On the dawn of the World Baseball Classic, Mets starter Noah Syndergaard made some waves when he stated, “I’m a Met. Ain’t nobody made it to the Hall of Fame or the World Series playing in the WBC.” (Abby Mastrocco, nj.com).
Judging from attendance at Spring Training, Syndergaard’s belief is not something that is universally shared in the Mets clubhouse. Jose Reyes is one of the few major league players that have appeared in all four WBCs. He is joined on the Dominican Republic team by Mets relievers Hansel Robles and Jeurys Familia.
Fernando Salas threw his first pitch this Spring for Mexico. Brandon Nimmo and Gavin Cecchini have been stars for Italy. Seth Lugo and T.J. Rivera, two players arguably fighting over the last spots on the Opening Day roster, are playing with Mets back-up catcher Rene Rivera for an undefeated Puerto Rico team. Ty Kelly is both fighting for a potential roster spot and for a spot in the semifinal for Israel.
Point is, while Syndergaard doesn’t believe in the importance of the WBC, many of his teammates do. That includes team captain David Wright, who said, “Everybody has their right to their own opinion, and obviously Noah doesn’t think too highly of it. But I do. So I’m not sure if it’s just a different mentality, and I’m not sure if there’s a right or a wrong. But getting a chance to represent your country, and put that jersey on, and hear the chants of ‘U-S-A, U-S-A’ — that’s one of the highlights of my career. (Anthony DiComo, mlb.com).
It should be noted Wright wasn’t calling out Syndergaard like the time he and Bobby Parnell threw Syndergaard’s lunch in the garbage. He wasn’t singling out Syndergaard either noting other great players like Clayton Kershaw have opted not to play in the WBC without having to face the same scrutiny Syndergaard has. Rather, Wright was merely trying to speak to what the WBC has meant to him.
It certainly was one of the highlights of Wright’s career. In the 2009 World Baseball Classic, Wright sent USA to the semifinals with a walk-off hit against Puerto Rico. In the 2013 World Baseball Classic, Wright would loom even larger. He hit the decisive grand slam against Italy that helped propel the United States back to the semifinals. In the 2013 tournament, Wright hit .438/.526/.750 with two doubles, a grand slam, and 10 RBI. Wright was named as the third baseman to the All WBC Team. If not for his intercoastal injury before the semifinals, who knows if USA wins the WBC that year?
Among USA players in WBC history, Wright is second all-time in games played, third in hits, second in doubles, and first in RBI. He is a ,333/.400/.458 hitter in WBC history. He had two huge go-ahead late inning hits that propelled the USA into the semifinals. It is why Wright was dubbed Captain American. Overall, you cannot discuss the greatness of Wright’s career without mentioning the WBC.
It is an event that has mattered to Wright as much as any moment in his career. As Wright said, “Up to this point if you say, ‘Hey, what’s the most fun you’ve had on a baseball field?’ I’d say the World Series. But I would say in the conversation of cool things that I’ve gotten to do on a baseball field, the World Baseball Classic is toward the top of that list for sure.”
Overall, during Spring Training and the WBC, Wright has been noticeably absent. As his health issues continue to linger and keep him off the field, the 2013 WBC and 2015 World Series seem farther and farther away. However, those moments should not serve as the epilogue to a great career for a great Met. Rather, they should serve as highlights.
Deep down, each and every Mets fan must hope Wright has another chapter left in him. It may not happen in the WBC. It may happen in the World Series. And it may just happen this year.
Looking over the Mets infield, there are two things that squarely stand-out. The first is that this is an aging group of players coming off significant injuries. The second is this infield is not a particularly good defensive infield.
John Dewan of Acta Sports, and Fielding Bible fame, projected the Mets to have the worst defense up the middle in 2017. The projection calls for Neil Walker to be a -1 DRS next season, which is what he has averaged over the past three seasons. Asdrubal Cabrera is projected to post a -9 DRS, which is worse than the -7 DRS he has averaged over the past two seasons. While you would certainly want both Walker’s and Cabrera’s bats in the game, certainly, the Mets would benefit by having a better glove in the game when there is a lead late in the game.
