Last night, the Yankees brought on Aroldis Chapman to close out a Yankees three run lead. After Wilmer Flores struck out to begin the inning, Dominic Smith strode up to the plate in what would be the rookie’s biggest test in his brief major league career. Seeing how he hit an opposite field homer earlier in the game, and Rafael Devers hit a huge home run against Chapman in Chapman’s last save attempt, this was promising to be a very interesting match-up.
This is not the first time we have seen this play with Collins. During Michael Conforto‘s first two years with the Mets, Collins did not let his young left-handed hitter face left-handed pitching. Instead, he would bat Michael Cuddyer, Juan Lagares, Justin Ruggiano, Ty Kelly, or really any warm body on the bench to prevent Conforto from facing a left-handed pitcher.
The end result of Collins’ refusal to play Conforto against left-handed pitching was Conforto actually struggling against left-handed pitching. Over his first two big league seasons, Conforto hit .129/.191/.145 with just one extra-base hit, a double, in the 68 at-bats he did get against left-handed pitching.
However, there was no reason to sit Conforto against left-handed pitching. His hitting coach, Kevin Long, found the notion that Conforto can’t hit left-handed pitching absurd. Conforto hit left-handed pitching in both his collegiate and brief minor league career. Still, despite Conforto’s ability to hit left-handed pitching everywhere else, Collins decided to sit him against left-handed pitching.
When pressed on it, Collins said, “We’re in a situation where we’re trying to win games. This is not a time to develop players.” (Barbara Barker, Newsday).
Assuming Collins is correct that you shirk the responsibility of developing young players because you have designs on winning a World Series, why is he now repeating the same tactics with Smith?
Currently, the Mets are 10 games under .500. The team has to win 62% of their remaining games just to get to .500. The team has already traded away Jay Bruce, Lucas Duda, Addison Reed, and Neil Walker. If an opportunity presents itself, Asdrubal Cabrera, Curtis Granderson, and Rene Rivera will find new homes before the end of the month. Put more succinctly, this team is not in a position where they are trying to win games – this is a time to develop players.
Pinch hitting for Smith the very first opportunity he gets to face a left-handed pitcher in the majors does nothing to accomplish that goal.
Overall, unless Collins is facing some delusions of grandeur, there is no reason to believe the Mets are winning anything in 2017. Smith is ticketed to be the Mets starting first baseman in 2018. To that end, the rest of the regular season should be dedicated to helping him best prepare for the 2018 season. Sitting him against left-handed pitching only hinders his development.
Maybe, just maybe Collins was never truly concerned with player development. Maybe in his mind young left-handed batters are just incapable of hitting left-handed pitching. It is likely the reason why he previously sat Conforto against left-handed pitching, and it is the reason why he’s doing it with Smith now.
It’s poor managing, and it has had a tangible effect on player development. Collins might have had his excuse with Conforto, but he doesn’t have that excuse with Smith now. If Collins shields Smith from a left-handed pitcher just one more time, the Mets are going to have to find someone else to manage. Simply put, you cannot permit Collins to hinder Smith’s development to win some meaningless games.
Back in 2015, the New York Mets season was falling apart at the seams. The Mets needed offense, and the fans wanted Michael Conforto. Scouts and talent evaluators said the Mets 2014 first round draft pick was ready, but the Mets consistently insisted Conforto wasn’t ready.
Instead of Conforto, the Mets trotted out people who weren’t good and weren’t ready. The Mets were happy trotting out John Mayberry, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, and Darrell Ceciliani in the outfield. Briefly, the Mets would even try Eric Campbell in left field. For the most part, the Mets mostly stuck with a clearly injured and hobbled Michael Cuddyer in left field. He fell apart in June hitting just .211/.237/.311 in 25 games.
Finally, both Cuddyer and the Mets both had enough, Cuddyer would go the Disabled List, and Conforto would finally get called-up to the majors. At that time, the Mets had lost two in a row and five of their last seven. For a team that once had a 4.5 game lead in the division, they would fall to three games back.
It turns out Conforto was indeed ready. He would play 56 games hitting .270/.335/.506 with 14 doubles nine homers, and 26 RBI. He was a big part of the Mets turn-arond with the team having been 10 games over .500 in the games he played. He was also a big part of the Mets postseason run. He hit three homers in the postseason including two in Game Four of the World Series.
