No, this is not a pre-scheduled article which was not edited. Remember, that today is still Opening Day, and just because we are not going to see Jacob deGrom square off against Max Scherzer for the second straight year doesn’t mean there is absolutely no baseball.
If you have a glove, bat, and a baseball. There is baseball.
Go outside and have a catch with your kids or someone else in your household. If it is just you, find a wall and throw a tennis ball against the wall. If nothing else, it is good exercise.
Put on your favorite Mets shirt. For example, I’m going to wear my Michael Conforto raglan t-shirt while my kids wear their Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil shirts. We’re going to go out there with our mitts, tees, and wiffle ball stuff, and we are going to play baseball (again).
Remember, today is Opening Day, and on Opening Day, there is baseball.
It may not be happening at Citi Field or at any other Major League park. You may be banned from playing baseball with people outside of your household. Still, there is baseball. It is in your yard, or if you can’t go outside, it is on your video game platform. If nothing else, it is on your TV.
On ESPN2, you can see Alonso and Todd Frazier win the Home Run Derby all over again. On mets.com, you can relive the Murphy Game. You can see deGrom use guts and guile to outlast Zack Greinke followed by Noah Syndergaard and Jeurys Familia just mowing down Dodgers hitters. You can see Daniel Murphy having the game of his life (up until that point) propelling the Mets into the NLCS.
You can also go check out anyone of the Mets games available on MLB.tv or YouTube. There are various Mets games throughout history available on YouTube, or you can just decided to go with clips like Gary Carter hitting a walk-off homer in his first ever game as a New York Met:
Today is a beautiful, cooler Spring day. It is the type of Spring day you want when you go out to the park to go see the Mets play on Opening Day. Just because the Mets can’t take the field today doesn’t mean there’s no baseball.
You can play baseball inside, outside, and/or go watch it. Really, find a way to celebrate baseball because it remains a huge part of our lives. In the end COVID19, may delay the season, and it may take away games. However, it cannot rob us of our love for the sport and the New York Mets.
Today, is March 26, 2020. Baseball is played today. We join as one in our love for the game. This is the day we are supposed to have hope. While some things are definitively different, there is nothing that can change all of that. This is the day we have baseball.
Let’s Go Mets!
Just like the rest of us, Major League Baseball is at home. Players, agents, and executives are at home staring at their cell phones and laptops just itching for things to do.
Sure, there are logistics which needs to take place. Baseball executives need to work out when the season can begin. They need to ensure facilities are being properly cleaned. Players need to be tested and quarantined. There is also other matters which may need to be addressed like the draft, World Baseball Classic, and other events.
Mostly, they are going to be sitting there and waiting. After all, the things which would normally preoccupy their time during the season won’t be there. Those day-to-day tasks are really going to be left for another day. That frees up time for baseball executives and agents to start getting idle hands, and they may be itching to do things.
If you are someone like Jerry DiPoto, who is a trade proposal a minute during the offseason, you are giving him a lot of time on his hands to attempt to make more deals. It also gives teams an opportunity to discuss extensions with their players.
To a certain extent, we are starting to see it in other sports. For the NFL, it is natural as their league year began, and they are beginning the process of getting under the salary cap and looking to build their 2020 rosters. In the NHL, the New York Rangers acted to sign defenseman K’Andre Miller.
— NHL Network (@NHLNetwork) March 15, 2020
For the Mets, Marcus Stroman and Rick Porcello will be free agents after the 2020 season. While it would be difficult to see extending Porcello right after giving him a one-year deal, the Mets may look to extend Stroman, especially after parting with Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods Richardson to obtain him.
After the 2020 season, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Michael Conforto will have one more season before becoming free agents after the 2021 season. Brandon Nimmo and Seth Lugo will be free agents the season after that. This is a significant group of players who are soon becoming free agents.
Perhaps, it would make sense to begin discussions with those players. Maybe it would make sense to talk to Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil to sign them to a deal buying out some of their arbitration years. After all, the Mets just bought some good will with Alonso with this pre-arbitration raise.
As noted, at this moment, there are some logistics Major League Baseball needs to handle with respect to the disruption and postponement of the 2020 season. Once that fog begins to clear, we’re going to be left with baseball executives with not much to do.
