Ruben Tejada

Mets Final Season Grades – Utility Players

Throughout the season, I attempted to grade the different Mets players performances for each month of the season. In determining the year end grades, the aggregate of the monthly grades given was considered, but it wasn’t conclusive.  For example, one player’s awful month could be more than offset by having an incredible month.  Also, those decisions were made in the heat of the moment.  There has been a cooling off period in giving these finals grades, and with that, there is time for reflection.  It should also be noted the Wild Card Game did have some impact on these grades as that game was part of the story of the 2016 Mets.  Overall, the final grades assessed considered the monthly grades, but also took into account that player(s) overall impact on the Mets season (good or bad).    For the fourth set of grades, here are the Mets utility players:

Wilmer Flores B

Early on in the season, Flores mostly struggled with getting limited playing time.  It was difficult cracking into the starting lineup when Neil Walker, David Wright, and Asdrubal Cabrera playing well in April.  As the season progressed, and the Mets became more and more injured, notably Wright and Lucas Duda, Flores was needed, and he really stepped up.

Where Flores really thrived was being used as a platoon option against left-handed pitching.  Against lefties, Flores would hit an astounding .340/.383/.710 with four doubles, 11 homers, and 28 RBI.  If you extrapolated those numbers of the course of a full 162 game season, Flores would’ve hit 36 homers and 93 RBI.  That would have made him the best hitter in the Mets lineup this season.  However, Flores’ numbers were nowhere near that as he struggled against right-handed pitching hitting .232/.289/.353 with 10 doubles, five homers, and 21 RBI.  It should be noted Flores had 107 plate appearances against lefties and 228 plate appearances against righties.

For the season, Flores hit .267/.319/.469 with 14 doubles, 16 homers, and 49 RBI.  Flores’ numbers were an upgrade over his 2015 numbers.  Given how he has progressed each year over his career, and the fact that he is only 25 years old, we should see an improved Flores at the plate in 2017.

Even with some optimism, there is some doubt.  Despite his improvement at the plate, he still didn’t walk enough, and he doesn’t hit right-handed pitching enough to play everyday.  While he made marked improvements at shortstop as the 2015 season progressed, Flores regressed there defensively in 2016.  In fact, Flores did not play all that well defensively at any position; although, he did show some promise at first base.

Part of the reason for Flores foibles could be he’s prone to the occasional gaffe (similar to Daniel Murphy).  It could be him trying to do too much, it could be him having more faith in his abilities than he probably should, it could be his high effort level, or it could be something different altogether.  Whatever it is, it was front and center when Tim Teufel made the baffling decision to send Flores home during that September 10th game against the Braves.  It was absolutely a bad send, but it quite have possibly been a worse slide.  Flores going in head first against a catcher like A.J. Pierzynski lead to his season-ending injury which required surgery to remove the hook of the hamate bone in the offseason.

The best thing you can say about Flores in the 2016 season was he was missed.  During the Wild Card Game, the Mets were one bat short against Madison Bumgarner.  With Flores’ stats against left-handed pitching, he could have gotten that one key hit the Mets needed to win that game.  Except, he was injured and unable to play.  The hope is he learns from this experience and comes back a better player in 2017.

Eric Campbell F

After Ruben Tejada was released on the eve of the season, Campbell was a surprise member of the 25 man roster.  Unfortunately, Campbell was not up to the task as he regressed yet another season.  In 40 games, Campbell hit .173/.284/.227 with one double, one homer, and nine RBI.  While the Mets organization was high on him to start the year (at least higher on him than most people), he didn’t do enough to justify their faith in him.  It was his play that forced the Mets to go out and get James Loney to play first base after Duda’s injury.

Despite the fans apparent hatred of him, he still has use as minor league depth, and if used in small doses, he could have some benefit to a major league team as a pinch hitter and very part time player.  Simply put, he was asked to do too much in 2016.  That was one of the reasons he was removed from the 40 man roster, and it is why he is a minor league free agent at the moment.

Matt Reynolds C

Reynolds numbers during the 2016 season were lackluster.  In 47 games, he only hit .255/.266/.416 with eight doubles, three homers, and 13 RBI.  Still, it is hard to call Reynolds first 47 games in the major leagues disappointing because he did show some promise.

In his limited duty, Reynolds did show himself to be the Mets best major league ready defensive shortstop in the entire Mets organization.  He also played well at second, third, and left field despite his playing a vast majority of his professional career at shortstop.  In fact, the first ever game Reynolds played in left field was at the major league level.  All Reynolds did in that game was play a representative left field and hit the game winning home run.

In 2016, Reynolds showed he could potentially be a major league bench player.  As a former second round pick, many might have wanted more from Reynolds than what he has shown.  That is not entirely fair at this point because he’s only played 47 games as a major leaguer, and in those 47 games, he showed he deserves another shot to be a major leaguer.  With that in mind, despite his numbers being disappointing, Reynolds did have a succesful 2016 season, and we should look forward to what he can contribute in 2017 and beyond.

Ty Kelly C+

Just making it to the major leagues after his long odyssey in the minor leagues was a major accomplishment.  And even though he made it to the majors as a result of a rash of injuries, he did earn his way to the majors with his hot hitting in Las Vegas.  While he initially struggled, Terry Collins finally figured out what he was, and Kelly began to thrive.

Despite his being a switch hitter, Kelly was really best suited to facing left-handed pitching.  While the sample size is really too small to derive a definitive conclusion, it should be noted Kelly put together much better at-bats from the right-hand side of the plate than he did from the left.  As he faced more left-handed pitching, Kelly’s numbers improved, and he finished the season hitting .241/.352/.345 with a double, a triple, a homer, and seven RBI in 39 games.

In the field, while Kelly was used all over the place, and he performed better than anticipated.  His best positions were probably third and left field.  Unfortunately, Kelly did not demonstrate sufficient power to play at either of those positions.  It should be noted that Kelly isn’t going to be a regular at the major league level.  Rather, he is a bench player, so it is quite possible, his relative lack of power may not be as big an issue for him.

