As the season wound to a close, there was much talk about how the Mets were too talented for this season to have unfolded the way it did. Certainly, some players struggled, but in the end, the Mets missing even an expanded postseason should not have shocked anyone.
Things changed dramatically for the Mets the day Noah Syndergaard had to shut it down due to Tommy John surgery. It was at that point the Mets went from possible postseason contender to a team who was likely going to miss the postseason.
Syndergaard presented, along with Jacob deGrom, two top of the rotation, swing and miss pitchers. The Mets desperately needed this as this was a team with far too many pitchers who pitched to contact in front of a terrible defensive team.
In 2019, the Mets were last in the National League with an 86 DRS. Despite planning on going into 2020 with Marcus Stroman and Rick Porcello, two pitchers who pitch to a high rate of contact, the Mets affirmatively opted not to improve their defense. In actuality, they probably made t worse.
Remember, the plan was to always have two first basemen in the field with Pete Alonso and J.D. Davis. Based on what we saw of Robinson Cano in 2019, you could’ve argued, the Mets were really putting three first basemen in the field. That’s beyond ill advised.
An important thing to remember here was not only were the Mets playing three first basemen, they were playing three poor ones at that, at least in terms of their respective positions.
By OAA, Alonso was the worst defensive first baseman in the NL last year. Davis was the 26th ranked LF with the second worst success rate. Cano was also ranked 26th.
The good news is Cano rebounded by OAA but not DRS. Past him, well, it was a complete disaster.
Davis didn’t last long in LF because he was even worse, which you could not imagine to be possible. He then moved to third where he was again an unmitigated disaster. That was a precipitous drop from the good, albeit declining defense, provided from Todd Frazier last year.
Alonso too regressed leading him to lose his everyday job at first. Instead, he split time with Dominic Smith at the position. When Dom wasn’t at first, he was in left. That meant the Mets had FOUR first basemen in the field.
You can’t win games that way.
What makes this even worse is the Mets didn’t really surround these players with plus defenders to offset the terrible defense.
Brandon Nimmo isn’t a center fielder. That was again proven by his -4 OAA and -5 DRS. Wilson Ramos was just about the worst catcher there was in baseball behind the plate. His framing numbers were poor, his ability to block the ball worse, and his ability to tag out runners nonexistent.
Essentially, that made the pitchers mound look more like a tiny island with a bunch of people around him just letting him drown.
Really, when you look at the Mets, the only position they had good defense was short with Andres Gimenez and Amed Rosario providing very good defense there. Other than that this was a terrible defensive ballclub with the fourth worst DRS in all of baseball.
The sad thing is it didn’t have to be this way. There were very good defenders on this roster who earned playing time. Case in point was Luis Guillorme. He had a very good defensive season with a 1 OAA and DRS, and he posted a 144 wRC+ at the plate. Playing him up the middle with Gimenez or Rosario could’ve had a profound impact on this suspect pitching staff.
On that note, Porcello struggled with terrible defense behind him. Stroman opting out certainly hurt, but he also might’ve struggled in front of a flat out terrible defensive team.
Truth be told, the only way this team could’ve competed was by having a starting staff of swing and miss pitchers who induced soft contact. Unfortunately, Syndergaard was injured, and the Mets didn’t want Zack Wheeler. Once the latter two were gone so were the Mets chances.
In the end, Brodie Van Wagenen and Jeff Wilpon treated the Mets like they were a fantasy team. With the Mets having an MLB best team 122 wRC+, they probably won their fantasy league.
However, on the field, where things like defense and base running matter, they built a flawed and arguably bad baseball team. Certainly, this was not a team truly built to compete, and in the end the Mets didn’t.
That’s why Van Wagenen will be gone and why Steve Cohen has zero interest in keeping Jeff Wilpon around in any decision making capacity when the sale is officially ratified by MLB.
Overall, the 2020 New York Mets didn’t underachieve. No, this team did EXACTLY what they were built to do. That was have deGrom be great, the offense hit, and get horrendous defense and suspect starting pitching.
