Steven Matz

Trivia Friday – Games Out of the Division

With the injuries to Yoenis Cespedes, Asdrubal CabreraTravis d’Arnaud, Wilmer FloresSeth Lugoand Steven Matz, the Mets have not jumped out of the gate quite like we all expected.  Entering this three game set with the Nationals, the Mets are 5.5 games out in the division.  If they suffer another sweep at the hands of Daniel Murphy and the Nationals, they will fall to 8.5 games out.

And yet, this is not the worst the Mets have ever had it.  In each of the six times they have won the division, they have trailed at some point in the season.  There are multiple occasions where the Mets trailed in the division by double digit games.  Can you name each deficit overcome by the Mets when they have won the division?  Good luck!


Conforto Leads, Wheeler Deals, Mets Sweep

Given the fact that it was his second start since missing two plus years due to Tommy John surgery and the fact that the Mets were down to five starters with the Steven Matz and Seth Lugo injuries, Zack Wheeler‘s start had more importance attached to it than usual. 

After a 13 pitch scoreless first inning, things were looking good. He was hitting his spots, and he was hitting 97 on the gun. Then again that’s what happened in his first start. The real test was from the second inning on. 

Wheeler passed the test with flying colors. He maintained both his velocity and control. While he was getting the benefit of some excellent pitch framing from Travis d’Arnaud, Wheeler put the ball where d’Arnaud put his mitt. 

Wheeler put together a stretch of eleven straight retired. That ended in the sixth when he finally started to struggle with his location and velocity. 

There were runners on first and second with one out. Wheeler reached back and got a huge strikeout of Howie Kendrick, but Wheeler lost it all and walked Odubel Herrera. After 5.2 innings, Collins went to Hansel Robles

Third straight day of pitching or not, Robles made a horrendous pitch to what amounts to the Phillies only real power threat. The first pitch hung down the middle of the plate, and Maikel Franco launched it for a grand slam. 

The grand slam put somewhat of a damper on what was a terrific start for Wheeler. His final line was 5.2 innings, four hits, three runs, three earned, one walk, and four strikeouts. 

Arguably, it was the best Wheeler has ever looked in a Mets uniform. Certainly, it was his most important start. The effort earned him a well deserved and long awaited win. 

The Mets offense was humming once again even if Vince Velasquez was pitching pretty well. 

It all got started with surprise lead off hitter Michael Conforto getting the lead-off single and scoring on a Yoenis Cespedes RBI double. The score would become 2-0 when Conforto did this:

Like a true lead-off hitter and table setter, Conforto was in the middle of the next rally. 

The fifth inning started with d’Arnaud getting hit by a pitch, and like the smart player he is waiving off Ray Ramirez:

Wheeler tried to bunt him over, but the Phillies walked him instead. Velasquez then walked Conforto to load the bases. Asdrubal Cabrera, the same player who had an 0-32 streak with RISP last year, came to the plate. 

Cabrera delivered with a two RBI single making him 5-5 with RISP to begin the season. Conforto then scored on a Cespedes sacrifice fly to make it 5-0. As noted above, the Mets needed all of those runs. 

Fortunately, the rest of the Mets bullpen locked the game down. Jerry BlevinsFernando Salas, and Addison Reed combined to pitch 2.2 scoreless innings to preserve the 2.2 innings, the 5-4 win, and the series sweep. 

The Mets certainly got healthy in Philadelphia, and they have momentum as they take their rejuvenated talents to South Beach. 

Game Notes: Curtis Granderson was just given the day off. There were no injury issues. Jose Reyes batted seventh again. He went 0-4, and is now 1-10 from the seventh spot in the lineup. 

Projecting The 2017 Postseason

With Opening Day already behind us, it is now time to look forward to see how the rest of the 2017 season will progress.  Yes, this is the typically ill-fated projections post.  As with anything else, this will likely be wrong by season’s end, and with any luck, I will be reminded of it come October.