Sooner or later, they may get bored or antsy. As we saw with the famed story of how Joe DiMaggio was almost traded for Ted Williams, you get a bored General Manager knocking back a few scotches, and anything is possible. Very soon, every GM in baseball may find themselves in this position making everything very interesting.
Now that Major League Baseball has finally done the right thing in shutting down Spring Training and postponing the first few weeks of the 2020 season, we can now look at how this will impact individual teams. With respect to the New York Mets, this shutdown is exactly what they needed. That may seem a bit crass, but it is true nonetheless.
At the moment, the Mets were put in a precarious situation as Michael Conforto was dealing with an oblique injury. This injury left the Mets in a position where they needed to go with a couple of first basemen in J.D. Davis and Dominic Smith in the corners or go with Jake Marisnick in an everyday role despite his inability to be even a near league average hitter when he knew what was coming.
This shutdown doesn’t just give Conforto time to heal, but it also gives Yoenis Cespedes more time to heal and get ready for the season. According to all reports, he had been working quite hard to get back on the field, and he was making considerable progress. However, even with all of his progress, he had not yet been playing in full games.
The further back the season is pushed; the more time Conforto and Cespedes have to get ready to play games. With each day the start of the season is pushed back (that’s an unknown at this point), the greater the chance Conforto and Cespedes will be ready for Opening Day.
Even if they are not ready for the new Opening Day, they will miss fewer games as a result of the delay to the start of the season. That means we are this much closer to an outfield of Cespedes-Brandon Nimmo-Conforto. That type of outfield takes the Mets from postseason contender to World Series contender.
It is not just Cespedes who is rehabbing from an injury which robbed him of his 2019 season. Dellin Betances was only able to pitch 0.2 innings for the Yankees last year due to a shoulder injury and then a partially torn Achillies. It was only recently he began pitching in Spring Training games.
As is typically the case, it takes Betances time during Spring Training to go from the low 90s to the upper 90s. When Betances is able to get to that point, he is a completely different reliever. It may be difficult to remember now, but when Betances can ramp up his fastball to the upper 90s he truly is the best reliever in baseball. The more time he has to get back to that pitcher (which may not be a given) the better for him and the Mets.
Generally speaking, the more time the Mets pitching staff has to work on things, the better. This is the first year with pitching coach Jeremy Hefner. There are things he wants to share with players, and there are tweaks in deliveries and pitch sequencing/usage he wants the staff to make. Getting to get some of that out of the way now as opposed to in games helps.
Speaking of more time to prepare for the season, this is Luis Rojas‘s first year at the helm. While he has managed most of these players previously, he has not done it at this level. The more time he has to bond with the team and manage expectations the better he and the team will be set up for success.
Overall, the coronavirus has created a serious situation, and things should not be taken lightly. It may seem crass to say this about a virus which is infecting people at a scary rate leading to the shut down of all pro sports and society as a whole, but this is a bad situation which will help the New York Mets.
With the news of Michael Conforto straining his oblique, he will likely miss Opening Day, and it is possible he will miss approximately a month. That is a month to figure out what is the best way to manage his absence. That is a problem all the more problematic given how the Mets only have two outfielders who are everyday caliber with Conforto being one of them.
There are a number of potential solutions, each of which are fraught with with their own problems.
The Mets could go with J.D. Davis and Dominic Smith in the corners. However, with their OAA and sprint speed that is not a viable defensive solution. They could also go with Jake Marisnick in center, but he was a well below average hitter and among the worst hitters at his position even when he knew what pitch was coming.
The Mets could better mix and match in the outfield if they could put Jeff McNeil back in a corner outfield position. As we saw last year, he was a good defender out there, and as we saw, he was an All-Star in left last year. However, in order for that to happen, the Mets need to have a replacement for him at third as McNeil is slated to be the everyday third baseman.
On that note, Eduardo Nunez is having a good Spring Training, and according to reports, he feels the healthiest he has in years. As reported by Tim Britton of The Athletic, Nunez took time off to heal as he said, “Last year, I couldn’t even play defense, I couldn’t hustle, I couldn’t steal any base, I couldn’t hit for power, so it was really tough.”
