Over the weekend, the Mets traded Kevin Plawecki to the Cleveland Indians for a pair of prospects. This has left the Mets with just three catchers on the 40 man roster.
Of course, that was the same position the Mets were on April 11 last season. On that date, Plawecki was hit on the hand with a Tayron Guerrero fastball. That pitch left the Mets with the catching tandem of Jose Lobaton and Tomas Nido.
After that April 11 game, the Mets record was 11-1. From that game up until the second game of a doubleheader, the Mets would go 14-24.
Over that stretch, Lobaton, Nido, and eventually Devin Mesoraco combined to hit .212/.300/.356. As much as Mets fans were down on Plawecki and Travis d’Arnaud, it’s likely even one of them being active would have bolstered those numbers, and hopefully, would have helped prevent the Mets freefall which would be capped off with a 5-21 June.
While there were other mitigating factors at play, a significant issue was the Mets catching depth or lack thereof. It’s an issue which may rear it’s ugly head in 2019.
While Wilson Ramos is undoubtedly an upgrade over d’Arnaud and Plawecki, he’s been an injury prone catcher in his career.
There have only been four times Ramos has played over 100 games. Since 2009, he has been on the disabled list nine different times. That includes last year when he was limited to 111 games.
He’s a 31 year old catcher. He’s at an age when players tend to become more injury prone playing a position where the players tend to be more injury prone.
By the way, his backup is d’Arnaud, who is a catcher who averages 66 games a season on account of his being an injury prone player. That includes him being limited to just six games last year due to a torn UCL requiring Tommy John surgery.
While the Mets believe d’Arnaud will be ready to start the year, the organization has seen its fair issues with Tommy John rehabilitation.
Zack Wheeler missed the 2015 and 2016 seasons due to the surgery and complications during rehab. In 2017, he missed time with a stress reaction, and he did not really get to form until June last year.
There’s also T.J. Rivera who underwent Tommy John surgery in September 2017. He was supposed to return around the All Star Break. Except he didn’t. Rivera missed the entire 2018 seasons, and no one is quite sure what he can contribute in 2019.
Despite this very spotty history and d’Arnaud’s own suspect health history, the Mets are going with him to backup an injury prone catcher. They are taking the chance d’Arnaud never plays, and in the event he does, there’s a chance he misses significant time.
Best case scenario is Nido backs up Ramos. Nido is a very strong defensive catcher who has hit .181/.210/.255/ in 100 Major League plate appearances. While you could hope he would be a better hitter than that, he did hit just .272/.300/.431 between Double and Triple-A.
While you may have concerns about what he would do if he was pressed into action, the real issue is what is behind him on the depth chart.
Sure, the Mets could bring on a veteran catcher, but what veteran wants to backup Nido in Syracuse? If you can decipher that, you gave to question who among that group you’d either want backing up or even starting at the Major League level.
After trading Plawecki, that’s where the Mets ate. They’re crossing their fingers their top two catchers, who have not stayed healthy in their careers, stay healthy, so we don’t find out what’s behind their already suspect catching depth.
After an unplanned hiatus, it is time to start the New Year off fresh and to look at everything anew. It is time for change and resolutions to carry us through 2019. Here are the resolutions for each of the Mets players:
Robinson Cano – don’t get caught using PEDs this time
Yoenis Cespedes – find a way to DH in at least two games this year
Jacob deGrom – learn how to hit better so he can finally win some games next year.
Travis d’Arnaud – get the same surgery Wolverine got
Jeurys Familia – convince Callaway Diaz needs to be used in higher leverage situations so he can get his closer job back
Todd Frazier – find a way to sell move boxes of unsold Mets salt and pepper grinders while not falling into the same trap this year.
Drew Gagnon – keep those incriminating photos which have allowed you to survive roster cut after roster cut.
Robert Gsellman – learn how to pitch well for more than just one month out of the season
Juan Lagares – find a way to play at least half a season
Seth Lugo – when he is not given an opportunity to start and is an All Star snub, channel his inner Margot Martindale from BoJack Horseman
Steven Matz – pitch better so his grandfather will begin cheering for him again.
Jeff McNeil – find a way to hit .400 because short of that the Mets are probably not putting him in the lineup
Tomas Nido – sign up for the best travel rewards program there is because by the time 2019 is over he will be able to fly first class to Australia and back at least 10 times a month
Brandon Nimmo – life isn’t that bad, maybe he should smile every once in a while
Kevin Plawecki – hit the occasional ground ball to the left side just to shake things up.
