One of the narratives which is beginning to emerge is the Mets need Pete Alonso to be on their Opening Day roster because the Mets are a win-now team. Considering how tight the National League East race is going to be the argument is it’s worth carrying him for 16 days and foregoing control over him for the 2025 season. In essence, those 16 days are worth much more than one year of Alonso’s prime.
Putting aside the fact Dominic Smith could potentially be a better option than Alonso to open the season, especially with the Mets facing Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg twice, the question is why has Alonso become ground zero for the Mets doing everything they can do to win?
Since the 2017 All Star Break, Jason Vargas has a 6.04 ERA, and opposing batters have hit .278/.351/.506 against him. At the moment, he is slated for 30 plus starts. Behind him, the Mets pitching depth constitutes a group of pitchers who have posted an ERA over 5.00 as a starter over the last year.
It would seem to be contradictory to say every game counts as a justification to play Alonso 14 games while trotting out well below league average pitching for over 30 games. They’re doing this despite Gio Gonzalez and Dallas Keuchel still being free agents.
The Mets entered the offseason with a need for a center fielder. They traded for Keon Broxton, who hit .179/.281/.410 last year while playing in a very hitter friendly park. That would be the only outfielder they added to the 40 man roster this offseason. This left them to consider playing Juan Lagares more, a player who has averaged 68 games over the past three years.
This has led the Mets to consider playing Jeff McNeil in left field, a position he played all of 17.0 innings in Triple-A last year. This has forced Brandon Nimmo into center, a position the Mets had purportedly decided he shouldn’t play at the Major League level. A -5 DRS in 434.2 Major League innings there seem to substantiate the Mets previous decision on that front.
It may not matter anyway because Spring Training injuries to Todd Frazier and Jed Lowrie, two players who are over 33 years old, have forced McNeil to third base, a position the Mets did not want him to play last year. Of course, this puts the Mets back towards relying on Lagares and Broxton, which they clearly did not want to do.
Oddly enough, for a Mets team putting a premium focus on 14 games, they ignored the other 148 when it came to building their outfield. In fact, they stood aside when the Braves signed Nick Markakis and the Phillies signed Bryce Harper and Andrew McCutchen. Don’t forget the Braves also added Josh Donaldson too, which is something to consider if the Mets wanted to go the route of putting McNeil in left field.
The overriding point here is the Mets ignored and cut corners on various part of their roster. They’re gambling with over 30 starts from their rotation. They’re playing an infielder in the outfield hoping he will be able to get up to speed quickly gambling on 162 games at that position. Overall, the Mets are gambling at two key positions over the course of the season.
Yet somehow, the Mets are potentially going to tell us they desperately need those 14 games out of Alonso at first base because, you know, those 14 games at first base matter much more than the fifth starter spot and a starting outfield position over the course of full season.
On January 16, Mets General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen stood up at a press conference introducing Jed Lowrie at Citi Field, and he issued a challenge to the rest of the National League East. With the bravado Van Wagenen has held since taking over the position, he uttered the boastful words, “Come get us!”
At that time, the Mets had made some bold moves. The team had added not just Lowrie on the infield but also Robinson Cano. The bullpen was largely remade with Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia. Not too long thereafter, the Mets would add Justin Wilson making their bullpen potentially the best in all of baseball.
On January 16, you could understand a bit of the Mets bravado. The Braves really stopped short of improving their club by adding just Josh Donaldson and Brian McCann. The Nationals did add Patrick Corbin and Kurt Suzuki in addition to bolstering their own bullpen, but they were likely losing Bryce Harper. As for the Phillies, well, despite their proclamations they were going to spend stupid money, it didn’t seem anyone wanted it.
While we know the Phillies call to action largely existed prior to Van Wagenen’s declaration, and it being very likely the Phillies were not going to make decisions predicated on what Van Wagenen said at a press conference, they did possess the ability to make the Mets General Manager to eat his words.
