With the signing on Jed Lowrie, the Mets have been talking about just how deep this roster is. To a certain extent, they are right. Having infield options which include Peter Alonso, Robinson Cano, Todd Frazier, Jeff McNeil, and Amed Rosario in conjunction with Lowrie is incredible depth. However, that does not mean the Mets are a deep team.
First and foremost is the outfield. Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo are the only two healthy everyday outfielders on the roster. Juan Lagares has the glove to justify playing everyday, but he has hasn’t played more than 94 games since 2015, and in that season the Mets were desperate for an upgrade as they were making a postseason push.
Keon Broxton has hit .213/.296/.419 with an 85 OPS+ over the past two seasons indicating he has no business playing everyday. As bad as that is, Broxton is the last MLB outfielder on the 40 man roster.
After Broxton, the Mets are gambling on McNeil successfully transitioning to the outfield. It’s not an unreasonable gamble, and it is one we can expect to pay off. However, McNeil being an outfielder means the infield depth has taken a hit, which is a real issue should Alonso not be able to play first at the MLB level, or there are multiple injuries.
After McNeil is Rajai Davis and Gregor Blanco, both of them are over 35 years old, and neither of them have had a good season since 2015. Having just two starting outfielders with a couple of has beens and never will bes is not outfield depth.
And no, Yoenis Cespedes cannot be relied upon. He underwent double heel surgery, and no one can reasonably pinpoint when he is returning to the lineup, nor can anyone have any indication of what he will be when he is able to return.
With respect to the catching situation, the Mets are undoubtedly better with the signing of Wilson Ramos. However, that does not mean there is sufficient depth. Both Ramos and Travis d’Arnaud are injury prone putting more emphasis on Tomas Nido, who has hit .181/.210/.255 in limited Major League duty on top of hitting .272/.300/.431 between Double-A and Triple-A last year.
There is a real chance at least two of those catchers are injured as the same time leaving the Mets to depend on Patrick Mazeika and/or Ali Sanchez. Basiscally, this isn’t much different than during the 2015 season where the team grasped at straws cycling through Kevin Plawecki, Anthony Recker, and Johnny Monell while they pieced together the catching situation in d’Arnaud’s absence.
Then there is the rotation. All five of the Mets starters have significant injury histories. Jacob deGrom is the only starter to have consecutive seasons with at least 30 starts. Jason Vargas is the only other starter with 20 plus starts in each of the last two seasons. Behind this thin rotation, with Vargas having a 64 ERA+ and a 5.02 FIP last year, is very questionable starting pitching depth.
Looking at the roster, Walker Lockett, Corey Oswalt, Chris Flexen, Drew Gagnon, and P.J. Conlon. all posted an ERA over 5.00 in the majors last year. Hector Santiago was moved to the bullpen partially because he has had a 4.06 ERA since 2016. Kyle Dowdy, the Mets Rule 5 pick, had a 5.15 ERA between Double and Triple-A last year, and with the team being forced to keep him on the roster or return him to the Rays, he is going to be a bullpen option.
Now, to be fair, the Mets do have bullpen depth. The back-end with Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia is as good as it gets. You can also say the Mets swing men, Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo, are the best combination in the Majors. From a left-handed relief option, Daniel Zamora has exception spin rates, and former White Sox Luis Avilan and Santiago have pitched well out of the bullpen.
Beyond that group, the Mets have promising young right-handed power arms in Tyler Bashlor, Eric Hanhold, Ryder Ryan, and Drew Smith. Combine that with Paul Sewald and Jacob Rhame, the Mets have sufficient numbers and depth in the bullpen, albeit not the big seventh inning reliever you would want.
In the end, yes, the Mets have admirable infield depth, and there are enough arms here to at least figure out a good bullpen. However, past that, this is a paper thin roster at outfield, catcher, and starting pitcher. If the Mets face a number of injuries, and based on their history, they will, the 2019 Mets are going to be in real trouble.
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.
