Looking over the Mets infield, there are two things that squarely stand-out. The first is that this is an aging group of players coming off significant injuries. The second is this infield is not a particularly good defensive infield.
John Dewan of Acta Sports, and Fielding Bible fame, projected the Mets to have the worst defense up the middle in 2017. The projection calls for Neil Walker to be a -1 DRS next season, which is what he has averaged over the past three seasons. Asdrubal Cabrera is projected to post a -9 DRS, which is worse than the -7 DRS he has averaged over the past two seasons. While you would certainly want both Walker’s and Cabrera’s bats in the game, certainly, the Mets would benefit by having a better glove in the game when there is a lead late in the game.
That is exactly what the Mets have done with Juan Lagares. After the team acquired Yoenis Cespedes at the 2015 trade deadline, Lagares has served as a defensive replacement late in games. The Mets doing this has served two important purposes. First, it has helped the Mets preserve leads by putting their best defense on the field. Second, it helps save some innings, and by extent wear and tear, on players like Cespedes and Curtis Granderson. It is a large reason why the Mets will be returning Lagares to the same role in 2017.
It is something the Mets should consider for their infield. The issue is the Mets do not have the bench to do it.
Jose Reyes has averaged a -9 DRS at shortstop over the past three years, which would indicate he’s a downgrade from Cabrera. Wilmer Flores had a -10 DRS as the starting shortstop in 2015, and he has a -6 DRS as a second baseman in 576.0 major league innings. The other options being considered for the bench, T.J. Rivera and Ty Kelly, are hardly terrific defenders in their own right. Certainly, you are not taking the steady handed Walker and Cabrera off the field for them.
No, the only good defensive player who is a realistic option to make the Opening Day roster is Matt Reynolds.
Reynolds is not a gold glover in the middle infield. However, he does have the same steady hands Walker and Cabrera have while having better range at the position. He certainly has the arm to play second, short, and third. That also makes him an option to take some innings away from David Wright at third. Overall, Reynolds is most likely the best defensive infielder the Mets not named Amed Rosario. The fact that he is also capable of serving as the team’s fifth outfielder makes him an all the more enticing roster option.
What is going to hurt his chances of making the team is his bat. He hit .225/.266/.416 in 47 games with the Mets last year. He has played 254 games in the hitter’s haven that is the Pacific Coast League, Reynolds has only hit .284/.342/.411. Overall, he’s not a great hitter. It’s quite possible that even with him putting in extra time with Kevin Long he will never develop into a good hitter.
But the Mets don’t need hitters. They have plenty of them on this team. What they need are good defenders. With Lagares, they have that in the outfield. With Reynolds, they would have that in the infield as well.
Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Merized Online
* adapted from “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” by Dr. Seuss
When I leave home to go to Citi Field,
Dad always says to me,
“John, keep your eyelids up
And see what you can see.”
But when I tell him where I’ve sat
And what happened each at-bat,
He looks at me and sternly says,
“You did not see all of that.
Stop telling such an outlandish story.
Juan Lagares cannot cover that much territory.”
Now, what can I say
About what I saw today?
All the long way to the game
And all the way back,
I’ve looked and I’ve looked
From the outfield to the bat rack,
But all that I’ve noticed,
Except the green infield,
Was d’arnaud and Matz
At Citi Field
Yes, the Gazelle is fine,
He gives batters a migraine,
There’s another marvelous pitcher
Who’s stuff is much more insane.
The story could be so much more
If the pitcher I saw were Thor.
An orange and blue capped pitcher’s fastballs are profound,
Rumbling like thunder from the mound!
No, it won’t do at all . . .
There’s another with the ball.
Zack Wheeler is better;
He’s come back round,
And he’s ready to for a start
On the Citi Field mound
Hold on a minute!
There’s something wrong!
The bullpen is the place for this dealer
It’s off to the bullpen for Zack Wheeler,
It’d be much better, it might,
If the start went to the Dark Knight.
But it isn’t too late to make one little change.
This story is about Yoenis Cespedes! No longer on the driving range!
He’s got plenty of power and size,
You can see the opposing pitcher with fear in his eyes.
A then, the sound system emits a loud tone,
Cespedes the Lion King! Perched high on a throne!
Say! That makes a batter that no one can heel,
When I say that I saw it at Citi Field.
But now I don’t know . . .
It still doesn’t seem right.
A Cespedes swinging a bat that’s so light
Would hit balls around in the air like a kite.
But he’d look simply extreme
With a great New York Mets team!
