Juan Lagares

Mets Start Six Shortstops And Come Up Well Short

Even with him being limited due to injuries, Steven Matz was still one of the better starting pitching options left for this team. However, with impending season ending surgery, he’s shut down, and the Mets went with recently activated off the disabled list Tommy Milone

Milone entered this game with a 7.91 ERA, 10.50 with the Mets, and he picked up where he left off with J.D. Martinez hitting a first inning three run homer. 

He allowed a Chris Ianetta one out double in the third. With Amed Rosario being unable to field an A.J. Pollock grounder, it was 4-0 Diamondbacks. 

The remaining two runs were on Milone. He allowed an Adam Rosales homer in the fourth and a Paul Goldschmidt RBI double in the fifth. 

At that point, it was 7-0 Diamondbacks. If you were still watching at that point, the question is why?

Michael Conforto missed the game with a thumb injury. Dominic Smith wasn’t in the lineup because the Diamondbacks started the left-handed Patrick Corbin, and Terry Collins apparently breaks out in hives and hyperventilates when he has to play a young left-handed hitter against a left-handed pitcher. Using the same logic, Collins played Matt Reynolds over Brandon Nimmo in right. 
Really, there were not many reasons to watch this game. Sure, things are bad right now with the Mets, but with the team they put on the field, this was downright unwatchable. Most 7-1 games are. 

The one run was a Rosario home run, his first at Citi Field. 

Other notable events was Gavin Cecchini going 1-2 at the plate and making a decent play in the field:

Of note, Cecchini has a base hit in every game he’s started this year. 

Kevin McGowan made his major league debut pitching 1.1 innings. He left the bases loaded in the seventh, and Hansel Robles walked in a run. 
Also of note, the Mets went with an all shortstop infield:

1B – Wilmer Flores 

2B – Gavin Cecchini

3B – Asdrubal Cabrera

SS – Amed Rosario

If you don’t think of Flores as a shortstop, then the all shortstop infield was accomplished with Reynolds moving from right to first in a double switch. 

If you do consider Flores a shortstop, then six of the Mets position players in the starting lineup were shortstops or former shortstops as Juan Lagares was originally signed as a shortstop out of the Dominican Republic. 

Admittedly, this is a rather long tangent, but these are the things you dwell on when your team is as listless and over-matched as the Mets were today. Trust me, this tangent was more interesting than anything that happened in the field tonight. 

There was a ninth inning rally against Matt Koch, one of the two relief prospects traded to obtain Addison Reed in 2015. where Smith hit a pinch hit RBI ground rule double making it 7-2. 

Andrew Chafin came on and allowed a Reynolds RBI groundout followed by a Rosario RBI triple to make it 7-4. 

This lead to the Diamondbacks bringing on Fernando Rodney to get the final out of the game. After he retired Cecchini, the tomfoolery was over. 

Game Notes: David Wright player a rehab game for St. Lucie. He was o-4 with two strikeouts as the DH. Jeurys Familia made a rehab appearance for Brooklyn throwing a scoreless inning. 

Remaining Reasons To Watch The Mets

Right now, the Mets are just a bad baseball team.  When you are a fan of a bad baseball team, it is sometimes difficult to find seasons to watch.  Thankfully, there still remain reasons to watch the Mets:

Jacob deGrom – This year, deGrom has returned to pitching like an ace.  No, he may not be the guy he was in 2015, but he’s still a great pitcher.  You know with him on the mound the Mets have a chance to win the game.  With his ability, anything is possible.

Michael Conforto – We have been watching Conforto have one of the best, if not the best, season a young Mets player has ever had.  He will soon be the youngest Mets player to ever hit 30 homers.  He’s showing how special he is taking on more leadership responsibilities in the clubhouse.

Chris Flexen – Very quickly, Flexen has gone from over-matched to holding his own.  He’s just 23 and had just seven Double-A starts under his belt.  Just holding his own at this point is remarkable.  Sooner or later, he may just prove he belongs at this level.

Juan Lagares – One thing that really stood out in the Subway Series was this man can still play Gold Glove defense.  In fact, he might be the best outfielder in baseball with his league leading 34.0 UZR/150.  Metrics aside, it’s a joy to watch him play center field defense, and you never know when he is going to make his next great play.

