Jason Bay

Mets Have Payroll Concerns Already

On October 29, 2010, in the wake of the Madoff scandal, Sandy Alderson took over as the Mets General Manager. Alderson inherited a team with some big stars like Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, Johan Santana, and David Wright. With that he also inherited a team who finished the 2010 season with a hefty $126 million payroll, which ranked sixth in the major leagues. Due to some backloaded contracts reaching their expiration, the 2011 Opening Day payroll was actually inflated to $143 million.

Alderson went to work dismantling a team that was disappointing on the field in what was the beginning of a real rebuilding process. Luis Castillo was released before the season started. Oliver Perez was not too far behind him. Getting rid of the underperforming players the fans hated was the easy part. The hard part was what ensued.

The Mets first traded Francisco Rodriguez, who was getting dangerously close to having an expensive $17.5 million option vest. Then he traded Carlos Beltran for Zack Wheeler. Surprisingly, Alderson didn’t trade Jose Reyes, who was the National League leader in batting average. Instead, he would let Reyes become a free agent, and he would recoup a draft pick when Reyes signed a $106 million contract with the Marlins.

And just like that what was once a $143 million payroll became a $95 million payroll in a little more than a year. In subsequent years, the Mets would let Johan Santana‘s contract expire and not reinvest the money. They would release Jason Bay, and again re-invest the money. Then the Mets would shop R.A. Dickey after he won the Cy Young Award.  They obtained Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud in exchange for him which was a sure sign the Mets were more invested in rebuilding than contending.

It was also a sign that the Mets were cash strapped due to the Madoff scandal. The payroll would reach its nadir in 2o14 when it was actually $85 million, which ranked 21st in the major leagues. A bewildered and frankly angry fan base was left wondering when, if ever, the Wilpons were going to permit the Mets to have a payroll commensurate with their standing as a big market major league franchise.

Now, over the past two seasons, the Mets payroll has gone from $85 million in 2014 to $101 million to start the 2015 season. In that offseason, the Mets actually went out and signed Michael Cuddyer to help them become a more complete team. When Cuddyer faltered and David Wright would suffer from spinal stenosis, the Mets made moves and added payroll. The team first traded for Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe (even if the Braves paid part of their salary). The Mets then acquired Yoenis Cespedes and what was a left of his $10.5 million contract. In 2015, the Mets spent a little more, but more importantly they spent what they needed to spend to compete.

In 2016, the Mets initially put out signs they were not moving off their roughly $100 million payroll when they signed Alejandro De Aza to platoon with Juan Lagares in center. It was perceived as a sign the Mets were not going to spend; it was a sign they were not willing to go the extra mile to get Cespedes. But then something happened. Cespedes didn’t find that massive deal on the free agent market. Instead, he re-signed with the Mets for $27.5 million in 2016. After 2016, Cespedes had the option to opt out of the remaining two years $47.5 million left on his contract.

With the Mets paying Cespedes a hefty salary to start the season, the Mets Opening Day payroll rose all the way to $135 million. Before Cespedes was re-signed, there was some doubt about whether it was really the insurance on Wright’s contract that allowed them to make those in-season moves, the re-signing of Cespedes calmed down a fan base that worried when or if the Mets would be willing to spend. Better yet, when the Mets had some issues scoring runs, they went out and traded for Jay Bruce.

Surprisingly now, we are back at the point of wondering if the Mets are willing to spend. The $135 million payroll was a positive step, but it is still less than the first payroll Alderson had with the Mets, and it was only ranked 15th in the majors. Cespedes is a free agent, and no one is quite sure if the Mets will re-sign him, look to acquire a big name free agent like Jose Bautista, or if they are going to stick with the Michael ConfortoCurtis Granderson-Bruce outfield. The Mets also have a number of other areas to address this offseason.

The first step was Neil Walker accepting the $17.2 million qualifying offer. With that, according to ESPN‘s Adam Rubin, the Mets current payroll obligations are $124 million. That is just $10 million under what the 2015 Opening Day Payroll was. If the Mets were to re-sign Cespedes, or another big name free agent, the payroll is going to go well past the $135 million mark.

