During Spring Training and especially, over the past week, there have been pieces posted on this site detailing exactly how the Mets could beat the odds and actually go out and win the division. While Brodie Van Wagenen has preached on eliminating ifs, the fact of the matter is they exist, and the Mets are going to have to hope it all goes their way.
With respect to the division favorite Washington Nationals, the hope is they are no different than the team Dave Martinez led last year. This means Max Scherzer can be dominant while Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner perform like MVP candidates. However, if Patrick Corbin reverts, Stephen Strasburg is hurt again, and the veterans which they are relying upon (Brian Dozier, Yan Gomes, Ryan Zimmerman) don’t turn back the clock, a terrific year from Victor Robles may not be enough for them.
The Philadelphia Phillies arguably improved their team the most with the additions of Bryce Harper, Andrew McCutchen, J.T. Realmuto, David Robertson, and Jean Segura. That’s all well and good, but this is a dangerous mix for a team which fell apart partially due to their Fortnight obsession and the face Gabe Kapler has shown himself to be a poor leader. Absent Aaron Nola repeating last year and Jake Arrieta going back to his 2015 form, it’s possible this team could fall apart.
While the Nationals and Phillies are widely regarded as the best teams in the division, it was the Atlanta Braves who actually won the division last year. What is remarkable about the Braves was despite the team having as much money coming off the books as they did, their only real upgrade was signing Josh Donaldson. However, when you consider Johan Camargo was actually better than him last year, it was likely a downgrade. Beyond Donaldson, the team is essentially all glove up the middle (Ozzie Albies, Dansby Swanson, Ender Inciarte) with an incredibly average pitching staff. If the middle of their team doesn’t figure it out offensively, they’re going to need Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuna to be even better in 2019 in order to carry the team forward.
As for the New York Mets, the key seems to be their bullpen. In recent years, there has been a correlation between strong bullpens and records. With the Mets having Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, Justin Wilson, and Seth Lugo, they have the makings of what could be the best bullpen in baseball. When you add Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Zack Wheeler, this may be the best pitching staff in all of baseball.
This means the Mets will need Michael Conforto, Robinson Cano, and possibly Brandon Nimmo be the MVP candidates they can be while Amed Rosario figures it out. Beyond that, the Mets have what it takes. It is just up to Mickey Callaway to get the most he can from the team while Brodie Van Wagenen makes the key trade when needed.
If all that happens, and it very well could, the Mets win the division and go on to win the World Series. If not, the Mets may find themselves fighting for the second Wild Card. It should be fun to see what happens.
With how free agency has transpired the past few years, we have seen an increasing number of players opt to sign contract extensions with their current teams rather than test free agency. This meant one of the top players in the upcoming free agent class, Nolan Arenado, has opted to remain with the Rockies until 2025 effectively making him a Rockie for life.
While we can argue the ramifications free agency will have on labor discussions and whether there will be a strike or lock out, the extension which arguably emanated is a positive for Rockies fans. They will now get to see a player they love continue putting up MVP caliber numbers and continue to make his case for the Hall of Fame. Being able to continue to root for players you love and have watched play for your team since they have been called up to the majors is a good thing for baseball.
Certainly, we saw that on display when David Wright played his last ever baseball game. On September 29, the 63-96 Marlins played a game against the 75-85 Mets. The starting pitchers were Trevor Richards and Steven Matz. In a vacuum, there would be no reason to go to this game. Still, 43, 928 Mets fans would make their way to Citi Field to say good-bye to a beloved player.
Yes, you can raise how Wright’s extension didn’t work out exactly how everyone planned. His injuries, especially his spinal stenosis, meant Wright did not have the Hall of Fame career many believed he was going to have. Towards the end of the deal, the Mets refusal to move on despite medical evidence to the contrary may have stood in the way from the Mets returning to the World Series after the 2015 season. In the end, none of that mattered as fans rushed to buy tickets and give their emotional farewell to their Captain.
If Wright were to leave and finish his career elsewhere, the emotion directed towards him would not have been the same. It would have existed, but certainly not to the same extent. Having a player like Wright creates that emotional connection between fans, player, and even the team.
