As anticipated, New York Mets starter Taijuan Walker opted out of his contract. Unlike the last time, more teams than just the Mets will come calling.
Walker opting out puts the Mets in an extremely difficult position. At times, he’s pitched like a number two. Other times, he’s pitched like a bullpen arm. No matter how you cut it, he has value.
Over the past two years, he’s 19-16 with a 3.98 ERA, 1.189 WHIP, 2.8 BB/9, and a 7.9 K/9. He accumulated a 3.1 WAR, 99 ERA+, and a 4.11 FIP.
He was an All-Star in 2021, and you could make the argument he could’ve been one in 2022. His first halves have been great, and the second halves lacking.
Taking the total picture into account, Walker ranks 39th among pitchers who have pitched over 300 innings the past two seasons. He’s also thrown the 39th most innings while making the 32nd most starts.
With starting pitching, availability is of paramount importance. Despite his past history, Walker showed an ability to take the ball every fifth day. We also saw a stronger pitcher in the second half of 2022 than he was in 2021.
This is where things get dicey for the Mets.
The Mets could reasonably believe Tylor Megill or David Peterson could replicate what Walker has provided while also believing each provides more upside. If they believe that, perhaps, they should let Walker go.
However, we do not know Megill’s durability and ability to be a starter for a full season. Peterson has shown durability and appears to be building strength to last a full season in the rotation.
Another factor with both was they entered Spring Training as pitching depth. If either or both are in the 2023 rotation that depth takes a hit, especially with Jose Butto likely being the sole upper level minors pitcher the Mets feel confidence in calling up.
The Mets need to balance that against just how much they can actually spend. Edwin Díaz just signed a record deal for a reliever. The Mets also have free agents in Chris Bassitt, Jacob deGrom, Seth Lugo, and Brandon Nimmo.
The Mets entered the offseason needing to rebuild an entire pitching staff – rotation and bullpen. That is going to cost a ton of money, and even with Steve Cohen, you have to imagine at some point, the Mets will need to save money here and there.
If the Mets lock in Walker, they’re keeping a good starter who may still yet have upside. It’s a move towards maintaining depth. It’s more certainty than upside, which is never a bad thing.
In the end, the Mets best decision might be to offer Walker the qualifying offer. If he accepts, great. If not, the Mets get a compensatory pick allowing them to pursue players like Trea Turner.
Overall, this is a good “problem” for the Mets to have. They either keep a good pitcher, or they get an asset to help them sign other players and/or build for the future.
This is a “problem” because Walker has been good and deserves a long term deal. The Mets have been better for having him, and no matter what happens fans and the organization should appreciate him and wish him well.
With the new CBA, teams are limited to just two September call-ups instead of calling up the entire 40 man roster. This really limits what a team can do.
The New York Mets went the warm body route. Instead of opting for looking at a top prospect and/or seeing who can surprise, they opted for Deven Marrero and Adonis Medina, two players who will not factor into the Mets postseason plans.
That’s all well and good for a team if their postseason roster was set. When looking at the Mets bullpen, it’s difficult to make that case. That goes double when you consider Joely Rodriguez.
On the season, Rodriguez is 0-4 with a 5.03 ERA, 1.525 WHIP, 5.5 BB/9, and a 10.3 K/9. While he was expected to be a left-handed specialist, he’s yielded a higher OPS against left-handed batters.
Those batters are hitting .239/.342/.352 off of him. In total, that’s a .314 wOBA. This is a big reason towards his -0.4 WAR and 78 ERA+.
Taking that all into account, it’s unfathomable the Mets never brought in competition or an insurance policy. They didn’t at the trade deadline, and they didn’t with September call-ups.
With rosters expanding, this was the perfect opportunity to get another look at Nate Fisher.
Fisher was a surprise call-up earlier in the season, and he probably wasn’t expected to pitch. However, with Jose Butto struggling, Fisher was thrown out there.
Fisher shocked us all when he threw three scoreless innings against a pretty good Philadelphia Phillies lineup. His final line was 3.0 IP, H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, K.
It wasn’t always pretty. However, he was not hit hard (12.5% hard hit rate). Mostly, he got the job done, and when you pitch this well, that typically merits another look.
