When the World Baseball Classic rolls around, there is a fear it is going to negatively impact the players. Certainly, Buck Showalter has spoken out about that recently. If you are a defeatist New York Mets fan, you can point to J.J. Putz participating in the 2013 WBC before having the worst season of his career.
However, to be fair there, Putz was already injured. As had been reported, Putz wasn’t really given a physical, and that he was pushed to pitch through a painful bone spur which hindered his performance. That was back in the days of Jeff Wilpon making medical decisions which included forcing an injured and shut down Pedro Martinez to pitch and attempting to prevent Carlos Beltran from having career saving knee surgery.
Going back to Beltran, he participated for Puerto Rico in the inaugural 2006 World Baseball Classic. In fact, the Mets had a heavy contingent of players at that event, which included:
- Carlos Beltran (Puerto Rico)
- Endy Chavez (Venezuela)
- Carlos Delgado (Puerto Rico)
- Pedro Feliciano (Puerto Rico)
- Jose Reyes (Dominican Republic)
- Duaner Sanchez (Dominican Republic)
- Jose Valentin (Puerto Rico)
Looking at that list, each and everyone one of these players had a great 2006 season, and their great seasons started by playing in the World Baseball Classic.
Beltran went from the biggest free agent bust in baseball history, even worse than Bobby Bonilla. Beltran probably should have won the 2006 NL MVP as he was an All-Star while winning the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger. He probably should have won the MVP award with his finishing second to just Albert Pujols in WAR. Arguably, this remains the single best regular season in Mets history.
Chavez would also have a career year. He was always a great fielder, but he could not hit. He would have a 101 wRC+ while playing great defensively. We still talk about that catch robbing Scott Rolen of a home run to this day.
Delgado had a very good year in his first year with the Mets. However, he would be special in the postseason hitting four home runs.
Feliciano was almost left off the Mets Opening Day roster after returning to the organization after a year in Japan. He stayed on the roster, and he would have a breakout season which led him on a path to becoming the best LOOGY in Mets history.
Sanchez was a reliever Omar Minaya gambled on when he traded Jae Weong Seo to get him. Minaya looked like a genius as Sanchez might’ve been the best set-up man that season, and if he didn’t get in that cab, the Mets probably win the World Series that season.
Entering 2006, Reyes was still this great raw talent who had not been able to harness his ability. That 2006 season was the season which Reyes became that dynamic lead-off hitter and shortstop the Mets knew he could be. He learned plate discipline, hit for power, and of course, stole bases. He was a first time All-Star, and he had what proved to be the best season of his career.
Finally, there was Valentin. In the previous season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the then 35 year old looked done as he hit .170/.326/.265. To be honest, things didn’t look all that great in April for Valentin. However, due to a myriad of injuries at second base, he was given the job, and he was the missing piece that roster needed. He capped off a great season by hitting two homers in the NL East clincher.
That Mets team was a special team, and it still goes down as one of the best regular seasons in team history. For that to happen, they needed almost everything to break right, and it did. That process all started with these Mets players participating in the WBC.
Looking forward to 2023, the Mets are sending a heavy contingent of players including very important ones like Pete Alonso, Edwin Diaz, Jeff McNeil, and Francisco Lindor. If 2006 is any guide, this should be a springboard for these and the other Mets participating meaning we are about to see another great Mets season.
One of the biggest mistakes the New York Mets made in their history was trading for Robinson Cano. It wasn’t just about who they gave up. Really, it was about acquiring a 36 year old infielder coming off a PED suspension with just about the worst contract in baseball.
Cano’s first year in Queens was a disaster for him, but he did rebound in 2020 to look like the player the Mets thought they were getting. As we discovered, Cano was using PEDs that season. As a result, he was suspended for the entirety of the 2021 season. During that 2021 season, the Mets were forced to move in another direction.
Now, Cano is back and was always going to get chances because of the contract. Yes, the Mets have acknowledged the sunk cost by at least making Cano a part-time player, or really a semi-regular. That said, they seem to be letting that contract get in the way of some decision making. To the point, it is difficult to discern reasons other than Cano’s contract as to why he is getting the playing time.
To a point, there is the Billy Eppler and Buck Showalter consideration. Eppler has a relationship with Cano from their time with the New York Yankees. With respect to Showalter, with respect to Cano’s return, he said, “We’re excited about having him back on the club and contributing..”
Now, words are words, and actions are actions. With respect to Cano, the actions are what’s troubling.
First, we need to acknowledge the Mets are in a difficult pot with Cano. They have one month to determine if he can be a viable Major League player. They need to decide if it’s worth carrying one fewer pitcher or designating Travis Jankowski, or another viable player, for assignment. As a result, Cano is going to be forced into the lineup even when it doesn’t make sense.
However, it doesn’t make sense for Cano to be batting ahead of Jeff McNeil. It also doesn’t make any sense why he is up for key at-bats late in games.
Before addressing that point, it should be noted Cano is hitting .184/.225/.263 with a homer and three RBI. After Cano went 2-for-3 on Opening Day, he has been 5-for-36 (.143) since.
Cano is chasing everything, He’s having issues with velocity and breaking pitches. This may be due to a number of factors. He was away from the game for a year, and there’s bound to be some rust. He’s also older. There’s also the presumption he’s no longer taking PEDs.
