Noah Syndergaard

Mets Needed To Agree To Long Term Extensions With Arbitration Eligible Players

Like it has been for most of their history, the Mets are currently build on starting pitching. That presents a problem for this organization because they will soon be in the unenviable position of having to rebuild their rotation over the ensuing few offseasons.

After the 2020 season, Marcus Stroman and Rick Porcello are going to be free agents. As a result, the Mets are going to have to address 2/5 of their starting rotation after the season.

The Mets will have to face the same exact situation the ensuing offseason as both Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz will be free agents after the 2021 season. That means over the course two years, the Mets are going to have to address how they want to handle 80% of their starting rotation.

Complicating matters is Michael Conforto hitting free agency the same time as Syndergaard and Matz as well as the shallow upper parts of the Mets farm system. How the Mets choose to address their rotation will be vitally important as Jacob deGrom has an opt out after the 2022 season.

After that 2022 season, Brandon Nimmo will be a free agent, Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil will be first time arbitration eligible, and Amed Rosario will be heading into his last season under team control. This means the Mets core is going to be quite expensive and on their way out to parts unknown over the next few seasons.

At this point, we should all be wondering what exactly is the plan here.

At times, the Mets seem all-in. We saw that not just with trading away prospects to get Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz, but we also saw that with the Mets trading away prospects like Blake Taylor, Ross Adolph, Luis Santana, and Adam Hill for what amounted to be nothing more than complementary pieces.

On the other hand, the Mets don’t see remotely all-in when they fail to address the back-up catching situation and let Zack Wheeler, their second best pitcher over the past two years, leave the Mets to go to the Philadelphia Phillies. Couple that with the Mets not making a push for players like Gerrit Cole, Bryce Harper, and Manny Machado, or being active on the trade market for players like Nolan Arenado, Mookie Betts, or Francisco Lindor, this seems more and more like a team without a clear direction.

Now, part of that can just be a result of how ineptly the Wilpons and Brodie Van Wagenen have run this organization. Another aspect can be this team being in a relative holding pattern until Steve Cohen’s purchase of the club is finalized and approved. There may be other factors at play, and really, at this point, we are all just guessing.

What we do know is based on the control over the current core, the Mets window to compete for a World Series is right now, and the team has done little to push the team over the top. We also know that until this core is extended, the Mets window is going to be limited to just these two years.

When you look at things through this prism, you see the need to give extensions to at least some of your core. Certainly, that is the case when the goal is sustained winning and not just short windows. In theory, there is still 10 months to do that, but at the moment, the Mets have missed their biggest and perhaps best opportunity to do it once again leaving the impression this is an organization without a clear direction.

Apparently Mets Backup Catcher No Longer A Concern

As the Mets embarked on the offseason, Brodie Van Wagenen specifically said the Mets were looking to upgrade over Tomas Nido as a backup catching option. Given Wilson Ramos‘ durability concerns, Nido’s 40 wRC+, and pitchers like Noah Syndergaard pushing for a personal catcher, you could understand Van Wagenen’s position.

However, as it stands today, the Mets appear as if they are going to go into the 2020 season with Nido returning as the backup catcher.

Now, there are some reasons for that. Players who could have fit that mold like Robinson Chirinos and Jason Castro got starting jobs elsewhere, and they essentially signed for starter money. While we can have a debate as to the merits of not upgrading over Ramos, the fact is if the Mets wanted a pure backup, these players ultimately were not going to fit the mold.

Still looking past that, there were plenty of players who fit exactly what the Mets wanted, and yet the team didn’t strike. There was Francisco Cervelli, who signed a cheap deal with the Marlins. Worse yet, there was Kevin Plawecki who signed for under $1 million. More than any other player, Plawecki was the fit due to framing ability, familiarity with the pitching staff, and cost.

Now, when you look at the free agent market, there isn’t much left. At this point in his career, Jonathan Lucroy appears near done as a Major League caliber player. John Ryan Murphy never panned out to be the catcher some thought he might be. Really, when you parse through it all, there remains one viable option on the market – Russell Martin.

According to Baseball Savant, Martin is a strong pitch framer on the lower half of the plate. That should help Syndergaard and pitchers like Rick Porcello and Marcus Stroman. On that point, Martin actually caught Stroman.

