Michael Conforto

Thank You Cuddyer

Frankly, I’m stunned Michael Cuddyer retired. There were 12.5 million reasons not to retire. However, I suppose he knew it was his time to retire. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised a team first guy like him didn’t just go out there to go through the motions. 

You see while there are many different ways you to describe Cuddyer’s tenure with the Mets, on a. day like today, the one that resonates with me is Class Act. He was a one from his first moment with the Mets until his very last. 

It’s easy to envision it now, but Cuddyer came to the Mets to “win the NL East and hopefully do some damage in the postseason as well.”  At times during the season, this seemed impossible. As Mets were dropping like flies, he fought through a knee injury to be one of the few credible major league hitters in what was at times a AAA lineup. During this time, he would have an impact helping the Mets stay afloat including a game winning hit a game winning hit when the Mets season seemed its bleakest:

He played until he could play no more.  This led to his eventual replacement, Michael Conforto, getting called up. Cuddyer was replaced. He responded like the class act he was. He became a mentor to Conforto. He was helping the player who was forcing him to the bench. It probably was a factor in Conforto’s meteoric rise. Cuddyer was content to help in the clubhouse and on the field as much as he could. 

Unfortunately, Cuddyer had a rough postseason. His last ever game was Game One of the World Series when he struck out in all three of his at bats. He deserved to go out better.  During the postseason it was easy to forget Cuddyer was a lifetime .277/.344/.461 hitter with 197 homers and 794 RBI. In his career, he averaged 21 homers and 84 RBIs a year. He was a two time All Star with a Homerun Derby appearance, a batting title, and a Silver Slugger. 

He will forever be linked with the Twins. However, it was with the Mets he won a pennant and played in the World Series. While his play with the Mets wasn’t up to his usual standard, he was still the high quality character he always was. In many ways, I thought a healthy and rested Cuddyer could’ve helped the Mets next year

Maybe there still is a way for him to do that. With Bob Geren going to Los Angeles, there’s a spot on the coaching staff. Considering his positive impact on the Mets young players, he just might be a good fit. Besides, he came here to wear the same uniform as his friend David Wright and win a World Series. In that sense, there is a bit of unfinished business. 

Whether Cuddyer returns or not, the Mets players and organization were better for having him on the team. I wish him luck in whatever his next move will be. I appreciate all that he did with the Mets even if much of it was things we could not see. 

Congratulations on a terrific career Michael Cuddyer!

Zobrist Frontrunners

Like everyone else, I’ve gone on and on about Ben ZobristDaniel Murphy, and the whole second base situation. Now, Zobrist seems to be close to making a decision, and many have speculated he may just become a Met. Honestly, why would he do that?

First and foremost, the obvious reason is the Mets may be offering the most money, which frankly, is a rarity in these situations. Other than that, I can only think of five other reasons Zobrist would want to be a Met:

  1. Matt Harvey
  2. Jacob deGrom
  3. Noah Syndergaard
  4. Jeurys Familia
  5. Michael Conforto

Sure, the Mets are an NL East team closer to Zobrist’s Tennessee home than an NL West team, and they intend to put him at second where he prefers. The Mets did win the pennant establishing they are ready to win now. There are other nice pieces on the team, but they carry question marks: Curtis Granderson (age), David Wright (back), Travis d’Arnaud (injury history), and Juan Lagares (right handed pitching). 

Zobrist would be joining a team losing its #3 and #4 hitters and replacing them both with just him. The Mets also have a bottom third payroll with apparently not much room to increase it despite the additional playoff revenue. Sure, every team has problems, but the other two teams interested in Zobrist will go out and spend. The other options may be more attractive than the Mets. 

Washington Nationals

Keep in mind, the Nationals remain a dangerous team. They still have Max Scherzer (who no-hit the Mets) and Stephen Strasburg headlining the rotation. Bryce Harper took his game to the next level and won the MVP award. Anthony Rendon is a very good young player, who may very well be a Top 5 Third Baseman. There are exciting young players like Michael Taylor and Trea Turner.

