The biggest fear you could possibly have with the World Baseball Classic happened when Edwin Díaz suffered a potentially season ending injury celebrating Puerto Rico defeating the Dominican Republic to advance to the quarterfinals. No one, but no one wanted to see that happen.
Yes, you would like to think the injury was avoidable. Then again, spring injuries aren’t avoidable at all. Just go ask Brandon Nimmo and Bryce Montes de Oca, each of whom have suffered injuries this spring. We may see Nimmo on Opening Day, but Montes de Oca may take longer.
With Díaz, the question is how do you replace the irreplaceable. Last season, Díaz was finally the pitcher the Mets thought they were getting, and the Mets rewarded him for it by making him the highest paid reliever in the game. That’s what you do for the best closer in the game. You pay him and keep him.
Of course, this was a question the New York Yankees had back in 2012 when Mariano Rivera went down with an injury flagging down fly balls in Kansas City during batting practice. How were the Yankees going to possible replace Rivera.
The answer is you don’t. In reality, it is just the next man up. That man was Rafael Soriano. He was nowhere near as good as Rivera, and yet, he was still good enough to get the job done. In fact, he would finish in the top 20 in MVP voting.
That season, the Yankees won 95 games. That was not only enough to win the AL East, but it was also the best record in all of the American League. The Yankees would go to the ALCS before getting swept by a Detroit Tigers team with a dominant starting pitching staff led by Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer.
That’s just it. The dominant starting pitching is always more important than the closer. Also, it helps having another reliever with closing experience who can step in and do the job. Fortunately, the Mets have that with David Robertson. The Mets also have other talented relievers like Drew Smith who could potentially step in to do the job.
Overall, closing Díaz is horrible. The Mets can’t replace him much like the Yankees couldn’t replace Rivera, the best to ever do it. That said, as we saw with the Yankees, you can lose your great closer and still be great. You just need the rest of the roster to do the things you expected them to do to get leads to the closer. From there, the Mets need 1-2 more players to step up.
In the end, the Mets were dealt a significant blow, but in the end, they should be fine. And if they aren’t, they have the assets to go get someone at the trade deadline or sooner.
Steve Cohen has set out to stretch the financial boundaries of Major League by doing all he can do to help the New York Mets win. In successive offseasons, he has signed a future Hall of Fame pitcher still near the top of his game.
The Mets are a far cry from the Wilpon era. Instead of trying to sell replacing Zack Wheeler with Marcus Stroman (despite both pitchers being in the same rotation), there is a healthy and fun debate whether Max Scherzer or Justin Verlander should be the Mets Opening Day starter.
This win-now attitude has infected the Mets and their fanbase. It is also something we are seeing with the New York Rangers.
Last year at the trading deadline, Chris Drury made a series of inspired moves. They were able to add Justin Braun, Andrew Copp, Tyler Motte, and Frank Vatrano. The end result was a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. After going up 2-0 in the series, they were within a blown lead of going to the Finals.
Drury would again not be deterred. He went out and got Motte back, who was a popular addition last season most Rangers fans were hoping would return. Then, he made a master stroke to surprisingly add Vladimir Tarasenko. While exciting, there was some mild disappointment because it meant the Rangers were out on Patrick Kane.
We were wrong, and for the most part, we have Drury and Kane to thank.
Kane had a no-trade clause with the Chicago Blackhawks. That meant Kane could go anywhere he wanted, and that anywhere was Madison Square Garden. The trick was finding a way to make it work under the salary cap.
Whereas Cohen has the option to absorb every nonsense financial penalty derived to punish trying to win, the Rangers needed to navigate through a hard cap. That involved some real creativity.
Picks had to be moved to the Phoenix Coyotes for them to absorb salary. Vitaly Kratsov was essentially given away to clear cap room. Jake Leschyshyn was waived. This was all done in the name of getting Kane and making the Rangers legitimate Stanley Cup contenders.
