Yoenis Cespedes

Mets Blogger Roundtable: Should There Be A Universal DH

Once again, we have seen Major League Baseball has floated the idea of implementing the Designated Hitter in the National League only to drop the issue again. That said, in some corners there is the perception there will be a universal DH sooner rather than later. In others, it seems as if baseball wants to keep this topic forever as a debate.

To that end, the Mets Bloggers have undertaken the question about whether the National League should implement the Designated Hitter:

Michael Baron

he DH sucks. Plain and simple. However, pitchers aren’t hitting a lot in college. They’re not hitting a lot in the minors. Teams don’t even have their pitchers hit in exhibition games until the third week of March. Clubs are telling their pitchers to not invest energy into many of their at bats, they hardly run when they make contact, and quite frankly, most of them can’t bunt. The point is, more and more it has generally become an automatic out and if that’s how the game is evolving, I see no reason to not embrace a change like this.

Generally there is now no investment into that lineup spot in the NL anymore. Teams don’t want to invest there. They’d rather the pitcher strike out three times with RISP and less than two outs and turn in 7 innings of quality pitching. That’s where they see their value. And honestly, it’s fair at these salaries.

Michael Ganci (Daily Stache)

Okay, I am a traditionalist, so not a big fan of the DH, but I understand that it’s inevitably going to be a part of the game in the not-too-distant future. The thought of implementing it for 2019 is downright asinine, because teams are mostly finished constructing their rosters (sorry Bryce Harper and Manny Machado). It’s going to be a sad reality to not see guys like Bartolo Colon have their moments in the sun. I guess with Robinson Cano and Yoenis Cespedes though, we have built-in DH candidates on the roster.

Mark Healey (Gotham Baseball)

A little birdie told me that Brodie Van Wagenen was quite aware as to these behind the curtain machinations. I don’t need to have pitchers hit, nor am I going to die on a hill for double switches.

So, I dig the DH.

Joe Maracic (Loud Egg)

Many don’t want a DH in the NL, until they start driving in runs for their team. Another bonus, one less thing for a manager to screw up.

Metstradamus (Metstradums Blog)

I’m not a fan of the DH … but I’m old so that’s to be expected (get off my lawn). But what I’m less a fan of is half the teams in the league having to allocate roster space and salary differently than the other half. AL teams get to spend $20 million on a DH to hit 30/100 and completely ignore their bench, while NL teams actually have to spend on a bench. There’s a reason AL teams have killed NL teams in interleague play until last season. Everything else about the leagues have been homogenized, this very significant rule should be as well. While I would prefer the leagues to get rid of the DH, with every single minor and independent league having a DH, that’s not realistic. So bring it on, in the name of fairness.

Greg Prince (Faith and Fear in Flushing)

I never asked for the DH and would never ask for the DH. I’d ask for its abolition altogether if possible, but I understand it’s not. Let the AL have its arrhythmic game. Let me have the one that flows naturally, with the pitcher batting ninth, occasionally surprising us with a hit and turning the lineup over until it’s time for the manager to make a decision.

MLB should feel free to add a team to each league, giving us 16 apiece in the NL and AL and eliminate Interleague play and save AL pitchers the intermittent horror of remembering how to approach a fundamental aspect of baseball until the World Series.

Bre S. (That Mets Chick)

I just want what benefits the Mets overall. Cano can fit as a DH, so can Cespedes and Peter Alonso. Tough decision.

Having a DH would certainly make the Mets lineup look better and more versatile. Plus cano is with the Mets until he’s what? 41-42? lol

Tim Ryder (MMO)

Do I want to? I’m indifferent. I don’t think I’d miss “traditional baseball”, though. I’m having a hard time justifying a collective .115/.144/.148 slash line for pitchers in 2018 with a 42.2 K% over 5k+ PA just to save the beautiful strategic aspect of the National League game. Plus, it could be beneficial for a suddenly depth-laden team like the Mets. The hypothetical luxury of plugging, say, Broxton into the OF late and with a lead AND keeping Michael Conforto or Brandon Nimmo in the game as the DH would be a good thing.