It’s possible Conforto needed every bit the time he had in Double-A. Maybe the extra time he spent in Doube-A put him in position to succeed when he came to the majors. It’s also likely Conforto was ready well before the Mets did what they didn’t want to do when they called him up. Fact is, we’ll never know. The only thing we do know is Conforto was very good when he was called up to the majors, and he has an important part of the Mets success in 2015.
The Mets are in the same exact situation in 2017.
The team has seen Asdrubal Cabrera struggled offensively and defensively, and he has landed on the Disabled List twice. His primary back-up, Jose Reyes, has statistically been the worst infielder in the major leagues this year, and he appears to be getting worse. Now, Neil Walker has suffered an injury that will keep him on the Disabled List for an extended time frame.
Unlike 2015, the real issue for this Mets team is defense. As a team, the Mets rank last in the majors with a -13 DRS, and it is not likely to improve. Reyes is not only struggling offensively, but he is struggling defensively as well. The other players on the roster aren’t much better.
The Mets took the starting shortstop position away from Wilmer Flores for a reason. The Mets also transitioned T.J. Rivera from shortstop to other positions because he couldn’t handle the position defensively. Same goes for Gavin Cecchini who is now a second baseman. Matt Reynolds is actually a good defensive shortstop, but he can’t hit enough to play everyday.
Like in 2015, the fans are clamoring for the Mets top prospect, and like in 2015, everyone but Sandy Alderson seems to believe he’s ready. In 65 games for Las Vegas, he’s hitting .336/.378/.500 with 15 doubles, four triples, seven homers, 47 RBI, and 12 stolen bases. Based on the offensive statistics, he seems ready, but that’s not an in depth analysis. Truth is considering the hitting environment that is the Pacific Coast League, we probably don’t know how much improvement a player is making until they get to the majors.
However, the Mets don’t need Rosario for his offense even if anything else is likely better than what Reyes is providing. No, the Mets need him for his defense, and the Mets need him sooner rather than later.
After losing last night’s game, the Mets are five games under .500, and they are 10.5 games back in the division. Like in 2015, the Mets promising season is falling apart. Instead of the team calling up the player who could help address the team’s needs, they are being stubborn in insisting the top prospect isn’t ready. They are once again letting the season slip away. Unlike 2015, things are much more dire.
Sure, the Mets could be right in saying Rosario isn’t ready. After all, it is very well likely they know more than anyone about where Rosario stands in his development. Maybe, just maybe, the Mets know what they’re doing, and when they finally bring Rosario up to the majors, he will have the success and impact Conforto did in 2015.
Hopefully, there is still a season to salvage whenever the Mets get around to calling up Rosario.
When you have a magical season like the Mets had in 2015, there are a number of players that step forward to have remarkable seasons. For the Mets, one of those seasons came from the unlikeliest of sources in Sean Gilmartin.
With the return of Matt Harvey and the signing of Michael Cuddyer, the Mets were letting the baseball world know 2015 was going to be their season. There was just one small problem. They never could quite get the LOOGY they needed. Jerry Blevins was supposed to have that role, but he broke his pitching arm. Josh Edgin and Jack Leathersich would join him on the disabled list. The team traded for Alex Torres, but he was a disaster. That meant the only real lefty they had in the bullpen was Rule 5 pick Gilmartin.
Except, Gilmartin wasn’t a LOOGY. In essence, Gilmartin was a pitcher. In fact, prior to joining the Mets, Gilmarting had spent the entirety of his minor league career with the Braves as a starting pitcher. As a starter, Gilmartin had neutral to almost reverse splits. To that end, he wasn’t the guy you wanted as the LOOGY. Still, Gilmartin knew how to pitch, and when he was given the opportunity, he showed that to the Mets.
It took about a month and a half, but Terry Collins finally figured out Gilmartin’s role. Gilamartin becaume the long man out of the pen. It may not be the most glamorous of bullpen jobs, but it is of vital importance. You need a pitcher who can go out there and keep his team in the game. If there is an injury or a starter that just doesn’t have it, you need the long man to give the team an opportunity to make the comeback. In extra innings, you need the guy who can go out there and reliably soak up two or even three innings and put up zeros. Mostly, you need someone reliable who can save the bullpen.
