Hot Stove

Mets Bullpen is Fine

The Mets lost the World Series in large part due to the bullpen blowing three leads in the eighth inning or later. Normally, this would be a point of emphasis in the offseason, but I think there were more pressing issues there:

  1. There were errors that lead to those blown leads; and 
  2. How the bullpen was deployed

If these issues are not addressed, I’m not sure it matters if anyone is added to the bullpen. If they are resolved, the Mets have the makings of a terrific bullpen in 2016. 

First and foremost, the Mets have a terrific closer in Jeurys Familia. He’s the rare closer that can come in and get a team out of a jam. He’s the rare closer that can go for more than three outs. He’s coming off a year in which he recorded 43 saves, 1.000 WHIP, and a 9.9 K/9. Just when we thought he couldn’t get any better, he developed the devastating splitter. 

The issue becomes who will be the other six people in the bullpen. For the other six people you want a 7th inning guy, an 8th inning guy, a long man, and at least one lefty. That leaves you with two guys to either be an extra lefty, an extra long man, or preferably, just a good reliever. 

8th Inning

Now, at the end of the year, everyone was clamoring for Addison Reed to replace Tyler Clippard in the 8th inning. It appears everyone will get their wish as the Mets look like they’ll keep Reed and let Clippard walk. As a Met, Reed had a 1.17 ERA with a 1.043 WHIP, and a 10.0 K/9. That’s elite, but it may also be unsustainable. 

Reed has a career 4.01 ERA, 1.261 WHIP, and a 9.3 K/9. There could be many reasons for the improvement with the Mets. For starters, Reed improves as the year progresses. In April and May, his career ERA is over 4.00, but from August on it’s under 1.35. Ultimately, it’s great to have a reliever who gets better as the year goes on. 

Furthermore, it’s nice having someone with closing experience so the Mets don’t have to overextend Familia during the regular season. 

7th Inning

For me, this is obvious. The Mets need to go with Hansel Robles here. He’s a guy who has the ability to get lefties and righties out, and he can go for more than three outs. 

In 2015, he had a 3.67 ERA with a 1.019 WHIP and a 10.2 K/9. Those numbers don’t tell the whole story. Once a rookie has pitched for a while, there is tape on him. Typically, this results in some struggles for the rookie until he adjusts. However, Robles got better as the year progressed. Here are his first and second half splits:

  • First Half: 4.37 ERA with a 1.191 WHIP and a 7.9 K/9
  • Second Half: 3.16 ERA with a 0.891 WHIP and a 12.1 K/9

Like Reed, he got stronger as the year progressed. His was criminally under utilized in a World Series that saw the Mets blow three late inning leads only to lose in extra innings. The Mets shouldn’t make the same mistake in 2016. It’s time to use Robles. 

Long Man

Next to Familia closing, Sean Gilmartin being the long man is the biggest lock in the bullpen. He had a 2.67 ERA with a 1.186 WHIP and a 8.5 K/9.  He took a strangle hold on this job, and there’s no reason to take it away from him. 


Going into the playoffs, this was the Mets biggest question mark. Fortunately, Jon Niese took over the role quite successfully. However, he will not be an option to re-join the bullpen until Zack Wheeler comes back from Tommy John surgery, which will not be until around the All Star break

Speaking of injuries, that was the reason the Mets didn’t have a LOOGY. At different times, they had Jerry BlevinsJosh EdginDario Alvarez, and Jack Leathersich go down with injuries. Blevins is free agent, but he’s a candidate to return. Alvarez should be healthy for Opening Day.  The Mets also have intriguing prospect Josh Smoker

There are plenty of viable options here. The Mets should be able to carry one or two LOOGYs from this group. 

Remaining Options

After taking the above into account, there will be one or two remaining spots remaining. There are a number of viable candidates:

Erik Goeddel. He is injury prone, but he has good numbers. He had a 2.43 ERA with a 1.000 WHIP and a 9.2 K/9. Those are good mumbers. Numbers that were good enough to land him on the NLDS roster. He should be part of the 2016 bullpen. 
Carlos Torres. There are many things you can say about Torres, but the most important one is he’s always available to take the ball. He has a career 4.26 ERA with a 1.357 WHIP and a 7.9 K/9. However, there is value in having someone that can take the ball. 
Logan Verrett. He was all over the place last year. He was a starter and a reliever. He kept bouncing back and forth. It didn’t hurt his performance. He had a 3.03 ERA with a 0.879 WHIP and an 8.4 K/9. He should be in the mix. 
Jenrry Mejia.  He’s one more positive test away from his career being over. He won’t be available until around the All Star Break. He’s likely to be released, which is odd since the Mets haven’t had problems with steroids guys under the Sandy Alderson regime. If he isn’t released, he could help this team in the bullpen. Personally, I’d rather him gone. 

