Zack Wheeler

Mets Burch Smith Mistake

With the sixth pick of the Rule 5 Draft, the Mets were not supposed to be able to select Burch Smith.  However, by some fortune, the player rated by Baseball America as the top prospect in the Rule 5 Draft, fell to the Mets.  Even better, the Mets made the wise decision to pick him.

But they weren’t smart enough to keep him.

In what was likely a prearranged deal with the Kansas City Royals, the Mets traded Smith for cash considerations or a player to be named later.

Look, we don’t know if Smith can be an effective Major League player.  There is certainly a reason the Tampa Bay Rays left him unprotected.  His joining Zack Wheeler in missing the 2015 and 2016 seasons to Tommy John probably played no small part.  Still, this was a talented player Baseball America projects as Major League ready:

Smith sat 94-96 mph with his fastball, flashed a knee-buckling 74-76 mph curveball and showed a swing-and-miss 79-81 mph changeup. Though he’s 27 and has had serious arm health issues, Smith is major league ready and has the stuff to help a team as a back-end starter or move to the bullpen.

Looking at the Mets as constituted now, it is bizarre to think the team could part with Smith without so much as getting real player back or giving him a chance.  With stuff like Smith has, and with the arrival of Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland, you would anticipate the Mets organization could get the most out of Smith.  Whether that is as a short inning reliever, a long man (like Sean Gilmartin in 2015), or a fifth starter, Smith at least appears to be a MLB pitcher.

Obviously, the Royals believed that to be true with them dangling cash in front of a Mets team that is cutting payroll.

Sarcasm aside, the role Smith would fulfill on this Mets team would be the one given to Robert Gsellman or Rafael Montero.  With Gsellman’s not caring what the GM thinks combined with his poor season and with Montero having the career he has had, it begs the question why you would turn your back on a player who could conceivably fulfill the same role and possibly do it better.

Right now, no one is quite sure what Smith is as a Major Leaguer.  The same could be said about Pedro Beato in 2010 or Johan Santana in 1999.  Point is, we don’t know what or who Smith will be.  However, we do know what the Mets have, which makes their decision to just give Smith away all the more troubling.

Sandy Alderson Should Want Focus On Payroll Instead Of His Record

In what has already been a frustrating offseason for Mets fans, Sandy Alderson has already uttered a statement that may prove to go down in “Panic Citi” history.  While speaking with reporters, Alderson suggested people “spend a little less time focusing on our payroll.”

If Alderson wants everyone to spend less time focusing on payroll, maybe it is time to focus on Alderson’s tenure as the Mets General Manager to see how it was the team has gotten to this position.

Injuries

During Alderson’s entire tenure, there have only been eight players who have played over 140 games in a season – Asdrubal Cabrera (2016), Ike Davis (2012) Lucas Duda (2014), Curtis Granderson (2014 – 2016), Juan Lagares (2015), Daniel Murphy (2012 – 2014), Jose Reyes (2017), and David Wright (2012).

This is because of a long list of injuries that have occurred to their position players.  This ranges from the ordinary (Yoenis Cespedes‘ hamstring issues) to the bizarre (Davis’ Valley Fever) to the tragic (Wright).

As poorly as things have gone for the position players, the pitching situation is even worse.  Johan Santana, Tim Byrdak, and Scott Rice suffered injuries that effectively ended their careers.  Same could be said for Bobby Parnell, Jeremy Hefner, and Jim Henderson.  The list goes on and on..

That list includes a starting pitching staff upon which this franchise was supposedly built.  Each of the treasured purported five aces have undergone surgeries that have cost them multiple months.  Matt Harvey may never be the same, and the same can be said for Zack Wheeler.

The irony is Alderson implemented the famed “Prevention & Recovery” mantra, and arguably things have gotten worse under his control.

Evaluating Own Talent

Now, there are varying reasons why teams choose to extend some players while not extending others, or why they choose not to re-sign other players.  Still, Alderson’s record is not exactly sterling on this front.

The main players discussed on this front are Murphy and Justin Turner.  However, there are some other less discussed players that have slipped through the Mets fingers.

The Mets traded Collin McHugh for Eric Young only to watch McHugh thrive elsewhere.  Chris Young was given a large one year deal, was released, and has been an effective player for the Yankees and Red Sox.  They released Dario Alvarez to see the Braves claim him and trade him to the Rangers for a former first round draft pick.  Finally, there was the Angel Pagan trade for a couple of players who amounted to nothing with the Mets.

The troubles evaluating their own players go beyond who they willingly let go.  It goes to those players the Mets opted to extend – Lagares, Jon Niese, and Wright.  None of these three ever amounted to the promise they had at the time the contracts were extended.  There are differing reasons for this, but in the end, the Mets proved wrong in those decisions.

