After the positive feedback we received after our first Mets Blogger Roundtable, the Mets Bloggers have decided to come back for at least a second week. This week, we tackle the question “Which Mets player are we most excited about watching this Spring Training?”
Dominic Smith is the first player that comes to my mind, although there are several interesting stories to watch this spring. Here’s a guy who has spent a number of years now battling weight issues, and therefore reputation issues, and it’s no secret the organization has concerns with him. And, obviously, signing Adrian González clearly indicates that as well. I am looking for him to step up and look like the player and prospect everyone expects him to be, similar to howMichael Conforto performed last spring. If Dom does that, he’ll make for a tough decision a month from now, which is always a good internal conversation for Mets brass to have.
Do we all remember when Bret Booneabruptly retired a few days into Mets spring training camp in 2006? He admitted Jose Reyes “just kind of stared” at him “with that smile on his face” and realized the joy of playing baseball in himself was long gone. Well, I’m hoping Adrian Gonzalez looks at Dominic Smith, smiling and loving life with his old and new svelte physique, and realizes his future as a full-time top sub sandwich enterprise ambassador should be his present. Smith did not earn the full-time first baseman gig last season, but he’s already earned it before the first ST game. He wasn’t even in this good of shape last spring, so I’m looking forward to seeing the Dom Smith everybody warned with a smile was about to enter our lives last summer.
The player I am most excited to watch at Spring Training might surprise a few people. It’s Brandon Nimmo. I am by no means trying to say he’s an all-star, but I think he is often overlook for the value he brings to a team. First of all, his defense in center field (while not as good as Juan Lagares) is good. For me, I am more impressed with his approach at the plate. He’s one of the more disciplined hitters on the team, especially when it comes to his knowledge of the strike zone. Sure, his .260 batting average last year is not too impressive, but his on-base percentage was more than 100 points higher at .379. Despite not looking like he’s going to have a starting spot out of the gate, Nimmo is going to be an important piece on this team coming off of the bench. And knowing how hard he works, if there’s an injury, he’ll be ready to go in a pinch. It’s hard not to root for the kid.
Player I am most excited about? Great question. I know if the Mets had been smart enough to sign Joe Smith, he’d have been my answer. I guess I have to let that one go, though. Steven Matz is the other. There are certain guys I love to watch pitch, and Matz is the latest version of that.
The Mets player I’m most interested in seeing this spring is Yoenis Cespedes. The slugger is coming off a season that saw injuries limit him to only 81 games. He’s trained differently this offseason including doing yoga to make sure he is more agile and not simply bulked up like in 2017. It will be interesting to see if his offseason training can help him regain his decencies prowess that helped him win a gold glove in 2015. Also have to see if he can make it through all spring without a muscle injury which seemed to be a weekly occurrence for him last season.
When healthy, Cespedes has been everything the Mets hoped for when they traded for him and signed him to a four-year deal. The Mets are not going to be contenders in 2018 if Cespedes plays only 81 games and spring will be a good time to see if anything has changed for Yo.
Based upon the people the Mets brought into the organization the past year, it should come as little surprise Vargas was the guy.
First and foremost, there is Omar Minaya. After the Mets lost in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, Omar began looking to address one of the Mets weak points – starting pitching depth.
In what proved to be an unpopular trade, the Mets sent Matt Lindstrom and Henry Owens for the 24 year old Vargas. The whole of Vargas’ Mets career amounted to two starts where he went 0-1 with a 12.19 ERA.
Roughly two years later, Vargas was one of 12 players in the ill-fated J.J. Putz trade. When you consider Joe Smith was part of the deal, a Mets team looking to improve their pitching wound up trading the two best pitchers in that deal.
With respect to Vargas, that may not have been entirely anticipated. But that is what happened over his three team nine year post-Putz trade career.
The most recent stop was Kansas City where he played for current Mets pitching coach Dave Eiland, who as it turned out, gave Vargas a ringing endorsement.
Asked about Eiland’s endorsement of Vargas, Sandy says Eiland kept calling him, “the perfect guy for us.”
Sandy references the fact that he’s left handed, has a different approach to pitching than the others, is a veteran & knows what it takes to pitch 200+ innings.
— Steve Gelbs (@SteveGelbs) February 18, 2018
With that, the Mets have made would could be the most predictable signing of the offseason. It also should prove to be a good one.
Likely, the Mets can count on Vargas to last a full season. That’s important considering you can’t expect the same from Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler. Perhaps more importantly, it’s just another arm to the equation.
As of the moment, the Mets have a somewhat incomplete bullpen. Publicly, the Mets are bandying about getting a second left-handed reliever to compete with P.J. Conlon and Matt Purke. However, the real need, and the one Mickey Callaway has discussed – the long reliever.
With Vargas here, either him or Matz could serve in both roles much like Darren Oliver did in 2006.
Really, the possibilities are endless. Same goes for the Mets season if Vargas permits Callaway and Eiland to effectively mix and match to get the most out of this Mets pitching staff.
Current Position: Mariners Third Base Coach
Age: 1/11/1969 (48)
MLB Managerial Experience: 2007 – 2009 Washington Nationals 158 – 252 (.385); 2010 – 2012 Cleveland Indians 214-266 (.480)
One of the most respected coaches on Willie Randolph‘s staff was noticeably missing during the 2007 and 2008 collapses that doomed not just the Mets, but also Randolph. The person missing was third base coach Manny Acta.
Much like we saw with Alex Cora this season, Acta was a hot commodity back then because he was widely considered the next big manager. Acta was respected for his intelligence, baseball acumen, and his ability to communicate with players. That went double for young and Hispanic players. In fact, the Washington Nationals said of Acta, “Manny is so intelligent, and so articulate. And he’s very good with players. He’s very active. He was out there hitting fungos (while managing the Nationals). He has a lot going for him.” (Sports Illustrated). That’s a remarkable thing to say about a manager. It’s all the more incredible when you consider that was said when they fired him.
Because Acta is well respected and because people believe he’s an intelligent man who continues to educate himself, he keeps getting jobs. After failing with the Nationals, he was hired by the Indians. After failing with the Indians, he was hired by Baseball Tonight. After a well received Baseball Tonight stint, he was hired by the Mariners to serve as their third base coach, a position which he holds today.