We see that happening elsewhere in baseball. There is Joey Votto in Cincinnati, Freddie Freeman in Atlanta, Clayton Kershaw in Los Angeles. These are the players who have stayed with their teams. They’re loved not just because they’re great players, but also because they stayed.
There are various reasons why players stay, and those reasons may or may not include how teams are handling free agency. It doesn’t really matter why the players stay. To fans, it matters that the players stay.
That is the issue facing much of baseball now. The Angels have a decision to make on Mike Trout. The Giants have a decision to make with Madison Bumgarner. The Red Sox have the same decision with Mookie Betts. As for the Mets, they’re going to have to make these decisions with respect to Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Michael Conforto in relatively short order.
For the Mets, the player the Mets sign to an extension will likely become a beloved Met, more so than they are now. Ultimately, it won’t matter if things don’t pan out like everyone hopes it would. Instead, when all is said and done, we will have the memories of the 2015 season (and hopefully other postseason runs), the All-Stars, and the awards. We will have a reason to pour into Citi Field in our jerseys and say another emotional good-bye to a Mets great, a player we adored for years.
And that right there is why extensions are great for the game.
With just three weeks to go before Opening Day, the Mets have an interesting race for the backup catcher position between Travis d’Arnaud and Devin Mesoraco. This is a race d’Arnaud seemingly had won with the Mets trading Kevin Plawecki to the Indians, but with him not being quite ready to play early in the Spring, Mesoraco returned, and he is now arguably ahead of d’Arnaud in the competition.
Now, as organization depth, Mesoraco was a very good signing. He is familiar with the pitching staff, has some pop in his bat, and has the talent to be a backup catcher at the Major League level. In a vacuum, the Mets opting to carry Mesoraco as the backup catcher is a fine decision. However, this decision isn’t being made in a vacuum. It’s a decision between him and another player.
Understandably, Mets fans have been quite frustrated with d’Arnaud. He has yet to have a real healthy season in his career. He never took the next step forward from what should have been a springboard 2015 campaign. He aggravates most fans with his inability to throw out base stealers, a problem brought to light all the more when Noah Syndergaard is on the mound.
Still, despite the areas of the game where d’Arnaud struggles and the frustration over him not becoming what we hoped he would be, he is still a better Major League catcher than Mesoraco.
First and foremost, d’Arnaud is a better pitch framer – always has been and always will be. With the exception of the 2017 season, d’Arnaud has always been a good pitch framer, and in fact, he has routinely been one of the better pitch framers in the game. That’s important for a team built on pitching. For his part, Mesoraco has always been middling to just plain bad in that department.
Of course, not every pitch is a borderline call. Sometimes you just need a catcher to stop the ball to prevent it from going to the backstop and permitting the batter to take the next base. Since 2015, d’Arnaud has yielded just seven passed balls in 1995.1 innings whereas Mesoraco yielded eight just last year in 484.1 innings with the Mets.
Expanding it further to wild pitches, d’Arnaud has a combined 77 wild pitches and passed balls since 2015. For his part, Mesoraco has yielded just 57 in the same time frame albeit in approximately fewer 900 innings, which means Mesoraco yields a higher percentage of passed balls and wild pitches.
Now, it should be mentioned that d’Arnaud is not as good as Mesoraco is at throwing out base runners. For his career, d’Arnaud has only thrown out 21 percent to Mesoraco’s 24 percent, which includes 21 percent last year. Suffice it to say, this a strength in neither player’s game, and there is really a de minimim difference in their abilities in this department.
It may also be surprising to learn d’Arnaud is a much better hitter. Since 2015, d’Arnaud has hit .251/.309/.419 (96 OPS+). For his part, Mesoraco has hit .206/.297/.356 (77 OPS+).
Those numbers may come as a surprise due to the outburst Mesoraco had when he first joined the Mets. In fact, in his first 15 games with the Mets, he hit .261/.358/.630. The problem is after those 15 games, he hit .210/.290/.344.
