Lucas Duda

Juan Lagares Should Be More Than This

When a team is riddled with injuries like the Mets have been, what most people focus on is how it negatively impacts the lineup. The converse of that is an injury creates an opportunity for another player. With Lucas Duda and Wilmer Flores on the disabled list and Yoenis Cespedes unable to play the field, it forced the Mets to play Jay Bruce at first base and put Juan Lagares in center field. This was Lagares’ opportunity to fight for a bigger role on the Mets.

And there was one there. It’s no secret Curtis Granderson has been struggling to begin the season. Through 18 games, he is hitting just .149/.205/.254 with one homer and six RBI. With the Mets being unable to trade Bruce, Granderson is miscast as a center fielder. His -1 DRS ranks him 16th among players with at least 90 innings in center field this year. His -23.0 UZR/150 ranks 23rd among center fielders with at least 90 innings. Long story short, it has not been a good start to the season for Granderson. With him being 36 years old, there have been more than whispers if he’s not the same player anymore.

While it may be only slightly ajar, the door was open for someone to stake a claim for a spot in the outfield. We saw Michael Conforto do just that. On the season, he is hitting .361/.432/.722 with four homers and eight RBI. He’s also made a series of outstanding defensive plays in left and center field. With Granderson and Jose Reyes‘ struggling, Conforto may just have cemented himself as the team’s lead-off hitter.

Lagares did not make a similar push. While it is inarguable that Lagares is by far the team’s best defensive player, he still does not do enough to play every day. In his 2014 breakout season, Lagares had a 102 OPS+. Given his glove, you could keep a player like Lagares in the lineup everyday with league average bat like his. The problem is he’s regressed every season since. Since that 2014 season, Lagares is merely a .250/.289/.356 hitter with a 77 OPS+. There’s really no amount of defense that can keep a bat like that in the lineup. Certainly, not with a National League team.

Yet, we have seen glimpses of Lagares being a competent hitter. We saw it in 2014. We saw it again in the 2015 postseason. In that postseason, Lagares hit .348/.375/.435 with two doubles and two stolen bases. That may not be his true talent level, but it shows you he’s capable of being at least a decent hitter.

Unfortuantely, he hasn’t to begin the year. So far this season, he is 1-18 with his lone hit being a single to break up Gio Gonzalez‘s no-hitter on Saturday. Again, Lagares seems to be regressing, which means once Cespedes returns, Lagares will once again be limited to being a defensive replacement late in games and getting starts against left-handed pitching. Given the comments made post-game, that will happen on Tuesday.

There was an opportunity for Lagares to be more than that. He had an opportunity to show the Mets he could be an everyday player. As an everyday player, he could live on highlight reels and win additional Gold Gloves. That won’t be happening because rather than take advantage of the opporutnity, Lagares reinforced the notion that he isn’t an everyday player.

Mets Lose In 3-1 Blowout

If we’re being honest, this isn’t the greatest Mets lineup even when the team is healthy. It’s full of guys who certainly can all hit the ball out of the ballpark, but it’s also full of players with poor on base percentages. When you lose Lucas Duda and Yoenis Cespedes to injury the problems become even more exacerbated. 
Now, the Mets have the pitching to win games no matter who is in the lineup. We saw that in 2015 as the pitching and Curtis Granderson kept the team afloat playing near .500 ball until reinforcements arrived. 

In those games the Mets did win, they needed their pitcher’s to be great. At the state the Mets offense is now, the 2017 Mets are back to that point. Yesterday, Jacob deGrom was good. 

He was mowing the Nationals down for the first three innings until his wildness caught up to him in the fourth. A Daniel Murphy single was bracketed by walks to Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon loading the bases. 

The Mets got a bit lucky as the Nationals third base coach sent Murphy on the ensuing RBI single by Matt Wieters

In the fifth, the Nationals got to deGrom again. Adam Eaton and Trea Turner hit back-to-back one out doubles to make it 2-0. After Harper was just told to go to first base (essentially what the new intentional walk rule is), Ryan Zimmerman hit an RBI single to make it 3-0. 

The Nationals wouldn’t score again in the sixth thanks in large part to Granderson:

After getting the first two out, deGrom got in trouble again issuing yet another walk, this time to Eaton, and then allowing a single to Turner. At this point, Terry Collins turned to Josh Edgin to get the Mets out of the jam. Somewhat surprisingly, he did by striking out Harper. 