He also had a decent season at the plate for a backup catcher with an 83 wRC+. Moreover, he is seen as a leader in the clubhouse, and he has already shown an ability to handle New York during his time with the Yankees. When looking at him, he makes a lot of sense for the Mets.

Of course, the Mets would still have to be interested in addressing one of the primary needs they laid out as the offseason opened. On that front, Van Wagenen has walked back those remarks a bit to indicate he is now comfortable with Nido and Ali Sanchez in Triple-A as his catching depth. You could see his point if he was addressing other areas of the team, but he isn’t.

Ultimately, the Mets are going to need an upgrade from their backup catcher. Based upon his career and 2019 season Martin is that guy. In fact, based on the market, he’s really the only guy remaining. If not him, the Mets are going to have to just hope Nido makes significant strides forward in 2020 while receiving very limited playing time.

Mets Should Pursue Nolan Arenado At Almost Any Cost

Unless you are the Los Angeles Angels with Mike Trout or maybe the Boston Red Sox with Mookie Betts, no baseball team can definitively say they have a better player on their team than Nolan Arenado. Since 2015, he has been a top eight player in the league in terms of fWAR, and he has been a top six player in terms of DRS.

Arenado has won seven straight Gold Gloves, been an All-Star for five straight seasons, and he has won a Silver Slugger in four of the last five seasons. It should come as no surprise he has been a top five finisher in the MVP voting over that five year stretch.

Arenado has proven himself to be the rare player who has the ability to impact the game in the field and at the plate. He is one of the best in the sport, a future Hall of Famer, and at 28 years old, he is in his prime. When players like this are available, you do everything you can do to acquire them.

That should include the Mets.

If Arenado was on the Mets in 2020, his 5.7 WAR would have been the best on the team. To that end, the Mets have not had a position player have a WAR over 5.0 since Juan Lagares in 2014, and they have not had a position player with a WAR better than Arenado’s 5.7 since David Wright had a 5.9 WAR in 2013.

If you think about it, that’s what Arenado is. Both are Gold Glove caliber and Silver Slugger players who are top 10 players in the sport. The key difference is Arenado is healthy and playing now. When players like Wright come along, and Arenado is that level of player, you do what you can to get him.

When you look at the Mets roster as a whole, the only player they have better than Arenado right now is Jacob deGrom. When you consider deGrom is the best pitcher in baseball right now, and he is signed to a very reasonable contract extension, you cannot trade him for Arenado.

Any other pitcher on the Mets roster, Noah Syndergaard included, can and should be considered in a potential Arenado trade.

As for the rest of the Mets team, you can and should consider trading all of them if the price is right.

Yes, that means you should consider trading players like Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo. It would hurt to lose either player, but you will have one entrenched in one of the corner outfield spots, and you can move Jeff McNeil to LF on a permanent basis to accommodate that loss.

For what it is worth, the Mets should be willing to trade McNeil for Arenado as well. After all, Arenado is a better baseball player than McNeil, and if you’re going to choose between the two as who you want to be your third baseman for the next five years, you are going to chose Arenado.

Finally, yes, you can also consider trading Pete Alonso. If the Mets traded Alonso for Arenado, they still have Dominic Smith and J.D. Davis (who is really only just a first baseman) to play first. At the end of the day, you hate losing Alonso who has proven to be not just a very good player, but also one who has captured the hearts and minds as Mets fans.

That said, Arenado is a better baseball player than Alonso. More to the point, the Mets are a better team with Smith/Davis at first, Arenado at third, and an outfield of McNeil-Nimmo-Conforto than have a team where they either play Jake Marisnick everyday or have a platoon of first basemen in left field.

They’re also a better team with Alonso and Arenado at the corners. To that end, if you can swing a deal without giving up Alonso, or any of their other core players which include Conforto, McNeil, Nimmo, and Syndergaard, you do it. The problem is the Mets don’t necessarily have that farm system after all the damage Brodie Van Wagenen did last offseason.

To that end, if the Rockies want a player the ilk of Francisco Alvarez, Ronny Mauricio, Andres Gimenez, Matthew Allan, Brett Baty, or whomever else the Rockies inquire, the Mets should be willing to listen. Of course, if the Rockies want to go this route, the caliber of Major League player the Mets should be willing to part in such a trade comes down a significant peg from the aforementioned core.