The Draft

The glass half-full is that every first round draft pick made prior to 2015 has made the Majors.  Additionally, two of those players have made All Star teams.  The glass half-empty is the players the Mets have drafted have not lived up to their potential.

At a time the Mets need a starting center fielder, Brandon Nimmo isn’t even being considered.  This is not surprising as many see him as a fourth outfielder.

Coincidentally, the Mets also need a second baseman, and they are not even considering Gavin Cecchini for so much as a utility role let alone an opportunity to compete for a job in Spring Training.

The team was not at all enamored with Dominic Smith‘s rookie campaign, and they have publicly talked about bringing in insurance for him not being on the Opening Day roster.

The Mets had no 2015 draft pick because the team lost it signing Michael Cuddyer.  Effectively speaking, this decision cost the Mets two first rounders as the team’s lack of offense and health caused them to trade Michael Fulmer for Cespedes.  We have all seen Fulmer win a Rookie of the Year Award and make an All Star team in Detroit while the Mets have been desperate for pitching.

Justin Dunn has done little to quell the concerns he is a reliever and not a starter while Anthony Kay, the compensation for the reigning NLCS MVP, has yet to throw a professional pitch because of his Tommy John surgery.

This leaves Conforto, who should be a burgeoning superstar, but sadly we wait with baited breath looking to see if he is going to be the same player he was before separating his shoulder on a swing.

Free Agency

Alderson’s ventures into free agency have not been all that fruitful.  Of all the players who have signed multi-year deals, only Granderson has posted multiple seasons over a 2.0 WAR.  In fact, Granderson is the only player who has posted a cumulative WAR of over 4.0.

For those that would bring up Colon or Cespedes, their exploits are not attributable to their multi-year deals.  Colon accumulated 4.9 WAR with the Mets with 3.4 of that coming during his one year contract.  Cespedes has accumulated 7.2 WAR with the Mets with just 2.1 WAR coming last year in an injury plagued first year of a large four year deal.

It should be noted Alderson may not have much success on this front because the team has not gone crazy in free agency signing just a few players a year to Major League deals.

Depth

Even in 2015 and 2016, two years the Mets made the postseason, the Mets had depth issues.  This was why the team traded for Kelly Johnson in consecutive seasons.  It’s also a reason why in those consecutive years the Mets had to add to the bullpen.

Those seasons have taken a toll on the Mets prospect front.  They have sent away a number of assets and potential Major League contributors for a number of players who were attainable before the season began on reasonable deals.  Instead, the Mets thought they would be set with players like Eric Campbell

Synposis

Much of what is attributed to Alderson being a good General Manager is predicated upon a stroke of genius in obtaining Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud, and Wuilmer Becerra in exchange for R.A. Dickey.  Even with many fans wanting to give him plaudits for Cespedes, it should be noted the trade was made largely because of a series of missteps.  It should also be noted the Mets lost a pretty good pitcher.

Now, if you are going to defend Alderson by saying his hands have been largely tied due to the Mets payroll, remember, Alderson himself doesn’t want thinks we should spend a little less time focusing on that.

Sadly, we have to do that because the Alderson regime has had difficulties in evaluating their own talent and drafting high end talent.  If he had, the discussion would probably be the Mets fine tuning to make another postseason run instead of there being fan anger over how the payroll is restricting the Mets from building a World Series caliber roster.

Sandy Reminds Us Again Mets Won’t Spend Money Or Improve

With the Giancarlo Stanton trade saga and Shohei Ohtani looking for a team, the hot stove has been rather lukewarm this time of the year.  With that said, we have seen some movement on the reliever market both be fore and after Stanton and Ohtani selected their ultimate destinations:

Now, based upon Sandy Alderson’s previous comments and behavior, you would think this would leave the Mets GM emboldened.  The only reliever that got a deal more than two years was Minor, who was actually signed to pitch in the Rangers starting rotation.

Instead, Sandy Alderson spoke with reporters and crushed what little hope Mets fans had this offseason.

On the reliever market, which has already seen quality relievers sign to reasonable deals, Alderson said, “And to the extent that the market gets overheated, I wouldn’t think that we’ll jump into the inferno.”  (Newsday).

Just wait, it gets better.

Alderson also admitted what Mets fans suspected to be true – the Mets didn’t even try to acquire Stanton.  Hopefully, because he thinks we’re all stupid, Alderson didn’t cite that big contract as a reason.  No, Alderson actually cited the fact the team had Brandon Nimmo as the reason why.

This is the same Nimmo the team never gave a real shot to start, at least before the fire sale and injuries, and the team won’t give a starting spot in next year’s outfield.  Apparently to the amazement of everyone, the Mets don’t need the reigning MVP because Nimmo has gotten dramatically better in the roughly two months since the season ended.  He’s now an MVP caliber player.