Considering how well respected he is, it makes you question why he never worked out as a manager. For starters, he’s never really had good teams. When we thing of the current Nationals who are one of the best teams in baseball, you think of Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer, Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, and Ryan Zimmerman. In his Nationals tenure, Acta only got to manage a young Zimmerman.
In Cleveland, he had a difficult situation with the old players getting old fast, and the young players not being quite ready. Players like Johnny Damon and Derek Lowe were hanging on while Jason Kipnis and Corey Kluber weren’t what they are now. As many will note, even the best of managers cannot win without talent.
But with Acta, it might have been more than just a lack of talent. In a MASN article, Acta was described as being unable to relate to players. As bad as that might be, an AP article was even more damning of Acta as a manager with Indians players feeling as if Acta did not have their back. There were other reports suggesting Acta was rigid in his ways, and that he was unable to motivate his players. Put another way, Acta’s greatest weakness as manager might be his ability to handle a clubhouse.
What the Players Say:
Joe Smith: “Our team, for whatever reason, didn’t seem motivated to play. It’s sad when you say that about a bunch of guys that get paid to play a game. You shouldn’t need somebody else to motivate you to play this game. At the end of the day, it’s on us, but when it came that time to motivate us, there wasn’t a whole lot of it there.” (MLB.com)
Josh Tomlin: “He said that’s how he managed, that’s how he won in the Minor Leagues and that’s how he was going to win in the big leagues — by being himself. You have to respect a man for that, that he wasn’t going to change who he was.”
It is interesting to see Mike Puma’s recent New York Post article on the subject of Acta’s candidacy. Ultimately, it highlighted the best points of Acta that leads to teams continuously trying to bring him into their organization. However, that same piece highlighted his weaknesses, notably his inability to “handle controversy.”
What we don’t know from with Acta is if he’s grown from the issues that held back his career in Washington and Cleveland. If he hasn’t then hiring him should prove to be a disaster much in the same way hiring Art Howe or Jeff Torborg was. The Puma article does little to quell those concerns.
However, if Acta has grown and has learned from his mistakes in the clubhouse like we have see from Terry Collins during his Mets managerial career, you will have a smart baseball person who is hard working. In life, you can never go wrong with smart and hard working.
Ultimately, any decision on Acta should begin with long and honest conversations with David Wright and Asdrubal Cabrera. Both are veterans who Acta has coached/managed. If both endorse Acta, it’s possible he’s the right man for the job. That goes double when you consider most of the praise directed at Acta comes from front offices and not players. If Acta doesn’t receive glowing endorsements from Wright or Cabrera, it should be an easy decision to look in a different direction.
Editor’s Note: this was first published on MMO
When the Mets collapsed in 2007 and 2008, one person that was conspicuously absent was third base coach Manny Acta. In his time serving that role with the Mets, he had become known as an intelligent forward thinking baseball man, who showed an ability to connect with the players on the team.
Those traits led to Acta being a hot managerial candidate that offseason not too dissimilar to what we see with Alex Cora right now. Coincidentally, many of the positive things said about Cora now were said about Acta after the 2006 season.
Acta would get hired after the 2006 season as the Nationals manager. This would begin an interesting six year managerial career split between the Nationals and the Indians. He would have go 158-252 (.385) with the Nationals, and 214-266 (.446) with the Indians.
One of the reasons for the struggles with the Nationals was talent. The team had just parted ways with talented players including Alfonso Soriano. Of the famed group of Nationals who are part of the core of the current Nationals team that won multiple division titles, he would only get to manage Ryan Zimmerman.
It was a similar issue with the Indians. It was a team in transition after Cliff Lee was traded mid-season the year prior to his arrival. Acta would lead the team to a surprise second place finish in 2011 increasing expectations for 2012. That team had underperforming veterans like Derek Lowe, Ubaldo Jimenez, Casey Kotchman, and Johnny Damon didn’t produce, and young players like Corey Kluber, Cody Allen, and Jason Kipnis who were not quite ready.
Overall, Acta was well considered in baseball circles. Its why when he was fired by the Nationals they said, “Manny is so intelligent, and so articulate. And he’s very good with players. He’s very active. He was out there hitting fungos (while managing the Nationals). He has a lot going for him.” (Sports Illustrated).
It’s why Acta only had to wait a season between managerial jobs. That is the case when he has two top five Manager of the Year finishes under his belt. After his managerial stint was over, Acta was hired by ESPN where he would work for Baseball Tonight. For the past two seasons, he served as the Mariners third base coach. When he was hired, Mariners manger Scott Servais said, “I believe Manny will be a great addition to our staff. I’ve known him for over 25 years, since we were teammates in 1989. His experience as a Major League third-base coach and manager, paired with his extensive player-development background, will be very valuable to me, and to our players, as we move forward.” (MLB.com).
Between his tenure with the Nationals and the Indians, we began to get a picture of who Acta was as a manager. Generally speaking, he was seen as a smart baseball man who had an analytical approach to the game. Whereas some managers use instincts and a gunslinger mentality, Acta was a tactician who relied on the data. For many, this would invoke comparisons to Joe Girardi, which depending on your point of view, could be seen as a positive or a negative.
In terms of the clubhouse, Acta had a mixed reputation like many managers do. For one player, he was seen as someone who didn’t keep a tight reign on this players. For others, he was a manager who respected the veterans and let them control the clubhouse. For many, this would invoke comparisons to Terry Collins, which again depending on your view, could be seen as a positive or a negative.
Really, throughout his two tenures as manger, the only real pure negative thing anyone had to say about him was he was a poor motivator, and he was rigid in his ways. As then Indians pitcher Josh Tomlin said of Acta, “He said that’s how he managed, that’s how he won in the Minor Leagues and that’s how he was going to win in the big leagues — by being himself. You have to respect a man for that, that he wasn’t going to change who he was.” (MLB.com).
As for his ability to motivate Joe Smith said, “Our team, for whatever reason, didn’t seem motivated to play. It’s sad when you say that about a bunch of guys that get paid to play a game. You shouldn’t need somebody else to motivate you to play this game. At the end of the day, it’s on us, but when it came that time to motivate us, there wasn’t a whole lot of it there.”