You can take a look at that and justify giving him chances to start. After all, back in 2006, a 36 year old Jose Valentin came to the Mets looking like he was done as a Major Leaguer, and his hitting .136 over the first month of the season seemed to confirm that. Of course, Valentin emerged as a key piece to that 2006 team. That was only possible because the Mets stuck with Valentin.
However, Valentin was a part-time player to start, and he was not force-fed into late inning game situations like Showalter did with Cano against St. Louis.
Revisiting the game. Giovanny Gallegos was on the mound. There was one out in the inning, the Mets were down 2-0, and Eduardo Escobar was on first. A double play ends the game. Cano is among the slowest players in the majors, and he is hitting the ball on the ground 57% of the time. Long story short, this was a situation primed for an inning ending double play.
On the bench, the Mets had Dominic Smith. Yes, Smith is off to a slow start, but right now, he’s a significantly better hitter than Cano. Certainly, he gives you a better chance. The same goes for Luis Guillorme. Really, it is the case with anyone on the Mets roster.
Instead, Showalter stuck with the veteran Cano. He put Cano above trying to win the game. He stuck by the veteran over opting for the best player. It was in this moment it was clear having Cano on the roster is a detriment to this team because Showalter will stick with him instead of making the moves that need to be made to win a game.
No, it’s not necessarily Cano’s fault Showalter has stuck by him. In the end, that doesn’t matter. So long as Showalter is going to prioritize Cano over winning games, the Mets need to remove Cano from the equation. The Mets won despite this decision, but they may not be so lucky the next time or the time after that.
The New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers have an interesting history. For fans of the original Mets team, many of them were originally Dodgers fans.
That includes Fred Wilpon, who built a ballpark in testament to those Dodger teams. Of course, that was resented by younger more modern Mets fans who have zero recollection of those Brooklyn teams.
For Gen X fans and younger, the history of the Mets and Dodgers is quite different.
There was the Dodgers upsetting the 1988 Mets. That was a painful series highlighted by David Cone perhaps riling up the Dodgers, Davey Johnson leaving in Dwight Gooden too long with the ensuing Mike Scioscia homer, and Orel Hershiser‘s virtuoso performance.
The 2006 Mets got some measure of a payback in the NLDS sweep. That was a total beatdown with former Dodgers Shawn Green and Jose Valentin relaying to former Dodger Paul Lo Duca who tagged out Jeff Kent and J.D. Drew at home plate.
Things between these two teams really ratcheted up in the 2015 NLDS. That all began with Chase Utley living up to his reputation as one of the dirtiest players ever with his tackling Ruben Tejada at second thereby breaking Tejada’s leg.
The bad feelings of that series carried forward into the next season when Noah Syndergaard was ejected during a nationally televised game after throwing a pitch behind Utley. Utley would get the last laugh with Terry Collins being revered years later when the ejection video was released.
After that, things calmed down. That was due in large part to the Wilpons ineptitude taking the Mets out of contention. During that time, the Dodgers became the model franchise finally breaking through and winning the 2020 World Series.
Now, with Steve Cohen at the helm, things promise to be different.
With Cohen comes real financial heft which arguably surpasses what the Dodgers have. We’ve seen early on what that means with the Mets already signing Trevor May and James McCann as well as being in the market for George Springer and Tomoyuki Sugano.
But, it’s not just the financial strength. It’s also the scouting and analytics. The Dodgers have used that to identify players like Max Muncy and Justin Turner who have become relative stars. They’ve also developed an enviable pipeline of talent with young players like Gavin Lux and Will Smith.
The Mets have started heading in that direction by bringing back Sandy Alderson. They’ve also hired Jared Porter as GM and Zack Scott as Assistant GM.
Of course, the Mets have retained perhaps the best draft scouting with Mark Tramuta, Tommy Tanous, Drew Toussaint, et al. That group is responsible for great talent like Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, Seth Lugo, Brandon Nimmo, and Dominic Smith. That’s nothing to say of the talent still left in the system and traded away.
The Mets have the core, financial resources, burgeoning front office, and now the right ownership for the Mets to become a juggernaut like we haven’t seen from this franchise since the 1980s. They will very soon rival the Dodgers on and off the field.
That is going to lead to some more postseason run-ins. With that will be the heightening if tensions between these franchises which have already had their moments.
If the Mets make the right moves, we’ll see an epic postseason clash between these teams come October not just this year but in each of the ensuing seasons. The seeds are already there, and so, with more epic postseason series, we’ll see the makings of a bitter Mets/Dodgers rivalry.
All over the internet yesterday was video of Endy Chavez‘s miraculous catch robbing Scott Rolen of a go-ahead homer in the top of the sixth inning of a tied Game 7. It was one of, if not the, greatest catch ever made, and it came against a hated rival with the pennant on the line.
— New York Mets (@Mets) October 19, 2020
For 14 straight years, this catch is celebrated. We should all agree there should not be a 15th year.
After that catch, neither Jose Valentin nor Chavez could deliver on what was a bases loaded one out situation.
All told, this ranks as one of the most frustrating and depressing losses in Mets history. This loss was further exacerbated by collapses the following two seasons, and the complete and utter failure which was the first version of Citi Field.
That’s nothing to say about the Wilpons getting caught up in Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme only for them to be needlessly propped up by Major League Baseball.
After that Chavez catch, everything just kept getting worse for the Mets and their fans. Frankly, after that catch is was a nightmare which lasted for nearly a decade. Much of the reason for that was the meddlesome ways of the clueless Jeff Wilpon who kept finding new ways to embarrass this franchise we all adore.