Overall, it was a tough day for deGrom who issued a career high six walks. He was obviously ramped up early getting it up to 98 MPH and recording a lot of strikeouts. The early adrenaline wore off, and deGrom was left throwing 94 MPH and missing his spots. This was an uncharacteristic start for deGrom. His final line was 5.2 innings, eight hits, three runs, three earned, six walks, and 10 strikeouts. 

Given the current state of the Mets offense, 3-0 might as well have been 30-0. This game was no different. 

For the second time this season, the Mets offense was no-hit through five innings. This time, it was done by Gio Gonzalez. Though the Mets offense looked overmatched and lifeless, they would break through in the sixth. 

Jose Reyes pinch hit for Edgin and worked a one out walk. Then, Juan Lagares broke up the no-hitter with a single. More than that, the Mets had a rally going. 

Michael Conforto didn’t help the narrative he can’t hit left-handed pitching by striking out and going hitless on the day. Where Conforto didn’t come through, a hobbled Asdrubal Cabrera did hitting an RBI single to make it 3-1. That was as close as the Mets would get. 
Jay Bruce and Neil Walker had back-to-back strikeouts ending the Mets only rally of the game. The offense then made a struggling Nationals bullpen look like the 1990 Nasty Boys. 
Blake TreinenEnny Romero, and Koda Glover did their best Norm CharltonRob DibbleRandy Myers impersonation to slam the door shut on the 3-1 victory. 
With that, the Mets are 8-10 and are in fourth place 4.5 back. They’re having trouble beating the Phillies and can’t even hit a poor Nationals bullpen. It’s still April, so it’s still early, but things do not look good right now. 

Game Notes: Cabrera tried to leg out an infield single in the fourth.  He was noticeably hobbled, and he came out to take his position right before the first pitch of the fifth inning. For the second day in a row, an injured Yoenis Cespedes informed the team he was too injured to pinch hit. Once again, Travis d’Arnaud was limited to pinch hitting duty. T.J. Rivera got the start at third base over a healthy Reyes. He was 0-3. 

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.

No Defending This Loss

There was every chance that the Mets defense was going to suffer tonight.  Jose Reyes isn’t a third baseman.  Michael Conforto is miscast as a CF. With Lucas Duda (elbow) and Wilmer Flores (infection) out, Jay Bruce was really miscast as a first baseman. 

But no, the defense was a disaster. Somehow, it was the sure-handed middle infield of Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera that was the problem. 

After the Phillies had already plated a run off a Tommy Joseph RBI double, he would move to second on a Noah Syndergaard wild pitch. It was in the dirt, but Rene Rivera did a terrible job on the ball. He tried to backhand a ball between his legs and didn’t get down. Terrible. 

Freddy Galvis “singled” to Bruce and advanced to second on a “Bruce throwing error.”  Look at what really happened:

Walker ran to the bag and stopped despite the ball apparently being theory to him. 

The throw not only allowed a run to score (it was anyway), but it put Galvis in scoring position. He’d then score on an Andrew Knapp ground rule double. 

Just like that, it was 3-0 Phillies after two. 

The Mets would get one of those runs back led by a Reyes single and stolen base. He’d score on a two out Rivera RBI single. 

Syndergaard plunked Daniel Nava to lead off the inning, but he did get the double play ball he needed. However, Cabrera booted the Odubel Herrera grounder. Nava scored on a Maikel Franco RBI double to left. 

On the double, Cespedes made a great throw to Walker, who literally fell over himself trying to make the tag. Right there, the Mets had already given away three outs in the inning. 

Fortunately, Syndergaard limited the damage allowing just one more run on an Aaron Altherr RBI groundout. 

Syndergaard was not at his best, but he deserved a much better fate. Technically, only three of the runs allowed were earned. However, watching the game and the shoddy defense, only the first run was really on him. Syndergaard’s final line was seven innings, seven hits, five runs, three earned, no walks, and 10 strikeouts. 

While his team wouldn’t help him, Syndergaard helped his team by pitching that extra inning going to 114 pitches. 

