Jon Niese

Enough Excuses, Lock Up These Starters

Looking at this Mets team since 2015, one thing has been perfectly clear: this team is built on pitching, and it will only go as far as the pitching carries them. In 2015, when their starters were healthy and able to last the season, the Mets were able to win the National League Pennant. In 2016, with three of the arms going down, the Mets were still good enough to enter the postseason as the top Wild Card.

The Mets have been fortunate because the pitching has been cheap. It was not until recently that Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, and Jacob deGrom entered their arbitration years. Noah Syndergaard won’t be arbitration eligible until after this season. It is interesting because it is after this season that things begin to become murky. Harvey and Wheeler are scheduled to become free agents after the 2018 season with deGrom becoming a free agent the season after that.

With the Mets success rising and falling on their pitching, it begs the question why haven’t the Mets selected at least one or two pitchers and come to terms on a contract extension. The common refrain among Mets fans is the team should keep Syndergaard and deGrom and join them in a rotation that one day may also feature Robert Gsellman, Justin Dunn, and Thomas Szapucki. For now, even with the clock ticking, the Mets aren’t making a move.

While it may not make sense to most Mets fans, in a report by Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the New York Mets have advised why they have not entered into contract extension discussions with any of their young pitching:

1. Injuries

As GM John Ricco explained, “[GM] Sandy [Alderson] has not said let’s be aggressive in that area, and that [injuries] is the biggest reason.”

Fact of the matter is each one of these pitchers have an issue. Harvey, deGrom, Matz, and Wheeler have all had Tommy John surgery. Harvey, deGrom, and Matz all had season ending surgery last year. Even someone healthy like Syndergaard dealt with bone spurs last year. Point is, the Mets pitchers have not been exactly healthy, nor do they inspire confidence they will be healthy going forward. To that end, the Mets relative inactivity has been understandable.

2. Lack of Urgency

As noted in Sherman’s piece, the Mets do not have a pending free agent until the after the 2018 season, and Syndergaard isn’t a free agent until after the 2021 season. Honestly, this reason is a bit disingenuous. With Harvey’s pending free agency many expect this is Harvey’s last season in a Mets uniform as the team does not want to risk him walking in free agency and the team getting nothing in return for him.

3. Pitchers Aren’t Interested In Extensions

According to Ricco, who would know this better than fans, extension discussions are typically begun by the player and his agent. Again, with fans not being in the business, it is hard to challenge him on this. With that said, it is hard to believe the Mets would be willing to let all their pitchers go to free agency without so much as initiating contract disucssions with them. Frankly, it is harder to believe when you consider back in 2012, the Mets pounced on an opportunity to give Jon Niese a five year contract extension.

4. Personalities

As noted in Sherman’s piece, when you give a contract extension to one player, it is going to have ripple effects. As Ricco said, “You would have to manage personalities because if you do [an extension] with one, how does it impact the others?”

Now, this is a bit of an overstatement on Ricco’s part. Entering into contract extensions with the pitchers should be part of an overall plan. For example, when Omar Minaya was the General Manager, he was faced with Jose Reyes pending arbitration in 2006, he agreed with a four year pact with his shortstop. Minaya then quickly moved and locked up David Wright to a six year deal. While Alderson is dealing with more than just two players, Minaya’s actions certainly show if the team has a plan an executes it, there should be no issues.

5. Budget

It is something Mets fans don’t want to hear, but it is a reality. After this season, the Mets will have Reyes, Jay Bruce, Lucas Duda, Curtis Granderson, Neil Walker, Addison Reed, and Fernando Salas as free agents. The team will have to decide on options for Jerry Blevins and Asdrubal Cabrera. In addition, all of the Mets marquee starting pitchers will be in arbitration thereby escalating their salaries. Furthermore, Jeurys Familia will also be owed a lot of money in arbitration if he has another stellar year. Long story short, the Mets will have to spend some money this offseason.

In order to do that, the Mets need to have the money. As Ricco explains, “Once you’ve locked in [on an extension], you do limit flexibility in some ways.”

Now, it is easy to say the Mets can plug in Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith next year, but at this point, it is not known if they will be ready to be 2018 Opening Day starters. Putting forth such a plan would be folly, especially for a team that can still compete for a World Series.

Overall, the Mets concerns over not extending their pitchers have some merit, especially when you consider the injury issues. Still, the longer the Mets wait, the more expensive each of these starting pitchers will become. As they become more expensive, the chances of locking up more than one of them significantly decreases. Sooner or later, the Mets are going to have to take a chance on a couple of these pitchers if they have designs of competing for World Series over the next decade. With Harvey being a free agent after next season, the sooner the Mets begin executing a plan, the better.

Trivia Friday – Most Opening Day Starts

With Noah Syndergaard slated to go on Monday, this marks the sixth straight year the Mets have had a different Opening Day starter.  Jon Niese, Dillon Gee, Bartolo Colon, and Matt Harvey each got a turn, but they never got the opportunity to be the Opening Day starter in a subsequent season.  Hopefully with Syndergaard, this year begins a long run of Opening Day starts for a pitcher that is on threshold of being an all time great.

If Syndergaard does that, he will join nine other Mets pitchers who have made multiple Opening Day starts.  Can you name them?  Good luck!


Tom Seaver Dwight Gooden Tom Glavine Johan Santana Bobby Jones Al Leiter Roger Craig Al Jackson Craig Swan

Maybe The Mets Should Re-Sign Niese

At some point today, Jon Niese is going to hold a workout for teams interested in signing him.  Niese needs to do this workout because: (1) he’s coming off knee surgery; and (2) he was terrible last year.  Absolutely terrible.  And yet, despite that, the Mets should be interested in re-signing him.

Let’s get the obvious reasons why the Mets shouldn’t be interested out of the way first.  He’s a malcontent that would likely complain about the weather in San Diego.  He always has an excuse for when he fails.  He’d blame the pitch the catcher for the pitch he called.  He’d blame the designer of the ballpark for the configuration of the outfield walls.  He’d blame God for the wind patterns.  He’d do all of that before admitting he hung a pitch that was hit into the second deck.  More than any of this, Niese was just horrible last year.  Typically, you don’t want players like this.

