With Brodie Van Wagenen being announced as the new Mets General Manager tomorrow, his work begins immediately. Right now, Jose Reyes, Devin Mesoraco, Jerry Blevins, Austin Jackson, and Jose Lobaton are free agents. With eight more players listed on the 60 day disabled list (Eric Hanhold, Rafael Montero, Bobby Wahl, Travis d’Arnaud, Phillip Evans, T.J. Rivera, Yoenis Cespedes, and Juan Lagares), the team needs to cut at least three players by Friday.
More than that, Van Wagenen will be entasked in improving the roster into a 2019 World Series contender. Here is Van Wagenen’s starting point:
Certainly, the Mets are set in the middle infield and the corner outfield spots. Obviously, Yasmani Grandal would be a significant addition to both the lineup and in the pitch framing department. Even if not Grandal, the catching position seems to be a real target to upgrade either on the free agent market, where real upgrades are limited, or on the trade front, where there are a number of rebuilding teams who could move a catcher (Buster Posey?).
As for the other positions, the Mets are going to have to move a player/contract. If the Mets really want to significantly upgrade this roster, the team is going to have to find a way to move Bruce, Frazier, or both. That not only opens room for a significant addition, but it also means the team will have some extra money on the budget to improve the roster.
In the end, there is real talent here, but talent which needs to be surrounded by the right players. Ideally, that is at least one right-handed power bat to balance out a lineup which already balances out Conforto, Nimmo, and McNeil. When doing that, Van Wagenen will need to buttress this group by building a strong bench, which is something which has not been done since the trade deadline maneuvers in the 2015 season.
With the way Yasmani Grandal is outright struggling during the NLCS, he is invariably going to damage his value on the free agent market this offseason. Exactly how much remains to be seen, and you will likely see in some uneducated corners that the Mets should not pursue Grandal this offseason. To a certain extent, it’s absurd to ignore a player’s entire career over a few games.
When looking at Grandal, this is a Mets team built on pitching, and as such, they should prioritize a catcher who thrives at pitch framing. They should also avoid players who are terrible at it. Really, overall, there are a number of players the Mets should absolutely avoid this offseason.
C – Wilson Ramos
In case you have missed the past decade of Mets baseball, the last thing this franchise needs is another injury prone player who is over 30 years old. As bad as their injury issues were previously, they suddenly become worse when they wear a Mets uniform. When you combine that with Ramos having terrible pitch framing numbers and his probably getting a fairly large contract, the Mets should be a hard pass on him.
1B – Marwin Gonzalez
Gonzalez’s reputation seems to be much better than the player he actually is. This is not unusual for a player who is not too far removed from a great year or for a player who is playing for a great team. Breaking down Gonzalez’s career, he is a .264/.318/.419 hitter with just one good offensive season under his belt. He’s a versatile player whose best position is LF. He’s going to be 30 and overpaid. Mostly, he’s a complimentary piece which helps a great team like the Astros but will not be a significant contributor to a team like the Mets.
2B – DJ LeMahieu
With the emergence of Jeff McNeil, the Mets are not likely in the market for a second baseman, but then again, due to McNeil’s versatility, they could opt to sign a second baseman and move McNeil elsewhere. If they do so, they need to avoid LeMahieu. While very good defensively, this is a guy who just can’t hit outside of Coors Field, and for what it’s worth, he doesn’t hit all that well at Coors Field either as evidenced by his career 96 wRC+ there.
3B – Asdrubal Cabrera
When he was with the Mets, Cabrera was a clutch second half player. Despite all the injuries, he tried to play everyday. He was a popular player, and he was much better than anyone could have anticipated he would be when the Mets signed him. That said, he’s no longer an everyday player, and it’s questionable just how much he’d be willing to accept a utility role.
SS – Jose Reyes
Over the last two seasons, he was just about the worst player in baseball, and he was a malcontent who was not above going to the press to try to lobby for more playing time. His team in a Mets uniform or really any MLB uniform should be over.
LF – Rajai Davis
As we saw with Jackson with season (more on him in a minute), the Mets are likely looking for a cheap right-handed hitting veteran who can play CF. After Davis hit that incredible game tying homer in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, he has not done much since. He may come cheap, but the 37 year old will be cheap for a reason. The Mets need to do much better than this to fill out a bench.
CF – A.J. Pollock
Back in 2015, Pollock was a superstar in the making. He was a Gold Glover, and he was probably the third best center fielder in all of baseball. Since that time, Pollock has been injury prone, and he has not played more than 113 games in a season. He’s no longer a big bat in the lineup. While his defense is still good, it has been in decline, and there is a fair question over how long he can stay there (whether due to injuries or regression). He’s going to get a big contract, but it should not be by a Mets team with a horrendous history of dealing with over 30 year old injury prone players.
