The New York Mets were on a hot streak. They hired Buck Showalter, and then they started filling out the coaching staff with some well respected candidates.
And then, nothing.
The Mets are looking for a bench coach, and they’re coming up dry. Andy Stankewicz will remain as the head coach of Grand Canyon University.
Suddenly, this search is becoming reminiscent of the Mets GM search. It was then a reminder of the beginning of the Mets offseason when Noah Syndergaard shockingly left the organization to sign with the Los Angeles Angels. Things were bad.
Out of that would eventually emerge Starling Marte and Max Scherzer. With that, the Mets suddenly changed the narrative about the direction of the franchise. Suddenly, the same old Mets became legitimate World Series contenders. It happens that fast.
At this point, the Mets keep striking out on bench coaches. That’s fine. There are still a number of qualified candidates out there, and the Mets will eventually get their guy. If they don’t, well, they still have Marte and Scherzer, so in the end, they will be more than fine.
There’s a gag on the show Archer wherein Archer is essentially asked what he can’t understand, and the answer is, “Core concept.” Right now, this applies to the New York Mets and free agency.
Noah Syndergaard was a free agent, who had a qualifying offer in hand and wanted to return to the Mets. However, while the Mets were focused elsewhere, the Los Angeles Angels and other teams were making their pitch.
The Mets immediate response to Syndergaard’s signing with the Angels was they weren’t given the last chance to sign him. Of course, to make that request, they’d actually have to talk to the player.
Not even a week went by, and the Mets are once again upset a player who wanted to return to the Mets didn’t give them an opportunity to make the final offer. This time, it was Steven Matz.
As the story goes, Matz first contacted the Mets, and the team’s interest was mutual. It was a wide open field, but for whatever reason, the Mets not only we’re going to get the opportunity to match, but they were willing to match the deal Matz signed with the St. Louis Cardinals.
However, that’s not what happened. Matz liked the deal and the opportunity presented by the Cardinals, so he signed with them. Mets owner Steve Cohen was angry:
I’m not happy this morning . I’ve never seen such unprofessional behavior exhibited by a player’s agent.I guess words and promises don’t matter.
— Steven Cohen (@StevenACohen2) November 24, 2021
Keep in mind, this was the same Matz the Mets traded for spare parts (Sean Reid-Foley, Yennsy Diaz, and Josh Winckowski). The Mets could’ve extended him last year with zero competition, but they instead traded him.
The Mets getting upset over Syndergaard and Matz not giving them the final chance shows they fail to understand the core concept of free agency. Free agents owe no loyalty to anyone, and they can sign with whomever they want.
For the Mets, you can almost write this off as a fluke. After all, it’s not often these situations present themselves, and it’s really infrequent this happens in a week.
The problem is it’s not just this week. Last year, the Mets thought they had Trevor Bauer signed. Honestly, with the website snafu, everyone did.
When Bauer went to the Los Angeles Dodgers, Alderson complained this was the furthest in the process he went in contract negotiations with a free agent and not get the player. As a result, Anderson and the Mets (fortunately) didn’t sign Bauer.
This marks the third time the Mets thought they were in a great position to sign a player only to come up empty. At some point, that’s a Mets problem and not a agents problem.
Argue over whether the Mets should’ve signed these players all you want. The fact is the Mets lost out on all three, and they wanted all three. That’s a huge problem.
Cohen can pretend it’s the agents fault. It’s not. The Mets are failing to sign players, and all they can do is tweet their way through it.
The Mets need to do better. If they want a player give them a strong offer while they’re there and don’t let them go out and leverage your offer. Just get it done, and then tweet out you actually signed the player.
That’s how free agency works.
There can be a debate as to when the New York Mets knew they needed a front office overhaul. It could’ve been since the start of the season since they failed to hire a president of baseball operations last year.
It could’ve been as late as Zack Scott’s DUI arrest. Whatever the case, the Mets knew before the end of the season they needed a front office overhaul.
What ensued was a protracted search which missed the mark. First, the Mets again gave up on hiring a POBO. Then, it was a GM search.