Rafael Montero. There was a time the organization believed he was better than Jacob deGrom. When that proved to be false, he was placed in the bullpen to start 2015. The Mets did stretch him out to make go to a six man rotation. He got hurt, and he disappeared. Given the Mets rotation, if he’s going to help the Mets, it’s going to have to be in the bullpen. 
Looking over all these options, there is no reason to go outside the organization for bullpen help. Except for Reed, these relievers are cheap, young, and talented. We don’t know the Mets financial situation, but we do know that even if there is no money to spend, the bullpen will be in great shape. 

The best part is even if it isn’t, there’s many quality choices in reserve, and that’s just from the players we know. 

Who Will Be the 2016 Centerfielder?

There’s no nice way to put it. Juan Lagares did not have a good 2015. He took a step back offensively and defensively. He basically forced the Mets to go out and get Yoenis Cespedes and play him out of position

The Mets made it work in July and August. However, when you play with fire you eventually get burned, and the Mets got burned in the World Series. It showed the need to have an actual centerfielder in centerfield. On the flip side, Lagares started to play much better in the postseason, even if he wasn’t all the way back defensively. 

The Mets now have two options. They can go with Lagares or they can go out and sign someone. The argument for Lagares is:

  1. He was injured and may be better with an offseason to heal;
  2. Even in a down year, he was an above average defensive centerfielder; and
  3. He will have more time to work with Kevin Long to get better at the plate. 

The argument against Lagares was he regressed in every way possible. He had real platoon splits, and if you can’t hit righties, you can’t play everyday in the majors. Also, this is a championship contending team. You need to be ready to compete day one, especially when you’ve lost your two biggest trade chips on rental players. 

The cheapest option, and possibly the best, is to carry Kirk Nieuwenhuis as your 4th outfielder. After an abysmal 2015, he will be cheap. He’s also an every other year player:

  • 2012 – .252/.315/.376
  • 2013 – .189/.278/.337
  • 2014 – .259/.346/.482
  • 2015 – .195/.270/.375

Sometimes things don’t make sense.  That goes doubly for every other year players, but it seems to be a thing. If it continues, Nieuwenhuis is primed to be better in 2016, which would be good news. 

For all his faults, Nieuwenhuis is a useful player. He can play all three OF positions. He’s got some pop in his bat and some speed. Looking over his UZR, he grades out as average at all three positions (making him a much better CF than Cespedes). That’s important because very few big league teams carry a legitimate CF on the bench.

It’s important because if Lagares can’t hit righties again, the Mets need to figure something out quickly. We saw the platoon work in 2015, and it should in 2016:

  • Lagares vs. Lefties – .279/.325/.427
  • Nieuwenhuis vs. Righties – .245/.314/.423

The numbers aren’t tremendous, but keep in mind this comes with good to great defense. It also comes with a presumably improving Lagares and the good year Nieuwenhuis. Also, this is going to presumably come from the 7th or 8th spot in the lineup. 

If the Mets don’t like these numbers, they have a baseline for external options. Right now, here are the free agent centerfielders:

  1. Rajai Davis career .269/.316/.387 hitter with a 3.4 UZR last year
  2. Dexter Fowler career .267/.363/.418 hitter with a -1.7 UZR last year 
  3. Austin Jackson career .272/.333/.399 with a 7.5 UZR last year
  4. Justin Maxwell career .220/.303/.399 with a -1.6 UZR last year
  5. Colby Rasmus career .245/.313/.443 hitter with a 2.1 UZR last year
  6. Shane Robinson career .237/.302/.313 hitter with a 0.9 UZR last year
  7. Denard Span career .287/.352/.395 with a -4.9 UZR last year
  8. Drew Stubbs career .244/.313/.395 with a -0.2 UZR last year

Looking over the list, the only players that could be an improvement are Fowler, Jackson, or Span. I’ll address them in reverse order. 