Overall, Acta is well considered to be a good and smart baseball man. It is why he continues to get jobs. It is also why you do see a positive impact on whatever team he joins. Still, between his record and the specific criticism of being rigid in how he manages and his inability to motive, you do question if he’s well suited to be a manager.” Then again, those things only to be raised as issues when someone is fired.
In the end, we still probably don’t know what Acta is as a manager because he’s never quite had sufficient talent to manage. Considering the current composition of the Mets roster, this would make Acta a risky bet for this Mets team. Then again, so would Cora or anyone else the Mets are considering.
When determining which team to root for this postseason, the general rule of thumb is to root against the Mets rivals. With the Mets making a number of trades this season, you could also root for teams according to their Mets connections:
East – Boston Red Sox
Assistant Pitching Coach – Brian Bannister (2006)
Bannister made the Mets out if Spring Training in 2006. His tenure was short lived as he injured his hamstring, and Omar Minaya rebuilt the rotation in-season pushing a healthy Bannister out. He’d be moved that offseason in an ill-fated trade for Ambiorix Burgos.
RHP Blaine Boyer (2011)
Boyer pitched just five games for the Mets before leaving via free agency. He would not pitch in the majors again until 2014.
RHP Addison Reed (2015 – 2017)
Acquired on the eve of September, Reed quickly became an important seventh inning reliever on the Mets pennant winning team. He was even better the next season helping pitch the Mets back to the postseason. With Jeurys Familia‘s suspension and injury, Reed became an effective closer before being traded for a trio of Red Sox relief prospects at the trade deadline.
OF Chris Young (2014)
After a few down years, the Mets took a one year gamble on Young. He struggled all year, and he was released with the Mets eight games under .500 and 10.5 games back in the division. Since that time, Young has been a much more effective player.
Central – Cleveland Indians
First Base Coach Sandy Alomar, Jr. (2007 – 2009)
Alomar ended his playing career playing eight games with the Mets in 2007. He would then begin his coaching career with the Mets serving two years as a special catching instructor.
RF Jay Bruce (2016-2017)
Bruce went from bust who struggled mightily after being acquired at the trade deadline last year to fan favorite this year. Fortunately for the Indians, Bruce wouldn’t repeat his struggles helping propel the Indians to 102 wins.
RHP Joe Smith (2007 – 2008)
Smith went straight from being a third round draft pick in 2006 to being a very good reliever for the Mets in two seasons. Ironically, he moved as part the three team J.J. Putz trade intended to improve the Mets bullpen.
West – Houston Astros
DH Carlos Beltran (2005 – 2011)
Seeing him in the postseason again will certainly evoke memories of Adam Wainwright, but he was so much more than that in a Mets uniform. Beltran was the best center fielder in Mets history and perhaps their best outfielder ever.
C Juan Ceteno (2013 – 2014)
Ceteno is a strong defensive catcher who played just 14 games over two years before he was claimed off waivers by the Milwaukee Brewers.
Bench Coach Alex Cora (2009 – 2010)
Cora joined the Mets in the hopes of being an important utility player on a playoff caliber team. Unfortunately, injuries and a ballpark ill-suited for the talents of the players on the roster brought that run to an end.
Hitting Coach Dave Hudgens (2011 – 2014)
Hudgens was the Mets hitting coach who was entrusted with helping the Mets adapt to a new ballpark. While he was much embattled in the position, Mets offensive highlights during his tenure included Ike Davis hitting 30 homers and the last great season from David Wright.
Pitching Coach Brent Strom (1972)
Strom was the Mets 1970 first round draft pick. He appeared in just one season with the team going 0-3 with a 6.82 ERA and a 1.615 WHIP.
Third Base Coach Gary Pettis (2003 – 2004)
Pettis served as the first base and outfield coach during the Art Howe Era.
Wild Card – New York Yankees
RHP Luis Cessa
Cessa was the other pitching prospect the Mets sent to the Tigers in the Yoenis Cespedes trade.
Wild Card – Minnesota Twins
Pitching Coach Neil Allen (1979 – 1983)
While Allen had a noteworthy Mets career of his own, he will forever be known as one of the two players traded by the Mets in exchange for Keith Hernandez.
RHP Bartolo Colon (2014 – 2016)
“Big Sexy” became a fan favorite and a mentor to the young pitchers in the clubhouse. There are a number of highlights you can choose from his Mets career, but the one that keeps coming to mind was the unbelievable home run he hit in San Diego last year.
RHP Dillon Gee (2010 – 2015)
Gee is an example of a pitcher who has gotten everything out of his ability. He has been resilient overcoming a number of injuries in his career with his career highlight possibly being his named the Mets 2014 Opening Day starter.
East – Washington Nationals
OF Alejandro De Aza (2016)
De Aza had an interesting year with the Mets. He was terrible to begin the year, and he then had a great July helping propel the Mets second half run to the Wild Card.
Pitching Coach Mike Maddux (1993 – 1994)
Maddux pitched two years for the Mets pitching to a 4.16 ERA as a reliever before departing via free agency.
2B Daniel Murphy (2008 – 2015)
Somehow Murphy has become one of the most divisive players among the Mets fanbase. Many still fondly remember his for his time witht he Mets, especially his incredible NLDS and NLCS propelling the Mets to the pennant. Others see a player who annihilates the Mets since leaving the team.
LHP Oliver Perez (2006 – 2010)
Believe it or not, there was a time where Perez was beloved for his Game 7 performance and his start the final game of the 2008 season. He then fell off a cliff upon receiving a huge contract. Things got so bad, he refused a minor league assignment, and his last appearance as a Met would be the team throwing him into the 14th inning on the last game of the season just to get the game over with.
Central – Cubs
Quality Control Coach Henry Blanco (2010)
“Hank White” was brought on as a defensive back-up, and he excelled in the role throwing out 50% of base stealers.
C Rene Rivera (2016 – 2017)
Rivera was a defensive specialist who helped Noah Syndergaard overcome his issues holding on base runners. It was more than Syndergaard, Rivera served as a mentor for young starters Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman who helped pitch the Mets to the Wild Card.
