Kevin Plawecki

Is There Still Hope for Kevin Plawecki?

When the Mets and Rene Rivera avoided arbitration by agreeing to a $1.75 million salary, it was an indication Rivera was going to return to the Mets as the backup catcher.  This also means the former supplemental round draft pick Kevin Plawecki is likely going to start the 2017 season as the starting catcher for the Las Vegas 51s.

Based upon the 2015 and 2016 seasons this is where Plawecki belongs as he has proven he is not yet ready to be a major league catcher.  In 121 major league games, he has hit .211/.287/.285 with four homers and 32 RBI.  Last year in AAA, he hit .300/.348/.484 with eight homers and 40 RBI in 55 games.  These were not outstanding numbers, especially for the Pacific Coast Leauge, but they represented a marked improvement over what Plawecki has shown in the majors.

At this point, the question is Plawecki destined to be a major league player, or is he a AAAA player like Eric Campbell, who just signed a deal to play third and hit cleanup for the Hashin Tigers.  The fact is with Plawecki turning 26 this February, it is still too early to determine.  However, we have seen some good things from him to believe that he still can be a major league catcher.

While it was once believed Plawecki’s true value was as an offensive catcher, he has established himself as a good major league receiver.  In his two years with the Mets, Plawecki has rated as a good pitch framer.  Additionally, while the advanced stats for catchers are flawed, Plawecki has posted an 8 DRS in his brief major league career showing he is above average defensively behind the plate.  This is impressive when you consider he has only thrown out 25% of base stealers as a major leaguer.

For the sake of comparison, Rivera has a reputation as a very good defensive catcher, and he has a career DRS of 12.  On a per inning basis, Plawecki has established himself to be the better defender.  However, it should be noted that Rivera has had more success throwing out base runners with his career mark of 36%.  What has held Rivera back in his career has been his bat.  In parts of eight major league seasons, Rivera is a .213/.264/.332 hitter who averages three homers and 15 RBI a season.

Looking at the data, it could be argued that right now Plawecki is actually a superior player to Rivera right now.  However, it should be pointed out Rivera is a 33 year old journeyman catcher.  When the Mets drafted Plawecki in the 2012 supplemental round, they were certainly hoping for more than just a journeyman catcher.

Ultimately, it will be Plawecki’s bat that decides whether he will be a journeyman, a career backup, or a bona fide major league starting catcher.  Before he was called-up to the majors, many believed Plawecki would hit.  For example, before his first call-up in 2015, The Sporting News stated:

Plawecki is a solid, reasonably polished hitter who should be an adequate contributor on offense. Overall, Plawecki has solid plate recognition, a consistent swing path and good raw power. He opts for contact over power in game settings, which will help his average but can result in weak contact on pitches he should be trying to drive.

Others felt that Plawecki had the potential to be an offensive force in the majors with, “One talent evaluator who has seen Plawecki likes as a solid everyday catcher in the majors, with enough power to hit 15-20 home runs a year.”  (Mike Vorkunov, nj.com).

However, that is not the Plawecki we have seen in the major leagues.  As a major leaguer, Plawecki has shown a tenency not just to pull the ball, but also to hit an exceedingly high rate of ground balls.  Moreover, he infrequently makes hard contact.  In today’s day and age of shifting, this has led to a number of easy ground outs to the left hand side of the infield.  As a result, we see Plawecki with a low batting average and a minuscule slugging percentage.

However, the talent is still there.  It is also important to remember really has not gotten sufficient time in AAA to develop.  In fact, he only played in 57 games at the level before he was rushed to the majors due to a Travis d’Arnaud injury in 2015.  As we saw in 2016, when he got an extended stretch of 55 games in AAA, while working with hitting coach Jack Voigt, he began getting on base more consistently and driving the ball more often just as he had done earlier in his minor league career.  At a minimum, this extended stay in AAA showed Plawecki still has promise.

Only time will tell whether Plawecki will be able to hit at the major league level.  However, in his career, we have seen he has the ability to hit.  More importantly, we have seen he has the ability to be a good catcher behind the plate.  Ultimately, Plawecki has a future in the major leagues due to his strong work behind the plate.  Accordingly, despite his early career struggles, Plawecki still has value.  Therefore, it is way too soon to give up on Plawecki.

With that said, he is going to have to show the Mets something sooner rather than later before the team justifiably moves on from him.  The Mets have d’Arnaud at the major league level, and Tomas Nido is not too far behind him.  This means that sooner or later Plawecki is going to have to do something in AAA or the majors to show the Mets he deserves one more chance to show he can be more than a journeyman.

Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Minors.

New Year’s Resolutions

We are headed for another season of Mets baseball where we hope that once again these Mets can make it all the way back to the World Series.  Since 2015, we have seen a definite pattern emerge with the Mets, and I think as Mets fans, we should all try better this year to not react, some would say overreact, when one of the following things we know will happen, happens:

