This is the first week of Spring Training, and we are seeing some of the moves Brodie Van Wagenen made on full display. First up was Jarred Kelenic:
Jarred Kelenic, folks.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) March 3, 2021
Then, we had Simeon Woods Richardson on the mound striking batters out:
— Keegan Matheson (@KeeganMatheson) March 3, 2021
Both players are Top 100 prospects he tried to tell is were really five years away or more. As a result, he felt justified trading them in what was nothing short of a grift to strip the future down in an attempt to win before selling.
Van Wagenen traded far more than them, and we will see many of the players he traded away play in the majors in 2021. They will also be impact players. That’s just something to keep in mind while the Mets contend this year and he and Robinson Cano will be out of baseball.
Look across the diamond. The New York Mets are a significantly better baseball team. It’s not just better in terms of the rotation and starting lineup, but it’s also better in terms of their burgeoning depth. Despite that, somehow, the Mets failed to address their biggest need of the offseason – third base.
J.D. Davis is the incumbent third baseman, and simply put, he has done nothing but prove he has no business playing the position at the Major League level. In his career, he has played 770.0 innings there, and he has amassed a -19 DRS. As previously put in perspective, that was worse than what Wilmer Flores posted as the position, and there was near unanimous consent Flores should never man the position again.
The Mets were well aware of this, and that’s why they seemingly went out of their way this offseason to say they were going to upgrade at third base. He said the position was “up in the air,” and the team went on what seemed to be wild goose chases for Kris Bryant and Eugenio Suarez. For all we know, they are still doing all they can to pry those players loose from their current teams.
When the Mets were unable to acquire a real third baseman before the start of Spring Training, Luis Rojas was reluctant to name anyone as the team’s third baseman. That would appear to be an indictment of Davis, especially with second base becoming vacant with Robinson Cano‘s season long suspension.
At least on the surface, it would seem Davis would keep his slot at third with Jeff McNeil becoming the everyday third baseman. However, that’s not entirely possible with Davis not being able to play the position. In fact, Davis is literally the worst fielder in the Major Leagues.
Over the past two seasons, Davis has amassed a combined -29 DRS. That includes a -17 DRS at third and a -12 DRS in left field. Just to put in perspective how bad that is, he is the only player to appear TWICE among the worst 30 fielders over the past two seasons. As we’ve seen, the Mets just can’t hide him in the field. That goes double for third.
Making Davis at third even worse is the current complexion of the Mets pitching staff. Overall, this is a heavy ground ball pitching staff. To wit, here are their GB/FB ratios since 2017:
- Marcus Stroman 2.66
- Noah Syndergaard 1.68
- Carlos Carrasco 1.35
- Taijuan Walker 1.34
- Jacob deGrom 1.34
- Joey Lucchesi 1.33
- David Peterson 1.22
- Jordan Yamamoto 0.80
Looking at the make-up of the Mets top eight starting pitching options, seven of them induce batters to hit the ball on the ground. That makes having a good defensive infield more of an imperative. Yes, Francisco Lindor goes a long way towards doing that, but by playing Davis next to him, the Mets are effectively neutralizing Lindor’s effect.
Digging deeper, the Mets are going to play Pete Alonso at first where he is not a good fielder. That means the Mets are going to trot out a ground ball staff and have the Major League worst defense at the corners. Really, this does not remotely make any sense whatsoever. Really, it’s ponderous the Mets would even consider going in this direction.
When you look at it from that perspective, Davis cannot play third everyday. It only serves to hurt the team. Ideally, the Mets would pull off that blockbuster we’ve been waiting for them to pull off all offseason to acquire a third baseman, or they need to play Luis Guillorme everyday at second pushing McNeil to third, where he is a better fielder.
No matter what the Mets do, they simply cannot make Davis the everyday third baseman. They’ve done far too much this offseason, and they’ve built their team a certain way. Allowing Davis and his defense, or lack thereof, diminish or neutralize it, makes zero to no sense.