West – Dodgers
Bench Coach Bob Geren (2012 – 2015)
Geren served as the bench coach for the Mets serving as a mentor for the Mets catchers. Since his departure, we have seen Mets catchers regress in their pitch framing, and we have certainly seen Travis d’Arnaud regress in nearly every aspect of his game.
OF Curtis Granderson (2014 – 2017)
Granderson is one of the finest men to ever put on a Mets uniform. He also came up biggest when the Mets needed him most. Granderson kept the Mets afloat in 2015, and if not for some blown leads, he was in line to be the MVP of that series. His big outburst to end the 2016 season helped lead the Mets back to the postseason.
3B Justin Turner (2010 – 2013)
Turner was an effective utility player in his years with the Mets who was really non-tendered because he was arbitration eligible. Turner would find himself a home in Los Angeles where he has become a terrific player.
Third Base Coach Chris Woodward (2005 – 2006)
Woodward was a valuable utility player for the Mets for two seasons having the second best season of his entire career in 2005.
Wild Card – Diamondbacks
RHP Matt Koch (2012 – 2015)
Koch was one of the two minor league pitchers traded by the Mets for Addison Reed. While Koch is on the 40 man roster, it is not expected he will be on the postseason roster.
Wild Card – Rockies
Based on the sheer volume of Mets affiliations, it would appear Mets fans would be pulling for the Astros in the American League and either the Nationals or Dodgers in the National League. Considering the presence of Chase Utley on the Dodgers and the recent rivalry with the Nationals, most Mets fans will understandably choose rooting interests for different reasons all together.
First and foremost, it should be noted the Mets unwillingness or inability to sign one or more players before trading away an outfielder, namely Jay Bruce, is aggravating. Despite the Mets attendance growing and the team’s revenues increasing, the Mets still do not have a payroll commensurate with either their position as a potential playoff team or their stature as a big market team in the biggest market in the world. It is unfathomable the Mets still cannot have more than a league average payroll. As a result, we have seen players who could help the Mets sign with other teams.
Fortunately, there are plenty of options still available on the free agent market. At least conceptually, this means there are more relievers than there are teams in need of them. Ideally, this means the price for these players should be suppressed. This goes doubly so with pitchers and catchers reporting in less than one month (February 13th). In sum, this means the Mets may be able to add one or more of the following on a team friendly deal:
2016 Stats: 4-2, 2.79 ERA, 73 G, 2 SV, 42.0 IP, 1.214 WHIP, 11.1 K/9
Heading into free agency, it was assumed Blevins was as good as gone as he wanted a multi-year deal worth approximately $6 million per season. With teams looking elsewhere in free agency, Blevins remains on the market. Worse yet, it does not appear that many teams are interested in Blevins services. That is odd considering he had a career best year pitching to right-handed batters, and for his career, he has limited left-handed batters to a .214/.266/.322 batting line. In the end, this could spell the Mets being able to re-sign him to a one-year deal at a modest raise over his $4 million 2016 salary.
2016 Stats: 1-1, 4.13 ERA, 16 G, 24.0 IP, 1.583 WHIP, 10.1 K/9
Back in 2011, Capuano came to the Mets looking for a place to rejuvenate his career, and under the tutelage of Dan Warthen, he largely succeeded. Now, the 38 year old finds himself with another elbow injury that limited him to 16 games in 2016. He also finds himself in need of an opportunity. He could be worth a flyer as a LOOGY with left-handed batters slashing .244/.302/.360 against him in his career and .212/.297/.333 in 2016.
2016 Stats: 1-1, 4.09 ERA, 64 G, 50.2 IP, 1.401 WHIP, 7.8 K/9
Howell has been effective against left-handed batters in his career limiting them to a .229/.306/.317 batting line. From 2013 – 2015, he was an extremely effective reliever posting a 1.97 ERA over that time span. However, last year was a struggle for him due largely to left-handed batters hitting him much better. In 2016, left-handed batters hit .302/.343/.417 off of him. The question is whether this is the start of a downward trend or just a one season blip for him.
2016 Stats: 2-5, 3.69 ERA, 60 G, SV, 46.1 IP, 1.014 WHIP, 11.1 K/9
In some respects, it is astounding there is not more interest in Logan with him coming off an effective season while pitching half of his games in Coors Field. The main reason could be his .225 BABIP against which is well below his career .326 number. Still, he dominated left-handed batters limiting them to a .142/.222/.255 batting line. Overall in his career, he has limited left-handed batters to a less impressive .233/.308/.361 batting line.
2016 Stats: 4-0, 2.95 ERA, 77 G, 61.0 IP, 1.131 WHIP, 6.9 K/9
In the last two years for the Cubs, Wood has transitioned to the bullpen for the Cubs. If judging by ERA+, Wood is coming off the best season of his seven year career. In his career, he has been extremely effective getting left-handed batters out limiting them to a .206/.276/.316 batting line. He was even better in 2016 limiting them to a .128/.208/.239 batting line. In addition to his pitching, we have also seen him handle left field.
2016 Stats: 3-7, 3.91 ERA, 75 G, 6 SV, 73.2 IP, 1.113 WHIP, 7.8 K/9
For the past few years with the Angels, Salas was on a downward trend. However, when he joined the Mets, Salas was seemingly rejuvenated. Whether it was being in the Wild Card hunt or pitching to much better pitch framers, the results were dramatically different for Salas. In his 17 games for the Mets, he had a 2.08 ERA, 0.635 WHIP, and a 9.9 K/9. While it is unrealistic to expect him to put up those numbers, it is reasonable to believe he could perform well for the Mets next season.
2016 Stats: 7-2, 2.48 ERA, 75 G, 80.0 IP, 1.013 WHIP, 9.0 K/9
After sitting out the 2014 season, Blanton has come back to the majors as a very good relief pitcher. According to Brooks Baseball, over the past two seasons, Blanton has predominantly become a fastball/slider pitcher who strikes out a batter per inning. Generally speaking, Blanton has also shown the ability to keep the ball in the ballpark. While Blanton is not a closer, he has shown the ability to be an extremely effective late inning set-up man.