James Schapiro (Shea Bridge Report)

I don’t like the DH, which I don’t think is a secret. But I would be willing to accept a universal DH if it meant everyone would be satisfied and we could back off these ridiculous pace-of-play proposals. Adding a DH doesn’t actually do much to change the game on the field; it’s just a different person hitting. But almost every pace-of-play proposal out there is a terrible idea. Pitch clock? Bad idea. The dumb thing with automatic runners on second in extra innings? Bad idea. So if a DH in the NL means we avoid those, then I would accept it. But if it’s just the first of a bunch of changes that Manfred is waiting to jam down our throats, then it’s a very bad thing.

Mets Daddy

I’ve written on my distaste for the National League DH on a number of occasions. Rather than regurgitate it all ad nauseum here, I’ll synopsize it by saying MLB needs to tread carefully. Once you implement the DH in the NL, you have forever changed the game by eliminating the purest style of baseball there is. It is a style many love dearly. Even if the die hards are still going to watch, it does not mean you should snub your noses at them to try to institute something which will likely not accomplish its purported goals.

Once again, I sincerely thank all of these very talented writers for contributing to one of these roundtables, and I encourage everyone reading this roudtables to click the above links and read their excellent work.

The 2015 Pennant Winning Infield Is Gone

Looking at Twitter yesterday, something occurred to me. With David Wright medically retiring and Wilmer Flores signing with the Diamondbacks, the 2015 Mets pennant winning infield is all gone.

The first to go was Daniel Murphy. That was the result of the Mets deciding they would rather have Ben Zobrist then later Neil Walker as their second baseman in 2016. Juan Uribe would also depart via free agency as he would pursue an opportunity to be the Indians everyday third baseman.

Kelly Johnson would leave via free agency, but the Mets would soon realize their mistake by not re-signing him. As a result, they would trade Akeel Morris to the Braves to reacquire Johnson. That move would be a key factor in the Mets making it back to the postseason in 2016.

While Murphy, Uribe, and Johnson left via free agency, the Mets just plain got rid of Ruben Tejada. Even with Chase Utley destroying his leg, the Mets would tender him a contract. On the eve of Opening Day, the Mets would opt to release Tejada thereby saving them some money.

Lucas Duda lasted a little bit longer. In 2016, he would suffer a back injury, which cost him most of the season. He would rebound in 2017, but the Mets wouldn’t. As a result, he was moved at the trade deadline in exchange for Drew Smith.

That left just Flores and Wright. With Wright going down just 37 games into the 2016 season, it was really just Flores remaining. Even with the Mets not winning the past few seasons, Flores was a reminder of that glorious 2015 season with a number of walk-off hits and game winning RBI. Those memories are now history as Flores was non-tendered, and he signed a free agent deal with the Diamondbacks.

Really, when you look at the Mets team, 2015 seems forever ago.Looking at the current roster, the only position players who will be active on Opening Day are Michael Conforto and Juan Lagares. If Travis d’Arnaud is healthy, that makes three, and when he returns, if he returns, Yoenis Cespedes will make four. There isn’t much remaining from the pitching staff either. From the starting rotation, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz remains, and in the bullpen, Jeurys Familia is only one remaining, and that is because he was brought back in free agency.

It really is a shame too. That 2015 group was very likeable. It was a team who electrified not just Mets fans, but all of baseball. At the time, it seemed like this was going to be the dawn of a new era of Mets baseball. If things broke right, it could be another run like there was with the 1980s Mets teams. Sadly, it never happened.

Still, we have the memories. Hopefully, the Mets now have a team who could win. And who knows? Perhaps we will one day talk about how the players who got their experience with the 2015 team being the players who leaned on that experience to help put the Mets over the top in 2019.

Three Years Later, Game Changing And Franchise Altering Options Still There

Today is the three year anniversary of Yoenis Cespedes officially signing a three year $75 million contract with the New York Mets. The contract came with the opt out the Mets had said they didn’t want to offer anyone, and it was a surprise for a team who had seemed to move on from Cespedes early in the offseason.

