It is a slow going offseason, but it seems even slower for the Mets. With so many teams with more money than the Mets still interested in many of the same free agents, it is hard to believe the Mets will make significant additions before the end of the offseason. If they don’t, here is what the 2018 Mets Opening Day roster will look like:
C – Travis d’Arnaud
1B – Dominic Smith
2B – Wilmer Flores
3B – Asdrubal Cabrera
SS – Amed Rosario
LF – Yoenis Cespedes
CF – Juan Lagares
RF – Michael Conforto
Bench – Kevin Plawecki, Brandon Nimmo, T.J. Rivera, Matt Reynolds, Phillip Evans
This should only highlight about how much work the Mets actually have to do this offseason.
Sure, we can buy the pitching staff as a whole as is because they have viable depth. In the rotation, Lugo could get transition back much like how he did in 2016. After that, they have Robert Gsellman, Chris Flexen, Corey Oswalt, and Mickey Jannis. And that is before the Mets go deeper with pitchers like P.J. Conlon. Suffice it to say, the Mets do have sufficient rotation depth.
However, that offense. You can’t sell anyone that is going to be alright. Mostly, that is because the Mets don’t believe themselves that it will be. And that is before you take into account the injury issues Conforto and Rivera are currently rehabbing from this offseason.
For example, the team has all but given up on Gavin Cecchini, who should be in a position to at least compete for a spot on the 25 man roster. He won’t. What’s scary is there is no real Major League ready talent behind him . . . at least no immediately as players like Luis Guillorme and David Thompson need at least some time in Triple-A. By the way, there’s no real outfield depth in this system.
Looking over this roster, you’d be hard pressed to believe the Mets will be better than the 70-92 team they were last season no matter how much they sell us Mickey Callaway as the solution to all that ails the Mets.
So, it really should not come as a surprise to no one the Mets have a lot of work to do, and it goes well beyond just adding one or two players. That applies just to the starting lineup. After that, they really need to build a Major League caliber bench.
Again, the good news is there are still many free agents available. However, it’s still hard to believe the Mets will be able to add the players they need to become a postseason contender.
On MMO some of the writers did their own postseason plans. The guidelines are that we must stick to a budget in the $30-35 million range given what we’ve heard the Mets could spend.
For signings, MLB Trade Rumors and Jon Heyman’s free agent predictions to come up the contracts for each player.
The Mets have several holes to fill and not a ton of money to work with which had me searching for deals on the free agent market and here is what I think should be done with the limited resources.
Fixing the Bullpen
As the Mets head into the 2018 season, their main goal for the team will be to rebuild a bullpen. Despite handwrining among fans, there is some talent present. Jeurys Familia, AJ Ramos, and Jerry Blevins address three key roles. Around them, the Mets need to find four cost effective options.
The first two parts of this bullpen need to be internal. In lieu of looking for a second left-handed reliever in free agency, the Mets need to utilize Hansel Robles in that role. For his career he has reverse splits, and he needs to be used accordingly. He also provides the benefit of giving the team multiple innings when needed.
Additionally, the Mets need to move Seth Lugo to the bullpen. In short bursts, Lugo is able to ramp up his fastball and use his curveball with more frequency. With that combination, Lugo can be a true late inning option and/or a long man. For those concerned about the loss of him as rotation depth, consider his struggles a third time through the order.
For the final two spots, the Mets should attack free agency. The first option the Mets should pursue is Seung-hwan Oh. Oh has been a dominant closer in the Korean Leagues, and he was dominant in his rookie season with the Cardinals. He had an off-year last year partially driven by an increased BABIP and HR rate as well as a drop in his strikeout rate. With a new pitching coach and a new situation, he could very well recover with the Mets giving the team an additional option at the closer spot.
When it comes to the final spot, the Mets should look to add a power arm like Juan Nicasio. After struggling in the rotation, Nicasio was transitioned to a full time reliever, and he grew into a dominant arm. With his being armed with an upper 90s fastball and good control, he’s probably just tapping the surface, and the Mets would be wise with their new pitching guru contingent to see the next wave.