Gilmartin was exception in that role. During the 2015 season, Gilmartin made 18 multiple inning relief appearances accounting for 37% of his relief appearances. Beginning on May 20th, which was really when he was made the long man, Gilmartin made 16 multiple inning relief appearances over his final 33 relief appearances of the season. Essentially, half the time Gilmartin was used for multiple innings about half the time thereby saving the bullpen. Namely, Gilmartin was saving Jeurys Familia, who Collins used over and over again because he was just about the only guy Collins trusted out there.
In Gilmartin’s multiple inning appearances, he was dominant. When he pitched multiple innings, he pitched 32.2 innings going 3-1 with a 1.38 ERA, and a 0.704 WHIP. Perhaps the key to this was the fact Gilmartin grew stronger as he pitched. He did his best work between pitches 26 – 50 limiting batters to a .161/.235/.194 batting line.
As for a highlight, pick one. There was his first career win. The Mets found themselves in a rare slugfest after Dillon Gee was bounced after 3.2 innings having allowed eight earned. Torres wasn’t much better. Gilmartin was the first pitcher to enter that game to put up multiple scoreless innings. He stabilized the game, and he put the Mets in position to win.
There was the July 19th 18 inning game against the St. Louis Cardinals. At that time, the Mets were so inept offensively, you could load the bases with no outs and start the batter with a 3-0 count, and the Mets still couldn’t score a run. Gilmartin came on in the 14th inning, and he pitched three scoreless to give the Mets a chance to win that game, which they eventually did with two runs in the 18th.
On August 24th, Gilmartin was overshadowed every which was possible. The Mets were off and running afte rthe team obtained Yoenis Cespedes. It was David Wright‘s first game since he came off the Disabled List, and he homered in his first at-bat back with the team. Lost in the shuffle was this was the rare poor start for Jacob deGrom with him being unable to get out of the fourth. Gilmartin came on and pitched 3.1 scoreless to give the Mets a chance to come back from an early 7-2 deficit.
More than that, Gilmartin got his first career hit and run scored. His sixth inning single got yet another rally started. He scored on a Daniel Murphy three run homer, the Mets lead had actually expanded to 12-7.
Ultimately, it was Gilmartin’s August 24th relief appearance that was the essence of what it means to be a long man in the pen. He not only went out there and saved the bullpen by tossing 3.1 innings, but he also gave his team a chance to win. It was a tremendous effort that was overlooked because Wright played in his first game in four months, and the Mets overcame a five run deficit to blow out the Phillies.
Initially, Gilmartin was left off the postseason roster, but after Erik Goeddel‘s struggles in the NLDS, the Mets did the right thing and put Gilmartin back on the roster. He’d make just one appearance pitching 0.2 scoreless in Game Two of the World Series. Part of the shame of that World Series was there were multiple occasions to bring on Gilmartin. Instead his role had gone to Bartolo Colon, who just wasn’t as effective in the role as Gilmartin.
After the 2015 season, the Mets wanted to use Gilmartin as a starter. With a loaded major league rotation, that meant Gilmartin started the year in Vegas. He was doing well there until the Mets started messing with him. With the bullpen not having the effective long man that Gilmartin was in 2015, this meant the team had to call him up to the majors on multiple occasions. This meant Gilmartin would have to fly cross-country, and the Mets would insert him into games despite his not having had full rest. He’d develop a shoulder injury. It may not have been enough to need surgery, but Gilmartin was never the same.
Instead of putting Gilmartin in a position to succeed, the Mets messed around with him until the point they felt his was expendable. For some reason, with this Mets team again needing a Gilmartin in the bullpen, they refused to give him a chance instead going with Josh Smoker and Neil Ramirez and their pair of ERAs over 7.00.
Gilmartin deserved better than this. He was a good pitcher who had a significant impact on a pennant winning team. It disappointing the Mets never again put him in a position to succeed. With that said, getting designated for assignment by the Mets was probably the best thing for his career. He will once again have an opportunity to be a good major league pitcher.
While the Mets have overlooked his importance, and fans have become frustrated with him, there are those that never forgot what he once meant to this team. Personally, I will always be grateful for his 2015 season, and I hope him nothing but success. He’s still a good pitcher, and he should soon remind everyone of that.