Ultimately, Kelly was rewarded for his hard work and resilence.  He was rewarded not just with getting called-up to the majors, but also by being put on the Wild Card Game roster.  In a season with a number of highlights for him, his seventh inning pinch hit single certainly has to rank well up there.

Editor’s Note: the grades for April, May, June, July, August, and September/October can be found by clicking the links. If you want to see the prior entries, here is the link for catchers, and here is the link for middle infielders.

Why I’m Rooting for the Nationals Tonight

Apparently, the Mets and Nationals being rivals for a whole two seasons has lead a bunch of Mets fans to root for Chase Utley in the NLCS. Yes, rooting for the Dodgers, or against the Nationals, is rooting for Utley. As a Mets fan, I don’t get it. To me the Nationals are the lessor of two evils. Without even getting into the early years of the Mets history where the Dodgers, notably Sandy Koufax, routinely embarassed the Mets, here’s why:

Mike Scioscia grand slam off Dwight Gooden:

Jay Howell is a dirty cheat:

Orel Hershiser effectively ends the best run in Mets history:

Dodgers sign Darryl Strawberry in free agency making him an ex-Met:

And, oh yeah, Bobby Ojeda.

Guillermo Mota hitting Mike Piazza on multiple occasions and always running away when confronted.

Utley breaking Ruben Tejada‘s leg turning a potential sweep into a series:

Also, Utley’s subsequent cowardice ducking in and out of Citi Field and not taking one at-bat at Citi Field.

Speaking of which, everything Utley ever did to the Mets:

Seriously, did you know that other fans refer to the right field corner in Citi Field as the Utley Corner?  It is one of the biggest humiliations the Mets have suffered at the hands of Utley and his Phillies teams including the 2007 and 2008 collapses.  By the way, also part of those teams was current Dodgers catcher Carlos Ruiz.

So no, there is no circumstance, unless they are playing the Cardinals, that I could ever root for the Dodgers or an Utley led team.  It’s why, despite this new massive rivalry the Mets have apparently had stretching all the way back to last year, I’m rooting for the Nationals.  Personally, I’d rather have a little bit more perspective on Mets history past and present.  Speaking of which, just remember that while Utley was always a thorn in the Mets side, Daniel Murphy was doing this for the Mets last year:

So overall, I’m siding with the team that has been a Mets rival for exactly two years and hasn’t done much harm to the Mets as a franchise over a team that put an end to the best run in Mets history, had players who consistently threw at Piazza, and have one of the dirtiest players in baseball.

Don’t Blame the Mets Injuries

For the second straight year, it appears that the Mets have been snakebitten.  They have lost Lucas Duda, Matt Harvey, and David Wright to season ending injuries.  It would be easy to blame injuries like these as well as the other injuries the Mets have had for the team underachieving this season.  There’s just one problem with that – the Mets have been amongst the healthiest teams in all of baseball.

According to Spotrac, the Mets rank 15th in the majors and 8th in the National League with the team having placed 13 players on the disabled list.  With those 13 players on the disabled list, the Mets have missed 549 player days, which ranks 23rd in the majors and 12th in the National League.

Now, there are some fair criticisms in pointing just to the disabled list figures.  First, as we have seen with the Mets handling of Yoenis Cespedes, the Mets wait too long before putting a player on the disabled list.  Second, this list does not account for players like Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard who are pitching despite having bone spurs in their elbows which will have to be surgically removed in the offseason.  However, this point-of-view is a bit myopic when considering the injuries the Mets main competition for the two Wild Card spots have endured.

Los Angeles Dodgers

The 63-49 Dodgers currently have the top Wild Card spot by four games.  They have also put a major league leading 25 players on the disabled list while losing a major league leading 1,400 player days.

Brett Anderson was gone for the season before he threw a pitch, Hyun-Jin Ryu only made one start, and Alex Wood lasted just 10 starts.  That’s 3/5 of the Dodgers Opening Day rotation up in smoke.  On top of that, the Dodgers have lost important bullpen pieces in Yimi Garcia and Chin-hui Tsao.

The Dodgers have also been decimated in the outfield.  Valuable fourth outfielder and bench bat Andre Ethier was also gone before the season started.  He was needed more than usual considering the Dodgers finally released Carl Crawford, had to deal with Yasiel Puig not producing, and recently losing the pleasantly surprising Trayce Thompson in the outfield.

All of this pales in comparison to the Dodgers losing Clayton Kershaw to the disabled list.  Kershaw was once again dominating, was the presumptive Cy Young Award winner, and quite possibly an MVP candidate. With his back injury, no one can be quite sure when he will return.  There is no more damaging blow to any team in all of baseball than the Dodgers losing Kershaw.

And yet, the Dodgers keep winning games, and that is why they find themselves the current Wild Card leader.

St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals have put one fewer player on the disabled list than the Mets, but they have also lost 174 more player days to the disabled list.  Like the Dodgers, they are also ahead of the Mets in the Wild Card Standings.

The biggest injury the Cardinals have had to deal with is their starting shortstop Jhonny Peralta.  Offseason surgery to repair a ligament in his left thumb has limited him to 36 games this season.  When he has played, he has been largely ineffective. Initially, the Cardinals opted to go with Mets cast-off Ruben Tejada as Peralta’s short term replacment, but he was inffective and wounded up on the disabled list himself.  His replacement, Aledmys Diaz was having a terrific rookie season which led to him being named an All Start.  However, he is now on the disabled list with a hairline fracture in this thumb.

The Cardinals have also had a number of key position player injuries.  During the season, the Cardinals have placed Brandon Moss and Tommy Pham on the disabled list at points during the season.  This has left the team looking to find solutions at first base and center field during the season.