Veteran Depth & Insurance Policies
Heading into the 2018 season, the Mets aren’t sure Dominic Smith is ready to be the Opening Day first baseman. Even with the best projections, they do not believe Michael Conforto will be ready by Opening Day, and after that, they don’t know what he can contribute. In addition to that, the Mets don’t have a second baseman.
The first part of that solution should be adding Howie Kendrick. The 33 year old had a bounce-back, albeit injury prone, season. Over the past season, Kendrick had a 121 wRC+, which ranks second best in his career. He also played first, second, and the corner outfield positions last year. While he was not outstanding at any of those positions, he was clearly capable of handling those positions. He’s your best bet to have a Jose Valentin type season for the team.
Another player worth taking a flyer on is Jose Bautista. In 2017, he fell apart offensively going from a .234/.366/.452 slash line to .203/.308/.366 leading the Blue Jays to utilize the buy out provision on his contract. At 37 years old, he’s not far removed from a productive season. He’s also just looking for an opportunity.
Fortunately, the Blue Jays helped him in that respect by moving him around the field last year. He played on game at first, eight at third, and 143 in RF. Based on the numbers, he’s no longer an everyday right fielder, but he is still talented enough to be a stopgap for Conforto. If he dedicated himself to getting better at first, he could serve as both competition and a platoon option for Smith.
There is no secret some of the Mets biggest issues have been depth, versatility, and second base. While Ian Kinsler would address second base, and he is arguably the best defensive second baseman available, the Mets trade target for the position should be Jason Kipnis.
The Indians second baseman has been pushed out of a job due to injury and the emergence of younger players in his stead. Despite that, he is still a good hitter who hit .276/.349/.429 from 2013 – 2016 while averaging 36 doubles and 14 homers a season. He’s also a gamer willing to do anything to help his team win as evidenced by his playing center field at the end of the season and the postseason because that was what was best for the team. This is the type of attitude the Mets should be looking to instill in their current roster.
The center and outfield possibilities should also be intriguing to the Mets in the event of another Juan Lagares injury or the questions surrounding Conforto.
Kipnis is not going to come cheap, nor should he considering he’s an All Star player with a good contract. Earlier this offseason, Joel Sherman of the New York Post suggested Robert Gsellman and Luis Guillorme as the package to get Kipnis. That may be a little light, and perhaps the inclusion of Wilmer Flores would be enticing to an Indians team heavy with left-handed hitters and could use a corner infield option, could potentially allow the Mets to complete this deal.
Filling In The Rest
In addition to the aforementioned players, the Mets would be well advised to bring in some veteran depth this Spring Training. On the starting pitching front Ubaldo Jimenez previously worked exceptionally well with current Mets manager Mickey Callaway, and Bartolo Colon left an impression with this current Mets staff. Both would make sense on a minor league deal with an invitation to
From reports, Manny Machado could well be available. However, with the state of the Mets farm system, the Mets are going to have to trade Major League players like Jacob deGrom and Amed Rosario to get him.
Machado is well worth that return, and knowing the Orioles, they’ll want more – much more. Again, Machado is worth it, but he’s also an impending free agent. Furthermore, the Mets don’t have the means to replace deGrom with a Yu Darvish or sign Machado to a contract extension.
The other long shot is Marcell Ozuna. The Marlins are dangling him, and he’s exactly the type of player that fits the Mets mold – underpaid and under team control for two years. Presuming you take back Starlin Castro and his contract in a deal, you’d probably be able to swing a more palatable deal.
However, there does not seem to be any traction between the Mets and the Marlins on anything. Even if they were, teams like the Cardinals, Cubs, and Giants are interested. They seem more willing to go that extra mile than the Mets. Considering the Stanton deals that fell apart, there is less leg work for the Cardinals and Giants to do.
