It doesn’t get said often enough. Michael Conforto is the Mets best player, and he is one of the best players in all of baseball. That is true this year, and it has been true for quite a while now. We saw evidence of that again last night when he delivered a go-ahead grand slam:
A swing of power. A swing of beauty. 😍 pic.twitter.com/Sn2frLilN7
— New York Mets (@Mets) May 29, 2019
What is all the more interesting about that grand slam, the first of his career, is that it came off a left-handed pitcher. Back in 2015 and 2016, we were told by Terry Collins and the rest of the organization this was something Conforto could not do. First, it was Michael Cuddyer. Then, it was Juan Lagares. It would reach the point of absurdity where we saw Matt Reynolds playing left field just to shield Conforto against left-handed pitching.
That has proven to be a complete farce. Since the 2o17 season, Conforto has a 112 wRC+ against left-handed pitching. Sure, that pales in comparison to the 134 wRC+ he has against right-handed pitching, but he is well above league average against left-handed pitching. Really, the sheer notion he couldn’t hit left-handed pitching came from Collins and that one bad game.
The one bad game was an 0-for-5 he took against Madison Bumgarner. His season fell off after that. The narrative was facing a tough left-handed pitcher broke him. The truth was he had a wrist injury. It’s like how he struggled early last year while returning from a devastating shoulder injury. Point is, Conforto’s struggles have been injury related, not talent related.
So far this year, Conforto has a 151 wRC+. That’s 11th best in the NL, and it is the 17th best in all of baseball. This isn’t an outlier or a hot start. Back in 2017, when he was named an All Star, he had a 147 wRC+.
But he’s more than a hitter. He’s a good outfielder as well. Back in 2015, it took us a bit by surprise due to some outdated scouting reports. Due to his talent and athleticism, he proved to be a good left fielder. In fact, he was so good the Mets would try him in center. Now, after realizing all players work better with a set position, he’s a right fielder, a real good one too.
By DRS, he’s the second best defensive right fielder in all of baseball this year. By UZR, he is third best.
In total, Conforto is as complete a baseball player as there is in the game. It’s why he’s a top outfielder, and he’s a top player. Choose your metric – WAR, wRC+, DRS, etc. When you analyze them Conforto’s name is continuously near the top. He’s once again firmly established himself as the best player on the Mets, and he’s arguably the best player in the division, a division which includes Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Freddie Freeman, Ronald Acuna, and more.
Last night, we were once again reminded of Conforto’s greatness when he hit that grand slam. It is something Mets fans should continue to acknowledge and appreciate all season long. Make no mistake. This is an All-Star caliber player, and he’s on the precipice of being an MVP level player. If the Mets go anywhere this year, it will be because of him.
Today is the three year anniversary of Yoenis Cespedes officially signing a three year $75 million contract with the New York Mets. The contract came with the opt out the Mets had said they didn’t want to offer anyone, and it was a surprise for a team who had seemed to move on from Cespedes early in the offseason.
For those who recall, the Mets had signed Alejandro De Aza on December 23, 2015. With his signing, the plan was apparently to have him platoon with Juan Lagares in center field. He would be in the same outfield as Michael Conforto, who after a promising 2015 season, looked primed to be an everyday player and Curtis Granderson, a man who was a series of infield and managerial gaffes away from being the World Series MVP.
That was a respectable, but not an especially formidable outfield for a Mets team who had designs on winning a World Series. It caused frustration because the De Aza signing didn’t exactly put the team over the top. The money saved on Michael Cuddyer‘s retirement was arguably poorly spread between De Aza, Jerry Blevins, Antonio Bastardo, and Bartolo Colon.
No, this team needed Cespedes.
What was odd was Cespedes was still a free agent. Sure, there were better regarded free agent outfield options in Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, and Alex Gordon. There were other attractive options available as well. Still, this was a player who thrived in the biggest market in the world hitting .287/.337/.604 with 14 doubles, four triples, 17 homers, and 44 RBI in 57 games.
Extrapolating that over a 162 game season, and Cespedes would have accumulated 40 doubles, 11 triples, 48 homers, and 125 RBI. Now, it shouldn’t be anticipated Cespedes could do that over a 162 game schedule. However, what we did see is Cespedes is a difference maker just like he was with the Athletics.
Yet, still he lingered with little interest. Sure, the Nationals were rumored to have offered Cespedes $100 million, but it was the typical Nationals offer with deferred money, which did not seem to interest Cespedes. The fact this was the only real offer kept him around thereby allowing the Mets to swoop in and get Cespedes on a good deal for both sides.
It was a coup by Sandy Alderson. It was a necessary move which helped the Mets reach the postseason again in 2016. It marked just the second time in team history the Mets would go to consecutive postseasons. It happened because Cespedes lingered allowing the Mets to make a bold move.
Somehow, some way, the two best free agents entering this free agent class are still available. For reasons unbeknownst to us, there are few teams in on either one of these players. In adding either one of these players, the Mets would take their 2019 team and put it over the top. A team who is projected to win around 85 games would move into the 90+ win range. That’s what happens when you add superstars and potential Hall of Famers.
