With Marcus Stroman opting out, Michael Wacha having yet another shoulder injury, and Noah Syndergaard undergoing Tommy John surgery, the Mets need a fifth starter. Based on what we’ve seen from Brodie Van Wagenen, we should not rule out his emptying the farm for that fifth starter.
After all, this was the same GM who has already traded Jarred Kelenic, Justin Dunn, Ross Adolph, Anthony Kay, Simeon Woods Richardson, Blake Taylor, and many more prospects to receive nowhere near value in return. Looking at the cumulative, it’s embarrassing how poorly the Mets have done in these trades.
As we saw last year at the trade deadline, the Mets postseason odds don’t matter. He overpaid for Stroman at the trade deadline last year despite the team being six games under .500 and 12.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves in the division.
Yes, the Mets went on a run, but in the end, it was Van Wagenen’s half measures which kept the Mets out of the postseason. He moved arguably two of his top prospects remaining in the farm system for another starter, but he didn’t back it up by getting a reliever or another outfielder that the team so desperately needed. That was a major reason the Mets fell short.
Based on his track record, we can assume he’ll ignore reason to make a trade for another player. It’ll be a half-measure, and it will further deplete the farm.
Now, this is where some will say teams are not permitted to trade players not in the player pool. This analysis and hope is very short-sighted.
Technically, that is correct. In 2020, teams cannot trade players unless they are part of their designated 2020 player pool. That should give some relief prospects like Mark Vientos, Shervyen Newton, Francisco Alvarez, and Ronny Mauricio won’t be traded.
That is until they’re added to the Mets player pool. As per the rules, the Mets can add players to the player pool as needed. As a result, if a team wants a Mets prospect in exchange for a starting pitcher, all the Mets need to do is add that player to their pool.
It’s only a transaction. There is no requirement the player actually be present at the virtual training site. Much like Jose Bautista two years ago, the Mets can literally pluck a player off their couch and put them on a plane.
So, right now, no prospect is safe. Seeing how the Wilpons and Brodie Van Wagenen don’t remotely care about the future of the franchise as they push to win a World Series before they’re all gone, that goes double.
They’ll grossly overpay for anyone if they think that player gives them even a 1% chance greater of winning the World Series. It’s of no matter to them because they won’t be around while these prospects shine at the Major League level.
In the end, no Mets prospect is safe right now, and the situation grows more dire the longer this team has no fifth starter and languishes in last place in the NL East.
Well, the last place Mets took a series from the first place Marlins. That’s certainly something we never thought would happen in August 2020, but that’s where we are.
2. If you’ll note, since the Mets have been forced to switch to a vastly superior defensive alignment, they’ve begun winning.
5. On a related note, the Mets embarrass themselves, when they tout average plays as being great plays as part of their endeavoring to make a horrendous GM look somewhat competent.
6. Gimenez shows how great the Mets had been identifying Major League talent in the draft and international free agent market during the Sandy Alderson era.
7. The Mets bullpen had stepped up in August. Part of that is Edwin Diaz returning to his old form. No, it’s not because he’s out of the closer role. It’s because he has great stuff.
8. Seth Lugo needs to be used in the highest leverage spots. That’s not always the ninth, and that’s why he can’t be used as just a closer.
9. Speaking of pitchers with great stuff, Jacob deGrom is the best pitcher in baseball and not even a blister or “hot spot” can get in his way.
11. Jared Hughes is one of those players who come along and are a pure joy. Not only has he pitched well, but he’s also shown the ability to laugh at himself. Like the Juan Uribe era, the Jared Hughes era will go down as one of the most enjoyable in Mets history.
12. Even with the juiced ball appearing to return, the Mets offense has looked off all year. That’s most likely the result of their inability to hit with RISP.
13. Pete Alonso struggling doesn’t help either. The frustrating part is every time he appears to break out, he starts slumping again.
14. Mets have been lucky getting serviceable starts from David Peterson. He did it again in this series helping the Mets turn things around.
16. This further highlights how the Mets desperately need Marcus Stroman back. That was the case when Wacha was “healthy.”
