Steven Matz

Curtis Granderson Believed This Would Happen

After the 2013 season, Curtis Granderson was really a free agent for the first time in his career. While Granderson was always durable, he was coming off an injury plagued season that was the result of getting hit by two pitches. In the prior to season for the Yankees, Granderson was coming off consecutive 40 home run seasons. In fact over that two year stretch, Granderson led the majors with 84 homers. With that in mind, Granderson was one of the most coveted free agents on the free agent market.

To that end, it is surprising that a player like Granderson who had mostly played for good teams in his career would opt to go a Mets team coming who never had a winning record since moving to Citi Field. Moreover, it was surprising that a power hitter like Granderson was so willing to move to the cavernous dimensions of Citi Field.

And yet, Granderson signed a four year deal to become the Mets right fielder. Why?

Well as Granderson told MLB Network during their 30 Clubs 30 Days feature on the Mets, “I was optimistic it was going to happen. Sandy Alderson and the Mets organization told me about the young guys – the Matz’s, the Syndergaard’s, I had see Harvey, the deGrom’s – and all of a sudden here they are. Not only are they here but they’re here to stay. They all piggyback off of each other and do an amazing job.”

Either Sandy did a great job selling, or Granderson just has an eye for talent because heading into the 2014 season things were not that optimistic.

Matt Harvey‘s incredible 2013 season was cut short with him needing Tommy John surgery. Noah Syndergaard was not yet dominating in the minor leagues despite having terrific stuff. Steven Matz was just coming back from pitching after what had been an arduous Tommy John rehabilitation.

Now, Zack Wheeler was coming off a promising season, and Rafael Montero promised to be the next big thing. While Granderson mentioned Jacob deGrom, if we are being honest, no one knew what he was yet. Certainly, not the Mets as they had deGrom lower on the depth chart than Montero.

Despite all of that, Granderson was right, it has all worked out. Even better, the Mets have pitchers like Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo who have developed into good pitchers while Granderson has been a Met. Behind them are pitchers like Thomas Szapucki and Justin Dunn.

Back in 2013, this was the image of the Mets Alderson presented to Granderson. To his credit, Granderson bought in and signed with the Mets. To Alderson’s credit, he not only delivered, but he keeps delivering.

As Granderson enters the last year of his four year contract, it is important to remember he was the first free agent that believed the Mets could one day be World Series contenders. Not only did he sign with the Mets based upon that belief, but he has also been an important contributor to this Mets team both on the field and in the clubhouse. In many ways, the Granderson signing was a pivotal moment. It was the time that the Mets starting the process of going from a rebuilding team to a World Series contender. It was also the time when someone started believing in this team.

And To Think That I Saw It At Citi Field

* adapted from “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” by Dr. Seuss

When I leave home to go to Citi Field,
Dad always says to me,
“John, keep your eyelids up
And see what you can see.”

But when I tell him where I’ve sat
And what happened each at-bat,
He looks at me and sternly says,
“You did not see all of that.

Stop telling such an outlandish story.
Juan Lagares cannot cover that much territory.”

Now, what can I say
About what I saw today?

All the long way to the game
And all the way back,
I’ve looked and I’ve looked
From the outfield to the bat rack,
But all that I’ve noticed,
Except the green infield,
Was d’arnaud and Matz
At Citi Field

That’s nothing to tell of,
That won’t do, I know . . .
Just the starting pitcher Steven Matz
Hurling pitches to Travis d’Arnaud.

That can’t be my story.  That’s only a start.
I’ll say that a GAZELLE was pitching instead of a Bart!
Add that is a story that no one can beat,
When I say that I saw it at Citi Field.

Yes, the Gazelle is fine,
He gives batters a migraine,
There’s another marvelous pitcher
Who’s stuff is much more insane.
The story could be so much more
If the pitcher I saw were Thor.
An orange and blue capped pitcher’s fastballs are profound,
Rumbling like thunder from the mound!

No, it won’t do at all . . .
There’s another with the ball.

Zack Wheeler is better;
He’s come back round,
And he’s ready to for a start
On the Citi Field mound

Hold on a minute!
There’s something wrong!
The bullpen is the place for this dealer
It’s off to the bullpen for Zack Wheeler,

It’d be much better, it might,
If the start went to the Dark Knight.

Hmmm . . . A Dark Knight . . .
Say – anyone could think of that,
Dick or Kevin or Dan or Pat
Say, even Terry could think of that.

But it isn’t too late to make one little change.
This story is about Yoenis Cespedes!  No longer on the driving range!

He’s got plenty of power and size,
You can see the opposing pitcher with fear in his eyes.
A then, the sound system emits a loud tone,
Cespedes the Lion King!  Perched high on a throne!

Say!  That makes a batter that no one can heel,
When I say that I saw it at Citi Field.

But now I don’t know . . .
It still doesn’t seem right.

A Cespedes swinging a bat that’s so light
Would hit balls around in the air like a kite.

But he’d look simply extreme
With a great New York Mets team!

A team that’s that good should have someone to see it,
Wins coming so fast, the Nationals finding it hard to keep near it.
Nationals always the trailer!  They’ll be out of their mind
Not even Daniel Murphy can get them out from behind.

But now is if fair?  Is it fair what I’ve done?
Before they take the field, they’ve already won.
That’s really too heavy a load for one beast;
I’ll give him some helpers.  He needs two, at least.

Michael Conforto to do the trick,
To guide them after the intentional walk schtick –
It takes a lineup to do the trick.
They’ll never lose now.  They’ll race at top speed
With Curtis Granderson, himself, in the lead.

The Manager is there
And he thinks it is grand,
And he raises his hat
As they rise from their seats in the stands.

The Manager is there
Sandy Alderson too,
All waving big banners
The stands are becoming a zoo.

And that is a team whose championship is sealed
When I say that I saw it at Citi Field!

With a roar of its motor an airplane appears
The pitcher steps off the mound and everyone jeers.

