Billy Eppler joined Jon Heyman and Joel Sherman on a New York Post podcast to discuss the New York Mets offseason plans. In reviewing the podcast, Eppler didn’t say anything really all the surprising, which we should expect from a seasoned front office executive.
The Mets want Edwin Diaz to return. They also want Brandon Nimmo, but if they can’t keep him they will consider Starling Marte in center. They want and can keep Jacob deGrom. Basically, everything you expect is in there inclusive of Eppler saying he is in charge of the baseball operations.
That’s where things get a little dicey based on past performance.
In 2014, Jerry Dipoto built a Los Angeles Angels team which finished atop the American League West division before they were swept in the ALDS by the Kansas City Royals. Unfortunately for him, he clashed with Mike Scioscia, and he lost leading to him resigning the following season. That led to Billy Eppler’s hiring.
When Eppler took over, he had Mike Trout, but he already had that albatross Albert Pujols contract. It was a roster that was somewhat flawed, but it had a good, young, and emerging starting staff with Garrett Richards, Hector Santiago, and Andrew Heaney. They also had a very good bullpen with Huston Street, Joe Smith, and Fernando Salas.
In many ways, this was a great job to have. There were pieces in place to make the Angels a winner and a deep pocketed owner. There is the caveat the farm system was not great, but overall, this was a good job to have. Well, while it looked like it was a good job to have, things would completely unravel.
The Andrelton Simmons trade did not pan out as he had hoped. That would become a habit for him with the same happening in future years with Cameron Maybin, Danny Espinosa, and Ian Kinsler. His signings never really panned out with Justin Upton never working out for the team. He began dabbling on the fringes of the pitching markets getting players like Matt Harvey for far too much while eschewing the higher priced and more established starters.
Making matters worse was the Angels farm system never really improved under Eppler. They were bad when he took over, and when he left, they were still bad. During his tenure, he never really had a player he drafted come up to the majors and be an impact player for him.
All told, Eppler only had three real accomplishments. First, he signed Trout to an extension. Second, he landed Shohei Ohtani. Finally, he did what Dipoto wasn’t able to do by outlasting Scioscia. Despite all that, his tenure was largely a disappointment and failure.
With the Mets, the good news is he built a very strong roster in his first season. He added Chris Bassitt, Mark Canha, Eduardo Escobar, Starling Marte, and Max Scherzer. His peripheral moves to address the bullpen like Adam Ottavino worked. All told, it was a 101 win team that tied atop the NL East (still losing the division due to Rob Manfred’s gimmick rules and postseason).
In year one, we saw Eppler have a stronger offseason than he ever had in any year with the Angels. Part of that was Cohen having the checkbook to add players like Marte and Scherzer. With Joely Rodriguez, Tyler Naquin, and Darin Ruf, you saw he still has a lot of work left to do in terms of trades, we should give him a lot of credit for Bassitt.
Overall, it is still difficult to ascertain if Eppler has learned from his previous mistakes and errors as the Angels GM. What we do know is Cohen is a better owner with more money than Arte Moreno. We also know the Mets have a far better farm system with Francisco Álvarez, Brett Baty, and Mark Vientos nearly ready to be Major League contributors.
Put another way, we are going to learn a lot about Eppler this offseason. We will see how he handles players like deGrom, Diaz, and Nimmo. We will see how he address the Mets need for power while having contracts like Canha and Daniel Vogelbach seemingly standing in the way of doing that.
This is a critical offseason for the Mets and Eppler. This offseason will go a long way to determining if the Mets can contend in 2023 and beyond until the farm is fully up to speed to provide depth to the Major League roster. It will also go a long way in determining just how good of a GM Eppler truly can be.
At that time, Greinke had allowed just two hits with one of them being Anthony Rendon‘s solo homer to pull the Nationals to within a run. Now, all postseason, we’ve seen Juan Soto follow a Rendon big hit with one of his own. In fact, if you go back to the NLDS, Rendon and Soto went back-to-back against Clayton Kershaw.
Greinke being the smart pitcher he is wasn’t going to get that happen. He pitched around Soto, and with his getting squeezed a bit, he walked Soto. Instead of letting Greinke go get Howie Kendrick, Hinch pulled him.
He didn’t go to Gerrit Cole, who was arguably the best pitcher in baseball this year, to do his best Madison Bumgarner impression. No, he went to Will Harris. Now, Harris has been great all year and all postseason. However, by Hinch’s own admission, Harris has been overused, and he showed his first cracks in Game 6. Harris would give up a big two run homer giving the Nationals a 3-2 lead.
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) October 31, 2019
Now, that deficit was partially the result of the Astros going 1-for-8 with RISP and leaving 10 men on base. It’s something which plagued them throughout the World Series. Part of the reason why that happened tonight and in the series is the Nationals pitching.
Max Scherzer gave one of the guttiest performances in World Series history. Days after not being able to even dress himself (not hyperbole), he allowed just two runs over five. In many ways, he appeared to be set to be a very undeserving loser.
In the end, yes, you can pinpoint many different reasons why the Astros lost this game and series. However, when the chips were down, Hinch was at his worst, and he didn’t use his best. Ultimately, that’s why the Nationals are celebrating the World Series which the Astros should’ve won.
Even with the Mets missing out on the Wild Card by three games, we will actually see some Mets in the World Series. Technically speaking, there are former Mets players in the World Series. So, in that sense, no matter who wins the World Series, we are going to see a Mets player get a ring.
