Kelly Johnson

Who’s Better: 2015 or 2018 Mets?

Entering the season, Yoenis Cespedes made the bold declaration the 2018 Mets were better than the 2015 Mets.  Now, if you recall that 2015 team, it did feature players like Eric Campbell and John Mayberry.  However, those players were not on the team at the same time as Cespedes.  When Cespedes joined the Mets, he was on a much better roster, a roster which went all the way to the World Series.

With that consideration, it is certainly bold for Cespedes to make that declaration, but is he right?  Let’s take a look:

CATCHER

2015: Travis d’Arnaud, Kevin Plawecki
2018: Travis d’Arnaud, Kevin Plawecki

Just looking at those names, you may be quick to think not much has changed in the catching situation.  In reality, everything is different, and the main difference is these catchers stand on much different footing.

The 2015 season was d’Arnaud’s best as a player with him posting a 126 OPS+ and emerging as an elite pitch framer.  Plawecki was overmatched at the plate, but he did handle the pitching staff exceptionally well.  Since that time, both had gone on to disappoint in 2016 and much of 2017.

Things changed at the tail end of 2017.  Plawecki finally looked like the player the Mets once thought he would become.  d’Arnaud would finish the season with a strong September.  As a result, they will look to begin the 2018 season in a unique time sharing agreement designed to keep both healthy and effective all year long.

VERDICT: 2018if both replicate their Septembers, this won’t even be close

FIRST BASE

2015: Lucas Duda
2018: Adrian Gonzalez

In 2015, Duda hit .244/.352/.486 with 27 homers and 73 RBI.  He was as streaky as he ever was unable to carry the team when they needed his bat most, and he almost single-handedly beat the Nationals in a key late July series.

Gonzalez is coming off the worst year of his career, and he is still dealing with back issues which requires him to warm up two hours before the game starts.

VERDICT: 2015 Gonzalez may not be around long enough to make a bad throw

SECOND BASE

2015: Daniel Murphy
2018: Asdrubal Cabrera

We got a glimpse of what Murphy would became with him slugging .533 over the final two months of the season. Even with the increased power, no one could predict the home run barrage he’d unleash in the postseason.

For his part, Cabrera finds himself at second a year after protesting moving there or anywhere. He’s been a good hitter with the Mets, and he’s been terrific in the clutch. We’ll see if the injuries will permit him to be that again.

VERDICT: 2015 – Murphy’s postseason was an all-time great one

THIRD BASE

2015: David Wright
2018: Todd Frazier

This was really the last hurrah for Wright in a Mets uniform. He was very good in the 30 games he played after coming off the DL hitting .277/.381/.437. He’d hit two emotional homers: (1) his first at-bat since coming off the DL; and (2) his first World Series at-bat at Citi Field.

Frazier has been a solid to somewhat underrated player. Over the last three years, he’s averaged 34 homers, 88 RBI, and a 110 OPS+. He’s been a good fielder averaging a 5 DRS over that stretch.

VERDICT: 2018 – Frazier is no Wright, but he’s healthy

SHORTSTOP

2015: Ruben Tejada
2018: Amed Rosario

Tejada was not supposed to be the starting shortstop in 2015.  After wasting a few chances which led to Omar Quintanilla getting the bulk of the playing time over him, the Mets moved on to Flores.  Eventually, Collins and the Mets went back to Tejada because: (1) he had steadier hands; and (2) he had a .362 OBP in the second half.  Who knows how everything would have turned out had Chase Utley not broken his leg with a dirty slide/tackle.

Rosario is the future of the Mets.  Yes, there are flaws in his game like his very low walk rate.  However, this is a uniquely gifted player who is dedicated to being better.  He’s electric, and he’s got the skill set to be a superstar for a very long time.  For now, we will settle for him being a good defensive shortstop who brings real speed and upside to the table.

VERDICT: 2018 Rosario’s ceiling is just way too high

OUTFIELD

2015: Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, Curtis Granderson
2018: Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto, Jay Bruce

Cespedes was just an otherworldly player when he joined the Mets.  Despite his only being a Met for a few months, he finished in the Top 15 in MVP voting.  Really, the MVP for the Mets that year was Granderson who was a leader in the clubhouse on the lineup.  He had the most homers from a lead-off hitter, and he was a Gold Glove finalist.  Conforto jumped from Double-A to post a 133 wRC+ and a much better than expected 9 DRS in left.

With respect to the 2018 outfield, we see Conforto is a much better play (when healthy), and Cespedes is nowhere near as good as he was when he joined the Mets.  To be fair, there’s no way he could, but he’s still an All Star caliber player.  This means the main difference between the squads is Bruce and Granderson.

VERDICT: 2015 – That Cespedes was just that much better.

BENCH

2015: Michael Cuddyer, Wilmer Flores, Kelly Johnson, Juan Lagares
2018: Wilmer Flores, Juan Lagares, Brandon Nimmo, Jose Reyes

From the moment Uribe and Johnson joined the Mets, they were game changers.  They both brought a winning attitude and game winning hits.  In addition to the two of them, Lagares was the defensive specialist, a role to which he is best suited, and Cuddyer was a platoon partner with either Conforto or Duda depending on whether Lagares started the game as well.  Overall, it was a veteran bench who provided needed leadership.

