Kaz Matsui

Mets Second Base Problems Are On Sandy Alderson

After the 2017 season ended, and the Mets set out to build their roster for the 2018 season, the most glaring need was a second baseman.  Given the options in free agency and the state of the Mets farm system, it also proved to be one of the most difficult holes to fill.

Initially, the Mets did act prudently by looking to obtain Ian Kinsler from the Detroit Tigers.  While he was coming off a down year offensively, he was still a very good defender at the position.  If rumors were true, the Mets stepped up and they made the best offer to the Detroit Tigers.

The problem was Kinsler had a no trade clause to the Mets.  He used that clause to force a deal to the Angels.  Very likely, the reason was all of the gaps in the Mets roster and their limited budget this offseason.

Speaking of the limited budget, yes, we can absolutely blame the Wilpons for not fully investing in this team.  While many will defend them on the concept of finances, it should be noted the Wilpons did have money to invest in an eSports team and the Islanders new arena.

With that said, there was money to be spent.  Yes, it wasn’t enough, but if spent properly, there was enough to at least build a credible roster.  The problem is Sandy Alderson isn’t spending the money wisely.

Certainly, you can justify the Anthony Swarzak signing.  If the Mets have any intentions of competing next year, they needed an extra arm to bring to Jeurys Familia in the ninth.  With Swarzak joining AJ Ramos to set up for Familia, the Mets have a good 7-8-9 tandem.  With Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland, you can reasonably assume the Mets will be able to find an arm or two to join Jerry Blevins to form a good if not formidable bullpen.

The problem is what Sandy Alderson has done with the money since signing Swarzak at the close of the Winter Meetings.

The first issue was a trade for Jason Kipnis was rejected by someone with the Mets.  The natural culprits are the Wilpons as the reports said someone higher up.  It’s a baffling decision because even if you have your concerns about him, he’s a good fit in the lineup and in the clubhouse.  There’s also the benefit of his knowing Callaway from their days in Cleveland.

But no, someone with enough decision making authority didn’t want him.  So instead, the Mets went out to address the holes in their roster by signing Jay Bruce and Adrian Gonzalez.

Of course, this means three things.  The first is the team is all but done with Dominic Smith, at least for the 2018 season.  The second is Michael Conforto is likely out longer than advertised.  The third is the Mets are effectively punting on second base.

Howie Kendrick, who was a viable second base candidate, is now off the board, and with him went the last reasonable shot at getting a starting second baseman in free agency.  That is, unless, you believe Eduardo Nunez, will now be healthy, capable of playing second, and the Mets have enough to sign him.

If you want someone in a trade, like Josh Harrison, get in line.  Teams with much deeper systems, like the Yankees, have interest in him as well.  As a result, this means the Mets are out on him.

Overall, this means the Mets are going to bring back Jose Reyes to play second alongside Amed Rosario.  This is the same Reyes who was one of the worst regulars in all of baseball last year.  He had a -0.6 WAR, a 94 wRC+, and he accomplished the astounding feat of posting a negative DRS at FOUR positions.  One of those was second where he had a -5 DRS in 207.1 innings.

And remember the last time Reyes played second base full time?  That would be the 2004 season when the Mets big acquisition was Kaz Matsui.  When your offseason plan mirrors the plans of your 2004 plans, you know the Mets are in trouble.

And yes, they are.  They’re in trouble because they don’t have the money to spend and because Sandy Alderson isn’t spending it wisely.  Consider for a second, Matt Adams and Kendrick, two versatile players that would have been immensely helpful to the Mets for depth and/or platoons, signed with the Nationals for a combined $11 million.  That’s less than a million more they are paying Bruce and Gonzalez on a team that already had Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, Wilmer Flores, and Smith.

Overall, the Mets may not have had much money to spend, but whatever money they did have, Sandy Alderson squandered it away on duplicative players.  Remember that when the Mets second base situation holds the team back throughout the 2018 season.

 

Collins Numb To Pitcher Issues In Mets Loss To Rockies

With the way the Mets season has progressed, you would think when a pitcher says, “Hey!  I can’t feel my fingers!” they’d pull him from the game. 

Nope. 

The Mets decided to keep Hansel Robles in the game. Actually, his physical problems were much worse than that:

So, with all of that going on, Terry Collins kept Robles in a tie 4-4 game in the ninth. Here’s what transpired:

Game Over. 

