Like most of May, the Mets offense seemed to forget as well. For the first five innings, the Mets offense could only muster one run with three hits and a walk against Wily Peralta. This is the same Peralta who came into tonight’s game with a 2-4 record, 7.30 ERA, and a 1.992 WHIP. It didn’t matter as the Mets offense lately has been worse than Peralta . . . at least until the sixth inning.
— New York Mets (@Mets) May 21, 2016
Mets led 3-2.
There was a chance for more, but well, no one is quite sure what happened. Yoenis Cespedes singled, and he took off on a 3-2 pitch to Neil Walker. Walker took the pitch right down the middle for strike three, and Cespedes didn’t even bother sliding into second. Former Met Carlos Torres came on, and he got the Brewers out of the inning.
The three runs were enough for Steven Matz, who was terrific. He pitched seven innings allowing three hits, two earned, and no walks with eight strikeouts. He only made one mistake, which was hit for a two run homer in the first by Chris Carter, who is tied with Cespedes for the league lead in homers. Matz’s start was all the more incredible when you consider he had been shut down with elbow inflammation.
However, it looks like he’s back on track, and the Mets are back on track as well.
Game Notes: Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Torres got their NL Championship rings before the game. Eric Campbell started at third as David Wright had a scheduled day off. Rene Rivera had a nice game with an RBI ground out in the second, and he threw out another basestealer:
René Rivera is so good.
His CS% is 34.4% … 2nd-best among active catchers (250 games). Only Yadier Molina is better
— Mark Simon (@MarkASimonSays) May 21, 2016
The Mets just got their first taste of Murphy as an opponent, and it was a bitter. In the three game series, Murphy went 4-11 with an intentional walk, two runs, four RBI, and a homerun. His replacement, Neil Walker, was 2-10 with no runs, no RBI, one walk, and four strikeouts. Walker was outplayed by Murphy. The only thing you can say the Mets got over on Murphy was knocking his batting average down from .400 to .397.
It should come as no surprise that Murphy outplayed Walker this series as Murphy has outplayed Walker this whole year. Murphy is better in almost every statistical catergory than Walker. The main exception is homeruns where Walker’s nine is more than Murphy’s six. So far, the Mets are not benefitting from their change from Murphy to Walker.
So far, they are also not benefitting from their change from Nieuwenhuis to Alejandro De Aza.
De Aza has struggled so far as a Met. In 25 games, he’s hitting .167/.222/.484 with three runs, one double, one homer, and two RBI. Most of that damage came on April 15th against the Indians. In that game, he went 3-4 with a run, a double, a homerun, and an RBI. If you omit this game, De Aza is hitting .105/.171/.105 with no extra base hits, two runs, and one RBI.
Conversely, Nieuwenhuis is having a good year in Milwaukee. In 35 games, he’s hitting .267/.389/.413 with eight doubles, one homer, and 12 RBI. Believe it or not, he had similar good numbers with the Mets last year hitting .279/.364/.559 with seven doubles, four homeruns, and 11 RBI in 37 games. Three of those homeruns came on one glorious July day when the season was in the balance.
Despite that, the Mets felt like they could get an upgrade over Nieuwenhuis. He was designated for assignment in December, and he was picked up off waivers by the Brewers. Ironically, he was on waivers so the Mets could make room for De Aza on the 40 man roster. The Mets are also paying De Aza roughly $5.2 million more than Nieuwenhuis is making.
Overall, the Mets switch from Murphy and Nieuwenhuis to Walker and De Aza hasn’t panned out as well as they thought it would. It is still early, and a lot can change over the next 100+ games. For right now, all we can hope for is that Nieuwenhuis doesn’t outplay De Aza the way Murphy just outplayed Walker.
After last season, you would want to believe that the Mets wouldn’t want to underestimate their own pitching prospects and expose them to the Rule 5 draft.
The Mets got very, very lucky with Logan Verrett. Everyone underestimated him. Perhaps it was a result of a low 90’s fastball. Perhaps it was because he relies on control, changing your eye level, and working both sides of the plate rather than blowing a 100 MPH fastball by you like Noah Syndergaard.
In any event, the Orioles decided he was worthy of a Rule 5 pick but not worthy of making their Opening Day roster. The Rangers scooped him up and decided after six games he couldn’t help them. He was returned to the Mets. He pitched well out of the bullpen and in spot starts. This year he’s made two spot starts and hasn’t allowed a run in 12 innings. The Mets needed him more than they ever knew. Fortunately for the Mets, the Orioles and Rangers never realized what they had in Verrett. The Mets got very lucky.
