In a nine year Major League career, Craig Kimbrel has saved 333 games, which is the 14th most all-time. His career 1.91 ERA and 211 ERA+ is the best all-time for a reliever. He is a seven time All-Star, and he has finished in the Top 10 in Cy Young voting in five of his nine seasons. How Kimbrel performs during this next contract will go a very long way in determining whether or not he goes to the Baseball Hall of Fame when he retires.
With the Hall of Fame on the line and with his being an elite closer for NINE SEASONS, you can understand why Kimbrel would insist on remaining a closer. While there are no public statements confirming this is Kimbrel’s hold-up, there have been a number of outlets who have drawn the inference.
According to recent reports, the Mets are not willing to have Kimbrel pitch the ningth. To put it as simply as it can be put, if the only hold-up with Kimbrel right now is he wants to close, the Mets as an organization are stupid for letting that be a hold-up.
No, this is not an indictment whatsoever on Edwin Diaz. So far this season, Diaz has been everything the Mets could have possibly asked him to be. He is a perfect 7-for-7 in save opportunities with a 16.4 K/9. His 11th inning save against the Phillies where he mowed down Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins, and J.T. Realmuto on 11 pitches was awe inspiring.
Understandably, you want to have a pitcher like Diaz closing out games in the ninth. However, you also want a closer like Kimbrel closing out games in the ninth. What you don’t want is the current state of the Mets bullpen.
What is not great is the rest of the Mets bullpen. So far, Jeurys Familia has been a massive disappointment. We have also seen some unexpected struggles from Seth Lugo. In the long run, both pitchers should be fine, and with Justin Wilson and Robert Gsellman, the Mets do have the pieces for a good bullpen.
Still, there are major issues in the bullpen. Luis Avilan has been used as more of a mop up reliever than a LOOGY, and frankly, there is no way he is going to succeed in that role. Worse than that, the Mets have had a revolving door this year of Tim Peterson, Drew Gagnon, Paul Sewald, Jacob Rhame, and Corey Oswalt for the last spot in the bullpen.
Realistically speaking, the Mets cannot expect any of those pitchers to truly succeed at the Major League level. Exacerbating a very soft spot in the bullpen is the fact the Mets entered the season with just four MLB caliber starting pitchers in their rotation. As a result, at least every fifth day, the Mets are going to need to get some quality innings from their worst relievers. Put another way, the Mets can ill afford to have a weak spot in the bullpen when they have a glaring hole in the rotation.
That hole in the bullpen can be repaired with Kimbrel. Moreover, if you put Kimbrel in the ninth inning, him and Diaz pitching the final two innings makes every game a seven inning game for the Mets. The tandem would combine to make the best 8-9 combination in Major League history.
Really, there is no good explanation to not give Kimbrel the ninth. While you could argue the Mets did not give up Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn to have Diaz as a set-up man, the obvious counter-argument is the Mets did not give up those players to have relievers like Rhame derail games and ultimately the season. Additionally, with how great a pitcher he has been, no one should expect Diaz to falter in the eighth.
Overall, when you break it down, if the ninth inning is a breaking point for Kimbrel, just give it to him. He has the resume to justify such a demand, and really, he has the ability to not come to the Mets. Worse yet, he could go to Philadelphia to stick it to the Mets.
Of course, that would be the ultimate irony. The Mets gave up Kelenic to keep Diaz away from the Phillies, but they weren’t willing to have the best bullpen situation in Major League history to keep him away from Philadelphia.
The Mets followed splitting with the Braves by losing two of three to the Phillies. As a result, the Mets have lost four of their last five – all of them in the division. Here are some observations from the disappointing series.
- Noah Syndergaard‘s peripherals are fine, and in the long run, he’s going to have Thor like numbers.
- What killed Thor and continues to kill the Mets pitching is a National League worst defense.
- J.D. Davis has been the worst infielder in all of baseball, and with his sprint speeds, he would be terrible in LF. In the long run, he really serves no purpose in this Mets team.
- It’s bizarre the Mets would let Davis Be this bad at third, continue to trot him out there, and not even allow a more physically fit and athletic Dominic Smith an opportunity to prove himself in left field.
- Amed Rosario continues to hurt this team with bad defense (worst SS in the NL) and his poor plate discipline. Fortunately for him and unfortunately for the Mets, Andres Gimenez has gotten off to a brutally slow start in Binghamton.