Still, the team couldn’t rally to get him off the hook or get a win. It appeared there was a chance after the Walker three run homer to center in the third inning. It was his first extra base hit off a right-handed pitcher all year. 

However, at 5-4 that’s as close as the Mets would get. To add insult to injury, Cespedes left the game after the fifth. In that inning, he pulled up lame on what was a Bruce 3-6-1 double play. 

Fernando Salas couldn’t keep the Phillies at bay in the eighth. He first allowed a lead off homer to Franco. He then allowed back-to-back singles to Altherr and Joseph leading Terry Collins to pull him for Josh Edgin
Edgin would be the lone bright spot on the day getting three straight outs punctuated by striking out Andres Blanco

Even with that, there was no momentum in what was a disappointing 6-4 loss. The Mets are banged up and .500 with the Nationals coming into town. This is exactly where you don’t want to be. 

Game Recap: Juan Lagares was the back-up infielder on the night due to all the injuries. It didn’t happen, but he got into the game with the Cespedes injury. Jeurys Familia made his first appearance since coming back from suspension. His rust showed with him needing 30 pitches to get out of the ninth. 

Duda and Walker: Tale of Two Returns From Back Injury

Last year, Lucas Duda and Neil Walker suffered significant back injuries that caused them to miss significant time.  Duda missed a total of 107 games due to a fracture in his lower back.  With the Mets in a postseason push, and with James Loney being James Loney, he came back in September and wasn’t the same hitter.

For his part, Walker was having a good year and a hot August when he was shut down.  That happens when you complain of not being able to feel your lower extremities during games.  With Walker needing season ending back surgery, his last game of the season was August 27th.

Despite both players having back injuries, the Mets not only brought both players back, but they also planned on him being significant contributors to the 2017 Mets.  This meant the Mets brought back Duda despite his being an arbitration eligible player, and the Mets gave Walker the $17.2 qualifying offer, which he accepted.  While their respective paths back to the Mets this season are similar, their play this season has been disparate.

In 11 games this season, Duda is hitting .256/.356/.615 with four homers and seven RBI.  This is not too far off his career averages of .246/.343/.452.  Since becoming the everyday first baseman in 2014, Duda is a .246/.345/.478 hitter.  The long story short is Duda is getting on base like he has in his career.  While he’s slugging at a much higher clip that we can reasonably expect, Duda has inspired confidence that his 30 home run power is back.  Overall, Duda has done just that.  He has given everyone confidence that he is the same player he was before the back surgery.

Walker has had a different return from his back injury.  In 12 games so far, Walker is hitting .239/.333/.304 with three doubles and three RBI.  The problem is Walker has done his damage almost exclusively from the right-hand side of the plate.  As a right-handed batter, Walker is hitting .389/.450/.556 with all three of his extra base hits.  From the left-hand side of the plate, he is hitting just .143/.265/.143.  Essentially, Walker is playing like Wilmer Flores right now except with much better defense.  The question is whether this is the back or the continuation of something we saw happen with Walker last year.

Now, it is was too soon to say Walker is shot or is the new Flores.  Walker’s play in the field should give every indication he is not limited by the back surgery.  Hopefully, this means Walker should return to his career norms sooner rather than later.  If that is the case, the Mets lineup will get a major boost.

Still, the question needs to be asked whether Walker will return to form.  His inability to hit left-handed is alarming, especially when you consider he hits left-handed much more than he hits right-handed.  To be fair, there are still questions about Duda.  Will his back will permit him to continue to put up these numbers?  We don’t know, nor can we be confident until we see a much larger sample size from both, and perhaps not even then.

Ultimately, the hope is Duda is back and Walker will improve.  If that is the case, the Mets lineup will be even more dangerous, and the Mets will be in position to win the National League East once again.  If it isn’t, the Mets will be stuck in limbo deciding when to move on from these players and to call up Dominic Smith, Amed Rosario, or even Gavin Cecchini.  These situations rarely pan out well.  That is why it is so imperative the Mets gamble on both Duda and Walker pays off.

Mets Emulating The Cubs With Cecchini and Rosario

Last season, the Chicago Cubs became one of the most versatile teams we have ever seen, and it played a large part in that team winning their first World Series in over 108 years.