AL East – Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox won the division last year with an MVP caliber season from Mookie Betts, Rick Porcello with a more ways than one surprising Cy Young season, and lots of young talent.  The team will be hurt by the loss of David Ortiz, but they will be helped by the addition of Chris Sale, who should help boost a rotation that has David Price as a question mark.  Considering the rest of the AL East downgraded as well, it it fair to surmise the downgraded Red Sox roster will stay on top.

AL Central – Cleveland Indians

So, the American League Pennant winners add Edwin Encarnacion, get Michael Brantley back, and return Carlos Correa from injury?  That’s the rich getting richer.  This team is poised to not only win the division again, but they should be poised to return to the World Series.

AL West – Texas Rangers

This team is truly going to benefit from a full season of Jonathan Lucroy behind the plate, and they are also going to benefit from a full season from Yu Darvish. Combine that with a good bullpen, an excellent manager in Jeff Banister, and veteran leaders in Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli, you have a team that will get the most of its roster and be able to win those close and tight games like they did last year.

AL Wild Card 1 – Houston Astros

The Astros will probably lose the division due to the lack of depth in their starting pitching.  However, with a deep lineup that has George SpringerAlex BregmanJose AltuveCarlos CorreaCarlos Beltran as their top five hitters.  Combine that with Beltran’s leadership and mentoring of young players, and this is a team that will give the Rangers all they can give them.

AL Wild Card 2 – Seattle Mariners

The Mariners fell heartbreakingly short last season, and they have improved the roster with Jerry DiPoto suddenly becoming Trader Jack McKeon.  To name a few, the Mariners added Jean Segura, Yovani Gallardo, and Drew Smyly to what was already a pretty good team with Felix Hernandez, Robinson Cano, and Kyle Seager.

NL East – New York Mets

The Nationals are certainly more formidable than they were last year with them having a full year of Trea Turner and with the Adam Eaton acquisition.  However, on the pitching side, they do not have the depth they typically have, and that is an issue with Stephen Strasburg‘s medical history and Max Scherzer having questionable health entering the season.  Ultimately, it is the Mets depth that should carry the team over the Nationals in what promises to be a tight race.

NL Central – Chicago Cubs

They won the World Series last year, and they get Kyle Schwarber back into the lineup everyday and add Wade Davis to the bullpen.  The real question is not whether they win the division, but whether they get to 100 wins again.

NL West – Los Angeles Dodgers

Like with the National League East, the top two teams are very close, and it’s picking hairs to separate them.  If you look at it Clayton Kershaw is better than Madison BumgarnerKenley Jansen is better than Mark MelanconJohnny Cueto is better than another other pitcher the Dodgers have, but the Dodgers have a deeper rotation than the Giants.  The Dodgers also arguably have the deeper lineup.  If it goes in the reverse, no one should be surprised, but ultimately, the Dodgers appear better on paper.

NL Wild Card 1 – San Francisco Giants

When you have Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, and two aces atop your rotation, it is hard to believe you are going to miss the postseason in its entirety.

NL Wild Card 2 – Washington Nationals

While the team is not deep and has some issues, there are real strengths.  Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy are as good and as clutch a 3-4 combination as there is.  The bullpen with Koda Glover, Joe Blanton, Shawn Kelley, and Blake Treinen could be dominant.  Again, their only real question is health.

Postseason Series

AL Wild Card Game – Postseason Beltran and the Astros offense overcomes King Felix in his first ever postseason start.

ALDS – In what proves to be a slugfest, the better Astros lineup carries them past the Red Sox.  In the other ALDS matchup, the Indians pitching, including the unleashing of Andrew Miller proves to be too much for the Rangers.

ALCS – The Indians pitching proves to be too much for a hot hitting Astros team leading them to consecutive World Series appearances.

NL Wild Card Game – Pick your reason: (1) Bumgarner; or (2) it’s technically a postseason series.

NLDS – This year, the Giants with an improved bullpen won’t be denied as Cueto and Bumgarner led the Giants past the Cubs.  The Mets and the Dodgers 2015 NLDS matchup is not as intense as the Dodgers only have Kershaw to match the Mets aces leaving the Mets to be able to get past them a little easier this go-round.

