Like it has been for most of their history, the Mets are currently build on starting pitching. That presents a problem for this organization because they will soon be in the unenviable position of having to rebuild their rotation over the ensuing few offseasons.
The Mets will have to face the same exact situation the ensuing offseason as both Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz will be free agents after the 2021 season. That means over the course two years, the Mets are going to have to address how they want to handle 80% of their starting rotation.
Complicating matters is Michael Conforto hitting free agency the same time as Syndergaard and Matz as well as the shallow upper parts of the Mets farm system. How the Mets choose to address their rotation will be vitally important as Jacob deGrom has an opt out after the 2022 season.
After that 2022 season, Brandon Nimmo will be a free agent, Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil will be first time arbitration eligible, and Amed Rosario will be heading into his last season under team control. This means the Mets core is going to be quite expensive and on their way out to parts unknown over the next few seasons.
At this point, we should all be wondering what exactly is the plan here.
At times, the Mets seem all-in. We saw that not just with trading away prospects to get Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz, but we also saw that with the Mets trading away prospects like Blake Taylor, Ross Adolph, Luis Santana, and Adam Hill for what amounted to be nothing more than complementary pieces.
On the other hand, the Mets don’t see remotely all-in when they fail to address the back-up catching situation and let Zack Wheeler, their second best pitcher over the past two years, leave the Mets to go to the Philadelphia Phillies. Couple that with the Mets not making a push for players like Gerrit Cole, Bryce Harper, and Manny Machado, or being active on the trade market for players like Nolan Arenado, Mookie Betts, or Francisco Lindor, this seems more and more like a team without a clear direction.
Now, part of that can just be a result of how ineptly the Wilpons and Brodie Van Wagenen have run this organization. Another aspect can be this team being in a relative holding pattern until Steve Cohen’s purchase of the club is finalized and approved. There may be other factors at play, and really, at this point, we are all just guessing.
What we do know is based on the control over the current core, the Mets window to compete for a World Series is right now, and the team has done little to push the team over the top. We also know that until this core is extended, the Mets window is going to be limited to just these two years.
When you look at things through this prism, you see the need to give extensions to at least some of your core. Certainly, that is the case when the goal is sustained winning and not just short windows. In theory, there is still 10 months to do that, but at the moment, the Mets have missed their biggest and perhaps best opportunity to do it once again leaving the impression this is an organization without a clear direction.
‘Twas five years before Cohen, when all through the Citi
Not a dollar was whirling, not even a fifty.
The equipment was hung in the clubhouse with care,
In hopes a free agent soon would be there.
Jeff was nestled all snug in his bed,
While visions of insurance savings danced in his head.
And Fred in his ‘kerchief, and Saul in his cap,
Began preparing for when they took that one final nap.
When out on the news wire there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my seat to see what was the matter.
Away to Twitter I flew like a flash,
Sifted through the notification and ignored the trash.
A new moon on the New York baseball shown
The chance of the Wilpons money no longer be sown.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a Steve Cohen, and some reason to cheer.
With a new owner, so wealthy and smart,
I knew in a moment the Wilpons ways will part.
More rapid than eagles the hope sure came,
Mets whistled, and shouted, and called extensions by name!
As quality free agents sign and poor excuses once fly,
Finances no longer an obstacle, debt reaching the sky.
So among the fanbase optimism grew,
Jeff Wilpon soon to be gone, and Van Wagenen too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard through the wall
The prancing and pawing of agents who now call.
As the Mets try to get ahead, and turn things around,
Soon gone are the Wilpons ways which always confound.
Cohen was dressed all in Mets gear, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes not tarnished with Brooklyn Dodgers adorations afoot.
A bundle of cash he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a legitimate owner, hanging over a stack.
Our eyes—how they twinkled! our moods how merry!
A leader like Moses, and nothing like Terry!
Boras’ droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the green in his eyes from money now aflow
The stump of a pencil Cohen held tight in his teeth,
Writing to Jeff that only in title he will be chief.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
Which hungered to see a Mets winner playing on his telly!