While this was happening, other teams went to work on their offseason plans. That goes double for the Los Angeles Angels.
While the Mets had no leadership and no plan, Noah Syndergaard signed with the Angels. While the Mets had radio silence, the Angels were laying out their plan from their assembled front office. The sales pitch and uncertainty had an effect on Syndergaard and his decision:
"This is kind of a make or break time for me. I didn't want to gamble on that kind of uncertainty that was going on with them"
Noah Syndergaard after he was asked if the Mets' GM and managerial search impacted his free agency decision pic.twitter.com/qIzgRxwYXz
— SNY (@SNYtv) November 19, 2021
While Syndergaard was due partially to confusion over the front office, Aaron Loup was something else. Loup was great for the Mets, and he wanted to stay. He didn’t.
During the Mets exclusive window to negotiate with Loup, they were trying to assemble a front office. Again, while this was happening, the Angels were making their pitch to Loup. Obviously, it was a successful one.
So, Billy Eppler hasn’t been on the job for a week, and he’s seen Syndergaard and Loup leave. That’s not to say the Mets aren’t moving. After all, they’re pursuing Steven Matz.
Again, the Mets are working from behind. The Angels aren’t and have struck twice. Who knows where this stops, especially with Marcus Stroman still a free agent.
The Mets have time to act, but free agent starters are flying off the board. More to the point, the Angels are taking some of their best pitchers, and it’s possible it’ll happen again soon.
Noah Syndergaard shocked New York Mets fans when he accepted a one year deal from the Los Angeles Angels for one year for $21 million. That was worth more than the $18.4 million qualifying offer from the Mets.
Up until this point, Syndergaard had made it clear he wanted to stay with the Mets. That was until free agency began. After that, the Mets cut off all communication, and while the Mets were quick to point out they didn’t get an opportunity to match, they also weren’t going to match.
Noah Syndergaard to the Angels is a significant loss for the Mets, who need to add probably two starting pitchers this offseason.
The Mets had a lengthy, exclusive window to sign Syndergaard, who was open about his desire and expectation to stay in New York. They didn’t take it.
— Tim Healey (@timbhealey) November 16, 2021
The response from Mets fans hasn’t been bewilderment over how the team let a rehabbing ace leave. It wasn’t irritation over Sandy Alderson cutting off communication with Syndergaard like he once did with Daniel Murphy, Another Mets star who desperately wanted to stay.
Like many players, free agent Marcus Stroman especially, Syndergaard is very online. He was part of the conversation, and at times, he drove it. We also know he can be sensitive. This is the same Syndergaard who will be a free agent after the 2022 season.
We all should be expecting Syndergaard to have the Zack Wheeler type turnaround at the end of 2022 and heading into 2023. Certainly, money will dictate, like it did here, but seeing the treatment on his way out the door, why would Syndergaard want to return to this fanbase?
This is the same fanbase who had an issue mercilessly booing players this season. Incredibly, that initially happened when the Mets were in first place.
Homegrown player Michael Conforto was booed as he tried to return from COVID. Francisco Lindor was booed as he struggled to adapt to New York and all the things Chili Davis did wrong as a hitting coach.
When Javier Baez was acquired, things went from bad to worse. Baez crossed the line booing back with the thumbs down, and he dragged Lindor into it. That caused the fans to get worse until Báez was great again.
At that point, Báez was cheered and was loved. Keep in mind, Báez is a free agent. He initially talked about wanting to stay to play with his best friend, and we know Alderson has always loved him as a player.
Will Báez return? Who knows? Not everyone is Mike Piazza and wants to deal with the booing and fight to overcome it. No, some players don’t want to have to deal with the negativity which comes with the boos, Twitter nonsense, and sports radio and SNY trying to come up with the biggest nonsense.
Believe it or not, players want to get paid and play. They want to win. They want to be loved and respected by the fans.
They don’t want to deal with fans who turn their back on players because they leave, get hurt/sick, or struggle. They don’t want to deal with fans dumb enough to buy the outright lies Alderson continues to feed them (remember payroll will increase when attendance does?)