Amed Rosario – take some mommy/baby classes so he can learn how to walk
Paul Sewald – have a print out of his game logs from Baseball Reference to remind the Mets he pitches well in shorter spurts, and that he is not superhuman and cannot handle onerous workloads. Cry when the attempts fail and he finds himself back in Triple-A
Noah Syndergaard – find an open mic somewhere to discover no one actually believes he or his Mr. Met feud is funny.
Jason Vargas – leave the Jeff Goldblum impressions in the clubhouse and stop pitching like him when he takes the mound.
Zack Wheeler – don’t even let a Mets team doctor near his arm in his free agent walk year.
Daniel Zamora – be able to spin his bad outings the way he can spin his slider
The Mets have been quite busy this offseason, and they have improved their roster. Their bullpen now has Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia. Robinson Cano is now the everyday second baseman with last year’s revelation, Jeff McNeil, hopefully becoming a super utility player in the ilk of Ben Zobrist. Wilson Ramos replaces an uninspiring group of Travis d’Arnaud, Jose Lobaton, Devin Mesoraco, Tomas Nido, and Kevin Plawecki behind the plate.
All told, the Mets are undoubtedly better. In fact, they have gone from being a 77 win team to Fangraphs projecting they will win 85 games. That’s a big eight game improvement, but when you dig deeper, it’s not enough.
Assuming the projections are correct or reasonable, that 85 win mark puts them six games behind the Nationals, and it has them just two games ahead of the Braves for second place in the division. Moreover, it has the Mets capturing the second Wild Card. It is very difficult to believe the Mets are doing this for just the second Wild Card.
Then again, despite Brodie Van Wagenen’s bravado, the Mets may be lucky to capture that second Wild Card.
First and foremost, you’re relying upon a Braves team who signed Josh Donaldson to win eight fewer games. More than that, you’re relying on the Phillies not going out and making significant additions this offseason.
We know the Phillies owner wants to spend a stupid amount of money. He has reached that threshold, but the Phillies have improved the team. The Carlos Santana trade permits the Phillies to move Rhys Hoskins to first base, which is where he belongs, and they replaced Santana’s disappointing production with Andrew McCutchen. In that Santana trade, the Phillies obtained Jean Segura, who presents a massive offensive and defensive upgrade over what the Phillies had last year.
The Phillies are also rumored to be hot in their pursuit of Manny Machado. It’s possible the Phillies will lose out on him to the Yankees or even the White Sox, who made a trade for his brother-in-law Yonder Alonso. If they lose out on him, you can guarantee they will be even more dogged in their pursuit of Bryce Harper. Either player is a game changer.
At a minimum, that makes the Phillies more of a player in the division, and it makes the Mets efforts to win the division or to even capture one of the Wild Card spots all the more difficult. Even the most ardent believer in what the Mets have done this offseason has to admit Machado or Harper on the Phillies severely complicates matters.
If nothing else, this is why the Mets have to stop it from happening. We know they will not be in on Machado, but there they can let the Yankees do their dirty work, but when it comes to Harper, they are going to have to do their own heavy lifting. They are going to have step up and try to sign Harper much in the same way they stepped up and gave up Jarred Kelenic to ensure Diaz did not go to the Phillies.
An outfield of Michael Conforto–Brandon Nimmo–Bryce Harper would be among the best in baseball. For those wringing their hands over Yoenis Cespedes, both Harper and Cespedes have indicated this past year they would be willing to move to first base. Then again, no one should be counting on Cespedes to return at any point in 2019 let alone be the type of player again who can force anyone to the bench.
More than anything, Harper is one of the best players in baseball, and he’s just only 26. He’s one of the more recognizable players in the game, and he could have a Mike Piazza like impact on the field, with attendance, and on the back pages. He could be the next Carlos Beltran. With his talent anything is possible, including not just one but multiple World Series titles.
The main point here is the Mets are far from done building this team into a World Series contender. The same goes for the rest of the division including the Phillies. One team is going to be willing to do everything it takes to win. For the first time in over a decade, it would be nice if that team was once again the Mets.
There is a buzz circulating around the Mets due to the moves Brodie Van Wagenen has been making. On paper, the team he is assembling is better than last year’s team, and the narrative is this team will have a better chance at making the postseason than last year’s team. However, that narrative may not exactly hold up.
Remember, last year the Mets were 17-9 entering May. It was right around that point the injuries started piling up, and the Mets depth or lack thereof became a problem.
Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki were injured leading the way for Jose Lobaton and Tomas Nido. Todd Frazier would have the first disabled list stint of his career leading to the team rushing Luis Guillorme to the majors before he was arguably ready, and with the team playing far more of Jose Reyes than they ever should have done.
Michael Conforto was rushed back from injury before he was ready. Yoenis Cespedes‘ heels wouldn’t let him play anymore, and Jay Bruce‘s plantar fascitiis increasingly became an issue. Matt Harvey‘s Mets career was finished, and Noah Syndergaard was heading to yet another lengthy trip on the disabled list. Wilmer Flores and Juan Lagares would also be making their annual trips to the disabled list.
By the way, this wasn’t the full season’s worth of transactions. That’s just through the end of May.
From there, the Mets would have a 15-39 record over May and June, including a disastrous and soul crushing 5-21 June which all but eliminated the Mets from postseason contention. Remember, this was the same team when healthy that was among the best in all of baseball.
Last year wasn’t an anomaly. The 2017 Mets were a promising team on paper, but they never got off the ground because of injury issues, which would also correlate to under-performance from a number of players. If you go back to 2016, that starting lineup and rotation was built to contend for a World Series, but due to injury issues, that team needed a furious finish and unlikely performances from players like Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, and T.J. Rivera to capture a Wild Card spot.
Until the Mets address their bench, they are running the risk of their season not living up to expectations.
We know Wilson Ramos is an injury prone player as is his backup d’Arnaud. We know Lagares is injury prone. Syndergaard and Steven Matz have their own not promising injury histories. While he has generally been healthy, Robinson Cano is still a 36 year old second baseman, and players in their late 30s do not tend to be durable. That’s nothing to say of the unknown injuries like we saw with Frazier last year.
At the moment, the Mets are ill equipped to handle these injuries. In terms of the infield, the Mets have Guillorme, who was not ready last year, and Gavin Cecchini, who struggled in his limited Major League opportunities and missed much of last year with a foot injury. There is also Rivera, who missed all of last year due to Tommy John surgery and ensuing setbacks. The catching depth may actually be worse with Patrick Mazeika being your last line of defense.
The outfield depth is Dominic Smith, who the Mets don’t even seem inclined to let compete for a first base job, and Rajai Davis, who is a 38 year old outfielder that has not had a good year since 2015.
All told, the Mets are in desperate need of some depth. If they don’t acquire it, you are once again asking the same group who faltered last year to succeed. Those players are still young and can improve, but it is difficult to rely upon them. With that in mind, Brodie Van Wagenen needs to make sure he has money available to address the bench. If he doesn’t, then the Mets may very well suffer the same fate they had over the past two seasons.
Fortunately, he still has time.
With Wilson Ramos in the fold, the Mets lineup should prove to be much improved. After all, Ramos has a 120 wRC+ since 2016, and he is coming off a year where he hit .306/.358/.487. Right away, that makes him the best right-handed bat in the Mets lineup. That caveat is he needs to be in the lineup to be that.
As we saw with Ramos last year, he is an injury prone player. Part of that comes with the position, and part of that is just being Ramos. In his career, he has dealt with a number of injuries including a torn ACL. His career high in games caught is 131, and generally speaking, he has been under that.
Based upon early reports, the Mets appear set to go with Travis d’Arnaud as his backup catcher. On the one hand you can understand the rationale. When healthy, d’Arnaud is a productive player, and he has shown more in the Major Leagues than Kevin Plawecki. However, d’Arnaud is never healthy.
With Ramos and d’Arnaud as your catching tandem, you could very well have a repeat of last season where the Mets leaned far too heavily upon Jose Lobaton and Tomas Nido than they ever should. The team was actually better for the very poor production they received from Devin Mesoraco. Accordingly, the Mets are going to need more depth than just Nido in Triple-A.
As a result, the Mets should really consider carrying all three catchers on their Major League roster next season.
For starters, it makes sense because you cannot quite be sure when d’Arnaud will be fully ready to resume catching duties. After all, he did have Tommy John surgery last year, and he has not had a full season to recover. Even if you believe he is the much better backup option, keeping Plawecki allows you to have d’Arnaud return when he’s ready.
It also allows the Mets to use one of the three catchers as a pinch hitter in any game. As we have seen time and again, managers are loathe to go to their backup catcher to pinch hit even in those instances when they are the best pinch hitter available. If you have a rally going, you would now feel more free to allow Ramos, d’Arnaud, or even Plawecki pinch hit when needed in a game. There is real value in that.
