During the offseason, there were reports the New York Mets had a deal in place for Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, but the deal never did happen. As noted by Jon Heyman of Fan Rag Sports, the purported trade wasn’t killed over prospects, but rather, “it was killed by someone at the top, very likely over money.”
The money the Mets would have given to Kipnis eventually went to Jay Bruce despite the team already having Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto tabbed as the corner outfielders over the next three seasons.
This is important to note because after all the moving parts to this offseason, the Mets have a trio of players in Asdrubal Cabrera, Wilmer Flores, and Jose Reyes, who both struggle defensively and against right-handed pitching. Moreover, the triumvirate are also injury prone.
That’s where things were interesting with Kipnis. Like most anyone who was on the Mets roster last year, Kipnis’ 2017 season was a nightmare. He had shoulder and hamstring issues. While we can reasonably believe the hamstring issues will be resolved heading into this season, there could be room for doubt over Kipnis’ shoulder.
At this point, it is important to remember this wasn’t the Carlos Gomez trade. The Mets killed that deal over physicals. The Kipnis deal was killed because the Mets couldn’t justify paying him $30.7 million over the next two years. That’s really interesting.
In 2015 and 2016, Kipnis was a .289/.357/.460 hitter who averaged 42 doubles, 16 homers, and 67 RBI. It was part of the reason why he averaged a 4.3 WAR over that two year span.
The last time a Mets position player had a WAR that high was Curtis Granderson in 2015 when he had a 5.1 WAR. The last time the Mets had a position player have consecutive seasons with a 4.0 WAR or greater was David Wright in 2012-2013.
The inability to maintain that high level of production when healthy was not an impediment to the Mets giving large free agent deals to Cespedes or Bruce. However, for some reason, it was an impediment for the Mets acquiring a player who would have resolved their second base situation for the next two seasons.
With Kipnis, it’s more than just those two years too. Since 2012, he has posted a 3.9 WAR or higher in four of the last six seasons. For the sake of comparison, Bruce has had a WAR that high just twice in his 10 year career, and Cabrera has done it just twice in his 11 year career. For both players, those high WAR seasons came a long time ago.
For Kipnis, he did it recently, and he appears to be that player again. Yes, Spring Training stats are flawed and shouldn’t be used as a barometer for future success, but Kipnis is 8-14 with five homers. If nothing else, it tells us he’s healthy and primed to be the 4.0+ win player he has been.
We can’t say the same about Bruce or Cabrera even when they are healthy. However, for some reason the Mets found the money to pay them and not Kipnis. In the end if you want a real barometer for how good an offseason the Mets have had, watch how Kipnis produces this season.
If Kipnis is Kipnis while Bruce and Cabreara are Bruce and Cabrera, the team should have some explaining to do.
Certainly, when you look at any free agent, there are a number of things you can look to pick apart. When looking at former Mets second baseman Neil Walker, you need not look at his recent health history. He needed back surgery in 2016, and last year, he missed a large chunk of time due to a partially torn hamstring.
Even with the injury issues, Walker has been a productive player when on the field. In 111 games last year, Walker hit .265/.362/.439 with 14 homers and 49 RBI. The one caution you would have with him is that he showed 2016 was a blip as he returned to struggling against left-handed pitching.
To that end, Walker would be the perfect fit for the current Mets roster.
Based upon their production there last year, the Mets have three players ill-suited to playing second base everyday with Asdrubal Cabrera (-6 DRS), Wilmer Flores (-1 DRS), and Jose Reyes (-5 DRS). What is interesting about this group is all three of them struggle against right-handed pitching. Heading into Opening Day, Cabrera is the starter, but based upon recent history, we can count for the Mets playing dozens of players at the position.
Given the defensive issues and platoon splits, it would behoove the Mets to add Walker to the mix. He’d be another body who can give them games, and he’s a well suited platoon candidate with any of the aforementioned incumbent second baseman.