Amed Rosario & Dominic Smith They have essentially been presented as this generations David Wright and Jose Reyes or Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry.  If they’re at those levels, the Mets will quickly turn things around.  If they are truly this good, we won’t want to miss a minute of them playing.  To that end, we have already seen great defense from them, and they’ve already homered in the same game.

With that, there are five very good reasons to continue watching this team.  Other than that, we can watch because we’re Mets fans, and we love our team.  I know I watched the Jeff Torborg, Art Howe, or Jerry Manuel Mets teams, I can certainly watch this team.

Rain Delayed Another Loss

The Mets lost on a big homer, but surprisingly it was not off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton.  Rather, it was J.T. Realmuto‘s two run second inning homer to proved to be the difference in this game. 

Between that and a Marcell Ozuna third inning sacrifice fly, Chris Flexen allowed three runs off five hits and four walks in 5.1 innings while striking out just one. 

Considering his relative lack of experience, it was a step in the right direction for him. It’s the third straight start he’s pitched into the fifth, and it’s the second time in his last three starts he’s pitched into the sixth. 

Other than that, there wasn’t much to get excited about tonight. 

For starters, the Mets sat Dominic Smith because the Marlins started the left-handed Justin Nicolino. This is the same nonsense we saw with Terry Collins‘ handling of Michael Conforto only this time Terry doesn’t have the excuse of the Mets contending. 

Hopefully, it’s true the Mets sat Conforto because he needed a day off and not because Collins is going back to this platoon nonsense with his best hitter. 

The full extent of the Mets offense was a third inning rally started with a Juan Lagares one out single. He’s eventually come home on a Wilmer Flores RBI single. 

Ultimately, this was one of the more difficult games to watch. Both teams are bad. Stanton wasn’t his homering self. The Mets sat Dom and Conforto. And, oh yeah, there was nearly a two hour rain delay. 

Hopefully, tomorrow will be better. Not likely with the Mets now at a season worst 14 games under .500, but there’s hope. 

Game Notes: There are rumors both Curtis Granderson and Rene Rivera were traded – maybe to the Astros. 

Home Plate Umpire Missed Key Call Dooming Taxed Sewald

If nothing else, you knew tonight was going to be an interesting game from the Mets perspective. 

The day began with Sandy Alderson voicing his displeasure with Robert Gsellman saying he didn’t care that Sandy believed he needed to pitch better. 

Both Jose Reyes and Wilmer Flores suffered injuries before the game leading to Travis d’Arnaud playing third then second then third then second . . . .

Basically, d’Arnaud was constantly repositioned to avoid being at the pull side of the opposing hitter.  It wasn’t until the ninth that he had to make a play. It was a pop out. 

From there, we saw some good baseball and some really poor home plate umpiring. 

For a pitcher that needed a big game after his comments, Gsellman was just okay. His final line was 5.1 innings, four hits, three runs, three earned, three walks, and three strikeouts. 

One of the runs he allowed was an Aaron Judge monster of a homer to the third deck that was somehow just the third longest homer in Citi Field history:

Even with that monster homer, the game was tied going into the sixth. 

Juan Lagares got the rally started with a leadoff double off Jaime Garcia. He got over and then scored on a Yoenis Cespedes sacrifice fly. 
After Judge hit his homer, Rene Rivera hit one of his own in the fifth. It wasn’t as impressive as Judge’s, but you couldn’t tell that from Garcia’s reaction. 

In the sixth, Gsellman loaded the bases with one out leading Terry Collins to go to Paul Sewald. Sewald did a decent job limiting the damage to one run on a Chase Headley sacrifice fly. 

The Mets rallied back to tie the game in the bottom of the sixth. Cespedes lead off with a walk and moved to third on a Michael Conforto double. The second base umpire ruled Cespedes was interfered with on the basepaths, but he was only awarded third. Cespedes then scored on a d’Arnaud sacrifice fly. 

At this point, Collins did what he always does with Sewald – he pushed him. It wasn’t good enough that he got out of a stressful jam.  No, he had to go back out there. The combination of questionable managing and poor umpiring would do him in. 