After Fisher was sent down, he continued to pitch well. In two Triple-A appearances, he pitched six innings allowing two earned on four hits and one walk while striking out four.
Yes, it is a lot to ask of Fisher to go from being out of baseball over a year ago to pitching in the postseason. However, the Mets did put themselves in a position where it must be contemplated.
Rodriguez has shown he cannot be trusted. David Peterson has struggled in a relief role. In the end, the Mets still don’t know who can get big outs against left-handed batters in the postseason.
The Mets could’ve signed or traded for a different reliever. They could’ve added a left-handed reliever at the trade deadline. They didn’t leaving then to sort through their internal options.
Not even looking at Fisher again is a massive error by this team. They know they’re not carrying Medina in the postseason. Having him here does nothing to prepare the Mets to win the World Series.
Fisher might’ve done that. Instead, the Mets have now triple-downed on Rodriguez even at a time when he can’t get left-handed batters out in a big spot. It’s time to rectify that and at least give Fisher a look.
With Carlos Carrasco on the IL, Taijuan Walker battling back spasms, and a doubleheader, the New York Mets are recalling Jose Butto. He will make his Major League debut against the Philadelphia Phillies.
At the moment, Butto is a two pitch pitcher still searching for that third pitch. As of now, it’s an inconsistent curve. In the long run, it would seem a slider would work better with his repertoire and 3/4 arm slot.
That’s the bad news. The good news is he has a lethal fastball/change-up combination. He has above-average command of both pitches, and there is about a 10 MPH difference.
The fastball is around the mid-90s topping out around 90 MPH. Both the fastball and change generate both a high spin and swings-and-misses.
In 20 starts and two relief appearances for Double-A Binghamton and Triple-A Syracuse, Butto has a 10.2 K/9 while striking out 26.2% of the batters he’s faced. At the moment, the K/9 is on pace for a career high, and the strikeout percentage would be the second best of his career.
In previous seasons, he’s shown better control. That especially goes to last year when he had a 2.2 BB/9. That’s creeped up to a 3.4 this year. However, with the strikeouts and .245 batting average against, he has been effective.
With the walks up and still predominantly being a two-pitch pitcher, Butto has averaged just under five innings per start. That carries the caveat of the Mets being cautious with young starters to begin the season, and his being lifted after one inning in his last start to prepare for his Major League debut.
Overall, he’s 6-6 with a 4.12 ERA, 1.312 WHIP, 3.4 BB/9, and a 10.2 K/9.
While there is still some debate over whether he’s a reliever or starter in the long term, that fastball/change combination is Major League caliber. For now, he gets his chance against the Phillies. From there, we’ll see.
Everything was going perfect for the New York Mets. After a big four run fifth inning, Max Scherzer was at 72 pitches. That meant he had at least a few more innings before passing it off to the bullpen to close out the win. That moment came far sooner than any of us realized.
After a 1-1 pitch to Dylan Carlson, Scherzer motioned to the dugout. He was hurt, and he knew he was done for the evening. Perhaps longer.
Max Scherzer has removed himself from his start due to apparent injury. Could be an absolutely brutal loss for the Mets.
— Stadium (@Stadium) May 19, 2022
During the game, Gary Cohen announced Scherzer was going to have an MRI. After the game, Scherzer answered reporters questions. While he seemed alright, he told them he was in considerable pain, and he was experiencing spasms in his left side. It would seem reasonable to assume he’s going to be on the IL for an indeterminate amount of time.
You could really argue this was the arm the Mets could ill afford to lose. He was the Jacob deGrom insurance. While true to an extent, the Mets really can’t afford to lose anyone from their rotation from the moment. In addition to deGrom still recovering, Tylor Megill is dealing with biceps tendonitis. That means any pitcher injury was one too many.
Jose Butto and Thomas Szapucki are the only remaining starters on the 40 man roster. Butto has pitched fairly well in Double-A, but he hasn’t surpassed 64 pitches in an outing, and he is averaging four innings per start. All told, Butto is a non-starter (pun intended) for the Mets.
