Keon Broxton

Mets Have Insufficient Depth

With the signing on Jed Lowrie, the Mets have been talking about just how deep this roster is. To a certain extent, they are right. Having infield options which include Peter Alonso, Robinson Cano, Todd Frazier, Jeff McNeil, and Amed Rosario in conjunction with Lowrie is incredible depth. However, that does not mean the Mets are a deep team.

First and foremost is the outfield. Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo are the only two healthy everyday outfielders on the roster. Juan Lagares has the glove to justify playing everyday, but he has hasn’t played more than 94 games since 2015, and in that season the Mets were desperate for an upgrade as they were making a postseason push.

Keon Broxton has hit .213/.296/.419 with an 85 OPS+ over the past two seasons indicating he has no business playing everyday. As bad as that is, Broxton is the last MLB outfielder on the 40 man roster.

After Broxton, the Mets are gambling on McNeil successfully transitioning to the outfield. It’s not an unreasonable gamble, and it is one we can expect to pay off. However, McNeil being an outfielder means the infield depth has taken a hit, which is a real issue should Alonso not be able to play first at the MLB level, or there are multiple injuries.

After McNeil is Rajai Davis and Gregor Blanco, both of them are over 35 years old, and neither of them have had a good season since 2015. Having just two starting outfielders with a couple of has beens and never will bes is not outfield depth.

And no, Yoenis Cespedes cannot be relied upon. He underwent double heel surgery, and no one can reasonably pinpoint when he is returning to the lineup, nor can anyone have any indication of what he will be when he is able to return.

With respect to the catching situation, the Mets are undoubtedly better with the signing of Wilson Ramos. However, that does not mean there is sufficient depth. Both Ramos and Travis d’Arnaud are injury prone putting more emphasis on Tomas Nido, who has hit .181/.210/.255 in limited Major League duty on top of hitting .272/.300/.431 between Double-A and Triple-A last year.

There is a real chance at least two of those catchers are injured as the same time leaving the Mets to depend on Patrick Mazeika and/or Ali Sanchez. Basiscally, this isn’t much different than during the 2015 season where the team grasped at straws cycling through Kevin Plawecki, Anthony Recker, and Johnny Monell while they pieced together the catching situation in d’Arnaud’s absence.

Then there is the rotation. All five of the Mets starters have significant injury histories. Jacob deGrom is the only starter to have consecutive seasons with at least 30 starts. Jason Vargas is the only other starter with 20 plus starts in each of the last two seasons. Behind this thin rotation, with Vargas having a 64 ERA+ and a 5.02 FIP last year, is very questionable starting pitching depth.

Looking at the roster, Walker Lockett, Corey Oswalt, Chris Flexen, Drew Gagnon, and P.J. Conlon. all posted an ERA over 5.00 in the majors last year. Hector Santiago was moved to the bullpen partially because he has had a 4.06 ERA since 2016. Kyle Dowdy, the Mets Rule 5 pick, had a 5.15 ERA between Double and Triple-A last year, and with the team being forced to keep him on the roster or return him to the Rays, he is going to be a bullpen option.

Now, to be fair, the Mets do have bullpen depth. The back-end with Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia is as good as it gets. You can also say the Mets swing men, Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo, are the best combination in the Majors. From a left-handed relief option, Daniel Zamora has exception spin rates, and former White Sox Luis Avilan and Santiago have pitched well out of the bullpen.

Beyond that group, the Mets have promising young right-handed power arms in Tyler Bashlor, Eric Hanhold, Ryder Ryan, and Drew Smith. Combine that with Paul Sewald and Jacob Rhame, the Mets have sufficient numbers and depth in the bullpen, albeit not the big seventh inning reliever you would want.

In the end, yes, the Mets have admirable infield depth, and there are enough arms here to at least figure out a good bullpen. However, past that, this is a paper thin roster at outfield, catcher, and starting pitcher. If the Mets face a number of injuries, and based on their history, they will, the 2019 Mets are going to be in real trouble.

Stop Counting On Cespedes

Things had gotten so bad for Yoenis Cespedes he asked the Mets to consider moving him to first base. During his rehab assignment before he could only withstand one game as a DH, Cespedes would actually play first base. Whatever Cespedes hoped to accomplish went by the wayside as he pushed for and then had double heel surgery.

Whenever a player undergoes major surgery, the obvious question is when is that player able to play again?

In October, Steven Marcus of Newsday reported, the Mets really have no idea when Cespedes will be able to play again. The important part of the article was, “When asked if he will have to plan the offseason as if Cespedes will not be available, chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon responded, ‘I think you probably do have to plan that way, given the fact that it’s uncertain.'”