The Nationals also had the third highest payroll in the sport last year (no one was going higher than the Dodgers and Yankees). They already addressed their biggest problem from last year by firing Matt Williams and hiring Dusty Baker. Dusty has his flaws, but he always seems to get the most out of his players. Lastly, the Nationals have already stated they want Zobrist to play second base. 

Overall, the Nationals are still poised to win a lot of games next year, have a lot of terrific pieces, and have the ability to spend the money necessary to be a contender to win the World Series. 

San Fransicso Giants

Speaking of contenders to win the World Series, next year is an even numbered year, which means the Giants are due to win the World Series.  The Giants were the other team that no-hit the Mets this year. 

Overall, there is a lot to like with the Giants. Madison Bumgarner is the best money pitcher in the sport. Buster Posey might just be the best position player in the NL (if it’s not Harper). Bruce Bochy is the best manager in all of baseball as well. There’s also the matter of the Giants hitting coach, who has been doing wonders with some of their younger players. 

Gold Glover Brandon Crawford has increasingly hit for more power.  Joe Panik has become an underestimated high OBP second baseman (sound familiar?). Matt Duffy showed increased power while finishing second in the Rookie of the Year voting. 

Seriously, so what if the Giants want Zobrist to play LF?  This is a team built to contend for the long and short team. They also have the sixth highest payroll in baseball. This team has an eye for young talent and is willing to spend to either keep their players or bring in new ones to fill their holes. The Giants have truly created a wonderful organization. 

The Decision

If you’re being honest with yourself, and the money is even, why would you pick the Mets?  They don’t have the wherewithal to spend the other teams do. The other teams have been addressing needs this offseason, while the Mets have yet to bring someone in to improve their team.  It’s still debatable if the Mets have enough money to make another significant move if Zobrist becomes a Met. 

If it was me, I’d always pick the Mets because I’m a die hard fan. However, if we’re looking at these teams on paper, I’m not sure the Mets are the most attractive option for any free agent.  You have to know that going to the Mets may mean you’re going to be the only major league signing. That’s been pretty much true of ever offseason for the Sandy Alderson regime. 

Given the fact that Zobrist wants to win, play second, and stay closer to home, why shouldn’t he pick the Nationals?  They have pitching and an arguably better lineup then the Mets. They also have the ability to spend more money than the Mets.

While I would always choose to be a Met, if I’m being honest, a sure with no such loyalty could/should choose differently. 

Don’t Rely upon Montero

There’s always that player. Despite all evidence to the contrary, you’re convinced they’re going to be good. You can explain away anything that happens. 

That’s how I always felt about Aaron Heilman. I thought the Mets never gave him a fair chance to start. They messed around with his arm angles and bounced him between starting and relieving. Sure, I ignored his career 5.93 ERA as a starter (small sample size) and focused upon his good work out of the bullpen in 2006 (regular season).  While I believed in Heilman, it just never happened for him. I thought about this when I saw this:

Seriously?  When will the Mets irrational over confidence in Rafael Montero end?  They may trade Jon Niese because Montero has the potential to be the fifth starter.  This is the same team that thought Montero should start in 2014 while eventual Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom should be in the bullpen. 

Montero wasn’t good in his initial call-up. He was 0-2 with a 5.40 ERA and a 1.600 WHIP in four starts. He was sent down and injured his oblique. He did come back up and pitched fairly well as a starter. Last year, Montero started in the bullpen. The Mets then sought to move him into the rotation to create a six man rotation to keep everyone fresh. Montero only lasted one start.

He went on the DL with right rotator cuff inflammation.  He was transferred from the 15 day to the 60 day DL to make room for Michael Conforto. His rehab was rumored to be progressing slowly. He then had a set-back. His year was effectively over. 

It’s not fair to call Montero a bust. It’s still too early in his career for that. It’s also too early to consider him injury prone even if he’s lost big chunks of time over the past two years. With that said, there is no way the Mets should have Montero as a definitive part of their 2015 plans. 