That’s awesome because as we all know Alderson’s drafts have been spotty at best.  His drafts have produced only two All Stars.  The first, Michael Conforto, is rehabbing from a significant shoulder injury, and we don’t know if he will ever be the same (NOTE: don’t get a Mets fan started on team injuries).  The second, Michael Fulmer, is a Tiger because back in 2014, the Mets thought Michael Cuddyer was the answer to their need for a productive hitter.  As we know he wasn’t, and by extension, the Mets lost two first round picks.

But wait, after an offseason that began with the Mets leaking they have soured on Dominic Smith, the team is high on him again saying, “We’re still very high on Dominic — some of my comments earlier in the offseason notwithstanding.”

Apparently, the team is no longer interested in players like Carlos Santana not because of the cost, but rather, because Smith has been on the same postseason regiment as Nimmo where disappointing first round draft picks suddenly transform into MVP caliber players overnight.

Not discussed during the discussion with reporters was the Mets latest bombshell.  They are now dangling Matt Harvey this offseason in exchange for a reliever.

As we have learned the past two seasons, the one thing the Mets can well afford to do is to be reckless with pitching depth.  No, we can’t count on Harvey to be anything.  However, the same can be said for Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz.

Considering the Mets heavily invested in their pitching staff by hiring Mickey Callaway as manager and Dave Eiland as pitching coach, why not see if they can get Harvey back to being the Dark Knight, or at the very least a reliable starting pitcher?

Do you really need to trade him for a sixth inning reliever?  And if that is the case, why not let Harvey move to the bullpen?  With Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman, you already have seven starters for five spots.  Someone is going to have to go to Triple-A or the bullpen.  If Harvey can’t withstand the rotation, why not find out if he can the bullpen?

And there we have it.  The Mets not only have no faith in their coaching staff, but they are already backing off players on the eve of the Winter Meetings.

It was almost yesterday the Mets were discussing Santana, Ohtani, Lorenzo Cain, and Jason Kipnis.  Now?  Well, we are talking trading Harvey to help fix the bullpen, and Nimmo and Smith as being a significant part of the future when just a month earlier they were not a legitimate starting option.

This is what happens when the Mets aren’t trying to generate hype to get fans to purchase individual game tickets.  It’s what happens when the Mets are entering a Winter Meetings when their initial hype and hope are about to get exposed.

Juan Lagares Needs To Be The Mets 2018 Center Fielder

With the Mets cutting payroll and having holes and question marks across the 25 and 40 man roster, it is finally time for Juan Lagares to sink or swim.

With respect to Lagares, he was never supposed to have been a question mark.  Certainly, the Mets didn’t feel this way when they gave him a four year $23 million contract extension on the eve of the 2015 season.

When giving Lagares the extension, the expectation was Lagares would continue being a Gold Glover out there, and he would eventually learn to hit a little.  While hindsight may be 20/20, this was about as good a bet as there could have been with Lagares hitting .281/.321/.382 with a 102 OPS+ and a 101 wRC+ in 2014.  His ability to be a league average hitter and otherworldly in center made him a 5.4 bWAR and 3.9 fWAR player that year. That made him the best player on the Mets.

Since that season, things have fallen apart for him.  In 2015, he regressed at the plate, which would have been palatable if he didn’t regress even more in the field.  In the subsequent two seasons, Lagares seems to have been getting back to the player he was in 2014, but he has suffered significant thumb injuries in successive seasons.

This could be a cause for pessimism, but we saw the 2014 Lagares in the field again last year.  That Lagares wasn’t just a Gold Glover, he was the guy you expected to catch everything.  He was the guy who was head and shoulders above even the best defensive center fielders in the game.

Among center fielders with at least 550 innings last year, Lagares was third overall and tops in the National League with a 15 DRS.  He was also the Major League leader with a 24.7 UZR/150.  You could chalk these up to small sample sizes all the like, but consider the numbers he put up in 2013 and 2014:

  • 2013: 26 DRS, 33.1 UZR/150
  • 2014: 26 DRS, 25.3 UZR/150

At his core this is who Lagares is.  And with all of Major League Baseball prioritizing hitting the ball in the air, having Lagares patrolling center field is an imperative.

As we saw, the Mets pitching staff all regressed last year.  Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman weren’t the hot shot rookies they were in 2016.  Even when “healthy,” Matt HarveySteven Matz, and Zack Wheeler weren’t who we expected them to be.  Even Jacob deGrom, who had a resurgent year a year after having ulnar nerve transposition surgery, wasn’t the same pitcher posting career worsts in ERA, ERA+, FIP, and HR/9.

So far, the Mets have done a lot to help address these issues.  They’ve hired Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland.  They’ve discussed not allowing their pitchers go a third time through the lineup.  While both could help, it is indisputable having Lagares in center will be an enormous benefit as well.

