With the Mets reportedly not pursuing Manny Machado this offseason, the Mets have put them in a position where their options to improve their batting order are becoming increasingly limited. That is at least on the free agent market. Instead, the team is going to have to look towards trades to try to improve their roster.
When looking at trades, the team should look much further than any of their oft publicized and discussed needs. Instead, the team should do all they can do to improve their roster. If you are looking to build a World Series contender, that means obtaining Corey Kluber.
If the Mets are able to obtain Kluber, they are going to have the best rotation in baseball, and quite possibly, they could have one of the best rotations of all-time. When you have pitching like that, you win games and postseason series.
Remember, the 2001 Diamondbacks won the NL West and the World Series riding Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. While Luis Gonzalez hit 57 homers that year, the rest of the Diamondbacks team wasn’t great offensively. That team had a 97 wRC+, which was ranked 15th in the majors.
The Mets would have that with Kluber and Jacob deGrom. Kluber has led the Majors in wins over the past three seasons with the second most innings pitched and the third highest fWAR. As for deGrom, he was the best pitcher in baseball last, and we have seen what he can do in the postseason.
As for the Mets offense, well, in the second half of the season last year, they were ranked 11th in the majors. With a 38-30 second half record, the Mets were tied with the Braves for the best record in the NL East. Combining that improved offense with the emerge of Zack Wheeler, and this is suddenly a very scary Mets team, which is something the Mets need to be building.
Notably, Wheeler is a free agent after the 2019 season, and after the 2020 season, deGrom will be a free agent. The biggest hit happens after the 2021 season with Michael Conforto, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz becoming free agents. That’s a big chunk of the Mets current core, which means this organization has three years to win a World Series with this group.
It just so happens Kluber is under team control for three years with 2020 and 2021 team options. All told, Kluber is owed just $52.5 million over the next three years giving the team some flexibility to add talent around an ace pitcher.
Now, there will be obvious skeptics as to whether this will work for the Mets. This plan would require buying Amed Rosario making strides. It also requires Jeff McNeil to repeat a second half which was fueled by .368 BABIP. Todd Frazier is going to have to be what he was in April and stay off the disabled list, and Jay Bruce is going to have to learn first base. You are also going to need a full season from Juan Lagares in center.
Then again, maybe you won’t.
Adding Kluber only adds to the possibilities. With Kluber atop the rotation with deGrom, the Mets could look to trade Wheeler at his peak value. Possibly, the Mets could move Wheeler to address other areas of need like their bullpen or a right-handed bat. With Charlie Morton and Dallas Keuchel being free agents and Lance McCullers missing all of 2019 due to Tommy John, the Astros are certainly a fit. Seeing how Wheeler pitched in the second half, there will obviously be other suitors.
Now, getting Kluber is going to hurt. At a minimum, you are probably talking Peter Alonso, Andres Gimenez, and some other notable Mets prospects. It’s entirely possible, a Major Leaguer will need to be included in the deal. Certainly, giving up your top talent will hurt the system.
However, a more broad based analysis needs to take place here. The Mets window is 2019-2021. After that, the next real wave for the Mets comes a year or two after that as Jarred Kelenic, Ronny Mauricio, and Mark Vientos all played in Kingsport this past season. Considering how the talent is structured in the Mets farm system, the time to make a run is right now.
If you’re making that run, the Mets need to go all-out improving this roster. Unless you are spending on the free agent market to get Machado and Bryce Harper, which the Mets aren’t doing, it means trading for big pieces. That means giving up Alonso and Gimenez for a big piece. Right now, there is no bigger piece than Kluber. He’s the real difference maker.
Get Kluber and make a real run at 2019 and 2020. The talent is here, and the Mets have the chips to do it.
Despite having a strong finish to the 2017 season, the Mets decided they needed to sign Jay Bruce to play the outfield rather than have Brandon Nimmo play right field while Michael Conforto was rehabbing from his shoulder surgery. Despite his playing exceedingly well, Nimmo would not only be demoted when the Mets needed an extra reliever in the bullpen, but the Mets would also rush Conforto back from the disabled list.
Despite everything in his way, Nimmo would earn a spot in the everyday lineup. In terms of on-field production, Nimmo was arguably the best outfielder in the National League. Certainly, he was among the best six in the National League. Unfortunately, his production on the field would not translate to his being named an All-Star.
