Josh Smoker

Montero Gone Both Too Soon And Too Late

Well, the impossible has finally happened. The New York Mets have FINALLY parted ways with one time top prospect Rafael Montero. It is somewhat ironic it comes in the same month when Jacob deGrom is likely to win the Cy Young Award. Mostly, it’s just shocking and strange.

This was a long anticipated moment, and yet one in which many believed would never happen.

Looking back, it was Terry Collins who first made an issue about Montero’s ability to pitch. With the Mets coming off a pennant, Collins went out of his way to challenge/chastise Montero. Collins would tell him the Mets re-signed Bartolo Colon because Montero had not held up hid end of the bargain because he was not good enough to be a part of the Mets rotation.

The reason Montero wasn’t ready to take on that role was because he was hurt. At least, that is what he said. He kept alleging it, and the Mets doctors never found anything, at least not anything they deemed sufficient enough for his complaining of pain. While he was complaining of pain, we were all complaining about the results.

In 2016 and 2017, he was 5-12 with a 5.87 ERA, 1.790 WHIP, and a 1.61 K/BB ratio. Things got so bad with him many talked themselves into him being a late bloomer when he had a 4.15 ERA in August 2017.

That included the Mets who kept Montero over relievers like Josh Smoker, Chasen Bradford, and Erik Goeddel. The later two had good 2018 seasons, which was something which stung all the more when you saw how much the Mets needed relief help.

The Mets releasing players who contributed elsewhere just so the Mets could stubbornly see what they had in Montero was becoming the norm.

Fact is, the Mets were in this deep, so they might as well see how all of this played out. Then a funny thing happened. The guy who always seemed to complain about injuries was actually injured.

On the eve of the 2018 season, it was discovered Montero had a torn UCL, and he needed season ending Tommy John surgery. While it could be a different injury than the ones he had which had caused him pain in the past, it was certainly interesting to see him finally diagnosed with an injury which COULD explain his struggles.

With the surgery, it is likely he would not pitch until sometime around the 2019 All Star break. Looking at Zack Wheeler, there was a chance he may not pitch at all in 2019. With him being out of options, there was a legitimate question if he’d ever pitch for the Mets again.

Still, the Mets had gone this far down the rabbit hole with Montero, and to a certain extent, they were almost obligated to see how he could pitch when he was finally healthy and/or not complaining of pain to his pitching arm.

Maybe, the poor pitching we’ve seen was the result of a torn UCL. Maybe, just maybe, with a surgically repaired elbow, Montero could be the pitcher the Mets envisioned he could be, or at the very least, he could become a competent MLB pitcher.

Well, if that does happen, it’s going to happen somewhere else because the Mets out-righted Montero to get the roster back under 40 players. Montero then opted to become a free agent.

The Mets out-righted Montero while keeping Drew Gagnon, a 28 year old rookie with a 5.63 career Triple-A ERA. Say whatever you want about Montero, but from a pure talent standpoint, he is better than Gagnon. It’s the reason why Montero got so many chances.

And that where’s we are with Montero. The Mets and Montero are parting ways instead of seeing if Montero could pitch like the pitcher the Mets stubbornly believed he could be. Instead, after all that time and seeing all those other pitches go and produce elsewhere, Montero is an ex-Met.

For all the times the Mets should have parted with Montero, the organization chose to do this now instead of all those other times when they should have held onto another player. They chose now even though Montero was finally the player they should have kept.

If the Mets had done this at any other time, and Montero succeeded, many would have understood. Fact is, most probably still will. And yet, if a healthy Montero does prove himself to be competent MLB pitcher and Gagnon pitches like someone with a career 5.63 Triple-A, the Mets will have definitively made the wrong choice here . . . just like all those other times they cut good players from the roster to stubbornly keep Montero.

Brace Yourselves: Rafael Montero Will Make The Opening Day Roster

Believe it or not, there are just five pitchers who remain from the Mets 2015 Opening Day roster.  Those five pitchers are Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Jeurys Familia, Jerry Blevins, and of course, Rafael Montero.  That’s right, Montero was on the 2015 Opening Day roster, and in case you forgot, he was once again on the Opening Day roster last year.

And you know what?  Montero is going to be on the 2018 Mets Opening Day roster as well.

The Mets have given us a clear indication this will happen.  Right after the season, the team outrighted pitchers Erik Goeddel and Tyler Pill from the 40 man roster.  They claimed Burch Smith in the Rule 5 Draft, and he was immediately sent to the Kansas City Royals for cash.  To make room for Major League signings this offseason, the Mets designated Kevin McGowan, Chasen Bradford, and Josh Smoker for assignment.