Ronald Torreyes led off the inning with a double. After a sacrifice and a walk to Jacoby Ellsbury, the Yankees runners at the corners with one out. Sewald went 3-2 to Aaron Hicks, and this happened:

On the pitch, Sewald missed his spot by a good margin, and Rivera did him no favors by stabbing at the pitch. With that said, the home plate umpire Chad Whitson cannot miss that call. Then again, he was so terrible, you shouldn’t be surprised. 

Even with Sewald did get Judge to pop out, but his luck ran out with Didi Gregorious ripped a two RBI double that provided the winning margin in a Yankees 5-3 victory. The Didi double snapped an 0-25 streak Sewald had with runners in scoring position. 

Ultimately, the story here was bad umpiring, Collins putting too much on Sewald again, and the Yankees bullpen just being that good. 

Game Notes: d’Arnaud became the first Mets to appear at catcher, second, and third since Jeff McKnight in 1993. 

Terry Collins Needs To Stop Giving Dominic Smith The Michael Conforto Treatment

Last night, the Yankees brought on Aroldis Chapman to close out a Yankees three run lead.  After Wilmer Flores struck out to begin the inning, Dominic Smith strode up to the plate in what would be the rookie’s biggest test in his brief major league career.  Seeing how he hit an opposite field homer earlier in the game, and Rafael Devers hit a huge home run against Chapman in Chapman’s last save attempt, this was promising to be a very interesting match-up.

Sorry, no, the match-up never happened.  Instead, Terry Collins pinch hit for Smith with Jose Reyes.

This is not the first time we have seen this play with Collins.  During Michael Conforto‘s first two years with the Mets, Collins did not let his young left-handed hitter face left-handed pitching.  Instead, he would bat Michael Cuddyer, Juan Lagares, Justin Ruggiano, Ty Kelly, or really any warm body on the bench to prevent Conforto from facing a left-handed pitcher.

The end result of Collins’ refusal to play Conforto against left-handed pitching was Conforto actually struggling against left-handed pitching.  Over his first two big league seasons, Conforto hit .129/.191/.145 with just one extra-base hit, a double, in the 68 at-bats he did get against left-handed pitching.

However, there was no reason to sit Conforto against left-handed pitching.  His hitting coach, Kevin Long, found the notion that Conforto can’t hit left-handed pitching absurd.  Conforto hit left-handed pitching in both his collegiate and brief minor league career.  Still, despite Conforto’s ability to hit left-handed pitching everywhere else, Collins decided to sit him against left-handed pitching.

When pressed on it, Collins said, “We’re in a situation where we’re trying to win games.  This is not a time to develop players.”  (Barbara Barker, Newsday).

Assuming Collins is correct that you shirk the responsibility of developing young players because you have designs on winning a World Series, why is he now repeating the same tactics with Smith?

Currently, the Mets are 10 games under .500.  The team has to win 62% of their remaining games just to get to .500.  The team has already traded away Jay Bruce, Lucas Duda, Addison Reed, and Neil Walker.  If an opportunity presents itself, Asdrubal Cabrera, Curtis Granderson, and Rene Rivera will find new homes before the end of the month.  Put more succinctly, this team is not in a position where they are trying to win games – this is a time to develop players.

Pinch hitting for Smith the very first opportunity he gets to face a left-handed pitcher in the majors does nothing to accomplish that goal.

Overall, unless Collins is facing some delusions of grandeur, there is no reason to believe the Mets are winning anything in 2017.  Smith is ticketed to be the Mets starting first baseman in 2018.  To that end, the rest of the regular season should be dedicated to helping him best prepare for the 2018 season.  Sitting him against left-handed pitching only hinders his development.

Maybe, just maybe Collins was never truly concerned with player development.  Maybe in his mind young left-handed batters are just incapable of hitting left-handed pitching.  It is likely the reason why he previously sat Conforto against left-handed pitching, and it is the reason why he’s doing it with Smith now.

It’s poor managing, and it has had a tangible effect on player development.  Collins might have had his excuse with Conforto, but he doesn’t have that excuse with Smith now.  If Collins shields Smith from a left-handed pitcher just one more time, the Mets are going to have to find someone else to manage.  Simply put, you cannot permit Collins to hinder Smith’s development to win some meaningless games.

Jake Not Great, Collins Hates Young LHH

This wasn’t the best of Subway Series games for Mets fans. 