This would not be an good first half for Nimmo. In fact, Nimmo would hit .263/.404/.483 with 28 doubles, eight triples, 17 homers, and 47 RBI. Among National League outfielders, he was second only to Christian Yelich in Offensive WAR, OPS+, and wRC+. He would finish second to Billy Hamilton in triples.
Among all National League players, he would finish second only to Joey Votto in OBP. Perhaps the biggest indication of how much Nimmo has been snubbed all season, the only category he would lead the majors in was hit by pitch. He would have had even more had he not been called back to the plate on more than one occasion for not trying to get out of the way.
Despite all he did offensively, Nimmo would not win a Silver Slugger this season.
Sure, the awards were truly a joke this year. For example, J.D. Martinez won the Silver Slugger for DH and OF despite playing only 57 games in the field. That said, it is really bizarre Nimmo was overlooked.
That’s fine. As far as the Mets and their fans are concerned, other teams can overlook Nimmo all they want. While they are overlooking him, he can put up another great season while hopefully leading the Mets to their third World Series title. If that does happen, all of us will be smiling along with Nimmo as everyone who overlooked and underrated him will stand there saddened and befuddled.
It may be every fan base, but it seems like whenever the Mets need to add players via trade or free agency, fans seem to look towards acquiring former players. It may not be just the fans either as the Mets bucked conventional wisdom by signing Jay Bruce and Jason Vargas last year. If the fans and organization wants to go down that road again, there are plenty of options this offseason:
Jose Lobaton – If he’s back, we may actually see fans boycott the team.
Devin Mesoraco – Other than like a one week stretch, he was terrible in every facet of the game. There is no way he should be back in Queens next year.
Rene Rivera – He would be a fine addition on a minor league deal to work with up and comers like Justin Dunn. If there’s an injury or two (ideally three), he could resume his role as Noah Syndergaard‘s personal catcher.
Lucas Duda – Fans used to debate at length whether Duda was a good or bad player. The debate is over. He’s now a bad player who has not much to offer anymore.
Asdrubal Cabrera – Unless Cabrera is looking to accept a utility role behind two still largely unproven young players, there would be no reason to bring him back to the Mets.
Daniel Murphy – There is a scenario in which bringing him back makes sense, but that includes the Mets moving at least one bad contract to put him at first base because his knees have made his already poor defense all the worse. There are many other variables past that making this a non-starter.
Jose Reyes – He shouldn’t even be playing for the Long Island Ducks next year.
Neil Walker – Considering he accepted a utility role for the Yankees last year, he could be willing to accept one with the Mets next year. If so, he could be quality depth for the Mets roster which has not had depth on their bench since 2015.
Carlos Gomez – Judging from last year, it does not seem like Gomez can hit much anymore, but he can still play defense. The Mets need a right-handed outfielder or two, and he would be a much better option than Austin Jackson by the simple fact he’s not Austin Jackson.
Chris Young – In 2014, the Mets made a $7.25 million bet Young still had something in the tank. They wound up releasing him, thereby allowing other teams to discover he did have something left in the tank. That something was hitting left-handed pitching, which is something he didn’t do at all last year.
Austin Jackson – He used up all the playing time he should receive in a Mets uniform last year.
Curtis Granderson – With Bruce, Michael Conforto, and Brandon Nimmo, you could argue the Mets have no need for another left-handed hitting corner outfielder. Lost in all of that is the fact Granderson is still a productive player who is great in the clubhouse. It would not be the worst idea to bring him back to let him serve as a mentor to the Mets young players.
Bartolo Colon – If you want him back, you deserve to see the Mets go under .500 again.
Matt Harvey – Harvey has basically said he doesn’t want to return. If you ask the Mets, the feelings are probably mutual.
Chris Beck – He was terrible for the Mets last year, so if you’re upgrading your bullpen, you should probably avoid the guys who were terrible for you.
Tyler Clippard – He had surprisingly good stats last year, which is all the more incredible when you consider he pitched in the AL East. Signing him to a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training is not the worst idea in the world.
Jeurys Familia – Familia is the best right-handed reliever in Mets history, and unlike the other free agent relief options not named David Robertson, none of them have proven they can pitch in pressure situations in New York. If you’re looking to compete, Familia could be a big boost to the bullpen.