Realistically speaking, that will never happen. The Mets are paying Cabrera $8.5 million, and based upon how the Mets operate, they are not likely going to put that on the bench. The organization also has a soft spot for both Flores and Reyes. So no, the Mets are not going to bring a player to play second base over them; not even Walker, who was productive as a Met when he was on the field.
However, the team does not owe the same loyalties to Adrian Gonzalez.
The soon to be 36 year old first baseman is coming off an injury riddled year himself where he hit just .242/.287/.355 with three homers and 30 RBI in 71 games. With him starting off the Spring going 2-15, he’s not exactly inspiring confidence he will bounce back.
With the Mets being a month away from Spring Training, you have to really question if he’s ever going to rediscover who he was three years ago. With him looking more and more like a player who is closer to retirement and Dominic Smith having a Spring which has combined being late and injured, the Mets should at least investigate the free agent market.
If he wants to pull a Todd Zeile, Walker could sign on with the Mets to play first base. If not, Todd Frazier has experience there, which would allow the Mets to put Walker at third base. When Dom is ready, or when injuries inevitably befall the Mets, the team would have some versatility with Walker. He likely could slot in at any infield position but short.
With Walker still on the market and likely available for a discount, this is something the Mets should definitely be considering. Ultimately, it may prove to be a better option that rolling the dice on Gonzalez and the three internal second basemen.
Editor’s Note: Hat tip to Rob Piersall whose tweet inspired this post
To be fair, no one really expected the free agent market to go the way it has. Really, as free agency opened, the Mets with their limited budget was not expected to be able to bring in Jay Bruce, Todd Frazier, and Anthony Swarzak. Based upon past years, the Mets really only would have had the budget to get just one of them. However, with the way it has played out, it does beg you to re-visit the Mets offseason.
Certainly, there should be no quibbling with the aforementioned additions. Bruce provides the Mets both with a left-handed power bat as well as first base insurance. Frazier joins Amed Rosario to give the Mets a defensive left side of the infield they have not had since at least a decade ago. Swarzak helps solidify a bullpen that needed all the quality arms it could get.
Where you can question the Mets was their minor moves. The team brought back Jose Reyes back on a one year $2 million deal, and because the Dodgers are playing his 2018 salary, the Mets were able to sign Adrian Gonzalez for the league minimum. In retrospect, was this really the best move the Mets could have made.
When the Mets signed Bruce, it gave the team only four healthy outfielders on the 40 man roster. Two of those outfielders, Yoenis Cespedes and Juan Lagares, are injury prone. Already, both players are having health issues, which certainly calls into question whether the Mets outfield can last a full season. It gets even worse when you consider Bruce is dealing with plantar fasciitis.
Because of those injuries, the Mets may be left with the rock and hard place decision of choosing between putting Wilmer Flores in the outfield or playing Matt den Dekker and his career .234/.316/.354 batting line in the outfield. The Mets are faced with this decision because as Josh Lewin put it during the Mets Spring Training opener, Reyes has shown not interest in playing the outfield this year.
It does seem odd the player many consider to be the quickest, if not the fastest, on the team is not even going to try to play the outfield. Considering he was signed as a utility player, it certainly begs the question why he isn’t playing the outfield at all.
There’s also the matter of Gonzalez. There’s no doubt when he’s on the top of his game, he’s much better than Duda or what the Mets envision Dominic Smith will be. However, at 37 and with back problems, is Gonzalez really that player anymore? His last full season was 2016 when he hit .285/.349/.435 with 18 homers and 90 RBI. Considering how poorly he played last year, his needing two hours to work with trainers just to get onto the field, and his start to the Spring, it’s doubtful he even puts up those numbers.
Last year, Duda hit .246/.347/.532 with 17 homers and 37 RBI in 75 games with the Mets. Overall, he would have the second 30 homer season of his career. In three of his last four years, he’s hit 27 or more homers. The one year he didn’t was an injury riddled 2016 season.