If he’s completely healthy, which Nunez asserts wasn’t the case in Boston, he appears to be on track to making the Opening Day roster. More than that, he could insert himself into the everyday lineup with Conforto’s injury.
In his 10 year career, despite his speed, Nunez has never been a good defender. In fact, he is a negative defender at every infield position. That said, his best infield position is third base. That’s not exactly inspiring with him having a -22 DRS there in his career. However, notably, he amassed a -12 DRS in his two years with the Red Sox.
Prior to the 2018 and 2019 seasons, Nunez had not been all that bad at third. After posting a -4 DRS in 2014, he had a -3 DRS over the ensuing three seasons with two of them being at a 0 DRS or better. It should be noted his OAA numbers were not all the positive with a -6 in 2017, 0 in 2018, and -3 in 2019.
All told, he is just not good at third. However, what he appears to be is playable there over a shorter duration. Of course, the question is whether it is worth playing him there. On the surface, the answer is probably not. In his two years with Boston, Nunez’s wRC+ was 70, which is worse than Marisnick.
Of course, that number was dragged down by Nunez’s woeful 2019 season. Looking back to the three seasons prior to Nunez’s Boston years, he had a 106 OPS+ making him slightly above league-average. Slightly above league average with the bat and below league average as a fielder isn’t a bad mix for a solid utility player.
However, for an everyday player it is less than ideal. In fact, it is not a recipe for success. Ultimately, this means Nunez shouldn’t be the solution for Conforto in his absence. That would then mean McNeil stays at third, and the Mets are left with either a center fielder who can’t hit or a pair of first baseman in the corners.
Right now, if the Mets don’t make a move, they are going to need Yoenis Cespedes to make unexpected progress, or they are going to need Luis Rojas to show deft touch in mixing a matching his lineup. That is not an enviable position to be in, but that’s where the Mets stand due to their not addressing their outfield depth this past offseason.
Part of Spring Training is getting through healthy and ready for Opening Day. Fortunately, Brandon Nimmo‘s heart is fine, and his neck is not presenting any further issues. We are awaiting news on Michael Conforto. Right there, the Mets have had injury issues already with their two everyday outfielders.
Yes, there are only two.
Going over to Baseball Savant, there are only four players on the Mets really capable of playing the outfield on an everyday basis. Conforto led the Mets with a 6 OAA last year, Nimmo was not too far behind with a 3 OAA. After that Jeff McNeil had a 0 OAA indicating he could handle the position. In terms of McNeil, he is no longer part of the everyday outfield equation as he is slated to be the Mets everyday third baseman.
As good as Conforto was last year in the outfield, Jake Marisnick was even better with an 8 OAA in center last year. So defensively, the Mets have three outfielders. The problem with Marisnick is he can’t hit.
Among center fielders with at least 300 plate appearances, his 86 wRC+ ranked 26th. Keep in mind, that was when Marisnick knew what pitch was coming.
With the way Marisnick hits, or better put can’t hit, the Mets are looking for more offensive options in the outfield, As a result, the Mets plan on playing J.D. Davis and Dominic Smith in the outfield on an everyday basis with Marisnick as a defensive replacment. Presumably, Davis is going to get the bulk of the playing time. Simply put, that is a very bad idea.
Last year, Davis had a -7 OAA in left field. Some want to argue he was just thrown out there, and he will get better with more playing time. That argument overlooks Davis not having the skill set to succeed in the outfield.
Davis is not a fast runner. In fact, his sprint speed is only 26.3 ft/second. To put it into perspective, that makes him slower than Pete Alonso. Essentially, this means Davis has the speed of a first baseman in the outfield. As we saw with Daniel Murphy in 2009, just because you got away with it for a portion of one year, you should not rely on it going forward because you are going to get burned.
What was said about Davis applies to Smith as well. Even with a vastly superior -3 OAA, he is a step slower than Davis. What this highlights is you should not count on first basemen in the outfield for anything other than a start here or there.
Keep in mind, Davis and Smith having strong arms are non sequiturs. If you can’t get to a ball, it doesn’t matter how strong your arm is. A strong arm will never compensate for playing outs into hits and singles into extra base hits because you can’t get to a playable ball.
So, when you break it down, Conforto and Nimmo are everyday Major League outfielders. Beyond them, McNeil is a third baseman now, Marisnick can’t hit, and neither Davis nor Smith can be relied upon to adequately field the position.