Every Mets fan should love Chavez for this catch and for all he gave the Mets. We can and should love the players from that era who were a mixture of snakebit and not quite fully supported by ownership never ready to go all-in on winning, and that’s even when they had the financial capacity to do that.
Still, we should all fall short of celebrating the mile. We can all acknowledge it was perhaps the greatest catch ever made. However, in the end, the Mets lost in the most excruciating way possible, and no Mets fan anywhere should really look to celebrate a moment which is intrinsically tied to the loss.
If you think this is too far or it’s too far, consider this. There is not a Red Sox fan alive who celebrates Dave Henderson‘s homer off Rick Aguilera. That is among the pantheon of the most clutch homers ever hit, and no one cares because the Red Sox lost that game and series in the most excruciating way possible.
Celebrating Chavez’s catch is really no different than celebrating Henderson’s homer. That’s why it’s time to stop and turn the page. With Steve Cohen at the helm, we instead need to look forward to celebrating big moments like the Mets winning the World Series.
With yesterday being Black Friday, people ran out to stores and websites looking for deals, and today, they’re assessing what they got and still need to get. Being Mets fans, we expect the team to spend most of the offseason diving through the discount bins.
To a certain extent, every team needs to do that. The player signed to a minor league deal or on the cheap emerges to be much better than anyone could’ve reasonably expected. Many times, when that happens, your team takes it to the next level. In honor of Black Friday, here are some of the best bargain signings the Mets have made in their history.
For this list, we are only looking at players signed to minor league deals, and as this is the Mets we are talking about, it’s being run on Small Business Saturday.
C Todd Pratt – he went from delivering Dominos to being signed to a minor league deal with the Mets. Three years later, Pratt would hit a walk-off homer off of Matt Mantei clinching the first NLDS in team history.
1B James Loney – in 2016, the Mets were left without a first baseman due to Lucas Duda‘s back injury as well as a host of other injuries on the team. Loney would step in and help the team hitting .305/.367/.463 over his first 22 games to help keep that team afloat and make that push for the Wild Card.
2B Jose Valentin – the Mets signed Valentin to be veteran depth only for him to fill the vacuum left at second base by Anderson Hernandez‘s offensive struggles and Kazuo Matsui‘s injuries. In addition to his 3.6 WAR in 2006, he would hit two homers in the NL East clincher.
3B Matt Franco – signed a minor league deal with the Mets entering the 1996 season. He’d emerge as a good pinch hitter who hit a game winning single off Mariano Rivera clinching the Mets first series win in the Subway Series.
SS Omar Quintanilla – the Mets let Jose Reyes go due to a mixture of the Madoff scandal and the belief Ruben Tejada was ready to be the every day shortstop. When Tejada wasn’t Quintanilla was a pleasant surprise with a career year before being traded for cash considerations.
LF Melvin Mora – Mora signed a minor league deal coming out of Japan. In the 162nd game of the 1999 season, he scored on a wild pitch enduring the playoff game. In the Grand Slam Single game, he hit the cut off man leading to Keith Lockhart getting cut down at the plate. In that postseason, he hit .400/.500/.600.
CF Endy Chavez – signed as a free agent prior to the 2006 season, a season where he’d have the greatest catch in NLCS history. He’d also have other defensive gems and game winning bunts in his Mets career.
RF Marlon Byrd – back in the cavernous Citi Field days, Byrd came to the Mets on a minor league deal in 2013 and hit 21 homers before getting traded to the Pirates in a deal which netted Dilson Herrera and Vic Black.
RP Pedro Feliciano – soon dubbed Perpetual Pedro due to his rubber arm, he’d be a key piece of a great 2006 bullpen, and he’d emerge as the best LOOGY in franchise history.
SP R.A. Dickey – this is the gold standard. Dickey was signed to a minor league deal in 2009, and a few short seasons later, he would become the biggest surprise Cy Young winner in Major League history. The Mets then selling high on him and getting Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud for him makes signing Dickey all the more legendary.
There have been a few times in the Mets history where they have surprised or even shocked the World in making their run to the postseason. The biggest example is 1969, which occurred 50 years ago. The Mets would make their Miracle run in 1973, and they would emerge in 1999, 2006, and 2015.
When you look at those rosters, there are players who are comparable to the players on this year’s Mets roster. Here’s a look at how it breaks down:
Wilson Ramos (Paul Lo Duca) – Ramos may not have been the catcher the Mets may have originally expected to bring in during the offseason, but like Lo Duca, he could be the perfect fit for this team and surprisingly be a very important piece to this club.
Juan Lagares (Endy Chavez) – Chavez was the defensive oriented player who was pressed into more action than anticipated, and his play on the field was a big reason the 2006 Mets came withing a game of the World Series.
Corey Oswalt (Logan Verrett) – The Mets need a low round drafted prospect to put together a string of great starts to help put this team over the top. With his increased velocity, this could be Oswalt.
And finally, there is Mickey Callaway, who we are hoping will be able to accomplish what Willie Randolph accomplished by proving himself a good manager in his second year and by leading the Mets to being the best team in the National League.
On MMO some of the writers did their own postseason plans. The guidelines are that we must stick to a budget in the $30-35 million range given what we’ve heard the Mets could spend.
For signings, MLB Trade Rumors and Jon Heyman’s free agent predictions to come up the contracts for each player.