And that makes a story that’s really not bad!
But it still could be better.  Suppose that I add . . . . . . . . .

. . . A David Wright
Who can stay upright . . .

A big Duda
Swinging sticks . . .

A Jacob deGrom
And his garden gnome . . .

No time for more,
Cespedes’ coming home.

He swung ’round third base
And dashed towards the plate,
The Mets ran up the steps
And I felt simply GREAT!

FOR I HAD A STORY THAT NO ONE COULD YIELD!
AND TO THINK THAT I SAW IT AT CITI FIELD!

But Dad said quite calmly,
“Take the parking pass off the windshield
And tell me the sights
That you saw at Citi Field”

There was so much to tell, I JUST COULDN’T BEGIN!
Dad looked at me sharply stroking the beard at his chin.
He frowned at me sternly from there from the front seat,
“Was there nothing to look at . . . no great feat?
Did nothing excite you or make you jump out of your seat?”

“Nothing,” I said, now becoming more even-keeled,
“But a Matz pitching to d’Aranud at Citi Field.”

The End.

Last year’s story “One Strike, Two Strikes, Three Strikes, You’re Out!” can be found here

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

 

Now Is Not The Time To Extend Neil Walker

Recent reports state the Mets and Neil Walker are in the midst of extending Walker’s current one year $17.2 million deal into a three year deal that may be worth north of $40 million.  Now, if Walker is truly healthy and capable of repeating the numbers he put up in 2016, this deal could very well be a massive discount for the Mets.  But, we don’t know if he can.  It’s one of a few reasons why this may not be the time to extend Walker.

Declining Production Against RHP

Much has been made about the turn-around Walker had as a right-handed hitter.  Overall, he was a completely different hitter from that side of the plate.  The improvement from the right-hand side of the plate masked Walker’s three-year decline as a left-handed hitter:

  • 2014: .269/.339/.491
  • 2015: .276/.337/.456
  • 2016: .266/.333/.433

Now, it is possible this was the result of the back issues.  It also could be the result of what could be the natural continual decline of a now 31 year old player. Fact is, it is too soon to know, and if that is the case, how can you re-invest in that player?

Mets Prospects

If Walker was not extended, he is going to be a free agent along with the teams first baseman Lucas Duda.  The Mets also have an $8.5 team option on Asdrubal Cabrera.  Potentially, the only infielder that could be back next season is David Wright, who no one can count on to play a full season.  On the surface, this is very problematic.

Any concerns that are raised by the pending free agents should be alleviated by the depth of the Mets farm system.  For example, the Las Vegas 51s infield will be loaded:

Rivera is the least regarded prospect of the group, and we just saw him hit .358/.378/.552 with two doubles a triple, three homers, and 13 RBI when he took over second base in September.  Coincidentally, Rivera was put in that spot due to the injuries to both Walker and Wilmer Flores.

Rivera could be competing for a spot at second base with Cecchini, Flores, or possibly Cabrera.  If the Mets pick up Cabrera’s option, he could slide to second while Rosario takes over at shortstop.  Overall, even without Walker, the Mets have plenty of middle infield options remaining, and that is before you take into account the possibility Jose Reyes re-signs with the team.

Regardless of the infield permutations in 2018, it seems reasonable to assume the infield will incorporate both Smith and Rosario.  With those two being major league ready next year, the Mets re-signing Walker becomes much less of a priority.

Signing The Starting Pitchers

The young players being able to step in and contribute is important because these players will be extremely cheap.  Whereas Walker would probably demand an average annual value of approximately $13+ million per season, Cecchini, Rivera, and Rosario would cost around $500,000.  That’s a significant difference.  And the Mets can use that money.

Matt Harvey is due to be a free agent after the 2018 season.  Zack Wheeler will be a free agent the following year.  Jacob deGrom will be in his final arbitration year the year Wheeler hits free agency.  Noah Syndergaard will be arbitration eligible next year, and Steven Matz will be arbitration eligible the following year.

These pitchers are about to become extremely expensive.  Considering they are the foundation of the Mets success, the Mets need the payroll room to re-sign them and pay them what they will earn in arbitration.  Giving $13 million or more to Walker potentially impedes with the Mets ability to pay their pitching.  This isn’t a matter of the Mets still being considered to be on austerity; it is a matter of the Mets only being able to spend so much money.

Walker being paid $13 million certainly stands in the way of that happening.  If Walker is not capable of playing everyday, or has diminishing skills like most players in their mid 30s, that will create an even bigger issue.

Walker Is An Unknown

If Walker is healthy, he is an All Star caliber player at second base.  Regardless of the prospects in place, Walker certainly gives the Mets a safer choice.  In fact, Walker could provide the Mets with a better bat than the aforementioned prospects.  For a team that is considered a World Series contender, Walker could be an important piece of the puzzle.

However, no one knows what he will be after his discectomy.  He could remain healthy, but he could show some effects of the surgery leading to decreased mobility and power at the plate.  He could suffer another herniation leading to him needing more surgery.  Presumably, he could show no ill effects, and he could return to form.  At this point, no one knows, nor can anyone be confident in what Walker will be when he steps foot in the field.

This may be a case where it is better to see Walker play now and have to pay more later.  It would be better to pay a production player closer to market value than to try to get a discount and be stuck with an albatross of a contract the next few seasons.  Given the depth of the Mets farm system, you really have to question whether this is a worthwhile or necessary gamble.

The Five Aces Still May Not Pitch in the Same Rotation

Well, it has finally happened.  With Pitchers and Catchers reporting, the Mets dream rotation all has major league experience, and they are all healthy at the same time.  For a fan base that never got to see Jason Isringhausen, Paul Wilson, and Bill Pulsipher all pitch together in the same rotation, this is no small event.