As fans, you are permitted to do whatever you want, and you can continue to parrot whatever ownership tells you. However, at some point, you have to question when is your collective behavior going to be counterproductive and keep some players away.
After all, if Syndergaard does break out, why would we want to return in 2022 after the way he was treated? What would he say to other players who are thinking of playing for the Mets? Therein lies the problem.
When Noah Syndergaard left the New York Mets to sign with the Los Angeles Angels, one of the talking points was the Mets are going to benefit from the draft pick acquired. The way things are going that may need to be their focus.
Syndergaard leaving is another big hit to the Mets already thin pitching depth. That’s problematic given all the question marks that rotation had even when Syndergaard was expected to be a Met in 2022. If this rotation falters, this is a team who is going to be given no choice but to rebuild.
Jacob deGrom and Carlos Carrasco are coming off injury plagued years, and they are 33 and 34 respectively. With deGrom having an opt out after the 2022 season, they can both be free agents. Taijuan Walker can also be a free agent after the season. Walker had a great first half in 2021, but he faltered in the second half and would ultimately finish the season with a 90 ERA+.
As stands right now, the last two spots in the rotation would go to David Peterson and Tylor Megill. Peterson followed a poor 2020 from a peripheral stat perspective with poor 2021 stats and a season ending injury. He showed flashes, but ultimately, he looked like he was not ready. Megill burst onto the scene, but he tired quickly and fell apart at the end of the season, which is quite understandable.
Given the dearth of Triple-A pitching depth, the Mets need to sign two starters to allow Peterson and Megill to further develop and try to limit their innings a bit. Given where the prices are now, Marcus Stroman is going to need around a $25 million AAV to re-sign. Realistically speaking, it’s going to cost at least $40 million to fix the starting pitching.
Keep in mind, starting pitching is far from the Mets only problem. With Michael Conforto a free agent, and the Mets never getting a left fielder over the last three years, they need to fill-in two-thirds of their outfield. Left field could potentially be filled by Jeff McNeil, but the team needs to both hope they fill in two infield spots while also hoping McNeil rebounds from a nightmare 2021.
That is also before you consider Brandon Nimmo is going to be after the 2022 season. In reality, the Mets will have to figure out how to fill out an entire outfield over the course of two seasons. While McNeil may be the proverbial cheap choice, he is now an arbitration eligible player and will be more expensive. Thanks to Brodie Van Wagenen, the same goes for Pete Alonso.
While the Mets are figuring out how to pay two more starters, having to pay arbitration salaries to Alonso and McNeil, they will also have Robinson Cano‘s salary on the books. Unless Cano has a Jenrry Mejia situation, he is going to get $24 million in 2022 and 2023 ($3.75 will be paid by the Seattle Mariners).
Maybe Cano can take over second or third. Maybe he is a utility player. If the DH comes to the NL, he could be the DH. It’s also possible he’s just an overpaid pinch hitter or a player who will need to be released. In any event, that’s a lot of dead payroll weight when the team is potentially looking to re-sign Javier Baez to play alongside his friend Francisco Lindor. On Baez, he’s projected by MLB Trade Rumors to receive a $20 million AAV.
Before the Mets look to rebuild their bullpen with Jeurys Familia and Aaron Loup being free agents, or build depth with Jonathan Villar being a free agent, they will add at least $84 million to the payroll to add two starters, re-sign Baez, and do whatever they are going to do with Cano. Again, that is before building a bullpen and depth, and it is also before arbitration.
From a competitive balance tax threshold, the Mets payroll is $128.45 million before arbitration. Adding $84 million puts it at $212.45 million. According the MLB Trade Rumors model, the arbitration salaries could increase the payroll by an additional $49.4 million. That puts the Mets payroll at $261.85 million before they fill in their vacancies at second, third, left field, right field, the bench, and the bullpen.
That’s also before they figure out potential extensions for players like Edwin Diaz, Seth Lugo, and Nimmo. It’s also before they try to figure out a way to get deGrom to decline his opt out. The question is do the Mets really want to have a payroll around $300 million for the 2022 season? Based on what we saw in 2021, the answer is a clear no. However, we heard some rumors as to why the Mets didn’t go past the threshold.
