Travis d’Arnaud

Good Luck Kevin Plawecki

Kevin Plawecki has had an oddly turbulent Mets career. He was thrust into action well before he was ready to play in the majors because of a Travis d’Arnaud injury. In fact, due to the many d’Arnaud injuries there were, Plawecki was constantly pressed into action before he was ready from 2015 to early 2017.

In many ways, Plawecki was always a symbol of what went wrong, and Mets fans always held it against him. It got to the point where he actually deleted his Twitter account after a face plant sliding short into second base. He become a punchline when it the contents of his locker were revealed. Not once but twice, he had the ignominy of being a position player pitching.

However, through it all Plawecki persevered.

While many reflect back to how poorly he hit in 2015, fact is he was an exceptional pitch framer. At a time when the Mets were more M*E*T*S* than baseball team, they needed everything they could get from everyone. His pitch framing helped an already dominant pitching staff get that extra call they needed, and if you remember correctly, that pitching staff needed every break they could get while they were out there trying to win 1-0 games. In some ways, the run in 2015 would not have been possible had Plawecki not been back there doing a good job behind the plate.

It also needs to be noted that after setback after setback after setback, Plawecki was undeterred. The player who was a career .206/.282/.278 hitter over his first 437 Major League plate appearances would take advantage of finally receiving some extended playing time in Triple-A. When he came back up in August 2017, he would hit .303/.411/.474.

Yes, last year, he took a bit of a step back, and it was partially due to injury. Still, he emerged as someone who was at least a capable Major League backup.  His 93 wRC+ was 18th best among Major League catchers with at least 250 plate appearances. When you break it down a little more, his being in the top 20 shows he’s a capable Major League starting catcher.

Maybe that says more about Major League catchers than it does Plawecki, but remember this is someone who was partially on his way out of baseball.

After the Mets obtained Wilson Ramos to improve their catching situation, it arguably made Plawecki expendable. Unsurprisingly, the Indians brought him in with the hopes he could not only hit like he did in 2017, but that he could also be behind the plate like he was in 2015. Given his age and his skillset, Plawecki is going to get a chance.

Also, given the weak AL Central, Plawecki is going to get an opportunity to go to the postseason once again. If he does get that chance, best of luck to him. His ability to persevere through everything has been commendable, and he deserves a real chance to prove himself.  It should not surprise anyone if he does a good job there. We should all be rooting he does.

Grandal One Year Deal Is Very Troubling

Yesterday, Yasmani Grandal accepted a one year deal from the Milwaukee Brewers for one year $18.25 million. He accepted that deal at a time when it appeared few if any teams were interested in him, which is odd considering how many teams needed catching help.

The Braves, who had approximately $54 million come off the payroll, opted to sign Brian McCann and Josh Donaldson for $25 million. Despite a low payroll and a tightening NL East, they opted for a backup catcher than Grandal.

The Angels, who are trying to find a way to win before Mike Trout possibly departs via free agency, opted for Jonathan Lucroy on a one year $3.35 million deal.

The Athletics made a surprising run last year and had Lucroy as a pending free agent. They needed to fortify a few positions, including catcher, and they opted for Chris Herrmann to a one year $1 million deal.

The Astros, who are trying to build a team to overtake a Red Sox team who needed just five games to beat them in the ALCS, opted for Robinson Chirinos on a one year $5.75 million deal.

The White Sox are contemplating building a team who can make a run in a weak AL Central signed James McCann to a one year $2.5 million deal.

Last year, the Phillies were nervous about Jorge Alfaro‘s ability to take home a team in a pennant race. Accordingly, they traded for Wilson Ramos despite his being on the DL. They haven’t pursued any free agent catchers.

The Nationals, who have to find a way to reclaim the NL East and do it potentially with Bryce Harper, opted to go with the 35 year old Kurt Suzuki. To be fair, they did sign Patrick Corbin to a $140 million deal.

The Nationals also opted to obtain Yan Gomes from the Indians. This left the Indians looking for a catcher, so they obtained Kevin Plawecki from the Mets, and they settled his arbitration case for $1.3 million.

Plawecki was available because they signed Ramos for two years $19 million, and the team opted to pair the injury prone catcher with the more injury prone Travis d’Arnaud.