Joe Smith – The 2006 third round pick was a valuable member of the Mets bullpen for two years before getting traded in the ill fated J.J. Putz trade. As luck would have it, Smith was the best reliever in that deal. In fact, Smith has had a very good career as a reliever with a good stretch in the postseason. In recent years, he’s tried to stay as close to his Ohio home as possible to be near his mother who is suffering from Huntington’s Disease. On that note, he has spent much time promoting awareness of this disorder through HelpCureHD.org.
Collin McHugh – The Mets never quite knew what they had with the 18th round pick of the 2008 draft trading him for Eric Young Jr. The same could go for the Rockies who designated him for assignment. McHugh rose above it all being one of the first pitchers to truly benefit from this Astros front office effect on pitchers. While he’s been a key part of the team’s recent run, he’s been sidelined this postseason with injuries.
Brent Strom – Strom was actually the third overall pick of the 1970 draft, but due to injuries, he would never quite make it either with the Mets, who eventually traded him to the Cleveland Indians, or as a Major Leaguer. After his Major League career, he’s found his footing as a coach, and during his tenure as the Astros pitching coach, he’s become one of the more noteworthy pitching coaches in the game.
Asdrubal Cabrera – The Mets signed Cabrera as a free agent, and his second half of the 2016 propelled them to the Wild Card Game. His play in that second half, along with that iconic bat flip, made him a fan favorite even through the issues regarding his trade demands. As much as fans loved him, Cabrera loved being a Met with his being traded and not re-signed breaking his son’s heart. Cabrera would have his chance to return, but with Brodie Van Wagenen not calling him back after the team signed Jed Lowrie over him, Cabrera opted to go to Washington instead.
Tim Bogar – Bogar spent four years as a Met as a utility player who was best known for his pre-game segments on Diamondvision. After his career was over, he had a decorated career as a minor league manager, and he’s been a respected coach leading to him being the National’s first base coach. With him being on the short list on the Mets managerial search, he may have a return to Queens after this World Series.
Chip Hale – Hale is a respected longtime coach who served as Terry Collins‘ third base coach in 2010 – 2011. In terms of team history, he goes down as one of the best third base coaches they have ever had.
Kevin Long – Long was the Mets hitting coach from 2015 – 2017. During that time, he was credited for players like Daniel Murphy and Yoenis Cespedes taking their offense to new heights, which was one of the reasons the Mets won the 2015 pennant. Partially due to his work as a hitting coach, he was a favorite to replace Collins as manager. When the Mets hired Mickey Callaway over him, he would leave for the Nationals organization where he has led young hitters like Juan Soto to the World Series.
Henry Blanco – Blanco had a reputation as a defensive catcher who spent one year with the Mets as a backup to Rod Barajas. After his playing career was over, he has followed a similar career path to Dave Duncan going from defensive catcher to pitching coach with Blanco having been the Nationals bullpen coach for the past two years.
In the end, no matter who wins, there will be a former Mets player who has a ring. As a fan of those players and coaches during their time with the Mets, we can take some sense of satisfaction when they get their ring. Of course, being happy for a particular player and being happy a certain team won are two completely different things.
After the positive feedback we received after our first Mets Blogger Roundtable, the Mets Bloggers have decided to come back for at least a second week. This week, we tackle the question “Which Mets player are we most excited about watching this Spring Training?”
Dominic Smith is the first player that comes to my mind, although there are several interesting stories to watch this spring. Here’s a guy who has spent a number of years now battling weight issues, and therefore reputation issues, and it’s no secret the organization has concerns with him. And, obviously, signing Adrian González clearly indicates that as well. I am looking for him to step up and look like the player and prospect everyone expects him to be, similar to howMichael Conforto performed last spring. If Dom does that, he’ll make for a tough decision a month from now, which is always a good internal conversation for Mets brass to have.
Do we all remember when Bret Booneabruptly retired a few days into Mets spring training camp in 2006? He admitted Jose Reyes “just kind of stared” at him “with that smile on his face” and realized the joy of playing baseball in himself was long gone. Well, I’m hoping Adrian Gonzalez looks at Dominic Smith, smiling and loving life with his old and new svelte physique, and realizes his future as a full-time top sub sandwich enterprise ambassador should be his present. Smith did not earn the full-time first baseman gig last season, but he’s already earned it before the first ST game. He wasn’t even in this good of shape last spring, so I’m looking forward to seeing the Dom Smith everybody warned with a smile was about to enter our lives last summer.
The player I am most excited to watch at Spring Training might surprise a few people. It’s Brandon Nimmo. I am by no means trying to say he’s an all-star, but I think he is often overlook for the value he brings to a team. First of all, his defense in center field (while not as good as Juan Lagares) is good. For me, I am more impressed with his approach at the plate. He’s one of the more disciplined hitters on the team, especially when it comes to his knowledge of the strike zone. Sure, his .260 batting average last year is not too impressive, but his on-base percentage was more than 100 points higher at .379. Despite not looking like he’s going to have a starting spot out of the gate, Nimmo is going to be an important piece on this team coming off of the bench. And knowing how hard he works, if there’s an injury, he’ll be ready to go in a pinch. It’s hard not to root for the kid.
Player I am most excited about? Great question. I know if the Mets had been smart enough to sign Joe Smith, he’d have been my answer. I guess I have to let that one go, though. Steven Matz is the other. There are certain guys I love to watch pitch, and Matz is the latest version of that.