That is unless they are really cheap, and they have something to prove.

Niese should be both.  Working in reverse, Niese, perhaps for the first time in his major league career, has something to prove.  He’s coming off a year with a 5.50 ERA and a 1.587 WHIP.  Quite possibly, he was the worst pitcher in all of baseball, certainly the worst starting pitcher.  Because Niese is who he is, he’ll probably give you a million reasons why this happened.  I’m sure he’ll say PNC Park was not suited for him, or Ray Searage was not as good a pitching coach as Dan Warthen.  The Pirates probably didn’t shift as well as the Mets did.  He’ll certainly blame his knee injury.  At least with the knee injury, there may be an actual valid excuse, and it could be reason to buy low on Niese.

Before being traded to the Pirates, Niese was 61-61 with a 3.91 ERA, a 1.361 WHIP, and a 95 ERA+.  Basically, he was a fifth starter who constantly tricked the Mets into thinking he could be more than that.  It’s partially why Sandy Alderson gave him a contract extension.  It’s why the Pirates traded Neil Walker to get him.  Maybe he fulfills that promise one day.  Likely, he doesn’t.  Still, Niese has already shown he’s a quality major league pitcher.

He’s a major league pitcher that is going to come cheap.  With teams seemingly being devoid of interest in him during the offseason, Niese is likely going to garner little more than a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training.  Essentially, Niese is going to go to a team where he has an opportunity to either make the team out of Spring Training or be one of the first call-ups should a pitcher get injured or be ineffective.  That being said,  signing Niese is theoretically no different than the Mets recent signing of Tom Gorzelanny, or back in 2006, when they signed Darren Oliver.

For the Mets, Niese could be an intriguing bullpen arm who surprisingly showed during the 2015 postseason, he can get the big out.  He may have a second act to his career as a reliever much in the same way Oliver Perez has.  By focusing on one or two pitches, he could be a reliable bullpen arm like Oliver.  Or maybe, he could just be more starting pitching depth for a Mets team relying on three pitchers coming off season ending surgery and two unproven starters behind them.

Maybe just maybe, the Mets should offer Niese a minor league deal to come back to the team.  It isn’t the worst idea in the world.

2016 Mets Auld Lang Syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot (Bartolo Colon)

And never brought to mind (Antonio Bastardo)

Should auld acquaintance be forgot (Jon Niese)

And days of auld lang syne.  (Wild Card Game)

And there’s a hand (Matt Harvey), my trust friend (Curtis Granderson)

And gie’s a hand to thine (Steven Matz)

We’ll take a cup of kindness yet (Wilpons)

For auld lang syne (1986 Mets)

Mets Don’t Need To Sign Left-Handed Reliever

In 2015, the Mets not only won the National League East, but they went all the way to the World Series.  During that wonderfully unexpected run, the team left a bevvy of left-handed relievers in their wake.  Time and again, the team tried to solve their presumed issues with not having a left-handed reliever to no avail.  Here is a look at all the left-handed relievers they went through that season:

  • Josh Edgin – needed Tommy John surgery before the season began
  • Jerry Blevins – appeared in seven games before suffering a broken arm
  • Alex Torres – pitched to a 1.515 WHIP and was released on August 4th
  • Sean Gilmartin – used as a long man in the bullpen due in part to his reverse splits
  • Jack Leathersich – shuttled back and forth between New York and Las Vegas before his season ended due to him needing Tommy John surgery
  • Dario Alvarez – appeared in six games before suffering a groin injury that cost him the rest of the season
  • Eric O’Flaherty – 13.50 ERA and left off the postseason roster

The lack of the left-handed pitcher did not prevent this team from making it to the postseason or to going to the World Series.  The main reason is that team’s right-handed relievers could pitch to left-handed batters.  In fact, the batting lines suggests the right-handed relievers performed just as well as a LOOGY would:

The moral of the story is that you do not need a left-handed pitcher to get out left-handed batters.  Rather, you need pitchers who are effective at pitching against left-handed batters to get them out.

There are some caveats.  First, the Mets did go with Jon Niese as the left-hander in the bullpen during the 2015 postseason, and he did get some big outs including a key strike out of Anthony Rizzo in the NLCS.  Second, Blevins was an extremely important part of the 2016 bullpen.  Without Blevins in the bullpen, it is quite possible the Mets do not get one of the two Wild Card spots.  This creates a problem as Blevins is now a free agent – a free agent that is about to cash in on a terrific year.

So far, we have seen arguably less talented left-handed relievers get big contracts.  Brett Cecil received a four year $30.5 million contract from the Cardinals.  Marc Rzepczynski received a two year $11 million contract from the Mariners.  Mike Dunn received a three year $19 million from the Colorado Rockies.   According to Anthony DiComo of MLB.com, Blevins was already seeking a three year deal worth $5-$6 million per season.  Based upon the contracts already handed out, it is easy to assume Blevins will get the deal he is seeking.

However, it should be noted that deal is likely not coming from the Mets.  As already noted, Sandy Alderson does not want to give out multi-year deals to relievers.  Furthermore, it does not not appear the Mets are interested in investing $6 million a year on a left-handed reliever.  With that being the case, the Mets best chance might be to revert to the 2015 model thrust upon them.

From that team, Familia, Reed, and Robles still remain, and they are still effective as ever in getting left-handed batters out.  Here were their stats from the 2016 season:

  • Familia .239/.315/.313
  • Reed .210/.264/.269
  • Robles .179/.287/.299

There is also some promise with Edgin.  Despite him not fully regaining his velocity after his Tommy John surgery, he still showed the ability to get left-handed batters out in a very small sample size.  In 2016, he faced 20 left-handed batters, and he limited them to a .235/.300/.235 batting line.

Between, Familia, Reed, Robles, and Edgin, the 2017 Mets may already have sufficient bullpen depth to get left-handed batters out.  Moreover, with the Mets resportedly wanting to cut payroll from where it currently stands, the team may be forced to stick in-house and instead seek a seventh inning reliever.

