During Spring Training and especially, over the past week, there have been pieces posted on this site detailing exactly how the Mets could beat the odds and actually go out and win the division. While Brodie Van Wagenen has preached on eliminating ifs, the fact of the matter is they exist, and the Mets are going to have to hope it all goes their way.
With respect to the division favorite Washington Nationals, the hope is they are no different than the team Dave Martinez led last year. This means Max Scherzer can be dominant while Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner perform like MVP candidates. However, if Patrick Corbin reverts, Stephen Strasburg is hurt again, and the veterans which they are relying upon (Brian Dozier, Yan Gomes, Ryan Zimmerman) don’t turn back the clock, a terrific year from Victor Robles may not be enough for them.
The Philadelphia Phillies arguably improved their team the most with the additions of Bryce Harper, Andrew McCutchen, J.T. Realmuto, David Robertson, and Jean Segura. That’s all well and good, but this is a dangerous mix for a team which fell apart partially due to their Fortnight obsession and the face Gabe Kapler has shown himself to be a poor leader. Absent Aaron Nola repeating last year and Jake Arrieta going back to his 2015 form, it’s possible this team could fall apart.
While the Nationals and Phillies are widely regarded as the best teams in the division, it was the Atlanta Braves who actually won the division last year. What is remarkable about the Braves was despite the team having as much money coming off the books as they did, their only real upgrade was signing Josh Donaldson. However, when you consider Johan Camargo was actually better than him last year, it was likely a downgrade. Beyond Donaldson, the team is essentially all glove up the middle (Ozzie Albies, Dansby Swanson, Ender Inciarte) with an incredibly average pitching staff. If the middle of their team doesn’t figure it out offensively, they’re going to need Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuna to be even better in 2019 in order to carry the team forward.
As for the New York Mets, the key seems to be their bullpen. In recent years, there has been a correlation between strong bullpens and records. With the Mets having Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, Justin Wilson, and Seth Lugo, they have the makings of what could be the best bullpen in baseball. When you add Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Zack Wheeler, this may be the best pitching staff in all of baseball.
This means the Mets will need Michael Conforto, Robinson Cano, and possibly Brandon Nimmo be the MVP candidates they can be while Amed Rosario figures it out. Beyond that, the Mets have what it takes. It is just up to Mickey Callaway to get the most he can from the team while Brodie Van Wagenen makes the key trade when needed.
If all that happens, and it very well could, the Mets win the division and go on to win the World Series. If not, the Mets may find themselves fighting for the second Wild Card. It should be fun to see what happens.
According to reports yesterday, Mets infielder T.J. Rivera is struggling in his return from Tommy John surgery. While people assume it is easier for position players to return from the surgery, Rivera seems to be dispelling that notion. In fact, it would appear he is struggling to return from his surgery much in the same way Zack Wheeler did. It should be noted while Wheeler had his surgery in early 2015, he was not what we believed he could be until the second half of last season. So far, Rivera is dispelling any real concerns:
T.J. Rivera downplays the discomfort he's been feeling in his surgically repaired right elbow. He described it more as another bump in the road: pic.twitter.com/mVyEwU22LB
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) February 28, 2019
When looking at his career, this is just the newest obstacle for him to overcome.
Rivera was a 22 year old undrafted free agent who had bounced around in college before landing at Troy University. Fortunately, at one of Rivera’s stops prior to Troy University, he played for former Met Mackey Sasser, who would recommend Rivera to a scout. As an undrafted player, he had an uphill climb ahead of him needing to prove himself at every turn. Rivera has done just that hitting over .300 with an OBP over .350 at nearly every minor league stop.
Really, Rivera stuck around because he hit. Yet somehow, despite his hitting at every stop, he was overlooked in the Rule 5 Draft multiple times. He had been in the minors for five-and-a-half years when the Mets were dropping like flies. Rather than give him a chance, the Mets would give playing time to players like Eric Campbell and Matt Reynolds. They’d even bring back Jose Reyes despite his domestic violence arrest and suspension. When it came time to call someone up, they’d call up Ty Kelly over him.