2016 Stats: 4-2, 3.52 ERA, 62 G, 2 SV, 53.2 IP, 1.137 WHIP, 10.2 K/9
Feliz began his career as a dominant closer. However, he began to make multiple trips to the disabled list, and in 2015, it all caught up to him as he struggled throughout the season. Last year, he began pitching much better in Pittsburgh. Still, he struggled in the second half, and again he needed to be shut down over the final month of the season due to arm problems.
2016 Stats: 2-3, 3.86 ERA, 40 G, 37.1 IP, 1.071 WHIP, 9.6 K/9
Like Matt Harvey, Hochevar needed seasons ending surgery to alleviate the effect of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Unlike Harvey, Hochevar will not be ready for Opening Day. As we saw in 2013, when healthy, Hochevar is capable of being a dominant reliever. However, between his Tommy John surgery in 2014 and his most recent surgery, it is debatable whether he can be that pitcher again.
2015 Stats: 3-2, 3.83 ERA, 48 G, 32 SV, 44.2 IP, 1.455 WHIP, 9.9 K/9
Judging from the rather ordinary 2015 stats, you knew something was wrong with Holland. From 2011 – 2014, he was 15-9 with a 1.86 ERA, 1.026 WHIP, and a 12.6 K/9. During this stretch, he averaged 62 appearances, 64.0 innings, and 28 saves. Holland would need Tommy John surgery robbing him of the remainder of the 2015 and the entirety of the 2016 season. At this point, Holland is seeking a two year deal worth $11 million per season with an opt out after the first year. If he returns to form, he may look like a bargain. If he doesn’t, the contract will be a burden.
2016 Stats: 2-2, 3.41 ERA, 29 G, 31.2 IP, 1.326 WHIP, 4.5 K/9
Maness’ 2016 season was abbreviated because it was thought he was going to need Tommy John surgery. Except Maness did not get the surgery. Rather, Maness opted for a sugery dubbed “primary repair” which seeks not to reconstruct the ligament, but to repair and stabilize it. He is the first major league pitcher to ever elect this surgery over Tommy John meaning we do not know how successful this will be. Maness’ 2017 season is going to be an extremely interesting, if not important, one. If he is truly able to pitch with this surgery, and pitch as well as he has in his career, the Mets may have not only found a quality reliever, but the whole baseball industry may be in the beginnings of a revolution.
2016 Stats: 1-0, 2.64 ERA, 40 G, 4 SV, 30.2 IP, 1.076 WHIP, 9.7 K/9
Behind what were some good numbers for Romo in 2016 was an injured plagued year and a drop in velocity. Still, Romo had a solid season with numbers in line with his career norms. Unless his elbow injury is worse than believed, it is hard to imagine why a quality reliever like him, one who has closing experience, remains on the free agent market.
2016 Stats: 2-5, 3.46 ERA, 54 G, 6 SV, 65.1 IP, 1.250 WHIP, 6.9 K/9
Like his former teammate Salas, Smith had regressed in 2015, and he was performing worse in 2016. Also like Salas, Smith was traded to a postseason team with a excellent pitch framers, and he thrived. In 16 appearances for the Cubs, Smith posted a 2.51 ERA, 1.116 WHIP, and a 9.4 K/9. Despite his success in those 16 appearances, Smith was left off the Cubs postseason roster.
Overall, there are a number of relievers still remaining on the free agent market. Some of these players may be able to be acquired on a minor league deal. Others may still command major league deals, and yet some more may still get a multi-year contract. Each one of these pitchers at least has potential to be a contributor to a major league bullpen in 2017. With all of these choices remaining, it remains possible the Mets are able to add a quality reliever at a reasonable or even discounted price.
With Jeurys Familia having been arrested under suspicion of domestic violence, there are a number of questions that need to be asked and answered. While it may seem tactless, at some point, we need to ask the question of how does this arrest impact the Mets organization.
Over the past two seasons, Familia has been leaned on heavily by Terry Collins, and Familia has responded. In his two years as the Mets closer, Familia has made more appearances, converted more saves, pitched more innings, and finished more games than any other closer in Major League Baseball. He has at least appeared to be the rare durable closer that can be relied upon year in and year out.
Many times Familia has not been given much of a margin of error. For far too many stretches in 2015 and 2016, the Mets have found themselves desperate for offense putting a ton of pressure on their starters and their best relievers. This past season Familia and Addison Reed combined to be the best 8-9 combination in all of baseball. With the possibility of Yoenis Cespedes leaving in free agency, the uncertainty of the health of Neil Walker and whether he can return next season, and the myriad of other offensive question marks, the bullpen is once again going to be of great importance in 2017.
That’s where things get tricky with Familia. While he has stated he is not guilty of the crimes, we have seen Major League Baseball levy suspensions for players regardless of criminal charges being filed or in the absence of a conviction. The police never filed charges against Aroldis Chapman, and still he was suspended 30 games. The charges against Jose Reyes were dropped, and he was suspended for 51 games. If a Major League Baseball investigation finds Familia committed an act of domestic violence, it is possible he could miss 30 or more games to start the season.
With Reed, the Mets do have an internal option to close. From 2012 – 2014, Reed served as a closer for the White Sox and the Diamondbacks. In that time, he averaged 34 saves per season. While his 4.22 ERA and 1.217 WHIP left a lot to be desired, it is important to note Reed has been a different pitcher since coming to the Mets. As a Met, he has a 1.84 ERA and a 0.957 WHIP. Certainly, Reed has shown the ability in the past to be a closer, and with the Mets Reed has shown the ability to be a dominant reliever. Therefore, from a closing standpoint, the Mets have an internal option.
The real issue becomes who takes Reed’s spot in the bullpen.
Hansel Robles has shown a lot of promise. He has struck out 10.0 batters per nine in his career, and he is effective getting left-handed batters out. However, he is also mercurial in his performance, and slotting him into the eighth inning takes away one of his key attributes which is he is a guy that you can use for multiple innings or to get a big out.
Josh Smoker had great strikeout numbers in both the minors and in the majors this season. In fact, he struck out 14.7 batters per nine. However, he has severe reverse splits, and each time Collins asked him to pitch more than one inning this year, he allowed a home run in his second inning of work.