The first bold move was to acquire J.T. Realmuto from the Marlins. It’s worth noting Realmuto was a prize fish Van Wagenen had expended much effort to bring aboard only to have to eventually cut bait and sign Wilson Ramos after Yasmani Grandal purportedly rejected the Mets contract offers.
Yesterday, well yesterday was the big one. The Phillies signed Harper to a 13 year $330 million contract. With it being worth $5 million more than Giancarlo Stanton‘s contract, the Phillies went out and gave Harper the largest contract in baseball history.
Harper and Realmuto were part of a larger offseason for the Phillies. In addition to those two All-Stars, the team also signed Andrew McCutchen and David Robertson. They also made a blockbuster trade to obtain Jean Segura, Juan Nicasio, and James Pazos. All told, the Phillies added over $148.55 in new contractual obligations, and that is before factoring in Harper.
When taking into account the money owed Harper, the Phillies have added nearly half a billion in payroll obligations. Apparently, when their owner John Middleton said they were going to spend stupid money, he meant it. This is a Phillies team who is all-in, and they may not even be done adding pieces.
Notably, at the time the Mets signed Lowrie, they were projected as a team who was neck-and-neck with the Nationals for the division with them being in position to claim a Wild Card. Now, according to Dan Szymborski of Fangraphs, the Mets are now projected to be the fourth best team in the division, and their pre-season odds of making the postseason dropped from 31.2 to 26.7 percent.
It should also be noted while the Phillies have been moving past the Mets, the Mets have had to deal with injuries to both Lowrie and Todd Frazier with neither one having a timetable as to when they can return. The team has also seen Travis d’Arnaud and T.J. Rivera struggle in their attempts to return from Tommy John surgery.
With all that has happened in little over a month, Van Wagenen still believes the Mets can win saying, “I believe we can beat any team, any time.” However, it is noteworthy he has fallen short of calling the Mets the best team in the division, and he is no longer challenging the other teams in the division to come get the Mets.Perhaps, it is because he knows the Phillies already have.
With Jed Lowrie and Todd Frazier suffering injuries this Spring, the temptation may be to shift Jeff McNeil to third base and to play Juan Lagares in center. There is sound logic in the thought process. Lagares is the best center fielder on the team, and if Lowrie and Frazier cannot go, McNeil is clearly the best player available to play third.
While there is logic behind the thought process, the Mets should resist the temptation.
Heading into this season, McNeil has played just 65.1 innings in the outfield in his professional career. He has played 35.1 of those 65.1 innings in left field, the position he is slated to play in 2019. That includes just 17.0 innings in left field for Las Vegas last season. While he notably worked on the position with Tony DeFrancesco last year, and he has put his time in working at the position during Spring Training, he lacks game experience.
There are aspects to McNeil’s game which would indicated he can succeed in left field. According to Baseball Savant, McNeil has the same sprint speed as Andrew Benintendi (4 DRS), which would indicate he has the speed to cover the position. It’s also worth noting McNeil is a smart player who has moved all over the field in his professional career. He is accustomed to adapting and learning a new position.
While you may point to McNeil’s arm in left as a concern, the greater concern is his lack of experience at the position. It is one thing to have him play fewer than 20 innings in the minors, and it is a whole other thing to expect him to play over 1,000 innings at the position at the Major League level. No matter how much time he spends on the back fields working on it, there is no substitute for in-game experience, and McNeil is in need of that.
If the long term plan is to have McNeil as the team’s left fielder, the team is going to have to stick with that plan. You don’t want a situation where he plays third for a week or even a month only to later have him shift to left field. It doesn’t help him improve at the position, and you face the risk of him losing experience out there costing the Mets a game in the future.
Ultimately, the Mets have built a team where they are best suited to having McNeil playing everyday in the outfield. This is partially the result of finding a place for him to play and partially the result of the lack of real outfield depth. Considering that is in the team’s best interests, they need to make sure McNeil is the best possible defensive left fielder he can be.