Thank you and good luck Sean Gilmartin.
With no one realistically knowing when David Wright can play again or what he could contribute and Jose Reyes struggling mightily, the question becomes when you dip into the minor leagues to bring up reinforcements.
The answer is likely Friday, June 9th.
Why that date? Well, it is likely the Mets will try to avoid risking taking one of their big prospects and allow them to reach Super Two status. For those that qualify for Super Two status, they get an extra year or arbitration. That means a young player gets four years of arbitration instead of three. That means for one year instead of making near the league minimum, they’re making real major league money. They also have a higher base for future arbitration years.
While the date changes each year, and while it is an over generalization, Fangraphs notes teams are usually safe waiting 65 service days, i.e. days on the roster. With Opening Day having been Monday, April 3rd, 65 days later is June 8th. With that being an off-day, the hypothetical player would be activated on June 9th.
Now, let’s be more specific. We all know the player most fans want to see called-up is Amed Rosario. Not only is Rosario the top prospect in the Mets farm system, but according to ESPN Insider Keith Law, Rosario is the top prospect in the game.
But Rosario is more than that. He represents hope. He represents the future. He represents what could be the spark this team in a way Michael Conforto was for a 2015 Mets team that went all the way to the World Series.
However, it is still way too early to pull that trigger. For starters, Conforto was not called up to the majors until July 24th, and that was only because others failed, and Michael Cuddyer went on the disabled list.
Right now, Reyes is struggling, but we can’t say he’s failed nine games into the season. Even if you did, both T.J. Rivera and Wilmer Flores have done enough to at least earn an opportunity to fail should the Mets finally decide Reyes isn’t the answer.
You’re going to need time to parse through Reyes, Rivera, and Flores. More importantly, Rosario is going to need time as well. Overall, Rosario has only played 61 games above Single-A.
The other issue is where does Rosario play. It’s easy to say he’ll play short and Asdrubal Cabrera will move to third, but the Mets appear to like Cabrera at short. Therefore, Rosario may need to play third. The plan is to get him in a game at third base once every 10+ games.
For the Mets to even contemplate Rosario at third, they have to be comfortable he can play the position. At this time, there’s no guarantee he can. You can really only gauge when he plays the position. That’s going to take some time.
As of the moment, the first place Mets have time to let the situation sort itself out. They can wait for both Reyes and Rosario to figure out what they need to figure out in order to succeed against major league pitching. They can wait until the Super Two timeline has passed.
And who knows when Wright comes back? If he does, this conversation about Rosario is moot. If he doesn’t come back in time, we all sit and wait for someone to establish themselves.
If someone doesn’t do it by mid-June, the Mets may very well call-up Rosario. However, in all likelihood, the Mets wait just a little longer.
With reports that the Mets do not expect they will be able to re-sign Yoenis Cespedes, and that was before Neil Walker accepted the $17.2 million qualifying offer, the question is how do you replace the irreplaceable? Here are some options:
As explained in an earlier MMO article, a rejuvenated Gomez could help the Mets by continuing to play a good center field and by providing another right-handed bat in what protects to be a heavy left-handed Mets lineup.
After not getting a significant contract offer with a qualifying offer attached to him, he bet on himself taking a one year $8 million deal from the Texas Rangers.
Desmond was an All Star who hit .285/.335/.446 with 29 doubles, 22 homers, and 85 RBI. However, Desmond does have some red flags:
- He rated below average defensively in center field (-4.5 UZR);
- He hit only .269/.324/.429 off right-handed pitching; H
- He fell apart in the second half hitting .237/.283/.347; H
- He hit .330/.368/.497 at hitter friendly Ballpark at Arlington and .241/.305/.398 in the road; and
- He may get a qualifying offer.
Infamously, the Mets chose Jason Bay over him heading in the 2009 offseason. Bay would struggle immensely at Citi Field while Holliday would win a World Series with the Cardinals.
While Holliday has been injury prone the past few years, he has still hit. He has always been an average to below average left fielder, and the 37 year old is coming off his worst year out there. It is part of the reason he began transitioning to first base with the Cardinals. If the Mets were to sign him, he could fulfill the role the Mets envisioned Michael Cuddyer would have.
