Michael Conforto

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. 

Do You Move Wright Off Third?

Mark Simon had a thought provoking article about moving David Wright off of third base. 

His reasoning was sound. Wright’s defense has taken a noticeable step back. It played a part in costing the Mets two World Series games. While his throwing was never a string point, it’s gotten worse, and he throws more side armed now. Whether it’s his age or the stenosis, there may be a point in time when the Mets may have to move him off of third. 

I just don’t think first base is the best option. Spinal stenosis is exacerbated by the typical twisting and turning actions you see on a baseball field. The stretching and turning at first would only exacerbate Wright’s stenosis. It may limit him further. I don’t think first is an option. 

I’ve seen people suggest second. There’s no way I put him in the middle infield. Just remember what happened with Ruben Tejada. As a second baseman, Wright will have his back turned on many double play chances. I can’t put him in that position especially since he’s got limited mobility with his back. 

There’s no good option in the infield. It’s why you might look to moving him into the outfield. Wright still has some speed and athleticism to cover the ground. He has shown the ability to track fly balls well, even if it has been at third base. His arm might be a liability in left, but it may be at third as well. 

The Mets have a spot coming up in the outfield within the next few years. Curtis Granderson has two years left on his deal, and as good as he’s been, I can’t see the Mets re-signing him at 36 years old. From what we’ve seen so far from Michael Conforto, he should be able to handle RF. We don’t know what Brandon Nimmo or any other prospect will be. 

We do know Wright will be around for another five years. Maybe he can stay at third. Whatever the case may be, the Mets should explore the possibilities. 

Goodbye Pepsi Porch

It was announced that Pepsi will no longer be sponsoring the Pepsi Porch at Citi Field. While it’s unclear who called the deal off, it’s a tough blow to Pepsi. 

Just as the Mets were getting good again, the team is primed to have more nationally televised games. It’s possible the Mets will have more postseason games. With the lefty hitters like Lucas Duda and Michael Conforto, we were bound to see the Pepsi Porch a few times over the next couple of years. Instead Pepsi is left with this:

It’s just as well. I’m old enough to remember the days when Pepsi wasn’t offered at Shea. It was RC Cola. As a result, I’ve never associated Pepsi with the Mets. It was always RC Cola, even if I complained to my Dad each time that the soda he got me at the game wasn’t Pepsi. 

Unfortunately, RC Cola has seemingly gone away with other classics like Tab, Jolt, and Snapple Root Beer. Whenever, I see an RC Cola, I make sure to get it even if it’s just to remember those summer nights of my childhood with my Dad, brother, and occasionally my cousin Brian or Uncle Eugene.  The last time I saw RC Cola was in Iceland. During December in Iceland, you really need those memories. 

In any event, I look forward to whatever comes along next. Whatever it will be, I’m sure my son will look back fondly at it one day as a reminder of all the times we spent at the park together. 

Can Gerardo Parra Help the Mets?

Despite a good postseason and an offseason to heal, the Mets seem intent on having a different centerfielder in 2016. One of the players the Mets are interested in is Gerardo Parra

This isn’t a new interest mind you. The Mets tried to trade for him last year before putting Michael Cuddyer on the DL and calling up Michael Conforto. Instead, the Mets watched Conforto become more than anyone dreamed he could be and saw Yoenis Cespedes play so well he garnered MVP consideration. With free agency, the Mets are circling back to Parra. 

Parra is a career .277/.326/.404 hitter. He’s coming off his best offensive year. He hit .328/.369/.517 in 100 games in Miller Park, a hitter’s park. If you’re signing him based on these numbers, you believe these numbers translate to Citi Field. You believe he’s entering the prime of his career at age 28. You believe his .237/.268/.357 slash line in 55 games with the Orioles is too small a sample size to rely upon. 

These are all reasonable assumptions. I can believe Parra is going to be a better offensive player in 2016 no matter where he signs. Coupled with Parra’s reputation as a good defensive player, he may be a bargain at the 3 year $24 million contract he’s expected to garner could be a bargain. 

The problem is Parra’s defense is by reputation only. His UZR does not support his reputation. Last year, he had a -4.2 UZR as a leftfielder, which equates to him being a poor left fielder. It was a precipitous drop from his 3.2 UZR in 2014. I bring this up to be instructive. If he’s not as great a leftfielder as the numbers suggest, why would he be a good centerfielder?

The answer is he isn’t. He was abominable in CF last year with a -10.0 UZR in 289 innings. This was even worse than his -4.3 in 2014 in 65 innings. Translation, the more Parra plays in center, the more his flaws are exposed. Why would you want to see this over a 162 game season for the next three years?