AJ Ramos – The main reason Ramos didn’t work out this year was because he was injured. He did have surgery to repair his shoulder, but we don’t know what he will be when he is ready to pitch again. The Mets need far more certainty than that from their bullpen.
Fernando Salas – Salas helped pitch the Mets to the 2016 Wild Card, and the thanks he received was getting over-used by Terry Collins to the point he was released by the Mets in 2017. He returned to a slightly below average reliever last year. The Mets have plenty of those already.
Jerry Blevins – Even with last year’s struggles, Blevins has traditionally been a good LOOGY for the Mets. If Dave Eiland and Mickey Callaway think he can return to form, and he signs a reasonable one year deal, the Mets should bring him back.
Oliver Perez – If Brodie Van Wagenen had a sense of humor, he would work out a contract with either Manny Machado or Bryce Harper, but the day before the Mets officially signs either one of them, the Mets would announce Ollie was returning to the Mets organization.
With Brodie Van Wagenen being announced as the new Mets General Manager tomorrow, his work begins immediately. Right now, Jose Reyes, Devin Mesoraco, Jerry Blevins, Austin Jackson, and Jose Lobaton are free agents. With eight more players listed on the 60 day disabled list (Eric Hanhold, Rafael Montero, Bobby Wahl, Travis d’Arnaud, Phillip Evans, T.J. Rivera, Yoenis Cespedes, and Juan Lagares), the team needs to cut at least three players by Friday.
More than that, Van Wagenen will be entasked in improving the roster into a 2019 World Series contender. Here is Van Wagenen’s starting point:
Certainly, the Mets are set in the middle infield and the corner outfield spots. Obviously, Yasmani Grandal would be a significant addition to both the lineup and in the pitch framing department. Even if not Grandal, the catching position seems to be a real target to upgrade either on the free agent market, where real upgrades are limited, or on the trade front, where there are a number of rebuilding teams who could move a catcher (Buster Posey?).
As for the other positions, the Mets are going to have to move a player/contract. If the Mets really want to significantly upgrade this roster, the team is going to have to find a way to move Bruce, Frazier, or both. That not only opens room for a significant addition, but it also means the team will have some extra money on the budget to improve the roster.
In the end, there is real talent here, but talent which needs to be surrounded by the right players. Ideally, that is at least one right-handed power bat to balance out a lineup which already balances out Conforto, Nimmo, and McNeil. When doing that, Van Wagenen will need to buttress this group by building a strong bench, which is something which has not been done since the trade deadline maneuvers in the 2015 season.
Rays Vice President of Baseball Operations Chaim Bloom will not just take any job. At 35 years old, he can be selective, and he has. In the past, Bloom has outright refused to even interview for the Diamondbacks position. However, he not only has decided to interview for the Mets job, but he is also a finalist for the General Manager position.
Bloom’s interesting in the position should have Mets fans excited about the future of this team regardless of who the team hires to be the General Manager.
There is a lot to like with this Mets team. Just like 2015, it all starts with the rotation. Jacob deGrom has emerged this season as the best pitcher in baseball. Zack Wheeler looked like an ace himself posting the second best ERA in the second half. Noah Syndergaard had 13 wins in a down year, and he had a strong finish to the season. Finally, somehow Steven Matz actually made 30 starts last year. Now that Matz is able to navigate a full season, he can take the next step much like how Wheeler did this year.
There are also the y0ung left-handed bats on this roster. Using wRC+ as a barometer, Brandon Nimmo was the second best hitter in the National League last year and in the top 10 of all of baseball. After dealing with the shoulder issues, Michael Conforto hit .273/.356/.539 in the second half. Jeff McNeil emerged from out of nowhere to not just make to the majors but to also claim the second base job for 2019 by posting a 2.4 WAR and 137 wRC+ in just 63 Major League games.
The Mets also have a vastly improving farm system. Andres Gimenez, Peter Alonso, and Jarred Kelenic are viewed by nearly every outlet as Top 100 prospects. After a breakout season, Justin Dunn is on the cusp of cracking those lists as well. David Peterson and Anthony Kay are both left-handers who took steps forward and are not far from the majors.
There are also young players who people have lost enthusiasm but still have talent. Dominic Smith will not turn 24 until August, and there are still many who believe in his talent. For example, Keith Law of ESPN believes Smith could hit better than .262/.346/.459 if given the first base job next year. Before his season ending injury last year, Gavin Cecchini returned to the form he was when he was seen as a future middle infielder for the Mets.