Of all the available free agents, Bautista is the one who is best suited to replicate the offensive production Cespedes provided the Mets. Over the past three seasons, Bautista has hit .259/.383/.508 while averaging 32 homers and 95 RBI. If you are looking for a difference maker in the lineup, Bautista fits the bill.
However, there are some reason to be hesitant to sign Bautista. First, he is a 36 year old coming off his worst season since 2009 (as per OPS+). Second, he has been in decline as an outfielder over the past three seasons. Third and most importantly, he is going to be expensive. It is anticipated Bautista will received a qualifying offer, and he reportedly wants 5 years $150 million in free agency.
Trumbo certainly enjoyed hitting at Camden Yards for a full season. Trumbo went from a career .251/.301/.460 hitter who averaged 26 homers to a .256/.316/.533 hitter who led the majors with 47 homers. Naturally, when there is a jump like that with a player, there are a number of reasons why a team like the Mets should shy away.
Throughout his career, Trumbo has struggled against left-handed pitching. This isn’t exactly appealing when you consider he would be joining an outfield with three other left-handed hitters. Furthermore, he did most of his damage this past season at Camden Yards showing much of his career year was generated by his home ballpark. Lastly, Trumbo is really a 1B/DH masquerading as an outfielder.
Reuniting with Beltran certainly seems like it would be a stretch considering he has already stated his intentions that he wants to DH next year, and he wants to return to the Texas Rangers. It is certainly understandable considering he will be 40 next season, and he has been a below average right fielder the past three years.
Still, Beltran can his positive attributes. Over the past three years, Beltran has hit .271/.327/.468 while averaging 21 homers and 70 RBI. We know from his time with the Mets, he is great in the clubhouse, and he helps younger players with the preparation and conditioning aspect of the game. It is something Beltran did with both David Wright and Jose Reyes immediately upon joining the Mets. Finally, Beltran is one of the greatest postseason hitters of all time. For a team with World Series aspirations, Beltran could help on that front.
As luck would have it, the Padres rejected the Mets offer of Michael Fulmer for Upton leading the Mets to offer him in exchange for Cespedes. Once again, the Tigers are looking to trade an outfielder, and the Mets may have interest in a player like Upton.
Upton has always been a good hitter in his major league career. In his nine years as a starter, he is a .270/.349/.476 hitter who averages 24 homers and 77 RBI in his nine years as a starter. Generally speaking, he has never been a guy that will hurt you in the outfield even if he is coming off a poor year offensively. Between his offense, his defense, and his friendship with Wright, you could make a very good case why the Mets should purse Upton.
There is also over $110 million reasons why you would want to avoid Upton. If Upton were not to exercise he opt out clause, which he would use after the 2017 season, the Mets would be on the hook for the full amount of the remaining $110.625 million remaining on his contract. Typically speaking, the Mets have not shown the interest in adding contract like that to the payroll.
Now, Upton could also opt out of his contract, which would put the Mets in the same position as they are this offseason. They will likely be unable to re-sign him, and in return, all they can recoup for him is a compensatory first round draft pick. Compensatory draft picks are great when they become players like Fulmer who are real assets that can help the major league team. They are also suspect when they become players like Anthony Kay, who failed a physical and needs Tommy John surgery before ever throwing a professional pitch.
Over the last three seasons, Martinez has blossomed into a terrific hitter. In Detroit, he has hit .299/.357/.540 while averaging 28 homers and 82 RBI. Up until this year, he has also been a solid outfielder. You can do a lot worse than Martinez in trying to replace Cespedes.
That’s part of the reason why he will be difficult to obtain. Next year is the final year of his contract that pays him $11.75 million. While the Tigers are looking to shed payroll, they will likely seek a king’s ransom in exchange for a player that has a very favorable contract for next season. With the Mets having traded away some many big pieces over the past two seasons, and with them being reluctant to trade players like Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith, it is hard to see them pulling off a trade for a cheap outfielder who has terrific production.
As it stands right now, the Mets have two corner outfielders in Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson who are coming off 30 home run seasons. With them at the corners, it is possible the Mets feel as if they are already set in left and right field even with one of them having to change positions.