17. Michael Conforto has a hit in every game this season, and Brandon Nimmo has reached in 30 straight games (dating back to last year). Somehow, Mets fans still have a hard problem embracing them and instead ask why they’re not perfect.
18. The Cardinals have only played five games, and seemingly every time they appear set to return, there’s another positive test. Maybe they should just be contracted . . . at least for the 2020 season.
20. If the Mets want to be taken seriously, they need to beat up on a Washington Nationals team who is undermanned and playing terribly right now.
It was a shock to see Andres Gimenez Matt the Mets Opening Day roster. It was a shock because his Double-A numbers weren’t off the charts. It was a bigger shock because there was no obvious opportunity.
With the recent slate of injuries coupled with his strong play, he’s currently an everyday player. As we saw today, he may be here to stay.
The Mets would win 4-2, and Gimenez was in the middle of each rally serving as a spark plug for the Mets offense.
In the third, he led off the inning with a single off Marlins starter Pablo Lopez. He’d immediately put himself in scoring position by stealing second.
Lopez would walk the bases loaded moving Gimenez to third. He’d then score on a Jeff McNeil RBI groundout. The second run of the inning scored when Corey Dickerson couldn’t field a Michael Conforto liner.
— Justin Groc (@jgroc) August 9, 2020
In the ensuing inning, Gimenez again set the table. This time it was a one out double. He’d score on a Brandon Nimmo two out RBI single.
In the sixth, Gimenez laid down a great drag bunt to lead-off the inning. The Mets would load the bases, and he’d score on a McNeil sacrifice fly.
Andrés Giménez, man… pic.twitter.com/YqsftSZIsZ
— Jacob Resnick (@Jacob_Resnick) August 9, 2020
Overall, Gimenez was 3-for-4 with three runs, a stolen base, and a double. He had three of the Mets eight hits, and he scored all three of the Mets earned runs. In the end, he did the near impossible in providing Jacob deGrom with run support.
With deGrom, he dealt with an issue on his middle finger. Some called it a blister. He called it a hot spot. It was no matter as deGrom is deGrom.
You could say it led to back-to-back walks in the second, but that might’ve been more the result of Home Plate Umpire Mark Carlson who was terrible, and that’s being kind.
No one had any idea what was a strike. The only thing we did know was deGrom was going to overcome it. In that second inning, he got out of a bases loaded jam unscathed.
It wasn’t until the fifth the Marlins would get to him. He missed on a pitch, and Jesus Aguilar hit a two run homer. At that point, the Marlins pulled to within 3-2. They’d get no closer even with deGrom being done after the fifth.
The Mets bullpen continued their impressive August.
Diaz was brilliant even if he was nearly victimized. He blew the first two Marlins away, and he should’ve stuck out Ryan Lavarnway, but Carlson blew the call.
Lavarnway singled on the next pitch. Then, Eddy Alvarez hit what appeared to be an easy fly ball. Instead, in what looks like the return of the juiced ball, it carried to the wall.
Fortunately, it didn’t go out. Diaz shook it off, and he struck out Monte Harrison on an absolutely overpowering pitch.
The big pitch has eluded Edwin Díaz so far.
Not this time. pic.twitter.com/8Y36bwkgEw
— Jacob Resnick (@Jacob_Resnick) August 9, 2020
That left Seth Lugo to pitch the ninth. Lugo pitched a scoreless ninth to preserve the 4-2 win. It was his third save of the season and first one inning save of the year.
Through it all, the Mets won their first series of the year. They did it featuring their homegrown talent, talent like Gimenez.
Game Notes: deGrom’s back-to-back walks in the second was the first time he did that in 25 starts. Michael Wacha landed on the IL with shoulder inflammation, and Ali Sanchez took his place on the roster. Dating back to last season, Nimmo has reached safely in 30 straight games.
That’s not just because it would prove to be the winning runs in this ugly 7-1 loss, it’s also because that homer created that feel, especially after last night’s disaster.
The Braves scored five runs over the first two innings, and Touki Toussaint dominated the Mets over his four innings.