The problem is the Mets need to go even further than that. Not only do they need Cespedes, or a reasonable facsimile, they also need to re-sign Jerry Blevins and Fernando Salas, or again, a reasonable facsimile thereof. The Mets may also want to add another backup catcher given Travis d’Arnaud‘s injury concerns, Rene Rivera‘s lack of offense, and Kevin Plawecki having two disappointing seasons. The Mets may also want to sign a veteran starter considering the health issues of their rotation and Bartolo Colon having signed with the Braves this past week. There’s a lot the Mets need to address here, and it isn’t likely that $10 million is going to cover all of it.

So again, we are back at the point of wondering how far the Mets are willing to go to compete. Will they have a payroll in the upper half of all of baseball? Do they have the funds to spend like a big market club? At this point, no one knows the answers to these questions. While Mets fans may be apprehensive, it is too soon to to pass judgment. That time will come when we see how the Mets handle the Cespedes situation.

The Non-Cespedes Mets Outfield Options

With reports that the Mets do not expect they will be able to re-sign Yoenis Cespedes, and that was before Neil Walker accepted the $17.2 million qualifying offer, the question is how do you replace the irreplaceable?  Here are some options:


Carlos Gomez

As explained in an earlier MMO article, a rejuvenated Gomez could help the Mets by continuing to play a good center field and by providing another right-handed bat in what protects to be a heavy left-handed Mets lineup.

Ian Desmond

After not getting a significant contract offer with a qualifying offer attached to him, he bet on himself taking a one year $8 million deal from the Texas Rangers.

Desmond was an All Star who hit .285/.335/.446 with 29 doubles, 22 homers, and 85 RBI.   However, Desmond does have some red flags:

  1. He rated below average defensively in center field (-4.5 UZR);
  2. He hit only .269/.324/.429 off right-handed pitching; H
  3. He fell apart in the second half hitting .237/.283/.347; H
  4. He hit .330/.368/.497 at hitter friendly Ballpark at Arlington and .241/.305/.398 in the road; and
  5. He may get a qualifying offer.

Matt Holliday

Infamously, the Mets chose Jason Bay over him heading in the 2009 offseason. Bay would struggle immensely at Citi Field while Holliday would win a World Series with the Cardinals.

While Holliday has been injury prone the past few years, he has still hit. He has always been an average to below average left fielder, and the 37 year old is coming off his worst year out there. It is part of the reason he began transitioning to first base with the Cardinals. If the Mets were to sign him, he could fulfill the role the Mets envisioned Michael Cuddyer would have.

Jose Bautista

Of all the available free agents, Bautista is the one who is best suited to replicate the offensive production Cespedes provided the Mets.  Over the past three seasons, Bautista has hit .259/.383/.508 while averaging 32 homers and 95 RBI.  If you are looking for a difference maker in the lineup, Bautista fits the bill.

However, there are some reason to be hesitant to sign Bautista.  First, he is a 36 year old coming off his worst season since 2009 (as per OPS+).  Second, he has been in decline as an outfielder over the past three seasons.  Third and most importantly, he is going to be expensive.  It is anticipated Bautista will received a qualifying offer, and he reportedly wants 5 years $150 million in free agency.

Mark Trumbo

Trumbo certainly enjoyed hitting at Camden Yards for a full season.  Trumbo went from a career .251/.301/.460 hitter who averaged 26 homers to a .256/.316/.533 hitter who led the majors with 47 homers.  Naturally, when there is a jump like that with a player, there are a number of reasons why a team like the Mets should shy away.

Throughout his career, Trumbo has struggled against left-handed pitching.  This isn’t exactly appealing when you consider he would be joining an outfield with three other left-handed hitters.  Furthermore, he did most of his damage this past season at Camden Yards showing much of his career year was generated by his home ballpark.  Lastly, Trumbo is really a 1B/DH masquerading as an outfielder.

Carlos Beltran

Reuniting with Beltran certainly seems like it would be a stretch considering he has already stated his intentions that he wants to DH next year, and he wants to return to the Texas Rangers.  It is certainly understandable considering he will be 40 next season, and he has been a below average right fielder the past three years.