Currently, MLB and many of their full season affiliates are either at or have already had their All Star Break. At each and every level, the Mets had a minor league hitter named to their level’s All-Star Game. Listed below is a synopsis of the Mets’ organizations leaders at the break:
Class A – Columbia Fireflies
- AVG: David Thompson (.294)
- OBP: Vinny Siena (.435 – League Leader)
- SLG: David Thompson (.474)
- OPS: Vinny Siena (.834)
- R: Vinny Siena (53)
- H: J.C. Rodriguez (71)
- 2B: Dash Winningham (23)
- 3B: Kevin Kaczmarski (7)
- HR: Jeffrey Diehl (9)
- RBI: David Thompson (58 – League Leader)
- SB: J.C. Rodriguez (14)
- All-Stars: Vinny Siena, David Thompson
- Promotions: Vinny Siena, David Thompson, Kevin Kaczmarski
Class A Advanced – St. Lucie Mets
- AVG: Wuilmer Becerra (.319 – League Leader)
- OBP: Kevin Taylor (.386)
- SLG: Tomas Nido (.471)
- OPS: Kevin Taylor (.833)
- R: Champ Stuart (49)
- H: Amed Rosario (82)
- 2B: Wuilmer Becerra (17)
- 3B: Amed Rosario (8 – League Leader)
- HR: Kevin Taylor (7)
- RBI: Amed Rosario (40)
- SB: Champ Stuart (25)
- All-Stars: Amed Rosario, Wuilmer Becerra, Tomas Nido
- Promotions: Amed Rosario, Phillip Evans, Champ Stuart
AA – Binghamton Mets
- AVG: Matt Oberste (.290)
- OBP: Derrik Gibson (.366)
- SLG: Dominic Smith (.436)
- OPS: Dominic Smith (.777)
- R: Derrik Gibson (44)
- H: Dominic Smith (85)
- 2B: Matt Oberste, Dominic Smith (17)
- 3B: L.J. Mazzilli (5)
- HR: Dominic Smith (10)
- RBI: Matt Oberste (34)
- SB: Derrik Gibson (8)
- All-Stars: Matt Oberste
- Promotions: Niuman Romero
AAA – Las Vegas 51s
- AVG: T.J. Rivera (.348 – League Leader)
- OBP: Brandon Nimmo (.409)
- SLG: Travis Taijeron (.564)
- OPS: Travis Taijeron (.953)
- R: Travis Taijeron (61)
- H: T.J. Rivera, Travis Taijeron (96)
- 2B: Travis Taijeron (35 – League Leader)
- 3B: Brandon Nimmo (7)
- HR: Johnny Monell (14)
- RBI: Travis Taijeron (69)
- SB: Roger Bernadina (12)
- All-Stars: T.J. Rivera, Travis Taijeron, Wally Backman (manager)
- Promotions: Brandon Nimmo
- AVG: T.J. Rivera LV (.348)
- OBP: Vinny Siena COL & STL (.413)
- SLG: Travis Taijeron LV (.953)
- OPS: Travis Taijeron LV (.953)
- R: Travis Taijeron (61)
- H: Amed Rosario STL & BNG (107)
- 2B: Travis Taijeron LV (35)
- 3B: Amed Rosario STL & BNG (11)
- HR: Johnny Monell LV (14)
- RBI: Travis Taijeron LV (69)
- SB: Champ Stuart STL & BNG (26)
* stats are updated through July 13, 2016
Editor’s Note: this was first published on metsminors.net
For the second straight season, we have been reminded how important Travis d’Arnaud is to the Mets. We are again reminded how much the Mets need him to stay on the field.
Last year, d’Arnaud was only able to play in 67 games with the Mets due to a a broken pinkie and a hyper-extended elbow. When d’Arnaud was able to play, he hit .268/.340/.485 with 12 homers and 41 RBI. Behind the plate, d’Arnaud continued to be a good pitch framer, and he threw runners out at a league average rate. In the games, the Mets were 41-26, which is a 99-63 pace.
When d’Arnaud was injured or sat, his replacements struggled mightily. The Mets had entered with Anthony Recker with as the primary backup. However, with his being a career .185/.260/.334 hitter, the Mets knew they would have to go to somewhere else for offense. At first, the Mets turned to their former first round pick Kevin Plawecki who hit .219/.280/.296. As Plawecki did not hit, the Mets turned to Johnny Monell, who hit .167/.231/.208. As he didn’t hit, the Mets went back to Plawecki. During this time the Mets had a 49-46 record, which is an 84-78 pace. In some ways, if d’Arnaud never returned to the Mets, the team never would have made the playoffs.
With the Mets 36-32 record, that’s where the Mets are. They are on the outside looking in.