The Mets player I’m most interested in seeing this spring is Yoenis Cespedes. The slugger is coming off a season that saw injuries limit him to only 81 games. He’s trained differently this offseason including doing yoga to make sure he is more agile and not simply bulked up like in 2017. It will be interesting to see if his offseason training can help him regain his decencies prowess that helped him win a gold glove in 2015. Also have to see if he can make it through all spring without a muscle injury which seemed to be a weekly occurrence for him last season.
When healthy, Cespedes has been everything the Mets hoped for when they traded for him and signed him to a four-year deal. The Mets are not going to be contenders in 2018 if Cespedes plays only 81 games and spring will be a good time to see if anything has changed for Yo.
Based upon the people the Mets brought into the organization the past year, it should come as little surprise Vargas was the guy.
First and foremost, there is Omar Minaya. After the Mets lost in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, Omar began looking to address one of the Mets weak points – starting pitching depth.
In what proved to be an unpopular trade, the Mets sent Matt Lindstrom and Henry Owens for the 24 year old Vargas. The whole of Vargas’ Mets career amounted to two starts where he went 0-1 with a 12.19 ERA.
Roughly two years later, Vargas was one of 12 players in the ill-fated J.J. Putz trade. When you consider Joe Smith was part of the deal, a Mets team looking to improve their pitching wound up trading the two best pitchers in that deal.
With respect to Vargas, that may not have been entirely anticipated. But that is what happened over his three team nine year post-Putz trade career.
The most recent stop was Kansas City where he played for current Mets pitching coach Dave Eiland, who as it turned out, gave Vargas a ringing endorsement.
Asked about Eiland’s endorsement of Vargas, Sandy says Eiland kept calling him, “the perfect guy for us.”
Sandy references the fact that he’s left handed, has a different approach to pitching than the others, is a veteran & knows what it takes to pitch 200+ innings.
— Steve Gelbs (@SteveGelbs) February 18, 2018
With that, the Mets have made would could be the most predictable signing of the offseason. It also should prove to be a good one.
Likely, the Mets can count on Vargas to last a full season. That’s important considering you can’t expect the same from Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler. Perhaps more importantly, it’s just another arm to the equation.
As of the moment, the Mets have a somewhat incomplete bullpen. Publicly, the Mets are bandying about getting a second left-handed reliever to compete with P.J. Conlon and Matt Purke. However, the real need, and the one Mickey Callaway has discussed – the long reliever.
With Vargas here, either him or Matz could serve in both roles much like Darren Oliver did in 2006.
Really, the possibilities are endless. Same goes for the Mets season if Vargas permits Callaway and Eiland to effectively mix and match to get the most out of this Mets pitching staff.
Current Position: Mariners Third Base Coach
Age: 1/11/1969 (48)
MLB Managerial Experience: 2007 – 2009 Washington Nationals 158 – 252 (.385); 2010 – 2012 Cleveland Indians 214-266 (.480)
One of the most respected coaches on Willie Randolph‘s staff was noticeably missing during the 2007 and 2008 collapses that doomed not just the Mets, but also Randolph. The person missing was third base coach Manny Acta.
Much like we saw with Alex Cora this season, Acta was a hot commodity back then because he was widely considered the next big manager. Acta was respected for his intelligence, baseball acumen, and his ability to communicate with players. That went double for young and Hispanic players. In fact, the Washington Nationals said of Acta, “Manny is so intelligent, and so articulate. And he’s very good with players. He’s very active. He was out there hitting fungos (while managing the Nationals). He has a lot going for him.” (Sports Illustrated). That’s a remarkable thing to say about a manager. It’s all the more incredible when you consider that was said when they fired him.
Because Acta is well respected and because people believe he’s an intelligent man who continues to educate himself, he keeps getting jobs. After failing with the Nationals, he was hired by the Indians. After failing with the Indians, he was hired by Baseball Tonight. After a well received Baseball Tonight stint, he was hired by the Mariners to serve as their third base coach, a position which he holds today.
Considering how well respected he is, it makes you question why he never worked out as a manager. For starters, he’s never really had good teams. When we thing of the current Nationals who are one of the best teams in baseball, you think of Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer, Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, and Ryan Zimmerman. In his Nationals tenure, Acta only got to manage a young Zimmerman.
In Cleveland, he had a difficult situation with the old players getting old fast, and the young players not being quite ready. Players like Johnny Damon and Derek Lowe were hanging on while Jason Kipnis and Corey Kluber weren’t what they are now. As many will note, even the best of managers cannot win without talent.
But with Acta, it might have been more than just a lack of talent. In a MASN article, Acta was described as being unable to relate to players. As bad as that might be, an AP article was even more damning of Acta as a manager with Indians players feeling as if Acta did not have their back. There were other reports suggesting Acta was rigid in his ways, and that he was unable to motivate his players. Put another way, Acta’s greatest weakness as manager might be his ability to handle a clubhouse.
What the Players Say:
Joe Smith: “Our team, for whatever reason, didn’t seem motivated to play. It’s sad when you say that about a bunch of guys that get paid to play a game. You shouldn’t need somebody else to motivate you to play this game. At the end of the day, it’s on us, but when it came that time to motivate us, there wasn’t a whole lot of it there.” (MLB.com)
Josh Tomlin: “He said that’s how he managed, that’s how he won in the Minor Leagues and that’s how he was going to win in the big leagues — by being himself. You have to respect a man for that, that he wasn’t going to change who he was.”
