Over the weekend, the Mets traded Kevin Plawecki to the Cleveland Indians for a pair of prospects. This has left the Mets with just three catchers on the 40 man roster.
Of course, that was the same position the Mets were on April 11 last season. On that date, Plawecki was hit on the hand with a Tayron Guerrero fastball. That pitch left the Mets with the catching tandem of Jose Lobaton and Tomas Nido.
After that April 11 game, the Mets record was 11-1. From that game up until the second game of a doubleheader, the Mets would go 14-24.
Over that stretch, Lobaton, Nido, and eventually Devin Mesoraco combined to hit .212/.300/.356. As much as Mets fans were down on Plawecki and Travis d’Arnaud, it’s likely even one of them being active would have bolstered those numbers, and hopefully, would have helped prevent the Mets freefall which would be capped off with a 5-21 June.
While there were other mitigating factors at play, a significant issue was the Mets catching depth or lack thereof. It’s an issue which may rear it’s ugly head in 2019.
While Wilson Ramos is undoubtedly an upgrade over d’Arnaud and Plawecki, he’s been an injury prone catcher in his career.
There have only been four times Ramos has played over 100 games. Since 2009, he has been on the disabled list nine different times. That includes last year when he was limited to 111 games.
He’s a 31 year old catcher. He’s at an age when players tend to become more injury prone playing a position where the players tend to be more injury prone.
By the way, his backup is d’Arnaud, who is a catcher who averages 66 games a season on account of his being an injury prone player. That includes him being limited to just six games last year due to a torn UCL requiring Tommy John surgery.
While the Mets believe d’Arnaud will be ready to start the year, the organization has seen its fair issues with Tommy John rehabilitation.
Zack Wheeler missed the 2015 and 2016 seasons due to the surgery and complications during rehab. In 2017, he missed time with a stress reaction, and he did not really get to form until June last year.
There’s also T.J. Rivera who underwent Tommy John surgery in September 2017. He was supposed to return around the All Star Break. Except he didn’t. Rivera missed the entire 2018 seasons, and no one is quite sure what he can contribute in 2019.
Despite this very spotty history and d’Arnaud’s own suspect health history, the Mets are going with him to backup an injury prone catcher. They are taking the chance d’Arnaud never plays, and in the event he does, there’s a chance he misses significant time.
Best case scenario is Nido backs up Ramos. Nido is a very strong defensive catcher who has hit .181/.210/.255/ in 100 Major League plate appearances. While you could hope he would be a better hitter than that, he did hit just .272/.300/.431 between Double and Triple-A.
While you may have concerns about what he would do if he was pressed into action, the real issue is what is behind him on the depth chart.
Sure, the Mets could bring on a veteran catcher, but what veteran wants to backup Nido in Syracuse? If you can decipher that, you gave to question who among that group you’d either want backing up or even starting at the Major League level.
After trading Plawecki, that’s where the Mets ate. They’re crossing their fingers their top two catchers, who have not stayed healthy in their careers, stay healthy, so we don’t find out what’s behind their already suspect catching depth.
After an unplanned hiatus, it is time to start the New Year off fresh and to look at everything anew. It is time for change and resolutions to carry us through 2019. Here are the resolutions for each of the Mets players:
Robinson Cano – don’t get caught using PEDs this time
Yoenis Cespedes – find a way to DH in at least two games this year
Jacob deGrom – learn how to hit better so he can finally win some games next year.
Travis d’Arnaud – get the same surgery Wolverine got
Jeurys Familia – convince Callaway Diaz needs to be used in higher leverage situations so he can get his closer job back
Todd Frazier – find a way to sell move boxes of unsold Mets salt and pepper grinders while not falling into the same trap this year.
Drew Gagnon – keep those incriminating photos which have allowed you to survive roster cut after roster cut.
Robert Gsellman – learn how to pitch well for more than just one month out of the season
Juan Lagares – find a way to play at least half a season
Seth Lugo – when he is not given an opportunity to start and is an All Star snub, channel his inner Margot Martindale from BoJack Horseman
Steven Matz – pitch better so his grandfather will begin cheering for him again.