Jacob deGrom was good but not great. 

The Yankees first got to him in the third when Ronald Torreyes hit a lead-off double that Yoenis Cespedes couldn’t even be bothered to hustle to field. His lack of hustle was all the more damning when Torreyes made it to second with ease despite slipping on the first base bag. 

Of course, Cespedes would hustle on two infield singles in the game. 

The Yankees then took a 1-0 on an Aaron Hicks RBI single. 

That lead grew to 4-0 on a pair of homers. The first was a two run Yankee Stadium special off the bat of Jacoby Ellsbury in the fourth. The Gary Sanchez solo shot in the sixth would’ve been out anywhere. 

Even with the four runs, deGrom was largely effective. His final line was 7.1 innings, nine hits, five runs, five earned, two walks, and four strike outs. 

deGrom would get the loss because Sonny Gray dominated the Mets for six innings. He had only allowed one walk and four hits while striking out five. 

Dominic Smith knocked him out of the game with his first career homer in the seventh:

It was an opposite field shot just past Hicks’ glove. The homer brought the Mets to within 4-2, bit the Mets wouldn’t get closer. 

One reason why was home plate umpire. Dellin Betances began to get wild after getting two quick outs to start the eighth. Betances then walked Cespedes, and he found himself down 3-1 to Michael Conforto

The 3-1 pitch was certainly a strike, but the 3-2 pitch was low. Even if it was technically a strike, it was not called a strike all night. 

That was the Mets last chance to tie the game. 

The Yankees expanded the lead to 5-2 in the bottom of the eighth. Aaron Judge led off with a double by just beating out Cespedes throw to second. It became runners on the corners after Didi Gregorious fought off a pitch and blooped it just over the head of Wilmer Flores

It was a bad situation that could have been worse if not for Juan Lagares. Sanchez hit a ball to the deepest part of the park. Instead of it going for extra bases, a shallow playing Lagares not only ranged all the way back, but he also got into good throwing position. This kept Gregorious at first. 

Jerry Blevins and Chasen Bradford got out of the inning keeping the score at 5-2. Unfortunately, that insurance run would loom large with the Mets challenging Aroldis Chapman in the ninth. 
It started with Terry Collins pinch hitting Jose Reyes for Smith because Collins is apparently the only person on the planet who doesn’t know Rafael Devers hit a home run off Chapman. 

Reyes got the infield hit, but who cares?  The rest of this season is about player development, and the Mets gain nothing from pinch hitting for Smith against a tough lefty. 

It’s complete and utter nonsense. It’s the same nonsense that held up Conforto’s development. 

If this is the way Collins manages from here on out, it’s time to get rid of him. 

That said, Amed Rosario made things interesting with an opposite field two run homer to bring the Mets to within 5-4. 

Gregorious would make a nice play taking a base hit away from Travis d’Arnaud, and Lagares would ground out to end the game. 

It was a frustrating loss not just because deGrom wasn’t at his best, but also because Collins continued the same poor managing. 

Game Notes: This is the first time Smith and Rosario homered in the same game. 

Bruce Wasn’t Worth The Qualifying Offer

One of the reasons Mets fans were angry about the return of Ryder Ryan for Jay Bruce was the fact many believed the Mets could have offered Bruce a qualifying offer, and they then could have recouped a second round pick when Bruce signed a big deal elsewhere.  While we all should be able to agree Ryan was not second round value, the point that Bruce would automatically reject a qualifying offer is flawed.

This past offseason teams have shown they no longer value players like Bruce the way they once did.  If the Mets inability to move Bruce this offseason wasn’t any indication, and if the return the Mets got for Bruce wasn’t any indication, then look at what happened to Mark Trumbo last year.

Trumbo took a one year flier with the Orioles, and he had a monster year leading the majors with 47 homers.  In total, Trumbo hit .256/.316/.533 with 27 doubles, a triple, 47 homers, and 108 RBI.  That was good for a 122 OPS+ and a 123 wRC+.

On the strength of this season, the 30 year old Trumbo would reject the qualifying offer only to be met with a tepid free agent market.  Without Trumbo being able to garner the interest he believed would be present, he went back to the Orioles on a three year $37.5 million deal.

It wasn’t just Trumbo either.  Other sluggers like Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, and Chris Carter were met with surprisingly soft markets this offseason.