For those who recall, the Mets had signed Alejandro De Aza on December 23, 2015. With his signing, the plan was apparently to have him platoon with Juan Lagares in center field. He would be in the same outfield as Michael Conforto, who after a promising 2015 season, looked primed to be an everyday player and Curtis Granderson, a man who was a series of infield and managerial gaffes away from being the World Series MVP.

That was a respectable, but not an especially formidable outfield for a Mets team who had designs on winning a World Series. It caused frustration because the De Aza signing didn’t exactly put the team over the top. The money saved on Michael Cuddyer‘s retirement was arguably poorly spread between De Aza, Jerry Blevins, Antonio Bastardo, and Bartolo Colon.

No, this team needed Cespedes.

What was odd was Cespedes was still a free agent. Sure, there were better regarded free agent outfield options in Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, and Alex Gordon. There were other attractive options available as well. Still, this was a player who thrived in the biggest market in the world hitting .287/.337/.604 with 14 doubles, four triples, 17 homers, and 44 RBI in 57 games.

Extrapolating that over a 162 game season, and Cespedes would have accumulated 40 doubles, 11 triples, 48 homers, and 125 RBI. Now, it shouldn’t be anticipated Cespedes could do that over a 162 game schedule. However, what we did see is Cespedes is a difference maker just like he was with the Athletics.

Yet, still he lingered with little interest. Sure, the Nationals were rumored to have offered Cespedes $100 million, but it was the typical Nationals offer with deferred money, which did not seem to interest Cespedes. The fact this was the only real offer kept him around thereby allowing the Mets to swoop in and get Cespedes on a good deal for both sides.

It was a coup by Sandy Alderson. It was a necessary move which helped the Mets reach the postseason again in 2016. It marked just the second time in team history the Mets would go to consecutive postseasons. It happened because Cespedes lingered allowing the Mets to make a bold move.

This is the same situation which is present with Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.

Somehow, some way, the two best free agents entering this free agent class are still available. For reasons unbeknownst to us, there are few teams in on either one of these players. In adding either one of these players, the Mets would take their 2019 team and put it over the top. A team who is projected to win around 85 games would move into the 90+ win range. That’s what happens when you add superstars and potential Hall of Famers.

It was the impact Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter had on those 1980s Mets teams. We saw that impact again when the Mets went out and traded for and re-signed Mike Piazza.

The Mets took advantage of unexpected opportunities. They struck when no one else expected them to strike. The result was a period of relevance, winning, and increased attendance. The chance is there. The Mets need to strike now and bring in one of Harper or Machado. The 2019 season rests on it.

Mets Have Insufficient Depth

With the signing on Jed Lowrie, the Mets have been talking about just how deep this roster is. To a certain extent, they are right. Having infield options which include Peter Alonso, Robinson Cano, Todd Frazier, Jeff McNeil, and Amed Rosario in conjunction with Lowrie is incredible depth. However, that does not mean the Mets are a deep team.

First and foremost is the outfield. Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo are the only two healthy everyday outfielders on the roster. Juan Lagares has the glove to justify playing everyday, but he has hasn’t played more than 94 games since 2015, and in that season the Mets were desperate for an upgrade as they were making a postseason push.

Keon Broxton has hit .213/.296/.419 with an 85 OPS+ over the past two seasons indicating he has no business playing everyday. As bad as that is, Broxton is the last MLB outfielder on the 40 man roster.

After Broxton, the Mets are gambling on McNeil successfully transitioning to the outfield. It’s not an unreasonable gamble, and it is one we can expect to pay off. However, McNeil being an outfielder means the infield depth has taken a hit, which is a real issue should Alonso not be able to play first at the MLB level, or there are multiple injuries.

After McNeil is Rajai Davis and Gregor Blanco, both of them are over 35 years old, and neither of them have had a good season since 2015. Having just two starting outfielders with a couple of has beens and never will bes is not outfield depth.

And no, Yoenis Cespedes cannot be relied upon. He underwent double heel surgery, and no one can reasonably pinpoint when he is returning to the lineup, nor can anyone have any indication of what he will be when he is able to return.