RF – Austin Jackson
The Mets signed Jackson late in the season presumably to see if he should be part of the mix next season. In 57 games, Jackson was a bad hitter and an equally poor fielder. Especially with Juan Lagares coming back from injury (again), the Mets should steer well clear of Jackson.
SP – Bartolo Colon
We get it. Fans love him because he’s fat, old, has been suspended for steroids, and didn’t pay child support to his second family. When you strip down the whole contrived lovable gimmick, he’s a bad MLB pitcher who should either be retiring, fighting for a bullpen spot, or rounding out a terrible team’s rotation just like he did with the Rangers this past year.
RHP Reliever – Cody Allen
Like with Bryan Shaw last year, there will likely be a call for the Mets to reunite some of the Indians bullpen with Mickey Callaway. While the urge is understandable, the Mets should resist as the wear and tear of his workload seemingly took a took a toll on him this season. After posting very good numbers in the first six years of his career, Allen had a career worst 4.70 ERA, 93 ERA+, and a 4.56 FIP. While he may be salvaged to be a good reliever, with how the market has gone insane with relievers the past few years, it’s not likely Allen will be paid as the rehabilitation project he just might be.
LHP Reliever – Jerry Blevins
Look, Blevins has had a good career, and his best years were clearly with the Mets. His numbers were skewed this year by a bad April and an equally bad September. More troubling than that is Blevins really struggled getting left-handed batters out this season. While it’s possible that issue will iron itself out, the real issue is his walks. For three straight seasons, his walk totals have gone up while his K/BB ratio has gone down. With the emergence of Daniel Zamora and with other relievers available this offseason, it’s time to turn the page.
Austin Voth, a 26 year old rookie pitcher with an 11.81 ERA, yielded only a Michael Conforto fourth inning infield single before departing after five. A pretty bad Nationals bullpen would not surrender a hit over the final four innings giving Voth his first MLB win.
Corey Oswalt got the start for the Mets, and the shame for him was he was pretty good. If not for his allowing a two run bomb to Treat Turner in the third, it’s possible Oswalt walks off with a no decision.
Not that it was going to happen with the Mets bats being completely listless, but any hopes of a comeback were essentially eliminated with the Nationals hitting Jerry Blevins hard in the sixth.
The big blow that inning was a Matt Wieters three run homer.
All told, the Mets lost this game 6-0. On the bright side, no matter the outcome both of these teams are missing the postseason.
The Mets had won 19 consecutive games in which a Mets pitcher had hit a homer. That included Steven Matz‘s last start when he had homered. Well, Matz woud hit a homer again in this game giving you hope it was going to be 20 straight:
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 19, 2018
That homer came off of Aaron Nola, and it not only gave the Mets the lead, but it put a little dent in Nola’s Cy Young case. Certainly, Matz was cognizant of that as after Matz trotted around the bases, he walked up to Jacob deGrom and said, “That was for my friend.”
Really, Matz did all he could do to help deGrom win the Cy Young. In addition to the homer, Matz was good on the mound. In his five innings, he would allow just two hits while walking five and striking out four. In addition to the hitting and pitching, Matz would make an incredible behind the back catch to start a double play:
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 19, 2018
With the four walks, Matz’s pitch count was up. At 91 pitches, it made the decision to pinch hit for him in the top of the sixth an easier one than it normally would be.
At the time the Mets had a 2-0 lead because Dominic Smith would double home Brandon Nimmo in the fourth inning. Smith and Nimmo would take part in another two out rally in the fifth. After Nimmo walked because, well that’s what he does, and Dom singled, Gabe Kapler would pull Nola and put it Pat Neshek. Neshek walked Kevin Plawecki to load the bases, and Mickey Callaway sent up Wilmer Flores to pinch hit.
Flores would strike out on three pitches.
That Flores strikeout was a missed opportunity. With the inherited runners on base, it was a chance to put a further dent in Nola’s Cy Young wishes. It was also a chance to tack on some needed runs.
The Mets would add .02 to Nola’s ERA which probably won’t have much impact on his Cy Young chances. Because the Mets failed to take advantage of the opportunity, they would also miss a chance to saddle Nola with the loss. Well, it was the missed chance and the bullpen implosion.