Certainly, you can say Duda was a better bet than Gonzalez. Moreover, it’s fair to say giving him $3.5 million was a better decision than giving $2.5 million to Reyes and Gonzalez. It also would’ve given the Mets wiggle room to add another player to the roster who was at least capable of playing the outfield. Given their suspect depth there, you really need to question Sandy Alderson’s thought process on these respective decisions.
When it was announced the Mets were going to try Wilmer Flores in the outfield, it was met with a collective groan from Mets fans. That shouldn’t be surprising as Wilmer has established himself to be not exactly fleet of foot, nor has he shown himself to be a great defender anywhere the Mets have dared to put him.
As a result, Mets fans were reminded of the horrors of watching Lucas Duda, Daniel Murphy, and Todd Hundley in the outfield. With injuries to Juan Lagares and Jay Bruce this Spring, we are a step closer to seeing that happen.
Given this being Spring Training, and with the Mets health perpetually being what it is, this is exactly the time of year you are supposed to be experimenting with these types of moves. Maybe, just maybe, Flores could handle the position.
Let’s start with the obvious – Wilmer is slow. That is something not just proved by the eye test but also by Statcast data.
As published on Baseball Savant, Flores had a sprint speed of 25.7 feet per second. To put that in perspective, Flores ranked 398th out of the 451 MLB players ranked. While this isn’t surprising, it is surprising Flores was ranked ahead of two outfielders – Jose Bautista and Matt Kemp.
Now, no one should consider Bautista or Kemp good fielders anymore. Last year, Bautista posted a -8 DRS in 1,242.2 innings in right, and Kemp posted a -17 DRS in 851.2 innings in left. Using Fangraphs parameters, that puts Bautista and Kemp in the poor to awful range.
Judging from Kemp and Bautista, Flores ceiling in the outfield is probably being a poor outfielder. As Mets fans, we already have that expectation no matter where Flores plays. Last season, he had a -14 DRS. Being a versatile and poor fielder is kind of Flores’ thing.
However, unlike Kemp and Bautista, we shouldn’t expect to see Flores spend the majority of his time in the outfield. Basically, what is instructive is Flores is just fast enough to fake it in the outfield. However, the issues is whether he can field enough out there.
When it comes to fly balls and pop ups, Flores has never had a real issue fielding the ball, so long as he doesn’t have to deal with a bat boy (who aren’t in the outfield):
Really, when it comes to Wilmer his defensive issues have typically been range and arm. That’s a big reason why he didn’t work at shortstop and why he has shown himself to be a poor fit at third. Again, as noted throughout his career, he’s not a real fit anywhere.
Really, it could be he’s as poor a fit in the outfield as he is in the infield, so why not? If he’s hitting, they are going to want to find a spot for him in the lineup. If this team repeats their injury issues from last season, and 2018 has not gotten off to a great start, the team may be forced to put him out there. At a minimum, you’d be hard pressed to argue he could be any worse out there.
If you go to the Mets website, you will see their Promotion Schedule for the 2018 season. If you look, there are some popular promotions like the Noah SyndergaardThor Bobblehead, the Yoenis Cespedes Garden Gnomes, and the Free T-Shirt Fridays. Those are fun and all, but I think we can do better, especially when we see promotions like a Fanny Pack.
No, I’m not kidding, the Mets are giving away Fanny Packs this year.
When you are giving away Fanny Packs and you are recycling old giveaways, it is time for some fresh ideas. Here is a look at a promotional idea for each player on the Mets expected Opening Day Roster:
Jerry Blevins 7 Line Subway Set – a man this thin deserves to have a rail in his honor.
Jay Bruce Ruby Cleats – click them together, and poof! You’re right back at Citi Field
Asdrubal Cabrera Flip Flops– I want to be a Met; I don’t want to be a Met. I’ll only play shortstop; I’ll play second. I’ll play third, but I want to be at second. Definitely, second base, but . . . .
Yoenis Cespedes Yo-ga Mats – he has undertaken yoga to make this finally be his healthy season
Michael Conforto Muppet – The man is Scooter.