Sure, with some creativity and shrewd moves, the Mets may not need to get to the $300 million threshold to compete in the NL East. Then again, this team is going to hire Billy Eppler as the GM. Taking a look at the complete picture, the Mets realistically have two options: (1) spend like no one has before; or (2) rebuild. Losing Syndergaard tilted it a little more towards rebuild, but it is still early in the offseason.
Going back to 2015, Noah Syndergaard arguably had the best career ahead of him out of any of the Mets proverbial five aces. He had just unparalleled stuff, and he had the swagger to back it up. More than that, he was a big game pitcher.
We saw Syndergaard come out of the bullpen in Game 5 of the NLDS to shut down the Los Angeles Dodgers for an inning. He followed that with a win in Game two of the NLCS, and he would be the only Mets pitcher to win a game in the World Series. You could see greatness in Syndergaard in those moments, and greatness would ensue.
In 2016, Syndergaard would fulfill every bit of his promise. He was a true ace, and he emerged as an All-Star and top 10 in Cy Young voting. To date, he is probably the only pitcher to go toe-to-toe with Madison Bumgarner in the postseason. In that game, Syndergaard actually outpitched Bumgarner over his seven innings, but unfortunately, there were two more innings in that game.
After that, we excepted Syndergaard to do what Jacob deGrom essentially did. The problem was Syndergaard faced injuries and the Mets medical staff as run by Jeff Wilpon. There was the torn lat, and then two years later, he required Tommy John surgery. That Tommy John rehab was interred with by a minor injury and COVID19.
This wasn’t new to the Mets. This is akin to what happened to Zack Wheeler. They saw it happen. It took Wheeler two years to get back on the mound. Then, it took him another half of a season just to get up to speed again. After that Wheeler was terrific, and then, he was out the door to Philadelphia as the Mets showed little to no interest in re-signing him.
The final indignity with Wheeler was Brodie Van Wagenen taking shots at him. Wheeler responded by being one of the best pitchers in baseball. In fact, he is a finalist for the 2021 Cy Young. While some sycophants may want to tell you otherwise, this was apparent at the time Wheeler hit free agency.
This is the same exact situation the Mets found themselves with Syndergaard. Actually not quite because they were going to get the opportunity to keep Syndergaard BEFORE he rebounded post Tommy John. Moreover, Syndergaard loved New York, and he wanted to stay. You couldn’t have scripted a perfect situation for the Mets.
They had the opportunity to learn from the Wheeler mistake. They were going to be able to keep an ace at a discount. They were going to be able to prove the organization was not in complete disarray as it looked with the president of baseball operations and GM search. Put another way, they could show the world this wasn’t just a more financially solvent version of the Wilpon run Mets.
Instead, Syndergaard is bolting for the Los Angeles Angels for a one year $21 million deal. No, Syndergaard didn’t get a multi-year deal. He ONLY received $2.6 million more from the Angels. The Mets lost Syndergaard over $2.6 million. This is so inexplicably and embarrassingly Wilponian.
While the Angels were talking with Syndergaard, the Mets were botching their GM search and choosing the worst possible candidate in Billy Eppler. Like he did with Jose Reyes and Daniel Murphy, Alderson decided it wasn’t worth keeping a homegrown Mets player and build around him and let him flourish because he could get a compensatory second round pick.
This all makes you question how soon before Michael Conforto and Marcus Stroman are gone and replaced with lesser players? After all, that’s been Alderson’s MO with the Mets. Steve Cohen was supposed to change that, but as we’ve seen so far, it’s the same old with Alderson.
Really, everything sucks right now with the Mets, and you have no idea where it goes from here.
With his impending trial for his DUI arrest and the uncertain state of the New York Mets front office, the team fired acting general manager Zack Scott. Really, they had no other choice.
In terms of baseball, a DUI is not a Cardinal sin (pun intended). Hall of Famer Tony La Russa never truly faced MLB consequences for his actions. He kept every job he had, including his current one with the Chicago White Sox.