It would not be until the middle of August until Rivera would get called up, but he still wouldn’t get a chance. He’d be up and down a few times in August. Finally, with Walker being done for the season with a back injury and Wilmer Flores injuring his wrist on a collision at home plate on a very questionable send by Tim Teufel, Rivera would finally get his chance.
In 20 September games, Rivera hit .358/.378/.552. In those 20 games, the Mets would go 13-7. It’s important to consider the Mets claimed a Wild Card spot by just one game. If the team had not turned to him when they did, it’s possible the Mets miss the 2016 postseason. It’s also worth mentioning Rivera was one of the few Mets who got a hit off Madison Bumgarner in the Wild Card game. If someone had driven him in after his leadoff double in the fifth, we would be having a completely different conversation about him, that season, and each of the ensuing seasons.
Despite his being the hero of the 2017 season, the Mets would not so much as guarantee him a roster spot. They wouldn’t do that even with him playing well as the first baseman for a Puerto Rican team which reached the championship game of the World Baseball Classic. Instead, Rivera would spend his 2017 season up and down and the out with the season and potentially career altering UCL tear.
Seeing the depth the Mets have accumulated and the team likely adding at least Adeiny Hechavarria to the roster, 40 man roster spots are becoming tenuous. With him being unable to play, the odds are once again not in Rivera’s favor. Based upon past history, we should not count him out. In fact, for a team with postseason aspirations, he may ultimately prove to be an important player who can put the Mets over the top.
At this moment in time, with perhaps a very minor move or two, it would appear the Mets are done adding pieces this offseason. The different holes in the roster have been noted, but what we have not really seen done is an examination of the Mets decision making process. It is something which should be done more earnestly.
Dumping Swarzak’s And Not Frazier’s Contract
Purportedly, one of the selling points of the trade to obtain Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz was to move the contracts of Jay Bruce (2 years, $28 million) and Anthony Swarzak ($8.5 million). While moving Bruce was certainly understandable, it was curious the Mets moved Swarzak instead of Todd Frazier ($9 million).
As we have seen relievers tend to be mercurial, and it is quite possible with a healthier season, Swarzak could have been much more productive in 2019. Depending on the moves the team made in the offseason, he reasonably could have been the last man in the bullpen.
As for Frazier, we have seen the Mets make his spot on the roster tenuous. Pete Alonso appears poised to be the first baseman sooner rather than later, and the Mets brought in Jed Lowrie with the purpose of playing him everyone, albeit at different positions across teh diamond.
Seeing there being a multitude of free agents who could play third base, wouldn’t it have been better to move Frazier over Swarzak? As we saw, the Mets could have replaced Frazier with Lowrie. Other options included Mike Moustakas, Marwin Gonzalez, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Neil Walker. The Mets could have accomplished the same versatility they sought to accomplish by signing multiple players from this group, and they could have had platoon options over Frazier’s bat. It’s noteworthy with the exception of Moustakas these are switch hitters making them more useful bench players than a player who has never played a reserve role in his career.
Why Didn’t McNeil Play Winter Ball?
The very minute the Mets obtained Cano, it was clear Jeff McNeil was going to play some outfield. Now, it could be argued the amount of outfield he played depended entirely on the other moves made this offseason, but nevertheless, the plan was always to have McNeil see some time in the outfield.
Considering McNeil played exactly 17.0 innings in left field in Triple-A last year and just 56.1 innings in the outfield in his six years in the minors, you would have thought the team would have found a spot for him to play winter ball to hone his craft. After all, the team did try to get Dominic Smith time playing outfield in the Dominican Winter League (it didn’t work out).
Now, because the team couldn’t make any moves to improve the outfield, they are going to play McNeil in left all Spring with the hopes he can get up to speed over the course of less than two months worth of games. It should also be noted this decision is moving Michael Conforto from his best defensive position to right, and it is forcing Brandon Nimmo to center, a position the Mets have been reticent to play him at the Major League level.
