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.
In what has been the complete polar opposite of Wilpon driven offseasons, the New York Mets are getting linked to nearly every free agent. The latest name to surface is Marcell Ozuna.
This is one which should stay a rumor because Ozuna is a very poor fit for the Mets.
That’s not to say Ozuna isn’t a good player. In his career, Ozuna has shown himself to be a good baseball player who has shown flashes of brilliance. That includes this past season with the Atlanta Braves where he led the league in homers while having the third best OPS+.
This was his best ever season at the plate. There are reasons to buy in on him producing at this level next year. Those reasons include his barrel percentage as well as his hard hit and whiff rates.
There are also reasons to believe he’ll regress. That includes this being a shortened season as well as his .396 BABIP, which was higher than his .319 career mark.
Regardless of which direction he’ll trend, the ultimate question for the Mets is how can they use him.
In his time with the Marlins, Ozuna was a great defensive outfielder. That includes his winning the 2017 Gold Glove. Since winning that award, it’s been a steep decline.
Ozuna went from a 7 DRS that year to a 0 this year. He had a -8 OAA last year and a -1 this year. This is indicative of a now over 30 outfielder who was primarily used at DH.
Simply put, a -8 OAA is unplayable out there. It’s even worse when shoulder injuries have cost him the ability to make strong or even poor throws. It’s a poor combination. With him having below average spring speed and his turning 30, the days of him being an even semi-regular outfielder have passed.
Of course, that’s not an issue with the Mets. With Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo, they are well set at the corner outfield position. They have good depth there with Jeff McNeil able to play out there quite well.
The problem with the Mets is they are also overly stacked at the DH position. That includes their right-handed hitting options.
As we saw last year, if there is going to be a DH, it should be Pete Alonso. Statistically, he’s been just about the worst defender at first, and his moving there allows Dominic Smith and his bat and glove to get into the lineup everyday.
There’s also the Robinson Cano issue. While he was quite good defensively at second last year, his playing second everyday at the age of 38 would be fairly unprecedented.
Ideally, Cano would be the everyday DH. This would keep him and his bat in the lineup everyday. It would also open up second for McNeil which is his best position.
Looking at it, the Mets have two bats in Alonso and Cano who ideally need to DH. They need to DH due to their own skill sets in addition to getting other very talented players in the lineup. Adding Ozuna to this mix only unnecessarily muddies the waters.
When you break it down, the Mets really could use right-handed balance in their lineup. However, with Alonso at DH, Ozuna is not a fit. As such, the Mets are better off pursuing that bat in the form of James McCann/J.T. Realmuto and/or George Springer.
The 2020 season only confirmed J.D. Davis isn’t an everyday player because he can’t field at all. With that being the case, the Mets need to find a new third baseman this offseason.
The first option could be Jeff McNeil, who was actually the Opening Day third baseman the past two years. The issue with him is despite his arm. His throws were erratic, which gives you pause before giving him the third base job.
With their being questions about whether Robinson Cano would be willing or able to move to third, that leaves the Mets looking outside the organization for a third base option.
There may be options on the trade market like Nolan Arenado, but with Brodie Van Wagenen needlessly stripping the farm of its best players, that’s much easier said than done. That probably leaves the free agent market where one name stands out above the rest.
We all know the idiocy and cheapness which led to Turner being non-tendered by the Mets. With the Wilpons gone, Steve Cohen can look to right this wrong and bring Turner back to Queens. As we saw last night, Turner can still play.
Turner with a big play! pic.twitter.com/mG2JCSYUgv
— Jomboy (@Jomboy_) October 21, 2020
In 2020, Turner had a poor -2 OAA rating. However, in the preceding year, he was a very good 4 OAA. Looking at his OAA on the whole, he’s been alternating good and bad seasons.
DRS paints a slightly different picture. From 2014 – 2018, Turner was a very good defensive third baseman. However, in the past two years there has been a drop off with him posting consecutive negative DRS seasons.
Taking the bigger picture, we see a player still capable of handling the position.
At the plate, Turner is still a very good hitter with a 140 wRC+. That’s an improvement over his 132 in 2019. Looking at his Baseball Savant stats, Turner posted very good to elite numbers in barrels, hard hit rates, and whiff percentage.
Overall, even at 35, Turner has remained a very good baseball player.
That’s somewhat of a problem. He’s 35, and he will soon turn 36 after the World Series. While his stats over the past few years indicate he could be a good bet in 2021, time and again, we have seen players in their late 30s lose it overnight.
With Turner, we may also see a player who may want to retire or just stay close to home. That would certainly be understandable. However, if he’s truly available and willing to return, the Mets should pounce.