That is exactly what the Mets have done with Juan Lagares. After the team acquired Yoenis Cespedes at the 2015 trade deadline, Lagares has served as a defensive replacement late in games. The Mets doing this has served two important purposes. First, it has helped the Mets preserve leads by putting their best defense on the field. Second, it helps save some innings, and by extent wear and tear, on players like Cespedes and Curtis Granderson. It is a large reason why the Mets will be returning Lagares to the same role in 2017.
It is something the Mets should consider for their infield. The issue is the Mets do not have the bench to do it.
Jose Reyes has averaged a -9 DRS at shortstop over the past three years, which would indicate he’s a downgrade from Cabrera. Wilmer Flores had a -10 DRS as the starting shortstop in 2015, and he has a -6 DRS as a second baseman in 576.0 major league innings. The other options being considered for the bench, T.J. Rivera and Ty Kelly, are hardly terrific defenders in their own right. Certainly, you are not taking the steady handed Walker and Cabrera off the field for them.
No, the only good defensive player who is a realistic option to make the Opening Day roster is Matt Reynolds.
Reynolds is not a gold glover in the middle infield. However, he does have the same steady hands Walker and Cabrera have while having better range at the position. He certainly has the arm to play second, short, and third. That also makes him an option to take some innings away from David Wright at third. Overall, Reynolds is most likely the best defensive infielder the Mets not named Amed Rosario. The fact that he is also capable of serving as the team’s fifth outfielder makes him an all the more enticing roster option.
What is going to hurt his chances of making the team is his bat. He hit .225/.266/.416 in 47 games with the Mets last year. He has played 254 games in the hitter’s haven that is the Pacific Coast League, Reynolds has only hit .284/.342/.411. Overall, he’s not a great hitter. It’s quite possible that even with him putting in extra time with Kevin Long he will never develop into a good hitter.
But the Mets don’t need hitters. They have plenty of them on this team. What they need are good defenders. With Lagares, they have that in the outfield. With Reynolds, they would have that in the infield as well.
Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Merized Online
After last season, Mets fans became aware of who Gavin Cecchini, Ty Kelly, Seth Lugo, Brandon Nimmo, and T.J. Rivera were. While we may have been aware of who they were, Mets fans got to see Rene Rivera and Fernando Salas up close and personal for the first time. Naturally, you are well aware of who Jeurys Familia and Jose Reyes are. Still, there are some other Mets participating in this edition of the World Baseball Classic that most Mets fans are going to see for the first time. Here’s a a look at those players and what we may expect to see
2016 Level: Binghamton & Las Vegas
2016 Stats: 85 G, 327 PA, 290 AB, 28 R, 79 H, 14 2B, 4 HR, 25 RBI, CS, .272/.347/.362
The 27 year old Carrillo is a catcher’s catcher. He is a good receiver behind the plate, and he has a good, not great, throwing arm that allows him to control the running game. For his defensive skills, he was recently given a Gold Glove in the Mexican Pacific Winter Leagues.
At the plate, Carrillo shows a good eye at the plate, but not much pop. While you can argue his glove is major league ready, his bat probably isn’t. Still, Carrillo is a hard worker that has shown the willingness to do whatever is necessary to improve his game. Considering Mets fans once saw the likes of Mike Nickeas serve as a back-up catcher at the major league level, it is not impossible that Carrillo could one day get a chance in the major leagues.
RHP Nabil Crismatt
2016 Level: Brooklyn, Columbia, Binghamton
2016 Stats: 1-4, 2.47 ERA, 13 G, 7 GS, SV, 65.2 IP, 74 K, 0.883 WHIP, 10.1 K/9
The 22 year old Crismatt has been an interesting pitching prospect since the Mets signed him as a non-drafted free agent out of Columbia in 2011. Crismatt has never had dominating stuff with his fastball typically sitting between the high 80s to the low 90s. With that said, he’s able to get batters out because he knows how to pitch. He has clean, easily repeatable mechanics. While he does not have a blazing fastball, he is able to locate the pitch well. He gets the most out of his fastball because he has a terrific change-up. He gets the most out of both pitches because he knows how to attack hitters to not only get a high number of strike outs, but also get a good number of ground balls.