The Cardinals pitching staff has also been hit hard.  Lance Lynn went from a member of the rotation to losing the entire 2016 season to Tommy John surgery.  Closer Trevor Rosenthal has been dealing with injuries and ineffectiveness all year, and he has finally wound up on the disabled list.  One of his key set-up men, Jordan Walden, has yet to throw a pitch all season due to a shoulder strain and a lat injury.  The team also had to deal with losing key relievers from last season, Seth Maness and Kevin Siegrist, for a stretch of time.  

Recently, they had Michael Wacha and Matt Holliday go down with what could be season ending injuries. 

Despite these injuries, the Cardinals are 2.5 games up on the Mets this season in the Wild Card standings.

National League East

It is interesting to note that the two teams the Mets are chasing in the National League East, the Miami Marlins and the Washington Nationals, are two of the healthiest teams in all of baseball.

For the Marlins part, it seems to be a combination of good luck and youth.  Seven of the eight Marlins everyday players are 28 and younger.  The two 28 year olds, Justin Bour (ankle sprain) and Dee Gordon (PED suspension) are the only players from the starting lineup to be placed on the disabled list this season.

Other than Wei-Yin Chen, the Marlins pitching staff has been remarkably healthy.  Most importantly, Jose Fernandez has been the dominant starting pitcher he was always supposed to be.

The Nationals being so health is quite remarkable.  Each and every season, players like Daniel Murphy, Anthony RendonStephen Strasburg, Jayson Werth, and Ryan Zimmerman were usually good for at least one disabled list stint during the course of the season.  So far this year, Starsburg had a short stint on the disabled list, and Zimmerman just landed on the disabled list with a wrist contusion.

The reason why the Nationals are in a much better place injury wise is part luck, but it is mostly them doing things differently.  They created a larger and a multi disciplined medical team of experts to address injuries.  They have addressed each and every aspect of player preparation and health.  The result so far is a much healthier Nationals team both on and off the field.

The Nationals changing how they have approached injuries show how other teams have adapted and dealt with injuries better than the Mets – so have the other teams competing for the two Wild Card spots.  The Mets aren’t trailing in the Wild Card race due to their health.  In fact, they may still be in the race because the Dodgers and Cardinals have had to deal with more injuries than they have.

Asdrubal Cabrera Is a Second Half Player

Coming into the season, the Mets wanted to upgrade at shortstop.  They wanted a player who had more range and power than what Ruben Tejada provided the Mets.  They wanted a player who was a steadier fielder who got on base more frequently than Wilmer Flores.  With that in mind, as free agency opened, the Mets jumped at the chance to add Asdrubal Cabrera.  During the month of April, Cabrera seemed to be exactly the type of player the Mets both wanted and needed to take them to the next level.  Cabrera was playing steady, if not spectacular defense, while hitting .300/.364/.400 with one homer and seven RBI.  He was a big reason why the Mets found themselves eight games over .500 and only a half-game back in the NL East at the close of April.

Then as the calendar turned to May, Cabrera turned into Flores.  Since May 1st, Cabrera has hit .249/.305/.435 with 11 homers.  Yes, his power numbers went up, but he’s also getting on base less frequently.  In addition, he seemingly good defense took a step back.  So far this season, Cabrera has a -6 DRS and a -3.3 UZR.  These numbers do not seem like a mirage either as Cabrera has averaged a -10 DRS and a -8.5 UZR over the past three seasons.  As Cabrera has struggled, so have the Mets.  Since May 1st, the Mets have been one game under .500 and they have fallen to six games behind the Nationals in the division.

Yes, there have been a number of issues that have led to this.  The Mets have been beset with injuries with Lucas Duda‘s back and David Wright‘s neck.  Cabrera was no stranger to injury.  As Terry Collins‘ brings up from time to time in his postgame press conferences, Cabrera has been dealing with a knee injury all season.  With that in mind, the All Star Break should prove beneficial to Cabrera to let him rest that knee and come out better in the second half.  And he will as Cabrera has been a second half player most of his career.  In fact, Cabrera has a better batting average, on base percentage, slugging, and OPS+ in the second half of the season.

This was mostly fueled by the incredible second half he had for the Tampa Bay Rays last year.  In the second half, Cabrera hit .328/.372/.544 with 10 homers and 36 RBI.  This included a three game set against the Mets in August of last year that saw him go 4-11 with a walk, a run, a double, and a stolen base in games started by Jacob deGrom, Bartolo Colon, and Noah Syndergaard.  That was following a stretch that saw Cabrera hit .232/.287/.387 with five homers and 12 RBI for May and June.  July rolled in with the All Star Break, and as mentioned above, Cabrera was a different player.  We’re seeing it again this year.

Since July 1st, Cabrera has hit .290/.333/.667 with four homers and five RBI.  Amazingly, Cabera only has a .217 BABIP for the month suggesting that Cabrera could possibly improve upon these already good July numbers.  If that is truly the case, we should see Cabrera repeat the outstanding second half he put together for the Rays last year.  If Cabrera is capable of doing that, the Mets will have a much improved lineup that should see them compete not just for the Wild Card but also for the division.

We have already seen what Cabrera is capable of doing and how that can help the Mets.  If he gets back to being that player, there is no stopping either him or the Mets.

Editor’s Note: this was also published on metsmerizedonline.com

Sandy Alderson Had a Poor Offseason

This past offseason Sandy Alderson and the Mets were heralded for building a deep roster that was better built to sustain a slate of injuries like the Mets fared last year.  Here are how all the players Sandy Alderson acquired during the offseason have fared with the Mets this year:

Neil Walker

So far, Walker has had a terrific 2015.  In fact, he is on pace to have the best year of his eight year career.  However, as the Mets offense has tailed off, so has Walker.  Here are his monthly splits:

  • April .307/.337/.625 with 9 homers and 19 RBI
  • May .250/.333/.420 with 4 homers and 6 RBI
  • June .224/.307/.289 with 1 homer and 6 RBI

Each and every month Walker has gone from one a career best year to stats worse than he has had over the course of his career.