No, this is not the insane ramblings of a New York Mets fan still bitter over the Robinson Cano trade debacle. While still bitter about it, and forever will be, this is about Seattle Mariners President Kevin Mather unapologetically saying the quiet part out loud.
It’s adorable that @Mariners CEO Kevin Mather thought having the Rotary Club delete the video from YouTube would make the problem go away. So predictable.
Here’s a few clips…
Mather talking about service time manipulation pic.twitter.com/zcvCJ6jTrk
— Nick Francona (@NickFrancona) February 22, 2021
Full Transcript of Mariners President Kevin Mather’s Remarks to Bellevue Breakfast Rotary Club 😳 pic.twitter.com/TaXmjb2Xz2
— Sports ON Tap Seattle (@SONTSeattle) February 21, 2021
Essentially, Maher said Jarred Kelenic was going to start the season on the Opening Day roster if he signed a contract with the Mariners buying out some of his free agent years. As noted, Evan White signed such a deal, purportedly against the advice of the union, and he began the season in the majors.
Now, we know teams play this game all the time, and many call it service time manipulation. The thing is team’s are never supposed to overtly say or admit it even when it is painfully obvious like with Kris Bryant and the Chicago Cubs in 2015.
With Bryant, he officially filed a grievance over it. He’d lose mostly because the Cubs had some plausible deniability. With Maher overtly saying it, or at least very strongly implying it, there really is no doubt what the Mariners are doing here.
The Mariners more or less publicly stated since Kelenic wouldn’t sign their contract offer, he can wait a few weeks for his Major League career to begin. Essentially, they’re punishing him by not doing what they want, and they’re going to keep him an additional year.
Again, this has been the standard practice with few exceptions. However, it is far from standard for teams to tell people they’re actually doing it. The Mariners aren’t even doing the traditional wink and a nod.
In retaliation, Kelenic should give the Mariners an ultimatum – put me on the Opening Day roster, or trade me.
Yes, in baseball this would be entirely unprecedented. It’s almost as unprecedented as a team president admitting the team is manipulating service team and not calling up players unless they sign their contract offer.
However, outside of baseball this wouldn’t be all that unprecedented. Eli Manning told the San Diego Chargers he wouldn’t play for them, which led to his being traded to the New York Broncos. That was akin to John Elway signing with the New York Yankees because he refused to play for the Baltimore Colts.
The New York Rangers have benefitted from this signing Kevin Hayes who became a free agent after not signing with the Chicago Blackhawks. Current defenseman Aaron Fox saw his rights traded twice partially as a result of his really wanting to play for his hometown Rangers.
So while they do this in other sports, it hasn’t happened in baseball, at least not yet.
More than that, look at how the Mariners operate. White signs the deal, and he goes from Double-A to the majors. Kelenic doesn’t, and he needs about a month of Triple-A at-bats. It’s beyond obvious what they’re doing, and that’s partially because they’re saying it.
Because of what the Mariners are doing, Kelenic should in respond in kind. There are 29 other teams who would line up to put him on their Opening Day roster if they could get him into their system. If the Mariners won’t put him on theirs, he should tell the team he won’t play for them.
After all, what’s the worst the Mariners can do here? Not pay him? In case they haven’t noticed, they’ve been effectively not paying him for two years. They’re now threatening to not do that for another month, which is exactly why Kelenic should make this demand.
When discussing the 2021 roster, we continue to wonder what the Mets will do at third, left, and center. Part of the rationale there is the overriding assumption Jeff McNeil will only play second.
This isn’t just the Mets furthering the talking point of 2018 that McNeil is only a second baseman. Really, it’s not that at all. Instead, it’s just finding a position for McNeil and a replacement for Robinson Cano.
That said, sticking McNeil at second is reaching the pathological. It’s at the point where many are suggesting Luis Guillorme is a possible option at third. Not second where he is great, but third.
Having McNeil on the roster is an absolute gift, and just pigeonholing him to second is baseball malpractice. Remember, not only can McNeil play multiple positions, but in his career, he has a positive DRS at all four positions he has played at the MLB level (2B, 3B, LF, RF).