A team that’s that good should have someone to see it,
Wins coming so fast, the Nationals finding it hard to keep near it.
Nationals always the trailer! They’ll be out of their mind
Not even Daniel Murphy can get them out from behind.
But now is if fair? Is it fair what I’ve done?
Before they take the field, they’ve already won.
That’s really too heavy a load for one beast;
I’ll give him some helpers. He needs two, at least.
Michael Conforto to do the trick,
To guide them after the intentional walk schtick –
It takes a lineup to do the trick.
They’ll never lose now. They’ll race at top speed
With Curtis Granderson, himself, in the lead.
The Manager is there
And he thinks it is grand,
And he raises his hat
As they rise from their seats in the stands.
The Manager is there
Sandy Alderson too,
All waving big banners
The stands are becoming a zoo.
And that is a team whose championship is sealed
When I say that I saw it at Citi Field!
With a roar of its motor an airplane appears
The pitcher steps off the mound and everyone jeers.
And that makes a story that’s really not bad!
But it still could be better. Suppose that I add . . . . . . . . .
. . . A David Wright
Who can stay upright . . .
A big Duda
Swinging sticks . . .
A Jacob deGrom
And his garden gnome . . .
No time for more,
Cespedes’ coming home.
He swung ’round third base
And dashed towards the plate,
The Mets ran up the steps
And I felt simply GREAT!
FOR I HAD A STORY THAT NO ONE COULD YIELD!
AND TO THINK THAT I SAW IT AT CITI FIELD!
But Dad said quite calmly,
“Take the parking pass off the windshield
And tell me the sights
That you saw at Citi Field”
There was so much to tell, I JUST COULDN’T BEGIN!
Dad looked at me sharply stroking the beard at his chin.
He frowned at me sternly from there from the front seat,
“Was there nothing to look at . . . no great feat?
Did nothing excite you or make you jump out of your seat?”
“Nothing,” I said, now becoming more even-keeled,
“But a Matz pitching to d’Aranud at Citi Field.”
Last year’s story “One Strike, Two Strikes, Three Strikes, You’re Out!” can be found here
Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!
Ever since T.J. Rivera lined out to Denard Span, it has been an excruciatingly long offseason. Somehow, we have navigated through the offseason, and now it is Spring Training. Finally, on Friday, there was a game being played. On what was a pleasantly surprising Spring day in the middle of February, there was a baseball game being played. It was the perfect day for baseball.
It gets better. Michael Conforto was being allowed to hit against a left-handed pitcher. Gavin Cecchini was playing second base. Gold Glover Juan Lagares was going to be patrolling center field. Personal favorite, Seth Lugo, was getting the start.
This is the type of day where you align your lunch with the game. You get in your car to listen to Howie Rose do the play-by-play. You find a place to eat where you can watch an inning or two.
Except, you can’t. With the Mets traveling to Fort Myers to play the Red Sox, the game was not going to be televised. Typically speaking, road Spring Training games are not telecast for a myriad of very justifiable reasons. With that said, it would have been nice to watch some of the game during lunch, and it would have been great to watch the replay with my son when I got home. However, I didn’t get that opportunity because, like the revolution, this game was not televised.
With baseball looking for more and more ways to improve the sport, it should find a way to televise all of their Spring Training games. At the very least, it would be an olive branch to your most die hard fans who may take real issue with the rule changes you want to put in place.
With today being Valentine’s Day, it is only right we get into the spirit of things by being as clever as Bobby Valentine was the time he used eye black to make a fake mustache. Without further ado, here are some “clever” Mets themed Valentine’s Day lines you may see on one of those cards you used to pass out to your classmates in grammar school:
Jerry Blevins – Jerry? Hello! Be my Valentine
Josh Edgin – I’m Edgin my way closer to you.
Jeurys Familia – I want to become Familia with your sexy self.
Matt Harvey – If you thought 50 Shades of Grey was seductive, wait until you see the Dark Knight I have in store for you.
Seth Lugo – Lugo you want to get with this.
Rafael Montero – You might as well be my Valentine because we both know there’s not getting rid of me not matter how awful I am.
Addison Reed – You and Me Addison up to a great Valentine’s Day
Hansel Robles – You’re so hot right now
Fernando Salas – If I had to the same again, I would, my Valentine, Fernando
Josh Smoker – You’re so hot, I can see the Smoker from miles away
Noah Syndergaard – Can you handle this god’s thunder?
