Kevin Plawecki

Reynolds Is Here To Replace One Of The Many Injured Or Under-Performing Players

Betsy Helfand of the Review Journal reports utility player Matt Reynolds has flown to New York presumably to join the Mets. As of this moment, the Mets have not announced a corresponding move. Normally, in these situations, you can surmise what the corresponding move will be. However, given the current state of the Mets, we really have no idea what that move will be.

First and foremost. Yoenis Cespedes has been injured, and he has insisted that he could play today. Before letting him do that, the Mets were supposedly going to really make Cespedes test out that hamstring to make sure he is healthy enough to play. It is possible Cespedes is not healthy enough to play, and as a result, the Mets are going to move him to the disabled list.

If not Cespedes, it’s possible the Mets could move Asdrubal Cabrera to the disabled list. The shortstop has been clearly hobbled and limited. After each play on the field, he noticeably winces, and he takes time to get back to his position. Over the last two games, there have been multiple instances where you question if he could continue playing in the game. Given how he’s played, it’s possible he could be headed to the disabled list.

Then again, this is the time of year Travis d’Arnaud usually heads to the disabled list. On Wednesday, he hit his arm on a bat trying to throw out a base stealer. In every game since, Terry Collins has penciled his name in the lineup only to remove him afterwards when d’Arnaud said he couldn’t throw (insert your own joke here). With him not being able to do more than pinch hit for a solid week, it’s possible the Mets move him to the disabled list.

Then again with the way things are going, it’s possible someone got hurt on an off day. It wouldn’t be the first time in franchise history. You never know with this team.

Maybe the aforementioned players are healthy and ready to go, and the Mets are just moving the deck chairs due to some under-performing players. Although he has received limited opportunities, T.J. Rivera is just 1-10 on the season with no extra base hits or RBI. Maybe the move will be for Kevin Plawecki, who once again looked over powered by major league pitching in the one game he played. Save for Michael Conforto and Jay Bruce, you can really make a case for any one of the Mets players to be sent down or designated for assignment. With that said, no one really believes at this juncture that either Jose Reyes or Curtis Granderson will suffer that indignity yet.

It’s also possible Reynolds is here as a precaution. There is so much wrong with the Mets in terms of injury and under-performance. The Mets may look to see how Cespedes, Cabrera, and d’Arnaud respond to the off-day, and if any one of them can’t go, Reynolds will. At this juncture, we just don’t know.

Ulimately, Reynolds getting called-up to the majors is a microcosm of the 2017 season.  He’s here because we don’t know who can play.  We don’t know who’s too hurt to play, and we don’t know who’s capable of playing at this level.  Sooner or later, this is nonsense is going to have to end.

At Least The Mets Were Competitive 

When Daniel Murphy hit a grand slam in the first inning with no outs against Zack Wheeler, it seemed like the game was over. The Mets have shown nothing of late to suggest they could score four runs, let alone the five it would take to take the lead. With Max Scherzer pitching for the Nationals, the loss appeared to be a near certainty. 

At least the Mets made this one interesting. 

Michael Conforto, who is cementing his spot as this team’s lead-off hitter, hit Scherzer’s second pitch of the game for an opposite field home run:

He also made a nice play in the field:

The Mets would narrow the gap to 4-3 on a Neil Walker third inning two run home run. 

The game remains close because Wheeler was great after the first inning. After the first inning, Wheeler allowed just one hit and issued just two walks. He had a manageable pitch count, and he was able to pitch seven innings throwing just 101 pitches. 

Wheeler’s final line was seven innings, four hits, four runs, four earned, two walks, and six strikeouts. 

It’s hard to say a guy who gave up a first inning grand slam deserved a better fate, but Wheeler probably did. At a minimum, you could argue that one day the hitters need to bail out a starter. With this offense, that’s wishful thinking. 

Any hopes were dashed when Ryan Zimmerman absolutely crushed a two run homer off Josh Smoker in the eighth inning making it 6-3. That would be the final score. 

The first showdown with the Nationals led to a sweep. Regardless of the Mets health, that’s a bad sign for the 2017 season. 

Game Notes: Asdrubal Cabrera is injured, and he stumbles after each play he makes. He looks more injured than he did last year. Travis d’Arnaud couldn’t catch again, but he pinch hit yet again. Kevin Plawecki got his first start of the year. 