Supposedly, the Mets shifted to Ramos after Grandal rejected a four year $60 million deal. The problem there is that didn’t happen.

Jon Heyman of Fancred reported the Mets offered less than $60 million, and Ken Rosenthal of The Atlantic reported the Mets didn’t offer it. Instead, they just discussed parameters for a deal. It’s much like what happened with Jose Reyes in 201- before he signed with the Marlins.

We can all debate how real the Mets offer was, and how prudent their course of action was. Fact is, the Mets obtained a starting catching option while the rest of baseball have dabbled in part-time, backup, and frankly over the hill catchers.

To a team, they passed on offering Ramos a significant enough multi-year deal, and if they did, they didn’t make one sufficient enough to prevent Grandal from accepting a one year deal.

This is despite the aforementioned teams needing a catcher. The Red Sox, Rays, Athletics, Angels, Dodgers, and Rockies also need a starting catcher. Keep in mind, that’s just a list of probable contenders. There’s a bigger list of teams needing a catcher and those who want to be contenders.

All of these teams passed on a catcher who is probably the best catcher in baseball. He’s that because he is consistently one of the best pitch framers in the game while being top three in wRC+ among catchers since 2016.

These teams could argue they want J.T. Realmuto, who some believe is the best catcher in baseball. Problem is the Marlins asking price has been unrealistically high and only one team can get him. Far more teams than one need a catcher.

Yet, somehow, Grandal gets a one year deal. For that matter, Ramos gets a two year deal.

Somehow, the Mets, Braves, Nationals, Angels, Athletics, Astros, and White Sox independently determined none of the free agents available merited more than a two year deal, and the other 23 MLB teams thought nothing of letting this happen.

This is happening at a time when Forbes is reporting Major League Baseball has record revenues of $10.3 billion.

Simultaneously, there has been a tepid market for Harper and Manny Machado. These are two 26 year old superstars who have been in the top 15 in fWAR since they broke into the majors while combing for 10 All-Star appearances, two Gold Gloves, four top 10 MVP finishes, and a Silver Slugger.

This is what collusion looks like, and this is the type of thing which will force the players hand prior to the expiration of the CBA in 2021.

Sure, teams will claim they’re smarter now, and they’ve seen how you can’t win by just spending money while ignoring the World Series features the two highest payrolls in baseball. Snark aside, maybe teams are smarter.

It just seems odd they’re all collectively smart enough where they agree catchers shouldn’t get more than a two year deal and two of the best players in the sport wouldn’t put their team over the top.

Mets Now Have Suspect Catching Depth

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.

Jeremy Hefner, who was rehabbing at the same time as Matt Harvey, a pitcher who was subsequently diagnosed with TOS, needed two Tommy John surgeries.

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.

There’s Patrick Mazeika who hit .231/.328/.363 in Double-A. After him, it’s Ali Sanchez who hit .265/.294/.387 between Columbia and St. Lucie.

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.

Mets All-In Roster Is Approximately $130 Million

While the Mets were trying to sell us under Brodie Van Wagenen this was a new team where anything was possible. As the offseason progresses, we once again learn anything being possible doesn’t include the Mets spending money.

Here’s a look at their current payroll commitments:

Catchers

Wilson Ramos $7.25 million

Travis d’Arnaud $3.52 million

Subtotal: $10.77 million

Infielders

Robinson Cano $20 million (estimated)

Todd Frazier $9 million

Amed Rosario $560k*

Peter Alonso $560k

Jeff McNeil $560k

J.D. Davis $560k

Subtotal: $31.24 million

Outfielders

Juan Lagares $9 million

Brandon Nimmo $560k

Keon Broxton $560k

Subtotal: $10.12 million

Starting Rotation

Jason Vargas $8 million

Bullpen

Edwin Diaz $560k

Jeurys Familia $6.66 million

Seth Lugo $560k

Robert Gsellman $560k

Daniel Zamora $560k

Subtotal: $8.9 million

Arbitration Estimates

(Estimates from MLB Trade Rumors)

Jacob deGrom $12.9 million

Noah Syndergaard $5.9 million

Zack Wheeler $5.3 million

Michael Conforto $4.4 million

Steven Matz $3.0 million

Subtotal: $31.5 million

That’s $100.53 million wrapped up in 22 players who will likely take the field for the Mets next season.