It is interesting to see Mike Puma’s recent New York Post article on the subject of Acta’s candidacy. Ultimately, it highlighted the best points of Acta that leads to teams continuously trying to bring him into their organization. However, that same piece highlighted his weaknesses, notably his inability to “handle controversy.”
What we don’t know from with Acta is if he’s grown from the issues that held back his career in Washington and Cleveland. If he hasn’t then hiring him should prove to be a disaster much in the same way hiring Art Howe or Jeff Torborg was. The Puma article does little to quell those concerns.
However, if Acta has grown and has learned from his mistakes in the clubhouse like we have see from Terry Collins during his Mets managerial career, you will have a smart baseball person who is hard working. In life, you can never go wrong with smart and hard working.
Ultimately, any decision on Acta should begin with long and honest conversations with David Wright and Asdrubal Cabrera. Both are veterans who Acta has coached/managed. If both endorse Acta, it’s possible he’s the right man for the job. That goes double when you consider most of the praise directed at Acta comes from front offices and not players. If Acta doesn’t receive glowing endorsements from Wright or Cabrera, it should be an easy decision to look in a different direction.
Editor’s Note: this was first published on MMO
When the Mets collapsed in 2007 and 2008, one person that was conspicuously absent was third base coach Manny Acta. In his time serving that role with the Mets, he had become known as an intelligent forward thinking baseball man, who showed an ability to connect with the players on the team.
Those traits led to Acta being a hot managerial candidate that offseason not too dissimilar to what we see with Alex Cora right now. Coincidentally, many of the positive things said about Cora now were said about Acta after the 2006 season.
Acta would get hired after the 2006 season as the Nationals manager. This would begin an interesting six year managerial career split between the Nationals and the Indians. He would have go 158-252 (.385) with the Nationals, and 214-266 (.446) with the Indians.
One of the reasons for the struggles with the Nationals was talent. The team had just parted ways with talented players including Alfonso Soriano. Of the famed group of Nationals who are part of the core of the current Nationals team that won multiple division titles, he would only get to manage Ryan Zimmerman.
It was a similar issue with the Indians. It was a team in transition after Cliff Lee was traded mid-season the year prior to his arrival. Acta would lead the team to a surprise second place finish in 2011 increasing expectations for 2012. That team had underperforming veterans like Derek Lowe, Ubaldo Jimenez, Casey Kotchman, and Johnny Damon didn’t produce, and young players like Corey Kluber, Cody Allen, and Jason Kipnis who were not quite ready.
Overall, Acta was well considered in baseball circles. Its why when he was fired by the Nationals they said, “Manny is so intelligent, and so articulate. And he’s very good with players. He’s very active. He was out there hitting fungos (while managing the Nationals). He has a lot going for him.” (Sports Illustrated).
It’s why Acta only had to wait a season between managerial jobs. That is the case when he has two top five Manager of the Year finishes under his belt. After his managerial stint was over, Acta was hired by ESPN where he would work for Baseball Tonight. For the past two seasons, he served as the Mariners third base coach. When he was hired, Mariners manger Scott Servais said, “I believe Manny will be a great addition to our staff. I’ve known him for over 25 years, since we were teammates in 1989. His experience as a Major League third-base coach and manager, paired with his extensive player-development background, will be very valuable to me, and to our players, as we move forward.” (MLB.com).
Between his tenure with the Nationals and the Indians, we began to get a picture of who Acta was as a manager. Generally speaking, he was seen as a smart baseball man who had an analytical approach to the game. Whereas some managers use instincts and a gunslinger mentality, Acta was a tactician who relied on the data. For many, this would invoke comparisons to Joe Girardi, which depending on your point of view, could be seen as a positive or a negative.
In terms of the clubhouse, Acta had a mixed reputation like many managers do. For one player, he was seen as someone who didn’t keep a tight reign on this players. For others, he was a manager who respected the veterans and let them control the clubhouse. For many, this would invoke comparisons to Terry Collins, which again depending on your view, could be seen as a positive or a negative.
Really, throughout his two tenures as manger, the only real pure negative thing anyone had to say about him was he was a poor motivator, and he was rigid in his ways. As then Indians pitcher Josh Tomlin said of Acta, “He said that’s how he managed, that’s how he won in the Minor Leagues and that’s how he was going to win in the big leagues — by being himself. You have to respect a man for that, that he wasn’t going to change who he was.” (MLB.com).
As for his ability to motivate Joe Smith said, “Our team, for whatever reason, didn’t seem motivated to play. It’s sad when you say that about a bunch of guys that get paid to play a game. You shouldn’t need somebody else to motivate you to play this game. At the end of the day, it’s on us, but when it came that time to motivate us, there wasn’t a whole lot of it there.”
Overall, Acta is well considered to be a good and smart baseball man. It is why he continues to get jobs. It is also why you do see a positive impact on whatever team he joins. Still, between his record and the specific criticism of being rigid in how he manages and his inability to motive, you do question if he’s well suited to be a manager.” Then again, those things only to be raised as issues when someone is fired.
In the end, we still probably don’t know what Acta is as a manager because he’s never quite had sufficient talent to manage. Considering the current composition of the Mets roster, this would make Acta a risky bet for this Mets team. Then again, so would Cora or anyone else the Mets are considering.
When determining which team to root for this postseason, the general rule of thumb is to root against the Mets rivals. With the Mets making a number of trades this season, you could also root for teams according to their Mets connections:
East – Boston Red Sox
Assistant Pitching Coach – Brian Bannister (2006)
Bannister made the Mets out if Spring Training in 2006. His tenure was short lived as he injured his hamstring, and Omar Minaya rebuilt the rotation in-season pushing a healthy Bannister out. He’d be moved that offseason in an ill-fated trade for Ambiorix Burgos.