Span is the best offensive player of the group and could leadoff. He is projected to receive a three year $36 million offer. It’s 50/50 if he’ll receive a qualifying offer. However, in a large outfield, it is not wise to go with a centerfielder with poor range.  He’s a definite no if he gets a qualifying offer. You do not want the Nationals getting your first round pick. 

Jackson is the best defensive player. He is projected to receive a three year $30 million contract, but he probably won’t receive a qualifying offer.  However, isn’t he essentially an older, more expensive Lagares?  I’m not sure this is the way to go. 

That leaves Fowler. The benefit of Fowler is he’s a switch hitting leadoff hitter. He’s in the middle of his prime. He just played well for a playoff team, even if he did not have a good postseason. He will receive a qualifying offer, and he’s projected to get a 4 year $56 million contract. 

There’s no doubt in my mind Fowler would improve this team. Realistically, the Mets should be able to get him and re-sign Daniel Murphy, who is projected to receive 4 year $48 million contract. To put it in perspective, Fowler and Murphy are worth a combined $26 million a year or just $4 million more than what Cespedes is slated to receive. If the Mets have money, this is the way to go. 

However, my Fowler/Murphy choice presumes they can sign them and give arbitration raises to everyone. If Fowler or Murphy prevents you from signing one pitcher, you go with Lagares. I’d be comfortable going that way. 

Ultimately, centerfield is one of the positions the Mets can improve easily in 2016. If the Mets can’t bring in Fowler, they’ll need it to come from Lagares. 

There’s No Room for Cespedes

A large part of what happened in the second half of the season was the Mets obtaining Yoenis Cespedes. I’m not in the camp that the Mets wouldn’t have won the division without him. However, I do believe it prevented a dog fight for the division. 

While it was a wild ride, it came at a cost. A huge cost. I remember being vilified for suggesting the Mets would not sign him. Now, it seems like after an awful World Series, fans are on board with the sentiment. There seems to be a multitude of reasons why people do or do not want Cespedes to come back to the Mets. For what it’s worth, it appears he will not return

I know its academic, but it’s the right decision. There’s no room for him on the roster. Michael Conforto will be the everyday leftfielder.  Curtis Granderson has two more years on his contract to be the rightfielder. The Mets are set at the corner outfield positions. As for centerfield, Cespedes isn’t a centerfielder. I know he played there for the Mets, but it wasn’t a great decision. It was a decision to increase offense. 

Looking over his career, Cespedes has poor range in centerfield. His UZR in centerfield this year was a -3.2, which equates to being a below average centerfielder. It just wasn’t those lazy World Series plays, it was the entire second half. By the way, this was the worst he’s been in three years in centerfield. His prior UZRs were -1.3 and -1.7. It’s the reason three teams didn’t see him as a centerfielder. People didn’t notice it as much because he was impossibly hot at the plate. 

Look at it this way, everyone jumped all over Juan Lagares for having a down year defensively. His UZR was 3.5, which equates to him being an above average centerfielder. So to get this straight, Lagares was bad, and Cespedes was good?  No, Cespedes hit, and Lagares didn’t. 

I do think Cespedes will continue to hit for power. In his four year career, his 162 game average is .271/.319/.486 with 30 homers and 106 RBI. Whether or not he’s a poor on base percentage player, he will continue to mash. That still doesn’t make him a CF. It makes him a terrific left fielder. The Mets have one of those. 

So we should all thank Cespedes for what he’s done for this team because he won’t be back. It was a wild ride, and I wish him the best at his next stop. 

Stop the 2016 Predictions

Did you know the Mets are 10-1 to win the 2016 World Series?  Did you know people are speculating that the Mets could do what the Royals just did?  Really?

It’s too early to start this nonsense. People playing this game is the reason casinos and bookies made so much money. If the 2015 Mets return, I can see you taking the bet. If the 2016 Mets are a better team than the 2015 Mets on paper, I can see you taking the bet. However, it’s way too early to determine what will happen next year. 

We have no idea what the Mets are going to do. We don’t know if the Mets have money to spend. The Mets got rid of their two best trade chips. Would it shock anyone to see the Opening Day double play combination be Wilmer Flores and Ruben Tejada?  Would that combination give you confidence that the Mets can return to the playoffs let alone the World Series?  Me neither. 

