Early on, Mickey Callaway announced his intentions to use his best relievers in the highest leverage spots and not just in the ninth inning. As a result, in addition to Jeurys Familia, we may very well see AJ Ramos, Anthony Swarzak, Jerry Blevins, or even Hansel Robles out there looking to close out a game. This creates the possibility of the Mets having multiple relievers with over 10 saves.
This is something that has happened 12 times in Mets history. Sometimes, it was due to injury. Others, it was the intended plan. Whatever the case, can you name the closers who have at least 10 saves in the same season another Mets reliever had at least 10 saves? Good luck!
Believe it or not, there are just five pitchers who remain from the Mets 2015 Opening Day roster. Those five pitchers are Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Jeurys Familia, Jerry Blevins, and of course, Rafael Montero. That’s right, Montero was on the 2015 Opening Day roster, and in case you forgot, he was once again on the Opening Day roster last year.
And you know what? Montero is going to be on the 2018 Mets Opening Day roster as well.
The Mets have given us a clear indication this will happen. Right after the season, the team outrighted pitchers Erik Goeddel and Tyler Pill from the 40 man roster. They claimed Burch Smith in the Rule 5 Draft, and he was immediately sent to the Kansas City Royals for cash. To make room for Major League signings this offseason, the Mets designated Kevin McGowan, Chasen Bradford, and Josh Smoker for assignment.
Put another way, the Mets have had plenty of opportunities to extricate themselves of Montero, and they continuously refuse to do so whether it is out of stubbornness, hope, or really, just plain lunacy. Fact is, while no Mets fans believe in him and his 5.38 ERA, the Mets still believe in him and want him here.
If the Mets truly do want to see their continued investment in Montero pay off for them, then the team is going to have to put him on the 40 man roster because he is out of options. That means Montero gets one more last chance. I’d list what chance number that is, but like most Mets fans, I’ve lost count.
This means, the Mets are going to have to hope Montero’s .376 BABIP last year was largely the result of a truly poor defensive team. They will have to hope his being the second best starter on the team, Jason Vargas included, in not yielding barrels translates to success. (Statcast). They’re also going to have to hope, as noted by Anthony DiComo of MLB.com, he continues to yield the fewest hard hit balls on this pitching staff.
If this does happen, and Montero FINALLY attacks the zone like he has shown in Double-A and below, the Mets may have something. Their patience may finally be rewarded and, frankly, applauded. However, it is much more likely we will see more of the same, which should create heat on Sandy Alderson because he parted with quality pitcher after quality pitcher in order to hold onto Montero.
Regardless of your opinion on Montero and the likelihood of his being successful, he’s going to be on the Opening Day roster. There are bullpen spots open, and Montero is out of options. At this point, we can only hope the stubborn refusal to DFA him will pay off.
With the Mets signing Todd Frazier, the organization has yet again went out and brought home a local boy to play for the hometown team. It is something we have seen from the organization throughout their history starting with Ed Kranepool, and it is a new focus we have seen with this organization with them drafting Long Islanders Steven Matz, Justin Dunn, and Anthony Kay.
With the Mets illustrious, and in the case of Bobby Bonilla, infamous hometown players coming home to play for the Mets, in a new feature on Mets Daddy, Mets bloggers have come together to answer the question about who is their favorite hometown Mets players:
One of the biggest benefits of Mickey Callaway being the new Mets manager is the team and organization has a fresher way of looking at things. This is a welcome breath of fresh air from the Terry Collins Era when he was almost purposefully against the advanced metrics game, and he was loathe to play young players like Michael Conforto.
With Collins stubbornly played veterans like Jose Reyes, even when it was clear he wasn’t the guy who won a batting title in 2011 anymore, it was clear this change of direction was needed. However, it should always be questioned just how far a new manager should push the envelope.
Judging from Ken Davidoff’s New York Post piece, Callaway is really looking to push the envelope:
On paper, this absolutely makes sense. Typically speaking, a team’s closer is their best reliever. They have the best stuff, and more than that, they have the mental toughness required to face these difficult situations and come out on top.
And yes, as fans, we time and time again lament how the best available reliever wasn’t used in a particular situation. Usually, this is when a game goes into extra innings. Typically, a backwards thinking manager, like Collins, would go to their third or fourth best reliever, so they can save their closer for the save situation. The example brought up most often was Buck Showalter not bringing in Zach Britton in the 2016 Wild Card Game.
On the surface, it would seem the Mets are well equipped bullpen-wise for Callaway to implement this plan.