Asdrubal Cabrera

Like his double play partner, Cabrera’s stats are masked by a hot April.  In April, Cabrera hit .300/.364/.400.  Since that time, Cabrera is only hitting .247/.307/.409.  Worse yet, despite many raving about his defense, the advanced metrics disagree.  So far, he has a -5 DRS and a -2.1 UZR.

Alejandro De Aza

He was supposed to be a platoon partner with Juan Lagares in center.  Given his .165/.216/.242 batting line, it is a blessing that never came to be.

Yoenis Cespedes

For the second straight year, Cespedes has been terrific for the Mets.  His OBP and slugging are on pace to be the highest in his career.  He’s also on pace for a career high 38 homers.  Even with his poor defense in center field, he has been day in and day out the best player on the Mets.

Rene Rivera

Like every other backup catcher during the Sandy Alderson regime, Rivera has not hit.  Initially, he was supposed to be a minor league depth, but after another Travis d’Arnaud injury, he was called-up to the majors.  He has worked well with Mets pitchers this year, specificially Noah Syndergaard  Mostly due to his defense, and also because of how poorly Kevin Plawecki has played, he has stayed in the majors when d’Arnaud came off the disabled list.

Ty Kelly

He was a minor league free agent that was never supposed to play in the majors.  When he hit .148/.207/.259 in 14 games we found out why.  Of course, he was pressed into action in part because the Mets found it wise to start with Eric Campbell on the 25 man roster instead of Ruben Tejada.

Bartolo Colon

Somewhat surprisingly, at the age of 43, Colon is having his best season with the Mets.  He’s 6-4 with a 2.86 ERA and a 1.170 WHIP.  He also did this:

Jerry Blevins

After he went down last year, the Mets searched high and low for a lefty out of the pen.  They never did quite find one.  Blevins has been healthy this year, and he has been terrific going 2-0 with a 2.49 ERA.  Only recently did he have a 21 appearance and 13 inning scoreless streak snapped.

Antonio Bastardo

He has been the worst reliever in the Mets bullpen with a 5.28 ERA and a 1.565 WHIP.  Terry Collins has shoved him to the back of the bullpen and tries to avoid using him in high leverage situations at all costs.

Jim Henderson

The minor league free agent had a great Spring Training and made the Opening Day roster.  He was having a terrific season until Collins pushed him too far for what he perceived to be a must-win game in April.  His production tailed off, and now he is on the disabled list with an injured shoulder.  This is the same shoulder that caused Henderson to miss all of the 2015 season after having had two surgeries on the joint.

Overall, looking over how these moves have panned out thus far, it does not appear that Sandy Alderson has had as good an offseason as many proclaimed him to have had.  In fact, as the season progresses, it makes Alderson’s season look worse and worse.  In order for the perception of Alderson’s offseason to change again, the underperforming players are going to have to improve.  Time is growing shorter and shorter for that to happen.

An Examination of the Jose Reyes Signing

A woman is on the hotel bed before her husband pulls her off the bed. He proceeds to push her. When that isn’t enough, he grabs her around the throat and throws her into a sliding glass door leading out to a balcony. There’s an ensuing crash that stirs security.

The husband and wife are separated by security. The wife requests a medic to come to the hotel to treat injuries to her left leg and scratches to her throat – the same throat her attacker grabbed before throwing her into a glass door. When medics arrive to treat, it’s agreed she should get further treatment at the hospital.  During the time period she is separated from her husband, the wife cooperates with the police and gives them sufficient information to file a police report and have the District Attorney’s Office proceed with pressing charges against the husband.

The prosecution is ready to go to trial. However, the trial never happens. The victim wife refuses to cooperate.  The husband now is a free man. If you didn’t know it by know, that’s what we know happened with Jose Reyes and his wife.

Yes, there are various people saying there could have been any number of things that could have happened in the room that have gone unreported.  That is undeniably true.  You could say there was alcohol or that she was antagonizing him verbally or that she had the audacity to fight back causing Reyes to escalate the violence.  There are a number of scenarios you could conjure up to make the October 31, 2015 incident between Reyes and his wife seem better or worse depending on your point of view.  No matter what you think might have or could have transpired, we don’t know anything different from Reyes’ wife’s account as no one has presented anything contradicting her statements to the police.  Even if you have a doubt in your mind as to everything that transpired, Reyes still hit his wife, and that is inexcusable.

To say the Rockies thought so as well when they released him is not being completely honest.  The Rockies’ shortstop of the future, Trevor Story, has played well enough that they don’t need Reyes.  There is no way you’re considering Reyes at third when you have Nolan Arenado.  Same goes for second with DJ LeMahieu.  It was easy for them to take a principled stand when they had no room for a greatly diminished Reyes on the roster.  It’s a whole other matter when you actually have a need for Reyes as the Mets apparently think they do know when they signed him to presumably play third base.

WHY THE REUNION MAKES SENSE

As a pure baseball decision, a Mets-Reyes reunion makes sense.  He Reyes is flat out a better ballplayer than Eric Campbell and Ty Kelly.  Even with how well he’s played since his recent call-up, it’s hard to fathom that Matt Reynolds is a better baseball player than Reyes.  Maybe, just maybe, you could argue that he’s a better everyday option than Wilmer Flores despite having never played third base in the majors.  In that sense you can understand the signing.

Another reason for the reunion is because everyone remembers what Reyes used to be.  As a Met, he was a .292/.341/.441 hitter who averaged 11 triples and 41 stolen bases a year.  He was electric in the field and on the base paths.  He’s the Mets all-time leader in stolen bases and triples.  He’s the best shortstop in Mets history.  He was a beloved player, and many wish he never left the Mets in the first place.

However, as is apparent with that October 31, 2015 incident, Reyes is not who Mets fans think he is.