The last pitch of the Arenado at-bat wasn’t even close. The 3-2 pitch was a solid foot over the strike zone. Travis d’Arnaud helplessly leaped because there was nothing much more for him to do, but not even he could have framed that pitch. 

The shame of Collins gambling with both the game and Robles’ health was the fact the Mets continuously fought back in this game. 

Rafael Montero struggled, but he kept the Mets in the game. Over 5.2 innings, he allowed 10 hits, four runs, four earned, and one walk with six strikeouts. 
More than anything, Montero just couldn’t hold a lead. 

The Mets rallied from a 2-0 third inning deficit by scoring runs in three consecutive innings. Yoenis Cespedes got things started with a homer off Rockies starter German Marquez:

The following inning, Amed Rosario got things started by become the first Met to hit two triples in his first three games. He did more than just set Mets records on the triple:

He then scored on a Montero RBI single. His first career RBI.  

After his single tied the game, he gave the Rockies the lead back by yielding a solo homer to Charlie Blackmon

Curtis Granderson, who was 1-2 with two walks, got the sixth inning off to a good start by earning a lead-off walk. After a pair of groundouts, it seemed as if he’d be stranded out at third, but Rene Rivera came through with the two out RBI single.
Sure enough, Montero allowed the Rockies to take the lead again. This time it was a Mark Reynolds home run. After that homer, the Rockies would put runners at first and second with two outs. Josh Smoker, who has pitched much better of late, came in and struck out Alexi Amarista to end the inning. 

The Mets then beat up on Pat Neshek in the seventh inning. Consider for a moment that Neshek has allowed just seven earned runs all year, and the Mets have scored four of them. The fourth came in this game. 

Michael Conforto singled to lead-off the inning, and he scored from first on an Asdrubal Cabrera from center field. Despite there being no outs and the middle of the order coming up, the Mets couldn’t push across that last run. 
With the Mets sticking with a reliever who couldn’t feel himself grip the ball, they lost the game. It was the second time the Mets lost 5-4 on a Rockies walk-off against Robles. 

Game Notes: Jose Reyes started at second base for the first time with the Mets since 2004. At that time, Kaz Matsui was the Mets rookie shortstop. 

Mets Were Right To Move Cabrera to Second Base

For starters, lets concede that Jose Reyes has been playing so poorly he should unseat no one for a starting position unless he was going to play for the Long Island Ducks.  In turn, it also needs to be conceded Asdrubal Cabrera is no longer a major league caliber shortstop.  In his interview on the topic, Cabrera admitted as much saying, “I think next year, I have to go – I have to move to another position . . . I’m fine with that.”

Cabrera needs to be fine with that as he’s not a shortstop now.  His -10 DRS is the worst among shortstops with at least 100 innings played at the position.  His -5.5 UZR is the second worst in the majors among players with 100 innings played at short.  But it’s more than the advanced metrics.  Visually, you can see he no longer has the range.  His sure hands aren’t so sure anymore.  His 11 errors are the third most in the majors and are four more than he had all of last year.  The final indignity for him came when he had his Luis Castillo impersonation.

It was time to move Cabrera to second base.  With the team having an eye towards the 2018 season, it was time to see if the team should pick up his 2018 option in the offseason to play him alongside Amed Rosario.  With the team looking to sell, it was also a chance to improve his trade value.

Now, this isn’t the first time the Mets have asked Cabrera to change positions.  Earlier in the year, they asked him to move to third base.  He wasn’t amendable going so far as to demand the team pick up his 2018 option if they planned such a move.  Rather than promote discord throughout the clubhouse, Terry Collins dropped it.  The team had to know moving him to second base was going to create issues.

And it did.  Cabrera demanded a trade from the team.  Sure, part of it could be the Mets didn’t give him the courtesy of speaking with him first, or the team not giving him the opportunity to play some games at second base during his rehab stint in the minor leagues.  Still, even with the Mets mishandling the situation, given how Cabrera responded to moving to third base, this incident was going to happen anyway.

It is better for that incident to have occurred with Reyes supplanting him than Rosario.  It is hard enough for a rookie to get acclimated to playing in the major leagues.  It is even more difficult with a disenchanted veteran angry you took his job.  This is the same veteran you would want to mentor a young Rosario to help ease his transition.  Seeing Cabrera’s actions, this was not going to happen if Rosario was the one who replaced him.