The conclusion that can be best drawn for this is the market just doesn’t value sluggers the way it once did.  With the qualifying offer being worth around $18 million next year, there was a very real chance Bruce was going to accept that qualifying offer meaning the Mets got no draft pick compensation.

It would also mean the Mets outfield would have been a disaster defensively.  We know Bruce is not a center fielder, and we also know Yoenis Cespedes no longer belongs out there.  The argument would be Michael Conforto could.  He has shown he can handle it in spurts, but long term that is a bad proposition.  In 327.2 innings there, Conforto has a -2 DRS and a 0.2 UZR.

Seeing how the Mets played this year, the biggest thing they need to do is to upgrade defensively.  That goes double for key defensive positions like shortstop and center field.  Fortunately, the Mets have Amed Rosario at short.  Who knows if the answer is Juan Lagares or a name outside the organization for center.  The one thing we do know it’s not Bruce.

There’s another consideration as well.  The Mets need to make wholesale changes this offseason, which is going to require a lot of money.  For a team that took a lesser return for Bruce partially due to the savings it brought them, we should worry about Bruce’s $18 million hindering the Mets ability to fully address all of the teams needs just like it happened last year when Neil Walker accepted his qualifying offer.

Overall, the Mets needed to trade Bruce to get some return for him.  The return was lackluster for many, but in reality, it reflects more upon how teams value sluggers like Bruce.  At a minimum, the Mets got something for him, and they have freed up playing time for Dominic Smith and Brandon NimmoAll they have to do now is actually play those players.

Five Mets Players Who Need A Bigger Role Now

The Mets have unofficially announced they are focusing their attention to the 2018 season.  Gone are Addison Reed and Lucas Duda, and in their stead are four promising minor league relievers.  The Mets have added AJ Ramos with an eye towards him being the primary set-up man for Jeurys Familia next year.  Amed Rosario has already played his first game with the Mets, and according to Sandy Alderson, Dominic Smith is not far away.

Seeing Ramos in the bullpen is a good start.  Rosario and Smith are even better.  However, that’s not enough.  As the 2017 season comes to an end, the New York Mets are going to have to find out about a number of players and how they factor into the 2018 season:

INF Wilmer Flores

2017 Stats: .287/.320/.486, 14 2B, 3B, 11 HR, 32 RBI, SB, 0.2 WAR

With Neil Walker being an impending free agent, Asdrubal Cabrera possibly having his option declined, and David Wright‘s continuing health issues, the Mets will enter the offseason with question marks at both second and third base.  Ideally, Flores could slot in at one of those two spots.

It was just two years ago, the Mets thought Flores could be the everyday shortstop for a playoff caliber team.  Since then, we have seen uneven performances at the plate and on the field.  The Mets have seemingly come to terms with him being a platoon bat, but lost in that is the fact he is still just 25 years old and an improving player.  That is exhibited by him being much better against right-handed pitching hitting .281/.326/.467 off of them.  If Flores can continue hitting like that against right-handed pitching, he could conceivably play everyday.

The key for him is to find a position.  That’s easier said than done, but he is a significantly better second than a third baseman.  In 667.0 innings at second, he has a career -7 DRS and a 0.3 UZR.  In 911.0 innings at third, he has a -16 DRS and a -4.4 UZR.  With that said, let Flores focus on second and see if he can be a solution there next year.

RHP Rafael Montero

2017 Stats: 1-7, 5.56 ERA, 21 G, 7 GS, 56.2 IP, 1.729 WHIP, 9.1 K/9, -0.4 WAR

Montero has survived this long on the roster, and he has finally shown the Mets some glimpse of the talent that caused the Mets to keep him on the 40 man roster.  Since his latest last chance to prove himself, Montero has a 4.14 ERA, 1.297 WHIP, and a 9.0 K/9.  In this stretch, we have seen him pitch into the seventh inning, and we have seen him meltdown.

While there have been promising signs, his usage runs counter-intuitive to his utility to the Mets.  If Montero is going to be with the Mets next year, it is going to have to be in the bullpen as there will be no room for the Mets to even consider him being a part of the rotation next year. This means the Mets should be utilizing the rest of the season to see how he pitches out of the bullpen whether it is using him as a long man or as a late inning reliever.