When you include Yoenis Cespedes‘ $29 million, the payroll jumps to $129.53 million. That’s $129.53 million with three spots which need to be filled on this roster. Keep in mind this is before you account for a portion of his salary being covered by insurance.

If Hector Santiago makes the Opening Day roster, he’s due $2 million. That’s one fewer roster spot to have to fill, and it raises the payroll to $131.53 million.

That leaves the Mets looking for a utility player who can play SS and one more bullpen arm. Judging from reports, the Mets aren’t going out to get their guy, but rather they’re waiting for a deal for that last bullpen arm.

Where the Mets go from there, we don’t know. What we do know is the Mets are only spending $131.53 million on the players who will play next year.

As for shortstop, we can’t rule out players like Gavin Cecchini, Luis Guillorme, or T.J. Rivera getting that chance, which would push payroll towards an uninspiring $132 million.

Yes, someone will likely raise David Wright and the fact he is owed $15 million next year. Well, fact is he’s been released, and we do not know if there’s been any settlement with the insurance company, Wright, or both. We may have some evidence to what that may be:

But Wright is also a non sequitur. He’s not playing this year, the next, or ever again. Fact is, right now, the Mets are going to battle with a payroll of approximately $130 million. Maybe when all is said and done, it’s higher, but it’s nowhere near what a large market payroll should be.

That’s not the all-in team Mets fans were promised, and when you boil it down, the Mets really have zero excuse as to why they’re not pursuing any other outfielders or why they haven’t pursued Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.

* $560k was estimated salary for for pre-arbitration players.

Mets New Years Resolutions

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

Michael Conforto – don’t let Chili Davis anywhere near his perfect swing

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

Rajai Davis – just remind Callaway he was his center fielder in Cleveland because as we saw with Austin Jackson, it is a guarantee for a significant amount of playing time

Edwin Diaz – seek out Armando Benitez, get his advice, and ignore everything he has to say.

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 Nidosign 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.

Jacob Rhame – find a new look because the Jason Phillips thing just isn’t working for him or his career.

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

Dominic Smithlend Peter Alonso his alarm clock in Spring Training

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.

Bobby Wahl – make sure the comparisons to Matt Harvey stay with both pitchers having TOS and not because fans are questioning why your manager would put you on the mound to start the ninth inning

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

Mickey Callaway – take a deep breath and relax. Now that Jay Bruce is gone, he’s going to be able to hand in the right lineup.

Mets Need Bryce Harper

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 ConfortoBrandon NimmoBryce 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.

Sign Harper.

Mets Need Depth

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.

Behind the starting pitchers, the Mets have P.J. Conlon, Chris Flexen, Drew Gagnon, and Corey Oswalt, each of whom struggled in the rotation last year.

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.

Mets Should Keep d’Arnaud And Plawecki

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.

Mets Left-Handed Issues Are Overstated

If you break down the Mets roster, especially the starting lineup, this is a team heavily dependent on left-handed hitters. As of the moment, the core of the Mets offense is Robinson Cano, Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, and even Jeff McNeil. Logically speaking, when you have so many left-handed hitters you are going to be very susceptible to left-handed pitching.

That was a theme throughout the 2018 season. The Mets batting average and strikeout rate against left-handed pitchers was the worst in the National League and second worst in the majors. Their 82 wRC+ was fifth worst in the majors. Breaking down all the of offseason stats, you will see the Mets at or near the bottom five in the majors in most categories.

Seeing how 2018 transpired coupled with the Mets biggest offensive addition to date being Cano, you would have to wonder if the Mets doubling down on left-handed hitters is going to be the team’s downfall. While it is a fair concern on the surface, the concerns may be overstated.

First and foremost, the National League East is very light on left-handed starting pitching. The Braves have Sean Newcomb who did dominate the Mets left-handed batters last year. The Nationals only left-handed starter is Patrick Corbin. Cano, Conforto, and Nimmo have excellent career numbers against him. As of the moment, the Phillies do not have a left-handed starter. Even if they were to sign J.A. Happ, Cano has hit .273/.342/.485 off of him.

Really, breaking it down, the Marlins are the team with the left-handed starters, and those are Wei-Yin Chen and Caleb Smith. While both had their moments against the Mets, neither are particularly imposing, especially with them playing in front of a terrible Marlins team.