- So far Wilson Ramos is killing the Mets. By DRS, he’s the worst catcher in the NL, and he’s become a glorified singles hitter with a 58.3% ground ball rate.
- Not one Mets everyday infielder has a positive DRS.
- Keon Broxton needs to be better. He has a 47 wRC+, and we saw him overpowered by a 94 MPH fastball over the heart of the plate to end the game. He’s also a -1 DRS in the outfield.
- Juan Lagares has been better every which way than Broxton, and as a result, he needs to get the bulk of playing time in center.
- With neither Broxton nor Lagares hitting, the Mets need to keep Jeff McNeil in left field, especially since that’s his ultimate destination when Todd Frazier and/or Jed Lowrie return.
- Mets desperately need Frazier’s glove. Not only will it give the Mets at least one plus defender on the field, but it will also allow Rosario to not have to cover nearly as much ground.
- With Frazier finally hitting the ball yesterday, he should be called up and immediately inserted into the starting lineup.
- Jeff McNeil is turning into a modern day Ichiro Suzuki. This is not hyperbole. When you break down the numbers, he should be regressing. Instead, he continuously adapts his approach and has incredible contact skills.
- You knew sooner or later Steven Matz was going to lay an egg, and boy did he. One thing to note here is he was this bad his first start of the 2016 season. He responded to that by putting up nine straight starts allowing two earned or less.
- So much for Zack Wheeler‘s second half being a fluke.
- To acquire Edwin Diaz, the Mets gave up two top 100 prospects (Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn), and they took on $100 million of Robinson Cano‘s onerous contract. So naturally, when the game is on the line, they won’t use him.
- With the Mets limiting to Diaz to just the ninth, we once again learn the Mets statements about every game mattering only applied to Pete Alonso.
- Good for Brodie Van Wagenen for taking the bullet on Diaz’s usage. He made the call, and he stood there like a man to defend himself. Also, good job by Mickey Callaway not throwing everyone under the bus and whining about the restrictions.
- Sometimes, you should just appreciate a player for what they do well. Paul Sewald went out there twice and ate up innings to help save that bullpen. Considering how well he handles that role, he has a spot in this bullpen.
- On that note, great job by Drew Gagnon pitching 5.1 innings on three days rest. Should Jason Vargas fail again on Friday, Gagnon has earned the first shot to replace him in the rotation.
Last night, the game hung in the balance with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning. Even after Jeff McNeil had bailed out Jeurys Familia with a fine play to start a 5-4-3 double play, Familia walked the subsequent two batters to load the bases. With the heart of the Phillies lineup coming up, Mickey Callaway needed to get Familia out of the game.
This past offseason, the Mets made a blockbuster deal with the Mariners to acquire Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz. In the deal, the Mets paid a hefty price including not just Justin Dunn, but also Jarred Kelenic. At the introductory press conference for the two new Mets stars, Jeff Wilpon admitted the Mets parted with Kelenic partially to make sure Diaz did not go to the Phillies.
This was the precise moment the Mets needed Diaz. They needed a pitcher whom they touted as the best reliever in baseball to do what the best reliever in baseball does. He needed to go out there and strike out Jean Segura and ensure the Mets took the lead into the ninth. That’s not what happened.
Instead, Callaway went to Robert Gsellman, who is arguably the team’s fifth best reliever. In terms of pinch hitting, this is equivalent to Callaway sending up Juan Lagares to face a tough right-handed reliever with bases loaded and two outs in the eighth just so he could save Dominic Smith for a pinch hitting opportunity in the ninth inning.
In terms of pinch hitting, you are not sending one of your worst options at the plate with the game on the line, but for some reason, Callaway opted to send one of his worst relievers out there with the game on the line.
After the game, Callaway would rightfully point out Gsellman has a job to do, and he needs to get out of that jam. However, this is a bit misleading. While it is Gsellman’s job to get out of that jam, it is also incumbent on the manager to put the right people in the right situations. Using the earlier example, if Lagares strikes out while Smith is on the bench people would be far less understanding.
Now, we did learn after the game the Mets do not want Diaz pitching more than three outs during the regular season. Putting aside whey the team would sacrifice two former first round picks for a one inning reliever, we still have to question the strategy.