WHY REYES ISN’T A FIT FOR THE ROSTER

Since he left the Mets, Reyes has gotten progressively worse. Last year when the Blue Jays were chasing their first playoff berth since 1993, they moved Reyes, who had become a liability, for Troy Tulowitzki.  At that time, Reyes was only hitting .285/.322/.385 with no triples and only 16 stolen bases.  When he went to the Rockies, he complained about the trade and openly stated he wanted out.  He finished the year hitting .259/.291/.368 in Coors Field of all places.  He played a poor shortstop in both places.

Both Coors Field and the Rogers Centre are known as hitter’s parks, and last year Reyes didn’t hit much in either park.  Clearly, the Mets hope is that Reyes will be rejuvenated by becoming a Met again.  It’ll be interesting to see if it comes to be especially since Citi Field is decidedly less hitter friendly than either ballpark Reyes called home last year.  In the event Reyes doesn’t produce, the Mets will be left in a difficult situation as they may need to bench Reyes.  Seeing how he reacted in Colorado, it is fair to question how he would accept a benching.

Ultimately, you could understand the Mets rolling the dice on Reyes if the other options didn’t work.  However, the Mets haven’t tried everything.

Earlier in the year, the Mets passed on Ruben Tejada even though he was better than Reyes last year, has actually played third base, and did a good job as a utility player for the Mets last year.  The Mets still haven’t tried Dilson Herrera at second base this year like they had done in years past.  The Mets made this move before finding out if Yusilesky Gourriel could be a viable option for the team this year.  There are other options on the trade market as well.

However, the Mets decided to sign Reyes despite the fact that he may be a distraction (aside from any perceived clubhouse issues that arose in Colorado).  The Mets will have to address the domestic violence issues upon officially signing Reyes.  They may have to do it more frequently than that.  There may be various advocacy groups who seek to have protests or other efforts to denounce the Mets and Reyes.  It’s the type of situation the Mets tried to separate themselves from back in 2010.

THE K-ROD INCIDENT

In 2010, it was alleged Francisco Rodriguez unleashed a verbal tirade against his girlfriend.  When her father sought to intervene, K-Rod proceeded to punch him.  He continued to punch him and bang the man’s head against a wall.  The Mets initially put K-Rod on the restricted list for two days.  When it was discovered K-Rod injured his thumb in the altercation, the Mets put K-Rod on the disqualified list and withheld the remaining $3.1 million from his 2010 salary.  They further sought to make his contract non-guaranteed, but ultimately backed off that stance once K-Rod filed a grievance.

Unlike Reyes, the charges were not dropped against K-Rod.  In the offseason, he would plead guilty to the misdemeanor.  Part of his sentence was to undergo therapy.  Presumably, this therapy is similar in nature to the therapy Reyes is currently undergoing as part of his MLB suspension.

It is worth mentioning that in 2012 K-Rod was arrested again for domestic violence.  In this incident, it was alleged that he struck his girlfriend in their home (different girlfriend than the one he had in 2010).  K-Rod would not stand trial for this incident as the alleged victim recanted her story that K-Rod caused her injuries, and the two key witnesses were flown back to Venezuela.

In that offseason, K-Rod would re-sign with the Milwaukee Brewers who cheered him after each and every strikeout and each and every scoreless appearance.  It was not too dissimilar to how the Mets fans cheered K-Rod in 2011 when he recorded 23 saves before being traded to the Brewers.

FAN RECEPTION

When Reyes ultimately steps back on the field, he is going to be cheered again by Mets fans.  He will be greeted with JOSE! chants.  This really shouldn’t come as any surprise.

Ultimately, fans want to cheer for players no matter how despicable they are.  Anyone who read the book, The Year the Bad Guys Won, knows about the various and sundry issues with the 1986 Mets.  There was Darryl Strawberry and his having fist fights with his wife.  There was Dwight Gooden‘s problem with drugs that go so bad he missed the championship parade because he was high at his dealer’s apartment in the projects.  Ron Darling, Tim Teufel, Bob Ojeda, and Rick Aguilera got into a bar fight in Houston where they assaulted bouncers who turned out to be off-duty police officers.  This is just a snippet of the problems with this team.  Still, these players are forever revered and will be cheered wherever they go now matter what happens.

They are cheered because they produce.  It’s the same way with this team.  Terry Collins is beloved by many.  However, many overlook his past drunk driving conviction.  Bartolo Colon can seemingly do no wrong except when it comes to using steroids and failing to pay child support.  There are Mets who have done far worse than either of these guys.  Some of these acts are know.  Others aren’t.  Still, fans cheer them for their performance on the field.  In that way, Mets fans are no different than other fans.  We have to look no further than the Yankee fans cheering Aroldis Chapman in his first game back from his own suspension.

WHAT FANS ARE ACTUALLY CHEERING

Still, when Mets fans are cheeering Reyes, they are cheering for a player that beat his wife to the point where she needed to go to the hospital.

Furthermore, most Mets fans, even those who didn’t want Reyes in the first place, still want the team to succeed.  Most will cheer him if he makes a big defensive play or gets a big base hit.  Mets fans cheered Bobby Bonilla when he got hits, and there may be no more reviled Met than him (NOTE: only comparing fan reception as Bonilla has never been charged with a crime).  You may not want Reyes on the team, but you want the Mets to succeed.  No matter where you fall on the spectrum of Reyes, that means you too want Reyes to succeed.

If all goes according to plan, Reyes will be an important part of the Mets, and he will help the Mets win the World Series.  If that is the case then in some sick, twisted way, you could say the best thing that happened to the 2016 Mets was the October 31, 2015 incident.

WHERE I STAND

Being completely honest, I’m going to root for the Mets whether or not Reyes actually plays for them this year.  Even if I won’t purchase any tickets directly from the Mets, I will still use the tickets in my possession.  When Reyes comes up to bat or makes an error, I’ll boo.  I’m not going to participate in any JOSE! chants.  When he gets a hit or makes a good defensive play, I’ll cheer.  It’s the same way I reacted to Bobby Bonilla, even if that is an unfair comparison.