This is before we even consider players like Mark Vientos, Shervyen Newton, Luis Santana, and even Desmond Lindsay with his retooled swing. The overriding point is the Mets farm system has plenty of talent, and Bloom, a Rays executive with a strong player development background knows this.
Ultimately, this is why Bloom is interested in the Mets General Manager job. This is also why Mets fans should be excited about the future of this team even if Bloom does not get the job because whether or not he gets the job, the talent is already here. It’s now just a matter of that talent continuing their development and winning the World Series.
Back in 2015, the Mets somehow held onto a Game 5 and series clinching win against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Despite having nothing, Jacob deGrom kept the Dodgers to two runs over six innings. That was more than enough as Daniel Murphy took over that game in what was one of the truly great postseason games a player has ever had.
He’d double home the first run of the game in the first off Zack Greinke. On a fourth inning walk to Lucas Duda, Murphy went first to third against a shifted and lackadaisical Dodgers infield allowing him to score the tying run on a Travis d’Arnaud sacrifice fly.
The big blow came in the sixth when Murphy hit the go-ahead homer putting the Mets up 3-2.
At the time, the Mets seemed to be the young team on the rise. In addition to deGrom, Syndergaard, and Familia, the team had Matt Harvey, Michael Conforto, Steven Matz, and eventually Zack Wheeler again.
In 2016, both teams returned to the postseason. The Mets captured the top Wild Card spot only to be shut out by Madison Bumgarner and the San Francisco Giants. That year, the Dodgers would lose in the NLCS to the eventual World Series winning Chicago Cubs (two years later and that sentence still seems bizarre).
After that, the Mets have had consecutive losing seasons while the Dodgers have gone to back-to-back World Series. Why?
Well, for starters, the Dodgers build a deep team with a deep bench. They do not have top heavy rosters which crumble when there is one injury. For example, Clayton Kershaw has not thrown over 175.0 innings in a season since that NLDS, and yet, the Dodgers remain a great team.
Also, while the Mets are off purging the Murphys and Justin Turners of the world, the Dodgers are finding them. In addition to Turner, we have also seen Chris Taylor and Max Muncy figure things out in Los Angeles.
The Dodgers are also not afraid to take risks or trust their young players. Gone from the 2015 team are Howie Kendrick, Adrian Gonzalez, Andre Ethier, and Jimmy Rollins. Instead, the Dodgers have players like Cody Bellinger.
For the Mets part, well, Adrian Gonzalez was their Opening Day first baseman.
Mostly, the separation has been financial. The Dodgers ownership has been willing and motivated to keep this championship window as open as possible, and they have with the largest payroll in baseball.
The Dodgers are not just a financial juggernaut, but they are also a supremely well run organization. This is a complete opposite of what the Mets have been, and judging from their current GM search, will continue to be.
This is all why the Dodgers are competing for World Series while the Mets are once again also-rans.
Starting with the obvious, as constructed today, the Yankees are a far superior team than the New York Mets. With Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres, and Luis Severino, this Yankees team is set up to win 90 plus games a year for the next decade. Given the talent base and how the Yankees are willing to spend, the Yankees should be a fixture in the postseason, much like they were in the late 90s, and that is a prerequisite to winning a World Series.
However, as we saw with this Yankees team for the second straight season, they could not get through the postseason partially because they did not have the ace to help push them through to the World Series.
Last year, it was Justin Verlander, who helped stop the Yankees. In many ways, Verlander has proved to be the Yankees kryptonite. In three different postseasons, Verlander has faced the Yankees, and each time, Verlander’s teams advanced. Last year, Verlander was the ALCS MVP going 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA. What made the issue worse for the Yankees is they did not go out and get an eminently available Verlander.
This year, the Yankees were stopped by Chris Sale. Not only did Sale beat the Yankees in Game 1, but he would stop the Yankees in Game 4 in his one inning of work.
With the Yankees window opening last year, they have failed to get an ace to go up against Verlander, Sale, or even Corey Kluber (who the Yankees beat in the 2017 ALDS). Severino has not yet proven to be that guy. Instead of utilizing Justus Sheffield and some other prospect to acquire that ace, they are hoping that he develops into that front line starter himself.
