The New York Mets did not sign Carlos Correa, and Correa is a Minnesota Twin again. We know that is because the Mets had the same issues with Correa’s physical as the San Francisco Giants did.
The process which led Correa from the Mets to Twins seemed never ending. Now, apparently, even with Correa being a Twin, the story just doesn’t want to seem to die with Correa now telling his story as to what happened.
Correa spoke about the process with Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. On the topic of the ankle, Correa had this to say about why he did not pass the Mets physical:
The Giants used an ankle specialist who didn’t pass me. Then the Mets used the same specialist, who obviously wasn’t going to pass me. He had already given an opinion to another team about my ankle. He was not going to change that. He was going to stand by what he was saying, of course, because that is what he believed.
Now, at first blush, it would seem absurd for the Mets to have the same specialist. In some ways, it seemed like a bait and switch. However, we all need to be reminded of just how exuberant Steve Cohen and his family was about the signing. Moreover, as we learned from this interview, Cohen sent his private plane to go get Correa. Cohen and the Mets really wanted Correa.
To some, this begs the question why use the same specialist as the Giants? Believe it or not, most professional teams use the same specialists. After all, how many times do we see a player visiting a specialist employed by another team, and just about everyone uses Dr. James Andrews.
It is a very, very small universe of doctors that MLB teams use and trust. That one's probably been used by every team in MLB and NFL in the last decade.
— Will Carroll (@injuryexpert) January 14, 2023
We should also note that specialists’ opinion existed. The Mets needed to find out exactly what the Giants’ specialist said. That is regardless of whether or not they used that doctor. Also, we should remember here, it may not have been sinister to use the Giants doctor. As Will Carroll pointed out there is a “very,very small universe of doctors that MLB teams use and trust.” It just may be the Mets consulted the same doctor not fully knowing the Giants used the same guy.
Another factor is we shouldn’t have discounted a Carlos Gomez type situation. Certainly, there were reports back then of buyers’ remorse and/or the Mets wanting the Milwaukee Brewers to take on more of Gomez’s salary.
More than any of that is the simple fact that the Twins doctors didn’t sign off on the same lengthy deal as they first offered. Remember, the Twins were first rumored to offer 10 years $280 million as the Giants and Mets offered contracts surpassing $300 million. However, that’s not the deal the Twins eventually gave Correa.
Correa signed a six year deal for $200 million. Apparently, the Twins were not willing to go to 10 years as they initially were. With the Twins getting Correa, certainly, no one is out there questioning what doctor they used. After all, they got the player.
In the end, the Mets did all they could reasonably do to sign Correa. He didn’t come because he failed a physical. He wasn’t a Giant because he failed a physical. The Twins signed him for less years and money than they initially intended because of the ankle. The only conclusion we can draw from here is the Mets did nothing wrong.
When the deal with the San Francisco Giants fell through, Steve Cohen acted immediately to sign Carlos Correa. Cohen thought the New York Mets needed another bat, and his family really wanted the Mets to sign Correa. It all came together quickly with everyone exhilarated.
That was until it fell apart. Apparently, this wasn’t Carlos Gomez‘s hips. Both the Mets and Giants agreed there was an issue on Correa’s ankle. This wasn’t Five Days in Flushing where Yoenis Cespedes was going to come crashing through the door. This was more like purgatory with all of us waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Fact of the matter is we will never know how bad Correa’s leg really was. Maybe it was an insurance issue. Perhaps, it was doctors trying to ascertain just how long until it will impact Correa’s ability to play like an elite player or play at all. We don’t know, and in all honesty, it’s a real possibility we won’t know during his playing career.
What we do know is Cohen has earned out trust. This wasn’t the Wilpons trying to nickel and dime Vladimir Guerrero with his back. It wasn’t even them ignoring the medicals on J.J. Putz to execute that deal. Really, this is nothing like the Wilpons ever did because Cohen is unlike the Wilpons in nearly every way conceivable.
This Mets team was already past the Cohen Tax threshold before Cohen sought to sign Correa. He did all he could to make Correa a Met, but at the end of the day, Cohen listened to his medical professionals. He didn’t force an injured Pedro Martinez to take the mound or try to stop Carlos Beltran from having career saving knee surgery.