They Mets are in this position in large part because of how poorly Plawecki and Rene Rivera have hit. Plawecki is even worse than he was last year hitting .194/.301/.258. Rivera has hit .190/.273/.310. No matter who the Mets pick to play, they can be rest assured that they are not going to get any offensive production from the catcher position. That should change tonight when d’Arnaud returns to the Mets.
It has to change. The Mets need d’Arnaud to have the same impact and offensive production he had last year. If he does, it’ll go a long way towards fixing the problems the Mets are currently experiencing. It could take this team from a team on the outside looking in to a team that is once again in position to win the National League East. With the Mets pitching and bats like d’Arnaud, this team can win the World Series.
Is this situation from 2015 or 2016? Travis d’Arnaud suffers an injury that is going to keep him on the DL for an extended period of time. The Mets then turn to Kevin Plawecki, who just doesn’t hit.
It’s like Groundhog Day except no one is laughing.
When d’Arnaud is on the field, he’s a terrific catcher. He’s good defensively, and he’s a good hitter. However, he has trouble staying on the field. Call it bad luck or him being injury prone, but the fact remains, he had trouble staying on the field. Now, he has a shoulder injury, and there’s no telling when he can return to the Mets.
In his place is Plawecki, who is squandering his chance to become the Mets starting catcher again. Last year, he hit a woeful .219/.280/.296 in 73 games. There were reasons from that stemming from his being rushed to the majors and his dizziness. However, last year, he got major league experience and time to work with a terrific hitting coach in Kevin Long. He had offseason sinus surgery to alleviate his dizziness issues. Despite all of that, we’re seeing more of the same from Plawecki.
Plawecki has hit .167/.348/.167 since d’Arnaud’s injury. Yes, it’s a very small 18 at bat sample size, but he hasn’t shown any improvement since last year. He still can’t hit the breaking ball. He’s still a pull hitter who doesn’t hit the ball hard. In short, Plawecki is still overmatched by major league pitching.
If this continues, the Mets are going to have a hole at catcher they are going to have to address.
Until such time, the Mets are going to have to continue to try to develop Plawecki at the major league level. Ironically, Terry Collins previously said the Mets can’t develop players at the major league level because the Mets are a win-now team. It was his justification for not wanting to play Michael Conforto against lefties. Now, the Mets have no choice.
They have no choice because Rene Rivera can’t hit (despite his HR yesterday), and Johnny Monell is Johnny Monell. Furthermore, the trade market is yet to develop. The likely target would be Jonathan Lucroy, who is a good offensive and defensive catcher on the last year of his deal. However, with the Carlos Gomez debacle of yesteryear, it’s hard to imagine the Mets and Brewers pulling the trigger on a trade again this year.
Whatever the answer may be the Mets are going to have to find it fast. Sooner or later, d’Arnaud is going to have to stay in the field, and Plawecki is going to have to hit major league pitching. They are the weak link in what is a win-now team. This team can win the World Series. Hopefully, the catchers won’t stand in the way of that.
Editor’s Note: this article was also published on metsmerizedonline.com
Last year, the Mets saw lengthy absences from David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud. Daniel Murphy and Michael Cuddyer were nicked up most of the year. Other Mets players got bumps and bruises along the way. The Mets depth got tested early and often in 2015, and it was ugly.
Dilson Herrera and Kevin Plawecki showed they weren’t ready to hit major league pitching. For his part, Plawecki had to stay in the lineup because Anthony Recker and Johnny Monell weren’t either. Eric Campbell and John Mayberry, Jr. showed why they weren’t everyday players, let alone middle of the order bats. There were other forgettable debuts from players like Darrell Ceciliani and Danny Muno. In 2015, the Mets bet against their farm system, and it nearly cost them the season.
In the offseason, the Mets made sure to build a deeper roster. They moved Wilmer Flores to a utility role. Alejandro De Aza is here as a fifth outfielder. Juan Lagares is a part time player who will start against lefties and come on as a late defensive replacement. Herrera is back in AAA where he belongs for now. Campbell and Plawecki are on the 25 man roster, but they are asked to do much less. Hypothetically, it’s a much deeper team.
Well, that hypothesis is now being put to the test.