If neither of those things happen, it is hard to imagine how the Yankees can navigate their way through the American League portion of the postseason each and every year. The Astros and Red Sox have every bit the position player talent the Yankees have, and they also have more starting pitching. To that end, it’s difficult to see how exactly the Yankees win a World Series with this core.
Equally as difficult is seeing how the Mets even make the postseason. While the Mets have talent, they are in a division with the upcoming Braves and Phillies teams. Moreover, the Nationals are always ready, willing, and able to spend in free agency to address the deficiencies on their roster. This creates a real uphill battle for a Mets franchise with ownership which continues to serve as an impediment to building a winner.
And yet, if the Mets ever do get to the postseason, they are a really dangerous team. Back in 2015, we saw what Jacob deGrom can do in the postseason and that was before he emerged as the best pitcher in baseball. Similarly, Noah Syndergaard has shown himself to be a big time postseason pitcher. Aside from his strong 2015 rookie campaign, Syndergaard would go pitch-for-pitch with Madison Bumgarner, the best postseason pitcher of this generation, in the 2016 Wild Card Game. What makes that postseason all the more impressive is the emergence of Zack Wheeler this season.
When you substitute Wheeler for 2015 Matt Harvey, you have the type of pitching rotation which can and should carry a team to the World Series.
When you surround this pitching staff with a young core which includes Michael Conforto, Jeff McNeil, Brandon Nimmo, and Amed Rosario, there is a core of players which can not just make the World Series but win it. So yes, if we are talking about a core of players which can go through the postseason and win the World Series, the Mets have what it takes.
And yet, they don’t have the type of core which can carry them through the regular season. This team is at least one bat short. Maybe two. And that is before you even consider the bullpen.
That’s the real shame of it all. The Yankees have the talent but not the pitching, and that is partially the result of them getting gun shy when it came time to pull the trigger to obtain that ace which can carry a team through the postseason. The Mets have the pitching, and they have that young core, but they have ownership which gets gun shy when it comes time to getting a player they need to win.
In the end, the Mets have a better core of players which can carry you to the World Series, but it doesn’t really matter because unless things change, the Mets will be sitting on the sidelines watching this Yankees core squander away without a legitimate ace.
When the Mets hire a new General Manager, one of his, or in the case of Kim Ng getting the job, her, first duties is to decide if they want to retain Mickey Callaway as the Mets manager. Given how Callaway may come attached at the hip with Dave Eiland and seeing how this pitching rotation took off this year, you’d be inclined to keep Callaway on the job.
However, seeing Aaron Boone in Games 3 and 4 of the ALDS, we know a General Manager needs to look at much more than that. Basically, the new General Manager needs to assess not just if Callaway is the guy who can bring the Mets to the postseason, but he needs to assess if Callaway would stand as an impediment to the Mets winning a World Series.
In the regular season, we have seen some really good and really terrible things from Callaway and his coaching staff. The question is what is fixable and what are flaws which stand in the way.
The negatives have been oft discussed. There was the lineup card incident. Callaway had real difficulty handling the media. We saw him exhaust the bullpen, especially Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman, early in the season. He was also not above continuing to go back to that well even with them being overused. At times, the lineups were outright baffling, and unlike some of his other issues, this was something which seemed to get worse (more traditional?) as the season progressed.
On the positive, the Mets players did progress. According to wRC+, Brandon Nimmo was the second best hitter in the National League. Michael Conforto returned to his All Star form. Amed Rosario went from potential bust to improving young player. Jeff McNeil emerged as an everyday second baseman. Lugo became a dominant reliever. As noted previously, the rotation improved. Mostly, this team did not quit even after the season was over after a 5-21 June.
We have also seen Callaway use analytics to inform his decisions. In April, he was started Juan Lagares because Jacob deGrom was a flyball pitcher, and the Cardinals starter, Michael Wacha, had reverse splits. Essentially, he is well versed in analytics, and he’s able to use them to inform his decision making.
He’s also an aggressive manager. On multiple occasions, he brought in a reliever to force the other managers hand. Instead of being reactive to another manager’s pinch hitting choice, Callaway ensured he brought in his better pitcher to get a worse hitter up at the plate thereby ensuring himself of the better match-up.
Essentially, there’s enough here to suggest Callaway is the right guy for the job, but make no mistake, it is not a clear-cut decision. While he was strong in motivating and developing players as well as being aggressive in his pitching decisions, his position player choices left something to be desired and arguably got worse as the season progressed.