This was purely a baseball business decision. He went after Correa because it made sense for the team. He backed off because the physical indicated it no longer made sense for the team. It really is just that simple.
As fans, we are just left with a smart baseball owner whose sole concern is making the Mets the best team in baseball. Mets fans have needed that for over a decade. We now have it with Cohen, which again makes this the biggest difference between he and the Wilpons.
The 2015 season was great for the New York Mets but a trying one for Zack Wheeler. It was never supposed to be that way.
At the end of the 2014 season, Wheeler was terrific. From June 30 to September 7, he was 7-1 with a 2.21 ERA. In the second half, he was 6-3 with a 3.04 ERA.
That was supposed to be his springboard to a true breakout 2015 season. He was supposed to join reigning Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom and a returning from Tommy John Matt Harvey to form a super rotation.
Except it didn’t work out that way. Wheeler succumbed to a torn UCL in Spring Training. He was eventually supplanted by Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz in the young rotation designed to turn the Mets into World Series contenders.
He was replaced and nearly traded. He and Wilmer Flores were nearly traded to the Milwaukee Brewers. If not for Carlos Gomez’s medicals, Wheeler’s story with the Mets ends there.
While we saw Flores crying, Wheeler was trying to intercede with Sandy Alderson. Given the interest in him and the Mets needs, it’s possible his efforts were the reason he was not traded.
However, that was the days of the Wilpon Mets. Embarrassment and nonsense were sure to follow. Mostly, needless pettiness did.
Wheeler wanted to be a part of that 2015 pennant run. This was his team. He was (once) part of the foundation. Only, the Wilpons didn’t want him there.
Seems like just yesterday the Mets were telling Zack Wheeler to buy his own tickets if he wanted to attend the 2015 postseason games.— Mike Puma (@NYPost_Mets) October 19, 2022
Of course, the Wilpons were that cheap. Even their own players had to purchase tickets to see postseason games. After all, these were the owners duped in a Ponzi Scheme and were continuously over leveraging themselves in a desperate attempt to keep the team.
Things were so bad they were a part of Amway. Amway.
Things would get worse for Wheeler. His Tommy John rehab was a nightmare requiring additional surgeries. He would not return until 2017. That season was cut short with bicep tendinitis and a stress fracture in his humerus.
It would not be until the second half or the 2018 season that we finally saw Wheeler fulfill his potential. He was dazzling going 9-1 with a 1.68 ERA.
With him cane hopes for a Mets quick resurgence. Again, the Wilpons are cheap and dumb. They hired an agent who showed no regard for the Mets future or really any clue as to what he was doing.
He tried to sell Marcus Stroman as his replacement. It was a complete farce to replace Wheeler with someone in the same rotation. It’s the Amway of building rotations.
Wheeler wanted to return and was willing to take less. Perhaps, he didn’t purchase enough postseason tickets because the Wilpons were not willing or able to bring him back at a discount.
Rather than be gracious, Brodie Van Wagenen took unnecessary shots at Wheeker. All Wheeler ever wanted was to be a Met, and Van Wagenen wanted no part in that. That goes double for the Wilpons.
Well, the end result was Wheeler with the Philadelphia Phillies. He was the ace he was with the Mets only to be recognized as such now.
He found himself in the postseason and has pitched great. He’s pitched the Phillies to a pennant. This time, he had a front row seat. He was paid to be there and not the other way around.
Wheeler wanted to fully experience this with the Mets. The Wilpons didn’t want that.
Well, Jeff Wilpon is out of baseball. Their GM is now an agent again. Fred Wilpon sold away almost all of his team. Wheeler is pitching for a pennant winner.
Wheeler deserves this moment. Hopefully, he cherishes it and the bit of irony he’s celebrating it with Syndergaard. Congratulations to them both.
There were rumors Dominic Smith wasn’t going to be happy with a bench or part-time role with the New York Mets, and he wanted one elsewhere. As is typically the case, that came around the time he was almost traded. Well, Smith, himself, put those rumors to rest:
🎥 Following a weekend of pretty serious trade rumors, Dominic Smith acknowledges that while he'd love a chance to play full-time somewhere, he's happy to be in New York and happy to be a Met. pic.twitter.com/tDEJHvJjsh
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) April 4, 2022
Smith has long made the case he should play everyday. We are seeing it again this spring. His shoulder is healthy, and Max Scherzer noted Smith is hitting balls he hasn’t hit before in his career out for homers. Once again, Smith is poised to have a big season.
