Jonathan Villar is doing a fine job as a stopgap at third base for the New York Mets. He has made the flashy defensive plays, and he has had a number of key hits. However, when you boil it down, Villar is still below average at the plate an in the field. As such, the Mets need to look elsewhere for an everyday third baseman.
That was supposed to be J.D. Davis. While Davis has his own issues at the plate and in the field, the biggest issue with him right now is health. He landed on the IL with a hand injury, and his rehab stint was paused due to a neck issue. Davis has undergone another MRI, and they have found joint inflammation in his left hand.
At the moment, the Mets seem to be optimistic Davis can return to the field again for another rehab stint. That said, they were previously optimistic about him as well as Noah Syndergaard, Carlos Carrasco, etc. Put another way, don’t read too much into their optimism. Even if Davis were to be ready to return, at that point, we would again need to revisit the issue of his being incapable of being an everyday third baseman.
All told between Villar’s play and the injuries to Davis and Luis Guillorme, the Mets don’t have a plan for third base. Considering that is the case, the Mets need to start making that plan. While you can be assured they’re investigating options like Kris Bryant and Kyle Seager, they need to plan for the event neither are available.
Enter Mark Vientos.
Vientos was the Mets 2017 second round pick. At the time, Vientos was seen as the best prep bat in the draft, and he has justified that reputation with his play since being drafted. As noted by MLB Pipeline, Vientos’ “power remains the standout tool and is evident in the right-handed slugger’s impressive exit velocities.”
Looking at Vientos at the plate, there are a few key points. First and foremost, he is always punching above his weight. Case-in-point, he is in Double-A where the 21 year old is 3.1 years younger than league average. Another important consideration is Vientos typically struggles initially at each new level, but he eventually learns and makes adjustments to have strong finishes to the season.
In some ways, this is reminiscent of Dominic Smith. When Smith was a minor leaguer, he would typically struggle in the beginning of the year or a call-up. He’d put in the work, make adjustment, and he would end the year with good numbers. Smith and Vientos should be a reminder prospect development is as much about learning and adapting as it is about having success.
We are seeing some of this with Vientos right now. He had a poor start to the season for Binghamton going 5-for-38 to start the season. However, as he always does, Vientos is adapting and hitting much butter. We are seeing Vientos having a quicker turnaround than usual.
Over his past three games, Vientos is 5-for-11 at the plate with a homer and three RBI. Stretching it out a bit, Vientos is hitting .324/.350/.514 over his last 10 games with four doubles, a homer, and eight RBI. He is not just getting hits over this stretch, but he is also getting big hits:
Mets third base prospect Mark Vientos had a big day on Thursday.
Went 2-for-4 with a home run in Game 1.
Went 2-for-4 with a walk-off RBI single in Game 2.
— Michael Mayer (@mikemayer22) May 28, 2021
As noted by Fangraphs, he is really making the adjustments to be a real power hitter. Notably, Vientos has ” a wider stance and toned-down leg kick.” Even with the change, Vientos is still posting big time exit velocities, and he continues to exhibit the ability to drive the ball to all fields. Long story short, he continues to show he has the potential to be a real threat as a Major League hitter.
Even with the progress, it is too much to ask Vientos to pull off what Michael Conforto and Miguel Cabrera once did. In all honesty, while Vientos has been making strides, he is still a bit too raw as a hitter and player to make the Double-A to majors jump. Even with the Mets injuries, so long as Villar is faking it well, there’s no need to make that push.
There’s also the matter of his defense. Between his struggles at third coupled with his frame and the long term prospects of Brett Baty, the Mets have at least begun taking a look at Vientos at first. Of course, when you have Pete Alonso and Smith, you do realize there is no path for Vientos to the majors as the Mets future first baseman.
However, for right now, the question is what to do with third base for the Mets in 2021. The longer Vientos stays in Double-A, the more he is taken out of the equation. With his recent success at the plate, now would be as good a time as ever to look to promote him to Triple-A. With all the recent promotions, there really isn’t anyone in Syracuse blocking a Vientos call-up there.
In Syracuse, Vientos can continue working on his swing, and he could work with Luis Rivera to improve defensively. Based on his recent history, Vientos could use the help.
