Yoenis Cespedes

Matt Reynolds Skill-Set Compliments This Team Perfectly

Looking over the Mets infield, there are two things that squarely stand-out.  The first is that this is an aging group of players coming off significant injuries.  The second is this infield is not a particularly good defensive infield.

John Dewan of Acta Sports, and Fielding Bible fame, projected the Mets to have the worst defense up the middle in 2017.  The projection calls for Neil Walker to be a -1 DRS next season, which is what he has averaged over the past three seasons.  Asdrubal Cabrera is projected to post a -9 DRS, which is worse than the -7 DRS he has averaged over the past two seasons.  While you would certainly want both Walker’s and Cabrera’s bats in the game, certainly, the Mets would benefit by having a better glove in the game when there is a lead late in the game.

That is exactly what the Mets have done with Juan Lagares.  After the team acquired Yoenis Cespedes at the 2015 trade deadline, Lagares has served as a defensive replacement late in games.  The Mets doing this has served two important purposes.  First, it has helped the Mets preserve leads by putting their best defense on the field.  Second, it helps save some innings, and by extent wear and tear, on players like Cespedes and Curtis Granderson.  It is a large reason why the Mets will be returning Lagares to the same role in 2017.

It is something the Mets should consider for their infield.  The issue is the Mets do not have the bench to do it.

Jose Reyes has averaged a -9 DRS at shortstop over the past three years, which would indicate he’s a downgrade from Cabrera.  Wilmer Flores had a -10 DRS as the starting shortstop in 2015, and he has a -6 DRS as a second baseman in 576.0 major league innings.  The other options being considered for the bench, T.J. Rivera and Ty Kelly, are hardly terrific defenders in their own right.  Certainly, you are not taking the steady handed Walker and Cabrera off the field for them.

No, the only good defensive player who is a realistic option to make the Opening Day roster is Matt Reynolds.

Reynolds is not a gold glover in the middle infield.  However, he does have the same steady hands Walker and Cabrera have while having better range at the position.  He certainly has the arm to play second, short, and third.  That also makes him an option to take some innings away from David Wright at third.  Overall, Reynolds is most likely the best defensive infielder the Mets not named Amed Rosario.  The fact that he is also capable of serving as the team’s fifth outfielder makes him an all the more enticing roster option.

What is going to hurt his chances of making the team is his bat.  He hit .225/.266/.416 in 47 games with the Mets last year.  He has played 254 games in the hitter’s haven that is the Pacific Coast League, Reynolds has only hit .284/.342/.411.  Overall, he’s not a great hitter.  It’s quite possible that even with him putting in extra time with Kevin Long he will never develop into a good hitter.

But the Mets don’t need hitters.  They have plenty of them on this team.  What they need are good defenders.  With Lagares, they have that in the outfield.  With Reynolds, they would have that in the infield as well.

Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Merized Online

The Other Mets in the WBC

After last season, Mets fans became aware of who Gavin Cecchini, Ty Kelly, Seth Lugo, Brandon Nimmo, and T.J. Rivera were. While we may have been aware of who they were, Mets fans got to see Rene Rivera and Fernando Salas up close and personal for the first time.  Naturally, you are well aware of who Jeurys Familia and Jose Reyes are.  Still, there are some other Mets participating in this edition of the World Baseball Classic that most Mets fans are going to see for the first time.  Here’s a a look at those players and what we may expect to see

C Xorge Carrillo

Country: Mexico

2016 Level: Binghamton & Las Vegas

2016 Stats: 85 G, 327 PA, 290 AB, 28 R, 79 H, 14 2B, 4 HR, 25 RBI, CS, .272/.347/.362

The 27 year old Carrillo is a catcher’s catcher.  He is a good receiver behind the plate, and he has a good, not great, throwing arm that allows him to control the running game.  For his defensive skills, he was recently given a Gold Glove in the Mexican Pacific Winter Leagues.

At the plate, Carrillo shows a good eye at the plate, but not much pop.  While you can argue his glove is major league ready, his bat probably isn’t.  Still, Carrillo is a hard worker that has shown the willingness to do whatever is necessary to improve his game.  Considering Mets fans once saw the likes of Mike Nickeas serve as a back-up catcher at the major league level, it is not impossible that Carrillo could one day get a chance in the major leagues.

RHP Nabil Crismatt

Country: Mexico

2016 Level: Brooklyn, Columbia, Binghamton

2016 Stats: 1-4, 2.47 ERA, 13 G, 7 GS, SV, 65.2 IP, 74 K, 0.883 WHIP, 10.1 K/9

MMN Rank: 26

The 22 year old Crismatt has been an interesting pitching prospect since the Mets signed him as a non-drafted free agent out of Columbia in 2011.   Crismatt has never had dominating stuff with his fastball typically sitting between the high 80s to the low 90s.  With that said, he’s able to get batters out because he knows how to pitch.  He has clean, easily repeatable mechanics.  While he does not have a blazing fastball, he is able to locate the pitch well.  He gets the most out of his fastball because he has a terrific change-up.  He gets the most out of both pitches because he knows how to attack hitters to not only get a high number of strike outs, but also get a good number of ground balls.

The Mets did not protect Crismatt from the Rule 5 Draft last year, and he wasn’t selected.  The Mets may not be so lucky the next time around.  Crismatt has shown he can thrive as a starter and as a reliever.  At the moment, he projects as a major league reliever.  With that said if he can develop a third pitch to be on the level of his fastball and change-up, he may very well be able to thrive in a major league rotation.

Certainly, aside from these prospects, I’m sure the player most Mets fans have the most interest in seeing play during the World Baseball Classic is Yoenis Cespedes‘ 19 year old brother Yoelkis.  Unsurprisingly, Yoelkis has been dubbed a five tool player.