Yoenis Cespedes – There’s a lot of Potencia between you and I Valentine
Travis d’Arnaud – d’Arnaud it pains me to be apart from you
Lucas Duda – Duda right thing and be my Valentine
Wilmer Flores – I’ll cry if you put me in the Friends zone
Amed Rosario – Don’t Be Surprised Be Ready
Neil Walker – I would Walker 5,000 miles to be your Valentine
David Wright – It’s only Wright we would be Valentines
Jay Bruce – Let me be the Valentine you regret for years to come.
Michael Conforto – It’s a Conforto to know whether in NY or Vegas we’re Valentines
Curtis Granderson – It’s Grandy being your Valentine
Juan Lagares – You’re the only Juan for me
Brandon Nimmo – Nimmo I’m smiling because of you.
Ron Darling – Be my Darling this Valentine’s Day
Keith Hernandez – I mustache you to be my Valentine’s Day OR How about a Valentine’s Day mustache ride?
Happy Valentine’s Day
With the news that Jay Bruce is likely going to be the Mets Opening Day right fielder, many are pushing the idea that Michael Conforto should start to learn first base in order to make room for himself on the major league roster. Sorry, but that is a poor decision.
Now, there is nothing wrong with Conforto learning another position to increase his utility to the Mets. In fact, if Lucas Duda were to go down to injury, or if he is going to struggle due to any lingering effects from him having gone on the disabled list in consecutive seasons with back injuries, Conforto would be the first person you would want to replace him in the lineup.
With that said, the Mets need to figure out what they want Conforto to be. Do they want him to be the best outfielder this organization has developed since Darryl Strawberry? Or do they want him to become the next Eric Valent?
Simply put, at his age and with this talent, Conforto needs to be playing everyday somewhere. Ideally, that should be at the major league level as we have seen Conforto is ready to play in the majors. During his second stint in AAA, Conforto hit .493/.541/.821 with three homers and 11 RBI in 17 games. Those are video game numbers. A player that can dominate like that at the highest level of the minors does not belong there. He belongs in the majors.
He belongs in the major leagues where he has already shown glimpses of being a very good hitter. As a rookie who never played a game above AA, Conforto hit .270/.335/.506 with nine homers and 26 RBI in 56 games. In April last year, before he injured his wrist, Conforto hit an astounding .365/.442/.676 with four homers and 18 RBI in 21 games. Even with this subsequent struggles with the wrist injury and Terry Collins giving him irregular playing time, Conforto has shown he can hit at the major league level.
Again, the problem is he needs to play everyday. The problem is Bruce stands in his way.
This is the same Bruce who hit .219/.294/.391 in 50 games with the Mets last year. This is the same Bruce who is a career 109 OPS+ and 107 wRC+ career hitter. The same Bruce who has a career .318 OPB and .295 OBP over the past three seasons. This is the same Bruce who is just a few years removed from a season where he had a knee injury and hit .217/.281/.373 with 18 homers in 137 games. This is the same Bruce who is declining defensively posting a -8.9 UZR and -11 DRS last year and has averaged a -6.4 UZR and a -3 DRS over the past three seasons.
Ideally, Bruce is the guy who should be providing power off the bench. He should be learning first base to provide insurance for Duda. He should be the guy to step into the lineup should Conforto struggle or Curtis Granderson shows his age. However, we don’t live in an ideal world. A guy who has 30 homer 100 RBI potential is going to play everyday. A guy who is making $13 million is going to play everyday. A guy the Mets want to showcase so they can trade him is going to play everyday.
That leaves Conforto on the bench if he is in the majors. With Collins in charge, that leaves you to question when exactly Conforto will play. You know he’s not going to play him against left-handed batters, which is a problem because Bruce, Duda, and Granderson are all left-handed batters. Further complicating the matters is Juan Lagares is going to play against left-handed pitchers, and he is going to be a defensive replacement late in games. On top of that, the Mets are looking to see how Jose Reyes can handle the outfield. Long story short, Conforto’s not going to play, so why are you wasting time trying to get him reps at a position he’s never going to play?
Moreover, why are you wasting time getting him reps at a position he has no future? After the 2017 season Bruce, Duda, and Granderson are free agents. Assuming one or two leave in free agency, there is now a spot for Conforto to play everyday in the outfield whether that be in center or right. The first baseman in 2018 is either going to be Dominic Smith, if he makes strides in 2017 like he did in 2016, or a one year stop gap. Keep in mind that if Smith should falter, Peter Alonso, who has shown he has the potential to be a terrific major league hitter, may not be too far behind.