If nothing else, Vientos in Triple-A does push him closer to the majors. In the long run, that is the point. The Mets need to be putting their best prospects in a position where they can be called-up to the majors. They also need to put players like Vientos in a position where they can work on the specific areas of their game they need to address. For Vientos, all of that should mean moving to Triple-A sooner rather than later.
If the Mets do this, they will be helping Vientos in the long run, and they could help position themselves to call up Vientos to be their third baseman should they strike out on the trade market.
Since Brodie Van Wagenen began assembling his team, the overture was this was a team well built for the DH. In 2020, because of a pandemic, the Mets actually did get that DH. After all that hypothesizing about how much it would help the Mets, the end result was a last place finish.
There are many reasons why, and assuredly many would point to the pitching. However, it went much deeper than that. One of the big issues was team defense.
Again, the Mets team defense was atrocious with a -22 DRS. That was good for fifth worst in the majors. Over the past three seasons, the Mets -171 DRS is the worst in the National League and second worst in all of the majors.
This is in large part to an organizational philosophy which pre-dated Van Wagenen. The thought was to acquire as many bats as possible and to find a position for them. The Mets have been all too happy to get players and just stick them somewhere on the diamond.
This has led to J.D. Davis at third and left. Dominic Smith in left field. Brandon Nimmo in center. Michael Conforto playing all three outfield positions. Jeff McNeil playing four different positions. This goes on and on, and in some ways you can trace this tomfoolery all the way back to Lucas Duda playing the outfield.
Perhaps part of this has been the result of Jeff Wilpon running the baseball operations. That said, there has been a prevailing thought process with the Mets to not make the difficult decisions and to hold onto all of their good players. They have found it more prudent to play players out of position resulting in horrible defense, and as a result, the team failing to live up to their sometimes lofty expectations.
Now, taking a look at the Mets current roster, you can say Smith at first base and Pete Alonso at DH is an embarrassment of riches. In Alonso and Smith, the Mets have two cornerstone cost controlled players. As an organization, this is quite an enviable position. When you have those two spots with such high caliber and ceiling players, you don’t want to move on from them. That goes double when you can play them each everyday at first base and DH.
However, that is part of the problem.
While the Mets are set at first and DH, they are a disaster at other important positions. They don’t have a starting catcher, and really, their depth at the position is a question mark. They have no one really capable of playing third base on an everyday basis. They lack anyone in the organization truly capable of playing center everyday. The Mets desperately need at least 2/5 of a starting rotation filled, and they also need to build a bullpen.
Beyond that, the Mets have zero depth at Triple-A, and their Double-A depth is questionable. Put another way, the Mets are a mess, and even with Steve Cohen’s deep pockets, not every one of these areas can be addressed in free agency. It just can’t.
No, the Mets need to be put in a difficult position to have to make hard decisions. Frankly, the trade market sets up extraordinarily well for that right now. At the moment, we know Nolan Arenado, Francisco Lindor, and Blake Snell on the trade bloc. There are very likely other high profile players there for the taking as well.
Given how Van Wagenen ravaged the Mets farm system, there really isn’t the prospect capital to make those trades. Sure, you can trade a Brett Baty or a Mark Vientos, but if you do that, you take the paper thin depth you have and tear through it leaving you with next to no hope for the future. No, if the Mets are going to take that next step, they are going to have to take the surplus they have at positions like first, and they are going to have to make hard choices and make shrewd trades for top end talent at areas they have significant deficiencies.
If there is no DH, the Mets would almost be forced to move at least one of Alonso or Smith to get that top end player. However, with the DH, the impetus is not there. In fact, you could argue it irresponsible to not go into next season with both Alonso and Smith if there was a DH. As noted, therein lies the problem.
The Mets aren’t really in a position to trade top end talent for top end talent in a world where there is a DH. But, if they want real baseball in the National League in 2021, the Mets would be in prime position to do it, and teams would likely line up to grab one of Alonso or Smith thereby driving up the return the Mets could receive.
So yes, given the roster construct, you could argue the Mets are better with the DH. However, in terms of building the roster, the DH stagnates growth and creativity. The impetus to make a trade is gone, and with that, you likely lose out on the ability to make the Mets the best possible team they could be in 2021.