He loved his art, some displayed on a shelf,
One piece alone worth more than all of Fred’s wealth
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
In five years Cohen will leave experts to their work,
Suddenly we won’t see micromanaging from some little jerk.
Injured players no longer needing to ignore doctors they chose,
Now healthy teams playing Mets foes!
He sprang to the bank, to his team gave a whistle,
As homers and fastballs firing faster than a missle.
But I heard him exclaim causing a lot of mayhem,
“Happy Christmas to all, and all a L-F-G-M!”
For a moment, let’s assume the 2019 season was similar to the 1998 or 2005 season in that it was a stepping stone to real World Series contention.
While we can and should dicker about whether the 2020 team will be better than the 2019 team, there is hope for optimism as Carlos Beltran begins his second act in a New York Mets uniform.
Behind that optimism is a cold dose of reality.
We didn’t know it in 1998, but that Mike Piazza led team had two seasons as a contender. That was basically the same case with the David Wright and Jose Reyes led 2005 team we all thought would be good forever. This will likely be the same fate this core faces.
After the 2020 season, Marcus Stroman and Rick Porcello will be free agents leaving the team to try to scramble to either re-sign them or attempt to sign a starter from a free agent class nowhere as good as the one which saw the Mets lose Zack Wheeler.
After 2021, Michael Conforto, Steven Matz, and Noah Syndergaard will be free agents. That leaves the Mets looking to invest in four spots in the rotation over the next two years as the farm system is not prepared to provide that help in a way it could’ve if Justin Dunn, Anthony Kay, and Simeon Woods Richardson were still with the organization.
Yes, we should see David Peterson grab one of those rotation spots, and a Stephen Gonsalves or Franklyn Kilome may emerge. However, they likely don’t have the same ceiling the 2015 – 2019 rotations had thereby eliminating the key competitive advantage the Mets had.
If you really want a heavy dose of reality look a year past that, and you’ll see Nimmo and Lugo will be a free agents, and deGrom can opt out of his deal. That’s going to happen as Alonso, McNeil, and Rosario are likely getting big arbitration salaries.
This means by 2022 this entire core could be completely gone with Alonso being the player designated to build around much in the same way the Mets opted Wright for that honor.
Overall, this means unless things change dramatically, the Mets have a two year window. That could be opened longer if Steve Cohen flexes some financial muscle, and/or he opts to bring in an actually qualified and competent GM to replace Brodie Van Wagenen.
To that end, there’s hope even if Jeff Wilpon will be running the show. On that point, we can all hope it’s just a title with no real opportunity to drag the organization down.
No matter what the case, it’s imperative the Mets realize this is their shot, and they need to start acting like it instead of making a series of half measures hoping it adds up to a whole competing roster.
As we discovered, Rick Porcello turned down more money from the Toronto Blue Jays and Chicago White Sox (a recurring theme) to sign with the New York Mets. Apparently, part of the reason was his growing up a Mets fan. Really, Porcello is one of us:
Rick Porcello said he "cried his eyes out" when the Mets lost the Subway Series to the Yankees in 2000.
— Adam Rubin (@AdamRubinMedia) March 8, 2015
His being drawn to tears after Mike Piazza flew out to Bernie Williams is going to resonate with this fanbase because those of us who experience it felt the same way even if we did not have a Wilmer Flores moment.
Porcello is one of us which means he gets it. That makes him one of another player on this team who lived and died with this team.
When he signed with the team, Brad Brach talked about how he bought a Mets jersey and went to the 2015 World Series.
Marcus Stroman wore a Darryl Strawberry jersey to the ballpark before his Citi Field debut. He has also spoken about how he wants the team to bring back the black jerseys tweeting out a picture of Pedro Martinez wearing one.
Finally, there is Steven Matz who was a Long Islander who grew up a Mets fan. He’d have his whole family at his debut leading to everyone falling in love with his grandfather.
Mostly, we all love this Mets team, and really, we love these players. It’s a very likable team who just gets it. Porcello seems to be more of the same which is great. Hopefully, Porcello will have us crying “tears of joy” after the season.
No matter what, we know how much this team means to him, and we know he’s going to give it everything he has. If for no other reason, this is going to make it even easier for us all to root for him.