Put another way, the Mets have had plenty of opportunities to extricate themselves of Montero, and they continuously refuse to do so whether it is out of stubbornness, hope, or really, just plain lunacy.  Fact is, while no Mets fans believe in him and his 5.38 ERA, the Mets still believe in him and want him here.

If the Mets truly do want to see their continued investment in Montero pay off for them, then the team is going to have to put him on the 40 man roster because he is out of options.  That means Montero gets one more last chance.  I’d list what chance number that is, but like most Mets fans, I’ve lost count.

This means, the Mets are going to have to hope Montero’s .376 BABIP last year was largely the result of a truly poor defensive team.  They will have to hope his being the second best starter on the team, Jason Vargas included, in not yielding barrels translates to success.  (Statcast).  They’re also going to have to hope, as noted by Anthony DiComo of MLB.com, he continues to yield the fewest hard hit balls on this pitching staff.

Mostly, the team is going to have to hope Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland are part pitching coaches and part miracle workers.

If this does happen, and Montero FINALLY attacks the zone like he has shown in Double-A and below, the Mets may have something.  Their patience may finally be rewarded and, frankly, applauded.  However, it is much more likely we will see more of the same, which should create heat on Sandy Alderson because he parted with quality pitcher after quality pitcher in order to hold onto Montero.

Regardless of your opinion on Montero and the likelihood of his being successful, he’s going to be on the Opening Day roster.  There are bullpen spots open, and Montero is out of options.  At this point, we can only hope the stubborn refusal to DFA him will pay off.

Can’t Bear To See Smoker And Bradford Go

Each and every offseason, I have seen the Mets part with players who are easy to root for.  In my life, I have seen the Mets part ways with Gary Carter, Darryl Strawberry, Mike Piazza, Edgardo Alfonzo, Daniel Murphy, and many more.  Having seen my some of my all-time favorite players depart has never made it easy to see the team depart with some of the players I have come to respect and root for during their time in a Mets uniform – no matter how long it lasted.

Recently, the Mets parted with two relievers, each of whom played less than two full seasons in a Mets uniform.  Presumably, the moves were necessary as the Mets needed to make room on the 40 man roster for the newly re-signed Jay Bruce and Jose Reyes.  Still, seeing those two relievers, you question if the Mets made the right decision.

The first reliever the Mets designated for assignment was Chasen Bradford.

In retrospect, it is interesting the Mets were even in a position to DFA Bradford.  For a number of years, he had been Rule 5 eligible with the rest of MLB not giving him much of a look.  The Mets didnt’ either, and if not for the series of injuries that beset the Mets this past season, it’s possible Bradford would have departed the team as a minor league free agent without getting so much as a chance.

Well, Bradford got his chance, and he proved he’s a MLB caliber pitcher.  In 28 appearances, he was 2-0 with a 3.78 ERA and a 1.277 WHIP.  After a somewhat tough July, he went on a 12 appearance stretch where he allowed just one run in 16.2 innings.

In fact, from August until the end of the season, he had a 2.93 ERA in 27.2 innings over 23 appearances.  During that stretch, he had amassed 20 scoreless appearances, and he had nine appearances over an inning in length.  In sum, Bradford showed he could go out there and get Major League batters out no matter the situation.

There other reliever designated for assignment was Josh Smoker.

Smoker’s story is one of perseverance.  After being the Nationals 2007 first round draft pick, he would suffer a torn rotator cuff and labrum.  This would cause the Nationals to release him thereby putting his professional baseball career in jeopardy.

A healthy Smoker proved himself in the Frontier League leading to his getting signed by the Mets.  Two years later, Smoker found himself part of a bullpen that helped pitch the Mets to the postseason.  Given his talent and perseverance, it was not surprise Smoker would be a part of the 2017 Opening Day bullpen.

What was a surprise was how Terry Collins used him.  Really, his manager showed a willful disregard for a pitcher with a history of shoulder issues.  It was almost as if Collins learned nothing from his handling of Johan Santana and Jim Henderson.  Eventually, Smoker had another shoulder injury.  Thankfully, it was not as serious as it would not require seasons ending surgery.

Once again, Smoker would have to re-prove himself, and re-prove himself he did.  In the second half, Smoker was 0- 0 with a 2.63 ERA and a 10.5 K/9 in 22 appearances.  Perhaps of more importance, Smoker found himself a capable pitcher against left-handed batters making him an even greater weapon in the bullpen.

However, like Bradford, Smoker will be a weapon in someone else’s bullpen.