Overall, this puts the Mets in a situation where they need to find another third baseman to move McNeil to the outfield, or they can just go out and sign Yasiel Puig. Keep in mind, that’s what they need to do when everyone is healthy. Things become much more dire if Conforto gets bad news.
The plan was to fill-in here and there with some combination of J.D. Davis, Jake Marisnick, Dominic Smith, and maybe Jeff McNeil. As for McNeil, he’s slated as the everyday third baseman making his filling-in as an outfielder a rob Peter to pay Paul situation.
In sum, the Mets are very shallow in the outfield. The situation worsens when you consider there isn’t any real Triple-A depth. That makes hoping Yoenis Cespedes can return into NEEDING Cespedes to return.
Seeing Troy Tulowitzki‘s inability to return from the same surgery, that’s not an enviable position. That goes double when you consider Tulowitzki didn’t suffer a broken ankle during rehab like Cespedes did.
All told, the Mets cannot sustain an injury to either Conforto or Nimmo because that leaves them with two outfielders who should not be playing everyday in the outfield.
Already this Spring, Nimmo has had a heart scare, and now, Conforto is being evaluated for an oblique injury. Throw in Davis’ shoulder, and the Mets shallow outfield depth is already being tested.
The Mets supposedly have designs in winning the 2020 World Series, and their purported plan is to have depth across the board. That only works if you have depth, which the Mets don’t have in the outfield.
Sooner or later, the Mets are going to need Puig. The longer they wait to sign him the more they run the risk of his not being there when they become truly desperate.
It’s time to stop messing around and pretending like two everyday outfielders are sufficient. It’s time to sign Puig.
With the fears over the outbreak of the coronavirus, Major League Baseball is starting to take preventative measures. Different teams have prevented their players from signing autographs for fans. When it comes to the spread of disease and the health of their players, you understand why teams are doing this.
For Spring Training, this is troublesome. This is a time where fans get more access to the players than at any point during the year. That is all the more the case with expanded netting around ballparks. With the reduced access to players, fans get less time to interact and to get autographs.
Some teams are sensitive to that, and as a result, they are having their players sign some items, and those items are going to be distributed to fans. This is something teams should think about doing year-round.
For young fans, batting practice presents an opportunity to get autographs. Unfortunately, not every player takes batting practice, and some of the better players have team obligations pre-game which stands in the way of their ability to sign and take pictures with fans before games.
As a result, some young fans aren’t going to get autographs or get to see the players they want to see. To a certain extent, that’s life. Kids are just going to have to suck it up and grow from it. However, that doesn’t mean teams shouldn’t now be thinking outside the box and using this idea to grow the game.
Take the Mets for an example.
Every Sunday, the New York Mets have Family Sundays. On Family Sundays, there are some fun activities outside the ballpark for young fans. After the game, those young fans have the opportunity to run the bases. Perhaps, the Mets could also give away some player signed items to young fans at games.
Maybe it is a box of pre-signed baseballs given to young fans as they enter the game. It could just be random giving kids a chance to grab a Pete Alonso or Paul Sewald. Perhaps, they could do themed days.
One week could be rotation week with a ball signed by Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, Steven Matz, and Rick Porcello. Another week could be the outfield with autographs from Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, and whoever else lands in the outfield. With the 20th anniversary of the 2000 pennant, there could be a ball signed by players from that team including Edgardo Alfonzo, Mike Hampton, Al Leiter, and Mike Piazza.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be balls either. It could be baseball cards, or it could be other items teams have in stock and are just trying to move. In fact, you usually see that at the end of the year with the team having a wheel for fans to spin to win a “prize” which was really nothing more than a promotion they never could give away.
In the end, Major League Baseball is adapting to the threat of the coronavirus, and they are trying to make the game experience safer for their players and fans. They could take what they learned from this, and they can carry the policy through the season. If done well, they could make the game experience more fun for kids and help grow the game.
Let’s get it out of the way. The best promotions of every season is the bobbleheads, and there are some good ones with Pete Alonso, Jacob deGrom, Jeff McNeil, Amed Rosario, Noah Syndergaard, and Robinson Cano having their own bobblehead days. In fact, with Alonso having a Marvel superhero bobblehead, there are two for him.