The Mets have several holes to fill and not a ton of money to work with which had me searching for deals on the free agent market and here is what I think should be done with the limited resources.
Fixing the Bullpen
As the Mets head into the 2018 season, their main goal for the team will be to rebuild a bullpen. Despite handwrining among fans, there is some talent present. Jeurys Familia, AJ Ramos, and Jerry Blevins address three key roles. Around them, the Mets need to find four cost effective options.
The first two parts of this bullpen need to be internal. In lieu of looking for a second left-handed reliever in free agency, the Mets need to utilize Hansel Robles in that role. For his career he has reverse splits, and he needs to be used accordingly. He also provides the benefit of giving the team multiple innings when needed.
Additionally, the Mets need to move Seth Lugo to the bullpen. In short bursts, Lugo is able to ramp up his fastball and use his curveball with more frequency. With that combination, Lugo can be a true late inning option and/or a long man. For those concerned about the loss of him as rotation depth, consider his struggles a third time through the order.
For the final two spots, the Mets should attack free agency. The first option the Mets should pursue is Seung-hwan Oh. Oh has been a dominant closer in the Korean Leagues, and he was dominant in his rookie season with the Cardinals. He had an off-year last year partially driven by an increased BABIP and HR rate as well as a drop in his strikeout rate. With a new pitching coach and a new situation, he could very well recover with the Mets giving the team an additional option at the closer spot.
When it comes to the final spot, the Mets should look to add a power arm like Juan Nicasio. After struggling in the rotation, Nicasio was transitioned to a full time reliever, and he grew into a dominant arm. With his being armed with an upper 90s fastball and good control, he’s probably just tapping the surface, and the Mets would be wise with their new pitching guru contingent to see the next wave.
Veteran Depth & Insurance Policies
Heading into the 2018 season, the Mets aren’t sure Dominic Smith is ready to be the Opening Day first baseman. Even with the best projections, they do not believe Michael Conforto will be ready by Opening Day, and after that, they don’t know what he can contribute. In addition to that, the Mets don’t have a second baseman.
The first part of that solution should be adding Howie Kendrick. The 33 year old had a bounce-back, albeit injury prone, season. Over the past season, Kendrick had a 121 wRC+, which ranks second best in his career. He also played first, second, and the corner outfield positions last year. While he was not outstanding at any of those positions, he was clearly capable of handling those positions. He’s your best bet to have a Jose Valentin type season for the team.
Another player worth taking a flyer on is Jose Bautista. In 2017, he fell apart offensively going from a .234/.366/.452 slash line to .203/.308/.366 leading the Blue Jays to utilize the buy out provision on his contract. At 37 years old, he’s not far removed from a productive season. He’s also just looking for an opportunity.
Fortunately, the Blue Jays helped him in that respect by moving him around the field last year. He played on game at first, eight at third, and 143 in RF. Based on the numbers, he’s no longer an everyday right fielder, but he is still talented enough to be a stopgap for Conforto. If he dedicated himself to getting better at first, he could serve as both competition and a platoon option for Smith.
There is no secret some of the Mets biggest issues have been depth, versatility, and second base. While Ian Kinsler would address second base, and he is arguably the best defensive second baseman available, the Mets trade target for the position should be Jason Kipnis.
The Indians second baseman has been pushed out of a job due to injury and the emergence of younger players in his stead. Despite that, he is still a good hitter who hit .276/.349/.429 from 2013 – 2016 while averaging 36 doubles and 14 homers a season. He’s also a gamer willing to do anything to help his team win as evidenced by his playing center field at the end of the season and the postseason because that was what was best for the team. This is the type of attitude the Mets should be looking to instill in their current roster.
The center and outfield possibilities should also be intriguing to the Mets in the event of another Juan Lagares injury or the questions surrounding Conforto.
Kipnis is not going to come cheap, nor should he considering he’s an All Star player with a good contract. Earlier this offseason, Joel Sherman of the New York Post suggested Robert Gsellman and Luis Guillorme as the package to get Kipnis. That may be a little light, and perhaps the inclusion of Wilmer Flores would be enticing to an Indians team heavy with left-handed hitters and could use a corner infield option, could potentially allow the Mets to complete this deal.
Filling In The Rest
In addition to the aforementioned players, the Mets would be well advised to bring in some veteran depth this Spring Training. On the starting pitching front Ubaldo Jimenez previously worked exceptionally well with current Mets manager Mickey Callaway, and Bartolo Colon left an impression with this current Mets staff. Both would make sense on a minor league deal with an invitation to
From reports, Manny Machado could well be available. However, with the state of the Mets farm system, the Mets are going to have to trade Major League players like Jacob deGrom and Amed Rosario to get him.
Machado is well worth that return, and knowing the Orioles, they’ll want more – much more. Again, Machado is worth it, but he’s also an impending free agent. Furthermore, the Mets don’t have the means to replace deGrom with a Yu Darvish or sign Machado to a contract extension.
The other long shot is Marcell Ozuna. The Marlins are dangling him, and he’s exactly the type of player that fits the Mets mold – underpaid and under team control for two years. Presuming you take back Starlin Castro and his contract in a deal, you’d probably be able to swing a more palatable deal.
However, there does not seem to be any traction between the Mets and the Marlins on anything. Even if they were, teams like the Cardinals, Cubs, and Giants are interested. They seem more willing to go that extra mile than the Mets. Considering the Stanton deals that fell apart, there is less leg work for the Cardinals and Giants to do.