After being designated for assignment, Bradford signed a minor league deal with the Mariners.  To risk not losing him on waivers, Smoker was traded to the Pirates for minor league left-handed reliever Daniel Zamora.  With that, the Mets have ridded themselves of two relievers who not only provided themselves capable of getting out Major League batters, but also two relievers who showed perseverance in getting themselves to this point.  That’s no small thing to lose.

As we learned during Player’s Weekend, Bradford’s nickname is Black Bear, and Smoker’s nickname is Brown Bear.  While it may seem a bit much, considering their nicknames, it’s fair to say it’s difficult to bear knowing neither pitcher will be a part of the Mets next season.

Fortunately for both of them, they are now with new organizations who likely value them all the more.  They deserve that, and all Mets fans should wish them the best of luck.

What The 2018 Mets Roster Looks Like Right Now

It is a slow going offseason, but it seems even slower for the Mets.  With so many teams with more money than the Mets still interested in many of the same free agents, it is hard to believe the Mets will make significant additions before the end of the offseason.  If they don’t, here is what the 2018 Mets Opening Day roster will look like:

C – Travis d’Arnaud
1B – Dominic Smith
2B – Wilmer Flores
3B – Asdrubal Cabrera
SS – Amed Rosario
LF – Yoenis Cespedes
CF – Juan Lagares
RF – Michael Conforto
Bench – Kevin Plawecki, Brandon Nimmo, T.J. Rivera, Matt Reynolds, Phillip Evans

Rotation – Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler
Bullpen – Jeurys Familia, Anthony Swarzak, AJ Ramos, Jerry Blevins, Hansel Robles, Paul Sewald, Seth Lugo

This should only highlight about how much work the Mets actually have to do this offseason.

Sure, we can buy the pitching staff as a whole as is because they have viable depth.  In the rotation, Lugo could get transition back much like how he did in 2016.  After that, they have Robert Gsellman, Chris Flexen, Corey Oswalt, and Mickey Jannis.  And that is before the Mets go deeper with pitchers like P.J. Conlon.  Suffice it to say, the Mets do have sufficient rotation depth.

Considering many of the aforementioned pitchers could go to the bullpen, the bullpen also has sufficient depth.  And behind them, the Mets also have David Roseboom, Chase Bradford, and Josh Smoker.

However, that offense.  You can’t sell anyone that is going to be alright.  Mostly, that is because the Mets don’t believe themselves that it will be.  And that is before you take into account the injury issues Conforto and Rivera are currently rehabbing from this offseason.

For example, the team has all but given up on Gavin Cecchini, who should be in a position to at least compete for a spot on the 25 man roster.  He won’t.  What’s scary is there is no real Major League ready talent behind him . . . at least no immediately as players like Luis Guillorme and David Thompson need at least some time in Triple-A.  By the way, there’s no real outfield depth in this system.

Looking over this roster, you’d be hard pressed to believe the Mets will be better than the 70-92 team they were last season no matter how much they sell us Mickey Callaway as the solution to all that ails the Mets.

So, it really should not come as a surprise to no one the Mets have a lot of work to do, and it goes well beyond just adding one or two players.  That applies just to the starting lineup.  After that, they really need to build a Major League caliber bench.

Again, the good news is there are still many free agents available.  However, it’s still hard to believe the Mets will be able to add the players they need to become a postseason contender.

Five Mets Pitchers Who Could Benefit From Callaway And Eiland

With the Mets hiring both Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland coupled with the team possibly only adding Anthony Swarzak to the pitching staff this offseason, it appears much of the hope for the 2018 Mets are tied to the current Mets pitchers improving.  Fortunately, the team has both the right coaching staff in place as well as a talented group of pitchers who underwhelmed last year.  Here are five different pitchers who may take a step forward next season under Callaway’s and Eiland’s tutelage:

Robert Gsellman

After his 2016 stint in the majors, many believed Gsellman would emerge as one of the front-runners for the Rookie of the Year Award.  Instead, he had about as poor a 2017 season as you could imagine with him being ineffective, suffering an injury, and his being dismissive of Sandy Alderson’s critique of his performance.

Looking over his stats last season, none of his pitchers were really working.  That should come as no surprise when opposing batters hit .280/.345/.462 off of him.  Still, as we saw in 2016, this is a pitcher with talent, and he is now working with a coaching staff that helps get a pitcher maximize his talent.

While much has been discussed about Callaway’s focus on the two seamer, fact is he has also successfully worked with sinkers.  As noted by Let’s Go Tribe, Callaway has gotten his sinker ball pitchers to focus less on pounding the sinker and more in mixing their pitches and throwing a more diverse fastball selection.  From that, we have not only seen Corey Kluber emerge as a perennial Cy Young candidate, but we have also seen pitchers like Trevor Bauer and Carlos Correa maximize their talent.