Seth Lugo could be an inspired choice to take over the eighth inning. As we saw this season, the Mets envisioned his future role with the team coming out of the bullpen, and Lugo was effective in his limited time out of the pen for the Mets. However, we also saw he was an effective starter, and with Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz coming off season ending surgeries, we were reminded you cannot have enough starting pitching depth.
There are minor league pitchers such as Paul Sewald who could be effective. However, with the Mets not turning to them in September, it is highly unlikely they will rely on them to be the seventh or eighth inning reliever to start the season. It is further unlikely with him being subjected to the Rule 5 Draft. It is very likely someone will pick him up in the draft.
From there, the Mets do not have many internal options. In reality, this means with Familia potentially missing a significant portion of the season, the Mets will likely have to look on the free agent market to fill in the gap.
The first name that comes to mind is Fernando Salas. In his limited time with the Mets, he was very effective. In fact, he had the same reversal of fortune that Reed did in 2015. Still, there is caution in over relying on a pitcher with a career 3.64 ERA to replace one of your two best bullpen arms.
There are a number of intriguing set-up men on the free agent market. There is Joe Blanton who had a 2.48 ERA in 75 appearances for the Dodgers. Former Met Joe Smith has been a good reliever for 10 years, and during the stretch drive with the Cubs this year, he had a a 2.51 ERA in 16 appearances. Brad Ziegler is coming off a terrific year as a closer for the Diamondbacks and the Red Sox. There are a bunch of other names as well. However, as we have seen as recently as last year with Antonio Bastardo, many middle reliever performances tend to fluctuate year to year. This leaves you wondering not only how to replace that player’s role in the bullpen, but also how to get out from under the contract.
Therefore, if you are going to add a reliever you should go after the dominant closer in free agency. While there is debate over whether or not they are more of a sure thing, we do know there are three great closers available this offseason.
We can pick nits over who is better among the trio of Chapman, Kenley Jansen, or Mark Melancon. However, the one underlying truth with any of those three is if you have one of them, you have a dominant closer in your bullpen. As we have seen with Familia over the past two seasons, you are lucky to have any of these dominant closers. With one of those three joining Reed, and eventually Familia, the Mets would have a bullpen similar to the one the Indians have rode all the way to the World Series.
The Mets will also have a lot of money invested in their bullpen. According to the Los Angeles Times, it is believed that Jansen will not only receive and reject the $17.2 million qualifying offer, but also he will eventually sign a contract surpassing Jonathan Papelbon‘s then record setting five year $50 million contract. With Jansen on the free agent market, and big budget teams like the Dodgers chasing after him, there is no telling how high the bidding will go for him.
For their part, Chapman and Melancon cannot receive qualifying offers as a result of them being traded in-season. At least conceptually, that could drive up their prices as well because more teams may be interested in them because they will not have to forfeit a draft pick to obtain them. Teams like the Dodgers, Cubs, Yankees, and who knows who else could be interested leading to each of them getting a huge contract.
This begs the question whether the Mets can even afford to pursue a big time closer. Likely, they cannot.
According to Mets Merized Online, the Mets will have approximately $108 million wrapped up in 18 players who should make the Opening Day roster. That number does not include money to re-sign Cespedes, Walker, Jerry Blevins, Bartolo Colon, or the aforementioned Salas. If the Mets were to re-sign these players, or players of similar value to replace them, the Mets payroll is going to go well over $160 million. Accoring to Spotrac, the Mets finished the 2016 season with a $156 million payroll. It should be noted this amount does not include any insurance reimbursements related to David Wright‘s season ending neck surgery.
With that in mind, the Mets likely do not have the budget necessary to add a Chapman, Jansen, or Melancon. If the Mets were to add one of them, it is likely to come at the expense of Cespedes or Walker. While having a dominant trio to close out ballgames in enticing, the Mets would first need offense to get enough runs to give that bullpen a lead. This puts a greater priority on Cespedes and Walker.
In the long run, the Mets best bet is to play out the entire process with Familia. If there is a suspension, Reed can be an effective closer. Re-signing Salas and/or bringing in a Ziegler would help as well. It would behoove the Mets to roll the dice on a reclamation project like a Greg Holland or a Drew Storen because in reality that is the position the Mets are in budget-wise.
Ten years ago, Omar Minaya had his second draft as the manager of the New York Mets. With the team having signed Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran in the offseason, they would not have a first round draft pick. In total, the Mets would draft 49 players, and they would be able to sign 35 of them. Of the 49 players drafted, six of the players would play in the major leagues. Here is review of those players that were drafted and played in the major leagues:
Kevin Mulvey, LHP (2nd Round, 62nd Overall)
Mulvey was a fairly well-regarded fastball-changeup pitcher out of Villanova, who shot through the Mets minor league system. In his first full professional season, he started in AA, and he finished the year with one start in New Orleans, which was then the Mets AAA affiliate.
In the offseason, Mulvey was a significant piece in the trade that brought Johan Santana to the Mets. Notably, he was the only player drafted by Minaya to be included in the deal.
Mulvey would not last long with the Twins. He spent a year and half with the team, and he made a very brief major league appearance with them in 2009. He would become the player to be named later in a trade in which the Twins acquired Jon Rauch to help them not only win the AL Central, but also to help them in the postseason.
Mulvey would not pitch well for the Diamondbacks. In 2009 and 2010, he would only make four starts and four relief appearances. He would go 0-3 with a 6.92 ERA and a 1.615 WHIP. In 2011, the Diamondbacks would designate him for assignment to remove him from the 40 man roster. A year later, he would be outright released.
Mulvey caught back on with the Mets in 2012, and he was assigned to AA Binghamton. After 13 relief appearances that saw him go 0-1 with a 5.59 ERA and a 1.707 WHIP, Mulvey retired from the game of baseball, and he returned to Villanova to be an assistant coach. On July 14, 2016, he was named the head coach of the Villanova Wildcats.
In total, Mulvey only started four games and made six relief appearances over three major league seasons. He finished with an 0-3 record, a 7.90 ERA, and a 1.756 WHIP.
Joe Smith, RHP (3rd Round, 94th Overall)
After losing Chad Bradford to free agency, the Mets decided the side winding Smith was ready to take over Bradford’s role in the bullpen.