Luis Guillorme With The Defensive Play Of The Year

So, in case you missed it yesterday, and I am not sure how you did, Mets shorstop prospect Luis Guillorme did this:

The man didn’t even flinch.  Everyone is scurrying for shelter, and he just calmly and coolly grabs Adeiny Hechavarria‘s bat . . . MIDFLIGHT . . . and just tosses it back to him.  This certainly is going to be replayed over and over again.  It is almost definitely going to be the defensive play of the year.  It could also be the beginning of his own legend.

For those that follow the Mets minor leagues, Guillorme is considered to be a better defensive prospect than Amed Rosario, which is saying something as Rosario is seen as a potential Gold Glover at short.  If Guillorme ever develops as a hitter the way Rosario did over the past season, the Mets could have just an insanely good defensive infield in a few years.  Where Guillorme and Rosario would play if that ever occurred is an interesting question.

However, for right now, the question is whether this was a Gold Glove or a Silver Slugger caliber play.

Speaking of Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers, Yoenis Cespedes did this after Guillorme making everyone forget about the Guillorme play:

And To Think That I Saw It At Citi Field

* adapted from “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” by Dr. Seuss

When I leave home to go to Citi Field,
Dad always says to me,
“John, keep your eyelids up
And see what you can see.”

But when I tell him where I’ve sat
And what happened each at-bat,
He looks at me and sternly says,
“You did not see all of that.

Stop telling such an outlandish story.
Juan Lagares cannot cover that much territory.”

Now, what can I say
About what I saw today?

All the long way to the game
And all the way back,
I’ve looked and I’ve looked
From the outfield to the bat rack,
But all that I’ve noticed,
Except the green infield,
Was d’arnaud and Matz
At Citi Field

That’s nothing to tell of,
That won’t do, I know . . .
Just the starting pitcher Steven Matz
Hurling pitches to Travis d’Arnaud.

That can’t be my story.  That’s only a start.
I’ll say that a GAZELLE was pitching instead of a Bart!
Add that is a story that no one can beat,
When I say that I saw it at Citi Field.

Yes, the Gazelle is fine,
He gives batters a migraine,
There’s another marvelous pitcher
Who’s stuff is much more insane.
The story could be so much more
If the pitcher I saw were Thor.
An orange and blue capped pitcher’s fastballs are profound,
Rumbling like thunder from the mound!

No, it won’t do at all . . .
There’s another with the ball.

Zack Wheeler is better;
He’s come back round,
And he’s ready to for a start
On the Citi Field mound

Hold on a minute!
There’s something wrong!
The bullpen is the place for this dealer
It’s off to the bullpen for Zack Wheeler,

It’d be much better, it might,
If the start went to the Dark Knight.

Hmmm . . . A Dark Knight . . .
Say – anyone could think of that,
Dick or Kevin or Dan or Pat
Say, even Terry could think of that.

But it isn’t too late to make one little change.
This story is about Yoenis Cespedes!  No longer on the driving range!

He’s got plenty of power and size,
You can see the opposing pitcher with fear in his eyes.
A then, the sound system emits a loud tone,
Cespedes the Lion King!  Perched high on a throne!

Say!  That makes a batter that no one can heel,
When I say that I saw it at Citi Field.

But now I don’t know . . .
It still doesn’t seem right.

A Cespedes swinging a bat that’s so light
Would hit balls around in the air like a kite.

But he’d look simply extreme
With a great New York Mets team!

A team that’s that good should have someone to see it,
Wins coming so fast, the Nationals finding it hard to keep near it.
Nationals always the trailer!  They’ll be out of their mind
Not even Daniel Murphy can get them out from behind.

But now is if fair?  Is it fair what I’ve done?
Before they take the field, they’ve already won.
That’s really too heavy a load for one beast;
I’ll give him some helpers.  He needs two, at least.

Michael Conforto to do the trick,
To guide them after the intentional walk schtick –
It takes a lineup to do the trick.
They’ll never lose now.  They’ll race at top speed
With Curtis Granderson, himself, in the lead.

The Manager is there
And he thinks it is grand,
And he raises his hat
As they rise from their seats in the stands.

The Manager is there
Sandy Alderson too,
All waving big banners
The stands are becoming a zoo.

And that is a team whose championship is sealed
When I say that I saw it at Citi Field!

With a roar of its motor an airplane appears
The pitcher steps off the mound and everyone jeers.

And that makes a story that’s really not bad!
But it still could be better.  Suppose that I add . . . . . . . . .

. . . A David Wright
Who can stay upright . . .

A big Duda
Swinging sticks . . .

A Jacob deGrom
And his garden gnome . . .

No time for more,
Cespedes’ coming home.

He swung ’round third base
And dashed towards the plate,
The Mets ran up the steps
And I felt simply GREAT!

FOR I HAD A STORY THAT NO ONE COULD YIELD!
AND TO THINK THAT I SAW IT AT CITI FIELD!

But Dad said quite calmly,
“Take the parking pass off the windshield
And tell me the sights
That you saw at Citi Field”

There was so much to tell, I JUST COULDN’T BEGIN!
Dad looked at me sharply stroking the beard at his chin.
He frowned at me sternly from there from the front seat,
“Was there nothing to look at . . . no great feat?
Did nothing excite you or make you jump out of your seat?”

“Nothing,” I said, now becoming more even-keeled,
“But a Matz pitching to d’Aranud at Citi Field.”

The End.

Last year’s story “One Strike, Two Strikes, Three Strikes, You’re Out!” can be found here

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

 

Jay Bruce Should Listen To Kevin Long

In the three seasons before Yoenis Cespedes became a New York Met, he was a .263/.316/.464 hitter who averaged 24 homers and 87 RBI.  Since becoming a New York Met, Cespedes has been a .282/.348/.554 hitter with 162 game averages of 41 homers and 111 RBI.