A similar handling of Gsellman, who threw his fastball and sinker 63% of the time last year, could well yield similar results to those pitchers in Cleveland.

Seth Lugo

One thing that was clear from Lugo last year was he struggles the third time through the lineup.  In his brief Major League career, batters have hit .299/.352/.425 during his third time through the lineup.  In that sense, Lugo is not unique as we have seen that happen to other quality pitchers.

However, if utilized properly, Lugo could very well be a very good Major League pitcher.  All that is needed is someone to be forward thinking in how he is handled.

One example of this is Kyle Hendricks.  He historically struggled the third time through the lineup, so his manager Joe Maddon limited the times Hendricks did this, and the result was Hendricks finishing third in Cy Young voting in 2016.

Another avenue to pursue is to make Lugo a reliever.  We have seen Eiland have success converting starters into relievers with his work with pitchers like Luke Hochevar and Wade Davis.  Also, given Callaway’s influence on how the Indians utlizied Andrew Miller, Lugo could become a real weapon in that bullpen.

Hansel Robles

Robles is prone to stretches of both complete dominance and complete ineptitude.  For example, from Opening Day to May 18th, Robles had made 18 appearances going 4-0 with a 1.42 ERA, 1.053 WHIP, and a 9.5 K/9.  During that stretch, opposing batters hit just .169/.295/.277.   After that, he had a three appearance stretch that saw him give up at least four earned in each appearances leading to his demotion to Triple-A where he continued to struggle.

One of the reasons why we see those stretches of dominance from Robles is his stuff. He throws a mid to high 90s fastball with a good mid 80s slider.  What he needs is to learn how to become more consistent.  That could be accomplished with a more defined role, conservative usage, and really, better coaching.

Josh Smoker

Smoker has great stuff.  He combines a mid to high 90s fastball with a devastating split. It’s a large reason why even when things go wrong, the left-handed pitcher struck out 10.9 batters per nine at the major league level.  Aside from the stuff and the good strikeout rate, there were many problems with Smoker.

Smoker had shoulder issues again, likely related to his being overused, and he struggled with left-handed batters, at least until September.  Perhaps most alarming, and possibly a reason for his struggles, Smoker walked 5.6 batters per nine last year.

At this point in his career, Smoker needs someone who can help him better command his stuff.  With Callaway being an exceptional teacher and proponent of the curveball, he could get Smoker to make that pitch a that could be a weapon against left-handed batters.  If so, Smoker can get back to the point where he was entering the 2017 season – a hard throwing reliever with real upside.

Matt Harvey

Look, 2015 is a long way away, and 2013 is even further away than that.  During the last season, we not only saw Harvey broken down physically (again), but we finally saw some cracks in his self confidence.  This wasn’t the Dark Knight anymore.  This was just plain old Matt Harvey.  And we don’t know if Matt Harvey can be an effective Major League pitcher.

What we do know is that he was completely mishandled from the get-go last year.  By Dan Warthen‘s own admission, Harvey was not going to be 100% until May.  Despite that, Harvey was in the Opening Day rotation, and he pitched and pitched until he could pitch no more.  His results were blamed on poor mechanics.

The truth was the muscles in Harvey’s pitching shoulder had atrophied, and he was suffering a stress reaction.  Fact is, he wasn’t ready to go.  Harvey may very well have pushed to pitch, but the Mets never did stand in the way to protect Matt from himself.  Moreover, they never did fix the mechanical issues all parties purported him to have.

With Eiland, the Mets have a pitching coach whose bread and butter is mechanics.  Both Callaway and Eiland pushed the Mets to keep Harvey rather than trade him because they believed in him.  They believed in him because they see something in him that perhaps no one else sees anymore.  With them in place, there are coaches who believe in his talent and know how to get the most out of it.  Whether that happens remains to be seen.

Swarzak Good But Not Final Piece For 2018 Mets Bullpen

After the purported hand-wringing Sandy Alderson was doing over the free agent reliever market, the Mets finally pulled the trigger, and they signed Anthony Swarzak to a two year $14 million deal.

There is a lot to like about Swarzak.  Last year, the 32 year old had his best ever season going 6-4 with a 2.33 ERA, 1.034 WHIP, 2.6 BB/9, and a 10.6 K/9.  As noted by D.J. Short of Rotoworld, Swarzak had a higher swinging strike percentage than old friend Addison Reed.  Part of that could be attributed to the fact he added about two MPH on his fastball.

He’s also been a platoon neutral pitcher his entire career with his best season being in 2017.  While limiting right-handed batters to a .218/.259/.346 batting line, left-handed batters were worse against him hitting .198/.294/.281.