Overall, the Jay Bruce situtation has put Conforto in a terrible position. He’s either going to be a pinch hitter who gets very little playing time or a minor league player. This is the exact type of situation where you can mess up a prospect. The Mets should not compound this by trying to make him a first baseman when Conforto is likely not going to have a chance to play more than 20 games at first base in his entire career.
No, the Mets should instead use the time to focus on getting Conforto to work on the areas of his game that needs improvement. By doing that, you make him a much better player. By stashing him on the bench and trying to make him a 1B/OF, you are only going to accomplish making him the next Eric Valent.
At the end of the day, which is the better course of action?
Sometimes deals were not a good idea at their inception. At other times, deals don’t just work out as planned. Then there was Alejandro De Aza‘s tenure with the New York Mets.
Back when De Aza signed with the Mets, he was supposed to be the left-handed platoon option to go along with Juan Lagares in center field. It was an extremely unpopular signing at the time beacause it was a clear indication the Mets were not going to sign Yoenis Cespedes. Except the Mets, due to a combination of sheer luck and the depth of top end outfielders on the market, did actually re-sign Cespedes.
Just like that De Aza went from the platoon partner getting the bulk of the at-bats to being the team’s fifth outfielder. Considering the talent level ahead of him, he seemed like he was going to be the team’s seldom used fifth outfielder. Anyone would struggle under those circumstances, and De Aza did.
In the beginning of July, he was only batting .158 with just five extra base hits. Keep in mind, both of those extra base hits came in the same game. Essentially, the irregular to lack of playing time was wrecking havoc with his ability to produce, and it was affecting him mentally. It got to the point where Terry Collins began to question his work ethic.
With all that in mind, De Aza deserves a lot of credit. De Aza went on a tear in July hitting .375/.487/.531 in 21 games and six games started. The tear came at the right time too because it was a Mets team seemingly falling apart. Lagares had a thumb issue. Cespedes would deal with a quad injury. Both Curtis Granderson and Michael Conforto were struggling as well. In fact, the entire Mets offense including Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera was struggling. The Mets needed this boost from him, and they go it.
De Aza would also step up as the Mets were making a push for the Wild Card. In a crucial late August series against the Cardinals, with Seth Lugo making his second ever major league start, De Aza came up huge not only robbing Matt Carpenter of a home run in the first at-bat in the bottom of the first, but also by hitting his own three run home run. It was all part of how De Aza came up big when the Mets needed in most. In fact, over the final month of the season, he would hit .265/.366/.353 in 25 games.
Overall, De Aza’s tenure with the Mets was a disappointing one with all involved. However, he made significant contributions to the Mets when they needed them most. That should never be overlooked even if ultimately he was usually the outfielder overlooked when Collins was filling out the lineup card.
De Aza’s struggles are a large reason why he was only able to muster a minor league deal with the Oakland Athletics. With that said, he is in a much better situation than he was in 2016. This should allow him to return to being the player he never really got the chance to be with the Mets. Hopefully, he gets back to that point.
We are headed for another season of Mets baseball where we hope that once again these Mets can make it all the way back to the World Series. Since 2015, we have seen a definite pattern emerge with the Mets, and I think as Mets fans, we should all try better this year to not react, some would say overreact, when one of the following things we know will happen, happens:
- The Mets are not going to sign another big name free agent this offseason. It’s not going to happen, and it just may happen that Jose Bautista winds up in the division and on a fairly discounted deal;
- Jerry Blevins will sign an extremely reasonable two year deal . . . with another team;
- Instead of fortifying the bench, the Mets are going to go with this year’s version of Eric Campbell -> Ty Kelly;
- Terry Collins is going to use and abuse Addison Reed to the point where his arm may actually fall off. This will go double if Jeurys Familia gets suspended;
- Hansel Robles is going to go through a stretch in one week where he pitches five innings, 1/3 of an inning, two innings, and three innings, and everyone is going to wonder why his production has fallen off;
- The infield of Lucas Duda, Neil Walker, David Wright, and Asdrubal Cabrera will be ridden hard despite their injury histories and capable backups like Wilmer Flores and Jose Reyes on the bench;
- Just pick a random player on the roster – he’s going to be on the DL for over two months with a back injury;
- There will be a game with Reyes in center and Juan Lagares in right;
