On July 29, 2015, word spread like wild fire through Citi Field. The New York Mets had executed a trade which could help the team make the postseason and possibly win their first World Series in nearly 30 years. Wilmer Flores was in tears, and Carlos Gomez was packing for his flight to New York while Zack Wheeler continued his rehab from Tommy John surgery.
As soon as the game was over, we discovered the trade was nixed because Gomez apparently had a hip issue. While fans were angry over the mayhem which ensued from another PR disaster from the Mets organization, Wheeler was relieved. In fact, Wheeler would pick up the phone to call Sandy Alderson to tell him that he wanted to remain a part of the Mets organization.
Fast forward four years, and Wheeler is once again on the trade block. Unlike 2015, there is no keeping him around for him to remain a part of the Mets going forward. He is going to be a free agent after the season is over, and based upon the Mets payroll and willingness to spend, it would seem like this is definitively his last season in Queens. Given that fact, a Mets team with the second worst record in the National League needs to trade him to recoup what they can to at least revamp the team for 2020 and beyond.
The plans to trade him were dealt a huge blow when Wheeler landed on the Injured List.
Initially, the Mets characterized it as shoulder fatigue or a dead arm. In those cases, you just need a brief rest, and you should be fine. The Mets downplaying it took an interesting twist when Wheeler got to talk about it. He made things sound much worse calling it an impingement and saying the MRI was “pretty much clean.”
He also backtracked a bit on the Mets statements Wheeler should be ready to go as soon as his IL stint is over saying he isn’t sure when he can return. Although, he did say he wants to be back on the mound as soon as possible.
With Wheeler’s ill timed IL stint, there is now a question if the Mets could get a sufficient enough return to move him. Despite what some will tell you, it would be absolutely worth giving him a qualifying offer. If he rejects it, and he should, the Mets could get a decent comp pick in what should be a loaded draft. All told, this means the Mets may not be in a position to trade him for a lower return because of this IL stint.
As a result, it means medicals may once again prevent Wheeler from being traded away from the Mets. This makes Wheeler the man nearly impossible for the Mets to trade. If he is offered the qualifying offer, and he accepts, we should see another year of Wheeler because, again, he is the man the Mets are incapable of trading.
All jokes aside, Wheeler is a good pitcher who still has potential. We also know he is a very good second half pitcher having a better second half ERA than Jacob deGrom last year. With this second half schedule and the deep draft upcoming, maybe it’s not the worst thing in the world to keep Wheeler. Of course, that is only coming from it from a perspective of the anticipated return possibly being diminished now.
A night after the Mets blew a game partially because Gary Disarcina had an unfathomly bad send of J.D. Davis, the Mets decided to fire pitching coach Dave Eiland and bullpen coach Chuck Hernandez. Seeing Brodie Van Wagenen’s press conference where he refused to accept any personal responsibility, you could see this was nothing but a scapegoat decision to deflect from his failures as a General Manager. In typical Van Wagenen fashion, he scapegoated the wrong person because that’s what a terrible General Manager with no accountability does.
On the surface, you may want to pinpoint how the pitching has not lived up to its billing. After all, the Mets team 4.74 ERA is the 11th worst in baseball, and their 5.37 bullpen ERA is the third worst in baseball. Of course, there are some other considerations behind those numbers.
On the starter ERA front, the Mets top four starters have a 4.27 ERA. While not where you may not want it, it’s still a half a run lower than the staff ERA. That is because the rest of the staff including Corey Oswalt, Chris Flexen, and Wilmer Font have combined for a 7.19 ERA.
The bullpen ERA also needs to be put in perspective as well. That ERA comes from pitchers like Drew Gagnon (7.65 ERA), Tyler Bashlor (5.40 ERA), Luis Avilan (9.28 ERA), Hector Santiago (6.57 ERA), and Jacob Rhame (8.10 ERA). Say what you want about Eiland, but much of the team’s pitching struggles are related to the team not having Major League quality arms and having a complete lack of pitching depth.
