There was a point in time that Rafael Montero was a well regarded prospect. He was once going to force Jacob deGrom into a bullpen role. Now, the only thing we know is the Mets can’t rely upon him right now.
In many ways, 2016 is going to be a make or break year for Montero. Somewhat unfairly the organization turned sour on him last year. He went on the DL in April with shoulder tightness. He was found to have rotator cuff inflammation, which effectively ended his year. In August, he tried to rehab the injury and make some minor league starts, but he again had to be shut down.
This year, Terry Collins wants to challenge Montero as the Mets believe there was really nothing wrong with Montero. Symbolically, the Mets let Montero make the first start in Spring Training on the road against the Nationals.
It didn’t go well. Montero threw 39 pitches in only one inning. He walked four, gave up two hits, and allowed two runs. Not the best of starts. It’s not how he wanted the Spring with the Mets challenging him to be better this year.
At the end of the day, one start shouldn’t mean much. He can go out the rest of Spring Training and pitch very well. He could begin the year in AAA and pitch very well. He could become an injury replacement or spot starter in the rotatio. He could join the bullpen during the year.
There will be opportunities for someone. However, that someone is increasingly becoming someone other than Montero. Last year, Montero was surpassed by Sean Gilmartin and Logan Verrett. They’re likely going to get the first call for spot starts or bullpen work assuming they don’t make come north with the club.
Putting that aside, what was more troubling for Montero was the work of Gabriel Ynoa. He came into the game right after Montero flopped. He threw three scoreless innings and impressed Terry Collins:
Terry Collins says he was very impressed with Gabriel Ynoa today. pic.twitter.com/mSTNgVOFTo
— New York Mets (@Mets) March 3, 2016
Ynoa is a well regarded prospect. He’s ticketed for AAA this year. If yesterday is any indication, it appears that Ynoa is inching past Montero if he hasn’t done so already. While we shouldn’t put too much stock into one Spring Training game, the results today were important. The Mets wanted to challenge Montero to rise to the occasion. Instead, the Mets walked away being impressed with Ynoa.
The problem wasn’t that Montero had a rough outing. The problem is that yet again another Mets pitcher took advantage of an opportunity given to them that was preceded by a Montero failure.
There’s always that player. Despite all evidence to the contrary, you’re convinced they’re going to be good. You can explain away anything that happens.
That’s how I always felt about Aaron Heilman. I thought the Mets never gave him a fair chance to start. They messed around with his arm angles and bounced him between starting and relieving. Sure, I ignored his career 5.93 ERA as a starter (small sample size) and focused upon his good work out of the bullpen in 2006 (regular season). While I believed in Heilman, it just never happened for him. I thought about this when I saw this:
Also, it's pretty clear Jon Niese can be had given where the Mets stand with their rotation. They like Montero as potential fifth starter.
— Mike Puma (@NYPost_Mets) December 7, 2015
Seriously? When will the Mets irrational over confidence in Rafael Montero end? They may trade Jon Niese because Montero has the potential to be the fifth starter. This is the same team that thought Montero should start in 2014 while eventual Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom should be in the bullpen.
Montero wasn’t good in his initial call-up. He was 0-2 with a 5.40 ERA and a 1.600 WHIP in four starts. He was sent down and injured his oblique. He did come back up and pitched fairly well as a starter. Last year, Montero started in the bullpen. The Mets then sought to move him into the rotation to create a six man rotation to keep everyone fresh. Montero only lasted one start.
He went on the DL with right rotator cuff inflammation. He was transferred from the 15 day to the 60 day DL to make room for Michael Conforto. His rehab was rumored to be progressing slowly. He then had a set-back. His year was effectively over.
It’s not fair to call Montero a bust. It’s still too early in his career for that. It’s also too early to consider him injury prone even if he’s lost big chunks of time over the past two years. With that said, there is no way the Mets should have Montero as a definitive part of their 2015 plans.
It’s widely assumed the fifth starter spot is eventually going to Zack Wheeler. It’s also assumed Niese will hold the spot for at least the first half of the season. After that, he could become trade bait, continue his excellent work in the bullpen, or both. Niese could also be insurance against a starting pitcher getting injured or create a six man rotation to get the other starters some rest.