Jeff McNeil – find a way to hit .400 because short of that the Mets are probably not putting him in the lineup
Tomas Nido – sign up for the best travel rewards program there is because by the time 2019 is over he will be able to fly first class to Australia and back at least 10 times a month
Brandon Nimmo – life isn’t that bad, maybe he should smile every once in a while
Kevin Plawecki – hit the occasional ground ball to the left side just to shake things up.
Amed Rosario – take some mommy/baby classes so he can learn how to walk
Paul Sewald – have a print out of his game logs from Baseball Reference to remind the Mets he pitches well in shorter spurts, and that he is not superhuman and cannot handle onerous workloads. Cry when the attempts fail and he finds himself back in Triple-A
Noah Syndergaard – find an open mic somewhere to discover no one actually believes he or his Mr. Met feud is funny.
Jason Vargas – leave the Jeff Goldblum impressions in the clubhouse and stop pitching like him when he takes the mound.
Zack Wheeler – don’t even let a Mets team doctor near his arm in his free agent walk year.
Daniel Zamora – be able to spin his bad outings the way he can spin his slider
One of the narratives which has taken hold of late is how the Mets catching situation is what has been holding them back. To a certain extent, there is a point. Travis d’Arnaud cannot stay on the field, and Kevin Plawecki has yet to fully maximize the chances he has been given to establish himself as even a clear-cut starter at the MLB level.
When looking at this offseason, there are plenty of players available who could be upgrades for the Mets. On the free agent front, there’s Yasmani Grandal and Wilson Ramos. On the trade front, there is J.T. Realmuto and Francisco Cervelli. Even if you argue all of these players are not definitively better than what a healthy d’Arnaud can give you, their ability to stay on the field makes them upgrades. More than that, it provides the Mets with depth at the catching position.
As we saw with the Mets playing Jose Lobaton and Devin Mesoraco, depth is vitally important at the catching position. More than that, the Mets need a real depth of talent on the roster. If you build a roster with talented players, an upgrade at catcher isn’t that desperately needed.
For those who don’t remember, the 2015 Mets were able to make it to the World Series with d’Arnaud behind the plate. There were several reasons why. Daniel Murphy was just beginning to become the feared hitter he would become. Curtis Granderson was a leader on and off the field. David Wright was having that one last great stretch in a terrific career. Yoenis Cespedes was phenomenal. There was real depth with Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson, and Wilmer Flores.
Mostly, it was the pitching, and d’Arnaud played a big part of that with his pitch framing. This path to the World Series isn’t an anomaly either. Just this past season, we saw the Red Sox go to the World Series with Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez behind the plate. Much like the 2015 Mets, the reason the Red Sox were able to do this was because they had great players like Mookie Betts and Chris Sale in addition to terrific situational/platoon players like Steve Pearce and Brock Holt.
The overriding point is there are many ways for the Mets to go back to the World Series, and they don’t have to upgrade at catcher to do it. Instead, they need to look at the best possible players they can add to the roster.
They need to build on a pitching staff which already includes Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, Steven Matz, Edwin Diaz, and Seth Lugo. They need to add to a lineup which already features Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, and Robinson Cano.
If building up the lineup and roster comes at catcher, great. If it doesn’t, that’s good too because we already know d’Arnaud and Plawecki behind the plate can bring you to a World Series. For that matter, Plawecki, d’Arnaud, and Rene Rivera brought the Mets to the Wild Card Game.
In the end, there needs to be much less of a fixation on improving just one roster spot for the sake of another. For example, don’t trade Nimmo for Realmuto. Instead, the Mets just need to focus on getting better players on this team much like how they added Cano even though they already had McNeil.
In the end, if the focus is better players and a deeper roster, you will win games. You see it time and again. The Yankees dynasty had a black hole in left field. The Red Sox had nothing at catcher, second, and third. The 1986 Mets had Rafael Santana. The 2018 Mets can have d’Arnaud and Plawecki behind the plate, a tandem we already know can get you to the World Series.
The New York Mets have had a number of down seasons with 2018 being one of them. There were some bright spots this past season with Jacob deGrom emerging as the best pitcher in baseball being one of them. This is reminiscent of how many times we have seen different Mets players have great seasons in what has been an otherwise lost season for the franchise.