The Mets current bench is similar to the 2015 bench with Reyes trying to emulate the Uribe role even if he’s not as productive a player.  Flores is Flores, but a better hitter, and believe it or not, a worse fielder.  Lagares rediscovered his range he lost in 2015.  Nimmo should be in the everyday lineup and leading off, but early indications are he won’t.

VERDICT: 2015 – Uribe and Johnson were just that important

ROTATION

2015: Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Bartolo Colon
2018: Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, Matt Harvey, Jason Vargas

When you consider Vargas was basically brought in to replicate what Colon did in 2015, the question is whether you believe the Mets top four starters are better as a group now or then.  Looking at it objectively, Syndergaard is the only one who has improved with no one knowing what Harvey and Matz can still provide.

VERDICT: 2015 – they were just healthier then

BULLPEN

2015: Jeurys Familia, Tyler Clippard, Addison Reed, Hansel Robles, Jon Niese, Sean Gilmartin, Erik Goeddel
2018: Jeurys Familia, Anthony Swarzak, AJ Ramos, Jerry Blevins, Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Paul Sewald

Familia was that good in 2015 that he was able to cover many of the warts in the 2015 bullpen.  This resulted in Collins using him for multiple innings more than any other closer that year.  Reed would begin his emergence as a great reliever, but a back injury would cost Clippard of his effectiveness.  One surprise was Niese performing well as a lefty in the bullpen.

When you include Sewald’s Triple-A experience, this is a bullpen with three closers, six pitchers with closer’s stuff, and a very good LOOGY in Blevins.  Even if Familia is not as good as he was in 2015, it won’t matter because there is enough depth here for the Mets to not need to rely upon him as much.

VERDICT: 2018 – they’re just deeper and with more upside

MANAGER

2015: Terry Collins
2018: Mickey Callaway

For all the warts and problems Mets fans discovered with Collins, he had his finest year as a manager in 2015.  When the ship could have sunk multiple times, he pulled the team together and kept things afloat until the team got healthy and reinforcements arrived.  Of course, he followed this up by helping cost the Mets the World Series with a series of baffling decisions which all blew up in the Mets faces.

Right now, Callaway looks like a genius.  He’s innovative batting Cespedes second and Rosario ninth.  He came down hard on Dominic Smith for being late.  His players seem to love him, and the baseball world roundly believes the Mets made an excellent hire.  However, the season isn’t even a week old.  Even if everyone is a fan at the moment, let’s check back in a couple of months to see if he’s an innovative genius or if he’s a know-it-all who can’t leave good enough alone.

Verdict: 2018 – Collins did cost the Mets a World Series

VERDICT

If you break it down, the 2015 Mets were better at first, second, outfield, bench, and rotation.  The 2018 version is better at catcher, third, short, bullpen, and manager.  Looking at the breakdown, you can say it’s a 5-5 draw.  However, in reality, it’s not.  That 2015 team pitching rotation was just so dominant, and hypothetically, if these teams were going to step on the same field, the 2015 rotation would dominate the 2018 version.

That said, there is a lot of talent on this 2018 team, and from what we have seen so far, this is a roster tailor made to what we presume is Callaway’s talents as a manager.  If Callaway is indeed as good as we hope it will be, we can see him and Dave Eiland taking this pitching staff as a whole to the next level.  If that can happen, and with a little help, this Mets team could accomplish what the 2015 version didnt – win the World Series.

#MetsBoycott And Some Unsolicited Suggestions

If you are a Mets fan, you’re angry.  Really, there is a myriad of purely justifiable reasons why.

The Mets let Daniel Murphy walk.  They haven’t sufficiently spent to put a team that finished just short in 2015 over the top.  The handling of medical issues is a mess leading to the team constantly playing with a short roster.  They sold part of their future to build a bench and bullpen, something they refuse to do in the offseason.  This is why you have to acquire Kelly Johnson in the midseason not once but twice.

The team has not extended one pitcher, but during Sandy Alderson’s tenure, he has found a way to extend Juan Lagares, Jon Niese, and David WrightSpeaking of Wright, they have continuously played Russian Roulette with his ability to play leaving the Mets having the worst possible third base situation for two years running.

Even better, the Mets don’t have sufficient funds to add the type of players it needs to get the team back to the 2015 level – you know a middling and injured team who sold the farm to make one run and let it fizzle out.  Even better, the team doesn’t have the farm system to supplement the roster to keep the competitive.

Sad part is this is just the tip of the iceberg.  We all have reasons to be angry with the Mets.  It makes you want to do something.

In year’s past, we had the billboard.  While derided in some circles, it did have some effect.  Arguably, if not for the billboards and the display of fan anger, the Mets may not make the moves they made, including but not limited to trading for Yoenis Cespedes and re-signing him multiple times.