Another factor is the Mets horrible defense. Their -55 DRS is the second worst in the Majors. That’s a year off of them being the second worst team in the National League with a -121 DRS. Their inability to field is part of the reason why the Mets pitching staff has a 4.27 FIP, which is 11th best in the majors. That includes a 3.99 FIP for their starters.
On that front, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Zack Wheeler each have an FIP better than that mark with each of them in the top 30 among Major League starters meaning they are actually pitching like top of the rotation starters. Put another way, Eiland had the good pitchers on this staff actually pitching well, at least most of them.
Going back, what hasn’t been happening is the Mets playing well defensively. As noted by Mark Simon of The Athletic, the Mets are the worst shifting team in baseball. In fact, they are one of just a few teams whose shifting has cost the team runs. As noted by ESPN‘s Paul Hembekides, the Mets infield defense has an MLB worst 70 percent out rate on ground balls, .270 batting average on ground balls allowed, and 218 ground ball hits allowed.
That wasn’t the case back when Tim Teufel was the infield coach. No, he had the team where they needed to be, and in fact, back in 2015, when the Mets had Daniel Murphy at second, Wilmer Flores playing shortstop, and Eric Campbell playing more infield than anyone, the Mets had a positive 15 DRS.
No, things went real south when they hired Disarcina.
On the topic of Disarcina, we have not only seen Amed Rosario not fulfill his Gold Glove promise, but he has really struggled defensively. Part of that is the shifting, and part of that is Disarcina not doing the job he was hired to do. That is not too dissimilar from when he sent Davis home (another player he has not been able to help with his infield defense) among his other bad sends this year. It’s also not too dissimilar from when he failed to properly run quality control last year as the team’s bench coach last year leading to Jay Bruce batting out of order.
If you’re looking to scapegoat a coach, the Mets should have scapegoated the coach who has not performed well in his job. On that topic, Glenn Sherlock hasn’t performed well either. We have seen both Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki pick it up to the levels they were with Bob Geren, but that required them leaving the organization and getting competent coaching elsewhere. There’s also Chili Davis, who is the hitting coach for a team hitting ground balls 46.0 percent of the time and a hard hit rate of 35.3 percent (both bottom six in the majors) at a time when the juiced ball is flying out of ballparks.
If the Mets were looking to scapegoat a coach for the poor job Van Wagenen did to build this roster, he should have picked Disarcia, Sherlock, or Davis. Instead, he picked Eiland, a pitching coach with two World Series rings, a man who was actually doing his job well because he needed a scapegoat to hide from his complete failure to build necessary pitching depth.
At some point in time, Brodie Van Wagenen is going to have to finally take some personal responsibility, something he refused to do yesterday, and admit he has done a very poor job. Maybe at that point, he can stop with the half measures and scapegoating and instead focus on making the changes needed to turn the Mets into they type of club he hyped them to be heading into the season.
You can understand blowing games against the Dodgers. They are both a really good and a relentless team. It really becomes an issue when you do it against mediocre teams like the Diamondbacks:
1. The most bizarre criticism of Mickey Callaway was his lifting Pete Alonso for a pinch runner in the eighth inning of a game where the Mets had a four run lead. By lifting him for Juan Lagares, you’re getting more speed on the basepaths, and you are helping bolster both the infield and the outfield defense. It was 100% the right decision.
2. The criticism over his use of Jeurys Familia and Robert Gsellman was understandable, but let’s not pretend there was another real option. Drew Gagnon was bad in his last two pressure situations. Tyler Bashlor had three consecutive blown saves, and he wound up being the losing pitcher in the game. Really, other than those two and with it being too early to utilize a fatigued Edwin Diaz, there really wasn’t a better choice.
3. On Familia, there appears to be two problems. The first is he’s walking too many. The second is the defense behind him. He has a career worst .344 BABIP (.312 career) and a 66.2% LOB (75.4%) career. Essentially, the Mets are combining a ground ball pitcher with a bad infield defense. Not a good mix.