The last time we saw anything like deGrom’s season happen was R.A. Dickey‘s 2012 season. While the knuckleballer had been better than expected for a few years, no one could see him winning 20 games let alone beating out Clayton Kershaw, who was still in his prime, for the Cy Young Award.
While it was Dickey who won the Cy Young Award, it was Johan Santana who captured the hearts of Mets fans by pitching the first no-hitter in Mets history. Special mention needs to go here for Mike Baxter‘s catch.
In 2004, Mike Piazza passed a significant career milestone by hitting his 352nd career homer as a catcher. With the home run, he passed Carlton Fisk, and he all but cemented his Hall of Fame case by hitting the most home runs as a catcher.
Another Mets catcher who set a home run record was Todd Hundley. In 1996, his 41 homers would not just match a Mets single season record, but it would also pass Roy Campanella‘s single season record for most homers by a catcher. That season saw a number of feats including Bernard Gilkey setting the Mets single-season record for doubles and Lance Johnson setting the record for most triples in a season. Remarkably, all three of these Mets records stand to this day.
On the final game of the 1991 season, which was the Mets first losing season since 1983, David Cone tied the then National League record with 19 strikeouts in a game. It was a feat which had only been previously met by Mets legend Tom Seaver.
Speaking of that 1983 season, Darryl Strawberry would become the first and to this date only Mets position player to ever win the Rookie of the Year Award. The 1983 season was also notable because after the Midnight Massacre, Seaver would finally come home to the Mets.
Really, it was that 1983 season which was the beginning of something special with the Mets. In addition to Strawberry and Seaver, the Mets called-up rookie starter Ron Darling. Much like how he is joined in the SNY booth now by Keith Hernandez, he was teammates with Hernandez that season because the Mets would make a franchise altering trade to acquire the former MVP.
Really, when you look at 1983, you can see how even a bad year is the building block towards a team building a World Series winning club. Hopefully, that is what the 2018 season was for the Mets.
You can argue it was the case with deGrom emerging as the best pitcher in baseball, and Zack Wheeler matching him big start for big start in the second half. Brandon Nimmo had the second highest wRC+ among National League outfielders, and Michael Conforto returned to being Michael Conforto in the second half. More than that, Amed Rosario seemed to turn the corner while his new double play partner, Jeff McNeil, burst onto the scene.
In the end, when you look at losing seasons like 2018, you can see great things. More than that, you can see how great things will soon be in store for the Mets.
With the Mets reportedly not pursuing Manny Machado this offseason, the Mets have put them in a position where their options to improve their batting order are becoming increasingly limited. That is at least on the free agent market. Instead, the team is going to have to look towards trades to try to improve their roster.
When looking at trades, the team should look much further than any of their oft publicized and discussed needs. Instead, the team should do all they can do to improve their roster. If you are looking to build a World Series contender, that means obtaining Corey Kluber.
If the Mets are able to obtain Kluber, they are going to have the best rotation in baseball, and quite possibly, they could have one of the best rotations of all-time. When you have pitching like that, you win games and postseason series.
Remember, the 2001 Diamondbacks won the NL West and the World Series riding Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. While Luis Gonzalez hit 57 homers that year, the rest of the Diamondbacks team wasn’t great offensively. That team had a 97 wRC+, which was ranked 15th in the majors.
The Mets would have that with Kluber and Jacob deGrom. Kluber has led the Majors in wins over the past three seasons with the second most innings pitched and the third highest fWAR. As for deGrom, he was the best pitcher in baseball last, and we have seen what he can do in the postseason.
As for the Mets offense, well, in the second half of the season last year, they were ranked 11th in the majors. With a 38-30 second half record, the Mets were tied with the Braves for the best record in the NL East. Combining that improved offense with the emerge of Zack Wheeler, and this is suddenly a very scary Mets team, which is something the Mets need to be building.
Notably, Wheeler is a free agent after the 2019 season, and after the 2020 season, deGrom will be a free agent. The biggest hit happens after the 2021 season with Michael Conforto, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz becoming free agents. That’s a big chunk of the Mets current core, which means this organization has three years to win a World Series with this group.