That means resisting the temptation of having him play at third base while Frazier and Lowrie are unable to go. Instead, the Mets need to be looking at their other options like J.D. Davis and T.J. Rivera at third and leave McNeil in the outfield. Essentially, they need to treat McNeil just like they would any other outfielder.
With Jed Lowrie and Todd Frazier suffering injuries during Spring Training, the Mets depth is being tested early. Most will point to how this clears the path for Pete Alonso. You could see how this in an opportunity for J.D. Davis. While the Mets may not initially want to move Jeff McNeil to third, if they would it could present an opportunity for Dominic Smith to make the roster.
Francesa on the #Mets injuries to Lowrie/Frazier: "What it does is two things. Number 1: it opens up a bigger opportunity for Alonso and I hate to say this, but it opens up a bigger opportunity for Tebow to start the season on the big team.''
— Brian Monzo (@BMonzoRadio) February 26, 2019
Okay, well almost anybody. Really, to suggest Tim Tebow has an opportunity to make the Opening Day roster borders on the absurd. Really, just look at the Mets complete left field depth chart:
- Michael Conforto
- Jeff McNeil
- Brandon Nimmo
- Juan Lagares
- Keon Broxton
- Rajai Davis
- Gregor Blanco
- J.D. Davis
- Rymer Liriano
- Dominic Smith
- T.J. Rivera
- Dilson Herrera
- Danny Espinosa
- Kevin Kaczmarski
- Braxton Lee
Also consider the Mets have the option to move players like Cecchini to the outfield. As the season progresses, players like Desmond Lindsay may move ahead of Tebow. However, this is about right now, and right now there is nothing to suggest Tebow is anywhere close enough to cracking the Mets Opening Day roster. Really, the mere suggestion of it is beyond absurd.
With the way J.D. Davis has hit in the minors, there has been a feeling among some that if he were to get a chance, he would prove himself at the Major League level. With the depth in the Astros organization, it was fairly clear Davis was not going to get his chance there. When he was traded to the Mets, it wasn’t entirely clear he was going to get his chance in New York either.
Heading into Spring Training, Davis was third on the third base depth chart behind Todd Frazier and Jed Lowrie. As a utility player who could play the corners, he was behind both Lowrie and Jeff McNeil. As such, his most likely role with the Mets would to be to resume Wilmer Flores‘ role as a weapon against left-handed pitching.
Since Spring Training has begun, Lowrie and Frazier have suffered injuries. Lowrie has a strained knee, and Frazier has a strained oblique. Neither player has a timetable as to when they can return to working out let alone playing games. This creates a void at the third base position thereby giving a player an opportunity.
While Davis has spent time at first, left, and even pitcher, he is a natural third baseman. While his range is limited, he has good hands and a strong arm. When he gets to a ball, no matter how tricky the hop, he is going to field it, and he is going to make a strong throw across the diamond.
Certainly, you can live with his defense at the position over the course of the season. That goes double if you organization is doing their job on the scouting and analytical fronts shifting Davis into the right spot on the field to maximize his skill-set.
Really, the question for him is going to be his bat. Lost in the .342/.406/.583 batting line he put up in Triple-A last year were some concerning peripherals. Cbief among them was his 40.6 percent ground ball rate. In the majors, that rate has been worse with him having a 60.5 percent ground ball rate in 2017 and a 50.0 percent ground ball rate in 2018.
Behind that ground ball rate is power. With his posting a very good 19.3 percent HR/FB in Triple-A last year, you see a batter who can hit the ball out of the ballpark. The challenge currently before him and hitting coach Chili Davis is getting him to lift the ball. If that should happen, many, including Baseball America, believe Davis could hit 30+ homers a year.
It should be noted Davis does have a good eye at the plate and has the ability to draw a walk. This should help him as part of the process in not just learning how to lift the ball but also identifying which pitches he can lift to knock the ball out of the park.
Much like we saw with Miguel Andujar last year, sometimes all a promising player needs is that chance. Should the injuries to Frazier and Lowrie linger, Davis is going to get his chance. It’s up to him to see if he can make good on that chance like Andujuar did last year. If he doesn’t take advantage of this opportunity, he’s likely going to watch on as McNeil, T.J. Rivera, or even David Thompson gets that chance.