More than that, Smith is someone who wants to be a Met. In years past, that is not something which the Mets have actually valued. It is an odd thing to see loyalty and allegiance not valued or honored, but that was the way the Mets were operated under the Wilpons.
That’s not to say those values should be treated in higher regard than performance. However, the Mets have taken poor stock of a player’s drive to succeed not just in baseball but with the Mets. They overlooked skills and conditions which served as detriments to performance. Instead, of removing those obstacles, they just removed the player and later lamented why that player is thriving elsewhere.
It is something we have seen time and again. Justin Turner and his new launch angle approach became an All-Star, NLCS MVP, and World Series champion with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Wilmer Flores has been a coveted and very successful role player. The list goes on and on.
That list includes Zack Wheeler. When he and Flores were almost traded for Carlos Gomez, Wheeler went to the Mets and said he wanted to stay. He backed that up by getting healthy and improving each season. In his last season with the Mets, it was apparent he was emerging as an ace.
Wheeler went to the Philadelphia Phillies, and he arguably should have won the Cy Young award in 2021. He was that good, and he will continue to be that good as the Mets continue to try to address pitching depth in their organization. To be fair here, things are much improved under Steve Cohen.
When the Mets have a player who is on the verge of a breakout, and that player wants to be a Met, the Mets need to find a way to get that player to succeed here. Like Wheeler, Smith has. Now, the Mets need to make sure they allow him to succeed in 2022 and beyond. It is the right thing to do for someone who is going to be a very good and impactful player, and it is the right thing to do for someone committed to this franchise.
When you obtain a player at the trade deadline, you are really rolling the dice, and you are hoping that player can have a tremendous impact on your team as it attempts to make it to the postseason. That was exactly what the Mets got out of Yoenis Cespedes in 2015.
The 2015 season was a turbulent one. The Mets had a number of injuries as it saw an early April lead turn into a deficit in July. The Mets offense couldn’t score runs. There was a failed trade which had Wilmer Flores crying, Zack Wheeler trying to convince the Mets not to trade him, and Carlos Gomez stuck (temporarily) in Milwaukee with previously unknown hip issues. It was a mess which led to the Mets acquiring Cespedes.
After a relatively slow start, one where the Mets had gone atop the division, Cespedes went on an epic tear. From August 3 – August 26, he hit .323/.356/.625 with six doubles, a triple, seven homers, and 21 RBI. From August 3 – September 14, he hit .315/.361/.714 with 10 doubles, three triples, 17 homers, and 42 RBI. Rarely have the Mets had as an exciting and dynamic a player as what Cespedes was during this stretch. It wasn’t just that he was hitting. It was the hits he got.
In terms of that season, what really stood out was his Labor Day series against the Nationals which essentially locked up the division for the Mets. In that three game series, Cespedes was 6-for-14 with three doubles, two homers, and seven RBI. Honestly, you could not ask for more from him or anyone.
Keep in mind, it wasn’t just his bat but his defense as well. He willingly bounced back-and-forth between left and center (winning the AL Gold Glove in left), and he would make a number of highlight reel plays. Those especially showed off his great arm.
When the Mets went to the postseason, Cespedes did not have the same level of impact as he did in the regular season. That said, there were two very important plays which come to mind. The first was in Game 3 of the NLDS when he sent Citi Field into an absolute frenzy with one of the best bat flips in Mets history:
The next moment was in Game 1 of the NLCS. In the fifth inning of that game, the Cubs had already tied the game in the fifth inning on a Starlin Castro RBI double. Two batters later, Javier Baez hit a single to right which normally would have scored a run. Normally . . .
The Mets would win the pennant but lose the World Series. After a long odyssey in the offseason which saw the Mets initially try to replace Cespedes with Alejandro De Aza, Cespedes had turned down a deferred contract from the Washington Nationals to return to the Mets on what was essentially a one year deal. Cespedes earned that deal and then some.