  • The Mets are not going to sign another big name free agent this offseason.  It’s not going to happen, and it just may happen that Jose Bautista winds up in the division and on a fairly discounted deal;
  • Jerry Blevins will sign an extremely reasonable two year deal . . . with another team;
  • Instead of fortifying the bench, the Mets are going to go with this year’s version of Eric Campbell -> Ty Kelly;
  • Terry Collins is going to use and abuse Addison Reed to the point where his arm may actually fall off.  This will go double if Jeurys Familia gets suspended;
  • Hansel Robles is going to go through a stretch in one week where he pitches five innings, 1/3 of an inning, two innings, and three innings, and everyone is going to wonder why his production has fallen off;
  • The infield of Lucas Duda, Neil Walker, David Wright, and Asdrubal Cabrera will be ridden hard despite their injury histories and capable backups like Wilmer Flores and Jose Reyes on the bench;
  • Just pick a random player on the roster – he’s going to be on the DL for over two months with a back injury;
  • There will be a game with Reyes in center and Juan Lagares in right;
  • Travis d’Arnaud is going to get injured, and Kevin Plawecki is not going to be able to replace his bat in the lineup;
  • Matt Harvey will complain about the six man rotation that will be implemented at some point during the season;
  • Robert Gsellman will make an appearance throwing well over 100 pitches in five innings or less;
  • Rene Rivera will hit under the Mendoza Line;
  • T.J. Rivera will be raking in AAA and not get called up despite the Mets needing some offense;
  • Michael Conforto will not face one left-handed pitcher all season;
  • Yoenis Cespedes will not dive for a ball, run out a pop up, or run hard to first on a dropped strike three;
  • Curtis Granderson will have a better OBP than Reyes, but Collins will continue to lead off Reyes and his sub .330 OBP;
  • Collins will not know if Brandon Nimmo is faster than Flores and it will cost them a game;
  • No matter where he winds up this offseason, and no matter how poor his year is going, Chase Utley will hit two home runs in a game he faces the Mets;
  • Sandy Alderson will mortgage a part of the Mets future because he didn’t make a move in the offseason that he should have made;
  • Paul Sewald will pitch well in AAA, but the Mets won’t call him up because they would rather rip Sean Gilmartin or Gabriel Ynoa from the Vegas rotation to make a relief appearance on 2-3 days of rest;
  • Both Josh Smoker and Robles will be fully warmed up, and Collins will go to Smoker to pitch to the lefty;
  • For reasons the Mets themselves can’t quite explain, Rafael Montero will spend the full season on the 40 man roster;
  • d’Arnaud will come off the disabled list, play well for a stretch, and the Mets will lose him and Steven Matz in the same game;
  • Matz will have appendicitis, but the Mets will talk him out of the surgery because they need him to start against the Reds;
  • Dilson Herrera will tear it up every time he plays the Mets;
  • Wherever he lands, Jay Bruce is going to hit 30 homers and 100 RBI;
  • Collins will show up in the dugout without wearing pants, and the Mets still won’t fire him;
  • Noah Syndergaard will get ejected from a game for throwing inside.  A player who takes a bat to one of the Mets infielders in retaliation won’t;
  • Fans will clamor for Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith to get called up all season long;
  • Seth Lugo will bounce between the bullpen and rotation so much, MLB is actually going to test him to see if his arm is actually made out of rubber;
  • Bartolo Colon will pitch so poorly against the Mets, fans will wonder why they wanted a bum like him back;
  • R.A. Dickey will not only beat the Mets, but he will throw the team into a week  long offensive funk causing some fans to decry the trade;
  • One or more pitchers will get hurt, and fans that even question if the Warthen Slider could be an issue will be mocked mercilessly;
  • Some way some how Jon Niese will pitch for this team;
  • Rather than build Tom Seaver a statue, the Mets will issue #41 to Niese upon his return to the team;
  • Daniel Murphy will have another terrific year for the Nationals, and some Mets fans will still defend the decision to let him go;
  • Ricky Knapp will make a solid spot start for the Mets causing fans to think he is the second coming;
  • Mets will trade a good prospect for Kelly Johnson; and
  • Despite all of this the Mets will make it to the postseason

Honestly, I give it until April 9th when Collins declares the last game in a three game set against the Marlins is a must-win game.

Cespedes Is Back, Now What?

Last offseason, the Mets re-signing Yoenis Cespedes put the final touches on the team everyone hoped would compete for a World Series.  This year, the re-signing of Cespedes is really just a start for a team that still needs to make a number of moves this offseason.  Here is a look at the moves the Mets still need to make:

TRADE JAY BRUCE

With Cespedes back, Jay Bruce likely becomes the outfielder the Mets will trade this offseason.  In his nine year career, Bruce has been a .248/.318/.467 hitter who has averaged 27 homers and 82 RBI.  At $13 million next season, that production is arguably a bargain.  That is probably a reason why teams have been in contact with the Mets trying to inquire what the team will want in exchange for Bruce.  While it is hard to believe the Mets will be able to bring in a prospect like Dilson Herrera or a player that will have a similar impact that Bruce will have in 2017, it should not be ruled out that the Mets will be able to acquire a player of consequence that will help the team next season.

DETERMINE MICHAEL CONFORTO’S POSITION

If the Mets are going to trade Bruce, it is another sign that the Mets see Michael Conforto as an everyday player.  Where he will be an everyday player remains to be seen.  With Cespedes returning for four years with a no trade clause, the only thing we know is that Conforto will not be the teams everyday left fielder anytime soon.  That leaves center and right field.

During Conforto’s time in AAA last year, he began learning both positions.  In his limited time in the majors at both positions, he showed he may very well be able to handle either position on an everyday basis.  However, given the presence of Juan Lagares on this team, the best thing for Conforto and the Mets is to transition him to right field.  Let him get fully acclimated there and focus on getting back to where he was April of last year.  This will also let Lagares and Curtis Granderson handle center field duties next season, which was a platoon that may work very well for the Mets next year.

OBTAIN A LOOGY

Last year, Jerry Blevins had a terrific year out of the bullpen for the Mets as a LOOGY.  In fact, he proved to be a bit more as he had a career best year pitching against right-handed batters.  However, he is a free agent now, and the Mets do not appear as if they are able or inclined to give him the multi-year deal that he may command in free agency.

The internal left-handed options are Josh Edgin and Josh Smoker.  Edgin did have some success against left-handed batters in limited duty in the majors last year, but with his velocity still not having fully returned after his Tommy John surgery, it is hard to rely upon him in any capacity next year.  Smoker had outstanding strikeout rates in the minors and the majors last year, but he has reverse splits.  Therefore, the Mets are going to have to look outside the organization to figure out who will be the first lefty out of the pen next season.

OBTAIN ONE OR MORE LATE INNING RELIEVERS

The Mets bullpen really is in a state of flux at the moment due to the Jeurys Familia domestic violence arrest.  Pending an investigation by MLB, it is possible that Familia will miss a significant number of games next season.  If that is the case, Addison Reed should prove more than capable of closing games in Familia’s absence.  This begs the question of who will step up and take over Reed’s role in the short term.

It was a question the Mets faced most of 2016, and they did not find a good answer until they obtained Fernando Salas on the eve of the waiver trade deadline.  Given his late inning and closing experience, Salas would be a good option to pitch in the seventh, eighth, or ninth inning next year.  However, he is a free agent at the moment meaning the Mets are going to have to presumably sign or trade for someone to take over this role.  In fact, the Mets may very well need two late inning relievers to address the bullpen.

SIGN A VETERAN STARTER

The one lesson learned from the 2016 season should be that once again you can never have too much pitching.  With the return of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz, the Mets rotation is almost complete.  The question is who will become the team’s fifth starter.

The first name that will be mentioned is Zack Wheeler.  However, after missing all of 2015 and 2016, no one can be quite certain he is ready and able to assume the fifth starter’s role.  The next names that will be mentioned are Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman.  Both pitched quite well for the Mets in the stretch run last year, but the Mets may prefer to have a veteran arm who is able to eat up innings and/or can go deeper into the season than any of the aforementioned pitchers.  Preferably, the pitcher they do sign would be willing to move to the bullpen in the event Wheeler, Lugo, or Gsellman wins the job in Spring Training or is ready to take over at some point during the season.

FIGURE OUT THE BACK-UP CATCHER SITUATION

Even with Rene Rivera back in the fold and despite his excellent work with Noah Syndergaard, there is still room for improvement on the catching front.  Many will mention the recently non-tendered Wellington Castillo, but people should realize he’s an average hitter at best. Moreover, he’s a terrible pitch framer. Mets need to do better than that, but to be fair, that may not be possible. 