RHP Blaine Boyer (2011)
Boyer pitched just five games for the Mets before leaving via free agency. He would not pitch in the majors again until 2014.
RHP Addison Reed (2015 – 2017)
Acquired on the eve of September, Reed quickly became an important seventh inning reliever on the Mets pennant winning team. He was even better the next season helping pitch the Mets back to the postseason. With Jeurys Familia‘s suspension and injury, Reed became an effective closer before being traded for a trio of Red Sox relief prospects at the trade deadline.
OF Chris Young (2014)
After a few down years, the Mets took a one year gamble on Young. He struggled all year, and he was released with the Mets eight games under .500 and 10.5 games back in the division. Since that time, Young has been a much more effective player.
Central – Cleveland Indians
First Base Coach Sandy Alomar, Jr. (2007 – 2009)
Alomar ended his playing career playing eight games with the Mets in 2007. He would then begin his coaching career with the Mets serving two years as a special catching instructor.
RF Jay Bruce (2016-2017)
Bruce went from bust who struggled mightily after being acquired at the trade deadline last year to fan favorite this year. Fortunately for the Indians, Bruce wouldn’t repeat his struggles helping propel the Indians to 102 wins.
RHP Joe Smith (2007 – 2008)
Smith went straight from being a third round draft pick in 2006 to being a very good reliever for the Mets in two seasons. Ironically, he moved as part the three team J.J. Putz trade intended to improve the Mets bullpen.
West – Houston Astros
DH Carlos Beltran (2005 – 2011)
Seeing him in the postseason again will certainly evoke memories of Adam Wainwright, but he was so much more than that in a Mets uniform. Beltran was the best center fielder in Mets history and perhaps their best outfielder ever.
C Juan Ceteno (2013 – 2014)
Ceteno is a strong defensive catcher who played just 14 games over two years before he was claimed off waivers by the Milwaukee Brewers.
Bench Coach Alex Cora (2009 – 2010)
Cora joined the Mets in the hopes of being an important utility player on a playoff caliber team. Unfortunately, injuries and a ballpark ill-suited for the talents of the players on the roster brought that run to an end.
Hitting Coach Dave Hudgens (2011 – 2014)
Hudgens was the Mets hitting coach who was entrusted with helping the Mets adapt to a new ballpark. While he was much embattled in the position, Mets offensive highlights during his tenure included Ike Davis hitting 30 homers and the last great season from David Wright.
Pitching Coach Brent Strom (1972)
Strom was the Mets 1970 first round draft pick. He appeared in just one season with the team going 0-3 with a 6.82 ERA and a 1.615 WHIP.
Third Base Coach Gary Pettis (2003 – 2004)
Pettis served as the first base and outfield coach during the Art Howe Era.
Wild Card – New York Yankees
RHP Luis Cessa
Cessa was the other pitching prospect the Mets sent to the Tigers in the Yoenis Cespedes trade.
Wild Card – Minnesota Twins
Pitching Coach Neil Allen (1979 – 1983)
While Allen had a noteworthy Mets career of his own, he will forever be known as one of the two players traded by the Mets in exchange for Keith Hernandez.
RHP Bartolo Colon (2014 – 2016)
“Big Sexy” became a fan favorite and a mentor to the young pitchers in the clubhouse. There are a number of highlights you can choose from his Mets career, but the one that keeps coming to mind was the unbelievable home run he hit in San Diego last year.
RHP Dillon Gee (2010 – 2015)
Gee is an example of a pitcher who has gotten everything out of his ability. He has been resilient overcoming a number of injuries in his career with his career highlight possibly being his named the Mets 2014 Opening Day starter.
East – Washington Nationals
OF Alejandro De Aza (2016)
De Aza had an interesting year with the Mets. He was terrible to begin the year, and he then had a great July helping propel the Mets second half run to the Wild Card.
Pitching Coach Mike Maddux (1993 – 1994)
Maddux pitched two years for the Mets pitching to a 4.16 ERA as a reliever before departing via free agency.
2B Daniel Murphy (2008 – 2015)
Somehow Murphy has become one of the most divisive players among the Mets fanbase. Many still fondly remember his for his time witht he Mets, especially his incredible NLDS and NLCS propelling the Mets to the pennant. Others see a player who annihilates the Mets since leaving the team.
LHP Oliver Perez (2006 – 2010)
Believe it or not, there was a time where Perez was beloved for his Game 7 performance and his start the final game of the 2008 season. He then fell off a cliff upon receiving a huge contract. Things got so bad, he refused a minor league assignment, and his last appearance as a Met would be the team throwing him into the 14th inning on the last game of the season just to get the game over with.
Central – Cubs
Quality Control Coach Henry Blanco (2010)
“Hank White” was brought on as a defensive back-up, and he excelled in the role throwing out 50% of base stealers.
C Rene Rivera (2016 – 2017)
Rivera was a defensive specialist who helped Noah Syndergaard overcome his issues holding on base runners. It was more than Syndergaard, Rivera served as a mentor for young starters Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman who helped pitch the Mets to the Wild Card.
West – Dodgers
Bench Coach Bob Geren (2012 – 2015)
Geren served as the bench coach for the Mets serving as a mentor for the Mets catchers. Since his departure, we have seen Mets catchers regress in their pitch framing, and we have certainly seen Travis d’Arnaud regress in nearly every aspect of his game.