Yes, you absolutely can play McNeil everyday at second. However, it is arguably his worst position. Even with his early season struggles there last year, third is actually his best position with left field probably his next best position.
In essence, this is like having Ben Zobrist in his prime. Yes, Zobrist did eventually settle at second, but he also played all over. The operating plan with Zobrist seemed to be he had to play everyday, but where he would play would be dictated by the rest of the roster and lineup.
That’s how the Mets should be entering this season. It’s all well and good to think McNeil could be your best second base option, but they can’t overlook displacing McNeil from that position and shifting him elsewhere should another option emerge.
Overall, if you’re limiting McNeil to just second, you’re taking away part of what makes him great. Instead of treating him like just a second baseman, they should treat him like the player who can and should be moved around the diamond to help the Mets offensively and defensively.
With Ha-Seong Kim signing with the San Diego Padres, the New York Mets ability to obtain a third baseman grew exponentially more difficult. That’s not to say there aren’t options.
Nolan Arenado and Kris Bryant remain on the trade bloc. Of course, pulling the trigger on a deal for either player is extraordinarily difficult due to the damage Brodie Van Wagenen inflicted on the Mets farm system.
Looking at the remaining free agent third base market, Justin Turner is the only everyday third baseman available. There are many obstacles with him including his age and desire to stay with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
This leaves the Mets going all-in on the aforementioned trade options or getting creative.
The creative options involve the Mets addressing second base. That could be signing DJ LeMahieu, or better yet, Kolten Wong. Luis Guillorme could be given the starting second base job he’s more than earned, or the team could go with Andres Gimenez there with Amed Rosario back at short.
These and other options are on the table so long as the Mets believe they can entrust the third base job to Jeff McNeil.
Now, last year, the Mets gave up on McNeil at third rather quickly. There were many reasons why including J.D. Davis‘ ineptitude in left. Of course, Davis was equally inept at third (again) causing this issue.
The other reason why the Mets moved McNeil from third was McNeil struggled there. In 75.0 innings, he had a -2 OAA and a 0 DRS. Part of the issue was he struggled with his throws.
This should give everyone pause, but it should be remembered 75.0 innings is the epitome of a small sample size. Another issue is the bizarre nature of the 2020 season. Taking all that into account, we shouldn’t overreact to McNeil’s third base defense.
Entering last season, McNeil had a career 3 OAA and 5 DRS at third. Of note, that was still a small sample size with his having played 173.1 innings over the span of two years.
However, while he’s doesn’t have extensive third base experience in the majors, he played over a thousand innings at third in the minors. This leaves the impression the Mets believe he can handle the position.
Well, maybe. In Sandy Alderson’s first Mets stint, he was reluctant to call-up McNeil saying he wasn’t a third baseman. When Robinson Cano was suspended, Alderson said third was “up in the air.” All told, in typical Alderson fashion, we’re still not quite sure what he thinks.
Whatever the case, McNeil is easily the best in-house option. As the options for third dry up and look all the more unattainable, he increasingly becomes the only option there leaving the Mets to replace Cano at second with someone else.
At least with second, there are plenty of very good options remaining. Unfortunately, McNeil is probably not one of those options as the Mets could very well need him at third.
The New York Mets have a number of needs this offseason, and they’re oft discussed. However, the biggest one that’s overlooked is the giant hole at third base.
Simply put, the Mets cannot afford to put J.D. Davis there again. He’s been terrible at the position in his career, and there’s really no reason to expect any different in 2021.
In his career, Davis has a -19 DRS and -5 OAA in 770.0 MLB innings. With his posting a -8 DRS and -3 OAA at the position in 2020, it would appear his skills are regressing instead of progressing. When you break it down, he’s no more than a 1B/DH thereby leaving the Mets searching for a third baseman.
That’s a spot which likely would’ve gone to Jeff McNeil, who had his own issues at third. However, with Robinson Cano‘s suspension, it would seem McNeil is the everyday second baseman. Accordingly, the Mets will have to look outside the organization to fulfill their third base vacancy.
That is problematic because the options available aren’t great.