Now, if Davis does do the job and plays to his full potential, he’s going to make it very difficult for the Mets to take him out of the lineup even when Frazier and Lowrie return from their injuries.
At this moment in time, with perhaps a very minor move or two, it would appear the Mets are done adding pieces this offseason. The different holes in the roster have been noted, but what we have not really seen done is an examination of the Mets decision making process. It is something which should be done more earnestly.
Dumping Swarzak’s And Not Frazier’s Contract
Purportedly, one of the selling points of the trade to obtain Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz was to move the contracts of Jay Bruce (2 years, $28 million) and Anthony Swarzak ($8.5 million). While moving Bruce was certainly understandable, it was curious the Mets moved Swarzak instead of Todd Frazier ($9 million).
As we have seen relievers tend to be mercurial, and it is quite possible with a healthier season, Swarzak could have been much more productive in 2019. Depending on the moves the team made in the offseason, he reasonably could have been the last man in the bullpen.
As for Frazier, we have seen the Mets make his spot on the roster tenuous. Pete Alonso appears poised to be the first baseman sooner rather than later, and the Mets brought in Jed Lowrie with the purpose of playing him everyone, albeit at different positions across teh diamond.
Seeing there being a multitude of free agents who could play third base, wouldn’t it have been better to move Frazier over Swarzak? As we saw, the Mets could have replaced Frazier with Lowrie. Other options included Mike Moustakas, Marwin Gonzalez, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Neil Walker. The Mets could have accomplished the same versatility they sought to accomplish by signing multiple players from this group, and they could have had platoon options over Frazier’s bat. It’s noteworthy with the exception of Moustakas these are switch hitters making them more useful bench players than a player who has never played a reserve role in his career.
Why Didn’t McNeil Play Winter Ball?
The very minute the Mets obtained Cano, it was clear Jeff McNeil was going to play some outfield. Now, it could be argued the amount of outfield he played depended entirely on the other moves made this offseason, but nevertheless, the plan was always to have McNeil see some time in the outfield.
Considering McNeil played exactly 17.0 innings in left field in Triple-A last year and just 56.1 innings in the outfield in his six years in the minors, you would have thought the team would have found a spot for him to play winter ball to hone his craft. After all, the team did try to get Dominic Smith time playing outfield in the Dominican Winter League (it didn’t work out).
Now, because the team couldn’t make any moves to improve the outfield, they are going to play McNeil in left all Spring with the hopes he can get up to speed over the course of less than two months worth of games. It should also be noted this decision is moving Michael Conforto from his best defensive position to right, and it is forcing Brandon Nimmo to center, a position the Mets have been reticent to play him at the Major League level.
Why Trade Plawecki if d’Arnaud Wasn’t Ready?
In his four year career, we have all seen Kevin Plawecki‘s warts, but through it all, he has established himself as a viable backup catcher at the Major League level. While the Mets may have felt the need to choose between him and Travis d’Arnaud, that decision would not have been forced upon the Mets until the moment d’Arnaud was ready to play. As we see now, d’Arnaud is not ready to play.
Instead of keeping Plawecki, they traded him for an underwhelming return in the form of Sam Haggerty and Walker Lockett. The only player of value in the trade was Lockett, and he had been previoulsy traded for Ignacio Feliz, an 18 year old who signed for an $85,000 bonus out of the Dominican Republic two years ago.
Instead of hedging their bets wisely, the team instead signed Devin Mesoraco. Say what you will about Plawecki, but he is far superior to Mesoraco. He’s a better pitch framer, and he is the better hitter (93 to 92 wRC+). And before anyone invokes Jacob deGrom, you need to explain how Mesoraco was the reason why deGrom was so great.
Where Are the Extensions?