OF Curtis Granderson (2014 – 2017)
Granderson is one of the finest men to ever put on a Mets uniform. He also came up biggest when the Mets needed him most. Granderson kept the Mets afloat in 2015, and if not for some blown leads, he was in line to be the MVP of that series. His big outburst to end the 2016 season helped lead the Mets back to the postseason.
3B Justin Turner (2010 – 2013)
Turner was an effective utility player in his years with the Mets who was really non-tendered because he was arbitration eligible. Turner would find himself a home in Los Angeles where he has become a terrific player.
Third Base Coach Chris Woodward (2005 – 2006)
Woodward was a valuable utility player for the Mets for two seasons having the second best season of his entire career in 2005.
Wild Card – Diamondbacks
RHP Matt Koch (2012 – 2015)
Koch was one of the two minor league pitchers traded by the Mets for Addison Reed. While Koch is on the 40 man roster, it is not expected he will be on the postseason roster.
Wild Card – Rockies
Based on the sheer volume of Mets affiliations, it would appear Mets fans would be pulling for the Astros in the American League and either the Nationals or Dodgers in the National League. Considering the presence of Chase Utley on the Dodgers and the recent rivalry with the Nationals, most Mets fans will understandably choose rooting interests for different reasons all together.
First and foremost, it should be noted the Mets unwillingness or inability to sign one or more players before trading away an outfielder, namely Jay Bruce, is aggravating. Despite the Mets attendance growing and the team’s revenues increasing, the Mets still do not have a payroll commensurate with either their position as a potential playoff team or their stature as a big market team in the biggest market in the world. It is unfathomable the Mets still cannot have more than a league average payroll. As a result, we have seen players who could help the Mets sign with other teams.
Fortunately, there are plenty of options still available on the free agent market. At least conceptually, this means there are more relievers than there are teams in need of them. Ideally, this means the price for these players should be suppressed. This goes doubly so with pitchers and catchers reporting in less than one month (February 13th). In sum, this means the Mets may be able to add one or more of the following on a team friendly deal:
2016 Stats: 4-2, 2.79 ERA, 73 G, 2 SV, 42.0 IP, 1.214 WHIP, 11.1 K/9
Heading into free agency, it was assumed Blevins was as good as gone as he wanted a multi-year deal worth approximately $6 million per season. With teams looking elsewhere in free agency, Blevins remains on the market. Worse yet, it does not appear that many teams are interested in Blevins services. That is odd considering he had a career best year pitching to right-handed batters, and for his career, he has limited left-handed batters to a .214/.266/.322 batting line. In the end, this could spell the Mets being able to re-sign him to a one-year deal at a modest raise over his $4 million 2016 salary.
2016 Stats: 1-1, 4.13 ERA, 16 G, 24.0 IP, 1.583 WHIP, 10.1 K/9
Back in 2011, Capuano came to the Mets looking for a place to rejuvenate his career, and under the tutelage of Dan Warthen, he largely succeeded. Now, the 38 year old finds himself with another elbow injury that limited him to 16 games in 2016. He also finds himself in need of an opportunity. He could be worth a flyer as a LOOGY with left-handed batters slashing .244/.302/.360 against him in his career and .212/.297/.333 in 2016.
2016 Stats: 1-1, 4.09 ERA, 64 G, 50.2 IP, 1.401 WHIP, 7.8 K/9
Howell has been effective against left-handed batters in his career limiting them to a .229/.306/.317 batting line. From 2013 – 2015, he was an extremely effective reliever posting a 1.97 ERA over that time span. However, last year was a struggle for him due largely to left-handed batters hitting him much better. In 2016, left-handed batters hit .302/.343/.417 off of him. The question is whether this is the start of a downward trend or just a one season blip for him.
2016 Stats: 2-5, 3.69 ERA, 60 G, SV, 46.1 IP, 1.014 WHIP, 11.1 K/9
In some respects, it is astounding there is not more interest in Logan with him coming off an effective season while pitching half of his games in Coors Field. The main reason could be his .225 BABIP against which is well below his career .326 number. Still, he dominated left-handed batters limiting them to a .142/.222/.255 batting line. Overall in his career, he has limited left-handed batters to a less impressive .233/.308/.361 batting line.
2016 Stats: 4-0, 2.95 ERA, 77 G, 61.0 IP, 1.131 WHIP, 6.9 K/9
In the last two years for the Cubs, Wood has transitioned to the bullpen for the Cubs. If judging by ERA+, Wood is coming off the best season of his seven year career. In his career, he has been extremely effective getting left-handed batters out limiting them to a .206/.276/.316 batting line. He was even better in 2016 limiting them to a .128/.208/.239 batting line. In addition to his pitching, we have also seen him handle left field.
2016 Stats: 3-7, 3.91 ERA, 75 G, 6 SV, 73.2 IP, 1.113 WHIP, 7.8 K/9
For the past few years with the Angels, Salas was on a downward trend. However, when he joined the Mets, Salas was seemingly rejuvenated. Whether it was being in the Wild Card hunt or pitching to much better pitch framers, the results were dramatically different for Salas. In his 17 games for the Mets, he had a 2.08 ERA, 0.635 WHIP, and a 9.9 K/9. While it is unrealistic to expect him to put up those numbers, it is reasonable to believe he could perform well for the Mets next season.