Key Acquisitions: Seung-hwan Oh (1 year, $4 million), Howie Kendrick (2 years, $16 million), Jose Bautista (1 year $5 million), Jason Kipnis (2 years, $28.3 million), Juan Nicasio (2 years, $14M), Ubaldo Jimenez (minor league deal), Bartolo Colon (minor league deal)
Key Departures: Robert Gsellman, Luis Guillorme, Wilmer Flores
Total Cost: $33.9 million
Tonight at 8:00 P.M. is the deadline for the Mets to add players to the 40 man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft. At the moment, the Mets 40 man roster stands at 35, which means the team could add as many as five eligible players to the roster.
Typically speaking, the Mets won’t go that far for a few reasons. First, the team will need to add players this offseason to help bolster a team desperately in need at some key positions. Second, the team may want to keep some spots open so they could add a player or two during this year’s Rule 5 draft. Considering there are some teams facing a roster crunch, there may very well be some intriguing names that become available.
For the moment, let’s assume the Mets will add five players with the team likely considering DFAing a couple of names already on the 40 man roster. If the Mets have that ability, here are the players I believe the Mets should add to the roster.
RHP Tyler Bashlor
Level: St. Lucie & Binghamton
Stats: 3-2, 3.44 ERA, 46 G, 13 SV, 49.2 IP, 84 K, 1.309 WHIP, 4.5 BB/9, 15.2 K/9
Bashlor is a power arm who can routinely get it into the high 90s. This along with his curveball is a reason why he gets huge strikeout numbers. The problem with him is he walks too many batters. It’s been a problem his entire minor league career. To that point, there is one caveat. In the small sample size he worked with Glenn Abbott in Binghamton, he only walked 2.5 batters per nine, which is a much more manageable number. If he can keep that up, he’s a shut down reliever who could very well be a future closer for the Mets.
RHP Gerson Bautista
Level: Carolina League & St. Lucie
Stats: 3-3, 4.22 ERA, 37 G, 9 SV, 59.2 IP, 73 K, 1.592 WHIP, 4.7 BB/9, 11.0 K/9
Bautista was the crown jewel of the Addison Reed trade. The reliever has immense talent with the ability to get up to triple digits on the radar gun. What is really interesting with him is that once he became a Met, he was finally able to harness his abilities. In 10 appearances with St. Lucie, he had a 1.88 ERA, 0.907 WHIP, 1.9 BB/9, and a 12.6 K/9. If he is truly that pitcher, he has an outside chance to pitch in Queens in 2018.
MI Luis Guillorme
Stats: .283/.376/.331, 20 2B, HR, 43 RBI, 4 SB, 3 CS
Guillorme is a throwback player who is a highlight reel at second or short. At the moment, he’s more than ready to contribute defensively at the Major League level. Offensively, Guillorme finds his way on base, and he’s a smart baserunner. He’s also aware that he needs to begin hitting for more power, and he has set out to do that. Given his work ethic, it shouldn’t be ruled out he will hit for enough power where he may one day be a top of the lineup hitter.
RHP Corey Oswalt
Stats: 12-5, 2.28 ERA, 24 G, 24 GS, 2 CG, SHO, 134.1 IP, 119 K, 1.176 WHIP, 2.7 BB/9, 8.0 K/9
Oswalt was not only the best pitcher in the Mets organization this past season winning a Sterling Award, he was also the best pitcher in the Eastern League as evidenced by his being named the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year. He’s a four pitch starter who may not dominate opposing batters, but he knows how to get people out. Given the rash of injuries the Mets have faced in their starting rotation in successive seasons, this is something that should not be overlooked, and the Mets certainly should not risk a chance of losing him.
RHP Adonis Uceta
Level: Columbia, St. Lucie, Binghamton
Stats: 6-0, 1.51 ERA, 41 G, 14 SV, 59.2 IP, 67 K, 0.905 WHIP, 3.0 BB/9, 10.1 K/9
The Mets converted this former starter to a reliever, and he took off this season. With him mainly focusing on his two best pitches, a mid to high 90s fastball and an outstanding changeup, Uceta dominated opposing batters. For a three month stretch, he did not allow one earned run while oppositing batters hit .133/.198/.158 off of him. It’s a big reason why he quickly rose through the farm system last year, and it’s a big reason why he could contribute in the Mets bullpen next season.