In fact, this is a momentous occasion where some demons can be slain, and yet, there is some debate over whether we will see each and every single one of these pitchers pitch in the same rotation:

Matt Harvey is coming off surgery to alleviate the symptoms of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS).  This surgery does not have the same history as Tommy John, so while there is always reason to believe in Harvey due to his drive and determination, there is some doubt as to how TOS will affect him in the future.

Jacob deGrom is coming off surgery to re-position his ulnar nerve.  As far as pitcher elbow surgeries, this is as easy as it gets.  And yet, whenever a pitcher gets elbow surgery, especially when that pitcher has once had Tommy John surgery, it gives you pause.

Steven Matz has pitched in the majors for parts of two seasons, and he was injury prone in both of those seasons.  Last season, it was a surgery to remove what was categorized as a massive bone spur.  Now that it is gone, he should be free and clear to resume being the pitcher we think he can be.  Still, he is one more injury away from us questioning if he, like Travis d’Arnaud, will ever be healthy.

Zack Wheeler has not taken the mound in over two seasons due to his Tommy John and his difficulties and setbacks during the rehabilitation process.  Fortunately, he seems ready to go, but he is at this point, we have no idea.

Noah Syndergaard has largely come through two seasons unscathed, and he has emerged as the staff ace.  And yet, with his being a pitcher, moreover his being a Mets pitcher, you hold your breath.  While you get excited about him adding muscle and his talk about wanting to throw harder, it should also give you some nervousness.

And yet despite all of these concerns and red flags, this is a great day.  The dream that was set in motion with the Carlos Beltran and R.A. Dickey trades is close to coming to fruition.  And with these five pitchers going to the mound, it is going to be extremely difficult for the opposition to out-pitch this quintet.  It is going to be even harder to beat the Mets when they take the mound.

At some point during the season, we will see all five of these pitchers in the rotation, and if we don’t that might be good news.  The reason?  Well, it could be because either Robert Gsellman or Seth Lugo won a job in the rotation, and they pitched well enough the Mets are loathe to move them out of the rotation.

If the Mets truly have seven pitchers capable of being in THIS starting rotation, the Mets should be primed for a great 2017 season.

Trivia Friday – Players Not On the Opening Day Roster

Last year, the New York Mets began the season with Eric Campbell on the Opening Day roster as the final bench piece.  As the season progressed, and players like David Wright and Lucas Duda went down with injury, the Mets had to go deeper and deeper into their farm system and bring players in to play.  There were similar issues with Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz needing season ending surgeries.

In total, the Mets needed 21 additional players that did not start the season on Opening Day roster.  Can you name them?  Good luck!


James Loney Jose Reyes Rene Rivera Kelly Johnson Jay Bruce T.J. Rivera Matt Reynolds Brandon Nimmo Ty Kelly Justin Ruggiano Gavin Cecchini Seth Lugo Robert Gsellman Rafael Montero Gabriel Ynoa Josh Smoker Jon Niese Josh Edgin Sean Gilmartin Fernando Salas Erik Goeddel

Jeremy Hefer and the Highs And Lows of Baseball

At the same time, baseball can be beautiful, and it can be a cruel sport with absolutely no forgiveness whatsoever.  When you are discussing pitchers, the highs can reach into the heavens and the lows seem to abut the depths of hell.  Perhaps no one knows this better than Jeremy Hefner.

For those unaware, the former Mets pitcher announced his retirement from baseball.

In his announcement on Facebook, Hefner said he was retiring because he needs yet another surgery.  This surgery would be to repair a partially torn rotator cuff in his pitching shoulder.  Hefner tried rest twice, but it didn’t work.  If he is going to continue his career as a baseball player, he will need to have another surgery.

And with Hefner, we learned that surgery isn’t routine.  Back in 2013, when seemingly everyone was pushing Matt Harvey to just accept his fate and get Tommy John surgery, Hefner had already decided to have his surgery.  He was actually ahead of Harvey in the rehabilitation process.  While Harvey was chomping at the bit to try to pitch for the Mets at the end of the 2014 season, it was Hefner who would actually get that chance.

Catastrophe struck.  Whatever the cause, whatever the reason, Hefner suffered a stress fracture and a second tear of his UCL, which required a second Tommy John surgery.  In baseball today, Tommy John isn’t seen as major reconstructive surgery.  Rather, the surgery itself and the rehab required to pitch again is seen as routine.  Hefner proved it was anything but.

With Hefner needing a second surgery, the Mets needed to move on.  In some sense it was strange seeing the Mets move on from Hefner because he was a player they had coveted.  Hefner was twice drafted by the team, but he never signed with them.  After he was waived by the Pirates and the Padres in 2011, the Mets picked him up, and they put him on the path to the majors.  When Hefner suffered his first UCL, the Mets believed it was worth the $500,000 to keep him around for a season of rehab.  But with the second surgery, he was gone.

During this time frame, it was hard to remember all of the high points in Hefner’s career.  In fact, Hefner was actually the answer to a trivia question as he had done something in baseball that no one had ever done before.

On April 23, 2012, Hefner made his debut as a reliever in the first game of a doubleheader between the Mets and the Giants.  When Hefner entered the game, he was the first ever 26th man on the roster to play in a major league game.  In essence, Hefner became the 21st Century version of Ron Blomberg

The first ever batter Hefner faced was Buster Posey, a player who is one of the best baseball players in the game today.  Hefner got Posey to ground-out to shortstop.  It was all part of an impressive three scoreless inning relief appearance.  Due to the quirks of the 26th Man Rule, Hefner would go back to AAA after the game.  It would not be the last the Mets heard from him.