It’s odd to think about, but the 2016 season would prove to be Cespedes only real full season in a Mets uniform. In the beginning, it was all fun with the cars and crazy breakfasts. In that season, he was an All-Star, win a Silver Slugger, and he would finish eighth in MVP voting. He did all that despite it being an injury plagued year where he would get criticism for golfing (even if Kevin Long thought it helped his swing). Despite the criticism, the fact was the Mets were a better team with Cespedes on the field.
Part of the reason was Cespedes came up big when the Mets needed him most. In August, as the Mets made their improbable run towards the top Wild Card, Cespedes was torrid hitting .340/.400/.680 with two doubles, five homers, and 10 RBI. That included a walk-off homer against the Marlins.
That Mets team would charge to the postseason, but sadly, they could not advance past the Wild Card Game. This time, the Mets would not let Cespedes linger or risk him signing with another team. Rather, they locked him up quickly. Unfortunately, it has been two injury plagued years as we discovered Cespedes had a double heel problem which required surgery. Things went from bad to worse when he broke his ankle in a wild boar attack.
However, through all of that, Cespedes was a game changing type of bat. That was no more apparent than his last game before his surgeries. After a lengthy DL stint, the myopic Mets activated Cespedes just for the Subway Series. In the lone game he was able to DH, he was 2-for-5 with two runs, a homer, and an RBI.
The hope now is if the Mets ever play in 2020 Cespedes can be that game-changing bat again whether that be as a DH or back in LF. As it stands now, many hoped for more from him in this last contract, but when all is said and done, he is the sixth best Mets LF by WAR, which is remarkable considering he’s played fewer games as a Met than anyone in the top eight and the second fewest among anyone in the top 12. That speaks to how big his impact has been in a short time and why he’s the best Mets player to ever wear the number 52.
3. Curtis Granderson
4. Lenny Dykstra
5. David Wright
6. Wally Backman
7. Jose Reyes
8. Gary Carter
9. Todd Hundley
10. Rey Ordonez
11. Wayne Garrett
12. John Stearns
13. Edgardo Alfonzo
14. Gil Hodges
15. Carlos Beltran
16. Dwight Gooden
17. Keith Hernandez
18. Darryl Strawberry
19. Bob Ojeda
20. Howard Johnson
21. Cleon Jones
22. Al Leiter
23. Bernard Gilkey
24. Art Shamsky
25. Pedro Feliciano
26. Terry Leach
27. Jeurys Familia
28. Daniel Murphy
29. Frank Viola
30. Michael Conforto
31. Mike Piazza
32. Jon Matlack
33. Matt Harvey
34. Noah Syndergaard
35. Rick Reed
36. Jerry Koosman
37. Casey Stengel
38. Skip Lockwood
39. Gary Gentry
40. Bartolo Colon
41. Tom Seaver
42. Ron Taylor
43. R.A. Dickey
44. David Cone
45. Tug McGraw
46. Oliver Perez
47. Jesse Orosco
48. Jacob deGrom
49. Armando Benitez
50. Sid Fernandez
51. Rick White
When discussing Zack Wheeler, there are some important things to consider. Aside from being an ace level pitcher the past two years, Wheeler wanted to be a Met.
He called Sandy Alderson to tell him he wanted to stay when the Carlos Gomez fell apart. He also came back to the Mets before accepting a discounted deal with the Phillies. Overall, every chance he got, Wheeler averred how much he wanted to remain in the Mets rotation.
Brodie Van Wagenen didn’t care.
Now, these are always difficult situations, and to be fair, there are very few things you can say to come across well. Still, when you offer comments, the goal is to offer platitudes and leave no room for hard feelings. After all, you’re not only dealing with a player who spent many years with the Mets, but you’re also going to have to face him over the next five years.
Van Wagenen botched it saying, ““The value for what we thought the investment [was] didn’t line up. The projections that we had for Zack both short-term and long-term didn’t quite match up to the market he was able to enjoy.” (Tim Healey, Newsday).
Again, this is a player who wanted to be a Met. He was a good Met too. There’s no need to say he wasn’t worth the money. Really, there’s no need to even go there.