Now, it should be noted Arenado has an opt out after the 2021 season. If you are the Mets, you don’t disrupt your core without getting him to waive that or renegotiate the contract. That is where Steve Cohen and his money should hopefully come into play.

If the Mets can get Arenado to waive his no trade clause and opt in to his contract, short of Jacob deGrom, there is no one the Mets should not discuss in a trade because at the end of the day, the Mets do not have a player as good as the one Nolan Arenado is.

Yoenis Cespedes Is Never A Boar

When it comes to Yoenis Cespedes, we have long since learned to never be surprised.

This is a man who put on a car show during the 2016 Spring Training. He’d give the keys to a clubhouse attendant one day to drive to the store because the clubhouse had the wrong waffle iron, and Cespedes wanted to make waffles.

We’d also see Cespedes purchase a farm, a $7,000 pig, and ride horses with Noah Syndergaard to Spring Training.

He’s as fun and eccentric a player the Mets have ever had. One day, he’s riding a horse to the ballpark, and the next, he’s hitting a homer against the Yankees despite needing double heel surgery.

That’s why, when he broke his ankle at his farm, you knew the story, if it ever broke was a doozy. Due to the exceptional reporting of Joel Sherman, Ken Davidoff, and Mike Puma of the New York Post, we have confirmation that it was even wilder than we ever anticipated:

According to multiple people who were informed of the incident, Cespedes has traps on his ranch for a variety of reasons, including to keep boars away from people. But one boar was removed from a trap — perhaps by Cespedes — and either charged toward Cespedes or startled him, causing Cespedes to step into a hole. Cespedes suffered the fractured ankle at a time when he was recovering from surgery to both heels that already was jeopardizing his playing status in 2019.

Yes, the same player who once opted music from the Lion King as his at-bat walk-up song potentially fought off a wild boar. At a minimum, he at least had to avoid them because that’s exactly what you expect to hear about a player rehabbing from double heel surgery.

Perhaps more remarkable than the story is the fact a Cespedes in two bum heels faced off in some fashion against a wild boar, and he lived to tell about it. Really, when you think about it, escaping with just a broken ankle is a near miracle.

For any other player, this would be a shocking story. Yet, with respect to Cespedes, it’s quite more bemusing. With this being the Mets, you absolutely have some to expect these things.

While we may not be entirely shocked Cespedes faced down a boar, we should also not be shocked when he hits a big homer in his return. After all, this is Cespedes, and he has never been boaring.

Mets Have Built Ultimate Boom Or Bust Bullpen

Just look at the names: Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, Seth Lugo, and now Dellin Betances. That is a list of names which is the envy of each and every Major League team, and when you break it down, it has the makings of being an all-time great bullpen.

In 2018, Diaz was as dominant as we have seen any closer be. In 73 appearances, he recorded a Major League leading 57 saves with a 1.96 ERA, 0.791 WHIP, and a 15.2 K/9.

Familia is the best right-handed closer in Mets history. From 2015 – 2016, he was second in the Majors in saves while having the third most innings pitched and ninth best ERA.

Lugo has been as dominant a reliever as the Mets have ever had, and really he has emerged to be as dominant as any reliever in the game. To put it in perspective of just how dominant and overlooked he has been, over the past two years, he has a better FIP while throwing more innings than two time All-Star Josh Hader.

As great as this group is, you can argue none of them are anywhere near as good as Betances has been. From 2014-2018, he was quite possibly the best reliever in all of baseball. In fact, his 11.2 fWAR was second best. He was best in innings pitched, third in K/9, fourth in fWAR, and fifth in appearances.

When you can line-up this level of relievers in a row, you’re making every game a 5-6 inning game for a starting staff which includes Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Marcus Stroman. That is not only a recipe for success, it is a recipe for pure dominance.

However, it is important to note next year is 2020, and based on the last few years, only Lugo has been pitching at this high a level.

Last year, Diaz had a career worst year. After the offseason, he talked about how he struggled handling New York, and as reported by Laura Albanese of Newsday, the Mets finally admitted he had been dealing with some health issues.

Familia also had a career worst year. With his having an arterial clot removed in 2017 and his dealing with shoulder issues again last year, you wonder if he can ever get back to the pitcher he was in 2018 (3.13 ERA) let alone his dominant form of 2014 – 2016.