The Mets need to do this because Montero is out of options.  This means he either makes the Opening Day roster in the bullpen, or the Mets stand to lose a player they have stubbornly held onto for so long.  Before making that decision, they should at least see if the new and improved Montero can hack it in the bullpen.

CF Brandon Nimmo

2017 Stats: 16 G, 25 PA, 21 AB, 7 H, 2B, 2 RBI, .333/.440/.381

While the Mets left side of the infield defensive deficiencies have been oft discussed, not nearly enough attention has been paid to the centerfield situation.  On the season, Mets centerfielders have a 0 DRS, which may not sound so bad on the surface.  However, consider this is 19th in all of baseball.  Also, consider this number has been propped up by Juan Lagares having played 216.0 innings at the position posting a 7 DRS.

The Mets answer lately has been Michael Conforto, who has a 0 DRS, which is remarkable considering he has never really played there full-time at any level.  There is still the possibility he could be adequate there, but shouldn’t the Mets first find out about Nimmo first?

Nimmo has been a center fielder throughout his minor league career.  While there is some debate over his ability to play the position, he does have the experience out there, and he deserves to benefit from the same major league coaching that has helped Conforto play there.

More than that, Nimmo has shown the ability to be a top of the order hitter who can get on base.  At a minimum, he has showed enough to earn the opportunity to serve as part of a center field platoon with Lagares.

Lastly, Nimmo was the first first round pick of the Sandy Alderson Era.  Doesn’t the team owe it to themselves to see what a player they heavily invested in can do at this level before looking to further address the outfield situation in the offseason.  Consider that once the Mets sign another outfielder, whether that is Jay Bruce or Lorenzo Cain, the Mets have effectively made a first round pick a fourth or fifth outfielder without so much as giving him an opportunity to win a job.

RHP Paul Sewald

2017 Stats: 0-3, 8 H, 4.07 ERA, 35 G, 42.0 IP, 1.238 WHIP, 10.9 K/9, o.4 WAR

After being used in a variety of roles this season, Sewald has found himself being used in the seventh inning or later in his last 10 appearances.  In those appearances, Sewald is 0-1 with six holds, a 2.79 ERA, 1.034 WHIP, and an 11.2 K/9.

Even with him walking five batters over that stretch, Sewald has shown he should get a closer look in one of the two primary set-up roles.  With Reed going to the Red Sox, and Ramos presumably becoming the new closer, there is no reason why the Mets wouldn’t use Sewald as their eighth inning reliever to close out the season, or at least until Familia comes off the disabled list.

If Sewald shows he can handle the stress of protecting a late inning lead at the major league level, the Mets are that much closer to building a bullpen that can compete in 2018.

3B Neil Walker

2017 Stats: 63 G, 266 PA, 233 AB, 35 R, 62 H, 13 2B, 2 3B, 9 HR, 34 RBI, .266/.347/.455, 0.9 WAR

Since Wright went down with spinal stenosis, third base has been a black hole for the Mets.  With Wright presumably missing the entire 2017 season, it is now clear the Mets cannot rely upon him to return to play third or any position next year.  With no prospects coming through the pipeline, it is likely the Mets will have to address the position in free agency or via trade.

If they are going the free agency route, it may behoove them to re-sign Walker.  The two sides were interested in a long term contract extension this offseason.  Just because the two sides were unable to reach an accord does not prevent Walker from returning.

Considering Walker’s back issues as well as his getting older, he may be best suited to playing third base.  Certainly, the way he has hit as a Met, he does have the bat to play the position.  The only question remaining is if he can play the position.  The Mets have 59 games to find out.

If Walker can do it, the Mets know they have a team player who has been a liked figure in the clubhouse.  They will also have a veteran who can help show Rosario and Smith the ropes.  More than that, they have a middle of the order bat to really extend the lineup.

Mets Must Trade Jay Bruce

Looking at the numbers, Jay Bruce is having one of his better seasons as a professional and a much better season than most expected with his nightmare stint with the Mets last year.  So far, he has played in 91 games hitting .264/.328/.523 with 25 homers and 67 RBI.  If he were to finish the season with the Mets, he may very possibly challenge the Mets single season home run mark of 41 shared by Todd Hundley and Carlos Beltran.  He should not get that chance.