National League MVP Kris Bryant is a natural third baseman also played first, short, and all three outfield positions last year. Javier Baez, a well thought of young defensive shortstop, showed off his talents at second base much of the season showing the world he is the best at getting the tag down. Russell would also play first, third, and left field. Of course, the Cubs also had Ben Zobrist who was playing multiple positions with the Tampa Bay Rays before it became a thing.

With all baseball being a copycat league, teams and organizations have been looking for ways to make their rosters more versatile. The New York Mets will look to do that with their top prospects in Triple A this season.

According to Betsy Helfand of the Las Vegas Review Journal, the Mets plan on giving both Gavin Cecchini and Amed Rosario time away from their middle infield positions during the course of the 2017 season. Specifically, Rosario will play third base every 10-12 games, and Cecchini will play shortstop every 10-12 games. Presumably, Cecchini will play shortstop in those games Rosario plays third.

In addition to learning second base and seeing time at his natural shortstop position, there are now unspecified plans in place for Cecchini to see some time at third. This exposure is important for Cecchini because in all likelihood, he may be the best major league ready player in Las Vegas. In his brief cup of coffee last September, Cecchini was 2-6 with two doubles and two RBI. In that small sample size, he didn’t look overwhelmed, and he looked like he belonged.

That is important because the Mets may need him sooner rather than later. No one knows when David Wright is going to return. Both Lucas Duda and Neil Walker are returning from serious back injuries. Asdrubal Cabrera dealt with a knee injury all last season. No one realistically knows if Jose Reyes can handle third base everyday, and his start to this season hasn’t exactly inspired confidence either. Wilmer Flores is a platoon bat. This creates an opportunity for Cecchini. Cecchini can best take advantage of that opportunity if he is able to play more than just shortstop.

For that matter, it also opens up an opportunity for Rosario. If the Mets feel confident with him at third base, it gives them ability to call him up even if there is no significant injury to Cabrera.

In addition to Cecchini and Rosario, the 51s also have Matt Reynolds and Phillip Evans. Reynolds, a good fielding shortstop, has also received playing time at second and third base last season. This year, Reynolds is slated to be the Opening Day left fielder. For his part, Evans, the 2016 Eastern League Batting Champ, has split time between second, third, and short in his minor league career.

With Cecchini, Rosario, Reynolds, and Evans, the Mets are developing a group of young and versatile players. This should make these players more opportunities to get called up to the majors. It should also allow the Mets to put the best players on the field should there be any injuries at the major league level. These players and the Mets organization as a whole will be better off for making these prospects more versatile players.

Enough Excuses, Lock Up These Starters

Looking at this Mets team since 2015, one thing has been perfectly clear: this team is built on pitching, and it will only go as far as the pitching carries them. In 2015, when their starters were healthy and able to last the season, the Mets were able to win the National League Pennant. In 2016, with three of the arms going down, the Mets were still good enough to enter the postseason as the top Wild Card.

The Mets have been fortunate because the pitching has been cheap. It was not until recently that Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, and Jacob deGrom entered their arbitration years. Noah Syndergaard won’t be arbitration eligible until after this season. It is interesting because it is after this season that things begin to become murky. Harvey and Wheeler are scheduled to become free agents after the 2018 season with deGrom becoming a free agent the season after that.

With the Mets success rising and falling on their pitching, it begs the question why haven’t the Mets selected at least one or two pitchers and come to terms on a contract extension. The common refrain among Mets fans is the team should keep Syndergaard and deGrom and join them in a rotation that one day may also feature Robert Gsellman, Justin Dunn, and Thomas Szapucki. For now, even with the clock ticking, the Mets aren’t making a move.

While it may not make sense to most Mets fans, in a report by Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the New York Mets have advised why they have not entered into contract extension discussions with any of their young pitching:

1. Injuries

As GM John Ricco explained, “[GM] Sandy [Alderson] has not said let’s be aggressive in that area, and that [injuries] is the biggest reason.”

Fact of the matter is each one of these pitchers have an issue. Harvey, deGrom, Matz, and Wheeler have all had Tommy John surgery. Harvey, deGrom, and Matz all had season ending surgery last year. Even someone healthy like Syndergaard dealt with bone spurs last year. Point is, the Mets pitchers have not been exactly healthy, nor do they inspire confidence they will be healthy going forward. To that end, the Mets relative inactivity has been understandable.

