in Paul Sewald

Even with Sewald being an accomplished minor league closer this was a difficult situation.  Anytime the bases are loaded, there’s no margin of error. Factor in Yelich being the batter, and Sewald not having been used in these spots, it was a tough ask. 

As if things weren’t difficult enough, Sewald went 3-2 with Yelich. Sewald then reached back and found something within himself, and he threw a slider that Yelich swung and missed to send the game to extras. 

It was a temporary stay of execution. Realmuto would hit a walk off homer off Sewald in the 10th giving the Marlins a 5-4 win. 

Normally, this would’ve been a gut wrenching loss. The way the season has gone, this just seemed to be a quick and merciful end. 

Game Notes: Amed Rosario missed a second straight game with gastroenteritis. 

2018 Mets Bullpen Auditions In Full Swing

With rosters expanding now, the Mets have called up Jacob Rhame and Jamie Callahan up to the majors. 

With Rhame being the return for Curtis Granderson and Callahan being one of the three prospects netted in exchange for Addison Reed, we get a glimpse of how well Sandy Alderson did at the trade deadline. We also get a glimpse into what exactly the 2018 bullpen could look like. 

So far, it’s safe to say Jerry BlevinsJeurys Familia, and AJ Ramos will be in the Mets bullpen next year. Most likely, but not as definitely, Hansel Robles will be in the bullpen as well. Assuming no moves, and based on Alderson’s tenure with the Mets, it’s a fairly safe assumption, there are three open spots in the bullpen. 

To a certain extent, Paul Sewald and Chasen Bradford have stated their case. 

Sewald has shown versatility in the pen coming on for multiple innings and being a late inning reliever brought on to get the Mets out of a jam. He’s pitched 57.0 innings in 47 appearances.  Overall, he’s 0-5 with a 4.11 ERA, 1.158 WHIP, and a 9.8 K/9. 

Bradford has terrific in his first 17 appearances before his clunker against the Reds. Even with that poor performance, he’s still 1-0 with a 3.97 ERA, 1.235 WHIP, and a 7.9 K/9. 

With they way they’ve pitched, you could certainly envision Sewald and/or Bradford being on the Opening Day roster. However, digging deeper, neither pitcher really fits the mold of what Alderson envisions from this bullpen. 

It’s clear Alderson now wants to see power arm after power arm after power arm coming out of the Mets bullpen. 

Rhame throws 98. Callahan can also touch 98. The other two pieces from the Reed trade Stephen Nogosek and Gerson Bautista throw even harder. For his part Bautista is routinely hitting triple digits. 

Clearly, these big arms are a sign of what Alderson wants in this Mets bullpen. The first wave will be Rhame and Callahan.  More will certainly follow. 

Hopefully, now, Alderson had found that right formula. Each and every year he’s been the Mets GM he’s started the year with bad bullpens, and he had to fix them on the fly. 

Hopefully, now, he has the arms in place. If he does, the Mets chances of returning to the postseason are much better. 

Mets Win What Was Apparently MILB Player’s Appreciation Day

With the Nationals getting in at 6:00 A.M., Dusty Baker put out a lineup that looked like the Nationals Triple-A affiliate with Daniel Murphy. For their part the Mets put out a similar looking lineup because, well, the Mets are bad and injured. 

If you think it couldn’t get worse for the Mets, it did. In the top of that first, Yoenis Cespedes pulled up lame running to third base. Once again, Cespedes left the game with a leg injury. 

The shame of the play was the Dominic Smith single hit the second base umpire. It was a dead ball costing him an RBI, and it helped kill a Mets first inning rally. 

At that point, the Mets already had a 1-0 lead. Once again, Brandon Nimmo lead off a game by getting on base. He would come home to score on an Asdrubal Cabrera RBI single. 

The Mets would then load the bases with one out against Nationals starter A.J. Cole. With Travis d’Arnaud and Amed Rosario striking out, the Mets would come up short. 

Speaking of short, the Mets had an insanely short bench tonight. The team had just a three man bench with one of those players being backup catcher Kevin Plawecki

This was mostly the result of the soul crushing Michael Conforto injury, and the Mets having no viable options on the 40 man roster. With Jeurys Familia being ready to return after his rehab stint, the Mets chose to activate him instead. 

The end result was the Mets having a two man bench when Matt Reynolds came in to pinch run for Cespedes. 

Fortunately, it wouldn’t matter as Jacob deGrom was his deGrominant self. For a while, it seemed like he could get a no-hitter tonight. He certainly had the stuff, and the Nationals had the lineup. 

Still, your heart was in your throat during the game with deGrom. First, he is a Mets pitcher. Second, the Mets luck somehow got worse. Third, he was fouling balls off his leg, and he seemed to pull up lame legging out an infield single in the second. 

By some miracle, deGrom was healthy, and he was able to get the win. His final line was 7.2 innings, five hits, one run, one earned, one walk, and 10 strikeouts. 

In Matt Grace‘s second inning of work, the Mets went to work. It started with a Juan Lagares lead-off double. While many were contemplating the bunt, Terry Collins let Reynolds swing away, and Reynolds rewarded Collins’ faith with an RBI single. 