With the pitching staff, it’s easy to get excited. However, it wasn’t enough in June and July. I need to see more before I get excited for 2016. I’m curious to see what will happen. 

Mets Biggest Upgrade Will Be LF

Goumg into last year, the Mets thought they had sufficiently addressed the offense by signing Michael Cuddyer to play LF and John Mayberry, Jr. to bat against lefties and pinch hit. 

Well Mayberry was so bad he was released, and Cuddyer had a disappointing season even before the knee injury. Cuddyer hit .259/.309/.391 this year. He looked old and slow during the postseason. He will enter the 2016 as a $12.5 million bench player. Just keep that in mind as you watch the Mets moves this offseason. 

The reason Cuddyer will be a bench player is Michael Conforto. Due to Cuddyer’s knee injury and a historicall inept offense, Conforto was called up to the majors from AA in late July. He would play in 56 games hitting .270/.335/.506 with 14 doubles, 9 homers, and 26 RBIs. Also, he was much better than advertised defensively:

In the limited time Conforto was with the Mets, his UZR was 7.5, which means he is an above average to great defensive left fielder. As he learns the position, he could one day compete for a Gold Glove. With an accurate arm like his, he may very well replace Curtis Granderson in a few years. 

At the plate, we saw the promise he has, and how he’s delivering on that promise. This upcoming year, the Mets will make him an everyday player and not just a platoon player. He’s shown he can handle lefties and righties in the minors. We saw him do it in the World Series:

All postseason he took good at bats even if the results weren’t there. He did have three homeruns. One was in his first postseason at bat against Zack Greinke of all people. 

Conforto has what it takes to be just not just a great hitter but a great overall player. If you had Conforto for the whole year, his numbers would’ve averaged out to .270/.335/.506 with 41 doubles, 26 homers, and 75 RBI. Those are All Star numbers. If Conforto improves just a little next year, he will be a star in this league. He will be the best player on the Mets. 

He’s the reason no matter what the Mets do in the offseason, the biggest upgrade they make is in left field. 

Should the Mets Extend Collins?

Today, it appears the Mets will meet with Terry Collins to discuss his future with the team. Collins has a 2016 option, but he wants a two year extension. Should he get it?

This isn’t the time to make an emotional decision. Terry Collins may have cost the Mets the World Series. It wasn’t just a bad week, he was a bad in game manager all year. If the Mets bring him back, he very well could cost the Mets a chance at the playoffs or a playoff series. It’s something that must be considered. 

Another thing that must be considered is Collins’ handling of the team. He was handed a team with that should have imploded. There was great young pitching coupled with a AAA to AAAA lineup. He kept the Mets afloat allowing Sandy Alderson to make moves. The Mets had every reason to fall apart, but they didn’t. Collins had a huge part in that. 

Also, keep in mind Collins comes from a player development background. He was the Mets minor league coordinator before becoming the Mets manager. He’s been a part of the development of the Mets young pitchers and hitters. He oversaw Daniel Murphy becoming a second baseman. He oversaw Lucas Duda become a power hitting first baseman. 

He’s working with Wilmer Flores to become a SS. Brandon Nimmo and Dilson Herrera are on the horizon. We’ve seen teams win World Series with bad managers. However, we’ve also seen teams with poor managers waste talent. It’s why players like Jose Bautista become a star elsewhere. I don’t want that with the Mets players. 

I also keep in mind that if you don’t want Collins, you have to figure out with whom you’re replacing him. The Nationals just passed on Bud Black, who is noted to be a good clubhouse, poor in game management type of manager. The Mets already have that, so why replace him. You could keep some continuity with Bob Geren, but he’s been noted to burn out young arms. Not the ideal choice. 

This is also the time you’ll hear Mets fans clamoring for Wally Backman. This isn’t the time. This is a team that’s a championship contender. You don’t throw a wild card into that mix. Second, he’s been a part of the player development process. He’s sending players up to the big leagues major league ready. Why mess with that?

Ultimately, the Mets should give Collins his extension. He’s earned it. Even if you’re a detractor (which I understand), there’s not a better option out there . . . at least not a proven one. Collins should manage the 2016 Mets. 

Re-sign Murphy?

The Mets have many tough offseason decisions to make. Right now the most pressing decision is Daniel Murphy. The Mets have until Friday to offer Murphy a qualifying offer of a one year $15.8 million offer. 