Jeurys Familia, AJ Ramos, and Paul Sewald have closing experience. While not a closer, Anthony Swarzak has been used in a variety of roles out of the bullpen. We did see Jerry Blevins record three saves over the past two seasons. Finally, while many Mets fans are skeptical, Hansel Robles has shown he can handle a number of different roles in the bullpen, and with his working with Pedro Martinez this offseason and Dave Eiland this season, we may see fewer meltdowns.
Now, the main difference between the Indians situation and what Callaway is proposing to do is the Indians stuck with Allen as the closer. Clearly, that was more in line with Terry Francona‘s thinking than Callaway’s. What remains to be seen is whether this was the perfect blending of two schools of thought or Francona not going far enough.
Perhaps the reason why Francona not allowing Callaway to fully implement his plan was because we have seen many closers struggle in non-closing roles. Now, many will point out this is typically in a situation where a closer is just getting work in with their team having a large lead. We have not really seen the situation where a team full of strong relievers with closing experience can come in at any moment and be thrown into a pressure filled situation.
To date, we have seen teams toy with the idea but never truly implement it. Perhaps, that’s because there’s the theory relievers thrive when they know their role. Perhaps, that’s because there is value in free agency and arbitration in save totals and relievers are not going to let their manager “steal” money from them. Perhaps, that’s because managers do not want to put themselves on the line by trying something new.
Whatever the case, the Mets have a manager who is willing to try something different. It’s a good theory, and he should pursue it. However, he should not steadfast if it is not working. And with that, we really have the first true measure of what Callaway can be as a manager.
If nothing else, Callaway will make the 2018 season an interesting one to follow.
Finally, for the first time since 2014, Jeff Wilpon answered questions about the Mets payroll. Of course, it was typical mixed messages and partial truths. Rather than putting it in my own words, I’m going to use the tweets from reporters:
Jeff Wilpon says there's a chance payroll goes up if there is a way to significantly improve the team. Says increasing payroll doesn't necessarily translate into wins.
— Laura Albanese (@AlbaneseLaura) January 23, 2018
Wilpon says the Mets payroll could conceivably match last year's or it could be "$10 million less."
— Mike Puma (@NYPost_Mets) January 23, 2018
Right off the bat, we have at least a perceived contradiction. Jeff Wilpon’s statement the payroll will go up if there’s an opportunity does not jive with matching or reducing last year’s payroll by about $10 million. To give him the benefit of the doubt, let’s assume he means he could increase payroll from it’s current point.
According to Spotrac, the Mets payroll currently sits at $128.9 million for the 25 man roster and $130.7 million total. Last year, the Mets payroll was $154.8 million. This means the Mets have somewhere between $13 to $23 million left to spend this offseason.
According to Jon Heyman of Fan Rag Sports, the trade for Kipnis was rejected by “higher ups.” In fact, Heyman said, the deal was “killed by someone at the top, very likely over money.” Over the next two years, Kipnis is due $28.2 million over the next two years with a $2.5 million buyout if the Mets do not pick up the $16.5 million 2020 team option.
With respect to Harrison, Mike Puma of the New York Post reported the Pirates ask of Brandon Nimmo was too high considering Harrison’s contract. While we can debate the merits of trading Nimmo for Harrison, the contract balk is confounding with Harrison due $10.25 million next year with succeeding team options of $10.5 million and $11.5 million.
And for what it’s worth, Kipnis and Harrison do meet Jeff’s “Significantly Improve” Test as the Mets current options are Wilmer Flores, who has never been given a real opportunity to play second due to his poor glove, or re-signing Jose Reyes, who had a -0.6 WAR last year.
For a minute, let’s revisit another topic Jeff Wilpon raised when he said increasing payroll doesn’t necessarily translate to wins. Now, on the surface, that may appear to be true. Certainly, if you go out and spend $20 million on Jose Reyes, it is not going to make your team better. Also, for what it’s worth, for a team that desparately needs a second baseman and could also use a third baseman, center fielder, and a couple of arms, Jay Bruce doesn’t necessarily translate to wins either.
Sarcasm aside, let’s take Jeff Wilpon at his earlier word that he will spend if the move significantly improves the Mets. Let’s also focus on those players that would translate to wins instead of harping on a player like Jonathan Lucroy, who is really more a name than an All Star at this point in his career.
With the free agent market where it is, the Mets could obtain Todd Frazier, who is a significant upgrade at third over Asdrubal Cabrera. Moving Cabrera to second would at least solve the position with a credible Major League hitter.