In the end, if the Mets are going to keep him or replace him, they better be right.
Back in 2011, Jose Reyes would lay down a bunt single to preserve his batting title. The first in Mets history. After reaching safely, Reyes would be lifted from the game much to the consternation of Mets fans. Much of the consternation eminated from the fact it looked like this was going to be the last time fans were going to get to see Reyes in a Mets jersey, and those fans wanted to see Reyes play just one last time and say good-bye.
Sunday, Reyes was in the lineup once again leadoff in what many believed to be his final game as a Met. Reyes would take one at-bat, ground out, and he would walk off the field for a final time. While the circumstances may seem to mirror what transpired seven years prior, the two situations could not have been more different.
During Reyes’ first stint with the Mets, he was the most electrifying player in the Majors. He could turn anything into extra bases, and extra base hits were nanoseconds away from becoming triples. When he was on the basepaths, he was a constant stolen base threat, and his dancing at third base helped entice a few balks leading to a run. Reyes was so dynamic we came up with the term “Reyes Run” for him getting on, getting over, and getting in.
Reyes was more than a dynamic offensive force. He was a shortstop with a bullet arm and a fan favorite. His apparent joy on the field was infectious to the fan base, and it did seem to get the team going. (Sometimes, like 2007, it would also motivate the opponents). Mets fans would shower him with the “Jose!” chant (a chant which began Saturday, March 29, 2003). We loved him, and he seemingly loved us too.
In 2011, you could argue it was he and not David Wright whom the Mets should keep. After all, Reyes was the younger player, and Citi Field was built more to Reyes’ than Wright’s strengths. Whatever the case, the Mets opted not to re-sign him, devastating a fan base, and having the organization a nd fans looking for a new fan favorite. Arguably, no one could fill that void like the way Reyes once did.
That was the Reyes who left New York after the 2011 season. That Reyes was barely recognizable after leaving.
After one year in Miami, he was traded to the Blue Jays as part of that organization’s efforts to return to the postseason. In 2015, in Reyes’ third year as a Blue Jay, it seemed the organization’s plans were coming to fruition. They were competing for a postseason spot with hopes for the division. It was time for a bold move, their GM Alex Anthopoulos made that bold move. In a six player trade, Reyes was traded to the Blue Jays for LaTroy Hawkins and Troy Tulowitzki.
In a year, Reyes and the Mets were supposed to return to the postseason, Reyes instead found himself playing for the Colorado Rockies. He didn’t want to be there, and the team didn’t want him. This also meant instead of playing in the postseason, Reyes would be making vacation plans to go to Hawaii.
On October 31, 2015, Michael Conforto hit two homers. Instead of going to Jeurys Familia for the six out save, Terry Collins brought in Tyler Clippard, who walked two of the three batters he faced. When Familia finally did come in, Daniel Murphy booted a grounder. The Mets 3-2 lead would quickly become a 5-3 deficit.
While this was happening, Jose Reyes would throw his wife into a glass door in Hawaii. His wife would need to be taken to a nearby hospital to treat her injuries, and Reyes would be arrested. Reyes faced not just prison time but also deportation. Instead, because his wife did not cooperate with prosecutors, the changes would be dropped.
While Reyes was able to avoid legal troubles, he could not escape MLB punishment. With a new Domestic Violence policy, Reyes would be suspended 51 games, which stands as the longest Domestic Violence suspension to date. With the Rockies already wanting to transition to Trevor Story, they were more than happy to release Reyes.
Fortunately for Reyes, the Mets needed a third baseman. Wright was injured again, and he was going to miss the rest of the season. Eric Campbell, Matt Reynolds, Wilmer Flores, and Kelly Johnson just weren’t to cut it. Partially due to desperation and partially due to nostalgia, the Mets threw Reyes the rope none of the other 28 teams were likely willing to give him.
A fan base was divided. While the “Jose!” chants returned, they did not have the same enthusiasm. Some of the people most willing to lead the cheer would sit on their hands or boo. Reyes beat his wife, and the Mets signing him was sending the wrong message.