Yoenis Cespedes has been dealing with a thigh issue due to his jumping in the stands and an awkward slide. As for now, he’s not DL bound. Yesterday, d’Arnaud left the game early with pain in his throwing shoulder. While he may not have been the best at throwing out would be base stealers, his throws were uncharacteristically poor. He will be examined today before a DL decision is made. Whether it will be one day, one week, one month, or more, the Mets will miss Cespedes and d’Arnaud.
No matter how much time if will be, this Mets team is better built to sustain these losses. Having a De Aza/Lagares platoon is a much better option than Ceciliani. Plawecki has another year of development under his belt. Hopefully, this translates to him having a better year at the plate.
The Mets better hope so. The Nationals look like a different team than they were a year ago. The Mets aren’t going to be able to coast for two – three months with subpar players. This is a new year. Fortunately, this is a new Mets team that’s built for just these types of situations.
When Ruben Tejada was tendered a contract, I agreed with the move. When the Mets released him, I understood the move. He was taking up a spot on the 40 man roster, and there were important roster decisions to make. Now that Spring Training is over, and the roster is set, I don’t understand the Mets thought process.
Heading into the season, the Mets placed Zack Wheeler on the 60 day disabled list. This frees up a spot on the 40 man roster until such time as Wheeler is back and ready to play. This move coupled with Tejada’s release gave the Mets two open spots on the 40 man roster. With Jim Henderson making the team that leaves one open spot on the 40 man roster. That spot has gone unfulfilled.
The Mets could’ve used it to acquire a backup catcher. Rene Rivera, a strong defensive catcher, is a free agent. The Mets decided to bring back Johnny Monell on a minor league deal despite a tough 2015 season. Apparently, the Mets weren’t happy with their choices or with the choices available because they put Kevin Plawecki on the Opening Day roster. Rather than them using the last spot on the 40 man roster, the Mets decided to allow Plawecki reach Super Two status. They are gambling with hindering Plawecki’s development by not getting him regular playing time.
They are also relying on Wilmer Flores being the primary backup to all four infield positions. They are hoping Eric Campbell can be a good bench player like the front office has always imagined he could be. They are hoping that if he falters, or there is an injury, Matt Reynolds could fill-in. They are taking this risk despite Reynolds not having an obvious position to play in AAA with the presence of Dilson Herrera and Gavin Cecchini.
The Mets knew Tejada could adequately play second, third, and short. His presence could’ve allowed the Mets to let Flores get more time at first and third. For reasons now unknown, the Mets decided not to go this way. The Mets decided not to go with a bona fide major league caliber player to be a utility player even though Tejada arguably had the best year of his career when he started the year as a utility player in 2015.
Instead, the Mets let Tejada go to another National League team. If not for his recent injury, he would be helping the Cardinals try to win a World Series. There was a spot for him to do that with the Mets. Instead, the Mets have decided to let that last 40 man roster spot go to waste.
Upon reflection, the only reason it makes sense for the Mets to release Tejada and for them not to add another catcher is money. By cutting Tejada when they did, the Mets saved about $2.5 million.
The Mets are making cost cutting moves that harms the team’s depth despite tickets sales being much better than the Mets thought it would be. The Mets are paring down payroll despite the Mets slightly raising ticket prices.
Yes, the Mets went out and spent the money on Yoenis Cespedes. Yes, the payroll is more commensurate with what a contending team’s payroll should be. However, releasing Tejada is an unnecessary mickle and dime maneuver. He was depth. After last year’s rash of injuries, you would think the Mets wouldn’t take that lightly. He wasn’t taking anyone’s spot on the roster. In fact, they’re not even using all the spots available to them on the roster.
Hopefully, the Mets season doesn’t come down to a $2.5 million decision the team made in March.
I’m sure Jedd Gyorko could be the answer to many questions. However, I’m fairly positive he’s not the answer to the question, “Who should be your starting shortstop?”
With the injury to Jhonny Peralta, Gyorko is the Cardinals starting shortstop. Unless the Cardinals make a move, Gyorko will be the shortstop for the next two to three months. Now, Gyorko was never anything more than an average second baseman which a career -1.5 UZR over his three year career. That doesn’t bode well for his chances to be a good to adequate shortstop. Like most, I’m assuming if any team can make it work, it’s the Cardinals.
With that said, it’s a good time for the Mets to call the Cardinals. From all the reports this Spring, it appears that the Mets might be looking to move on from Ruben Tejada. It’s probably the right move too.