Smith would pitch two seasons with the Mets making 136 appearances. In those games, he would go 9-5 with a 3.51 ERA and a 1.402 WHIP. While he could never match what Bradford did for the 2006 Mets, Smith was still a reliable bullpen arm so long as he was called to pitch to right-handed batters.
With the Mets bullpen falling to pieces during the 2008 season, the Mets sought a dominant reliever who could pitch in the eighth inning and who could be a reliable closing option in the event the Mets closer once again succumbed to injury. With that in mind, Smith was included as a part of a three-team deal that netted the Mets J.J. Putz. Ironically, it was Smith who would have the best career out of all the relievers in the deal.
During Smith’s five year tenure with the Indians, he got better and better each season as he got better and better pitching to left-handed batters. He went from being a reliever who got just righties out to an eighth inning set-up guy. Because of that, he got a big three year $15.75 million contract from the Angels when he hit free agency for the first time.
While Smith regressed a bit during his time with the Angels, he was still a very effective reliever. Because he is still a very useful reliever, the Chicago Cubs obtained him after the non-waiver trade deadline. Despite pitching well with a 2.51 ERA in 16 appearances for the Cubs, he was left off the postseason roster. Smith is due to be a free agent after the season.
So far in Smith’s 10 year career, he has averaged 64 appearances and 57 innings per season. He is 41-28 with 29 saves, a 2.93 ERA, and a 1.199 WHIP.
John Holdzkom, RHP (4th Round, 124th Overall)
Holdzkom was a high school pitcher with a big arm whose fastball could reach triple digits. Initially, he posted big strike out numbers in the minors before needing season ending Tommy John surgery in 2008. The surgery caused him to miss the entire 2009 season, and when he returned, he was never the same pitcher.
After six games in the rookie leagues in 2010, the Mets released him. Holdzkom would take a year off from baseball before signing a minor league deal with the Cincinnati Reds. He would struggle for two years in the Reds farm system before being released in June 2012.
From there, Holdzkom went to the Independent Leagues in the hopes of rekindling his hopes of becoming a major league pitcher. With his fastball returning, he was dominant with high strikeout numbers once again, and he caught the attention of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who offered him a minor league deal. In 2014, Holdzkom would actually appear in nine games for the Pirates pitching very well. In those games, he was 1-0 with a 2.00 ERA and a 0.667 WHIP.
Holdzkom would lose his fastball again, and he would never again be able to crack the Pirates major league roster. On the eve of Opening Day, he was released by the Pirates, and he was eventually signed to a minor league contract by the Chicago White Sox. While never appearing on an injury report anywhere, Holdzkom only made one appearance in 2016 for the White Sox rookie league affiliate in July. In two-third of an inning, he allowed four runs on three hits and two walks.
As for this moment, it is unknown what lies in the future of this 28 year old pitcher who is still looking to reclaim his fastball.
Daniel Murphy 3B (13th Round, 394th Overall)
Murphy is the best known player from the Mets 2006 draft. He got his start with the Mets in left field for a 2008 Mets team desperate for offense. Murphy hit well enough that he was named the Opening Day left fielder in 2009. That year it was apparent he was not an outfielder, and he began his transition to second base.
While there were some rough spots along the way, everything finally clicked for Murphy last postseason with him hitting home runs in six consecutive postseason games. These home runs were all the more notable when you consider Murphy hit them off Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, and Kyle Hendricks. His key steal and home run in Game 5 helped propel the Mets to the NLCS, and in the NLCS he was the obvious choice for MVP.
He signed with the Nationals, and he went out and proved his postseason run was no fluke. Murphy hit .347/.390/.595 with 47 doubles, 25 homers, and 104 RBI. All these numbers were career bests. He led the National League in doubles, slugging, and OPS.
In his Mets career, Murphy hit .288/.331/.424 while averaging 33 doubles, nine homers, and 57 RBI per season. Among Mets second baseman, Murphy is the all-time leader in games, at-bats, runs, hits, doubles, RBI, and batting average. He is also ranked third overall for the most doubles by a player in a Mets uniform, and he is ranked eighth in batting average.
Tobi Stoner, RHP (16th Round, 484th Overall)
The German born Stoner was used as a starting pitching in the Mets minor league system. However, in his brief time with the major league club, he was used exclusively out of the bullpen. Between 2009 and 2010, Stoner made five appearances going 0-1 with a 3.97 ERA and a 1.412 WHIP.
After his big league call-ups, Stoner actually regressed. That could be in part due to bone spurs in his elbow he had to have removed prior to the 2011 season. Even with the removed bone spurs, Stoner could never get back to being the pitcher he was or who the Mets thought he could be, and he was released on the eve of the 2012 season. Stoner would pitch the 2012 season in the Independent Leagues. In 12 starts, he would have an 8.11 ERA, and his professional career was over after that season.
Josh Stinson, RHP (37th Round, 1,114th Overall)
Stinson was a high school pitcher with a mid 90’s fastball. As he did not truly develop his secondary pitches, he became a bullpen arm. With a his live arm, he got called-up in 2011, at the age of 23, and pitched in 14 games with the Mets recording a 6.92 ERA and a 1.615 WHIP.
The Mets relased him before the 2012 season, and he was claimed by the Brewers. He pitched mostly in the minors for the Brewers. Stinson did get a brief call-up where he actually pitched well. Despite his success in a small sample size, he was released before the 2013 season, and he was eventually picked up by the Orioles. He made 19 appearances with the Orioles, pitching to a 4.50 ERA, before he was granted free agency. Stinson signed a minor league deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and he would not make it to the majors in the 2014 season. The Pirates released him at the end of the year.
In the 2015 season, Stinson pitched for the Kia Tigers of the Korean Leauges. In 30 starts and two relief appearances, Stinson was 11-10 with a 4.96 ERA and a 1.521 WHIP. No one signed him to a professional contract to pitch in 2016. According to Stinson’s Twitter account, the 28 year old still considers himself a free agent pitcher.
Vic Black, RHP (41st Round, 1,234th Overall)
The Mets drafted Black out of high school, but he would not sign a deal with the Mets. Rather, he attended Dallas Baptist University, and he re-entered the draft in 2009 where the Pittsburgh Pirates would draft him in the first round (49th overall). The Mets would acquire Black in 2013 as part of the trade that sent John Buck and Marlon Byrd to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for Black and Dilson Herrera.