Jerry Blevins started the fire by walking Carlos Santana and hitting Aaron Altherr with a pitch. Callaway then brought on Drew Smith, who just could not get anyone out. First, it was a Wilson Ramos single. Then a Justin Bour double. Finally, Jorge Alfaro homered. Anthony Swarzak would come on and get the Mets out of the inning without allowing another run.
But by then, it was too late. The Mets fell behind 5-2, and they did not have another run in them. It didn’t matter much as the chance to really dent Nola’s Cy Young case went by the wayside.
Game Notes: In a recent BBWAA poll, deGrom was overwhelming voted as the Cy Young winner.
Heading into the Month of September, Jacob deGrom was probably the favorite to win the Cy Young, but it was still anyone’s game with Aaron Nola and Max Scherzer having great seasons of their own. So far this month, deGrom has separated himself ever further from the pack.
In Nola’s three September starts, he is 1-2 with a 5.60 ERA. Scherzer had a decent start to the month until his loss to the Braves on Friday. In that start, Scherzer allowed six earned in four innings. Now, he’s 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA in the month.
Like Nola and Scherzer, deGrom has seen his ERA rise this month. Still, deGrom’s 2.70 ERA this month is half of Scherzer’s. That is also because deGrom had a “bad start” in Boston.
For deGrom, it was the bottom of the third in Boston which derailed what had looked to be a truly special start.
After striking out six of the first seven Red Sox batters he faced, Rafael Devers and Christian Vazquez hit back-to-back singles to put runners at the corners with one out. Mookie Betts brought home Devers with a sacrifice fly. This is normally where deGrom would get out of the inning, but he would leave one up to Brock Holt, who hit a two run homer to give the Red Sox a 3-0 lead.
Right then and there, deGrom’s streak of 26 starts not allowing more than three earned and his 21 consecutive quality starts streak was on the line. From there, there were points where you thought deGrom wasn’t going to reatch the sixth. In fact, Mickey Callaway had Jerry Blevins warming at one point. There may have also been points where you thought he would allow another run.
Instead, deGrom would go seven innings allowing the three earned on five hits with one walk and 12 strikeouts. The 12 strikeouts were really impressive. Entering the game, the Red Sox were the second hardest team to strike out (19.7%). In the game, deGrom would strike out 12 of the 27 batters (44.4%) he faced.
Importantly, the Mets would rally to tie the score and get deGrom off the hook. In the sixth, Amed Rosario would follow an Austin Jackson single to put runners on second and third with no outs. Jeff McNeil would not hit a liner deep enough to score a run, but Wilmer Flores would . . . barely:
#RedSox challenge call that Austin Jackson is safe at home in the 6th; call confirmed, runner is safe.
— MLB Replay (@MLBReplays) September 16, 2018
Unfortunately, Betts would get hurt on the play. It should shift Jackie Bradley, Jr. to right with Tzu-Wei Lin in center. Michael Conforto would then hit a double to deep center to tie the game. It’s debatable if Bradley would’ve gotten to it. Regardless, the Mets were down a run.
They would tie it in the seventh on a two out RBI single by Rosario. Brandon Nimmo was 90 feet away from scoring the go-ahead run and giving deGrom the lead, but McNeil couldn’t bring him home.
WIth that, deGrom notced another no decision, and he still remains a game under .500, and yet, he he having an all-time great season. In fact, with this start, deGrom tied Bob Gibson and Chris Carpenter single season mark for consecutive quality starts. In the seasons Gibson and Carpenter set their marks, they won the Cy Young.
So should deGrom.
Game Notes: Seth Lugo took the loss after allowing a run in the eighth.
One of the two teams tonight was the best team in baseball. The other was the Boston Red Sox.
It’s an absurd statement for sure, and yet with the bats going and Noah Syndergaard dealing, the Mets looked like world beaters.
Over seven innings, Syndergaard allowed just three hits and three walks while striking out six. He really kept the Red Sox at bay at the plate but not the basepaths.
There were three stolen bases with the most egregious being an Ian Kinsler stolen base. On the play, Kindler basically walked to second (not an exaggeration). Syndergaard would get his revenge by picking off Kinsler in the sixth.
The stolen bases wouldn’t matter as the Red Sox couldn’t touch Syndergaard. Simultaneously, the Red Sox could not get the Mets out.
Left-handed pitcher William Cuevas would make his first career start, and he wouldn’t last long partially because he couldn’t get left-handed hitters out.