After Turner, one popular name in some circles is DJ LeMahieu. There are a number of reasons to be skeptical of LeMahieu including his stats being Yankee Stadium fueled, his price tag, and his declining defense. There’s also the issue of his not actually being a third baseman even if he can reasonably be expected to transition.
After those two, it’s a pretty severe drop-off. Former Mets Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker are probably the next best options, but at this point in their careers, they’re best served being utility players.
Of course all of this depends upon your impression of Ha-Seong Kim. The Kiwoom Heros of the KBO have posted him. With that, he really looks to be the first KBO shortstop entering his prime to come to the MLB.
MLB Trade Rumors calls Kim a “unicorn given his blend of age, power, speed and defensive aptitude at a premium position.”
While Kim is a shortstop, he’s split time between short and third. It will be interesting to see how well he could play in the majors. That said, he’s awfully tantalizing in a very shallow free agent group.
In fact, given Turner’s age and LeMahieu’s many question marks, Kim may be the best option available. In fact, he could be the only real option available to the Mets.
With that being the case, the Mets are in a very difficult situation. They’re either looking to overpay Turner or LeMahieu to get them to come to a team they don’t necessarily want to join, or they’re rolling the dice on Kim. After that, it’s either an internal option or a trade, which is much easier said than done.
Take out Robinson Cano‘s PED suspensions, and he was going to be a sure-fire, first-ballot Hall of Famer. Really, when you break it down, the conversation around Cano wasn’t going to be whether he was inducted, but rather, where he ranked all-time among second basemen. That’s how good Cano has been in his career.
Naturally, Cano’s PED suspensions changed that. Instead of looking at him as a Hall of Famer, the discussion has shifted. Now, it is seen as a fait accompli Cano will not be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. At this point, there are even some who are at least inferring Cano will be five percented off the ballot when his candidacy arises:
Hall of Fame ballots are arriving. Robinson Cano will likely be on one of those someday. Hard to see him getting any support now.
— Marc Carig (@MarcCarig) November 18, 2020
While you can excuse the rush to judgment hot takes, in reality, it is bizarre people would hold that position at all. Certainly, Hall of Fame voting has given no indication whatsoever Cano will be a one-and-done when he hits the Hall of Fame ballot.
For that, we have to look no further than Manny Ramirez. Ramirez was the first player to fail two different PED tests. Despite that, he has lasted four years on the ballot. In fact, he has gone from 23.8% of the vote in his first year to 28.2% last year. No, those four gained votes doesn’t truly propel him towards the Hall of Fame, but he is still hanging on the ballot as the continued referendum on other PED users nears its conclusion.
This year is going to be the penultimate year on the ballot for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. At a 61.0% and 60.7% respectively, both players have been at least trending towards induction. Remember, both players debuted on the ballot with relatively low vote totals. In fact, in 2013, Bonds only received 36.2% of the vote, and Clemens received 37.6%.
Both players have steadily climbed, and there have been more than a few voters whose early positions have changed due to Bud Selig and Tony La Russa being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. As Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post said when opting to begin voting for PED users, “Selig getting in was a game changer for me.”
Certainly, Bonds and/or Clemens getting in could be game changers for other voters. On that point, no one can be quite sure whether they get in via the BBWAA vote over the course of the next two votes. If they are not inducted by that point, it’s well within the realm of possibility a Veteran’s Committee electorate who not only inducted people like Selig, LaRussa, and Joe Torre, each of whom were propelled into the Hall of Fame due to PED user, but may also may be very sympathetic to PED users will induct Bonds and Clemens on their own volition.
If that were to occur, testing positive will no longer be seen as a bar to induction into the Hall of Fame. If that is the case, we should see players like Ramirez get an uptick in voting. By natural extension, Cano’s chances would then be bolstered as well.
At this point, it is was too early to predict whether Cano will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Really, the only thing we do know is there are a number of test cases ahead of him, and very likely, there is going to be eight more years before this is even up for a debate. When we get to that point, lets see what has happened with Bonds, Clemens, and Ramirez before addressing the topic of what Cano’s second PED test has on his Hall of Fame chances.