Already, there have been two instances where Diaz came on to get just one out. So clearly, the Mets are not going to shy away from Diaz entering the game to get a huge out. What is bizarre is the Mets were not trusting their best reliever to go get that out.
If Gsellman allows a hit to Segura or Harper, it’s game over. Diaz never sees the game, and the Mets lose. Why is this a more acceptable result than having Diaz get one out? That was potentially the game right there, and the Mets didn’t have the guy they gave up so much to acquire go get that out.
If the Mets didn’t want Diaz going four outs, then have hit get that out. Callaway then had the option to give the ball to Gsellman or Justin Wilson for the ninth. Both relievers have closed games in their careers. We have also seen Callaway give the ball to Jacob Rhame for a save.
Overall, Callaway does not have to manage to the save statistic, he has to manage to the game situation. When he was managing to the statistic, the Mets almost blew a game against the Phillies. The Mets almost didn’t get a chance to use the pitcher they were so afraid the Phillies were going to get. Ultimately, that is completely unacceptable.
The Mets gave up Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn while taking on $100 million of Robinson Cano‘s contract because they apparently believed Edwin Diaz was such a difference maker, they needed to not only have him, but they also needed to keep him away from the Phillies.
While Diaz has five saves in as many opportunities, tonight was the first time the Mets really needed their difference making closer.
Entering the bottom of the eighth, the Mets were up by a run, and Jeurys Familia immediately got into trouble, and he couldn’t get out of it even with Jeff McNeil making a nice play on a very hard hit grounder by Maikel Franco to turn the 5-4-3 double play.
They needed him to come into the game to strikeout Jean Segura to end the threat and take the 6-5 lead into the ninth. The Mets needed their supposed big time closer to face the middle of the Phillies order to get four outs to get the save.
Jeff Wilpon: We didn’t want the Phillies to get him. We also don’t want the Phillies to face him.
— Andrew Sodergren (@NDN_ASodergren) April 16, 2019
Gsellman walked Segura on four straight pitches to force home the tying run. Fortunately, Bryce Harper popped out to end the inning. Normally, you’d question why Gsellman and not Luis Avilan for Harper, but you avoid asking it because you know there’s no possible good answer.
All told, the Mets absolute failure to use Diaz was the reason why the Mets blew this lead and had to fight even harder to try to win a game they already were well in position to win.
The frustrating thing with Syndergaard was he was handed leads of 3-0 and 5-4, and he couldn’t hold either.
Somehow, the Mets survived Gsellman for 1.1 innings and one from Avilan, who was bailed out by Segura swinging at a pitch well out of the zone to end the 10th.
Travis d’Arnaud was the last bat on the bench, so with the pitcher’s spot up, Callaway used d’Arnaud to try to sac bunt. Well, d’Arnaud doesn’t bunt well, and his at-bat ended in a pop out. Robinson Cano then struck out putting the game on Michael Conforto‘s bat.
With the lead, Callaway finally turned to Diaz, who struck out Harper, Hoskins, and J.T. Realmuto to earn the save. Too bad he didn’t get that chance earlier in the game.
Game Notes: Despite his being on two days rest, the Mets called up Drew Gagnon. To make room for him on the roster, Luis Guillorme was sent to Syracuse. Dominic Smith got lucky not getting thrown out if the game after spiking and breaking bid helmet after being called out on a very borderline strike three.
After coming in red-hot after going 5-1 on the road to open the season, the Mets had their first series at home, and while they returned to Citi Field, their momentum did not. While it is waaaaaaay to soon to look at these things, the Mets are now 0.5 games back of the Phillies. Here are some observations from the Mets home opening series:
- Noah Syndergaard seems to be a spokesman of sorts for this team airing their grievances publicly. Look it anyone is going to be the bad guy, Syndergaard is well suited for it because: (1) the fans are going to love him regardless; and (2) he seems to have the do not care what you think personality to make it work.
- Not only did MLB mishandle this by having the Mets play a night game, but they also had a drug test after the game. Considering there were only 7,486 at that game, I cannot imagine attendance was the reason for the later start time.
- If the rumors were true, the Mets are absolutely idiots for starting that game at 1:00 P.M. instead of 4:00 P.M. Those three extra hours matter, especially when a player like Robinson Cano has completely forgotten how to transverse New York after signing with the Mariners after the 2013 season.