Even after all of that, many may still point out to how well Mesoraco seemed to click with deGrom in what was a great Cy Young campaign for the Mets ace. What is odd is how people will raise that point while neglecting how d’Arnaud was deGrom’s catcher during deGrom’s 2014 Rookie of the Year campaign, and how he was deGrom’s catcher during the 2015 postseason. Fact is, deGrom pitched great last year because he is a great pitcher, and really when you break it down, people should at least contemplate whether deGrom could have actually been better with a better receiver last year.
Overall, once d’Arnaud is ready to play behind the plate, he should be the backup catcher over Mesoraco. He is a better catcher, and he is a better hitter. Really, when you break it down, the only thing Mesoraco has over d’Arnaud is he’s healthy. Of course, Mesoraco has the same checkered health record d’Arnaud has, so it may only be a matter of time before the Mets need to turn to a Tomas Nido anyway.
With reports Brandon Nimmo getting sick from cooking his own chicken dinner, it does inspire many to say, “Same old Mets!” Certainly, the Mets have had their fair share of bizarre injuries and illnesses over their 57 year history. There are plenty of stories, and the Mets bloggers share some of the more infamous in Mets history:
I love Noah Syndergaard, but the hand, foot and mouth disease is easily the standout injury in recent memory for me.
Michael Ganci (Daily Stache)
Valley Fever…and it’s not close. Single-handedly ended Ike Davis‘ career.
Metstradamus (Metstradamus Blog)
I’ll bring up Ryan Church here. Not that a concussion is bizarre, but putting him on an airplane to Denver and then Snoop Manuel surreptitiously chastising him for not being tough enough to handle it will always be the benchmark for bizarre in Flushing.
Greg Prince (Faith and Fear in Flushing)
Gotta go with what happened to reliever Ken Sanders between innings one Sunday afternoon in 1975: “I was taking my warm up pitches and lost the return throw from John Stearns and it hit me directly in my right eye. I never touched it. It actually knocked me out. There was no action on the field at the time of the accident.”
Tim Ryder (MMO)
Sasser hit .297/.328/.416 from 1988 thru 1990. Once his head got the best of him, everything came crashing down. The conventional injuries didn’t help either.
Bre S. (That Mets Chick)
Weirdest Mets illness: Ike Davis, valley fever in 2012. Valley Fever is an infection that is released from the dirt in desert regions of the Southwest and is inhaled. It can be stirred up by construction and winds.
Fast forward to 2014 and Davis still complained about having Valley fever! Its mind boggling how that infection stayed with him throughout the years. “You have no energy, no nothing. It was definitely a weird one. It’s supposed to go away on its own, but when I had an X-ray last year, it showed I still had it. I’m hoping that’s over and done with.” – Ike Davis
James Schapiro (Shea Bridge Report)
It’s gotta be “Valley Fever,” for me…it’s got all the hallmarks of a Mets injury. It’s a disease that sounds fake, like it’s almost a parody, and also sounds like a cruel act of God.
Strangely enough, Ike’s other injury is high on the list too — the time the training staff had him wear a walking boot nonstop, and it turned out the boot was basically suffocating his ankle, and it turned into him missing the 2011 season and pretty much ended his career. That…that’s the Mets right there.
Jerry Blevins slipping over a curb and re-breaking his arm. Sure, you can understand his arm breaking when he was hit with a comebacker, but a professional athlete breaking the arm again slipping on a curb takes the cake.
What’s interesting here is we had no mention of Tom Glavine losing his front teeth in a cab ride. What’s interesting to note with him is that while he thought that to be heart breaking, he was not devastated after killing the 2007 Mets season. Speaking of cab rides, we should never forget Duaner Sanchez.
There are many, many more here to list. We all know them, especially those who have participated in these roundtables. They know much more than the injuries, which is yet another reason to visit their sites and read their quality work.
At this moment in time, with perhaps a very minor move or two, it would appear the Mets are done adding pieces this offseason. The different holes in the roster have been noted, but what we have not really seen done is an examination of the Mets decision making process. It is something which should be done more earnestly.