And besides all of that, the DH is bad for the Mets because it is bad for baseball. The short-sighted hope for 2021 needs to be counter-balanced against the next 10-100 years. When you look at it that way, pushing for a completely ineffective gimmick is just plain bad for baseball, and as a result, bad for the Mets.
Between the hiring and firing of Carlos Beltran, throwing chairs at Mickey Callaway, and his ducking the media, you really have to wonder if Van Wagenen has the judgment, temperament, or even the ability to be a General Manager.
But then, there are the drafts.
Van Wagenen has been bold and daring. He’s taken full advantage of Sandy Anderson holdovers like Tommy Tanous and Marc Tramuta to both scout and draft real high end talent in the draft.
In 2019, the Mets drafted two first round talents in Brett Baty and Matthew Allan. With respect to Allan, he had dropped in the draft due to signability concerns. Not only did the Mets get Allan in the third round, but they were also able to sign him for a bonus lower than many expected.
This year, the Mets did it again, which is an even more impressive feat. It’s more impressive because this draft was only five rounds giving the Mets a tighter margin of error.
That didn’t matter as not only did the Mets draft Pete Crow-Armstrong in the first round, but they also drafted J.T. Ginn in the second round. Ginn is a first round talent who was actually a Dodgers first round pick two years ago. Ginn wouldn’t sign with the Dodgers, but he did with the Mets. Adding Isaiah Greene to this draft class was a coup.
If Van Wagenen did nothing but manage the draft, he’d arguably be the best General Manager in the game. For that matter, if Van Wagenen did nothing but draft, the Mets would have the top farm system in the game, and they’d be primed for another 1980s like run, only this time with two Wild Cards essentially insuring the Mets would be a perennial postseason team.
That said, give credit where credit is due. Van Wagenen has been bold, daring, and more than able to get the job done when it comes to the draft. If he could somehow harness those skills in other aspects of the job, perhaps he could justify sticking around past the eventual Wilpon sale of the team.
Unless you are the Los Angeles Angels with Mike Trout or maybe the Boston Red Sox with Mookie Betts, no baseball team can definitively say they have a better player on their team than Nolan Arenado. Since 2015, he has been a top eight player in the league in terms of fWAR, and he has been a top six player in terms of DRS.
Arenado has won seven straight Gold Gloves, been an All-Star for five straight seasons, and he has won a Silver Slugger in four of the last five seasons. It should come as no surprise he has been a top five finisher in the MVP voting over that five year stretch.
Arenado has proven himself to be the rare player who has the ability to impact the game in the field and at the plate. He is one of the best in the sport, a future Hall of Famer, and at 28 years old, he is in his prime. When players like this are available, you do everything you can do to acquire them.
That should include the Mets.
If Arenado was on the Mets in 2020, his 5.7 WAR would have been the best on the team. To that end, the Mets have not had a position player have a WAR over 5.0 since Juan Lagares in 2014, and they have not had a position player with a WAR better than Arenado’s 5.7 since David Wright had a 5.9 WAR in 2013.
If you think about it, that’s what Arenado is. Both are Gold Glove caliber and Silver Slugger players who are top 10 players in the sport. The key difference is Arenado is healthy and playing now. When players like Wright come along, and Arenado is that level of player, you do what you can to get him.
When you look at the Mets roster as a whole, the only player they have better than Arenado right now is Jacob deGrom. When you consider deGrom is the best pitcher in baseball right now, and he is signed to a very reasonable contract extension, you cannot trade him for Arenado.
Any other pitcher on the Mets roster, Noah Syndergaard included, can and should be considered in a potential Arenado trade.
As for the rest of the Mets team, you can and should consider trading all of them if the price is right.
Yes, that means you should consider trading players like Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo. It would hurt to lose either player, but you will have one entrenched in one of the corner outfield spots, and you can move Jeff McNeil to LF on a permanent basis to accommodate that loss.
For what it is worth, the Mets should be willing to trade McNeil for Arenado as well. After all, Arenado is a better baseball player than McNeil, and if you’re going to choose between the two as who you want to be your third baseman for the next five years, you are going to chose Arenado.
Finally, yes, you can also consider trading Pete Alonso. If the Mets traded Alonso for Arenado, they still have Dominic Smith and J.D. Davis (who is really only just a first baseman) to play first. At the end of the day, you hate losing Alonso who has proven to be not just a very good player, but also one who has captured the hearts and minds as Mets fans.