- The Nationals came into this series under .500 with an already beleaguered Dave Martinez, a more beleaguered bullpen, and arguably their best player, Trea Turner, on the disabled list. This was a very wounded team who was primed to be knocked down a peg or two and possibly sent into turmoil. It may still be just April, but the Mets missed a big opportunity here.
- The two home run game from J.D. Davis was great to see as was his reaching base safely five consecutive times. However, we are going to need to see a lot more of that before we believe he has finally figured things out.
- As we saw from Davis’ two home run game, April is the time for overreaction, and we are seeing that with Zack Wheeler‘s tough start. One thing to keep in mind here is Wheeler has always gotten better as the season progresses. For example, his career April ERA is 4.95, and his career August ERA is 2.30. Lets give this a month or two before we decided last year’s second half was a blip.
- It seems like Steven Matz figured something out in the bottom of the second against the Nationals. If so, watch out, he’s going to have a breakout season.
- The Mets have gone from Jason Vargas not needing any competition during Spring Training to only trusting him for five innings in a hitter’s park against the worst team in the National League to skipping his start. It’s not even the middle of April, and the Mets have completely bungled their fifth starter situation.
- Perhaps this is an overreaction, but Robert Gsellman has not proven to be that late inning relief ace the Mets imagined him to be. With the Vargas situation, perhaps the Mets should consider sending him down to Syracuse to lengthen him out to rejoin the rotation while making Vargas the long man in the bullpen.
- Even with Jeurys Familia‘s blow-up where he allowed his first homer at Citi Field since Conor Gillaspie, and he allowed two homers in an appearance for the first time in his career, he’s been fine.
- While there has been justifiable hand-wringing over just how poorly this bullpen has been performing, we are seeing Justin Wilson-Familia-Edwin Diaz turn into a formidable 7-8-9 combination.
- Thankfully, Seth Lugo was back to himself Sunday throwing 96 MPH and striking out the side. Overall, he’s very tempting to use, but Mickey Callaway has to be much more judicious in his usage of him.
- With the Mets being a starter short and one to two arms short in the bullpen, just a subtle reminder Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel are still free agents. And for a GM who traded away Jarred Kelenic, Justin Dunn, Gerson Bautista, Ross Adolph, Luis Santana, Scott Manea, Bobby Wahl, Adam Hill, and Felix Valerio, we do not need to hear about giving up a draft pick.
- Michael Conforto looks like a real MVP candidate.
- Brandon Nimmo is going to be fine. Whether it was an injury or something else, he will get back to being Nimmo. We saw that with his double yesterday.
- For all of his prodigious power, and how he already looks like a veteran out there, the one thing which really stands out with Pete Alonso is how great a teammate he is. It is utterly stunning to believe a player with less than 10 games under his belt may already be the glue guy in the clubhouse. Speaking of Alonso, while everyone was celebrating the opposite field hitting, it was nice to see the Mets start hitting for power again.
- The Mets signed Wilson Ramos for his bat. We are seeing that with his lackluster pitch framing and how he couldn’t locate a ball which was right behind him allowing a runner to score from second.
- It was great to see Travis d’Arnaud return. He’s been an under-appreciated player because he has not been exactly what he was supposed to be, but he is good behind the plate. Sooner or later, his pitch framing is going to really help this team.
- On the one hand, all of Callaway’s double switching is maddening because it is partially the reason why this bullpen is so taxed. On the other hand, it is proving to be an adept way to get everyone into the game and having them getting enough reps to contribute when called upon. Ultimately, Callaway just needs to find a way to better handle this bullpen.
- I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. The Mets sell out when they have these bobble head days. For the life of me, I do not understand how it makes sense to send kids home upset and to ruin their experience at the park by not having enough bobble heads for everyone. This a sponsored giveaway, and they are cheap to make. The mid market Brewers have figured this out, and they order enough so they can donate the extras after the game. Seems like it’s better to have everyone walking out with a Jacob deGrom and Todd Frazier bobble head this weekend than having sad little kids, which is never good for business.
Like with most prospects, Pete Alonso has been mostly adjudged by his tools and his production on the field. His biggest proponents see a power hitter whose game translates well to the Major League level. His detractors see a poor fielding first baseman who may never hit quality pitching. Universally, people who have met or analyzed Alonso come away with the impression that he is a hard working player who is going to get the most out of his talent.