With respect to the catching situation, the Mets are undoubtedly better with the signing of Wilson Ramos. However, that does not mean there is sufficient depth. Both Ramos and Travis d’Arnaud are injury prone putting more emphasis on Tomas Nido, who has hit .181/.210/.255 in limited Major League duty on top of hitting .272/.300/.431 between Double-A and Triple-A last year.

There is a real chance at least two of those catchers are injured as the same time leaving the Mets to depend on Patrick Mazeika and/or Ali Sanchez. Basiscally, this isn’t much different than during the 2015 season where the team grasped at straws cycling through Kevin Plawecki, Anthony Recker, and Johnny Monell while they pieced together the catching situation in d’Arnaud’s absence.

Then there is the rotation. All five of the Mets starters have significant injury histories. Jacob deGrom is the only starter to have consecutive seasons with at least 30 starts. Jason Vargas is the only other starter with 20 plus starts in each of the last two seasons. Behind this thin rotation, with Vargas having a 64 ERA+ and a 5.02 FIP last year, is very questionable starting pitching depth.

Looking at the roster, Walker Lockett, Corey Oswalt, Chris Flexen, Drew Gagnon, and P.J. Conlon. all posted an ERA over 5.00 in the majors last year. Hector Santiago was moved to the bullpen partially because he has had a 4.06 ERA since 2016. Kyle Dowdy, the Mets Rule 5 pick, had a 5.15 ERA between Double and Triple-A last year, and with the team being forced to keep him on the roster or return him to the Rays, he is going to be a bullpen option.

Now, to be fair, the Mets do have bullpen depth. The back-end with Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia is as good as it gets. You can also say the Mets swing men, Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo, are the best combination in the Majors. From a left-handed relief option, Daniel Zamora has exception spin rates, and former White Sox Luis Avilan and Santiago have pitched well out of the bullpen.

Beyond that group, the Mets have promising young right-handed power arms in Tyler Bashlor, Eric Hanhold, Ryder Ryan, and Drew Smith. Combine that with Paul Sewald and Jacob Rhame, the Mets have sufficient numbers and depth in the bullpen, albeit not the big seventh inning reliever you would want.

In the end, yes, the Mets have admirable infield depth, and there are enough arms here to at least figure out a good bullpen. However, past that, this is a paper thin roster at outfield, catcher, and starting pitcher. If the Mets face a number of injuries, and based on their history, they will, the 2019 Mets are going to be in real trouble.

Stop Counting On Cespedes

Things had gotten so bad for Yoenis Cespedes he asked the Mets to consider moving him to first base. During his rehab assignment before he could only withstand one game as a DH, Cespedes would actually play first base. Whatever Cespedes hoped to accomplish went by the wayside as he pushed for and then had double heel surgery.

Whenever a player undergoes major surgery, the obvious question is when is that player able to play again?

In October, Steven Marcus of Newsday reported, the Mets really have no idea when Cespedes will be able to play again. The important part of the article was, “When asked if he will have to plan the offseason as if Cespedes will not be available, chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon responded, ‘I think you probably do have to plan that way, given the fact that it’s uncertain.'”

In December, that was amended to some point in the second half of the 2019 season. Brodie Van Wagenen would up the ante by saying the team views Cespedes as a trade deadline bonus. Not too long thereafter, Omar Minaya would throw cold water on all of this telling MLB Network Radio the team believes there is no specific timetable, and overall the Mets “just want to get him back, and if he comes back, anything — if he gives us anything this year, that is gravy. We’re happy for that.”

Overall, let’s say Cespedes can return in the second half. His being able to return does not mean he will be able to produce.

Last year, Troy Tulowitzki had similar surgery to remove bone spurs from both of his heels in April. After having the surgery, he would not play during the totality of the 2018 season. He would be released by the Blue Jays after the season despite his being owed $20 million in 2019.

Clearly, the Blue Jays didn’t think he had anything to offer the team. Instead of seeing if he could provide something to flip him to another team, they decided it was just better to release him. They did not even think that if they paid his full salary they could get anything in return.

Yet, somehow, the Mets are going to led us to believe somehow Cespedes is going to contribute in the second half of next year. This is the reason why the Mets are not prioritizing a deficient outfield which includes two very good regulars in Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo and a bunch of bench players.