There has been a growing trend in baseball for teams to lock up their young players. For example, the Yankees have already locked up Luis Severino and Aaron Hicks, and they are working on locking up Dellin Betances as well. These actions promise to keep the Yankees core together while keeping them cost controlled to what promises to be a team friendly discount.
At the moment, the Mets have free agency concerns of their own. After 2019, Zack Wheeler will be a free agent. After 2020, deGrom will be a free agent. After 2021, a significant portion of the Mets current Mets core will be free agents with Conforto, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz will be headed to free agency.
We know deGrom has put himself on the front burner, but what are the Mets doing besides him? After all, if CAA is in town, it means the team can negotiate extensions for both deGrom and Syndergaard. There is also nothing preventing them from reaching out to the agents for the other players.
Really, this is the biggest part of the offseason which needs examination. What exactly is the plan going forward? Do the Mets have intentions of building something much sustaining, or is this a one year gamble? Are the Mets playing things out in 2019 and reassessing. At this moment, we don’t know. Hopefully, the Mets do.
Heading into Spring Training, the Mets have continuously promised to carry the best 25 players on their roster regardless of any service time issues. Considering prevailing wisdom, and the Mets adding plenty of first base depth with Todd Frazier, J.D. Davis, Dominic Smith, and even Robinson Cano playing first, you wondered if it was going to be mere lip service so as to avoid a grievance.
Jed Lowrie has a lingering knee issue. Should he be unable to go on Opening Day, Frazier is going to be the team’s third baseman. If he’s at third, the path for Alonso has become much clearer. With the way Alonso has begun Spring Training tearing the cover off the ball, the Mets hands may be forced in putting him on the Opening Day roster.
Pete Alonso my GOODNESS pic.twitter.com/RO6IiLdhot
— Jacob Resnick (@Jacob_Resnick) February 23, 2019
Still, you have to question the Mets wisdom in doing that. If Alonso is on the Opening Day roster, he’s likely going to be on the roster for the full season. If that is the case, the Mets would be just giving away one year of control over Alonso, and that would be at a time when he is in his prime when he would be at his most expensive.
Seeing how the Jacob deGrom extension discussions are transpiring, the Mets should not be flippant about one year of control over a player. Remember, Brodie Van Wagenen was deGrom’s agent putting him in the unique position of knowing exactly the bare minimum of what deGrom would want in an extension. Even with Van Wagenen having that important inside information, the Mets still could not handle extension discussions without it being a distraction entering Spring Training.
But it’s not just the Mets. Every team values that year of control. It’s why the Cubs held back Kris Bryant in the beginning of the 2015 season. We will see the same this year with players like Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. Smart and well run teams see that year as a real asset. If you’re a smart team, and you want that player on your Opening Day roster, you strike a deal.
That’s what the Phillies did with Scott Kingery. Before he played even one MLB game, the Phillies signed him to a six year $24 million contract with three succeeding team options. The carrot was Kingery making more than the league minimum over the first few years, and it provided him some certainty going forward.
If the Mets truly want Alonso on the Opening Day roster, they have to strike a Kingery type of deal with him. That doesn’t mean the Kingery salary is something that should be the framework for an Alonso deal, nor does it mean Alonso would be willing to entertain a discussion. Still, the Mets dangling the carrot of being the Opening Day first baseman and not giving someone like Dom a chance could be enough to bring Alonso to the table.
Fact is, if you’re not pushing for this, the Mets aren’t pursuing every avenue to make the 2019 team better, nor are they looking to create some cost certainty for this club. At the end of the day, if the Mets truly want Alonso on the Opening Day roster, they need to push for a Kingery extension now. Absent that, they should be telling Alonso to find an apartment in Syracuse for at least a few weeks because that’s what smart teams do with players they view as the cornerstone of their franchise.
For the first time since 2004, David Wright is not in Spring Training with an eye towards being the Mets third baseman. Sadly, that went by the wayside when he played his last few games as a member of the Mets last year. Since that time, Wright has joined the front office, and he has not been the typical fixture in camp. Surely, the players notice it, especially Noah Syndergaard at lunch time.