In December, that was amended to some point in the second half of the 2019 season. Brodie Van Wagenen would up the ante by saying the team views Cespedes as a trade deadline bonus. Not too long thereafter, Omar Minaya would throw cold water on all of this telling MLB Network Radio the team believes there is no specific timetable, and overall the Mets “just want to get him back, and if he comes back, anything — if he gives us anything this year, that is gravy. We’re happy for that.”

Overall, let’s say Cespedes can return in the second half. His being able to return does not mean he will be able to produce.

Last year, Troy Tulowitzki had similar surgery to remove bone spurs from both of his heels in April. After having the surgery, he would not play during the totality of the 2018 season. He would be released by the Blue Jays after the season despite his being owed $20 million in 2019.

Clearly, the Blue Jays didn’t think he had anything to offer the team. Instead of seeing if he could provide something to flip him to another team, they decided it was just better to release him. They did not even think that if they paid his full salary they could get anything in return.

Yet, somehow, the Mets are going to led us to believe somehow Cespedes is going to contribute in the second half of next year. This is the reason why the Mets are not prioritizing a deficient outfield which includes two very good regulars in Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo and a bunch of bench players.

Juan Lagares is injury prone and has been unable to play a full or even three-quarters of a season. Keon Broxton has not hit. Jeff McNeil is re-learning outfield. J.D. Davis is as slow footed as Dominic Smith is, and there isn’t any Mets fan who is going to believe Smith should be an outfielder next year. After that is a group of has beens and never will bes in Triple-A.

Point is, the Mets cannot sit around and wait for Cespedes. It is the same mistake they made for years with David Wright. The Mets should know better, and as fans, we should know better as well. Overall, it is time Brodie Van Wagenen re-prioritized the outfield because they do not have sufficient depth there, and there is no way of knowing what, if anything, Cespedes can produce next year.

Mets Outfield Depth Is Troubling

Right now, the Mets starting outfield is likely Michael ConfortoJuan LagaresBrandon Nimmo. Now, there is every reason to believe that could be a good outfield. Nimmo was the second best hitter in the National League last year, and Conforto returned to his All-Star form at the close of the season. There are reasons to question Lagares’ bat, but when he plays, he is a Gold Glove outfielder.

The Mets have every reason to believe that when they play this trio they are putting a winning team on the field. Their problem is what happens when they don’t play.

Right now, the first man up is Keon Broxton. Over the last two years, Broxton has hit .213/.296/.419 with an 85 OPS+ over the past two years. While he did post excellent 11 DRS in just 134.1 innings last year, he was a -7 DRS in his only full season in center. He does have elite speed, which suggests he can be a plus defender next year, but there is nothing to suggest he can hit at all.

The Mets are also betting on Jeff McNeil in the outfield. Considering his sprint speed and his baseball IQ, there is every reason to believe he can play out there. However, there is a question about whether he can hit like he did last year. Lost in his excellent numbers was the fact McNeil had a 5.6 percent walk rate and a .359 BABIP. Those types of numbers are only sustainable if your name is Ichiro Suzuki.

Now, it should be noted it is perfectly reasonable to expect McNeil to be a quality Major League bench player, and he has shown you can trust him to play long stretches of time. If he is pressed into duty, the Mets and Mets fans should feel comfortable. However, what should bother everyone is the complete lack of depth behind him.

Rajai Davis and Gregor Blanco have not been good Major League players since 2015. The other options include Dominic Smith and J.D. Davis.

With respect to him, the reason why you play him in the outfield is because he has a strong arm, and there really isn’t room for him in the infield. However, it is not a long term or even a short term solution as he is slow footed making his play out there a bad idea. For Mets fans, you may assume this refers to Smith because of what you saw with him last year. It is, but the same statements also apply to Davis.

As for Davis, it should also be noted he has hit .190/.260/.321 in 444 Major League plate appearances. It should be noted that is worse than the .210/.259/.406 in 332 Major League plate appearances which has caused Mets fans to become frustrated with and sour on Smith. Put another way, if you don’t believe in Smith, you should not be believing in Davis, at least not as an outfielder.

After this group, you have to actually consider Tim Tebow. Sadly, that’s not a joke.  Well, it is a joke, but only to the extent where the Mets could actually be in a position to be forced to consider him.

When you are discussing players like Byrd and Blanco, and when Tebow even enters the discussion, it is clear the Mets outfield depth is completely lacking. Sure, we can believe in McNeil while liking Broxton’s defense, but in the end, the Mets don’t have enough depth across the outfield.