According to reports, Steve Cohen is bringing Sandy Anderson back to the Mets as an advisor, and he is planning on finding a replacement for Brodie Van Wagenen. Both are excellent and needed decisions.
When it comes to Van Wagenen, it’s difficult to quantify exactly how much damage he has done to the well built and talented Mets organization gift wrapped to him from Alderson. Essentially, all that Alderson built needs to be rebuilt.
Van Wagenen was given a starting staff comprised of Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, and Steven Matz. Behind them were well regarded prospects in Justin Dunn, Anthony Kay, and Simeon Woods Richardson.
The Mets rotation over the final week of the 2020 season will be deGrom, Rick Porcello, maybe Matz, and who knows what else?
The position player core was remarkably cheap and talented. There was Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, Dominic Smith, and Amed Rosario. Behind them was Andres Gimenez and Jarred Kelenic.
Sure, there were some bad contracts, but they were short term in nature, and they were not going to serve as an impediment to either building on or retaining this core.
For example, the Jay Bruce and Yoenis Cespedes contacts were set to expire after this season. That coincided perfectly with having to have the money to re-sign deGrom and to have extension talks with Conforto, Matz, and Syndergaard.
Instead, the Mets no longer have Kelenic giving them a buffet against losing one of Conforto or Nimmo. They also have Robinson Cano‘s onerous contract on the books which already served as an impediment to re-signing Wheeler.
That’s nothing to say of the quality prospect purge in the same of finding a late inning defensive replacement in center for a team who already had Juan Lagares and adding J.D. Davis to a team already overstocked in 1B/DH players.
Couple this with the Mets getting rid of Wilmer Flores for nothing only for him to be more productive than anyone Van Wagenen brought into the organization and signing Jed Lowrie for $20 million to get eight pinch hitting attempts, and the Van Wagenen stint as GM has been an unmitigated disaster.
If you want to point to Van Wagenen’s drafts as a positive, you should. However, in doing that, remember, that was a scouting group built by Alderson and Omar Minaya. The Mets will be keeping both advisors.
When you take everything into account, Alderson built the Mets to be a competitive team in 2019 and 2020. With any luck, he had a deep farm system to make the types of trades he made in 2015 to help get the team over the top.
The real window for this Mets team was supposed to open in 2021. Given the talent on the Major League roster and in the farm system, it promised to be a 1980s like run.
Instead, Alderson is back to figure out how yo fix this mess. Fortunately for him, he won’t have Van Wagenen or Jeff Wilpon standing in his way. Instead, he will have an owner with deep pockets who intends to let smart baseball people like Alderson do their jobs.
When Brodie Van Wagenen took over as GM, the Mets organization had an embarrassment of starting pitching depth. He was gifted a starting rotation which had Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, and Steven Matz.
Now, the Mets rotation this week was literally posted as deGrom followed by a bunch of TBAs. The reason? The starting pitching depth is gone. Kaput!
For some reason, Van Wagenen thought the old adage you could never have enough pitching didn’t apply to him. For some reason, he actually thought he improved the Mets rotation and depth with Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha.
Someone will undoubtedly argue the Mets pitching staff suffered a number of injuries, and Marcus Stroman opted out. But that completely misses the point. That’s exactly why you need quality depth. That quality depth is long gone.
Now, at the trade deadline, Van Wagenen could’ve looked at this and pursued another starter. Maybe he did. Maybe he didn’t. What we do know is not only did he not obtain a starting pitcher, but he would also get rid of one.
Van Wagenen traded Kevin Smith for Baltimore Orioles reliever Miguel Castro. He traded a promising left-handed starting pitcher who continues to improve and defy scouting reports for a reliever with a career 4.94 FIP and 1.409 WHIP.
Yes, Castro is talented reliever for sure, but his skills have yet to translate to tangible Major League success. This is the guy you take a flier on in the offseason. He’s not the player you overpay to get as your big time late inning reliever to help get your over the hump. Castro has not been and is not that guy.