In Curtis Granderson‘s first year with the Mets, he was a .227/.326/.388 hitter with 20 homers and 66 RBI.  Over the past two seasons, Granderson has been a .248/.350/.460 hitter who has averaged 28 homers and 64 RBI.

In the three years before the Mets acquired Neil Walker from the Pittsburgh Pirates, Walker was a .264/.336/.438 hitter who averaged 18 homers and 67 RBI.  In his Pirates career as a right-handed batter, Walker was a career .260 hitter with just six home runs over the course of seven seasons.  Last year, Walker was a .282/.347/.476 hitter with 23 homers and 55 RBI in just 113 games.  From the right side of the plate, he was a .330/.391/.610 hitter with eight homers.

In the three years before Asdrubal Cabrera signed a free agent deal with the Mets, he was a .249/.307/.405 hitter who averaged 14 homers and 61 RBI.  Last year, Cabrera was a .280/.336/.474 hitter with 23 homers and 62 RBI.  It should also be noted he was one of if not the best hitter over the last two months of the season.

With this quartet of players, we see a definite trend of what happens when the Mets hitters being working with hitting coach Kevin Long.  Whatever it is he specifically does, he has the ability to help batters not only hit for more power, but also improve their OBP.  While Long’s detractors will point out there are players that haven’t performed well under his tutelage like Travis d’Arnaud and Michael Conforto last year, there are players like the aforementioned players and Daniel Murphy who have improved.  The point is overall hitters tend to improve in terms of OBP and slugging under Long.

With Long’s seeming ability to help players in these two key areas, Jay Bruce would be wise to work closely with his new hitting coach this season.

Over the course of his career, Bruce has been a .248/.318/.467 hitter who has averaged a 27 homers and 82 RBI a season with most of his damage being done at The Great American Ballpark where he is a .254/.328/.500 hitter. Basically, Bruce has basically been a slugger that not only does not know how to draw a walk, but he is also a product of his former home ballpark.  At least that was the perception.  That perception was not helped when Bruce hit .219/.294/.391 in 50 games with the Mets last season.

This is a large reason why he did not garner much interest on the trade market.  It may very well be a reason why he will have difficulty getting a large free agent deal next offseason.

It’s odd when you think about it because Bruce has the potential to be a 30 HR/100 RBI hitter.  He is your prototypical slugger who has been a three time All Star, two time Silver Slugger, and has a top 10 MVP finish in his career.  There is real talent there.  He just needs help to become a more well-rounded hitter.  As we have seen with most of the Mets roster, Long has helped the Mets hitters on that front.

If Bruce does improve his OBP and he hits for more power, the Mets are going to have the left-handed power threat they thought they were getting when they acquired him in exchange for Dilson Herrera and Max Wotell.  He is also going to help garner the interest for his services that we just not present this offseason.  Overall, the working relationship between Bruce and Long can be a mutually beneficial relationship.

It’s a relationship both Bruce’s and the 2017 Mets’ future hinges upon.

Three Current Mets and Their Hall of Fame Outlook

The Hall of Fame inducted Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, and Ivan Rodriguez in what should be the first of many Hall of Fame classes we see without a Mets player being inducted.  The Mets had to wait 23 years between the elections of Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza.  Depending on which hat Carlos Beltran selects when he is likely inducted into the Hall of Fame, the Mets may be waiting even longer than that.  How long the Mets wait may depend on the Hall of Fame worthiness of one of the players currently on the Mets roster.  Here are some players with a chance to be Hall of Famers one day:

#1 David Wright

Career Stats: .296/.376/.491, 949 R, 1,777 H, 390 2B, 26 3B, 242 HR, 970 RBI, 196 SB

Awards: 7X All-Star, 2X Gold Glove, 2X Silver Slugger

Advanced Stats: 49.9 WAR, 133 OPS+, 133 wRC+

Hall of Fame Metrics: 40.0 WAR7, 45.0 JAWS

The Case For: With his spinal stenosis, Wright has been that rare breed of player that not only spends his whole career with one team, but also winds up owning almost all of a team’s offensive records.  At this point in time, he is the career leader in runs, hits, doubles, and RBI.  He is only 10 behind Darryl Strawberry for the team home run lead.  It is rare that with a franchise in as existence as long as the Mets that the team’s best ever offensive player is not inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Superlatives aside, there is a statistical foundation for Wright’s induction.  His 133 OPS+ would be the sixth best by a Hall of Fame third baseman putting him ahead of the likes of Wade Boggs and Ron Santo.  His 133 wRC+ would be the third best among third base Hall of Famers with him trailing just Mike Schmidt, Eddie Mathews, and Home Run Baker.  His OBP would be the fifth best among Hall of Fame third baseman putting him ahead of the likes of George Brett.  His slugging would be third among Hall of Fame third baseman putting him ahead of players like Brooks Robinson.

No matter how you look at it, Wright has been a top five to top ten third baseman all-time.  As seen with his Gold Gloves, he is one of the more complete players we have ever seen at the position.

The Case Against: Due in large part of the spinal stenosis, Wright’s peak was not as high as it would be for a traditional Hall of Famer.  In fact his WAR, WAR7, and JAWS trail the 67.5/42.7/55.1 an average Hall of Fame third baseman has accumulated in their career.  In fact, Wright trails  Robin Ventura in WAR and JAWS, and Ventura didn’t garner the 5% necessary to stay on the ballot.  Overall, while you can say that Wright at his peak was one of the best third baseman ever, his peak did not last long, and he become too injury prone to put together a great career.

Verdict:  Fortunately for Wright, he still has time to put up some more numbers to help bolster his Hall of Fame chances.  However, with his spinal stenosis and now cervical fusion, it is hard to imagine him putting up positive WAR seasons that will move the meter enough to classify him as a Hall of Famer.