Key Acquisitions: Seung-hwan Oh (1 year, $4 million), Howie Kendrick (2 years, $16 million), Jose Bautista (1 year $5 million), Jason Kipnis (2 years, $28.3 million), Juan Nicasio (2 years, $14M), Ubaldo Jimenez (minor league deal), Bartolo Colon (minor league deal)
Key Departures: Robert Gsellman, Luis Guillorme, Wilmer Flores
Total Cost: $33.9 million
With free agency beginning last night, the Mets now have the opportunity to fill-in many of the holes the team has in free agency. In no particular order, those holes are second, third, center, bullpen, fifth starter, and maybe even catcher. In addition to that, the Mets have to build a bench, which is something they overlook in the offseason year-in and year-out.
During Sandy Alderson’s tenure with the Mets, he predominantly makes his big moves in free agency, and he stays away from the big trades. That is something he tends to do more during the season to address problems with the roster. To that end, we will likely see the team’s needs addressed through a combination of free agency and the team’s internal options.
One of the issues in building the roster is the payroll seems to be limited. That’s not limited by recent standards. Rather, there are indications the payroll will be going down. According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the Mets payroll could drop by $20 million to the $135 million range.
Previously, MMO estimated the Mets current payroll commitments, factoring in likely arbitration raises, will be between $109 – $119 million. That includes the options for Blevins and Cabrera, which the Mets recently picked up. As of the moment, the Mets roster shakes up like this:
Judging from the aforementioned 24 players, the Mets have a lot of work to do, and with few exceptions, no one should feel their job is safe. Still, the Mets really only have somewhere between $15 – $25 million to spend in the offseason. This means the Mets are going to have to spend it wisely.
For starters, this probably means the jobs of d’Arnaud and Plawecki are safe. It also should mean that even with their comparative struggles, Rosario and Smith will begin the season on the Opening Day roster. From there, the Mets are going to have to make some tough choices among the players who could fulfill the Mets needs. It’s an even bigger issue than anticipated considering the MLB Trade Rumors projections:
- Mike Moustakas 5 years, $85 million ($17 million AAV)
- Lorenzo Cain 4 years, $60 million ($15 million AAV)
- Wade Davis 4 years, $60 million ($15 million AAV)
- Lance Lynn 4 years, $56 million ($14 million AAV)
- Greg Holland 4 years, $50 million ($12.5 million AAV)
- Addison Reed 4 years, $36 million ($9 million AAV)
- Todd Frazier 3 years, $33 million ($11 million AAV)
- CC Sabathia 2 years, $24 million ($12 million AAV)
- Neil Walker 2 years, $20 million ($10 million)
- Eduardo Nunez 2 years, $14 million ($7 million AAV)
There are other options, but this seems to be a fair sampling of the types of players the Mets should be targeting to bring them back into the postseason picture in the National League.
Reviewing those options, it seems as if you get one of the top tier players, the Mets are shut out from adding a second impact player. This means unless the Mets expand the budget, signing a Cain to play center means Cabrera at third and a veteran like Howie Kendrick to compete with Flores at second. Considering that, the Mets may feel comfortable that Lagares’ defense and Nimmo’s OBP are good enough to handle the center field position.
Considering the Mets real needs, the team’s best bet is going to be a player like a Frazier for third because that would free up some money to pursue another difference making player whether that be a Reed or Walker reunion, or the addition of a Sabathia to take over the Bartolo Colon sized hole on the roster.
In the end, the roster and the budget are going to make this one of Alderson’s toughest offseasons. Likely, he’s only going to be able to get two bigger named players, and he’s going to have to fill out important roles with internal options that failed last year or veterans who you pray have a Jose Valentin type of season.
If you’re going to say Willie Mays, that’s acceptable. Let’s just split the difference and say this was the greatest double play in Major League history.
Watching that play and remembering that game time and again, there are some things that stick out in your mind. The stands were rocking. Carlos Delgado was fired up like never before. The Mets seemed unbeatable that day. Everything built to a fever pitch in the bottom of the sixth. Degaldo walked. Rolen made a throwing error not only allowing David Wright to reach, but to set up runners at second and third with no outs. Shawn Green was intentionally walked loading the bases.
Then, Jose Valentin struck out, and everyone’s hero, Endy Chavez, flew out to center to end the rally. From there, we saw the Yadier Molina homer, the Carlos Beltran strikeout, collapses in 2007 and 2008, the Madoff scandal, and really the Mets failing to play competitive baseball in the first six years in Citi Field.
In many ways, Chavez’s catch became a highlight in the truest sense of the word because that was the apex. Everything came crashing down after that.
During that game, the Mets looked unbeatable. Harvey had shut down the Royals pitching eight scoreless allowing just four hits and striking out nine. When he took the mound in the bottom of the ninth, the fans were rocking, and everyone believed the Mets were not only going to win that game, but they were going to complete the comeback from a 3-1 series deficit. How could you not? The Royals had just lost Game 7 at home the previous season, and the Mets had Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard for Games 6 and 7.
Like the aftermath of the Chavez catch, it didn’t work out that way. Harvey walked Lorenzo Cain and allowed an RBI double to Eric Hosmer. After a Mike Moustakas ground out, Hosmer was on third and the infield was drawn in. Then to the surprise of everyone, Hosmer broke for the plate while Wright was throwing to first to get Salvador Perez.