- Travis d’Arnaud is going to get injured, and Kevin Plawecki is not going to be able to replace his bat in the lineup;
- Matt Harvey will complain about the six man rotation that will be implemented at some point during the season;
- Robert Gsellman will make an appearance throwing well over 100 pitches in five innings or less;
- Rene Rivera will hit under the Mendoza Line;
- T.J. Rivera will be raking in AAA and not get called up despite the Mets needing some offense;
- Michael Conforto will not face one left-handed pitcher all season;
- Yoenis Cespedes will not dive for a ball, run out a pop up, or run hard to first on a dropped strike three;
- Curtis Granderson will have a better OBP than Reyes, but Collins will continue to lead off Reyes and his sub .330 OBP;
- Collins will not know if Brandon Nimmo is faster than Flores and it will cost them a game;
- No matter where he winds up this offseason, and no matter how poor his year is going, Chase Utley will hit two home runs in a game he faces the Mets;
- Sandy Alderson will mortgage a part of the Mets future because he didn’t make a move in the offseason that he should have made;
- Paul Sewald will pitch well in AAA, but the Mets won’t call him up because they would rather rip Sean Gilmartin or Gabriel Ynoa from the Vegas rotation to make a relief appearance on 2-3 days of rest;
- Both Josh Smoker and Robles will be fully warmed up, and Collins will go to Smoker to pitch to the lefty;
- For reasons the Mets themselves can’t quite explain, Rafael Montero will spend the full season on the 40 man roster;
- d’Arnaud will come off the disabled list, play well for a stretch, and the Mets will lose him and Steven Matz in the same game;
- Matz will have appendicitis, but the Mets will talk him out of the surgery because they need him to start against the Reds;
- Dilson Herrera will tear it up every time he plays the Mets;
- Wherever he lands, Jay Bruce is going to hit 30 homers and 100 RBI;
- Collins will show up in the dugout without wearing pants, and the Mets still won’t fire him;
- Noah Syndergaard will get ejected from a game for throwing inside. A player who takes a bat to one of the Mets infielders in retaliation won’t;
- Fans will clamor for Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith to get called up all season long;
- Seth Lugo will bounce between the bullpen and rotation so much, MLB is actually going to test him to see if his arm is actually made out of rubber;
- Bartolo Colon will pitch so poorly against the Mets, fans will wonder why they wanted a bum like him back;
- R.A. Dickey will not only beat the Mets, but he will throw the team into a week long offensive funk causing some fans to decry the trade;
- One or more pitchers will get hurt, and fans that even question if the Warthen Slider could be an issue will be mocked mercilessly;
- Some way some how Jon Niese will pitch for this team;
- Rather than build Tom Seaver a statue, the Mets will issue #41 to Niese upon his return to the team;
- Daniel Murphy will have another terrific year for the Nationals, and some Mets fans will still defend the decision to let him go;
- Ricky Knapp will make a solid spot start for the Mets causing fans to think he is the second coming;
- Mets will trade a good prospect for Kelly Johnson; and
- Despite all of this the Mets will make it to the postseason
Honestly, I give it until April 9th when Collins declares the last game in a three game set against the Marlins is a must-win game.
Ken Rosenthal’s recent reported for Fox Sports the Mets are interested in pursuing a center field upgrade for the 2017 season. At this point in the offseason, we have a general idea of the centerfielders that are available in trades. The Pittsburgh Pirates are known to be willing to move Andrew McCutchen for a king’s ransom. The Kansas City Royals are willing to move both Lorenzo Cain and Jarrod Dyson. And while the Colorado Rockies have steadfastly maintained he is not available, many assume the Ian Desmond signing could possibly make Charlie Blackmon available.
There are debates to be had on each of the aforementioned players. McCutchen is coming off a career worst year, and he has rated as one of the worst center fielders in baseball over the past three seasons. Dyson may be nothing more than a left-handed hitting Juan Lagares. Cain has his injury issues. Then there is Blackmon.
The 2016 Blackmon was one of the best center fielders in all of baseball. In 143 games, Blackmon hit .324/.381/.552 with 111 runs, 35 doubles, five triples, 29 homers, 82 RBI, and 17 stolen bases. His oWAR was the highest of any outfielder in the National League. That is all the more impressive when you consider that means he rated better than bona fide superstars like Yoenis Cespedes and Bryce Harper. He had the highest wRC+ out of any center fielder in baseball not named Mike Trout. With stats like these, Blackmon quite justifiably won his first ever Silver Slugger.
With the Nationals giving up a massive haul of prospects to acquire Adam Eaton from the Chicago White Sox, you could imagine what teams would be willing to offer for Blackmon. Offering up such a haul could be a very costly mistake.