2016 Stats: 7-2, 2.48 ERA, 75 G, 80.0 IP, 1.013 WHIP, 9.0 K/9
After sitting out the 2014 season, Blanton has come back to the majors as a very good relief pitcher. According to Brooks Baseball, over the past two seasons, Blanton has predominantly become a fastball/slider pitcher who strikes out a batter per inning. Generally speaking, Blanton has also shown the ability to keep the ball in the ballpark. While Blanton is not a closer, he has shown the ability to be an extremely effective late inning set-up man.
2016 Stats: 4-2, 3.52 ERA, 62 G, 2 SV, 53.2 IP, 1.137 WHIP, 10.2 K/9
Feliz began his career as a dominant closer. However, he began to make multiple trips to the disabled list, and in 2015, it all caught up to him as he struggled throughout the season. Last year, he began pitching much better in Pittsburgh. Still, he struggled in the second half, and again he needed to be shut down over the final month of the season due to arm problems.
2016 Stats: 2-3, 3.86 ERA, 40 G, 37.1 IP, 1.071 WHIP, 9.6 K/9
Like Matt Harvey, Hochevar needed seasons ending surgery to alleviate the effect of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Unlike Harvey, Hochevar will not be ready for Opening Day. As we saw in 2013, when healthy, Hochevar is capable of being a dominant reliever. However, between his Tommy John surgery in 2014 and his most recent surgery, it is debatable whether he can be that pitcher again.
2015 Stats: 3-2, 3.83 ERA, 48 G, 32 SV, 44.2 IP, 1.455 WHIP, 9.9 K/9
Judging from the rather ordinary 2015 stats, you knew something was wrong with Holland. From 2011 – 2014, he was 15-9 with a 1.86 ERA, 1.026 WHIP, and a 12.6 K/9. During this stretch, he averaged 62 appearances, 64.0 innings, and 28 saves. Holland would need Tommy John surgery robbing him of the remainder of the 2015 and the entirety of the 2016 season. At this point, Holland is seeking a two year deal worth $11 million per season with an opt out after the first year. If he returns to form, he may look like a bargain. If he doesn’t, the contract will be a burden.
2016 Stats: 2-2, 3.41 ERA, 29 G, 31.2 IP, 1.326 WHIP, 4.5 K/9
Maness’ 2016 season was abbreviated because it was thought he was going to need Tommy John surgery. Except Maness did not get the surgery. Rather, Maness opted for a sugery dubbed “primary repair” which seeks not to reconstruct the ligament, but to repair and stabilize it. He is the first major league pitcher to ever elect this surgery over Tommy John meaning we do not know how successful this will be. Maness’ 2017 season is going to be an extremely interesting, if not important, one. If he is truly able to pitch with this surgery, and pitch as well as he has in his career, the Mets may have not only found a quality reliever, but the whole baseball industry may be in the beginnings of a revolution.
2016 Stats: 1-0, 2.64 ERA, 40 G, 4 SV, 30.2 IP, 1.076 WHIP, 9.7 K/9
Behind what were some good numbers for Romo in 2016 was an injured plagued year and a drop in velocity. Still, Romo had a solid season with numbers in line with his career norms. Unless his elbow injury is worse than believed, it is hard to imagine why a quality reliever like him, one who has closing experience, remains on the free agent market.
2016 Stats: 2-5, 3.46 ERA, 54 G, 6 SV, 65.1 IP, 1.250 WHIP, 6.9 K/9
Like his former teammate Salas, Smith had regressed in 2015, and he was performing worse in 2016. Also like Salas, Smith was traded to a postseason team with a excellent pitch framers, and he thrived. In 16 appearances for the Cubs, Smith posted a 2.51 ERA, 1.116 WHIP, and a 9.4 K/9. Despite his success in those 16 appearances, Smith was left off the Cubs postseason roster.
Overall, there are a number of relievers still remaining on the free agent market. Some of these players may be able to be acquired on a minor league deal. Others may still command major league deals, and yet some more may still get a multi-year contract. Each one of these pitchers at least has potential to be a contributor to a major league bullpen in 2017. With all of these choices remaining, it remains possible the Mets are able to add a quality reliever at a reasonable or even discounted price.
With Jeurys Familia having been arrested under suspicion of domestic violence, there are a number of questions that need to be asked and answered. While it may seem tactless, at some point, we need to ask the question of how does this arrest impact the Mets organization.
Over the past two seasons, Familia has been leaned on heavily by Terry Collins, and Familia has responded. In his two years as the Mets closer, Familia has made more appearances, converted more saves, pitched more innings, and finished more games than any other closer in Major League Baseball. He has at least appeared to be the rare durable closer that can be relied upon year in and year out.
Many times Familia has not been given much of a margin of error. For far too many stretches in 2015 and 2016, the Mets have found themselves desperate for offense putting a ton of pressure on their starters and their best relievers. This past season Familia and Addison Reed combined to be the best 8-9 combination in all of baseball. With the possibility of Yoenis Cespedes leaving in free agency, the uncertainty of the health of Neil Walker and whether he can return next season, and the myriad of other offensive question marks, the bullpen is once again going to be of great importance in 2017.
That’s where things get tricky with Familia. While he has stated he is not guilty of the crimes, we have seen Major League Baseball levy suspensions for players regardless of criminal charges being filed or in the absence of a conviction. The police never filed charges against Aroldis Chapman, and still he was suspended 30 games. The charges against Jose Reyes were dropped, and he was suspended for 51 games. If a Major League Baseball investigation finds Familia committed an act of domestic violence, it is possible he could miss 30 or more games to start the season.