Why Trade Plawecki if d’Arnaud Wasn’t Ready?
In his four year career, we have all seen Kevin Plawecki‘s warts, but through it all, he has established himself as a viable backup catcher at the Major League level. While the Mets may have felt the need to choose between him and Travis d’Arnaud, that decision would not have been forced upon the Mets until the moment d’Arnaud was ready to play. As we see now, d’Arnaud is not ready to play.
Instead of keeping Plawecki, they traded him for an underwhelming return in the form of Sam Haggerty and Walker Lockett. The only player of value in the trade was Lockett, and he had been previoulsy traded for Ignacio Feliz, an 18 year old who signed for an $85,000 bonus out of the Dominican Republic two years ago.
Instead of hedging their bets wisely, the team instead signed Devin Mesoraco. Say what you will about Plawecki, but he is far superior to Mesoraco. He’s a better pitch framer, and he is the better hitter (93 to 92 wRC+). And before anyone invokes Jacob deGrom, you need to explain how Mesoraco was the reason why deGrom was so great.
Where Are the Extensions?
There has been a growing trend in baseball for teams to lock up their young players. For example, the Yankees have already locked up Luis Severino and Aaron Hicks, and they are working on locking up Dellin Betances as well. These actions promise to keep the Yankees core together while keeping them cost controlled to what promises to be a team friendly discount.
At the moment, the Mets have free agency concerns of their own. After 2019, Zack Wheeler will be a free agent. After 2020, deGrom will be a free agent. After 2021, a significant portion of the Mets current Mets core will be free agents with Conforto, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz will be headed to free agency.
We know deGrom has put himself on the front burner, but what are the Mets doing besides him? After all, if CAA is in town, it means the team can negotiate extensions for both deGrom and Syndergaard. There is also nothing preventing them from reaching out to the agents for the other players.
Really, this is the biggest part of the offseason which needs examination. What exactly is the plan going forward? Do the Mets have intentions of building something much sustaining, or is this a one year gamble? Are the Mets playing things out in 2019 and reassessing. At this moment, we don’t know. Hopefully, the Mets do.
With Jacob deGrom putting an Opening Day deadline for a potential contract extension, the team’s immediate focus is going to be locking him up to the point where he could be a Met for life. Of course, the immediacy of the talks are not just because deGrom set a deadline, it is also because deGrom will be a free agent after the 2020 season.
Looking at the rotation, deGrom is not the only pitcher who is fast approaching free agency. Zack Wheeler will be a free agent after the 2019 season. Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz will be free agents after the 2021 season much like Aaron Nola who just signed a four year $45 million contract extension with the Phillies.
The Nola deal covers the rest of the years he is under team control with a team option for Nola’s first year of free agency. The 2023 team option is worth $16 million.
Looking at Nola, it is important to note he finished third in the Cy Young voting behind deGrom, who settled for $17 million in his third year of arbitration. This means if Nola continues pitching like he did last year, the Phillies will have Nola on a real discount in 2023 thereby freeing the team up to allocate their resources in other areas to improve their ballclub.
Seeing how the market has been relatively set by Nola’s extension coupled with the Mets need for some cost certainty, it would behoove the Mets to pursue extensions with their own starting pitchers. Another important consideration here is Syndergaard and Matz may be at their lowest value.
Syndergaard has been limited to 32 starts over the past two years due to an oblique and then a finger injury. Those injuries have stood in the way of him putting up another great season like he had in 2016. With health and an improved training regiment, which Syndergaard appears to be pursuing, we could see Syndergaard return to the pitcher he was in 2016. Perhaps, he will be even better.
Matz has landed on the disabled list in all four of his Major League seasons, but last year he still made a breakthrough in his career making 30 starts for the first time in his career. During his career, the Mets have seen glimpses from him including his having a 2.51 ERA, 1.021 WHIP, and a 10.9 K/9 in six September starts.