If you’re looking for positives, they were limited but there.
Brandon Nimmo extended his on base streak to 24 games, and he scored the Mets only run. Michael Conforto had a two hit game as did Robinson Cano, who is red hot right now. Dominic Smith reached safely twice.
Franklyn Kilome made his MLB debut, and he acquitted himself well. He did allow two runs over four, but he also struck out five without allowing a walk. This is a strong performance for him to build upon.
Still, this was another poor performance by a poorly constructed team. We are all rightfully counting the days until the team is sold, and presumably, Brodie Van Wagenen is fired.
Beyond that, why is anyone even playing? The Marlins had a COVID19 outbreak. The Cardinals appear on the verge of one. This has led Lorenzo Cain to be the first player to opt out since the season started.
Overall, there were five games postponed today. At the moment, MLB says they won’t quit on the season. They may soon have no choice. When that happens, we won’t get any more dreadful nights like this.
Last night, Travis d’Arnaud was 3-for-4 with five RBI. Three of those five RBI came on an eighth inning double which put the Braves ahead 11-10. This was the same d’Arnaud he rage released last year.
You couldn’t help but notice the same game d’Arnaud won, the .208/.269/.250 hitting Ramos flew out with the tying run on second to end the game.
Case-in-point, Ramos called six outside pitches when Marcell Ozuna was up last week, and on a 3-2 pitch, he called the same pitch Ozuna struck out on the previous day. Short of using a megaphone, Ramos couldn’t have made the pitch type and location any more obvious.
This is normally where we go to Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn. On that note, the Mets called up Brian Dozier despite his bit really fully preparing for the season and his not taking part in summer camp.
By hastily starting an ill-prepared Dozier, the Mets have admitted Cano is no more than a platoon player making that trade somehow worse.
On the topic of the platoon, you know who was a really good right-handed platoon option? Wilmer Flores.
However, the Mets non-tendered Flores partially because of a knee condition he never actually had. Instead, they replaced him with Jed Lowrie, a player who actually had a knee injury.
That knee injury is the invented condition of PCL laxity. Even better than the conjured up diagnosis was it taking nearly a year-and-a-half to get a second opinion.
While the Mets are getting nothing from the impending free agent Marisnick, and their bullpen has been struggling Blake Taylor has been terrific out of the Houston Astros bullpen.
The list with Van Wagenen goes on and on. He told us he was replacing Zack Wheeler with Marcus Stroman, who was in the same rotation. He then let Wheeler walk and actually replaced him with Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha while trying to tell us the pitching improved.
Don’t forget his continuously telling us he wasn’t going to fire Carlos Beltran only to fire Beltran before he managed a game.
It’s like Van Wagenen is George Costanza. Every instinct is wrought with failure. The key difference is Costanza was the assistant to the traveling secretary, and Van Wagenen is the GM.
The other difference is Van Wagenen is real. He’s all too real.
Whereas nothing went right in the series finale against the Braves, nearly everything went right against the Red Sox. That was all the more incredible when you consider Amed Rosario and Jeff McNeil ran them out of the top of the first.
Rosario you understood as he was aggressive running to an open base, and honestly, it was shocking to see Xander Bogaerts beat him in a foot race. As for McNeil, he was just picked off.
This didn’t come back to haunt the Mets. For starters, it didn’t because Michael Wacha was very good over five innings against the Red Sox. He kept them off balance with his change, and he was pumping his fastball up to 97 MPH.
The only run off of him was a Mitch Moreland solo homer in the fourth. By then, the game was effectively over.
The Mets offense finally woke up against the bullpenning Red Sox. Every batter reached base safely at least once, and Robinson Cano was the only starter without a hit.
— New York Mets (@Mets) July 28, 2020
Then, Pete Alonso got off the snide after struggling much of the early part of the season with an absolute laser over the monster:
— New York Mets (@Mets) July 28, 2020
Then, in the fourth, Dominic Smith hit a three run homer increasing the Mets lead to 7-1:
— New York Mets (@Mets) July 28, 2020
Of course, with this being the Mets, they can’t make anything easy.