Juan Lagares is injury prone and has been unable to play a full or even three-quarters of a season. Keon Broxton has not hit. Jeff McNeil is re-learning outfield. J.D. Davis is as slow footed as Dominic Smith is, and there isn’t any Mets fan who is going to believe Smith should be an outfielder next year. After that is a group of has beens and never will bes in Triple-A.

Point is, the Mets cannot sit around and wait for Cespedes. It is the same mistake they made for years with David Wright. The Mets should know better, and as fans, we should know better as well. Overall, it is time Brodie Van Wagenen re-prioritized the outfield because they do not have sufficient depth there, and there is no way of knowing what, if anything, Cespedes can produce next year.

Mets All-In Roster Is Approximately $130 Million

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

Here’s a look at their current payroll commitments:

Catchers

Wilson Ramos $7.25 million

Travis d’Arnaud $3.52 million

Subtotal: $10.77 million

Infielders

Robinson Cano $20 million (estimated)

Todd Frazier $9 million

Amed Rosario $560k*

Peter Alonso $560k

Jeff McNeil $560k

J.D. Davis $560k

Subtotal: $31.24 million

Outfielders

Juan Lagares $9 million

Brandon Nimmo $560k

Keon Broxton $560k

Subtotal: $10.12 million

Starting Rotation

Jason Vargas $8 million

Bullpen

Edwin Diaz $560k

Jeurys Familia $6.66 million

Seth Lugo $560k

Robert Gsellman $560k

Daniel Zamora $560k

Subtotal: $8.9 million

Arbitration Estimates

(Estimates from MLB Trade Rumors)

Jacob deGrom $12.9 million

Noah Syndergaard $5.9 million

Zack Wheeler $5.3 million

Michael Conforto $4.4 million

Steven Matz $3.0 million

Subtotal: $31.5 million

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mets New Years Resolutions

After an unplanned hiatus, it is time to start the New Year off fresh and to look at everything anew. It is time for change and resolutions to carry us through 2019. Here are the resolutions for each of the Mets players:

Robinson Cano – don’t get caught using PEDs this time

Yoenis Cespedes – find a way to DH in at least two games this year

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

Jacob deGrom – learn how to hit better so he can finally win some games next year.

Travis d’Arnaud – get the same surgery Wolverine got

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

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

Jeurys Familia – convince Callaway Diaz needs to be used in higher leverage situations so he can get his closer job back

Todd Frazier – find a way to sell move boxes of unsold Mets salt and pepper grinders while not falling into the same trap this year.

Drew Gagnon – keep those incriminating photos which have allowed you to survive roster cut after roster cut.

Robert Gsellman – learn how to pitch well for more than just one month out of the season

Juan Lagares – find a way to play at least half a season

Seth Lugo – when he is not given an opportunity to start and is an All Star snub, channel his inner Margot Martindale from BoJack Horseman

Steven Matz – pitch better so his grandfather will begin cheering for him again.

Jeff McNeil – find a way to hit .400 because short of that the Mets are probably not putting him in the lineup

Tomas Nidosign up for the best travel rewards program there is because by the time 2019 is over he will be able to fly first class to Australia and back at least 10 times a month

Brandon Nimmo – life isn’t that bad, maybe he should smile every once in a while

Kevin Plawecki – hit the occasional ground ball to the left side just to shake things up.

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

Amed Rosario – take some mommy/baby classes so he can learn how to walk

Paul Sewald – have a print out of his game logs from Baseball Reference to remind the Mets he pitches well in shorter spurts, and that he is not superhuman and cannot handle onerous workloads. Cry when the attempts fail and he finds himself back in Triple-A

Dominic Smithlend Peter Alonso his alarm clock in Spring Training

Noah Syndergaard find an open mic somewhere to discover no one actually believes he or his Mr. Met feud is funny.

Jason Vargas – leave the Jeff Goldblum impressions in the clubhouse and stop pitching like him when he takes the mound.

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

Zack Wheeler – don’t even let a Mets team doctor near his arm in his free agent walk year.