Now, if you can get Lagares to hit even a little, then you have the player you thought you had in 2014.  You have the player you thought would have a collection of Gold Gloves at this point in his career.  You have the player the Mets once thought was worth $23 million.  You have an answer to one of the biggest question marks on a Mets roster that has more holes in it that a piece of Swiss cheese attacked with a hole puncher.

Overall, the best bet for the Mets in 2018 is a healthy and productive Lagares.  He helps the pitching staff return to form, and he allows the Mets to allocate money to other areas of the team that are in more desperate need of addressing.  And if that doesn’t work, you at least have a platoon partner for Brandon Nimmo out there . . . .

For Thanksgiving, What Each Met Should Be Thankful For

On Thanksgiving, it’s time to go around the Mets 2017 roster and name something each player should be thankful for:

Nori AokiHe looked so much better in September than he did in all of 2017 by being competent while playing on a dysfunctional team.

Jerry BlevinsThroughout all the stress of the season and his extreme workload, the man didn’t even put on one pound.

Chasen BradfordWith his call-up to the majors, he’s now on the short list for best beards in Mets history.

Jay BruceHe learned from his experience last year, and he played well for a team that acquired him in a trade.

Asdrubal CabreraAs we found out this season, all he wanted the Mets to do was to pick up his option so he could provide for him family.  With the Mets having done that, he can now rest easy.

Jamie CallahanOne day when bards tell the tale of the six right-handed relievers the Mets acquired at the 2017 deadline, they will regale us all with stories of how Callahan was the first of them to finish out a game the Mets won.

Gavin CecchiniHe made the switch from short to second where it will be easier for him to make it to the majors.  That goes double if the Mets who are tightening payroll off a poor season don’t bring in a free agent to play the position.

Yoenis CespedesWith Cespedes missing half the season, that left a lot of time for him to hit the course.

Michael Conforto – Collins is gone meaning no one is standing in his way from being a superstar anymore.

Travis d’Arnaud – He became the greatest defensive second baseman in Mets history by posting a 1.000 fielding percentage at the position.

Jacob deGromWith him pitching so well this year, he knows he will finally be able to cash in in arbitration thereby allowing him to afford a haircut.

Lucas Duda – The slugger was the first Mets player traded at the deadline, and he temporarily got to avoid the We Follow Lucas Duda filming.

Josh EdginHe could be the only pitcher in the history of the Mets organization who is capable of getting both Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy out.

Phillip EvansAfter winning a batting title in 2016, having a good Spring Training, and a good second half for Vegas, the Mets finally decided to let him post similarly good numbers for them in September.

Jeurys FamiliaBlood clots in his shoulder costing him most of the season made most people forget why he missed the beginning of the season.

Chris FlexenAs we learned with Mike Pelfrey, being a Mets pitcher who struggled in the majors after completely skipping Triple-A will get you career earnings of roughly $47 million.

Wilmer FloresHe fouled a ball off his face, and he lived to tell about it.

Sean GilmartinWith his going from the Mets to the Cardinals, he was able to prove he wasn’t bad.  It was just the Mets as an organization did not employ anyone capable of knowing he was actually injured.

Erik GoeddelNo matter how much he struggled this season, he will never be the most hated person in pro sports with the last name pronounced GO-dell\n
Curtis GrandersonHe had a front row seat to seeing Chase Utley fail in the postseason.

Robert GsellmanHe has so much self confidence he doesn’t care what anyone things of him.

Matt HarveyBetween the Tommy John, TOS, and the Mets rushing him into the rotation with atrophied muscles in his throwing arm knowing he wouldn’t really be ready until a month into the season, he should be thankful for getting out of the season with his right arm still attached.

Ty Kelly He got out of here after one game thereby preventing Nurse Ratched from getting to him and ending his season.

Juan LagaresWith all the injuries and the Mets looking to cut payroll, he is once again the center fielder of the future.

Seth LugoAs we learned in the WBC and regular season, when he’s blonde, he’s Cy Young the first two times through the order.

Steven MatzWith him suffering the same injury deGrom suffered last year, we all know he can come back from this to be the same exact injury prone pitcher he was before the surgery.

Kevin McGowanHe will always have a special place in Mets fans hearts as it was his call-up that forced Ramirez off the roster.

Tommy MiloneHe was able to find a team that was okay with him having an ERA over 8.00.

Rafael Montero For the first time in his life, he wasn’t a complete abomination as a pitcher.

Tomas NidoEven with his struggles at the plate in Binghamton, he can rest easy knowing the Mets don’t expect an OBP over .300 from their catchers.

Brandon NimmoNo one, not matter what, has been able to wipe that smile off of his face.

Tyler PillIn a year of embarrassing pitching performances by Mets pitchers, Pill actually acquitted himself quite well before suffering his season ending injury.