Hard Fought Loss Is Still A Loss

As if the Mets weren’t injured enough, the team had a new rash of injuries heading into tonight’s game. 

Wilmer Flores and Lucas Duda went on the disabled list. Travis d’Arnaud and Yoenis Cespedes didn’t, but they couldn’t start. At least d’Arnaud was available to pinch hit. To make matters worse, Asdrubal Cabrera is now dealing with a hamstring injury keeping him out of the lineup, and Jacob deGrom woke up on the wrong side of the bed. 

With deGrom waking up with a stiff neck, he missed tonight’s start, and he probably needs someone to start for him tomorrow. 

With so many people out of the lineup, the Mets needed someone to step up. The Mets had people stepping up all over the place tonight. 

First was Matt Harvey who was the surprise starter. Harvey gave his team a chance to win pitching seven innings. His final line was seven innings, four hits, three runs, three earned, two walks, and two strikeouts. 

Harvey pitched well, but he was tripped up by the long ball. In the first inning, he grooved one to Bryce Harper who launched it for a two run homer. It was a strange site to see when you consider Harper couldn’t get a hit off pre-TOS Harvey. The third run off Harvey came off a Jose Lobaton solo shot in the fifth. 

Despite the two homers and the makeshift lineup, Harvey had a no decision.  

He was first helped by a Michael Conforto first inning blast off Tanner Roark‘s first pitch of the game:

The second and third runs came courtesy of Curtis Granderson. In the fourth, Granderson had a two out RBI single scoring Jay Bruce. He then tied the score in the sixth:

It was a terrific night for Granderson. Coming into the night, he was hitting .143/.197/.214. Just like he’s done in his entire Mets career, Granderson stepped up when the Mets needed him most going 2-4 with a run, two RBI, one walk, and the home run. 

The Mets nearly took the lead in the seventh. Zack Wheeler hit for Harvey and hit a pinch hit double. The Mets would load the bases, and the Nationals would go to Oliver Perez, who got Bruce to line out to end the inning. 

In the ninth, there was some craziness. Rene Rivera earned a lead-off walk off Joe Blanton, and Terry Collins opted to pinch run Robert Gsellman. T.J. Rivera then bunted Gsellman to second. 

Cabrera then pinch hit for Addison Reed and drew a walk. Given his hamstring issues, Collins sent out Kevin Plawecki to pinch run for him. No, it didn’t make sense to do this and force the pitcher’s spot to come up earlier in the lineup, but nothing in this inning made much sense. 

In the long run, Blanton worked his way out of the inning. Another side effect of the inning, Collins’ mechanations led to the pitcher’s spot coming up three spots earlier in the lineup. He did that in a game where the Mets had a short bench. Just an inexcusable move. 

The Mets certainly could’ve benefitted from better managing as the pitcher’s spot did come up in the bottom of the 11th with the Mets down 4-3. 

The Mets were down 4-3 because Jeurys Familia is still rusty. Keep in mind, he only made two relief appearances in the minors before his suspension was over. 

After Josh Smoker allowed a lead-off double to Harper, Murphy was intentionally walked, and Familia entered the game. He threw a wild pitch allowing Harper to go to third. It didn’t matter much as he issued back-to-back walks to Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner to force in a run. Familia settled down after that, but it was too late. The Nationals took the lead. 

Shawn Kelley came on in the 11th and pitched a 1-2-3 inning to earn the save. With that, the Mets fought valiantly, but still lost. They’re now under .500, and who knows who will be healthy enough to play tomorrow. 

Game Notes: Daniel Murphy‘s 19 game hitting streak came to an end. He was 0-4, and he was intentionally walked in the 11th. Apparently, Reed wore the wrong hat during his appearance. 

Please Don’t Mess Around With These Injuries

One of the best things to come out of the past offseason was Major League Baseball shortening the stint on the disabled list from 15 days to 10 day.  Presumably, that change made it easier for teams to place their players on the disabled list to allow them to recover.  Someone should tell that to the Mets.

Last night, with the Lucas Duda injury and Wilmer Flores infection, Jay Bruce was forced to play first base for the first time since he played three games there in 2014.  That also put Juan Lagares in the position of being the team’s lone back-up outfielder and middle infielder.  Lagares was initially signed by the Mets as a shortstop, but he has not played the middle infield since he played six innings for the Single-A Savannah Sand Gnats as a 20 yeard old in 2009.  To put it in perspective how long ago that was, back in 2009, Citi Field just opened, and Daniel Murphy was considered a left fielder.