On May 19th, Hefner once again had to enter a game to bail out Miguel Batista.  During this five inning relief appearance, Hefner would record his first ever strike out by getting Edwin Encarnacion swinging.  On May 24th, Hefner would make his first ever start against the San Diego Padres.  Then, on May 29th, Hefner would pitch six strong innings against the reigning NL East Champion Philadelphia Phillies to record his first ever major league win.  However, that May 29th game would be remembered for more than just his first win:

During that entire 2012 season, Hefner showed the Mets enough for them to make him a part of their future.  In fact, Hefner would be part of the Opening Day rotation.  Hefner proved he belonged.  In a stretch from April 25th to July 12th, he had made 15 starts going 4-4 with a 2.78 ERA and a 1.053 WHIP.  He had a 7:2 strikeout to walk ratio.  He was averaging over six innings per start.  Especially in a time where Jacob deGrom had yet to establish himself, Noah Syndergaard was in A ball, Steven Matz was dealing with his own Tommy John issues, and Bartolo Colon was an Oakland Athletic, Hefner was showing the Mets he could be a part of this Mets pitching staff over the long haul.

Hefner showed everyone he was a major league pitcher.

While these highs were great, there is one thing that stands out to me about Hefner – his perseverance.  After facing the daunting task of having had two Tommy John surgeries, not having thrown a pitch in a major league game in over two years, and with his being released by the Mets, he didn’t give up.  He would pitch, and pitch well, in Winter Ball at the end of 2015.  He showed enough for the St. Louis Cardinals to sign him to a minor league contract.

While he pitched well through April, the injuries, new and old, began to catch up with him.  He would struggle, be released, and now, he finds himself as a retired baseball player.  Hopefully, Hefner finds himself a retired baseball player who is proud of all that he accomplished in his career.

Hefner not only got the chance to pitch in the major leagues.  It’s all the more impressive when you consider about 30% of fifth rounders even play in the major leagues.  Hefner was part of an Opening Day rotation for a franchise known for its pitching.  Hefner has not only collected a win, but he also has a home run to his credit.  In fact, Hefner did something in the major leagues no one had ever done before.

Overall, Hefner had an all too brief career, but it was a career of consequence.  It was a career with highlights.  It was a career, he should feel pride in having.

2016 Mets Auld Lang Syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot (Bartolo Colon)

And never brought to mind (Antonio Bastardo)

Should auld acquaintance be forgot (Jon Niese)

And days of auld lang syne.  (Wild Card Game)

And there’s a hand (Matt Harvey), my trust friend (Curtis Granderson)

And gie’s a hand to thine (Steven Matz)

We’ll take a cup of kindness yet (Wilpons)

For auld lang syne (1986 Mets)

Andrew McCutchen Would Be A Gamble

Until the 2016 season, Andrew McCutchen was considered a superstar, and given his part in the Pirates resurgence from their 21 consecutive losing seasons, he was one of the most important players in baseball.  This is reflected in McCutchen finishing in the Top 5 in National League MVP voting for four consecutive seasons with him winning the award in 2013.

In his career, McCutchen is a .292/.381/.487 hitter who averages 24 homers and 87 RBI.  With that type of production from a center fielder, the two years $18.75 million remaining on his contract is an absolute bargain.  Arguably, this should make him the most untouchable player in baseball.  That should go double when you consider the Pirates are a team that should compete for a playoff spot next year.  Despite all of that, the Pirates have let it be known they are willing to trade McCutchen for the right price this offseason.  What happened?

For starters, the 29 year old McCutchen had the worst year of his career in 2016.  In 153 games, McCutchen hit .256/.336/.430 with 24 homers and 79 RBI.  For a player that averaged a 6.4 WAR from 2011 – 2015, McCutchen’s -0.7 WAR in 2016 was startling.

One major reason for the drop-off was McCutchen’s WAR and value was mostly driven by his bat.  In reality, aside from 2013, McCutchen has never been an even decent center fielder.  In his eight year career, he has averaged a -7 DRS and a -5.9 UZR in center.  Over the last three years, those numbers were even worse with him averaging a -16 DRS and a -11.3 UZR in center.  Last season was the nadir with his -28 DRS and -18.7 UZR.  Overall, these numbers don’t suggest, they scream McCutchen belongs in a corner outfield position.

Now, it has been suggested McCutchen is being positioned too shallow in center, and that has had an impact on his defensive metrics.  As a point of reference, the Chicago Cubs moved Dexter Fowler deeper in center field in 2016, and the results were notable.  Fowler went from a -12 DRS and a -1.8 UZR in 2015 to a 1 DRS and 1.0 UZR in 2016.  While one year defensive metrics are typically unreliable, the results at least suggest there is room for improvement for McCutchen as a center fielder.  The question is whether re-positioning him in center is enough, especially with McCutchen having previously dealt with knee issues that affected him at the plate and the field.

There may also be a reasonable explanation for his struggles at the plate last season.  While unsubstantiated elsewhere, Pirates blog Rum Bunter suggested McCutchen was dealing with a wrist injury in the beginning of the season.  Not knowing when it happened, it is at least plausible McCutchen was dealing with an issue whether it was the wrist, his knees, or some other undisclosed injury.  Up until July 31st, McCutchen was hitting .241/.311/.408 with 15 homers and 43 RBI.  After taking a few days off in the beginning of August, McCutchen seemed to return to the form we’ve expected from him.  From August 5th to the end of the season, he hit .284/.381/.471 with nine homers and 36 RBI.

If you look at the end of the season McCutchen, you see some legitimate hope he could bounce back to the MVP level player he has been for most of his career.  Still with knee and other issues, do you gamble on a 30 year old player regaining his superstar form, or do you gamble on your own prospects?

With Rob Biertempfel of Trib Live reporting the Pirates asked the Nationals for Lucas Giolito, who was part of the Adam Eaton trade, and Victor Robles in exchange for McCutchen, you know the price to obtain McCutchen is going to be steep.  A comparable offer for the Mets would be Steven Matz and Michael Conforto, which is a price the Mets may not be willing to pay.

Nor should they.  Ultimately, the litmus test is whether you are willing to gamble six years of Conforto for two of McCutchen.  Do you believe that Conforto can similarly rebound from his wrist injury in the same way McCutchen did in August?  Do you believe the McCutchen can improve defensively at 30 years old?  Do you believe McCutchen would be better suited to center field than either Conforto or Curtis Granderson?