The Mets took advantage of unexpected opportunities. They struck when no one else expected them to strike. The result was a period of relevance, winning, and increased attendance. The chance is there. The Mets need to strike now and bring in one of Harper or Machado. The 2019 season rests on it.
Entering the season, Yoenis Cespedes made the bold declaration the 2018 Mets were better than the 2015 Mets. Now, if you recall that 2015 team, it did feature players like Eric Campbell and John Mayberry. However, those players were not on the team at the same time as Cespedes. When Cespedes joined the Mets, he was on a much better roster, a roster which went all the way to the World Series.
With that consideration, it is certainly bold for Cespedes to make that declaration, but is he right? Let’s take a look:
Just looking at those names, you may be quick to think not much has changed in the catching situation. In reality, everything is different, and the main difference is these catchers stand on much different footing.
The 2015 season was d’Arnaud’s best as a player with him posting a 126 OPS+ and emerging as an elite pitch framer. Plawecki was overmatched at the plate, but he did handle the pitching staff exceptionally well. Since that time, both had gone on to disappoint in 2016 and much of 2017.
Things changed at the tail end of 2017. Plawecki finally looked like the player the Mets once thought he would become. d’Arnaud would finish the season with a strong September. As a result, they will look to begin the 2018 season in a unique time sharing agreement designed to keep both healthy and effective all year long.
VERDICT: 2018 – if both replicate their Septembers, this won’t even be close
2015: Lucas Duda
2018: Adrian Gonzalez
In 2015, Duda hit .244/.352/.486 with 27 homers and 73 RBI. He was as streaky as he ever was unable to carry the team when they needed his bat most, and he almost single-handedly beat the Nationals in a key late July series.
Gonzalez is coming off the worst year of his career, and he is still dealing with back issues which requires him to warm up two hours before the game starts.
VERDICT: 2015 – Gonzalez may not be around long enough to make a bad throw
We got a glimpse of what Murphy would became with him slugging .533 over the final two months of the season. Even with the increased power, no one could predict the home run barrage he’d unleash in the postseason.
For his part, Cabrera finds himself at second a year after protesting moving there or anywhere. He’s been a good hitter with the Mets, and he’s been terrific in the clutch. We’ll see if the injuries will permit him to be that again.
VERDICT: 2015 – Murphy’s postseason was an all-time great one
This was really the last hurrah for Wright in a Mets uniform. He was very good in the 30 games he played after coming off the DL hitting .277/.381/.437. He’d hit two emotional homers: (1) his first at-bat since coming off the DL; and (2) his first World Series at-bat at Citi Field.
Frazier has been a solid to somewhat underrated player. Over the last three years, he’s averaged 34 homers, 88 RBI, and a 110 OPS+. He’s been a good fielder averaging a 5 DRS over that stretch.
VERDICT: 2018 – Frazier is no Wright, but he’s healthy
Tejada was not supposed to be the starting shortstop in 2015. After wasting a few chances which led to Omar Quintanilla getting the bulk of the playing time over him, the Mets moved on to Flores. Eventually, Collins and the Mets went back to Tejada because: (1) he had steadier hands; and (2) he had a .362 OBP in the second half. Who knows how everything would have turned out had Chase Utley not broken his leg with a dirty slide/tackle.
Rosario is the future of the Mets. Yes, there are flaws in his game like his very low walk rate. However, this is a uniquely gifted player who is dedicated to being better. He’s electric, and he’s got the skill set to be a superstar for a very long time. For now, we will settle for him being a good defensive shortstop who brings real speed and upside to the table.
VERDICT: 2018 – Rosario’s ceiling is just way too high
Cespedes was just an otherworldly player when he joined the Mets. Despite his only being a Met for a few months, he finished in the Top 15 in MVP voting. Really, the MVP for the Mets that year was Granderson who was a leader in the clubhouse on the lineup. He had the most homers from a lead-off hitter, and he was a Gold Glove finalist. Conforto jumped from Double-A to post a 133 wRC+ and a much better than expected 9 DRS in left.
With respect to the 2018 outfield, we see Conforto is a much better play (when healthy), and Cespedes is nowhere near as good as he was when he joined the Mets. To be fair, there’s no way he could, but he’s still an All Star caliber player. This means the main difference between the squads is Bruce and Granderson.
VERDICT: 2015 – That Cespedes was just that much better.
From the moment Uribe and Johnson joined the Mets, they were game changers. They both brought a winning attitude and game winning hits. In addition to the two of them, Lagares was the defensive specialist, a role to which he is best suited, and Cuddyer was a platoon partner with either Conforto or Duda depending on whether Lagares started the game as well. Overall, it was a veteran bench who provided needed leadership.
The Mets current bench is similar to the 2015 bench with Reyes trying to emulate the Uribe role even if he’s not as productive a player. Flores is Flores, but a better hitter, and believe it or not, a worse fielder. Lagares rediscovered his range he lost in 2015. Nimmo should be in the everyday lineup and leading off, but early indications are he won’t.
VERDICT: 2015 – Uribe and Johnson were just that important
When you consider Vargas was basically brought in to replicate what Colon did in 2015, the question is whether you believe the Mets top four starters are better as a group now or then. Looking at it objectively, Syndergaard is the only one who has improved with no one knowing what Harvey and Matz can still provide.