Whatever the Mets decide to do, they first have to realize that Kevin Plawecki has twice proven he should not be relied upon to be the team’s primary back-up catcher.  Next, the Mets have to realize they need a viable backup who can handle playing a number of games due to Travis d’Arnaud‘s injury history.

There are some other matters that need to be figured out as well.  For example, do you want Ty Kelly and T.J. Rivera competing for the last spot on the bench, or do you want to re-sign Kelly Johnson?  The answer to this and many other questions will largely depend on how much money the Mets have to spend the offseason and/or what the Mets are able to obtain in exchange for Bruce.

Cespedes was a great start to the offseason, but the Mets work is far from over.

Mets Who May Still Lose Their Spot on the 40 Man Roster

After protecting Amed Rosario, Tomas Nido, Chris Flexen, Marcos Molina, and Wuilmer Becerra from the Rule 5 Draft, the Mets 40 man roster now stands at precisely 40 players.  This means that now when the Mets look to add a player in free agency, they will have to cut one of the players off of their 40 man roster.  And yes, the Mets will have to remove some players off of the 40 man roster.

From all indications, even if the Mets do no re-sign Yoenis Cespedes, they are pursuing other outfielders to replace him.  With the possible suspension of Jeurys Familia looming, it is likely, the Mets will have to add one, if not two, late inning relievers.  The team may be interested in bringing back Jerry Blevins or finding another LOOGY.  In addition to those moves, there are some other moves or upgrades the Mets may make this offseason.  With that in mind, here are some players whose spot on the 40 man roster is tenuous:

PITCHERS

Josh Edgin

Heading into the 2015 season, Edgin was supposed to be the Mets LOOGY for years to come.  Those plans changed when he needed Tommy John surgery causing him to miss the entire 2015 season.

He returned in 2016, and he was not the same pitcher having lost velocity off of all of his pitches.  He went from having a mid-90s fastball to having a low 90s fastball.  As a result, Edgin got hit around.  In AAA, he had a 3.51 ERA and a 1.650 WHIP.  In his limited stints in the majors, he had a 5.23 ERA and a 1.548 WHIP.  Another complication for Edgin is he is arbitration eligible meaning the Mets are presumably going to have to pay him a lot more to keep him on the roster.

On a positive note, Edgin still did get left-handed batters out at the major league level.  In a very small sample size (20 plate appearances), lefties only hit .235 off of him with no extra base hits.  It is a big reason why he was on the Wild Card Game roster when the Mets faced a San Francisco Giants team stacked with lefties.  Between his ability to get lefties out, the hope his arm could improve a second year removed from surgery, and his still having options available, there is still some hope for Edgin.

Sean Gilmartin

Gilmartin has gone from an important bullpen arm the Mets acquired in the 2014 Rule 5 Draft to a player who is seemingly lost his ability to get batters out.

Despite Gilmartin being a valuable long man in the pen, the Mets had him start the year in AAA to become starting pitching depth.  In 18 starts and one relief appearance, he was 9-7 with a 4.86 ERA and a 1.425 WHIP.  On a couple of occasions, he was recalled, and he pitched exclusively in relief for the Mets.  Things did not go well for him in those 14 relief appearances as Gilmartin had a 7.13 ERA and a 1.585 WHIP.  Between his performance and his having to go on the minor league disabled list with shoulder soreness, it was a lost year for Gilmartin.

Some of the struggles of Gilmartin were the result of his uneven usage between AAA and the majors.  The other issue was his shoulder soreness, which for now, appears to no longer be an issue.  Another strong factor in his favor is the fact that he is not yet arbitration eligible meaning the Mets do not have to pay him much to see if he returns to form.  His having options available is also a positive.  The Mets could still keep him on the roster with the idea of returning him to the role he was most successful.

Erik Goeddel

There is perhaps no Mets pitcher that evokes such split opinions than Goeddel.  For years, there were people who saw a pitcher that was able to go out there and get outs.  There were others who saw a guy who had fringy stuff that was more the beneficiary of good luck than good pitching.  After the 2016 season, most people agree that Goeddel was a liability for the Mets.

In 36 appearances for the Mets, Goeddel had a 4.54 ERA and a 1.318 WHIP.  It should be noted this was a big departure from how he had previously pitched with the Mets.  In 2014 and 2015, Goeddel had a combined 2.48 ERA and a 1.000 WHIP.  His prior success, his pre-arbitration status, and his having options remaining, gives him a chance to remain on the 40 man roster.

Rafael Montero

How he is still on the 40 man roster is anyone’s guess. Entering the 2016 season, the Mets had it with him, and they sent him a message by making him one of the first people sent down to minor league Spring Training.  Montero responded by pitching so poorly in Las Vegas that he was demoted to Binghamton.  It was only due a rash of pitching injuries that he got a shot at pitching in the majors again, and like his other opportunities, he squandered that.  Still, despite all that, the Mets cut Eric Campbell and Jim Henderson, AND exposed Paul Sewald to the Rule 5 Draft all for the sake of holding onto Montero that much longer.  Eventually, you have to assume Montero is going to get cut from the roster.  It is only a matter of when.

Logan Verrett

Strangely enough, the Mets had to make a decision on whether to expose Verrett to the Rule 5 Draft or to remove a player from the 40 man roster to protect him.  The Mets chose the former, and lost him for a period of time.  After Verrett struggled with the Rangers, the Mets took him back where Verrett pitched well out of the bullpen and the rotation for the Mets.

The Mets envisioned Verrett succeeding in that role in 2016, but it wasn’t to be.  He wasn’t as effective replacing Matt Harvey in the rotation as he was in 2015.  He went from a 3.63 ERA as a starter to a 6.45 ERA.  He performed so poorly out of the rotation that the Mets gave Montero a chance to start over him down the stretch of the season.

Still, there was a silver lining to Verrett’s 2016 season.  In his 23 relief appearances, he had a 2.84 ERA.  When you consider his reliever ERA, how well he performed in 2015, his pre-arbitration status, and his having options remaining, there is still a chance for Verrett to remain on the 40 man roster.

POSITION PLAYERS

Kevin Plawecki

Thinking of Plawecki being on the bubble is a bit odd especially when he is only 25 years old, has shown himself to be a terrific pitch framer, and he has only had 409 plate appearances at the major league level.

The problem there is Plawecki hasn’t hit at all in those 409 plate appearances.  In his brief major league career, Plawecki is a .211/.287/.285 hitter.  That’s worse than what Rene Rivera could give you, and Rivera has firmly established himself as Noah Syndergaard‘s personal catcher.  Worse yet, Plawecki is not the defensive catcher Rivera is.

When you also consider Tomas Nido‘s breakout season in St. Lucie possibly forcing the Mets to protect him a year earlier than anticipated, the Mets are going to be faced with the dilemma of carrying four catchers on their 40 man roster.  With Nido perhaps passing him as the catcher of the future, and Travis d’Arnaud having shown he has more offensive ability than Plawecki, it is quite possible, Plawecki could find himself having run out of chances with the Mets organization.