Last year, Tejada had an impressive finish to the season. Although never mentioned as such, he was part of the reason why the Mets rallied to win the NL East. His gruesome injury in the NLDS was a rallying cry for the Mets and Mets fans throughout the postseason. However, he’s on the last year of his deal, and he’s an expensive backup eating up a spot on the 40 man roster.
The Mets right now have absurd depth at the shortstop position. Asdrubal Cabrera is penciled in as the starter the next two years. Wilmer Flores grew into the role and handled the position very well when pressed into shortstop duty again in the postseason. Former second round pick Matt Reynolds is competing for a utility role in the majors. On top of that, the Mets have two big shortstop prospects in Gavin Cecchini and Amed Rosario. Long story short, the Mets don’t need shortstop depth.
What they do need is 40 man roster space. So far, Jim Henderson is having a nice Spring and may be on the inside track to locking down a spot on the Opening Day bullpen. The Mets are talking about letting Kevin Plawecki start the year in AAA. This means, as of right now, Johnny Monell would open the year as the backup catcher. There’s a problem with Henderson and Monell making the Opening Day roster.
Neither player is on the 40 man roster, and the Mets have no spots open. Even if the Mets placed Zack Wheeler on the 60 day DL, the Mets would still need to drop someone else from the 40 man roster to add both Henderson and Monell. This could be accomplished by trading Tejada.
It seemed like Tejada turned a corner last year. Unfortunately, with one dirty play he is back on the bench, and frankly, occupying a roster spot the Mets need. It may not seem fair. It may seem cruel, but it’s time for the Mets too move on from Tejada. They should do it now with the Cardinals having a need, and the Mets wanting to maximize the return they would receive for Tejada.
Editor’s Note: this article also appeared on metsmerizedonline.com
Truth be told, Plawecki is the better player right now between him and Monell. However, he’s also still considered a prospect that is going to need to receive regular at bats to get better. Remember Plawecki was a player the Mets believed could’ve challenged Travis d’Arnaud for the starting catcher spot last year. After 2015, it was clear Plawecki has more work to do offensively.
Plawecki was pressed into action when d’Arnaud got injured twice last year. In 73 games, Plawecki hit an ugly .219/.280/.296 with a 3 homeruns and 21 RBI. His OPS+ was a putrid 69, and his 60 wRC+ was just as bad. Yes, the Mets lineup at the time was historically bad, but his numbers show he was a big reason why. Simply put, Plawecki showed he was not ready for big league pitching.
Not to pile on him, but his AAA numbers suggests he shouldn’t have been called up in the first place. In 65 game in Las Vegas, Plawecki only hit .262/.318/.392. These numbers are even more troubling when you consider Cashman Field is a hitter’s park, and the Pacific Coast League is a hitter’s league. However, that’s not reason for concern. It’s reason to believe he just needs more time.
Up until his promotion to AAA in 2014, Plawecki raked. In 58 AA games, Plawecki hit .326/.378/.487 with six homers and 43 RBI. At that point, the Mets got aggressive with him and sent him to AAA where he hit .283/.345/.421 with five homers and 21 RBI in 43 games. It was 2015 when he rwall started to struggle. In the 22 games he played before getting called up to hold the fort for d’Arnaud, he was hitting .224/.267/.341. His hitting woes continued in the majors.
At this point, it should be noted that Plawecki did undergo sinus surgery in the offseason in the hopes it would cure the dizzy spells he experienced during the 2015 season. His dizzy spells could reasonably explain the precipitous drop off in his numbers. It may not. We will see in 2016.
Getting back to the 2016 season, the Mets have an option to make at backup catcher. d’Arnaud is the clear-cut starter. If healthy, he should be an All Star. If healthy, he needs to play as much as reasonably possible. For a catcher, that typically means you get days off in the following situations: (1) day game after a night game; (2) second game of a doubleheader; or (3) game after you caught a long extra inning game. There are other reasons, but those are typically the main ones. With that in mind, absent injury, your starting catcher will typical catch around 130 games.
In a 162 game season, that only leaves Plawecki with 32 games to play. For a player coming off a lost years, that will not help his development. He needs to play and see pitching. He needs to hit. If d’Arnaud gets hurt (again), Plawecki could come up from AAA and start in d’Arnaud’s spot. If Plawecki is then needed he will have been playing everyday, and he will hopefully in a nice groove instead of rotting away on the bench.