But while people may feel it, there does seem to be a level of business as usual. After all, Robinson Cano has Wright’s old locker, and the third base position is a battle of sorts between Todd Frazier and Jed Lowrie. Really, there is a lot going on right now. With all that is going on, there is a question about how much you have noticed Wright’s absence.
There’s definitely a different vibe at camp this year. Is it because David Wright isn’t there? Or is it because there’s a new order? Maybe it’s a little bit of both. I feel like Wright’s there in spirit, and his presence is irreplaceable. But I also think he’s left behind an example for everyone in the room to follow going forward, it feels like a new chapter has begun with the Mets, for better or for worse.
Pete McCarthy (OABT)
It’s hard to say his absence is felt when he has often been injured and rehabbing the last few seasons. Last September was truly special and showed all that Wright gave to the franchise both on and off the field. Hopeful that a player or players can truly ascend to a leadership role now that he is retired and there is no hope of the Captain making a grand return.
Metstradamus (Metstradamus Blog)
That’s probably a better question to ask somebody on the team, since they know the difference. For me, I’m of the mind of “keep moving forward”, and that we care too much about nostalgia in general as a society. (I don’t care which shows premiered 27 years ago today so stop putting it in my Facebook timeline!!!) So while I think of David Wright fondly, I’m ready to look forward and not backward.
Greg Prince (Faith and Fear in Flushing)
The last couple of years prepared us well for our separation from David Wright as an active player. Still, he was such a constant for so long. I always assumed the earliest-reporting employee to St. Lucie every spring was greeted by David bouncing a ball against a wall, waiting for somebody to unlock the door to the facility.
Given his role as a special advisor, I imagine we’ll see him around in some capacity, which is comforting. May he find the new work rewarding and may fans never stop appreciating all he gave this franchise.
Tim Ryder (MMO)
To be honest, no. In my head I’ve already turned that page. This roster is full of talented guys, some of whom learned how to conduct themselves as major leaguers from David Wright. I have a feeling his impact on this clubhouse will continue to manifest itself over the next few seasons. Will I miss him on the field? Always.
Bre S (That Mets Chick)
Have I felt Wright’s absence from the team during spring training? I can’t say I have. That is a better question to ask the players. I can see from videos and players quotes that there is a different and fresh vibe from this team. Wright is no longer on the field with them being their leader and caption. Other players like Michael Conforto, Jacob deGrom, and Brandon Nimmo all know they need to step up in 2019. Whether Mets fans like it or not, the team must move on without Wright being in the clubhouse everyday. This reminds me of 2005. Mike Piazza‘s final season with the Mets. Going into 2006, bright and young new faces emerged the voices and leaders for the Mets: David Wright and Jose Reyes. Similar to 2006, a new leader for the Mets will emerge in 2019 and I can’t wait to see who that is.
James Schapiro (Shea Bridge Report)
I’ll notice the hole at third base once games start. Third base the last few years has almost been defined by “waiting for David Wright,” so now that David isn’t coming back anymore I expect the third-base position to have a completely different dynamic. We have Frazier, who was so-so last year; Lowrie, who can really hit…but may already be hurt? Jeff McNeil, who can also really hit but is unproven and might also be an outfielder; J.D. Davis, who seems like a complete mystery…David Wright’s absence, to me, is going to make itself felt most in the fact that when we go through third base options, there won’t be that pause we used to make, and no one will say, “well, this is just the backup plan until Wright comes back.”
Surprisingly, I have not noticed Wright’s absence. There are a number of reasons why with Pete Alonso fighting for a first base job, deGrom still going without an extension, and the fact there are still big name free agents on the board like Bryce Harper, Dallas Keuchel, and Craig Kimbrel. There is a lot of noise in baseball right now, and it is overshadowing Wright not being a part of the team anymore.
I anticipate I will first feel his absence on Opening Day when Howie Rose is calling out the players’ names. His name will be a noticeable omission. If the Mets are fighting for a postseason spot, I know I will certainly notice Wright’s absence, and I will likely bemoan who Wright is not going to get a chance to get his World Series ring.
