As the Mets embarked on the offseason, Brodie Van Wagenen specifically said the Mets were looking to upgrade over Tomas Nido as a backup catching option. Given Wilson Ramos‘ durability concerns, Nido’s 40 wRC+, and pitchers like Noah Syndergaard pushing for a personal catcher, you could understand Van Wagenen’s position.
However, as it stands today, the Mets appear as if they are going to go into the 2020 season with Nido returning as the backup catcher.
Now, there are some reasons for that. Players who could have fit that mold like Robinson Chirinos and Jason Castro got starting jobs elsewhere, and they essentially signed for starter money. While we can have a debate as to the merits of not upgrading over Ramos, the fact is if the Mets wanted a pure backup, these players ultimately were not going to fit the mold.
Still looking past that, there were plenty of players who fit exactly what the Mets wanted, and yet the team didn’t strike. There was Francisco Cervelli, who signed a cheap deal with the Marlins. Worse yet, there was Kevin Plawecki who signed for under $1 million. More than any other player, Plawecki was the fit due to framing ability, familiarity with the pitching staff, and cost.
Now, when you look at the free agent market, there isn’t much left. At this point in his career, Jonathan Lucroy appears near done as a Major League caliber player. John Ryan Murphy never panned out to be the catcher some thought he might be. Really, when you parse through it all, there remains one viable option on the market – Russell Martin.
According to Baseball Savant, Martin is a strong pitch framer on the lower half of the plate. That should help Syndergaard and pitchers like Rick Porcello and Marcus Stroman. On that point, Martin actually caught Stroman.
He also had a decent season at the plate for a backup catcher with an 83 wRC+. Moreover, he is seen as a leader in the clubhouse, and he has already shown an ability to handle New York during his time with the Yankees. When looking at him, he makes a lot of sense for the Mets.
Of course, the Mets would still have to be interested in addressing one of the primary needs they laid out as the offseason opened. On that front, Van Wagenen has walked back those remarks a bit to indicate he is now comfortable with Nido and Ali Sanchez in Triple-A as his catching depth. You could see his point if he was addressing other areas of the team, but he isn’t.
Ultimately, the Mets are going to need an upgrade from their backup catcher. Based upon his career and 2019 season Martin is that guy. In fact, based on the market, he’s really the only guy remaining. If not him, the Mets are going to have to just hope Nido makes significant strides forward in 2020 while receiving very limited playing time.
According to reports, the New York Mets are currently looking to upgrade their bullpen and backup catcher situation. While Tomas Nido was a strong defensive catcher, he had just a 40 wRC+, which probably necessitates this search.
Ideally, whomever the Mets acquire can offer the Nido’s defensive abilities while also providing a better bat. Also, given the Mets shoestring budget, the player they acquire is likely going to have to be cheap. Here are five catchers who should meet those requirements:
The mention of Plawecki may not excite Mets fans who had grown exacerbated with his never quite fulfilling his offensive potential. Even with his offensive struggles in Cleveland, Plawecki’s 63 wRC+ was far better than Nido’s. If he reverts to the catcher who had a 10.8% walk rate and 96 OPS+ in his final three years with the Mets all the better.
Another factor with Plawecki is he has historically been a strong pitch framer. As noted by Baseball Savant, Plawecki was a strong pitch framer on the lower half of the plate. That is of no small significance with a pitching staff which includes Marcus Stroman, Noah Syndergaard, Jeurys Familia, and Edwin Diaz.
On the topic of the Mets pitchers who need the low strike to succeed, there was a Grantland article which described Martin’s strong framing, which included his exceptional work on the lower half of the zone. While he is not the same framer he was in his prime, he is still one of the better framers in the lower part of the zone getting a called strike a little over 50% of the time.
In addition to framing the low strike, Martin had a strong offensive season for a backup catcher with an 83 wRC+. However, it should be noted that was part of a three year drop off offensively, and he is 36 years old. Still, Martin is a respected veteran presence, and that should not be underestimated.