Dumping Swarzak’s And Not Frazier’s Contract
Purportedly, one of the selling points of the trade to obtain Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz was to move the contracts of Jay Bruce (2 years, $28 million) and Anthony Swarzak ($8.5 million). While moving Bruce was certainly understandable, it was curious the Mets moved Swarzak instead of Todd Frazier ($9 million).
As we have seen relievers tend to be mercurial, and it is quite possible with a healthier season, Swarzak could have been much more productive in 2019. Depending on the moves the team made in the offseason, he reasonably could have been the last man in the bullpen.
As for Frazier, we have seen the Mets make his spot on the roster tenuous. Pete Alonso appears poised to be the first baseman sooner rather than later, and the Mets brought in Jed Lowrie with the purpose of playing him everyone, albeit at different positions across teh diamond.
Seeing there being a multitude of free agents who could play third base, wouldn’t it have been better to move Frazier over Swarzak? As we saw, the Mets could have replaced Frazier with Lowrie. Other options included Mike Moustakas, Marwin Gonzalez, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Neil Walker. The Mets could have accomplished the same versatility they sought to accomplish by signing multiple players from this group, and they could have had platoon options over Frazier’s bat. It’s noteworthy with the exception of Moustakas these are switch hitters making them more useful bench players than a player who has never played a reserve role in his career.
Why Didn’t McNeil Play Winter Ball?
The very minute the Mets obtained Cano, it was clear Jeff McNeil was going to play some outfield. Now, it could be argued the amount of outfield he played depended entirely on the other moves made this offseason, but nevertheless, the plan was always to have McNeil see some time in the outfield.
Considering McNeil played exactly 17.0 innings in left field in Triple-A last year and just 56.1 innings in the outfield in his six years in the minors, you would have thought the team would have found a spot for him to play winter ball to hone his craft. After all, the team did try to get Dominic Smith time playing outfield in the Dominican Winter League (it didn’t work out).
Now, because the team couldn’t make any moves to improve the outfield, they are going to play McNeil in left all Spring with the hopes he can get up to speed over the course of less than two months worth of games. It should also be noted this decision is moving Michael Conforto from his best defensive position to right, and it is forcing Brandon Nimmo to center, a position the Mets have been reticent to play him at the Major League level.
Why Trade Plawecki if d’Arnaud Wasn’t Ready?
In his four year career, we have all seen Kevin Plawecki‘s warts, but through it all, he has established himself as a viable backup catcher at the Major League level. While the Mets may have felt the need to choose between him and Travis d’Arnaud, that decision would not have been forced upon the Mets until the moment d’Arnaud was ready to play. As we see now, d’Arnaud is not ready to play.
Instead of keeping Plawecki, they traded him for an underwhelming return in the form of Sam Haggerty and Walker Lockett. The only player of value in the trade was Lockett, and he had been previoulsy traded for Ignacio Feliz, an 18 year old who signed for an $85,000 bonus out of the Dominican Republic two years ago.
Instead of hedging their bets wisely, the team instead signed Devin Mesoraco. Say what you will about Plawecki, but he is far superior to Mesoraco. He’s a better pitch framer, and he is the better hitter (93 to 92 wRC+). And before anyone invokes Jacob deGrom, you need to explain how Mesoraco was the reason why deGrom was so great.
Where Are the Extensions?
There has been a growing trend in baseball for teams to lock up their young players. For example, the Yankees have already locked up Luis Severino and Aaron Hicks, and they are working on locking up Dellin Betances as well. These actions promise to keep the Yankees core together while keeping them cost controlled to what promises to be a team friendly discount.
At the moment, the Mets have free agency concerns of their own. After 2019, Zack Wheeler will be a free agent. After 2020, deGrom will be a free agent. After 2021, a significant portion of the Mets current Mets core will be free agents with Conforto, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz will be headed to free agency.
We know deGrom has put himself on the front burner, but what are the Mets doing besides him? After all, if CAA is in town, it means the team can negotiate extensions for both deGrom and Syndergaard. There is also nothing preventing them from reaching out to the agents for the other players.
Really, this is the biggest part of the offseason which needs examination. What exactly is the plan going forward? Do the Mets have intentions of building something much sustaining, or is this a one year gamble? Are the Mets playing things out in 2019 and reassessing. At this moment, we don’t know. Hopefully, the Mets do.