It’s widely assumed the fifth starter spot is eventually going to Zack Wheeler. It’s also assumed Niese will hold the spot for at least the first half of the season. After that, he could become trade bait, continue his excellent work in the bullpen, or both. Niese could also be insurance against a starting pitcher getting injured or create a six man rotation to get the other starters some rest. 

Montero could do the same, but why would you rely upon him doing that?  He hasn’t proven that he can be relied upon. You can trade Niese for a good return. However, you don’t do that because you think Montero could fulfill his spot. He’s been too unreliable to justify that thought process. This front office has a blind spot for him that could’ve meant deGrom in the bullpen. The Mets should learn from this. 

Instead, why don’t the Mets go and see how Aaron Heilman’s arm is?  

Mets Best Chance to Repeat in the East

At this point, I don’t know if any fan can honestly tell you what the Mets will do this offseason. I wouldn’t be surprised if they make no major additions. If they don’t, the Mets should still be favorites to repeat as NL East Champions. The main reason is an already weak NL East keeps getting worse. 

The Braves major offseason addition was to re-sign A.J. Pierzynski. Other than that, they traded away their young SS Andrelton Simmons. They’re threatening to do the same with Freddie Freeman

The Phillies have made no major moves, and do not appear to be doing so. Sure, they may have cleaned up the front office, but that will not have any impact upon their 2016 season. 

The Marlins brought in a very average manager in Don Mattingly, and then immediately threatened to get rid of anyone if any value. Whether it’s Jose Fernandez and his hoodies or Marcel Ozuna and his accumulation of service time, the they’re looking to get rid of anyone not named Giancarlo Stanton or Ichiro Suzuki

Then there are the Nationals, who just lost Jordan Zimmermann in free agency. I’m not sure how they replace him with their payroll issues. Essentially, they’re relying on Anthony Rendon being healthy, and the switch from Matt Williams to Dusty Baker vastly improving a team losing its CF and SS. It’s possible they will be better, but that’s a lot to ask considering Bryce Harper was the MVP, and Max Scherzer had a Cy Young caliber season. 

The Mets have holes, but they return a young rotation poised to be deeper and better. They’ll presumably have a full year of Travis d’ArnaudMichael Conforto, and David Wright. At the end of the day, it just might be enough offense to offset the losses of Yoenis Cespedes and Daniel Murphy. Ultimately, it may not matter with the NL East regressing. 

The Mets need to just play to their potential to repeat in the NL East for the first time in their history. 

Bad Trade Idea: Carlos Gonzalez

As long as Carlos Gonzalez remains a Rockie, there will rumors and suggestions that he will be a Met. It was the same with his former teammate Troy Tulowitzki. Tulo became a Blue Jay, which means we have to double down on the CarGo silliness:

  
I’m not going to address whether they’re good deals for the Mets (they’re not). Instead, I’m going to ask why?  Why are we going through this again?  The Mets are set at the corner OF spots, and CarGo is a RF. 

CarGo played 151 games in the field this year. All were in RF. He hasn’t played CF since 2011. The reason is probably because he’s just a average RF. His UZR last year was -1.7. His average UZR IS 0.8 per season. If he’s just average in RF, why do we believe he will be average or better in CF?  

Furthermore, he’s not an offensive upgrade. Last year, CarGo hit .271/.325/.540 with 40 homeruns. It was a Coors Field creation. He hit .299/.355/.617 with 24 homeruns at home. On the road, he hit .253/.294/.464 with 16 homeruns. That remains true for his entire career. He’s a lifetime .290/.347/.524 hitter. He has hit .324/.382/.604 at home and .255/.310/.441 in the road. 

This isn’t an upgrade over either Curtis Granderson or Michael Conforto. He’s not even an upgrade over Juan Lagares. Lagares is a career .261/.297/.364 who plays Gold Glove defense. Away from Coors, CarGo hits .255/.310/.441 and still brings his average defense with him. Better yet, CarGo has hit .115/.207/.250 at Citi Field. 