Finally, there is Betances. Before partially tearing his Achilles last year, Betances had been shut down at the beginning of the 2019 season due to a bone spur issue in his shoulder, inflammation in the joint, and a strain to his his right latissimus dorsi muscle. When he finally came back, he had lost velocity on his pitches.

That was also before partially tearing his Achillies. The good news on that front is it did not require surgery, and he is expected to be ready for Spring Training. The downside  is no one can quite be sure what type of pitcher he will be in 2020.

Long story, short, this all means Jeremy Hefner has his work cut out for him. He has been handed an incredibly gifted bullpen which needs a lot of help getting back to their respective levels of dominance. If he is able to get this group at or near their apex, this Mets bullpen will be the best in the game, and when you factor in the talent and potential of relievers like Justin Wilson and Robert Gsellman, you could have an all-time great bullpen.

On the other hand, it is difficult to coach away injuries and diminution in stuff. To that end, no one can be quite sure how this bullpen will perform. As such, this “boom or bust” bullpen will be one of the key reasons why the Mets succeed or fail in 2020.

‘Twas Five Years Before Cohen

‘Twas five years before Cohen, when all through the Citi
Not a dollar was whirling, not even a fifty.
The equipment was hung in the clubhouse with care,
In hopes a free agent soon would be there.

Jeff was nestled all snug in his bed,
While visions of insurance savings danced in his head.
And Fred in his ‘kerchief, and Saul in his cap,
Began preparing for when they took that one final nap.

When out on the news wire there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my seat to see what was the matter.
Away to Twitter I flew like a flash,
Sifted through the notification and ignored the trash.

A new moon on the New York baseball shown
The chance of the Wilpons money no longer be sown.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a Steve Cohen, and some reason to cheer.

With a new owner, so wealthy and smart,
I knew in a moment the Wilpons ways will part.
More rapid than eagles the hope sure came,
Mets whistled, and shouted, and called extensions by name!

“Now Matz! now, Thor! now, Marcus and Lugo!
On, Nimmo! On, Alonso! on, on McNeil and Conforto!
To the top of the norn! before next fall!
Extend them! Extend them! Extend them all!”

As quality free agents sign and poor excuses once fly,
Finances no longer an obstacle, debt reaching the sky.
So among the fanbase optimism grew,
Jeff Wilpon soon to be gone, and Van Wagenen too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard through the wall
The prancing and pawing of agents who now call.
As the Mets try to get ahead, and turn things around,
Soon gone are the Wilpons ways which always confound.

Cohen was dressed all in Mets gear, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes not tarnished with Brooklyn Dodgers adorations afoot.
A bundle of cash he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a legitimate owner, hanging over a stack.

Our eyes—how they twinkled! our moods how merry!
A leader like Moses, and nothing like Terry!
Boras’ droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the green in his eyes from money now aflow

The stump of a pencil Cohen held tight in his teeth,
Writing to Jeff that only in title he will be chief.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
Which hungered to see a Mets winner playing on his telly!

He loved his art, some displayed on a shelf,
One piece alone worth more than all of Fred’s wealth
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

In five years Cohen will leave experts to their work,
Suddenly we won’t see micromanaging from some little jerk.
Injured players no longer needing to ignore doctors they chose,
Now healthy teams playing Mets foes!

He sprang to the bank, to his team gave a whistle,
As homers and fastballs firing faster than a missle.
But I heard him exclaim causing a lot of mayhem,
“Happy Christmas to all, and all a L-F-G-M!”

Mets World Series Window Is Just Two Years

For a moment, let’s assume the 2019 season was similar to the 1998 or 2005 season in that it was a stepping stone to real World Series contention.

There is legitimate hope for that. Pete Alonso had an all-time great rookie season. Jeff McNeil proved his rookie year wasn’t a fluke.

Amed Rosario seemingly turned the corner. Michael Conforto looked completely healthy, and Brandon Nimmo showed in September he’s healthy and ready to perform again at his 2018 level.

Jacob deGrom is the best pitcher in the game, and Seth Lugo is the best reliever.

There is reasonable expectation for bounce-back years from Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, and Noah Syndergaard. That goes double with Jeremy Hefner as the new pitching coach.