The 2016 season was Blackmon’s third season as a starter for the Rockies. In the prior two seasons combined, Blackmon was a .287/.341/.445 hitter who averaged 88 runs, 29 doubles, six triples, 18 homers, 65 RBI, and 36 stolen bases. Putting the sometimes overstated Coors Field effect aside, that’s a pretty good player. Still, is that the type of player that is worth giving up a massive haul of prospects? Maybe, if he brings real value to a team as a defensive center fielder.
He doesn’t. Over the past three seasons, Blackmon has averaged a -3 DRS and a -6.6 UZR in center field. In essence, Blackmon is below average in center field. Now, it is difficult to play center field in Coors Field. However, the same could be said for playing center field at Citi Field. Since the ballpark has been opened, Lagares is the only center fielder who has played over a thousand innings in a season that has posted a positive DRS and UZR for the Mets. Therefore, expecting an improvement in center for Blackmon due to a change in ballpark would be folly.
Even assuming Blackmon would be a better fielder, would his improvement as a defender offset what would likely be a reduction in his offensive numbers?
Over time, there has been a noted Coors Field effect on players where we see drastic home/road splits. Blackmon is no different. In his career, he has been a .334/.389/.511 hitter at home and a .261/.305/.422 hitter on the road. That should give any team pause, especially the Mets with Blackmon hitting .219/.254/.375 in 18 career games at Citi Field. The obvious caveat there is sample size and his having to fact the Mets pitchers. Despite that, there is every reason to believe Blackmon would regress offensively away from Coors Field, especially when we see most hitters regress after leaving Coors Field.
For example, in Matt Holliday‘s career he is a .361/.427/.656 hitter at Coors Field. In his last three years as a Rockie, he hit .329/.400/.579 while averaging 44 doubles, four triples, 32 homers, and 113 RBI a season. In his three seasons after leaving the Rockies, Holliday became a .308/.391/.524 hitter who averaged 40 doubles, one triple, 25 homers, and 96 RBI a season. While Holliday was still a very good hitter after leaving the Rockies, he was no longer the same offensive player.
The obvious counter-point to Holliday is Dexter Fowler, who is a career .298/.396/.490 hitter at Coors Field. As a Rockie, Fowler was a .270/.365/.423 hitter who averaged 24 homers, 11 triples, eight homers, and 42 RBI as a regular. Since leaving the Rockies, Fowler has been a .266/.369/.419 hitter who averaged 25 doubles, six triples, 13 homers, and 43 RBI. Arguably, Fowler has not experienced a drop off in his offensive production since leaving the Rockies. However, it should be noted that unlike Holliday, Fowler has played in Minute Maid Park and Wrigley Field, two ballparks that traditionally favor hitters.
Even with the outfield walls being reconfigured, Citi Field is still not a hitter’s park. In that respect, it is likely Blackmon sees a regression similar to the one Holliday experienced playing in O.co Coliseum and Busch Stadium. In addition to the Coors Field regression, we may likely see a regression in Blackmon’s numbers from the 2016 season as much of his offensive production was fueled by a .350 BABIP, which is 27 points higher than his career mark entering this year. It is also hard to believe Blackmon will build off his 2016 season with him turning 31 next July.
Ultimately, it is quite likely he regresses in 2017 at the plate whether or not he is playing in Coors Field. Moreover, given the advanced data and his getting older, it is a real debate how much longer Blackmon should play in center field. With these red flags, and what a possible prospect cost would likely be, the Mets should not look to trade for Blackmon.
Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Merized Online
Last offseason, the Mets re-signing Yoenis Cespedes put the final touches on the team everyone hoped would compete for a World Series. This year, the re-signing of Cespedes is really just a start for a team that still needs to make a number of moves this offseason. Here is a look at the moves the Mets still need to make:
TRADE JAY BRUCE
With Cespedes back, Jay Bruce likely becomes the outfielder the Mets will trade this offseason. In his nine year career, Bruce has been a .248/.318/.467 hitter who has averaged 27 homers and 82 RBI. At $13 million next season, that production is arguably a bargain. That is probably a reason why teams have been in contact with the Mets trying to inquire what the team will want in exchange for Bruce. While it is hard to believe the Mets will be able to bring in a prospect like Dilson Herrera or a player that will have a similar impact that Bruce will have in 2017, it should not be ruled out that the Mets will be able to acquire a player of consequence that will help the team next season.