When looking at the Robinson Cano trade, the main focus has been on Edwin Diaz‘s struggles as well as the loss of Jarred Kelenic. Lost in that is just how much this trade has impacted the Mets starting rotation, which has been the strength of this team.
This offseason, the Mets have already lost Zack Wheeler to the rival Philadelphia Phillies. Wheeler desperately wanted to stay a Met, but he was not offered a contract to stay with the Mets despite giving the team the last chance to sign him. That decision was made all the more damning when you consider Wheeler was not taking the largest contract offered to him, and the $118 million deal he accepted was really less than he was worth.
Realistically speaking, the Mets passed on Wheeler because the team is estimated to be roughly $17 million under the competitive balance tax threshold, and indications are the team will be unwilling to raise their budget to those heights. Signing Wheeler would have required them to go over that threshold. Of course, the Mets would have more money to spend if they were not paying Cano $20.25 million per year. Had the trade not transpired, the Mets could have just reallocated that money to Wheeler.
With this being the Mets, the team let Wheeler walk in free agency because the team does not typically like to invest that much money in free agency. Had the Cano trade not transpired, the Mets could have looked to have Justin Dunn replace him in the rotation.
In fact, Dunn made his Major League debut with the Mariners last year. In his four starts, he held his own going 0-0 with a 2.70 ERA and a 1.650 WHIP. The Mariners had him on a very limited pitch count, so really this served nothing more than to get his feet wet and show he could potentially be a part of the 2020 rotation. Arguably, Dunn did that.
In addition to Dunn, there was Anthony Kay, who was traded along with Simeon Woods Richardson to the Toronto Blue Jays for Marcus Stroman. As noted by Andy Martino of SNY, one of the reasons the Mets obtained Stroman was to prepare for the eventuality of Wheeler departing in free agency.
There’s some problems with that rationale. First and foremost, Stroman isn’t really a replacement for Wheeler when both were in the same rotation last year. The other issue is Stroman is a free agent after the 2020 season, which just delays the problem by a year.
Looking towards 2021, both Dunn and Kay should be established Major League starters. Like Dunn, Kay would make his debut last year, and like Dunn, he would really show he could be a part of a 2020 rotation with his allowing two runs or fewer in two of his three starts.
Ideally, the Mets could have had both Kay and Dunn in the rotation with Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz in 2021. That could have proven to be a formidable rotation, and going back to the Cano trade, Kelenic would have been primed to make his Major League debut playing in the outfield between Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto while also appearing in a lineup with Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil.
However, by 2021, the Mets will likely have a rotation without Wheeler, Stroman, Dunn, and Kay. They will also be in a similar position to where they are now looking for a way to replace Syndergaard and Matz in the rotation. Sadly, while we all focus on Kelenic, and justifiably so, the real ramifications of the Cano trade will be the impact on the Mets rotation.
The only hope we have at the moment is Steve Cohen’s purchase of the team will allow him to keep this core together and build off of it in free agency. Of course, with Van Wagenen remaining the General Manager, the Wilpons staying in charge for five years, and with the team still on an austerity plan at the moment, the hopes seem to be further out than the near distant future. As such, all that Van Wagenen has wrought is still a significant issue.
With today being Thanksgiving, it is time to go around the Mets roster and say things we are thankful for:
Pete Alonso – he’s been better than even the highest and most absurd expectations anyone could have of him both in terms of his on the field play as well as the type of teammate and person he is
Carlos Beltran – for coming home
Robinson Cano – showed some late positive exit velocities showing there is some hope for a 2020 rebound
Yoenis Cespedes – for everyone questioning the drive of a man severely injured and needing career saving surgery, he is out there in the cold taking batting practice
Michael Conforto – re-established himself as one of the best young corner outfielders in the game, and with his talent, he’s on the verge of an MVP caliber season
J.D. Davis – quickly became a fan favorite and like few others seemed to really enjoy being a New York Met.
Jacob deGrom – best pitcher in baseball and starting to etch his likeness on the Mets Mt. Rushmore
Edwin Diaz – he survived the season, made no excuses, and he is doing what he needs to do to be the pitcher he was in 2018.