For Reyes, I want him to be worth it.  I want him to do more than show he’s atoned. I want him to speak out on the matter (even if it’s complicated as the statute of limitations has not expired). I want him to show he’s a better person for having gone through this incident. Whether or not October 31, 2015 was an isolated incident, I want the physical altercations between him and his wife to cease. I want his family to be safe. 

On the field, I want the Mets to win the World Series this year no matter who is on the roster.  With that said, it will be a bit unsettling having Reyes be an important part of the equation.  I’m still having trouble wrapping my head around the fact that the Mets might be able to win a World Series because Reyes beat his wife.  Having Reyes contribute will take some of the joy out of winning – whether it be a game or a World Series.

 

 

 

 

 

Cespedes Being Great Isn’t Enough

On July 31, 2015, the Mets were three games behind the Washington Nationals.  The Mets had the pitching to win, but they still needed the offense.  Most of the Mets best hitters were either on the disabled list or had just returned from their own stint on the disabled list.  Under these circumstances, the Mets made a trade for Yoenis Cespedes.  Cespedes played his first game with the Mets on August 1st.  From that point until the end of the season, Cespedes would hit .287/.337/.604 with 17 homers and 44 RBI.  The Mets would go from three games back in the division to winning the National League East by seven games.  The Mets then set out on a magical postseason run that found them falling just short of winning a World Series.

Many have posited that but for the Cespedes’ acquisition, the Mets would not have even made the playoffs.  Cespedes was credited only with raising his game, but also raising the play of his teammates.  Cespedes’ production and the ensuing run the Mets went on were seen as proof positive of that fact.  Unfortunately, that narrative hasn’t been proven true this year.

Last year, the Mets were 37-22 in the 59 games Cespedes was with the Mets.  This year the Mets have played 68 games, and they are 36-32.  Despite having played in nine additional games, the Mets still have less wins with Cespedes on the roster.  The Mets are faltering despite the fact that Cespedes is producing near the same levels he produced last year.  In fact, Cespedes is hitting .287/.352/.564 with 17 homers and 43 RBI this year.  Last year, this production was seen as transformative.  This year many are left to inquire what moves the Mets need to make to return to the postseason.

The reason for this is simple.  The current Mets team is worse than the 2015 version.  For example, here is the lineup from Cespedes’ first game with the Mets:

  1. Curtis Granderson CF
  2. Daniel Murphy 3B
  3. Yoenis Cespedes LF
  4. Lucas Duda 1B
  5. Wilmer Flores 2B
  6. Kelly Johnson RF
  7. Travis d’Arnaud C
  8. Ruben Tejada SS

Here is the Mets lineup from Sunday:

  1. Curtis Granderson RF
  2. Asdrubal Cabrera SS
  3. Yoenis Cespedes CF
  4. Neil Walker 2B
  5. James Loney 1B
  6. Wilmer Flores 3B
  7. Michael Conforto LF
  8. Kevin Plawecki C

No, the lineup Cespedes first appeared would undergo some tweaks as the season progressed.  First, Granderson would move back to RF, and Cespedes would play CF most of the time.  Additionally, Murphy played some third base, but his primary position with the team was second base.  Furthermore, until David Wright returned, Juan Uribe received the bulk of the playing time at third base.  Finally, in both 2015 and 2016, Conforto was the primary left fielder that played alongside Cespedes in center.  With that in mind, your only conclusion can be that the 2016 Mets as currently constituted are worse than the 2015 Mets.  Here are the stats:

2016 2015
C Plawecki .194/.301/.258 d’Arnaud .268/.340/.485
1B Loney .279/.329/.412 Duda .244/.352/.486
2B Walker .266/.335/.477 Murphy .281/.322/.449
3B Flores .241/.308/.380 Uribe .219/.301/.430
SS Cabrera .265/.325/.394 Tejada .261/.338/.350
LF Conforto .270/.335/.506 Conforto .231/.297/.447
RF Granderson .223/.310/.449 Granderson .259/.364/.457

Overall, other than Walker, the 2016 Mets have no real advantage over the 2015 Mets from an offensive standpoint.  

Granderson and Conforto are worse versions of themselves.  Cabrera has hit for more power than Tejada did last year, but Cabrera’s stats are buttressed by a strong April.  Since May 1st, Cabrera has hit .249/.306/.391.  As for the catching and first base situations, the Mets have been trying to keep afloat since the Duda and d’Arnaud injuries.  There is no timetable on Duda’s return.  The expectation is d’Arnaud returns today.

This all tells us two things. First, Cespedes really didn’t make the players around him better last year. Yes, his presence in the lineup made the Mets a better team. However, him being a Met didn’t make the other Mets better players. 

That leads to the second point, which is Sandy Alderson didn’t do the job he was tasked to do. He built a Mets team that lacked sufficient depth to carry the Mets through the anticipated Wright injury (even if the injury was of a different nature), and the likely Duda injury (again the injury was of a different nature). 

So yes, Cespedes was great last year, and the Mets won. Cespedes has been similarly great this year, but the results are different. The results are different because it takes a lot more than Cespedes being great to make the Mets great. We know that now.  Hopefully, so do the Mets. 

Akeel Morris Was the Price of Not Re-Signing Kelly Johnson

For the second straight year, the Mets entered the season with questionable depth.  The result of the questionable depth last year was the Mets were forced to raid their minor league pitching depth to build a bench and a bullpen.  Overall, the Mets traded away Robert Whalen, John Gant, Casey Meisner, Michael Fulmer, Luis Cessa, Dawrin Frias, Miller Diaz, and Matt Koch.  The end result was a National League Pennant and only one player under contract beyond 2015.

The Mets had the whole offseason to make sure that didn’t happen again.  They didn’t.  The team decided not to re-sign Kelly Johnson, and they waived Ruben Tejada.  The end result was the Mets started the year with Eric Campbell on the 25 man roster.  Keep in mind, the 2015 Mets which supposedly had less depth had Campbell in the minor league system.