That said, Arenado is a better baseball player than Alonso. More to the point, the Mets are a better team with Smith/Davis at first, Arenado at third, and an outfield of McNeil-Nimmo-Conforto than have a team where they either play Jake Marisnick everyday or have a platoon of first basemen in left field.
They’re also a better team with Alonso and Arenado at the corners. To that end, if you can swing a deal without giving up Alonso, or any of their other core players which include Conforto, McNeil, Nimmo, and Syndergaard, you do it. The problem is the Mets don’t necessarily have that farm system after all the damage Brodie Van Wagenen did last offseason.
To that end, if the Rockies want a player the ilk of Francisco Alvarez, Ronny Mauricio, Andres Gimenez, Matthew Allan, Brett Baty, or whomever else the Rockies inquire, the Mets should be willing to listen. Of course, if the Rockies want to go this route, the caliber of Major League player the Mets should be willing to part in such a trade comes down a significant peg from the aforementioned core.
Now, it should be noted Arenado has an opt out after the 2021 season. If you are the Mets, you don’t disrupt your core without getting him to waive that or renegotiate the contract. That is where Steve Cohen and his money should hopefully come into play.
If the Mets can get Arenado to waive his no trade clause and opt in to his contract, short of Jacob deGrom, there is no one the Mets should not discuss in a trade because at the end of the day, the Mets do not have a player as good as the one Nolan Arenado is.
With the Cleveland Indians getting a very modest package in return for Corey Kluber, it is very possible the team hastens trading Francisco Lindor. After all, by trading him sooner rather than later, you are maximizing the return you would receive in a trade. That’s important considering the Indians have already indicating they WILL NOT be re-signing the superstar shortstop.
In an attempt to figure out what the Indians could get for Lindor now, MLB.com worked out six potential trades including a possible trade with the New York Mets. The proposed trade had the Mets sending Amed Rosario, J.D. Davis, David Peterson, and Brett Baty to the Indians to obtain Lindor.
Shockingly, for some reason MLB believed the Mets may walk away with the deal feeling the offer is too much. In reality, it is likely the Indians would want more. Of course, that presumes the Indians do not see Rosario as a star in the making, or that they could see Peterson thriving in their pitching system.
Really, if this is it, the Mets should absolutely at the opportunity.
Lindor, 26, is already the best shortstop in baseball, and he is about to enter his prime seasons. As he enters those seasons, he already has two Gold Gloves (one Platinum Glove), two Silver Sluggers, and five All-Star appearances. His 4.7 bWAR this year was his “worst.”
Since his Major League debut in 2015, his 27.2 fWAR is the seventh best in the majors. Among shortstops, his 119 wRC+ is fifth best among shortstops, and his 55 DRS is third best.
When you break it down, Lindor is a legitimately great player. He’s a superstar, and having him on your team brings your franchise that much closer to being a true World Series contender. When you look at the Indians, when you have a player like Lindor and a loaded pitching staff, you can get to the World Series.
When you break it down, the only thing the Mets need to do what the Indians did in 2016 is to get Lindor. Yes, Lindor would matter that much to this team, and yes, even on a team with Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, Jeff McNeil, and Brandon Nimmo, Lindor would be the team’s best position player.
With all due respect, he’s a significant upgrade over Rosario, even with Rosario scratching the surface in the second half last year. That improvement is in the field and in the lineup. That type of upgrade lengthens the lineup, improves the defense, and it makes everyone better.
That makes having Jake Marisnick in center everyday more palatable. It allows the Mets to sit Wilson Ramos more for a much better framer behind the plate. It allows for a lot including the team overcoming some of their problems to become a real World Series contender like the Indians were.
Sure, we can argue the Mets need a bullpen more, a backup catcher, an everyday center field, or anyone of their significant holes. More than that, the Mets need the talent to take them to the next level. Lindor is that talent, and if you are lucky, the Mets will be in a position to extend him as Cohen grows in his power over the team.
Overall, the Mets need to do what they can do to get Lindor. While is is very possible to overpay for him, in all likelihood, it is quite difficult you could argue there is s way to overpay to obtain him. Even if you do overpay, you are still walking about with a top 1o Major Leaguer who makes your team better in every aspect of the game.