Like the Mets with Scherzer and Verlander, the Rangers have Kane and Tarasenko. They pushed the limits of spending in their sport, and they put themselves in a position to win the Stanley Cup. With any luck, there will be two parades down the Canyon of Heroes this year.
New York Mets manager Buck Showalter sounded non-committal over who his 2023 Opening Day starter would be. You can certainly understand why Showalter was not ready to make a decision just yet.
First and foremost, last season, it seemed obvious Jacob deGrom was going to be the Opening Day starter. That was until he was injured. Then, it was going to be Max Scherzer.
Well, Scherzer got hurt too. This all led to the very improbable choice of Tylor Megill. Fortunately for the Mets, Megill was up for the task, and we saw he was really up for the task to be a top of the rotation starter as he was the first pitcher in the Mets co-no.
Things are different in 2023. deGrom signed with the Texas Rangers, and he was replaced in the rotation by Justin Verlander. Suddenly, Scherzer and Verlander were again atop the rotation like they were with the Detroit Tigers, a team who won an American League pennant.
Both Scherzer and Verlander would lay claim to the Opening Day starter with just about any team. However, with the Mets, it is only going to be one of them who gets the nod. While Showalter may not want to commit, his choice should be Scherzer.
Scherzer came to the Mets last season making him the first real big free agent signed by the team. While you could argue it was the Francisco Lindor trade and extension, it was Scherzer who really the biggest sign things have changed.
This was when Steve Cohen first got to show the baseball world just how much more money he has to spend, and in many ways, the lengths he would go to sign players to take this Mets team to a new level. Interestingly enough, Scherzer’s contract served as a model for Verlander’s, and as it turns out, it was one of the reasons Verlander wanted to come to the Mets after the Houston Astros were alright with him departing in free agency.
Scherzer changed what the Mets were and could be. Cohen needed that first marquee free agent, and Scherzer was it. For that alone, he deserves the Opening Day nod.
In typical fashion, the Atlanta Braves traded for a player and signed him to an extension. Last year, it was Matt Olson. This time, it’s Sean Murphy.
Their homegrown players do it all the time too. As we saw with the Freddie Freeman saga last offseason, Larry Jones’ remarks indicated their players appear brainwashed.
Remember, Larry chastised Freeman for not taking the Braves lowball offer. He acted like it was Freeman’s duty. Of course, such a sentiment is absurd, especially with how profitable the Braves are.
Regardless of the revenues, players should be cautious signing extensions. Typically speaking, it’s to save teams money and gain control in at least one free agent year.
That’s not always the case. Putting aside the entirety of the Braves roster, there’s Fernando Tatis Jr. It’s a judgment call, but it just seems Braves players time and again show poor (financial) judgment.
They also show they’re completely unaware of who Steve Cohen is.
After purchasing the Mets, Cohen’s first splash was Francisco Lindor. The Mets traded for him, and then, he was given the largest ever contract to a shortstop.
He followed that up by giving Max Scherzer the largest ever AAV to a player in the following offseason. Cohen has shown he is willing to spend to get great players and build great teams.
All of Major League Baseball is on notice. The other owners are angry while the players are thrilled. For example, when the deal fell apart with the San Francisco Giants, Carlos Correa jumped at the chance to sign with the Mets.
Apparently, the Braves players don’t seem to know or care that’s happening. Every agent, player, GM, and owner is watching Cohen’s every move. Meanwhile, the Braves players happily take less.
In all seriousness, they have to be brainwashed somehow. They even have former Braves spreading pro-team, anti-union rhetoric. After all, who wants to make far, far less than worse players while an intra-division rival continues to assemble a juggernaut?
Truth be told, Steve Cohen has been spending at a level no one anticipated. We should have anticipated there would be backlash to that with Major League Baseball trying to establish a system to discourage spending to build a team.
To some degree, you have to give the other owners credit. They were tight-lipped last offseason when the New York Mets free agent spree was highlighted by Max Scherzer and Starling Marte in addition to the Mets trading for Chris Bassitt.