While I have not quite noticed Wright’s absence, I do notice the good work from the fine people who contribute to this roundtable. Hopefully, you notice it as well, and you take the time to read their excellent work.
In what seems to be a right of passage for any Mets player, Jed Lowrie is dealing with a knee issue. While the team is giving their usual spiel about how this is not a big concern, they are also sending Lowrie for an MRI. Time will tell if this is just a Spring Training ache and pain or if this is something more serious.
On the one hand, you could well argue this is what a team should expect when they sign a soon-t0-be 35 year old middle infielder. Older players are less durable, and as a result, tend to suffer more injuries. With that being the case, you could use this as a basis to criticize the Mets, but you shouldn’t.
Once the team made the trade for Robinson Cano, they were left with having to decide how to handle the construction of their team. On the one hand, they could have looked at Cano and saw a player who absent suspension hasn’t played fewer games than 2006. They could have looked at Jeff McNeil as a capable back-up for the 36 year old in the event Cano does break down, or possibly, faces another suspension.
Still, the team would have been faced with dealing with a 33 year old Todd Frazier. For his part, Frazier has typically been a healthy player. However, with the Mets, he would have the first two DL stints in his career. If this were a sign of things to come, it would be difficult to have McNeil backing up both Cano and Frazier simultaneously.
Looking at it, this left the Mets with a question how to properly build depth. Astutely, Brodie Van Wagenen signed [his former client] Lowrie to serve as that depth. In Lowrie, the Mets were getting an All-Star who hit .267/.353/.448 with 37 doubles, a triple, 23 homers, and 99 RBI (120 OPS+) while playing for the A’s last year. In Lowrie, the Mets obtained a player who could probably be an everyday player for any of the 30 Major League teams.
With Lowrie, the Mets have a play who can play second or third base. It gave the team options at those positions as well as first base with Frazier’s and Cano’s ability to play there. Without him, the Mets are back at square one with Cano and Frazier, two All-Stars who are good defenders at their positions. Without him, they still have plenty of options at first with Peter Alonso, J.D. Davis, and the overlooked Dominic Smith.
The team still has the option to move McNeil back to the infield to buttress the infield depth.
Overall, even if Lowrie goes down, the team has the ability to sustain that injury. If it was Cano or Frazier who went down with injury instead, the team would have had Lowrie. That is exactly why you sign Lowrie, and that is why even if this injury is more severe than expected (as is the Mets way), the team has already been proven right in signing him.
With the Mets hiring an agent as opposed to a front office baseball executive, you knew Brodie Van Wagenen was going to have a learning curve. As such, he was going to make some bad moves, and certainly, you knew he was going to make some curious decisions. Some may inure to the Mets benefit while others may not. If these questionable decisions do work out for the Mets, then a World Series may very well be in the team’s future.
Why Isn’t Cano Playing First Base?
Robinson Cano was the big bat the Mets acquired this offseason, and the plan is for him to be a fixture in the Mets lineup. However, that is for as many games as he is able to play. To his credit, Brodie Van Wagenen has been quite vocal about the need to give Cano more days off than he is accustomed due to Cano being 36 years old.
If we harken back to 1999, Bobby Valentine did this with a 40 year old Rickey Henderson to get the last good season out of Henderson. That also led to the Mets claiming the Wild Card and going to the NLCS.
For Cano, it is not just his age, but it is also his position. Players who play up the middle play the more taxing defensive positions in baseball. That takes more of a toll on a 36 year old player. Given Jed Lowrie‘s presence on the team, you have to wonder why the team doesn’t make Lowrie the second baseman with Cano playing first.
Putting Cano at first would be putting him in a position where he would not be as subject to fatigue over the course of the season. It should also be noted with Cano already 36 years old and his signed for five more seasons, it is a position switch he will eventually have to make. If he is going to have to make the switch, why not do it now so the Mets could coax more at-bats and games from him over the course of the season?