Travis d’Arnaud Potato Head – you get the chance to put him together after he falls apart again
Jacob deGrom Hat Hair – in some ways this seems like a recycled idea, but with his hair cut, it’s now just a hat that will get many more people than ever expected to the ballpark.
Wilmer Flores Hanky Night – at some point or another, we have all cried watching this team play
Todd FrazierJersey Night – no, not jersey as uniform, just a celebration of New Jersey with Taylor Ham concession stands and Springsteen playing in the park all night long because in case you didn’t know Frazier grew up in Toms River, New Jersey.
Robert Gsellman Lollipop – if you’re always sticking your tongue out, might as well use it
Matt Harvey Hockey Jersey – Between the Winter Classic being played at Citi Field, Harvey’s notoriety as a Rangers fan, and his pitching arm looking like he was slammed with a Tie Domi cross-check, this seems like a natural fit.
Juan Lagares Foam Thumbs-Up – after all of his thumb injuries, his thumb must have the structural integrity of a piece of foam at this point.
Seth Lugo Wiffleball – With the wiffleball, you too can throw a curveball as a crazy as Lugo’s.
Steven Matz Take Your Grandfather to the Park Day – the only time you’ll see a grandfather spending time with their grandson at a game happier is when he’s there watching his grandson play.
Rafael Montero Sneakers – something comfortable for everyone’s feet as we all walk the park
Brandon Nimmo Mets Toothbrush – if you are always smiling, your teeth better be clean and your breath be minty fresh
Kevin Plawecki Dil – Actually no, let’s not do any promotions featuring the contents of player’s lockers
AJ Ramos Odd Couple Bobblehead – As a Subway Series special, the Mets and Yankees will each have a Bobblehead Day featuring roommates Ramos and Giancarlo Stanton with Ramos obviously playing the part of Oscar Madison.
Jose Reyes Bunting – Fans can get their bunting and leave the park as soon as the Mets are assured of the lead.
Hansel Robles Rocket – You too can point in the sky after watching your Robles Rocket go soaring into the sky
Amed Rosario Daily Planner – No longer will you be surprised about what is coming down the pike, you will now be ready.
Anthony Swarzak Scrabble Tile – No other Mets player has as many high point Scrabble tiles in his name.
Noah Syndergaard Marvel Baby Met – if he’s going to keep up the gimmick of hitting on Mrs. Met, he should get to see what a Thor-Mrs. Met child would look like.
Jason Vargas Left Handed Kitchen Tools – For that left-handed innings eater in you.
David Wright Night – No gimmick or anything. There just needs to be a night to honor David Wright this season. He deserves that much from the team and from the fans.
After the positive feedback we received after our first Mets Blogger Roundtable, the Mets Bloggers have decided to come back for at least a second week. This week, we tackle the question “Which Mets player are we most excited about watching this Spring Training?”
Dominic Smith is the first player that comes to my mind, although there are several interesting stories to watch this spring. Here’s a guy who has spent a number of years now battling weight issues, and therefore reputation issues, and it’s no secret the organization has concerns with him. And, obviously, signing Adrian González clearly indicates that as well. I am looking for him to step up and look like the player and prospect everyone expects him to be, similar to howMichael Conforto performed last spring. If Dom does that, he’ll make for a tough decision a month from now, which is always a good internal conversation for Mets brass to have.
Do we all remember when Bret Booneabruptly retired a few days into Mets spring training camp in 2006? He admitted Jose Reyes “just kind of stared” at him “with that smile on his face” and realized the joy of playing baseball in himself was long gone. Well, I’m hoping Adrian Gonzalez looks at Dominic Smith, smiling and loving life with his old and new svelte physique, and realizes his future as a full-time top sub sandwich enterprise ambassador should be his present. Smith did not earn the full-time first baseman gig last season, but he’s already earned it before the first ST game. He wasn’t even in this good of shape last spring, so I’m looking forward to seeing the Dom Smith everybody warned with a smile was about to enter our lives last summer.