This year the Mets may not be so lucky with Matt Bowman.
Bowman was taken by the Cardinals in the Rule 5 draft. Partially due to Jordan Walden opening the year on the DL, Bowman made the Opening Day roster. So far this year, Bowman has appeared on five games pitching 6.2 innings. He has a 1.35 ERA and a 0.900 WHIP. He’s predominantly throwing a 93 MPH sinker. He mixes in the occasional slider (88 MPH) and splitter (82 MPH). It’s a short sample size, but Bowman looks good out of the bullpen. There’s no reason to believe the Cardinals will let him go.
The head scratching part was there was no excuse for why the Mets let Bowman become a Cardinal. The Mets had roster space. They could’ve protected Bowman. To make matters worse, they lost what appears to be a good bullpen piece. How did this happen?
In answering, this question it is important to note teams typically keep a roster spot open so they can make a pick in the Rule 5 draft in the event there’s a player out there who can help them. It’s how the Mets acquired Sean Gilmartin last year, and he became a valuable part of the bullpen. So in reality, the question was who should the Mets have left off the roster in place of Bowman.
The Mets did subsequently lose Kirk Nieuwenhuis on waivers. The Mets traded Darrell Ceciliani for cash. Carlos Torres and Ruben Tejada were initially offered contracts only to subsequently be released. The Mets also could’ve realized what they had and did the unconventional and just put Bowman on the roster barring them from making a Rule 5 draft pick. The Mets didn’t. Instead, they exposed Bowman in the draft in the oft chance they could’ve found someone of his caliber in the Rule 5 draft. How did this happen?
Simply put, like Verrett, Bowman didn’t have lights-out stuff. He is a four pitch pitcher that was projected to be, at best, a back of the rotation starter or bullpen arm. He really regressed his first full year in AAA. In 2014, he was 3-2 with a 3.47 ERA and a 1.294 WHIP in six starts and one relief appearance. In 2015, he made 26 starts and two relief appearances. Bowman would finish the year 7-16 with a 5.53 ERA and a 1.679 WHIP. Entering the 2015 season, he was seen as a back of the rotation starter or a bullpen arm. His 2015 season reasonably cast doubt on those projections. At age 25, it appeared like the former 13th round draft pick’s development had stalled.
It didn’t, and it shouldn’t be surprising as Bowman has looked for ways to improve. He has tried to emulate Tim Lincecum‘s delivery. While in college, he studied Sabermetrics, and he has sought to use it to find ways to improve. Basically, there’s no rock this former 13th round pick will leave unturned to he better. He’s built himself into a major league pitcher.
However, Bowman is pitching for the Cardinals, and the Mets have nothing to show for it. Worse yet, the Mets could’ve used him. With Jacob deGrom‘s lat injury (and problems with his son), Verrett was thrust into the starting rotation. Rafael Montero was recalled to help in the bullpen, but Collins has been loathe to use him.
Perhaps Collins would’ve trusted Bowman and allowed him to pitch. Unfortunately, we will never know. The Mets will not get lucky with a Rule 5 pick returning to the organization. Bowman is a Cardinal likely never to return.
Editor’s Note: this article was first published on metsminors.net
Every year, my brother and I have the same argument. I think of Nieuwenhuis as a useful player. He’s a solid defender at three outfield positions. He is a platoon player/fourth outfielder. His problem has always been the fact that he’s overexposed by a poor Mets team needing to play him more frequently than he should.
Most Mets fans were like my brother. They saw a guy with admittedly underwhelming statistics. At times, Kirk was one of the symbols of what was wrong with the Mets. This season the Mets were so bad offensively that they had to bring back Kirk after he was released by the Angels. The Angels had originally obtained him after the Mets designated him for assignment.
When he returned, he would become the first Met to hit three home runs in a home game:
He helped send the Mets into the All Star Break with a sweep of the Diamondbacks. He helped the Mets stay within two games of the Nationals. This allowed the Mets to make some deadline moves to help overtake the Nationals. He then put the final nail in the 2015 Nationals coffin:
Kirk went from cast away to afterthought to a contributor. He would make the post season roster. Unfortunately, he won’t be on the roster next year to help the Mets defend their National League title. A title he helped the Mets obtain.
No, Kirk is now a Brewer. He was put on waivers to make room for Alejandro De Aza. I’d prefer the Mets to waive someone else. I’d like Kirk to remain with the Mets. This time though the Mets will lose a homegrown player to the Nationals. There’s no hip issues stopping this move. None. Unlike Wilmer Flores, Kirk is now an ex-Met.