To that end, if the Indians are dangling Lindor, the Mets should do all they can do to obtain him because he is that great, and his acquisition is that important. No one should stand in the way, especially those mentioned in the mock trade. When you boil it all down, Lindor is exactly what the Mets need. Lets’ hope the Mets can find a good package for him.
Edgardo Alfonzo is the greatest second baseman in team history, and he is one of the most beloved Mets players of all-time. To this day, he’s the only Mets second baseman to win a Silver Slugger.
He was a part of the best defensive infield in Major League history. He hit a two run homer in the first inning of the play-in game. Alfonzo hit a grand slam off Bobby Chouinard in Game 1 of the 1999 NLDS.
Alfonzo hit .444/.565/.611 to lead the Mets to their first pennant since 1986. Realistically speaking, either he or Mike Piazza should’ve been the MVP of that series over Mike Hampton. On the topic of Alfonso/Piazza, Alfonzo drew a walk before Piazza’s 9/11 homer.
After retirement, he’d return to the Mets organization to first serve as a coach and then manage the Brooklyn Cyclones.
Alfonzo guided the 2019 Cyclones to their first ever outright New York-Penn League title. On that team was Brett Baty and Matthew Allan. Baty and Allan were not just two of the Mets top three draft picks, but they’re currently two of the Mets top three prospects.
You don’t entrust a manager with those players unless they’re good on the player development side. There’s more evidence Alfonzo developed players well including the positive words Pete Alonso had about him.
Alfonzo is a Mets great. He’s a winner as a player and manager. He was entrusted with the Mets top prospects, and he helped develop him.
Brodie Van Wagenen had no interest in any of that. Despite entrusting Alfonzo with Baty and Allan, Van Wagenen claimed firing Alfonzo was a player development decision to put the prospects “in the best situation.” That forced Alfonzo to respond.
Edgardo Alfonzo isn’t happy about Brodie Van Wagenen saying Alfonzo losing his job as Brooklyn’s manager was “a player development decision.”
Alfonzo writes on Instagram that he has met with Jeff Wilpon & might stay with Mets as an ambassador, but he prefers to work in uniform. pic.twitter.com/LeK8PolrYU
— Tim Healey (@timbhealey) November 7, 2019
Long story short, he wants to leave the Mets. He likes coaching/managing, and he wants to continue.
Nothing Alfonzo did was good enough for Van Wagenen. The winning. The player development. The attendance. None of it. In the end, Alfonzo was always going to be fired because he has the wrong agent as a player.
The Mets just let it happen. The chose Van Wagenen over Alfonzo without so much as an explanation to the fanbase. They chose a GM who severely damaged the short and long term ability to contend over someone who belongs in the Mets Hall of Fame.
In the end, they didn’t want Alfonzo anymore. They wanted Van Wagenen.
According to Baseball America, Major League Baseball is considering eliminating 25 percent of Minor League baseball for a number of reasons including the need to pay players a living wage. Part of that is the elimination of stateside short season minor league baseball.
For the Mets, that means no Kingsport Mets or Brooklyn Cyclones. With respect to the Cyclones, there are kinks which could be worked out allowing the Mets to keep them as an affiliate in some fashion.
But Kingsport, they’d be as good as gone.
Instead, they could be a part of a “Dream League.” That would be a league of now unaffiliated teams who catch undrafted college players. That’s a fairly steep drop in cache for affiliates like Kingsport.
For example, in 2018 Kingsport had significant prospects like Jarred Kelenic, Ronny Mauricio, Simeon Woods Richardson, and Mark Vientos. This year, Francisco Alvarez and Brett Baty played for Kingsport. That’s a reason to not just go to the ballpark but to also follow the team.
Then again, just having a team in Kingsport, TN is reason to follow the team.
The Cincinnati Reds and Atlanta Braves are nearly five hours away. The Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals are over six hours away. Those are the closest options meaning if you want to see a baseball game live your best bet is the Kingsport Mets.
The question is whether Kingsport can continue operations without an affiliation with the Mets and having a roster of players like T.J. Rivera at the point in Rivera’s career where he was a complete nobody with little to no chance of making it to the majors.
Remember, Kingsport needs a new park. While the Mets would help now, that won’t happen if Kingsport is not part of their system two or three years from now.