Over the past year, another factor is becoming increasingly obvious. Alonso has not only been a popular teammate, but one who has seen his former teammates jump at the chance to either laud him or come to his defense.
For most people, we first became aware of how good a teammate Alonso was in July 2018. In response to a question about Jeff McNeil‘s projectibility at the Major League level, ESPN‘s Keith Law largely discredited McNeil’s production citing his age and the hitting environment. Alonso did not miss this exchange, and he felt compelled to stick up for this teammate:
@keithlaw The kid rakes and has hit pretty much everywhere he’s been. How can you discredit a .400 average in AAA?
— Pete Alonso (@Pete_Alonso20) July 6, 2018
As we know now, Alonso and McNeil had grown close during that 2018 season as both players were doing all they could do to force the Mets to call them up to the majors. Whenever asked the question, McNeil would say how Alonso is going to hit for power at the Major League level, and he made it a point to show Alonso’s highlights on his Twitter account.
With Alonso, it is more than just his teammates having fun and sharing in his highlights. Recently, we have also seen his teammates come rushing to his defense in a similar fashion to which Alonso once did for McNeil.
Notably, when an unnamed scout told Baseball America Alonso has never hit a slider and may not have the “skills to be a hitter,” his teammates would have something to say about it. Among those players expressing bemusement or stepping up to defend Alonso included Anthony Kay.
When he was called up to the majors, most of his former teammates took time to celebrate and congratulate him. In that first game, Alonso was one the first guy to congratulate Dominic Smith after he scored the second run of the game. What made that moment all the more inspiring was how these two players are rivals for the same position, and if Alonso were to slip up, Smith would be in a position to take over his role. That didn’t matter to Alonso, who was just happy for his team and his teammate.
This should come as no surprise as Alonso said of Smith during Spring Training, “Me and Dom, we played together last year, we spent some good time this year. I’m really happy he’s playing well this spring. I don’t want anyone to do bad. He’s a teammate of mine. I want him to do his best as he can and do the best I can.” (Matt Ehalt, Yahoo).
That attitude has long been noticed and appreciated by his teammates as he has gone through the Mets minor league system. That’s why when MMO‘s Michael Mayer shared the moment on Twitter, former Mets prospect Anthony Dimino would tweet, “One of the best teammates I’ve ever had the pleasure of taking the field with! Deserves to be up there and will be for a long time.”
While we have seen the prodigious homers from Alonso, we are now seeing how his power may pale in comparison to the type of person and teammate he is. These are the qualities which once endeared Mets fans to Curtis Granderson, and it is the type of qualities which will make Alonso a fan favorite in very short order . . . if he isn’t one already.
When the Mets were winning the 2015 pennant, there was a push in some circles to refer to that team as Omar’s team. Depending on your point of view, it was intended to either credit Omar Minaya for his leaving behind a better than advertised talent base, or it was to deride Sandy Alderson, who never gained traction with some Mets fans.
Even if it was said in jest, there was a nugget of truth to it. The core of that team, the pitching, was mostly there because of Omar Minaya. In fact, Minaya was the General Manager who drafted Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, and Steven Matz. The other key starter, Noah Syndergaard, was obtained in exchange for R.A. Dickey, a pitcher who was brought to the organization by Minaya on a minor league deal.
Minaya was also the General Manager who drafted Lucas Duda and Daniel Murphy. Jeurys Familia, Wilmer Flores, Juan Lagares, Hansel Robles, and Ruben Tejada came to the Mets as international free agents signed during Minaya’s tenure. Minaya’s impact on the team went further than this with Sandy Alderson utilizing players brought to the organization during Minaya’s tenure to acquire Travis d’Arnaud and Addison Reed.
Taking it a step further, Minaya was the Assistant General Manager when David Wright was drafted, and he was the General Manager who gave Wright his first contract extension.
Overall, Minaya’s fingerprints were all over that 2015 team much in the same way Alderson’s fingerprints are all over this year’s Mets team.
Yesterday’s starting lineup featured four former Alderson draft picks (Brandon Nimmo, Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, Jeff McNeil) and the player who his regime gave the second highest international signing bonus in team history (Amed Rosario). Robinson Cano came to the Mets when Brodie Van Wagenen traded two former Alderson first round draft picks (Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn) and two players Alderson had signed in free agency (Jay Bruce and Anthony Swarzak).