Even if you answer yes to all of these and many other non-posed questions, are you willing to include a potential front line starting pitcher and possibly other pieces to find out if you’re right?  That’s the dilemma in trading for McCutchen.  If you’re right, you could have an MVP player that could help the Mets win a World Series.  If you’re wrong, you’ve given up a huge part of your future for something you already had in Granderson.

Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Merized Online.

A Mets Carol

On a cold and blustery Christmas Eve night at Citi Field, faithful manager Terry Collins enters Fred Wilpon’s office.

Terry: I just wanted to stop on my way out to wish you and your family a happy holiday, and I just wanted to let you know I look forward to working with you and Sandy to help build a Mets team that can go to the World Series again.

Fred: What do you mean build?

Terry:  Well, there are a few areas I was hoping to address.  With Fernando Salas and Jerry Blevins free agents, we need a couple of relievers in the bullpen, and –

Fred: Relievers?  I just gave you two guys last week!

Terry: I know, but those were minor league deals.

Fred: I don’t get it.  After Madoff, I’ve done all I could do to get my money back, and now everyone wants me to just give it away.

Terry:  Well, we do owe the fans.

Fred:  Seriously?

Terry:  Well, I guess not.  Anyway, happy holidays, and I look forward to next season.

Fred: Bah!

Not long after Terry leaves, Fred Wilpon leaves Citi Field, and he begins his drive to Greenwich.  He pulls up to a stately manor that hasn’t been renovated since 2008.  He makes his way into the bedroom, and before he can turn on the lights, he hears a ghostly whisper coming from behind him.  It sounds like his name, but he initially can’t quite make it out.  Suddenly, as if out of nowhere a figure emerges.

Fred: No, it can’t be.  Is that really you?

M. Donald Grant: It is.

Fred: But, you’re dead.  How?  How?

M. Donald Grant: I’ve come here to deliver a message.

Fred: What?

M. Donald Grant: Remember when I was alive, I won a World Series, and then I refused pay raises to everyone.  Remember when I shipped Tom Seaver and everyone of value out of town?

Fred: All while keeping the team profitable!

M. Donald Grant: Yup, I mean no.  No!  I was wrong, and now I have to watch the 1962 Mets over and over again.  But worse, I have to give the players raises after each and every game despite no one coming to the ballpark!

Fred: The horror.

M. Donald Grant: And if you don’t change, your fate will be worse than mine.

Fred: No . . . NO! . . .  You’ve got to save me.

M. Donald Grant: Tonight, you will be visited by three spirits.  Listen to them!  Do what they say!  Or you will be cursed for eternity.

And with that the apparition of Grant faded away leaving Fred frightened in his room.  A few times he splashed cold water on his face and pinched himself to make sure he wasn’t dreaming.  Still shaken, Fred made his way to bed.  After a while, his fatigue got the better of his anxiety, and he faded to sleep.  Then there was a loud noise like the roar of the crowd.  It jostled Fred from his sleep.  Still groggy, he looked out and couldn’t believe the figure before him.

Fred: No, it can’t be.  Is it really you Gary?

Before Fred was Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter.  Back in 1985, when Fred had just a small interest in the team, the Mets traded for Carter in the hopes that he would put the Mets over the top.  Eventually, Carter did with the Mets winning the 1986 World Series. Notably, Carter started the game winning two out rally in the bottom of the 10th to allow the Mets to force a Game 7.

Gary: It’s really me Fred.  I’m now the Ghost of Baseball Past.

Fred: Am I dead?

Gary:  No, you’re not.  I’m here to show you what things used to be like before you changed the way you did business with the Mets.

With that Gary, took a swing of the bat creating a cloud of dust and smoke all over the room.  As the dust settled, the Mets found themselves back in a sold out Shea Stadium.

Fred: What a dump!

Gary: You didn’t always think so.  In fact, you used to love coming here.  Back in the 80s, Shea Stadium was the place to be.  Those Mets teams were stacked with players like me, Keith Hernandez, Darryl Strawberry, and tonight’s starter Dwight Gooden.

Fred:  Those Gooden starts were something special.  No one could beat us then, and we knew it.  We never could quite capture the magic from those teams again, but that was something special.

Gary:  This is how things used to be.  It was always this way.  You did it again when you signed Mike Piazza, except you didn’t just sign him.  You surrounded him with good players like Robin Ventura and Edgardo Alfonzo.  That team came close.  You did it again with Carlos Beltran.  You spent the extra dollar to get a truly great player.  You then added players like Carlos Delgado and Johan Santana to try to get it done.  It didn’t work, but the fans came.  More importantly, everyone respected you for it.

Fred: But they don’t understand.

Gary: Let’s see what happened next.

With a blink of Fred’s eye, Shea Stadium is just a memory.  As he reopens his eyes, he is back in Citi Field as it was before it was fully renovated.  The fans were angry with the team.  It was one thing that the ballpark didn’t fully honor Mets history; it was another that the Mets let Jose Reyes walk in the offseason without so much as an offer.  It was an uninspiring 88 loss win team that was seemingly going nowhere.

Fred: When did we put the Great Wall of Flushing back in?  Where are all the fans?

Gary: You didn’t.  It’s 2012.

Fred:  That was an ugly time.  Fans constantly complaining and booing.  The team and I were personally cash strapped.  I had no idea what our future was or could be.  Worse yet, no one seemed to understand.  The fans, the players, the press.  No one.  The whole thought of this time is just too much to bear.  I can’t . . .

Before Fred could finish the sentence, he was hit in the head by a foul ball off the bat of Daniel Murphy.  Next thing Fred knew, he was awake, with a headache back in his bed in Greenwich.

Fred: Man, I really have to lay off the Shake Shack late at night.  It gives me the strangest dreams.  And man, just remembering those days just gives me a headache.  I never want to get back to that point . . .