He was also La Russa. As he’ll tell you, he’s a “Hall of Famer baseball person.” When you have his track record, teams don’t have the courage to make him face consequences for his actions. Either that, or they don’t care.
Scott is not La Russa. He was the Mets GM by default. The original GM was fired, and he stepped into the role. As the interim, Scott needed to prove to the Mets he was up to the task.
Yes, there were undoubtedly some good moves. However, he did build a team, or helped take part in building a team, who completely fell apart. Ultimately, Scott didn’t prove he was the solution for the job.
He’s also not truly available for the job now. Putting aside the administrative leave, he has to prepare for trial. During that time, key organizational decisions need to be made.
Michael Conforto and Noah Syndergaard are free agents who may have complicated qualifying offer decisions. Key contributors like Aaron Loup and Marcus Stroman are free agents. The Mets can’t sit on the sidelines waiting for Scott to make pivotal decisions which will shape 2022 and the decade to follow.
Between his decisions as a GM and as a driver, he clearly gave the Mets some pause in having him continue in the role. Taking everything into account, the Mets decided it was best to start anew and hire a president of baseball operations.
Whoever that new POBO will be, they need to create the Mets organization in their own image. It’s one of the reasons Luis Rojas‘ option was not picked up, and it’s a reason why the Mets need to clear the GM spot.
Ultimately, this is about the POBO. The Mets need to find the right person, and they need that person to build the organization. The Mets can’t have Scott standing in the way of that, especially when he’s unavailable to do his job at a very critical time.
In the end, Scott gave the Mets very little reason to remove the interim tag. Instead, he really just gave them reasons to remove him from the organization.
The other day the New York Mets made the smart decision to retain Jeremy Hefner as their pitching coach. It was a move necessary because Hefner was going to be a free agent at the end of the month, and the team needed to act quickly to make sure they retained a coach respected by the Mets pitching staff.
The problem with this decision is it seemed a little out of order. Typically speaking, you do not hire or retain a pitching coach without hiring a manager. To wit, you don’t hire a manager without having general manager and president of baseball operations in place. And yet, that’s exactly where the Mets find themselves.
The Mets seem to be at a bad spot in their search. Their pie in the sky choices in Billy Beane, Theo Epstein, and David Stearns will not be joining the organization. Unfortunately, they’re striking out at the second level and extremely qualified choices like Matt Arnold, Peter Bendix, and Scott Harris. This is far from an exhaustive list. Really, what seems exhaustive is how many times the Mets have been unable to fill this role for well over a year now.
We’re now at the point of the sensational. For example, Deesha Thosar of the New York Daily News published an article indicated Mets owner Steve Cohen is relying upon his employees at Point72 as well as former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to lead the search for the new president of baseball operations. Honestly, this doesn’t pass the sniff test considering Cohen’s background, but by the same token, we can expect to see more of the same until the position is filled.
That said, there is a bigger issue here. There are certain actions which need to be undertaken in short order, and it appears those decisions will need to be made before the new POBO is hired. Michael Conforto and Noah Syndergaard are free agents, and the team not only has to decide if they want to extend the qualifying offer, but they also need to see if they want to re-sign them. Marcus Stroman cannot be offered the qualifying offer, but the team does need to figure out if they want to keep him (they should).
This is a team who needs to fill vacancies at third base, and they need to complete their rotation. With Jeurys Familia and Aaron Loup being free agents, they need to build the bullpen. The team needs another outfielder, and they need to see if they are going to keep Javier Baez. There really is just too much to do for the Mets to wait for a new POBO.
Yes, you want a POBO making these decisions, but you can’t sit around and not make key organizational decisions until that person is hired. There is no sense not permitting the 2022 Mets to be as good as they can possibly be because they didn’t hire a POBO.
There is far too much at stake this offseason. Sitting around and doing nothing means the Mets will remain third best in the division, and in all likelihood, it puts them in a position where they are forced to rebuild. The problem is what’s here is a solid enough core to win a World Series. The Mets cannot sit on their hands and wait. Like it or not, Sandy Alderson has to take reins and operate as the POBO until one is hired.