They bit their tongues as the Mets signed Justin Verlander, José Quintana, David Robertson, and Koudai Senga in addition to re-signing Edwin Díaz and Brandon Nimmo. It’s fair to assume they weren’t happy, but they didn’t react publicly. Then, Carlos Correa happened.
Cohen and the Mets initially made a too late push for Correa, and Correa signed with the San Francisco Giants. To be fair, the Giants offered more than the Mets were willing to offer. If you were a skeptic, you were left believing Scott Boras was using Cohen and the Mets to extract every last dollar from the Giants.
After that, Correa “failed” his physical leading the Giants to try to renegotiate the deal. Boras being Boras treated this as an opportunity to re-open the bidding for Correa with the Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers re-entering the picture. In the end, it would be the Mets who signed Correa to a 12 year $315 million deal.
This is what caused the rest of baseball to snap. In an article from The Athletic by Evan Drellich, the other owners, who did not go on record, spoke about this disdain about how Cohen has conducted his business this offseason. There were a few choice quotes speaking about how Cohen was not stopped by control measures put in place for him to not outspend what other owners and markets were willing to do.
Note, the choice of the word willing isn’t of able. That choice was highlighted by an unnamed source who said, “There’s no collusion. But . . . there was a reason nobody for years ever went past $300 million. You still have partners, and there’s a system.” Another choice quote was, “We’ve got somebody with three times the median payroll and has no care whatsoever for the long-term of these contracts, in terms of the risk associated with any of them.”
Essentially, owners don’t like or feeling comfortable going to the lengths Cohen has been willing to go. That’s not the same as can’t go. They don’t want to go there, and as Drellich astutely points out, owners are not happy Cohen is raising the price of player contracts.
This is much in the same way the Wilpons restricted player salaries. They had a team in the largest market in the world, and they couldn’t spend on players. Having a very large market out on a player suppressed player salaries, which is why other owners had zero issues with the Wilpons.
They didn’t care about the psyche of Mets fans or what not having a large market non-competitive for all but two years in a decade was doing to the growth of the sport. All they cared about is players were cheaper. They left money and growth at the table to make their bottom line better. Now, they’re faced with the choice of spending a little more to be competitive, or as we see with the Tampa Bay Rays, find real ways to be competitive other than artificially suppressing player salaries.
Make no mistake here, the other 29 owners didn’t give a damn about their fans, especially Mets fans. It was all about their profit margin, which is what Cohen is directly impacting despite their efforts to stand in the way. In the end, not one fan should care what they think because they certainly didn’t care about Mets fans when the Wilpons were actively destroying baseball.
Right now, the New York Mets are rumored to be listening to offers for Carlos Carrasco. This makes sense because the Mets should listen to offers on all of their players and make deals if it improves the team. That should go without saying.
There is also the matter of clearing up payroll to permit the Mets to address their bullpen, outfield depth, and find a better solution than Daniel Vogelbach and Darin Ruf at DH. Mostly, the Mets would be better served by having David Peterson in the rotation.
Peterson, 27, was the Mets 2017 first round pick (20th overall) out of the University of Oregon. At his age, this is exactly the time you would be expecting his career to take off, but frankly, to date, it has not gotten started. There are several reasons why that has happened.
After a promising 2020 rookie year in the pandemic shortened season, he predictably struggled in 2021 before succumbing to a shoulder injury. This would have the Mets under Steve Cohen bypass him as they looked to build an elite rotation designed to win the World Series. Despite that, Peterson would be needed, and he would have his moments.
Overall, as a starter, Peterson was 6-5 with a 3.86 ERA, 1.341 WHIP, 4.1 BB/9, and a 10.9 K/9. He would also average 4.2 innings per start. The caveat there was in two September starts, he threw four innings total over two horrific starts. This came at a time the Mets were working to move him to the bullpen for the postseason. Without those two starts, he averaged 5+ innings per start.
No, these aren’t earth shattering numbers, and yes, the walks/control were an issue. However, there are some caveats with these numbers. He was bounced back-and-forth from the rotation and bullpen AND between the majors and Triple-A. That takes its toll on a player. Notably, Peterson did perform better in the majors than in Triple-A.