It boils down to decency, but beyond that, you don’t want someone with an extra chip on their shoulder to beat you time and again over the next five years.
Well, Van Wagenen decided differently, and Wheeler noticed. As noted in Kevin Kernan’s article in the New York Post, boy did he notice:
“I don’t need any more motivation. I already got it,’’ Wheeler told The Post away from the crush of media. “But that’s his opinion. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion, but yeah, that may help me out a little bit.’’
Basically, Van Wagenen took a bit of a shot at Wheeler, and Wheeler got the last word. Not only did Wheeler note he’s a little more motivated, but he also took a real shot by following this up by saying, “He watched me I guess when he was watching his other players on the team.”
The “his players” is a barb which hits home with Mets fans.
It’s a reminder of how Van Wagenen traded Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn in a deal to get his former client Robinson Cano out of Seattle and back to New York like he wanted.
Jed Lowrie got a two year deal worth $20 million, and in the first year, he had only eight pinch hitting attempts.
At a time when the Mets needed a fifth starter, he signed Michael Wacha, who has a bum shoulder, and when you break it down, he needs to prove he’s capable of being a Major League starter again. Instead of the minor league deal he should’ve received, the CAA client got a Major League deal and was told he’d start.
Perhaps, this is what Wheeler meant when he said “his players.” Maybe it was a Freudian slip. It’s possibly Wheeler was just calling his former teammates Van Wagenen’s guys because they’re still there.
Whatever the case, it’s apparent Wheeler feels slighted. Now, he’s in a position to both beat the Mets and needle them like he did when talking about the Phillies’ analytic department and J.T. Realmuto.
In doing that, Wheeler got the last word. If he pitches like he did over the last two years, he’s going to get the last laugh.
Last week, Zack Wheeler signed a five year $118 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. Unfortunately, unlike in 2015, a phone call to the General Manager would not be enough to continue his Mets career. The shame there is in many ways Wheeler always represented hope to Mets fans.
Back in 2011, we were already in the wake of the Madoff Scandal, and it became increasingly clear the Mets were not going to build upon the current core. The first player gone from that core would be Carlos Beltran. With the Beltran trade, the rebuild was officially on, and due to Sandy Alderson’s shrewdness, he was able to acquire Wheeler, who was the sixth overall pick of the 2009 draft.
With Wheeler, the Mets had real hope for the future. With him was a plan to contend once again. We could see the plan was to build a great rotation around him, Matt Harvey, and back then it was Rafael Montero as part of the group. That was the Mets future.
While Harvey burst onto the scene, Wheeler’s was more of a steady rise. His Major League debut was promising with his having a 104 ERA+ in 17 starts. He had a mediocre start to his 2014 season, and then suddenly in his last start of June something seemed to click. From June 30 to September 7, he would go 7-1 with a 2.21 ERA, 1.230 WHIP, 3.9 BB/9, and an 8.6 K/9.
With that finishing kick to the season, you could see him pairing with the returning Harvey and reigning Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom to form a dominant top of the rotation which could bring the Mets back to the World Series. As we know, the Mets did win the pennant in 2015, but Wheeler would not be a part of it.
On the eve of the 2015 season, disaster would strike as Wheeler would tear his UCL. He would miss the entirety of the 2015 season. Due to multiple setbacks in his recovery, he would also miss the entirety of the 2016 season. While he was gone, it does not mean it was an uneventful recovery.
On that fateful July night, it was Wheeler who was supposed to be the key piece in a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers reuniting the Mets with CF Carlos Gomez. While Wilmer Flores was crying on the field and Gomez’s medical records were being perused, Wheeler was trying to let the Mets know he wanted to be a part of this team. He wanted to be a New York Met.
Wheeler got through to Alderson, and for his part Alderson made sure to make Wheeler a part of the Mets future. He held onto Wheeler during his struggles after a two year layoff which included his dealing with a stress reaction. Still, the Mets believed in him, and in 2018, the Mets faith in him would be rewarded.
In 2018, Wheeler would emerge as an ace level pitcher. What is odd is it wouldn’t start out that way. He would first begin the year in the minors only to come up to the majors to take Jason Vargas‘ spot in the rotation, and he woudl stay there despite some early season struggles due to Harvey’s being designated for assignment.