It just so happens Kluber is under team control for three years with 2020 and 2021 team options. All told, Kluber is owed just $52.5 million over the next three years giving the team some flexibility to add talent around an ace pitcher.
Now, there will be obvious skeptics as to whether this will work for the Mets. This plan would require buying Amed Rosario making strides. It also requires Jeff McNeil to repeat a second half which was fueled by .368 BABIP. Todd Frazier is going to have to be what he was in April and stay off the disabled list, and Jay Bruce is going to have to learn first base. You are also going to need a full season from Juan Lagares in center.
Then again, maybe you won’t.
Adding Kluber only adds to the possibilities. With Kluber atop the rotation with deGrom, the Mets could look to trade Wheeler at his peak value. Possibly, the Mets could move Wheeler to address other areas of need like their bullpen or a right-handed bat. With Charlie Morton and Dallas Keuchel being free agents and Lance McCullers missing all of 2019 due to Tommy John, the Astros are certainly a fit. Seeing how Wheeler pitched in the second half, there will obviously be other suitors.
Now, getting Kluber is going to hurt. At a minimum, you are probably talking Peter Alonso, Andres Gimenez, and some other notable Mets prospects. It’s entirely possible, a Major Leaguer will need to be included in the deal. Certainly, giving up your top talent will hurt the system.
However, a more broad based analysis needs to take place here. The Mets window is 2019-2021. After that, the next real wave for the Mets comes a year or two after that as Jarred Kelenic, Ronny Mauricio, and Mark Vientos all played in Kingsport this past season. Considering how the talent is structured in the Mets farm system, the time to make a run is right now.
If you’re making that run, the Mets need to go all-out improving this roster. Unless you are spending on the free agent market to get Machado and Bryce Harper, which the Mets aren’t doing, it means trading for big pieces. That means giving up Alonso and Gimenez for a big piece. Right now, there is no bigger piece than Kluber. He’s the real difference maker.
Get Kluber and make a real run at 2019 and 2020. The talent is here, and the Mets have the chips to do it.
Well, the impossible has finally happened. The New York Mets have FINALLY parted ways with one time top prospect Rafael Montero. It is somewhat ironic it comes in the same month when Jacob deGrom is likely to win the Cy Young Award. Mostly, it’s just shocking and strange.
This was a long anticipated moment, and yet one in which many believed would never happen.
Looking back, it was Terry Collins who first made an issue about Montero’s ability to pitch. With the Mets coming off a pennant, Collins went out of his way to challenge/chastise Montero. Collins would tell him the Mets re-signed Bartolo Colon because Montero had not held up hid end of the bargain because he was not good enough to be a part of the Mets rotation.
The reason Montero wasn’t ready to take on that role was because he was hurt. At least, that is what he said. He kept alleging it, and the Mets doctors never found anything, at least not anything they deemed sufficient enough for his complaining of pain. While he was complaining of pain, we were all complaining about the results.
In 2016 and 2017, he was 5-12 with a 5.87 ERA, 1.790 WHIP, and a 1.61 K/BB ratio. Things got so bad with him many talked themselves into him being a late bloomer when he had a 4.15 ERA in August 2017.
That included the Mets who kept Montero over relievers like Josh Smoker, Chasen Bradford, and Erik Goeddel. The later two had good 2018 seasons, which was something which stung all the more when you saw how much the Mets needed relief help.
The Mets releasing players who contributed elsewhere just so the Mets could stubbornly see what they had in Montero was becoming the norm.
Fact is, the Mets were in this deep, so they might as well see how all of this played out. Then a funny thing happened. The guy who always seemed to complain about injuries was actually injured.
On the eve of the 2018 season, it was discovered Montero had a torn UCL, and he needed season ending Tommy John surgery. While it could be a different injury than the ones he had which had caused him pain in the past, it was certainly interesting to see him finally diagnosed with an injury which COULD explain his struggles.
With the surgery, it is likely he would not pitch until sometime around the 2019 All Star break. Looking at Zack Wheeler, there was a chance he may not pitch at all in 2019. With him being out of options, there was a legitimate question if he’d ever pitch for the Mets again.