Certainly, the Mets could use the Nola extension as a framework for a possible Syndergaard and Matz extension. You could argue Syndergaard is better than Nola making him worth more money. Certainly, Matz has not had Nola’s success, and with that in mind, the Mets could possibly sign him for even less money.
In short order, the Mets could keep three-fifths of their incredible starting rotation together. This should insulate them from potentially losing Wheeler in free agency. Wheeler leaving could be abated by one of David Peterson or Anthony Kay stepping up this season. Of course, the Mets could sign Wheeler to his own extension.
Perhaps, the Mets and Wheeler could look to Nathan Eovaldi‘s four year $68 million contract as a starting point. After all, both pitchers were strong armed right-handed pitchers who have had injury issues and were roughly league average pitchers until the second half of last year. Wheeler would have the much better second half, but Eovaldi would have a great postseason.
Looking across baseball, increasingly more players are interested in contract extensions. So far this season, we have seen both Nola and Whit Merrifield sign extensions. We may see Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado do the same. It is now time for the Mets to do the same with as many pieces of their rotation as they can.
Specifically, his agent, Brodie Van Wagenen said, “We have discussed Jacob’s future with the Mets at length. Jacob has expressed interest in exploring a long-term partnership that would keep him in a Mets uniform for years to come. If the Mets don’t share same interest, we believe their best course of action is to seriously consider trade opportunities now. The inertia of current situation could complicate Jacob’s relationship with the club and creates an atmosphere of indecision.”
Since that time, Van Wagenen was hired as the Mets General Manager, and he is thereby prevented from negotiating a contract extension for deGrom due to the existing conflict of interests.
When Van Wagenen was hired, he merely offered, “I’d love to try to keep him if it’s possible. We’ll explore that in the coming weeks.”
A few weeks after Van Wagenen was introduced as the General Manager, Mets COO Jeff Wilpon said, “I’m sure at some point we’ll get to speaking to Jake.”
According to reports, discussions have taken place, but no deal has been consummated. Even with deGrom’s arbitration case pending, no extension was consummated. However, it should be noted the two sides agreed to a record setting arbitration raise and $17 million salary for deGrom.
It’s been six months since deGrom’s extension demand and three months since Van Wagenen was hired, and it appears “inertia” has set in. As predicted by Van Wagenen things may be getting complicated.
As Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported, “Eight weeks later and without any substantive talks since has left the deGrom camp, at minimum, disappointed, especially because the public comments of Mets executives matched what the agents were told privately — that reaching an agreement to avoid deGrom becoming a free agent after the 2020 season was vital to the organization.”
Perhaps this is a coincidence, but it should be noted this was reported a day after The Michael Kay Show and Mike Francesca were lockstep against the extension with Francesca going so far as to say, “It would be the dumbest move in the history of mankind.”
While people may or may not think it is a good idea for the Mets to extend deGrom, this is the exact moment deGrom should be seeking an extension, and he should be utilizing the leverage he has to get it.
As noted in the aforementioned Sherman article, deGrom’s new agent, Jeff Barry, sent a memo to players urging them to respond in kind to the way owners have been handling free agency. If owners are going to use analytics to justify not saying players, players should use them to protect themselves. As noted by Sherman, this would mean someone like deGrom demanding he be used under 200 innings in order to keep him healthy heading into free agency.
Certainly, you could understand deGrom wanting to pursue that path after seeing what happened with Matt Harvey. Harvey was supposed to be a prime member of this free agent class. Instead, his career has fallen apart partially because of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. There are some who wonder what part in Harvey’s health issues his ignoring his agent’s advice and pitching deep into the postseason had on his career.
Taking all this into account, deGrom needs to use all of his leverage to get that deal now.