With that in mind, there is another movement afoot.  This one is being led by the Good Fundies guys:

(EDITOR’S NOTE: with baby number two expected any minute, this was written in advance of a podcast where details were released)

Boycotts are dicey things because they tend to either get trivialized, don’t have the physical support to match the vocal support, and/or don’t go to the extent they need to go.

On a personal front, I have greatly reduced the amount of money I have spent on Mets tickets.  I used to have multiple plans.  The reason for that is I had different factions of Mets fans, and I enjoyed going to games with those people.  It was an amazing way to experience a season.

Between Madoff, changes to ticket plans, and just the utter horseshit we get from the Mets organization, I’m down to none.  Guess what the Mets response has been to that?  They call me to ask me to buy a ticket plan numerous times each offseason.  That’s it.  If you’re like me, it’s probably the same.

Still, I can’t stay away.  I love baseball, and my son does as well.  I want to bring him to games, which he enjoys.  This season, I tried bringing him to road games instead, but it wasn’t good enough for him.  He wanted to go to Citi Field to see Mr. Met, play the Home Run Derby, and watch the game.  He’s a little boy.  I’m not going to punish him because the Wilpons suck.

There’s the other matter about my Dad and brother.  I have been going to games with my Dad since 1983 and my brother a couple of years after that.  No matter what, we have found at least one game to go to each season.  If the Mets didn’t operate the way they do, we’d probably still have a Sunday Plan – you know the plan they greedily eliminated/altered when they moved from Shea Stadium to Citi Field.

Point is, I can’t stay away, but I do want something to happen.

Getting something organized is problematic.  You have to encourage people to do something, but what?  Purchase tickets and not enter the stadium?   Organize in front of Citi Field and be ushered away before you can gain any traction?  A social media campaign that may hit the newspapers once?

The end result of these might be a giant “Meh!’ from the Met organization.

Still, you have to do something like a billboard.  Something the Mets both get embarrassed by and yet can’t ignore.

No matter what it is, all I know is I’m onboard if only because I want things to get better.  To that end, here are my unsolicited suggestions:

  • Have fans see the Mets on the road in group outings carrying signs such as #MetsBoycott or clever signs delineating fan outrage
  • If not road trips, organized fan outings at different locations such as Foley’s, which is a well known sports and baseball bar in the area
  • Another billboard or other visible sign outside Citi Field
  • Advertising spot on WFAN
  • A good old fashioned letter writing campaign.  While you can ignore emails by setting up spam folders, the Mets aren’t going to stop the mail just because they are getting waves of fan letters.  For an example of this effectiveness, look at John Mara responding to fan letters and his firing of Reese and McAdoo in-season.

If you do one, some combination of these things, or something all together different, it should gain some traction.  Whether it’s enough to get what all Mets fans what they want, it remains to be seen.

In the end, the goal needs to just be not being marginalized, which is something the Mets are great at under Sandy Alderson’s regime (“Panic Citi”).  It’s a difficult line to tread, and I’m not particularly sure it can be successful.

However, given the state of affairs, it’s certainly worth a try.

Sandy Alderson Should Want Focus On Payroll Instead Of His Record

In what has already been a frustrating offseason for Mets fans, Sandy Alderson has already uttered a statement that may prove to go down in “Panic Citi” history.  While speaking with reporters, Alderson suggested people “spend a little less time focusing on our payroll.”

If Alderson wants everyone to spend less time focusing on payroll, maybe it is time to focus on Alderson’s tenure as the Mets General Manager to see how it was the team has gotten to this position.

Injuries

During Alderson’s entire tenure, there have only been eight players who have played over 140 games in a season – Asdrubal Cabrera (2016), Ike Davis (2012) Lucas Duda (2014), Curtis Granderson (2014 – 2016), Juan Lagares (2015), Daniel Murphy (2012 – 2014), Jose Reyes (2017), and David Wright (2012).

This is because of a long list of injuries that have occurred to their position players.  This ranges from the ordinary (Yoenis Cespedes‘ hamstring issues) to the bizarre (Davis’ Valley Fever) to the tragic (Wright).

As poorly as things have gone for the position players, the pitching situation is even worse.  Johan Santana, Tim Byrdak, and Scott Rice suffered injuries that effectively ended their careers.  Same could be said for Bobby Parnell, Jeremy Hefner, and Jim Henderson.  The list goes on and on..

That list includes a starting pitching staff upon which this franchise was supposedly built.  Each of the treasured purported five aces have undergone surgeries that have cost them multiple months.  Matt Harvey may never be the same, and the same can be said for Zack Wheeler.

The irony is Alderson implemented the famed “Prevention & Recovery” mantra, and arguably things have gotten worse under his control.

Evaluating Own Talent

Now, there are varying reasons why teams choose to extend some players while not extending others, or why they choose not to re-sign other players.  Still, Alderson’s record is not exactly sterling on this front.

The main players discussed on this front are Murphy and Justin Turner.  However, there are some other less discussed players that have slipped through the Mets fingers.

The Mets traded Collin McHugh for Eric Young only to watch McHugh thrive elsewhere.  Chris Young was given a large one year deal, was released, and has been an effective player for the Yankees and Red Sox.  They released Dario Alvarez to see the Braves claim him and trade him to the Rangers for a former first round draft pick.  Finally, there was the Angel Pagan trade for a couple of players who amounted to nothing with the Mets.