Montero could do the same, but why would you rely upon him doing that? He hasn’t proven that he can be relied upon. You can trade Niese for a good return. However, you don’t do that because you think Montero could fulfill his spot. He’s been too unreliable to justify that thought process. This front office has a blind spot for him that could’ve meant deGrom in the bullpen. The Mets should learn from this.
Instead, why don’t the Mets go and see how Aaron Heilman’s arm is?
The Mets lost the World Series in large part due to the bullpen blowing three leads in the eighth inning or later. Normally, this would be a point of emphasis in the offseason, but I think there were more pressing issues there:
If these issues are not addressed, I’m not sure it matters if anyone is added to the bullpen. If they are resolved, the Mets have the makings of a terrific bullpen in 2016.
First and foremost, the Mets have a terrific closer in Jeurys Familia. He’s the rare closer that can come in and get a team out of a jam. He’s the rare closer that can go for more than three outs. He’s coming off a year in which he recorded 43 saves, 1.000 WHIP, and a 9.9 K/9. Just when we thought he couldn’t get any better, he developed the devastating splitter.
The issue becomes who will be the other six people in the bullpen. For the other six people you want a 7th inning guy, an 8th inning guy, a long man, and at least one lefty. That leaves you with two guys to either be an extra lefty, an extra long man, or preferably, just a good reliever.
Now, at the end of the year, everyone was clamoring for Addison Reed to replace Tyler Clippard in the 8th inning. It appears everyone will get their wish as the Mets look like they’ll keep Reed and let Clippard walk. As a Met, Reed had a 1.17 ERA with a 1.043 WHIP, and a 10.0 K/9. That’s elite, but it may also be unsustainable.
Reed has a career 4.01 ERA, 1.261 WHIP, and a 9.3 K/9. There could be many reasons for the improvement with the Mets. For starters, Reed improves as the year progresses. In April and May, his career ERA is over 4.00, but from August on it’s under 1.35. Ultimately, it’s great to have a reliever who gets better as the year goes on.
Furthermore, it’s nice having someone with closing experience so the Mets don’t have to overextend Familia during the regular season.
For me, this is obvious. The Mets need to go with Hansel Robles here. He’s a guy who has the ability to get lefties and righties out, and he can go for more than three outs.
In 2015, he had a 3.67 ERA with a 1.019 WHIP and a 10.2 K/9. Those numbers don’t tell the whole story. Once a rookie has pitched for a while, there is tape on him. Typically, this results in some struggles for the rookie until he adjusts. However, Robles got better as the year progressed. Here are his first and second half splits:
- First Half: 4.37 ERA with a 1.191 WHIP and a 7.9 K/9
- Second Half: 3.16 ERA with a 0.891 WHIP and a 12.1 K/9
Like Reed, he got stronger as the year progressed. His was criminally under utilized in a World Series that saw the Mets blow three late inning leads only to lose in extra innings. The Mets shouldn’t make the same mistake in 2016. It’s time to use Robles.
Next to Familia closing, Sean Gilmartin being the long man is the biggest lock in the bullpen. He had a 2.67 ERA with a 1.186 WHIP and a 8.5 K/9. He took a strangle hold on this job, and there’s no reason to take it away from him.
Going into the playoffs, this was the Mets biggest question mark. Fortunately, Jon Niese took over the role quite successfully. However, he will not be an option to re-join the bullpen until Zack Wheeler comes back from Tommy John surgery, which will not be until around the All Star break.
Speaking of injuries, that was the reason the Mets didn’t have a LOOGY. At different times, they had Jerry Blevins, Josh Edgin, Dario Alvarez, and Jack Leathersich go down with injuries. Blevins is free agent, but he’s a candidate to return. Alvarez should be healthy for Opening Day. The Mets also have intriguing prospect Josh Smoker.
There are plenty of viable options here. The Mets should be able to carry one or two LOOGYs from this group.
