Eight Players The Mets Should Protect
With the NHL having their expansion draft tonight, each of the pre-existing 31 teams will sit and wait to see which one of their players will be selected to became an inaugural member of the Vegas Golden Knights. With the Golden Knights being required to select one player from each NHL team, each franchise is going to see a player depart their franchise.
Occasionally, there have been discussions MLB will expand. Whenever that happens, each MLB team will have to go through the same exercise each NHL team just did. If that were to happen, it would be interesting to see exactly who each MLB team would protect.
In terms of the NHL draft, teams can protect somewhere between eight to 11 skaters and one goaltender depending on who the team decides to protect. Given an NHL has a maximum roster size of 23 players, the 8 – 11 paradigm is a good framework for a potential MLB expansion draft.
Assuming MLB lands upon eight players, it would be interesting to see who the Mets decided to protect. Now, where the Mets are lucky is players with less than two service years are automatically protected. As such, Amed Rosario, Dominic Smith, Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman, and any other young player you would consider protecting are already protected. With that in mind, here are the eight players the Mets should protect should such a draft take place:
1. RHP Noah Syndergaard
Arbitration Eligible: 2018
Free Agent: 2022
Last year, Syndergaard emerged as the ace of the Mets staff with a repertoire that has never been seen by a Major League Starting pitcher. He has a fastball that tops off at 100 MPH and a slider that he can throw in the mid 90s. He also has a swagger on the mound, and he gets up for the biggest games. Again, like Cespedes, this is a no-brainer even with his lat injury this year.
2. LF Michael Conforto
Arbitration Eligible: 2019
Free Agent: 2022
Conforto has been around for only three years, but it has been a whirlwind. In 2015, he was a budding superstar. In 2016, he had a wrist injury, struggled, and was demoted to Triple-A multiple times. In 2017, he has emerged as an All Star. Even with a rough June, there’s reason to believe in Conforto being a budding superstar, including but not limited to his ability to hit left-handed pitching. Conforto is a foundation piece and should be the Mets right fielder for decades.
3. LF Yoenis Cespedes
Remaining Contract: 3 years $87.5 million
Given the fact players with no trade clauses must be protected in an expansion draft, the Mets would be required to protect Cespedes. Even if that wasn’t the case, the Mets need to protect Cespedes. He’s been a superstar with the Mets hitting .286/.354/.565 with 56 homers and 146 RBI since joining the team. More than that, he puts fans in the seats. You have to protect him at all costs.
4. RHP Jacob deGrom
Free Agent: 2021
After an injury riddled year, and some ups and downs this year, deGrom has rediscovered himself, and he’s back to pitching like an ace. That is evident with his being the National League Pitcher of the Week last week. We also saw what deGrom was made of during the 2015 NLCS when he outpitched both Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. There are only a handful of the pitchers on the planet that can do that, and when you have one of them, you don’t let them go.
5. LHP Steven Matz
Arbitration Eligible: 2019
Free Agent: 2022
When Matz is healthy, he has the potential to be an ace. Before his bone spur issues arose in late June last year, Matz was 11-3 with a 2.58 ERA, 1.167 WHIP, and an 8.9 K/9. In his return from season ending surgery, he has pitched well lasting seven innings in both of his starts. Overall, when he’s healthy, he’s terrific, and he’s not someone you part with so easily.
6. RHP Jeurys Familia
Free Agent: 2019
When you consider the Mets bullpen is in shambles, and they are going to have to rebuild it in totality, the Mets need to keep Familia at all costs. It is also important to keep in mind that despite his injury this year, Familia has been an absolute work horse for the Mets with his making the most appearances out of the bullpen and pitching the most innings from 2014 – 2016. If the medical reports are promising, there is every reason to believe Familia can return to being that pitcher again.
7. C Travis d’Arnaud
Free Agent: 2020
There is every reason to leave him unprotected. He has regressed in most aspects of his game, and he had yet another stint on the Disabled List this year. Still, d’Arnaud is a good pitch framer, who still has offensive upside. Before injuring his wrist, d’Arnaud was hitting .270/.357/.541. While his stats have dropped precipitously, his .223 BABIP suggests d’Arnaud is due. More than that, there’s really no better options available. The catching across Major League Baseball is on a downturn, and you need someone to bridge the gap until Tomas Nido is ready.
8. 3B David Wright
Remaining Contract: 3 years $47 million
As noted above with Cespedes, the Mets would have to protect Wright due to his no trade clause. Even without it, there is a case for keeping Wright. Wright is the team captain, and he is the guy you want leaving an impression on Rosario and Smith when they get to the majors. His contract is insured, so if he can’t play, you can reallocate the money. More to the point, could you possibly imagine Wright in another uniform? Me neither. Is this all a stretch? Sure, but fact is Wright will remain with the Mets until he finally decides it’s over.
As with any decision like this, there were hard choices. Matt Harvey has been a cornerstone of the Mets rebuild, but his injuries and impending free agency, you’d be forced to expose him. Zack Wheeler has had a strong return from the Disabled List, but even before he was injured, he was 18-16 with a 3.50 ERA, 1.339 WHIP, and a 100 ERA+ in 49 career starts. In 2017, he has not appeared to be more than that. That coupled with the rise of Gsellman and Lugo as well as other pitchers in the Mets farm system, you could very well expose Wheeler.
Overall, the hypothetical player that would get taken from the Mets roster would be damaging. That includes Juan Lagares, who is a Gold Glover that showed some promise this year, but still has a terrible contract. That also includes Wilmer Flores who still doesn’t quite have a position.
With all that said, it does speak to the talent Sandy Alderson has brought to this organization that the Mets could lose one of the aforementioned players and still have a team that could compete for a World Series next year.