Looking further, the lineup also had two Minaya holdovers, one of which in Lagares who Alderson gave a contract extension.
Really, when you truly break it down, the only player on the Mets Opening Day lineup who has zero ties to any previous Mets regime was Wilson Ramos.
When you break it down further, the only Mets players who have no ties to previous regimes were Ramos, Luis Avilan, Justin Wilson, and Jed Lowrie, a player who opened the season on the Injured List and who currently has no timetable to return. Considering Familia was a free agent signing, you could potentially credit him solely to Van Wagenen even if he was seeking to return to the team. The other 20 players on the Opening Day roster were either players brought to the team by Alderson, or they were players who were acquired utilizing players Alderson brought to the organization.
Given the narrative which was in place four years ago, the question should be presented whether the 2019 Mets are Sandy’s or Brodie’s team.
The answer is this is definitively Brodie’s team. As the General Manager, he was the one who set into course a series of transactions made to build the Mets in his image. It was he who decided to extend deGrom and to bring in Cano. When you are the General Manager, you are the one making the decisions, and you should receive the credit or blame if your decisions succeed or falter.
As for Sandy Alderson, Mets fans should be appreciative of the talent he acquired during his tenure. Alderson not only left behind a talented group of players, but he left behind a very likeable group of players. In the end, the Mets were better off for him having been the General Manager, and we can only hope we can say the same when Van Wagnen’s tenure as the Mets General Manager ends.
With the Mets hiring an agent as opposed to a front office baseball executive, you knew Brodie Van Wagenen was going to have a learning curve. As such, he was going to make some bad moves, and certainly, you knew he was going to make some curious decisions. Some may inure to the Mets benefit while others may not. If these questionable decisions do work out for the Mets, then a World Series may very well be in the team’s future.
Why Isn’t Cano Playing First Base?
Robinson Cano was the big bat the Mets acquired this offseason, and the plan is for him to be a fixture in the Mets lineup. However, that is for as many games as he is able to play. To his credit, Brodie Van Wagenen has been quite vocal about the need to give Cano more days off than he is accustomed due to Cano being 36 years old.
If we harken back to 1999, Bobby Valentine did this with a 40 year old Rickey Henderson to get the last good season out of Henderson. That also led to the Mets claiming the Wild Card and going to the NLCS.
For Cano, it is not just his age, but it is also his position. Players who play up the middle play the more taxing defensive positions in baseball. That takes more of a toll on a 36 year old player. Given Jed Lowrie‘s presence on the team, you have to wonder why the team doesn’t make Lowrie the second baseman with Cano playing first.
Putting Cano at first would be putting him in a position where he would not be as subject to fatigue over the course of the season. It should also be noted with Cano already 36 years old and his signed for five more seasons, it is a position switch he will eventually have to make. If he is going to have to make the switch, why not do it now so the Mets could coax more at-bats and games from him over the course of the season?
Where Is Davis Getting His Opportunity?
With J.D. Davis‘ minor league stats, you could make the argument all he needs to succeed at the Major League level is an opportunity to play at the Major League level. Certainly, it’s a fair point to raise when someone hits .342/.406/.583 in 85 Triple-A games and .175/.248/.223 in 42 MLB games.
The problem is you’d be hard-pressed to where exactly he would get that opportunity.
He’s behind Todd Frazier and Jed Lowrie at the third base depth chart. He’s behind Peter Alonso and Frazier on the first base depth chart. He’s a right-handed compliment to right-handed hitters. He’s not suited to play outfield in the majors, and even if he was, he’s buried on the outfield depth chart as well. Combine that with Lowrie and Jeff McNeil being the versatile players on the roster, and you have to wonder where he gets hit at-bats.
After you are done contemplating that, you are left to wonder why the team would trade three good prospects in Luis Santana, Ross Adolph, and Scott Manea for him when they could’ve just as easily signed Mark Reynolds or Matt Davidson.
Was McNeil Playing LF the Original Plan?
One of the benefits of having McNeil on the roster is having a versatile player on the roster. Despite the team’s initial reluctance last year, he is someone who has received playing time at all four infield positions, and he has always trained in the outfield. To that extent, penciling him as the team’s starting left fielder, even against just right-handed pitching made a ton of sense.