From there, we saw the Mets have to fight tooth and nail just to get to a Wild Card Game last year. Madison Bumgarner outdueled Syndergaard, and Conor Gillaspie homered off Jeurys Familia. This past season, seemingly everyone but Ray Ramirez was injured as the Mets dropped from World Series contender to fourth place in the NL East. The roster now has a number of holes and a number of question marks with the team announcing it’s going to cut payroll.
Depending on what the team does this offseason, and depending on the health of players like Michael Conforto, the Mets could once again be looking at an extended period of irrelevance. When Harvey took the mound for the ninth inning roughly two years ago, no one could have possibly believed that to be true.
Then again, when Chavez made that catch, no one could believe what would be in store for the Mets over the next decade.
At the 2006 trade deadline, many believed the Mets were in need of a big starting pitcher to help the best team in baseball win the World Series. At that time, the big name was Barry Zito, but the Mets were reportedly balking at the asking price which included their top prospect in addition to their best set-up man in Aaron Heilman. Certainly, Heilman became untouchable with Duaner Sanchez‘s injury. However, there is still some debate whether any of the Mets prospects should have been so untouchable so as to prevent them from being moved in a trade many believed the Mets needed to make to win the World Series.
Keeping in mind the Mets didn’t want to move a top prospect, let’s take a look at who was considered the Mets Top 10 prospects back in 2006 and see how their respective careers fared:
The Mets 2003 first round draft pick was seen by many as a future star in the major leagues. He was supposed to be a five tool center fielder. Unfortunately, it did not pan out that way.
Milledge first got his chance in 2006 at first due to a Xavier Nady injury and then because of Nady being traded to sure up their bullpen due to the Sanchez injury. Milledge would show he was not quite ready for the limelight. That shouldn’t be surprising considering he had only played 84 games in AAA, and he was 21 years old. In 56 games, he would only hit .241/.310/.380 with four homers and 22 RBI. He would be unfairly chastised for high fiving the fans after a game tying home run in extra innings.
Unfortunately for him, the home run that led to much hand wringing might’ve been the top moment in his career. Milledge would never figure it out for the Mets, and his star potential would diminish. In 2007, the Mets would move him for Ryan Church and Brian Schneider.
Overall, Milledge would only play six years in the majors hitting .269/.328/.395 in parts of six major league seasons. He would play his last game for the Chicago White Sox as a 26 year old in April 2011. From there, he would play four years in Japan. In Japan, he wouldn’t re-establish himself as a major leaguer like Cecil Fielder did, nor would he become an acclaimed Japanese League player like Tuffy Rhodes. Rather, he hit a disappointing .272/.348/.447 averaging 10 home runs and 32 RBI.
Milledge suffered injuries limiting him to just 34 games in 2014 and 2015. No one would sign him to play professional baseball anywhere in 2016. In the end his professional baseball career is over at the age of 31.
Petit was the one major prospect the Mets would move to help the 2006 team. The Mets included him in a deal with Grant Psomas and Mike Jacobs for Carlos Delgado. Delgado would go on to become a slugger at first base the Mets had never truly had in their history. For his part, Petit has put together a nice major leauge career.
Petit would not figure things out until he became a San Francisco Giant in 2012. Under the tutledge of Dave Righetti and Bruce Bochy, he would become a very good long man in the bullpen. In his four years with the Giants, he as 10-7 with one save, a 3.66 ERA, and a 1.128 WHIP.
His best work was in the 2014 postseason. That year the Giants rotation was Madison Bumgarner and a group of starters the team could not truly trust to go five innings in a game. Accordingly, Petit was used almost as a piggyback starting pitcher. In that 2014 postseason, Petit would make four appearances going 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA (no runs allowed in the NLDS or NLCS) and a 0.868 WHIP.
In the past offseason, Petit was a free agent, and he signed a one year $3 million deal with the Washington Nationals with a $3 million team option for 2016. He struggled this year in his 35 relief appearances and one start going 3-5 with a 4.50 ERA and a 1.323 WHIP.
In his nine year career, Petit is 23-32 with a 4.58 ERA and a 1.276 WHIP. Whether or not his option is picked up by the Nationals, we should see Petit pitch in his tenth major league season in 2017.
The Mets traded their 2004 third round pick with Dante Brinkley for Paul Lo Duca. Lo Duca was the emotional leader for the 2006 Mets that almost went to the World Series, and Hernandez never pitched in the major leagues.
Hernandez would bounce around from the Marlins to the Mariners to the Red Sox to the Royals to the White Sox and finally to the Diamondbacks. While Hernandez had shown some early promise with the Mets, he never realized it. He topped out at AAA where he would pitch for four seasons going 30-36 with a 5.80 ERA and a 1.562 WHIP.
Hernandez has not given up on his major league dream. Since 2012, Hernandez has been pitching in the Atlantic Leagues. Over the past three seasons, he has pitched Winter Ball. He made 25 starts and two relief appearances for the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, he was 7-10 with a 4.88 ERA and a 1.216 WHIP. At the moment, the 30 year old Hernandez has not been signed to play for a Winter Leagues team.
The Mets 1999 38th round draft pick was part of the aforementioned trade that helped the Mets acquire Delgado. The Mets were largely able to use Jacobs as part of the trade because of the tremendous start to his career.
In 2005, Jacobs hit .310/.375/.710 with 11 homers and 23 RBI in 30 games. While Jacobs continued to be a power hitter after leaving the Mets, he would never again reach those levels. Eventually, his impatience at the plate caught up to him, and he would only only last seven years in the major leagues. His penultimate season was with the Mets in 2010 when he was unseated by Ike Davis as the Mets first baseman.