Part of the reason the Mets lost the 2015 World Series was their defense. With that being the case, why would you seek to diminish the one area the Mets were Gold Glove caliber?  Yes, Lagares had a down year. Yes, he’s had trouble against righties. However, even in a bad year, he’s still much better than Parra in center. 

I understand looking to upgrade in center, but Parra is not the answer. 

Cuddyer Will Be an Important Player in 2016

Last year, Michael Cuddyer was signed by the Mets to be that missing offensive piece. The Mets were so confident he would help them they were willing to forfeit their first round pick. It turns out they were wrong. 

Cuddyer had the worst year of his career. He’s a career .277/.344/.461 hitter mostly playing in hitter’s parks like the Metrodome and Coors Field. Last year, he only hit .259/.309/.391. What was the reason for the decline?  It could’ve  been the switch to Citi Field. It could’ve been free agents the Mets sign always have a poor first year (see Beltran, Carlos and Granderson, Curtis). It could’ve been his turning 36. It could’ve been the injuries. 

Cuddyer had a knee injury that compromised him for much of the year. He required surgery on his core. Either one of these injuries could reasonably explain the down year. At the very least, we can expect a healthier Cuddyer in 2016. With him being a bench player now, we can also expect a fresher Cuddyer too. 

Mostly, you can expect Cuddyer to take some at bats against tough lefties with Granderson, Lucas Duda, and Michael Conforto. For his career, Cuddyer has hit .290/.377/.494. Even in a down year last year, he hit .273/.357/.343. These are good numbers against lefties. He’s important because the Mets best hitters are all lefties. This will help curb the effects of the Mets facing a tough lefty during the regular season. 

Cuddyer’s other duties will include pinch hitting. For his career, Cuddyer has hit .355/.431/.548 in 72 pinch hitting attempts. Considering Cuddyer will be the team’s presumed top pinch hitter, these numbers are encouraging. Even more encouraging was his numbers as a pinch hitter last year. In 22 plate appearances, Cuddyer hit .316/.364/.316. Even in a down year, Cuddyer had good at bats as a pinch hitter. 

Lastly, the Mets have a David Wright problem. Wright showed last year, he can still be an effective player. However, he can still only play only four days in a row. With Daniel MurphyJuan Uribe, and Kelly Johnson being free agents, the Mets don’t have a definitive answer for Wright’s days off. Cuddyer has played some third in his career, but not with any regularity since 2005. 

However, Cuddyer is now a bench player. He has to be ready to pinch hit and play multiple positions. If Cuddyer is even a hint of the player he once was, the Mets will have a strong bench in 2016. They will have an insurance policy for first, third, left, and right. Signing Cuddyer may have been a mistake, but it doesn’t mean he won’t be a useful player. 

He’s going to have to play a big role in 2016, even if it’s a role neither he nor the Mets thought he would play. 

Let’s Not Throw Away Draft Picks

There are many thoughts about this offseason that baffles me. One is this notion that since the Mets offered Daniel Murphy a qualifying offer, it doesn’t matter if the Mets sign a player whose received a qualifying offer. The premise is the two moves cancel each other out. 

For the uninitiated, the way the qualifying offer system works, if you sign a player who was offered a qualifying offer by another team, you forfeit your first round pick. In exchange, the team that lost a player has a pick tacked on to the end of the first round. 

The only exception to this is if you have a Top 10 pick. In that instance, you forfeit your second round pick. The team losing the player still has a pick added to the end of the first round. 

Right now, the Mets have the 24th pick in the 2016 draft. That pick will go higher if someone between 11-23 signs Murphy. In addition, the Mets will get another pick somewhere after the Cardinals and the start of the second round. 

Now, I don’t buy the cancel each other nonsense. People are saying moving down a few slots is not a big deal. What’s the difference between picking 24th and say 33rd. That’s flawed thinking for a few reasons. 

The first is their focus is misplaced.  Say Murphy signs with the Rockies as reported. This means the Mets keep their 24th pick and receive the 31st pick (depending on how many teams lose a player in free agency and their W-L records). That’ll give you two picks in the top say 35. If the Mets forfeit their first round pick, their second pick will be in the 50’s to 60’s. 

Now, draft picks aren’t a guarantee, but I’d assume that the player picked at 24 will be thought of as a better player than the player picked at 33 and the player picked 52. In addition, wouldn’t you rather have three picks in the top 60 as opposed to two?  