There are times when teams make trades they appear bad in hindsight. The classic example of this was the Nolan Ryan trade. Ryan was an enigmatic right-hander the Mets just couldn’t quite figure out, and they were going to get a former All-Star in Jim Fregosi to handle third. At the time, it made sense, but as time passed it looked worse and worse.
Then there is the Robinson Cano trade.
This was a trade deemed flat out dumb at its inception. It wasn’t just that Cano had what many perceived to be an untradeable contract. That was partially because he was already in his mid 30s. Mostly, it was because he was coming off of a PED suspension which should have cast serious doubt over not only his career stats, but also his ability to produce as he aged. Of course, Brodie Van Wagenen was the one person who actually bought the bogus explanation.
Brodie says he's comfortable with Cano and the violation. Said it was a suspension for a diaretic not steroids.
— Matt Ehalt (@MattEhalt) December 4, 2018
Despite all the red flags and warnings, Van Wagenen went forward to rescue his former client from Seattle to return him to New York like Cano wanted. In the process, he made what ranks among the worst, if not the worst, trades in all of Mets history. Certainly, it is easily the worst Mets trade this century.
Each and every year which passes, this trade gets worse and worse. To put it in perspective, all we need to do is examine where the pieces of this trade are and will be in 2021:
Gerson Bautista – after dealing with injury issues has signed a minor league deal to return to the Seattle Mariners.
Jay Bruce – Free agent whose $14 million is off the books available for now the Philadelphia Phillies to invest this offseason.
Justin Dunn – projected to be part of the Mariners Opening Day rotation after posting a 104 ERA+ over the past two seasons. Notably, the Mets are looking to build not only a 2021 pitching rotation, but also pitching depth.
Jarred Kelenic – widely seen as one of the top prospects in all of baseball, and he may very well make his MLB debut at some point during the 2021 season.
Anthony Swarzak – did not pitch last year after making $8.5 million in 2019.
Edwin Diaz – after a terrible 2019, he rebounded to have a strong 2020 season albeit one with four blown saves in 10 attempts. The question for him in 2021 is whether his good year, bad year pattern continues.
Really, Diaz is it for the Mets return because Cano is not going to play in 2021. There is now a question about whether he actually plays another game again. Certainly, you could argue the Mets would look to buy him out at some point or just flat out release him. Who knows?
The only thing we do know is Cano is out of baseball in 2021. Perhaps, that is a large reason why Van Wagenen and the person who hired him, Jeff Wilpon, will also be out of baseball. In fact, this trio may very well be and probably should be out for good. That will give them all a front row seat to seeing Kelenic and Dunn lead the Mariners organization back to postseason contention.
With Robinson Cano‘s PED suspension, there’s at least the suspicion the Mets could look to replace him through free agency. Given Steve Cohen’s deep pockets, the popular name initially surfaced is DJ LeMahieu.
It’s certainly understandable why the Mets would have interest in LeMahieu. First and foremost, he has versatility allowing the Mets to move him and Jeff McNeil around the diamond.
He’s been a top five MVP finalist and a Silver Slugger both years with the Yankees, and he’s more than shown the ability to handle New York. The latter point is something which should never be discounted.
Still, LeMahieu isn’t perfect, and there are some indications he may not be a good fit with the Mets.
First and foremost, he is a Yankee Stadium monster. Over the past two years, he has hit .366/.421/.642 with a 183 wRC+. Away from Yankee Stadium, LeMahieu is a .309/.354/.439 with a 112 wRC+. Another important note is he has a .378 BABIP at Yankee Stadium and a .334 BABIP at home. That BABIP point is noteworthy because prior to his becoming a Yankee he was a .307 BABIP player. This means what he has done the past two years is outside of what his normal skillset is.
Put another way, if you take LeMahieu out of Yankee Stadium, we can very likely expect his offensive numbers to regress significantly. Now, if he is a 112 wRC+ player, that is very valuable. Realistically speaking, it should not be out of the realm of possibility he around that, but it should be noted LeMahieu was an 90 wRC+ hitter before signing with the Yankees.