#2 Yoenis Cespedes

Career Stats: .272/.325/.494, 406 R, 743 H, 149 2B, 22 3B, 137 HR, 453 RBI, 40 SB

Awards: 2X All-Star, 1X Gold Glove, 1X Silver Slugger

Advanced Stats: 18.7 WAR, 124 OPS+, 123 wRC+

Hall of Fame Metrics: 18.7 WAR7, 18.7 JAWS

The Case For: Unlike Wright, who is winding down is career, Cespedes, 31, seems to have quality years ahead of him.  The belief in the possibility of becoming a Hall of Famer started on August 1, 2015, which is the first time he set foot in the batter’s box as a member of the New York Mets.  Cespedes had the type of finish to the 2015 season people will talk about for years to come.  In the final 57 games of the season, Cespedes hit 17 homers and 44 RBI.  The Mets went from being three games over .500 and two games out of the division to finishing the season on a 37-22 run and winning the division by seven games.  In his Mets career, the Mets are 110-79 with him in the lineup, and a game under .500 when he is not.  Simply put, Cespedes is a difference maker.

He’s also a completely different player.  From 2012 – 2014, Cespedes was a .263/.316/.464 hitter who averaged 24 homers and 87 RBI.  Since coming to the Mets, Cespedes is a .282/.348/.554 hitter who has a 162 game average of 42 homers and 119 RBI.  Before becoming a Met, he averaged 3.1 WAR per season.  In 2015, his first truly great season, he posted a 6.3 WAR.  Last season, in part due to his injuries and his playing out of position, he regressed back to a 2.9 WAR.  With him returning to left field, where he is a Gold Glover, he should return to being a player who can post six WAR seasons.  If so, Cespedes has a shot of clearing the 65.1 WAR, 41.5 WAR7, and 53.3 JAWS an average Hall of Fame left fielder has accumulated.

The Case Against: Cespedes is already 31 years old, and to ask him to put forth five more MVP level type seasons is unrealistic.  The unfortunate truth is Cespedes may have gotten too late a start to his career due to his being born in Cuba, played at a horrendous ballpark in O.co Stadium for a player of his skill set too long, and he became a much improved hitter too late in his career.

Verdict: Unfortunately, Cespedes didn’t do enough early in his career, and it is not likely he’s going to be a truly great player into his mid to late 30s.  Overall, is going to go down as a beloved Met, but much like Keith Hernandez, he is going to fall short.

#3 Noah Syndergaard

Career Stats: 23-16, 2.89 ERA, 55 G, 54 GS, 333.2 IP, 384 K, 1.103 WHIP, 10.4 K/9

Awards: 1X All Star

Advanced Stats: 137 ERA+, 2.72 FIP, 7.4 WAR

The Case For: In some sense, Syndergaard represents the trio that includes him, Matt Harvey, and Jacob deGrom.  The reason why Syndergaard was selected was he is the youngest, has a fastball that gets over 100 MPH, and he is the only one without any injuries in his young career.  Naturally, like with any young pitcher, health is going to be the key.

Last season, we saw Syndergaard scratch the surface of what he can be as a starter.  He not only posts high strikeout numbers, but he generally induces weak contact.  In fact, his 0.5 HR/9 was the best mark in the major leagues last year.  Not so coincidentally, so was his 2.29 FIP.  To cap off the season, Syndergaard pitched in a do-or-die Wild Card Game against Madison Bumgarner, who is the best big game pitcher we have in baseball.  Syndergaard not only matched him scoreless inning for scoreless inning, he also out-pitched Bumgarner for those seven innings.

Syndergaard has slowly been moving from one of the most talented pitchers in the game to one of the best pitchers in the game.  At 23, we can expect him to have many great seasons, and quite possibly multiple Cy Young awards.  Really, at this point in his career, anything is possible.

The Case Against: That’s the problem with anything being possible.  At one point in time Dwight Gooden was a no-doubt Hall of Famer.  In fact, Gooden’s 1985 season was one of the greatest regular seasons a starting pitcher has ever had.  However, as we know Gooden never made the Hall of Fame.  Yes, much of that had to do with Gooden’s drug problems, but it should also be noted Gooden dealt with arm injuries as well.  He probably threw too many innings at an early age, and he would eventually needed shoulder surgery.  This as much as anything had to do with Gooden’s career falling apart.

Besides Gooden, you can name any number of pitchers who went from great to broken.  That’s the nature of pitching.

Verdict: Syndergaard not only has the talent, but he also has the drive to be truly great.  As long as luck holds out, and he listens to his body, like he did last year, Syndergaard should remain healthy putting him in good position to make a run at the Hall of Fame.

Mets Need Bryce Harper

Of course, the Mets could use Bryce Harper.  Any team could as Harper is one of the best players in the game.  With that said, the Mets could use Harper because he is a player willing to do this:

Naturally, if you are a Nationals player or fan, you are left a little frustrated by this offseason.  It seems like every player went to another team.

This offseason alone free agents like Yoenis Cespedes, Kenley Jansen, .  On top of that, they were unable to secured trades for Chris Sale, Andrew McCutchen, and Charlie Blackmon leading to them sending a big haul of prospects to the White Sox for Adam Eaton.  By the way, in that deal, the Nationals were not able to get the White Sox to include David Robertson.

What makes this all the more frustrating is this comes of a similar experience for the Nationals last season, which was capped off with Brandon Phillips refusing to waive his no trade clause.

Even with the Eaton acquisition, the Nationals still have two holes due to both Mark Melancon and Wilson Ramos departing in free agency.  This has led to the Nationals pursuit of both Matt Wieters, even with the Derek Norris trade, and Greg Holland.  Arguably, both players could fill the voids in the Nationals roster.

However, the team is stuck in a standstill for budgetary reasons, and they are armed with excuses.  This has led to their best player calling them out publicly.