4. We should again note that as of today Craig Kimbrel no longer has draft pick compensation attached to him. We should also note he is now only going to get a prorated portion of the salary he wanted. If you’re all-in, there’s absolutely no excuse for the Mets to not sign him today.
6. Davis had a hot start, but he’s regressed to the mean, and he’s now one of the problems with the team. His defense is unplayable across the diamond, and he has been hitting .248/.313/.385. Since May 1st, Davis is hitting .208/.238/.351. As a point of reference, Eric Campbell hit .221/.312/.311 in his career with the Mets.
7. Seeing Arizona is a reminder how much the Mets miss Wilmer Flores. Aside from the things he did well as a player, he would have been great for this clubhouse. Flores went through this in 2015 and 2016. He also knows what it’s like to go from struggling to fan favorite. His attitude, rapport with his teammates, and his ability to play is needed on this team.
8. Looking at the team Brodie Van Wagenen assembled, the players he brought in have combined for a -0.7 WAR. The best position player he has brought aboard was Adeiny Hechavarria. Not to unfairly dump on Hechavarria, who is playing the best baseball of his career, but no General Manager in the history of baseball should ever be in a position to say the most productive position player he added to the roster was Adeiny Hechavarria.
9. The Mets are winning behind the talented players left behind by Sandy Alderson. One of those players has been Dominic Smith, who the team didn’t even want to give a chance to win the first base position in Spring Training.
10. Smith has really proven himself. He’s in the best shape of his life, and he’s a better player having had better treatment of his sleep apnea. He’s been great in the clubhouse, and he finally got his chance. It’s an extremely small sample size, but he’s hitting .359/.519/.609 with a 1 DRS when he’s a left fielder.
11. The Mets are playing Smith and Davis in left field because the team went into the season with just two starting everyday outfielders. This has also led them to flipping coins over whether Carlos Gomez (79 wRC+, 0 DRS), Aaron Altherr (-40 wRC+, 0 DRS), and Lagares (40 wRC+, -1 DRS).
12. It should also be noted the Mets had a chance to give Keon Broxton more playing time to see if they could salvage him. Instead, they cut him so they could call up Gomez. Since being traded to the Orioles, Broxton is hitting .250/.300/.500 (0.2 WAR). That’s a clear upgrade over the mess they have now.
13. Between Broxton and Davis, that’s just five prospects and Bobby Wahl thrown away from nothing.
14. That is a good reminder when Adam Jones hit that game tying three run homer off of Gsellman. It’s important to remember here Jones signed for just $3 million. THREE MILLION!
15. Steven Matz needed to be better than what he was on Sunday. The team needed a lift, and he gave up two runs before he even recorded an out. He gave up five runs total. Yes, the offense and defense didn’t show up either, but the Mets needed more from him. To be fair, he at least gave them length to help the pen, and unlike most of the lineup, he actually had a hit.
16. This team sure looks a lot different when Seth Lugo is available. His ability to pitch well and give the team length certainly masks a lot of problems with the bullpen.
17. It is great to see the Jacob deGrom of last year return. Maybe it’s Tomas Nido, and maybe it’s just getting back into a groove, but he’s looked like the guy he was last year. Since May 1st, he’s allowed two earned or fewer in six of his seven starts. Even with the inexplicable clunker in Miami, he has a 2.68 ERA, 1.008 WHIP, and a 4.6 K/BB over this stretch.
18. The hysteria about the personal catcher for deGrom is muchado about nothing. If deGrom pitches well to Nido, let him pitch to Nido. We should also note his pitching to Nido also affords Wilson Ramos a little extra rest. That seems to be working for him with him hitting .293/.376/.500 since May 1.
19. Zack Wheeler could’ve been better on Friday, but he did give the Mets a chance to win that game, and he gave them length to help save that bullpen.