Still, Beltran can his positive attributes.  Over the past three years, Beltran has hit .271/.327/.468 while averaging 21 homers and 70 RBI.  We know from his time with the Mets, he is great in the clubhouse, and he helps younger players with the preparation and conditioning aspect of the game.  It is something Beltran did with both David Wright and Jose Reyes immediately upon joining the Mets.  Finally, Beltran is one of the greatest postseason hitters of all time.  For a team with World Series aspirations, Beltran could help on that front.


Justin Upton

As luck would have it, the Padres rejected the Mets offer of Michael Fulmer for Upton leading the Mets to offer him in exchange for Cespedes.  Once again, the Tigers are looking to trade an outfielder, and the Mets may have interest in a player like Upton.

Upton has always been a good hitter in his major league career.  In his nine years as a starter, he is a .270/.349/.476 hitter who averages 24 homers and 77 RBI in his nine years as a starter.  Generally speaking, he has never been a guy that will hurt you in the outfield even if he is coming off a poor year offensively.  Between his offense, his defense, and his friendship with Wright, you could make a very good case why the Mets should purse Upton.

There is also over $110 million reasons why you would want to avoid Upton.  If Upton were not to exercise he opt out clause, which he would use after the 2017 season, the Mets would be on the hook for the full amount of the remaining $110.625 million remaining on his contract.  Typically speaking, the Mets have not shown the interest in adding contract like that to the payroll.

Now, Upton could also opt out of his contract, which would put the Mets in the same position as they are this offseason.  They will likely be unable to re-sign him, and in return, all they can recoup for him is a compensatory first round draft pick.  Compensatory draft picks are great when they become players like Fulmer who are real assets that can help the major league team.  They are also suspect when they become players like Anthony Kay, who failed a physical and needs Tommy John surgery before ever throwing a professional pitch.

J.D. Martinez

Over the last three seasons, Martinez has blossomed into a terrific hitter.  In Detroit, he has hit .299/.357/.540 while averaging 28 homers and 82 RBI.  Up until this year, he has also been a solid outfielder.  You can do a lot worse than Martinez in trying to replace Cespedes.

That’s part of the reason why he will be difficult to obtain.  Next year is the final year of his contract that pays him $11.75 million.  While the Tigers are looking to shed payroll, they will likely seek a king’s ransom in exchange for a player that has a very favorable contract for next season.  With the Mets having traded away some many big pieces over the past two seasons, and with them being reluctant to trade players like Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith, it is hard to see them pulling off a trade for a cheap outfielder who has terrific production.


As it stands right now, the Mets have two corner outfielders in Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson who are coming off 30 home run seasons.  With them at the corners, it is possible the Mets feel as if they are already set in left and right field even with one of them having to change positions.

The Mets may even have more faith in their outfield as is with Michael Conforto.  In his young career, he has shown the Mets glimpses of his being a brilliant hitter.  He was undaunted as a rookie in 2015.  He was perhaps the best hitter in baseball in April 2016.  He responded to a demotion after a wrist injury and his slumping by hitting .493/.541/.821 with six homers and 13 RBI in 17 August games in AAA.  With Conforto having shown glimpses of what his true talent level is, and with him showing the willingness to put in the work, the Mets may very well gamble on Conforto in 2017.

The fact that Granderson and Conforto can also play center field gives the Mets options on a game to game basis.  It allows them to put all three out there, and it allows them to sit one for rest or to avoid a tough left-handed pitcher to get Lagares’ glove in the outfield.  Overall, the Mets may very well stay internal to replace Cespedes’ production.  It is a gamble, and that gamble may be the difference between going to the postseason or staying home in 2017.

Editor’s Note: a version of this article was first published on Mets Merized Online

Mets Should Pick Up Jay Bruce’s Option

No matter how you look at it, the Jay Bruce acquisition has been a disaster for the Mets.  In 40 games, Bruce has hit .176/.255/.289 with only four doubles, four homers, and 11 RBI.  Bruce has gone from the major league leader in RBI to tied for 30th in the majors and 10th in the National League.  He went from hitting .360 with runners in scoring position to .172 with the Mets.

Yesterday was rock bottom for him.  He got mixed up with Curtis Granderson on a catchable flyball that lead to a Matt Kemp RBI single instead of a an out with Bruce having a chance to throw the runner out at home.  At the plate, Bruce was 0-3.  Worse yet, when the Mets were rallying to try the game, Terry Collins pinch hit Eric Campbell for him when the Braves brought in the lefty Ian Kroll to face him.  Bruce was brought to the Mets just for these RBI situations.  However, it has now gotten to the point that no one trusts him in those spots.