VERDICT: 2015 – they were just healthier then
2015: Jeurys Familia, Tyler Clippard, Addison Reed, Hansel Robles, Jon Niese, Sean Gilmartin, Erik Goeddel
2018: Jeurys Familia, Anthony Swarzak, AJ Ramos, Jerry Blevins, Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Paul Sewald
Familia was that good in 2015 that he was able to cover many of the warts in the 2015 bullpen. This resulted in Collins using him for multiple innings more than any other closer that year. Reed would begin his emergence as a great reliever, but a back injury would cost Clippard of his effectiveness. One surprise was Niese performing well as a lefty in the bullpen.
When you include Sewald’s Triple-A experience, this is a bullpen with three closers, six pitchers with closer’s stuff, and a very good LOOGY in Blevins. Even if Familia is not as good as he was in 2015, it won’t matter because there is enough depth here for the Mets to not need to rely upon him as much.
VERDICT: 2018 – they’re just deeper and with more upside
For all the warts and problems Mets fans discovered with Collins, he had his finest year as a manager in 2015. When the ship could have sunk multiple times, he pulled the team together and kept things afloat until the team got healthy and reinforcements arrived. Of course, he followed this up by helping cost the Mets the World Series with a series of baffling decisions which all blew up in the Mets faces.
Right now, Callaway looks like a genius. He’s innovative batting Cespedes second and Rosario ninth. He came down hard on Dominic Smith for being late. His players seem to love him, and the baseball world roundly believes the Mets made an excellent hire. However, the season isn’t even a week old. Even if everyone is a fan at the moment, let’s check back in a couple of months to see if he’s an innovative genius or if he’s a know-it-all who can’t leave good enough alone.
Verdict: 2018 – Collins did cost the Mets a World Series
If you break it down, the 2015 Mets were better at first, second, outfield, bench, and rotation. The 2018 version is better at catcher, third, short, bullpen, and manager. Looking at the breakdown, you can say it’s a 5-5 draw. However, in reality, it’s not. That 2015 team pitching rotation was just so dominant, and hypothetically, if these teams were going to step on the same field, the 2015 rotation would dominate the 2018 version.
That said, there is a lot of talent on this 2018 team, and from what we have seen so far, this is a roster tailor made to what we presume is Callaway’s talents as a manager. If Callaway is indeed as good as we hope it will be, we can see him and Dave Eiland taking this pitching staff as a whole to the next level. If that can happen, and with a little help, this Mets team could accomplish what the 2015 version didnt – win the World Series.
During the course of the 2018 season, my hope is to feature a new Mets fan each and every week by having them answer five quick questions about their particular fandom. For me, this is part of a natural outgrowth of the site because part of my intention was to discuss my experiences as a father raising my sons to be Mets fans.
As we know being a fan is a unique experience for everyone, and I’m sure my sons will have a much more unique experience than I have had as a fan. The hope is to have a fun mix of fans – celebrity, media, and average fans like you and me.
So to that end, I will start off the new feature answering the same five questions butchers, bakers, and the people on the streets will be answering.
The Mets Fan:
For my readers, I am the self dubbed Mets Daddy. To my sons, I am just daddy. To my detractors, I am someone that just needs to go away.
Alongside my work here, you can also find my work on Metsmerized Online, Mets Minors, and Gotham Baseball. With a newborn in the house and a four year old, there’s not much opportunity for me to sleep, so it’s more entertaining to write about the Mets than to watch the same terrible late night TV night in and night out.
How You Became a Mets Fan:
My father grew up in a household where my grandfather was a New York Giants fan, his younger brother was a New York Yankees fan, and he was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan. Given that environment, you could understand why he would look to ensure his children grew up Mets fans.
As a little kid, my dad saw an opportunity with my love of strawberries. He told me about how the Mets had this great player coming to the team named Darryl Strawberry. When Strawberry was called up to the Mets, he took me to my first ever Mets game to see him play. Seeing my first ever baseball game at Shea Stadium helped make me the diehard fan I am today.
Favorite Mets Player:
When I think of my favorite Mets player, there are a few names I consider. As noted above, Strawberry is on the list. Gary Carter was always a favorite of mine, and growing up, I wanted to become a catcher because of him. In more recent vintage, Daniel Murphy was a person favorite, and how could he not with the 2015 postseason he had. Like any other Mets fan, I love David Wright.
However, my guy will always be Mike Piazza. When he came to the Mets, this went from a nice little team to a World Series contender. I still remember all of the homers including the one after 9/11, which for my money is the biggest home run ever hit. More than that, Piazza is a guy who wanted to big stage, and when Cooperstown came calling, he chose to be a Met partially due to us fans.
Favorite Moment In Mets History:
I’ve been exceedingly lucky as a fan. I was there for the Todd Pratt homer clinching the 1999 NLDS. I was in the park the night of Robin Ventura‘s Grand Slam Single. There was also the Bobby Jones one-hitter. My first real memory as a fan was watching Mookie Wilson‘s little roller up the first base line go through Bill Buckner‘s legs.