While we can and should dicker about whether the 2020 team will be better than the 2019 team, there is hope for optimism as Carlos Beltran begins his second act in a New York Mets uniform.

Behind that optimism is a cold dose of reality.

We didn’t know it in 1998, but that Mike Piazza led team had two seasons as a contender. That was basically the same case with the David Wright and Jose Reyes led 2005 team we all thought would be good forever. This will likely be the same fate this core faces.

After the 2020 season, Marcus Stroman and Rick Porcello will be free agents leaving the team to try to scramble to either re-sign them or attempt to sign a starter from a free agent class nowhere as good as the one which saw the Mets lose Zack Wheeler.

After 2021, Michael Conforto, Steven Matz, and Noah Syndergaard will be free agents. That leaves the Mets looking to invest in four spots in the rotation over the next two years as the farm system is not prepared to provide that help in a way it could’ve if Justin Dunn, Anthony Kay, and Simeon Woods Richardson were still with the organization.

Yes, we should see David Peterson grab one of those rotation spots, and a Stephen Gonsalves or Franklyn Kilome may emerge. However, they likely don’t have the same ceiling the 2015 – 2019 rotations had thereby eliminating the key competitive advantage the Mets had.

If you really want a heavy dose of reality look a year past that, and you’ll see Nimmo and Lugo will be a free agents, and deGrom can opt out of his deal. That’s going to happen as Alonso, McNeil, and Rosario are likely getting big arbitration salaries.

This means by 2022 this entire core could be completely gone with Alonso being the player designated to build around much in the same way the Mets opted Wright for that honor.

Overall, this means unless things change dramatically, the Mets have a two year window. That could be opened longer if Steve Cohen flexes some financial muscle, and/or he opts to bring in an actually qualified and competent GM to replace Brodie Van Wagenen.

To that end, there’s hope even if Jeff Wilpon will be running the show. On that point, we can all hope it’s just a title with no real opportunity to drag the organization down.

No matter what the case, it’s imperative the Mets realize this is their shot, and they need to start acting like it instead of making a series of half measures hoping it adds up to a whole competing roster.

Three Backup Catching Options Mets Should Pursue

According to reports, the New York Mets are currently looking to upgrade their bullpen and backup catcher situation. While Tomas Nido was a strong defensive catcher, he had just a 40 wRC+, which probably necessitates this search.

Ideally, whomever the Mets acquire can offer the Nido’s defensive abilities while also providing a better bat. Also, given the Mets shoestring budget, the player they acquire is likely going to have to be cheap. Here are five catchers who should meet those requirements:

Kevin Plawecki

The mention of Plawecki may not excite Mets fans who had grown exacerbated with his never quite fulfilling his offensive potential. Even with his offensive struggles in Cleveland, Plawecki’s 63 wRC+ was far better than Nido’s. If he reverts to the catcher who had a 10.8% walk rate and 96 OPS+ in his final three years with the Mets all the better.

Another factor with Plawecki is he has historically been a strong pitch framer. As noted by Baseball Savant, Plawecki was a strong pitch framer on the lower half of the plate. That is of no small significance with a pitching staff which includes Marcus Stroman, Noah Syndergaard, Jeurys Familia, and Edwin Diaz.

Of note with Syndergaard, who had his issues with Wilson Ramos, his 5.33 K/BB with Plawecki behind the plate is the best mark he has had with any catcher not named Rene Rivera.

Russell Martin

On the topic of the Mets pitchers who need the low strike to succeed, there was a Grantland article which described Martin’s strong framing, which included his exceptional work on the lower half of the zone. While he is not the same framer he was in his prime, he is still one of the better framers in the lower part of the zone getting a called strike a little over 50% of the time.

In addition to framing the low strike, Martin had a strong offensive season for a backup catcher with an 83 wRC+. However, it should be noted that was part of a three year drop off offensively, and he is 36 years old. Still, Martin is a respected veteran presence, and that should not be underestimated.

If the Mets do change course and go with the personal catcher route, it would be much more palatable to Ramos and the clubhouse for the Mets to defer to a catcher of Martin’s stature than it probably was with Nido last year. Overall, this should help the clubhouse and the pitching staff. Speaking of saving the pitching staff, Martin can be relied upon as a reliever in blow out games.