Brian Johnson would come on for the Red Sox and calm things down. Still Jeff McNeil would get to him hitting his third homer of the season. McNeil had yet another multi-hit game, and he had an incredible defensive play to end the seventh:
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 15, 2018
The Mets offense wasn’t done either. In the eighth inning against Tyler Thornburg, Austin Jackson and Amed Rosario would homer giving the Mets an 8-0 lead. The Rosario homer was a classic majestic shot over the Green Monster. Like McNeil, Rosario had yet another multi-hit game himself.
That left Jerry Blevins and Tyler Bashlor to close up shop. With their two scoreless innings, the Mets shut out the best offensive team in the majors. In fact, the Red Sox have the most runs and RBI with the best team batting average, OBP, SLG, and OPS. They have the second highest wRC+.
For their part, the Mets had Thor. That’s why they won.
Game Notes: It was the sixth time all season the Red Sox were shut out. There was a rat running in the Mets dugout during the game. It was not a Wilpon or Jose Reyes.
Three years after his Major League debut, it’s still difficult to make heads or tails with Steven Matz. There are days he looks absolutely terrible, and then there are days like today.
In seven innings, he completely dominated the Giants with a career high 11 strikeouts. It was the first double digit strikeout game of his career.
Unfortunately for him, what was arguably the best start of his career was just a no decision as the Mets bats are ice cold and Evan Longoria hit a fourth inning solo homer off Matz. It was just one of three hits off Matz all day.
On the other side, Derek Holland was shutting down the Mets. He was not as dominant as Matz, but he was in control all game.
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 1, 2018
In the sixth, the Mets had a chance to take the lead, but Todd Frazier had some really poor base running.
Worse yet, on a Michael Conforto infield single, Hanson picked Frazier off third base:
— San Francisco Giants (@SFGiants) September 1, 2018
Finally, in the top of the 11th, one of these two teams would get a hit with Wilmer Flores leading off the inning with a double off Hunter Strickland. He’d move over on a Jay Bruce groundout, and he scored on a go-ahead Frazier sacrifice fly.
Robert Gsellman, who has been struggling of late, pitched a perfect ninth with some help from Nimmo:
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 1, 2018
That Nimmo catch sealed the Mets win in a game completely dominated by pitching. That domination was headlined by Matz, who we can only hope has turned the corner much in the same way we have seen Zack Wheeler do this year.
Game Notes: With the Giants starting Holland, the Mets sat Jeff McNeil in favor of Flores at second. Bruce played first.
Despite the Phillies claiming Jose Bautista off waivers, the Mets risked getting a deal getting nixed due to injury by putting him in the lineup. The reason for the decision was Bautista’s numbers against Jon Lester.
Essentially, the Mets risked a possible piece for the future to win a meaningless August game.
To his credit, Syndergaard got out of that jam partially because he picked Javier Baez off first, and the rundown was executed well enough to prevent Murphy from scoring from third. That was a moot point after the Rizzo double.
The Mets reclaimed the lead in the second with Conforto hitting an absolute monster home run:
Just your typical *squints, double-checks notes* 472-FOOT CRUSH JOB from @mconforto8.
That's not a typo. 😳💪 pic.twitter.com/w94CsZ1zpj
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 28, 2018
The second inning rally began anew with Kevin Plawecki drawing a two out four pitch walk. Surprisingly, Lester then walked Syndergaard leading to Rosario hitting an RBI single to give the Mets a 3-1 lead.
It was a very uneven game for Plawecki. Behind the plate, he struggled, but at the plate, he excelled.
In the third, Syndergaard seemed close to working his way around a Javier Baez leadoff double. With runners at the corners and two outs, Syndergaard threw a pitch in the dirt.
Rather than getting down to block the call, Plawecki tried to backhand it leading to a wild pitch and a run scoring. Subsequently that at-bat, Syndergaard threw one in the dirt, and Plawecki didn’t get down quick enough. Fortunately, Jason Heyward didn’t move up because he lost track of the ball.
Unfortunately, it wouldn’t matter.
After a Willson Contreras infield single, Mickey Callaway ordered an intentional walk to load the bases. With two outs and Lester up, a career .092 hitter at the plate, it should have been inning over.
Instead, Syndergaard threw a fat pitch, and Lester hit a two RBI single giving the Cubs a 4-3 lead.
In total, Syndergaard pitched six uninspiring innings allowing four earned on nine hits with three walks and six strikeouts. Maybe it’s all the missed time, but Thor is not Thor right now.
When he departed, he was in line for the loss. That was until Plawecki got the run back he allowed with a game tying homer in the seventh:
Outta here. Tied up. 💪 pic.twitter.com/ltVD463vJt
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 28, 2018
With the much improved Mets bullpen, it seemed like the Mets were going to actually have a chance to pull this one out. Unfortunately, Jerry Blevins would have his first poor outing on over a month.