With Reed, the Mets do have an internal option to close. From 2012 – 2014, Reed served as a closer for the White Sox and the Diamondbacks. In that time, he averaged 34 saves per season. While his 4.22 ERA and 1.217 WHIP left a lot to be desired, it is important to note Reed has been a different pitcher since coming to the Mets. As a Met, he has a 1.84 ERA and a 0.957 WHIP. Certainly, Reed has shown the ability in the past to be a closer, and with the Mets Reed has shown the ability to be a dominant reliever. Therefore, from a closing standpoint, the Mets have an internal option.
The real issue becomes who takes Reed’s spot in the bullpen.
Hansel Robles has shown a lot of promise. He has struck out 10.0 batters per nine in his career, and he is effective getting left-handed batters out. However, he is also mercurial in his performance, and slotting him into the eighth inning takes away one of his key attributes which is he is a guy that you can use for multiple innings or to get a big out.
Josh Smoker had great strikeout numbers in both the minors and in the majors this season. In fact, he struck out 14.7 batters per nine. However, he has severe reverse splits, and each time Collins asked him to pitch more than one inning this year, he allowed a home run in his second inning of work.
Seth Lugo could be an inspired choice to take over the eighth inning. As we saw this season, the Mets envisioned his future role with the team coming out of the bullpen, and Lugo was effective in his limited time out of the pen for the Mets. However, we also saw he was an effective starter, and with Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz coming off season ending surgeries, we were reminded you cannot have enough starting pitching depth.
There are minor league pitchers such as Paul Sewald who could be effective. However, with the Mets not turning to them in September, it is highly unlikely they will rely on them to be the seventh or eighth inning reliever to start the season. It is further unlikely with him being subjected to the Rule 5 Draft. It is very likely someone will pick him up in the draft.
From there, the Mets do not have many internal options. In reality, this means with Familia potentially missing a significant portion of the season, the Mets will likely have to look on the free agent market to fill in the gap.
The first name that comes to mind is Fernando Salas. In his limited time with the Mets, he was very effective. In fact, he had the same reversal of fortune that Reed did in 2015. Still, there is caution in over relying on a pitcher with a career 3.64 ERA to replace one of your two best bullpen arms.
There are a number of intriguing set-up men on the free agent market. There is Joe Blanton who had a 2.48 ERA in 75 appearances for the Dodgers. Former Met Joe Smith has been a good reliever for 10 years, and during the stretch drive with the Cubs this year, he had a a 2.51 ERA in 16 appearances. Brad Ziegler is coming off a terrific year as a closer for the Diamondbacks and the Red Sox. There are a bunch of other names as well. However, as we have seen as recently as last year with Antonio Bastardo, many middle reliever performances tend to fluctuate year to year. This leaves you wondering not only how to replace that player’s role in the bullpen, but also how to get out from under the contract.
Therefore, if you are going to add a reliever you should go after the dominant closer in free agency. While there is debate over whether or not they are more of a sure thing, we do know there are three great closers available this offseason.
We can pick nits over who is better among the trio of Chapman, Kenley Jansen, or Mark Melancon. However, the one underlying truth with any of those three is if you have one of them, you have a dominant closer in your bullpen. As we have seen with Familia over the past two seasons, you are lucky to have any of these dominant closers. With one of those three joining Reed, and eventually Familia, the Mets would have a bullpen similar to the one the Indians have rode all the way to the World Series.
The Mets will also have a lot of money invested in their bullpen. According to the Los Angeles Times, it is believed that Jansen will not only receive and reject the $17.2 million qualifying offer, but also he will eventually sign a contract surpassing Jonathan Papelbon‘s then record setting five year $50 million contract. With Jansen on the free agent market, and big budget teams like the Dodgers chasing after him, there is no telling how high the bidding will go for him.
For their part, Chapman and Melancon cannot receive qualifying offers as a result of them being traded in-season. At least conceptually, that could drive up their prices as well because more teams may be interested in them because they will not have to forfeit a draft pick to obtain them. Teams like the Dodgers, Cubs, Yankees, and who knows who else could be interested leading to each of them getting a huge contract.
This begs the question whether the Mets can even afford to pursue a big time closer. Likely, they cannot.
According to Mets Merized Online, the Mets will have approximately $108 million wrapped up in 18 players who should make the Opening Day roster. That number does not include money to re-sign Cespedes, Walker, Jerry Blevins, Bartolo Colon, or the aforementioned Salas. If the Mets were to re-sign these players, or players of similar value to replace them, the Mets payroll is going to go well over $160 million. Accoring to Spotrac, the Mets finished the 2016 season with a $156 million payroll. It should be noted this amount does not include any insurance reimbursements related to David Wright‘s season ending neck surgery.
With that in mind, the Mets likely do not have the budget necessary to add a Chapman, Jansen, or Melancon. If the Mets were to add one of them, it is likely to come at the expense of Cespedes or Walker. While having a dominant trio to close out ballgames in enticing, the Mets would first need offense to get enough runs to give that bullpen a lead. This puts a greater priority on Cespedes and Walker.
In the long run, the Mets best bet is to play out the entire process with Familia. If there is a suspension, Reed can be an effective closer. Re-signing Salas and/or bringing in a Ziegler would help as well. It would behoove the Mets to roll the dice on a reclamation project like a Greg Holland or a Drew Storen because in reality that is the position the Mets are in budget-wise.