If the Mets do change course and go with the personal catcher route, it would be much more palatable to Ramos and the clubhouse for the Mets to defer to a catcher of Martin’s stature than it probably was with Nido last year. Overall, this should help the clubhouse and the pitching staff. Speaking of saving the pitching staff, Martin can be relied upon as a reliever in blow out games.
With the Mets hiring Jeremy Hefner as the pitching coach, the organization is looking for an advanced analytical approach to help bring the pitching staff to bring them to the next level. This requires the implementation of a new organizational philosophy across the board. That process could be helped along by the Mets bringing in Castro, who worked with Hefner in Minnesota.
In addition to his knowledge of what Hefner is looking to do, Castro is a strong framer, and like aforementioned catchers, he is strong in the lower parts of the zone. He is also exceptional at getting the corners. Unlike the aforementioned catchers, he was an above average league hitter with a 103 wRC+.
On that note, it was the highest mark he had in six years, and it was just the second time in the past decade he was an above-average league hitter. Of course, some of the impact to that is the ball which was much maligned last year. Despite that, Castro is still a good hitter for the position with strong framing metrics.
Looking beyond these three, it is difficult to find a catcher who would fulfill the criteria of being a better hitter than Nido as well as a strong framer, especially in the lower half of the zone. The framing in the lower half of the zone really needs to be a focus for this Mets team given their pitchers and in their attempts to find a complement to Ramos.
Other popular names like Martin Maldonado may not come as cheap, and others like a Francisco Cervelli do not have the lower half framing numbers you want. Those three catchers should be the overall upgrade at a cheap cost over Nido, who the Mets may very well lose as he is out of options.
The New York Mets are in a position where they need to build depth and improve the team, but they do not have the budget to make significant additions. This means they are in a position where they need to make smart decisions to help them improve their roster.
Specifically, the Mets have been looking for an upgrade over Tomas Nido as the backup catcher. One of the reasons why is Nido had a woeful 40 wRC+. Given his approach at the plate, there is a real debate as to how much better he could be as a hitter.
As a defensive minded backup, that’s not the worst thing in the world. However, when you break it down, while Nido does have good framing numbers, they do not appear to be strong enough to justify not looking to upgrade from him especially with him hitting like a pitcher.
When you look at the framing numbers from Baseball Savant, Nido had a strong season, but it was not as good of a year as the season Kevin Plawecki had with the Cleveland Indians. Specifically, Plawecki was stronger on the lower half of the plate where Noah Syndergaard and some of the other pitchers on the staff like Marcus Stroman, Jeurys Familia, and Edwin Diaz like to get outs.
While Plawecki has frustrated Mets fans, he has shown an ability to work with this Mets pitching staff. With the Mets, he never quite fulfilled his offensive promise, but he still walked 10.8% of the time in his last three years with the Mets, and he had a manageable 96 OPS+.
Of course, he fell apart last year with the Indians putting up his worse offensive season since his 2015 rookie year when he was rushed to the majors. Still, even if he is now a 63 wRC+ level player, that is still a considerably better hitter than Nido with better framing numbers, especially in the zones where key Mets pitchers need help.
Breaking it down, Plawecki is a considerable upgrade over Nido, and with him likely coming cheap, a reunion with the Mets makes a lot of sense.
The Mets are in a spot where they need to find a fifth starter to replace Zack Wheeler in the rotation. Finding such a starter is complicated because the team is attempting to at least give the allusion they are trying to contend in 2020, but so far, they have very limited resources this offseason. In some ways, that makes Rick Porcello a prime candidate, which according to reports, he is.
Porcello, 30, is just a few years removed from winning the 2016 American League Cy Young. With his Cy Young, being a local kid from Morristown, New Jersey, and his having won a World Series, he is someone who could be sold to the fan base. The fact he has proven to be a durable starter who will make 30 starts a year and pitch over 170.0 innings is of real value. In essence, he could be viewed upon as a Bartolo Colon who keeps himself in shape, doesn’t cheat, and is not a deadbeat dad.
Make no mistake, Porcello does have real value as a fifth starter for any team. There is also some potential for some upside with him. After all, his ERA was worse than his FIP, and the Red Sox having just a putrid defense last year with a -40 team DRS. To that end, the Red Sox were particularly bad on the infield.