For the first time since 2004, David Wright is not in Spring Training with an eye towards being the Mets third baseman. Sadly, that went by the wayside when he played his last few games as a member of the Mets last year. Since that time, Wright has joined the front office, and he has not been the typical fixture in camp. Surely, the players notice it, especially Noah Syndergaard at lunch time.
But while people may feel it, there does seem to be a level of business as usual. After all, Robinson Cano has Wright’s old locker, and the third base position is a battle of sorts between Todd Frazier and Jed Lowrie. Really, there is a lot going on right now. With all that is going on, there is a question about how much you have noticed Wright’s absence.
There’s definitely a different vibe at camp this year. Is it because David Wright isn’t there? Or is it because there’s a new order? Maybe it’s a little bit of both. I feel like Wright’s there in spirit, and his presence is irreplaceable. But I also think he’s left behind an example for everyone in the room to follow going forward, it feels like a new chapter has begun with the Mets, for better or for worse.
Pete McCarthy (OABT)
It’s hard to say his absence is felt when he has often been injured and rehabbing the last few seasons. Last September was truly special and showed all that Wright gave to the franchise both on and off the field. Hopeful that a player or players can truly ascend to a leadership role now that he is retired and there is no hope of the Captain making a grand return.
Metstradamus (Metstradamus Blog)
That’s probably a better question to ask somebody on the team, since they know the difference. For me, I’m of the mind of “keep moving forward”, and that we care too much about nostalgia in general as a society. (I don’t care which shows premiered 27 years ago today so stop putting it in my Facebook timeline!!!) So while I think of David Wright fondly, I’m ready to look forward and not backward.
Greg Prince (Faith and Fear in Flushing)
The last couple of years prepared us well for our separation from David Wright as an active player. Still, he was such a constant for so long. I always assumed the earliest-reporting employee to St. Lucie every spring was greeted by David bouncing a ball against a wall, waiting for somebody to unlock the door to the facility.
Given his role as a special advisor, I imagine we’ll see him around in some capacity, which is comforting. May he find the new work rewarding and may fans never stop appreciating all he gave this franchise.
Tim Ryder (MMO)
To be honest, no. In my head I’ve already turned that page. This roster is full of talented guys, some of whom learned how to conduct themselves as major leaguers from David Wright. I have a feeling his impact on this clubhouse will continue to manifest itself over the next few seasons. Will I miss him on the field? Always.
Bre S (That Mets Chick)
Have I felt Wright’s absence from the team during spring training? I can’t say I have. That is a better question to ask the players. I can see from videos and players quotes that there is a different and fresh vibe from this team. Wright is no longer on the field with them being their leader and caption. Other players like Michael Conforto, Jacob deGrom, and Brandon Nimmo all know they need to step up in 2019. Whether Mets fans like it or not, the team must move on without Wright being in the clubhouse everyday. This reminds me of 2005. Mike Piazza‘s final season with the Mets. Going into 2006, bright and young new faces emerged the voices and leaders for the Mets: David Wright and Jose Reyes. Similar to 2006, a new leader for the Mets will emerge in 2019 and I can’t wait to see who that is.
James Schapiro (Shea Bridge Report)
I’ll notice the hole at third base once games start. Third base the last few years has almost been defined by “waiting for David Wright,” so now that David isn’t coming back anymore I expect the third-base position to have a completely different dynamic. We have Frazier, who was so-so last year; Lowrie, who can really hit…but may already be hurt? Jeff McNeil, who can also really hit but is unproven and might also be an outfielder; J.D. Davis, who seems like a complete mystery…David Wright’s absence, to me, is going to make itself felt most in the fact that when we go through third base options, there won’t be that pause we used to make, and no one will say, “well, this is just the backup plan until Wright comes back.”
Surprisingly, I have not noticed Wright’s absence. There are a number of reasons why with Pete Alonso fighting for a first base job, deGrom still going without an extension, and the fact there are still big name free agents on the board like Bryce Harper, Dallas Keuchel, and Craig Kimbrel. There is a lot of noise in baseball right now, and it is overshadowing Wright not being a part of the team anymore.