The Mets did not protect Crismatt from the Rule 5 Draft last year, and he wasn’t selected. The Mets may not be so lucky the next time around. Crismatt has shown he can thrive as a starter and as a reliever. At the moment, he projects as a major league reliever. With that said if he can develop a third pitch to be on the level of his fastball and change-up, he may very well be able to thrive in a major league rotation.
Certainly, aside from these prospects, I’m sure the player most Mets fans have the most interest in seeing play during the World Baseball Classic is Yoenis Cespedes‘ 19 year old brother Yoelkis. Unsurprisingly, Yoelkis has been dubbed a five tool player.
Unfortunately, it comes as no surprise David Wright is not going to be ready for Opening Day. No one realistically knows when Wright is going to be ready to play this year. With that in mind, the Mets now have an open roster spot on the Opening Day roster. On the 40 man roster, the Mets have T.J. Rivera and Matt Reynolds. Ty Kelly would also be an option should the Mets be willing to make a 40 man roster move, which could include putting Wright on the 60 day disabled list.
The argument for Kelly would be the fact that his switch hitting ability would present the Mets with a left-handed hitting option for a team that promises to have a completely right-handed bench. His versatility in the field may also prove to be important. With that said, if you are willing to make an important roster move for Kelly, why not go ALL-IN and bring back Kelly Johnson.
Over the past two seasons, Johnson has hit .260/.319/.441 with 14 homers and 37 RBI in 131 games. Over those 131 games, Johnson has played every position for the Mets except pitcher, catcher, and center field. He could prove to be a very important player for the Mets.
Fact is, Johnson has been vitally important to the Mets over the past two seasons. In 2015, he was able to serve as an everyday player until the team got healthy. In 2016, he worked diligently to become a better hitter with him hitting .268/.328/.459. When Neil Walker went down, he and Wilmer Flores joined to make an extremely effective platoon at second base. As we’ve seen, he’s also capable of playing third, which just became an important issue again with Wright being unable to play on Opening Day.
Frankly, it is surprising that it would come to this for the Mets to make a move to add Johnson. This is the same player the Mets have traded prospect after prospect for in successive years. The ultimate reason these trades were necessary was because the Mets had built flawed, if not weak, benches heading into the 2015 and 2016 seasons. While the Mets bench in 2017 promises to be deeper than year’s past, it is still flawed for the aforementioned reasons. The addition of Kelly Johnson would go a long way in resolving the issues the bench currently has.
Right now, the Mets have a need for another bench player. There is a veteran who has not only played well coming off the bench, but he has also played well in New York. Both are more difficult than many believe, and that is why a player like Johnson is important. Realistically speaking, with Sandy Alderson already telling the media, the Mets are “all-in” this year, he should put his money where he mouth is and re-sign Johnson.
That’s what teams who are all-in do when a need arises.
Last season, other than Wilmer Flores, Terry Collins showed an unwillingness to move players out of their natural position. With the Mets returning four infielders who each had significant injuries last year requiring stints on the disabled list, Collins may not have the same luxury. To that end, the Mets appear prepared to better handle to withstand injuries next season.
As the Mets report to camp, it appears that each player has come ready to either learn how to play another position or become more proficient at a position they have played in the past.
For starters, Jose Reyes comes into the season having already played shortstop and third base. In addition to those responsibilities, Reyes is going to spend time in Spring Training learning how to play the outfield. As Mets fans remember, Reyes once played second base. Certainly, he can play there in a pinch if needed.
Last year, the Mets were unwilling to move Neil Walker off of second base. This year might be a different story. As Walker reported to Spring Training, he brought a third base and a first baseman’s glove with him. Depending on not only the health of his teammates, but his own health, it is very possible Walker finds himself playing some games away from second.