20. After playing 20 consecutive games and going 9-11 over the stretch, the Mets are in need of today’s day off. Seeing Mets fans completely overreact to Callaway’s every look and smile, the fans can use the day off as well.
Much like the Mets were forced to make a decision with Adeiny Hechavarria when he exercised is opt out, the team is going to have to make a decision on Carlos Gomez on June 1st. That is the date Gomez can opt out of his deal and become a free agent.
With the way Gomez has been playing, he’s sure to opt out. Over his last 13 games, Gomez is hitting .373/.431/.686 with four doubles, four homers, and 15 RBI. One of the benefits of this being Syracuse and not Las Vegas is the results are more reliable. With this recent streak, you could see Gomez being the All Star caliber player who almost came back to the Mets in exchange for Zack Wheeler and Wilmer Flores.
The issue for Gomez is whether he can actually be that player at the Major League level.
Since that 2015 season, Gomez has been a .232/.312/.394 (90 wRC+) hitter. In the field, he has not been the Gold Glover he once was. Over the last three seasons, he has a -9 DRS in center over 1,594.1 innings. Still, Gomez did prove himself to be quite a capable outfielder. With him seeing more time in the corners, he had a 7 DRS over 825.2 innings for the Rays last year.
Looking at Gomez, this is a player who is a good corner outfielder who can fill-in capably in center. He has speed on the basepaths, and he still has some power in the bat. As a bench player, he could have real value.
There are some impediments there. Gomez has been an injury prone player landing on the disabled list in each of the past four years. In 77 career pinch hitting appearances, Gomez has hit .188/.240/.304. More than that, the Rays transitioned Gomez to more of a part-time role last year, and he struggled.
Still, when it comes to Gomez, the question is whether he is better suited to the bench right now than Keon Broxton. Looking at how Broxton has been playing, the answer is a definitive yes.
Broxton has been terrible so far this year. He has a 15 wRC+ partially fueled by a a 42.0 percent strike out rate and a complete absence of power. He has not been the fielder he was advertised to be posting a -1 DRS in 106.1 innings between all three outfield positions. That’s a far cry from his 13 DRS last year which was mostly fueled by an 11 DRS as a center fielder.
Ultimately, the question the Mets have before them is whether Broxton is broken beyond repair. After all, this is a player who had a 1.6 WAR as a bench player for the Brewers last year. As a pinch hitter, he has hit .216/.310/.541 in 42 plate appearances. According to Baseball Savant, Broxton is one of the fastest players in the game. If the Mets can get through to him and get him to turn things around, Broxton could well prove to be the outfield depth they envisioned him to be when they made the trade.
With Broxton being a year away from arbitration and still being under team control through the 2022 season, the Mets have every reason to make this work. There’s all the more incentive when you consider Juan Lagares is a pending free agent, and the Mets have no center field depth on the horizon. Looking at the offseaon, there isn’t going to be a center field free agent available.
So, right now, the Mets are invested in getting Broxton to be the player they believe him to be. However, at a certain point, that has to end. With the June 1 on the horizon, it seems like Broxton has two weeks. In those two weeks, he has to show the Mets something while simultaneously hoping Gomez cools off considerably.
If at the time things are status quo on June 1, the Mets need to make the switch. But as for right now, the Mets need to let this play out because in 17 days, the Mets are likely going to lose Broxton or Gomez, and if that is the case, they need to be 100 percent right in that decision.
With Travis d’Arnaud struggling in his limited chances since returning from Tommy John surgery, he was designated for assignment. Instead of seeking to outright him to Syracuse, the Mets opted to release d’Arnaud. Now, d’Arnaud is reunited with Bob Geren in Los Angeles. It’s easy to forget now, but with Geren being the Mets catching coach, he got the very best out of d’Arnaud.
Back in 2012, the Mets would trade reigning Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays for a package which included d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard. At that point, d’Arnaud was the best known prospect, and he was certainly a coveted one having previously been traded the Phillies to the Blue Jays so the team could obtain Roy Halladay.