Turner is in the unique position of entering the clubhouse as a guy who dealt with the ups and downs of New York. On that note, he can certainly help the young Mets core along the way.
Another thing Turner presents is he’s coming from the Dodgers. Fact is, the Dodgers do things better than everyone, maybe even the Rays. Turner knows exactly what the Mets don’t know.
Remember the Mets aren’t just trying to win the 2021 World Series. No, they’re going through with a complete organization overhaul. They’re trying to build a team who can compete each and every year just like the Dodgers.
The Dodgers just don’t have the most talent on the field or the deepest pockets. They also have access to the best analytics and technology. They know things no one knows.
With Turner being there from the beginning of this Dodgers regime, he also knows all of the information disseminated to players. He knows what’s worked, what hasn’t, and the best way to communicate the information to players.
No, he doesn’t know how the information was tabulated and analyzed. However, he knows it exists, and knowing the information exists really helps your organization seek it out. After all, you can’t look for something without knowing that something exists.
In the end, Turner on a short term deal solves the Mets 2021 third base issues. More than that, he helps your organization in their process of an analytical overhaul. All told, from a Mets perspective, Turner could be the most important free agent available on the market. As such, they should very seriously consider bringing him back to Queens.
Right now, the Mets two starters are Jacob deGrom and David Peterson. With Peterson, the Mets have a promising pitcher who is a sinkerball pitcher. In terms of Peterson, the question is what do you do to help him take the next step forward in his career.
Rosario continued to make strong steps forward defensively, and he was a good defender, but he was not on Gimenez’s level. Rosario was a -3 DRS and 2 OAA to Gimenez’s 1 DRS and 5 OAA. At a 5 OAA, Gimenez was actually tied for the second best defensive SS in the game.
At second, Robinson Cano rebounded defensively with a 3 OAA. On that note, Cano was better moving to his left. That’s an important consideration for an aging player who probably needs to move off of second.
It’s not about ability per se, but rather durability. He’s going to be 38 next year, and he’s broken down a bit in each of the last few years while playing second. A switch to a less demanding position like third should help him extend his career.
It also solves a real issue for the Mets as third base is a huge problem. Jeff McNeil was supposed to play third, but he had throwing issues not too dissimilar from what we once saw with Wilmer Flores. That led the Mets to move McNeil off the position and replace him with J.D. Davis.
Davis was a disaster at third. He had a -8 DRS, which is he had enough innings to qualify, would’ve had him as the worst in the position in the majors. His -3 OAA was also the worst in the majors at the position.
By moving Cano to third, you finally take away Davis’ glove (which needs to happen anyway), and second is re-opened for McNeil. At second, McNeil has been a good defender with a career 4 OAA and 1 DRS.
By going with an infield of McNeil, Cano, and Gimenez, they have made it a significantly improved defensive infield. In fact, you can argue it’s a very good one at that.
As an aside, Nolan Arenado is purportedly on the trade bloc, and the Mets have a logjam at first with Pete Alonso and Dominic Smith. Putting Arenado alongside Gimenez would possibly even surpass Robin Ventura and Rey Ordonez.
While Arenado may be considered a pipe dream, that’s the direction the Mets should be angling. That’s not just because of Steve Cohen’s deep pockets. Rather, it’s because the Mets should be maximizing their defense.
Part of that will include moving on from Wilson Ramos. Ramos is a catcher of a different era. That’s not his fault, but rather one of Brodie Van Wagenen’s front office. Moving on from Ramos to another catcher better at framing, whether that be J.T. Realmuto, James McCann, or someone else entirely, the Mets will be much better poised defensively.
They will also be better poised to handle a pitch to contact sinkerball staff. That will help Peterson succeed in his second season.
This will also help Stroman, who for reasons previously detailed, should be the Mets priority right now. The question is who should then round out the Mets rotation with Noah Syndergaard rehabbing from Tommy John.
There is an argument to be made for Rick Porcello to return on another one year deal. Certainly, Porcello will be driven to have a better 2021 after his 2020 was terrible. It’s quite possible he wants that chance to return to the Mets, a team he grew up loving, and prove to them he’s a pitcher who can help them win.
Now, Porcello’s stats were a very mixed bag last year. His ERA+ was a career worst 75. He let up an inordinate amount of barrels last year too.
Behind that was a 3.33 FIP, which is quite good. Porcello was also above average in terms of hard hit percentage, and he posted very good exit velocity rates.