The troubles evaluating their own players go beyond who they willingly let go.  It goes to those players the Mets opted to extend – Lagares, Jon Niese, and Wright.  None of these three ever amounted to the promise they had at the time the contracts were extended.  There are differing reasons for this, but in the end, the Mets proved wrong in those decisions.

The Draft

The glass half-full is that every first round draft pick made prior to 2015 has made the Majors.  Additionally, two of those players have made All Star teams.  The glass half-empty is the players the Mets have drafted have not lived up to their potential.

At a time the Mets need a starting center fielder, Brandon Nimmo isn’t even being considered.  This is not surprising as many see him as a fourth outfielder.

Coincidentally, the Mets also need a second baseman, and they are not even considering Gavin Cecchini for so much as a utility role let alone an opportunity to compete for a job in Spring Training.

The team was not at all enamored with Dominic Smith‘s rookie campaign, and they have publicly talked about bringing in insurance for him not being on the Opening Day roster.

The Mets had no 2015 draft pick because the team lost it signing Michael Cuddyer.  Effectively speaking, this decision cost the Mets two first rounders as the team’s lack of offense and health caused them to trade Michael Fulmer for Cespedes.  We have all seen Fulmer win a Rookie of the Year Award and make an All Star team in Detroit while the Mets have been desperate for pitching.

Justin Dunn has done little to quell the concerns he is a reliever and not a starter while Anthony Kay, the compensation for the reigning NLCS MVP, has yet to throw a professional pitch because of his Tommy John surgery.

This leaves Conforto, who should be a burgeoning superstar, but sadly we wait with baited breath looking to see if he is going to be the same player he was before separating his shoulder on a swing.

Free Agency

Alderson’s ventures into free agency have not been all that fruitful.  Of all the players who have signed multi-year deals, only Granderson has posted multiple seasons over a 2.0 WAR.  In fact, Granderson is the only player who has posted a cumulative WAR of over 4.0.

For those that would bring up Colon or Cespedes, their exploits are not attributable to their multi-year deals.  Colon accumulated 4.9 WAR with the Mets with 3.4 of that coming during his one year contract.  Cespedes has accumulated 7.2 WAR with the Mets with just 2.1 WAR coming last year in an injury plagued first year of a large four year deal.

It should be noted Alderson may not have much success on this front because the team has not gone crazy in free agency signing just a few players a year to Major League deals.

Depth

Even in 2015 and 2016, two years the Mets made the postseason, the Mets had depth issues.  This was why the team traded for Kelly Johnson in consecutive seasons.  It’s also a reason why in those consecutive years the Mets had to add to the bullpen.

Those seasons have taken a toll on the Mets prospect front.  They have sent away a number of assets and potential Major League contributors for a number of players who were attainable before the season began on reasonable deals.  Instead, the Mets thought they would be set with players like Eric Campbell

Synposis

Much of what is attributed to Alderson being a good General Manager is predicated upon a stroke of genius in obtaining Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud, and Wuilmer Becerra in exchange for R.A. Dickey.  Even with many fans wanting to give him plaudits for Cespedes, it should be noted the trade was made largely because of a series of missteps.  It should also be noted the Mets lost a pretty good pitcher.

Now, if you are going to defend Alderson by saying his hands have been largely tied due to the Mets payroll, remember, Alderson himself doesn’t want thinks we should spend a little less time focusing on that.

Sadly, we have to do that because the Alderson regime has had difficulties in evaluating their own talent and drafting high end talent.  If he had, the discussion would probably be the Mets fine tuning to make another postseason run instead of there being fan anger over how the payroll is restricting the Mets from building a World Series caliber roster.

Trade Addison Reed To The Team With The Best Offer

In a report by Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, the Washington Nationals are interested in obtaining Addison Reed from the New York Mets at the trade deadline.  However, Cafardo also notes the Mets may not be inclined to trade Reed to the Nationals.

If true, this makes little sense.

Reed is a pending free agent.  If the Mets do not trade him at the trade dealine, the best they can recoup for him is a second round draft pick, and that is only if the Mets were inclined to extend him a qualifying offer.  When you consider the qualifying offer for last year was set at $16.7 million, it seems like the amount will be too high for the Mets taste.  As a result, the Mets will likely lose Reed as a free agent with nothing in return if they do not move him at the trade deadline.

If the Mets are indeed trading him because the team is selling, there should be one and only one guiding principle in making a trade – Make the best trade possible.  It should not matter if that team is the Yankees or the Nationals.

In fact, the Mets have already benefited from making a trade with the Nationals.  On the eve of the 2015 season, the Mets traded outfielder Matt den Dekker for LOOGY Jerry Blevins.  For his part, Blevins was lights out for the Mets that season before breaking his arm.  With a good relationship already established, the Mets and Blevins have agreed to two different one year deals since.  In Blevins time with the Mets, he is 9-2 with two saves, a 2.76 ERA, 1.187 WHIP, and a 11.4 K/9.