The book on d’Arnaud was he was going to be a good hitting catcher. Being a good hitter or even a catcher was something which was next to impossible to ascertain when d’Arnaud was first called up to the majors in 2013. He didn’t hit at all, and he struggled mightily behind the plate. After that year, d’Arnaud would put his work in and become a much better player.
While the bat never quite materialized the way we anticipated, he did became very good behind the plate. We saw d’Arnaud become one of the best pitch framers in the game. It was one of the reasons why he was in the top 10 in Rookie of the Year voting in 2014, and it was one of the reasons why the Mets would take off in 2015.
Like he would most of his career, d’Arnaud would have injury issues in 2015, but he would be an impactful player when he was on the field. His elite pitch framing helped a staff featuring Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Syndergaard not only win the division, but also go all the way to the World Series. It gets overlooked, but d’Arnaud didn’t contribute with his strong play behind the plate, he also contributed as a hitter.
In the 2015 postseaon, d’Arnaud would hit three homers. That included one in Game 1 of the NLCS which would actually hit the Home Run Apple, which led the Mets to put a temporary band-aid on it prior to Game 2.
Of course, the homers overlook his key moments in the NLDS. In a pivotal Game 3, it was d’Arnaud who hit the RBI single which tied the game in the second, and it was d’Arnaud who hit the three run homer in the third which helped the Mets begin to pull away. We also forget with the heroics of deGrom, Jeurys Familia, and Daniel Murphy in Game 5, it was d’Arnaud who had the sacrifice fly which had tied the game setting the stage for the Mets to eventually take the lead and head to the NLCS.
After the 2015 season, d’Arnaud would deal with injuries including the torn UCL which practically cost him the entire 2018 season. Still, when he played, he was a terrific pitch framer, who was an asset to his pitching staff. He would still have the occasional highlight like his 16th inning homer against the Marlins.
One thing which really stuck out with d’Arnaud was how he was a team first player. In his tenure with the Mets, he wore three different numbers partially because he changed from number 7 to accomodate Jose Reyes when he returned to the organization. There was also the August 16, 2017 game which will live in infamy.
With both Wilmer Flores and Reyes unable to play due to injuries, and with Gavin Cecchini and Matt Reynolds unable to arrive from Las Vegas in time for the game, it meant someone was going to have to play out of position. That player would be d’Arnaud, who donned David Wright‘s mitt while switching back and forth between second and third with Asdrubal Cabrera. The lineup card was a mess with it reading d’Arnaud played “3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B.”
In the game, d’Arnaud would hit a game tying sacrifice fly in the sixth. Despite all of Terry Collins‘ machinations, the ball would finally find d’Arnaud when Todd Frazier popped it up to him in the ninth. With d’Arnaud securing it, he now stands as the Mets all-time leader in fielding percentage among Mets second baseman.
When it comes to d’Arnaud, aside from that magical 2015 season, he was never quite the player everyone hoped he would be. He battled injuries during his Mets tenure, and he was never the hitter everyone expected even if he was above average at the position. Mostly, he was very good behind the plate having been one of the best pitch framers in the game.
His Mets tenure ended with a whimper. While fans villified him for what he wasn’t instead of celebrating him for what he was, d’Arnaud opted for the high road thanking the fans and the organization for everything and expressing his gratitude to all.
While things ended poorly here, he is now playing for his hometown team. It is a team who has his former catching coach, who get everything out of d’Arnaud’s talent. He’s at the place where former Met Justin Turner‘s career took off. He’s playing for a very good team, a smart organization, and he will be put in a good position to succeed.
In his tenure, d’Arnaud was a good Met, and the 2015 run doesn’t happen without him. Despite everything, he never complained, and he was willing to do everything asked of him. Every Mets fan should wish him the best of luck. I know I will.
In 2017, Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith were Top 100 prospects, and they both appeared to be cornerstone players for the Mets. They were supposed to join Michael Conforto as the wave of young position players who could help a pitching staff led by Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard win a World Series.