Another important note with LeMahieu is his defense is slipping. When he was with the Colorado Rockies, he was a two time Gold Glover. This was more than reputation as his defensive metrics were quite good as well. In his final two years in Colorado, he had a 9 and 13 OAA as well as a 12 and 14 DRS. Simply put, there may not have been a better defender at second than him.
However, over the last two years, his defense has slipped. After a slightly above average 2 OAA and 3 DRS, he dropped to a -1 OAA and 0 DRS. That isn’t surprising as that occurred in LeMahieu’s age 30 and 31 seasons. That’s an important consideration as he is now at an age when his defense typically declines year-to-year.
What makes that all the more alarming is Michael Kay’s report on The Michael Kay Show that LeMahieu is looking at a five year deal. If you are the Mets, you already have a former Yankees second baseman signed to a burdensome contract. There is absolutely no reason to willingly become tethered to another one.
If the Mets want to bring in another second baseman a much more preferable option would be Kolten Wong.
Wong is coming off back-to-back Gold Glove winning seasons at second. Looking at his defense, he has had a 16, 19, and 6 DRS in each of the past three seasons and an 11, 8, and 2 OAA. It should be noted here last season’s numbers were not necessarily indicative of a drop off as much as it was because of the shortened 2020 season (yes, you can argue the same with LeMahieu).
At the plate, Wong is a batter who does not strike out often, and he has really improved his eye at the plate. Both his strikeout and walk rates have been above-average the past two seasons. That is a large reason why Wong has improved to being a 103 wRC+ over the past two years which is an improvement over his 96 career mark.
No, Wong is not as exciting as LeMahieu, and his ceiling may not be the same. However, Wong doesn’t present the same troubles LeMahieu present. He has not shown signs of decline in the field. His offensive stats have not been buttressed by unsustainably high BABIPs or by playing in an extreme hitter’s park, and he’s not going to command that monster contract which promises to be an albatross at some point.
Another very important consideration is there is not a wide chasm in terms of overall production from these two players. Over the past two years, LeMahieu has accumulated an impressive 8.7 WAR. For his part, Wong has accumulated a very overlooked 6.3 WAR. Yes, LeMahieu has been better, but not to the point where he should get significantly more in terms of years and AAV.
Overall, if the Mets don’t want to entrust second base to McNeil (which they should), it would seem the much better action would be to sign Wong to a shorter term and cheaper deal. With Wong, there is not the same regression fears, and it will open up money to invest in other areas of need.
The Mets had real issues regarding roster construction and much of it was related to Robinson Cano. His presence was a complication forcing a number of bad decisions.
With Cano at second, Jeff McNeil was displaced from the position he played best. That meant he moved to third where his arm didn’t translate well or left field.
If he was in left field, that meant Brandon Nimmo moved to center where he was ill suited. Really, every permutation of the lineup necessitated Nimmo in CF.
That moved the Mets best defensive first baseman in Smith to left where he’s not particularly good. That was exacerbated by Alonso being a poor defensive first baseman.
Really, when you look at it, the necessity to play Cano and his $20.25 million salary just forces a series of terrible decisions. That’s a large reason why the Mets never hit their supposed ceiling – the defense was that bad and held the team back.
Now, with Cano gone for the 2021 season much of the Mets problems have been solved.
McNeil can now be the everyday second baseman. Nimmo can then go back to a corner outfield position where he belongs. Assuming the return of the DH, Alonso can DH with Smith at first.
As if this wasn’t good enough, the Mets have an additional $20.25 million to allocate towards their holes at catcher, third, center, and the pitching staff.
Every way you look at this, Cano testing positive is good news for the Mets, and that’s even before you account for any regression you should’ve expected from the now 38 year old. If this invites a buy out, this could make the situation even better.
With one incredibly poor decision by Cano, the Mets defense has been substantially improved, and they have enough resources to sign up to two additional impact players they may not have been otherwise able to sign. That’s why Cano’s positive test is great news for the Mets.