In center field, Lorenzo Cain is still available, and his market is dwindling. This was a 5.3 WAR player last year, and as we all know, is a World Series champion. Considering center field is now manned by Juan Lagares, who is as brilliant defensively as he is poor at the plate and keeping healthy, Cain would be a significant upgrade that would translate to wins.
Same goes for a reliever like Greg Holland, who was an All Star in Colorado of all places last year. Really, Holland was terrific as a closer up until he likely tired toward the end of the year. Wouldn’t he be a significant upgrade that translates to wins, especially when you combine him with Jeurys Familia, Anthony Swarzak, AJ Ramos, and Jerry Blevins?
The answer to all of the above is they will significantly improve the team and would likely lead to wins. The same could be said for Kipnis and Harrison, two players the Mets balked at over money. If the Mets are balking over $10-13 million at the biggest area of need this offseason, what would lead any of us to believe the Mets will spend that amount on other players?
Oh, and by the way, Jeff Wilpon essentially ruled out the team signing any combination of those players with his announced payroll restrictions.
And of course, if all of Jeff Wilpon’s statements didn’t see contradictory or disingenuous enough, he also made this statement:
Wilpon: "There is no concrete line to go up, there is no concrete line to go down or stay same. It’s somewhat in flux to have conversations with Sandy and the rest of the baseball department to determine what the best course of action might be.”
— Matt Ehalt (@MattEhalt) January 23, 2018
However, despite all of that, let’s just believe for one second, you still think the Mets are going to go out there and significantly improve this team. There’s still plenty of top tier free agents available, and there are deals to be had. Well, you’re dreams and assumptions should die with this statement on David Wright:
Among the factors Jeff Wilpon cited in counting David Wright's insurance covered salary as part of the payroll is the cost of the policy, "which is not cheap."
— Mike Puma (@NYPost_Mets) January 23, 2018
That’s right. At a time when the Mets are giving mixed messages about payroll parameters, they’re complaining about the cost of an insurance policy that saves them roughly $20 million per season.
Really, everything Jeff Wilpon said proves out two things. First, the team really believes that spending to acquire better players does not necessarily translate to wins. Second, and more important, he thinks Mets fans are dumb.
Why else would he try to have us believe acquiring better players doesn’t lead to wins or publicly bemoan the cost of Wright’s insurance policy?
After the 2017 season ended, and the Mets set out to build their roster for the 2018 season, the most glaring need was a second baseman. Given the options in free agency and the state of the Mets farm system, it also proved to be one of the most difficult holes to fill.
Initially, the Mets did act prudently by looking to obtain Ian Kinsler from the Detroit Tigers. While he was coming off a down year offensively, he was still a very good defender at the position. If rumors were true, the Mets stepped up and they made the best offer to the Detroit Tigers.
The problem was Kinsler had a no trade clause to the Mets. He used that clause to force a deal to the Angels. Very likely, the reason was all of the gaps in the Mets roster and their limited budget this offseason.
Speaking of the limited budget, yes, we can absolutely blame the Wilpons for not fully investing in this team. While many will defend them on the concept of finances, it should be noted the Wilpons did have money to invest in an eSports team and the Islanders new arena.
With that said, there was money to be spent. Yes, it wasn’t enough, but if spent properly, there was enough to at least build a credible roster. The problem is Sandy Alderson isn’t spending the money wisely.
Certainly, you can justify the Anthony Swarzak signing. If the Mets have any intentions of competing next year, they needed an extra arm to bring to Jeurys Familia in the ninth. With Swarzak joining AJ Ramos to set up for Familia, the Mets have a good 7-8-9 tandem. With Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland, you can reasonably assume the Mets will be able to find an arm or two to join Jerry Blevins to form a good if not formidable bullpen.
The problem is what Sandy Alderson has done with the money since signing Swarzak at the close of the Winter Meetings.
The first issue was a trade for Jason Kipnis was rejected by someone with the Mets. The natural culprits are the Wilpons as the reports said someone higher up. It’s a baffling decision because even if you have your concerns about him, he’s a good fit in the lineup and in the clubhouse. There’s also the benefit of his knowing Callaway from their days in Cleveland.
Of course, this means three things. The first is the team is all but done with Dominic Smith, at least for the 2018 season. The second is Michael Conforto is likely out longer than advertised. The third is the Mets are effectively punting on second base.
Howie Kendrick, who was a viable second base candidate, is now off the board, and with him went the last reasonable shot at getting a starting second baseman in free agency. That is, unless, you believe Eduardo Nunez, will now be healthy, capable of playing second, and the Mets have enough to sign him.