Simply put, the Mets have to trade Jay Bruce at the trade deadline.

The 30 year old right fielder is a free agent at the end of the season.  Given the fact the Mets are not going anywhere this season with or without him, there is no reason to hold onto him.  There’s even less reason when you consider the Mets are probably better off without him next year.

Heading into next year, the Mets will have Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto firmly set in the Mets outfield for the next three years.  During their tenure with the Mets, both players have shown they are capable of handling center on a short term basis, but both players have also shown they should not be playing center field on a full time basis.  With respect to Cespedes, it is clear neither side wants him moving back to center.

On Conforto’s part, he seemingly wants to play the position.  On the surface, he appears serviceable at the position with a 225.2 innings at the position, Conforto has a 0 DRS and a 1.2 DRS.  Given his work ethic and his athletic ability, he could improve those numbers.  However, he’s not likely to improve them to the point where he’s a good enough defender at the position.

Ultimately, the Mets need a good center fielder.  Their Mets center fielders, including Conforto, have posted a 0 DRS, which is 18th in the majors.  The Mets are in the bottom half of the league defensively at an important defensive position.  That has been a common theme with this team.  This is a bad defensive team that has been bad at key defensive positions.

This has had a direct result on the struggles on the pitching staff.  As a team, the Mets pitchers have allowed an absurdly high .320 BABIP, which is dead last in the majors.  Yes, the pitching staff has had some issues, and yes, the left side of the infield, which is atrocious with a -29 DRS contribute to this.  Another contributing factor is the lack of a true center fielder who can cover the amount of ground a major league center fielder needs to cover.  Again, the Mets center fielders are 18th in the majors.  The team needs an upgrade.

Part of that is finally finding out what Brandon Nimmo can provide.  At a minimum, the Mets need to see if he can platoon with Juan Lagares next year.  For that to happen, the Mets need to trade Jay Bruce to free up some playing time for Nimmo.

If Nimmo can handle the job, great.  If not, the Mets could decide to go with Lagares, or they can look outside the organization for players like Lorenzo Cain.  The one thing they cannot do is bring back Jay Bruce.

Bruce has been a good player for the Mets, he has been healthy, and he has done all the team has asked him to do.  The reward for that is to send him to a contender.  It’s not to bring him back on an overpriced deal or to risk getting stuck overpaying him on a qualifying offer next year.  Bringing him back is only going to cement the Mets defensive problems, and it is going to lead to another season like this.  No one should want that, Jay Bruce included.

Accordingly, it is time the Mets put defense front and center, and move on from Jay Bruce.

Eight Players The Mets Should Protect

With the NHL having their expansion draft tonight, each of the pre-existing 31 teams will sit and wait to see which one of their players will be selected to became an inaugural member of the Vegas Golden Knights.  With the Golden Knights being required to select one player from each NHL team, each franchise is going to see a player depart their franchise.

Occasionally, there have been discussions MLB will expand.  Whenever that happens, each MLB team will have to go through the same exercise each NHL team just did.  If that were to happen, it would be interesting to see exactly who each MLB team would protect.

In terms of the NHL draft, teams can protect somewhere between eight to 11 skaters and one goaltender depending on who the team decides to protect.  Given an NHL has a maximum roster size of 23 players, the 8 – 11 paradigm is a good framework for a potential MLB expansion draft.

Assuming MLB lands upon eight players, it would be interesting to see who the Mets decided to protect.  Now, where the Mets are lucky is players with less than two service years are automatically protected.  As such, Amed Rosario, Dominic Smith, Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman, and any other young player you would consider protecting are already protected.  With that in mind, here are the eight players the Mets should protect should such a draft take place:

1. RHP Noah Syndergaard

Arbitration Eligible: 2018
Free Agent: 2022

Last year, Syndergaard emerged as the ace of the Mets staff with a repertoire that has never been seen by a Major League Starting pitcher.  He has a fastball that tops off at 100 MPH and a slider that he can throw in the mid 90s.  He also has a swagger on the mound, and he gets up for the biggest games.  Again, like Cespedes, this is a no-brainer even with his lat injury this year.