As we all know that hasn’t happened, and in all likelihood, it’s not going to happen.
Starting in 2017, we didn’t see the results from either prospect. In 46 games, Rosario hit .248/.271/.394. He had a 75 wRC+, 1 DRS, and a 0.3 WAR. He had glimpses of pure excitement, but he didn’t hit, and his fielding was not the Gold Glove level advertised.
Unfortunately, things have gotten worse for Rosario. Since his 2017 debut, he is hitting .257/.296/.380. He has an 85 wRC+, which is fourth worst among Major League shortstops over that span. As bad as that is, his -22 DRS is the worst among Major League shortstops, and it is the fourth worst of all Major League players. In total, he has a -1.5 WAR.
Despite these struggles and his failing to make noticeable progress from a statistical standpoint, Rosario’s stature with the team has never been challenged. In 2018, the team had Jose Reyes as the backup shortstop and mentor. This year, the Mets entered the season with Luis Guillorme, and they sent him down after just 16 games leaving Rosario as the only shortstop on the roster.
While we have not seen Rosario yet develop, we have also not seen him challenged by the Mets in any way, shape, or form. This is a completely different experience than Smith’s.
As bad as Rosario has been since his debut, Smith has been worse. In 2017, Smith hit .198/.262/.395, and he had a -1.1 WAR. Because of his struggles, the Mets brought in Adrian Gonzalez in a first base “competition.” Smith certainly made things easy for the Mets when he was late showing up for the first Spring Training game.
During the 2018 season, the Mets gave time to Gonzalez, Wilmer Flores, and Jay Bruce at first base while they moved Smith to left field, where he faltered. As the season progresses, Smith saw his status of the first baseman of the future complete evaporate with every Pete Alonso homer.
The end result was Smith obviously being part of the Mets long term plans. Even though he came into Spring Training in phenomenal shape and having made clear improvements to his game, he didn’t get much of a chance to fight for the first base job, one Alonso arguably won anyway. Smith didn’t even get a small chance like Mike Olt once did while the Cubs waited to get an extra year of control over Kris Bryant.
No, the Mets just passed over Smith. They punished him for not being what they hoped he would be. Ironically, he may just be showing the Mets he’s ready to be that player hitting .400/.516/.480 as a bench player and late inning defensive replacement.
Conversely, Rosario continues to struggle. He’s not hitting or fielding well despite being given every opportunity to do so. At some point, the question needs to be asked if Rosario received the treatment Smith received, would he be a better ballplayer now? We don’t know, and we will never know.
The only thing we do know is there were two different sets of rules for Smith and Rosario. One was allowed to struggle, and the other wasn’t. One was challenged, and the other wasn’t. So far this year, one has improved, and the other hasn’t. Time will tell if the double standard will have cost the Mets the future of both players.
When the Mets were winning the 2015 pennant, there was a push in some circles to refer to that team as Omar’s team. Depending on your point of view, it was intended to either credit Omar Minaya for his leaving behind a better than advertised talent base, or it was to deride Sandy Alderson, who never gained traction with some Mets fans.
Even if it was said in jest, there was a nugget of truth to it. The core of that team, the pitching, was mostly there because of Omar Minaya. In fact, Minaya was the General Manager who drafted Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, and Steven Matz. The other key starter, Noah Syndergaard, was obtained in exchange for R.A. Dickey, a pitcher who was brought to the organization by Minaya on a minor league deal.
Minaya was also the General Manager who drafted Lucas Duda and Daniel Murphy. Jeurys Familia, Wilmer Flores, Juan Lagares, Hansel Robles, and Ruben Tejada came to the Mets as international free agents signed during Minaya’s tenure. Minaya’s impact on the team went further than this with Sandy Alderson utilizing players brought to the organization during Minaya’s tenure to acquire Travis d’Arnaud and Addison Reed.
Taking it a step further, Minaya was the Assistant General Manager when David Wright was drafted, and he was the General Manager who gave Wright his first contract extension.