With all that said, it is hard to believe the Mets moving on from Plawecki this soon is his career.

Ty Kelly

This is an interesting situation for Kelly to be in considering he was signed to be minor league depth last season.  With a rash of injuries and some hot hitting in AAA, Kelly finally reached the majors after his long seven year odyssey in the minor leagues.

After some time, the Mets actually discovered who Kelly was.  Despite his switch hitting skills, he really could only hit from the right-hand side against major league pitching.  He was versatile, but his best position was left field.  Overall, his main asset down the stretch in September was as a pinch runner.  He was mostly used as a pinch runner because of the dearth of team speed on the Mets roster.  With all the said, he did make the Wild Card Game roster, and he got a pinch hit single off Madison Bumgarner.

Basically, all the reasons you can make for him being kept on the roster or being cut from the roster are the same exact things you could have said about Campbell, and he just signed a deal to play in Japan.

Overall, it is hard to guesstimate how many of these players are going to remain on the roster because we are not sure how many moves the Mets are going to make this offseason.  Normally, you would say Montero was sure to be cut, but he is more and more looking like the pitching version of Campbell . . . there is just no getting rid of the guy.  Still, as we learned from Campbell, there is going to become a breaking point, and that point may well be when the Mets sign enough players this offseason to take them from the Wild Card back to being World Series contenders.

Editor’s Note: a version of this story was originally run on Mets Merized Online

 

Mets Have Payroll Concerns Already

On October 29, 2010, in the wake of the Madoff scandal, Sandy Alderson took over as the Mets General Manager. Alderson inherited a team with some big stars like Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, Johan Santana, and David Wright. With that he also inherited a team who finished the 2010 season with a hefty $126 million payroll, which ranked sixth in the major leagues. Due to some backloaded contracts reaching their expiration, the 2011 Opening Day payroll was actually inflated to $143 million.

Alderson went to work dismantling a team that was disappointing on the field in what was the beginning of a real rebuilding process. Luis Castillo was released before the season started. Oliver Perez was not too far behind him. Getting rid of the underperforming players the fans hated was the easy part. The hard part was what ensued.

The Mets first traded Francisco Rodriguez, who was getting dangerously close to having an expensive $17.5 million option vest. Then he traded Carlos Beltran for Zack Wheeler. Surprisingly, Alderson didn’t trade Jose Reyes, who was the National League leader in batting average. Instead, he would let Reyes become a free agent, and he would recoup a draft pick when Reyes signed a $106 million contract with the Marlins.

And just like that what was once a $143 million payroll became a $95 million payroll in a little more than a year. In subsequent years, the Mets would let Johan Santana‘s contract expire and not reinvest the money. They would release Jason Bay, and again re-invest the money. Then the Mets would shop R.A. Dickey after he won the Cy Young Award.  They obtained Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud in exchange for him which was a sure sign the Mets were more invested in rebuilding than contending.

It was also a sign that the Mets were cash strapped due to the Madoff scandal. The payroll would reach its nadir in 2o14 when it was actually $85 million, which ranked 21st in the major leagues. A bewildered and frankly angry fan base was left wondering when, if ever, the Wilpons were going to permit the Mets to have a payroll commensurate with their standing as a big market major league franchise.

Now, over the past two seasons, the Mets payroll has gone from $85 million in 2014 to $101 million to start the 2015 season. In that offseason, the Mets actually went out and signed Michael Cuddyer to help them become a more complete team. When Cuddyer faltered and David Wright would suffer from spinal stenosis, the Mets made moves and added payroll. The team first traded for Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe (even if the Braves paid part of their salary). The Mets then acquired Yoenis Cespedes and what was a left of his $10.5 million contract. In 2015, the Mets spent a little more, but more importantly they spent what they needed to spend to compete.

In 2016, the Mets initially put out signs they were not moving off their roughly $100 million payroll when they signed Alejandro De Aza to platoon with Juan Lagares in center. It was perceived as a sign the Mets were not going to spend; it was a sign they were not willing to go the extra mile to get Cespedes. But then something happened. Cespedes didn’t find that massive deal on the free agent market. Instead, he re-signed with the Mets for $27.5 million in 2016. After 2016, Cespedes had the option to opt out of the remaining two years $47.5 million left on his contract.

With the Mets paying Cespedes a hefty salary to start the season, the Mets Opening Day payroll rose all the way to $135 million. Before Cespedes was re-signed, there was some doubt about whether it was really the insurance on Wright’s contract that allowed them to make those in-season moves, the re-signing of Cespedes calmed down a fan base that worried when or if the Mets would be willing to spend. Better yet, when the Mets had some issues scoring runs, they went out and traded for Jay Bruce.

Surprisingly now, we are back at the point of wondering if the Mets are willing to spend. The $135 million payroll was a positive step, but it is still less than the first payroll Alderson had with the Mets, and it was only ranked 15th in the majors. Cespedes is a free agent, and no one is quite sure if the Mets will re-sign him, look to acquire a big name free agent like Jose Bautista, or if they are going to stick with the Michael ConfortoCurtis Granderson-Bruce outfield. The Mets also have a number of other areas to address this offseason.

The first step was Neil Walker accepting the $17.2 million qualifying offer. With that, according to ESPN‘s Adam Rubin, the Mets current payroll obligations are $124 million. That is just $10 million under what the 2015 Opening Day Payroll was. If the Mets were to re-sign Cespedes, or another big name free agent, the payroll is going to go well past the $135 million mark.

The problem is the Mets need to go even further than that. Not only do they need Cespedes, or a reasonable facsimile, they also need to re-sign Jerry Blevins and Fernando Salas, or again, a reasonable facsimile thereof. The Mets may also want to add another backup catcher given Travis d’Arnaud‘s injury concerns, Rene Rivera‘s lack of offense, and Kevin Plawecki having two disappointing seasons. The Mets may also want to sign a veteran starter considering the health issues of their rotation and Bartolo Colon having signed with the Braves this past week. There’s a lot the Mets need to address here, and it isn’t likely that $10 million is going to cover all of it.

So again, we are back at the point of wondering how far the Mets are willing to go to compete. Will they have a payroll in the upper half of all of baseball? Do they have the funds to spend like a big market club? At this point, no one knows the answers to these questions. While Mets fans may be apprehensive, it is too soon to to pass judgment. That time will come when we see how the Mets handle the Cespedes situation.