Bruce’s struggles have led some to suggest the Mets should decline Bruce’s $13 million option and give him his $1 million buy out.  If the Mets were to do that, it would be a very poor decision.

Over his career, Bruce is a .247/.317/.465 hitter who averages 26 homers and 81 RBI.  With Bruce turning 30 years old next year, there is every reason to believe Bruce’s struggles with the Mets are the result of a player struggling when joining a new team more than it is a Jason Bay falling apart when signing the Mets and playing his games under the old outfield configurations of Citi Field.  So yes, there is reason to believe Bruce will return to form next season whether or not he is wearing a Mets uniform.

Admittedly, the Mets are going to have a glut of outfielders next year.  Curtis Granderson is under contract for another year.  The Mets figure to give Michael Conforto an everyday job next year.  Juan Lagares should be healthy and could form a center field platoon with Brandon Nimmo.  Furthermore, Justin Ruggiano, who mashed lefties in the short time he was with the Mets, is arbitration eligible.  In addition to that, the Mets should do all they can to bring back Yoenis Cespedes in the even he opts out of his contract.  Looking over this list, it’s hard to find a spot for Bruce in the Mets outfield.

The Mets could shift Bruce to first base.  However, Lucas Duda, who has been a much better offensive player than Bruce, is still under team control.  Additionally, with the overcrowded outfield, it is possible the Mets will seek to move Conforto to first base as has been recommended by Keith Hernandez.  Overall, no matter where you look, there may not be room for Bruce.  With that in mind, why pick up his option?

The reason is Bruce is an asset in what is going to be a weak free agent class.  After Cespedes, the best free agent outfielders will be Ian Desmond, Mark Trumbo, and Jose Bautista.  Each of these free agents have their own issues.

Desmond was a surprising All Star outfielder after struggling last year with the Nationals.  However, overlooking his stats, Desmond has a number of issues.  First, he is hitting .239/.287/.362 in the second half.  Second, he’s showing himself to be a platoon bat hitting .272/.329/.442 against righties and .338/.373/.507 against lefties.  Lastly, Desmond appears to be a product of Globe Life Park hitting .336/.374/.516 at home and .244/.309/.405 on the road.

Trumbo is essentially Bruce with vastly inferior defense.  He also has the same issues as Desmond.  He’s hitting .188/.266/.431 in the second half.  He’s hitting .183/.232/.415 against lefties.  He’s also hitting .257/.337/.552 at Camden Yards and .242/.282/.498 on the road.

Bautista is a 35 year old outfielder who has taken a step back this season.  Over his last six seasons with the Blue Jays, he played at a superstar level hitting .268/.390/.555 while averaging 38 homers and 97 RBI.    This year he is only hitting .258/.359/.433 with only 18 homers and 59 RBI.

Another team could look at these options and determine they would rather obtain Bruce who should have similar production at a reasonable $13 million price tag.  Teams may also prefer to keep their first round pick rather than give it up for Desmond, Trumbo, or Bautista.  Additionally, if Bruce bounces back from his struggles with the Mets, the acquiring team could make him a qualifying offer allowing them to obtain a compensatory first round pick in the event Bruce leaves them next offseason.

There’s the other issue.  Cespedes is far from a lock to return.  In that scenario, the Mets may feel compelled to find a player who can put up the power numbers Cespedes does.  Like it or not, the Mets only real opportunity to replace Cespedes’ bat in the lineup will be a Bruce caliber bat.  With Bruce most likely being the cheapest option as well as the option that doesn’t require the Mets to forfeit a first round pick, he is probably the Mets best Cespedes replacement (NOTE: no one can truly replace Cespedes).

So yes, Bruce has been a terrible with the Mets.  However, that shouldn’t prevent the Mets from picking up his option as he is going to have value for someone next year.  Just cross your fingers that team won’t be the Mets.

RISP Is the Difference 

Logan Verrett did his job tonight with his quality start. Verrett allowed five hits, three earned, and three walks with seven strikeouts in seven innings. 