Those are always the best and most fun, but that’s only if you can get them. Fact is, the lines are way too long for them, and those lines can get a bit aggressive with people pushing forward to try to get one of the bobbleheads. Up until the Mets choose to be like big market teams like the Milwaukee Brewers, we’re just going to have to deal with the unnecessary inconvenience the Mets create by having bobbleheads for roughly half of those in attendance.
The good news for parents is the bobbleheads aren’t the only fun promotions during the 2020 season. There is also the Michael Conforto Funko Pop on August 25th, but it is safe to assume that day will have bobblehead type issues. Looking at the schedule, here are some other fun ones specifically geared towards kids:
April 19 – Player Poster
May 31 – Player Poster
July 5 – Player Poster
July 19 – Slime
August 2 – Toy Truck
August 16 – Baseball cards
August 30 – Player Poster
In terms of the player posters, the specific players have not yet been named. However, as we saw when the Mets were miked, Dominic Smith especially, this is a fun and likeable Mets team. Chances are any poster you get is going to be great.
The same goes for the baseball cards.
The toy truck and slime are fun because those are more traditional kids toys, but they will have a Mets theme to them. If your kid loves baseball, that’s right up their alley.
Of course, no discussion on fun promotions for kids is complete without mentioning the Mr. Met Dash. In terms of the Mr. Met Dash, be prepared.
Be ready to leave the game early and wait on line. That can be partially circumvented by joining the Mr. Met Kids’ Club, but only partially.
Another note is the Mets don’t do it for Sunday Night Baseball, so before you get your tickets just make sure the matchup isn’t one which could get flexed to prime time.
One final note here is if you think your children are old enough to learn about and appreciate Mets history, go to the June 13 game when Jerry Koosman‘s 36 is going to be retired.
Overall, Citi Field is a fun place for kids, especially for Sunday day games. Take advantage of it and help make your child a lifelong Mets fan.
The New York Mets have the challenge of trying to figure out how best to stack their left-handed batters in the lineup. Part of how they do that is picking a leadoff hitter. That is easier said than done when the Mets have three batters in Michael Conforto, Jeff McNeil, and Brandon Nimmo, each of whom have effectively lead-off.
On the surface, Nimmo is the perfect lead-off hitter as he is a speedy player who is able to get on-base at a very good clip. In his career, he has a .387 OBP with a 15.2% walk rate. Since his breakout season in 2018, he has been a .250/.395/.459 hitter (137 wRC+) with a 16.0% walk rate.
All told, Nimmo is the prototypical lead-off hitter, and just about every team in the majors should want him leading off. That said, the Mets aren’t just any team.
In McNeil, the Mets have a completely different kind of lead-off hitter. Much in the style of Ichiro Suzuki, McNeil comes to the plate ready to hit and put the ball wherever he needs to put it in order to get on base. While Nimmo makes a pitcher work to get him out, McNeil challenges a pitcher to get him out.
Whereas you want your lead-off hitter to get the pitcher to work the count to allow the rest of the lineup to see what the pitcher has that day, McNeil comes up ready to hit. In fact, McNeil swings at the first pitch 48.7% of the time. For him, that’s a good idea because he is a .421/.439/.855 hitter against the first pitch with 16 doubles and 16 homers.
In fact, he has more doubles and homers off the first pitch than any other pitch. Aside from a 3-0 count, which he reaches very rarely, he has his highest OBP and SLG off the first pitch than any other pitch.
One other factor here is how pitchers pitch. As noted by ESPN, the starting pitcher’s first pitch of the game is a fastball approximately 97.5% of the time. Against fastballs, McNeil hits .340 off of fastballs with a .544 SLG. He makes contact with the fastball 75.5% of the time.
When you break it down, you want McNeil swinging at the first pitch, and you want him attacking the fastball. Given the predictability of a first pitch fastball to begin the game, McNeil is ideally suited to lead-off the game and wreck havoc from the first pitch of the game.
After McNeil, you can turn to Nimmo who can give you everything you want from a lead-off hitter. He can work the count, and he can find a way on base. If McNeil doesn’t reach base, you get a chance to reset and have your best OBP guy try to get on base in front of Pete Alonso and Conforto.