However, despite all those classic moments, the one I will always treasure most was going to Game 3 of the 2015 World Series with my dad and brother. It also helped that Noah Syndergaardstood 60’6″ away, Wright hit the first World Series homer in Citi Field history, and Curtis Granderson hit a homer to give the Mets the lead for good that game. The fans even got a chance to sing along to Piano Man with Billy Joel.
Going to a Mets World Series game with my dad and brother had long been a dream of mine. Seeing them win a World Series game and feeling that euphoria leaving Citi Field that night will be next to impossible to top.
Message to Mets Fans:
Some of the best Mets seasons are never the ones you expect. The 1969 team was never supposed to win. The 1999 Mets were put together on a wing and a prayer. Back in 2006, it was hard to believe anyone would ever unseat the Braves as the NL East Champions in the Wild Card Era. Heading into the 2015 season, Bryce Harper was asking where his World Series ring was after the Nationals signed Max Scherzer. As Mets fans, we had Michael Cuddyer.
Point is, even if you are extremely frustrated by the Wilpons and how they choose to operate this team, just remember, when you least expect it, that old Mets Magic is right around the corner. After all, Ya Gotta Believe!
If you look around the free agent landscape, you will see that most Major League teams have yet to make any significant moves. Even those who have, like the Cardinals, who have obtained Marcell Ozuna, or the Yankees, who obtained Giancarlo Stanton, are still looking to make additional moves to complete their 2018 rosters.
And there are still plenty of real difference makers on the free agent market. That goes for all positions. Really, you could build an All Star roster over the players still available:
- P Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta
- C Jonathan Lucroy
- 1B Eric Hosmer
- 2B Neil Walker
- 3B Todd Frazier
- SS J.J. Hardy
- LF J.D. Martinez
- CF Lorenzo Cain
- RF Jay Bruce
- Closer Greg Holland
With all of these players still available, we have begun to hear from different sources how Sandy Alderson has made yet another master stroke. He is successfully waiting out the market, and as a result, the Mets are bound to get a bargain in free agency. For proof, we need not look any further than how Alderson signed Yoenis Cespedes in the offseason after the 2015 pennant.
For those that remember, early in that offseason, the Mets had moved on from Cespedes instead signing Alejandro De Aza to take part in a center field platoon with Juan Lagares. The plan was to go with Curtis Granderson, Michael Cuddyer, and Michael Conforto in the outfield. From there, things changed rather dramatically.
First, Cuddyer unexpectedly retired. Perhaps more unexpected than that was no one wanting to give Cespedes a big contract after his terrific run after his getting traded to the Mets. Part of that was some questions marks that began with his time in Boston. Another issue was Cespedes being just one huge free agent in a loaded free agent class that included Chris Davis, Alex Gordon, Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, and many more. The other Major League teams chose the other players.
This had left Cespedes as the last major free agent on the board. While many credited the Mets with sticking it out and getting Cespedes on what was effectively a one year deal, the truth of the matter the team was lucky. If the Nationals had not deferred much of the money in the 5 year roughly $100 million contract offer they made to Cespedes, it is likely Cespedes would have joined Daniel Murphy on the Nationals.
However, credit is due to the Alderson taking advantage of the situation and getting his man.
If we are being honest with ourselves, that was a bit of a miracle. It was not a plan that can be emulated. That goes double for this offseason with so many teams left looking to make moves this offseason. There are many teams with more money who are looking to fill the same exact holes the Mets are. The difference between those teams and the Mets is money.
By many accounts, the Mets only have roughly $10 million to spend this offseason. That is unless they are able to move a contract like Lagares’. For what it’s worth, if you are a Major League team looking for a center fielder, Cain, Jarrod Dyson, Austin Jackson, Carlos Gomez, and Jon Jay are still available. Why would you take on Lagares, when you can just sign one of these free agents?
So no, the Mets are not going to free up payroll. Ultimately, this does not mean the Mets have been patient this offseason. Instead, the team is being idle. The key difference between the two is that when you’re patient you’re waiting for something to happen whereas an idle team moves along the offseason hoping for something to happen.
When you have $10 million to spend, are desperately attempting to attach yourselves to a number of rumors to keep the fans happy, and need to add at least five more key players this offseason to be relevant in 2018, you are idle.
In case you missed it over the weekend, Marc Carig of Newsday wrote a column wherein many Mets fans have applauded because someone not only asked the question about payroll, but also for rightfully taking the team to task for how it’s been operated.
That’s great and all, but that’s not really what this article was about. The article was really about the lack of accountability from this franchise. Here are some key excerpts:
But rather than reach for transparency, the Wilpons seem content to hide. They never talk about money. Whether it’s arrogance or simply negligence, they have no problem asking fans to pony up the cash and never show the willingness to reciprocate.
To the Wilpons, it’s as if nobody is worthy of a straight answer. That’s the biggest failure of all.
But it costs zero dollars to be transparent, to be willing to explain the payroll, to be proactive about presenting a plan to succeed.
The Wilpons can start by publicly owning up to how this franchise is run. They can begin speaking for themselves rather than leaving the dirty work to middle men. But until they show the courage to take that first step, the Mets and their fans are doomed to repeat the cycle, pulling for a franchise that will never actually do enough to win.