Unfortunately, Campbell did not reward the faith the Mets placed in him.  Campbell hit .159/.270/.222.  The Mets were forced to move on from him.  Next up was Ty Kelly, who the Mets signed to a minor league deal over the winter, and Kelly hit .111/.200/.111.  Another option was Matt Reynolds, who is still up with the team, who is currently hitting .167/.231/.167.  By the way, the Mets have now made it readily apparent they are not going to give T.J. Rivera a shot.  Long story short there are kiddie pools with more depth than what the 2016 Mets had this season.  Accordingly, the Mets were in a position where they were forced to make a move to improve their depth.

Today, the Mets traded away Akeel Morris for Kelly Johnson.  This is the same Kelly Johnson the Mets thought Eric Campbell was better than in the offseason.  This is the same Kelly Johnson who is currently hitting .215/.273/.289 this year.

Again, the Mets could have signed him in the offseason and not forfeited a prospect in return.  Either the Mets thought Campbell was a better player and were wrong, or they made a money decision.  There is roughly a $1.5 million difference between Campbell’s and Johnson’s salaries, and the Mets did release Tejada before the season in an effort to save money.  Keep in mind, the Mets not only obtained Campbell in the deal, but as per Jon Heyman, the Mets also received some money in the deal as well.  Because of the Mets penny wise pound foolish decisions, the Mets once again had to dip into their minor league system to address their poor depth.

This time the cost was Akeel Morris.  Last year, Morris was terrific in his 23 appearance in AA.  He went 0-1 with a 2.45 ERA and a 1.091 WHIP.  This year, for the first time in his major league career, he is struggling.  In his 22 appearances, he is 2-2 with a 4.62 ERA and a 1.382 WHIP.  Lost in those stats is Morris’ stuff.  He can get his fastball up to 95, and he has a good changeup.  With his ability to strike people out, he could have been a late inning reliever.  With the development of another pitch, like the Warthen slider, he would be. If he does reach his potential, it will be with another organization as the Mets decided they desperately needed someone who is hitting worse than Kevin Plawecki this year.

Regardless of his struggles, Johnson is an upgrade over what the Mets have been playing lately. Johnson may also benefit from returning to a team where he played well last year.  If Johnson does play well, it’ll be a reminder the Mets should not have let him sign elsewhere in the offseason.  It will be a reminder that the mistake the Mets made a mistake in thinking Campbell was the best choice for the bench. Ultimately, the cost of that mistake is the career of Akeel Morris.

You Do Realize Ruben Tejada Is an Improvement, Right?

One thing I’m shocked by is the amount of people who don’t want to take a flyer on a reunion with Ruben Tejada.

Here’s what we know to be true about Tejada:

  1. He’s not a great defender at second, third, or short;
  2. He doesn’t hit for power; and
  3. He’s much better than Eric Campbell, Ty Kelly, and Matt Reynolds

The third point is the key. If a team has an opportunity to improve its roster, isn’t it incumbent upon them to get better?  Remember, the Mets have an obligation to the team and the fans to put the best possible team on the field that they can. So long as they’re letting Reynolds, Kelly, or Campbell player over an available Tejada, they’re not doing that.

No, Tejada doesn’t solve the third base issue. Ideally, you don’t want him playing everyday. However, in that same ideal world, Ty Kelly isn’t playing third yesterday and grounding into two rally killing double plays.

Right now, the Mets need a lot more than Tejada. They need Travis d’Arnaud, Lucas Duda, and David Wright. In the event they aren’t coming back anytime soon, and that seems like a possibility more and more each passing day, the Mets need to find real long term replacements. Unfortunately, these replacements are not on the roster.

The issue is the trade market for these players may just now be developing. The teams in possession of those assets may be holding on to them for a little longer to try to get more teams involved in the bidding to try to drive the price up. Theoretically, this means the Mets may not be able to get anyone for another month or so. While the Mets wait, they’re stuck with the Kellys, the Reynolds, and the Campbells of the world.

Why do we need to watch Campbell hit .159, Reynolds hit .100, and Kelly hit .118 when Tejada is available for nothing?  Is there really anyone that really believes Tejada’s career .254/.328/.322 slash line isn’t better than what the Mets are currently sending out there on a daily basis?  The answer should be a resounding “NO!”

Tejada is an improvement, and he’s more than just an incremental improvement. He’s also an improvement that can be in place tomorrow. He’s not the final solution. He’s a stop gap. His contract is up at the end of the year, and you only owe him a prorated portion of a $1.5 million contract. Tejada won’t stand in the way of another move.

In the end, Tejada is not THE solution. He’s just much better than Kelly, Reynolds, or Campbell. Tejada gives you the ability to put a much better player out there than what the Mets currently are putting out there until such time as the injured Mets get healthy or you make a move for a better player. Just because the Mets need someone better than Tejada, it doesn’t mean you should continue to trot out much weaker players like Reynolds, Campbell, or Kelly in the interim.

No, the Mets need better players than Kelly, Reynolds, and Campbell. Tejada is better than them. He should be claimed off waivers and play until such time that the Mets get a player better than him.

If you don’t want Tejada, you’re saying Reynolds, Campbell, and Kelly are better players. Unfortunately, there’s noting to justify that opinion other than a sheer dislike of Tejada.

Possible David Wright Replacements

Despite the spinal stenosis, David Wright was playing well in 2016. He was hitting .226/.350/.438 with seven homeruns and 14 RBI. He had hit homeruns in three straight games before it was discovered he had a herniated disc in his neck. It was a cruel setback for a player who has worked so hard to get back to this point. It leaves everyone questioning if this is the straw that will break the camel’s back. If it is, or if Wright needs another lengthy stint on the disabled list, the Mets are going to have to find a long term solution to third base.

Internal Options

Wilmer Flores. Going into this season, the Mets tabbed Flores to be the main backup at four infield positions. With Wright needing days off here and there due to the spinal stenosis, it was presumed Flores would play a lot of third base. At the outset, Flores appears to be the player who will get the first crack at the position. However, if he continues hitting .167/.231/.267, the Mets are going to be forced to turn in another direction.