I anticipate I will first feel his absence on Opening Day when Howie Rose is calling out the players’ names. His name will be a noticeable omission. If the Mets are fighting for a postseason spot, I know I will certainly notice Wright’s absence, and I will likely bemoan who Wright is not going to get a chance to get his World Series ring.
While I have not quite noticed Wright’s absence, I do notice the good work from the fine people who contribute to this roundtable. Hopefully, you notice it as well, and you take the time to read their excellent work.
With the Mets hiring an agent as opposed to a front office baseball executive, you knew Brodie Van Wagenen was going to have a learning curve. As such, he was going to make some bad moves, and certainly, you knew he was going to make some curious decisions. Some may inure to the Mets benefit while others may not. If these questionable decisions do work out for the Mets, then a World Series may very well be in the team’s future.
Why Isn’t Cano Playing First Base?
Robinson Cano was the big bat the Mets acquired this offseason, and the plan is for him to be a fixture in the Mets lineup. However, that is for as many games as he is able to play. To his credit, Brodie Van Wagenen has been quite vocal about the need to give Cano more days off than he is accustomed due to Cano being 36 years old.
If we harken back to 1999, Bobby Valentine did this with a 40 year old Rickey Henderson to get the last good season out of Henderson. That also led to the Mets claiming the Wild Card and going to the NLCS.
For Cano, it is not just his age, but it is also his position. Players who play up the middle play the more taxing defensive positions in baseball. That takes more of a toll on a 36 year old player. Given Jed Lowrie‘s presence on the team, you have to wonder why the team doesn’t make Lowrie the second baseman with Cano playing first.
Putting Cano at first would be putting him in a position where he would not be as subject to fatigue over the course of the season. It should also be noted with Cano already 36 years old and his signed for five more seasons, it is a position switch he will eventually have to make. If he is going to have to make the switch, why not do it now so the Mets could coax more at-bats and games from him over the course of the season?
Where Is Davis Getting His Opportunity?
With J.D. Davis‘ minor league stats, you could make the argument all he needs to succeed at the Major League level is an opportunity to play at the Major League level. Certainly, it’s a fair point to raise when someone hits .342/.406/.583 in 85 Triple-A games and .175/.248/.223 in 42 MLB games.
The problem is you’d be hard-pressed to where exactly he would get that opportunity.
He’s behind Todd Frazier and Jed Lowrie at the third base depth chart. He’s behind Peter Alonso and Frazier on the first base depth chart. He’s a right-handed compliment to right-handed hitters. He’s not suited to play outfield in the majors, and even if he was, he’s buried on the outfield depth chart as well. Combine that with Lowrie and Jeff McNeil being the versatile players on the roster, and you have to wonder where he gets hit at-bats.
After you are done contemplating that, you are left to wonder why the team would trade three good prospects in Luis Santana, Ross Adolph, and Scott Manea for him when they could’ve just as easily signed Mark Reynolds or Matt Davidson.
Was McNeil Playing LF the Original Plan?
One of the benefits of having McNeil on the roster is having a versatile player on the roster. Despite the team’s initial reluctance last year, he is someone who has received playing time at all four infield positions, and he has always trained in the outfield. To that extent, penciling him as the team’s starting left fielder, even against just right-handed pitching made a ton of sense.
That plan made even more sense when you consider Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo are both capable center fielders with Juan Lagares being the best defensive center fielder in the game. Really, breaking it down, moving McNeil to left field was probably the best way to handle the Mets resources.
However, the plan to move McNeil to left field does raise some interesting questions. For example, why didn’t the team send him to winter ball to play outfield. Also, why would the team expend resources to obtain Keon Broxton only to make him a fifth outfielder? Moreover, if McNeil is your outfielder, shouldn’t the team have a better insurance option against his inability to play left field than Broxton?
What’s the Plan for Backup Catcher?
When the Mets traded Kevin Plawecki to the Indians, they were effectively announcing Travis d’Arnaud was healthy enough to be the backup. That was called into question when Mickey Callaway said Devin Mesoraco signed with the Mets because of his relationship with Jacob deGrom.