Still, Reyes stayed, and he played reasonably well. He would have some highlights including the September 22nd game where both he and Asdrubal Cabrera homered which helped turn a 6-4 loss into a dramatic 9-8 11 inning victory which helped propel the Mets into the top Wild Card. Much like in his last postseason game with the Mets, Reyes went hitless as his team was eliminated at home.
In the subsequent two years, he was about the worst players in baseball. Despite all of Collins’ efforts to get him going, Reyes floundered, and there would be reports he was not happy playing third base. At the end of the 2017 season, he helped reinvent himself as a mentor to Amed Rosario. Between that and his hitting in September, the Mets brought him back.
He was dreadful this year hitting .189/.260/.320. He’d post a -0.8 WAR. Worse yet, he would complain about his playing time. He believed as a utility player he should have received more playing time, and really, without that playing time, the Mets were not giving him a chance to succeed. While there were some who were able to compartmentalize the off the field issues, when he was bad on the field, more and more Mets fans were disenchanted with him.
However, despite the ever growing calls to release him and make way for more talented prospects like Jeff McNeil, the Mets stubbornly held onto him. They treated him like one of the Mets greats, which he was in the first part of his career. Against all odds, Reyes would last the full season with the Mets. It allowed him to play alongside Wright in the Captain’s final game.
It also meant Reyes would get to leadoff in what is likely his final career game. Between innings, the Mets showed a video tribute. Reyes would emerge from the dugout to tip his cap to a standing ovation.
The crowd was much smaller than the sold out crowd who was there to see Wright’s final game. The standing ovation Reyes received did not remotely compare to the one Wright received. If you went back a decade, that would seem implausible as both were beloved players with Reyes being the one who probably generated more enthusiasm from the fans.
Personally, I loved Reyes. The first player jersey I ever purchased was Mike Piazza, the second Wright, and the third Reyes. Overall, I had more Reyes shirseys than any other player including a last season at Shea and first season at Citi one. That Reyes was the most exciting player who ever played for the Mets. When he went to Colorado, I still believed he had an outside shot at the Hall of Fame.
After he left, I was left livid with the organization. In no way should Wright and Reyes have ever been split up. Like great Mets duos of the past, Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman and Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry, it seemed like their destiny was to win a World Series together. Between that, Flores’ struggles at short and Ruben Tejada not being a particularly good baseball player, I desperately wanted the Mets to make a trade with the Rockies to bring back Reyes for that 2015 run.
To this day, part of me wonders what would have happened if Reyes did return to the Mets in 2015. Do they win that World Series, or do they still fall short? Would Reyes and his contract stood in the way of Yoenis Cespedes returning? Mostly, I wonder about that night.
While statistics prove differently, to this day, I hope it was an isolated incident, which could have been avoided by Reyes being in New York instead of Hawaii. In the converse, maybe this was a pattern of behavior which grew increasingly violent, and perhaps, things could have been hidden for longer if he was never in Hawaii. There is no way of knowing anything. What we do know is that instead of being in New York, Reyes was in Hawaii where he forever changed his legacy by committing a vile act.
Because of all of this, I was initially irritated Reyes was sharing Wright’s spotlight, but I made peace with it because it was what Wright wanted.
At the sake of sounding hypocritical, I must admit seeing Reyes doubling and moving to third on a sacrifice bunt was exciting. Wright coming up to the plate in an RBI situation was exciting. Wright being able to drive Reyes home just one last time made the moment all the more special.
In all honesty, I was surprised nostalgia got the better of me in the moment.
Perhaps it is because I truly miss the Reyes of 2003 – 2011. I just miss how fun it was to watch him play.
That fun completely disappeared when he returned. He was no longer a young up and coming superstar. He was a violent wife beater. Some people may be able to compartmentalize it, but I wasn’t. Certainly not for a player I once held in the highest of regards.
Now that is career is over, I honestly do wish Reyes well. I want him and his family to be able to move on from the domestic violence to have a happy and safe home life. If that happens, then no matter how much I was against it, Reyes returning to the Mets was worth it. I will be happy if Reyes returning to a place he was loved and cared for led him to not only seek help but to end what might have been a pattern of abuse. Hopefully, he is a better husband and father for the experience.
In the end, congratulations to Reyes on a great career. You are the greatest shortstop in Mets history. The memories of you and Wright playing together were some of the best I’ve had as a fan. Rooting for you was never the same, and it will never be the same again. Still, each and every Mets fan, including myself, wish you and your family well.