As the words left Fred’s lips, there was a strange noise. Fred looked over, and he sees beloved former announcer and Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner in what appears to be old set of Kiner’s Korner.

Fred: Ralph?

Ralph: Well hi everybody it’s Ralph Kiner, the Ghost of Christmas Present, on Kiner’s Korner.  Well the Mets are in the middle of the offseason after the team failed to win the Wild Card Game.  While the team acted quickly and brought back Neil Walker and Yoenis Cespedes, the Mets offseason has been marked by inactivity.  Recently, Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson stated the Mets were going to have to move a contract like Jay Bruce or Curtis Granderson before they could sign additional players this offseason.  We have Mets owner Fred Wilpon on to talk about it next.

Fred:  Ralph?

Ralph:  Welcome back to Kiner’s Korners.  As you know Kiner’s Koners is sponsored by Rheingold – the Dry Beer!

Ralph: Hi Mr. Wilpon, welcome to Kiner’s Korners.

Fred: I’m not sure what exactly is happening here.

Ralph:  Well, Mr. Wilpon, we’re here to talk about your team and what the 2017 roster will look like.

Fred:  We’ve given Sandy free reign to do whatever he needs to do to put the best team on the field.  We trust in his decision making, and we always demure to him on personnel decisions.

Ralph: Well Mr. Wilpon, there are not many that believe you.  In fact, the fans will say that the team isn’t going to spend the money on the players like the Mets should.  It reminds me back when I had won another home run title for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and I went to Branch Rickey to ask for a raise.  During the meeting, Rickey denied me a raise saying, “We finished eighth with you, we can finish eighth without you.”  From there of course, I was then traded to the Chicago Cubs.  This is the same Chicago Cubs franchise that won their first World Series title since 1908.  The Cubs were once defeated –

Fred:  Okay, okay.  No, we’re not spending any money until we move a contract.  That’s just the way things work now.  This isn’t the old days where Omar gets free reign.

Ralph: Well, the fans are angry the team isn’t spending money.  And I remember as a player how much the team wanted to know the owner supported them.  When the team had the support of ownership it had an effect in the clubhouse and the play on the field.

Fred: Let’s be honest.  The fans will let me do whatever I want so long as we’re winning.  With the team we have now, we’re going to fill the seats because we have Cespedes.  We have free t-shirts.  We get to hype up the starts of not just Matt Harvey, but also Noah Syndergaard.  As for the players, the only thing they really care about is their salary.

Ralph:  That’s not true.  Here is a videotape of your captain David Wright.

A large screen appears on the set of Kiner’s Korner with an image of Wright at his home talking to Collins about the upcoming season.

Collins: I know it may be a little late, but I wanted to wish you and your family a Merry Christmas.  And I wanted to let you know that we’re all pulling for you to get back out on that field.

David:  It’s hard skip.  I wake up in pain everyday.  It was bad enough when it was just the stenosis, but now it is my neck too.  I just spend all of my day rehabbing and working out.  I do all these special exercises for my back and my neck.  It’s almost 24 hours of pure hell.  It’s made all the harder by the fact that every minute I spend working out is time away from my wife and daughter.  Baseball has always been a sacrifice, and I love it.  But it just gets harder and harder.

Collins:  You know the whole team is behind you.  If there is anything you ever need, you just have to ask.  And if you feel as if you can’t go on, you’ll always have a place on my staff.

David:  I can’t hang ’em up.  Not yet.  Not with this team.  We’re so close.  I’ve come so close to the World Series a few times in my career, and I’ve fallen short.  I don’t know if I’ll ever feel right hanging it up without winning one.

Fred: This is costing me $20 million a year.

David:  And it’s not just about me.  I owe a World Series to Mets fans who have supported me my whole career.  They’ve gone out and bought my jerseys.  They’ve cheered for me.  They’ve always been there for me.  And more importantly, I owe it to the Wilpon family.  I saw what happened with Reyes and the other players who left.  They decided to keep me.  They made me the face of the franchise and the team captain.  I’ve loved being a Met, and the Wilpons made that possible.

Fred:  I just never knew how much he cared and how appreciative he was.

Ralph: Time for another commercial break and word from our sponsor the Ghost of Christmas Future.

Everything turns to black like a television screen being turned off.  At first, Fred sits there quietly unsure of what is happening.  He then finds himself in a strange room with Darryl Hamilton wearing his black Mets jersey.  The same jerseys the Wilpons wanted to help drum up fan interest and help increase revenues.  At first, Hamilton says nothing.  He just looks at Fred before gesturing for Fred to follow him.

Fred follows Darryl down a hallway.  Eventually, an image of a badly beaten down Wright emerges.  On the walls are different jerseys he wore in his career.  A shelf displays all of his awards and his 2015 National League Pennant ring.  Wright moves around the room but with great difficulty.  Although still relatively young, he moves like an old man.  He’s there with another person.

Woman: Look, this is not going to happen overnight.  With the beating your body has taken you’re luck you’re even in position to walk.

David: I don’t care.  I need you to get me to the point where I can dance again.  There is nothing that is going to stop me from dancing at my daughter’s wedding.

Woman: Ok, but we need to take it slowly.  You’ve had a number of injuries in your career, especially those last few.  Doing things like dancing is going to come with some difficulty for you.  The trick is to build everything up so you can do it again.

Fred: What, what happened to him?

Darryl only nods his head in the direction of the trophy case.

Fred:  He never won?  But we had Harvey and Syndergaard.  We had Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz.  We had Cespedes.  Of course we won at least one.  There is no way we let that core go without winning a World Series.  Surely, we made a move to get that final piece at least one of those years.

David: On cold days like this, it really makes me wonder how wise it was sticking to the end of my contract rather than just medically retiring the way Albert Belle and Prince Fielder did.  I really wonder if Prince has the same problems I have.  Still, I would do it all over again because trying to win that ring was important not just for my career, the fans, and Fred.

Woman: What happened?