Still, the Mets had gone this far down the rabbit hole with Montero, and to a certain extent, they were almost obligated to see how he could pitch when he was finally healthy and/or not complaining of pain to his pitching arm.
Maybe, the poor pitching we’ve seen was the result of a torn UCL. Maybe, just maybe, with a surgically repaired elbow, Montero could be the pitcher the Mets envisioned he could be, or at the very least, he could become a competent MLB pitcher.
Well, if that does happen, it’s going to happen somewhere else because the Mets out-righted Montero to get the roster back under 40 players. Montero then opted to become a free agent.
The Mets out-righted Montero while keeping Drew Gagnon, a 28 year old rookie with a 5.63 career Triple-A ERA. Say whatever you want about Montero, but from a pure talent standpoint, he is better than Gagnon. It’s the reason why Montero got so many chances.
And that where’s we are with Montero. The Mets and Montero are parting ways instead of seeing if Montero could pitch like the pitcher the Mets stubbornly believed he could be. Instead, after all that time and seeing all those other pitches go and produce elsewhere, Montero is an ex-Met.
For all the times the Mets should have parted with Montero, the organization chose to do this now instead of all those other times when they should have held onto another player. They chose now even though Montero was finally the player they should have kept.
If the Mets had done this at any other time, and Montero succeeded, many would have understood. Fact is, most probably still will. And yet, if a healthy Montero does prove himself to be competent MLB pitcher and Gagnon pitches like someone with a career 5.63 Triple-A, the Mets will have definitively made the wrong choice here . . . just like all those other times they cut good players from the roster to stubbornly keep Montero.
With the contracts Brodie Van Wagenen had been able to procure for his clients, it is fairly clear he has been a staunch advocate who is able to get the best deals possible. Part of that has been his being quite forceful to inflammatory in his statements. This includes, but is not limited to his alleging collusion during this past offseason when things moved slowly.
Van Wagenen’s occasional confrontational and inflammatory statements include his demanding an extension or trade for Jacob deGrom. Specifically Van Wagenen would say:
He and I have been transparent with them about his willingness to consider a long-term commitment. But if there’s not a commitment, then obviously the player would be prepared for a trade.
If there’s not a desire to have the player, then you’d like to go to somebody that did have the desire to be committed. It’s if not A, then everybody has to be aware of B. The third alternative of just staying status quo, I don’t think benefits anyone.
The very end of the statement is the key statement. Taking what he said at face value, Van Wagenen honestly believes the Mets have to either extend or trade deGrom. Now, the Mets could let deGrom play out the next two seasons and make a decision then, but as Van Wagenen said himself, that would not benefit anyone.
Understandably, with Sandy Alderson having to step aside, this decision was better left to a new General Manager. Whoever the Mets hired had to make a number of important decisions. With Zack Wheeler a year from free agency, the Mets need to make a decision to extend, trade, or wait until the trade deadline to make a decision on the future of Wheeler.
With Van Wagenen’s comments and his being hired, a decision on deGrom is now front and center.
The team either needs to have a plan for an extension in place, or they need to be prepared to trade him. Even if those plans are not immediately disclosed, those plans need to be in place right now. If not, this will serve as a distraction all season long. The beginnings of that will begin with today’s press conference. In fact, reporters are lined up to ask the question:
First question for Van Wagenen: “Brodie, last July you said the Mets should either trade deGrom or give him a contract. So what are you going to do?”
— Mike Puma (@NYPost_Mets) October 29, 2018
If it is this pressing today, it will be all the more so during the GM Meetings, Winter Meetings, Spring Training, and during any losing streak during the 2019 season.
After that decision is made, the decision is then turned to another one of his clients in Noah Syndergaard. Should deGrom get that extension, how much is left over for his other client? The dominoes keep falling after that.
Yes, there are other decisions which technically need to be made first including who should be designated for assignment. The Mets will need to cut three people by Friday to do that. That said, deGrom is the first order of business because how the Mets handle that decision will inform everything which happens from now. That includes how the rest of the Mets team handles a deGrom trade or extension.