The Nationals situation is not too different from the Mets situation.  This Mets team has failed to completely address the holes on their roster.  Even more aggravating is the Mets once again citing budgetary reasons as their excuse for not going out and signing even a mid-tier relief pitcher like Brad Ziegler.  Instead, the Mets were content to let him go to a a team in their division.

This pattern of (spending) behavior by the Mets has been maddening since Sandy Alderson took over as General Manager after the conclusion of the 2010 season.  Now, this isn’t Alderson’s fault per se.  It is more on the Wilpons and how they have chosen to spend their money, and their lies about restrictions on payroll.  Sometimes, you want a player to speak out and scream they don’t want another season with an Eric Campbell on the bench or the team having to trade for bad relievers like Alex Torres on the eve of Opening Day because you didn’t have the money to spend on quality arms.

With the Mets not adding arms this offseason, you want someone to scream.

Now, admittedly, Harper can be a bit much.  We saw that with his asking where his ring was when the Nationals signed Max Scherzer.  Even with that said, wouldn’t it be better for the Mets to have a player that would keep them accountable?  Wouldn’t it be better if the Mets felt like they needed to aggressively attack the window in the offseason rather than trading away minor league arms with upside for Kelly Johnson when the Mets easily could have signed him in the offseason?

For me, the answer is yes especially when you consider how close Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard are to being split up due to their respective free agencies on the horizon.

Good Luck Alejandro De Aza

Sometimes deals were not a good idea at their inception.  At other times, deals don’t just work out as planned.  Then there was Alejandro De Aza‘s tenure with the New York Mets.

Back when De Aza signed with the Mets, he was supposed to be the left-handed platoon option to go along with Juan Lagares in center field.  It was an extremely unpopular signing at the time beacause it was a clear indication the Mets were not going to sign Yoenis Cespedes.  Except the Mets, due to a combination of sheer luck and the depth of top end outfielders on the market, did actually re-sign Cespedes.

Just like that De Aza went from the platoon partner getting the bulk of the at-bats to being the team’s fifth outfielder.  Considering the talent level ahead of him,  he seemed like he was going to be the team’s seldom used fifth outfielder.  Anyone would struggle under those circumstances, and De Aza did.

In the beginning of July, he was only batting .158 with just five extra base hits.  Keep in mind, both of those extra base hits came in the same game.  Essentially, the irregular to lack of playing time was wrecking havoc with his ability to produce, and it was affecting him mentally.  It got to the point where Terry Collins began to question his work ethic.

With all that in mind, De Aza deserves a lot of credit.  De Aza went on a tear in July hitting .375/.487/.531 in 21 games and six games started.  The tear came at the right time too because it was a Mets team seemingly falling apart.  Lagares had a thumb issue.  Cespedes would deal with a quad injury.  Both Curtis Granderson and Michael Conforto were struggling as well.  In fact, the entire Mets offense including Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera was struggling.  The Mets needed this boost from him, and they go it.

De Aza would also step up as the Mets were making a push for the Wild Card.  In a crucial late August series against the Cardinals, with Seth Lugo making his second ever major league start, De Aza came up huge not only robbing Matt Carpenter of a home run in the first at-bat in the bottom of the first, but also by hitting his own three run home run.  It was all part of how De Aza came up big when the Mets needed in most.  In fact, over the final month of the season, he would hit .265/.366/.353 in 25 games.

Overall, De Aza’s tenure with the Mets was a disappointing one with all involved.  However, he made significant contributions to the Mets when they needed them most.  That should never be overlooked even if ultimately he was usually the outfielder overlooked when Collins was filling out the lineup card.

De Aza’s struggles are a large reason why he was only able to muster a minor league deal with the Oakland Athletics.  With that said, he is in a much better situation than he was in 2016.  This should allow him to return to being the player he never really got the chance to be with the Mets.  Hopefully, he gets back to that point.

Re-Sign Fernando Salas

With Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia in the fold, the Mets have their eighth and ninth innings guys set up for next year. In 2016, that tandem was the best in baseball. However, it was also the most taxed. The duo pitched more innings than any other reliever combination in the major leagues. The main reason is that the Mets played many close games that necessitated Terry Collins going to the whip with them time and time again. It was needed in the regular season, but as we saw in September and the Wild Card Game, they were beginning to show some signs of fatigue. With that, obtaining a seventh inning reliever, preferably one with closing experience, should be a high priority this offseason.

With that in mind, the Mets should re-sign Fernando Salas.

Salas had a Reed-like impact on the 2016 Mets. In 17 appearances, Salas was 0-1 with a 2.08 ERA, a 0.635 WHIP, and a 9.9 K/9. With that, Salas completely took over the seventh inning, and he allowed both Reed and Familia some rest down the stretch. Understandably, between his usage and his statistics prior to joining the Mets, you could expect him to regress. That’s almost assuredly true of his 0.635 WHIP. However, his regression would not be as troublesome as one would have you believe because, like Reed, Salas has benefited tremendously from the Mets exceptional pitch framing.

Keep in mind, there was not change to Salas’ stuff or his pitching patters when he became a Met. It is similar to Reed who became a completely different pitcher when he became a Met. Before joining the Mets, Reed had a 4.20 ERA and a 1.275 WHIP. In Reed’s season plus with the Mets, he has a 1.84 ERA and a 0.957 WHIP. When Reed became a Met, he didn’t develop a new pitch or pitching patters. Rather, it was the Mets catchers getting the extra strike for him.