Among the biggest culprits were SS Xander Bogaerts (-21 DRS) and 3B Rafael Devers (-6 DRS). Ultimately, the Red Sox team -11 DRS at second was the second worst in the majors. Their -12 team DRS at third and -20 team DRS at short were the third worst in the majors. When you are a pitcher like Porcello who is a sinkerball pitcher, albeit one who is generating more fly balls in two of the last three years, that is not a recipe for success.
That is exacerbated by the batters only going the opposite way against Porcello 22.3% of the time. Ultimately, if Porcello is going to be successful, he needs a strong infield defense behind him. Moreover, with Baseball Savant noting how Porcello likes to pound the bottom of the strike zone, he needs a catcher who is adept at framing the low strike. Breaking it all down, Porcello and the Mets are a very poor match.
In terms of the infield defense, the Mets actually had a worse team defense than the Red Sox with a -93 DRS. That was the worst in the National League, and the second worst in the Majors. Remarkably, that was even worse than the -77 DRS the team had in 2018. What makes those numbers all the more daunting is the Mets appear set to lose Todd Frazier, their best defensive infielder, to free agency.
Like the Red Sox, the Mets were bad defensively across the infield. The Mets -5 DRS at first and -7 DRS at second were sixth worst in the majors. Their -5 DRS at third was the seventh worst in the majors. Finally, their -18 DRS at short was the fourth worst in the majors. As noted by Mark Simon of The Athletic, this is all exacerbated by the Mets being one of the worst defensively aligned infields in the majors. Part of that is an organizational philosophy which tries to minimize the extent to which the infield is shifted.
Now, there were some positives to the infield defense with Amed Rosario playing at a 0 DRS in the second half last year. Of course, behind that is the fact he has consecutive -16 DRS seasons at short. Also, while Frazier is leaving in free agency, Jeff McNeil has proven to be very good at third base in this brief Major League career. If it is him who takes over at third, and not J.D. Davis, the Mets might be able to put Porcello in a position to succeed.
The caveat there is Rosario’s second half improvement is real, and McNeil’s successes are not a short sample size illusion. If we believe in that, and there is reason to believe, that could help Porcello who has a high pull rate against him. However, that is mitigated by Robinson Cano and his poor play (-6 DRS) at second last year. It is very difficult to imagine Cano will be better at second in his age 37 season.
Even if the Mets find a way to configure the infield successfully, Wilson Ramos presents a significant problem.
As noted by MMO‘s Mathew Brownstein, the Red Sox were the fourth best framing team in the majors last year. With respect to Porcello, he had “the 13th-most pitches in the shadow zone (edges of strike zone) called for strikes in 2019.” With respect to Ramos, as noted by MMN‘s Roberto Correa, Ramos was in the bottom 15 in the Majors in framing. Particularly, Ramos struggled in the so-called shadow zone and the low pitch.
In terms of the Mets 2019 pitching staff, we would see this have a significant impact on both Noah Syndergaard and Edwin Diaz with Diaz being the far more vocal of the two. Really, across the board, Mets pitchers performed worse with Ramos behind the plate as the pitching staff adjusted from historically strong framers like Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki. If Porcello is a Met in 2020, we will likely see him have similar struggles.
Ultimately, Porcello may well prove to be a quality fifth starter or better for some team in 2020. He may very well prove to be a surprise for teams who have good defensive infields as well as a catcher who can get him the low strike. Unfortunately, that team is not the New York Mets. As a result, Porcello should look elsewhere for that bounce-back season, and the Mets need to find another pitcher to fill that fifth spot in their rotation.
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.
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.
With the Mets protecting Andres Gimenez, Jordan Humphreys, Ali Sanchez, and Thomas Szapucki from the Rule 5 Draft, the 40 man roster is completely full. With the Mets needing to address a number of areas of this team, this means ever trade, waiver claim, and free agent signing is going to require a player coming off the 40 man roster.