That is why having Reyes take over at shortstop made sense.  Reyes is a veteran better capable of handling the situation, especially when he previously faced the same situation when the Mets signed Kaz MatsuiLet Reyes deal with the fallout now so all issues are resolved by the time Rosario is called up to the majors.

Overall, while we can quibble with how the Mets handled moving Cabrera to second base, we can all agree they made the right decision.  They got to find out more about Cabrera both in terms of his ability as a second baseman and how he handles a change in his roles.  More importantly, they made Rosario’s transition to the major leagues that much easier.

The Mets Do Not Need Jose Reyes

Mets fans always have been and always will be captivated by Jose Reyes.  During his time in Flushing, he meant so much to Mets fans.  He was an exciting leadoff hitter whose speed on the bases was matched only by the speed of his throws to firstbase.  The joy and excitement he showed on the field was only surpassed by they joy and enthusiasm exhibited by the fans who watched him on the field.  When he finally became a free agent, he wanted to stay, and Mets fans wanted him to stay.  Now, with his future uncertain with his suspension and the rise of Trevor Story, there are those who may want him to return.

Admittedly, there was a time I would have gladly joined that chorus.  Not now.

Let’s start with the practicalities.  The Mets have a shortstop, and his name is Asdrubal Cabrera.  Cabrera is a career .267/.329/.411 hitter with a 104 OPS+.  With his recent slump, Cabrera is hitting .267/.332/.400 with a 100 OPS+.  Over the last two years, he averaged a -6,3 UZR and a -7.5 DRS.  The Mets owe him $8.25 million this year and the next.  After next year, the Mets can decide to keep Cabrera for the 2018 season at $8.5 million, transition to Gavin Cecchini or Amed Rosario, or move in a completely different direction.

For his part, Reyes has put up similar production to Cabrera.  Reyes is a career .290/.339/.431 hitter with a 105 OPS+.  Because he accepted a suspension for an alleged act of domestic violence, Reyes has not played this year.  When he played last year, Reyes hit .274/.310/.378 with an 82 OPS+.  He did that while playing in two hitters ballparks in the Rogers Centre and Coors Field.  Over the past two years, he has averaged a -6.6 UZR and a -12 DRS in the field.  For that, the Rockies are paying Reyes the prorated portion of $22 million this year and the next.  Like Cabrera, Reyes has an option for 2018.  Unlike Cabrera, if that option is not exercised, Reyes is a $4 million buyout.

In terms of his production on the field, Reyes is not an upgrade over Cabrera.  Worse yet, he’s a much more expensive option.  Even if you were to presume the Rockies would eat a portion of Reyes’ salary, there is almost no amount that would make a deal between the two clubs make sense.

For the time being, the Mets needs are at first and third base.  Reyes does not address either of those needs unless you want to shuffle a bunch of players out of position.  The first option would be to move Reyes to second base like he once did in the first year of the Kaz Matsui experiment.  That would force Neil Walker to third base.  In that situation, you are asking Reyes to return to a position he last played in 2004 for 43 games, and you are asking Walker to play a position he last played in 2010 and has played 15 total games in his career.  It’s asking for trouble.  The other option is to put Reyes at shortstop and move Cabrera to third base.  Cabrera has only played 1.1 innings at third base in 2004.  It’s not much better.  Overall, there is no fit for Reyes on the team.

Assuming there was room for Reyes, and assuming the Rockies were to release him, it is still a bad idea.

The addition of Reyes would be a distraction.  It’s a distraction because of who he is and what he once meant to Mets fans.  If Cabrera, Walker, or another infield falters, there will be a clamoring for him to replace that regular in the lineup.  There’s also the matter of his domestic violence action.  There have been studies that show 62% of previously arrested domestic violence perpetrators are re-arrested withing two years of the initial domestic violence act.  Now, Reyes is purportedly taking the issue seriously.  As part of his suspension, he is seeking counseling.  We all hope for both him and his wife that the counseling will help and that there will be no more violence in that household.

With that said, this is baseball.  We use statistics to make judgments on players.  We can use Reyes’ statistics to show he is no longer the player he was with the Mets.  We can use the statistics to show he would not be an upgrade on the Mets roster.  Unfortunately, we can also use the statistics to show that the drama that surrounds Reyes may not be over.  What is and should be over is Reyes’ great Mets career.

We should all wish Reyes and his family the best no matter where he winds up.  Let’s just hope that place isn’t Flushing.