That is certainly a justifiable route because the bullpen as constructed already has enough depth to get left-handed batters out.  As such, the team does not need to add a left-hander for the sake of adding a left-hander.

Re-Sign Fernando Salas

With Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia in the fold, the Mets have their eighth and ninth innings guys set up for next year. In 2016, that tandem was the best in baseball. However, it was also the most taxed. The duo pitched more innings than any other reliever combination in the major leagues. The main reason is that the Mets played many close games that necessitated Terry Collins going to the whip with them time and time again. It was needed in the regular season, but as we saw in September and the Wild Card Game, they were beginning to show some signs of fatigue. With that, obtaining a seventh inning reliever, preferably one with closing experience, should be a high priority this offseason.

With that in mind, the Mets should re-sign Fernando Salas.

Salas had a Reed-like impact on the 2016 Mets. In 17 appearances, Salas was 0-1 with a 2.08 ERA, a 0.635 WHIP, and a 9.9 K/9. With that, Salas completely took over the seventh inning, and he allowed both Reed and Familia some rest down the stretch. Understandably, between his usage and his statistics prior to joining the Mets, you could expect him to regress. That’s almost assuredly true of his 0.635 WHIP. However, his regression would not be as troublesome as one would have you believe because, like Reed, Salas has benefited tremendously from the Mets exceptional pitch framing.

Keep in mind, there was not change to Salas’ stuff or his pitching patters when he became a Met. It is similar to Reed who became a completely different pitcher when he became a Met. Before joining the Mets, Reed had a 4.20 ERA and a 1.275 WHIP. In Reed’s season plus with the Mets, he has a 1.84 ERA and a 0.957 WHIP. When Reed became a Met, he didn’t develop a new pitch or pitching patters. Rather, it was the Mets catchers getting the extra strike for him.

It is something Reed emphasized when he said of Travis d’Arnaud, “There’s been a couple of times just this season that I’ve went back and looked at video just because I wanted to see how low the ball was, and how good of a strike (d’Arnaud) made it look. He’s the best I’ve ever thrown to at doing that. Just the way he frames the ball, it’s unbelievable. He makes balls that are four or five inches below the zone look like they’re almost right down the middle by just the way he flicks his wrist. I couldn’t even tell you how he does it.” (ESPN.com)

Given the pitch framing having a similar impact on Salas, you could expect Salas to have a similarly terrific 2017 season.  With that, Collins can be more judicious in how he uses both Reed and Familia.  This would permit all three pitchers to be fresh come the stretch run to the 2017 postseason; and hopefully, dominant all the way up until the World Series.

Another important point is that pitching in New York is a completely different animal. Some guys can do it and others can’t. The best and most recent example of this was Antonio Bastardo. Prior to joining the Mets, Bastardo had a 3.58 ERA and a 1.198 WHIP. He spent 2015 with the Pirates, and he was 4-1 with a 2.98 ERA and a 1.134 WHIP. Those numbers were why the Mets gave him a fairly lucrative deal for a seventh inning reliever.

Sure enough, Bastardo was terrible with the Mets. Bastardo made 41 appearances with the Mets with a 4.74 ERA and a 1.420 WHIP. Things got so bad, the Mets actually welcomed back Jon Niese and the Mets actually giving the Pirates some money in the deal. Naturally, Bastardo pitched better with the Pirates with him having a 4.13 ERA and a 1.250 WHIP in 28 games for them.

Simply put, Bastardo is the risk you take when you sign free agent middle relievers who have never pitched in New York. At the time of the signing, no one knew if Bastardo could pitch in New York. Conversely, we found out that Salas absolutely could pitch in New York, and that he could pitch with a postseason berth on the line in New York.  With that in mind, the Mets should make every effort to bring back Salas to pitch in the bullpen next year . . . regardless of what happens with Familia.

Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Merized Online

Mets Veteran Starting Options

Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz are coming off season ending surgeries, and the Mets most likely don’t want them making over 30 starts and/or going over 200 innings.  The Mets need someone to fill-in for those starts and eat up some innings.

Additionally, the team needs a fifth starter.  If the season was going to begin today, the fifth starter would be determined by a competition between Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman.  Both pitchers showed enough to prove they deserve the job out of Spring Training.  However, both pitchers are likely going to be on innings limits, which would prevent them from pitching the entire 2017 season unless the team skips a couple of their starts.  That reverts back to the issue created by Harvey, deGrom, and Matz that the Mets need another arm to eat up some innings.

Naturally, the hope is that Zack Wheeler could be the fifth starter at some point during the season.  However, after missing two straight seasons due to Tommy John surgery, the Mets would be hard pressed to rely upon him to provide anything during the 2017 season.  It is a large reason why the Mets have at least discussed the possibility of putting Wheeler in the bullpen to start the season.

Pitchers like Sean Gilmartin and Gabriel Ynoa did not show the Mets enough in 2016 to prove they can be relied upon to make more than one or two spot starts.  With that, it is likely the Mets are going to need to look outside the organization for a pitcher who is willing to start the year as a fifth starter, but is willing to transition to the bullpen as the year progresses.  Ultimately, the Mets are looking for someone to reprise the role that Bartolo Colon was slated to serve during the 2016 season.  With that in mind, here are some available free agent pitchers who could serve in that role:

Rubby De La Rosa

2016 Stats: 4-5, 4.26 ERA, 13 G, 10 GS, 50.2 IP, 1.243 WHIP, 9.6 K/9

While Welington Castillo got most of the publicity, De La Rosa was another surprise non-tender by the Arizona Diamondbacks. The reason De La Rosa was non-tendered was because there remains a real possibility he needs a second Tommy John surgery. At the moment, he has been trying to use stem cell treatment as a means to circumvent the surgery. For what it is worth, Bartolo Colon used the stem cell therapy back in 2010, and he was able to revive his major league career.

When he is healthy, De La Rosa has a live arm with him throwing a mid to high 90s fastball with a curve and slider who has shown some flashes of dominance. De La Rosa does have issues walking batters in his career, but it should be noted he was pitching to the aforementioned Castillo who is a terrible pitch framer.