Kevin Plawecki – He’s so well liked by his teammates that someone left him a present in his locker, which apparently has inspired him to hit the ball harder and longer thereby resurrecting his career.

Neil RamirezSomehow, someway, he was not the absolute worst pitcher on a team’s pitching staff.

AJ RamosTo him, getting traded to the Mets meant he was traded to a team that actually spends money in the offseason.

Addison ReedHe was so good this year he was worth not just one but three right-handed relievers.

Jose ReyesThe Mets didn’t cut him or his playing time no matter how horrible he played during the 2017 season.

Matt ReynoldsHe got that long look in September Sandy Alderson promised him.  Unfortunately, that only amounted to him getting 10 games to show what he could do at the MLB level.

Jacob RhameHe’s with an organization that has had success getting flame throwing right-handed pitchers who have slimmed down since getting drafted reach their full potential.

Rene RiveraAfter failing to whisper loud enough to help the Mets pitchers pitch better, he was able to go to the Cubs to help their pitchers lead them to an NLCS berth.

T.J. Rivera – With Warthen and Ramirez gone, he’s not going to have to worry about anyone mishandling his return from Tommy John.

Hansel RoblesIn his mind every ball hit in the air is an inning ending pop up.

Amed RosarioHe didn’t have to have his development hampered by being expected to be the savior when he was called-up to the majors as the Mets were well out of contention on August 1st.

Fernando SalasDespite his rough stint with the Mets, he was able to land with the Angels to end the season thereby proving it was the Mets handling of pitchers and not him that was terrible.

Paul SewaldAs a reward for all of his hard work in Vegas, he got the privilege of being the arm Collins loved to abuse during the season.

Dominic SmithHe finally got his call-up in August in Philadelphia of all places allowing him to celebrate the accomplishment and the win with a cheesesteak from Pat’s.  (NOTE: not a cheapshot at his weight, this actually happened)

Josh SmokerAfter the Mets finally gave up on using a pitcher with a history of shoulder issues as the long man in the pen, he showed the team in September that he could be as a lefty out of the pen to get lefties out.

Noah SyndergaardMr. Met flipped off someone this year other than him.

Travis TaijeronWith the Dodgers just signing him to a minor league deal, he is now all but assured of becoming the next Justin Turner.

Neil Walker – The Mets moved him to the Brewers where he was able to re-establish his free agency value by being productive and by staying healthy, which was coincidentally was when he was away from the Mets medical team.

Adam WilkBecause Harvey was at home one day in his pajamas, he set off on a path where he would become eligible to earn a share of the postseason money awarded to the Twins for claiming the second Wild Card.

Zack WheelerInstead of missing two years due to injury, he missed two months.

David WrightDespite all evidence to the contrary, the Mets still have not given up on him.

Terry CollinsAt the end of the day, he was able to make a friend of Fred Wilpon who had his back no matter what.  We should all be so lucky.

Dan WarthenHe found a new group of pitchers in Texas who have elbows waiting to learn how to throw that Warthen Slider.

Kevin LongAfter departing the Mets, he was able to smuggle the page out of his binders that showed exactly how he turned Daniel Murphy into Babe Ruth.  He can now bring that with him to Washington.

Sandy AldersonCollins was so poor at managing, he was able to convince ownership it was all Collins’ fault and not his for poorly constructing a roster.

Mets FansWell, even if it wasn’t at this post, we all still have a sense of humor, and we can still laugh at what we put up with from this team on a daily basis.

Happy Thanksgiving.

 

Free Agency Won’t Be The Easy Way To Build The 2018 Mets

With free agency beginning last night, the Mets now have the opportunity to fill-in many of the holes the team has in free agency.  In no particular order, those holes are second, third, center, bullpen, fifth starter, and maybe even catcher.  In addition to that, the Mets have to build a bench, which is something they overlook in the offseason year-in and year-out.

During Sandy Alderson’s tenure with the Mets, he predominantly makes his big moves in free agency, and he stays away from the big trades.  That is something he tends to do more during the season to address problems with the roster.  To that end, we will likely see the team’s needs addressed through a combination of free agency and the team’s internal options.

One of the issues in building the roster is the payroll seems to be limited.   That’s not limited by recent standards.  Rather, there are indications the payroll will be going down.  According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the Mets payroll could drop by $20 million to the $135 million range.