Another factor is Peterson did not get to really work with Jeremy Hefner the way the rest of the Mets pitching staff did. Notably, we did see Hefner help hone pitchers mechanics and work on their control. This was most notable with the work Hefner did with Edwin Díaz to get him to repeat his landing spot on the mound. As a result, we not only saw the best we’ve seen from the closer, but we also saw Díaz go from a 4.9 BB/9 in 2020 to a 2.6 last season.
Arguably, if Peterson is going to take that next step, he is going to need Major League coaching, be surrounded by pitchers like Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander for a full season, and really, he is going to need a chance.
Looking at the data, he is worth that chance. Per Baseball Savant, Peterson generates excellent extension, and he has a very good whiff%. That is shown with Peterson striking out 27.8% of the batters he faced last season, which is excellent. Part of the reason for that is despite lower fastball velocity and spin (which should be expected with a sinker) is Peterson’s excellent slider numbers.
Highest single-season slider whiff% by a lefty pitcher in the Statcast era (min. 250 sliders swung at):
Andrew Miller: 54.7% ('15)
Amir Garrett: 53.7% ('19)
Patrick Corbin: 53.1% ('18)
Corbin: 51.4% ('19)
Robbie Ray: 49.5% ('17)
Corbin: 49% ('16)
DAVID PETERSON: 47.9% ('22) pic.twitter.com/vSAd5nAdLQ
— Mathew Brownstein (@MBrownstein89) December 1, 2022
It is genuinely a strikeout pitch. Batters whiffed 47.9% of the time against the pitch. In and of itself, it is worth investing in that pitch to see what more the Mets could be getting out of Peterson. That slider is a hidden gem on this Mets staff, and they need to see it in the majors instead of Triple-A.
Put another way, Peterson still has a lot of upside. In many ways, he is still raw and needs more coaching and opportunities. For an older Mets rotation, they actually need Peterson’s upside. They need the younger starter who can surprise and have a good year. Somehow, some way, the Mets just need to get Peterson into the rotation and watch him take that next step because that next step could help the Mets win the World Series.
Looking at the New York Mets rotation, it wasn’t just that it felt they needed another starter. They really needed to add a starter with upside.
Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander are both Hall of Famers still pitching like aces. However, they are still towards the end of their careers.
Josè Quintana is a guy who takes it every fifth day and gives you five innings. We saw Carlos Carrasco has become a bit of a Jekyll/Hyde routine between the age and coming back from all the injuries.
Arguably, the Mets would have been fine with one of Tylor Megill or David Peterson. However, the team needs to manufacture pitching depth, and a team who is all-in on winning the World Series needed better.
Ideally, they needed a pitcher who has real upside. Someone who could give them something they didn’t quite have. Well, the Mets found the right guy with Koudai Senga.
Senga signed with the Mets partially because he said he wanted to win now. He’s also well versed in analytics and wants a team who can help him further understand and grow. Mostly, he signed with the Mets because they are now THE destination team in Major League Baseball.
The Mets wanted Senga because he’s been a great pitcher with great stuff. He can hit 102 MPH on the gun and has a pitched dubbed the ghost forkball.
Senga, 29, pitched last season foe the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks of the Japan Pacific League. Over 22 starts, he pitched 144.0 innings (6.2 innings per start). He was 11-6 with a 1.94 RRA, 1.056 WHIP, 3.1 BB/9, and a 9.8 K/9.
He completely dominated the Japanese Leagues. He’s one of their best pitchers ever, and we saw a record setting pitcher there.
If you want a downside, people can and will point you to the theory Japanese pitchers don’t translate well to the majors. Of course, that’s complete nonsense.
Sure, a pitcher like Daisuke Matsuzaka was disappointing. There are other examples including the times when the Mets grabbed pitchers like Satoru Komiyama and dubbed him and his ERA always hovering around 4.00 as the Japanese Greg Maddux.
As an aside, how did the Wilpons ever get away with stuff like that.