Throw in the fact that he’s due $37 million over the next two years and you’d have to give up players to get him, the question should be why you anyone want him?  You’re essentially getting a slightly below average hitter who is average defensively. Trades like that ruin teams. Think about it. If CarGo was that good, why would the Rockies be shopping him?  Also, why haven’t there been any takers?  

As the Mets have done in the past, they should just not trade for CarGo. 

Mets Real Problem

Something occurred to me last night. The Mets have a real problem this offseason. It’s one that they partially created. In a nutshell, they arrived too soon. 

At the beginning of 2015, no one saw the Mets winning the NL Pennant. They were coming off a 79-83 season. The already dominant Nationals added Max ScherzerBryce Harper wasn’t the only one who thought the Nationals were bound to win a ring. Even with Jacob deGrom winning the Rookie of the Year and the return of Matt Harvey most thought the best case scenario was the Mets competing for one of the Wild Cards. 

What happened?  The National faltered so badly they had to fire their manager. deGrom was even better than he was in his rookie year. Harvey showed no rust and has no setbacks in his first season back from Tommy John surgery. The Mets offense and his play in AA forced the Mets to call up Michael Conforto, who played well. Noah Syndergaard had an incredible rookie year. Jeurys Familia became a great closer. 

Add that to Curtis Granderson having a great year and an amazing two months from Yoenis Cespedes, the Mets win 90 games and win the NL East. When the young pitching delivers in the postseason and Daniel Murphy becomes unhittable, you win a pennant. Man was that an unlikely pennant. Going into the year, you would’ve thought everything wouldn’t had to break right for the Mets to get to this point. It was quite the opposite. 

Zack Wheeler‘s season was over before it began with him needing Tommy John surgery. David Wright missed most of the season with spinal stenosis. Murphy was in and out of the lineup in the first half with injuries. Michael Cuddyer wasn’t as good as they hoped, got hurt, and became an expensive bench playerWilmer Flores struggled at shortstop creating a strange platoon with Ruben TejadaDilson Herrera couldn’t fill the gaps because he still wasn’t ready. Travis d’Arnaud had two long DL trips, and his replacements couldn’t hit. Juan Lagares took big steps back offensively and defensively. Lucas Duda had a streaky year with prolonged slumps. Oh, and their closer, Jenrry Mejia, had not one but two PED suspensions. 

Really, this wasn’t some magical season. It was frustrating for most of the year. It was magical from August on. If not fit the Nationals ineptitude, the Mets should’ve been dead and buried. The Mets should’ve been looking to build off of a strong 2015 season. The Mets still have prospects a year or two away. The year was really supposed to be 2017. That was the year the Mets pitching would’ve been firmly established with the Mets having quality players at every position across the diamond.

No, they’re way ahead of schedule. They’re ready to let Murphy walk after he’s been a solid player for many years, let alone that postseason. There’s no room for Cespedes. The Mets are again talking about not being able to expand payroll. It’s creating an air of frustration amongst the fan base. It’s strange considering what happened in 2015. 

What’s also strange is a poor NL East is seemingly getting worse. The NL East may very well be there for the taking WITHOUT the Mets signing even one player. In actuality, not signing anyone could arguably be a prudent move for the future of the team. 

Do you really want to block 2B with a large contract when Herrera is a potential All Star. Do you grossly overpay for a bad shortstop when the Mets have not one but two big prospects at that position who are not far away?  Why are you getting a terrible centerfielder when Brandon Nimmo is so close

Do you block the path for some potential All Stars for aging players who MAY help you one year and be an albatross when the prospects are ready?  How do you not build upon a team that went to the World Series last year?  Can you reasonably ask a fan base to wait another year after all the losing? How do you explain last year might’ve been a fluke?

That’s the Mets real problem. They’re trying to juggle the present and the future. The front office is going to have to earn their money this offseason. 

Clock Has Officially Started on Nimmo

The first ever draft pick by the Samdy Alderson regime with the Mets was Brandon Nimmo. Today, he should be added to the 40 man roster, and he looks like he will begin the year in AAA. 