Assuming the stem cell therapy will work, and further assuming De La Rosa is ready by Opening Day, the 27 year old needs a team who will help him harness his stuff and a catching staff that will help him get those borderline pitches.  With that in mind, there are few places that are better fits for De La Rosa than the Mets.  At a minimum, the Mets can offer the young pitcher at least a chance to pitch in the rotation while also assuring him a spot in the bullpen where he could become a lights out reliever.

Scott Feldman

2016 Stats: 7-4, 3.97 ERA, 40 G, 5 GS, 77.0 IP, 1.377 WHIP, 6.5 K/9

While Feldman has spent the majority of his career as a league average starting pitcher, the Astros moved Feldman into the bullpen in the 2016 season, and Feldman pitched well for the team in that role.  What is interesting about Feldman’s success was he didn’t throw any differently out of the bullpen than he did as a starter.  The main reason is that in his career as a starter, batters tend to hit Feldman much harder the third time through the lineup.

Overall, Feldman’s numbers would have been much better had he not struggled in his 14 appearances for the Blue Jays.  In those 14 appearances, he pitched to an 8.40 ERA and a 1.933 WHIP.  It might have just been a slump or a poor mix with the Blue Jays because Feldman has not wilted under pressure in his career.  In nine postseason relief appearances, Feldman is 1-0 with a 3.29 ERA, 1.024 WHIP, and a 7.2 K/9.

Given Feldman’s ability to pitch as a league average starter, and his being even more effective out of the bullpen, Feldman could very well be the exact pitcher the Mets need in 2017.

Edwin Jackson

2016 Stats: 5-7, 5.89 ERA, 21 G, 13 GS, 84.0 IP, 1.583 WHIP, 6.5 K/9

For nearly 14 years, there have been 11 franchises that have taken on the mantle of being the franchise that is going to be able to figure out Jackson and help him unlock his potential.  With a career losing record and a 4.65 ERA, none have been successful, and now the 32 year old is a free agent.

There is no doubt Jackson has talent.  He is a five pitch pitcher that predominantly relies upon a low to mid 90s fastball and a slider.  Through his tenure as the Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen has been successful in helping pitchers like Jackson.  Like many of the other pitchers on this list, Jackson should be aided by the Mets pitch framing.  The combination of Warthen and the pitch framing has been shown to help a number of pitchers who have come to the Mets the past few seasons.

Over the last two seasons, Jackson has also begun pitching out of the bullpen.  In 2015, he showed some promise in the role making 47 appearances while going 4-3 with a 3.07 ERA and a 1.168 WHIP.  He would limit batters to a .218/.291/.332 batting line.  Unfortunately, he regressed as a reliever in 2016 after he had failed again as a starter.  Overall, as is the story with most of Jackson’s career, there is promise here, and a union with the Mets could be mutually beneficial.

Kris Medlen

2016 Stats: 1-3, 7.77 ERA, 6 G, 6 GS,  2.055 WHIP, 6.7 K/9

Medlen has gone from a promising young pitcher with the Atlanta Braves to a pitcher whose career is a crossroads with him being limited during the 2016 season with shoulder issues.  While these shoulder issues did not require surgery, they limited Medlen in 2016, and it had an impact on his performance.  Another issue with Medlen is his having two Tommy John surgeries.

With that said, when Medlen is right, he is a good pitcher.  His last year with the Braves, before he needed a second Tommy John surgery, he was 15-12 with a 3.11 ERA, 1.223 WHIP, and a 7.2 K/9.  In 2015, his first year back from his second Tommy John surgery, Medlen was 6-2 with a 4.01 ERA, 1.269 WHIP, and a 6.2 K/9 between eight starts and seven relief appearances.  In the 2015 postseason, he made two appearances pitching six innings with a 3.00 ERA, 0.667 WHIP, and a 12.0 K/9.

If the medicals check out, Medlen can be a very effective pitcher for someone.  Considering the need to get a pitcher comfortable in the rotation and the bullpen, the Mets might be a good fit.

Jon Niese

2016 Stats: 8-7, 5.50 ERA, 29 G, 20 GS, 121.0 IP, 1.587 WHIP, 6.5 K/9

Admittedly, no Mets fan wants to see Niese in a Mets uniform again, especially after a disastrous 2016 season for Niese.  However, it should be noted that Niese was dealing with a knee issue that required season ending surgery.  It should also be noted Niese has been a league average pitcher under Warthen’s tutledge.

In his six seasons as a starter for the Mets, Niese was 59-59 with a 3.86 ERA, 1.351 WHIP, and a 7.0 K/9.  We also saw him come out of the bullpen and get some big outs in the 2015 postseason.  Looking at the pitchers who are likely going to get incentivized one year deals or minor league deals with invitations to Spring Training, you can do a lot worse than Niese.

There is certainly any number of places the Mets could go this offseason.  There are pitchers like Matt Harrison who are injury risks, but who can also be dominant pitchers when healthy.  There are also reclamation projects like Jered Weaver and Tim Lincecum.  Overall, there are many different ways to go.  At this point, the Mets just need to identify their guy, be patient, and let the market develop.  Once it does, the Mets could obtain a pitcher who could very well be a difference maker during the 2017 season.

Mets Who May Still Lose Their Spot on the 40 Man Roster

After protecting Amed Rosario, Tomas Nido, Chris Flexen, Marcos Molina, and Wuilmer Becerra from the Rule 5 Draft, the Mets 40 man roster now stands at precisely 40 players.  This means that now when the Mets look to add a player in free agency, they will have to cut one of the players off of their 40 man roster.  And yes, the Mets will have to remove some players off of the 40 man roster.

From all indications, even if the Mets do no re-sign Yoenis Cespedes, they are pursuing other outfielders to replace him.  With the possible suspension of Jeurys Familia looming, it is likely, the Mets will have to add one, if not two, late inning relievers.  The team may be interested in bringing back Jerry Blevins or finding another LOOGY.  In addition to those moves, there are some other moves or upgrades the Mets may make this offseason.  With that in mind, here are some players whose spot on the 40 man roster is tenuous:

PITCHERS

Josh Edgin

Heading into the 2015 season, Edgin was supposed to be the Mets LOOGY for years to come.  Those plans changed when he needed Tommy John surgery causing him to miss the entire 2015 season.