It is something Reed emphasized when he said of Travis d’Arnaud, “There’s been a couple of times just this season that I’ve went back and looked at video just because I wanted to see how low the ball was, and how good of a strike (d’Arnaud) made it look. He’s the best I’ve ever thrown to at doing that. Just the way he frames the ball, it’s unbelievable. He makes balls that are four or five inches below the zone look like they’re almost right down the middle by just the way he flicks his wrist. I couldn’t even tell you how he does it.” (ESPN.com)

Given the pitch framing having a similar impact on Salas, you could expect Salas to have a similarly terrific 2017 season.  With that, Collins can be more judicious in how he uses both Reed and Familia.  This would permit all three pitchers to be fresh come the stretch run to the 2017 postseason; and hopefully, dominant all the way up until the World Series.

Another important point is that pitching in New York is a completely different animal. Some guys can do it and others can’t. The best and most recent example of this was Antonio Bastardo. Prior to joining the Mets, Bastardo had a 3.58 ERA and a 1.198 WHIP. He spent 2015 with the Pirates, and he was 4-1 with a 2.98 ERA and a 1.134 WHIP. Those numbers were why the Mets gave him a fairly lucrative deal for a seventh inning reliever.

Sure enough, Bastardo was terrible with the Mets. Bastardo made 41 appearances with the Mets with a 4.74 ERA and a 1.420 WHIP. Things got so bad, the Mets actually welcomed back Jon Niese and the Mets actually giving the Pirates some money in the deal. Naturally, Bastardo pitched better with the Pirates with him having a 4.13 ERA and a 1.250 WHIP in 28 games for them.

Simply put, Bastardo is the risk you take when you sign free agent middle relievers who have never pitched in New York. At the time of the signing, no one knew if Bastardo could pitch in New York. Conversely, we found out that Salas absolutely could pitch in New York, and that he could pitch with a postseason berth on the line in New York.  With that in mind, the Mets should make every effort to bring back Salas to pitch in the bullpen next year . . . regardless of what happens with Familia.

Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Merized Online

A Mets Carol

On a cold and blustery Christmas Eve night at Citi Field, faithful manager Terry Collins enters Fred Wilpon’s office.

Terry: I just wanted to stop on my way out to wish you and your family a happy holiday, and I just wanted to let you know I look forward to working with you and Sandy to help build a Mets team that can go to the World Series again.

Fred: What do you mean build?

Terry:  Well, there are a few areas I was hoping to address.  With Fernando Salas and Jerry Blevins free agents, we need a couple of relievers in the bullpen, and –

Fred: Relievers?  I just gave you two guys last week!

Terry: I know, but those were minor league deals.

Fred: I don’t get it.  After Madoff, I’ve done all I could do to get my money back, and now everyone wants me to just give it away.

Terry:  Well, we do owe the fans.

Fred:  Seriously?

Terry:  Well, I guess not.  Anyway, happy holidays, and I look forward to next season.

Fred: Bah!

Not long after Terry leaves, Fred Wilpon leaves Citi Field, and he begins his drive to Greenwich.  He pulls up to a stately manor that hasn’t been renovated since 2008.  He makes his way into the bedroom, and before he can turn on the lights, he hears a ghostly whisper coming from behind him.  It sounds like his name, but he initially can’t quite make it out.  Suddenly, as if out of nowhere a figure emerges.

Fred: No, it can’t be.  Is that really you?

M. Donald Grant: It is.

Fred: But, you’re dead.  How?  How?

M. Donald Grant: I’ve come here to deliver a message.

Fred: What?

M. Donald Grant: Remember when I was alive, I won a World Series, and then I refused pay raises to everyone.  Remember when I shipped Tom Seaver and everyone of value out of town?

Fred: All while keeping the team profitable!

M. Donald Grant: Yup, I mean no.  No!  I was wrong, and now I have to watch the 1962 Mets over and over again.  But worse, I have to give the players raises after each and every game despite no one coming to the ballpark!

Fred: The horror.

M. Donald Grant: And if you don’t change, your fate will be worse than mine.

Fred: No . . . NO! . . .  You’ve got to save me.

M. Donald Grant: Tonight, you will be visited by three spirits.  Listen to them!  Do what they say!  Or you will be cursed for eternity.

And with that the apparition of Grant faded away leaving Fred frightened in his room.  A few times he splashed cold water on his face and pinched himself to make sure he wasn’t dreaming.  Still shaken, Fred made his way to bed.  After a while, his fatigue got the better of his anxiety, and he faded to sleep.  Then there was a loud noise like the roar of the crowd.  It jostled Fred from his sleep.  Still groggy, he looked out and couldn’t believe the figure before him.

Fred: No, it can’t be.  Is it really you Gary?

Before Fred was Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter.  Back in 1985, when Fred had just a small interest in the team, the Mets traded for Carter in the hopes that he would put the Mets over the top.  Eventually, Carter did with the Mets winning the 1986 World Series. Notably, Carter started the game winning two out rally in the bottom of the 10th to allow the Mets to force a Game 7.

Gary: It’s really me Fred.  I’m now the Ghost of Baseball Past.

Fred: Am I dead?

Gary:  No, you’re not.  I’m here to show you what things used to be like before you changed the way you did business with the Mets.

With that Gary, took a swing of the bat creating a cloud of dust and smoke all over the room.  As the dust settled, the Mets found themselves back in a sold out Shea Stadium.

Fred: What a dump!

Gary: You didn’t always think so.  In fact, you used to love coming here.  Back in the 80s, Shea Stadium was the place to be.  Those Mets teams were stacked with players like me, Keith Hernandez, Darryl Strawberry, and tonight’s starter Dwight Gooden.

Fred:  Those Gooden starts were something special.  No one could beat us then, and we knew it.  We never could quite capture the magic from those teams again, but that was something special.

Gary:  This is how things used to be.  It was always this way.  You did it again when you signed Mike Piazza, except you didn’t just sign him.  You surrounded him with good players like Robin Ventura and Edgardo Alfonzo.  That team came close.  You did it again with Carlos Beltran.  You spent the extra dollar to get a truly great player.  You then added players like Carlos Delgado and Johan Santana to try to get it done.  It didn’t work, but the fans came.  More importantly, everyone respected you for it.