Having read and re-read this article, time and again, I really begin to wonder if the term fan is being substituted for reporter.
This is not a slight on Carig or any beat reporter. There job is much more difficult than fans could possibly imagine. There are things we demand they discover, but at the end of the day, there may be no answer to those questions because, well, the team won’t answer them.
Whatever your line of work, it must be nauseatingly frustrating when someone just stonewalls you time and time again, and that prevents you from doing an aspect of your job. In the case of a beat reporter, that would include covering issues that are seemingly simple like the budget and a framework for the offseason.
As an aside, that must be even worse for Sandy Alderson.
Meanwhile, one of the most important currencies for a reporter is access. Write a scathing comment like Carig did, and you may very well find that access limited. That would make an already difficult job all the more difficult.
Still, there is a major question that needs to be asked – why is the payroll question being asked now?
Why wasn’t this asked heading into the 2015 season? The team certainly pushed forth the belief they were going to contend with the rise of Jacob deGrom and the return of Matt Harvey from Tommy John surgery.
After the 2015 season, if not for Yoenis Cespedes lingering longer than anyone believed he would, the Mets were going to enter the 2016 season with lower payroll and a center field platoon of Alejandro De Aza and Juan Lagares to replace Cespedes. On top of that, Eric Campbell made the Opening Day roster because the Mets didn’t want to pay Ruben Tejada $3 million.
With an injured Mets team making an incredible push to claim the top Wild Card, the Mets did not sign one free agent from outside the organization. They re-signed Fernando Salas and Jerry Blevins because both surprisingly lingered on the free agent market, and the team gave Cespedes a big contract.
However, it should be noted the Mets did nothing to improve the roster from a team that was simply not good enough in 2016. Instead, of stories about the payroll being below market and window of competition, it was mostly lauding the Cespedes re-signing as the team going for it coupled with the intrigue about how the Mets were returning the same roster.
And look, we all know the Mets are likely cutting payroll because that’s what the Mets do. Still, the team did add a good late inning reliever in Anthony Swarzak, and they were rebuffed by Ian Kinsler. Other than Carlos Santana, the big name free agents are still on the board.
While we don’t expect them to come to the Mets, in prior offseasons, we have seen the market correct with Sandy sitting there ready to swoop in and get them for less money than anticipated. That’s why Cespedes and Blevins will be Mets next season. Such behavior (luck?) has been routinely lauded.
Now? Well, now, it is being criticized because the Mets lack of accountability and refusal to answer the simplest questions has become too much to bear. Except this time, it’s not the fans, it’s for reporters. They’re now writing articles about it – articles we all wish were written in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 (apologies to a few like Megdal who has done excellent reporting on the topic and Vacarro who kept the heat on the team throughout 2015 and beyond).
So yes, I appreciate the article, but really, none of this is news to Mets fans. It’s just confirmation of the status quo. And sadly, in the end, we have learned nothing new from the team. Really, this all just leaves me further frustrated with the franchise, and it leaves me further frustrated that this is really the first we have seen of these articles after all of these years. Hopefully, there will be more. More than that, I just hope something will finally come of this.
But we all know it won’t.
In what has already been a frustrating offseason for Mets fans, Sandy Alderson has already uttered a statement that may prove to go down in “Panic Citi” history. While speaking with reporters, Alderson suggested people “spend a little less time focusing on our payroll.”
If Alderson wants everyone to spend less time focusing on payroll, maybe it is time to focus on Alderson’s tenure as the Mets General Manager to see how it was the team has gotten to this position.
During Alderson’s entire tenure, there have only been eight players who have played over 140 games in a season – Asdrubal Cabrera (2016), Ike Davis (2012) Lucas Duda (2014), Curtis Granderson (2014 – 2016), Juan Lagares (2015), Daniel Murphy (2012 – 2014), Jose Reyes (2017), and David Wright (2012).
This is because of a long list of injuries that have occurred to their position players. This ranges from the ordinary (Yoenis Cespedes‘ hamstring issues) to the bizarre (Davis’ Valley Fever) to the tragic (Wright).
As poorly as things have gone for the position players, the pitching situation is even worse. Johan Santana, Tim Byrdak, and Scott Rice suffered injuries that effectively ended their careers. Same could be said for Bobby Parnell, Jeremy Hefner, and Jim Henderson. The list goes on and on..
That list includes a starting pitching staff upon which this franchise was supposedly built. Each of the treasured purported five aces have undergone surgeries that have cost them multiple months. Matt Harvey may never be the same, and the same can be said for Zack Wheeler.
The irony is Alderson implemented the famed “Prevention & Recovery” mantra, and arguably things have gotten worse under his control.
Evaluating Own Talent
Now, there are varying reasons why teams choose to extend some players while not extending others, or why they choose not to re-sign other players. Still, Alderson’s record is not exactly sterling on this front.
The main players discussed on this front are Murphy and Justin Turner. However, there are some other less discussed players that have slipped through the Mets fingers.