He returned in 2016, and he was not the same pitcher having lost velocity off of all of his pitches.  He went from having a mid-90s fastball to having a low 90s fastball.  As a result, Edgin got hit around.  In AAA, he had a 3.51 ERA and a 1.650 WHIP.  In his limited stints in the majors, he had a 5.23 ERA and a 1.548 WHIP.  Another complication for Edgin is he is arbitration eligible meaning the Mets are presumably going to have to pay him a lot more to keep him on the roster.

On a positive note, Edgin still did get left-handed batters out at the major league level.  In a very small sample size (20 plate appearances), lefties only hit .235 off of him with no extra base hits.  It is a big reason why he was on the Wild Card Game roster when the Mets faced a San Francisco Giants team stacked with lefties.  Between his ability to get lefties out, the hope his arm could improve a second year removed from surgery, and his still having options available, there is still some hope for Edgin.

Sean Gilmartin

Gilmartin has gone from an important bullpen arm the Mets acquired in the 2014 Rule 5 Draft to a player who is seemingly lost his ability to get batters out.

Despite Gilmartin being a valuable long man in the pen, the Mets had him start the year in AAA to become starting pitching depth.  In 18 starts and one relief appearance, he was 9-7 with a 4.86 ERA and a 1.425 WHIP.  On a couple of occasions, he was recalled, and he pitched exclusively in relief for the Mets.  Things did not go well for him in those 14 relief appearances as Gilmartin had a 7.13 ERA and a 1.585 WHIP.  Between his performance and his having to go on the minor league disabled list with shoulder soreness, it was a lost year for Gilmartin.

Some of the struggles of Gilmartin were the result of his uneven usage between AAA and the majors.  The other issue was his shoulder soreness, which for now, appears to no longer be an issue.  Another strong factor in his favor is the fact that he is not yet arbitration eligible meaning the Mets do not have to pay him much to see if he returns to form.  His having options available is also a positive.  The Mets could still keep him on the roster with the idea of returning him to the role he was most successful.

Erik Goeddel

There is perhaps no Mets pitcher that evokes such split opinions than Goeddel.  For years, there were people who saw a pitcher that was able to go out there and get outs.  There were others who saw a guy who had fringy stuff that was more the beneficiary of good luck than good pitching.  After the 2016 season, most people agree that Goeddel was a liability for the Mets.

In 36 appearances for the Mets, Goeddel had a 4.54 ERA and a 1.318 WHIP.  It should be noted this was a big departure from how he had previously pitched with the Mets.  In 2014 and 2015, Goeddel had a combined 2.48 ERA and a 1.000 WHIP.  His prior success, his pre-arbitration status, and his having options remaining, gives him a chance to remain on the 40 man roster.

Rafael Montero

How he is still on the 40 man roster is anyone’s guess. Entering the 2016 season, the Mets had it with him, and they sent him a message by making him one of the first people sent down to minor league Spring Training.  Montero responded by pitching so poorly in Las Vegas that he was demoted to Binghamton.  It was only due a rash of pitching injuries that he got a shot at pitching in the majors again, and like his other opportunities, he squandered that.  Still, despite all that, the Mets cut Eric Campbell and Jim Henderson, AND exposed Paul Sewald to the Rule 5 Draft all for the sake of holding onto Montero that much longer.  Eventually, you have to assume Montero is going to get cut from the roster.  It is only a matter of when.

Logan Verrett

Strangely enough, the Mets had to make a decision on whether to expose Verrett to the Rule 5 Draft or to remove a player from the 40 man roster to protect him.  The Mets chose the former, and lost him for a period of time.  After Verrett struggled with the Rangers, the Mets took him back where Verrett pitched well out of the bullpen and the rotation for the Mets.

The Mets envisioned Verrett succeeding in that role in 2016, but it wasn’t to be.  He wasn’t as effective replacing Matt Harvey in the rotation as he was in 2015.  He went from a 3.63 ERA as a starter to a 6.45 ERA.  He performed so poorly out of the rotation that the Mets gave Montero a chance to start over him down the stretch of the season.

Still, there was a silver lining to Verrett’s 2016 season.  In his 23 relief appearances, he had a 2.84 ERA.  When you consider his reliever ERA, how well he performed in 2015, his pre-arbitration status, and his having options remaining, there is still a chance for Verrett to remain on the 40 man roster.

POSITION PLAYERS

Kevin Plawecki

Thinking of Plawecki being on the bubble is a bit odd especially when he is only 25 years old, has shown himself to be a terrific pitch framer, and he has only had 409 plate appearances at the major league level.

The problem there is Plawecki hasn’t hit at all in those 409 plate appearances.  In his brief major league career, Plawecki is a .211/.287/.285 hitter.  That’s worse than what Rene Rivera could give you, and Rivera has firmly established himself as Noah Syndergaard‘s personal catcher.  Worse yet, Plawecki is not the defensive catcher Rivera is.

When you also consider Tomas Nido‘s breakout season in St. Lucie possibly forcing the Mets to protect him a year earlier than anticipated, the Mets are going to be faced with the dilemma of carrying four catchers on their 40 man roster.  With Nido perhaps passing him as the catcher of the future, and Travis d’Arnaud having shown he has more offensive ability than Plawecki, it is quite possible, Plawecki could find himself having run out of chances with the Mets organization.

With all that said, it is hard to believe the Mets moving on from Plawecki this soon is his career.

Ty Kelly

This is an interesting situation for Kelly to be in considering he was signed to be minor league depth last season.  With a rash of injuries and some hot hitting in AAA, Kelly finally reached the majors after his long seven year odyssey in the minor leagues.