After being released by the Mets, Jacobs has spent the past six seasons in AAA with a 13 game cup of coffee for the Diamondbacks in 2012. In Jacob’s seven year career, he hit .253/.313/.473 with 100 homers and 312 RBI. As a Met, he hit .290/.360/.645 with 12 homers and 25 RBI. If he had enough at-bats to qualify, Jacobs would have the highest slugging percentage in Mets history.
At this point, it is unknown if the 35 year old Jacobs will continue playing professional baseball in 2017.
The one theme that is developing here is that while these players didn’t have a big impact in the majors or the Mets, Omar Minaya utilized these players to help the ballclub. Humber is a perfect example of that.
The Mets 2004 first round pick (third overall) had an inauspicious start to his professional career needing Tommy John surgery in 2005.
With that Humber would only make one start in his Mets career, and it wasn’t particularly good. With the Mets collapsing in the 2007, and the team having a rash of starting pitcher injuries, the team turned to the highest drafted player in their system. Humber kept the woeful Washington Nationals at bay for the first three innings before allowing Church to hit a two run homer in the fourth and then sowing the seeds for a huge rally in the fifth inning that would see the Mets once 6-0 lead completely evaporate in a frustrating 9-6 loss. This would be the last time Humber took the mound for the Mets. In his Mets career, he would make one start and four relief appearances with no decisions, a 6.00 ERA, and a 1.333 WHIP.
Still, he showed enough to be a major part in the trade that would bring Johan Santana to the Mets. Santana and Humber would both enter immortality. Santana would throw the first no-hitter in Mets history. Humber would become perhaps the unlikeliest of all pitchers to throw a perfect game. It was the 21st perfect game in baseball history. He joined David Cone as the only ex-Mets to throw a perfect game. He joined a much longer list of seven former Mets, highlighted by Nolan Ryan, who threw a no-hitter AFTER leaving the Mets. Humber would also become the pitcher with the highest career ERA to throw a perfect game.
In all, Humber played for five major league teams over his eight major league seasons. In those eight major league seasons, he has gone 16-23 with a 5.31 ERA and a 1.420 WHIP. He threw his last major league pitch in 2013 in a season he went 0-8 in 13 starts. In 2014, he pitched for the Oakland Athletics’ AAA affiliate. In 2015, he pitched for the Kia Tigers of the Korean Leagues going 3-3 with a 6.75 ERA and a 1.855 WHIP in 11 starts and one relief appearance.
Humber had signed on with the San Diego Padres and was invited to Spring Training in 2016. He was released prior to the start of the season, and he did not throw one pitch for any professional team in 2016. He is currently 33 years old, and at this point, he has not announced his retirement.
Gomez has been far and away the best player on the list of the 2006 Mets top prospects. He would be moved with Humber as a centerpiece in the Santana trade.
In Gomez’s early career, it was clear he was a Gold Glove caliber center fielder. He made highlight reel play after highlight reel play for the Twins. However, it was clear from how he was struggling at the plate, the projected five tool player wasn’t quite ready to be the hitter everyone anticipated he would be at the major league level. Eventually, the Twins traded him to the Milwaukee Brewers, and in Milwaukee, Gomez would figure it out.
In Gomez’s five plus years with the Brewers, he won a Gold Glove and was a two time All Star. He was also a coveted player at the 2015 trade deadline, and he almost became a New York Met again in exchange for Zack Wheeler and Wilmer Flores. As we all remember, Flores cried on the field, and the Mets front office was disappointed in Gomez’s medicals causing them to rescind the trade due to a purported hip issue.
Gomez would then be traded to the Astros, and the Mets would appear to be vindicated for their decision. Gomez played 126 games for the Astros before being released and picked up by the Texas Rangers. In Texas, Gomez began playing like the player the Mets coveted at the 2015 trade deadline. The 33 game burst came at the right time as the 30 year old Gomez will be a free agent for the first time in his career this offseason.
Overall, Gomez has played for 10 years, and he is a .257/.312/.415 hitter with 116 home runs, 453 RBI, and 239 stolen bases. He is still a good center fielder, and he may still have a couple of good seasons in front of him.
From the moment the Mets signed him as a 16 year old amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic, F-Mart was seen as a top prospect. Many imagined he would become a five tool player like a Carlos Beltran. Instead, his career went the way of Alex Ochoa.
F-Mart was the first big prize Minaya brought in when he become the General Manager of the Mets. Understandably, he was considered untouchable in trade discussions. As it turns out, the Mets wished they moved him when they had the opportunity.
F-Mart would only play in 47 games over three years with the Mets hitting just .183/.250/.290 with two homers and 12 RBI. Eventually, with him not progressing as the Mets once hoped he would, and a different regime in place, F-Mart would eventually be put on waivers and claimed by the Houston Astros. With the Astros, he would only play in 52 games over two years, and he would just hit .225/.285/.424 with seven homers and 17 RBI.
In 2013, the Astros traded him to the Yankees for minor league depth. After the 2013 season, F-Mart would become a free agent, and he would find no suitors.
In 2014, he only played in the Dominican Winter Leagues, and in 2015, he played in only seven games in the Mexican Leagues. Given how he has bounced around and seeing how many major league teams have either passed on him or have forgotten his existence, it is hard to believe that he is just 28 years old.