When Cespedes had to leave the game with a hamstring injury after running the bases in the fifth inning, the Mets were in trouble.  If the game were to go deep into extra innings, the Mets were likely going to have to consider which infield position other than first could Kevin Plawecki handle.  They might have followed through with the plan to put Zack Wheeler at first base like it was contemplated during the 16 inning game.  If things got bad enough, the team might have had to lean on Jacob deGrom‘s experience as a collegiate shortstop.

Simply put, this is unacceptable.  Year-in and year-out the Mets find themselves in this position, and they are more than willing to play with short benches with players not even available to pinch hit.  Worse yet, they ask players to do too much.

Last year, the Mets saw Asdrubal Cabrera deal with a knee injury all season.  From the middle of May until the end of July, he was hobbled and struggling.  Over that stretch, he hit .232/.285/.436.  The Mets finally put him on the disabled list so he could rest his knee.  He responded by becoming the 2015 Yoenis Cespedes and willing the Mets to the postseason hitting .345/.406/.635 over the final 41 games of the season.

Speaking of Cespedes, the Mets were also stubborn about putting him on the disabled list.  On July 8th, he suffered an injured quad.  He would not go on the disabled list, and he would not play in another game until July 17th.  When he did play, he was noticeably hobbled.  From July 17th to August 3rd, Cespedes hit just .205/.302/.318 in 14 games before the Mets finally put him on the disabled list.  When he came back, he hit .259/.335/.490 over the final 38 games of the season.

Then there was Michael Conforto.  We are not quite sure when he was injured, but we do know that he received a cortisone shot in June of last year.  Clearly something was bothering him as Conforto went from the best hitter on the team in April to a guy who hit just .174/.267/.330 for the rest of the year.  Instead of a disabled list stint, the Mets treated him to multiple demotions to Triple-A, where he absolutely raked, and being stuck to the bench for far too long stretches.  Perhaps if the Mets put him on the disabled list, his second season would have gone much differently, and the Bruce trade might not have been necessary.

You would think the Mets would have learned from that, but they clearly haven’t as they are already repeating the same mistakes.

While it is not ideal with six of the next nine games coming against the Nationals, the Mets can definitively get away with Bruce at first with an outfield of Conforto-Lagares-Curtis Granderson from left to right.  While it does not have the offensive punch you would like, that is a really good defensive outfield.  On the infield, the Mets could recall T.J. Rivera, who showed the Mets last year he has a place in the major leagues.  The Mets could even get bold by calling up Gavin Cecchini to play second and moving Neil Walker to third.  At a minimum, it would get a struggling Jose Reyes out of the lineup.  It could also allow the Mets to pick and choose their spots with Reyes to allow him to be an effective pinch hitter or pinch runner in late game situations.

The overriding point is the Mets have talent on the 40 man roster even if Duda and Cespedes went on the disabled list.  With the Mets throwing Noah Syndergaard, deGrom, and Matt Harvey, the Mets can still win a fair share of those games to keep the team afloat until Duda and Cespedes are ready to return to the lineup.  In fact, the team might be better off because you’d rather have two healthy sluggers mashing all season than two injured players trying to find a way to produce to their normal levels.

That is something that didn’t work last year, and we can’t expect it to work this year.  It’s about time the Mets learned how to properly utilize the disabled list and field a team of healthy players.

2017 Mets Minor League Rosters Best of the Best

With the full season minor leagues having their Opening Day on Thursday, the Mets have announced the rosters for each of their minor league affiliates. Each team includes an interesting group of prospects. Each team also features a particular strength of each aspect of the Mets farm system. Keeping in mind each particular group is viewed not just in terms of how good the players are now, but also how they project going forward, here are the best of the best:

Best Starting Pitching – St. Lucie Mets

Starting Rotation: Andrew Church, Justin Dunn, Marcos Molina, Nabil Crismatt, Kevin Canelon, Chase Ingram, Thomas McIlrath, Joe Shaw

The St. Lucie rotation features a number of pitchers who may very well make their way to a major league mound. The former second round draft pick Church fixed both his hip and his mechanics, and he had a breakout season last year. Dunn is already a top 10 Mets prospect a year after he was drafted. Molina is back from Tommy John surgery, and he has looked good in both the Arizona Fall Leauge and Spring Training. Crismatt more than held his own against the vaunted Dominican Republic team in the World Baseball Classic. This is as exciting a rotation as there is in the minor leauges, and possibly, you will see some version of this rotation with the Mets one day.