Previously, MMO estimated the Mets current payroll commitments, factoring in likely arbitration raises, will be between $109 – $119 million.  That includes the options for Blevins and Cabrera, which the Mets recently picked up. As of the moment, the Mets roster shakes up like this:

C: Travis d’Arnaud
1B: Dominic Smith
2B: Wilmer Flores
3B: Asdrubal Cabrera
SS: Amed Rosario
LF: Yoenis Cespedes
CF: Brandon Nimmo
RF: Michael Conforto

Bench: Kevin Plawecki, T.J. Rivera, Matt Reynolds, Juan Lagares

SP: Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler
RP: Jeurys Familia, AJ Ramos, Hansel Robles, Paul Sewald, Josh Smoker, Jerry Blevins

Judging from the aforementioned 24 players, the Mets have a lot of work to do, and with few exceptions, no one should feel their job is safe.  Still, the Mets really only have somewhere between $15 – $25 million to spend in the offseason. This means the Mets are going to have to spend it wisely.

For starters, this probably means the jobs of d’Arnaud and Plawecki are safe.  It also should mean that even with their comparative struggles, Rosario and Smith will begin the season on the Opening Day roster.  From there, the Mets are going to have to make some tough choices among the players who could fulfill the Mets needs.  It’s an even bigger issue than anticipated considering the MLB Trade Rumors projections:

There are other options, but this seems to be a fair sampling of the types of players the Mets should be targeting to bring them back into the postseason picture in the National League.

Reviewing those options, it seems as if you get one of the top tier players, the Mets are shut out from adding a second impact player.  This means unless the Mets expand the budget, signing a Cain to play center means Cabrera at third and a veteran like Howie Kendrick to compete with Flores at second.  Considering that, the Mets may feel comfortable that Lagares’ defense and Nimmo’s OBP are good enough to handle the center field position.

Considering the Mets real needs, the team’s best bet is going to be a player like a Frazier for third because that would free up some money to pursue another difference making player whether that be a Reed or Walker reunion, or the addition of a Sabathia to take over the Bartolo Colon sized hole on the roster.

In the end, the roster and the budget are going to make this one of Alderson’s toughest offseasons.  Likely, he’s only going to be able to get two bigger named players, and he’s going to have to fill out important roles with internal options that failed last year or veterans who you pray have a Jose Valentin type of season.

 

Congratulations Carlos Beltran

With the Houston Astros winning the World Series yesterday, future Hall of Famer, Carlos Beltran finally won his World Series ring.  It could not have happened to a better player and a better individual.

While many Mets fans may have been tangentially aware of the 1999 AL Rookie of the Year, everyone knew who he was went he had an incredible 2004 postseason for the Houston Astros.  During that postseason run for the Astros, Beltran hit .435/.536/1.022 with a record eight homers in a single postseason.

On that postseason stage, we saw not just a five tool player, but a great player who had that rare ability to raise his game on the bigger stage.  Those are the types of players who typically thrive in New York, and Mets fans were thrilled when Omar Minaya made the bold move and made him the Mets first ever $100 million player.

If we’re all honest, things did not go as well for Beltran with the Mets as we all would have hoped.  His first season was marred by struggles and his head-first collision with Mike Cameron in right center field at Petco Park that left Beltran with facial fractures and a concussion.  That collision was so bad he was the one that got lucky.

Still, during that first season with the Mets, he helped create a culture that led to one of the better runs in Mets history.  Early on in the 2005 Spring Training, Beltran took David Wright and Jose Reyes under his wing, and he showed them what it took not just to be Major League players, but great players.

This sparked the incredible 2006 season that ended in heartbreak.  Because baseball is a cruel sport, that season and perhaps Beltran’s entire career with the Mets will forever be remembered for Beltran’s strikeout with the bases loaded at the end of Game 7 of the NLCS.  However, Beltran’s season was much, much more than that.

Beltran would hit .275/.388/.594 with 38 doubles, a triple, 41 homers, 116 RBI, and 18 stolen bases.  By WAR, it was the greatest single season performance ANY Mets position player has ever had.  He was predominantly in the Top 5 to 10 in all single season Mets categories setting the marks for runs scored and tying the record for homers and extra base hits.  In addition to that, Beltran joined Tommie Agee as the only Mets outfielder to win a Gold Glove.  When Beltran would win in the following season, he became the only Mets outfielder to win multiple Gold Gloves.

Essentially, Beltran became the Mets version of Keith Hernandez and Mike Piazza.  He was the seminal figure that taught the young players how to play, and he was the player who led the charge by being the superstar.

By the way, for all the talk about the Adam Wainwright moment, Beltran hit .278/.422/.556 with three homers in that postseason.  The Mets don’t even get to that Game 7 without him.  He should have been revered for that season.

If only he was treated as such.  Though not his fault, from that 2006 NLCS on his Mets career became one of what if to hand wringing instead of celebration.  The disappointment of the 2006 NLCS carried forward into collapses in 2007 and 2008.  Although, he did all he could do to try to stop it.

In 2007, he hit eight homer and 27 RBI in September marking his highs for any month that season.  In 2008, he had an impossibly great month hitting .344/.440/.645 with six homers and 19 RBI.  This includes a game tying two run home run at the final game at Shea Stadium.  To that end, Beltran provided the Mets with the team’s final highlight at the beloved Shea.