Chasen Shreve, making his Mets debut, allowed a homer to Bogaerts in his two innings of work. That made it 7-2 Mets.
Jeurys Familia came on in the eighth, and unfortunately, he did not build on his impressive first appearance of the season.
The problems started when he issued a one out walk to J.D. Martinez. Rafael Devers doubled setting up runners on second a third with one out. Both runs would score leading to Luis Rojas to bring in Seth Lugo for the four out save.
Lugo got out of the eighth, and he retired the Red Sox in order to preserve the 7-4 victory. The Mets are now back at .500 and just hoping to be able to play another day.
Zack Wheeler desperately wanted to stay with the Mets. Brodie Van Wagenen wasn’t interested, and he went so far as to say what Wheeler signed for with the Phillies didn’t match how the Mets valued him.
Why be magnanimous about a very good pitcher who time and again made it clear he wanted to be a Met? Why avoid giving a starter in your division bulletin board material? Those are questions for another day.
Porcello wasn’t good, but he wasn’t quite as bad as his final line seemed.
The Braves got to Porcello with two in the first, and he escaped trouble in the second by getting Ronald Acuna to hit into an inning ending double play. If you had any hopes that meant his sinker was working, they’d be quickly dashed.
It began with Jeff McNeil making an error allowing Ozzie Albies to reach safely. Then, with the Mets apparently being deathly afraid of Freddie Freeman (with good reason), Porcello walked him. Then disaster struck.
Marcell Ozuna doubled to put the Braves up 3-1, and Matt Adams walked. At that point, the Mets were still in it. Then, J.D. Davis completely misplayed what was a routine play for a left fielder into a two RBI double for Dansby Swanson.
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) July 27, 2020
Instead of it being 4-1 with one out, it was 5-1 with no outs and runners on second and third. With that, Porcello’s night was done, and the Mets night was effectively over.
Corey Oswalt was thrust into a relief role instead of preparing for a start against the Red Sox. Again, he was put in a position to fail, and he did. He’d allow inherited runners to score along with a few of his own. On the bright side, he ate four innings saving the pen a bit.
Newcomb was terrible in his own right, but he was bailed out by an overly aggressive Mets lineup. This is the same lineup which was assembled due to their bats while punting defense. They punted defense with a starter with a low strike out rate and is coming off a season where he had the worst ERA in the AL.
You can point a lot of fingers tonight. No matter where you point them, make sure you point them at the GM. This is exactly how he designed the team, and it failed like anyone else could’ve predicted.
This is a season like none other. It’s a 60 game sprint with few off days. The threat of normal injuries are heightened by these few off days and sprint to get ready again for the season. There’s also the threat of COVID19 which can wipe out a player’s season, the bulk of a team’s roster, and quite possibly the entire season.
Before going to the divisions and Wild Cards, lets first focus on the Mets. If the season started on time, they were a real threat to win the division. Their chances have now been severely hampered.
Things got much worse for the rotation with Marcus Stroman‘s injury, which is hopefully not serious. When he’s out, one of the best two starters in the game is going to be replaced by a not ready or Quad-A starter. That’s a huge drop-off.
There are also bullpen injuries and question marks. Combining the Mets pitching issues, their purposeful playing a bad defensive team, and not playing their best players, this might be a fourth place team.
That’s a reflection of the division strength too. By no means should we be surprised if the Mets win the division or grab a Wild Card. That goes double if MLB expands the postseason. This team does have a lot of talent and can get insanely hot despite their significant flaws.
That principle applies to all 30 teams. They could get insanely hot and/or other teams could deal with significant injuries/illnesses. With all those caveats in mind, here’s my 2020 division winner projections:
AL East – Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays know better than anyone how to bullpen. They’re built for it at a time when teams are likely going to have to do some form of it for up to a month.
This is a smart organization who has probably game-planned for this better than any other organization. This should help them edge past an injury prone Yankees team and exciting young Blue Jays team who still doesn’t know where they’re playing.