No, it’s not what Mets fans necessarily wanted to hear, but it’s the truth of the matter. The sad, frustrating, and irritating truth.
You’d be hard pressed to argue Aaron Loup wasn’t the best reliever in baseball in 2021. Over 65 appearances, he was 6-0 with a 0.95 ERA, 0.935 WHIP, 2.5 BB/9, and a 9.1 K/9. Looking at advanced stats, he had a 422 ERA+, 2.45 FIP, and a 2.8 WAR.
His ERA was the best among all relievers, and that was backed up by his FIP being the eighth best. Perhaps more importantly, Loup backed up an impressive 2020 campaign which saw him finally learn how to handle right-handed batters effectively.
In 2020, Loup had what was then a career best year. Part of that was limiting right-handed batters to a .192/.246/.423 batting line. There was reason for skepticism with right-handed batters hitting .264/.332/.424 off of him in his career up to that point. Well, in 2021, Loup proved the improvement was real limiting right-handed batters to a .211/.290/.257 batting line.
This is a huge development. This means Loup is no longer just a LOOGY. No, Loup is an effective late inning reliever. That puts his value off the charts in an era where pitchers face a three batter minimum. Unless you get the opportunity to bring in a left-handed reliever with two outs, you need a reliever who can at least hold their own against right-handed batters. That’s easier said that done, and it’s all the more complicated when you’re trying to get innings from a pitching staff over a 162 game season.
The Mets were quite lucky getting Loup for just $3 million in 2021. Obviously, even with Loup turning 34 at the end of the year, he is going to get a raise and a multi-year deal. Obviously, he has more than earned it. It should also be obvious the Mets who are still short in the bullpen need him, and it may also behoove Loup to stick with Jeremy Hefner, who helped him continue his progress as a two way reliever. On that front, Loup has said he wants to return to the Mets.
In many ways, that just puts the ball in the Mets court. The season has been over for over a week, and Loup’s comments were well over a month ago. Still, there has been no reports of any news on a Loup deal. The longer this goes on, the more there is the risk Loup actually hits free agency at the end of the month and has a team blow him out of the water with a deal the Mets would not be willing to match.
Yes, there are a lot of pressing matters with the Mets. They are searching for a new president of baseball operations. They need to make determinations on making qualifying offers for Michael Conforto and Noah Syndergaard. They are apparently trying to keep Luis Rojas in the organization. There is that and so much more.
However, as we have seen with Rojas and much of the coaching staff being dismissed, there are some things which absolutely need to be done now. Considering the state of the bullpen, his performance, and his desire to return, re-signing Loup is one of those things. Keeping him in the fold makes the job of the new president of baseball operations, whoever that will be, much easier when that hiring is official. It is long past time this deal gets done to allow the Mets to focus on other issues.
Mets need to re-sign Aaron Loup now.
With the New York Mets failing to make the postseason, and worse yet, with their collapse, the narrative has become this core hasn’t been good enough to win a World Series. Sandy Alderson seemed to echo that sentiment a bit when he said there were going to be changes to the core this offseason. Of course, with free agency and the like, that was probably going to happen anyway.
Before Steve Cohen purchased the team, the Mets core could probably be defined as Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, Jacob deGrom, Jeff McNeil, Brandon Nimmo, Dominic Smith, and Noah Syndergaard. At least, that was the homegrown core. In that core, you had two ace level pitchers, two All-Star level first baseman (yes, Smith was that in 2020), two All-Star level outfielders, and a jack-of-all trades All-Star.
When you add Francisco Lindor, who joins deGrom as a future Hall of Famer, you’d be hard pressed to find much better cores in all of baseball. This level of talent should be the envy of the other 29 teams in the league. That begs the question what went wrong in 2021.
On the one hand, this was a team which was 3.5 games in first place at the trade deadline. Their high water mark was 5.5 games up on June 16. As we know, this team had the bottom completely fall out as they finished eight games under .500 and 11.5 games back of a mediocre Atlanta Braves team for the division.