DETERMINE MICHAEL CONFORTO’S POSITION
If the Mets are going to trade Bruce, it is another sign that the Mets see Michael Conforto as an everyday player. Where he will be an everyday player remains to be seen. With Cespedes returning for four years with a no trade clause, the only thing we know is that Conforto will not be the teams everyday left fielder anytime soon. That leaves center and right field.
During Conforto’s time in AAA last year, he began learning both positions. In his limited time in the majors at both positions, he showed he may very well be able to handle either position on an everyday basis. However, given the presence of Juan Lagares on this team, the best thing for Conforto and the Mets is to transition him to right field. Let him get fully acclimated there and focus on getting back to where he was April of last year. This will also let Lagares and Curtis Granderson handle center field duties next season, which was a platoon that may work very well for the Mets next year.
OBTAIN A LOOGY
Last year, Jerry Blevins had a terrific year out of the bullpen for the Mets as a LOOGY. In fact, he proved to be a bit more as he had a career best year pitching against right-handed batters. However, he is a free agent now, and the Mets do not appear as if they are able or inclined to give him the multi-year deal that he may command in free agency.
The internal left-handed options are Josh Edgin and Josh Smoker. Edgin did have some success against left-handed batters in limited duty in the majors last year, but with his velocity still not having fully returned after his Tommy John surgery, it is hard to rely upon him in any capacity next year. Smoker had outstanding strikeout rates in the minors and the majors last year, but he has reverse splits. Therefore, the Mets are going to have to look outside the organization to figure out who will be the first lefty out of the pen next season.
OBTAIN ONE OR MORE LATE INNING RELIEVERS
The Mets bullpen really is in a state of flux at the moment due to the Jeurys Familia domestic violence arrest. Pending an investigation by MLB, it is possible that Familia will miss a significant number of games next season. If that is the case, Addison Reed should prove more than capable of closing games in Familia’s absence. This begs the question of who will step up and take over Reed’s role in the short term.
It was a question the Mets faced most of 2016, and they did not find a good answer until they obtained Fernando Salas on the eve of the waiver trade deadline. Given his late inning and closing experience, Salas would be a good option to pitch in the seventh, eighth, or ninth inning next year. However, he is a free agent at the moment meaning the Mets are going to have to presumably sign or trade for someone to take over this role. In fact, the Mets may very well need two late inning relievers to address the bullpen.
SIGN A VETERAN STARTER
The one lesson learned from the 2016 season should be that once again you can never have too much pitching. With the return of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz, the Mets rotation is almost complete. The question is who will become the team’s fifth starter.
The first name that will be mentioned is Zack Wheeler. However, after missing all of 2015 and 2016, no one can be quite certain he is ready and able to assume the fifth starter’s role. The next names that will be mentioned are Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman. Both pitched quite well for the Mets in the stretch run last year, but the Mets may prefer to have a veteran arm who is able to eat up innings and/or can go deeper into the season than any of the aforementioned pitchers. Preferably, the pitcher they do sign would be willing to move to the bullpen in the event Wheeler, Lugo, or Gsellman wins the job in Spring Training or is ready to take over at some point during the season.
FIGURE OUT THE BACK-UP CATCHER SITUATION
Even with Rene Rivera back in the fold and despite his excellent work with Noah Syndergaard, there is still room for improvement on the catching front. Many will mention the recently non-tendered Wellington Castillo, but people should realize he’s an average hitter at best. Moreover, he’s a terrible pitch framer. Mets need to do better than that, but to be fair, that may not be possible.
Whatever the Mets decide to do, they first have to realize that Kevin Plawecki has twice proven he should not be relied upon to be the team’s primary back-up catcher. Next, the Mets have to realize they need a viable backup who can handle playing a number of games due to Travis d’Arnaud‘s injury history.
There are some other matters that need to be figured out as well. For example, do you want Ty Kelly and T.J. Rivera competing for the last spot on the bench, or do you want to re-sign Kelly Johnson? The answer to this and many other questions will largely depend on how much money the Mets have to spend the offseason and/or what the Mets are able to obtain in exchange for Bruce.
Cespedes was a great start to the offseason, but the Mets work is far from over.
On October 29, 2010, in the wake of the Madoff scandal, Sandy Alderson took over as the Mets General Manager. Alderson inherited a team with some big stars like Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, Johan Santana, and David Wright. With that he also inherited a team who finished the 2010 season with a hefty $126 million payroll, which ranked sixth in the major leagues. Due to some backloaded contracts reaching their expiration, the 2011 Opening Day payroll was actually inflated to $143 million.