These stats are all the more incredible and important when you consider he predominantly worked in the 7th and 8th innings. The Mets needed another set-up man to work with AJ Ramos to hand the ball to Jeurys Familia in the 9th.

Overall, this is all important, and the signing helps the Mets.  However it isn’t enough, especially because this is all but a shapshot of Swarzak’s career.

It was just in 2015 Swarzak had a 5.26 ERA and 1.516 WHIP in the Korean Leagues.  In 2016, his first season back from Korea, he was 1-2 with a 5.52 ERA for the Yankees.

While he was obviously improved since then, it was mostly on the strength of some outliers.  Prior to last season, he yielded a .304 BABIP.  In 2017, that number was .272.

Prior to 2017, Swarzak left 69.8% of runners on base, which is right around league average.  Last season, his LOB% was a career best 82.9%.

Maybe these numbers were all the result of improved stuff.  Maybe it was him becoming more comfortable in the bullpen.  It’s just as possible the increased velocity and some of the BABIP and LOB% will regress to league and career norms.

Overall, the Mets did acquire a quality reliever who should prove to better than internal options like Hansel Robles, Paul Sewald, and Josh Smoker.  Moreover, Swarzak is getting the opportunity to work with Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland.  If there’s a tandem you trust to help Swarzak make 2017 the new norm instead of an outlier, it’s them.

Still, with the stark contrast between the 2017 and career numbers, the Mets need to hedge their bets that Swarzak may very well regress.  In the end, this means that while Swarzak may very well prove to be a nice addition, he’s far from being the final piece of the puzzle.

For Thanksgiving, What Each Met Should Be Thankful For

On Thanksgiving, it’s time to go around the Mets 2017 roster and name something each player should be thankful for:

Nori AokiHe looked so much better in September than he did in all of 2017 by being competent while playing on a dysfunctional team.

Jerry BlevinsThroughout all the stress of the season and his extreme workload, the man didn’t even put on one pound.

Chasen BradfordWith his call-up to the majors, he’s now on the short list for best beards in Mets history.

Jay BruceHe learned from his experience last year, and he played well for a team that acquired him in a trade.

Asdrubal CabreraAs we found out this season, all he wanted the Mets to do was to pick up his option so he could provide for him family.  With the Mets having done that, he can now rest easy.

Jamie CallahanOne day when bards tell the tale of the six right-handed relievers the Mets acquired at the 2017 deadline, they will regale us all with stories of how Callahan was the first of them to finish out a game the Mets won.

Gavin CecchiniHe made the switch from short to second where it will be easier for him to make it to the majors.  That goes double if the Mets who are tightening payroll off a poor season don’t bring in a free agent to play the position.

Yoenis CespedesWith Cespedes missing half the season, that left a lot of time for him to hit the course.

Michael Conforto – Collins is gone meaning no one is standing in his way from being a superstar anymore.

Travis d’Arnaud – He became the greatest defensive second baseman in Mets history by posting a 1.000 fielding percentage at the position.

Jacob deGromWith him pitching so well this year, he knows he will finally be able to cash in in arbitration thereby allowing him to afford a haircut.

Lucas Duda – The slugger was the first Mets player traded at the deadline, and he temporarily got to avoid the We Follow Lucas Duda filming.

Josh EdginHe could be the only pitcher in the history of the Mets organization who is capable of getting both Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy out.

Phillip EvansAfter winning a batting title in 2016, having a good Spring Training, and a good second half for Vegas, the Mets finally decided to let him post similarly good numbers for them in September.

Jeurys FamiliaBlood clots in his shoulder costing him most of the season made most people forget why he missed the beginning of the season.

Chris FlexenAs we learned with Mike Pelfrey, being a Mets pitcher who struggled in the majors after completely skipping Triple-A will get you career earnings of roughly $47 million.

Wilmer FloresHe fouled a ball off his face, and he lived to tell about it.

Sean GilmartinWith his going from the Mets to the Cardinals, he was able to prove he wasn’t bad.  It was just the Mets as an organization did not employ anyone capable of knowing he was actually injured.

Erik GoeddelNo matter how much he struggled this season, he will never be the most hated person in pro sports with the last name pronounced GO-dell\n
Curtis GrandersonHe had a front row seat to seeing Chase Utley fail in the postseason.

Robert GsellmanHe has so much self confidence he doesn’t care what anyone things of him.

Matt HarveyBetween the Tommy John, TOS, and the Mets rushing him into the rotation with atrophied muscles in his throwing arm knowing he wouldn’t really be ready until a month into the season, he should be thankful for getting out of the season with his right arm still attached.