While the disappointments have been highlighted and discussed ad nauseum, there have been success stories. Hideo Nomo was a good Major League, a Rookie of the Year, an All-Star, and threw to no-hitters. Masahiro Tanaka was a big game pitcher for the New York Yankees.
Japanese pitchers can and will succeed in the majors. There’s no reason to believe with the Mets infrastructure and pitching coach like Jeremy Hefner that Senga won’t succeed.
The Mets needed a pitcher like Senga to take them to the next level. They got him, and now, their chances of winning the World Series have increased exponentially.
One of the challenges the New York Mets have this offseason is rebuilding their rotation to match the one they had which carried them to 101 wins in 2021. That was going to be a challenge with the Mets needing to address four-fifths of the rotation; well, three-fifths after they picked up Carlos Carrasco‘s option.
The rotation was never really going to look the same, but it had to be as good. Arguably, it had to be better with the Mets losing in the Wild Card Series despite their top three starters lined up. The team did take a bit of a step back losing Jacob deGrom, but they responded quickly and perfectly by adding Justin Verlander.
You can say the same about the team signing José Quintana after Taijuan Walker signed with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Walker was a good and surprisingly durable pitcher for the Mets over the past two seasons. He showed flashes of being a top of the rotation starter, but he did have his struggles. Ultimately, he was a number three starter who pitched at the back end of the rotation. He was a very good Met, and the Mets will certainly miss him.
However, the team did rebound with Quintana. Keep in mind with the age of Max Scherzer, Verlander, and Carrasco, Quintana is “only” going to be 34 next season. He has pitched in the majors for 11 years, and the only time he did not make at least 22 starts was 2020 – 2021. One year was the pandemic (he did have an injury that season), and the other he dealt with shoulder issues.
Whatever concerns you may have after that two year stretch were abated when Quintana made 32 starts last season. The downside was he only pitched 165.2 innings meaning he averaged only five innings per start.
Part of that could be related to his coming back from two injury plagued years. He was in the bullpen in 2021, and he was moved back to the rotation. That does require some ease. Another issue is the Pirates are not very analytically advanced limiting their ability to get the most from their starters.
To a certain extent, we saw that play out when Quintana went to the St. Louis Cardinals at the trade deadline. Yes, he only averaged five innings per start, but that was skewed by a few short outings. To be fair, those happened.
Putting all of that aside for a moment, that does not change the fact Quintana took the ball every fifth day. Much like he has the vast majority of his career, he promises to do the same next season. That gives the Mets some certainty with an older rotation as they also seek to manufacture pitching depth this offseason.
With respect to the stuff, well, Quintana doesn’t wow you in any sense. He doesn’t have velocity or great spin. What he does have is the ability to locate and generate weak contact. He also generates a high number of ground balls. Even without the shift, he should be aided by having Francisco Lindor and one of Jeff McNeil or Luis Guillorme up the middle.
In the end, Quintana’s skill-set is enhanced by the defense behind him. The Mets infielders will make him seem a better pitcher, and maybe then, he can go a little deeper into games. Even if he doesn’t, he is going to take the ball every fifth day and give the Mets five solid innings. There is immense value in that, especially for an older rotation, and the Mets will benefit greatly from having signed Quintana.
After Jacob deGrom left the New York Mets to sign with the Texas Rangers, the team pivoted to sign Justin Verlander. The signing reunites Verlander with Max Scherzer.
The pair of aces were teammates on the Detroit Tigers from 2010 – 2014. It was a time of personal and team accomplishments.
Verlander was the 2011 AL Cy Young and MVP. Scherzer won the 2013 AL Cy Young. The Tigers won the 2012 pennant and were in four straight postseasons.
Whatever the dynamic between Verlander and Scherzer was, it worked. The Mets are reuniting them because of how well that dynamic once worked.
Just because the dynamic worked, it doesn’t mean they were friends. As former Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski told Tim Healey of Newsday, “Let’s say they butted heads.”
Now, like anything else, this deserves context. Dombrowski said this was a direct result of their competitiveness and need to one up the other. As noted above, that lead to each having outstanding seasons and success for the Tigers team.