NLCS – Bumgarner and Cueto are offset by Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom.  After that, the Mets can pick from Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Robert Gsellman, Zack Wheeler, or maybe even Seth Lugo.  You’d probably take any of them over the Giants next best starter Jeff Samardzija.  As such, the Mets pitching outlasts the Giants pitching.

World Series – As painful as this is to say, Terry Francona just manages his way around Terry Collins and brings the Indians their first World Series title since 1948.

Wheels Come Off 

After Matt Harvey‘s terrific start last night, most Mets fans were a little more optimistic about Zack Wheeler‘s first start after missing two years due to his Tommy John surgery. 

That optimism crew to a crescendo after Wheeler’s first inning of work. He was getting it up to 98 MPH. He struck out A.J. Ellis and Christian Yelich to end the inning. 

Wheeler got his lead in the bottom of the first when Curtis Granderson got a two out RBI single off Marlis starter Wei-Yin Chen to score Asdrubal Cabrera. It was already Granderson’s second two out hit with RISP this season. He had four all of last year. 

At this point, the Mets were looking good. It was too soon to say the Mets were in control, but based on the first inning, confidence was building. 

Unfortunately, Wheeler would struggle the rest of the game. In the second, Derek Dietrich hit a two run triple giving the Marlins the lead. He later scored on an Adeiny Hechavarria RBI groundout. 

The third inning saw Yelich hit a two run homer off the right field could pole increasing the Marlins lead to 5-1. Dating back to last season, Yelich has homered in his last four games at Citi Field. 

By the end of the fourth, Wheeler threw 80 pitches, and he was done for the night. His final line was four innings, six hits, five runs, five earned, one walk, and four strikeouts. 

There were plenty of reasons for the struggles; the least of which was Wheeler hasn’t pitched in over two years. It was a cold and very windy night. The outfielders were fighting every fly ball. Wheeler couldn’t get an off speed pitch over the plate.  He seemed to lose his velocity after the first inning.  Another factor was he was supposed to be in Extended Spring Training to work on these things. 

Still, there were some positive signs for Wheeler, and it is something he can build upon. 

Unfortunately, the same thing can’t be said for Josh Smoker who really struggled when he took over for Wheeler in the fifth. By the way, this was the spot for Montero because you’re looking for your long man, but that’s Terry for you. 

Smoker was first done in as Yoenis Cespedes misread a ball hit by Yelich. Smoker followed that by issuing back-to-back walks to Giancarlo Stanton and Justin Bour.  Marcell Ozuna and Dietrich followed with RBI singles. After throwing 27 pitches, Smoker was done leaving the bases loaded with one out. 

Surprisingly, Rafael Montero bailed out Smoker by getting Hechavarria to ground into the 1-2-3 double play. 

If you’re looking for a bright spot on the night, it was definitely Montero. Montero came in and attacked the Marlins hitters. Overall, he pitched 2.2 innings yielding just one hit and two walks while striking out two. This was an important outing for both him and the Mets. He needed this outing considering his previous outing, Wheeler’s struggles, and the injuries to Seth Lugo and Steven Matz

The Mets had a chance to get back in the game with Granderson and Neil Walker hitting consecutive one out singles. Jay Bruce ended the rally grounding into the inning ending 6-4-3 double play. 

It was just one of those nights. Simply put when Montero and Josh Edgin are your best pitchers, it’s not going to be a good night. To be fair, Montero and Edgin were quite good. Offensively, the only highlight was Granderson who was 2-4 with an RBI. 

Well, that and Cespedes homered in the eighth. It was his first of the year. 

This game was the epitome of “you can’t win ’em all.”  The game was so bad, GKR was flipping through baseball cards and discussing pizza toppings. Mets just need to forget about this 7-2 loss and get ready for tomorrow night’s game. 