And deGrom has a lot of leverage. The Mets just lost the face of their franchise with David Wright medically retiring leaving deGrom as the likely heir to that title. The team has spent the offseason going all-in to try to win the World Series this year. It’s a plan which is partially predicated on deGrom being the ace. It’s a plan which begins to fall apart when deGrom has to be replaced in the rotation by one of the Mets other starting pitching options:
|Kyle Dowdy (AA & AAA)||5.15|
|Hector Santiago (as a SP)||6.12|
That’s a massive drop-off, and it is one deGrom may be pressured into exploiting to get his contract. While Barry’s suggestion to the players to set parameters could help, it may not be sufficient. After all, if the Mets fall apart again in May again, any request to hold back deGrom’s innings is not going to have the same force and effect as it would with a competitive team. Even worse, if deGrom gets hurt his leverage goes completely away, and the Mets are left questioning if they should even give deGrom an extension.
Really, anytime deGrom takes the mound in 2019 he is taking a chance. With his having had Tommy John surgery and an ulnar nerve transposition, he knows that as well as anyone. He should realize that all the more after he went on the disabled list after hyper-extending his elbow during an at-bat. Breaking it down, he knows that because he’s a Mets player.
Examining his leverage and what’s at stake, deGrom needs to seriously consider holding out.
To get the deal he wants, deGrom needs to consider telling the Mets he will not take the mound without an extension. If he and his agents truly feel the Mets are not prioritizing him and are dragging their feet on an extension, he needs to stop pitching. Let the Mets get a taste of their lacking starting pitching depth and realize if they are going to win they need deGrom.
Such a maneuver may not be well received, but with the beginnings of a media campaign against it, why should deGrom care? You may believe he may not be the type of player who would consider this, and that’s fine. It’s part of the reason why people love him. However, you do have to question when enough is going to be enough for him.
They hire his agent, and then the team goes ahead and puts him on the back burner. The man who was in charge of his contract is now giving money that could have been given to him to other players. Pitchers and catchers report in a week, and he still has no deal. When you look at the 2020 payroll, the Mets already have $109 million on the payroll before taking arbitration raises and a Zack Wheeler replacement into account. If deGrom waits, the team may not have money, and he is going to find himself in the position Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and others find themselves – extremely talented with few suitors driving down his price tag.
For his own sake, deGrom needs to let the Mets know he is going to hold out if they are not serious about giving him a contract extension. Hopefully, it never comes to this.
Last night, the New England Patriots won the sixth Super Bowl in team history. If you look at how the Mets have performed in the other five years the Patriots won the Super Bowl, you may not believe this to be a good thing:
Super Bowl XXXVI
After a disappointing season on the heels of a National League pennant, Steve Phillips decided it was time to make some drastic changes with the Mets. The team would clear out Robin Ventura and Todd Zeile to make way for Mo Vaughn and Roberto Alomar. The team would also reunite with Roger Cedeno and Jeromy Burnitz. A disappointing rotation was “buttressed” with pitchers like Pedro Astacio, Jeff D’Amico, and Shawn Estes.
What would result was an unmitigated disaster as none of the imported players would perform close to their historical levels of production. In fact, only Estes would be playing baseball the next time the Mets made the postseason. Perhaps the biggest indignity to their also-ran season was Estes inability to exact revenge against Roger Clemens.
Super Bowl XXXVIII
This year was probably rock bottom for that era in Mets history. The team proved ill advised at trying to make Mike Piazza a part-time first baseman. Kazuo Matsui looked like a bust leading you to wonder why the Mets not only contemplated signing him, but also shifting Jose Reyes to second base to accommodate him. You also wondered if Reyes was going to prove out to be an injury prone player. Braden Looper should never have been contemplated as the closer.
As bad as that was, the team made a series of trade blunders. First and foremost, for some reason with the Mets being five games under .500 and seven out in the division, they talked themselves into contender status leading to the infamous Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano trade.
As bad as that was, we would also see the Mets first obtain Jose Bautista only to trade him away for Kris Benson. Again, this was done in the vein of the Mets are contenders despite being so many games out of contention.