After some time, the Mets actually discovered who Kelly was.  Despite his switch hitting skills, he really could only hit from the right-hand side against major league pitching.  He was versatile, but his best position was left field.  Overall, his main asset down the stretch in September was as a pinch runner.  He was mostly used as a pinch runner because of the dearth of team speed on the Mets roster.  With all the said, he did make the Wild Card Game roster, and he got a pinch hit single off Madison Bumgarner.

Basically, all the reasons you can make for him being kept on the roster or being cut from the roster are the same exact things you could have said about Campbell, and he just signed a deal to play in Japan.

Overall, it is hard to guesstimate how many of these players are going to remain on the roster because we are not sure how many moves the Mets are going to make this offseason.  Normally, you would say Montero was sure to be cut, but he is more and more looking like the pitching version of Campbell . . . there is just no getting rid of the guy.  Still, as we learned from Campbell, there is going to become a breaking point, and that point may well be when the Mets sign enough players this offseason to take them from the Wild Card back to being World Series contenders.

Editor’s Note: a version of this story was originally run on Mets Merized Online

 

Mets Final Season Grades – Relievers

Throughout the season, I attempted to grade the different Mets players performances for each month of the season. In determining the year end grades, the aggregate of the monthly grades given was considered, but it wasn’t conclusive.  For example, one player’s awful month could be more than offset by having an incredible month.  Also, those decisions were made in the heat of the moment.  There has been a cooling off period in giving these finals grades, and with that, there is time for reflection.  It should also be noted the Wild Card Game did have some impact on these grades as that game was part of the story of the 2016 Mets.  Overall, the final grades assessed considered the monthly grades, but also took into account that player(s) overall impact on the Mets season (good or bad).    For the ninth set of grades, here are the other Mets relievers:

Hansel Robles B+

This was the second year of his career, and to date, he has yet to carve out a role for himself.  The main reason for that is Terry Collins has used him in every sort of role imaginable.  He has been used to bail the Mets out of a bases loaded no out jam.  He has been used as a set-up man in the seventh and eighth innings.  He has closed out a game.  He has also been called on to pitch over three innings in a game.  Without looking it up, it is safe to say Robles was the only pure reliever this year to throw a pitch in every inning this season.  Essentially, Robles has become the Mets version of Ramiro Mendoza

Robles was having a great year for himself too before Collins over-worked him.  In a one week span, Robles threw 127 pitches while making three appearances of over two innings.  Robles next appearance after that?  Well, it was four days later, and it was a two inning effort that needed Robles to throw 33 pitches.  By late August, he was spent having made many more appearances and having thrown many more pitches than he had his entire career.  Overall, Robles was 6-4 with a 3.28 ERA and a 1.352 WHIP.

Who knows what’s in store for Robles in 2017?  Whatever it is, we can reasonably assume he will perform well in that role.

Jerry Blevins B

With Blevins injured in 2015, the Mets had a long search for a LOOGY that never materialized.  In 2016, we all got to see what the Mets were missing as Blevins had a good year.  Overall, Blevins made 73 appearances going 4-2 with a 2.79 ERA and a 1.214 WHIP.  As luck would have it, Blevins would actually have reverse splits for the first time in his career.

Right-handed batters were only able to hit .182/.266/.345 off of Blevins while left-handed batters hit .255/.313/.324 off of him.  Those numbers are usually reversed, and in reality, right-handed batters typically hit him much harder than that.  This speaks to the strides Blevins made in becoming more than just a LOOGY.  He became a pitcher that can be relied upon to pitch a full inning.  It increased not just his value to the Mets, but also his free agent value.

Sean Gilmartin D

Gilmartin went from an important piece of the Mets bullpen in 2015 to having a lost year.  He began the year in AAA as a starter, but by the end of the year, it would be unclear what his role with the Mets would be in the future.

Initially, Gilmartin succeeded as a starter, but he would be called up to the Mets to pitch out of the pen.  He would be used on three days or less of rest.  Initially, he pitched well out of the pen for the Mets encouraging the team to do it more.  As a result, his numbers suffered, and he missed part of the year with a shoulder injury.  When it became time for the Mets to go to the minor leagues for starting pitching depth, Gilmartin was no longer an option on that front.  When the Mets were desperate enough in September to give him a start, he wouldn’t make it out of the first inning.

Overall, Gilmartin made 14 appearances going 0-1 with a 713 ERA and a 1.585 WHIP.  After a year like this, it will be interesting to see what role, if any, Gilmartin has on the Mets in 2017.

Erik Goeddel D

It appears that Goeddel may be the Eric Campbell of relief pitchers.  There are many people who point to a number of statistics to say he should be a capable major league player.  However, as the sample size grows and grows, his performance suffers as do his numbers.  In 36 appearances this season, Goeddel was 2-2 with a 4.54 ERA and a 1.138 WHIP.  This was a result of him becoming more hittable and his issuing more walks.  With all that said, there is still hope for him as he did post a 9.1 K/9.  Despite that, he looks like he will be best suited to starting the year in the minors.

Josh Edgin C-

In Edgin’s first year back from Tommy John surgery, he did not regain his velocity, and he had some trouble with his control.  Those two issues combined led to him issuing more walks and to batters getting more hits off of him.  In his 16 appearances for the Mets, he would to 1-0 with a 5.23 ERA and a 1.548 WHIP.

These are ugly numbers indeed, but there was some good news behind those numbers.  Edgin, who was supposed to be the Mets LOOGY entering 2015, did limit left-handed batters to a .235/.300/.235 batting line.  In that essence, Edgin proved he could handle the role as a LOOGY, and it appears the Mets just might given him that chance in 2017.

Josh Smoker C+

Here is what Smoker is: he is a fastball throwing left-handed pitcher that racks up strikeouts.  He is not a pitcher that can left-handed batters out, nor is he a pitcher that should ever pitch more than one inning.  Collins inability to recognize that led to Smoker’s numbers being worse than they could have been.  Keep in mind, Smoker was called upon to go more than one inning, three times, and on each occasion he allowed a home run.