Jason Castro

With the Mets hiring Jeremy Hefner as the pitching coach, the organization is looking for an advanced analytical approach to help bring the pitching staff to bring them to the next level. This requires the implementation of a new organizational philosophy across the board. That process could be helped along by the Mets bringing in Castro, who worked with Hefner in Minnesota.

In addition to his knowledge of what Hefner is looking to do, Castro is a strong framer, and like aforementioned catchers, he is strong in the lower parts of the zone. He is also exceptional at getting the corners. Unlike the aforementioned catchers, he was an above average league hitter with a 103 wRC+.

On that note, it was the highest mark he had in six years, and it was just the second time in the past decade he was an above-average league hitter. Of course, some of the impact to that is the ball which was much maligned last year. Despite that, Castro is still a good hitter for the position with strong framing metrics.

Looking beyond these three, it is difficult to find a catcher who would fulfill the criteria of being a better hitter than Nido as well as a strong framer, especially in the lower half of the zone. The framing in the lower half of the zone really needs to be a focus for this Mets team given their pitchers and in their attempts to find a complement to Ramos.

Other popular names like Martin Maldonado may not come as cheap, and others like a Francisco Cervelli do not have the lower half framing numbers you want. Those three catchers should be the overall upgrade at a cheap cost over Nido, who the Mets may very well lose as he is out of options.

 

Thank You Zack Wheeler

Last week, Zack Wheeler signed a five year $118 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. Unfortunately, unlike in 2015, a phone call to the General Manager would not be enough to continue his Mets career. The shame there is in many ways Wheeler always represented hope to Mets fans.

Back in 2011, we were already in the wake of the Madoff Scandal, and it became increasingly clear the Mets were not going to build upon the current core. The first player gone from that core would be Carlos Beltran. With the Beltran trade, the rebuild was officially on, and due to Sandy Alderson’s shrewdness, he was able to acquire Wheeler, who was the sixth overall pick of the 2009 draft.

With Wheeler, the Mets had real hope for the future. With him was a plan to contend once again. We could see the plan was to build a great rotation around him, Matt Harvey, and back then it was Rafael Montero as part of the group. That was the Mets future.

While Harvey burst onto the scene, Wheeler’s was more of a steady rise. His Major League debut was promising with his having a 104 ERA+ in 17 starts. He had a mediocre start to his 2014 season, and then suddenly in his last start of June something seemed to click. From June 30 to September 7, he would go 7-1 with a 2.21 ERA, 1.230 WHIP, 3.9 BB/9, and an 8.6 K/9.

With that finishing kick to the season, you could see him pairing with the returning Harvey and reigning Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom to form a dominant top of the rotation which could bring the Mets back to the World Series. As we know, the Mets did win the pennant in 2015, but Wheeler would not be a part of it.

On the eve of the 2015 season, disaster would strike as Wheeler would tear his UCL. He would miss the entirety of the 2015 season. Due to multiple setbacks in his recovery, he would also miss the entirety of the 2016 season. While he was gone, it does not mean it was an uneventful recovery.

On that fateful July night, it was Wheeler who was supposed to be the key piece in a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers reuniting the Mets with CF Carlos Gomez. While Wilmer Flores was crying on the field and Gomez’s medical records were being perused, Wheeler was trying to let the Mets know he wanted to be a part of this team. He wanted to be a New York Met.

Wheeler got through to Alderson, and for his part Alderson made sure to make Wheeler a part of the Mets future. He held onto Wheeler during his struggles after a two year layoff which included his dealing with a stress reaction. Still, the Mets believed in him, and in 2018, the Mets faith in him would be rewarded.

In 2018, Wheeler would emerge as an ace level pitcher. What is odd is it wouldn’t start out that way. He would first begin the year in the minors only to come up to the majors to take Jason Vargas‘ spot in the rotation, and he woudl stay there despite some early season struggles due to Harvey’s being designated for assignment.

Much like 2014, something clicked at the end of June. Over his final 15 starts of the season, he was 10-1 with a 2.06 ERA, 0.924 WHIP, 2.1 BB/9, and an 8.9 K/9. What is interesting about that finish is even with deGrom clearly being the best pitcher in baseball, Wheeler would have a better second half ERA than him.