The Cardinals scored all three runs in the third beginning with Verrett issuing a lead off walk to the opposing pitcher Adam Wainwright. Lead off walks are bad, but lead off walks to the opposing pitcher are worse. Wainwright would come along to score on a Matt Holliday two RBI double. By the way, remember when the Mets thought Jason Bay was a better option in free agency?  Holliday would come around to score on a Matt Adams double. 

For a while, it seemed as if the Mets were going to lose this game 3-1 as they were leaving everyone on base:

From the first until the seventh, the Mets were 1-11 with the usual culprits failing to deliver. The only hit was a first inning RBI single off the bat of Neil Walker scoring James Loney. It really seemed that the Mets would need a miracle to score another run. 

The miracle happened in the bottom of the seventh. Alejandro De Aza would hit a pinch hit single, and Travis d’Arnaud, who led off the inning with a single, would go from first to third. Naturally, as there were runners in scoring position, Curtis Granderson and Asdrubal Cabrera would strike out. Cabrera struck out looking on a pitch inside that might’ve been a ball, but it was too close to take. 

At this point, the Mets had runners at the corners with Yoenis Cespedes at the plate. If something was going to happen, you knew it would be with Cespedes at the plate. First, it was a wild pitch getting past Yadier Molina allowing d’Arnaud to score and allow De Aza to get to second. For what it’s worth, three years ago, Molina stops that ball. He really is a shell of hseof behind the plate. 

The Mets were down 3-2 and still needed Cespedes to deliver. He would work out a 3-2 count, and he would foul off three straight pitch. Then on the ninth pitch: 

Just like that it was 4-3. There was extra satisfaction that Cespedes gif the big hit. There was even more with Wainwright having the meltdown. From there, Addison Reed locked down the eighth putting the Mets and Verrett to win the game. 

Then it finally happened Jeurys Familia blew a save. He had saved 36 straight to start the year and 52 straight dating back to last year. He would issue a one out walk to Jedd Gyorko, who after yesterday, is becoming a Mets killer. He would score from first off a Molina RBI double to deep center past defensive replacement Juan Lagares

Familia was so close to getting out of it. There were two outs after a Jeremy Hazelbaker fielder’s choice led to Familia nailing Molina at third. Mike Matheny would pinch run Kolten Wong. Wong stole second ahead of d’Arnaud’s throw. He would score on an Aledyms Diaz bloop double. 5-4 Cardinals. 

In this game, you saw the big difference between these two teams. The Mets cannot hit with runners in scoring position, and as such, they need homers and wild pitches to score runs. The Cardinals are the best team in baseball with runners in scoring position. They were 3-9 with runners in scoring position, and they scored four of their five runs with two outs. 

It’s the slimmest of margins between these teams, and the Cardinals ability to hit with runners in scoring position that put them ahead tonight and ahead of the Mets by a half game now in the Wild Card standings. 

Game Notes: The Mets just had six straight games against the Marlins and Cardinals, who are two of their main competitors in the Wild Card race. The Mets went 3-3 in that stretch. Jose Reyes missed tonight’s game with an intercostal strain. He’s expecting to miss the next few games. Walker woke up a bit at the plate going 3-3 with a walk and an RBI. 

Tipping the Limo Driver for Score Updates

Six years ago to the day, I woke up with a bundle of nerves. The Mets were under .500, and they were sending Jon Niese to the mound against the Braves. Niese has never instilled any Mets fan with confidence.  

Initially, I had high hopes for this team.  After 2009, they were more comfortable in Citi Field and knew how to play there. Jose Reyes and David Wright were in their prime. Carlos Beltran had a full offseason to rest up, get healthy, and return to his dominant form.  I thought Ike Davis would get a call-up and be a legitimate middle of the order power threat. I thought Jason Bay would succeed with the Mets after playing so well for the Red Sox. The team had an ace in Johan Santana and an emerging pitcher in Mike Pelfrey. K-Rod was the closer, and promising young rookie Jenrry Mejia was going to be his set-up man.  There was a lot to like. 

Those feelings of optimism faded away early in the season. They lost seven of their first 10 games. Jerry Manuel was the manager, and he was managing like it. The team was barely able to score runs against the Cardinals’ position players in a 20 inning game. The Mets were under .500. Worse yet, they had to face Larry Jones – err, Chipper – and the Braves. The Mets countered with the enigmatic Niese against a player and team that killed the Mets. It’s enough to make any Mets’ fans stomach turn. 