It would seem if the Mets signed Mesoraco to catch deGrom the team now has one catcher too many. Does this mean the team is planning on moving him on the eve of Opening Day, or is Mesoraco willing to catch in the minors until the inevitable injury to d’Arnaud or Wilson Ramos. If that is the case, what impact does this have on Tomas Nido, and his future?
On the bright side, the Mets have good depth at the catcher position, but that only remains true to the extent they are keeping everyone. If they are the challenge is then to keep everyone happy and sharp, which is much easier said than done.
Where’s the Starting Pitching Depth?
With Jason Vargas struggling since the 2017 All-Star Break, you would have thought the Mets would have done more to address their pitching depth. That goes double when you consider the team traded Justin Dunn, their best starting pitching prospect, and with David Peterson and Anthony Kay being at least a couple of years away.
With the health issues facing Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz, you would’ve thought the Mets would have been pressed more to add starting pitching depth. When you couple that with Van Wagenen knowing Jeff Barry councils his pitching clients to limit their innings, you would believe the Mets would have pressed to go more than four deep in the pitching rotation.
But the Mets haven’t. Not really. Their depth is essentially the same group who posted an ERA over 5.00 as MLB staters along with Hector Santiago, a pitcher now better suited to the bullpen.
When you look at this rotation the best health they had was in 2015, and that was a year the team needed 10 starting pitchers to get through the season. This team has nowhere near that type of depth.
As it turns out, more than anything, it may turn out to be the pitching depth which is the biggest key to the 2019 season. If the team is healthy, and deGrom and Syndergaard go against their agent’s advice, it is possible the team has enough pitching to get through the season. If the pitchers do impose pitching limits and there is more than one pitching injury, the team’s hopes of winning anything may be done, and that is even if the other questions are answered in the affirmative.
Yesterday, Jacob deGrom spoke to the media directly for the first time since reports of his frustration surfaced in the media. During his press conference deGrom offered some positive assurances for Mets fans telling us all he loves being a Met, and he wants to stay with the team. He also offered some reasons for concern including the fact he was frustrated and the Mets have yet to make him an offer.
Then, deGrom would drop a bit of a bombshell.
In response to a question about whether he would be willing to have a self imposed innings restriction next year, deGrom responded, “You play this game because you love it and then you have an opportunity to look out for your family and your future, so you have to see what’s right for you to do and I think that’s a discussion that’s going to have to be had with my agents.”
That’s not a yes, but it’s certainly not a no. What it was was a declaration that nothing if off the table in this negotiation, including deGrom consulting with his agents to come up with a plan to protect his arm so he can be as healthy as possible when he heads into free agency after the 2020 season.
When deGrom speaks on this matter there are three very important things to consider. First, deGrom has his own injury history. His career almost never got off the ground because he had Tommy John surgery. He would have to be shut down in a pennant race in 2016 to have ulnar transposition surgery. Just last season, he had a back issue in Spring Training, which cost him his Opening Day start, and he would hyper-extend his elbow on a swing.
Just as much as any other player, deGrom knows how the next injury can happen at any moment, and depending on the severity of the injury, it can have long lasting ramifications.
He saw those ramifications first-hand with Matt Harvey. During the 2015 season, deGrom watched on as Harvey was pressured to ignore his own agent’s advice on innings restrictions. He watched Harvey pitch against the advice of his agents, and he watched on as Harvey would be a shell of himself from 2016 until he was traded for Devin Mesoraco in May of last year.
On the topic of the agents, deGrom is represented by Jeff Barry. As has oft been cited over the past few days, Barry is the agent who has been encouraging pitchers to self impose innings restrictions in response to how owners have handled free agency. At the crux of his position is, if teams aren’t going to pay you for the wear and tear you put on your arm during your years under control, don’t allow the teams to abuse your arm for their own gain. Push back.
So, deGrom now has to process all of this and much more in deciding his next step in both negotiation and in terms of what he does should he not get an extension. At the same time, Noah Syndergaard will be making similar assessments.