Once again, Wheeler’s second half gave hopes for the Mets return to the postseason. This time, Wheeler would be healthy, and despite the Mets nearly playing themselves out of it in the first half, he would get his opportunity to pitch in a postseason race.

Wheeler stepped up his game. From June 22 until the end of the season, he was 6-3 with a 3.04 ERA, 1.192 WHIP, 2.0 BB/9, and an 8.2 K/9. While the Mets didn’t get that second Wild Card, he was rewarded for his faith in himself and this team.

The Mets were also rewarded in their faith in him. As alluded to earlier, Wheeler emerged as an ace over the past two seasons.

Wheeler has emerged as a pitcher who gives you 30 starts a year and over 180 innings. That’s equivalent to 6.1 innings per start. His 3.37 FIP over the past two seasons is 10th best in the Majors ahead of pitchers like Stephen Strasburg, Clayton Kershaw, and Madison Bumgarner. His hard hit rate put him ahead of everyone except his teammates deGrom and Noah Syndergaard.

In total, Wheeler became exactly what was promised when the Mets obtained him from Beltran in 2011. What was promised was not just the hope Wheeler had provided but also the great pitcher they believed he could be. It may have been a turbulent road to get there, but get there he did.

For that, every Mets fan should be grateful to Wheeler. We should be grateful for his giving us hope for nearly a decade, especially at those time when it seemed the most bleak. We should be grateful he became that great pitcher we all hoped he would be. Mostly, we should be grateful he wanted to be a Met, even at the very end when he came back to the Mets and asked them to re-sign him.

To that end, thank you for an eventual Mets career, Zack Wheeler. You were a class act, and you deserve nothing but the best in the future.

Mets Signing Michael Wacha A Waste

When you’re operating on an austerity budget like the Mets are, you can’t afford to just throw away or gamble with their money. Cheap for its own sake is not going to fly. No, the team needs to be shrewd and deliberate.

Signing Michael Wacha was neither of those things.

Many will note it’s just $3 million guaranteed, but that loses the point. As noted by Tim Britton of The Athletic, Wacha can earn an additional $7 million in incentives. As such, with the way the Mets operate their team, for budget purposes, they’re likely going to treat Wacha as a $10 million player leaving them with only $3 million to spend this offseason.

That’s $3 million to build a bullpen, add depth, and get insurance for Wacha’s spot in the rotation. They need that insurance because Wacha missed the postseason with a shoulder injury. It was the second time in four years his season ended due to a shoulder injury.

The shoulder issues are just part of the problem. The larger problem is Wacha shouldn’t be relied upon on as a team’s fifth starter. He’s not striking many out, and when you dig deeper, he has an unacceptably poor 1.97 K/BB.

Turning the attention to Baseball Savant, Wacha doesn’t have Major League quality stuff anymore. His fastball velocity and spin are poor. The spin on his curve is poor as well.

About the only pitch he really effectively executes is his change. To the effect, it’s been quite effective with batters only hitting .199 off of it. The problem is batters hit all of his other pitches well.

The end result was Wacha making 24 starts and five relief appearances going 6-7 with a 4.76 ERA, 1.563 WHIP, 3.9 BB/9, and a 7.4 K/9. Notably, over his last 10 starts of the season, Wacha only lasted five innings three times, and he didn’t pitch at least four innings three times. Due to his shoulder injuries, he would also be left off the postseason roster.

Overall, Wacha between his injuries, stuff, and really, just his ability was not deserving of anything more than a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training. Wacha was the guy who needed to prove he could be healthy. For that matter, he needed to prove he was a Major League caliber starting pitcher again.

Instead, Brodie Van Wagenen gave the CAA client a guaranteed deal worth $3 million with the potential of an additional $7 million in incentives. This makes little sense for an injured pitcher with little to no upside, and that is before you consider how he’d be negatively impacted by the Mets defense or Wilson Ramos behind the plate.

At the moment, Wacha is in a boat with Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo as all three are preparing to be starters with them each likely being in the bullpen to start the year. That was made all the more certain with Rick Porcello signing, which as previously explained, is not set-up for success with the Mets.

Right now, there are so many possibilities including these two signings paving the way for a trade of Noah Syndergaard or another starter. No matter what, the Mets appear to be relying upon Wacha in some fashion for 2020. Given his injuries and where his talent is now, this is really just a waste of money.