The player I am most excited to watch at Spring Training might surprise a few people. It’s Brandon Nimmo. I am by no means trying to say he’s an all-star, but I think he is often overlook for the value he brings to a team. First of all, his defense in center field (while not as good as Juan Lagares) is good. For me, I am more impressed with his approach at the plate. He’s one of the more disciplined hitters on the team, especially when it comes to his knowledge of the strike zone. Sure, his .260 batting average last year is not too impressive, but his on-base percentage was more than 100 points higher at .379. Despite not looking like he’s going to have a starting spot out of the gate, Nimmo is going to be an important piece on this team coming off of the bench. And knowing how hard he works, if there’s an injury, he’ll be ready to go in a pinch. It’s hard not to root for the kid.
Player I am most excited about? Great question. I know if the Mets had been smart enough to sign Joe Smith, he’d have been my answer. I guess I have to let that one go, though. Steven Matz is the other. There are certain guys I love to watch pitch, and Matz is the latest version of that.
The Mets player I’m most interested in seeing this spring is Yoenis Cespedes. The slugger is coming off a season that saw injuries limit him to only 81 games. He’s trained differently this offseason including doing yoga to make sure he is more agile and not simply bulked up like in 2017. It will be interesting to see if his offseason training can help him regain his decencies prowess that helped him win a gold glove in 2015. Also have to see if he can make it through all spring without a muscle injury which seemed to be a weekly occurrence for him last season.
When healthy, Cespedes has been everything the Mets hoped for when they traded for him and signed him to a four-year deal. The Mets are not going to be contenders in 2018 if Cespedes plays only 81 games and spring will be a good time to see if anything has changed for Yo.
The one thing that is interesting about Spring Training is you never know which prospect is going to make a name for themselves. Personally, the one that always comes to mind is Dillon Gee having good Spring Training causing then Mets manager Jerry Manuel to take notice. With that, Gee had an important champion in the Mets organization, and when the opportunity finally presented itself, Gee would get a call-up to the majors despite struggling in Triple-A with an injured shoulder. From there, Gee has put together a nice MLB career.
This Spring Training, there are a number of Mets pitchers who will now have the opportunity to impress new manager Mickey Callaway. Aside from the big names like Dominic Smith, here are five names to keep an eye on during this Spring Training:
RHP Tyler Bashlor
Bashlor was added to the 40 man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft because he has great stuff highlighted by an upper 90’s fastball. He combines that pitch with a sharp curve which has led to the flamethrower putting up big strikeout numbers in the minors. His stuff was a big reason why he quickly went from closing in St. Lucie to closing for a Binghamton Rumble Ponies team who was fighting for a postseason berth.
If there’s any issue with Bashlor, it’s the walks. In his career, he’s walked 5.0 batters per nine, and he walked 5.4 batters per nine in 34 appearances for St. Lucie. Those are unsustainable numbers.
Still, he has immense talent which could one day lead to him closing for the Mets one day. Before we get to that point, he has an opportunity to work with Callaway, Dave Eiland, and Triple-A pitching coach Mickey Abbott to help him eliminate the walks. If he does, he’s going to contribute at the Major League level next year.
LHP P.J. Conlon
For the second straight Spring, Conlon finds himself as a non-roster invitee with a an outside chance to make the Opening Day bullpen as a left-handed reliever. Certainly, Conlon has earned the chance as he knows how to get batters out, especially left-handed batters.
Last year, he limited left-handed batters to a .252/.273/.358 batting line, and in 2016, he was even stingier limiting them to a .216/.267/.288 batting line. Conlon does this because he located well, and he has a great change-up.
However, with his topping out in the 80s, it appears the Mets have their doubts about Conlon’s viability as a Major League starter. In Spring, Conlon is both going to get the chance to prove his stuff will work in the Majors similar to what we have seen with Jamie Moyer and Bartolo Colon. More than that, he’s going to get a chance to show he belongs in the Majors right now to fill a now vacant second left-handed reliever spot in the bullpen.