As for Smith, he’s the latest starting pitching prospect Van Wagenen needlessly traded away for pennies on the dollar. Van Wagenen explained it away like Smith was a future fifth starter. That’s not too different from how he was dismissive of Dunn’s and Kay’s abilities before being shown how embarrassingly wrong he was.
In what should hopefully be Van Wagenen’s last trade deadline, he traded away his fourth starting pitching prospect. You could form what would’ve been a good Major League rotation with what Van Wagenen traded.
Instead, the Mets will gave zero starting pitching depth and next to nothing in return for all of these trades.
Upon taking over the Mets job, Brodie Van Wagenen has traded prospect after prospect in an attempt to win-now. Last year, the Mets fell short. This year, the Mets are under .500 and are currently on the outside looking in on an expanded postseason.
On that front, his trades have not planned out. Another way to analyze it is to see how the players he traded are faring:
Justin Dunn (-0.2 WAR) 1-0, 5.57 ERA, 1.381 WHIP, 6.4 K/9
Anthony Kay (0.5 WAR) 2-0, 3.14 ERA, 1.256 WHIP, 7.5 K/9
Blake Taylor (0.8 WAR) 1-0, 1.38 ERA, 1.077 WHIP, 9.0 K/9
Combined this trio of pitchers have accumulated a 1.1 WAR. Due to their absence and Van Wagenen letting players like Zack Wheeler walk, he’s had to replace them with these players:
Walker Lockett (-0.1 WAR) 0-0, 7.50 ERA, 1.500 WHIP, 7.5 K/9
Rick Porcello (0.0 WAR) 1-3, 5.76 ERA, 1.640 WHIP, 7.6 K/9
Michael Wacha (-0.1 WAR) 1-2, 6.43 ERA, 1.643 WHIP, 11.6 K/9
Through his series of moves, Van Wagenen replaced 1.1 WAR with -0.2 WAR. That’s before you take into account Wheeler’s 1.6 WAR this year.
First and foremost, Van Wagenen traded away the depth which would’ve helped the Mets withstand those injuries. Furthermore, he was the one who opted to allocate money which could’ve gone to Wheeler with other assets. There’s also the fact the Robinson Cano trade hamstrung the Wilpons financially, or at least that’s what we’re led to believe.
What makes this all the more befuddling is Van Wagenen purportedly opted for this path for the sake of depth. If you follow the timeline, he purged depth, then quality, and then signed replacement level pitchers for the sake of saying the Mets had depth.
Overall, the Mets could’ve had a great pitching staff in 2020. Sandy Alderson has left behind great depth on that front. Instead, Van Wagenen pilfered it for short-sighted ineffective trades. Now, that pitching depth is gone. With the sale of the Mets, he may be gone as well.
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.
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.
The Mets were bludgeoned by the Yankees over the two game exhibition set by the combined score of 15-3. The key word there was exhibition.
Neither of these two games counted, and they had all the weight and importance of a Spring Training game. That’s because it was Summer Camp, which was really Spring Training Part Deux.
Really, when you break it down, almost none of what happened the past two games matters. That’s even if you want to get bent out of shape about the Yankees homering off of Corey Oswalt, Drew Smith, and Chasen Shreve, i.e. bullpen bubble guys.
That’s not to say there weren’t some important takeaways. There absolutely were. It’s just the final score of home run barrage weren’t close to them.
The biggest takeaway was Yoenis Cespedes was able to play consecutive days, and he looked good running. He also only played three innings in left meaning he’s not quite in a spot to play the outfield just yet. Put another way, on a team of DHs, he’s the Mets DH.
Jed Lowrie still isn’t really playing, and the Mets have no idea when he can play. Basically, it’s 2019 all over again. To a certain extent, in this topsy turvy COVID19 world, it’s nice having some consistency.
It appears with Wilson Ramos missing these two games to attend to an undisclosed family matter and Rene Rivera being added to the 40 man roster, Tomas Nido might be the Mets Opening Day catcher. Somewhere the rehabbing Noah Syndergaard must be ripping his hair out.