If you want someone in a trade, like Josh Harrison, get in line. Teams with much deeper systems, like the Yankees, have interest in him as well. As a result, this means the Mets are out on him.
Overall, this means the Mets are going to bring back Jose Reyes to play second alongside Amed Rosario. This is the same Reyes who was one of the worst regulars in all of baseball last year. He had a -0.6 WAR, a 94 wRC+, and he accomplished the astounding feat of posting a negative DRS at FOUR positions. One of those was second where he had a -5 DRS in 207.1 innings.
And remember the last time Reyes played second base full time? That would be the 2004 season when the Mets big acquisition was Kaz Matsui. When your offseason plan mirrors the plans of your 2004 plans, you know the Mets are in trouble.
And yes, they are. They’re in trouble because they don’t have the money to spend and because Sandy Alderson isn’t spending it wisely. Consider for a second, Matt Adams and Kendrick, two versatile players that would have been immensely helpful to the Mets for depth and/or platoons, signed with the Nationals for a combined $11 million. That’s less than a million more they are paying Bruce and Gonzalez on a team that already had Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, Wilmer Flores, and Smith.
Overall, the Mets may not have had much money to spend, but whatever money they did have, Sandy Alderson squandered it away on duplicative players. Remember that when the Mets second base situation holds the team back throughout the 2018 season.
It is a slow going offseason, but it seems even slower for the Mets. With so many teams with more money than the Mets still interested in many of the same free agents, it is hard to believe the Mets will make significant additions before the end of the offseason. If they don’t, here is what the 2018 Mets Opening Day roster will look like:
C – Travis d’Arnaud
1B – Dominic Smith
2B – Wilmer Flores
3B – Asdrubal Cabrera
SS – Amed Rosario
LF – Yoenis Cespedes
CF – Juan Lagares
RF – Michael Conforto
Bench – Kevin Plawecki, Brandon Nimmo, T.J. Rivera, Matt Reynolds, Phillip Evans
This should only highlight about how much work the Mets actually have to do this offseason.
Sure, we can buy the pitching staff as a whole as is because they have viable depth. In the rotation, Lugo could get transition back much like how he did in 2016. After that, they have Robert Gsellman, Chris Flexen, Corey Oswalt, and Mickey Jannis. And that is before the Mets go deeper with pitchers like P.J. Conlon. Suffice it to say, the Mets do have sufficient rotation depth.
However, that offense. You can’t sell anyone that is going to be alright. Mostly, that is because the Mets don’t believe themselves that it will be. And that is before you take into account the injury issues Conforto and Rivera are currently rehabbing from this offseason.
For example, the team has all but given up on Gavin Cecchini, who should be in a position to at least compete for a spot on the 25 man roster. He won’t. What’s scary is there is no real Major League ready talent behind him . . . at least no immediately as players like Luis Guillorme and David Thompson need at least some time in Triple-A. By the way, there’s no real outfield depth in this system.
Looking over this roster, you’d be hard pressed to believe the Mets will be better than the 70-92 team they were last season no matter how much they sell us Mickey Callaway as the solution to all that ails the Mets.
So, it really should not come as a surprise to no one the Mets have a lot of work to do, and it goes well beyond just adding one or two players. That applies just to the starting lineup. After that, they really need to build a Major League caliber bench.
Again, the good news is there are still many free agents available. However, it’s still hard to believe the Mets will be able to add the players they need to become a postseason contender.
If you’ve been paying attention, the Mets seem to be interested in everyone this offseason. If you take those players they’re interested in, you’d have an amazing roster:
1B Todd Frazier
2B Neil Walker
SS Amed Rosario
CF Lorenzo Cain
Wait, you don’t believe any of this is going to happen?
In what was a surprising and completely unexpected move, the New York Mets announced that Omar Minaya is returning as a Special Assistant to Sandy Alderson. In Omar’s new role, he will have a varying role including but not limited to scouting and player development. While this offseason has been a complete disappointment thus far, this decision is a great move for the Mets:
1. Omar Left The Mets In Better Shape Than Advertised
One of the issues for Omar when he departed for the Mets was the purported poor state of the Mets minor league system. There were many reasons for the caricature as he didn’t have many first round picks as the General Manager, and when he did have one, he struck by drafting players like Eddie Kunz.
However, that does not mean the talent wasn’t there. As we well know, Omar built the core that helped win the 2015 pennant. It was Omar’s regime that brought in Jacob deGrom, Lucas Duda, Jeurys Familia, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Daniel Murphy.