Szapucki has been impressing lately posting big strikeout numbers. However, Szapucki is returning from surgery, and he has also not gone above 64 pitches in a start, and he has reached five full innings in a start once. Szapucki is working his way back to being in consideration, but he’s still building strength, and in reality, it’s best for him and the Mets that he remain in Triple-A
That leaves the Mets in a bad spot. Looking at the Syracuse roster, Mike Montgomery is probably the best non-40 option, but he has a 5.52 ERA on the season including a 9.00 ERA over his last three starts. There also aren’t any surprise options down in Double-A. Really, the Mets answer isn’t in their minor league system.
The answer is Trevor Williams.
With respect to Williams, he was a Major League starter in his five plus seasons before coming to the New York Mets in the Javier Baez trade. The best way to put Williams career as a starting pitcher was he was a borderline fifth starter. That is a large reason why the Mets wanted him at the trade deadline as part of that trade. Williams was depth who could be moved to the bullpen.
In reality, Williams has pitched his best with the Mets with a 118 ERA+. Part of that was moving to the bullpen and not having to go through a lineup the second time. Going over his career, batters are hitting .283/.351/.468 when facing him a second time in a game. Again, he’s a borderline fifth starter.
Trevor Williams in his last five appearances (1 with CHC, 4 with #Mets): 2 earned runs in just 19.1 IP while allowing 13 hits and 4 walks with 15 strikeouts. That'll do. #LGM (via @SNYtv) pic.twitter.com/IzXjod8uEI
— Matt Musico (@mmusico8) September 1, 2021
The other benefit is working with Jeremy Hefner. He’s helped Williams get more movement on the sinker. Mostly, it’s just better location. Before joining the Mets, Williams had a 3.0 BB/9 and a 7.8 BB%. Since joining the Mets, he’s now at a 2.1 BB/9 and a 5.3 BB%. He’s also striking out more batters.
It’s more than that. Hefner was Williams working more down in the zone while using his four seamer up in the zone. The result has been a 45.2 GB%. Before joining the Mets, Williams had a 42.7 GB%. This has allowed Williams to take advantage of the Mets superior up the middle defense.
If these seem like incremental gains, well, they are. However, that’s still improvement which could help Williams become a more solid fifth starter. Honestly, that’s all the Mets need him to be right now.
Fortunately, he’s been at his best with the Mets, and due to a blowout loss and now a spot start, Williams has been stretched out a bit. In fact, he’s throwing as many pitches per outing as Butto and Szapucki. However, Williams has Major League success and has proven he can start at this level.
Overall, the Mets are a the end of their starting pitching depth. Williams is the next and last guy up. Fortunately, Williams is in a position where he can step up, and he’s been the best he’s ever been with the Mets. Hopefully, he can be that stopgap until somebody, anybody is able to return to the rotation.
Well, it didnt’ take long for the New York Mets depth to be tested. Jacob deGrom is out for about half of the season with a stress reaction in his right scapula. Max Scherzer has a hamstring issue. Taijuan Walker has issues with his surgically repaired knee. Brandon Nimmo needs cortisone shots in the neck he injured last season.
Buck Showalter is talking about the Opening Day starter being one of Tylor Megill, David Peterson, or Trevor Williams. Travis Jankowski, Peterson, and Nick Plummer have been put on the taxi squad awaiting the call-up. Without even playing a game, this is far from the situation the Mets thought they would be.
However, this does underscore the job the Mets did this offseason to address their overall depth.
In years past, at least one of Megill or Peterson (;ikely both) would have been guaranteed a rotation spot, and Williams would have been non-tendered. Instead, all three are there to provide innings if needed. More than that, the team still has Jose Butto in the minors. There is depth here allowing the Mets to throw credible Major League starters even in the absence of at least three starting pitchers.
In terms of the outfield, the depth is there to sustain a Nimmo injury. The question is whether the Mets do what needs to be done on that front.
In all honesty, the Mets fourth best outfielder is Jeff McNeil. If Nimmo’s injury is serious enough to necessitate an IL stint, McNeil should shift out to left field allowing the team to see just how much Robinson Cano has in the tank. In some ways, this would be the best test for the team to see what Cano can actually provide to this team.
However, in all likelihood, they will play Dominic Smith in left. On one hand, this underscores just how much the Mets needed Smith and why they were smart not to trade him. On the other hand, Smith isn’t a good left fielder underscoring why the Mets should go out and re-sign Michael Conforto.