Game Notes: Jose Reyes went 0-5 tonight putting him at 1-18 on the year. Still, it was Lucas Duda who sat in favor of Wilmer FloresRene Rivera started in place of Travis d’Arnaud because Terry perceived Rivera and Wheeler worked well together and to combat the Marlins running game. Wheeler allowed five runs over four innings, and Dee Gordon stole a base. 

The Dark Knight Returns

With the injuries to both Steven Matz and Seth Lugo, the safety net was gone. Not only did Matt Harvey have to begin the year in the rotation, but he was going to have to be the Harvey of old to give the Mets a chance to fulfill their hopes of reclaiming the National League East. 

During Spring Training, that was far from a certainty. His velocity and confidence were all over the place. It was not until the end of Spring Training that Harvey began to look more like his old self. Still, when he took the mound on a cold wet night, there was doubt as to what we would be. 

Harvey was great. 

Now, it wasn’t quite the Harvey of old. He featured his two seamer more almost scrapping his four seamer. Instead of being in the upper 90s, he was sitting mostly at 94. He pitched more to contact than rack up the strikeouts. Still, his secondary pitches were there, especially his vaunted slider. With that, he might not have been the 2013 or 2015 Harvey, but he was still great. 

His only mistake was a thigh high fastball to Matt Kemp who deposited the pitch into the left field seats giving the Braves a 1-0 lead. 

In a rare sight for a pitcher who has historically gotten low run support, the Mets responded right away in the bottom of the fifth. 

Neil Walker finally got his first hit of the year. The red hot Jay Bruce followed with a single of his own. Both would score on Travis d’Arnaud‘s RBI double. 

It was a huge hit for d’Arnaud bot just because it gave the Mets the lead, but also because it was his first RBI off a left-handed pitcher since September 14, 2015. That’s not a typo – d’Arnaud had no RBIs off a left-handed pitcher last year. In what is a huge year for d’Arnaud, he got his first big hit. 

In the sixth, Wilmer Flores, who absolutely kills left-handed pitching, hit a two run homer right down the left field line off Jaime Garcia to give the Mets a 4-1 lead.

https://twitter.com/mets/status/850148178263408640 

Those four runs were enough for Harvey. Harvey lasted 6.2 innings allowing three hits, two runs, two earned, no walks, and four strikeouts. Two of his four strikeouts came in the seventh as he was pushing towards the finish line. He was then chased by Kemp’s second homer of the night. 

You honestly could not have expected more from Harvey. He was economical throwing just 77 pitches. He pitched to contact and enduced weak contact. He dominated. With that, the Mets rotation looks great again. 

Jerry Blevins got the last out of the inning before turning it over to Fernando Salas and Addison Reed.  Salas faced a bases loaded two out jam, but he was able to get out of it by striking out Swanson. 
There would be no save opportunity as the Mets added two in the seventh to make it a 6-2 game. Asdrubal Cabrera singled home Michael Conforto, who was hit by a pitch when pinch hitting for Blevins. Later in the inning, Reyes scored when Dansby Swanson threw the ball offline trying to complete a double play on the Yoenis Cespedes grounder. 

Game Notes: Jose Reyes got his first base hit after having started the year going 0-12. Flores got the start over Lucas Duda with the left-handed pitcher on the mound. Tim Tebow hit an opposite field home run in his first at-bat for Columbia

Maybe The Mets Needed More Pitching

Steven Matz was dealing with elbow pain towards the end of Spring Training, and it landed him in the disabled list. He has subsequently been diagnosed with a strained flexor tendon leaving Matz to say, “I try to do all I can to stay healthy and stay on the field. Thankfully, it’s not anything more serious. So, I hope that I can come back and help the team when I’m ready but there’s nothing I can do I feel like.” (Marc Carig, Newsday). 

Seth Lugo struggled in the World Baseball Classic Championship Game and when he returned to the Mets in Spring Training. The struggles were blamed on a dead arm that, like Matz, landed him in the disabled list. He was sent for an MRI yesterday. After the Mets Opening Day win Mets manager Terry Collins would say, “We lost Seth Lugo today for a period of time, so we know how important it is to keep our pitchers healthy.”  (Laura Albanese, Newsday). 