Hernandez is undeterred, and he is still playing baseball. Right now, he is playing alongside current Mets shortstop prospect Luis Guillorme for Spain in the World Baseball Classic qualifying rounds. Spain would go 0-2 in the European Qualifier and will not be a finalist for the World Baseball Classic.
The Mets acquired Hernandez from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for backup catcher Vance Wilson in 2005. Hernandez intrigued the Mets because he was an exceptionally skilled defensive shortstop. The question with him was whether he was ever going to hit.
Despite these questions, and with Kaz Matsui starting the year on the disabled list, Hernandez would actually be the Mets Opening Day second baseman. On Opening Day, he would show everyone why he was so highly regarded defensively with an impressive over the shoulder catch. However, Hernandez would also show he would never be able to hit at the big league level. That fact may have forever changed Mets history.
Despite hitting .152/.164/.242 in 25 games with the Mets, he would make the NLCS roster. In Game 7 of the NLCS, with the Mets trailing 3-1, Jose Valentin and Endy Chavez led off the inning with back-to-back singles. Instead of going to Hernandez to pinch-hit for Heilman to get the bunt down, Willie Randolph went to an injured Cliff Floyd to try to win the game. Floyd would strike out, and Hernandez would enter the game only as a pinch runner for Lo Duca, who had worked out a walk to load the bases. From first base, Hernandez got a good view of how the series would end. Had Hernandez been able to hit just a little bit, it is possible he would have been sent up to bunt, and maybe things would have gone differently.
Overall, Hernandez never did show the ability to hit at the major league level. The Mets gave up waiting. In 2008, with the Mets desperate for relievers to plug in holes to a decimated bullpen, Hernandez was traded to the Nationals for Luis Ayala.
Hernandez would play for four teams in six seasons hitting .241/.300/.314 with four homers and 60 RBI. While he did show he was skilled defensively, he could never hit enough to stick in the majors, and as a result, his major league career was over in 2010 when he was 27 years old.
From 2011 – 2013, Hernandez would play in AAA. For the past three seasons, he has played in the Japanese Leagues. In every season since 2006, the 33 year old has played in the Dominican Winter Leagues for Tigres del Licey. It is unknown at this point if he is going to play for the Tigres this year or if he will return to the Japanese Leagues next year.
Bannister was the Mets 2003 seventh round draft pick out of USC. He would become the first ever Brooklyn Cyclones pitcher to pitch a game for the New York Mets. Bannister had earned that right by beating out Heilman for the fifth spot in the 2006 Mets Opening Day rotation. There were a myriad of reasons including but not limited to Heilman’s importance in the bullpen.
Bannister’s career would get off to quite the start with him going 2-0 with a 2.89 ERA and a 1.393 WHIP. While he struggled with his command and couldn’t go very deep into games as a result, the Mets were willing to stick with him through those five starts. Unfortunately, Bannister would suffer a hamstring injury at the end of April that would linger for most of the year. By the time he was healthy, John Maine was already a fixture in the rotation. With the Mets acquiring Perez at the trade deadline, there was no longer a spot for him on the major league roster.
With there no longer being any room for him, the Mets moved him in the offseason to the Kansas City Royals for Ambiorix Burgos. It was a trade that was detrimental for both players. Bannister would pitch four years for the Royals going 35-49 with a 5.13 ERA and a 1.417 WHIP. Burgos’ Mets career was marked by ineffectiveness, injury, and domestic violence.
After going 37-50 with a 5.08 ERA and a 1.421 WHIP in his five year major league career, Bannister had signed a two year deal to pitch for the Yomiuri Giants. Bannister would never pitch for the Giants. After an earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, Bannister retired from baseball. Since the 2015 season, the 35 year old Bannister has been a professional scout for the Boston Red Sox.
In 2003, Soler defected to the Dominican Republic from Cuba. The following year he would sign a three year $2.8 million contract with the New York Mets.
Soler would only pitch for the major league club in 2006. He would make eight starts highlighted by a complete game two hit shut out of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Unfortunately, the rest of his starts weren’t as great, and he would finish the year going 2-3 with a 6.00 ERA and a 1.578 WHIP. His contract would expire at the end of the season, and the Mets would not re-sign him.
Soler would pitch in 14 games, mostly out of the bullpen, for the Pittsburgh Pirates AA affiliate in 2007. In the following two seasons, Soler would return to the tri-state area pitching for the Long Island Ducks and Newark Bears of the Independent Leagues. He would not pitch well at either stop, and no one would offer him a contract to play professional baseball in 2010. In 2011, he pitched in two games in the Puerto Rican Winter Leagues. Since that time, the 37 year old Soler has not pitched in professional baseball.
At this time, it is unknown as to what Soler has been doing in his post-baseball career.
What is known is that while the top prospects from the 2006 season largely did not pan out, then Mets GM Omar Minaya was able to utilize a number of the players to improve the 2006 and 2007 Mets teams that fell just short. This has left many fans wondering what would have happened if Milledge was moved at his peak value or what would have happened if Hernandez learned how to hit. Things may have gone very differently in both of those seasons.
Still, while you could call each of these prospects, save Gomez, a bust. It is notable that nine of the 10 players played in the major leagues for multiple seasons. Three of the players played in the postseason, and one won a World Series. There have been All Star appearances and a perfect game from this group. While you expected more, each player left their own mark on the Mets and the game of baseball.
Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Minors.