His double play partner Asdrubal Cabrera has been working away from shortstop this offseason. During Winter Ball, Cabrera played both shortstop and third base. Before Carlos Guillen surprisingly left him off the roster, Cabrera was set to play short and third for Venezuela. Previously when he was a member of the Washington Nationals, Cabrera had played second in addition to short.
While each of these players have infield experience, the Mets are looking to gain some versatility with their outfielders as well. While Collins has largely shot down rumors of Michael Conforto trying first base, it appears Jay Bruce will get some exposure there during Spring Training. This move makes sense for both the team and the player. The added versatility should help the Mets replace Lucas Duda‘s power at first should he suffer another back injury, and the added versatility should help Bruce as he plays his last season before becoming a free agent.
In addition to the aforementioned players, we know that Ty Kelly, T.J. Rivera, and Matt Reynolds can play a multitude of positions as well as left field. Top to bottom, the Mets promise to have a versatile roster.
The versatility helps because it will allow the Mets to keep the best remaining bats in the lineup in case of injury, but it also can clear room for Gavin Cecchini, Amed Rosario, or possibly Dominic Smith to play everyday when/if they are ready. Overall, the Mets are in the best possible situation to withstand injuries now. All that is left is Collins’ willingness to play people outside of their main positions.
That remains to be seen.
While most are focused on the bullpen, this Mets team has some other areas it needs to address prior to the start of the 2017 season. One of the main issues facing this team is which player is going to get the last spot on the bench?
At first blush, this may not seem like it is a major issue. If any of the infielders with an injury history go down, it is expected that Wilmer Flores and Jose Reyes can more than capably handle any one of the four infield spots. If two were to go down, we have seen enough from both Flores and Reyes to know that they can at least be a good stop gap option at a position. However, lost in the confidence you would have in Flores or Reyes is the fact that once they are moved to a starting position, the player who is the last man on the roster will begin to take on a larger role on the team.
Last year, that player was Eric Campbell. While Campbell may have had his positive attributes, he was certainly not capable of playing everyday. And yet, when Lucas Duda and David Wright went down that was the position Campbell found himself. In 2017, there is no reason to believe that Duda or Wright could last a full season. Same goes for Neil Walker, who just had season ending back surgery, and Asdrubal Cabrera, who played with a knee injury for the entirety of the 2016 season. The long story short here is the Mets need a deep bench for the 2017 season to prevent a player of Campbell’s caliber being a starter for two or more weeks.
For the past two seasons, the Mets have made trades to obtain Kelly Johnson to serve as a bench player. He has proven himself to be a useful player who has hit .260/.319/.441 over two brief stints with the Mets. Last year, he was clutch as a pinch hitter hitting four pinch hit home runs. He is versatile in his ability to play second, third, and both corner outfield positions. In 2015, we saw him play shortstop in a game. If given Spring Training to work on it, he could add first base to his repertoire. The main issue facing Johnson is he remains unsigned, and at this point, it is questionable whether the Mets have interest in him with the team already espousing that they need to cut payroll entering the 2017 season.
The next in line would likely be Terry Collins‘ favorite Ty Kelly. Like Johnson, Kelly is versatile in his ability to play across the infield and his ability to play the corner outfield positions. While he is a switch hitter, Kelly showed he was a better hitter against left-handed pitching in what was a very small sample size. Late in the season, Collins used Kelly as a pinch runner late in games. Overall, while Kelly does nothing outstanding, and is clearly best suited to being a bench player at the major league level, Collins has shown that he appreciates what Kelly can bring to the table.
In addition to Kelly, T.J. Rivera was the other standout 27 year old Mets rookie during the 2016 season. Late in the season with the injuries to Walker and Flores, Rivera grabbed a hold of the second base job and hit .333/.346/.476 in 33 games. Unlike Johnson and Kelly, Rivera has played a fair amount of games at shortstop. With that said, there is a reason why the Mets began transitioning him away from short beginning in AA. With that said, RIvera can legitimately play all four infield positions. When he was passed over for promotion to the majors, he began working in LF in AAA meaning it is possible he can play the outfield if necessary. The main sticking point with Rivera is the fact that he is an aggressive hitter that rarely draws a walk.