After taking the above into account, there will be one or two remaining spots remaining. There are a number of viable candidates:
Erik Goeddel. He is injury prone, but he has good numbers. He had a 2.43 ERA with a 1.000 WHIP and a 9.2 K/9. Those are good mumbers. Numbers that were good enough to land him on the NLDS roster. He should be part of the 2016 bullpen.
Carlos Torres. There are many things you can say about Torres, but the most important one is he’s always available to take the ball. He has a career 4.26 ERA with a 1.357 WHIP and a 7.9 K/9. However, there is value in having someone that can take the ball.
Logan Verrett. He was all over the place last year. He was a starter and a reliever. He kept bouncing back and forth. It didn’t hurt his performance. He had a 3.03 ERA with a 0.879 WHIP and an 8.4 K/9. He should be in the mix.
Jenrry Mejia. He’s one more positive test away from his career being over. He won’t be available until around the All Star Break. He’s likely to be released, which is odd since the Mets haven’t had problems with steroids guys under the Sandy Alderson regime. If he isn’t released, he could help this team in the bullpen. Personally, I’d rather him gone.
Rafael Montero. There was a time the organization believed he was better than Jacob deGrom. When that proved to be false, he was placed in the bullpen to start 2015. The Mets did stretch him out to make go to a six man rotation. He got hurt, and he disappeared. Given the Mets rotation, if he’s going to help the Mets, it’s going to have to be in the bullpen.
Looking over all these options, there is no reason to go outside the organization for bullpen help. Except for Reed, these relievers are cheap, young, and talented. We don’t know the Mets financial situation, but we do know that even if there is no money to spend, the bullpen will be in great shape.
The best part is even if it isn’t, there’s many quality choices in reserve, and that’s just from the players we know.
On April 14th, David Wright went on the DL with a hamstring, but we would later learn it could be much worse. On April 19th, Travis d’Arnaud went to the DL with a right hand fracture. He would come off the DL on June 10th, and he would return to the DL on June 23rd. Jerry Blevins went on the DL with a broken forearm on the same day as d’Arnaud’s first DL stint. On June 5th, Daniel Murphy went on the DL with a left quad injury.
These injuries were on top of season ending injuries to Zack Wheeler and Josh Edgin. The Mets lost Jenrry Mejia first two injury on Opening Day and then to a steroids suspension. Rafael Montero was first an option in the bullpen and then the rotation. He went on the DL with a shoulder injury and would never pitch again. Dillon Gee was in and out of the rotation, and he went on the DL. Eventually, he went into the doghouse.
There was also the issues of ineffectiveness. Lucas Duda started out hot, and then got really, really cold. He had trouble carrying the offense. It’s no wonder his back went out. Kirk Nieuwenhuis was terrible, and he was traded to the Angels. When Nieuwenhuis flopped with the Angels, the Mets and their dreadful offense took him back. Of course, Michael Cuddyer had a typical first year with the Mets.
Through all of this, Collins kept it together. It was a miracle. The Mets should not have been in position to make trades. They were in a small part because the Nationals didn’t run away with it. A larger part was Collins holding it together. Then when he finally had a real MLB roster, his abilities as a tactician into question.
He started making questionable choices, and he cost his team some games. Then the season defining series against the Nationals. Collins said he was treating it like a playoff series. He made a number of moves. He was brilliant. However, it leaves me to question which is the true Terry Collins. Is he the man that is better at getting the most out of a team? Is he a guy that can jeopardize a game with questionable moves? Is he the guy that can pull it together to make all the right moves when a series is in the line?
Is he all these things? I don’t know. Part of the reason why is this is Collins first real pennant race as the team to beat. Another reason is he’s never had a team this good. Finally, he’s never been in the playoffs. He’s going to get his chance now.
It’s funny that with no new contract, this could be Collins first and last chance at a World Series. I hope he gets it. Not just because I’m a Mets fan, but because he’s a good man. He’s spent his life in baseball, and he has earned his chance.
I just hope when the time comes we see the Collins that managed against the Nationals.
NOTE: hat tip to @koosman2pointOh for his suggestion on this post.
I’m presenting the following Matt Harvey timeline with no interpretation or commentary.