That plan made even more sense when you consider Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo are both capable center fielders with Juan Lagares being the best defensive center fielder in the game. Really, breaking it down, moving McNeil to left field was probably the best way to handle the Mets resources.
However, the plan to move McNeil to left field does raise some interesting questions. For example, why didn’t the team send him to winter ball to play outfield. Also, why would the team expend resources to obtain Keon Broxton only to make him a fifth outfielder? Moreover, if McNeil is your outfielder, shouldn’t the team have a better insurance option against his inability to play left field than Broxton?
What’s the Plan for Backup Catcher?
When the Mets traded Kevin Plawecki to the Indians, they were effectively announcing Travis d’Arnaud was healthy enough to be the backup. That was called into question when Mickey Callaway said Devin Mesoraco signed with the Mets because of his relationship with Jacob deGrom.
It would seem if the Mets signed Mesoraco to catch deGrom the team now has one catcher too many. Does this mean the team is planning on moving him on the eve of Opening Day, or is Mesoraco willing to catch in the minors until the inevitable injury to d’Arnaud or Wilson Ramos. If that is the case, what impact does this have on Tomas Nido, and his future?
On the bright side, the Mets have good depth at the catcher position, but that only remains true to the extent they are keeping everyone. If they are the challenge is then to keep everyone happy and sharp, which is much easier said than done.
Where’s the Starting Pitching Depth?
With Jason Vargas struggling since the 2017 All-Star Break, you would have thought the Mets would have done more to address their pitching depth. That goes double when you consider the team traded Justin Dunn, their best starting pitching prospect, and with David Peterson and Anthony Kay being at least a couple of years away.
With the health issues facing Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz, you would’ve thought the Mets would have been pressed more to add starting pitching depth. When you couple that with Van Wagenen knowing Jeff Barry councils his pitching clients to limit their innings, you would believe the Mets would have pressed to go more than four deep in the pitching rotation.
But the Mets haven’t. Not really. Their depth is essentially the same group who posted an ERA over 5.00 as MLB staters along with Hector Santiago, a pitcher now better suited to the bullpen.
When you look at this rotation the best health they had was in 2015, and that was a year the team needed 10 starting pitchers to get through the season. This team has nowhere near that type of depth.
As it turns out, more than anything, it may turn out to be the pitching depth which is the biggest key to the 2019 season. If the team is healthy, and deGrom and Syndergaard go against their agent’s advice, it is possible the team has enough pitching to get through the season. If the pitchers do impose pitching limits and there is more than one pitching injury, the team’s hopes of winning anything may be done, and that is even if the other questions are answered in the affirmative.
During his interview with Mike Franceca on WFAN, he would speak about the team, and he would be challenged by Mike on a number of issues. As the General Manager, you can understand Van Wagenen trying to sell the fan base about the team. It is part and parcel of his job.
In some ways, he did effectively did that. He touted the combination of Peter Alonso and J.D. Davis as capably hitting 30 home runs combined from the first base position. He also reminded fans of this being a versatile team with Todd Frazier and Robinson Cano being able to play first base if necessary. This would also allow the team to play Jed Lowrie and have him bat second in the lineup every day.
Behind some of the bravado, some of Van Wagenen’s early bravado began to erode away, and you saw someone who is trying to sell an incomplete roster. We saw this through two telling exchanges. The first notable one regards Bryce Harper and Manny Machado:
BVW: "It's not so easy to find spots for all of our good players already."
MF: "You're telling me you don't have room for them?
BVW: "Probably not the best fit for us."
MF: "Are you telling me you don't have room for them in the lineup?"
— Matt Ehalt (@MattEhalt) February 11, 2019
Essentially, Brodie is going to have us believe the team has no room for Machado on the infield. Now, you could argue even with Amed Rosario being disappointing thus far, he is primed to break out next season. He can also point to there already being solid to very good veteran infielders. That’s fair. However, he loses us completely at Harper.
This is a team with just two starting outfielders in Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo. For all of their defensive prowess, neither Keon Broxton or Juan Lagares can’t hit. As for Jeff McNeil, the Mets apparently believed in him so much they aggressively pursued two other All-Star second baseman to play over him.
The Mets will tell you he’s now going to be an outfielder. That’s all well and good, and we all hope he can make the transition. However, no matter how good he is, he is no Bryce Harper.