T.J. Rivera. Eric Campbell already had his shot, and he hit .159/.270/.222 leading him to be designated for assignment. Matt Reynolds had a brief call-up and he hit .100/.182/.100 in limited duty. The revolving door has now brought us to Ty Kelly, who is hitting .167/.231/.167 in limited duty. While this triumvirate has been given the opportunities and failed to hit, Rivera stays in AAA hitting .364/.399/.535. Sooner or later, he’s going to get a shot to play in the majors with the way he has been playing.

Gavin Cecchini. The former Mets 2012 first round pick is currently hitting .308/.390/.400 in his first season in AAA. The issue is in his minor league career, Cecchini has only played SS. If he gets called up, the Mets would have to choose between playing him at a position he has never played before or making him the SS while Asdrubal Cabrera moves to third, where he has only played one inning in his major league career.

Dilson Herrera. The Mets could elect to call-up Herrera to play second while sliding their second basemen to third like they have the past few seasons. The issue here is Herrera is not raking in AAA the way he usually does, and Neil Walker hasn’t played third base regularly in his big league career, and he hasn’t played there in six years. 

External Options

If you are going to make a move at this point, you are really only going to be able to obtain a player from a team that is completely out of the pennant race, or a player that has been designated for assignment. With the current two Wild Card format, a safe line of demarcation is any team 10 games or more out of first place is out of contention. Looking over the standings, that would mean the Minnesota Twins, Atlanta Braves, Milwaukee Brewers, Cincinnati Reds (who have nothing of value), and the San Diego Padres. Of course, due consideration should be given to the Oakland Athletics, who are always ready, willing, and able to make a trade.

Trevor Plouffe. Plouffe is one of the many reasons the Twins are having a down year as he is hitting .246/.273/.369. For his career, he’s a .245/.307/.417 hitter. As such, he’s not going to resolve any of the Mets offensive problems. Also, as per UZR and DRS, he has only been an adequate defensive third baseman meaning he doesn’t have the superior defense to carry his bat.

Eduardo Nunez. The former Yankee is having a nice year for the Twins hitting .340/.367/.507 in 42 games. This year he has mostly played third and shortstop. In the event Wright does come back, Nunez can be a valuable utility player. The main issue with the 29 year old Nunez is that he will not be cheap as he still has a couple of cost controlled years before he becomes a free agent in 2018.

Kelly Johnson. Johnson was a valuable bench piece for the Mets last year hitting .250/.304/.414. The benefits are you know he can play in New York, and he should not be expensive. The downside is he’s hitting .218/.279/.307 this year.

Gordon Beckam. While Beckham has never quite lived up to the hype, he is having a good year this year as a utility player for the Braves playing second, third, and short. The career .244/.307/.374 hitter is hitting .293/.393/.446 this year for the Braves. Maybe it’s the small sample size of 30 games, maybe it’s the change to the National League, but Beckham is a better offensive player this year.

Aaron Hill. Hill is having a tremendous year as the Brewers’ third baseman this year hitting .275/.351/436. He’s also capable of played second in his career. The main sticking point with Hill is his salary. He is earning $12 million this year with the Arizona Diamondbacks paying $6.5 million of that. If the Mets were to obtain Hill, they would have to take on the prorated portion of the $5.5 million the Brewers are paying him or part with additional prospects to get the Brewers to eat some of that salary.

Brett Wallace. Wallace is a left-hand hitting third baseman. He has bounced around as he has never reached his full potential at the plate. He has also been a below average fielder wherever he has played, including third base. He seems to have found a home as a Padre these past two seasons. This year he is hitting .219/.379/.381. The issue with him is he’s still a cost-controlled player just entering his arbitration years.

Yangervis Solarte. Former Met Roger Cedeno‘s nephew, Solarte, is hitting .300/.397/.600 this year while playing mostly third base. He is a versatile player with a good bat. He is only making $525,000 this year, and he’s not arbitration eligible until 2017. If you want him, you’re going to have to pry him away from the Padres. Remember, this is the same Padres front office that rejected Michael Fulmer for Justin Upton. Solarte would be a great fit for the Mets, but it is unlikely the Mets are going to be willing to pay the price of what it’ll take to acquire him.

Ruben Tejada. Simply put, Tejada is a major league caliber player that is better suited to playing shortstop. He was a career .255/.320/.323 hitter on the Mets. He played poorly with the Cardinals hitting .176/.225/.235 before being released. He’s better suited for the bench than he is as the third base option. Even if he’s not the third base solution the Mets should claim him and put him on the bench. 

Jed Lowrie. Lowrie is in the midst of a good season hitting .309/.351/.360 for the Athletics. He is capable of playing second, third, or shortstop. However, he has little power, and he is in the middle of a relatively large contract that pays him $7.5 million this year and $6 million next year with a team option/buyout in 2018.

Danny Valencia. Valencia is having a terrific year this year hitting .333/.370/.558 while playing third base for the the Athletics. He has an extremely reasonable $3.15 million salary this year. However, that is part of the problem. He has a reasonable salary this year, and he is under team control until 2018. Given the way Billy Beane does business, he will be extremely expensive.

Overall, that is the problem. If Wright is really going to miss a significant amount of time for the second straight season, the Mets are going to need a real long term solution. If the Mets enter the trade market and pay high prices for good, quality players like Solarte and Valencia. For the most part, you are looking to trade with a Brewers franchise you cancelling a trade with last year, or a Padres or Athletics team that really drives a hard bargain. That leaves the Mets in a very difficult situtation. Therefore, for the time being, the most prudent course might be to see if Flores can handle the position defensively and offensively. If he doesn’t the Mets will need to make a big trade just like they did last year. If that time should come, hopefully, they will have the pieces necessary to make that happen.

Editor’s Note: this was also published on metsmerizedonline.com