Overall, it’s unlikely the Mets protect as many as five players, and it’s equally unlikely the team protects three relief pitchers. To that end, it’s really a debate over who to protect. Do you protect Bashlor and Uceta, who could reasonably contribute in the bullpen next year? Or maybe, you protect just one of them to make sure you keep Bautista who is likely the best arm of the three. It’s not the easiest decision in the world, but it is one that Alderson now faces.
There are moments when a player introduces himself to the world. For Luis Guillorme, it happened this Spring Training when he did something most people have never seen before at a baseball game:
This play right here showed everyone why Guillorme is THE BEST defensive player in the Mets organization. Yes, better than famed Mets prospect Amed Rosario, who is a future Gold Glover at the position. Guillorme is calm, cool, and collected. He has great hands, reflexes, and an awareness of what is going on around him. He has been working on these traits his entire life.
According to Guillorme’s father, Luis, Sr., his son’s favorite player growing up was fellow Venezuelan Omar Vizquel. For those that don’t remember, Vizquel was widely considered the best shortstop of his generation. His 11 Gold Gloves are the second most all-time at the shortstop position. If you wanted to be a good defensive shortstop, this was the guy you wanted to watch play. Guillorme did more than that.
According to Guillorme’s father, Luis, “repeated the motions (Vizquel’s) time and time again until he was able to do it perfectly. That was the easy to manage, the most difficult part was tolerating the sound of the baseball hitting the walls, inside our house hundreds of times on a daily basis, because in our neighborhood it wasn’t safe for him to play out on the street. He was always practicing and playing inside the house.
Every single day he spent hours throwing baseballs, tennis balls or rubber balls against the wall and then trying to catch them before they touched the floor or before they passed him. He has always been full of energy, sending him to bed was a titanic duty, and sometimes it still is [laughs]. I think his reflexes and quickness escalated to a higher level by doing that. It is funny now, but sometimes it was exhausting.”
Now, the Guillormes moved from Venezuela to Florida, and he attended Coral Springs Charter High School. It was there that the Mets saw how his incredible work ethic and passion for the game of baseball translated on the baseball field. He was widely believed to be the best defensive shortstop in the 2013 draft, and the Mets grabbed him with their 10th round selection.
During Guillorme’s four year, minor league career, he has only gotten better, if that’s possible, as a defender. His high baseball IQ and strong work ethic really show when Guillorme takes the field. He makes all the routine plays, and he gets to some balls even good shortstops can’t. He makes the difficult plays look routine, and he makes the impossible look plausible. While he may not have a great arm, he has a quick release.
As a defender, Guillorme is major league ready. At the plate, he needs some time.
Guillorme does have a good eye and is disciplined at the plate. In his minor league career, Guillorme has a .355 OBP, and he drew a walk in 8.5% of his plate appearances last year. When he swings, he usually makes contact, as evidenced by his low 12.5% strike out rate last year. At this point in his career, Guillorme knows who he is as a hitter. He focuses on getting on base the best ways he knows how which is usually drawing walks, looking for open holes in the infield, or dragging a bunt. It should be noted, Guillorme is a good bunter in a day and age where that is becoming a lost skill.
The hope with Guillorme is that he will continue to mature physically allowing him to mature as a hitter and possibly hit for more power. There is some hope to that end with him hitting a career high in doubles, triples, and homers for St. Lucie last year. In 12 at-bats this Spring, he’s already hit a triple and a home run.
If Guillorme’s bat does start catching up to his glove, the sky is the limit for him. He may go from being the player who was moved to second base to make room for Rosario at shortstop in St. Lucie to a player forcing Rosario to another position so the Mets can put their best defensive infield on the field. With the work ethic we have seen with Guillorme, anything is possible.
Whether Guillorme makes it to the majors as a shorstop or a utility player, he will have completed a long journey that began in his parent’s living room in Venezuela. Just a kid throwing the ball off the walls and trying to catch it. He certainly drove his family crazy at times, and probably some of the neighbors crazy as well. Now? Well as Luis, Sr. says, “Many friends and family use to call us crazy because we allowed him to do that, and now all of them say it was well worth it.”