Where would the Mets have been if they refused to make an intra-division trade back then?

Speaking of the 2015 season, the Mets moved prospects John Gant and Robert Whalen for Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson.  Uribe and KJ were both important members of the 2015 team.  Again in 2016, the Mets acquired KJ from the Braves.  Again, KJ was an extremely important part of a Mets team that made the postseason.

In 2015, the Mets made two trades with division rivals, and those two trades helped them win the pennant.  Now that they are selling, they should once again be willing to trade with teams in the division.  The only guiding principle in making a move is to judge whether the trade is the best return the Mets can get for a particular player.

Will seeing the Nationals win the World Series with Daniel Murphy, Reed, or anyone else the Nationals may acquire from the Mets?  Absolutely.  However, wouldn’t getting a top prospect like Victor Robles patrolling center field for a World Series winning Mets teams more than ease that pain?  Again, absolutely.

Now, can the Mets get Robles for Reed?  Probably not.  Then again, seeing the prospects got in exchange for Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman last year, it’s possible.  That being said, if the Nationals won’t give up a prospect of the caliber of Robles, someone may very well do so.  Again, the overriding point here is the Mets need to make the best trade possible . . . even if that trade is with the Nationals.

Time To Call Up Gavin Cecchini

This may seem irrational. It’s most likely premature, but in reality, the Mets can’t keep languishing away with Jose Reyes at third base.  Last night should be the last straw. 

In the game, Reyes dropped a routine flyball that set the stage for the game tying rally. He got on base, and then he was caught between first and second on a pitch in the dirt. He got lucky that Cesar Hernandez hit him in the back. 

It’s at the point where Reyes can’t make routine baseball plays. He’s fighting it. He’s hitting .100/.182/.140. Those numbers are unfathomably low. It’s really difficult to justify playing him right now. 

He’s fortunate that Wilmer Flores is a platoon bat that can’t hit right-handed pitching. He’s also lucky that Flores is also a poor fielder. T.J. Rivera is also a poor fielder at third base. Rivera is also stuck in Triple-A until next week, and he doesn’t draw enough walks to play everyday. 

This leaves the Mets looking for out of the box options. Even if the Mets were to bring back Kelly Johnson, he still needs time to get ready for the season. 

The common refrain is for Amed Rosario. It’s still too soon for him. The Mets likely don’t want to call him up before the Super Two deadline. Moreover, he only has 51 plate appearances above Double-A.  He still needs more time. 

That leaves the Mets looking at Gavin Cecchini

The Mets 2012 first round draft pick has thrived in Triple-A. Entering last night’s game, he played 130 levels in Triple-A hitting .320/.389/.451 with 31 doubles, two triples, 10 homers, 62 RBI, and seven stolen bases. 

During Cecchini’s cup of coffee with the Mets last September, he showed he wasn’t intimidated playing in the majors. In four games, he was 2-6 with two doubles and two RBI. 

The issue with Cecchini is where does he play?  With his throwing issues and the rise of Rosario, he had been moved to second. The plan was also to have him work at and expose him to short and third this year. 

The early returns of Cecchini at second are good. He’s played well at the position, and he has started the season playing 12 errorless games. The issue is the Mets have a second baseman in Neil Walker

On that front, the Mets could move Walker to third base. Entering the season, Walker indicated he would be willing to play wherever the Mets needed him to play. (Anthony DiComo, mlb.com). Given Reyes’ play, Walker may be needed at third. 

The other option could be playing Cecchini at third. However, with so little time there, and the concerns over his past throwing errors, Cecchini is probably not the best bet for third. Then again, it’s hard to argue that the Mets have there right now is any better. 

Yes, this is a drastic move, but seeing Reyes play and with David Wright likely not close to returning, the Mets have little choice but to pursue the drastic measure. The choices now are really either continue playing Reyes, play a guy who can’t hit right-handed pitching, or roll the dice on a former first round pick. 

At a minimum, it’s hard to argue Cecchini would be any worse. In fact, if Cecchini were to go 1-5 every night while playing mediocre defense, he would be an immeasurable improvement over Reyes.  For that reason alone, it’s time to give Cecchini a chance. 

Reyes Cannot Hit Lead-Off Anymore

After the game last night, Terry Collins joked, “I’ve got the FBI looking for the real Jose Reyes right now.”  

Instead of having the FBI look for Reyes, Collins should have the FBI look for a better option at third base and to bat lead-off. 

Now, no one can reasonably believe that Reyes is as bad as his current 1-27 streak. Even with Reyes fighting it since Spring Training, you’d expect him to at least beat out a throw with his speed. Reyes is better than this.

And yet, Reyes still isn’t good enough to be asked to play everyday and lead-off. Since Reyes’ career year in 2011 when he became the first ever Mets player to win a batting title, Reyes has been on a decline. That decline has been accelerated the past three years. 

Consider during his first go-round with the Mets, Reyes was a .292/.341/.441 hitter who averaged 25 doubles, 11 triples, nine homers, 47 RBI, and 41 stolen bases a season.  In that time, he accumulated 27.9 WAR. However, Reyes was more than just stats He was a dynamic shortstop whose exuberance pumped up the team and the crowd. 