You could argue with a vastly superior infield defense Porcello could very well be a good stopgap for Syndergaard and/or insurance for a Peterson sophomore slump. In the end, if the Mets are moving in the direction of a pitch to contact staff, they should really lean into it and make their team the best suited they can to head into that direction.
As we’ve seen in years like 1999 and 2006 building a superior infield defense can help your team overcome pitching deficiencies. It can help ground ball pitchers be reliable, post strong numbers, and pitch deep into games.
For the Mets, there are many directions they can head towards with a new owner and front office. Given the presence of Peterson and what’s available on the free agent market, this is a direction the Mets should seriously consider pursuing.
As the season wound to a close, there was much talk about how the Mets were too talented for this season to have unfolded the way it did. Certainly, some players struggled, but in the end, the Mets missing even an expanded postseason should not have shocked anyone.
Things changed dramatically for the Mets the day Noah Syndergaard had to shut it down due to Tommy John surgery. It was at that point the Mets went from possible postseason contender to a team who was likely going to miss the postseason.
Syndergaard presented, along with Jacob deGrom, two top of the rotation, swing and miss pitchers. The Mets desperately needed this as this was a team with far too many pitchers who pitched to contact in front of a terrible defensive team.
In 2019, the Mets were last in the National League with an 86 DRS. Despite planning on going into 2020 with Marcus Stroman and Rick Porcello, two pitchers who pitch to a high rate of contact, the Mets affirmatively opted not to improve their defense. In actuality, they probably made t worse.
Remember, the plan was to always have two first basemen in the field with Pete Alonso and J.D. Davis. Based on what we saw of Robinson Cano in 2019, you could’ve argued, the Mets were really putting three first basemen in the field. That’s beyond ill advised.
An important thing to remember here was not only were the Mets playing three first basemen, they were playing three poor ones at that, at least in terms of their respective positions.
By OAA, Alonso was the worst defensive first baseman in the NL last year. Davis was the 26th ranked LF with the second worst success rate. Cano was also ranked 26th.
The good news is Cano rebounded by OAA but not DRS. Past him, well, it was a complete disaster.
Davis didn’t last long in LF because he was even worse, which you could not imagine to be possible. He then moved to third where he was again an unmitigated disaster. That was a precipitous drop from the good, albeit declining defense, provided from Todd Frazier last year.
Alonso too regressed leading him to lose his everyday job at first. Instead, he split time with Dominic Smith at the position. When Dom wasn’t at first, he was in left. That meant the Mets had FOUR first basemen in the field.
You can’t win games that way.
What makes this even worse is the Mets didn’t really surround these players with plus defenders to offset the terrible defense.
Brandon Nimmo isn’t a center fielder. That was again proven by his -4 OAA and -5 DRS. Wilson Ramos was just about the worst catcher there was in baseball behind the plate. His framing numbers were poor, his ability to block the ball worse, and his ability to tag out runners nonexistent.
Essentially, that made the pitchers mound look more like a tiny island with a bunch of people around him just letting him drown.
Really, when you look at the Mets, the only position they had good defense was short with Andres Gimenez and Amed Rosario providing very good defense there. Other than that this was a terrible defensive ballclub with the fourth worst DRS in all of baseball.
The sad thing is it didn’t have to be this way. There were very good defenders on this roster who earned playing time. Case in point was Luis Guillorme. He had a very good defensive season with a 1 OAA and DRS, and he posted a 144 wRC+ at the plate. Playing him up the middle with Gimenez or Rosario could’ve had a profound impact on this suspect pitching staff.
On that note, Porcello struggled with terrible defense behind him. Stroman opting out certainly hurt, but he also might’ve struggled in front of a flat out terrible defensive team.
Truth be told, the only way this team could’ve competed was by having a starting staff of swing and miss pitchers who induced soft contact. Unfortunately, Syndergaard was injured, and the Mets didn’t want Zack Wheeler. Once the latter two were gone so were the Mets chances.
In the end, Brodie Van Wagenen and Jeff Wilpon treated the Mets like they were a fantasy team. With the Mets having an MLB best team 122 wRC+, they probably won their fantasy league.
However, on the field, where things like defense and base running matter, they built a flawed and arguably bad baseball team. Certainly, this was not a team truly built to compete, and in the end the Mets didn’t.
That’s why Van Wagenen will be gone and why Steve Cohen has zero interest in keeping Jeff Wilpon around in any decision making capacity when the sale is officially ratified by MLB.
Overall, the 2020 New York Mets didn’t underachieve. No, this team did EXACTLY what they were built to do. That was have deGrom be great, the offense hit, and get horrendous defense and suspect starting pitching.