Travis d’Arnaud Should Be the Mets Catcher in 2017

This offseason, the Mets have a number of important decisions to make.  How far should they go to re-sign Yoenis Cespedes?  Should they re-sign Neil Walker to play second base, or do you stick with what you have in Wilmer Flores, T.J. Rivera, Gavin Cecchini, and/or Jose Reyes?  How do you properly prepare for how to deal with the David Wright situation?  Once you pick up Jay Bruce‘s option, what do you do with him?  Do you move Bruce or Michael Conforto to first base, or do you stick with Lucas Duda, who has now had lower back injuries in consecutive seasons?  Do you bring back Bartolo Colon to be the fifth starter again, or do you fully trust one of Robert Gsellman or Seth Lugo to take over that role?  Overall, there are many questions on how the Mets should build the 2017 roster.

However, one avenue they don’t have to address is the catcher position.

Let’s start with the one player people will have near unanimous agreement.  Rene Rivera should return as the Mets backup catcher.  Rivera certainly earned his reputation as not only a good defensive catcher, but also one that serves as a mentor for young starting pitching.  Much of the unexpected success both Gsellman and Lugo had were partially the result of them working with Rivera.  More importantly, Rivera developed a rapport with Noah Syndergaard.  He became the ace’s personal catcher, and we saw Rivera catch seven brilliant innings from Syndergaard in the Wild Card Game.  With Rivera being arbitration eligible, he should be a lock to return in his role.

By the way, that role was the backup catcher to Travis d’Arnaud.

There is no sugar-coating it.  The 2016 season was a disaster for d’Arnaud at the plate.  In 75 games, d’Arnaud hit .247/.307/.323 with only four homers and 15 RBI.  He didn’t have one extra base hit or an RBI off of a left-handed pitcher the entire season.  It was as bad as you can possibly imagine.  In fact, his numbers were almost as bad as they were in his 2014 rookie season.  That year, the Mets had to send him down to the minors to let him fix his issues at the plate.  The Mets couldn’t afford to do that this season.

Making everything all the more frustrating was d’Arnaud regressed in his ability to throw out base runners.  In 2015, he was actually league average in that department.  That is all the more impressive when you consider how the Mets starting pitchers generally do not hold on runners well.  This season d’Arnaud went back to only throwing out 22% of base runners.

Part of his offensive and throwing issues are related to mechanics.  Part of them may be related to the rotator cuff strain he had in his  throwing shoulder.  Another factor was with d’Arnaud struggling, he began to receive irregular playing time.  It could be any combination of the three.  In any event, d’Arnaud had a poor year offensively and a poor year throwing.

However, d’Arnaud was still good behind the plate.  He’s always been good at fielding a throw and getting the tag down without violating baseball’s blocking the plate rules.  He still calls a good game.  He was yet again one of the best pitch framers in baseball.  In fact, his teammate. Addison Reed, said, “There’s been a couple of times just this season that I’ve went back and looked at video just because I wanted to see how low the ball was, and how good of a strike (d’Arnaud) made it look.  He’s the best I’ve ever thrown to at doing that. Just the way he frames the ball, it’s unbelievable. He makes balls that are four or five inches below the zone look like they’re almost right down the middle by just the way he flicks his wrist. I couldn’t even tell you how he does it.”  (ESPN.com).  Judging from Reed’s words, you can tell he also has the confidence of his pitching staff.

With d’Arnaud still excelling behind the plate, and there being valid reasons for his poor performance, it might just be in the Mets best interests to bet on d’Arnaud rebounding in 2017.  Remember, d’Arnaud was the same player who hit .268/.340/.485 with 12 homers and 41 RBI in 67 games.  Arguably, d’Arnaud was one of the top offensive catchers in the game.  With his skills behind the plate, he has the rare ability to be able to hit and catch well.  With him turning 28 years old and still being a player with multiple years of control, the Mets would be best suited to count on him getting healthy in the offseason (not always a given with d’Arnaud) and letting him reclaim his 2015 form.

Another reason to bet on d’Arnaud is the weak free agent class.  Looking at the list of possible free agents, there does not exist one catcher who is definitively better than d’Arnaud.

The first catcher most people will point to is Wilson Ramos.  Even if you buy into his career year being a new norm for him, Ramos isn’t even sure he will be able to play next season after tearing his ACL.  As Ramos said himself, “Unfortunately this injury… may affect whether I am able to stay with a NL team.”  (cbssports.com).  That rules out Ramos entirely.

The next catcher that is consistently mentioned is Matt Wieters.  In 2016, despite hitting in a hitter’s park like Camden Yards, Wieters hit .243/.302/.409 with 17 homers and 66 RBI.  These numbers are partially why he had an 87 OPS+ meaning he was a subpar offensive player.  Even if you are willing to overlook some of these stats because he is a switch hitter, he hit .231/.304/.346 with three homers and 15 RBI off lefties this year.

Moreoever, Wieters is nowhere near the pitch framer d’Arnaud is.  Wieters is not only unable to steal his staff a strike here or there, he is also unable to ensure that strikes thrown will be called strikes.  Another consideration is Wieters is a fairly injury prone player.  While he was healthy in 2016, he was not for the previous couple of years.  If one of the reasons you are looking to move on from d’Arnaud is health, Wieters is not your guy.

Another factor the Mets should not pursue Wieters, or whoever else you believe should be a target, is money.  Ultimately, players like Wieters are going to cost more than d’Arnaud.  That’s important when you consider Jacob deGrom is heading to his first arbitration year, and the Mets still have to find the money to re-sign Cespedes.  Any money spent this offseason is presumably less money available for the Mets to give Cespedes.  Therefore, if you sign a player, you better make sure that both is both a player of need and/or a definite upgrade over what the Mets already have.

There is no one out there who is definitively better than d’Arnaud.  In fact, they are probably not as good as him.  Worse yet, they are going to be more expensive.  With that in mind, the Mets best move would be to let d’Arnaud get healthy so he can contribute to the Mets like he did in 2015.

If he doesn’t, the Mets still have Kevin Plawecki . . . .

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

Mets Final Grades – Catchers

Throughout the season, I attempted to grade the different Mets players performances for each month of the season. In determining the year end grades, the aggregate of the monthly grades given was considered, but it wasn’t conclusive.  For example, one player’s awful month could be more than offset by having an incredible month.  Also, those decisions were made in the heat of the moment.  There has been a cooling off period in giving these finals grades, and with that, there is time for reflection.  It should also be noted the Wild Card Game did have some impact on these grades as that game was part of the story of the 2016 Mets.  Overall, the final grades assessed considered the monthly grades, but also took into account that player(s) overall impact on the Mets season (good or bad).    For the first set of grades, I will start with the catching position:

Travis d’Arnaud C-

After a breakout 2015 season, this was supposed to be the year that d’Arnaud broke out and became an All Star caliber catcher.  Instead, we were faced with another injury plagued year, discussion of moving on from him and acquiring Jonathan Lucroy, and finally him effectively losing the starting job to Rivera.