Overall, Minaya’s fingerprints were all over that 2015 team much in the same way Alderson’s fingerprints are all over this year’s Mets team.
Yesterday’s starting lineup featured four former Alderson draft picks (Brandon Nimmo, Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, Jeff McNeil) and the player who his regime gave the second highest international signing bonus in team history (Amed Rosario). Robinson Cano came to the Mets when Brodie Van Wagenen traded two former Alderson first round draft picks (Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn) and two players Alderson had signed in free agency (Jay Bruce and Anthony Swarzak).
Looking further, the lineup also had two Minaya holdovers, one of which in Lagares who Alderson gave a contract extension.
Really, when you truly break it down, the only player on the Mets Opening Day lineup who has zero ties to any previous Mets regime was Wilson Ramos.
When you break it down further, the only Mets players who have no ties to previous regimes were Ramos, Luis Avilan, Justin Wilson, and Jed Lowrie, a player who opened the season on the Injured List and who currently has no timetable to return. Considering Familia was a free agent signing, you could potentially credit him solely to Van Wagenen even if he was seeking to return to the team. The other 20 players on the Opening Day roster were either players brought to the team by Alderson, or they were players who were acquired utilizing players Alderson brought to the organization.
Given the narrative which was in place four years ago, the question should be presented whether the 2019 Mets are Sandy’s or Brodie’s team.
The answer is this is definitively Brodie’s team. As the General Manager, he was the one who set into course a series of transactions made to build the Mets in his image. It was he who decided to extend deGrom and to bring in Cano. When you are the General Manager, you are the one making the decisions, and you should receive the credit or blame if your decisions succeed or falter.
As for Sandy Alderson, Mets fans should be appreciative of the talent he acquired during his tenure. Alderson not only left behind a talented group of players, but he left behind a very likeable group of players. In the end, the Mets were better off for him having been the General Manager, and we can only hope we can say the same when Van Wagnen’s tenure as the Mets General Manager ends.
According to reports yesterday, Mets infielder T.J. Rivera is struggling in his return from Tommy John surgery. While people assume it is easier for position players to return from the surgery, Rivera seems to be dispelling that notion. In fact, it would appear he is struggling to return from his surgery much in the same way Zack Wheeler did. It should be noted while Wheeler had his surgery in early 2015, he was not what we believed he could be until the second half of last season. So far, Rivera is dispelling any real concerns:
T.J. Rivera downplays the discomfort he's been feeling in his surgically repaired right elbow. He described it more as another bump in the road: pic.twitter.com/mVyEwU22LB
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) February 28, 2019
When looking at his career, this is just the newest obstacle for him to overcome.
Rivera was a 22 year old undrafted free agent who had bounced around in college before landing at Troy University. Fortunately, at one of Rivera’s stops prior to Troy University, he played for former Met Mackey Sasser, who would recommend Rivera to a scout. As an undrafted player, he had an uphill climb ahead of him needing to prove himself at every turn. Rivera has done just that hitting over .300 with an OBP over .350 at nearly every minor league stop.
Really, Rivera stuck around because he hit. Yet somehow, despite his hitting at every stop, he was overlooked in the Rule 5 Draft multiple times. He had been in the minors for five-and-a-half years when the Mets were dropping like flies. Rather than give him a chance, the Mets would give playing time to players like Eric Campbell and Matt Reynolds. They’d even bring back Jose Reyes despite his domestic violence arrest and suspension. When it came time to call someone up, they’d call up Ty Kelly over him.
It would not be until the middle of August until Rivera would get called up, but he still wouldn’t get a chance. He’d be up and down a few times in August. Finally, with Walker being done for the season with a back injury and Wilmer Flores injuring his wrist on a collision at home plate on a very questionable send by Tim Teufel, Rivera would finally get his chance.