Obviously, Drew Gagnon was the first casualty, but he is not going to be the last. Here is a look at some of the other players sitting on the bubble:
2019 MLB Stats: 0-3, 6.95 ERA, 24 G, 22.0 IP, 1.727 WHIP, 7.0 BB/9, 8.2 K/9
The success Bashlor has had in the minors has not translated at all to the majors. In fact, his control issues have only been magnified, and he has not been able to blow his fastball by anyone. This left him hittable, and he has been hit hard.
2019 Stats: 11 G, 4 PA, 0 H, 0 BB, 3 K
Haggerty was a September call-up with the Mets looking to add some late game speed as they were making a push for the Wild Card. With the current roster crunch, the Mets are too heavy on infielders. With Luis Guillorme firmly establishing himself as a Major League caliber utility player, Haggerty’s spot is all the more tenuous, and he’s very likely the first position player designated for assignment in the event a non-catcher is signed.
2019 Stats: 0-3, 6.59 ERA, 9 G, GS, 13.2 IP, 2.049 WHIP, 8.6 BB/9, 6.6 K/9
After struggling as a two pitch starter in his brief Major League appearances, Flexen was finally moved to the bullpen where he had fleeting success. You could argue with his stuff he could succeed next year in a bullpen role, but it’s very possible the Mets don’t see that happening as he was not called up last September. His being out of options may only accelerate a DFA decision.
2018 MiLB Stats: 4-9, 4.18 ERA, 26 GS, 140.0 IP, 1.343 WHIP, 3.9 BB/9, 8.0 K/9
Kilome is a promising prospect who has control issues and is coming off Tommy John surgery. So far, the Mets have indicated things are going well in his rehab, and he should be ready to pitch early in the 2019 season. That said, if he has a setback, he could be moved off the roster in short order.
2019 MLB Stats: 1-1, 5.51 ERA, 9 G, 16.1 IP, 1.592 WHIP, 2.8 BB/9, 6.1 K/9
Mazza was a 29 year old rookie who finally made his debut with the Mets last year. While he was on the September roster, he did not pitch in a meaningful game although he did pick up his first Major League win on the final game of the season.
2019 Stats: .191/.231/.316, 5 2B, 4 HR, 14 RBI
Nido got his chance to be a defensive minded back-up, and he worked well with pitchers like Noah Syndergaard. Still, he effectively hit like a pitcher at the plate, and his framing numbers, albeit good, were not at the point where you could justify keeping him in the Majors with the way he hit. With him being out of options, and the Mets looking to upgrade, he has the most tenuous spot on the 4o man roster.
2019 Stats: 0-1, 10.80 ERA, 7 G, 6.2 IP, 2.100 WHIP, 2.7 BB/9, 8.1 K/9
Nogosek seemed to turn a corner getting his control under wraps in Syracuse, but those issues would resurface in his brief Major League appearances. There is promise in his arm, but his control issues may eventually make him expendable.
2019 Stats: 0-1, 12.15 ERA, 2 G, 6.2 IP, 2.250 WHIP, 8.1 BB/9, 6.8 K/9
Oswalt was added to the 40 man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft after he was the 2017 Eastern League Pitcher of the Year. Since that time, he has struggled, and it was partially the result of how the team left him sitting dormant for stretches and asking him to pitch on very short rest. He also dealt with some nagging injuries last year. In July and August, when he was healthy and finally giving a stretch of starts, he pitched well posting a 1.98 ERA in 10 starts which will probably save his spot on the 40 man roster. Still, with his not getting a September call-up, it’s not a guarantee.
2019 Stats: 1-1, 4.58 ERA, 17 G, SV, 19.2 IP, 1.068 WHIP, 1.4 BB/9, 10.1 K/9
Last year, Sewald was designated for assignment, and yet again, despite the odds, he pitched his way back to the Majors. In fact, at the end of the year, he was arguably the most reliable right-handed reliever in the Mets bullpen not named Seth Lugo. He has a low walk rate, good strikeout rate, and had a better FIP than ERA. One thing which may save him is his still having a Major League option remaining.
2019 Stats: 0-1, 5.19 ERA, 17 G, 8.2 IP, 1.731 WHIP, 5.2 BB/9, 8.3 K/9
Zamora is an interesting case. In his career, he has posted reverse splits, but he has a very good K/BB ratio against LHB flashing a wipeout slider. With MLB enacting rules effectively eliminating the LOOGY role, a pitcher like Zamora could actually have increased value, but for that to happen, he needs to harness himself better. Fortunately, he has options remaining.