Rays Vice President of Baseball Operations Chaim Bloom will not just take any job. At 35 years old, he can be selective, and he has. In the past, Bloom has outright refused to even interview for the Diamondbacks position. However, he not only has decided to interview for the Mets job, but he is also a finalist for the General Manager position.
Bloom’s interesting in the position should have Mets fans excited about the future of this team regardless of who the team hires to be the General Manager.
There is a lot to like with this Mets team. Just like 2015, it all starts with the rotation. Jacob deGrom has emerged this season as the best pitcher in baseball. Zack Wheeler looked like an ace himself posting the second best ERA in the second half. Noah Syndergaard had 13 wins in a down year, and he had a strong finish to the season. Finally, somehow Steven Matz actually made 30 starts last year. Now that Matz is able to navigate a full season, he can take the next step much like how Wheeler did this year.
There are also the y0ung left-handed bats on this roster. Using wRC+ as a barometer, Brandon Nimmo was the second best hitter in the National League last year and in the top 10 of all of baseball. After dealing with the shoulder issues, Michael Conforto hit .273/.356/.539 in the second half. Jeff McNeil emerged from out of nowhere to not just make to the majors but to also claim the second base job for 2019 by posting a 2.4 WAR and 137 wRC+ in just 63 Major League games.
The Mets also have a vastly improving farm system. Andres Gimenez, Peter Alonso, and Jarred Kelenic are viewed by nearly every outlet as Top 100 prospects. After a breakout season, Justin Dunn is on the cusp of cracking those lists as well. David Peterson and Anthony Kay are both left-handers who took steps forward and are not far from the majors.
There are also young players who people have lost enthusiasm but still have talent. Dominic Smith will not turn 24 until August, and there are still many who believe in his talent. For example, Keith Law of ESPN believes Smith could hit better than .262/.346/.459 if given the first base job next year. Before his season ending injury last year, Gavin Cecchini returned to the form he was when he was seen as a future middle infielder for the Mets.
This is before we even consider players like Mark Vientos, Shervyen Newton, Luis Santana, and even Desmond Lindsay with his retooled swing. The overriding point is the Mets farm system has plenty of talent, and Bloom, a Rays executive with a strong player development background knows this.
Ultimately, this is why Bloom is interested in the Mets General Manager job. This is also why Mets fans should be excited about the future of this team even if Bloom does not get the job because whether or not he gets the job, the talent is already here. It’s now just a matter of that talent continuing their development and winning the World Series.
Back in 2015, the Mets somehow held onto a Game 5 and series clinching win against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Despite having nothing, Jacob deGrom kept the Dodgers to two runs over six innings. That was more than enough as Daniel Murphy took over that game in what was one of the truly great postseason games a player has ever had.
He’d double home the first run of the game in the first off Zack Greinke. On a fourth inning walk to Lucas Duda, Murphy went first to third against a shifted and lackadaisical Dodgers infield allowing him to score the tying run on a Travis d’Arnaud sacrifice fly.
The big blow came in the sixth when Murphy hit the go-ahead homer putting the Mets up 3-2.
At the time, the Mets seemed to be the young team on the rise. In addition to deGrom, Syndergaard, and Familia, the team had Matt Harvey, Michael Conforto, Steven Matz, and eventually Zack Wheeler again.
In 2016, both teams returned to the postseason. The Mets captured the top Wild Card spot only to be shut out by Madison Bumgarner and the San Francisco Giants. That year, the Dodgers would lose in the NLCS to the eventual World Series winning Chicago Cubs (two years later and that sentence still seems bizarre).
After that, the Mets have had consecutive losing seasons while the Dodgers have gone to back-to-back World Series. Why?
Well, for starters, the Dodgers build a deep team with a deep bench. They do not have top heavy rosters which crumble when there is one injury. For example, Clayton Kershaw has not thrown over 175.0 innings in a season since that NLDS, and yet, the Dodgers remain a great team.
Also, while the Mets are off purging the Murphys and Justin Turners of the world, the Dodgers are finding them. In addition to Turner, we have also seen Chris Taylor and Max Muncy figure things out in Los Angeles.