Alderson went to work dismantling a team that was disappointing on the field in what was the beginning of a real rebuilding process. Luis Castillo was released before the season started. Oliver Perez was not too far behind him. Getting rid of the underperforming players the fans hated was the easy part. The hard part was what ensued.
The Mets first traded Francisco Rodriguez, who was getting dangerously close to having an expensive $17.5 million option vest. Then he traded Carlos Beltran for Zack Wheeler. Surprisingly, Alderson didn’t trade Jose Reyes, who was the National League leader in batting average. Instead, he would let Reyes become a free agent, and he would recoup a draft pick when Reyes signed a $106 million contract with the Marlins.
And just like that what was once a $143 million payroll became a $95 million payroll in a little more than a year. In subsequent years, the Mets would let Johan Santana‘s contract expire and not reinvest the money. They would release Jason Bay, and again re-invest the money. Then the Mets would shop R.A. Dickey after he won the Cy Young Award. They obtained Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud in exchange for him which was a sure sign the Mets were more invested in rebuilding than contending.
It was also a sign that the Mets were cash strapped due to the Madoff scandal. The payroll would reach its nadir in 2o14 when it was actually $85 million, which ranked 21st in the major leagues. A bewildered and frankly angry fan base was left wondering when, if ever, the Wilpons were going to permit the Mets to have a payroll commensurate with their standing as a big market major league franchise.
Now, over the past two seasons, the Mets payroll has gone from $85 million in 2014 to $101 million to start the 2015 season. In that offseason, the Mets actually went out and signed Michael Cuddyer to help them become a more complete team. When Cuddyer faltered and David Wright would suffer from spinal stenosis, the Mets made moves and added payroll. The team first traded for Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe (even if the Braves paid part of their salary). The Mets then acquired Yoenis Cespedes and what was a left of his $10.5 million contract. In 2015, the Mets spent a little more, but more importantly they spent what they needed to spend to compete.
In 2016, the Mets initially put out signs they were not moving off their roughly $100 million payroll when they signed Alejandro De Aza to platoon with Juan Lagares in center. It was perceived as a sign the Mets were not going to spend; it was a sign they were not willing to go the extra mile to get Cespedes. But then something happened. Cespedes didn’t find that massive deal on the free agent market. Instead, he re-signed with the Mets for $27.5 million in 2016. After 2016, Cespedes had the option to opt out of the remaining two years $47.5 million left on his contract.
With the Mets paying Cespedes a hefty salary to start the season, the Mets Opening Day payroll rose all the way to $135 million. Before Cespedes was re-signed, there was some doubt about whether it was really the insurance on Wright’s contract that allowed them to make those in-season moves, the re-signing of Cespedes calmed down a fan base that worried when or if the Mets would be willing to spend. Better yet, when the Mets had some issues scoring runs, they went out and traded for Jay Bruce.
Surprisingly now, we are back at the point of wondering if the Mets are willing to spend. The $135 million payroll was a positive step, but it is still less than the first payroll Alderson had with the Mets, and it was only ranked 15th in the majors. Cespedes is a free agent, and no one is quite sure if the Mets will re-sign him, look to acquire a big name free agent like Jose Bautista, or if they are going to stick with the Michael Conforto–Curtis Granderson-Bruce outfield. The Mets also have a number of other areas to address this offseason.
The first step was Neil Walker accepting the $17.2 million qualifying offer. With that, according to ESPN‘s Adam Rubin, the Mets current payroll obligations are $124 million. That is just $10 million under what the 2015 Opening Day Payroll was. If the Mets were to re-sign Cespedes, or another big name free agent, the payroll is going to go well past the $135 million mark.
The problem is the Mets need to go even further than that. Not only do they need Cespedes, or a reasonable facsimile, they also need to re-sign Jerry Blevins and Fernando Salas, or again, a reasonable facsimile thereof. The Mets may also want to add another backup catcher given Travis d’Arnaud‘s injury concerns, Rene Rivera‘s lack of offense, and Kevin Plawecki having two disappointing seasons. The Mets may also want to sign a veteran starter considering the health issues of their rotation and Bartolo Colon having signed with the Braves this past week. There’s a lot the Mets need to address here, and it isn’t likely that $10 million is going to cover all of it.
So again, we are back at the point of wondering how far the Mets are willing to go to compete. Will they have a payroll in the upper half of all of baseball? Do they have the funds to spend like a big market club? At this point, no one knows the answers to these questions. While Mets fans may be apprehensive, it is too soon to to pass judgment. That time will come when we see how the Mets handle the Cespedes situation.