That’s important due to the second pertinent exchange. When Mike asked if the Mets were better than the Vegas line of 84 wins, Van Wagenen was sure of himself saying, “I think 84 wins is light.” When pressed on whether this was a 90 win team, Van Wagenen was less assured, and he would not commit to the 90 win figure.
That’s very problematic.
Looking at the history of the Wild Card, the lowest win total for a National League Wild Card was 87 wins. That honor belongs to the 2016 Mets and Giants and the 2017 Rockies. No Mets fan wants to see a repeat of Madison Bumgarner and Conor Gillaspie in a winner-take-all game.
Really, if you are in the 84-89 wins range, you are in the postseason race, but you are towards the bottom of that race. That’s not where you want to be with the Nationals, Cubs, Brewers, Cardinals, Dodgers, and Rockies boasting good rosters of their own. And don’t forget the Phillies who are still in a position to pounce on a player or two in what is still a bizarrely loaded free agent class.
When you boil it down, Van Wagenen can be boastful all he wants, but he’s essentially admitted this is an incomplete team. Worse yet, he’s admitting after trading away Jarred Kelenic, Justin Dunn, Luis Santana, Ross Adolph, Gerson Bautista, Bobby Wahl, Felix Valerio, Adam Hill, and Scott Manea, his work is not nearly done.
Instead of saying, “Come get us!” to the National League, he should be telling ownership to “Please help us!” because this team is far from complete.
Looking at this past offseason, the Mets have traded away much of their future to improve the 2019 team. Top prospects Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn were part of a package for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz. Ross Adolph, Scott Manea, and Luis Santana were traded for J.D. Davis. Finally, Adam Hill, Felix Valerio, and Bobby Wahl were traded for Keon Broxton.
There has been some debate on each of these moves. Whereas many saw the Mets undervaluing assets, there have been a contingent who have justified the deal under the auspices of how not all prospects work out.
To a certain extent, there is validity to the prospects not panning out. With respect to Generation K, only Jason Isringhausen had a successful career, and that was as a reliever not the front line starter we expected him to be. Outfielders Fernando Martinez, Lastings Milledge, and Alex Ochoa weren’t even so much as a part-time player. Relievers like Eddie Kunz did nothing. The list goes on and on . . . .
Of course, this overlooks the prospects which have had successful careers. Tom Seaver was a Hall of Famer. David Wright, Jose Reyes, Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, and Edgardo Alfonzo were all-time Mets greats. As we know, that list is much longer than that. It also includes Nolan Ryan, which was a trade which lives on in Mets infamy.
That was a trade of a young player who hasn’t figured it out for a past All-Star Jim Fregosi. While prevailing wisdom is that trade was a Mets disaster, the school of thought were you trade young players for proven Major League talent would be fully onboard with that deal. That does beg the question why people are against keeping prospects and are not against the Mets making trades.
Looking over Mets history, this team has made many horrible trades. In addition to the aforementioned Ryan for Fregosi trade, we have also seen several other poor trades in Mets history:
- Amos Otis for Joe Foy
- Lenny Dykstra and Roger McDowell for Juan Samuel
- Jeff Kent for Carlos Baerga
- Jason Isrinhausen for Billy Taylor
- Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano
There are several others which have blown up in the Mets faces. In addition to that, there have been trades for players which have greatly under-performed for the Mets. In addition to the aforementioned players, you can include Roberto Alomar, Willie Mays, Joe Torre, and a litany of others did not perform when wearing a Mets uniform.
With the Mets losing valuable young players and with the team getting veterans who have not performed, you have to wonder why the Mets don’t just operate on the free agent market. Of course, the reason there is the extensive failures the Mets have made on that front. The list is well known, and Mets fans can cite them in their sleep – Jason Bay, Bobby Bonilla, Luis Castillo, Vince Coleman, George Foster, Oliver Perez, and many, many others.
Point is, no matter which way you look, you see a history of failures when it comes to the Mets organization. Their prospects always fail. They only trade for veterans in decline. Every free agent signing is a bust.
Of course, that’s not remotely the truth. When looking at each area, the Mets have had plenty of successes and failures. The goal for every General Manager is to have more success than failures and for those failures to not come back and bite you. That’s what defines periods like the 1980s Mets and also the period immediately thereafter.
So in the end, when judging moves, do it on their own merit and not because you believe the Mets prospects fail, trade acquisitions production declines, and every free agent is a bust.