RHP Corey Oswalt
Oswalt is coming off an outstanding year in Binghamton, and as a result, he was named the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year. Oswalt did this because he was able to locate all four pitches, and he has shown the ability to throw his fastball in the mid 90s. While all of the Double-A took notice of Oswalt, the Mets did as well adding the starter to the 40 man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft.
It is no secret the Mets have health issues with their starters. Over the past two seasons, almost every Mets starter currently on the 40 man roster has had injuries requiring DL stints lasting more than half a season, requiring surgery, or both. As of the moment, the Mets have not added another starter to the roster, which has created an opportunity to show he should be at the front of the line when the Mets inevitably need another starter.
Right now, the Mets have a trio of injury prone second baseman in Asdrubal Cabrera, Jose Reyes, and Wilmer Flores. If one or any of the three go down with injury, there will be an opportunity for Guillorme, who is arguably the best defensive middle infielder in the Mets organization.
At the moment, we know he’s a great fielder. The question mark on him is whether he can hit enough to play in the Majors. To that end, early indications are Guillorme has increased his launch angle. If true, and the transformation is a successful one, Guillorme’s career will transform to not if he can be the Mets second baseman of the future, but when he will be the Mets second baseman. Given the aforementioned injury histories, he may get his chance next year.
With Tomas Nido‘s BABIP normalizing, he had a disappointing year at the plate for Binghamton last year. While the Mets are understandably high on him due to his defensive skills, Nido’s struggles do present an opportunity for another catcher to distinguish himself.
Essentially, Mazeika is everything Nido isn’t. In his career, Mazeika has shown himself to be a good hitter, who is quite adept at getting on base. What is interesting with him is he has shown glimpses of power; however, it should be noted those flashes have mostly come when he is filling in at first base for extended stretches.
What remains at issue is his defensive abilities. It is an area where the 6’3″ catcher continues to make strides, but ultimately, the question is whether he is progressing quickly enough. With him being a non-roster invite to Spring Training, he is going to get the benefit of getting in work with Major League coaches like Glenn Sherlock, which could help him make the adjustments necessary to take the next step in his career.
Ultimately, if the Mets coaching staff sees what they like with him, he may soon find himself in the Major League mix at catcher. Having watched Travis d’Arnaud‘s injuries the past few years as well as Kevin Plawecki having mostly struggled in the Majors, his chance may come sooner than expected.
Overall, the Mets have a number of Minor Leaguers who are going to get a chance to go out there and show the Mets why they should be an important part of the future. In the end, it is up to them to emulate Dillon Gee and make the most of this opportunity. If they do, we may see them in Queens sooner than anticipated.
Editor’s Note: This was first published on MMN
With the Mets signing Todd Frazier, the organization has yet again went out and brought home a local boy to play for the hometown team. It is something we have seen from the organization throughout their history starting with Ed Kranepool, and it is a new focus we have seen with this organization with them drafting Long Islanders Steven Matz, Justin Dunn, and Anthony Kay.
With the Mets illustrious, and in the case of Bobby Bonilla, infamous hometown players coming home to play for the Mets, in a new feature on Mets Daddy, Mets bloggers have come together to answer the question about who is their favorite hometown Mets players:
With the Mets needing room on the 40 man roster, they first designated Matt Reynolds for assignment, and then they traded him to the Washington Nationals for cash. With that, we have seen the end of a short and extremely interesting tenure for the former Mets 2012 second round pick.
After a breakout 2014 season in the minors, Reynolds had put himself in position to capitalize on an unsure shortstop situation. With the team having moved on from Ruben Tejada as the everyday shortstop, and with them giving the defensively challenged Wilmer Flores a shot, it seemed like Reynolds would be a part of a team who had a shot at the postseason.
As luck would have it, Reynolds would be a part of the Mets 2015 pennant winning team, just not in the way he imagined. Reynolds “chance” came because Chase Utley tackled (not slid) Tejada breaking his leg. With Reynolds being the only real shortstop left on the 40 man roster, and arguably the best defensive one, he would get the call up. In effect, Reynolds got the best seat in the house. His postseason experience was taking infield, batting practice, appearing for player introductions, and sitting in the dugout.