This all needs to be considered when Brodie Van Wagenen says the outfield isn’t a priority. When actually analyzing the options, you see just how wrong he is, and it’s another reason why the Mets need to puruse Bryce Harper or even A.J. Pollock. At this point, the Mets should also be looking at Adam Jones, Joc Pederson, or Ben Zobrist.

Really, just anything because what’s in place is not going to cut it.

Bring Back Curtis Granderson

Yesterday, there were two bits of relatively important news. First, we discovered Curtis Granderson intends to play another season. Second, Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen said the team was not prioritizing the outfield as he believes the team is set there partially because Jeff McNeil is going to move out there.

There are a number of ways to interpret Van Wagenen’s statement with the most likely being the team is not going to sign an everyday outfielder. This means no Bryce Harper or even A.J. Pollock. We can discuss the wisdom of that decision, and we definitely should, but at the moment, the question is whether the Mets are really set in the outfield.

The team should be comfortable with Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto playing everyday. Past that, there is little reason to believe the Mets have a player who should be playing everyday.

Juan Lagares could be an everyday player for his glove alone, and he showed some promise at the plate. With a new approach, he hit .339/.375/.390 in very limited duty. Certainly, you could argue with this being his contract year and with Chili Davis being the new hitting coach, Lagares is primed for a big season. However, that overlooks the fact he has not played at least 95 games since 2015.

Behind him is Keon Broxton. Over the past two years, Broxton has hit .213/.296/.419. For all of the compliments of his defense, in his only full season in center, Broxton had a -7 DRS and a -2.6 UZR. Even as a part-time player, you really can’t rely on him producing.

Past Lagares and Broxton are Rajai Davis and Gregor Blanco. These are two players who are over 35 years old, and they have not been productive Major League players since 2015, and it is hard to imagine 2019 will be the year they turn back the clock.

This places much onus on McNeil. There is every reason to believe McNeil can adapt to the outfield, and even with his questionable peripherals, there is a sufficient basis to believe he can hit at the Major League level. Fact is, he’s a Major League caliber player.

However, the Mets infield has a lot of age. Robinson Cano is 36. Todd Frazier will soon turn 33, and he is coming off his first injury plagued season. Behind both of them is Jed Lowrie, who has been quite good the past two years, but he will be 35 next year. When you factor in the possibility Peter Alonso may not be ready, and you are in a position where McNeil may be needed to return to the infield thereby leaving a thin outfield another outfielder short.

Granderson may be older, but he has always been durable. More importantly, Granderson has remained a productive player, and he effectively transitioned to being a part-time player. Last year, Granderson hit .242/.351/.431 with a 115 OPS+. As a pinch hitter, Granderson hit .375/.483/.500, and that doesn’t include the big pinch hit double he had in Game 5 of the NLCS.

The days of Granderson playing everyday are long gone. Still, Granderson is capable of playing for long stretches in a pinch, and he is someone who you want in your clubhouse mentoring your younger players like Alonso and McNeil. He’s a popular player, and he is someone who has shown the ability to play well in a Mets uniform.

Granderson may not be perfect, but the Mets don’t need perfect. They need a good player and someone who compliments this roster. Right now, that player is Granderson, and he should be back wearing his number three in blue and orange.

Phillies Hold NL East In The Balance

Entering this offseason, Phillies part-owner John Middleton said the team was going to spend “stupid money” to improve this roster. So far, that has amounted to free agent deals for Andrew McCutchen and David Robertson as well as a trade for Jean Segura. The interesting part of that trade was the Phillies dumped Carlos Santana‘s salary as part of the deal.

This helped the Phillies in two ways. First, it has improved a Major League worst fielding team (-146 DRS) by moving Segura to shortstop in place of Scott Kingery, but also by moving Rhys Hoskins from left field to first base. The next thing it did was to free up a little more money for the team to spend stupidly.

So far, the Phillies efforts have been rebuffed. While they have been rebuffed, the Nationals added Kyle Barraclough, Patrick Corbin, Yan Gomes, Trevor Rosenthal, Anibal Sanchez, and Kurt Suzuki. The Braves added Brian McCann and Josh Donaldson. The Mets have revamped their roster with Keon Broxton, Robinson Cano, Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, Jed Lowrie, and Wilson Ramos.

Looking at all of that, you’d be hard to argue the Phillies would repeat their third place finish. Even with an improved roster, you’d have to wonder if they take a step back from their 80-82 record. Still, the Phillies have one major advantage over their NL East opponents – they have money to spend.

Not only do they have money to spend, they’re in on Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. While it may be unrealistic for them to add both, they still have the chance to sign one and pair them with multiple players from a group which includes Dallas Keuchel, Craig Kimbrel, A.J. Pollock, and others. Adding those players to a team which already has Jake Arrieta, Cesar HernandezOdubel Herrera, Hoskins, Aaron Nola, and Segura makes the Phillies a much more formidable team. Depending on what they add, they could not only be the best team in the National League East, but also the entire National League.