Kirk will never be forgotten. He’s the answer to a trivia question. I’ll remember him more for that pinch hit homerun. I’ll remember him more for how hard he played. I’ll always appreciate him for what he did with the Mets.
Thank you Kirk.
Apparently, the Mets are in no rush to acquire a centerfielder who can hit right-handed pitching:
The #Mets have Denard Span, Will Venable and Alejandro De Aza on their radar as left-handed CF options. They're slow-playing it.
— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) December 21, 2015
The name there that is new is Alejandro De Aza. He will turn 32 next year, and he’s a left-handed outfielder. In his career, he has hit .274/.338/.418 against righties. He hit .278/.351/.448 against them last year while playing 90 games for three different teams. So he fits as a platoon partner for Juan Lagares offensively. The question is how does he fit defensively?
He’s not bad actually. Not great, but not bad. For some reason, he only played CF eight innings last year, but his career UZR there is 1.8, meaning he can handle the position. Typically, he averages a 0.2 per season.
Does he have the potential upside of a Denard Span? No, but he also doesn’t have the same downside. Span has just had labrum surgery on his hip on top of two other surgeries. Span has been as defensively two years running. While he and De Aza are the same age, Span has a lot more tread on those tires.
De Aza is also a definitive upgrade over Kirk Nieuwenhuis. While they are similar defensively, De Aza hits righties much better. Nieuwenhuis hit righties .210/.277/.403 last year and .245/.314/.423 for his career.
Overall, De Aza is the perfect fit for the Mets. He hits righties. He can play a respectable centerfield. He’s also going to be cheap. De Aza made $5 million last year. There’s no reason to expect he’ll make much more than that. It’s also possible he signs for less. With the Mets current financial situation, De Aza should be the direction they go.
You know what you’re getting from him. He’s going to provide exactly what you need. If Lagares rebounds, you can justify sitting De Aza for him. Also, did I mention he’s going to come cheap? If you’re getting Span on a one-year heavy incentive laden deal, I understand going that direction. However, his agent may have something to say about that.
With all that said, I’ll take De Aza.
There are many out there calling the Mets offseason a success so far. Personally, I don’t see it. Yes, I know the offseason isn’t over, but we’re also pretty sure the Mets aren’t replacing Yoenis Cespedes‘ bat.
Overall, the Mets as constituted now are not better than the team that lost the World Series. Here was the lineup for the team that just lost the World Series, with their respective WAR from the 2015 season:
- Curtis Granderson 5.1
- David Wright 0.5
- Daniel Murphy 1.4
- Yoenis Cespedes 6.3
- Lucas Duda 3.0
- Travis d’Arnaud 1.7
- Michael Conforto 2.1
- Wilmer Flores 0.8
If the Mets make no other additions this offseason, which still remains a possibility, here’s the Mets 2016 starting lineup with the player’s WAR from last year.
- Curtis Granderson 5.1
- Neil Walker 2.4
- David Wright 0.5
- Lucas Duda 3.0
- Asdrubal Cabrera 1.7
- Michael Conforto 2.1
- Travis d’Arnaud 1.7
- Juan Lagares 0.6
On paper, barring any further additions the 2016 starting lineup is worse than the 2015 World Series team. This is despite how more “athletic” the Mets are in the middle infield. In response, the argument is the Mets are now deeper. Are they? Let’s compare the 2015 and 2016 benches.
Before comparing, it should be noted I’m going to use a traditional 13 position players and 12 pitchers split. That means I will have to eliminate once bench player from the 2015 Mets. I’m choosing to remove Kirk Nieuwenhuis from the roster as he was called up in September.
I’m also dropping Juan Uribe from the 2015 roster. When building a team, you’re going to want a backup shortstop. Uribe doesn’t fit the bill. Since Ruben Tejada was injured, and thus unavailable, I’m replacing him with Matt Reynolds, whom I’m assigning a 0.0 WAR since he didn’t play at all last year.
Here’s the modified 2015 World Series bench:
Here’s the current bench, which would be subject to change with a free agent signing:
- Kevin Plawecki 0.9
- Wilmer Flores 0.8
- Ruben Tejada -0.1
- Kirk Nieuwenhuis 0.7
- Eric Campbell -0.5
Now to be fair, the 2016 bench will mostly likely not have Eric Campbell on the Opening Day roster. Eliminating his -0.5 would balance out these benches.