Much like 2014, something clicked at the end of June. Over his final 15 starts of the season, he was 10-1 with a 2.06 ERA, 0.924 WHIP, 2.1 BB/9, and an 8.9 K/9. What is interesting about that finish is even with deGrom clearly being the best pitcher in baseball, Wheeler would have a better second half ERA than him.
Once again, Wheeler’s second half gave hopes for the Mets return to the postseason. This time, Wheeler would be healthy, and despite the Mets nearly playing themselves out of it in the first half, he would get his opportunity to pitch in a postseason race.
Wheeler stepped up his game. From June 22 until the end of the season, he was 6-3 with a 3.04 ERA, 1.192 WHIP, 2.0 BB/9, and an 8.2 K/9. While the Mets didn’t get that second Wild Card, he was rewarded for his faith in himself and this team.
The Mets were also rewarded in their faith in him. As alluded to earlier, Wheeler emerged as an ace over the past two seasons.
Wheeler has emerged as a pitcher who gives you 30 starts a year and over 180 innings. That’s equivalent to 6.1 innings per start. His 3.37 FIP over the past two seasons is 10th best in the Majors ahead of pitchers like Stephen Strasburg, Clayton Kershaw, and Madison Bumgarner. His hard hit rate put him ahead of everyone except his teammates deGrom and Noah Syndergaard.
In total, Wheeler became exactly what was promised when the Mets obtained him from Beltran in 2011. What was promised was not just the hope Wheeler had provided but also the great pitcher they believed he could be. It may have been a turbulent road to get there, but get there he did.
For that, every Mets fan should be grateful to Wheeler. We should be grateful for his giving us hope for nearly a decade, especially at those time when it seemed the most bleak. We should be grateful he became that great pitcher we all hoped he would be. Mostly, we should be grateful he wanted to be a Met, even at the very end when he came back to the Mets and asked them to re-sign him.
To that end, thank you for an eventual Mets career, Zack Wheeler. You were a class act, and you deserve nothing but the best in the future.
As the Mets look to improve their roster, the one gaping hole is center field. It has been a problem for years with the Mets looking at stop gap options like Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto partially due to Juan Lagares inability to stay on the field and his inconsistent production at the plate, and last year, in the field.
Brodie Van Wagenen has said the team is looking for a right-handed bat at the position. On that note, the free agent center field options are quite poor. In fact, some of the more viable options are Aaron Altherr, Keon Broxton, and Carlos Gomez, three players whom the Mets realized were not real options.
When looking past the right-hand side, the options aren’t exactly great. The best option of the entire group is likely Shogo Akiyama, and he’s a 32 year old who has never played in the Majors. Further compounding that, Akiyama is said to have slipped defensively meaning he should probably move to a corner spot in 2020.
Fact is, there is no real good option. Looking at the trade route, the best known option is Jackie Bradley Jr. Bradley hasn’t been a league average hitter since 2016, and he has had consecutive negative DRS seasons. While he can still handle the position defensively, his defense is not at the point where he can justify his bat or a raise from his 2018 $8.55 million arbitration salary.
To that point, Brodie Van Wagenen has said the Mets need to be creative this offseason, so perhaps they should be creative and move Amed Rosario to center.
The impulse to make that move has subsided with Rosario posting a 0 DRS in the second half. That was a significant improvement from his -16 DRS in the first half and the -16 DRS he posted at the position in 2018. With his only being 23, we can expect him to improve, but considering the level he is at now, it is debatable he can ever reach the lofty Gold Glove expectations we all once had for him.
He might be that if he moved to center.
Baseball Savant noted Rosario had a 29.2 ft/sec sprint speed last year. That is essentially the same speed as Victor Robles and Kevin Kiermaier, and it is quicker than Lorenzo Cain and Manuel Margot. Those of four of the top five center fielders in DRS last year. If nothing else, that tells us Rosario has the speed to cover the position.
Looking at last year, Jeff McNeil worked with Luis Rojas during Spring Training to get up to speed quickly on being an outfielder. During the 2019 season, McNeil proved to be a good outfielder with a 2 DRS with his time split between left and right.