When the Mets drafted him, they were just drafting on potential. Sure, you could make that argument with any first round pick, but it really applied to Nimmo. He played in Wyoming, a state that produces very few major league players. He showed glimpses of being a give tool player, but in a state like Wyoming, who really knows?

The Mets knew he was a long term project. That’s fine. You draft the best talent. He’s definitely talented. He’s a Top 100 MLB prospect and the Mets number two overall prospect (behind Steven Matz). He’s shown he can handle centerfield everyday. He’s got good speed and a good arm. While he may not have 20 home run power, he’s got a good eye and he’s a contact hitter. In his minor league career, he’s hit .263/.383/.391. After his call-up to AAA last year, he hit .264/.393/418 in 32 games. 

It’s possible he gets called up in 2016. It’s even more possible he gets called-up in 2017. Fact is, the sooner he’s ready the better. Right now, the Mets seem to want a platoon bat in CF for Juan Lagares. They deem this such a need they’re talking with players who can’t play the position. Personally, I’d let Kirk Nieuwenhuis be the platoon option until Nimmo is ready. It’s not like Kirk is any worse than the other options. I believe everyone in the Mets organization wants Nimmo to force them to make the decision. 

That’s why the clock is ticking. Everyone is waiting for him to take over CF. We’re looking forward to seeing Nimmo and Michael Conforto continue to drive each other to become the best players they can be. If they bring out the best in one another just watch out when they’re reunited in the majors. 

I’d like to see Nimmo get his chance. I’d hate to see him blocked by what will be an albatross of a contract. Right now, it’s up to him. Conforto forced his way to the majors. Nimmo has to be the same. He’s now on the 40 man roster, which means there’s one less hurdle. 

Soon, it will be Nimmo’s time. 

Flores > Aybar

Well now that the Andrelton Simmons drama is over, you would think the idea of a Mets-Braves trade would go away. At least you would think it would go away after the Braves overreach in their asking price. It turns out the asking price was even worse than we all thought:

You would think that this would put an end to any idea that the Mets and Braves would enter into a trade for a everyday player. Nope because the Braves received Erick Aybar as part of the trade. Naturally, everyone sees the name and goes there’s a fit:

It’s at this point it should be noted Jim Bowden was a terrible GM in more ways than one. There’s a reason why he hasn’t had a front office job since 2009. If you didn’t have any reason to call his judgment into question, look no further than his idea that the Mets obtain Aybar. 

 Aybar is coming off a year where he hit .270/.301/.338. For his career, he is hitting .270/.316/.378. He will be 32 years old on Opening Day. He’s in the last year of his deal, and he’s owed $8.5 million. That’s a lot of money for a guy that’s not a good hitter. However, the Mets have a need for a defensive SS, so maybe you bite the bullet here. Aybar has won a Gold Glove. 

Except, it was just the one, and it was five years ago. Now, he’s got horrible range. His UZR this past season was -7.1. If you want to argue that UZR can change from year to year, and he was much better in 2014, I agree. However, he was also a -6.6 in 2013. Essentially, in two of the last three years, his range is close to fall down left – fall down right. 

Let’s put it another way, we all agree Wilmer Flores was good defensively last year. Well, at a -2.5 UZR, he had much better range than Aybar. As we saw after Ruben Tejada went down in the postseason, Flores was much better at SS. Gone were the wild throws and awkwardness in turning the double play. 

Now, what is more likely?  Is it more likely that Aybar suddenly rediscovers his range from five years ago at the age of 32, or is it more likely that the 24 year old Flores is improving at SS?  Would you want to pay Aybar $8.5 million against Flores’ $500-600 k salary to find out?  Is Aybar really worth $8 million more plus prospects?  Isn’t Flores the better bet, especially with his 16 homeruns last year?

Look, if you’re not comfortable with Flores, I get it. However, that does not mean you make a bad trade for a bad player who plays a bad SS. The fact of the matter is there are no good shortstop options. You can stick with Flores and/or wait to get a veteran insurance policy on the cheap. You could also trade for a SS. 

The trade route is fine as long as you’re not trading for Aybar because he’s no longer a good SS. I’d rather stick with Flores. 