Jeurys Familia – he stopped using “Danza Kudro” meaning we no longer go to very bad places when that music begins blaring
Luis Guillorme – proved if given a chance he is a Major League caliber player giving the Mets some real needed middle infield depth
Chris Flexen – his move to the bullpen gives the Mets an interesting upside option in the bullpen
Robert Gsellman – he is one of those throwback type reliever who is always willing to take the ball no matter what
Sam Haggerty – it’s not often a player comes out of nowhere to provide real value to an organization the way Haggerty did with this speed
Jed Lowrie – to his credit, he did everything he could just to get those pinch hitting appearances late in the season
Seth Lugo – the best reliever in baseball who now gives Beltran a reliever who can break knees with his curve
Steven Matz – took that step forward and put to bed the unfair and wrong mentally weak narrative
Jeff McNeil – the man just does it all. He hits, plays everywhere, and he saves puppies.
Tomas Nido – became the defensive minded back-up catcher many believed him to be, and he played a part getting Mets pitchers head in the right place during different parts of the year.
Corey Oswalt – he put behind some injuries and gross mishandling by the organization to show he is a viable depth starting option for the organization
Wilson Ramos – drove in a number of big runs last year, and he has promised to be better behind the plate in 2020.
Amed Rosario – just a tireless worker who seems to be on the cusp of fulfilling the immense potential we all saw he had in the minors
Paul Sewald – he keeps proving himself to be better than the narrative, and he finally got his first Major League win to put an exclamation point on what is one of the better stories of the Mets farm system
Dominic Smith – that walk-off homer was a beautiful exclamation point on a season where he proved everyone who ever doubted him to be very wrong
Marcus Stroman – few have fully embraced being a Met like he has and fewer have been ready to thrive on the New York stage
Noah Syndergaard – not just a great pitcher, but also a guy who wants to be a New York Met.
Justin Wilson – was terrific in 2019, and with the LOOGY rules, he becomes an even more valuable bullpen piece in 2020
In terms of the talent still here, there is a lot to be thankful for. Hopefully, we will see the return of Zack Wheeler giving us all the more to be thankful for in 2020 and beyond.
As we saw last offseason, there is usually discussion about the need to extend the team’s best players, and to the Mets credit, they did what they needed to do in order to agree to a contract extension with Jacob deGrom. With him winning the Cy Young Award last year, the team is so far very happy with their decision.
In the ensuing years, the team has real decisions to make on contract extensions for their other starters. Marcus Stroman is a free agent after the 2020 season. After the 2021 season, both Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz will be free agents. Unless the Mets move to extend one or all of them, they stand in danger of losing them all to free agency like they are currently facing with Zack Wheeler.
While the immediate need is Stroman, and the focus is mostly centered around Syndergaard, now is a very good time for the Mets to entertain extending Matz.
In 2019, Matz arguably had the worst season of his career. Overall, he was 11-10 with a 4.21 ERA, 1.341 WHIP, 2.9 BB/9, and an 8.6 K/9. Looking at all the numbers, the ERA, WHIP, BB/9, and K/9 were the second worst of his career. The same can be said for the H/9. When considering most of his career worsts came in a 2017 season where he had a massive bone spur, this was his worst season.
Still, there were some real positives which emerged during the 2019 season which should have the Mets looking to extend him. As a point of demarcation, Matz moved to the middle of the pitching rubber before his July 16 start against the Minnesota Twins.
Prior to that start, Matz struggled mightily, and he would be demoted to the bullpen heading into the All-Star Break. In his 16 starts and two relief appearances, he was 5-6 with a 4.89 ERA, 1.481 WHIP, 3.2 BB/9, and an 8.7 K/9. As he was coming out of the bullpen, Matz was limited in his pitch count, but he fared well against the Twins allowing just two earned over four innings. After this start, his season would turn the corner.
From July 21 until the end of the season, Matz would make 13 starts going 6-4 with a 3.46 ERA, 1.181 WHIP, 2.6 BB/9, and an 8.7 K/9. Over this stretch, he had a 3.65 FIP. It’s a small sample size, but it is notable his FIP over this stretch was better than what Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin had.