Let’s start with the good.  Believe it or not, and many Mets fans don’t believe it, d’Arnaud had another great year behind the plate.  He was once again one of the best pitch framers in all of baseball, he called a good game, was the Mets best catcher in terms of limiting wild pitches and passed balls, did another phenomenal job of navigating baseballs plate blocking rules, and had the full confidence of his pitching staff.  And yes, while his throwing took a major step back this year due to a combination of poor mechanics and a shoulder injury, he was better than advertised trying to throw out base runners.  With that said, despite many of the stolen bases having come off the pitching staff this year, yes, d’Arnaud did regress, but it was not to the point where he became a major liability.

Now the bad.  There is no way to put it nicely.  d’Arnaud was simply terrible at the plate this year.  In 75 games, he hit just .247/.307/.323 with only four homers and 15 RBI. He didn’t have one extra base hit or an RBI off of a left-handed pitcher the entire season. His numbers were almost as bad as they were in his 2014 rookie season when Mets had to send him down to the minors to let him fix his issues at the plate. The Mets couldn’t afford to do that this season.

In some ways, d’Arnaud is unique across the game of baseball.  He is the rare catcher that is expected to be a significant offensive contributor for his team.  He didn’t just fail in that regard; he was actually a liability at the plate. This was the main reason d’Arnaud eventually lost his starting job.  If he hit, he would’ve played more, but he didn’t.  In the end, it was a disappointing and yet another injury plagued season for him.  However, his 2015 season gives us hope, and that is why we can expect him to rebound and be a significant contributor next year.

Kevin Plawecki F

If you want to be fair to Plawecki, you would say he should never have started the season as the Mets backup catcher.  The former first round pick had the potential to be more than just a backup, and with that he should have been in AAA honing his craft instead of waiting idly by until d’Arnaud got injured again.

Still, that is not an excuse for Plawecki to once again squander the opportunity given to him.  Y0u think d’Arnaud’s offensive stats were bad?  Plawecki’s were worse.  In the time he was the backup and took over for d’Arnaud, Plawecki hit .194/.301/.258 with five doubles, one home run, and 10 RBI in 41 games.  He wasn’t much better in his September call-up.  For the season Plawecki hit .197/.298/.265 with six doubles, one homer, and 11 RBI.

Sure, Plawecki did hit well in AAA like everyone seems to do.  In 55 games with Las Vegas, he hit .300/.348/.484 with 11 doubles, eight homers, and 40 RBI.  While not outstanding for the Pacific Coast League, it did show a marked improvement over what he has been in the majors.  However, they were still empty numbers.  As we saw in Plawecki’s limited time in September, he had made no adjustments while in AAA.  He was still a pull happy ground ball hitter who does not make a lot of hard contact.  With the Mets likely returning d’Arnaud and Rivera next year, he is likely going to get one last shot to improve and make himself a major league hitter.

With all that said, it should be pointed out that Plawecki has established he can be an effective backup catcher at the major league level.  While he was touted for his offensive skills, Plawecki was really established himself as a good defensive catcher with excellent pitch framing skills.  Given the fact that catchers tend to develop later than other players, it would be unwise to cut bait with him even with the rise of Tomas Nido.

Rene Rivera C+

This season the Mets got the best out of what Rivera could offer.  He was a good defensive catcher, he helped Noah Syndergaard through his issues holding on base runners, he mentored Robert Gsellman and  Seth Lugo, and we discovered he could actually hit left-handed pitching pretty well.  With his work with young pitching, and with d’Arnaud’s struggles, Rivera effectively took over the starting job late in the season.

Overall, this was the second best season of Rivera’s career.  Still, he was not very good.  He only accumulated a 0.4 WAR and a 69 OPS+.  Most of his offensive stats were from a nine game July hot streak that saw him hit .323/.400/.581 with two doubles, two homers, and seven RBI.  Other than that nine game stretch, Rivera hit .201/.256/.292 with two doubles, four homers, and 19 RBI in 56 games.  Those are Plawecki type numbers the Mets wanted to move away from when they made the switch from Plawecki to Rivera as the backup catcher.

Another note, Rivera was awful behind the plate in the Wild Card Game.  Yes, he did go 1-3 off Madison BumgarnerHowever, it was his work behind the plate that was troubling.  Many criticized the work of home plate umpire Mike Winters for missing a number of close pitches made by Mets pitchers.  However, it should be noted that Buster Posey, a superior pitch framer to everyone, was getting those calls for Bumgarner.  While he is usually a good pitch framer, Rivera was terrible at it during the Wild Card Game stabbing at many pitches.  With that he extended some at-bats making Syndergaard go deeper into counts and not allowing him to pitch into the eighth.  Also, his passed ball and poor pitch framing cost Addison Reed some pitches and quite possibly gave the Giants some confidence heading into the ninth against Jeurys Familia (note: Rivera had nothing to do with Familia making a bad pitch to Conor Gillaspie).

That game marred what was a pretty good year for Rivera.  Given his rapport with Syndergaard, he should start the year as his personal catcher.  It will also be nice to have him around should Gsellman or Lugo need to make some spot starts next season.

Editor’s Note: the grades for April, May, June, July, August, and September/October can be found by clicking the links. 

A Look Back at the Mets 2006 Draft

Ten years ago, Omar Minaya had his second draft as the manager of the New York Mets.  With the team having signed Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran in the offseason, they would not have a first round draft pick.  In total, the Mets would draft 49 players, and they would be able to sign 35 of them.  Of the 49 players drafted, six of the players would play in the major leagues.  Here is  review of those players that were drafted and played in the major leagues:

Kevin Mulvey, LHP (2nd Round, 62nd Overall)

Mulvey was a fairly well-regarded fastball-changeup pitcher out of Villanova, who shot through the Mets minor league system.  In his first full professional season, he started in AA, and he finished the year with one start in New Orleans, which was then the Mets AAA affiliate.

In the offseason, Mulvey was a significant piece in the trade that brought Johan Santana to the Mets.  Notably, he was the only player drafted by Minaya to be included in the deal.

Mulvey would not last long with the Twins.  He spent a year and half with the team, and he made a very brief major league appearance with them in 2009.  He would become the player to be named later in a trade in which the Twins acquired Jon Rauch to help them not only win the AL Central, but also to help them in the postseason.

Mulvey would not pitch well for the Diamondbacks.  In 2009 and 2010, he would only make four starts and four relief appearances.  He would go 0-3 with a 6.92 ERA and a 1.615 WHIP.  In 2011, the Diamondbacks would designate him for assignment to remove him from the 40 man roster.  A year later, he would be outright released.

Mulvey caught back on with the Mets in 2012, and he was assigned to AA Binghamton.  After 13 relief appearances that saw him go 0-1 with a 5.59 ERA and a 1.707 WHIP, Mulvey retired from the game of baseball, and he returned to Villanova to be an assistant coach.  On July 14, 2016, he was named the head coach of the Villanova Wildcats.

In total, Mulvey only started four games and made six relief appearances over three major league seasons.  He finished with an 0-3 record, a 7.90 ERA, and a 1.756 WHIP.