2.  LF Michael Conforto

Arbitration Eligible: 2019
Free Agent: 2022

Conforto has been around for only three years, but it has been a whirlwind.  In 2015, he was a budding superstar.  In 2016, he had a wrist injury, struggled, and was demoted to Triple-A multiple times.  In 2017, he has emerged as an All Star.  Even with a rough June, there’s reason to believe in Conforto being a budding superstar, including but not limited to his ability to hit left-handed pitching.  Conforto is a foundation piece and should be the Mets right fielder for decades.

3. LF Yoenis Cespedes

Remaining Contract: 3 years $87.5 million

Given the fact players with no trade clauses must be protected in an expansion draft, the Mets would be required to protect Cespedes.  Even if that wasn’t the case, the Mets need to protect Cespedes.  He’s been a superstar with the Mets hitting .286/.354/.565 with 56 homers and 146 RBI since joining the team.  More than that, he puts fans in the seats.  You have to protect him at all costs.

4.  RHP Jacob deGrom

Free Agent: 2021

After an injury riddled year, and some ups and downs this year, deGrom has rediscovered himself, and he’s back to pitching like an ace.  That is evident with his being the National League Pitcher of the Week last week.  We also saw what deGrom was made of during the 2015 NLCS when he outpitched both Clayton Kershaw and Zack GreinkeThere are only a handful of the pitchers on the planet that can do that, and when you have one of them, you don’t let them go.

5.  LHP Steven Matz

Arbitration Eligible: 2019
Free Agent: 2022

When Matz is healthy, he has the potential to be an ace.  Before his bone spur issues arose in late June last year, Matz was 11-3 with a 2.58 ERA, 1.167 WHIP, and an 8.9 K/9.  In his return from season ending surgery, he has pitched well lasting seven innings in both of his starts.  Overall, when he’s healthy, he’s terrific, and he’s not someone you part with so easily.

6. RHP Jeurys Familia

Free Agent: 2019

When you consider the Mets bullpen is in shambles, and they are going to have to rebuild it in totality, the Mets need to keep Familia at all costs.  It is also important to keep in mind that despite his injury this year, Familia has been an absolute work horse for the Mets with his making the most appearances out of the bullpen and pitching the most innings from 2014 – 2016.  If the medical reports are promising, there is every reason to believe Familia can return to being that pitcher again.

7.  C Travis d’Arnaud

Free Agent: 2020

There is every reason to leave him unprotected.  He has regressed in most aspects of his game, and he had yet another stint on the Disabled List this year.  Still, d’Arnaud is a good pitch framer, who still has offensive upside.  Before injuring his wrist, d’Arnaud was hitting .270/.357/.541.  While his stats have dropped precipitously, his .223 BABIP suggests d’Arnaud is due.  More than that, there’s really no better options available.  The catching across Major League Baseball is on a downturn, and you need someone to bridge the gap until Tomas Nido is ready.

8.  3B David Wright

Remaining Contract: 3 years $47 million

As noted above with Cespedes, the Mets would have to protect Wright due to his no trade clause.  Even without it, there is a case for keeping Wright.  Wright is the team captain, and he is the guy you want leaving an impression on Rosario and Smith when they get to the majors.  His contract is insured, so if he can’t play, you can reallocate the money.  More to the point, could you possibly imagine Wright in another uniform?  Me neither.  Is this all a stretch?  Sure, but fact is Wright will remain with the Mets until he finally decides it’s over.

As with any decision like this, there were hard choices.  Matt Harvey has been a cornerstone of the Mets rebuild, but his injuries and impending free agency, you’d be forced to expose him.  Zack Wheeler has had a strong return from the Disabled List, but even before he was injured, he was 18-16 with a 3.50 ERA, 1.339 WHIP, and a 100 ERA+ in 49 career starts.  In 2017, he has not appeared to be more than that.  That coupled with the rise of Gsellman and Lugo as well as other pitchers in the Mets farm system, you could very well expose Wheeler.

Overall, the hypothetical player that would get taken from the Mets roster would be damaging.  That includes Juan Lagares, who is a Gold Glover that showed some promise this year, but still has a terrible contract.  That also includes Wilmer Flores who still doesn’t quite have a position.

With all that said, it does speak to the talent Sandy Alderson has brought to this organization that the Mets could lose one of the aforementioned players and still have a team that could compete for a World Series next year.