Ty Kelly He got out of here after one game thereby preventing Nurse Ratched from getting to him and ending his season.

Juan LagaresWith all the injuries and the Mets looking to cut payroll, he is once again the center fielder of the future.

Seth LugoAs we learned in the WBC and regular season, when he’s blonde, he’s Cy Young the first two times through the order.

Steven MatzWith him suffering the same injury deGrom suffered last year, we all know he can come back from this to be the same exact injury prone pitcher he was before the surgery.

Kevin McGowanHe will always have a special place in Mets fans hearts as it was his call-up that forced Ramirez off the roster.

Tommy MiloneHe was able to find a team that was okay with him having an ERA over 8.00.

Rafael Montero For the first time in his life, he wasn’t a complete abomination as a pitcher.

Tomas NidoEven with his struggles at the plate in Binghamton, he can rest easy knowing the Mets don’t expect an OBP over .300 from their catchers.

Brandon NimmoNo one, not matter what, has been able to wipe that smile off of his face.

Tyler PillIn a year of embarrassing pitching performances by Mets pitchers, Pill actually acquitted himself quite well before suffering his season ending injury.

Kevin Plawecki – He’s so well liked by his teammates that someone left him a present in his locker, which apparently has inspired him to hit the ball harder and longer thereby resurrecting his career.

Neil RamirezSomehow, someway, he was not the absolute worst pitcher on a team’s pitching staff.

AJ RamosTo him, getting traded to the Mets meant he was traded to a team that actually spends money in the offseason.

Addison ReedHe was so good this year he was worth not just one but three right-handed relievers.

Jose ReyesThe Mets didn’t cut him or his playing time no matter how horrible he played during the 2017 season.

Matt ReynoldsHe got that long look in September Sandy Alderson promised him.  Unfortunately, that only amounted to him getting 10 games to show what he could do at the MLB level.

Jacob RhameHe’s with an organization that has had success getting flame throwing right-handed pitchers who have slimmed down since getting drafted reach their full potential.

Rene RiveraAfter failing to whisper loud enough to help the Mets pitchers pitch better, he was able to go to the Cubs to help their pitchers lead them to an NLCS berth.

T.J. Rivera – With Warthen and Ramirez gone, he’s not going to have to worry about anyone mishandling his return from Tommy John.

Hansel RoblesIn his mind every ball hit in the air is an inning ending pop up.

Amed RosarioHe didn’t have to have his development hampered by being expected to be the savior when he was called-up to the majors as the Mets were well out of contention on August 1st.

Fernando SalasDespite his rough stint with the Mets, he was able to land with the Angels to end the season thereby proving it was the Mets handling of pitchers and not him that was terrible.

Paul SewaldAs a reward for all of his hard work in Vegas, he got the privilege of being the arm Collins loved to abuse during the season.

Dominic SmithHe finally got his call-up in August in Philadelphia of all places allowing him to celebrate the accomplishment and the win with a cheesesteak from Pat’s.  (NOTE: not a cheapshot at his weight, this actually happened)

Josh SmokerAfter the Mets finally gave up on using a pitcher with a history of shoulder issues as the long man in the pen, he showed the team in September that he could be as a lefty out of the pen to get lefties out.

Noah SyndergaardMr. Met flipped off someone this year other than him.

Travis TaijeronWith the Dodgers just signing him to a minor league deal, he is now all but assured of becoming the next Justin Turner.

Neil Walker – The Mets moved him to the Brewers where he was able to re-establish his free agency value by being productive and by staying healthy, which was coincidentally was when he was away from the Mets medical team.

Adam WilkBecause Harvey was at home one day in his pajamas, he set off on a path where he would become eligible to earn a share of the postseason money awarded to the Twins for claiming the second Wild Card.

Zack WheelerInstead of missing two years due to injury, he missed two months.

David WrightDespite all evidence to the contrary, the Mets still have not given up on him.

Terry CollinsAt the end of the day, he was able to make a friend of Fred Wilpon who had his back no matter what.  We should all be so lucky.

Dan WarthenHe found a new group of pitchers in Texas who have elbows waiting to learn how to throw that Warthen Slider.

Kevin LongAfter departing the Mets, he was able to smuggle the page out of his binders that showed exactly how he turned Daniel Murphy into Babe Ruth.  He can now bring that with him to Washington.

Sandy AldersonCollins was so poor at managing, he was able to convince ownership it was all Collins’ fault and not his for poorly constructing a roster.

Mets FansWell, even if it wasn’t at this post, we all still have a sense of humor, and we can still laugh at what we put up with from this team on a daily basis.