In 2014, Black seemed to have a breakout season for the Mets. He began to harness his high 90s fastball, and as a result, he was becoming a reliable bullpen arm. Unfortunately, Black would land on the disabled list with a herniated disc in his neck. When he tried to pitch through it, he eventually developed a shoulder strain. He was first shut down, and then designated for assignment in the offseason.
While Black elected free agency, he hoped that he could re-sign with the Mets. Neither the Mets nor any other major league team were interested in his services. Black has not pitched in professional baseball in two years. At the moment, it is unknown if he will be able to ever pitch again.
Johnny Monell, C (49th Round, 1,463rd Overall)
Like Black, Monell did not sign a contract with the Mets instead choosing to re-enter the draft at a later date. He would be drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the 30th round in the following draft.
From there, Monell has bounced around from organization to organization. Finally, in 2014, he returned to the same Mets organization that had drafted him eight years prior. Due to injuries to Travis d’Arnaud and the ineffectiveness of both Kevin Plawecki and Anthony Recker, Monell would be called-up to the Mets in 2015, and he would play in 27 games hitting .167/.231/.208 with two doubles and four RBI. Monell would be sent back down to AAA where he would remain for the 2015 season.
The Mets would remove him from the 40 man roster after the 2015 season, and Monell would agree to return to the Mets. Monell spent the entire 2016 season playing for the Las Vegas 51s. He hit .276/.336/.470 with 22 doubles, one triple, 19 homers, and 75 RBI. With Plawecki being sent down in favor of Rene Rivera, Monell became the backup catcher. In order to get him into the lineup more, Monell saw some additional time at first base. Monell finished the year tied for the team lead in homers and third in RBI.
At this point, it is not known if the Mets intend to bring back the 30 year old catcher to play for the 51s again in the 2017 season.
Daniel Hudson – Hudson has twice had Tommy John surgery in his career. The last one costing him cost him the 2013 season. In this his second full season after his lastest Tommy John surgery, he has made 42 appearances. He has gone 1-2 with a 6.08 ERA and a 1.459 WHIP, which is much worse than he was last year when he was 4-3 with a 3.86 ERA and a 1.315 WHIP in 64 appearances. One reason for the regression is Hudson’s changeup isn’t as good as it was last year. Last year, Hudson generated the most swings and misses and the weakest contact when he threw his changeup. This year, no one is fooled by Hudson’s changeup with batters hitting the pitch frequently and with authority. The hope in acquiring him is the team could make a mechanical adjustment to help make his changeup a more useful pitch. It also doesn’t hurt that he throws a 97 MPH fastball with an 88 MPH slider. Hudson will be a free agent after this season.
Jim Johnson – It has been three years since Johnson has been a dominant closer for the Orioles. Since leaving the Orioles, Johnson has made 163 appearances going 9-13 with a 5.30 ERA and a 1.599 WHIP. This season he is pitching better than that going 2-5 with a 4.21 ERA and a 1.349 WHIP. His main issue is his once dominant sinker is no longer dominant. Batters have a .303 batting average with a .472 slugging on the pitch. The 33 year old will be a free agent after the season.
Joe Smith – The former Mets third round pick will be a free agent after the season. This year, Smith is 1-4 with a 3.96 ERA and a 1.349 WHIP. His ERA stands to be the worst of his career, and his WHIP stands to be the worst since his rookie year with the Mets. One reason could be his having a slight downtick in his velocity. As a result, batters are hitting .265/.348/.368 against him. While it would be anticipated that lefties would be doing most of the damage against the sidewinding righty, it has not been the case. Righties and lefties are hitting him fairly equally. However, over his last seven starts, Smith seems to be pitching much better having not allowed a run and limiting opposing batters to a .227/.227/.227 batting line. In those games, it appears he has regained some of his lost velocity.
On the whole, these appear to decent choices for the back end of the Mets bullpen, and in the event they pitch well for the Mets, each should ease some of the burden off of Hansel Robles, Addison Reed, and Jeurys Familia.
Editor’s Note: this was also published on Mets Merized Online
Earlier today, I posted an analysis regarding some potential bullpen targets the Mets may be pursuing. Sure enough, there has been some additional reporting on some additional relievers the Mets may be pursuing on the trade market. In the sake of my sanity and for the sake of completion, here are some additional names the Mets are considering:
Huston Street – Each Perhaps due to his early season oblique injury, Street has lost a tick or two off his fastball. The end result is Street having a career worse season with a 5.03 ERA and a 1.932 WHIP in 23 appearances. The hope with him is Dan Warthen can have a similar effect on him as he has had on Addison Reed, who is having a tremendous year without a mid to high 90s fastball. One major obstacle for Street is his contract. He is due to make $9 million next year with a $10 million option with a $1 million opt out for 2018.
Joe Smith – Strangely enough, Smith might be the player who has played the best out of all the players in the ill fated J.J Putz trade. Since leaving the Mets, Smith steadily improved, and eventually became a very good reliever who could be used against righties and lefties despite his submarine style of pitching. This year, he has struggled a bit this year with a 4.36 ERA and a 1.396 WHIP in 33 appearances. Like his teammate Street, his velocity is down by a hair this year. He will be a free agent this season.
David Robertson – The former Yankee has shown he can pitch well in a pennant race in New York. Since leaving the Yankees, Robertson has been a very good closer, but he has not been as dominant as he was with the Yankees. His early career walk troubles have re-emerged this year as he is walking 5.0 batters per nine innings. On the year, he has 23 saves in 26 chances with a 4.03 ERA and a 1.447 WHIP. Aside from one disastrous appearance in Game Three of the 2003 ALCS against Texas, he has only allowed two earned runs in 16.2 postseason innings while striking out 16 batters. He is still not a realistic option as he has two years and $25 million remaining on his contract.
Overall, the contracts for each of these players will most likely preclude the Mets from acquiring any of these relievers in a potential trade. Again, the best bet for the Mets is to take a flyer on a guy like a John Axford, for Jim Henderson to get healthy (not likely), or for Antonio Bastardo to start pitching better and become the guy the Mets thought they were getting when they signed him as a free agent in the offseason.