And just like that the vaunted Mets pitching depth of seven starters is now down to five . . . a fragile five. 

The injuries have forced Zack Wheeler into the rotation ahead of schedule. With his missing two full seasons due to Tommy John surgery, the Mets wanted to limit him to around 125 innings. That’s going to be extremely difficult when he’s in the Opening Day rotation, and the Mets currently go only five starters deep. 

In front of Wheeler in the rotation is Matt Harvey. In 2015, he was terrific after returning from his own Tommy John surgery. He wasn’t able to take the next step as expected in 2016 as he was dealing with the effects of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS). 

Harvey had the season ending surgery to alleviate the effects of his TOS, but so far he hasn’t rebounded as well as he did from Tommy John. Harvey has been inconsistent with his velocity and location during Spring Training. For his part, Harvey believes he turned a corner saying, “It definitely took a little while, but moving in the right direction.” (James Wagner, New York Times). 

While Jacob deGrom appears back to his 2015 Cy Young caliber form, he is coming off an injury plagued season. First, it was the oblique. Then it was a nerve issue in his pitching elbow which required season ending surgery. 

This leaves Noah Syndergaard and Robert Gsellman as potentially the Mets only truly healthy starters entering the season. 

The issue with Gsellman is he’s a rookie with only 44.2 major league innings under his belt. For that matter, he only has 93.1 innings above Double A. It’s possible he hits a rookie wall, or he needs to have his innings limited this year. 

So, to that end, the only pitcher left you feel 100% confident about this year is Syndergaard . . . and he was forced to leave his Opening Day start due to a blister. His next start has already been pushed back a day. Considering the Mets health history, it’s hard to be confident that’s all it will be. 

With that, the Mets vaunted pitching rotation depth has already been tested. With one more injury or one prolonged slump, the Mets may be forced to turn to Rafael Montero which hasn’t turned too well in the past. 

In the event Montero or someone else takes the mound, we all may soon realize the Mets deep seven man pitching staff just might’ve been one or two starters short. 

Five Mets Who Should Improve In 2017

With the Mets returning almost of the entire 2016 team that lost the Wild Card Game, the team is going to have to count on the players they have now improving in order for the team to advance further than the Wild Card Game.  Fortunately for the Mets there are some players who appear poised to have a much better 2017 season:

C Travis d’Arnaud

After the 2015 season, d’Arnaud seemed poised to take the next step.  After all, his 130 wRC+ trailed only Buster Posey among major league catchers with at last 200 AB.  His pitch framing was simply outstanding.  While he was never known for his arm, he was able to throw out 33% of base stealers, which was actually higher than league average.  Entering his age 27 season, he seemed primed for an All Star selection or more.

Injuries once again got in the way for d’Arnaud as did his problems throwing out base stealers.  He also regressed offensively hitting a paltry .247/.307/.323 in 75 games.  After a season like that, the only place d’Arnaud could realistically go is up.

And that’s where he is trending this Spring Training.  With his work with Kevin Long, he has abandoned the wrap in his batting stance, and we have seen him hit much better in the Spring.  While his throwing is not exactly where you want it yet, but with Glenn Sherlock as his catching coach, we should see d’Arnaud improve again behind the plate.

And with d’Arnaud improving offensively and defensively, and with a little luck on the health side, we may finally see d’Arnaud play at an All Star level.

RF – Jay Bruce

In his 50 games with the Mets, Bruce hit .219/.294/.391 with eight homers and 19 RBI.  While the trade for Bruce may not have been popular, and the Mets being unable to trade him this offseason being even less unpopular, let’s keep in mind Bruce has been a far better player than this in his career.

In his nine year career, Bruce is a .248/.318/.467 hitter who has averaged 27 homers and 82 RBI.  In each season he has played 150 games, he has hit 30 homers and 97+ RBI.  He has shown the ability to be patient at the plate having posted .353 and .341 OBP in his career.  The overriding point here is that Bruce is capable of so much more, and fortunately, Bruce is with a team that can get it out of him.