Cabrera followed with a double setting up second and third with no out. Collins again showed a young player some faith, and he was again rewarded. Collins left Smith in to face the left-handed Grace, and Smith delivered with a sacrifice fly to give the Mets a 3-0 lead. 

The Nationals chipped into that lead. It surprisingly came from two rookie players with two outs in the eighth. First, it was an Andrew Stevenson double. Then it was an Adrian Sanchez RBI single. 

With Murphy coming to the plate as the tying run, Collins went to Jerry Blevins, who got a huge strikeout to end the inning. 

In the ninth, Nimmo created a run. He reached with a one out single, and he put himself in scoring position with his first career stolen base. He then scored on a Lagares RBI single making it a 4-1 game. 

Even with Familia back from the disabled list, Collins stuck with AJ Ramos as the closer.  Even when Ramos struggled, Collins had Paul Sewald warming instead of Familia. 

He was greeted with an Adam Lind homer to dead center to make it 4-2. 

Things got interesting when Wilmer Difo followed the Lind homer with a double. Ramos then gave us all a heart attack hanging one to Anthony Rendon, who just hit one foul. Instead, he walked Rendon setting up first and second with one out. 

Things got really troubling when Ramos walked Matt Wieters to load the bases. For some reason while this was all happening, Collins sat Sewald and had none of his other fifty relievers in his bullpen warming up. 

Nimmo came in and would catch a Difo rope, and he made the perfunctory throw home.   While that was happening, Rendon strayed too far from second, but Witt the throw home, Rendon had time to get back. 

It ultimately didn’t matter as Ramos struck out the final batter of the game to preserve the 4-2 win and deGrom’s 14th win of the year. 

Normally, with a game like this, you would leave the game feeling good about the Mets. deGrom was great, and he recorded his 200th strikeout of the season. Nimmo looks like a lead-off hitter reaching base three times, and his stealing his first career base. Lagares’ bat got going. The young Mets beat the Nationals. 

However, there is still a hangover with Conforto’s injury and uncertain future. On top of that, Cespedes is once again on the shelf. 

Really, this team continues to finds ways to make things more depressing. 

Game Notes: For Player’s Weekend, the players were allowed to put nicknames on their jerseys. For the newer call-ups, there apparently wasn’t enough time to get them a nickname jersey. With respect to Nimmo, his choice, “You Found Nimmo” wasn’t permitted due to potential Disney copyright violations. 

Mets Go Young And Win Game

One of the few remaining reasons to watch the Mets is to see how the young players are progressing and whether they can be pieces for the 2018 season. One player getting an unexpected and long audition is Chris Flexen

Today was Flexen’s best start in the majors. This time, instead of working hard to get through five innings, Flexen pitched six good innings. 

The Diamondbacks got to him with a first inning rally capped off by a J.D. Martinez RBI single. From there, Flexen settled in, and he would run off four straight scoreless. He did get some help from Wilmer Flores, who made a nice play and a good throw home to nail David Peralta

He got more help from Juan Lagares in the fifth. For some reason, A.J. Pollock would test Lagares’ arm on a Martinez line-out. Even with the UCL tear, Lagares has a strong enough arm to nail runners at the plate. It should be noted if Lagares continues playing center this way, and his arm continues being this good, he needs to be in the CF conversation next year. 

With the two plays at the plate, Diamondbacks wouldn’t get to Flexen again until the sixth when Chris Iannetta homered off of him. 

Flexen got out of the inning with a respectable line: six innings, six hits, two runs, two earned, four walks, and five strikeouts. It was his first major league quality start. It was also his third career win. 

After Flexen had allowed the aforementioned first inning homer, the Mets responded in the bottom of the first. 

Brandon Nimmo led off the bottom of the first with a double off Diamondbacks starter Zack Godley. He came home on a Michael Conforto RBI single. The two would combine in the fifth to plate another run. 
There, Nimmo got the rally started with a one out walk, and he moved into scoring position on an Asdrubal Cabrera fielder’s choice. Conforto then delivered the two out RBI single. 

That single gave the Mets a 3-1 lead.  The second run came in the previous inning when Amed Rosario followed a pair of walks to Dominic Smith and Travis d’Arnaud with an RBI single. 

Smith made it 4-2 in the sixth with an absolute bomb to left-center off Jake Barrett

The Mets couldn’t quite deliver the knock-out punch that inning. Lagares came up with runners on first and second, and he not into a double play. Nimmo then walked against Jorge De La Rosa, but it was all for naught as Cabrera struck out to end the inning. 
Fortunately, the Mets bullpen, who was been pitching MUCH better of late, didn’t need to help. 

While Jerry Blevins struggled, Paul Sewald came on and retired five straight. AJ Ramos then came on and saved his third game as a Met. 

For tonight at least, the Mets gave their young players a shot. Not only did they play hard, they also won the game. As a Mets fan, you can certainly watch this team learn and improve over the final month of the season. 

Game Notes: With his three homers, Smith has 19 combined homers between the MiLB and MLB leaving him one short of his first ever 20 home run season.