The narratives emerged. Luis Rojas was in over his head. The ReplaceMets got them the division lead, but the regulars couldn’t seal the deal. This team had no heart, no will to win, no killer instinct, etc. Basically, chose your narrative and apply it to this team.
In many ways, that’s what people said about the 2007-2008 Mets. As we all learned, firing Willie Randolph wasn’t a solution. Switching out leaders like Cliff Floyd was a mistake. Really, making change for its own sake proved to be a complete and utter disaster. Certainly, so was the Wilpons involvement in a Ponzi Scheme. That said, the level of dissatisfaction with “the core” rather than a real analysis of what was the problem led to the demise of that team.
The real issue with that Mets team was injuries and pitching. During the back-to-back collapses, the pitching completely fell apart at the end. Certainly, Jeff Wilpon playing doctor played a massive role in that happening. In some ways, we’re seeing the same thing happen but with a completely new regime.
Let’s take a look at the 2021 Mets. The first thing which should jump off the page is the team went into the season without a real third baseman or a left fielder. We all knew by Opening Day J.D. Davis could not handle the position, but there he was. Behind him was Luis Guillorme, who was as good a glove in the middle infield as they come, but he was a poor third baseman. After that was Jonathan Villar, but he has never been a good fielder.
As for left field, it’s the Mets mistake as old as time. You cannot just throw anyone in left field and expect it to work. Todd Hundley wasn’t a left fielder. Lucas Duda wasn’t a left fielder. Sticking a good bat in the outfield just never works, and oft times, we see diminishing returns for that player at the plate. While Smith did an admirable job, he again proved he couldn’t play left field.
Of course, the Mets could have gone with McNeil at either position as he’s played both positions well. Instead, the Mets were obstinate he was a second baseman because that was the belief Sandy Alderson stubbornly held during his first stint with the Mets.
This speaks to a real problem with the Mets and how it colored how the core was viewed. Players were asked to do things they shouldn’t have been asked to do. For example, remember Conforto in center field? It’s been an organizational approach to just plug bats everywhere. The end result was the team suffering as players failed to reach their ceilings as they struggled out of position, and we also saw the defense lag.
Now, the defense wasn’t really the problem in 2021. With the analytics and Rojas at the helm, the defense was much improved. However, to a certain extent, the damage had already been done. Steven Matz, who struggled in large part due to the absence of defense and analytics, was cast off for relievers who pitched poorly. We had already seen pitchers like Chris Flexen and Paul Sewald cast off. There’s more.
Really, the issue isn’t the core, but what the Mets did with it and how they built around it. For years, we knew Alonso and Smith were both first baseman, but they Mets absolutely refused to make the tough decision and pick just one of them and try to move the other to address a need. It’s a decision which has held this team back for three years now. As for the justification of the anticipation of the universal DH, that’s no reason to throw away three seasons, especially with Alonso and Smith is going to a free agency after the 2024 season.
Looking deeper, this was a team really harmed by injuries. Really, you can make the argument if deGrom was healthy, they don’t collapse. If Carlos Carrasco isn’t hurt in Spring Training, they don’t collapse. If Syndergaard returns when anticipated, they don’t collapse. However, that happened. That’s more of a sign of a snake bit team than it is a problem with the core.
Really, despite the flaws in roster building, this team was good enough. We actually saw it with this team being in first place despite the injuries and the odds. If you’re being honest in your assessment, you should be saying the Mets need to get a real third baseman and left fielder, and this team will be primed to win a World Series. After all, this team with a relatively shallow pitching staff and being plagued by injuries was on the precipice.
That brings us to the next issue. The front office didn’t try to go for it. There was the opportunity, and they chose not to get the pitching this team needed. There’s no good explanation why they didn’t.
As a result, the people who failed at supplementing a very good core is now going to call it an eroding one. They’re going to allow people to falsely accuse this core of not being good enough to win. It’s complete and utter nonsense, and it completely obfuscates what the real problem is – how this organization has approached building rosters.
Overall, if the Mets bring back this same exact roster replacing Davis at third with a real third baseman and putting McNeil in left field, they will be the best team in baseball. There should be absolutely no doubts about that.