Where Is Davis Getting His Opportunity?
With J.D. Davis‘ minor league stats, you could make the argument all he needs to succeed at the Major League level is an opportunity to play at the Major League level. Certainly, it’s a fair point to raise when someone hits .342/.406/.583 in 85 Triple-A games and .175/.248/.223 in 42 MLB games.
The problem is you’d be hard-pressed to where exactly he would get that opportunity.
He’s behind Todd Frazier and Jed Lowrie at the third base depth chart. He’s behind Peter Alonso and Frazier on the first base depth chart. He’s a right-handed compliment to right-handed hitters. He’s not suited to play outfield in the majors, and even if he was, he’s buried on the outfield depth chart as well. Combine that with Lowrie and Jeff McNeil being the versatile players on the roster, and you have to wonder where he gets hit at-bats.
After you are done contemplating that, you are left to wonder why the team would trade three good prospects in Luis Santana, Ross Adolph, and Scott Manea for him when they could’ve just as easily signed Mark Reynolds or Matt Davidson.
Was McNeil Playing LF the Original Plan?
One of the benefits of having McNeil on the roster is having a versatile player on the roster. Despite the team’s initial reluctance last year, he is someone who has received playing time at all four infield positions, and he has always trained in the outfield. To that extent, penciling him as the team’s starting left fielder, even against just right-handed pitching made a ton of sense.
That plan made even more sense when you consider Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo are both capable center fielders with Juan Lagares being the best defensive center fielder in the game. Really, breaking it down, moving McNeil to left field was probably the best way to handle the Mets resources.
However, the plan to move McNeil to left field does raise some interesting questions. For example, why didn’t the team send him to winter ball to play outfield. Also, why would the team expend resources to obtain Keon Broxton only to make him a fifth outfielder? Moreover, if McNeil is your outfielder, shouldn’t the team have a better insurance option against his inability to play left field than Broxton?
What’s the Plan for Backup Catcher?
When the Mets traded Kevin Plawecki to the Indians, they were effectively announcing Travis d’Arnaud was healthy enough to be the backup. That was called into question when Mickey Callaway said Devin Mesoraco signed with the Mets because of his relationship with Jacob deGrom.
It would seem if the Mets signed Mesoraco to catch deGrom the team now has one catcher too many. Does this mean the team is planning on moving him on the eve of Opening Day, or is Mesoraco willing to catch in the minors until the inevitable injury to d’Arnaud or Wilson Ramos. If that is the case, what impact does this have on Tomas Nido, and his future?
On the bright side, the Mets have good depth at the catcher position, but that only remains true to the extent they are keeping everyone. If they are the challenge is then to keep everyone happy and sharp, which is much easier said than done.
Where’s the Starting Pitching Depth?
With Jason Vargas struggling since the 2017 All-Star Break, you would have thought the Mets would have done more to address their pitching depth. That goes double when you consider the team traded Justin Dunn, their best starting pitching prospect, and with David Peterson and Anthony Kay being at least a couple of years away.
With the health issues facing Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz, you would’ve thought the Mets would have been pressed more to add starting pitching depth. When you couple that with Van Wagenen knowing Jeff Barry councils his pitching clients to limit their innings, you would believe the Mets would have pressed to go more than four deep in the pitching rotation.
But the Mets haven’t. Not really. Their depth is essentially the same group who posted an ERA over 5.00 as MLB staters along with Hector Santiago, a pitcher now better suited to the bullpen.
When you look at this rotation the best health they had was in 2015, and that was a year the team needed 10 starting pitchers to get through the season. This team has nowhere near that type of depth.
As it turns out, more than anything, it may turn out to be the pitching depth which is the biggest key to the 2019 season. If the team is healthy, and deGrom and Syndergaard go against their agent’s advice, it is possible the team has enough pitching to get through the season. If the pitchers do impose pitching limits and there is more than one pitching injury, the team’s hopes of winning anything may be done, and that is even if the other questions are answered in the affirmative.