Since leaving the Mets, Reyes has been a .281/.331/.410 hitter who has averaged 21 doubles, four triples, eight homers, 37 RBI, and 20 stolen bases. The bulk of those stats come from Reyes first year in both Miami and Toronto. The numbers get worse from there.

In the last three seasons, Reyes is a .279/.321/.400 hitter who averages 24 doubles, three triples, eight homers, 43 RBI, and 21 stolen bases. 

Now, with Reyes coming back to the Mets last year, the narrative was Reyes would be rejuvenated by playing for the Mets again. As we see with Reyes’ 1-27 streak this season, that has been proven false. 

Reyes is a 33 year old player in decline. He’s more in decline as a left-handed batter as he has been a .225/.276/.347 hitter. 

When you can’t hit right-handed pitching anymore, you can’t play everyday. When you have a .321 OBP over the past three seasons, you can’t hit leadoff. 

The issue here is that this is a problem with no easy solution. Wilmer Flores has the same issues against right-handed pitching. Many Mets fans solution would be to platoon him with Kelly Johnson, but Johnson is still a free agent. 

T.J. Rivera was a big part of the Mets push to the Wild Card last year, but it’s doubtful he can play everyday as his aggressiveness at the plate has suppressed his OBP in his minor league career. 
It’s probably still too early to consider Gavin Cecchini or Amed Rosario to get the call-up. No one can reasonably say when David Wright will return. 

And with that, the Mets are likely out of third base options. Arguably, Reyes is still the best option at third base. That argument gets harder and harder to defend with each out he makes. 

One thing that is indefensible is batting him lead-off. His .321 OBP over the past three years demands he hit lower in the lineup. His struggles this season beg for it to happen sooner rather than later. 

In his place, the Mets can literally pick anyone else as they cannot possibly be this poor. Ideally, that someone would also play third base. Unfortunately, that player does not exist, at least right now. 

Perhaps that player will be discovered as part of the FBI investigation. 

Five Prospects Who May Contribute In 2017

Last year, we saw Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, and T.J. Rivera become significant contributors to a Mets team who claimed one of the two National League Wild Cards.  Their contribution was as pleasant as it was surprising.  In fact, no one truly could have predicated the slate of injuries that befell the Mets last year.  This year?  Well, that’s a different story all together.

With David Wright already questionable for Opening Day, and the Mets prospects performing better in Spring Training than many originally anticipated, many fans question not if, but when will we see these prospects contributing for the Mets.  With that in mind, here are five prospects, who have yet to appear in a major league game, we may very well see at Citi Field in 2017.

#1 David Roseboom

Once Akeel Morris was traded to the Braves for Kelly Johnson, Roseboom became the closer for the Binghamton Mets last season.  Roseboom blossomed in the role and made it an eight inning game for the B-Mets.  He saved 14 out of 15 games while posting a 1.87 ERA in 52 games on the year. From July 2 to the last regular season game on September 5, Roseboom held opponents to a .130/.193/.383 slash line, and a 0.92 ERA.  This work has caught the Mets attention, and he was a non-roster invitee giving the Mets coaching staff an opportunity to get an up close look at him.

At a minimum, he could very well be the second left-handed reliever the Mets covet in the bullpen.  With the struggles we have seen from Josh Edgin this Spring, that could be sooner rather than later.

#2 Paul Sewald

What is interesting about Sewald is his terrific results have not gotten him the attention he deserves.  Seemingly every pitcher struggles in Las Vegas, and yet in the second half, Sewald converted 10 save opportunities while posting a 1.85 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP.  While naysayers will point to his high 80s to low 90s fastball, Sewald has clearly shown the ability to get batters out even in the most difficult of pitching environments.  As teams go through multiple relievers year-t0-year, it may only be a matter of time before Sewald finally gets his well earned chance to pitch in the majors.

#3 Dominic Smith

This Spring, we have already seen Wright become questionable for Opening Day, and Lucas Duda need shots in his hip and have back spasms.  For a Mets infield that already had injury questions to start the season, things are already progressing quite poorly.  The Mets have talked about experimenting with Jay Bruce at first.  Wilmer Flores has already shown he can be part of an effective platoon there as well.  Neither player is the long term answer.  That’s Smith.

Smith is a terrific fielding first baseman who reported to his first major league camp in the best shape of his professional career.  So far, the only concern about him is if he will hit for power.  He quieted some of those concerns in the final 58 games of the season.  During that 58 game stretch, Smith hit .355/.426/.537 with 16 doubles, one triple, seven homers and 42 RBI.  Extrapolating that over the course of a 162 game season, that would translate to 45 doubles and 20 home runs.  That type of production can definitely play at first base especially when Smith has the promise to do even more.

#4 Amed Rosario

Across baseball and the Mets organization, Rosario has been dubbed a superstar in the making.  The only question is when his star will begin shining at Citi Field.  Arguably, he is further away from Citi Field than Smith as Smith played a full season in Binghamton last year.  Moreover, you probably want to give both players until the All Star Break before you even begin to consider calling them up to the majors.  And yet, as Michael Conforto proved in 2015, if you are a truly special talent, you can come to the majors and contribute for a World Series caliber team in the thick of a pennant race.