- July 16, 2013: Harvey starts the All Star Game at Citi Field
- August 2013: Harvey makes a few starts with some elbow problems
- August 24, 2013: Harvey roughed up by Tigers, describes himself as “getting pretty tired.”
- August 25, 2013: Harvey informs Mets he’s having an abnormal amount of forearm discomfort.
- August 26, 2013: MRI reveals Harvey has a UCL tear. Harvey reveals he wants to avoid surgery.
- October 4, 2013: Harvey elects to have Tommy John surgery.
- October 22, 2013: Dr. James Andrews performs successful Tommy John surgery on Harvey.
- January 23, 2014: Harvey announces he wants to pitch during the 2014 season.
- March 19, 2014: Harvey announces he wants to rehab with the team and not in Florida.
- March 25, 2014: Mets announce Harvey will split rehab between NY and FL.
- August 1, 2014: Harvey begins throwing from a mound (slightly ahead of schedule) and states he wants to pitch for the Mets if they make the playoffs.
- September 4, 2014: Mets announce they will not let Harvey go 100% until the 2015 Spring Training.
- September 2014: Harvey is shut down and will not appear in a game.
- November 2014: after taking a month off, Harvey begins throwing on flat ground and long tossing.
- February 9, 2015: Harvey reports early to Spring Training.
- February 20, 2015: Alderson announces 200 innings limit for Harvey including playoffs.
- March 3, 2015: Mets set rotation so Harvey starts the second home game, which the Mets admit makes good marketing sense.
- March 6, 2015: Harvey throws 25 pitches in his first Spring Training start.
- April 8, 2015: Harvey beats the Nationals in his first regular season start since 2013.
- April 9, 2015: Collins announces Harvey will be limited to 190 innings.
- April 14, 2015: Harvey wins in his return to Citi Field.
- April 17, 2015: Mets announce they will move to a six man rotation with Rafael Montero to keep Harvey fresh.
- April 28, 2015: Montero starts in a loss to the Marlins.
- April 30, 2015: Montero placed on the DL.
- May 25, 2015: Harvey experiencing a dead arm.
- June 3, 2015: Dillon Gee comes off the DL, and the Mets announce they’re moving to a six man rotation.
- June 7, 2015: Gee is ineffective and is moved to the bullpen. Collins announces he’s abandoning the six man rotation.
- June 15, 2015: Gee is designated for assignment.
- June 26, 2015: Mets announce they are calling up Steven Matz and will be going back to the six man rotation.
- June 28, 2015: Matz makes his major league debut.
- June – July 2015: Matz informs Mets he has “stiffness underneath his left armpit.”
- July – August 2015: Harvey sees a dip in velocity in all of his pitches.
- July 3, 2015: Dan Warthen deems Matz fine after watching a bullpen session.
- July 4, 2015: Harvey complains the six man rotation takes him out of his rhythm after a 4-3 loss to the Dodgers.
- July 5, 2015: Matz pitches six shutout innings in win over Dodgers.
- July 6, 2015: Terry Collins tells Harvey to get over the six man rotation.
- July 9. 2015: Matz has lat injury which requires him to be shut down for three weeks.
- July 12, 2015: Collins announces Mets are abandoning the six man rotation due to Matz injury.
- August 2015: Scott Boras contacts Mets with concerns over Harvey’s innings pitched.
- August 21, 2015: it’s reported that Harvey has no objection to the Mets skipping one or two of his starts.
- August 23, 2015: The Mets skip Harvey in the rotation, and Logan Verrett gets the win over the Rockies.
- September 2, 2015: Mets announce they will skip a second Harvey start.
- September 3, 2015: Harvey is forced to leave a game with dehydration and weakness in a win over the Phillies.
- September 4, 2015: Jon Heyman reports Scott Boras informed the Mets that Harvey has a strict 180 innings limit.
- September 5, 2015: Harvey attends press conference and states he always thought 180 innings was a hard cap. He refuses to answer questions regarding the playoffs.
- September 5, 2015: backlash from fans and media to Harvey’s press conference.