Whatever the case, the Mets have versatile players, and they have credible Major League players to plug into the lineup even without 3/5 of their rotation and their starting center fielder. This underscores the good work the team did in the offseason. However, the proof is in the pudding, and we won’t find out just how good of a job the Mets did until we see how it translates on the field.
Jacob deGrom is injured, and it’s significant. He has a stress reaction in his scapula which will shit him down for four weeks.
Keep in mind, being shut down for four weeks means he’s out longer than that. After that he needs to rehab and/or ramp back up putting the timetable closer to two months.
The good news is the New York Mets were prepared for this. Finally, they have the depth within the organization to sustain an injury to any of their starting pitchers, deGrom included.
With Max Scherzer, the Mets have a true ace atop their rotation even in deGrom’s absence. After him is Chris Bassitt, who is a very strong number two. We also know Taijuan Walker is a solid back of the rotation starter who showed he could actually be more than that.
After that, when healthy, Carlos Carrasco is a top of the rotation pitcher. If not, he’s a serviceable starter. At this point, we look towards the Mets depth.
Trevor Megill showed flashes of brilliance in his rookie year. Of course, he hit a rookie wall and tailed off significantly. Still, he’s looked great this spring, and he appears ready to at least be a middle of the rotation starter now.
Right there, the Mets have a very good starting five. That’s even before they have deGrom. In fact, that’s still one of the best in baseball.
Now, can the Mets get more depth? Absolutely. Time and again, you see you can never have enough depth. That goes double for pitching and really for the Mets.
That said, there’s a difference between INVESTIGATING depth and DESPERATELY NEEDING depth.
Flat out, Hosmer is bad. He’s accumulated a 2.7 WAR in four years with the Padres. Aside from the pandemic season, his offense is replacement level. Aside from last year, his defense has been putrid with a -10 OAA in 2018 and 2019.
Better yet, Hosmer has a horrendous contract. He’s due to make $13 million in each of the next three seasons carrying him through his age 35 season.
Paddack is interesting. He had success his rookie year. He struggled since and had Tommy John. In the right hands, and Jeremy Hefner is the right hands, you could have a very good starter.
Paddack is an acceptable piece to take back in a salary dump deal. We know how those deals are supposed to work. You get the piece in Paddack and the bad contract, and in return, you give little to nothing back.
If you’re the Mets, that’s a player like J.D. Davis. He has no position. His stats are buttressed by an unsustainable BABIP and success mostly generated with a juiced ball. He’s got just two more years of control. This is exactly who you move.
Instead, the Mets are talking Dom. It’s nonsense. We know Smith is their best defensive first baseman, and he can fake it in left field when needed. We’ve seen he can hit, and his down year was attributable to injury.
Smith came to spring ready to play, and he’s impressed. He’s earned a starting job (again). You don’t trade him for a salary dump and pitching project.
That’s a Brodie Van Wagenen trade. As an aside, it makes even less sense to obtain Hosmer when you’re a team saddled with Robinson Cano.
Overall, yes, inquire on Paddack. You do that regardless of deGrom’s shoulder. Absolutely, go out and be a big market team and absorb a bad contract to get Paddack cheaper. That said, under no circumstances do you panic and include Smith in that trade.
With the collective bargaining agreement stalemate, and Commissioner Rob Manfred announcing the first two series of the Major League season will be canceled, minor league baseball appears to be set to be the only baseball left to be played. This was the case on August 12, 1994 until the end of that season, and right now, we don’t know how long it will be until MLB and the MLBPA reach an agreement.
This begs the question about how this will affect the minor league season. In many ways, the answer is not at all, but in a more global sense, it is a huge impact due to all of the uncertainty.
40 Man Roster Issues
First and foremost, this lockout impacts players on the 40 man roster. Keep in mind with Major League rosters being capped at 26 players, the 14 players who were supposed to play in the minors are now not permitted to play with their respective organizations.
This past offseason, the New York Mets added Mark Vientos, Ronny Mauricio, Adam Oller, and Jose Butto to their 40 man roster. They’re now not eligible to play in games or participate in Spring Training. The same goes for players like Travis Blankenhorn, Khalil Lee, Patrick Mazeika, and Nick Plummer who were likely ticketed for Triple-A to start the season.