Since Kevin Long became the Mets hitting coach, he has taken players like Daniel Murphy, Curtis Granderson, Yoenis Cespedes, Neil Walker, and Asdrubal Cabrera, and he has gotten them to hit for more power and get on base more frequently.  As James Wagner of the New York Times reports, the Mets have begun that process by sharing advanced data with him and by helping him change his approach at the plate.  So far, Bruce has been a willing student.

Considering Bruce is willing to listen and improve, and the Mets have the people in place who help hitters improve, there is every expectation that we should see a much better version of Jay Bruce than we saw last year.

SP Jacob deGrom

The 2016 season was a tough one for deGrom.  He started the year with an injured oblique and a sick infant.  He didn’t have his velocity even when he was presumably healthy, and then he had to have season ending to repair the ulnar nerve in his pitching elbow.

Whereas deGrom was throwing around 94 MPH in 2016, this Spring, he is back to the 96+ MPH he was in 2015.  That was a pitcher who was 14-8 with a 2.54 ERA, 0.979 WHIP, and a 9.7 K/9.  That was a pitcher who finished seventh in Cy Young voting.  That was a pitcher who out-dueled Clayton KershawZack Greinke, and Kyle Hendricks in the postseason.  That pitcher was an ace.   By all accounts, that pitcher is back.

SP Steven Matz

There were glimpses of the ace Matz could be during last season.  In an eight start stretch from April 17th to May 31st, Matz was 7-0 with a 1.17 ERA, 0.913 WHIP, and an 8.7 K/9.  From that point forward, Matz had difficulty pitching through what was described as a massive bone spur in his pitching elbow.  Matz lost a tick on his fastball, and he had to reduce the amount of sliders he threw.  He struggled, and he eventually had to have season ending surgery.

Looking at him this Spring, Matz is back to the form he was when he was at his best last year.  Maybe, just maybe, he might be even better.  After working with former Met Scott Rice this offseason, Matz has a slightly new leg kick which functions to keep both base runners and batters off balance.  With the new delivery, Matz could possibly be better than what we saw from him over the past two seasons.  With the bone spurs gone, and with him presumably no longer sleeping on couches, his injury problems are hopefully in the rear view mirror.  Then again, with this latest bout with the elbow, who knows with him?

Overall, with him reportedly feeling good after throwing off flat ground, and I’m choosing to believe the MRI is precautionary. I’m going to choose to believe Matz will be good to go in 2017, and he will have a breakout 2017 season.

LF Yoenis Cespedes

Last season, Cespedes hit .280/.354/.530 with 31 homers and 86 RBI.  Using OPS+ as a barometer, it was the third best season of his career.  It is all the more amazing he had that type of a season when you consider Cespedes played out of position most of the year, and he dealt with a right quad injury most of the year.

In 2017, Cespedes should be playing in his natural left field position where he won the 2015 American League Gold Glove despite playing only 102 games there.  He should also be more comfortable with a large guaranteed contract with a Mets team in which he loves.  We have seen the effects of that with Cespedes showing up to camp in terrific shape, and he has been all about business this Spring.  No car show.  No waffles.  Just baseball.

And by the way, he is absolutely killing this Spring.  He’s sending moon shots all over the place including one over the batter’s eye at First Data Field.  By the look he has in his eye this Spring, Cespedes looks like he may put together a better run than he did when he first joined the Mets in 2015.  Seeing how he’s playing now, it is tough to rule that out.

Certainly, with improved seasons from the aforementioned five players, the Mets should have enough to overtake the Nationals once again and win the National League East.  When you take into account bigger contributions from players like Lucas Duda and Juan Lagares or with young players like Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, or Gavin Cecchini being ready to contribute the minute the Mets call them up to the majors, this team should do better than the 87-75 record from last year.  They should do better than the Wild Card.  Maybe, just maybe, they can do better than the 2015 team.

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.