- September 6, 2015: Matt Harvey announces he will pitch in the postseason.
- September 7, 2015: Sandy Alderson announces Harvey has two regular seasons starts left and may not pitch throughout the entire postseason.
- September 8, 2015: Harvey scheduled to pitch against the Nationals.
Jacob deGrom is taking the mound tonight. Mets fans are all excited for his start tonight. Why shouldn’t we be. The man has been “deGrominant,” whether it was him winning Rookie of the Year, his All Star Game appearance, or his terrific 2015 season. How quickly we all forget that this was never supposed to happen.
When deGrom was first called-up to the Mets, he was supposed to be in the bullpen while Rafael Montero was supposed to be in the rotation. As we know, deGrom had a strong rookie season, and in the beginning of 2015, it was Montero who was assigned to the bullpen (at least initially). It turns out that would have been a colossal mistake. In fact, this should make Mets fans question every pitching move this front office makes.
To be fair, Montero did enter last year ranked ahead of deGrom. However, that is an independent rating of those two players. Each organization should know their prospects better than fine sites like Baseball America. Additionally, this is the same team that gave up on Collin McHugh, a very dependable major league starter for a team that wants to go to a six man rotation, for Eric Young, Jr., who is a part time player on an under .500 Braves team.
It didn’t stop there. Right before the season began, the Mets traded for Alex Torres, who pitched so well he’s in AAA right now. The cost was Cory Mazzoni, who was a prospect the Mets became frustrated with due to his injury history. It should be noted these were non-arm related injuries. Mazzoni has a decent repertoire that makes the 2011 former second round pick a back end starter or reliever. This is something the Mets need now. Instead, the Padres have the prospect and the Mets have dead weight. I just hope we don’t have another Heath Bell situation here.
This is why I wasn’t happy with the Tyler Clippard and Yoenis Cespedes trades. These are both rentals, who aren’t resigning with the team. If the A’s didn’t trade Clippard to the Mets, then the Nationals overpay or Billy Beane finally accepts the Mets offer. Overall, this is bad negotiation.
It’s also bad valuation of assets. Remember if not for injuries deGrom would be setting up for Jeurys Familia, or possibly closing while the Mets are figuring out the rotation on a sub .500 team.
This is why I question this front office. People may disagree with me, but this is partially why I question their treatment of Michael Conforto and Kevin Plawecki. Given their other moves, I think they invite this skepticism. I hope I’m not the only one.
As of today, the Mets 40 man roster is full with Erik Goeddel and David Wright on the 60 day DL. Since players on the 60 day DL do not count towards the 40 man roster, two players will have to be removed from the 40 man before Goeddel and Wright can be added.
The first decision could potentially come on August 11th, when Goeddel is first eligible to come off the DL. The Mets can send down Hansel Robles, who has options, but that only solves the 25 man roster issue. As of today, here are the people who are on the 40 man roster, who are also not on the 25 man roster:
- Dario Alvarez
- Vic Black
- Jack Leathersich
- Steven Matz
- Akeel Morris
- Logan Verrett
- Gabriel Ynoa
- Johnny Monell
- Anthony Recker
- Dilson Herrera
- Danny Muno
- Wilfredo Tovar
- Darrell Ceciliani
- Michael Cuddyer
- Kirk Nieuwenhuis
In deciding who to remove, there are a couple of important factors to take into account:
- This player will be exposed on waivers allowing any team to claim that player, and
- A player must be on the 40 man roster as of August 31st to be eligible for the postseason roster (there are loopholes however).
Immediately, you can rule out the pitchers. They’re young, under control, and will be snatched up by another team . . . even Vic Black. That leaves eight players for two spots.
Next, we can eliminate Michael Cuddyer and Kirk Nieuwenhuis from consideration. Cuddyer is set to come off the DL soon. Nieuwenhuis is a possibility, albeit remote right now for the postseason roster. We’re done to six players.
I would next eliminate Dilson Herrera, who is seen as the second baseman of the future. This is especially important with Daniel Murphy, Kelly Johnson, and Juan Uribe set to be free agents. We’re down to five players: Monell, Recker, Muno, Tovar, and Ceciliani. Here’s where things get tricky. You can make cases for all of these players to stay or go.