The New York Mets did the obvious and added Andres Gimenez and Thomas Szapucki to the 40 man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft. With the team potentially losing Tomas Nido as they investigate backup catching options, they secured their catching depth by adding Ali Sanchez. Finally, they arguably protected their best exposed starter in Jordan Humphreys.
Even with the Mets protecting these players, the organization is in real risk of losing some players in the Rule 5 Draft. In fact, you can see the Mets losing at least one player and possibly more. Here is a look the players the Mets may well lose in the order of likelihood of it happening:
Ryder Ryan, RP
Stats: 3-1, 3.05 ERA, 25 G, 2 GS, 44.1 IP, 1.263 WHIP, 4.7 BB/9, 8.1 K/9
Ryan was the Mets return from the Jay Bruce trade with the Indians. He has a mid 90s fastball which can hit as high as 97 MPH, and he has a good slider. The two pitches can produce swings and misses, and when batters make contact, they hit the ball into the ground.
Ryan’s big issue has been control. That is partially due to his being a converted pitcher and also partially to his movement being difficult to him to harness. He made significant progress on that front in 2018 only to completely regress last year. If a team believes they can harness that, they will assuredly draft him.
Matt Blackham, RP
Level: Binghamton & Syracuse
Stats: 8-2, 2.60 ERA, 40 G, 55.1 IP, 1.066 WHIP, 4.6 BB/9, 11.4 K/9
In some ways, Blackham is very much like Ryan in that he is a reliever who can post high strikeout numbers, but he really struggles with control. However, whereas Ryan profiles as a future Major League reliever with his being 6’2″ and his ability to throw it in the high 90s, Blackham is only 5’11” and throws it in the low 90s.
Even with his throwing it in the low 90s, he generates a lot of strikeouts. In fact, he struck out 13.4 batters per nine in Binghamton. However, it should be noted that number dropped to 6.3 in 12 appearances for Syracuse. Still, with the movement he has on his fastball coupled with good breaking pitches. It’s very possible he is a pitcher who makes it to the Majors in 2020, but right now, the question is what uniform he will be wearing.
Shervyen Newton, INF
Stats: .209/.283/.330, 15 2B, 2 3B, 9 HR, 32 RBI, SB, 4 CS
With a good 2019 season, Newton might’ve forced the Mets hands. However, Newton had an injury plagued season and struggled mightily and his somewhat troubling strikeout rate worsened. Still, looking through it, Newton is a very promising prospect with promising power, athleticism, good instincts, and a born leader.
In a normal year, Newton would almost be guaranteed to go undrafted. However, with Major League Baseball adding an additional roster space, teams may opt to use that spot to stow a promising prospect like Newton. That goes double for American League teams who may not need to go so deep into the bench for a game. More than one person has surmised the Tigers could very well take this gamble.
Stats: .245/.312/.426, 25 2B, 3B, 16 HR, 69 RBI, SB
On the subject of the 26th man, it will be interesting to see how teams use it in 2020. Some may use it to stash a Rule 5 prospect, and some may use it to carry an extra reliever or a catcher. If they are so inclined to carry an extra catcher, Mazeika is an interesting candidate.
Mazeika has a promising power bat, and he typically hits for more power when he is not catching everyday. While his stats in Binghamton don’t necessary prove that out, especially with him repeating the level, he did have a 118 wRC+with an above-average .182 ISO.
While there have been knocks on his catching ability, he has made significant strides. His framing has been overlooked, and he does his part controlling the running game. This is an area of his game he constantly works on and he makes strides forward each and every year. It’s possible a team sees that and wants him as their backup catcher.
Harol Gonzalez, RHP
Level: Binghamton & St. Lucie
Stats: 12-4, 3.01 ERA, 25 G, 23 GS, 137.2 IP, 1.082 WHIP, 2.2 BB/9, 7.3 K/9
The best way to describe Gonzalez is he is a pitcher who knows how to pitch. .He is a strike thrower who does not beat himself. He’s a four pitch pitcher without one outstanding pitch who thrives by mixing his pitches and locating them.