Rizzo led off the top of the seventh with a ground rule double which bounced off the tape:
.@Cubs challenge call that Anthony Rizzo hit a foul ball in the 7th; call overturned, fair ball.
— MLB Replay (@MLBReplays) August 28, 2018
Smith was able to navigate his way out of that jam by yielding just an RBI groundout to Contreras.
Daniel Zamora pitched the eighth, and he blew through the first two hitters he faced. Then his seemingly unhittable slider was hit by Rizzo for a home run giving the Cubs a 7-4 lead heading into the ninth.
Despite going 0-for-3 after being put in the lineup for his great numbers against Lester, Bautista would draw a leadoff walk off Pedro Strop.
Predictably, Jose Reyes didn’t come through instead hitting into a fielder’s choice.
That didn’t stop the Mets from loading the bases with one out. With the bases loaded, the Cubs went to Jesse Chavez for the save.
He dominated Rosario getting him to strike out. Chavez would then strike out Jackson on a couple of dubious strike calls, especially strike three, to end the game.
At the end of the day, Syndergaard looked less god than human, and Bautista went hitless in a game he played due to his bat.
Game Notes: Rosario was picked off by Lester for venturing way off first. Jeff McNeil‘s 11 game hitting streak ended with him popping out in a pinch hitting appearance.
Seeing how the Nationals have performed recently, including how they performed yesterday against Jason Vargas, it’s difficult to get excited about any pitcher dominating them.
That said, Zack Wheeler has been great recently and today was another one of his terrific outings.
Wheeler pitched seven scoreless allowing six hits and three walks while striking out four.
This was the eighth time over his last 12 starts where he has gone at least seven innings. It is also the sixth straight start he’s allowed two runs or fewer.
For a while, it looked like Wheeler would walk away with the no decision as Tanner Roark was matching zeros with him over the first five innings.
Up until that point, the Mets just had three hits and no one reached third.
Finally, with one out in the sixth, Amed Rosario would hit a solo homer to give the Mets a 1-0 lead.
El Niño looking more like El Hombre right now. 💪 pic.twitter.com/BXeRgB2wlt
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 25, 2018
The Mets would tack on runs in the ensuing two innings.
In the seventh, Todd Frazier would continue his hot hitting with a homer of his own.
In the eighth, Rosario beat out a potential double play ball extending the inning. He would then score as both Jeff McNeil and Michael Conforto would hit singles off Nationals left-handed reliever Matt Grace.
That 3-0 lead was more than enough for Wheeler and what has been a terrific Mets bullpen this month.
Just like that, it appears the Mets are trending in an upward trajectory while the Nationals are struggling to find themselves. Hopefully, that will last longer than just the final two months of this season.
Game Notes: This is the first time the Mets recorded consecutive shutouts since 2015. Conforto started the game in center for the first time since June 26th.
Since the All Star Break, the Mets are playing much better baseball. In fact, the team is actually two games over .500, and they have won 12 of their last 19 games.
One of the major reasons for the improved play is the Mets are finally playing their talented younger players, and they’re taking advantage of their opportunity.
Dom 💣 incoming! pic.twitter.com/M9ZlQQ0vmG
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 22, 2018
That second inning homer did not end the rally.
Jeff McNeil then drove home Reinheimer with an RBI single. With that single and his first inning triple, McNeil reached base safely in seven consecutive at-bats.
What’s amazing about that first inning triple is McNeil didn’t score even with Todd Frazier reaching on a Crawford throwing error.
Speaking of Frazier, he would drive home the third run of the inning on a ground rule double.
In this 2016 Wild Card Game rematch, Noah Syndergaard would give back two of the runs right away.
Syndergaard would shut the Giants down from there. In six innings, he would throw 101 pitches limiting the Giants to two runs on five hits while walking one and striking out five.
With Bautista hitting a solo homer in the fourth, he’d depart with a 4-2 lead.
First batter he faced, Austin Slater, hit a homer.
With one out in the inning, he’d hit Chase d’Arnaud with a pitch before Duggar popped out on a bunt attempt.
Callaway then went to Jerry Blevins, who retired Panik to get out of the jam.
Frazier got that run back with a homer in the bottom of the seventh,
Robert Gsellman was dominant in the bottom of the eight striking out two of the three batters he faced.
With that, the Mets won 5-3. Who knew that this team could win young players getting playing time and a chance to succeed?
Game Recap: With the win, the Mets have ensured at least a series split. The Mets have now either won or split their past five series.