Last, but certainly not least, is Matt Reynolds. Unlike the aforementioned players, Reynolds is a legitimate shortstop who quite possibly has the best range out of all the major league options the Mets have at the position. For one glorious day game, Reynolds showed he can play left field, and he can get that clutch hit to help the Mets win the game. On the downside, Reynolds is the worst hitter of the bunch. In his 47 games with the Mets last year, he only hit .255/.266/.416. In the hitter’s haven that in the Pacific Coast League, he was only a .264/.336/.357 hitter last year. Ultimately, Reynolds is the guy you want out there defensively, but he is not the guy you want at the plate.
Unless the Mets sign Johnson, it looks like the fight will be between Kelly, Rivera, and Reynolds for the last spot on the bench. IN those three players, the Mets have three intriguing if not flawed players. Ultimately, that is your best bet when looking to round out your major league bench. The good news for the Mets is if one should falter, there are two more behind them that can pick up the slack. If the Mets face a number of injuries like they did in 2015 and 2016, the Mets have a couple of options that have proven they can be useful major league players. With that, it seems the Mets bench should not be a problem for the first time in a good number of years . . . at least that’s the hope.
Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Merized Online
We are headed for another season of Mets baseball where we hope that once again these Mets can make it all the way back to the World Series. Since 2015, we have seen a definite pattern emerge with the Mets, and I think as Mets fans, we should all try better this year to not react, some would say overreact, when one of the following things we know will happen, happens:
- The Mets are not going to sign another big name free agent this offseason. It’s not going to happen, and it just may happen that Jose Bautista winds up in the division and on a fairly discounted deal;
- Jerry Blevins will sign an extremely reasonable two year deal . . . with another team;
- Instead of fortifying the bench, the Mets are going to go with this year’s version of Eric Campbell -> Ty Kelly;
- Terry Collins is going to use and abuse Addison Reed to the point where his arm may actually fall off. This will go double if Jeurys Familia gets suspended;
- Hansel Robles is going to go through a stretch in one week where he pitches five innings, 1/3 of an inning, two innings, and three innings, and everyone is going to wonder why his production has fallen off;
- The infield of Lucas Duda, Neil Walker, David Wright, and Asdrubal Cabrera will be ridden hard despite their injury histories and capable backups like Wilmer Flores and Jose Reyes on the bench;
- Just pick a random player on the roster – he’s going to be on the DL for over two months with a back injury;
- There will be a game with Reyes in center and Juan Lagares in right;
- Travis d’Arnaud is going to get injured, and Kevin Plawecki is not going to be able to replace his bat in the lineup;
- Matt Harvey will complain about the six man rotation that will be implemented at some point during the season;
- Robert Gsellman will make an appearance throwing well over 100 pitches in five innings or less;
- Rene Rivera will hit under the Mendoza Line;
- T.J. Rivera will be raking in AAA and not get called up despite the Mets needing some offense;
- Michael Conforto will not face one left-handed pitcher all season;
- Yoenis Cespedes will not dive for a ball, run out a pop up, or run hard to first on a dropped strike three;
- Curtis Granderson will have a better OBP than Reyes, but Collins will continue to lead off Reyes and his sub .330 OBP;
- Collins will not know if Brandon Nimmo is faster than Flores and it will cost them a game;
- No matter where he winds up this offseason, and no matter how poor his year is going, Chase Utley will hit two home runs in a game he faces the Mets;
- Sandy Alderson will mortgage a part of the Mets future because he didn’t make a move in the offseason that he should have made;
- Paul Sewald will pitch well in AAA, but the Mets won’t call him up because they would rather rip Sean Gilmartin or Gabriel Ynoa from the Vegas rotation to make a relief appearance on 2-3 days of rest;
- Both Josh Smoker and Robles will be fully warmed up, and Collins will go to Smoker to pitch to the lefty;