Another note here is as noted by Fangraphs teams should want their best hitters to bat second. In 2018, Nimmo had a 148 wRC+. That is the best single-season mark anyone on this Mets team has had. That includes Robinson Cano.
Taking everything into account, while Nimmo might be the ideal lead-off hitter, for the Mets, the ideal situation would be to have McNeil leading off with Nimmo right behind him. By doing that, you get the most out of McNeil’s abilities, and you get to have Nimmo act almost as a second lead-off hitter.
From there, you set the table perfectly for Alonso and Conforto, which with the Mets starting pitching, could lead to the Mets getting early leads and putting a strangle-hold on their opponents.
Christian Yelich was the 2018 National League MVP, and he finished second in the race last year. He’s 27 years old, and he had two years $27.75 million remaining on his contract before he hit free agency. Because the Milwaukee Brewers stepped up, Yelich will not reach free agency.
After his back-to-back MVP caliber seasons, Yelich and the Brewers agreed to a seven year $190 million contract extension. That voids the existing buyout on his current deal meaning Yelich is now signed for nine years $215 million. That is an AAV of $23.9 million on the total deal and $27.1 million on the extension. Notably, there are deferrals.
Quite arguably, the 28 year old Yelich is the best left fielder in the game. Over the past two seasons, he has averaged a 7.3 WAR, and he has a 171 OPS+. His cumulative WAR is the fourth best in the game over the last two years, and his OPS+ is second to just Mike Trout.
Apparently, the value of that is $27.1 million per year. At least on an extension. In terms of a free agent deal, we can reasonably anticipate Mookie Betts will eclipse that. For his part, Betts has won an American League MVP award, and given the applicable two year window, his WAR surpasses Yelich and is second only to Trout.
This is very pertinent information for the New York Mets as Michael Conforto will be a free agent in two years much like how Yelich could’ve been.
Conforto is a year younger than Yelich, and he has not been making quite the same money as Yelich as he never negotiated a contract buying out his arbitration years. That is not surprising as that is not how his agent, Scott Boras, typically does business.
Over the past two years, Conforto has been worth 6.4 WAR total, which is less than the 7.3 WAR Yelich averaged. Part of that is Conforto’s returning from shoulder surgery a little too soon. Part of that is Conforto being a different hitter against left-handed pitchers. Both are factors in Conforto having a 125 OPS+ to Yelich’s 171.
The difference in ballparks also are part of the equation, and there is something to be said about the rumors circling around the Brewers.
Overall, when you look at the two players, Yelich has been the better and more complete hitter so far in his career. Of course, when both were in the National League East, Conforto was the better hitter and more complete player.
Conforto is still a good defender with a 5 OAA in 2018 and a 6 OAA in 2019 . For his part, Yelich was at a 4 OAA in 2018 and a -4 in 2019. That could also be an indicator of how each player is going to age.
All told, Yelich signed an extension where he is getting paid roughly $3.7 million per WAR he has put up on average as a member of the Brewers. If a similar offer was made to Conforto, using just his 3.5 WAR in 2019, he could receive a deal worth roughly $13 million per year. Honestly, that feels light even if you were talking a 10 year $130 million deal, which you doubt either side would do.
It’s also noteworthy the $3.7 million per WAR is less than the roughly $8+ million 1.0 WAR is worth on the free agent market. But that’s just the way it goes. Typically speaking, players who sign extensions usually sign at a discount, especially top end players like Yelich.
At $8 million per WAR, Conforto would receive a deal worth $28 million per year. That would put him ahead of the AAV Yelich received. While that may not sound right, it is likely in the neighborhood of what Conforto COULD receive if he has a big 2020, and he was a free agent.
In the end, it appears a seven year extension, buying out two of Conforto’s arbitration years, could be achieved if it is somewhere in the range of the $15 – $28 million per year. Perhaps, you could see a deal staggered across the spectrum to reach an AAV withing those parameters and/or with a player opt out.
Given his agent and the indications he may age better than Yelich, it is very reasonable to assume an extension for Conforto would look very similar to the one Yelich just signed. If Conforto is the leader and star we have seen him be at times during his Mets tenure, this could be a deal which works for both sides. Time will tell if that is something which can be accomplished.