On the topic of Opening Day, Jacob deGrom had a good bullpen session, and he appears set to go.
In that Opening Day lineup, all indications are Robinson Cano will start the year batting third . . . again. Of course, this once again means this wasn’t a Mickey Callaway decision, but rather a Brodie Van Wagenen one. That is, unless, you believe Luis Rojas independently reached the same decision, and Van Wagenen isn’t still trying to prop up his former client he used Jarred Kelenic to obtain.
More than any of this, it’s great having baseball back with Gary, Keith, and Ron calling games. Let’s all just cherish this, hope everyone stays safe, and the Mets got the work in they needed to start their path towards winning the 2020 World Series.
The Alex Rodriguez ownership group is taking a really odd route to push for buying the New York Mets. It starts with A-Rod, who made the bizarre, hypocritical, and partially retracted push for a salary cap.
It’s not just A-Rod. It’s the rest of his celebrity athlete potential ownership group who are making non-monetary pitches to buy the team.
We finally have a society paying attention to race, discrimination and injustice. And now that there’s a chance to sell the Mets to bidders of color, MLB wants to give instead to Steve Cohen — a billionaire with a long track record of shady dealings?https://t.co/fi2zL3ruuU
— Bradley Beal (@RealDealBeal23) July 17, 2020
Beal thinks an ownership group should get it due to racial composition. Then, there’s Mason Plumlee, who took to his blog to try to tell us they have the superior ownership group because they’re cooler.
It should be noted that post was taken down because he incorrectly asserted Nets owner Joseph Tsai would be part of the ownership group. He won’t.
Sorry Twitter, it is not true. I grew up as a Mets fan and I have a lot of respect for Alex and Jennifer. But I’m not involved in bidding for the Mets. Gotta focus on basketball. https://t.co/lX3C4sWnJk
— Joe Tsai (@joetsai1999) July 18, 2020
Going back to the deleted post, Plumlee pitched the ownership group as passionate fans, and from the player standpoint, Plumlee talked about things like having a good locker room and how they hate to lose. Note, he didn’t say spend what it takes to win.
He then made part of his pitch to the fan base on his group. Aside from this group of athletes (without much of a pedigree), he alluded to how much cooler and sexier his group is:
To be fair, he made a direct appeal to people who cheered Brodie Van Wagenen when the Mets were a complete failure at that point in the season. As for the rest of us, we just want ownership fully dedicated to winning, ownership who has the full capacity and willingness to build that winner.
To Mets fans, a really cool owner is the owner who delivers a World Series. It’s the owner who will stop at nothing to win. That’s why Nelson Doubleday, a literal book nerd, is the coolest owner in Mets history.
Doubleday bought the Mets, and he handed the keys to Frank Cashen. He was the man who basically told the Wilpons to shut up as he pushed Steve Phillips to trade for Mike Piazza. For fans, there’s nothing cooler than that.
A real Mets fan would rather sit next to a parent, spouse, child, sibling, and/or friend at a World Series game than sit next to an owner or GM for a bad Mets team.
They also want one who can get guys like Piazza. For his part, Plumlee isn’t off to a good start taking pot shots at Noah Syndergaard, Yoenis Cespedes, Ike Davis, and Matt Harvey. If you’ll notice, he also took a shot at Steve Cohen with his SEC troubles.
Of course, if we wanted, we could focus on A-Rod’s PED history, lying about it, and suing everyone to avoid culpability. We could focus on Mike Repole’s willingness to enter into business with people with a troubling racist and misogynistic track record.
We could dig deeper into this group to see all the positive or negative things they do, but that completely misses the point. The point is the Mets need ownership whose sole focus is winning. They need ownership who has the financial might and ability to make that happen.
With every utterance from A-Rod’s group, it becomes increasingly clear it’s not them. In fact, they only seem to confirm Steve Cohen is much better suited to leading the Mets to glory than they ever can be. In the end, that makes Cohen the right and cool choice.