The Mets traded Collin McHugh for Eric Young only to watch McHugh thrive elsewhere. Chris Young was given a large one year deal, was released, and has been an effective player for the Yankees and Red Sox. They released Dario Alvarez to see the Braves claim him and trade him to the Rangers for a former first round draft pick. Finally, there was the Angel Pagan trade for a couple of players who amounted to nothing with the Mets.
The troubles evaluating their own players go beyond who they willingly let go. It goes to those players the Mets opted to extend – Lagares, Jon Niese, and Wright. None of these three ever amounted to the promise they had at the time the contracts were extended. There are differing reasons for this, but in the end, the Mets proved wrong in those decisions.
The glass half-full is that every first round draft pick made prior to 2015 has made the Majors. Additionally, two of those players have made All Star teams. The glass half-empty is the players the Mets have drafted have not lived up to their potential.
At a time the Mets need a starting center fielder, Brandon Nimmo isn’t even being considered. This is not surprising as many see him as a fourth outfielder.
Coincidentally, the Mets also need a second baseman, and they are not even considering Gavin Cecchini for so much as a utility role let alone an opportunity to compete for a job in Spring Training.
The team was not at all enamored with Dominic Smith‘s rookie campaign, and they have publicly talked about bringing in insurance for him not being on the Opening Day roster.
The Mets had no 2015 draft pick because the team lost it signing Michael Cuddyer. Effectively speaking, this decision cost the Mets two first rounders as the team’s lack of offense and health caused them to trade Michael Fulmer for Cespedes. We have all seen Fulmer win a Rookie of the Year Award and make an All Star team in Detroit while the Mets have been desperate for pitching.
Justin Dunn has done little to quell the concerns he is a reliever and not a starter while Anthony Kay, the compensation for the reigning NLCS MVP, has yet to throw a professional pitch because of his Tommy John surgery.
This leaves Conforto, who should be a burgeoning superstar, but sadly we wait with baited breath looking to see if he is going to be the same player he was before separating his shoulder on a swing.
Alderson’s ventures into free agency have not been all that fruitful. Of all the players who have signed multi-year deals, only Granderson has posted multiple seasons over a 2.0 WAR. In fact, Granderson is the only player who has posted a cumulative WAR of over 4.0.
For those that would bring up Colon or Cespedes, their exploits are not attributable to their multi-year deals. Colon accumulated 4.9 WAR with the Mets with 3.4 of that coming during his one year contract. Cespedes has accumulated 7.2 WAR with the Mets with just 2.1 WAR coming last year in an injury plagued first year of a large four year deal.
It should be noted Alderson may not have much success on this front because the team has not gone crazy in free agency signing just a few players a year to Major League deals.
Even in 2015 and 2016, two years the Mets made the postseason, the Mets had depth issues. This was why the team traded for Kelly Johnson in consecutive seasons. It’s also a reason why in those consecutive years the Mets had to add to the bullpen.
Those seasons have taken a toll on the Mets prospect front. They have sent away a number of assets and potential Major League contributors for a number of players who were attainable before the season began on reasonable deals. Instead, the Mets thought they would be set with players like Eric Campbell.
Much of what is attributed to Alderson being a good General Manager is predicated upon a stroke of genius in obtaining Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud, and Wuilmer Becerra in exchange for R.A. Dickey. Even with many fans wanting to give him plaudits for Cespedes, it should be noted the trade was made largely because of a series of missteps. It should also be noted the Mets lost a pretty good pitcher.
Now, if you are going to defend Alderson by saying his hands have been largely tied due to the Mets payroll, remember, Alderson himself doesn’t want thinks we should spend a little less time focusing on that.
Sadly, we have to do that because the Alderson regime has had difficulties in evaluating their own talent and drafting high end talent. If he had, the discussion would probably be the Mets fine tuning to make another postseason run instead of there being fan anger over how the payroll is restricting the Mets from building a World Series caliber roster.
With the Giancarlo Stanton trade saga and Shohei Ohtani looking for a team, the hot stove has been rather lukewarm this time of the year. With that said, we have seen some movement on the reliever market both be fore and after Stanton and Ohtani selected their ultimate destinations:
- Luke Gregerson 2 years $11 million
- Brandon Morrow 2 years $21 million
- Miles Mikolas 2 years $15.5 million
- Mike Minor 3 years $28 million
Now, based upon Sandy Alderson’s previous comments and behavior, you would think this would leave the Mets GM emboldened. The only reliever that got a deal more than two years was Minor, who was actually signed to pitch in the Rangers starting rotation.
Instead, Sandy Alderson spoke with reporters and crushed what little hope Mets fans had this offseason.
On the reliever market, which has already seen quality relievers sign to reasonable deals, Alderson said, “And to the extent that the market gets overheated, I wouldn’t think that we’ll jump into the inferno.” (Newsday).
Just wait, it gets better.
Alderson also admitted what Mets fans suspected to be true – the Mets didn’t even try to acquire Stanton. Hopefully, because he thinks we’re all stupid, Alderson didn’t cite that big contract as a reason. No, Alderson actually cited the fact the team had Brandon Nimmo as the reason why.
This is the same Nimmo the team never gave a real shot to start, at least before the fire sale and injuries, and the team won’t give a starting spot in next year’s outfield. Apparently to the amazement of everyone, the Mets don’t need the reigning MVP because Nimmo has gotten dramatically better in the roughly two months since the season ended. He’s now an MVP caliber player.