Like deGrom, Syndergaard has had some scary injuries in his career including a torn oblique and last year’s hyper-extended finger. Also like deGrom, Syndergaard had a front row seat to the Harvey saga. Also, like deGrom, he is represented by Barry, who may very well be having the same discussions with Syndergaard and the team about restricting his innings in 2019.
This means how Brodie Van Wagenen handles these negotiations with deGrom could have a far-reaching impact. Not only could the Mets suddenly find themselves with deGrom limiting his innings, but they may also have to deal with Syndergaard heeding the advice of his agent and doing the same. That’s a very dicey situation for a Mets GM who has not built sufficient pitching depth to withstand his top two pitchers having innings restrictions.
Therefore, at the end of the day, the Metsask themselves if it is worth not giving deGrom what Van Wagenen, himself, told deGrom he was worth just a few short months ago when he was deGrom’s agent. Really, the Mets not stepping up to the plate here could have devastating consequences for their 2019 season.
Due to a back strain and the team wanting to be cautious with their ace, Jacob deGrom gave way to Noah Syndergaard as last year’s Opening Day starter. Unless the team’s handling of deGrom’s extension spills over into the regular season, deGrom will be the eighth Mets player drafted by the team to make an Opening Day start.
Can you name the other seven? Good luck!
With Jacob deGrom putting an Opening Day deadline for a potential contract extension, the team’s immediate focus is going to be locking him up to the point where he could be a Met for life. Of course, the immediacy of the talks are not just because deGrom set a deadline, it is also because deGrom will be a free agent after the 2020 season.
Looking at the rotation, deGrom is not the only pitcher who is fast approaching free agency. Zack Wheeler will be a free agent after the 2019 season. Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz will be free agents after the 2021 season much like Aaron Nola who just signed a four year $45 million contract extension with the Phillies.
The Nola deal covers the rest of the years he is under team control with a team option for Nola’s first year of free agency. The 2023 team option is worth $16 million.
Looking at Nola, it is important to note he finished third in the Cy Young voting behind deGrom, who settled for $17 million in his third year of arbitration. This means if Nola continues pitching like he did last year, the Phillies will have Nola on a real discount in 2023 thereby freeing the team up to allocate their resources in other areas to improve their ballclub.
Seeing how the market has been relatively set by Nola’s extension coupled with the Mets need for some cost certainty, it would behoove the Mets to pursue extensions with their own starting pitchers. Another important consideration here is Syndergaard and Matz may be at their lowest value.
Syndergaard has been limited to 32 starts over the past two years due to an oblique and then a finger injury. Those injuries have stood in the way of him putting up another great season like he had in 2016. With health and an improved training regiment, which Syndergaard appears to be pursuing, we could see Syndergaard return to the pitcher he was in 2016. Perhaps, he will be even better.
Matz has landed on the disabled list in all four of his Major League seasons, but last year he still made a breakthrough in his career making 30 starts for the first time in his career. During his career, the Mets have seen glimpses from him including his having a 2.51 ERA, 1.021 WHIP, and a 10.9 K/9 in six September starts.
Certainly, the Mets could use the Nola extension as a framework for a possible Syndergaard and Matz extension. You could argue Syndergaard is better than Nola making him worth more money. Certainly, Matz has not had Nola’s success, and with that in mind, the Mets could possibly sign him for even less money.
In short order, the Mets could keep three-fifths of their incredible starting rotation together. This should insulate them from potentially losing Wheeler in free agency. Wheeler leaving could be abated by one of David Peterson or Anthony Kay stepping up this season. Of course, the Mets could sign Wheeler to his own extension.
Perhaps, the Mets and Wheeler could look to Nathan Eovaldi‘s four year $68 million contract as a starting point. After all, both pitchers were strong armed right-handed pitchers who have had injury issues and were roughly league average pitchers until the second half of last year. Wheeler would have the much better second half, but Eovaldi would have a great postseason.
Looking across baseball, increasingly more players are interested in contract extensions. So far this season, we have seen both Nola and Whit Merrifield sign extensions. We may see Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado do the same. It is now time for the Mets to do the same with as many pieces of their rotation as they can.