Honorable Mention: Columbia Fireflies. A rotation with Jordan Humphreys, Merandy Gonzalez, and Harol Gonzalez is a very interesting minor league rotation. It would have been more interesting with Thomas Szapucki, but he is slated to miss time due to a shoulder impingement.

Best Bullpen – Las Vegas 51s

Bullpen: Paul Sewald, David Roseboom, Ben Rowen, Beck Wheeler, Erik Goeddel, Chase Bradford)

The 51s bullpen features Sewald and Roseboom who were both extremely effective closers last season. Certainly, both impressed the Mets enough to get long looks during Spring Training. Prior to having bone spurs removed, Goeddle was an effective major league reliever. Rowen gives you a different look with his sidewinding action on the mound. Arguably, this could be a major league bullpen that could hold its own.

Honorable Mention: Binghamton Rumble Ponies. The Rumble Ponies bullpen has Corey Taylor, who has been favorable compared to Jeurys Familia, as its closer. There are some other interesting names like Ben Griset, who is a very promising LOOGY, and Luis Mateo, who was once a very well thought out prospect before he faced some injury issues.

Best Catching Tandem – Las Vegas 51s

Catchers: Kevin Plawecki, Xorge Carrillo, Jeff Glenn

If nothing else, Plawecki has established he can handle a major league starting staff. More to the point, Plawecki has shown himself to be a very good pitch framer. While his bat has lagged in the majors, at 26, he still has time to improve. Behind him is Carrillo, who is a good defensive catcher that won the Gold Glove in the Mexican Winter Leagues this past offseason.

Honorable Mention: Binghamton Rumble Ponies. Tomas Nido seemingly put it all together in St. Lucie last year, and he appears poised to take the mantle as the Mets catcher of the future. Binghamton very easily could have been named the top catching tandem off that, but some deference was paid to Plawecki showing he can handle the position defensively at the major league level.

Best Infield – Las Vegas 51s

Infield – 1B Dominic Smith, 2B Gavin Cecchini, 3B Phillip Evans, SS Amed Rosario

When the weak point of your infield is a player who is coming off a season where he won the Eastern League batting title, you know you have something special. Rosario and Smith are considered two of the best prospects not only at their positions, but in the entire game. Cecchini played well enough last year to be put on the 40 man roster a year ahead of schedule and earn a September call-up where he hit two doubles in six major league at-bats.

Honorable Mention: St. Lucie Mets. The team features a pair of 2016 draft picks in 1B Peter Alonso and SS Colby Woodmansee who showed real ability during their time in Brooklyn. Due to that success, they both skipped Columbia and joined an interesting second base prospect in Vinny Siena and a promising hitter at third base in Jhoan Urena.

Best Outfield – Columbia Fireflies

Outfield – Desmond Lindsay, Gene Cone, Jacob Zanon, Tim Tebow

No, this isn’t because of Tebow. This is mostly about Lindsay, who has been labeled as an “offensive machine” by the Mets organization. He is a five tool prospect that with a little health will arrive at Citi Field sooner rather than later. Another interesting five tool prospect is former Division II player Zanon. He certainly has all the tools to succeed. It is a question whether those tools can translate against better competition. Cone is a player who has a good baseball IQ, but he still needs to translate that and his talent to on the field success

Honorable Mention: Las Vegas 51s. The outfield got demonstratively better with the recent signing of Desmond Jennings. It will get better with either Brandon Nimmo or Michael Conforto playing for them again. That depends on Nimmo’s health as well as the health of the major league outfield. It will also be interesting to see how Matt Reynolds handles taking on what was Ty Kelly‘s role last year in being a utility player that mostly plays left field.

Overall, the Mets have a number of good to very good prospects who are either close or project to be major leaguers. Some of those players like Rosario will be stars. Others should have long major league careers. While we are getting excited for another year of Mets baseball, we also have a lot to be excited about for years to come with these prospects.

 

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.