Omar also had originally brought R.A. Dickey to the Mets on a minor league deal. That led to Dickey winning a Cy Young Award, and Sandy Alderson flipping him in a deal that netted the Mets Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard. If Sandy and Omar can work in harmony, the Mets may very well turn things around sooner than we believed.
2. Omar Has Been Able To Get The Wilpons To Spend
When Omar first took the reigns as the Mets General Manager, he went out, and he spent. He immediately brought in Carlos Beltran and Pedro Martinez. He had to wait a year, but he was eventually able to get Carlos Delgado. He was also shrewd by getting Jose Reyes and David Wright to sign extensions that proved to be team friendly deals.
Yes, this is true this was all prior to the Madoff Scandal. However, consider that a month after Madoff was arrested and the Mets standing a real chance of facing financial ruin, Omar was somehow able to get the Mets to agree to sign Jason Bay to a four year $66 million deal. It’s true that this ultimately proved to be a bad deal, but the overriding point was Omar got the Mets to spend like none other. If you are able to combine Omar’s influence with Sandy’s prudence, you again get a terrific combination.
3. Mets Need A Fresh Look At Their Minor League System
The drafted and minor league free agent talent acquired by the Mets since Sandy Alderson became the General Manager has been largely disappointing. So far, their efforts on the International front has really only produced Amed Rosario. Rosario is a great prospect, but he’s it.
Also, while the Mets have drafted All Stars in Michael Conforto and Michael Fulmer, they have also do not view high draft picks like Brandon Nimmo and Gavin Cecchini as starters at the Major League level. Moreoever, the team has been harsh in their criticism of Dominic Smith. It also doesn’t help the team drafted Anthony Kay in the first round, and he has yet to throw a professional pitch due to injury.
In reality, the talent level isn’t where the Mets want it, and it is a large reason why the Mets farm system is largely maligned. When the farm system is where it is right now, it is time to bring in someone to give a fresh look and help build the system back up. There are few better at it than Omar Minaya.
Overall, the Mets brought in a well respected voice in baseball and a voice well respected by the Wilpons. He is being brought in to do what he does best – evaluate and scout talent. Previously, Alderson was able to take the talent Omar acquired, and the Mets won a pennant. With Omar and Sandy working together, the sky is the limit right now.
After the purported hand-wringing Sandy Alderson was doing over the free agent reliever market, the Mets finally pulled the trigger, and they signed Anthony Swarzak to a two year $14 million deal.
There is a lot to like about Swarzak. Last year, the 32 year old had his best ever season going 6-4 with a 2.33 ERA, 1.034 WHIP, 2.6 BB/9, and a 10.6 K/9. As noted by D.J. Short of Rotoworld, Swarzak had a higher swinging strike percentage than old friend Addison Reed. Part of that could be attributed to the fact he added about two MPH on his fastball.
He’s also been a platoon neutral pitcher his entire career with his best season being in 2017. While limiting right-handed batters to a .218/.259/.346 batting line, left-handed batters were worse against him hitting .198/.294/.281.
These stats are all the more incredible and important when you consider he predominantly worked in the 7th and 8th innings. The Mets needed another set-up man to work with AJ Ramos to hand the ball to Jeurys Familia in the 9th.
Overall, this is all important, and the signing helps the Mets. However it isn’t enough, especially because this is all but a shapshot of Swarzak’s career.
It was just in 2015 Swarzak had a 5.26 ERA and 1.516 WHIP in the Korean Leagues. In 2016, his first season back from Korea, he was 1-2 with a 5.52 ERA for the Yankees.
While he was obviously improved since then, it was mostly on the strength of some outliers. Prior to last season, he yielded a .304 BABIP. In 2017, that number was .272.
Prior to 2017, Swarzak left 69.8% of runners on base, which is right around league average. Last season, his LOB% was a career best 82.9%.
Maybe these numbers were all the result of improved stuff. Maybe it was him becoming more comfortable in the bullpen. It’s just as possible the increased velocity and some of the BABIP and LOB% will regress to league and career norms.
Overall, the Mets did acquire a quality reliever who should prove to better than internal options like Hansel Robles, Paul Sewald, and Josh Smoker. Moreover, Swarzak is getting the opportunity to work with Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland. If there’s a tandem you trust to help Swarzak make 2017 the new norm instead of an outlier, it’s them.
Still, with the stark contrast between the 2017 and career numbers, the Mets need to hedge their bets that Swarzak may very well regress. In the end, this means that while Swarzak may very well prove to be a nice addition, he’s far from being the final piece of the puzzle.