- For reasons the Mets themselves can’t quite explain, Rafael Montero will spend the full season on the 40 man roster;
- d’Arnaud will come off the disabled list, play well for a stretch, and the Mets will lose him and Steven Matz in the same game;
- Matz will have appendicitis, but the Mets will talk him out of the surgery because they need him to start against the Reds;
- Dilson Herrera will tear it up every time he plays the Mets;
- Wherever he lands, Jay Bruce is going to hit 30 homers and 100 RBI;
- Collins will show up in the dugout without wearing pants, and the Mets still won’t fire him;
- Noah Syndergaard will get ejected from a game for throwing inside. A player who takes a bat to one of the Mets infielders in retaliation won’t;
- Fans will clamor for Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith to get called up all season long;
- Seth Lugo will bounce between the bullpen and rotation so much, MLB is actually going to test him to see if his arm is actually made out of rubber;
- Bartolo Colon will pitch so poorly against the Mets, fans will wonder why they wanted a bum like him back;
- R.A. Dickey will not only beat the Mets, but he will throw the team into a week long offensive funk causing some fans to decry the trade;
- One or more pitchers will get hurt, and fans that even question if the Warthen Slider could be an issue will be mocked mercilessly;
- Some way some how Jon Niese will pitch for this team;
- Rather than build Tom Seaver a statue, the Mets will issue #41 to Niese upon his return to the team;
- Daniel Murphy will have another terrific year for the Nationals, and some Mets fans will still defend the decision to let him go;
- Ricky Knapp will make a solid spot start for the Mets causing fans to think he is the second coming;
- Mets will trade a good prospect for Kelly Johnson; and
- Despite all of this the Mets will make it to the postseason
Honestly, I give it until April 9th when Collins declares the last game in a three game set against the Marlins is a must-win game.
Countries have begun trying to assemble their rosters for the World Baseball Classic, and it should come as no surprise that many countries are interested in the Mets players. So far, Ty Kelly (Israel), Seth Lugo (Puerto Rico), and Asdrubal Cabrera (Venezuela) are confirmed to be participating in the World Baseball Classic. There is also a chance Jeurys Familia (Dominican Republic), Brandon Nimmo (Italy), and Michael Conforto (Italy) could be participating as well.
Whoever plays, they would join a long list of Mets who have played in the World Baseball Classic since its inception in 2006. Can you name all the Mets players who have played in the World Baseball Classic? Good luck!
Dae-Sung Koo, Willie Collazo, Pedro Feliciano, Ivan Maldonado, Juan Padilla, Orlando Roman, Jose Santiago, Carlos Delgado, Javier Valentin, Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, Jorge Sosa, Duaner Sanchez, Jorge Julio, Victor Zambrano, Tony Armas, Endy Chavez, Stefan Welch, Elmer Dessens, Oliver Perez, Shawn Bowman, Jason Bay, Frank Catalanotto, J.J. Putz, David Wright, Fernando Tatis, Ruben Tejada, Nelson Figueroa, Alex Cora, Jesus Feliciano, Francisco Pena
Every Mets fan was elated the Mets signed Yoenis Cespedes to a four year $110 million contract. With that contract on the heels of Neil Walker accepting the $17.2 million qualifying offer, it appeared as if the Mets were finally out from under the Madoff disaster, and they were ready to spend like the big market team they were. Turns out we were wrong . . . very wrong.
As the Winter Meetings come to a close, Sandy Alderson met with reporters, and he informed them that the Mets are not only done spending, they actually need to shed payroll before Opening Day.
That’s right. Alderson expects the Mets to be below $150 million before Opening Day. According to Spotrac, a payroll under $150 million would put the Mets in bottom half of payroll in the major leauges. Worse yet, reducing the payroll would actually mean the Mets 2017 payroll will be lower than the Mets year-end 2016 payroll. The payroll will be lower despite the Mets coming off back-to-back postseason appearances, the Mets having twice increased ticket prices, and attendance having gone up each year since 2013. With increased revenues, there is no reason for the Mets to reduce payroll.