Daniel Zamora – be able to spin his bad outings the way he can spin his slider

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

The Gift of the Mets

Seven point five million. That was all. After allowing David Wright to play in one last game, the Mets only had $7.5 million in insurance proceeds for the 2019 season. The accountants went over the numbers three times, but the money remained the same. $7.5 million. Soon, it would be Spring Training.

There was nothing for Brodie Van Wagenen to do put to mortgage the future. So he did.

While Brodie began to toil away, we can look at the home. Citi Field. A ballpark which was helped built by $615 million in public subsidies with $20 million a year coming from Citibank for the naming rights.

In the executive portion of the building was a corner office with a name on the door – Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon.

When the name was first placed there, the team had a top five payroll in the sport. They had a chance to advance up until their final games in each of the past three seasons. Now, after the Madoff scandal, the money was tighter. More creditors. More debt. Less liquidity. He carried this burden as his General Manager entered his office.

As the meeting began, Brodie was looking off in the distance trying to synthesize his thoughts. They each had promised a winner, but there was just $7.5 million in insurance proceeds to spend. He spent all offseason looking for ways to move contracts around, but $7.5 million was just not enough. Every free agent cost more than he expected, and teams wanted more in deals than he anticipated. Being new to the job, he was not quite prepared for that.

Only $7.5 million to build depth, to add a center fielder, mostly just to put this team more firmly in contention. He spent all offseason planning for more, something that would make them the favorites he declared them to be. Something, anything, to justify moving from a lucrative career as an agent to being a General Manager.

During the meeting, Brodie and Jeff took notice of the 2015 pennant banner. They were both very proud of that for different reasons. For Brodie, it was his clients, Jacob deGrom and Yoenis Cespedes, who had played key roles in getting the Mets to that point. It gained both them and himself notoriety.

For Jeff, this was one they did on their own. They survived everything, and they actually went to a World Series. He proved he could oversee a team’s rebuild and come out the other end with a winning team. Nothing meant more to him than that team. He could stand in a room with the Steinbrenners, and he could tell them he built that team from pure guts and guile, which is something they could never accomplish with their free spending ways.

After the meeting was done, with not much headway, each went back to the drawing board to see what they could to to put this team over the top.

Brodie began making phone calls. He knew Robinson Cano had a no trade clause and wanted to come back to New York, and the Mariners wanted to rebuild. He tried and tried again. They asked for Justin Dunn. He wasn’t too keen, but he agreed if they took back Jay Bruce and Anthony Swarzak. They then wanted Jarred Kelenic. He didn’t want to do it, but he wanted to get a World Series for his former clients.

He calculated how he could spend the savings. A catcher like Wilson Ramos. There wouldn’t be room for much more, but they could be better, closer. He pulled the trigger. He was eager for Jeff to come home from safari to tell him the news.

After the deal was done, he began to question himself a little. After all, he just mortgaged the entire future to contend for just two years. He didn’t have the money to address all of the team’s needs. The Braves added Josh Donaldson. The Nationals added Patrick Corbin. The Phillies added Jean Segura, and they were in hot pursuit of Manny Machado and Bryce Harper.

But still, what could a General Manager do with just $7.5 million.

Brodie, who was usually self assured as most agents are, began questioning himself. Instead of boasting what he had accomplished like he had declaring the Mets frontrunners, with Jeff, he was more measured. He really found himself just praying his decision would be met with approval.

Jeff, fresh from safari, popped into Brodie’s office with a bemused look on his face. He was more quiet than usual, which was something Brodie was unaccustomed. He was not ready for that.

Brodie began explaining himself without so much as a question being asked. “Jeff, we actually saved money on the 2019 payroll. Cano is a Hall of Fame talent. Diaz was the best closer in baseball. You wanted to win, and this is the closest we can get to doing it. If I can’t trade for J.T. Realmuto, I can sign Ramos. He wants to be here. We can figure it out from there.”

Jeff just put out his hand, and he shook Brodie’s hand. He gave an assuring pat on the shoulder. Then from inside his jacket pocket, Jeff took out some papers, and he put it upon Brodie’s desk.