Overall, Smoker was 3-0 with a 4.70 ERA and a 1.304 WHIP.  Most impressively, Smoker struck out 14.7 batters per nine innings.  With those strikeout numbers, Smoker belongs in a major league bullpen, and chances are, we may very well find himself in one next season.

Antonio Bastardo F

All you need to know about his season is the Mets traded him away and gave the Pirates money to obtain Jon Niese, who was having the worst year of his career.  When the Mets are giving other teams money to take players off their hands, you know a player was having a nightmare of a season.

Editor’s Note: the grades for April, May, June, July, August, and September/October can be found by clicking the links.

Mets Have Rule 5 Decisions to Make

With the Mets adding Gavin Cecchini to the 40 man roster to sit on the bench as the Mets are chasing down a Wild Card spot, the team had one less decision to make on who should be added to the 40 man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft this offseason.  Even if the Mets didn’t add Cecchini now, he was going to be added in the offseason.  Cecchini is too valuable a prospect, and he would be snatched up immediately in the Rule 5 Draft.

Cecchini was not the only player the Mets were going to have to make a decision on this offseason.  In fact, the Mets have to make a decision on 66 different prospects about whether or not they should be added to the 40 man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft.  Here is a review of some of the more notable Mets prospects that need to be added to the 40 man roster in order to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft:

AMED ROSARIO

SS Amed Rosario (Advanced A & AA) .324/.374/.459, 24 2B, 13 3B, 5 HR, 71 RBI, 19 SB

Yes, if it hasn’t been apparent this entire year, Rosario is in a class all by himself.  If he’s not added to the 40 man roster someone is getting fired.

ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE

1B/3B Matt Oberste (AA) .283/340/.409, 21 2B, 2 3B, 9 HR, 54 RBI, 1 SB

One issue that has plagued Oberste his entire minor league career is he has to fight for at bats as he is usually behind a bigger Mets prospect.  That has been literally and figuratively Dominic Smith (who is not yet Rule 5 eligible).  Oberste was an Eastern League All Star; however, the issue that is always going to hold him back is the fact that he is a corner infielder that does not hit for much power. Most likely, Oberste will not be added to the 40 man roster.

CF Champ Stuart (Advanced A & AA) .240/.314/.349, 12 2B, 7 3B, 8 HR, 34 RBI, 40 SB

Stuart is an elite defensive outfielder that has speed on the bases as evidenced by him stealing 40 bases this season.  The issue with Stuart is he is a maddening offensive player.  He went from hitting .265/.347/.407 in 71 games for Advanced A St. Lucie to hitting .201/.264/.261 in 43 games for AA Binghamton.  While he certainly has the tools to possibly be a big leauger one day, he’s too far away at this point.  Also, with teams putting more of a premium on offense than defense, it’s likely he will not be protected, and he will go undrafted.

C Tomas Nido ( Advanced A) .320/.357/.459, 23 2B, 2 3B, 7 HR, 46 RBI, 0 SB

This year was a breakout season defensively and offensively for the Florida State League batting champion.  Normally, with Nido never having played a game in AA, the Mets would be able to leave him unprotected and be assured he wouldn’t be drafted.  However, with catcher being such a difficult position to fill, it’s possible a bad team like the Braves takes a flyer on him and keeps him as the second or third stringer catcher all year.  It’s exactly how the Mets lost Jesus Flores to the Nationals many years ago.

SP Marcos Molina 2015 Stats (Rookie & Advanced A) 9 G, 8 GS, 1-5, 4.26 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 7.9 K/9

Molina did not pitch for the Mets organization for the entire 2016 season as he was recovering from Tommy John surgery.  The Arizona Fall League will be his first time facing batters in a game since his eight starts for St. Lucie in 2015.  It’s likely he will go unprotected and undrafted.

ARMS THAT COULD HELP IN 2017

RHP Paul Sewald (AAA) 56 G, 5-3, 19 saves, 3.29 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 11.0 K/o

In many ways, it is surprising that a Mets bullpen that was looking for an extra arm never turned to Sewald.  While he struggled to start the season like most pitchers transitioning to the Pacific Coast League do, Sewald figured it out and had a terrific second half with 10 saves, a 1.85 ERA, and a 0.95 WHIP.  Sewald should be protected.  In the event he isn’t, he should be as good as gone.

RHP Beck Wheeler (AA & AAA) 47 G, 0-3, 6 saves, 5.98 ERA, 1.62 WHIP, 12.1 K/9

Wheeler went unprotected and undrafted last year, and based upon the numbers he put up in his time split between Binghamton and Las Vegas, it appears the same thing will happen this year.  The one reservation is like with the Braves interest in Akeel Morris, teams will always take fliers on guys with mid 90s fastballs who can generate a lot of strikeouts.  It just takes one team to think they can help him reduce his walk rate for him to go in the Rule 5 draft.

RHP Chasen Bradford (5 saves, 4.80 ERA, 1.48 WHIP) – Bradford regressed statistically from last year in large part because he is a sinker/slider pitcher that pitches to contact.  On the bright side, he walks very few batters meaning if you have good infield defense, he will be a successful pitcher for your team.  His numbers should scare off a number of teams in the Rule 5 draft just like it did last year.

RHP Ricky Knapp (Advanced A & AA) 25 G, 24 GS, 13-6, 2.69 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 6.3 K/9

Knapp started the year in St. Lucie, and he finished it with a spot start in Las Vegas.  Knapp doesn’t have any plus pitches, but he gets the most out of all of his pitches because he is excellent at hitting his spots.  He is a very polished product that is best suited to being a starting pitcher.  Since he doesn’t strike out many batters, teams will most likely pass on him in the Rule 5 draft.

RHP Luis Mateo (AA & AAA) 51 G, 4-4, 1 save, 2.69 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 7.0 K/9

He’s a fastball/slider pitcher with a low 90s fastball that generates a fair share of groundball outs while keeping the ball in the ballpark.  While his ERA should entice teams, his WHIP and strikeout rate may keep them away just like it did last year when the Mets left him exposed to the Rule 5 draft.  He will most likely begin next year in AAA.