David: We were so close, but we shot ourselves in the foot in 2015.  After that, we always just seemed one or two players short.  We gave it the best we could, but it just wasn’t meant to be . . . .

As David drifts off, Darryl gestures for Fred to re-enter the dark hallway.  The two make their way down before standing outside the Rotunda entrance to Citi Field.  Nearby is a group of men putting up a few statues.  In the parking lot adjacent to 126th Street, there are a number of moving vans.

Worker 1: Honestly, it is about time there was a Tom Seaver statue erected at Citi Field.  I think adding the Piazza one as well was a nice touch.

Worker 2:  Things have been a lot better around here with the new guys came in.

Worker 1:  And ain’t no one going to miss the old group.

Worker 2:  How can you?  They let the whole thing fall apart.

Worker 1:  Good riddance!

Fred: What is happening here?  What old group?  Who authorized these statues?

With that Fred began a dead sprint towards the entrance to the executive offices, but he was distracted by a commotion happening at McFadden’s.  Despite wanting to get back to his office, Fred found himself drawn to the bar where he found a group of people in celebration.

Man:  Shhh!  It’s about to be on the television.

Reporter: After years of seeing homegrown players sign elsewhere, and the Mets having been inactive on the free agent market, Citi Field has become eerily reminiscent of Grant’s Tomb in the 1970s.  With fan interest at a nadir and record low revenues for the team, it became time for a change.

Fred: Darryl!  What are they talking about?

Man:  This is a dream come true for me.  As a little boy sitting int he Upper Deck at Shea Stadium, I never imagined I would be in the position I am here today.  And yet, here I am.

Cheers spread through McFaddens making the sound from the televisions inaudible.

Man:  Back in 1980, the late Nelson Doubleday purchased the New York Mets from the Payson family.  From that day, a new era of Mets prosperity began with ownership investing not just in good baseball people, but also its players and its fans.  My pledge to the Mets fans is to operate this club much in the same fashion as Mr. Doubleday, and with that, a new era of Mets prominence will begin.

As cheers fill the room and the bartenders try to keep up with the customers needing drinks, a bewildered Fred turns back to Darryl.

Fred:  Darryl, what is happening with my team?  Was it . . .

As Fred trails off, he can see a sullen Jeff Wilpon standing out on the sidewalk waiting for a driver to take him home.  Before Jeff could get into the car, he is ambushed by a group of reporters.  Instinctively, Jeff runs out to assist his son.

Reporter:  How do you feel today?

Jeff:  How do you expect me to feel?  The thing that mattered most to my father is now gone.

Reporter:  What message do you have for Mets fans?

Jeff:  I’m not sure where you guys have been all these years.  If you came to the park, we might’ve been able to improve the team and prevent this day from happening.

Fred:  Jeff, don’t tell me you did it!  Don’t tell me you sold my team!

Reporter:  How do you think your father would feel about this moment?

Jeff:  Look guys, it’s been a hard day in what has been a hard few years.  I just want to go home to my family.

Fred:  Jeff!  Jeff!  I’m over here!  Jeff!

With Jeff being worn down by the questioning, and his being unable to hear his father scream, he enters the car.  Initially, Fred heads toward Jeff while repeatedly asking him what happened with the Mets.  With Jeff being unresponsive, and with Fred knowing he’s not going to be able to get to the door in time,  he runs in front of the car in an attempt to stop it.  The car pulls from the curb, makes contact with Fred, and everything goes black.

The sun begins to rise, and it begins to light Fred’s room in Greenwich.  The sun shines in Fred’s eyes causing him to initially squint.  When he realizes that a new day has begun, Fred eagerly jumps from his bed, and he checks his iPhone.

Fred:  It’s December 25, 2016!  I still own the team!  The spirits have given me another chance!

Fred grabs his phone, and he calls his secretary to immediately set up a conference call with Collins, Alderson, and Wright.

Fred:  I’m sorry to bother you on Christmas morning, but I felt like this couldn’t wait any longer.  We have a window here, and we have to take advantage of it.  Sandy, the shackles are off.  You have everything you need at your disposal.  We owe Terry the best team possible for him to lead the Mets back to the World Series.  And we owe it to you David because you stuck by us when times were at their lowest.  We can’t let you finish your career without winning a World Series.  It wouldn’t be fair, and it wouldn’t be right.

Terry:  Thank you, and God bless you Mr. Wilpon!

David:  God bless us everyone!

Mets Veteran Starting Options

Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz are coming off season ending surgeries, and the Mets most likely don’t want them making over 30 starts and/or going over 200 innings.  The Mets need someone to fill-in for those starts and eat up some innings.

Additionally, the team needs a fifth starter.  If the season was going to begin today, the fifth starter would be determined by a competition between Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman.  Both pitchers showed enough to prove they deserve the job out of Spring Training.  However, both pitchers are likely going to be on innings limits, which would prevent them from pitching the entire 2017 season unless the team skips a couple of their starts.  That reverts back to the issue created by Harvey, deGrom, and Matz that the Mets need another arm to eat up some innings.

Naturally, the hope is that Zack Wheeler could be the fifth starter at some point during the season.  However, after missing two straight seasons due to Tommy John surgery, the Mets would be hard pressed to rely upon him to provide anything during the 2017 season.  It is a large reason why the Mets have at least discussed the possibility of putting Wheeler in the bullpen to start the season.

Pitchers like Sean Gilmartin and Gabriel Ynoa did not show the Mets enough in 2016 to prove they can be relied upon to make more than one or two spot starts.  With that, it is likely the Mets are going to need to look outside the organization for a pitcher who is willing to start the year as a fifth starter, but is willing to transition to the bullpen as the year progresses.  Ultimately, the Mets are looking for someone to reprise the role that Bartolo Colon was slated to serve during the 2016 season.  With that in mind, here are some available free agent pitchers who could serve in that role:

Rubby De La Rosa

2016 Stats: 4-5, 4.26 ERA, 13 G, 10 GS, 50.2 IP, 1.243 WHIP, 9.6 K/9

While Welington Castillo got most of the publicity, De La Rosa was another surprise non-tender by the Arizona Diamondbacks. The reason De La Rosa was non-tendered was because there remains a real possibility he needs a second Tommy John surgery. At the moment, he has been trying to use stem cell treatment as a means to circumvent the surgery. For what it is worth, Bartolo Colon used the stem cell therapy back in 2010, and he was able to revive his major league career.