Let someone like Monell, who is getting no better, play those 32 games. Monell can hit terribly for those games. He can also prevent Plawecki from accruing service time.
Now, Plawecki is no longer a rookie due to the time he played in the majors last year. He’s also not arbitration eligible. Each day Plawecki is in the majors is another day, he’s closer to arbitration. It’s also another day the Mets lose team control of him. If you’re losing team control of him because he’s actually playing that’s understandable. However, losing control of him so he can play 30-40 games a year as a backup catcher makes no sense. It’s a mismanagement of team assets.
Keeping in the minors permits Plawecki to get the at bats he needs to improve. It also permits the Mets to keep team control. This helps Plawecki, and it helps the Mets. It permits the Mets to have more control for more years if they ever move on from d’Arnaud. It also makes Plawecki a more attractive trade option in the future. His value goes up if a team has more years of control.
In sum, Plawecki being the backup catcher helps no one. It doesn’t help him get better. It also doesn’t help the Mets maximize his value. Monell should be the backup catcher in 2016.
Growing up, watching those 80’s teams I remember going to a game or two when Gary Carter would get out from behind the plate and play on the field. It was a way to give him a day off while keeping his bat in the lineup.
I was thinking of that when I saw a report the Mets were not considering moving either Travis d’Arnaud or Kevin Plawecki out from behind the plate. Personally, I agree that they both help the Mets as catchers. d’Arnaud has hit well, especially for a catcher, while Plawecki has offensive potential. They are also excellent pitch framers. However, I still think it’s important d’Arnaud gets some work to let him play some games at third.
The Plawecki Reason
The first reason is Plawecki is still developing. You don’t want him languishing away on the bench as a backup for 162 game season.
Looking over the 2015 season, the catchers who caught most caught between 112 – 139 games this year. The average amount of games caught between them is about 125 games a season. This leaves Plawecki with only 37 games. If you could find another spot for d’Arnaud once a week, you could have Plawecki catch about two times per week. There’s 26 weeks in the MLB season. If Plawecki can play two games per well, that’ll get him an additional 15 games
It’s still not enough for a developing player, but it’s a lot better.
d’Arnaud has been named the Mets 2014 and 2015 Opening Day catcher. He didn’t make it through either season without a trip to the DL.
In 2015, they were fluke injuries that landed him on the DL. One injury was a broken pinkie on a hit by pitch. The other was a strained elbow on a play at the plate. I don’t believe d’Arnaud is injury prone. However, it’s getting harder and harder to say that.
Truth is last year he had two separate DL stints costing him around 50 games. With a dismal Mets offense, they had to turn to Plawecki, especially with Anthony Recker and Johnny Monell doing nothing offensively. It’s that reason the Mets will use Plawecki as the backup next year. You don’t want to stunt Plawecki’s development, but d’Arnaud has a bat you don’t want to take out if the lineup.
The best solution is to allow d’Arnaud to play some games at another position to get him some at bats while letting him rest a bit by bit being behind the plate.
The David Wright Factor
Ultimately, I think the reason you let d’Arnaud play some third is because of David Wright. He can’t play more than four games in a row. Assuming he has to take off a game at least once a week, that’s 26 games. He still may need more than that as he re-adjusts to playing over 162 games.
When he returned, he had similar numbers to his whole career. Last year, he hit .289/.379/.434 (yes that includes the right games he played in April). For his career, he has hit .298/.377/.493. Sure, there’s less power, but he’s still a good hitter. It’s a bat they’ll miss when he’s not in the lineup. Right now, it seems the Mets have interest in bringing back Kelly Johnson as a utility player. Presumably, he will play the majority of games Wright doesn’t play.
Johnson is a career .251/.331/.424 hitter. Last year, he hit .250/.304/.414. d’Arnaud hit .268/.340/.485 last year. He’s a better hitter than Johnson. If you’re concerned about defense, Johnson isn’t exactly a Gold Glover. He’s average. There’s no reason d’Arnaud can’t be average out there with some work.
I think it would help d’Arnaud to stay healthy to get out from behind the plate. It would help Plawecki’s development to get some extra reps out there. It would help the Mets offense to have d’Arnaud’s bat out there when Wright can’t play. This move will help the Mets in 2016 and beyond.