In Rosario, the Mets have a game changer in the field and at the plate.  Should any infielder go down, room can be made for Rosario.  Certainly, Asdrubal Cabrera has shown in his career he can play second and third.  Also, do not discount the Mets trying to play Rosario at third this season so he can become more versatile, and quite possibly open a spot for him on the major league roster this year.

#5 Chris Flexen

Arguably, this spot could go to P.J. Conlon, but Flexen is on the 40 man roster.  Also, Flexen pitched a full season for St. Lucie last year, whereas Conlon only pitched half a season there.  Another issue is Flexen’s stuff plays better in the bullpen as Flexen has a mid-90s fastball and a plus curve ball.  If the Mets were to be willing to move Flexen to the bullpen, he can rocket through the Mets system.

In addition to Conlon, another name to consider is Corey Taylor.  He’s got terrific stuff, and the minor league closer is already drawing Jeurys Familia comparisons.  Overall, the Mets farm system has plenty of players who should be able to contribute at the major league level at some point next year.  It should give you some hope the Mets should be good in 2017 even if there is a rash of injuries.  It should give you more hope that the Mets should be good in years to come.

Editor’s Note: I consulted Michael Mayer while making my list, and he pointed out to me he wrote a similar column for Mets Merized Online.  His list is slightly different as he includes Champ Stuart.  As Michael is one of the most knowledgeable people on the Mets farm system, please give his article a read as well. 

Go ALL-IN And Re-Sign Kelly Johnson

Unfortunately, it comes as no surprise David Wright is not going to be ready for Opening Day.  No one realistically knows when Wright is going to be ready to play this year.  With that in mind, the Mets now have an open roster spot on the Opening Day roster.  On the 40 man roster, the Mets have T.J. Rivera and Matt ReynoldsTy Kelly would also be an option should the Mets be willing to make a 40 man roster move, which could include putting Wright on the 60 day disabled list.

The argument for Kelly would be the fact that his switch hitting ability would present the Mets with a left-handed hitting option for a team that promises to have a completely right-handed bench.  His versatility in the field may also prove to be important.  With that said, if you are willing to make an important roster move for Kelly, why not go ALL-IN and bring back Kelly Johnson.

Over the past two seasons, Johnson has hit .260/.319/.441 with 14 homers and 37 RBI in 131 games.  Over those 131 games, Johnson has played every position for the Mets except pitcher, catcher, and center field.  He could prove to be a very important player for the Mets.

Fact is, Johnson has been vitally important to the Mets over the past two seasons.  In 2015, he was able to serve as an everyday player until the team got healthy.  In 2016, he worked diligently to become a better hitter with him hitting .268/.328/.459.  When Neil Walker went down, he and Wilmer Flores joined to make an extremely effective platoon at second base.  As we’ve seen, he’s also capable of playing third, which just became an important issue again with Wright being unable to play on Opening Day.

Frankly, it is surprising that it would come to this for the Mets to make a move to add Johnson.  This is the same player the Mets have traded prospect after prospect for in successive years.  The ultimate reason these trades were necessary was because the Mets had built flawed, if not weak, benches heading into the 2015 and 2016 seasons.  While the Mets bench in 2017 promises to be deeper than year’s past, it is still flawed for the aforementioned reasons.  The addition of Kelly Johnson would go a long way in resolving the issues the bench currently has.

Right now, the Mets have a need for another bench player.  There is a veteran who has not only played well coming off the bench, but he has also played well in New York.  Both are more difficult than many believe, and that is why a player like Johnson is important.  Realistically speaking, with Sandy Alderson already telling the media, the Mets are “all-in” this year, he should put his money where he mouth is and re-sign Johnson.

That’s what teams who are all-in do when a need arises.

Last Roster Spot Candidates

While most are focused on the bullpen, this Mets team has some other areas it needs to address prior to the start of the 2017 season. One of the main issues facing this team is which player is going to get the last spot on the bench?

At first blush, this may not seem like it is a major issue. If any of the infielders with an injury history go down, it is expected that Wilmer Flores and Jose Reyes can more than capably handle any one of the four infield spots. If two were to go down, we have seen enough from both Flores and Reyes to know that they can at least be a good stop gap option at a position. However, lost in the confidence you would have in Flores or Reyes is the fact that once they are moved to a starting position, the player who is the last man on the roster will begin to take on a larger role on the team.

Last year, that player was Eric Campbell. While Campbell may have had his positive attributes, he was certainly not capable of playing everyday. And yet, when Lucas Duda and David Wright went down that was the position Campbell found himself. In 2017, there is no reason to believe that Duda or Wright could last a full season. Same goes for Neil Walker, who just had season ending back surgery, and Asdrubal Cabrera, who played with a knee injury for the entirety of the 2016 season. The long story short here is the Mets need a deep bench for the 2017 season to prevent a player of Campbell’s caliber being a starter for two or more weeks.