In 20 September games, Rivera hit .358/.378/.552. In those 20 games, the Mets would go 13-7. It’s important to consider the Mets claimed a Wild Card spot by just one game. If the team had not turned to him when they did, it’s possible the Mets miss the 2016 postseason. It’s also worth mentioning Rivera was one of the few Mets who got a hit off Madison Bumgarner in the Wild Card game. If someone had driven him in after his leadoff double in the fifth, we would be having a completely different conversation about him, that season, and each of the ensuing seasons.
Despite his being the hero of the 2017 season, the Mets would not so much as guarantee him a roster spot. They wouldn’t do that even with him playing well as the first baseman for a Puerto Rican team which reached the championship game of the World Baseball Classic. Instead, Rivera would spend his 2017 season up and down and the out with the season and potentially career altering UCL tear.
Seeing the depth the Mets have accumulated and the team likely adding at least Adeiny Hechavarria to the roster, 40 man roster spots are becoming tenuous. With him being unable to play, the odds are once again not in Rivera’s favor. Based upon past history, we should not count him out. In fact, for a team with postseason aspirations, he may ultimately prove to be an important player who can put the Mets over the top.
With the way J.D. Davis has hit in the minors, there has been a feeling among some that if he were to get a chance, he would prove himself at the Major League level. With the depth in the Astros organization, it was fairly clear Davis was not going to get his chance there. When he was traded to the Mets, it wasn’t entirely clear he was going to get his chance in New York either.
Heading into Spring Training, Davis was third on the third base depth chart behind Todd Frazier and Jed Lowrie. As a utility player who could play the corners, he was behind both Lowrie and Jeff McNeil. As such, his most likely role with the Mets would to be to resume Wilmer Flores‘ role as a weapon against left-handed pitching.
Since Spring Training has begun, Lowrie and Frazier have suffered injuries. Lowrie has a strained knee, and Frazier has a strained oblique. Neither player has a timetable as to when they can return to working out let alone playing games. This creates a void at the third base position thereby giving a player an opportunity.
While Davis has spent time at first, left, and even pitcher, he is a natural third baseman. While his range is limited, he has good hands and a strong arm. When he gets to a ball, no matter how tricky the hop, he is going to field it, and he is going to make a strong throw across the diamond.
Certainly, you can live with his defense at the position over the course of the season. That goes double if you organization is doing their job on the scouting and analytical fronts shifting Davis into the right spot on the field to maximize his skill-set.
Really, the question for him is going to be his bat. Lost in the .342/.406/.583 batting line he put up in Triple-A last year were some concerning peripherals. Cbief among them was his 40.6 percent ground ball rate. In the majors, that rate has been worse with him having a 60.5 percent ground ball rate in 2017 and a 50.0 percent ground ball rate in 2018.
Behind that ground ball rate is power. With his posting a very good 19.3 percent HR/FB in Triple-A last year, you see a batter who can hit the ball out of the ballpark. The challenge currently before him and hitting coach Chili Davis is getting him to lift the ball. If that should happen, many, including Baseball America, believe Davis could hit 30+ homers a year.
It should be noted Davis does have a good eye at the plate and has the ability to draw a walk. This should help him as part of the process in not just learning how to lift the ball but also identifying which pitches he can lift to knock the ball out of the park.
Much like we saw with Miguel Andujar last year, sometimes all a promising player needs is that chance. Should the injuries to Frazier and Lowrie linger, Davis is going to get his chance. It’s up to him to see if he can make good on that chance like Andujuar did last year. If he doesn’t take advantage of this opportunity, he’s likely going to watch on as McNeil, T.J. Rivera, or even David Thompson gets that chance.
Now, if Davis does do the job and plays to his full potential, he’s going to make it very difficult for the Mets to take him out of the lineup even when Frazier and Lowrie return from their injuries.
The Mets have had a significant amount of turnover since they appeared in the 2015 World Series. Just this offseason, the Mets have seen Wilmer Flores leave. With him gone, there are just ten players remaining from the 2015 Mets who are still with the organization. Can you name who they are? Good luck!