Happy Thanksgiving.

 

Free Agency Won’t Be The Easy Way To Build The 2018 Mets

With free agency beginning last night, the Mets now have the opportunity to fill-in many of the holes the team has in free agency.  In no particular order, those holes are second, third, center, bullpen, fifth starter, and maybe even catcher.  In addition to that, the Mets have to build a bench, which is something they overlook in the offseason year-in and year-out.

During Sandy Alderson’s tenure with the Mets, he predominantly makes his big moves in free agency, and he stays away from the big trades.  That is something he tends to do more during the season to address problems with the roster.  To that end, we will likely see the team’s needs addressed through a combination of free agency and the team’s internal options.

One of the issues in building the roster is the payroll seems to be limited.   That’s not limited by recent standards.  Rather, there are indications the payroll will be going down.  According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the Mets payroll could drop by $20 million to the $135 million range.

Previously, MMO estimated the Mets current payroll commitments, factoring in likely arbitration raises, will be between $109 – $119 million.  That includes the options for Blevins and Cabrera, which the Mets recently picked up. As of the moment, the Mets roster shakes up like this:

C: Travis d’Arnaud
1B: Dominic Smith
2B: Wilmer Flores
3B: Asdrubal Cabrera
SS: Amed Rosario
LF: Yoenis Cespedes
CF: Brandon Nimmo
RF: Michael Conforto

Bench: Kevin Plawecki, T.J. Rivera, Matt Reynolds, Juan Lagares

SP: Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler
RP: Jeurys Familia, AJ Ramos, Hansel Robles, Paul Sewald, Josh Smoker, Jerry Blevins

Judging from the aforementioned 24 players, the Mets have a lot of work to do, and with few exceptions, no one should feel their job is safe.  Still, the Mets really only have somewhere between $15 – $25 million to spend in the offseason. This means the Mets are going to have to spend it wisely.

For starters, this probably means the jobs of d’Arnaud and Plawecki are safe.  It also should mean that even with their comparative struggles, Rosario and Smith will begin the season on the Opening Day roster.  From there, the Mets are going to have to make some tough choices among the players who could fulfill the Mets needs.  It’s an even bigger issue than anticipated considering the MLB Trade Rumors projections:

There are other options, but this seems to be a fair sampling of the types of players the Mets should be targeting to bring them back into the postseason picture in the National League.

Reviewing those options, it seems as if you get one of the top tier players, the Mets are shut out from adding a second impact player.  This means unless the Mets expand the budget, signing a Cain to play center means Cabrera at third and a veteran like Howie Kendrick to compete with Flores at second.  Considering that, the Mets may feel comfortable that Lagares’ defense and Nimmo’s OBP are good enough to handle the center field position.

Considering the Mets real needs, the team’s best bet is going to be a player like a Frazier for third because that would free up some money to pursue another difference making player whether that be a Reed or Walker reunion, or the addition of a Sabathia to take over the Bartolo Colon sized hole on the roster.

In the end, the roster and the budget are going to make this one of Alderson’s toughest offseasons.  Likely, he’s only going to be able to get two bigger named players, and he’s going to have to fill out important roles with internal options that failed last year or veterans who you pray have a Jose Valentin type of season.

 

Mickey Callaway Chose This Mets Pitching Staff

For the most part, Mets fans were ecstatic about the team hiring Mickey Callaway.  That went double after that upbeat press conference where Callaway both promised he would love his players, and they would be the most durable and well-prepared players in the Major Leagues.

There are plenty of reasons to like the move.  The Mets hired someone who worked with Terry Francona, who is a future Hall of Famer.  The team found someone who has shown the ability not just to comprehend analytics, but also to translate them to pitchers in a way that helps them improve.  He’s a new and fresh voice that the team has not had in quite some time.  People around baseball seemed to just love the decision of the Mets hiring the second most coveted managerial candidate behind Alex Cora.

These are all well and good reasons to get excited about the hire.  There are presumably many more.  However, the biggest reason to get excited about the hire is a pitching coach like Callaway chose to manage this Mets team.

That is of no small significance.  After the 2015 season, many believed the Mets were going to be a perennial postseason team.  Certainly, if things broke the Mets way, they could very well have become a dynastic team, at the very least in the mold of the 1980s Mets teams that were in contention each and every season.  However, instead of things breaking the Mets way, the team mostly broke down.