For the past two seasons, the Mets have made trades to obtain Kelly Johnson to serve as a bench player. He has proven himself to be a useful player who has hit .260/.319/.441 over two brief stints with the Mets. Last year, he was clutch as a pinch hitter hitting four pinch hit home runs. He is versatile in his ability to play second, third, and both corner outfield positions. In 2015, we saw him play shortstop in a game. If given Spring Training to work on it, he could add first base to his repertoire. The main issue facing Johnson is he remains unsigned, and at this point, it is questionable whether the Mets have interest in him with the team already espousing that they need to cut payroll entering the 2017 season.

The next in line would likely be Terry Collins‘ favorite Ty Kelly. Like Johnson, Kelly is versatile in his ability to play across the infield and his ability to play the corner outfield positions. While he is a switch hitter, Kelly showed he was a better hitter against left-handed pitching in what was a very small sample size. Late in the season, Collins used Kelly as a pinch runner late in games. Overall, while Kelly does nothing outstanding, and is clearly best suited to being a bench player at the major league level, Collins has shown that he appreciates what Kelly can bring to the table.

In addition to Kelly, T.J. Rivera was the other standout 27 year old Mets rookie during the 2016 season. Late in the season with the injuries to Walker and Flores, Rivera grabbed a hold of the second base job and hit .333/.346/.476 in 33 games. Unlike Johnson and Kelly, Rivera has played a fair amount of games at shortstop. With that said, there is a reason why the Mets began transitioning him away from short beginning in AA. With that said, RIvera can legitimately play all four infield positions. When he was passed over for promotion to the majors, he began working in LF in AAA meaning it is possible he can play the outfield if necessary. The main sticking point with Rivera is the fact that he is an aggressive hitter that rarely draws a walk.

Last, but certainly not least, is Matt Reynolds. Unlike the aforementioned players, Reynolds is a legitimate shortstop who quite possibly has the best range out of all the major league options the Mets have at the position. For one glorious day game, Reynolds showed he can play left field, and he can get that clutch hit to help the Mets win the game. On the downside, Reynolds is the worst hitter of the bunch. In his 47 games with the Mets last year, he only hit .255/.266/.416. In the hitter’s haven that in the Pacific Coast League, he was only a .264/.336/.357 hitter last year. Ultimately, Reynolds is the guy you want out there defensively, but he is not the guy you want at the plate.

Unless the Mets sign Johnson, it looks like the fight will be between Kelly, Rivera, and Reynolds for the last spot on the bench. IN those three players, the Mets have three intriguing if not flawed players. Ultimately, that is your best bet when looking to round out your major league bench. The good news for the Mets is if one should falter, there are two more behind them that can pick up the slack. If the Mets face a number of injuries like they did in 2015 and 2016, the Mets have a couple of options that have proven they can be useful major league players. With that, it seems the Mets bench should not be a problem for the first time in a good number of years . . . at least that’s the hope.

Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Merized Online

The James Loney Era Is Over

Due to Lucas Duda‘s broken back and Sandy Alderson believing Eric Campbell was the best possible option for the 25th man on the Opening Day roster, the Mets were forced to go out and acquire James Loney for $1 from the San Diego Padres.

Look, there are plenty of jokes you can make about the Mets getting ripped off in the deal.  You can also point out to how Loney was a terrible hitter who not only couldn’t hit for power, but he also couldn’t draw a walk.  In the field, you could crack jokes about how dead people are able to stretch more than Loney was able to at first base.

Behind these jokes, the simple fact was Loney was better than what the Mets had at the time.  Loney was the end result of poor planning by this Mets organization.  Lost in all of that was Loney was actually good for a stretch of time.  From June to July, Loney was a .288/.343/.451 hitter.  While it wasn’t the production you may look for out of first base, he was still a solid major league hitter.  And he was a solid major league hitter at a time when Michael Conforto, Curtis Granderson, Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera were mired in deep slumps.  Without Loney’s bat, it is quite possible the Mets would have been further under .500 than they would have been.

There were even some clutch hits along the way like his 100th career home run that helped the Mets beat the Miami Marlins:

The main issue with Loney was he was playing above his head, and he fooled everyone into thinking he was going to keep up this level of production.  He certainly convinced a Mets front office who was once again either unwilling or ill-prepared to handle the first base situation at the trade deadline.

In the end, Loney showed the Mets his best ability was his availability.  That speaks volume when you consider the entire Mets Opening Day infield spent at least one stint on the disabled list.  Heck, even the primary backup, Wilmer Flores, had a season ending injury that required offseason surgery.

Overall, it was not his fault he was not the hitter the Mets needed him to be.  Ultimately, Loney was just Loney.  It was good enough to help the Mets capture the top Wild Card spot, but ultimately, it was not enough for the Mets to beat Madison Bumgarner in the Wild Card game.

Loney has now signed a minor league deal with the Texas Rangers thereby putting an end to the possibility of his returning to the Mets.  It’s likely he won’t have a Kelly Johnson type return either.  The chapter in Mets history is closed, and generally speaking, the Mets were better off for him being a part of it.  And no, it’s not a stretch to say that.