Looking at the numbers, Matz pitched like the Mets fourth best starter, which honestly, is all the Mets expect him to be. On another team, he could be a three or even a number two, especially for teams who have begun to de-emphasize starting pitching.
In addition to the improved stats Matz had since he moved his position on the rubber, there were some other promising signs. For a pitcher who has dealt with injury problems, he has made 30 starts for consecutive seasons, and his 160.1 innings were a career high. The exit velocity and barrel percentage against him was the lowest it has been since 2016.
Really, when you break it all down, Matz is a pitcher in his prime, and he appears to be getting stronger the further away from 2017 he gets. He is making the adjustments he needs to make. He is also going to start getting expensive.
In 2019, his first year of arbitration, he made $2.625 million. According to MLB Trade Rumors, Matz is slated to essentially double his salary to $5.3 million. If he is the pitcher he was from the middle of July to the end of the season, that number is going to skyrocket in 2021.
At the moment, the Mets have a very low baseline with Matz, and it’s very possible this will be the cheapest he will ever be. By seeking to lock him up now, the Mets will have some cost certainty on someone who has been getting stronger and promises to improve. They’re securing a spot in their rotation at a time when they could potentially lose 4/5 of their rotation over a three year span.
Moreover, by extending Matz now, the Mets are getting some cost certainty. Locking up Matz on the lower end should allow them to turn their attention to the rest of the rotation as well as a player like Michael Conforto, who will hit free agency the same time as Syndergaard and Matz.
Overall, Matz is a homegrown Met who grew up a Mets fan. While he has not been the pitcher many expected when his grandfather was jumping up and down in the stands, he has proved himself to be a useful Major League starter, and he is someone who could well be part of the equation over the next five years. With him likely being at his cheapest now, this is the right time to look to extend him.
There’s no nice way of putting this. Wilson Ramos was terrible behind the plate in 2019. As noted by Baseball Prospectus (and the great Rey Brutal), Ramos was near or at the bottom of nearly every catching statistic. That is before you consider Noah Syndergaard‘s struggles and frustrations, which was emblematic of the struggles the vast majority of the pitching staff had with Ramos behind the plate.
This led to a discussion about the Mets facilitating a transition away from Ramos. To that point, the Mets were very supportive of Ramos publicly. Considering that, it is of little surprise the Mets were not players for Yasmani Grandal, who signed a huge deal with the Chicago White Sox.
Still, the Mets acknowledged they needed an upgrade at the catching position. This does mean they are going to move on from Tomas Nido for another catcher. With the Mets being linked to catchers like Robinson Chirinos, it seemed like the team was looking more for a timeshare than a pure backup.
Travis d’Arnaud was perfect for that role.
As we know the Mets completely botched the handling of d’Arnaud in 2019. They needlessly rushed him back before he was ready, and he really had just about the worst game we’ve ever seen a catcher have. It was embarrassing for him, and it was hard to watch as a fan. In Mets fashion, they rage cut him from the team.
After a very brief P.J. Conlon like stop with the Los Angeles Dodgers, d’Arnaud would find himself with the Tampa Bay Rays. There, he would get the opportunity to play himself not only back into playing shape, but also into being the type of player he was with the 2015 Mets. On that front, he would appear in the postseason like he did with the 2015 Mets.
In 2019, he showed he was still a very good pitch framer capable of handling a pitching staff. He was also a good hitter with some pop in his bat. Essentially, he showed when healthy (and given real time to heal), he was a very good catcher. He was the sort of catcher who would help any Major League team, especially those interested in some form of a time-share.
Now, you could argue with the way things ended with the Mets, d’Arnaud was never coming back to Flushing. That may very well be true. That left the Mets in a spot where they need to be looking for another catcher who did not have the success in New York and with this pitching staff like d’Arnaud did. It also left them hoping d’Arnaud signed elsewhere.
Now, d’Arnaud is the Braves catcher. He is an upgrade from what the team had in Brian McCann last year, and he has the bat and framing which will allow the Braves to keep Tyler Flowers as a defensive minded backup. That is a significant improvement for the 97 win Braves team.