Shortstop is a Conundrum

The recent Andrelton Simmons trade rumors suggests again the Mets know there is a hole at shortstop. 

Last year, Wilmer Flores showed he wasn’t an everyday shortstop. On top of that with Daniel Murphy likely departing, he may be needed at second if Dilson Herrera isn’t ready. On top of that, Ruben Tejada once again exhibited limited range for the position, and that is before taking into account his broken leg. You’d like to say Matt Reynolds is an option, but he regressed at the plate last year in a hitter’s league and park. Furthermore, he, like Flores, is someone who may not profile as a major league shortstop. 
The Mets have two well regarded shortstop prospects with Gavin Cecchini and Ahmed Rosario. Both played in AA for the first time last year. While Michael Conforto made the jump from AA to the majors, it would be unfair to presume these two could. Conforto did something rare. Accordingly, it’s safe to assume Cecchini and Rosario are at least two to three years away from playing with the big league club. 

The free agent market is thin at shortstop with the best option being a high priced player in decline for the past two years. Furthermore, the Mets unloaded their best trade pieces on rentals to go all-in last year. This begs the question, what do you do?

Well, there’s only one thing to do. You let the free agent market shake out. You look to take on one of the remaining shortstops on either a minor league deal or a cheap major league deal. I’m sure a player like Jimmy Rollins is looking for one last chance to win a World Series. Alexei Ramirez may want a one year deal to re-establish his value. 

No, I’m not excited about these players either. However, it’s the reality of the Mets situation.  Much like they wanted to catch lightning in a bottle with Flores last year, they’re looking to do it again next year with Flores or whoever else it may be. 

It’s difficult knowing the Mets real shortstops are two plus years away, but the team is ready to win now. 

Why Not Both Soria and O’Day?

Unsurprisingly, the Mets have interest in both Darren O’Day and Joakim Soria. If you’re looking for an elite setup guy, you’re going to be interested in both players.

Soria is now three years removed from Tommy John surgery. In the four seasons prior to the one he was injured, Soria was an elite closer recording 132 saves with a 2.03 ERA and a 0.988 WHIP. He got injured, and he became a different player. Still a good closer/reliever, but not an elite closer. 

After coming back from surgery, he went to Texas where he recorded 17 saves with a 3.16 ERA and a 1.043 WHIP in two years. He then signed with the Tigers, who seem desperate for relief help every year (sound familiar?). In two years, he recorded 24 saves with a 3.29 ERA and s 1.115 WHIP. When he was traded to the Pirates, he was terrific in the bullpen because he’s a good pitcher and everyone is terrific in the Pirates bullpen. In 29 games he had a 2.03 ERA with a 1.163 WHIP. 

With the Mets seeking an eighth inning reliever, Soria would be an upgrade over Addison Reed, who has a career 4.01 ERA and a 1.261 career WHIP. Soria is a huge upgrade. Soria is expected to receive a 2 year $14 million contract or $7 million per season. Reed is slated to receive $5.7 million in arbitration. Soria would be worth the $1.3 million increase. 

O’Day appears like he will command a 3 year $21 million contract or $7 million per year. While I think the $7 million per year on both O’Day and Soria are fair estimates, the increased interest may bump those numbers up to around $8 million per season. 

Right now, the Mets projected payroll is around $92 million with about $18 million left in the budget. Would it be wise to blow almost all of it on relievers?  I think so. The current free agent market lacks the elite second base, shortstop, or center fielders who would improve the Mets offense. The Mets don’t seem inclined to bring back Daniel Murphy

The best solution might be to create an absolute shut down pitching staff. Going from the Mets elite starters to O’Day-Soria-Jeurys Familia will hold up any lead the Mets can muster. Also, keep in mind, the Mets will have full years from David WrightMichael Conforto, and Travis d’Arnaud, which should offset the losses of Murphy and Yoenis Cespedes

The Mets best approach to this offseason might be to create a shutdown bullpen to match their starting pitching. Bring on both O’Day and Soria.