By the way, it was also my wedding day. 

Yes, my wedding day. That one I knew I got right. I was marrying the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met (still is), and she had no clue she was way too good for me (still is). Honestly, I was not nervous at all about marrying her. I was only nervous about the logistics of the day. I was nervous about missing the Mets game. Priorities. 

I made sure I was ready well in advance so I could watch the game from first pitch. I caught the first couple of innings at home before getting in the limousine and heading to the Church. As we got to the Church, it was still 0-0. Now, as a superstitious sort, I knew I couldn’t hang around in the limo listening to the game because I couldn’t risk seeing my then fiancée in her dress before she entered the Church. Accordingly, I tipped the driver a couple of bucks to funnel me score updates until the game was over. 

Last thing I knew as a single man, the Mets were losing 1-0 to the Braves. Sounds about right. After seeing my wife head up the aisle, I forgot all about the Mets. I was excited to marry the best person I’ve ever known. 

Once the mass was over, we had the proceeding line. All my wife could do was laugh when the limo driver came over to give me the score. The Mets won 3-1. She knew what she was getting into marrying me. I put the Mets out of mind, did our wedding photos, and then had the greatest wedding reception ever. 

By the way, my wife nixed the idea of having Mr. Met serve as the maitre d’. It wasn’t my idea (although I fully supported it). Some of the ushers started a collection, but it quickly died down when my wife caught wind of it. Speaking of the ushers, I did win the pool because I didn’t cry during the mass. First round of drinks in Hawaii were on them. 

After my wife and I got married, the Mets went on a winning streak and took over first place. I had no idea because I was on my honeymoon (although we did fly Jet Blue so I could watch the Mets and Braves play the Sunday Night Game).  

During my honeymoon, I paid no attention to the Mets. Spending time with her then (as it is now) will always be more important. I just enjoyed each and every moment of being married to my beautiful wife. I still do. Marrying my wife was the best decision I ever made. 

Happy Anniversary honey. 

Be Concerned about Cespedes, but Don’t Boo Him

Well, that happened quickly. I think Mets fans took longer to boo Bobby Bonilla and Jason Bay than they have Yoenis Cespedes. Cespedes has gone from a conquering hero to getting booed within just four regular season games. 

Part of this is created by the fans’ unrealistic expectations. Cespedes came to the Mets last year, and he hit .287/.337/.604 with 17 homeruns and 44 RBI in just 57 games. Everytime he stepped to the plate last year, you expected magic. Whether Mets fans admit it or not, they’re expecting [or desperately hoping] for more of the same this year. It’s just not going to happen. Cespedes is a career .270/.319/.484 hitter. Prior to 2015, he averaged 24 homeruns and 81 RBI. He’s a career .234/.298/.477 hitter at Citi Field. 

What Mets fans saw last year was not the real Cespedes. To hold him to that standard is unfair and unrealistic. Similarly, Cespedes’ struggles so far this season is also not the real Cespedes. 

There is no doubt Cespedes has had a rough start to the season. On his first play of the season, he dropped an easy out giving Mets fans flashbacks to the inside-the-park homerun created by his lacksadasical play. At the plate, he has not been good, and at times, he has appeared overmatched. So far, he is 2-16 with seven strikeouts. With all that said, Mets fans have an awfully short leash if they’re starting to boo him. 

Yes, it is too soon to boo him. However, it is not too soon to be concerned. 

Last year, Cespedes removed himself from Game Four of the NLCS with an aggravated AC joint. With the shoulder injury, Cespedes would hit .150/.143/.150 with son extra base hits and six strikeouts in what was for him a forgettable World Series. 

During Spring Training, Cespedes felt a twinge in the same shoulder. Additionally, he dealt with a sore hip. These two issues caused Cespedes to only miss one game. However, Cespedes was dealing with some injuries that could affect his ability to make solid contact. In fact, he’s one of a few players in baseball who have yet to have one hard hit ball this season. 