Fred: But they don’t understand.

Gary: Let’s see what happened next.

With a blink of Fred’s eye, Shea Stadium is just a memory.  As he reopens his eyes, he is back in Citi Field as it was before it was fully renovated.  The fans were angry with the team.  It was one thing that the ballpark didn’t fully honor Mets history; it was another that the Mets let Jose Reyes walk in the offseason without so much as an offer.  It was an uninspiring 88 loss win team that was seemingly going nowhere.

Fred: When did we put the Great Wall of Flushing back in?  Where are all the fans?

Gary: You didn’t.  It’s 2012.

Fred:  That was an ugly time.  Fans constantly complaining and booing.  The team and I were personally cash strapped.  I had no idea what our future was or could be.  Worse yet, no one seemed to understand.  The fans, the players, the press.  No one.  The whole thought of this time is just too much to bear.  I can’t . . .

Before Fred could finish the sentence, he was hit in the head by a foul ball off the bat of Daniel Murphy.  Next thing Fred knew, he was awake, with a headache back in his bed in Greenwich.

Fred: Man, I really have to lay off the Shake Shack late at night.  It gives me the strangest dreams.  And man, just remembering those days just gives me a headache.  I never want to get back to that point . . .

As the words left Fred’s lips, there was a strange noise. Fred looked over, and he sees beloved former announcer and Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner in what appears to be old set of Kiner’s Korner.

Fred: Ralph?

Ralph: Well hi everybody it’s Ralph Kiner, the Ghost of Christmas Present, on Kiner’s Korner.  Well the Mets are in the middle of the offseason after the team failed to win the Wild Card Game.  While the team acted quickly and brought back Neil Walker and Yoenis Cespedes, the Mets offseason has been marked by inactivity.  Recently, Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson stated the Mets were going to have to move a contract like Jay Bruce or Curtis Granderson before they could sign additional players this offseason.  We have Mets owner Fred Wilpon on to talk about it next.

Fred:  Ralph?

Ralph:  Welcome back to Kiner’s Korners.  As you know Kiner’s Koners is sponsored by Rheingold – the Dry Beer!

Ralph: Hi Mr. Wilpon, welcome to Kiner’s Korners.

Fred: I’m not sure what exactly is happening here.

Ralph:  Well, Mr. Wilpon, we’re here to talk about your team and what the 2017 roster will look like.

Fred:  We’ve given Sandy free reign to do whatever he needs to do to put the best team on the field.  We trust in his decision making, and we always demure to him on personnel decisions.

Ralph: Well Mr. Wilpon, there are not many that believe you.  In fact, the fans will say that the team isn’t going to spend the money on the players like the Mets should.  It reminds me back when I had won another home run title for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and I went to Branch Rickey to ask for a raise.  During the meeting, Rickey denied me a raise saying, “We finished eighth with you, we can finish eighth without you.”  From there of course, I was then traded to the Chicago Cubs.  This is the same Chicago Cubs franchise that won their first World Series title since 1908.  The Cubs were once defeated –

Fred:  Okay, okay.  No, we’re not spending any money until we move a contract.  That’s just the way things work now.  This isn’t the old days where Omar gets free reign.

Ralph: Well, the fans are angry the team isn’t spending money.  And I remember as a player how much the team wanted to know the owner supported them.  When the team had the support of ownership it had an effect in the clubhouse and the play on the field.

Fred: Let’s be honest.  The fans will let me do whatever I want so long as we’re winning.  With the team we have now, we’re going to fill the seats because we have Cespedes.  We have free t-shirts.  We get to hype up the starts of not just Matt Harvey, but also Noah Syndergaard.  As for the players, the only thing they really care about is their salary.

Ralph:  That’s not true.  Here is a videotape of your captain David Wright.

A large screen appears on the set of Kiner’s Korner with an image of Wright at his home talking to Collins about the upcoming season.

Collins: I know it may be a little late, but I wanted to wish you and your family a Merry Christmas.  And I wanted to let you know that we’re all pulling for you to get back out on that field.

David:  It’s hard skip.  I wake up in pain everyday.  It was bad enough when it was just the stenosis, but now it is my neck too.  I just spend all of my day rehabbing and working out.  I do all these special exercises for my back and my neck.  It’s almost 24 hours of pure hell.  It’s made all the harder by the fact that every minute I spend working out is time away from my wife and daughter.  Baseball has always been a sacrifice, and I love it.  But it just gets harder and harder.

Collins:  You know the whole team is behind you.  If there is anything you ever need, you just have to ask.  And if you feel as if you can’t go on, you’ll always have a place on my staff.

David:  I can’t hang ’em up.  Not yet.  Not with this team.  We’re so close.  I’ve come so close to the World Series a few times in my career, and I’ve fallen short.  I don’t know if I’ll ever feel right hanging it up without winning one.

Fred: This is costing me $20 million a year.

David:  And it’s not just about me.  I owe a World Series to Mets fans who have supported me my whole career.  They’ve gone out and bought my jerseys.  They’ve cheered for me.  They’ve always been there for me.  And more importantly, I owe it to the Wilpon family.  I saw what happened with Reyes and the other players who left.  They decided to keep me.  They made me the face of the franchise and the team captain.  I’ve loved being a Met, and the Wilpons made that possible.

Fred:  I just never knew how much he cared and how appreciative he was.

Ralph: Time for another commercial break and word from our sponsor the Ghost of Christmas Future.

Everything turns to black like a television screen being turned off.  At first, Fred sits there quietly unsure of what is happening.  He then finds himself in a strange room with Darryl Hamilton wearing his black Mets jersey.  The same jerseys the Wilpons wanted to help drum up fan interest and help increase revenues.  At first, Hamilton says nothing.  He just looks at Fred before gesturing for Fred to follow him.