Right now, the Phillies are in perfect position. They are bidding on players when their main rivals appear tapped out financially. Moreover, the deepest pockets in baseball (Dodgers, Red Sox, Yankees) do not appear in on the top free agents remaining. Really, the only question remaining for them is what they can do.

If you’re the Mets, the question is what you do in response. This was the same team who put Jarred Kelenic on the table to stop the Phillies from getting Diaz. Diaz is a blip on the radar when compared to players like Harper and Machado. Considering the lengths to which the Mets went to stop the Phillies from getting a closer, you wonder why the inertia on the real difference makers.

And the Mets should make no mistake. The Phillies adding two or three from the remaining top end of the free agent pool is a game changer. If the Phillies strike right, it’s possible it makes everything the Mets have done this offseason completely meaningless. That’s not hyperbole. If the Phillies build a juggernaut to compete with a still up and coming Braves team and strong Nationals team, the Mets could get lost in the shuffle. and they’ll be there without some of their biggest prospects to help in a rebuild.

Keep in mind, the Phillies don’t even have to build a better team than the Mets. They could just build a better team which will make the 19 games against the Mets all the more difficult. Those 19 games could be the difference not just in winning the division, but also being in a position to claim one of the two Wild Card spots.

This is a very dangerous time for the Mets, and as such, it is time for them to step up and start acting like a New York team. Otherwise, they’re probably going nowhere.

Todd Frazier Deserves More Respect

Entering this offseason, Mets fans and some analysts have been eager to push Todd Frazier to the bench, or worse, out of town. The call to do that is odd considering Frazier is a good baseball player who has been a positive presence in the clubhouse.

With the Mets, we saw all Frazier could be for this team in April. At that time, the Mets were rolling with an 11-1 record, and the team was doing it’s oddly fun Salt and Pepper thing. It was team that was just “grinding” and having fun. The t-shirts were a hit with the fans, the players, and even the manager. Frazier was not just leading in the clubhouse with kooky stuff like the grinding, but he was also a leader on the field hitting .256/.395/.444.

Then something happened with Frazier that has never happened before in his career – he hit the disabled list.

The injured Frazier was terrible in the six June games he could actually play. In fact, he really wasn’t much better when he got off the disabled list. Given the Mets past history dealing with injuries, it should come as no surprise Frazier needed to land on the disabled list again in July.

At that point, April was long gone. Fans were no longer remembering the fun of the season. Instead, they were lamenting what could and should have been. There was plenty of blame to go around, and for the Mets part, they blamed Sandy Alderson, and they pushed the sick man out of the organization thereby leaving the trade deadline to a triumvirate of General Managers reporting to Jeff Wilpon.

In some ways, Frazier was a symbolic of all that was wrong. He was a second tier free agent, who was injured and did not produce. In May – July, when the walls were crumbling down, he hit .191/.226/.346. Lost in the shuffle was him putting together a decent August (partially because he was bad again in September).

More lost in all of that was how good of a baseball player Frazier actually is. From 2016-2017, Frazier posted a 5.8 fWAR and a 6.6 bWAR. He was a player who was improving both his walk and steadying his strikeout rate. In turn, this led to him getting on base at a much better clip. In fact, his walk rate was the fifth best among Major League third baseman over this stretch.

Defensively, Frazier had an 8 DRS which ranked seventh best among third basemen. When you consider Manny Machado has since moved to shortstop, he was really sixth best.

Over this stretch, with his improved plate discipline and good defense, he was arguably a top 10 third baseman. Even pessimistically, he was at least top 15, which still put him in the upper half of Major League starters at the position.

What is interesting with Frazier was even with how much of a nightmare 2018 was for him, he was still a 1.9 bWAR and a 1.5 fWAR player. When you add that to his down 2018 season, he ranks as the 12th best third baseman among active players. Again, Frazier is better than half the league. He’s a starter, not a bench player.

That said, newly signed Met Jed Lowrie is a better player. He’s a better hitter, and he’s a switch hitter. He may not have Frazier’s power, but he gets on base more, and he’s just as good, if not better, defensively. He’s an absolute upgrade over Frazier, and with Robinson Cano at second, Lowrie should absolutely be the everyday third baseman to start the year.

This means Frazier should be the first baseman, not a utility player. This is usually the part where fans clamor for Jeff McNeil or Peter Alonso.