“I gave you marching orders, and it looks like you delivered. I am very proud of the job you just did. But if you open that, you will see why I have not been as enthusiastic as you may have thought I would be.”

Brodie unfolded the papers. Initially, there was a wry smile, and then a look of pure shock and horror.

For there was the extension. Due to his role as the General Manager, he could no longer get that extension for deGrom. As an agent, Brodie wanted nothing more than that extension, but due to the conflict of interest, he was not allowed to go and give it to deGrom. He could not even be a part of those discussions.

Brodie exclaimed, “But with the team being better, there will be more fans! There has to be. More fans and more revenues. It’ll happen. I promise.”

Jeff gave that knowing look and just smiled. Both knew the last years of Cano’s deal was going to stop the Mets from giving deGrom any sort of a contract extension, especially with Michael Conforto, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Brandon Nimmo soon to follow. They also knew without deGrom going forward, the Mets chances to being relevant into the future was going to be severely compromised.

Jeff just said, “Lets just put this all aside now, order lunch, and let’s talk as friends like we used to do.”

The Mets, as you know, were once run by devoted, passionate, and smart men, who brought the Mets the 1986 World Series. Frank Cashen, Nelson Doubleday, and Fred Wilpon were the first to deliver Mets fans a World Series in the era of free agency. Being wise, not only did they win the World Series, but they had an era of prolonged success like the Mets have never seen before or since.

And here I have told you about two Mets leaders who were not so wise. Each sold something valuable in order to try to win a World Series, and they go in each other’s way. Somewhere, if people will listen, they will tell us they are building the 2019 Mets to be the best team in baseball, and they are smart enough to win for the next decade. They will tell us no matter how much we all doubt.

They are the Mets.

* Adapted from the short story, “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry

 

Mets Need Bryce Harper

The Mets have been quite busy this offseason, and they have improved their roster. Their bullpen now has Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia. Robinson Cano is now the everyday second baseman with last year’s revelation, Jeff McNeil, hopefully becoming a super utility player in the ilk of Ben Zobrist. Wilson Ramos replaces an uninspiring group of Travis d’Arnaud, Jose Lobaton, Devin Mesoraco, Tomas Nido, and Kevin Plawecki behind the plate.

All told, the Mets are undoubtedly better. In fact, they have gone from being a 77 win team to Fangraphs projecting they will win 85 games. That’s a big eight game improvement, but when you dig deeper, it’s not enough.

Assuming the projections are correct or reasonable, that 85 win mark puts them six games behind the Nationals, and it has them just two games ahead of the Braves for second place in the division. Moreover, it has the Mets capturing the second Wild Card. It is very difficult to believe the Mets are doing this for just the second Wild Card.

Then again, despite Brodie Van Wagenen’s bravado, the Mets may be lucky to capture that second Wild Card.

First and foremost, you’re relying upon a Braves team who signed Josh Donaldson to win eight fewer games. More than that, you’re relying on the Phillies not going out and making significant additions this offseason.

We know the Phillies owner wants to spend a stupid amount of money. He has reached that threshold, but the Phillies have improved the team. The Carlos Santana trade permits the Phillies to move Rhys Hoskins to first base, which is where he belongs, and they replaced Santana’s disappointing production with Andrew McCutchen. In that Santana trade, the Phillies obtained Jean Segura, who presents a massive offensive and defensive upgrade over what the Phillies had last year.

The Phillies are also rumored to be hot in their pursuit of Manny Machado. It’s possible the Phillies will lose out on him to the Yankees or even the White Sox, who made a trade for his brother-in-law Yonder Alonso. If they lose out on him, you can guarantee they will be even more dogged in their pursuit of Bryce Harper. Either player is a game changer.

At a minimum, that makes the Phillies more of a player in the division, and it makes the Mets efforts to win the division or to even capture one of the Wild Card spots all the more difficult. Even the most ardent believer in what the Mets have done this offseason has to admit Machado or Harper on the Phillies severely complicates matters.

If nothing else, this is why the Mets have to stop it from happening. We know they will not be in on Machado, but there they can let the Yankees do their dirty work, but when it comes to Harper, they are going to have to do their own heavy lifting. They are going to have step up and try to sign Harper much in the same way they stepped up and gave up Jarred Kelenic to ensure Diaz did not go to the Phillies.