That’s awesome because as we all know Alderson’s drafts have been spotty at best. His drafts have produced only two All Stars. The first, Michael Conforto, is rehabbing from a significant shoulder injury, and we don’t know if he will ever be the same (NOTE: don’t get a Mets fan started on team injuries). The second, Michael Fulmer, is a Tiger because back in 2014, the Mets thought Michael Cuddyer was the answer to their need for a productive hitter. As we know he wasn’t, and by extension, the Mets lost two first round picks.
But wait, after an offseason that began with the Mets leaking they have soured on Dominic Smith, the team is high on him again saying, “We’re still very high on Dominic — some of my comments earlier in the offseason notwithstanding.”
Apparently, the team is no longer interested in players like Carlos Santana not because of the cost, but rather, because Smith has been on the same postseason regiment as Nimmo where disappointing first round draft picks suddenly transform into MVP caliber players overnight.
Not discussed during the discussion with reporters was the Mets latest bombshell. They are now dangling Matt Harvey this offseason in exchange for a reliever.
As we have learned the past two seasons, the one thing the Mets can well afford to do is to be reckless with pitching depth. No, we can’t count on Harvey to be anything. However, the same can be said for Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz.
Considering the Mets heavily invested in their pitching staff by hiring Mickey Callaway as manager and Dave Eiland as pitching coach, why not see if they can get Harvey back to being the Dark Knight, or at the very least a reliable starting pitcher?
Do you really need to trade him for a sixth inning reliever? And if that is the case, why not let Harvey move to the bullpen? With Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman, you already have seven starters for five spots. Someone is going to have to go to Triple-A or the bullpen. If Harvey can’t withstand the rotation, why not find out if he can the bullpen?
And there we have it. The Mets not only have no faith in their coaching staff, but they are already backing off players on the eve of the Winter Meetings.
It was almost yesterday the Mets were discussing Santana, Ohtani, Lorenzo Cain, and Jason Kipnis. Now? Well, we are talking trading Harvey to help fix the bullpen, and Nimmo and Smith as being a significant part of the future when just a month earlier they were not a legitimate starting option.
This is what happens when the Mets aren’t trying to generate hype to get fans to purchase individual game tickets. It’s what happens when the Mets are entering a Winter Meetings when their initial hype and hope are about to get exposed.
One of the purported reasons why Sandy Alderson was hired to replace Omar Minaya as the Mets General Manager was due to the state of the Mets farm system. Now, there was some truth to that given how Minaya continuously left the team without high draft picks due to his propensity to attack the free agent market.
That went double when you consider he used his top picks to select players like Eddie Kunz, Nathan Vineyard, Reese Havens, and Bradley Holt. Even if those selections were justified at the time, it didn’t help Minaya’s case when they combined to appear in just four Major League games.
With that, Alderson was tasked with rebuilding a deeper than originally believed Mets farm system. In fact, that 2015 pennant winning team was largely built on talent Minaya acquired including Jacob deGrom, Lucas Duda, Jeurys Familia, Wilmer Flores, Matt Harvey, Juan Lagares, Daniel Murphy, and Hansel Robles.
Alderson deftly built upon that core to make the Mets contenders, and now the organization is at the point where it needs Alderson’s farm system to produce Major League ready players to revitalize this team. Considering how the Mets fell apart last season and how the team seems disenchanted with many of their own first round draft picks, it is time to review Alderson’s first round draft history with the Mets:
2011 – OF Brandon Nimmo (13th Overall)
2017 MiLB Stats: .227/.364/.368, 12 2B, 3B, 3 HR, 17 RBI
2017 MLB Stats: .260/.379/.418, 11 2B, 3B, 5 HR, 21 RBI
Realistically speaking, this should have been the time for Nimmo to emerge as the team’s everyday center fielder. There was a p0int where this was expected to happen. However, knee injuries have limited him just enough to where many question his ability to handle center field defensively. It may have also impacted the power hitting ability that never materialized.
Now, Nimmo has shown he belongs on the Major League level in some capacity. However, if he can’t defensively handle center field, he’s likely a fourth outfielder as his bat does not profile for a corner outfield position.
2011 – RHP Michael Fulmer (44th Overall)
2017 Stats: 10-12, 3.83 ERA, 1.154 WHIP, 6.2 K/9
When drafting a pitcher in the first round, you are hoping to have a front line starting pitcher. With Fulmer winning Rookie of the Year in 2016 and being named as an All Star in 2017, he certainly appears to be the part even if he missed the final month of the season due to his having ulnar nerve transposition surgery. Unfortunately, the Mets are not reaping the benefits of his ascension because he was moved to the Tigers as the centerpiece of the Yoenis Cespedes trade.
2012 – SS Gavin Cecchini (12th Overall)
2017 MiLB Stats: .267/.329/.380, 27 2B, 3 3B, 6 HR, 39 RBI, 5 SB, 4 CS
2017 MLB Stats: .208/.256/.273, 2 2B, HR, 7 RBI, CS
Between Cecchini’s defensive struggles and the ascension of Amed Rosario, Cecchini moved to second base this past season. Whether it was the rigors of learning a new position, bad luck, or an unsustainable .357 BABIP in 2016, Cecchini regressed offensively to the point where the team did not even consider him for the second base vacancy in 2017, and his name isn’t being mentioned as a potential solution in 2018.