From there, Beltran would have some injuries and run-ins with the front office.  Rightfully and despite the Mets objections, he had a knee procedure which probably extended his career.  Always, the good teammate and doing what was best for the team, he willingly moved from center to right in 2011 before he was traded away for Zack Wheeler.

Since Beltran has left, Mets fans have seemed to have warmed much more to him remembering him more for the great player he was than the strikeout.  When he was introduced at the 2013 All Star Game, he received the standing ovation he so rightfully deserved.

That’s what you do for a player that is the greatest center fielder in team history, and is arguably the best outfielder in team history.  More than that, that’s what you do for a player who built his Hall of Fame career during his seven year career with the Mets.

All Mets fans should now be congratulating one of the best players in team history for getting that elusive World Series ring which we all know meant so much to him.  He didn’t get it with the Mets.  Ironically, he got it with that Astros team with whom he built his postseason reputation that inspired Minaya to go out and get him.

This won’t be the final day of celebration for Beltran.  One day in the not too distant future, the Hall of Fame will come calling.  The hope is he wears a Mets cap, and he returns to Citi Field to watch his number 15 get retired and hang forever next to his fellow Mets greats.

Mets Better Be Right About Mickey Callaway

Anytime you enter into a search for a new manager, you are really dealing with the realm of the unknown.  For first time managers, you really have no idea if that person is truly ready for the big leagues, he is better suited to the minors, or is a better coach.  For every Davey Johnson you hire, there are also the Joe Torres of the world, who were talented managers, but not ready to manage at the time you gave him the job.

Really, in these instances, you have to look at the relevant information available and the recommendations of other baseball people.  Mostly, you’re going with your gut.

The Mets gut told them to go out there and hire Mickey Callaway.

The Mets only needed one interview to choose Callaway over former manager and Mets coach Manny Acta.  It was sufficient enough for them to bypass current hitting coach Kevin Long.

Callaway had impressed so much during his interview and during his time with the Cleveland Indians, the Mets were not willing to wait.  They had Fred Wilpon sit down and sell him on the franchise similar to how the team once did with Billy Wagner and Curtis Granderson.

Give the Mets credit here.  They identified their man, and they did all they could do to bring him into the organization.  Deservedly so, many complimented the Mets on making a smart hire, including the fans who were skeptical of the direction the Mets would go.

Their man also happened to be a pitching guru, who will now be tasked with the responsibility of fixing Matt Harvey as well as finding a way to keep Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, and Jeurys Familia healthy for a full season.

If Mets fans want a reason to be excited for this season, there is no bigger reason than Callaway choosing to manage this pitching staff.  By doing so, he’s announced he’s a believer, and he’s put his and the Mets future on this lines.

The team hiring Callaway so early and so aggressively had a domino effect.  It looks like the first domino to fall will be hitting coach Kevin Long.

Long has had a positive impact on the players on this Mets roster.  He helped turn Yoenis Cespedes from a slugger to a star.  By OPS+ and wRC+, Asdrubal Cabrera had two of his best five offensive seasons.  Michael Conforto would prove he could hit left-handed pitching at the Major League level.

With Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith being two cornerstones of the franchise, Long was exactly the man you wanted to help them reach their offensive ceilings.  Now, that won’t happen because Long is likely gone.

Another person you would want to help lead young players like Rosario and Smith is Joe Girardi.  In his one year with the Marlins, and this past season working with young players like Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, the Yankees made a surprising run this season that ended with a Game 7 loss in the ALCS.

What is interesting is the Mets were rumored to want Girardi.  As reported by the New York Post, the Mets were looking to possibly “pounce” on Girardi if the Yankees did not bring him back.

That was written during the ALDS when it appeared Girardi’s job was in jeopardy.  After the Yankees recovered and upset the Indians and took the Astros to seven games, there weren’t too many people who stuck believed Girardi would be looking for another job.

And yet, he is.  This should at least raise some questions whether the Mets should have done their due diligence.  Maybe another round of interviews were in order.  Conducting that extra round could have left the Mets open to the chance of not making an hire before Girardi became available.

Maybe if there was a second round of interviews, Long feels more appreciated instead of taking his binders to another job.  That other job could be as the manager or hitting coach of the Washington Nationals where he would reunite with Daniel Murphy.  Maybe with Long at the helm, the Nationals finally get past the NLDS.

If that were to happen, and if Callaway falters, it would be too much for Mets fans to bear.  Yet again, the Mets let one of their own go to the Nationals leading them to further success because they were enamored with someone from another organization.  Like with Murphy and Justin Turner, Sandy Alderson will have opened himself up to justifiable second guessing.