Another issue that could be affecting Cespedes is his approach at the plate. Hitting Coach Kevin Long worked with Cespedes to focus on driving the ball up the middle and the other way rather than pulling the ball as ferociously as he did with the Mets last year. At times this year, Cespedes has looked lost or crossed up at the plate. 

So no, it is not time to boo Cespedes. It is way too soon in the season. However, with his injuries and changing approach at the plate, it’s not too soon to get nervous about Cespedes. 

Editor’s Note: this was first published on metsmerizedonline.com

Right about Santana, Wrong about Milledge

Today is the eighth anniversary of the Johan Santana trade. Over his tenure with the Mets, Santana pitched well to brilliantly when he was able to pitch.

Santana tried to will the Mets into the postseason in 2008. He pitched on three days rest on a bum knee and gave the Mets a brilliant outing, a complete game, three hit, nine strikeout, shut out. It would be the Mets last win at Shea Stadium. It would be his last great season, but not his last great moment. On June 1, 2012, he threw a 134 pitch no-hitter on a surgically repaired shoulder. The first in Mets history. It was effectively the end of his career. 

The cost for all of this?  Basically, it was Carlos Gomez. Yes, the same one. It’s interesting that it was Gomez because he wasn’t what the Twins initially wanted. They wanted  Lastings Milledge.

At that time everyone wanted Milledge. The A’s wanted Milledge in exchange for Barry Zito. The Mets balked in 2006. They balked despite Pedro Martinez‘s injury problems. The Mets thought that highly of Milledge that they were willing to let him possibly stand in the way of a World Series title. He was considered that good. Except, unfortunately, he really wasn’t that good. His stock would go down to the point where he could only fetch Brian Schneider and Ryan Church. That’s a far cry from Barry Zito and Johan Santana. 

The lesson here isn’t necessarily that you should always trade prospects. If that’s the case, the Mets wouldn’t have David Wright. No, the lesson is to make sure you are right before trading prospects. 

The Mets were wrong about Gomez and Milledge. Most were. Now, Milledge is playing in Japan. Gomez is a two-time All Star. He’s a Gold Glove centerfielder. There are different times the Mets could’ve used him either as an outfielder (possibly avoiding the disastrous Jason Bay signing), or used him as a trade chip. Unfortunately, he wasn’t there because the Mets held onto the wrong prospect. 

There are many lessons to learn with Santana, namely about abusing pitcher’s arms. The other lesson is that teams have to be right about their own prospects. By holding onto Milledge, the Mets might’ve lost out on a World Series in 2006. By being wrong about Milledge, the Mets lost out on Gomez’s career. 

So whenever the Mets trade a prospect, we should look not just at the return, but also who they didn’t trade. As we saw with the Santana deal, you can still win a trade while still losing out on something else. 

Historically Zobrist Goes Elsewhere

This isn’t a criticism of Sandy Alderson and his staff. This isn’t an issue of this front office being stingy or refusing to go the extra mile to get the player. It’s just that historically the Mets typically do not outbid teams when it comes to the big free agent. 

That’s not to say the Mets don’t sign free agents. Obviously, they do. They’ve also overspent and spent big money on some free agents. It’s just that they don’t typically win bidding wars. They especially don’t do so when a big market team is also bidding on the same player. My personal feelings aside, I just don’t see how the Mets outbid everyone for Ben Zobrist. Here are the instances where the Wilpon led Mets outbid everyone for a high priced player:

Jason Bay

In 2009, the Mets signed Jason Bay. In some ways it could be interpreted as the Mets won a bidding war and in others it could be seen as the Red Sox moved on to other players
Fact is the Red Sox essentially had a four year $60 million contract offer, which may or may not have been pulled due to medical concerns. You can never fully trust Boston’s statements when a player leaves. The fact is the Mets had to offer $6 million extra to bring Bay to New York. The fact also remains the Mets went after Bay instead of going after the much better and much more expensive Matt Holliday

This isn’t about how Bay fared with the Mets as no one could have reasonable predicted what happened next. This is about the Mets outbidding the Red Sox for a player only after deciding to not even get involved in the bidding for the more expensive, better player. 

Carlos Beltran

The Carlos Beltran story is an interesting one. Like Bay, it was also a move made under the Omar Minaya regime. 