This also brings me to my second point. The Mets farm system is decent, but it’s taken some hits lately:

  1. There was no 2015 first round pick due to the signing of Michael Cuddyer;
  2. Trading potential future ace Casey Meisner for Tyler Clippard; and 
  3. Trading an even better pitcher in Michael Fulmer for Yoenis Cespedes.

In essence, the Mets could benefit from bringing in some more talented players. The idea here is to create a flow of prospects to the major league level. If you lose someone, you want to have a player waiting in the wings. If you need to make a trade, you want a well regarded prospect to make the trade you need to make. 

Now, if the Mets feel they are one player away, sign that player. The goal is to win the World Series, and the Mets are so close. However, you have to be right. The Mets thought they were close to becoming a contender coming into the 2015 season, so they signed Cuddyer. Turns out they were right, but only after trading for Cespedes and calling up Noah Syndergaard and Michael Conforto

Moral of the story is you have to be right otherwise you have a $12 million bench player instead of a first round pick who could’ve been a stud. Remember, prospects are always worth more than aging, expensive bench players.  That’s why you don’t just sign someone with a qualifying offer attached to him.  

You only sign that player if they’d be worth a big prospect because that’s what you’re doing. 

It Still Hurts

Well it was bound to happen sooner or later. Tonight, my son wanted to watch the Mets. I figured the best bet was SNY for a classic game. Nope. I then went to MLB Network. Mistake. 

I turned it on just to watch Michael Conforto hit his second homerun off of Danny Duffy. As my son was cheering homerun, I was despondent.  All the pain from last week came rushing back again. I remembered how I sat there helplessly through Games Four and Five. As he fell asleep, I kept playing it all over and over in my head again. Just replaying these two games that should’ve sent the Mets back to Kansas City with a 3-2 lead. 

Well, I think I found something that will let me get some sleep tonight. It isn’t Conforto’s two homeruns in Game Four. It was his meaningless single at the end of Game 5. The Mets were down to their last out. Wade Davis had two strikes on him. Instead of giving in to the inevitable, Conforto battled in that at bat (as every Met batter did that inning). He eventually hit an opposite field single. 

Yes, in the grand scheme of things it was a really meaningless single. The Mets were down five and were not coming back. However, Conforto got that basehit. It speaks a lot about him, and it tells you what type of player he will be. He’s never giving up, and he will do what he can to give his team a chance to win. 

So if you are a Mets fan still in mourning over the World Series, take solace in that Conforto at bat. It’s a sign of good things to come. 

There’s No Room for Cespedes

A large part of what happened in the second half of the season was the Mets obtaining Yoenis Cespedes. I’m not in the camp that the Mets wouldn’t have won the division without him. However, I do believe it prevented a dog fight for the division. 

While it was a wild ride, it came at a cost. A huge cost. I remember being vilified for suggesting the Mets would not sign him. Now, it seems like after an awful World Series, fans are on board with the sentiment. There seems to be a multitude of reasons why people do or do not want Cespedes to come back to the Mets. For what it’s worth, it appears he will not return

I know its academic, but it’s the right decision. There’s no room for him on the roster. Michael Conforto will be the everyday leftfielder.  Curtis Granderson has two more years on his contract to be the rightfielder. The Mets are set at the corner outfield positions. As for centerfield, Cespedes isn’t a centerfielder. I know he played there for the Mets, but it wasn’t a great decision. It was a decision to increase offense. 

Looking over his career, Cespedes has poor range in centerfield. His UZR in centerfield this year was a -3.2, which equates to being a below average centerfielder. It just wasn’t those lazy World Series plays, it was the entire second half. By the way, this was the worst he’s been in three years in centerfield. His prior UZRs were -1.3 and -1.7. It’s the reason three teams didn’t see him as a centerfielder. People didn’t notice it as much because he was impossibly hot at the plate. 

Look at it this way, everyone jumped all over Juan Lagares for having a down year defensively. His UZR was 3.5, which equates to him being an above average centerfielder. So to get this straight, Lagares was bad, and Cespedes was good?  No, Cespedes hit, and Lagares didn’t. 

I do think Cespedes will continue to hit for power. In his four year career, his 162 game average is .271/.319/.486 with 30 homers and 106 RBI. Whether or not he’s a poor on base percentage player, he will continue to mash. That still doesn’t make him a CF. It makes him a terrific left fielder. The Mets have one of those. 

So we should all thank Cespedes for what he’s done for this team because he won’t be back. It was a wild ride, and I wish him the best at his next stop.