Like all of us, he sat on the edge of his seat helpless as the Mets squandered away their chances of winning a World Series. Unlike the rest of us, he would get a chance to prove himself against the Royals.
In arguably his career highlight as a Met, Reynolds was a surprise starter in left field in a day game against the Royals. In the bottom of the sixth, Reynolds would hit his first career homer breaking a 3-3 tie. The run would hold, and the Mets would get the win.
From there, Reynolds would have moments of glory and stretches where he struggled. In reality, this is the life of a player who his shuttled (or in the Mets case flow) between Triple-A and the majors. In September, he was promised more playing time to permit the Mets a chance to get a better read as to how he fit into the Mets future plans. The chance never truly materialized. In that sense, the writing was on the wall.
Now, Reynolds is a member of the Washington Nationals, and it appears he is going to get a better chance to be a Major League contributor than he ever did with the Mets. As fans, we can only hope he doesn’t replicate his performance against the Royals. Aside from that Reynolds was a Met, and he was one during one of the more fun rides in Mets history, and for that we should all wish him well.
One of the biggest benefits of Mickey Callaway being the new Mets manager is the team and organization has a fresher way of looking at things. This is a welcome breath of fresh air from the Terry Collins Era when he was almost purposefully against the advanced metrics game, and he was loathe to play young players like Michael Conforto.
With Collins stubbornly played veterans like Jose Reyes, even when it was clear he wasn’t the guy who won a batting title in 2011 anymore, it was clear this change of direction was needed. However, it should always be questioned just how far a new manager should push the envelope.
Judging from Ken Davidoff’s New York Post piece, Callaway is really looking to push the envelope:
On paper, this absolutely makes sense. Typically speaking, a team’s closer is their best reliever. They have the best stuff, and more than that, they have the mental toughness required to face these difficult situations and come out on top.
And yes, as fans, we time and time again lament how the best available reliever wasn’t used in a particular situation. Usually, this is when a game goes into extra innings. Typically, a backwards thinking manager, like Collins, would go to their third or fourth best reliever, so they can save their closer for the save situation. The example brought up most often was Buck Showalter not bringing in Zach Britton in the 2016 Wild Card Game.
On the surface, it would seem the Mets are well equipped bullpen-wise for Callaway to implement this plan.
Jeurys Familia, AJ Ramos, and Paul Sewald have closing experience. While not a closer, Anthony Swarzak has been used in a variety of roles out of the bullpen. We did see Jerry Blevins record three saves over the past two seasons. Finally, while many Mets fans are skeptical, Hansel Robles has shown he can handle a number of different roles in the bullpen, and with his working with Pedro Martinez this offseason and Dave Eiland this season, we may see fewer meltdowns.
Now, the main difference between the Indians situation and what Callaway is proposing to do is the Indians stuck with Allen as the closer. Clearly, that was more in line with Terry Francona‘s thinking than Callaway’s. What remains to be seen is whether this was the perfect blending of two schools of thought or Francona not going far enough.
Perhaps the reason why Francona not allowing Callaway to fully implement his plan was because we have seen many closers struggle in non-closing roles. Now, many will point out this is typically in a situation where a closer is just getting work in with their team having a large lead. We have not really seen the situation where a team full of strong relievers with closing experience can come in at any moment and be thrown into a pressure filled situation.
To date, we have seen teams toy with the idea but never truly implement it. Perhaps, that’s because there’s the theory relievers thrive when they know their role. Perhaps, that’s because there is value in free agency and arbitration in save totals and relievers are not going to let their manager “steal” money from them. Perhaps, that’s because managers do not want to put themselves on the line by trying something new.
Whatever the case, the Mets have a manager who is willing to try something different. It’s a good theory, and he should pursue it. However, he should not steadfast if it is not working. And with that, we really have the first true measure of what Callaway can be as a manager.
If nothing else, Callaway will make the 2018 season an interesting one to follow.