Jim Duquette would shoulder the blame for the moves, which probably were not all his idea, and he would be reassigned in September. Without Duquette at the helm, the Mets would completely bungle firing Art Howe leaving him to manage the end of the season knowing he was doing it with the axe swiftly coming down on his head.
Super Bowl XXXIX
With Omar Minaya and Willie Randolph at the helm, this was a new look Mets team. Still, things weren’t quite there. Doug Mientkiewicz proved to be a bit of a disaster. The team leaned on Miguel Cairo too much. At the time, Carlos Beltran seemed to be channeling Bobby Bonilla with a year where he regressed in nearly every aspect of his game. As bad as that was, he had the horrific collision with Mike Cameron in right-center field in San Diego:
The biggest bright spot of that season was Pedro Martinez, who was vintage Pedro all year long. He flirted with no-hitters, and he led the league in WHIP. He was a throwback to a time when the Mets dominated with their pitching. He would also battle some injuries leading to Randolph smartly shutting him down for the rest of the year.
Except he wasn’t. As Pedro would detail in his eponymous book “Pedro,” Jeff Wilpon forced him to pitch while he was hurt. This would exacerbate his existing injuries and would lead to other injuries. Instead of having Pedro in the 2006 postseason, he was watching with the rest of us.
Super Bowl XLIX
Mets: Lost World Series 4-1
Even when things are going right, they fell completely apart. Alex Gordon jumped on a Jeurys Familia quick pitch. Daniel Murphy booted a grounder. Lucas Duda couldn’t make a throw home. Terry Collins did about as poor a job managing a World Series as you possibly could do. What was once fun ended in bitter fashion.
Super Bowl XLIX
The 2016 Mets made a late furious push to claim a Wild Card spot despite being without Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler in the rotation. The thought was if these pitchers could be healthy in 2017, then the Mets could return to the postseason for a third consecutive year, and maybe, just maybe, the Mets could win the World Series.
Instead, Harvey would have off-the-field issues leading to a suspension. Back then, we thought those issues were affecting his performance. In actuality, it was Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Joining Harvey on the shelf was Noah Syndergaard, who went down with at a torn lat. Matz had ulnar nerve issues costing him most of the season. With Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman unable to reclaim their 2016 magic, the season was history.
Still, during that season there was a glimmer of hope in the form of Michael Conforto. The then 24 year old was playing at a superstar level. He was named a first time All Star, and he was proving himself to be a leader for a Mets team which still had the talent to be contenders in 2018. Instead on August 24, he would swing and miss on a pitch and collapse to the ground with a severe shoulder injury.
As if that all wasn’t enough, this would be the first time since 2003, David Wright would not appear in at least one game for the New York Mets.
Super Bowl LIII
This past offseason, Brodie Van Wagenen has set out to put his stamp on the Mets. He has rebuilt the bullpen with Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, and Justin Wilson. He has reshaped the lineup with Robinson Cano, Jed Lowrie, and Wilson Ramos. There are still some holes on the roster, but generally speaking, this is a stronger club than the Mets have had over the past two seasons.
The additions have come at a cost. The Mets traded away arguably their two best prospects in Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn. The team has also parted with well regarded prospects Ross Adolph, Luis Santana, and Scott Manea for J.D. Davis. There was also a further burying of former first round picks Dominic Smith and Gavin Cecchini on the depth charts.
Sure, there is no real correlation between the Patriots winning a Super Bowl and the Mets performance during the ensuing season. To suggest that is foolish. And yet, there is an unsettling pattern where a Patriots Super Bowl begets a disappointing Mets season.
Really, when you break it down, the real analysis to be made here is the disparity between the Patriots and the Mets. Whereas the Patriots are regarded as one of the best run organizations in all of professional sports with a terrific owner, the Mets are regarded as one of the worst run organizations with meddlesome owners. If the Mets are to break this “streak,” it is going to be because the Mets are a much better run organization who has the full resources and backing it needs from ownership.
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.