AL Central – Cleveland Indians
When everyone is searching for pitching, the Indians have a surplus of starters. They also have perhaps the best manager in the game in Terry Francona. Combine that with MVP level players like Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez, they should have enough to fend off the exciting young Chicago White Sox and the Minnesota Twins who won the division last year.
AL West – Oakland Athletics
Like the Rays, this is a team built for bullpenning in a season where all teams will likely have to do some form of it. They have Matt Olson and Matt Chapman at the corners too. Also, not to be too snarky here, but also like the Rays, they’re one of the teams most accustomed to playing with little to no fans. This won’t be a huge shock for them.
This is not a reflection on the Astros not being able to bang the garbage cans anymore. They remain a very good team, and Dusty Baker is the perfect manager to lead them now. No one should be surprised if they win the division.
The same could be said for the Angels who are in a good spot to surprise everyone.
NL East – Philadelphia Phillies
Arguably, no team improved more than the Phillies. They added an ace in Zack Wheeler, and they have Didi Gregorius at SS. Additionally, they’ll have a full season of Andrew McCuthchen. They also had a massive upgrade at manager going from Gabe Kapler to Joe Girardi. On that point, Girardi is one of the best at using his bullpen, a skill which will be at a premium this season.
The Phillies get the edge here with the Braves and Nationals having players sick and/or opting out of the season. Again, this is a tight division top-to-bottom where any team but the Marlins could win the division.
NL Central – Milwaukee Brewers
Like with the Rays and Athletics, this team knows how to bullpen better than anyone. They also have Christian Yelich powering the offense and “full” season of Keston Hiura. The Brewers are built for a season like this.
That should edge them ahead of the Reds who have the starting pitching and the Cardinals who have a lot of question marks.
NL West – Los Angeles Dodgers
The best team in baseball added Mookie Betts this past offseason. Someone they have an outfield with Betts and Cody Bellinger. You have to conjure problems with this team whose depth is a huge asset in a season where any team could deal with injury and illness. If you’re choosing a team other than them, you’re trying too hard.
As for the Wild Cards, it’s tough to tell for a myriad of reasons including not knowing how many there will be. On that note, you figure just about any team but the Marlins, Orioles, and Tigers have a shot at grabbing a Wild Card spot.
Overall, these predictions are best guesses at what will be a baseball season like none other. Some will be right, some will be wrong. Ultimately, it’s just great baseball is back. Let’s just hope everyone stays healthy and safe.
With Noah Syndergaard and Marcus Stroman going down, the Mets need a fifth starter. Whenever the Mets need a starter, the debate once again turns to whether Seth Lugo should be put back in the rotation.
Certainly, you can understand the impetus. Lugo was a revelation in the rotation in 2016, and without him in the rotation, the Mets very likely miss the postseason. We also saw him back that up by being the ace for Puerto Rico in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
We know Lugo can start, and we know he can be extremely good in the rotation. We also know Lugo is one of, if not the best, reliever in baseball. It’s extremely difficult to part with that.
The Mets starting pitching and bullpen injuries make it even tougher to remove Lugo from the bullpen.
In 2019, Matz averaged 5.1 innings per start. Things improved in the second half when he moved to the middle of the runner. After that, he did average 5.2 innings per start. That’s still under 6.0, but he did make strides towards at least being a six inning pitcher.
Porcello also averaged 5.1 innings per start. That was after averaging 5.2 innings per start the previous year. Looking at his career, Porcello’s innings have declined in each of the last three years. That’s a bad trend for a pitcher the Mets need to be an innings eater.
That means two of the Mets three best pitchers don’t consistently pitch at least six innings. That leaves the bullpen getting 10-11 outs during their starts. That should prove to be a break compared to the fourth and fifth spots.
Last year, Michael Wacha averaged just 4.2 innings per start. Over the final three months of the season, he pitched into the fifth just three times over 11 starts. In his career, he’s never averaged more than 5.2 innings per start. This is from the fourth starter.
After that, the Mets are stuck going to Corey Oswalt, David Peterson, or bullpenning it. The young starters can’t be relied upon to consistently go deep into games. That puts a further burden on the pen, and that gets worse with planned bullpen games.