What’s most interesting about this was the Yankees never got involved in the bidding despite Beltran all but begging them to offer him a contract. Furthermore, the Astros had a limited window to negotiate with Beltran. Under the old free agency rules, the Astros only had until January 7th to re-sign him. If they didn’t, they were barred from re-signing him until May 1st. 

The Mets went above and beyond then in Minaya’s first year as GM. The Mets signed Beltran to a then whopping seven year $119 million contract. It was a real power move that the Mets haven’t typically been the Mets strength. There was one other move in 2005 that was uncharacteristic. 

Pedro Martinez

Like Bay, the Mets were able to outbid the Red Sox for Pedro Martinez because the Red Sox drew a line in the sand in a player they knew/suspected had questionable medicals. Unlike Bay, the Mets clearly outbid the Red Sox. 

The Red Sox thought they had Pedro re-signed giving him the extra year he wanted. The Mets just gave that extra year and money no one thought Pedro could/should get. Like Beltran, this was part of Minaya’s reshaping of the Mets. It’s truly interesting the major deals happened in 2005 when Minaya took over the team. In some ways, it makes you question how much the Madoff Ponzi fallout affected the Mets. 

Yes, it clearly limited payroll. However, after 2005, the Mets never truly went the extra mile in seeking to acquire the top free agent on the market. They were initially rebuffed by Carlos Delgado (until he was later obtained via trade). They did give a huge contract to Johan Santana in the wake of the 2007 collapse. However, that was part of a trade and not part of a free agent bidding process. 

So while the Mets have at times spent money pre-Madoff, it appears the team does not usually win these free agent bidding contests. Additionally, after 2005, the team has typicall backed off the top free agent on the market that would/could fulfill a need like Jason Heyward

In any event, it appears if history repeats itself here, the Mets will not get Zobrist. This may or may not be due to the budget. It may due more to an organizational philosophy that was in place before Sandy Alderson ever became the GM. 

Looking Through the Reeds for a Reliever

After today’s game, the Mets completed a trade for Addison Reed, while not being able to acquire Marc Rzepczynski. While I’m disappointed in my getting Rzepczynski, I’m glad I’m not going to have a repeat of Doug Mientkiewicz, i.e. mastering how to spell his name right before he’s gone. 

I like the addition of Reed. For his career, he has an FIP of 3.45, which suggests he’s a good pitcher. His K/9 is 9.3, which is pretty good. He’s got experience closing games with the White Sox and Diamondbacks the past three seasons. Therefore, he’s used to high leverage situations. 

This year, his ERA is 4.20, which is in line with his career numbers. However, his FIP is 3.12, which suggests he’s been a very good reliever this year. However, his results don’t match the advanced statistics. One possible reason is he’s had a career worst K/9 of 7.5. This means there are more balls in play, and when there are more balls in play, there are more chances for bad things to happen. 

Sure enough, his BABIP is .344. This is well above the league average.  It’s also above his career average of .306. Translation: he’s been unlucky. This means behind a better team, his numbers may improve. The Mets are a better team . . . especially with him on the roster. He’s a great choice for the seventh inning. I expect his numbers will start to come more in line with what his FIP suggests. 

In exchange, the Mets gave up Matt Koch and Miller Diaz. I know nothing about them, which usually indicates they aren’t really prospect. However, the Reed surname caused me to take a step back and realize that’s not a good way of looking at things. You see the Mets once traded Jason Bay and the other Bobby Jones as part of a package for Jason Middlebrook and Steve REED. Note to Mets fans, this was trading Bay before he became a Rookie of the Year and three time All Star. This wasn’t trading the Bay that Mets fans came to know. 
Chances are this Reed trade is much better. First of all, Addison is under team control for two more seasons. Second, the prospect package seems much weaker. For this, I will rely upon Jeffrey Paternostro, who tweeted his analysis of them:

What I can glean from this is that if everything breaks right, either one of these guys can become a reliever the caliber of Reed. If it doesn’t break right, they won’t become major leaguers. This is more the Uribe/Johnson trade than the Cespedes trade

That means this is a very good trade with little downside, even if Reed doesn’t perform. This is a great move by Sandy Alderson. Let’s hope Reed takes over the seventh and sites up the seventh. If he doesn’t, the Mets bullpen is still is in as much trouble as it was in the Reed/Middlebrooks days.