Carrying the three catchers also permits the Mets to really go forward with their idea of using d’Arnaud at more than just catcher. As Anthony DiComo of MLB.com reported, the Mets believe d’Arnaud has the athleticism to play first, third, and left. He certainly has the athleticism, and we have seem glimpses of his bat. Certainly, if he returns to his 2015 form at the plate, you are going to want to find more at-bats for him.
Quite possibly, d’Arnaud can be some kind of super utility player and key bat off the bench. You allow him to be that by carrying Plawecki on the roster.
More than that, you have an opportunity to cycle three catchers behind the plate to keep them all fresh and healthy. You don’t have to go to the depths of Patrick Mazeika or worse if there is an injury. By keeping all three, you are building depth and opening up more options for how to handle both your roster and late game situations.
Mostly, you are insulating yourself from the known risk of injury from your top two catchers. When that is a known risk, and you are an organization with the injury track record the Mets have, you need to insulate yourself from as much of that risk as possible. Keeping Plawecki does that.
After the production the Mets got at catcher from Kevin Plawecki, Devin Mesoraco, Jose Lobaton, and Tomas Nido, many believe the team needs to upgrade at catcher more than any other position. Given the issue with the Mets lineup, you would ideally want a power at the position.
Looking at Mets history, they have actually had some power bats from the catching position. Can you name the catchers who have had the most homers for the Mets? Good luck!
Today was a special day regardless of the outcome because the Mets finally activated David Wright from the 60 day disabled list. That said, whatever chance we thought we would get to see him play were quickly dashed as the Mets said they were not going to pinch hit him. The reason given was the Braves are fighting for homefield advantage in the NLDS, and the Mets did not want to interfere with the integrity of that race.
While justified, you almost have to question how the Mets could take that stance and also use their bullpen in this game.
Through the first six innings, the Braves had just three hits to the Mets four. The difference between the two teams was the Mets made their hits count.
Crew Chief reviews call that Michael Conforto did not hit a home run in the 3rd; call confirmed, no home run.
— MLB Replay (@MLBReplays) September 26, 2018
In the sixth, the Mets tacked on a run in a rally against Braves reliever Dan Winkler.
At 3-0, it appeared Noah Syndergaard was going to earn his first career win against the Braves. In his six scoreless innings, he would allow the aforementioned three hits with two walks and five strikeouts.
After 89 pitches and his being pinch hit for, Syndergaard was done after six. Robert Gsellman would relieve him and the bullpen meltdown would begin.
Johan Camargo led off the inning with a double, and he scored on a Kurt Suzuki RBI single. Suzuki moved to second on a Charlie Culberson walk, and he’d score because Austin Jackson flat out dropped a Rio Ruiz flyball.
Drew Smith, who has really struggled of late, came into the game and threw gasoline on the fire. Actually, with him being a pitcher, he just came in and threw bad pitches.
One of those pitches was thrown to the backstop allowing not just Suzuki to score, but also for Culbertson and Ruiz to move up. The next was hit by Ronald Acuna, Jr. for an RBI single which put the Braves up 4-3.
That 4-3 deficit grew as Jerry Blevins would have a rough eighth.
After getting the first out, Todd Frazier, who didn’t have a great game, booted a Camargo grounder. Camargo would then score on a Suzuki double. The capper would be a two run Ozzie Albies two run homer.
At that point, it was 7-3 Braves, and the game was over. While Wright was not used as to not upset the competitive balance of the postseason, the Mets bullpen was used and they did just that.
Game Notes: Wright homered in his last three games played in 2016, so whenever he plays, he will have a chance to match his career high in homering in four straight games.
In an emotional press conference, David Wright announced he was playing on Saturday, September 29th and never again. While we’ve already entered into a post-Wright Mets era, this was a crushing confirmation of the news.
With news like this, the last thing on most people’s minds was playing a game. Let alone two. And yet, there was a scheduled doubleheader.
In the first game, we were treated to a terrific performance from Steven Matz.
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 13, 2018
Overall, Matz pitched 6.1 innings allowing three earned on three hits with two walks and four strikeouts.
It seemed the Marlins were going to win this game 3-2, but that was until Don Mattingly made a mistake. Instead of sticking with Adam Conley, who absolutely owns the Mets, Mattingly went to Kyle Barraclough because Amed Rosario was due up.
While Smith wouldn’t deliver, Michael Conforto would hitting a game tying homer off Barraclough. It was his fourth homer in five games.
Three pitches later, Todd Frazier would hit a walk-off homer.
With that, the game ended with a homer by Wright’s heir apparent for best homegrown position player followed by a homer by the guy signed to replace Wright. Really, it was quite the fitting ending.