An outfield of Michael ConfortoBrandon NimmoBryce Harper would be among the best in baseball. For those wringing their hands over Yoenis Cespedes, both Harper and Cespedes have indicated this past year they would be willing to move to first base. Then again, no one should be counting on Cespedes to return at any point in 2019 let alone be the type of player again who can force anyone to the bench.

More than anything, Harper is one of the best players in baseball, and he’s just only 26. He’s one of the more recognizable players in the game, and he could have a Mike Piazza like impact on the field, with attendance, and on the back pages. He could be the next Carlos Beltran. With his talent anything is possible, including not just one but multiple World Series titles.

The main point here is the Mets are far from done building this team into a World Series contender. The same goes for the rest of the division including the Phillies. One team is going to be willing to do everything it takes to win. For the first time in over a decade, it would be nice if that team was once again the Mets.

Sign Harper.

Mets Need Depth

There is a buzz circulating around the Mets due to the moves Brodie Van Wagenen has been making. On paper, the team he is assembling is better than last year’s team, and the narrative is this team will have a better chance at making the postseason than last year’s team. However, that narrative may not exactly hold up.

Remember, last year the Mets were 17-9 entering May. It was right around that point the injuries started piling up, and the Mets depth or lack thereof became a problem.

Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki were injured leading the way for Jose Lobaton and Tomas Nido. Todd Frazier would have the first disabled list stint of his career leading to the team rushing Luis Guillorme to the majors before he was arguably ready, and with the team playing far more of Jose Reyes than they ever should have done.

Michael Conforto was rushed back from injury before he was ready. Yoenis Cespedes‘ heels wouldn’t let him play anymore, and Jay Bruce‘s plantar fascitiis increasingly became an issue. Matt Harvey‘s Mets career was finished, and Noah Syndergaard was heading to yet another lengthy trip on the disabled list. Wilmer Flores and Juan Lagares would also be making their annual trips to the disabled list.

By the way, this wasn’t the full season’s worth of transactions. That’s just through the end of May.

From there, the Mets would have a 15-39 record over May and June, including a disastrous and soul crushing 5-21 June which all but eliminated the Mets from postseason contention. Remember, this was the same team when healthy that was among the best in all of baseball.

Last year wasn’t an anomaly. The 2017 Mets were a promising team on paper, but they never got off the ground because of injury issues, which would also correlate to under-performance from a number of players. If you go back to 2016, that starting lineup and rotation was built to contend for a World Series, but due to injury issues, that team needed a furious finish and unlikely performances from players like Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, and T.J. Rivera to capture a Wild Card spot.

Until the Mets address their bench, they are running the risk of their season not living up to expectations.

We know Wilson Ramos is an injury prone player as is his backup d’Arnaud. We know Lagares is injury prone. Syndergaard and Steven Matz have their own not promising injury histories. While he has generally been healthy, Robinson Cano is still a 36 year old second baseman, and players in their late 30s do not tend to be durable. That’s nothing to say of the unknown injuries like we saw with Frazier last year.

At the moment, the Mets are ill equipped to handle these injuries. In terms of the infield, the Mets have Guillorme, who was not ready last year, and Gavin Cecchini, who struggled in his limited Major League opportunities and missed much of last year with a foot injury. There is also Rivera, who missed all of last year due to Tommy John surgery and ensuing setbacks. The catching depth may actually be worse with Patrick Mazeika being your last line of defense.

The outfield depth is Dominic Smith, who the Mets don’t even seem inclined to let compete for a first base job, and Rajai Davis, who is a 38 year old outfielder that has not had a good year since 2015.

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

All told, the Mets are in desperate need of some depth. If they don’t acquire it, you are once again asking the same group who faltered last year to succeed. Those players are still young and can improve, but it is difficult to rely upon them. With that in mind, Brodie Van Wagenen needs to make sure he has money available to address the bench. If he doesn’t, then the Mets may very well suffer the same fate they had over the past two seasons.

Fortunately, he still has time.