The Mets may even have more faith in their outfield as is with Michael Conforto. In his young career, he has shown the Mets glimpses of his being a brilliant hitter. He was undaunted as a rookie in 2015. He was perhaps the best hitter in baseball in April 2016. He responded to a demotion after a wrist injury and his slumping by hitting .493/.541/.821 with six homers and 13 RBI in 17 August games in AAA. With Conforto having shown glimpses of what his true talent level is, and with him showing the willingness to put in the work, the Mets may very well gamble on Conforto in 2017.
The fact that Granderson and Conforto can also play center field gives the Mets options on a game to game basis. It allows them to put all three out there, and it allows them to sit one for rest or to avoid a tough left-handed pitcher to get Lagares’ glove in the outfield. Overall, the Mets may very well stay internal to replace Cespedes’ production. It is a gamble, and that gamble may be the difference between going to the postseason or staying home in 2017.
Editor’s Note: a version of this article was first published on Mets Merized Online
Despite slugging .533 over the last two months of the season, and homering in seven consecutive postseason games, including home runs off Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, and Kyle Hendricks, the Mets only made the perfunctory qualifying offer to NLCS MVP Daniel Murphy. At the time, the qualifying offer was made no player had ever accepted the qualifying offer.
The Mets thought process was grounded in several factors. First, they believed they could get Ben Zobrist, who they viewed as a superior player. Second, the Mets could recoup the first round draft pick they lost by signing Michael Cuddyer in the previous offseason. Third, and most importantly, the Mets didn’t foresee Murphy carrying that level of production for a full season in 2016 and beyond.
That last point became all the more apparent when, after the Mets lost out in Zobrist, they traded Jon Niese (who was later re-acquired in exchange for Antonio Bastardo) for Neil Walker. The Mets made this move despite never inquiring what it would take to re-sign Murphy.
The logic of the Walker trade was the Mets were getting an All Star second baseman in his walk year. Should he perform, the Mets could either re-sign him, or they could make the qualifying offer and recoup another draft pick. Should he falter or leave in free agency, the Mets could turn the position over to second baseman of the future Dilson Herrera.
Walker would have a career year for the Mets both at the plate and in the field. Overall, he would hit .282/.347/.476 with 23 homers and 55 RBI. Those numbers are even better when you consider that the switch hitting Walker was no longer a liability from the right side of the plate. Rather, he was a dominant force.
Unfortunately, Walker would go through part of the summer unable to feel his feet due to a herniated disc. Despite his being in the best stretch of the season and the Mets fighting for the Wild Card, he would have to undergo season ending lumbar microdiscetomy surgery.
While the Mets remain hopeful Walker will recover fully, and that the two sides can agree to a deal, nothing is guaranteed. The Mets need Walker to recover with no issues because Herrera was moved in the trade to acquire Jay Bruce.
Now, many will say this has all been a debacle as Murphy had an MVP caliber season for the rival Washington Nationals. This year, Murphy hit .347/.390/.595 with 47 doubles, five triples, 25 homers, and 104 RBI. He led the league in doubles, slugging, and OPS. Worse yet, he killed the Mets getting a hit in all 19 games against them while hitting .413/.444/.773 with six doubles, seven homers, and 25 RBI.
In response to that, many will say judging the Mets decision on Murphy is unfair as: (1) no one saw this coming; and (2) you are using hindsight to criticize the Mets.
That argument is unfounded. First and foremost, the General Manager is supposed to have foresight. He is paid to make sure what happened with Murphy never happens. Second, and most importantly, the argument is patently false.
As Mets hitting coach Kevin Long told MLB Network Radio, “Daniel Murphy became a monster overnight, once he got it, you knew he wasn’t going to lose it.”
Murphy certainly hasn’t lost it. In fact, he was even better leading the Nationals to an NL East title over the Mets. Tonight, he looks to recreate his incredible Game Five performance against the Dodgers so he can once again torture the Cubs in the NLCS.
Meanwhile, the Mets are looking at their second base options, which assuredly are no better than Murphy, in what is an extremely weak free agent class, after being shutout in the Wild Card Game. It didn’t have to be this way as the Mets coaching staff saw Murphy putting together a season like this.
By the way, Anthony Kay, the pick the Mets received for Murphy becoming a National, had to have Tommy John surgery before he ever threw a pitch as a professional.
Last year, the Mets were coming off an absolutely brutal loss to the San Diego Padres on the eve of the trade deadline. As the team blew a 7-1 lead, it seemed like all hope was lost.