But still, there was more baseball to be played.
Vargas would get the win for a few reasons. Chief among them was his catcher Tomas Nido, who made a great play in the field
— Elite Sports NY (@EliteSportsNY) September 14, 2018
before hitting his first career homer
Tomas Nido, the @Mets' No. 12 prospect, went deep to left for his first MLB homer. The 🚀 went 400 feet and had an exit velocity of 101.9 mph. Watch live: https://t.co/nY6ru3JzAQ pic.twitter.com/n8SdejjbMq
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) September 13, 2018
The Nido solo shot opened the scoring for the Mets in a three run inning capped off by a two out Conforto RBI double.
That 3-2 lead would hold up as Seth Lugo was as dominant as you can be in his two innings. In fact, Lugo would strike out five of the seven batters he faced.
The Mets built a seventh inning rally starting starting with a Jeff McNeil two out single. As the inning progressed, the Mets scored insurance runs on singles by Conforto and Smith.
That 5-2 lead proved to be save for Robert Gsellman to shut the door on a seemingly rare doubleheader sweep.
With the sweep, the Mets are now just 10 games under .500 for the first time since June 21st.
It was supposed to be a doubleheader, but with the rain the best laid plans were washed out. With MLB not looking to schedule a triple-header for the Marlins last series at Citi Field, we waited over five hours for Mets baseball.
Zack Wheeler was worth the wait.
He needed just 35 pitches to get through the first four. With his dominance, he had a chance at The Maddux.
He was in that position partially because he induced Lewis Brinson to hit into an inning ending double play. With that 5-4-3 double play, Wheeler escaped a bases loaded jam.
Astonishingly, with Wheeler only throwing 89 pitches over eight innings, he didn’t get a chance to get the complete game. Paul Sewald would close this one out.
Wheeler’s incredible final line was 8.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 K.
Wheeler got the win because the Mets offense exploded.
.@JeffMcNeil805 can fly.
Not literally. But almost. 🏃🏃🏃 pic.twitter.com/zxjZaFSlgz
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 13, 2018
It was another big game for McNeil. For the third time over the past week, he had a three hit game. Overall, he was 3-for-4 with a run, triple, and three RBI.
Speaking of hot hitters, Amed Rosario absolutely launched a three run homer in the fourth:
.@Amed_Rosario clearly hit the weight room during today's rain delay.
Off the second deck! 💪💪💪 pic.twitter.com/bPkEgWrhlw
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 13, 2018
Up 6-0, things would get completely out of hand on the sixth. The Marlins played terrible defense (no errors charged), and the Mets sent 11 batters to the plate.
The two big blows of the inning was a Jay Bruce grand slam and a Dom two run homer. All said and done, it was a seven run inning turning this into a 13-0 route.
It was just a brilliant performance by the Mets all around. It was the kind of performances we saw in April. We’re seeing them again now, and on nights like this, we can believe it’ll happen in 2019.
Tomas Nido, who was catching either because Kevin Plawecki was hit with another pitch or because Noah Syndergaard likes having a personal catcher, cleared the bases with an RBI double to give the Mets a 3-0 second inning lead.
3⃣ drives in 3⃣.
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 8, 2018
Don't mess with the big dog. 💪 pic.twitter.com/Zt1SEFxUCy
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 9, 2018
Jeff McNeil was great going 3-for-5 with two runs, and a triple. Michael Conforto surpassed Asdrubal Cabrera for the team lead in RBI. Not too long ago, Conforto also surpassed Cabrera for the team lead in homers. Jay Bruce looked good again at the plate going 2-for-2 with two runs, an RBI, and two walks.
However, this is the Mets, so nothing can be this easy. Not even in a 10-5 win that they led 7-0 heading into the sixth and 9-2 after six.
Speaking of Reinheimer, you’d be hard pressed to explain why he’s here and Luis Guillorme isn’t.
That wasn’t the worst of it. No, that was Cesar Hernandez hitting a hard liner that went off Syndergaard’s ribs. It may have chased him from the game, but he was able to laugh about it later:
— Erin Fish (@Erinnicolefish) September 9, 2018
Syndergaard’s final line was 6.2 innings, 12 hits, four runs, four earned, five walks, and four strikeouts. The low strikeouts are alarming, but not as much as the walks or the career high in hits allowed.
Still, this was mostly a fun game with some terrific signs for the Mets going forward. Here’s hoping the Mets didn’t burn through all their offense for this series with Jacob deGrom going Sunday.