In my opinion, the Mets need to offer Murphy the qualifying offer. The worst case scenario is Murphy accepts the deal. Yes, you could argue he’s not worth $15.8 million. However, it’s a slight one-year overpay considering he was projected to receive a 4 year $52 million contract ($13 million a year). That was before his huge postseason. In any event, it seems the Mets will extend the offer

Based upon the prospective offers Murpy will receiving, he’s likely to reject the qualifying offer. If so, and Murphy signs elsewhere, the Mets get another team’s first round pick (top 10 protected). If and when he rejects it, things will begin to get interesting because the Mets need to make a tough decision. Do you re-sign Murphy?  

If he departs, Murphy will be leaving a sizeable gap behind him. He was the number three hitter on a pennant winner. On a high strikeout team, he is a contact hitter. His power has increased while working with Kevin Long. 

Murphy is also the starting second baseman. Now, second is a position where the Mets may have options. The first option is the 21 year old Dilson Herrera. Reading all the scouting reports, he’s a younger Murphy with potential to be more. Herrera has hit at every level. He has more speed. He is raw defensively and has the tools be be good at second, but right now he isn’t. 

Now, Herrera struggled during his call-up this year. He hit .211/.311/.367. It doesn’t mean he won’t eventually hit at the big league level. It may just mean it was a short sample size or he’s not ready. In the event he’s not ready, the Mets could elect to shift Wilmer Flores from SS to 2B. 

For his career, Murphy has hit .288/.331/.424. His UZR at second was -1.3, which was by far his best year. In the two years prior, he was around a -5.0 player, which means he’s a below average defensive player, which is a shock to no one. 

This past year, his first full season in the majors, Flores hit .265/.302/.425. Overall, Flores is not the hitter Murphy is, even if he shows some promise. His UZR in his limited time at second was 1.7, which means he’s average defensively, better than Murphy, but still average. It also leaves a gap at SS. Flores improved as the year progressed. Additionally, we still don’t know how well Ruben Tejada is going to bounce back.

Despite possibly being the best second base option, the Mets may benefit from his versatility. Murphy can play first and third. With David Wright‘s back, he’s limited. He can’t play more than four games in a row. Also, Lucas Duda is prone to some dry spells. Murphy could offset the gaps created by Wright’s back and Duda’s dry spells. 

On the flip side, fellow Mets free agent Kelly Johnson does the same thing. He has the added benefit of playing the corner OF positions. He’s also a left handed bat like Murphy. He’s a .251/.331/.424 hitter, which again is worse than Murphy. However, Johnson is seen as a bench bat that won’t cost much money. 

That’s the thing. Johnson is a bench player that won’t cost much money. The Mets should bring him back, but it shouldn’t have any impact upon their Murphy decision. 

The main reason I keep thinking that Murphy needs to come back is the fact that the Mets just lost the World Series. They were so close. We know the pitching will be there, and it will be even better. However, the Mets have to keep a competitive offensive team on the field. 

We don’t know what the Mets are going to get from Wright over 162 games.  Many assume Yoenis Cespedes is all but gone. The Mets will be losing their third and fourth place hitters. Why should anyone expect this team to be any better next year?  

There’s not really any upgrades over Murphy on the market. If you won’t spend on Murphy, why are we to believe they’ll sign someone like Ben Zobrist. Yes, Zobrist is the better player now, but he’s going to get a similar contract. Also, he’s five years older than Murphy. Murphy is in his prime. Zobrist is close to retirement. 

If someone steps up and offers Murphy a stupid amount of money, you have to let him walk. He’s a nice, not great, player. I’m qualifying a stupid amount as a contract around four years $70 million. Eventually, you’re going to have to pay these pitchers, and Murphy can’t stand in the way of that. 

However, if the market is reasonable, Murphy has to return. Hopefully, the qualifying offer will keep it reasonable. I say hope because the market rarely is. I mean, did you see the contract some team gave Michael Cuddyer last year?  That’s the thing. All it takes is one team to do something irrational to turn Murphy into an ex-Met.

I’m hoping it doesn’t happen. Im hoping the Mets have the money. If they don’t, maybe they can offset some of the cost by getting a Chapstick sponsorship deal? 

All jokes aside, the Mets need to re-sign Murphy.