2. Lack of Urgency

As noted in Sherman’s piece, the Mets do not have a pending free agent until the after the 2018 season, and Syndergaard isn’t a free agent until after the 2021 season. Honestly, this reason is a bit disingenuous. With Harvey’s pending free agency many expect this is Harvey’s last season in a Mets uniform as the team does not want to risk him walking in free agency and the team getting nothing in return for him.

3. Pitchers Aren’t Interested In Extensions

According to Ricco, who would know this better than fans, extension discussions are typically begun by the player and his agent. Again, with fans not being in the business, it is hard to challenge him on this. With that said, it is hard to believe the Mets would be willing to let all their pitchers go to free agency without so much as initiating contract disucssions with them. Frankly, it is harder to believe when you consider back in 2012, the Mets pounced on an opportunity to give Jon Niese a five year contract extension.

4. Personalities

As noted in Sherman’s piece, when you give a contract extension to one player, it is going to have ripple effects. As Ricco said, “You would have to manage personalities because if you do [an extension] with one, how does it impact the others?”

Now, this is a bit of an overstatement on Ricco’s part. Entering into contract extensions with the pitchers should be part of an overall plan. For example, when Omar Minaya was the General Manager, he was faced with Jose Reyes pending arbitration in 2006, he agreed with a four year pact with his shortstop. Minaya then quickly moved and locked up David Wright to a six year deal. While Alderson is dealing with more than just two players, Minaya’s actions certainly show if the team has a plan an executes it, there should be no issues.

5. Budget

It is something Mets fans don’t want to hear, but it is a reality. After this season, the Mets will have Reyes, Jay Bruce, Lucas Duda, Curtis Granderson, Neil Walker, Addison Reed, and Fernando Salas as free agents. The team will have to decide on options for Jerry Blevins and Asdrubal Cabrera. In addition, all of the Mets marquee starting pitchers will be in arbitration thereby escalating their salaries. Furthermore, Jeurys Familia will also be owed a lot of money in arbitration if he has another stellar year. Long story short, the Mets will have to spend some money this offseason.

In order to do that, the Mets need to have the money. As Ricco explains, “Once you’ve locked in [on an extension], you do limit flexibility in some ways.”

Now, it is easy to say the Mets can plug in Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith next year, but at this point, it is not known if they will be ready to be 2018 Opening Day starters. Putting forth such a plan would be folly, especially for a team that can still compete for a World Series.

Overall, the Mets concerns over not extending their pitchers have some merit, especially when you consider the injury issues. Still, the longer the Mets wait, the more expensive each of these starting pitchers will become. As they become more expensive, the chances of locking up more than one of them significantly decreases. Sooner or later, the Mets are going to have to take a chance on a couple of these pitchers if they have designs of competing for World Series over the next decade. With Harvey being a free agent after next season, the sooner the Mets begin executing a plan, the better.

Despite Losing Mets Accomplished Primary Objective 

A baseball season is 162 games. While you want to win each and every game, there are games where there may be a goal other than just winning a game. After last night’s 16 inning victory leading to Josh Smoker and Hansel Robles being unavailable tonight was one of those nights.

The pen was limited and exhausted meaning Noah Syndergaard had to go deep in the game. Syndergaard mostly accomplished his job lasting six innings. 

It seemed as if Syndergaard was pitching more to contact than usual. It reflected in the first inning rally that saw a Gordon lead off single, error, and sacrifice fly to put the Marlins up 1-0. 

Despite that rally, Syndergaard was mostly effective with a final line of 6.0 innings, six hits, two runs, one earned, no walks, and four strike outs. He got through six having thrown just 87 pitches. As it turns out, he was lifted with his finger nail tearing off:

The Marlins needed their starter to go as deep just as much as the Mets did. However, with a Mets offense working the count against Edison Volquez, and with him pitching on short rest with today’s scheduled starter Adam Conley, he would only last 4.2 innings. 

Unfortunately, the Mets couldn’t take full advantage of Volquez. In the third, the Mets loaded the bases with one out. Michael Conforto, starting in place of Yoenis Cespedes because Cespedes has the flu, hit a deep sacrifice fly scoring Curtis Granderson.