Looking at Rosasrio, he has the speed, and he has the coaching. With his tools and drive, he has all he needs to succeed as center fielder. That goes double with him having an offseason and Spring Training to work on it. The only question is why would the Mets do it. Well, there are two reasons.
First and foremost, there are no real center field options available to the Mets. This leaves them having to hope for magic with a retread or for their getting creative with a solution like Rosario. Now, moving Rosario to center would create a hole at short. On that note, there are better options available like Didi Gregorius and Jose Iglesias.
Those two short term options are much more appealing than any of the center field options available this offseason. On the subject of the short term, the Mets also have to take some consideration of Andres Gimenez. While Gimenez struggled in 2019, he did deal with hand injuries, and he did rebound with an excellent stint in the Arizona Fall League.
Ultimately, the Mets may have to find space for Rosario and Gimenez on the same roster. The Mets could faciliate that by moving Rosario to center. It is a good long term solution, and really, considering the options available at both center and short this offseason, it is the best short term solution as well.
Mets General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen said something very interesting to the press during these GM Meetings. Notably, as transcribed by Mike Puma of the New York Post, he said, “Center field is not as easy as waking up in the morning and finding a solution.”
This is a sentiment which rings very true, and we have seen teams act accordingly. The Minnesota Twins were very patient with Byron Buxton, who was finally a league average hitter in his fifth Major League season. Previously to Buxton, they had been patient with Aaron Hicks until he was traded for John Ryan Murphy, who at the time was a promising catcher.
When Hicks broke out, the Yankees made sure to extend Hicks to a lucrative contract extension. This speaks to how hard it is to get a center fielder. When a center fielder comes available, teams do spend to get them. For example, the Milwaukee Brewers signed Lorenzo Cain to a five year $80 million deal.
For the Mets last year, there were no easy solutions. Juan Lagares would have the worst year of his career from both sides of the plate. Brandon Nimmo was hurt for much of the year. Keon Broxton wasn’t the player the Mets hoped he would be leading to his designated for assignment followed by failed hopes in the form of Aaron Altherr, Carlos Gomez, and Rajai Davis.
This led to the Mets once again moving Michael Conforto to center. While he has been a good sport, he has proven himself to be a good stopgap and nothing more. This is not too dissimilar from what we saw with Yoenis Cespedes in 2015.
The lesson is when you have a center fielder, you need to hold onto that player for as long as you can. That is what the best run teams in baseball do.
The Mets did have that center fielder in the minors in the form of Jarred Kelenic. In short order, he proved to be a much better player than even the Mets could’ve hoped he would be when they made him the sixth overall pick in the draft.
He has been so good that at the moment, MLB Pipeline ranks him as the 13th best prospect in baseball. He also rose all the way to Double-A at the end of the 2019 season. His likely beginning the 2020 season in Double-A means his making his Major League debut next year is not out of the question. Barring injury, we should see that happen at least by 2022.
Instead of having patience building this Mets team and allowing them to reap the benefits of having a Kelenic in center for a decade or hopefully more, Van Wagenen trying to shortcut the process. He included Kelenic in a deal for a older second baseman in Robinson Cano and a closer in Edwin Diaz.
Aside from the complications Cano and his contract provide, like re-signing Zack Wheeler, the trade itself cost the Mets a center fielder in Kelenic. With Kelenic, Van Wagenen was going to be in a position where he can wake up one day and have a long term solution in center.
Instead, he cycled through option after option in 2019 to no avail. He enters the offseason with few trade assets and little to no budget to sign a center fielder or to take on salary in a trade. The real shame is he eventually learned his lesson after he was all to rash to swing an ill-advised deal trading away a potentially very good center fielder.
The Mets did good by hiring Carlos Beltran as the 22nd manager in team history. In Beltran, they have someone who is a very good communicator who has the ability to unite a clubhouse while also teaching players things to help them significantly improve. Given his skill set, he can be a superstar manager like he was a superstar player.
However, Beltran in and of himself is not going to be enough to take this Mets team over the top.
With Zack Wheeler being a free agent, the team is going to need a fifth starter. At the moment, internal options like Walker Lockett and Corey Oswalt are not ready to step up to fill that void. The team has mentioned Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo as options, but that only serves to further damage what is already a weak bullpen.