No, this is not going to make up for a potential loss of Josh Donaldson. Not in the least. However, it does lower the bar a bit on the type of third baseman the Braves would need to repeat their 2019 season.
Bringing d’Arnaud into the fold makes it more difficult for teams to catch the Braves, especially if they address their third base situtation and see continued growth from their young stars like Ronald Acuna Jr. That’s bad for the Mets. It’s even worse when you consider the institutional knowledge he brings with him.
The information he can share with the Braves about Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, and Syndergaard could be damaging. He could speak not just to pitch tipping and sequencing. He can also speak to what makes them tick, and other factors which would give the Braves hitters more of a chance against that trio and the rest of the Mets pitching staff.
With d’Arnaud signing with Atlanta, the Braves lineup and pitching staff are better. Their game planning against the Mets starters will be as well. Overall, this could prove to be a bad situation for the Mets, and it makes it all the more difficult for the Mets to make up an 11 game gap in the division.
In case you missed it last night, Gleyber Torres is just 22 years old.
The answers to some of life’s other unanswered questions:
- Todd Frazier is from Toms River
- Steven Matz is from Long Island
- The Wilpons don’t have the money or interest to re-sign Zack Wheeler
Finally, in the year Brodie Van Wagenen declared “Come get us!” the Nationals lead the NLCS (2-0), and the Yankees lead the ALCS (1-0).
Of course, the Yankees won the ALCS opened because Torres, who is apparently 22 years old, had a great game.
According to various reports, unless Zack Wheeler accepts the qualifying offer, and he’d be crazy to accept it, he is going to be a part of another organization in 2020. This would be one thing if the Mets believed they should pursue Gerrit Cole or another big name free agent, but as we know, Wheeler is as good as gone with no real replacement coming to the Mets.
Using Nathan Eovaldi as a comp, Wheeler would be owed a deal with an AAV of at least $17 million. Given his strong finish to the season, it’s arguable Wheeler could meet or possibly surpass $20 million. Of course, that depends on the length of the deal.
Now, from some corners you’ll hear the Mets can’t afford to keep Wheeler for that contract. There will be excuses offered with respect to the luxury tax threshold, can’t keep all of your players, and/or the Mets can’t afford him. If any of these are true, this is the latest example of just how much Brodie Van Wagenen has screwed things up in just one year.
The $20+ million deal per year for four years or more which could’ve been given to Wheeler is already on the books. That money is being given to Robinson Cano.
Cano turns 37 this month, and he is coming off an injury plagued year where he had just a 0.3 WAR. He was below average at the plate with a 93 wRC+, and he was bad in the field with a -6 DRS.
This leaves the Mets path to contention vested in a 37 year old getting healthier, more durable, and turning back the clock. Historically, this is a very poor bet. It’s certainly not a bet you’d like to have $80 million riding on over the next four years.
This is money which could’ve been invested in Wheeler. This wouldn’t allowed the Mets to keep this vaunted starting staff together for at least one more year. Possibly two. Instead, the Mets are going to let Wheeler walk because the money which could’ve been given to him is already tied up with Cano.
The obvious retort is if the Mets didn’t have Cano, they’d likely have Jay Bruce still. Putting aside the Mariners were able to trade him, he is only due $14 million in 2020. As such, he didn’t tie up the payroll for the ensuing three years thereby giving the Mets room to negotiate with Wheeler.
So, again, the money which could’ve been spent to keep Wheeler has already been spent.
Initially, when the trade was made to obtain Cano and Edwin Diaz, the focus was on losing Justin Dunn and Jarred Kelenic. Rightfully so. However, the damage to the team goes beyond that. It’s not just losing two prospects, it’s losing Major League players.
It’s not just this year either with Wheeler likely to depart. It also will hinder the ability to keep players like Michael Conforto, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Brandon Nimmo. It’s possible there are more casualties when you consider arbitration raises and the like.
So overall, the Cano Trade didn’t cost just two top prospects. In the long run, it’s going to cost the Mets high-end Major League talent; talent necessary to fulfill the Mets win-now objectives.
Put another way, that trade is only going to get worse.