Joe Smith, RHP (3rd Round, 94th Overall)

After losing Chad Bradford to free agency, the Mets decided the side winding Smith was ready to take over Bradford’s role in the bullpen.

Smith would pitch two seasons with the Mets making 136 appearances.  In those games, he would go 9-5 with a 3.51 ERA and a 1.402 WHIP.  While he could never match what Bradford did for the 2006 Mets, Smith was still a reliable bullpen arm so long as he was called to pitch to right-handed batters.

With the Mets bullpen falling to pieces during the 2008 season, the Mets sought a dominant reliever who could pitch in the eighth inning and who could be a reliable closing option in the event the Mets closer once again succumbed to injury.  With that in mind, Smith was included as a part of a three-team deal that netted the Mets J.J. Putz.  Ironically, it was Smith who would have the best career out of all the relievers in the deal.

During Smith’s five year tenure with the Indians, he got better and better each season as he got better and better pitching to left-handed batters.  He went from being a reliever who got just righties out to an eighth inning set-up guy.  Because of that, he got a big three year $15.75 million contract from the Angels when he hit free agency for the first time.

While Smith regressed a bit during his time with the Angels, he was still a very effective reliever.  Because he is still a very useful reliever, the Chicago Cubs obtained him after the non-waiver trade deadline.  Despite pitching well with a 2.51 ERA in 16 appearances for the Cubs, he was left off the postseason roster.  Smith is due to be a free agent after the season.

So far in Smith’s 10 year career, he has averaged 64 appearances and 57 innings per season.  He is 41-28 with 29 saves, a 2.93 ERA, and a 1.199 WHIP.

John Holdzkom, RHP (4th Round, 124th Overall)

Holdzkom was a high school pitcher with a big arm whose fastball could reach triple digits.  Initially, he posted big strike out numbers in the minors before needing season ending Tommy John surgery in 2008.  The surgery caused him to miss the entire 2009 season, and when he returned, he was never the same pitcher.

After six games in the rookie leagues in 2010, the Mets released him.  Holdzkom would take a year off from baseball before signing a minor league deal with the Cincinnati Reds.  He would struggle for two years in the Reds farm system before being released in June 2012.

From there, Holdzkom went to the Independent Leagues in the hopes of rekindling his hopes of becoming a major league pitcher.  With his fastball returning, he was dominant with high strikeout numbers once again, and he caught the attention of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who offered him a minor league deal.  In 2014, Holdzkom would actually appear in nine games for the Pirates pitching very well.  In those games, he was 1-0 with a 2.00 ERA and a 0.667 WHIP.

Holdzkom would lose his fastball again, and he would never again be able to crack the Pirates major league roster.  On the eve of Opening Day, he was released by the Pirates, and he was eventually signed to a minor league contract by the Chicago White Sox.  While never appearing on an injury report anywhere, Holdzkom only made one appearance in 2016 for the White Sox rookie league affiliate in July.  In two-third of an inning, he allowed four runs on three hits and two walks.

As for this moment, it is unknown what lies in the future of this 28 year old pitcher who is still looking to reclaim his fastball.

Daniel Murphy 3B (13th Round, 394th Overall)

Murphy is the best known player from the Mets 2006 draft.  He got his start with the Mets in left field for a 2008 Mets team desperate for offense.  Murphy hit well enough that he was named the Opening Day left fielder in 2009.  That year it was apparent he was not an outfielder, and he began his transition to second base.

While there were some rough spots along the way, everything finally clicked for Murphy last postseason with him hitting home runs in six consecutive postseason games.  These home runs were all the more notable when you consider Murphy hit them off Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, and Kyle Hendricks.  His key steal and home run in Game 5 helped propel the Mets to the NLCS, and in the NLCS he was the obvious choice for MVP.

He signed with the Nationals, and he went out and proved his postseason run was no fluke.  Murphy hit .347/.390/.595 with 47 doubles, 25 homers, and 104 RBI.  All these numbers were career bests.  He led the National League in doubles, slugging, and OPS.

In his Mets career, Murphy hit .288/.331/.424 while averaging 33 doubles, nine homers, and 57 RBI per season.  Among Mets second baseman, Murphy is the all-time leader in games, at-bats, runs, hits, doubles, RBI, and batting average.  He is also ranked third overall for the most doubles by a player in a Mets uniform, and he is ranked eighth in batting average.

Tobi Stoner, RHP (16th Round, 484th Overall)

The German born Stoner was used as a starting pitching in the Mets minor league system.  However, in his brief time with the major league club, he was used exclusively out of the bullpen.  Between 2009 and 2010, Stoner made five appearances going 0-1 with a 3.97 ERA and a 1.412 WHIP.

After his big league call-ups, Stoner actually regressed.  That could be in part due to bone spurs in his elbow he had to have removed prior to the 2011 season.  Even with the removed bone spurs, Stoner could never get back to being the pitcher he was or who the Mets thought he could be, and he was released on the eve of the 2012 season.  Stoner would pitch the 2012 season in the Independent Leagues.  In 12 starts, he would have an 8.11 ERA, and his professional career was over after that season.

Josh Stinson, RHP (37th Round, 1,114th Overall)

Stinson was a high school pitcher with a mid 90’s fastball.  As he did not truly develop his secondary pitches, he became a bullpen arm.  With a his live arm, he got called-up in 2011, at the age of 23, and pitched in 14 games with the Mets recording a 6.92 ERA and a 1.615 WHIP.

The Mets relased him before the 2012 season, and he was claimed by the Brewers.  He pitched mostly in the minors for the Brewers.  Stinson did get a brief call-up where he actually pitched well.  Despite his success in a small sample size, he was released before the 2013 season, and he was eventually picked up by the Orioles.  He made 19 appearances with the Orioles, pitching to a 4.50 ERA, before he was granted free agency. Stinson signed a minor league deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and he would not make it to the majors in the 2014 season.  The Pirates released him at the end of the year.

In the 2015 season, Stinson pitched for the Kia Tigers of the Korean Leauges.  In 30 starts and two relief appearances, Stinson was 11-10 with a 4.96 ERA and a 1.521 WHIP.  No one signed him to a professional contract to pitch in 2016.  According to Stinson’s Twitter account, the 28 year old still considers himself a free agent pitcher.

Vic Black, RHP (41st Round, 1,234th Overall)

The Mets drafted Black out of high school, but he would not sign a deal with the Mets.  Rather, he attended Dallas Baptist University, and he re-entered the draft in 2009 where the Pittsburgh Pirates would draft him in the first round (49th overall).  The Mets would acquire Black in 2013 as part of the trade that sent John Buck and Marlon Byrd to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for Black and Dilson Herrera.