Now, payroll isn’t everything. As we saw in 2015, it is possible to compete without having one of the top payrolls in the majors. Ultimately, it is not payroll that wins, it’s talent. Looking over the Mets major league roster, the team still does not have everything it needs to win in 2017.
First and foremost, the bullpen is in disarray. The Mets are likely to lose Jerry Blevins to free agency, and it is likely the team will lose Fernando Salas. Right there, the Mets need to obtain another LOOGY unless you believe Josh Edgin will suddenly find his lost velocity or Josh Smoker‘s entire career of reverse splits will suddenly reverse itself. Morevover, the Mets will need a seventh inning reliever, which is something the team has seemingly always needed in the Sandy Alderson Era. Further compounding the issue is the prospect of a lengthy Jeurys Familia suspension. With all those factors in mind, this team is 2-3 arms short in the bullpen.
Speaking of arms, it is questionable the Mets have enough starting pitching. Yes, the team does seem to have seven starters, but most of them carry question marks and/or innings restrictions. Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, and Steven Matz are all coming off season ending surgeries. To ask them to make 30 innings and throw over 200 innings may be unrealistic. Both Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo helped pitch the Mets to the postseason last year, but they will likely be on innings restrictions in 2017 meaning if they are in the Opening Day rotation, they will likely need to be shut down by September. Finally, no one can reasonably expect anything from Zack Wheeler after he hasn’t pitched in over two years. With that in mind, the Mets could use a veteran starter who could eat up innings as the fifth starter, and also could serve as the long man in the bullpen once the Mets are ready to hand the reigns to a Gsellman, Lugo, or Wheeler.
The bench could probably use some help as well. Rene Rivera is a nice backup catcher, but he’s better suited on a team that has a catcher who is not as injury prone as Travis d’Arnaud. Arguably, the team could also use another bat for the bench, especially when you consider the battle for the final spot on the bench will be between Ty Kelly and T.J. Rivera. Given Kelly’s switch hitting ability, and Terry Collins‘ apparently fondness for him, it is likely Kelly will win that competition.
Overall, these are a lot of holes to fill. Arguably, being able to trade Bruce will fill one of them, but will it? If the Mets are indeed looking to slash payroll, how could the team take back salary in the deal? Even assuming the Mets can bring back salary in the deal, doesn’t that mean the team will be prevented from adding another player or two in free agency?
Ultimately, that’s the problem. The team’s needs are not likely going to be filled internally unless you believe Wheeler will be a dominant reliever, Sean Gilmartin will return to his 2015 form, Gabriel Ynoa will take a huge stride forward in his development, and Kelly starts improving at 28 years of age. It is nice to hope this will all work out, but as history tells us, it is rare that everything breaks right for a team in one year. No, the gaps will have to be filled by acquiring players, which will cost money.
Unfortunately, the Mets once again seem out of money. It’s getting old, and sooner or later, it is going to cost the Mets a chance at the postseason as it nearly did last year. When the team is raising ticket prices and the fans are still coming to the ballpark, that isn’t alright. It’s about time the Mets start spending to at least address their needs in the offseason.
Last offseason, the Mets re-signing Yoenis Cespedes put the final touches on the team everyone hoped would compete for a World Series. This year, the re-signing of Cespedes is really just a start for a team that still needs to make a number of moves this offseason. Here is a look at the moves the Mets still need to make:
TRADE JAY BRUCE
With Cespedes back, Jay Bruce likely becomes the outfielder the Mets will trade this offseason. In his nine year career, Bruce has been a .248/.318/.467 hitter who has averaged 27 homers and 82 RBI. At $13 million next season, that production is arguably a bargain. That is probably a reason why teams have been in contact with the Mets trying to inquire what the team will want in exchange for Bruce. While it is hard to believe the Mets will be able to bring in a prospect like Dilson Herrera or a player that will have a similar impact that Bruce will have in 2017, it should not be ruled out that the Mets will be able to acquire a player of consequence that will help the team next season.