Fred follows Darryl down a hallway.  Eventually, an image of a badly beaten down Wright emerges.  On the walls are different jerseys he wore in his career.  A shelf displays all of his awards and his 2015 National League Pennant ring.  Wright moves around the room but with great difficulty.  Although still relatively young, he moves like an old man.  He’s there with another person.

Woman: Look, this is not going to happen overnight.  With the beating your body has taken you’re luck you’re even in position to walk.

David: I don’t care.  I need you to get me to the point where I can dance again.  There is nothing that is going to stop me from dancing at my daughter’s wedding.

Woman: Ok, but we need to take it slowly.  You’ve had a number of injuries in your career, especially those last few.  Doing things like dancing is going to come with some difficulty for you.  The trick is to build everything up so you can do it again.

Fred: What, what happened to him?

Darryl only nods his head in the direction of the trophy case.

Fred:  He never won?  But we had Harvey and Syndergaard.  We had Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz.  We had Cespedes.  Of course we won at least one.  There is no way we let that core go without winning a World Series.  Surely, we made a move to get that final piece at least one of those years.

David: On cold days like this, it really makes me wonder how wise it was sticking to the end of my contract rather than just medically retiring the way Albert Belle and Prince Fielder did.  I really wonder if Prince has the same problems I have.  Still, I would do it all over again because trying to win that ring was important not just for my career, the fans, and Fred.

Woman: What happened?

David: We were so close, but we shot ourselves in the foot in 2015.  After that, we always just seemed one or two players short.  We gave it the best we could, but it just wasn’t meant to be . . . .

As David drifts off, Darryl gestures for Fred to re-enter the dark hallway.  The two make their way down before standing outside the Rotunda entrance to Citi Field.  Nearby is a group of men putting up a few statues.  In the parking lot adjacent to 126th Street, there are a number of moving vans.

Worker 1: Honestly, it is about time there was a Tom Seaver statue erected at Citi Field.  I think adding the Piazza one as well was a nice touch.

Worker 2:  Things have been a lot better around here with the new guys came in.

Worker 1:  And ain’t no one going to miss the old group.

Worker 2:  How can you?  They let the whole thing fall apart.

Worker 1:  Good riddance!

Fred: What is happening here?  What old group?  Who authorized these statues?

With that Fred began a dead sprint towards the entrance to the executive offices, but he was distracted by a commotion happening at McFadden’s.  Despite wanting to get back to his office, Fred found himself drawn to the bar where he found a group of people in celebration.

Man:  Shhh!  It’s about to be on the television.

Reporter: After years of seeing homegrown players sign elsewhere, and the Mets having been inactive on the free agent market, Citi Field has become eerily reminiscent of Grant’s Tomb in the 1970s.  With fan interest at a nadir and record low revenues for the team, it became time for a change.

Fred: Darryl!  What are they talking about?

Man:  This is a dream come true for me.  As a little boy sitting int he Upper Deck at Shea Stadium, I never imagined I would be in the position I am here today.  And yet, here I am.

Cheers spread through McFaddens making the sound from the televisions inaudible.

Man:  Back in 1980, the late Nelson Doubleday purchased the New York Mets from the Payson family.  From that day, a new era of Mets prosperity began with ownership investing not just in good baseball people, but also its players and its fans.  My pledge to the Mets fans is to operate this club much in the same fashion as Mr. Doubleday, and with that, a new era of Mets prominence will begin.

As cheers fill the room and the bartenders try to keep up with the customers needing drinks, a bewildered Fred turns back to Darryl.

Fred:  Darryl, what is happening with my team?  Was it . . .

As Fred trails off, he can see a sullen Jeff Wilpon standing out on the sidewalk waiting for a driver to take him home.  Before Jeff could get into the car, he is ambushed by a group of reporters.  Instinctively, Jeff runs out to assist his son.

Reporter:  How do you feel today?

Jeff:  How do you expect me to feel?  The thing that mattered most to my father is now gone.

Reporter:  What message do you have for Mets fans?

Jeff:  I’m not sure where you guys have been all these years.  If you came to the park, we might’ve been able to improve the team and prevent this day from happening.

Fred:  Jeff, don’t tell me you did it!  Don’t tell me you sold my team!

Reporter:  How do you think your father would feel about this moment?

Jeff:  Look guys, it’s been a hard day in what has been a hard few years.  I just want to go home to my family.

Fred:  Jeff!  Jeff!  I’m over here!  Jeff!

With Jeff being worn down by the questioning, and his being unable to hear his father scream, he enters the car.  Initially, Fred heads toward Jeff while repeatedly asking him what happened with the Mets.  With Jeff being unresponsive, and with Fred knowing he’s not going to be able to get to the door in time,  he runs in front of the car in an attempt to stop it.  The car pulls from the curb, makes contact with Fred, and everything goes black.

The sun begins to rise, and it begins to light Fred’s room in Greenwich.  The sun shines in Fred’s eyes causing him to initially squint.  When he realizes that a new day has begun, Fred eagerly jumps from his bed, and he checks his iPhone.

Fred:  It’s December 25, 2016!  I still own the team!  The spirits have given me another chance!

Fred grabs his phone, and he calls his secretary to immediately set up a conference call with Collins, Alderson, and Wright.

Fred:  I’m sorry to bother you on Christmas morning, but I felt like this couldn’t wait any longer.  We have a window here, and we have to take advantage of it.  Sandy, the shackles are off.  You have everything you need at your disposal.  We owe Terry the best team possible for him to lead the Mets back to the World Series.  And we owe it to you David because you stuck by us when times were at their lowest.  We can’t let you finish your career without winning a World Series.  It wouldn’t be fair, and it wouldn’t be right.

Terry:  Thank you, and God bless you Mr. Wilpon!

David:  God bless us everyone!