I’ll start with the catchers, who have been awful this year . . . absolutely terrible. I’m expecting the Mets to move on from both of these players in the offseason. However, we need to remember Travis d’Arnaud has been injury prone. You don’t want to him to go down and have no playoff replacement. At a a minimum, one catcher must stay on the roster. Possibly both.
Up next are the young middle infielders. Admittedly, they have both been pretty bad in very limited major league experience. Accordingly, you can’t use that experience as the sole reason to outright that player. It should be noted neither player is a top prospect in the Mets organization. I think both are candidates, specifically Tovar, who is behind Matt Reynolds, Gavin Cecchini, and Amed Rosario on the organization’s SS depth chart.
Finally, we have Ceciliani, who played decently with the Mets this year (even if he was a little exposed). It should be noted he was passed over in the last two Rule Five Drafts. I don’t imagine his limited playing time changed the minds of the other 29 teams. Furthermore, with Nieuwenhuis being on the bubble for the postseason roster, there’s no chance he would even see the field. In my opinion, this makes him the most vulnerable.
Now, I have no connections whatsoever, but I would believe Ceciliani and Monell are the two players who will be moved to make room for Goeddel and Wright. You could easily interchange that for Recker and Ceciliani or one of the middle infielders. However, I think Ceciliani and Monell are the two least regarded players on this list.
Further complicating matters is Rafael Montero, who is also on the 60 day DL. Terry Collins recently went to talk to Montero to encourage him to ramp up his rehab so he can help the team. If Montero is coming back, the Mets are going to have to make yet another roster move. I believe at this time, the middle infielders would definitively be in danger of being removed from the 40 man roster. My guess would be Tovar, but then again, I could be wrong.
The only way to avoid removing anyone, and risking losing a player, is to make a trade with another team. The problem there is if these players had value to other teams, they would have been moved already. Specifically to Ceciliani, we’ve seen teams pass on him a number of times. There is also the possibility that the player to be named later in the Eric O’Flaherty deal is one of the aforementioned 15 players making part of this post moot. However, I think that is unlikely.
Overall, the Mets have a lot of important decisions to make with an eye towards who they want on the postseason roster. It’s fun to be a Mets fan again.
The Mets need bullpen help. The current Mets lefty relievers don’t get lefties out. After serious malpractice, Jack Leathersich is done for the year. Josh Edgin is done for the year with Tommy John surgery. They need a LOOGY. While he’s not a LOOGY, Michael Baron reports Clippard is effective against lefties.
Aside from lefties, Clippard is an effective reliever. While he was not as strong this year than in year’s past, he has converted 17/21 save opportunities and has a 2.79 ERA. He’s had experience in pennant races and the playoffs. The Mets’ current bullpen lacks that experience.
The Mets could use players with that experience in addition to a Jenrry Mejia replacement. Since Mejia was suspended for PED use, he is ineligible for the postseason. Right now the Mets have a 7-8-9 of Mejia-Parnell-Familia. That’s too much reliance right now on Mejia. You don’t want to go into the postseason wondering who you’re seventh inning guy is.
Speaking of the postseason, Clippard has performed reasonably well. In six innings of work, he has a 1.50 ERA with a 0.667 WHIP and seven strikeouts. In October, I would be comfortable with him in the 7th, 8th, or 9th.
So what’s the cost? It is reported the trade is focused around Rafael Montero. I’m alright with that, even if Clippard is a rental. After being sent down, it was discovered he had a rotator cuff injury. He only recently began his minor league rehab. Typically, pitchers do not deal well with rotator cuff injuries. Even before the shoulder injury, Montero was considered to be a #4 starter, at best, who was not seen as a real bullpen option (he didn’t exactly dazzle in his bullpen performance this year).
Montero will never crack this rotation (barring trade or injury), and I don’t think he will ever be a fixture in the bullpen. With the shoulder problems, I think the Mets should trade him sooner rather than later. Tyler Clippard fits the bill.