God bless the Reyes family.
Perhaps more than any season, there is a sense of sadness which washed upon me when the 2018 season ended. Perhaps, it was because my father is another year older, and I have yet to truly experience the Mets winning the World Series with him. Maybe it is because my son follows the game a little bit more and he is starting to become attached to some players, and those players are up in limbo.
There is the sadness with David Wright leaving. He was the most beloved Mets player in history, and he was arguably the best position player this organization has ever produced. He was a Met for his entire career, and he ended his career the right way – on the field. Unfortunately, that career did not end with him winning a World Series.
Past Wright, there are question marks about some other players. Is this the last time Wilmer Flores ever wore a Mets uniform? Are we just waiting for him to shed tears when he is wearing another team’s uniform? Could we have already seen the last of Travis d’Arnaud? How about Juan Lagares? With him in the last year of his deal, he is certainly more tradeable, and there should be savvy teams lining up to acquire his defense. Is he just destined to go somewhere else where the will be able to finally put it all together? Will a new General Manager come in and opt to start a rebuild that would likely begin with trading Jacob deGrom?
Honestly, will Yoenis Cespedes ever be able to play again? He has only had one of the two heel surgeries he needed. Whenever you see a report on him, no one seems to be able to pinpoint a date he can play next year. At some point, you have to question if he will ever really be able to play. That seems like such a big departure from the larger than life figure he has been since joining the Mets.
Really, when you look around the 2015 Mets team we loved so dearly has been slowly trickling away. Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia were traded away this year. Addison Reed, Lucas Duda, and Curtis Granderson were traded away last season. Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson, and Daniel Murphy are distant memories. Bartolo Colon is off making goofy barbecue ads in Texas. Sandy Alderson, the man who orchestrated it all, “took a leave of absence” because he is battling cancer.
What we have left is good, really good. We have seen Brandon Nimmo be the player the Mets hoped he would be when he was drafted. After concerns about his shoulder, Michael Conforto was once again Michael Conforto in the second half. Amed Rosario figured things out in the second half of the season, and Jeff McNeil seemingly came out of nowhere.
We watched deGrom reach a level we never thought possible making him a sure Cy Young award winner. Zack Wheeler went from enigma to ace. Steven Matz actually made 30 starts. Finally, Noah Syndergaard seemed to return to form as the season drew to a close. This is reminiscent of the pitching of 2015, pitching which led the Mets to a World Series.
Looking at it, the Mets had the best ERA in the majors in the second half (2.97), and they had the best record in the division in the second half (38-30). When you combine the finish with the start, you can see there is a World Series contender somewhere in the fabric of that clubhouse. In order for that to happen, the Wilpons are going to have to go out there and get the pieces necessary to put this team over the top. If they were to do so, it would be the first time since they signed Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran in 2005, and added Billy Wagner and Carlos Delgado the subsequent offseason.
Making bold moves like that to this core WILL put this team over the top, especially since Mickey Callaway and his staff grew during the season and showed they can be a coaching staff who can win you a World Series.
There’s a hesitation there. After Madoff, no Mets fan can really be assured this team is going to make the bold moves they need to take this roster over the top. Whatever hope you had was dashed when Jeff Wilpon told us all it was really Sandy Alderson who refused to spend and limited the size of the analytics department.
Thinking back, you realize this is partially why Wright retired without a ring. Sure, the Shea Stadium days were different. The Mets did add the aforementioned players, and they did make the Johan Santana trade. But after that? Well, it was Madoff and always finding themselves one or two players short. After all, the Mets traded for Kelly Johnson in consecutive seasons partially because the team believed Eric Campbell, and his major league minimum salary, was part of the solution.
In the end, this is a really likeable team. Watching Nimmo, Conforto, Rosario, deGrom, Syndergaard, Seth Lugo, and the rest of this Mets team, you can’t help but like and root for these guys. They are what makes being a Mets fan great. We don’t want to see deGrom, who looks to take up Wright’s mantle as the next great Mets player, leave Flushing without a ring. That can’t happen.
In the end, the ending of the 2018 season was a sad one. Hopefully, that sadness will quickly subside as the Mets go forth and seize the opportunity that is here. Hopefully, the 2019 season is going to be the year we finally see the Mets win another World Series. I hope so because I don’t know how many more opportunities I’ll have to celebrate it with all of my loved ones.