However, the Mets front office didn’t share the same sense of diapair. They were active on the phones trying to improve a team that was three games behind the Nationals. They were a team who had an extremely weak August schedule. They were a team in the mend with Travis d’Arnaud, Michael Cuddyer, and David Wright expected to return from the disabled list.
It was a good team getting healthy facing a favorable schedule ready for a three game set at home against the first place Nationals. It was behind this backdrop that the Yoenis Cespedes trade happened.
Seeing Cespedes hobbled out there is a stark reminder that this year is not last year. This is a Mets team that isn’t getting healthy. In fact, they’re falling like flies. Here is a list of the players currently on the disabled list:
This list also does not even include Asdrubal Cabrera who left yesterday’s game with what is initially being described as a strained patellar tendon. He seems as if he’s bound for the disabled list. With Cabrera going down, it will create another hole in not just the lineup, but with the defense.
With Cespedes’ injury and Lagares’ surgery, the Mets are left scrambling to find a center fielder. They have tried Curtis Granderson out there, and after one game, the Mets saw enough. Against righties, the Mets have tried Michael Conforto in center, and he has held his own. Just recently, the Mets signed Justin Ruggiano, who was playing in AAA before being released by the Rangers.
With Cabrera injured and seemingly bound for the disabled list, it leaves the Mets scrambling to find adequate defenders at the two most important defensive positions. It will also mean Neil Walker, who has hit .234/.316/.343 since May 1st, will be the only starting infielder remaining from the Opening Day Lineup.
By no means is Walker the only one struggling:
- 2015 – .259/.364/.457 with 33 doubles, two triples, 26 homers, and 70 RBI
- 2016 – .234/.326/.431 with 16 doubles, four triples, 16 homers, and 29 RBI
- 2015 – .270/.335/.506 with 14 doubles, nine homers, and 26 RBI
- 2016 – .225/.303/.419 with 14 doubles, or triple, 10 homers, homers, and 30 RBI
- 2015 – .268/.340/.485 with 14 doubles, one triple, 12 homers, and 42 RBI
- 2016 – .249/.290/.321 with five doubles, two homers, and 10 RBI
All across the diamond, the Mets are dealing with injuries, under performance, or both. According to Baseball Reference, the Mets have the lowest team WAR at shortstop, third base, and right field among National League teams in the playoff hunt.
Further exacerbating the Mets struggles is their August schedule. There are the four emotionally charged Subway Series games along with series against the Tigers, Giants, Cardinals, and Marlins. There is s short West Coast trip. The combined record of their opponents is 416-369, which is good for a .530 winning percentage. With this schedule and the state of the Mets roster, things can fall apart quickly.
In reality, neither Jonathan Lucroy nor Jay Bruce help these problems. They do not solve the defensive gap at short or center. They cannot heal the players on the disabled list. They cannot make the schedule any easier. No, the only thing they can do is to join the Mets and play well.
However, if the Mets don’t get healthy or start playing better, there’s no point in adding Lucroy or Bruce. They don’t solve the Mets real problems, and they likely don’t put the Mets over the top.
With that in mind, there’s no sense on buying at the deadline. You’re just purging prospects to help acquire players who will most likely not be difference makers. There’s also no sense to selling because this is a talented team that needs to find that next gear.
With that in mind, as frustrating as it might be, the Mets best option might be to stand pat.
With the Nationals starting a left-handed pitcher in Gio Gonzalez, Terry Collins was going to start Juan Lagares no matter what. On the one hand, Collins will tell you he wants Lagares’ bat in the lineup against lefties. In reality, Collins just doesn’t trust young left-handed hitters against left-handed pitching.
With that in mind, when Collins filled out the lineup card yesterday, he had Lagares in center, Curtis Granderson in right, and Alejandro De Aza in left. Collins started De Aza despite the fact that De Aza entered the game hitting .181/.252/.276. He started De Aza despite the fact that De Aza is a career .235/.299/.350 hitter against lefties. Looking at these numbers and just how poorly De Aza has played this entire year, Collins decided to start De Aza. In a shock to no one, De Aza was 0-3 on the day in a game that the Mets lost 3-2. There is really no justification for this decision other than the unsupported notion that Nimmo can not hit lefties.