The Dodgers are also not afraid to take risks or trust their young players. Gone from the 2015 team are Howie Kendrick, Adrian Gonzalez, Andre Ethier, and Jimmy Rollins. Instead, the Dodgers have players like Cody Bellinger.
For the Mets part, well, Adrian Gonzalez was their Opening Day first baseman.
Mostly, the separation has been financial. The Dodgers ownership has been willing and motivated to keep this championship window as open as possible, and they have with the largest payroll in baseball.
The Dodgers are not just a financial juggernaut, but they are also a supremely well run organization. This is a complete opposite of what the Mets have been, and judging from their current GM search, will continue to be.
This is all why the Dodgers are competing for World Series while the Mets are once again also-rans.
Starting with the obvious, as constructed today, the Yankees are a far superior team than the New York Mets. With Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres, and Luis Severino, this Yankees team is set up to win 90 plus games a year for the next decade. Given the talent base and how the Yankees are willing to spend, the Yankees should be a fixture in the postseason, much like they were in the late 90s, and that is a prerequisite to winning a World Series.
However, as we saw with this Yankees team for the second straight season, they could not get through the postseason partially because they did not have the ace to help push them through to the World Series.
Last year, it was Justin Verlander, who helped stop the Yankees. In many ways, Verlander has proved to be the Yankees kryptonite. In three different postseasons, Verlander has faced the Yankees, and each time, Verlander’s teams advanced. Last year, Verlander was the ALCS MVP going 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA. What made the issue worse for the Yankees is they did not go out and get an eminently available Verlander.
This year, the Yankees were stopped by Chris Sale. Not only did Sale beat the Yankees in Game 1, but he would stop the Yankees in Game 4 in his one inning of work.
With the Yankees window opening last year, they have failed to get an ace to go up against Verlander, Sale, or even Corey Kluber (who the Yankees beat in the 2017 ALDS). Severino has not yet proven to be that guy. Instead of utilizing Justus Sheffield and some other prospect to acquire that ace, they are hoping that he develops into that front line starter himself.
If neither of those things happen, it is hard to imagine how the Yankees can navigate their way through the American League portion of the postseason each and every year. The Astros and Red Sox have every bit the position player talent the Yankees have, and they also have more starting pitching. To that end, it’s difficult to see how exactly the Yankees win a World Series with this core.
Equally as difficult is seeing how the Mets even make the postseason. While the Mets have talent, they are in a division with the upcoming Braves and Phillies teams. Moreover, the Nationals are always ready, willing, and able to spend in free agency to address the deficiencies on their roster. This creates a real uphill battle for a Mets franchise with ownership which continues to serve as an impediment to building a winner.
And yet, if the Mets ever do get to the postseason, they are a really dangerous team. Back in 2015, we saw what Jacob deGrom can do in the postseason and that was before he emerged as the best pitcher in baseball. Similarly, Noah Syndergaard has shown himself to be a big time postseason pitcher. Aside from his strong 2015 rookie campaign, Syndergaard would go pitch-for-pitch with Madison Bumgarner, the best postseason pitcher of this generation, in the 2016 Wild Card Game. What makes that postseason all the more impressive is the emergence of Zack Wheeler this season.
When you substitute Wheeler for 2015 Matt Harvey, you have the type of pitching rotation which can and should carry a team to the World Series.
When you surround this pitching staff with a young core which includes Michael Conforto, Jeff McNeil, Brandon Nimmo, and Amed Rosario, there is a core of players which can not just make the World Series but win it. So yes, if we are talking about a core of players which can go through the postseason and win the World Series, the Mets have what it takes.
And yet, they don’t have the type of core which can carry them through the regular season. This team is at least one bat short. Maybe two. And that is before you even consider the bullpen.
That’s the real shame of it all. The Yankees have the talent but not the pitching, and that is partially the result of them getting gun shy when it came time to pull the trigger to obtain that ace which can carry a team through the postseason. The Mets have the pitching, and they have that young core, but they have ownership which gets gun shy when it comes time to getting a player they need to win.
In the end, the Mets have a better core of players which can carry you to the World Series, but it doesn’t really matter because unless things change, the Mets will be sitting on the sidelines watching this Yankees core squander away without a legitimate ace.