The team jumped the gun costing themselves a chance to hire a terrific manager in Girardi, and it might have cost them the opportunity to retain a coach they thought highly enough of they almost made him their manager.  The Mets were left with a manager who has never managed professionally, and they have to rebuild a coaching staff.

Instead of making the safe choice like they did when they hired Terry Collins, the Mets instead chose to go for the high risk – high reward hire.  It worked with Davey, and it failed with Torre.

This is exactly why the Mets need to be right about their decision to hire Callaway.

Mickey Callaway Chose This Mets Pitching Staff

For the most part, Mets fans were ecstatic about the team hiring Mickey Callaway.  That went double after that upbeat press conference where Callaway both promised he would love his players, and they would be the most durable and well-prepared players in the Major Leagues.

There are plenty of reasons to like the move.  The Mets hired someone who worked with Terry Francona, who is a future Hall of Famer.  The team found someone who has shown the ability not just to comprehend analytics, but also to translate them to pitchers in a way that helps them improve.  He’s a new and fresh voice that the team has not had in quite some time.  People around baseball seemed to just love the decision of the Mets hiring the second most coveted managerial candidate behind Alex Cora.

These are all well and good reasons to get excited about the hire.  There are presumably many more.  However, the biggest reason to get excited about the hire is a pitching coach like Callaway chose to manage this Mets team.

That is of no small significance.  After the 2015 season, many believed the Mets were going to be a perennial postseason team.  Certainly, if things broke the Mets way, they could very well have become a dynastic team, at the very least in the mold of the 1980s Mets teams that were in contention each and every season.  However, instead of things breaking the Mets way, the team mostly broke down.

Matt Harvey had to have surgery to alleviate the effects of his TOS, and he followed that up with trying to pitch with an atrophied muscle in his pitching shoulder.  Zack Wheeler missed two seasons due to a torn UCL and complications from his Tommy John surgery, and he found himself missing the final two and a half months of the season with a stress reaction.  Noah Syndergaard had a torn lat.  Jeurys Familia had blod clots removed from his pitching shoulder.  Steven Matz had another injury riddled season with him having to have season ending surgery to reposition the ulnar nerve.  That was the surgery Jacob deGrom had last season.  Speaking of deGrom, he really was the only healthy Mets pitcher during the entire 2017 season.

The pitching behind the injured starters wasn’t pretty.  Rafael Montero continued to be an enigma.  Chris Flexen showed he wasn’t ready to pitch at the Major League level.  Robert Gsellman had his own injury, and he regressed quite severly after a really promising September in 2016.  Seth Lugo had come back from his own injury issues, and upon his return, he struggled to get through the lineup three times.

Add to that Hansel Robles being Hansel Robles, and Josh Smoker failing to emerge as that late inning reliever his stuff promised he could be, and the Mets lack of Major League ready starting pitching talent in the minors, and you wonder why anyone would want to become the Mets pitching coach, let alone a manager whose strength is his work with a pitching staff.

Make no mistake, Callaway had to have liked what he saw with this team.  Maybe it’s an arrogance any manager or coach has thinking they will be the one to turn things around.  Maybe, it was his work with injury prone pitchers like Carlos Carrasco that made him believe he could definitely make things work.  Whatever it is, the pitching guru that Callaway is purported to be liked what he sees with the Mets enough to potentially put his reputations and maybe his managerial future on a staff that some believed had fallen apart beyond repair.

Certainly, Callaway would have had other opportunities to accept a managerial position whether it was this year with an up and coming team like the Phillies, or next year when there would be more openings available.  Instead, he chose to resurrect what was once a great Mets pitching staff.  In part, he chose to do this because he believes in this talent, and he believes he is the man to do it.

That more than anything else is the biggest reason to be excited about this hire, and it is a reason to get excited about the 2018 season.

Sandy Better Get To Work

Yesterday, Odell Beckham, Jr. broke his leg as the Giants lost to go to 0-5.  It doesn’t matter how optimistic a Giants fan you are, the season is over.

The Rangers still have a talented group, but they got off to a 1-2 start.  One of the “highlights” of the young season is Alain Vigneault benching promising young player Filip Chytil for no other reason than he’s a young player.  There is still reason to believe the Rangers can make a run, but any excitement you would have is tempered by Terry Collins, sorry, AV, leading the way.

The Knicks, well, they are the Knicks.

If things continue this way, it promises to be a long winter until Spring Training begins.

Unless Sandy Alderson gets to work, it’s going to be a full year without hope.  He needs to build a bullpen beyond AJ Ramos and Jeurys Familia.  There needs to be more on the infield than Dominic Smith and Amed Rosario.  There needs to be more starting pitching depth due to the injury histories of Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler.

There’s a lot to do here.  Hopefully Sandy does it.  If he doesn’t, it’s going to be a long year in the New York sports scene.