Before his call-up, Nimmo was hitting .338/.338/.500 in 74 at bats against lefties. Given these stats, it’s fair to assume that Nimmo would be a better bet to hit a lefty than De Aza would. However, Collins isn’t willing to give him the chance. He would rather hamper a player’s development and stick with a veteran who has already proved he cannot do the job. It’s the same thing Collins did last year with Michael Cuddyer and Michael Conforto.
Last year, Cuddyer was just a shell of himself. He needed core muscle surgery. He had a knee injury that plagued him all year. Through all of it, Cuddyer hit just .259/.309/.391. It was a far cry from the career .277/.344/.461 career hitter he was. Despite Cuddyer showing he no longer could play up to the level he once could, Collins decided it was better to play him against lefties than it was to play the rookie Conforto who was hitting well in the majors. Collins made this decision despite the fact that Conforto was hitting .333/.414/.490 against lefties in AA. Still, for whatever reason Collins could conjure, he determined that Conforto was not able to hit lefties at the major league level. The idea got so stuck in his head that Collins followed the same plan coming into this season.
Then suddenly it happened. Conforto was no longer able to hit left-handed pitching he had not seen in quite a while. In 2016, Conforto hit .091/.128/.091 in his 44 at bats against lefties this season. This would then become part of a greater overall issue where Conforto stopped hitting all together. The seminal moment was the time Collins actually let Conforto hit against a lefty. In true Collins’ fashion, the lefty he chose was Madison Bumgarner. Conforto would go 0-5 on the day. He then went into a prolonged slump that saw him hit .148/.217/.303 over his next 44 games. In that span, Conforto went from hitting .365/.442/.676 on the season to hitting .222/.296/.431. The Mets were all but forced to send him down to the minors and call-up the left-hand hitting Nimmo.
Sure enough, Collins is repeating the same mistakes with Nimmo as he did with Conforto. Last year, it was to get Cuddyer at bats. This year, it is to get De Aza at bats. It didn’t make sense then, and it makes less sense now.
Yesterday, the Mets drafted a player in the first round after forfeiting their 2015 pick to sign Michael Cuddyer. The Mets did get a second first round pick because Daniel Murphy signed with the Nationals. Accordingly, the Sandy Alderson regime has now drafted six players in the first round. Can you name all of them? Good luck!
Last year, the Mets saw lengthy absences from David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud. Daniel Murphy and Michael Cuddyer were nicked up most of the year. Other Mets players got bumps and bruises along the way. The Mets depth got tested early and often in 2015, and it was ugly.
Dilson Herrera and Kevin Plawecki showed they weren’t ready to hit major league pitching. For his part, Plawecki had to stay in the lineup because Anthony Recker and Johnny Monell weren’t either. Eric Campbell and John Mayberry, Jr. showed why they weren’t everyday players, let alone middle of the order bats. There were other forgettable debuts from players like Darrell Ceciliani and Danny Muno. In 2015, the Mets bet against their farm system, and it nearly cost them the season.
In the offseason, the Mets made sure to build a deeper roster. They moved Wilmer Flores to a utility role. Alejandro De Aza is here as a fifth outfielder. Juan Lagares is a part time player who will start against lefties and come on as a late defensive replacement. Herrera is back in AAA where he belongs for now. Campbell and Plawecki are on the 25 man roster, but they are asked to do much less. Hypothetically, it’s a much deeper team.
Well, that hypothesis is now being put to the test.
Yoenis Cespedes has been dealing with a thigh issue due to his jumping in the stands and an awkward slide. As for now, he’s not DL bound. Yesterday, d’Arnaud left the game early with pain in his throwing shoulder. While he may not have been the best at throwing out would be base stealers, his throws were uncharacteristically poor. He will be examined today before a DL decision is made. Whether it will be one day, one week, one month, or more, the Mets will miss Cespedes and d’Arnaud.
No matter how much time if will be, this Mets team is better built to sustain these losses. Having a De Aza/Lagares platoon is a much better option than Ceciliani. Plawecki has another year of development under his belt. Hopefully, this translates to him having a better year at the plate.
The Mets better hope so. The Nationals look like a different team than they were a year ago. The Mets aren’t going to be able to coast for two – three months with subpar players. This is a new year. Fortunately, this is a new Mets team that’s built for just these types of situations.