As the competition has improved through the minors, Gonzalez’s strikeout numbers have dipped, and yet he continues to be an effective pitcher. You could argue he has a future in the Majors as a long reliever or spot starter. His absolute ceiling could be fifth starter, but it is very questionable if he reaches that. Still, there is always room for a pitcher who knows how to pitch and can get outs. It will be interesting to see if some team finds that worthy of a Rule 5 pick.
Overall, the Mets arguably protected the right players. With the way the rules are designed, you cannot protect everyone. That leaves the Mets hoping the ones they did not protect will either go undrafted or be returned to the organization during the 2020 season. At the moment, that seems to be a long shot.
The Mets did good by hiring Carlos Beltran as the 22nd manager in team history. In Beltran, they have someone who is a very good communicator who has the ability to unite a clubhouse while also teaching players things to help them significantly improve. Given his skill set, he can be a superstar manager like he was a superstar player.
However, Beltran in and of himself is not going to be enough to take this Mets team over the top.
With Zack Wheeler being a free agent, the team is going to need a fifth starter. At the moment, internal options like Walker Lockett and Corey Oswalt are not ready to step up to fill that void. The team has mentioned Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo as options, but that only serves to further damage what is already a weak bullpen.
In 2019, Lugo and Justin Wilson were the only dependable relievers in that bullpen. When you look at it, even assuming a bounce-back from Edwin Diaz, this team still needs at least two big arms in the bullpen this offseason. They will need more if Gsellman or Lugo move to the rotation making that decision to rob Peter to pay Paul.
The Mets also need a center fielder, third baseman, backup catcher, and just plain old depth. With Juan Lagares having his option declined, they need a defensive replacement. The team cannot rely upon Jed Lowrie to contribute anything. Tomas Nido was a good defensive catcher, but with his complete inability to hit, you wonder how much you can rely upon him to be on the roster for a full season.
All told, this is a Mets roster which needs a lot of work. Given the dearth of prospects at the Double-A and Triple-A level last year, the team is going to have to acquire those players this offseason instead of looking from within. With all the prospects the Mets traded away over the last year, it is going to be difficult to trade their way back to contention.
That leaves the Mets with spending, and with the Mets being owned by the Wilpons, that is a dicey proposition.
Now, there are some who will say the Mets did spend last year. According to Spotrac, the Mets 2019 payroll was $160.5 million which ranked 10th in the majors.
Lost in that was how David Wright‘s $15 million is included in that amount. Wright had a portion of that salary covered by insurance, and the Mets renegotiated future payments with Wright. The figure also included Yoenis Cespedes‘ $29 million salary which was covered by insurance. Between Wright’s full salary and 70% of Cespedes’ salary being covered, the Mets payroll was reduced by $35.5 million.
That reduces the Mets REAL 2019 payroll to $125 million, which would’ve ranked 18th in the majors. That number is all the worse when you consider Adeiny Hechavarria and Carlos Gomez were cut before roster bonuses were due, and Jason Vargas was traded so the team could clear payroll space after obtaining Marcus Stroman.
As of today, the Mets payroll is $168.8 million. Now, that figure includes Wright’s $12 million, Cespedes’ $29.5 million, and the $5.1 projected arbitration figure due Joe Panik. On that front, as noted earlier, Wright’s contract was been renegotiated, and it is very likely Panik is non-tendered. With respect to Cespedes, there will be no insurance protection this year.
When you dig a little more, that $168.8 includes Jacob deGrom‘s $27.5 million salary. On that front, the $27.5 million figure is for competitive balance tax purposes only. In reality, deGrom is only making $13 million meaning $12.5 million of his salary is deferred.
This means the Mets ACTUAL payroll obligations are $139.2million. That is before the Mets go forward looking to add players this offseason. Still, people will point to the competitive balance tax as a reason why the Mets can’t spend. Let’s take a look at it for a second.