2012 – C Kevin Plawecki (35th Overall)
2017 MiLB Stats: .328/.375/.514, 17 2B, 3B, 9 HR, 45 RBI
2017 MLB Stats: .260/.364/.400, 5 2B, 3 HR, 13 RBI, SB
In what was an otherwise dismal year for the Mets, the biggest bright spot was the rejuvenation of Plawecki’s career. After finally spending an extended stint in Triple-A, he began to put things together offensively. Couple that with his historically good pitch framing skills, and Plawecki has earned a spot on the Opening Day roster. Should he continue to progress, and if Travis d’Arnaud repeats his 2016 – 2017 performance, Plawecki could find himself as the Mets everyday catcher next season.
2013 – 1B Dominic Smith (11th Overall)
2017 MiLB Stats: .330/.386/.519, 34 2B, 2 3B, 16 HR, 76 RBI, SB, CS
2017 MLB Stats: .198/.267/.395, 6 2B, 9 HR, 26 RBI
After years of people questioning if he would ever hit for power, Smith had begun to display the power many believed he always had in Triple-A. However, despite the gains he made in that department in Triple-A, the Mets have been quite outspoken on how they’ve soured on one of their top prospects.
Whether it is the weight issues or how much he struggled during his call-up, the Mets are not only talking about him not being on the Opening Day roster, but potentially also signing a player like Carlos Santana to a multi-year deal. If that does happen, this means the Mets will have fully moved on from a top prospect without giving him so much as half a season in the majors.
2014 – OF Michael Conforto (10th Overall)
2017 Stats: .279/.384/.555, 20 2B, 3B, 27 HR, 68 RBI, 2 SB
After Terry Collins made him a strict platoon player for two seasons, injuries allowed Conforto to play everyday, and he showed us all just how great he could be. He made his first All Star team, and he is quite possibly the best player on the roster. Unfortunately, instead of looking forward to him taking the next step towards superstardom, we are awaiting with baited breath to see how his shoulder heals after he separated it on a swing and miss.
2015 – No Pick
It needs to be mentioned here the Mets sacrificed their 2015 first round draft pick in order to sign Michael Cuddyer. This was partially the result of the Rockies making him a qualifying offer after how vocal the Mets were about pursuing him in the offseason. In exchange for that first round pick, the Mets got one season of Cuddyer where he hit .259/.309/.391. Cuddyer’s injuries and poor production were also a precursor to the Mets having to trade Fulmer away to obtain Cespedes.
2016 – RHP Justin Dunn (19th Overall)
2017 MiLB Stats: 5-6, 5.00 ERA, 1.563 WHIP, 7.1 K/9
When Dunn was drafted by the Mets, there were questions about his ability to stick in the rotation. Dunn did little to quiet those concerns by struggling in his first ever full season as a starting pitcher. In 16 starts he had a 5.74 ERA as opposed to a 1.59 ERA in his four relief outings.
Ultimately, the talent is there. The question is whether he can put it together before the Mets get impatient waiting for him to get there.
2016 – LHP Anthony Kay (31st Overall)
The Mets selected Kay with the pick obtained from Murphy signing a deal with the Nationals. After Kay was used heavily in college, he needed Tommy John surgery, and he signed an underslot deal. He will look to throw his first pitch as a professional in 2018.
2017 – LHP David Peterson (20th Overall)
2017 Stats: 0-0. 2.45 ERA, 1.364 WHIP, 14.7 K/9
To some, the Mets were lucky Peterson was there for the taking at 20. Certainly, you can make that argument with the outstanding Junior season he had with Oregon. Due to his throwing over 100 innings in college, the Mets limited him to just 3.2 innings for Brooklyn before shutting him down. Next year will be a big year as the Mets look to see if he’s the mid rotation starter some believe, or the top of the rotation type pitcher the Mets were hoping to get.
Time and again it needs to be stressed the draft is an inexact science and that luck plays a role in determining how well a prospect develops.
If you want to have a glass half-full perspective, everyone drafted prior to 2015 will make the majors. Of those six players, two are All Stars. Depending on what happens this offseason for the Mets, there can be anywhere from one to four everyday players out of the five position players he drafted.
On the glass half-empty front, it does not seem any of his draft picks will reach their full potential. For players like Dunn, Kay, and Peterson, it is way too early to make that determination. However, for the rest, that becomes increasingly more of a possibility. In the cases of Nimmo and Conforto, the fact injuries played a role certainly are a black mark on an Alderson regime that has had issues keeping players healthy.
Worse than the injuries is how the Mets seem to be willing to move on from high draft picks like Cecchini and Smith without so much as a half of season of play to prove themselves.
Overall, there is still time for all of these prospects to develop into the players the Mets hoped they would be when they were drafted. For those that are pessimistic about that happening, look no further than Plawecki. If nothing else, he showed you shouldn’t give up on a talented player without giving them a real chance to develop.
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.