In 2014, Black seemed to have a breakout season for the Mets.  He began to harness his high 90s fastball, and as a result, he was becoming a reliable bullpen arm.  Unfortunately, Black would land on the disabled list with a herniated disc in his neck.  When he tried to pitch through it, he eventually developed a shoulder strain.  He was first shut down, and then designated for assignment in the offseason.

While Black elected free agency, he hoped that he could re-sign with the Mets.  Neither the Mets nor any other major league team were interested in his services.  Black has not pitched in professional baseball in two years.  At the moment, it is unknown if he will be able to ever pitch again.

Johnny Monell, C (49th Round, 1,463rd Overall)

Like Black, Monell did not sign a contract with the Mets instead choosing to re-enter the draft at a later date.  He would be drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the 30th round in the following draft.

From there, Monell has bounced around from organization to organization.  Finally, in 2014, he returned to the same Mets organization that had drafted him eight years prior.  Due to injuries to Travis d’Arnaud and the ineffectiveness of both Kevin Plawecki and Anthony Recker, Monell would be called-up to the Mets in 2015, and he would play in 27 games hitting .167/.231/.208 with two doubles and four RBI.  Monell would be sent back down to AAA where he would remain for the 2015 season.

The Mets would remove him from the 40 man roster after the 2015 season, and Monell would agree to return to the Mets.  Monell spent the entire 2016 season playing for the Las Vegas 51s.  He hit .276/.336/.470 with 22 doubles, one triple, 19 homers, and 75 RBI.  With Plawecki being sent down in favor of Rene Rivera, Monell became the backup catcher.  In order to get him into the lineup more, Monell saw some additional time at first base.  Monell finished the year tied for the team lead in homers and third in RBI.

At this point, it is not known if the Mets intend to bring back the 30 year old catcher to play for the 51s again in the 2017 season.

 

Some Wild Card Game Questions

As Conor Gillaspie joined the ranks of Dave Henderson, Mike Scioscia, and Yadier Molina, all I was felt with was the feeling of “What if . . . ?”

It was one of several questions, I have thinking about last night’s Wild Card Game. Not all of these are second-guesses, nor are they are particularly the reason why the Mets lost the game. Clearly, the Mets lost the game because Madison Bumgarner was Madison Bumgarner. Furthermore, not all of these questions have answers. Still, there are some questions that just need to be asked:

  1. If Kelly Johnson didn’t feel comfortable playing first base, did the Mets consider playing him in right field? KJ was 7-20 off Bumgarner and Jay Bruce was 3-23 heading into the game.
  2. Why were the Mets batters so aggressive early in the game? The idea was to outlast Bumgarner and get into the Giants bullpen. Instead, Bumgarner needed just 21 pitches to get through the first three innings putting him well on pace to finish the game.
  3. If the Mets carried Kevin Plawecki to give them three catchers to permit Travis d’Arnaud to hit for Rene Rivera when the Mets needed offense, why did Rivera bat in the bottom of the seventh when you already knew Noah Syndergaard was coming out of the game?
  4. Also, with a tight game, once Rivera came out, why wasn’t d’Aranud double switched into the game with the pitcher’s spot due up in the eighth? Doing that would’ve permitted the Mets to go two innings with Reed. Note, as it turned out with Reed throwing 20 pitches in the eighth, this became a bit of a moot point.
  5. If you were going to pinch hit Eric Campbell for James Loney late in the game for offense, why not just start Campbell at first? Loney is awful against left-handed pitching, and he’s even worse than that against Bumgarner.
  6. How healthy was Lucas Duda? If he was good to go even for a pinch hitting appearance, he needed to be on the roster.
  7. How was it that Campbell and Ty Kelly were the Mets first two options to pinch hit off the bench? It’s astounding to think about how you couldn’t really argue that much with the decision.
  8. After the T.J. Rivera double, should the Mets have gone all-in on the inning considering that was most likely going to be their best chance to score off Bumgarner? If Bruce is unable to bunt, couldn’t you have brought in Juan Lagares to lay one down? Do you at least consider pinch hitting for Rivera in that spot, especially with Loney on deck? If Lagares did come into the game, you at least had his defense in center field for what was a tightly contested ball game.
  9. Should Terry Collins have ordered Jeurys Familia to walk Gillaspie? If you do, you create an out at any base, and you definitively get Bumgarner out of the game. For what it’s worth, I completely agreed with the decision to pitch to Gillaspie, but I still think the question needs to be raised.
  10. Was this the last time we will see Yoenis Cespedes, Duda, and David Wright wearing a Mets uniform? Duda and Wright were on the field wearing their Mets uniform for player introductions.

Ultimately, Collins did a terrific job last night. While you can argue with some decisions, he put his team in position to win that game, and his players didn’t execute. Even if one or two things change, the Mets still probably lose this game, which is the most depressing thought of all. With all of these questions that linger unanswered there is one remaining that we will find out the answer to around the same time next year:

Can the Mets get back to this point for a third straight season?

That is the biggest question of all.

Josh Edgin & Robert Gsellman on the Wild Card Game Roster; Lucas Duda, Seth Lugo, Josh Smoker Left Off

The New York Mets have announced their Wild Card Game Roster for tonight’s winner-take-all game tonight at Citi Field

Catchers

Infielders

Outfielders

Pitchers

There were a few surprises on this roster. The one that immediately stands out is the Mets not carrying Lucas Duda on the roster. In a short period of time, Duda has gone from in the conversation to starting at first base tonight to not even being on the roster. His will be a big bat the Mets will miss for a late inning pinch hitting opportunity.

The next surprise was the Mets carrying Gsellman over Seth Lugo. While Gsellman has been the hotter pitcher over the past couple of starts, Gsellman does not have the experience Lugo has coming out of the bullpen.

The biggest surprise was the Mets carrying Edgin over Josh Smoker. This season, Smoker has struck out 14.7 batters per nine, and he has gotten the Mets out of a few tough jams. Edgin, on the other hand, has struggled this season due in large part to him not fully regaining his velocity after Tommy John surgery. However, despite the surprise, there is some justification for the decision.

First, both Smoker and Edgin are one inning pitchers. Each time Terry Collins has tried to push Smoker past one inning of work, he has allowed a second home run. With them both being one inning pitchers, the Mets most likely sought to use the pitcher who matches up better against the Giants. Given the Giants have many left-handed batters, Edgin seems to be the better choice. This season, lefties are hitting .235/.300/.235 off of Edgin as opposed to .360/.448/.600 off of Smoker.

Overall, the hope is that the Mets don’t have to use Edgin or worry about leaving Smoker off the roster. First and foremost, Blevins is going to be the LOOGY in the big spot, and Robleshas reverse splits. Additionally, the Mets 7-8-9- combination of Salas-Reed-Familia pitch just as well against lefties as they do to righties. In the end, so long as Syndergaard and the back end of the bullpen do their job, as we all expect they will do, the Edgin/Smoker decision will not amount to much.