Putting reason aside, assuming the Mets sign Wheeler to a deal with a $30 million average annual value raising the payroll obligations to $188.8. That puts the Mets $19.2 million short of the $208 competitive balance tax figure.
Taking a more realistic approach, assume the Mets don’t go and sign Anthony Rendon. For a minute, just assume the Mets sign a Mike Moustakas ($10 million AAV), Drew Pomeranz ($8 million AAV), and a backup catcher like Jonathan Lucroy ($2 million AAV). Assume the rest of the roster is filled out for a cost of around $5 million, which is probably the very low end.
Assuming Panik is non-tendered, that puts competitive balance payroll at $213.8 million. That would incur the “tax penalty.” The amount of the penalty? It would only be $1.2 million. That’s it.
When looking at the $1.2 million remember the Mets already have $12 million off the books with Wright and $12.5 million deferred with deGrom. As a result, the $1.2 million is more than covered. When you look at it, the Mets can really blow past that $208 million this year.
In fact, the Mets should considering they have Cespedes’$29 million coming off the books completely, and the same can be said for Wright’s $12 million. Essentially, the Mets have $41 million coming off the books.
Whether the Mets will be proactive remains to be seen. If history is any measure, they won’t. Just remember, when they don’t, we should not let them invoke the competitive balance tax as a reason because it is not in any way a real impediment.
The only impediment to the Mets spending are the Mets themselves, and that is not in any way acceptable.
The New York Mets have begun assembling their list of managerial candidates, and they are beginning to set up interviews with different candidates. Judging from what we heard when he broadcasted Mets games this year, Joe Girardi really wants this job. Given his being a very good manager, the Mets should be doing all they could do to hire him.
But . . .
Even with Girardi being the best candidate available there are some red flags with him. He was fired from the Marlins for an inability to get along with ownership, and there probably aren’t any more meddlesome owners in sports than the Wilpons. While he has managed in New York, and he has worked in the media, he was never great handling the New York press. No, he wasn’t bad, but he does have a tendency to be a bit cantankerous, which does not play well in the press.
In terms of the fanbase, Mets fans who have loudly criticized Mickey Callaway for not having a feel for the game are going to go berserk with Girardi and his binders. There is also the issue of how things ended poorly with the Yankees in terms of communication with the players.
Taking all that into account, Girardi is still an excellent manager who would make the Mets better. Yet, there is one massive reason why the Mets should not hire him.
In Girardi’s last year managing the Yankees, he was making $4 million a year. Even if he accepts some form of a discount, the Mets are still going to owe Callaway $850,000 in 2020. Being that this is the Mets, that money can be damaging.
Adeiny Hechavarria was cut one day prior to his being owed a $1 million roster bonus. Carlos Gomez was cut as he was about to reach bonus levels. That’s at least $1.25 million the Mets could not afford to spend in-season. Connecting the dots further, it appeared the Mets needed to trade Jason Vargas to fit Marcus Stroman into the budget.
The Mets operate with a shoestring budget. Assuming the combined cost of Girardi and Callaway is $4 million, that is going to cost the Mets at least one player, maybe more.
That salary level is just $1 million less than what Justin Wilson will earn in 2020. That means Girardi will cost the Mets a late inning reliever they so desperately need. That puts more of an onus on Seth Lugo and puts the Mets in a position where they will have to completely rely on an Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia rebound.
In addition to the bullpen, the Mets need to add a fifth starter to replace Zack Wheeler. That extra couple of million to Girardi could make the difference between a trusted arm and them having to turn to Walker Lockett or Corey Oswalt.
The Mets could use some bench help too. The money to Girardi likely means the Mets are stuck with Tomas Nido and his bat as the backup catcher. That means there Mets are likely stuck looking at a series of minor league deals to league minimums for an everyday center fielder or defensive replacement. That’s if they can afford that.
Overall, a few million may not seem as much to normal teams, but to the Mets that is crippling to their ability to add players to the roster. In the end, the Mets really need to ask themselves if Girardi alone is enough to overcome a fifth starter, one or more arms in the bullpen, and/or bench depth.
While Girardi is good, he’s not that good. No one is. As a result, the Mets should probably be looking to hire another (read cheaper) manager.