Editor’s Note: this was first published on metsmerizedonline.com

Mets Magic Number is Seven

The Mets never seem to get it right sometimes. The Yankees got Hideki Matsui, and the Mets got Kaz Matsui. The Mariners get Ichiro, and the Mets get Tsuyoshi Shinjo. The Royals have two sport superstar Bo Jackson, and the Mets get Magic Man Number 7 D. J. Dozier:

 

Dozier was a football player. He was a first round draft NFL pick by the Vikings and an 18th round draft pick by the Tigers. In the NFL, he’d get stuck behind Barry Sanders and Hershel Walker. He theoretically signed (as a minor league free agent) with the Mets for that reason. Basically, he was John Elway, but he stuck with baseball. 

While in the Mets’ organization, he began to rise. He was ranked as the #44 Best prospect in all of baseball. He stayed with the Mets due to his unhappiness with the Vikings. The trouble is he never really panned out. He finally made the Mets in 1992 on the “Worst Team Money Can Buy.”  He hit .191/.264/.498 in only 25 games. 

This is a cold reminder that typically the Mets are reactive instead of progressive. It’s a time when moves didn’t pan out. This move seemed more of the same like when Michael Cuddyer struggled right out of the gate.  It looked like another lost year at times with the struggling offense. As we know, it didn’t happen that way. 

This year the moves and call-ups have panned out. Michael Conforto has been great.  We know about Yoenis Cespedes and his incredible hot streak after coming over to the Mets. This isn’t 1992 anymore. The Mets can win this year. This is why I like remembering players like Dozier. I want to see the progress of the team, and I like people are seeing how things are different now. 

So with that said, let’s offer a hat tip to magic man number seven D. J. Dozier. 

Mets in Same Position as 10 Years Ago

Did you ever hear of the saying, the more things change the more they stay the same? The saying drives me absolutely nuts. Inherently, something that is static cannot also be idle at the same time. However, for the first time I am starting to understand this saying.

I believe this season is starting to resemble 2005. Sure there was some optimism before that season with the signings of Carlos Beltran and Pedro Martinez. This was also going to be the first full season David Wright and Jose Reyes were going to play together. That team also had some holes: Doug Mientkiewicz had a great glove but not the bat to play 1B, Kaz Matsui was being shifted to play 2B after he showed he couldn’t play SS the prior year, and let’s not forget the closer was Braden Looper in a largely ineffective bullpen. However, I don’t know of anyone that expected the Mets to realistically make the playoffs that year.

At that point, the Mets fans were suffering. In 2001, the Mets rallied around the city, but they fell short of making the playoffs in an otherwise disappointing season. In 2002, we watched Steve Phillips attempt to recreate the team as an offensive juggernaut with the likes of Mo Vaughn, Roberto Alomar, Jeromy Burnitz, and Roger Cedeno. This lead to three years of just bad baseball. Now, the Mets fans were clamoring for a move to be made. We wanted to see Piazza go out on his last year with the Mets with a winner. At the Trading Deadline, the Mets found themselves only 4 games out of the Wild Card.

However, Omar Minaya stayed the course. The Mets made no trades. He kept his bullets for the offseason. If you recall, that was a magical offseason with the additions of Paul LoDuca, Carlos Delgado, Jose Valentin, Xavier Nady, Endy Chavez, Julio Franco, Pedro Feliciano, Duaner Sanchez, John Maine, Jorge Julio (was was then traded in season for El Duque), Darren Oliver, and Billy Wagner. Omar showing restraint permitted the Mets to build that great 2006 team the fans loved.

Now, Mets fans have been suffering longer than they were in 2005, and they are begging for just one bat (which I don’t think will do the trick). While Mets fans were disappointed in 2005, I don’t remember them being a distraught as they are now. I think the difference is trust. We trusted that ownership and Omar would spend the money to get the players that were needed. In fact, they just come off of a spending spree that netted Pedro and Beltran. Now, fans don’t trust that ownership will spend the money. I believe this is the trust gap that is the biggest sense of frustration with this team.

It’s a shame too because I remember 2005 being a fun season. So far, I think 2015 has been gut-wrenching with all the tight, low-scoring games. My only hope is that if the Mets don’t make a move now, they have a plan for what can be realistically accomplished this summer. There will be LF available who can really help the team in the short term, but the market is scarce on middle infielders. My fingers are crossed.  I want to be able to go to a playoff game with my father and son.