It was the only run they’d score in the inning, but at least it tied the score up at one. 

The Mets took the lead in the fifth with Lucas Duda absolutely crushing a home run to deep center:

Unfortunately, Syndergaard couldn’t hold onto the lead. In the bottom of the inning, he allowed three straight one out singles to Miguel RojasTyler Moore, and Dee Gordon to tie the game. 

The runners would advance on a J.T. Realmuto groundout putting runners on second and third with two out. That’s when Thor reached back and struck out Christian Yelich with a 100 MPH fastball. 

The Mets had a chance to get Syndergaard the lead back , and they squandered it. Jose Reyes earned a lead-off walk, and he a advanced to third on Syndergaard’s sacrifice bunt. The Mets couldn’t push Reyes, and the team wouldn’t get another real chance. 

For the first time all season, Reyes had a good game going 1-2 with two walks. With the game, Reyes’ batting average is now at .100. 

For the second straight game, it was a battle of the bullpens. The difference was the Mets did not definitively have the upper hand with the tired and unavailable arms. 

In the seventh, Rafael Montero hit into trouble loading the bases with one out. At that point, Terry Collins brought in Jerry Blevins to get both Yelich out and get out of the jam. Blevins would with a little help from Conforto:

Now, despite T.J. Rivera being sent down to make room for Sean Gilmartin, Collins decided to go with Josh Edgin to pitch the final two innings. Collins did this despite Edgin’s early season struggles and the fact that it was Gilmartin’s turn in the Las Vegas rotation. 

It was a messy eighth that saw Edgin allow a lead-off single to Marcell Ozuna. Ozuna was then erased when Justin Bour grounded into the 6-6-3 double play. Right after that, Edgin hit Derek Dietrich with a pitch. Forunately, Edgin was able to escape the inning by striking out Ichiro Suzuki

In the ninth, Edgin wasn’t so lucky. He gave up a lead-off walk to Rojas, who would score from first on a walk-off two out double by Realmuto. 

While Bruce was hustling, his lack of range showed on the play.  It also didn’t help the ball took a huge hop off the wall. Bruce had zero chance to throw out Rojas. It’s possible if that was someone else out there, they get to the ball quicker. However, it’s likely Rojas scores there no matter who was in right. 

While you wanted the win, the Mets came out of that game only needing to use Blevins. To that end, the game was a successful one for the Mets even if it wasn’t a victorious one. 

Game Notes: It appears Granderson is the new lead-off hitter with his leading off the fourth time this year. Reyes returned to the line-up after a mental health day. Neil Walker got the day off, and Wilmer Flores got his first start of the year against a right-handed pitcher. Flores was 0-4. 

D’Arnaud’s Sweet 16

When you play 16 innings, the game takes many twists and turns. Tonight’s game was that and then some. It was full of clutch hits, clutch fielding, gutsy pitching, and bizarre managerial moves. 

This was just a classic Terry Collins game. He made a series of bizarre moves. As usual, they surrounded use of his pitching staff, but today was an extra treat because it wasn’t just limited to the pitching staff. 

From the beginning, it was apparent Robert Gsellman didn’t really have it. In the first, he walked two and eventually allowed a grand slam to Marcell Ozuna putting the Mets down 4-0 before anyone could blink. 

With the Mets offense humming with the series in Philadelphia, the Mets immediately tied the game in the top of the second. 

Travis d’Arnaud hit a bases clearing three RBI triple, and he’d come around to score on a Curtis Granderson two out RBI single. 

The Mets got the lead when Yoenis Cespedes and Wilmer Flores, batting clean-up and playing first with the Marlins starting the lefty Wei-Yin Chen hit back-to-back homers.

 Cespedes’ homer was absolutely annihilated:

With the two run lead, Collins made his first strange move of the game. While Flores started due to the lefty, T.J. Rivera started at third to give Jose Reyes a mental health day. Heading into the bottom of the fourth, with Chen only going three innings, Collins lifted Rivera for Lucas Duda

Obviously, Collins was just itching to shorten his bench with the activation of Juan Lagares from the DL giving him a full bench. Why Lagares didn’t start with this deep outfield and with a lefty on the mound is also bizarre in and of itself. Despite that, the Mets carried a 6-4 lead into the fourth. 