Where does that leave Kingsport? Well, it likely leaves them on the brink. They need a new ballpark, and with them needing to help pay player salaries in the new “Dream League,” you wonder just how much longer they can continue operations.
If they’re gone, the State of Tennessee has one fewer professional baseball team. The City of Kingsport loses baseball period. That’s a missed opportunity to grow the game in what is mostly football country.
Really, when you look at things, Baseball is the only league without a Major League team in that state. To that end, you’d wonder why baseball would not want to try to find a way to keep fans engaged in that region as much as they possibly can to grow the game.
In the end, this is about punishing players for not being able to afford living off wages below the poverty line. In doing that, Major League Baseball is going to cut its nose off to spite its face.
After discussing it most of the offseason, the Mets are once again in a position where they are talking with teams about Noah Syndergaard. There are smart teams with interesting farm systems interested in the Mets starter. Depending on the packages offered, the Mets could be very tempted to move Syndergaard.
One of the arguments you hear from some circles is you shouldn’t trade him because his value is at a nadir. With Syndergaard having a career worst ERA, ERA+, FIP, HR/9, BB/9, K/9, and K/BB, this is absolutely true. Seeing studies and Syndergaard’s comments, it is possible these results are reflective of the new ball. The Mets having a National League worst defense doesn’t help either.
Reasonably speaking, you could anticipate Syndergaard to rebound and led the Mets back to contention in 2020. If you trade him, it’s difficult to imagine the Mets contending anytime soon.
Looking at 2020 first, it’s hard to imagine the Mets having that one year turnaround. With Syndergaard traded and Zack Wheeler gone either via trade or free agency, the Mets have two spots to fill in the rotation. That becomes three when Jason Vargas‘ option is declined. Even assuming Anthony Kay is ready to begin the year in the rotation, the Mets still have two spots to fill in the rotation.
Given the Mets budget and historical unwillingness to spend big on starting pitchers on the free agent market, it is difficult to believe the team could build a starting rotation good enough to win in 2020. Theoretically, the Mets could fill in the rotation by making Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo starters again. However, this makes an already terrible bullpen worse, and you will likely be dealing with innings limits.
Long story short, if the Mets trade Syndergaard they will not be able to build the type of pitching staff which would let them compete in 2020. This means the Mets will have to look towards 2021. Notably, Michael Conforto and Steven Matz will be free agents after the completion of that season.
Given the uncertainty of the readiness of David Peterson and/or Franklyn Kilome to join the rotation by then, there is doubt whether the Mets pitching staff would be ready to compete by then. While this is happening, the Mets will be in year three of Robinson Cano‘s contract. That’s a consideration which needs to be accounted for when analyzing the Mets ability to compete in 2020 or 2021.
Realistically speaking, depending on the return the Mets receive for Syndergaard, the team will not be in a position to really compete again until 2022 at the earliest. With that being the scenario, the Mets should also be looking to trade Conforto for a big return as well because the team is not going to win before he becomes a free agent.
By that 2022 season, you will have wasted the first three years of Pete Alonso‘s and Jeff McNeil‘s careers, and they will be arbitration eligible. It will be the same situation for other cost controlled assets like Lugo and Edwin Diaz. This coupled with Cano’s big contract will once again infringe on the Mets payroll flexibility.
Therefore, the Mets ability to win in 2022 will hinge on what the Mets bring aboard in moving Syndergaard and maybe Conforto. It will depend on how quickly players like Mark Vientos, Shervyen Newton, Ronny Mauricio, Francisco Alvarez and Brett Baty can develop to help the team. While you can be high on them now, it is a completely different situation to count on them to develop in time to make you a winner.
That is the situation you are in if you trade Syndergaard now. You are beginning the dismantling the core to try to compete three years from now. If the prospects don’t develop the way you intended, or players get hurt, everything falls apart. As an organization, you have to ask yourself if that is really worth it when the team is really just a center fielder and 1-2 bullpen arms away from contending next year.
When you look at it through the prism of when the Mets could actually be in a window to contend again, the team cannot trade Syndergaard now. That is, unless, the team either starts spending now, or Brodie Van Wagenen proves himself to be much more adept at trades than he did last offseason. We shouldn’t be hopeful on either development happening.