RISING PROFILES

2B/3B/SS Phillip Evans (Advanced A & AA) .321/.366/.460, 30 2B, 0 3B, 8 HR, 41 RBI, 1 SB

The Eastern League Batting Champion certainly raised his profile with a much improved offensive season.  He’s starting to become more selective at the plate and learn how to be less of a pull hitter.  The main issue for Evans is he may not have a position.  While he can make all the plays at the infield positions, he lacks range to be a solid middle infielder.  He also lacks the arm strength and power numbers you would want at third base.

RHP Chris Flexen (Advanced A, AA, AAA) 25 GS, 10-9, 3.56 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 6.4 K/9

Flexen appears to be in the mold of a typical Mets pitching prospect in that he has a high 90’s fastball and a good slider.  Despite the repertoire, he is not generating a lot of strikeouts right now.  On the bright side, he does generate a number of ground balls while limiting home runs.   He was rumored to be part of the initial Jay Bruce trade that fell apart due to an unnamed prospect’s physical (does not appear to be him).  A second division club like the Reds could take a flyer on him and put him in the bullpen for a year to gain control over him despite him never having pitched at a level higher than Advanced A St. Lucie.

RHP Tyler Bashlor (Full Season & Advanced A) 54 G,  4-3, 2.75 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 11.8 K/9

While the 5’11” Bashlor is short on stature, he has a big arm throwing a mid-90s fastball and a hard slider which he used to dominate in the Sally League.  Bashlor used these pitches to strike out 11.8 batters per nine innings.  Like Flexen, there is danger exposing a big arm like this even if the highest level of experience he has is four games for Advanced A St. Lucie.

RHP Kevin McGowan (Advanced A & AA) 42 G, 4 GS, 2 saves, 2.35 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 8.9 K/9

McGowan is a fastball/changeup pitcher that still needs to develop a breaking pitch.  While that fastball/changeup combination has been good enough to get batters out at the lower levels of the minor leagues, he is going to need another pitch if he is going to progress as a pitcher.

DISAPPOINTING SEASONS

RF Wuilmer Becerra (Advanced A) .312/.341/.393, 17 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 34 RBI, 7 SB

Around the time of the Rule 5 Draft last year, the debate was whether a bad team like the Braves would take a flyer on Becerra just to get the promising young outfielder into their organization.  Unfortunately, Becerra would have a shoulder injury that would rob him of his budding power.  More importantly, that shoulder injury would require surgery ending his season after just 65 games.

1B/3B Jhoan Urena (Advanced A) .225/.301/.350, 17 2B, 2 3B, 9 HR, 53 RBI, 0 SB

With the emergence of David Thompson, Urena was pushed from third to first.  However, that isn’t what was most troubling about his season.  In fact, many questioned whether he could stay at third given his frame.  The issue was the switch hitting Urena stopped hitting for power this season.  With his not hitting for power, Rosario’s best friend in the minors should go undrafted in the Rule 5 Draft.

LHP Paul Paez (Advanced A & AA) 34 G, 4-1, 3.88 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 8.9 K/9

This year Paez failed to distinguish himself by not pitching particularly well for St. Lucie and then struggling in Binghamton.  He only has a high 80’s fastball and lacks a true swing and miss breaking pitch.  While lefties hitting .308 off of him this year, he may not even have a future as a LOOGY in a major league bullpen.

NEEDS TIME TO DEVELOP

OF Patrick Biondi (Advanced A) .271/.352/.332, 17 2B, 2 3B, 0 HR, 34 RBI, 26 SB

While Biondi’s stats look good on the surface, it should be noted at 25 years old, he is old for the level.  On the bright side, Biondi has speed and is a good defender in CF.  However, until he starts getting on base more frequently, he will not be considered for the 40 man roster.

RHP Nabil Crismatt (Short & Full Season A) 13 G, 7 GS, 1-4, 1 Save, 2.47 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 10.1 K/9

Crismatt is only 21, but he is mature in terms of his ability to control his changeup and curveball and throw them at any point in the count.  Couple that with a low 90s fastball that could gain velocity as he ages, and you have someone who has the repertoire to be a major leaguer.  However, considering he hasn’t faced stiff competition yet in his career, he is nowhere ready for the majors, at least not yet.

2B/3B/SS Jeff McNeil 2015 Season (Advanced A & AA) .308/.369/.377, 18 2B, 6 3B, 1 HR, 40 RBI, 16 SB

Coming into the season, McNeil appeared to be more mature physically and at the plate.  He seemed ready to begin hitting for more power while still being able to handle 2B defensively.  Unfortunately, he would only play in three games this season for Binghamton before going on the disabled list needing season ending sports hernia surgery.

RHP Tim Peterson (Advanced A & AA) 48 G, 4-1, 2 saves, 3.03 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 12.3 K/9

At each and every level Peterson has pitched, he has shown the ability to strike people out with a fastball that touches on the mid 90s and a plus curveball.  The only issue for him in his career so far was his PED suspension in 2014.

AAAA PLAYERS

OF Travis Taijeron (AAA) .275/.372/.512, 42 2B, 5 3B, 19 HR, 88 RBI, 1 SB

Taijeron continued to do what he does best, which is get on base and hit for power.  Despite a strong Spring Training and another solid offensive season, the Mets really showed no interest in calling him up to the majors.  He will most likely go unprotected, but maybe this year a team out there desperate for some power in the outfield or on the bench will give him a shot.

2B L.J. Mazzilli (AA & AAA) .239/.320/.348, 18 2B, 6 3B, 5 HR, 43 RBI, 8 SB

Lee Mazzilli‘s son is a grinder out there who plays a decent second base.  Unfortunately, it appears his bat will prevent him from ever getting a real shot to ever play in the big league.

PREDICTIONS

Guaranteed: Rosario

Likely: Flexen, Nido

Bubble: Bashlor, Knapp, McGowan, Sewald, Wheeler

As for the remaining players, the Mets may very well gamble exposing them to the Rule 5 Draft and potentially lose them to another team.  It is also possible the Mets unexpectedly protect a player like Knapp.  In any event, the Mets have a number of important decisions to make that can have far reaching implications.