Their two catchers shared the sentiment. Alex Avila said they were both Type A personalities. Gerald Laird said how their conflicts drove each other to greatness even if it came along with constant bickering.
If we fast-forward to the present, here is what we know. While both were driven by each other to greatness with the Tigers, they were great apart from one another.
Verlander went on to win the 2019 and 2022 Cy Youngs. He won the World Series in 2017 and 2022. Scherzer won the 2016 and 2017 Cy Young and won the 2019 World Series (over Verlander’s Houston Astros team).
When deGrom left, they made the decision to pivot to Verlander. Certainly, the team would have checked in with Scherzer to get background and see if it’s a good idea. It’s fair to presume Scherzer raised no real objections.
As for Verlander, he opted to sign with the Mets knowing Scherzer was there. To a certain extent, he signed with the Mets probably knowing this is more Scherzer’s team than his.
All told, Scherzer and Verlander opted to reunite on the Mets. Certainly, whatever their prior relationship was didn’t cause Scherzer to want to interfere, or for Verlander to look to sign elsewhere.
Scherzer and Verlander are also older and more mature people now. They’re locks for the Hall of Fame. All they’re playing for now is legacy, another ring, and yes, another big payday.
To accomplish those goals, they’re reuniting on the Mets, which means they’re bringing back that same dynamic from the Tigers. They wanted this. The Mets wanted this. We all wanted this.
As a result, their prior relationship is irrelevant. Whatever it was, they want to do it again, and for that, Mets fans should be ecstatic.
Based on how everything transpired, we can question whether the New York Mets Plan A was Jacob deGrom or Justin Verlander. In the end, it doesn’t matter.
What matters is the Mets needed to get at least one of them, and they did that. They signed the future Hall of Famer and reigning American League Cy Young winner.
An interest note here is there are three pitchers in Major League history to win the Rookie of the Year and two Cy Youngs – Tom Seaver, deGrom, and Velander. Seaver and Verlander have three Cy Youngs, and deGrom won the award in consecutive seasons.
All three are Mets.
This is just a bizarre place to be as a Mets fan. We’re not even five years removed from the Mets “replacing” Zack Wheeler with Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha.
The fact the Mets followed deGrom by giving Verlander the highest AAV for a player is something that didn’t happen here. The fact it came the year after the Mets did the same with Max Scherzer never would’ve been contemplated.
Keep in mind, this is who the Mets are now. They already made Francisco Lindor the highest paid shortstop, and Edwin Díaz the highest paid reliever.
The only objective is winning, and the Mets will now spend to do it. Verlander epitomizes who the franchise is now.
Verlander returned from Tommy John and was Verlander. He led the AL in wins, ERA, WHIP, ERA+, and hits per nine. That’s why he won a Cy Young.
Yes, the strikeouts were down and was the velocity. However, the spin is still there, and he’s still limiting hard contact and barrels.
In some ways, that answers the question we always had about Verlander. What would he be when his velocity dipped? The answer is the best pitcher in the AL.
The next questions doesn’t have an easy answer. How will he handle the 2022 workload? Also, how will he be in his age 40 season?
Looking at Scherzer, he was great, but he was also more injury prone. To some degree, that might’ve cost him and the Mets the World Series.
Then again, just having Scherzer made the Mets a great team who won 101 games. Verlander promises to do the same for this team in 2023. That goes double with the Mets having Scherzer and Verlander.
As an interesting aside, Scherzer and Verlander were in the same rotation for the Detroit Tigers from 2010 – 2014. They Ron the division four straight years winning a pennant.
This is in play for the Mets. They have co-aces who can help the Mets take the next step. Last year, it was the Wild Card Series. Next year, we will see how far they can go.
This is possible because the Mets pivoted after losing deGrom to sign Verlander. They replaced one future Hall of Famer with another. They showed they will continue to do what is necessary to win.
The Mets needed Verlander and signed him. It’s a great day to be a Mets fan.