When Tim Tebow took the batter’s box against reigning American League Cy Young Award Winner Rick Porcello, we could all guess what was going to happen. Tebow struck out, and he didn’t look particularly good doing it. In fact, Tebow didn’t look particularly good in any aspect of the game on Wednesday. Overall, Tebow was 0-3 with a hit by pitch, two strikeouts, and a GIDP. The only time he got on base via the hit by pitch, he was doubled off of first.
Simply put, Tebow did not look like he belonged out there.
Most Single A players don’t look like they belong out there either. That is traditionally why most players in the lower levels of the minor leagues do not play until towards the end of the Spring Training games. If you put a lower level minors player out there against the Porcellos of the world, they are most likely going to look bad up there. Heck, major leaguers look bad at the plate against Porcello. That’s partially why Porcello won the Cy Young Award.
However, with Tebow it’s different. It’s different because of the attention. Seriously, who gets a round of applause after they hit into a double play? It’s different because Tebow has always been a lightning rod. It’s different because Tebow decided to play baseball after not having played the sport in over a decade and after it was made clear his football career was over. As Terry Collins said, “What he’s attempting to do, not a lot of guys would even try.” (Anthony DiComo, mlb.com).
It’s different because some people believe Tebow is taking someone else’s spot.
That last one simply isn’t true. Minor league systems are full of “organizational guys” who are signed so each team can have enough guys to fill out a roster. In terms of this Spring, Tebow wasn’t even the first prospect to get into a game. David Thompson, Blake Tiberi, Luis Carpio, Kevin Kaczmarski, Luis Guillorme, Patrick Biondi, Wuilmer Becerra, Peter Alonso, Arnaldo Berrios, Gene Cone, John Mora, Colby Woodmansee, and Ricardo Cespedes are all Single A players who got into Spring Training games this year before Tebow. Overall, Tebow’s presence has not prevented anyone from getting into a game that the Mets deem worthy of getting into a game. Guess what? There is no way the Mets are going to let Tebow get in the way of another more deserving prospect. The Mets aren’t dumb.
For one day, Tebow went out there, and he didn’t look good. He looked all the bit of the 29 year old player who hasn’t played a full season of baseball in over 10 years. He looked outmatched, and he looked like he lacked the requisite instincts to play the game. That’s a good thing. Baseball is hard. As the late great Jimmy Dugan once said, “The hard… is what makes it great.”
In reality, the only way Tebow could have made a mockery of baseball was if he went out there and went 3-3 with a couple of extra base hits. Instead, the man struggled like he was supposed to struggle. Now, like many who have struggled, it is incumbent upon him to dust him off and get better. Tebow knows this better than anyone saying, “”There are a lot of things I have to play catch-up on. It’s just, how fast can I catch up?”
If Tebow is willing to put in the work, he just might be able to catch up. If he does catch up, he moves away from being a sideshow the Mets are profiting from to being a minor leaguer who is looking for his next call-up.
So, in case you missed it yesterday, and I am not sure how you did, Mets shorstop prospect Luis Guillorme did this:
The man didn’t even flinch. Everyone is scurrying for shelter, and he just calmly and coolly grabs Adeiny Hechavarria‘s bat . . . MIDFLIGHT . . . and just tosses it back to him. This certainly is going to be replayed over and over again. It is almost definitely going to be the defensive play of the year. It could also be the beginning of his own legend.
For those that follow the Mets minor leagues, Guillorme is considered to be a better defensive prospect than Amed Rosario, which is saying something as Rosario is seen as a potential Gold Glover at short. If Guillorme ever develops as a hitter the way Rosario did over the past season, the Mets could have just an insanely good defensive infield in a few years. Where Guillorme and Rosario would play if that ever occurred is an interesting question.
However, for right now, the question is whether this was a Gold Glove or a Silver Slugger caliber play.
Speaking of Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers, Yoenis Cespedes did this after Guillorme making everyone forget about the Guillorme play:
Check back in a few hours when this ball actually lands pic.twitter.com/tMDtAc6ceV
— SportsNet New York (@SNYtv) March 2, 2017