McNeil has absolutely proven himself to be a Major League player. However, at this point, we’re not quite sure what he is. Is he the guy who hit for power in Double-A and Triple-A, or is he the slap hitter with a dubious 5.6 percent walk rate and .359 BABIP? You cannot be sure at this point. If he does prove himself, it’s likely the lineup is better suited to him playing in the outfield, especially with the Mets leaning on an injury prone Juan Lagares in center and a very questionable hitter in Keon Broxton in center.

As for Alonso, who knows? Behind his 36 homers and 119 RBI was a guy who had some issues in Triple-A. For those concerned about Frazier striking out too much (23.7% in 2018), Alonso struck out more than him (25.9% in Triple-A) against lesser competition. He also hit just .260 in Triple-A, which was partially the result of his .344 BABIP in Double-A stabilizing. Sure, we all know Alonso has tremendous power, but the issue is whether he is as complete a hitter as he is purported to be. Judging from his peripherals, including a high pull rates last year, he may not be, and certainly not against shifting Major League teams.

When you take defense into account, you wonder not if Alonso is ready, but just how much of an upgrade over Frazier he could be. In fact, you legitimately have to question if he’s even an upgrade. Even with Alonso’s work ethic, the odds are in Frazier’s favor.

Overall, Frazier is a good, but albeit flawed player. He’s not hitting for as high average, he strikes out at a high clip, and at 32, he’s leaving the prime of his career. We know all of this not just because those are his stats, but those are the negatives which are constantly brought up when his contributions are being marginalized.

Ultimately, with Frazier, the Mets have a good player. He’s not an All Star. However, he’s the type of guy who gives you power at the bottom of the lineup, good defense in the field, and a positive influence in the clubhouse. He’s a good player who should be starting on Opening Day.

Mets All-In Roster Is Approximately $130 Million

While the Mets were trying to sell us under Brodie Van Wagenen this was a new team where anything was possible. As the offseason progresses, we once again learn anything being possible doesn’t include the Mets spending money.

Here’s a look at their current payroll commitments:

Catchers

Wilson Ramos $7.25 million

Travis d’Arnaud $3.52 million

Subtotal: $10.77 million

Infielders

Robinson Cano $20 million (estimated)

Todd Frazier $9 million

Amed Rosario $560k*

Peter Alonso $560k

Jeff McNeil $560k

J.D. Davis $560k

Subtotal: $31.24 million

Outfielders

Juan Lagares $9 million

Brandon Nimmo $560k

Keon Broxton $560k

Subtotal: $10.12 million

Starting Rotation

Jason Vargas $8 million

Bullpen

Edwin Diaz $560k

Jeurys Familia $6.66 million

Seth Lugo $560k

Robert Gsellman $560k

Daniel Zamora $560k

Subtotal: $8.9 million

Arbitration Estimates

(Estimates from MLB Trade Rumors)

Jacob deGrom $12.9 million

Noah Syndergaard $5.9 million

Zack Wheeler $5.3 million

Michael Conforto $4.4 million

Steven Matz $3.0 million

Subtotal: $31.5 million

That’s $100.53 million wrapped up in 22 players who will likely take the field for the Mets next season.

When you include Yoenis Cespedes‘ $29 million, the payroll jumps to $129.53 million. That’s $129.53 million with three spots which need to be filled on this roster. Keep in mind this is before you account for a portion of his salary being covered by insurance.

If Hector Santiago makes the Opening Day roster, he’s due $2 million. That’s one fewer roster spot to have to fill, and it raises the payroll to $131.53 million.

That leaves the Mets looking for a utility player who can play SS and one more bullpen arm. Judging from reports, the Mets aren’t going out to get their guy, but rather they’re waiting for a deal for that last bullpen arm.

Where the Mets go from there, we don’t know. What we do know is the Mets are only spending $131.53 million on the players who will play next year.

As for shortstop, we can’t rule out players like Gavin Cecchini, Luis Guillorme, or T.J. Rivera getting that chance, which would push payroll towards an uninspiring $132 million.

Yes, someone will likely raise David Wright and the fact he is owed $15 million next year. Well, fact is he’s been released, and we do not know if there’s been any settlement with the insurance company, Wright, or both. We may have some evidence to what that may be:

But Wright is also a non sequitur. He’s not playing this year, the next, or ever again. Fact is, right now, the Mets are going to battle with a payroll of approximately $130 million. Maybe when all is said and done, it’s higher, but it’s nowhere near what a large market payroll should be.

That’s not the all-in team Mets fans were promised, and when you boil it down, the Mets really have zero excuse as to why they’re not pursuing any other outfielders or why they haven’t pursued Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.

* $560k was estimated salary for for pre-arbitration players.