Matt Harvey had to have surgery to alleviate the effects of his TOS, and he followed that up with trying to pitch with an atrophied muscle in his pitching shoulder.  Zack Wheeler missed two seasons due to a torn UCL and complications from his Tommy John surgery, and he found himself missing the final two and a half months of the season with a stress reaction.  Noah Syndergaard had a torn lat.  Jeurys Familia had blod clots removed from his pitching shoulder.  Steven Matz had another injury riddled season with him having to have season ending surgery to reposition the ulnar nerve.  That was the surgery Jacob deGrom had last season.  Speaking of deGrom, he really was the only healthy Mets pitcher during the entire 2017 season.

The pitching behind the injured starters wasn’t pretty.  Rafael Montero continued to be an enigma.  Chris Flexen showed he wasn’t ready to pitch at the Major League level.  Robert Gsellman had his own injury, and he regressed quite severly after a really promising September in 2016.  Seth Lugo had come back from his own injury issues, and upon his return, he struggled to get through the lineup three times.

Add to that Hansel Robles being Hansel Robles, and Josh Smoker failing to emerge as that late inning reliever his stuff promised he could be, and the Mets lack of Major League ready starting pitching talent in the minors, and you wonder why anyone would want to become the Mets pitching coach, let alone a manager whose strength is his work with a pitching staff.

Make no mistake, Callaway had to have liked what he saw with this team.  Maybe it’s an arrogance any manager or coach has thinking they will be the one to turn things around.  Maybe, it was his work with injury prone pitchers like Carlos Carrasco that made him believe he could definitely make things work.  Whatever it is, the pitching guru that Callaway is purported to be liked what he sees with the Mets enough to potentially put his reputations and maybe his managerial future on a staff that some believed had fallen apart beyond repair.

Certainly, Callaway would have had other opportunities to accept a managerial position whether it was this year with an up and coming team like the Phillies, or next year when there would be more openings available.  Instead, he chose to resurrect what was once a great Mets pitching staff.  In part, he chose to do this because he believes in this talent, and he believes he is the man to do it.

That more than anything else is the biggest reason to be excited about this hire, and it is a reason to get excited about the 2018 season.

Ghosts Of Mets Past And Present In Split Doubleheader

The Mets played two ends of a doubleheader against the Braves with vastly different results. 

When you look at the lineup on the first game, you can immediately guess which game they won and which one they lost:

  1. Nori Aoki
  2. Jose Reyes
  3. Brandon Nimmo
  4. Phillip Evans
  5. Dominic Smith
  6. Amed Rosario
  7. Juan Lagares
  8. Tomas Nido
  9. Chris Flexen

For his part, Flexen fought the good fight pitching five good innings allowing just one earned run. Then the sixth inning happened. 

Flexen would load the bases to start the inning including his issuing back-to-back walks to Ender Inciarte and Ozzie Albies

Josh Smoker would relieve Flexen, and he would allow all three inherited runners to score. The highlight (lowlight?) was Mets killer Freddie Freeman hitting a two run double. 
With the lineup the Mets had, this game was all but over. The base running certainly didn’t help that Tyler Flowers threw out Lagares and Reyes trying to steal a base. 

The Braves would score runs in each of the final four innings in the 9-2 blowout. The only Mets runs came off a Nido two run seventh inning double; his first career extra base hit. 

Things would go much better in the second game of the double header because Seth Lugo was great. 

Lugo pitched six scoreless innings allowing just two hits while walking none. He kept the Braves off balance striking out seven. 

He’d get all the run support he needed from Travis d’Arnaud who had another big night in what has been a big month for him. 

In the third, after Asdrubal Cabrera had an RBI groundout scoring Nimmo, d’Arnaud doubled home Lagares. The Mets 2-0 lead would become a 3-0 lead with a d’Arnaud eighth inning homer. 

It should be noted d’Arnaud was not the only Mets with a big game. Nimmo, who finally hit lead-off, was 3-4 with a run and a double. Matt Reynolds got the start at SS, and he was 2-4 with a double. 

The Mets needed all the room they could get because Jeurys Familia had an adventure in his second save opportunity since coming off the disabled list. 

After a Kurt Suzuki lead-off single, Familia made an error on a Freeman grounder to set up first and second with no outs. 

After a Jace Peterson RBI single and Matt Kemp RBI groundout, it was a 3-2 game with Peterson in scoring position. 

Familia then bore down, and he got Flowers to ground out to end the game. 

Between the two games, the Mets scored five runs. The runs were sufficient in the second half because the Mets had good pitching. That was a reason why the team was good in 2015 and 2016. For at least one night, you were reminded of those days. 

Of course, with them getting annihilated in the first half of the doubleheader, you were reminded why the Mets are terrible this year. 

Game Notes: Kevin Plawecki started at first base in the second game. With the Mets losing the first game of the doubleheader, they have officially gone the 2017 season without sweeping an opponent at home.