DETERMINE MICHAEL CONFORTO’S POSITION
If the Mets are going to trade Bruce, it is another sign that the Mets see Michael Conforto as an everyday player. Where he will be an everyday player remains to be seen. With Cespedes returning for four years with a no trade clause, the only thing we know is that Conforto will not be the teams everyday left fielder anytime soon. That leaves center and right field.
During Conforto’s time in AAA last year, he began learning both positions. In his limited time in the majors at both positions, he showed he may very well be able to handle either position on an everyday basis. However, given the presence of Juan Lagares on this team, the best thing for Conforto and the Mets is to transition him to right field. Let him get fully acclimated there and focus on getting back to where he was April of last year. This will also let Lagares and Curtis Granderson handle center field duties next season, which was a platoon that may work very well for the Mets next year.
OBTAIN A LOOGY
Last year, Jerry Blevins had a terrific year out of the bullpen for the Mets as a LOOGY. In fact, he proved to be a bit more as he had a career best year pitching against right-handed batters. However, he is a free agent now, and the Mets do not appear as if they are able or inclined to give him the multi-year deal that he may command in free agency.
The internal left-handed options are Josh Edgin and Josh Smoker. Edgin did have some success against left-handed batters in limited duty in the majors last year, but with his velocity still not having fully returned after his Tommy John surgery, it is hard to rely upon him in any capacity next year. Smoker had outstanding strikeout rates in the minors and the majors last year, but he has reverse splits. Therefore, the Mets are going to have to look outside the organization to figure out who will be the first lefty out of the pen next season.
OBTAIN ONE OR MORE LATE INNING RELIEVERS
The Mets bullpen really is in a state of flux at the moment due to the Jeurys Familia domestic violence arrest. Pending an investigation by MLB, it is possible that Familia will miss a significant number of games next season. If that is the case, Addison Reed should prove more than capable of closing games in Familia’s absence. This begs the question of who will step up and take over Reed’s role in the short term.
It was a question the Mets faced most of 2016, and they did not find a good answer until they obtained Fernando Salas on the eve of the waiver trade deadline. Given his late inning and closing experience, Salas would be a good option to pitch in the seventh, eighth, or ninth inning next year. However, he is a free agent at the moment meaning the Mets are going to have to presumably sign or trade for someone to take over this role. In fact, the Mets may very well need two late inning relievers to address the bullpen.
SIGN A VETERAN STARTER
The one lesson learned from the 2016 season should be that once again you can never have too much pitching. With the return of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz, the Mets rotation is almost complete. The question is who will become the team’s fifth starter.
The first name that will be mentioned is Zack Wheeler. However, after missing all of 2015 and 2016, no one can be quite certain he is ready and able to assume the fifth starter’s role. The next names that will be mentioned are Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman. Both pitched quite well for the Mets in the stretch run last year, but the Mets may prefer to have a veteran arm who is able to eat up innings and/or can go deeper into the season than any of the aforementioned pitchers. Preferably, the pitcher they do sign would be willing to move to the bullpen in the event Wheeler, Lugo, or Gsellman wins the job in Spring Training or is ready to take over at some point during the season.
FIGURE OUT THE BACK-UP CATCHER SITUATION
Even with Rene Rivera back in the fold and despite his excellent work with Noah Syndergaard, there is still room for improvement on the catching front. Many will mention the recently non-tendered Wellington Castillo, but people should realize he’s an average hitter at best. Moreover, he’s a terrible pitch framer. Mets need to do better than that, but to be fair, that may not be possible.
Whatever the Mets decide to do, they first have to realize that Kevin Plawecki has twice proven he should not be relied upon to be the team’s primary back-up catcher. Next, the Mets have to realize they need a viable backup who can handle playing a number of games due to Travis d’Arnaud‘s injury history.
There are some other matters that need to be figured out as well. For example, do you want Ty Kelly and T.J. Rivera competing for the last spot on the bench, or do you want to re-sign Kelly Johnson? The answer to this and many other questions will largely depend on how much money the Mets have to spend the offseason and/or what the Mets are able to obtain in exchange for Bruce.
Cespedes was a great start to the offseason, but the Mets work is far from over.