Cespedes added another homer in the fifth for good measure giving the Mets a 7-4 lead heading into the bottom of the fifth. 

Gsellman struggled just like the first. The Marlins quickly loaded the bases, and he walked Christian Yelich pulling the Marlins within two. Giancarlo Stanton hit a sacrifice fly pulling the Marlins within one. 

It was only at this point that Collins went to the pen. With the left-handed hitting Justin Bour coming to the plate in an absolutely pivotal moment, Collins went to Josh Edgin instead of Jerry Blevins

Bour doubled to tie the game. Ozuna was intentionally walked. Derek Dietrich then singled to give the Marlins an 8-7 lead. The Marlins probably would’ve done more damage, but on the Dietrich single, Jay Bruce nailed Bour trying to score from second. 

The Marlins got their revenge in the seventh.  Cespedes took first after he struck out on a wild pitch. He then appeared to score from first to tie the game on a Bruce double:

Naturally, Angel Hernandez got the call wrong necessitating the replay showing Ozuna nailed Cespedes at the plate. Between this play, the grand slam, and all the other plays we’ve seen from Ozuna, he’s become an extremely annoying player along the lines of Willie Harris, except Ozuna is a much better player. 

The Mets were still undeterred. In the top of the eighth, d’Arnaud got on with a two out single. Michael Conforto who has hit every chance he’s been given this year got his latest chance pinch hitting for Blevins. Conforto would double in d’Arnaud to tie the game at eight. 

The battle of the bullpens continued, and it became a war of attrition. 

With the exception of the two lefties, Edgin and Blevins, each reliever pitched over one inning. This includes Josh Smoker who really stepped up for the Mets. Smoker would throw 38 pitches over three scoreless innings. It was an outstanding appearance. Considering his struggles going over an inning last year and his struggles this year, it was simply incredible. 

In the top of the 15th, with the bench already empty to the point that Rene Rivera was playing first base, Jacob deGrom pinch hit for Smoker and struck out.

This left the Mets with no other choice but to put Hansel Robles in the game. Understandably, Collins was hesitant to use Robles with him pitching three straight days and four out of the last five. 

While the Mets plated eight runs, it was not as if everyone was hitting. Asdrubal Cabrera took an ugly 0-7. His double play partner Neil Walker was 1-7. 

Conversely, Cespedes, Flores, Bruce, and d’Arnaud was great. While Cespedes had the two home runs, d’Arnaud was the best of them all. 

In the 16th, having run out of pitchers Don Mattingly turned to tomorrow’s scheduled starter Adam Conley to pitch the 16th Despite, Conley being fresh and having dominated the Mets, and despite d’Arnaud having caught 15 innings, d’Arnaud hit the game winning homer. It was the Mets first hit since the 10th inning. 

By far, this was d’Arnaud’s most memorable game as a Met. He was 4-6 with three runs, a triple, a homer, and four RBI. This was the second game this week he came one hit short of the cycle.

Other Mets with great games were Cespedes with the two homers, Bruce going 3-7 and nailing a runner at the plate, and the entire bullpen not named Josh Edgin. 

After Edgin, everyone stepped up and pitched scoreless inning after scoreless inning. Given their respective usages this year, asking most of them to pitch over an inning, and some of their early season struggles, this was an absolutely amazing group performance from that pen. 

It wasn’t easy in a game where nothing was easy. Ozuna, an absolute pest, made a very loud final out with Lagare catching it right in front of the center field wall. 

It should be noted Collins elected to have Robles pitch to Ozuna with two outs and Conley on deck. Sure, you’re loathe to put the tying run in scoring position and the winning run on base, but the pitcher was on deck!  This game was a classic example of winning despite your manager. 

Robles despite having nothing pitched two innings and got the win in the 9-8 win. This is a special win that signifies just how special this team could be. 

Game Notes: The game lasted 5:38. Even with d’Arnaud behind the plate, the Marlins did not attempt a stolen base. Reyes pinch hit for Edgin in the sixth and singled. Despite starting the game 0-7, Asdrubal Cabrera extended his hitting streak to eight games with a 16th inning single. His double play partner Neil Walker similarly struggled going 1-7. Mets have won consecutive games despite giving up a grand slam in both games.