When he is healthy, De La Rosa has a live arm with him throwing a mid to high 90s fastball with a curve and slider who has shown some flashes of dominance. De La Rosa does have issues walking batters in his career, but it should be noted he was pitching to the aforementioned Castillo who is a terrible pitch framer.

Assuming the stem cell therapy will work, and further assuming De La Rosa is ready by Opening Day, the 27 year old needs a team who will help him harness his stuff and a catching staff that will help him get those borderline pitches.  With that in mind, there are few places that are better fits for De La Rosa than the Mets.  At a minimum, the Mets can offer the young pitcher at least a chance to pitch in the rotation while also assuring him a spot in the bullpen where he could become a lights out reliever.

Scott Feldman

2016 Stats: 7-4, 3.97 ERA, 40 G, 5 GS, 77.0 IP, 1.377 WHIP, 6.5 K/9

While Feldman has spent the majority of his career as a league average starting pitcher, the Astros moved Feldman into the bullpen in the 2016 season, and Feldman pitched well for the team in that role.  What is interesting about Feldman’s success was he didn’t throw any differently out of the bullpen than he did as a starter.  The main reason is that in his career as a starter, batters tend to hit Feldman much harder the third time through the lineup.

Overall, Feldman’s numbers would have been much better had he not struggled in his 14 appearances for the Blue Jays.  In those 14 appearances, he pitched to an 8.40 ERA and a 1.933 WHIP.  It might have just been a slump or a poor mix with the Blue Jays because Feldman has not wilted under pressure in his career.  In nine postseason relief appearances, Feldman is 1-0 with a 3.29 ERA, 1.024 WHIP, and a 7.2 K/9.

Given Feldman’s ability to pitch as a league average starter, and his being even more effective out of the bullpen, Feldman could very well be the exact pitcher the Mets need in 2017.

Edwin Jackson

2016 Stats: 5-7, 5.89 ERA, 21 G, 13 GS, 84.0 IP, 1.583 WHIP, 6.5 K/9

For nearly 14 years, there have been 11 franchises that have taken on the mantle of being the franchise that is going to be able to figure out Jackson and help him unlock his potential.  With a career losing record and a 4.65 ERA, none have been successful, and now the 32 year old is a free agent.

There is no doubt Jackson has talent.  He is a five pitch pitcher that predominantly relies upon a low to mid 90s fastball and a slider.  Through his tenure as the Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen has been successful in helping pitchers like Jackson.  Like many of the other pitchers on this list, Jackson should be aided by the Mets pitch framing.  The combination of Warthen and the pitch framing has been shown to help a number of pitchers who have come to the Mets the past few seasons.

Over the last two seasons, Jackson has also begun pitching out of the bullpen.  In 2015, he showed some promise in the role making 47 appearances while going 4-3 with a 3.07 ERA and a 1.168 WHIP.  He would limit batters to a .218/.291/.332 batting line.  Unfortunately, he regressed as a reliever in 2016 after he had failed again as a starter.  Overall, as is the story with most of Jackson’s career, there is promise here, and a union with the Mets could be mutually beneficial.

Kris Medlen

2016 Stats: 1-3, 7.77 ERA, 6 G, 6 GS,  2.055 WHIP, 6.7 K/9

Medlen has gone from a promising young pitcher with the Atlanta Braves to a pitcher whose career is a crossroads with him being limited during the 2016 season with shoulder issues.  While these shoulder issues did not require surgery, they limited Medlen in 2016, and it had an impact on his performance.  Another issue with Medlen is his having two Tommy John surgeries.

With that said, when Medlen is right, he is a good pitcher.  His last year with the Braves, before he needed a second Tommy John surgery, he was 15-12 with a 3.11 ERA, 1.223 WHIP, and a 7.2 K/9.  In 2015, his first year back from his second Tommy John surgery, Medlen was 6-2 with a 4.01 ERA, 1.269 WHIP, and a 6.2 K/9 between eight starts and seven relief appearances.  In the 2015 postseason, he made two appearances pitching six innings with a 3.00 ERA, 0.667 WHIP, and a 12.0 K/9.

If the medicals check out, Medlen can be a very effective pitcher for someone.  Considering the need to get a pitcher comfortable in the rotation and the bullpen, the Mets might be a good fit.

Jon Niese

2016 Stats: 8-7, 5.50 ERA, 29 G, 20 GS, 121.0 IP, 1.587 WHIP, 6.5 K/9

Admittedly, no Mets fan wants to see Niese in a Mets uniform again, especially after a disastrous 2016 season for Niese.  However, it should be noted that Niese was dealing with a knee issue that required season ending surgery.  It should also be noted Niese has been a league average pitcher under Warthen’s tutledge.

In his six seasons as a starter for the Mets, Niese was 59-59 with a 3.86 ERA, 1.351 WHIP, and a 7.0 K/9.  We also saw him come out of the bullpen and get some big outs in the 2015 postseason.  Looking at the pitchers who are likely going to get incentivized one year deals or minor league deals with invitations to Spring Training, you can do a lot worse than Niese.

There is certainly any number of places the Mets could go this offseason.  There are pitchers like Matt Harrison who are injury risks, but who can also be dominant pitchers when healthy.  There are also reclamation projects like Jered Weaver and Tim Lincecum.  Overall, there are many different ways to go.  At this point, the Mets just need to identify their guy, be patient, and let the market develop.  Once it does, the Mets could obtain a pitcher who could very well be a difference maker during the 2017 season.