In 2019, Lugo and Justin Wilson were the only dependable relievers in that bullpen. When you look at it, even assuming a bounce-back from Edwin Diaz, this team still needs at least two big arms in the bullpen this offseason. They will need more if Gsellman or Lugo move to the rotation making that decision to rob Peter to pay Paul.
The Mets also need a center fielder, third baseman, backup catcher, and just plain old depth. With Juan Lagares having his option declined, they need a defensive replacement. The team cannot rely upon Jed Lowrie to contribute anything. Tomas Nido was a good defensive catcher, but with his complete inability to hit, you wonder how much you can rely upon him to be on the roster for a full season.
All told, this is a Mets roster which needs a lot of work. Given the dearth of prospects at the Double-A and Triple-A level last year, the team is going to have to acquire those players this offseason instead of looking from within. With all the prospects the Mets traded away over the last year, it is going to be difficult to trade their way back to contention.
That leaves the Mets with spending, and with the Mets being owned by the Wilpons, that is a dicey proposition.
Now, there are some who will say the Mets did spend last year. According to Spotrac, the Mets 2019 payroll was $160.5 million which ranked 10th in the majors.
Lost in that was how David Wright‘s $15 million is included in that amount. Wright had a portion of that salary covered by insurance, and the Mets renegotiated future payments with Wright. The figure also included Yoenis Cespedes‘ $29 million salary which was covered by insurance. Between Wright’s full salary and 70% of Cespedes’ salary being covered, the Mets payroll was reduced by $35.5 million.
That reduces the Mets REAL 2019 payroll to $125 million, which would’ve ranked 18th in the majors. That number is all the worse when you consider Adeiny Hechavarria and Carlos Gomez were cut before roster bonuses were due, and Jason Vargas was traded so the team could clear payroll space after obtaining Marcus Stroman.
As of today, the Mets payroll is $168.8 million. Now, that figure includes Wright’s $12 million, Cespedes’ $29.5 million, and the $5.1 projected arbitration figure due Joe Panik. On that front, as noted earlier, Wright’s contract was been renegotiated, and it is very likely Panik is non-tendered. With respect to Cespedes, there will be no insurance protection this year.
When you dig a little more, that $168.8 includes Jacob deGrom‘s $27.5 million salary. On that front, the $27.5 million figure is for competitive balance tax purposes only. In reality, deGrom is only making $13 million meaning $12.5 million of his salary is deferred.
This means the Mets ACTUAL payroll obligations are $139.2million. That is before the Mets go forward looking to add players this offseason. Still, people will point to the competitive balance tax as a reason why the Mets can’t spend. Let’s take a look at it for a second.
Putting reason aside, assuming the Mets sign Wheeler to a deal with a $30 million average annual value raising the payroll obligations to $188.8. That puts the Mets $19.2 million short of the $208 competitive balance tax figure.
Taking a more realistic approach, assume the Mets don’t go and sign Anthony Rendon. For a minute, just assume the Mets sign a Mike Moustakas ($10 million AAV), Drew Pomeranz ($8 million AAV), and a backup catcher like Jonathan Lucroy ($2 million AAV). Assume the rest of the roster is filled out for a cost of around $5 million, which is probably the very low end.
Assuming Panik is non-tendered, that puts competitive balance payroll at $213.8 million. That would incur the “tax penalty.” The amount of the penalty? It would only be $1.2 million. That’s it.
When looking at the $1.2 million remember the Mets already have $12 million off the books with Wright and $12.5 million deferred with deGrom. As a result, the $1.2 million is more than covered. When you look at it, the Mets can really blow past that $208 million this year.
In fact, the Mets should considering they have Cespedes’$29 million coming off the books completely, and the same can be said for Wright’s $12 million. Essentially, the Mets have $41 million coming off the books.
Whether the Mets will be proactive remains to be seen. If history is any measure, they won’t. Just remember, when they don’t, we should not let them invoke the competitive balance tax as a reason because it is not in any way a real impediment.
The only impediment to the Mets spending are the Mets themselves, and that is not in any way acceptable.