Further compounding a bullpen game is the lack of people who can go multiple innings consistently. Robert Gsellman was that guy, but he’s injured. Effectively speaking, that leaves Lugo as the only reliever who can consistently give the Mets multiple innings out of the pen.
Really, a lot of the Mets bullpen is a question mark. Can Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia rebound from bad 2019 seasons? Will Justin Wilson‘s elbow hold up? Can Dellin Betances return to his dominant pre-injury form?
There’s just far too many questions in the bullpen and far too few innings in the rotation. Asking any bullpen to have to cover 10-12+ outs four out of ever five days is a monumental ask. It’s even worse with few off days.
Fact is, at the moment, the Mets need Lugo in the pen. He’s really the Mets only option who can pitch multiple innings. He’s the best reliever on the team.
Really, Lugo is the best option out of the pen. At a time when the Mets need the bullpen to take on a tough workload due to the schedule, they should have Lugo at the ready to get those innings as it’s not coming from another reliever.
Overall, Lugo may be the best option for fifth starter. He’s also the best reliever the Mets have. They need him out otherwise. In any event, Lugo is where he belongs – in that bullpen.
When Brodie Van Wagenen took over as the Mets General Manager, he was gifted an organization with great pitching depth. It was more than just reigning Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom. It was a rotation so deep, Steven Matz was a fifth starter.
Behind them was an upcoming group of starters at or near top 100 rankings. Of note, Justin Dunn and Anthony Kay were first round picks putting it together and putting themselves in a position to be Major League ready starters sooner rather than later. Notably, both made their Major League debuts last year.
Now, Matz has gone from fifth starter to the Mets second starter, and the Mets rotation currently goes just three deep. How the Mets got here is purely on Van Wagenen’s shoulders.
Some of this was Van Wagenen’s hubris. He was all too willing to trade top prospects close to the Majors and continue with thin pitching depth. It was something the Mets got away with last year with Mickey Callaway who seemed to have a knack for keeping starters healthy. Of course, Van Wagenen couldn’t wait to fire him.
On the top prospects Van Wagenen traded away, he was all too cavalier about it. In fact, he said he was comfortable doing so because he was confident he’d draft well.
Brodie Van Wagenen said he had this aggressive draft strategy in mind when he traded away prospects.
— Tim Healey (@timbhealey) June 30, 2020
Speaking of win-now, the Mets just let Zack Wheeler go to the Phillies even though Wheeler wanted to stay and would’ve signed at a discount. Instead, he signed that discounted deal with the Phillies. To make matters worse, Van Wagenen went out of his way to slight and further motivate Wheeler.
Van Wagenen’s master plan was to instead sign Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha. Porcello is coming off a year where he had the worst ERA in the AL. Wacha has a bum shoulder and a three year decline in FIP, BB/9, K/9, and K/BB.
Again, Van Wagenen’s plan was to dismantle the Mets group of aces and near aces with Major League ready first round picks and replace that with well below average starters in the name of . . . depth. While it’s a sick joke, it wasn’t intended to be funny.
Sure, you can argue injuries hit this rotation. Noah Syndergaard needing Tommy John couldn’t be foreseen. Marcus Stroman tearing his hamstring was bad luck. Conversely, that’s exactly why you hold onto your starting pitching depth, and it’s why you hold onto your top end starters instead of letting them go to a division rival.
These problems have been compounded by the bullpen injuries. This means the Mets are down to three viable starters and no one to fill-in those middle innings when the dubious fourth and fifth starters can’t go deep into games.
However, Van Wagenen will tell us it’s alright because he built depth (he didn’t), and he had a draft strategy (leaving the team with no real MLB ready starters in the minors). Suddenly, the Mets went from a team so needed a couple of tweaks to be a true World Series contender to a team who may now just be the fourth best in the division.
If the Mets fall short this year, make no mistake, it’s all on Van Wagenen and his complete and utter short-sightedness on how he has handled the Mets pitching depth.