Spring Training Battles
If we look back to the pandemic shortened season of 2020, MLB had a very abbreviated “Summer Camp” with players reporting on July 1 and beginning the season on July 24. In 1995, the strike and lockout meant Spring Training was delayed. When the two sides finally agreed to a deal, Spring Training was just three weeks. We’re very likely to see something akin to that again.
As a result, we are not going to have the opportunity to see Spring Training battles breath. At least at the moment, Tylor Megill and David Peterson appear poised to battle for the fifth starter spot. With no real Spring Training, and both pitchers being shut down because they are on the 40 man roster, it would appear the Mets would be all the more emboldened to sign another starter.
Speaking of Spring Training battles, there are those veterans who signed minor league deals. For example, this offseason the Mets signed Daniel Palka who has played 154 Major League games in his career and Matt Reynolds who has played 130 games. They would be permitted to play in Spring Training, where they would not be paid, and they can then report to play in Triple-A Syracuse regardless of the status of the CBA negotiations.
Rule 5 Draft
As noted, players not on the 40 man roster are permitted to participate in Spring Training, and they can begin their minor league seasons when they are slated to begin. That is an enormous benefit for players like Carlos Cortes, Brian Metoyer, and Hayden Senger. Each of these players were on the bubble for Rule 5 protection, and the Mets opted to expose them to the draft.
This means Cortes, Metoyer, and Senger will get to play and improve. That will also give teams an opportunity to get a better look at those three players in determining whether they should be selected in the Rule 5 draft. Of course, that also works in the inverse with the Mets getting a deeper look into players they might be targeting.
Keep in mind, there isn’t much precedent here for this. In 1994, because there was a strike but not a lockout, teams were able to proceed with their business as usual and hold the Rule 5 draft in December (even if it was delayed twice). For the 2020 season, the Rule 5 draft had already taken place in December 2019 because COVID-19 was not yet a concern.
Another important note here is as MLB cancels games, it becomes easier to carry Rule 5 drafted players. As a result, the risk in selecting a Rule 5 player has been greatly mitigated. Another factor at play here is we may see players get drafted based on early season results who may not have been otherwise considered. To sum up, this is a quagmire.
At the moment, the Mets have their minor league mini-camp. Minor League Spring Training is also set to officially begin this week. As of right now, according to their official schedule, the Mets are slated to play their first Spring Training game on March 12 against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Of course, games were supposed to begin February 28, but it was delayed due to the lockout. As of right now, there is no official word if games will be delayed further. That said, there will likely be some form of a Spring Training game schedule even absent a CBA being in place to allow the minor leaguers to prepare for their season. The season for the Mets full season affiliates are set to begin as follows:
- Syracuse Mets – April 5
- Binghamton Rumble Ponies – April 8
- Brooklyn Cyclones – April 8
- St. Lucie Mets – April 8
For those Mets fans who want to attend a baseball game, the Brooklyn Cyclones home opener will be on April 12 at 7:00 P.M. against the Jersey Shore Blue Claws (Phillies).
Right now, the Mets are paying Buck Showalter a lot of money to manage a team which is not set to play. That leaves Showalter with the job of preparing to prepare for the season. In some ways, that’s extremely beneficial for the new staff with new coaches like Eric Chavez to come to work together.
It also gives them an opportunity to work with the minor leaguers in Spring Training, and perhaps, depending on the length of the lockout, to travel to work with some of the minor leaguers. This presents an enormous opportunity for players like Brett Baty, who is battling with Vientos for that future third base job. More than that, it allows some of the more unheralded prospects like a Harol Gonzalez to make an impression in camp and get an advocate from the Major League coaching staff in their corner.
That just speaks to just how different everything will be for minor leaugers. Yes, the players not on the 40 man roster will have no change to their schedule. They will report to Spring Training at the same time, and they will play the games like they normally do.
However, they will also get more exposure to Major League coaching, and they have more of an opportunity to distinguish themselves. Moreover, they will get to prepare for their season and work on their games while fellow minor leaugers who are on the 40 man roster will be at home unpaid and without a chance to work with their coaches to improve their game.