There’s also the fact the Mets left-handed hitters actually hit well against left-handed pitching. Last year, Conforto hit .250/.332/.476 off left-handed pitching last year. In his career, Cano has hit .284/.334/.433 off left-handed pitching. While Nimmo has not had great numbers against left-handed pitching, he did have a .351 OBP against them last year. Moreover, McNeil hit .281/.339/.474 against left-handed pitching.

Now, it’s possible these numbers are skewed by short sample sizes and each one of these players could regress to the mean. It’s also true the Mets also have Todd Frazier, Travis d’Arnaud, and Juan Lagares. Each one of these players have had successful seasons against left-handed pitchers which each could repeat next year.

Of course, the composition of the roster does make the Mets susceptible to a LOOGY or powerful left-handed closer. To that end, it does seem a little curious why the Mets would non-tender Wilmer Flores with his ability to hit left-handed pitching and his ability to pinch hit. That said, there is still plenty of time to sign impact bench players who could hit left-handed pitchers well.

Overall, the Mets goal this offseason should be to fortify their staring lineup with the best players available whether they are right or left-handed. They should not push for a right-handed hitter like A.J. Pollock just because he’s a right-handed hitter. Instead, the Mets should get whoever is the best available player, and if need be, they can help offset any left-handed issues by signing right-handed hitters to fill out their bench.

REMINDER: Mets Went To A World Series With d’Arnaud & Plawecki

One of the narratives which has taken hold of late is how the Mets catching situation is what has been holding them back. To a certain extent, there is a point. Travis d’Arnaud cannot stay on the field, and Kevin Plawecki has yet to fully maximize the chances he has been given to establish himself as even a clear-cut starter at the MLB level.

When looking at this offseason, there are plenty of players available who could be upgrades for the Mets. On the free agent front, there’s Yasmani Grandal and Wilson Ramos. On the trade front, there is J.T. Realmuto and Francisco Cervelli. Even if you argue all of these players are not definitively better than what a healthy d’Arnaud can give you, their ability to stay on the field makes them upgrades. More than that, it provides the Mets with depth at the catching position.

As we saw with the Mets playing Jose Lobaton and Devin Mesoraco, depth is vitally important at the catching position. More than that, the Mets need a real depth of talent on the roster. If you build a roster with talented players, an upgrade at catcher isn’t that desperately needed.

For those who don’t remember, the 2015 Mets were able to make it to the World Series with d’Arnaud behind the plate.  There were several reasons why. Daniel Murphy was just beginning to become the feared hitter he would become. Curtis Granderson was a leader on and off the field. David Wright was having that one last great stretch in a terrific career. Yoenis Cespedes was phenomenal. There was real depth with Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson, and Wilmer Flores.

Mostly, it was the pitching, and d’Arnaud played a big part of that with his pitch framing. This path to the World Series isn’t an anomaly either. Just this past season, we saw the Red Sox go to the World Series with Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez behind the plate. Much like the 2015 Mets, the reason the Red Sox were able to do this was because they had great players like Mookie Betts and Chris Sale in addition to terrific situational/platoon players like Steve Pearce and Brock Holt.

The overriding point is there are many ways for the Mets to go back to the World Series, and they don’t have to upgrade at catcher to do it. Instead, they need to look at the best possible players they can add to the roster.

They need to build on a pitching staff which already includes Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, Steven Matz, Edwin Diaz, and Seth Lugo. They need to add to a lineup which already features Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, and Robinson Cano.

If building up the lineup and roster comes at catcher, great. If it doesn’t, that’s good too because we already know d’Arnaud and Plawecki behind the plate can bring you to a World Series. For that matter, Plawecki, d’Arnaud, and Rene Rivera brought the Mets to the Wild Card Game.

In the end, there needs to be much less of a fixation on improving just one roster spot for the sake of another. For example, don’t trade Nimmo for Realmuto. Instead, the Mets just need to focus on getting better players on this team much like how they added Cano even though they already had McNeil.

In the end, if the focus is better players and a deeper roster, you will win games.  You see it time and again. The Yankees dynasty had a black hole in left field. The Red Sox had nothing at catcher, second, and third. The 1986 Mets had Rafael Santana. The 2018 Mets can have d’Arnaud and Plawecki behind the plate, a tandem we already know can get you to the World Series.