Here’s one big problem, if not Campbell then who? Let’s assume Mets fans get their way, and the team signs Denard Span. Span had a 0.7 WAR last year. Yes, that’s the same as Kirk’s. Slotting Span into the everyday lineup has this effect:
- Starting Lineup WAR increased from 17.1 to 17.2
- Bench WAR decreased from 1.8 to 1.7
- Eric Campbell or Kirk Nieuwenhuis is still on the Opening Day roster
Now, first counter-argument will be the offseason isn’t over, so the Mets can still make additional moves. Currently, without any other moves, the Mets payroll stands around $105.7 million. Let’s assume for arguments sake, the Mets have around $10 million to spend. With that $10 million, the Mets are looking to add a reliever, a CF, and another bat.
Span is estimated to receive about $12 million a year. Well, that blows the whole budget. Even assuming the Mets could get Span for less, they’re not going to have enough money for a reliever and another bat after that. So again, chances are either Campbell or Kirk will be in the Opening Day roster.
The next counter-argument is last year’s WAR doesn’t account for full years from Wright, d’Arnaud, or Conforto. This point-of-view is acceptable. However, you also have to acknowledge Granderson may be due for a regression at 35 years of age with a repaired torn ligament in this thumb. Also, based upon their histories, you can’t rely on Wright or d’Arnaud to last a full season. Essentially, while you can expect some players to improve or play more often, you can expect others to regress and/or suffer injuries.
Overall, the Mets still might be able to win the NL East and return to the playoffs in 2016. They will do so because of their pitching. However, objectively speaking, you have to admit the 2016 Mets are and will be weaker than the 2015 Mets team that lost the World Series.
That is unacceptable.
I’m not sure which plan the Mets are pursuing. Apparently, the Mets don’t either. However, we do know the Mets are pursuing an outfielder who may or may not be in a platoon with Juan Lagares. Of all the options out there, Denard Span is not the answer.
While he’s always been a starter, after three surgeries in two years, including a torn labrum in his hip, Span may accept being the left handed bat in a platoon. At 32, he may want to accept a one year deal to re-establish his value with one healthy productive season. Considering where the Mets are financially, it may seem like it’s a good match.
Sure, Span has always been a good hitter. Over his career, he’s hit .293/.353/.407. Last year, he hit .335/.393/.486. It would be a nice bat on the top of the lineup. The problem is he’s no longer a good defensive player. The last two years his UZR was -4.7 and -4.9. That’s not good. It’s probably why despite good offensive numbers, Span has had a WAR of 0.8.
The Mets have an internal option that Mets fans don’t respect in Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Nieuwenhuis had a nightmare of a year last year. He only hit .195/.270/.375. Guess what how WAR was last year. It was 0.7. Keep in mind, Nieuwenhuis has a career UZR in CF of 2.1. He averages a 0.5 UZR per season. As such, he’s a capable CF. Additionally, he hits .245/.314/.423 against righties.
Yes, Span gets on base more often, but Nieuwenhuis has more power. Then there’s the little fact that Nieuwenhuis can actually field his position. If the Mets want to spend to add an outfielder, they should spend the money to add the best outfielder available. If the Mets are not adding Jason Heyward, why bother?
At this point it’s time to stop messing around with window dressing. If you’re improving, go out and improve. Span isn’t an improvement over what they have. Most Mets fans will tell you that’s a bad thing.
There has been a lot of handwringing over the Mets choices over the 40 Man Roster. There are quality prospects now exposed to the Rule 5 draft. Some pointed to Eric Campbell still being on the roster. I don’t like how the Ruben Tejada situation is impacting the roster. Mostly, I don’t understand how Darrell Ceciliani is on the 40 Man Roster.
I know it was a very small sample size, but Ceciliani showed us nothing that would lead you to believe he’s a major league player. In 39 games last year, Ceciliani hit .206/.270/.279. He had more strikeouts than hits. He struck out in one-third if his plate appearances. His OPS+ was 55, which is just abysmal. Really, the only good thing you could say about him was he was an adequate fielder.
Now, he’s only 25, and he’s still a prospect. However, he’s not really a good prospect. Essentially, he’s projected to be a 4th OF. It’s nothing to sneeze at, but it’s also not a reason to let better prospects walk. Keep in mind Ceciliani’s potential role with the team is already filled by Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Nieuwenhuis has at least showed that he can be a good pinch hitter, pinch runner, and/or platoon option for Juan Lagares.
Unfortunately, the Mets went with Ceciliani over the pitching prospects and/or Wuilmer Becerra. I don’t understand the logic. The Mets are sacrificing players who may very well be selected in the Rule 5 draft for a player who might not have even been claimed off waivers.
Ceciliani should not be on the 40 man roster.
The first ever draft pick by the Samdy Alderson regime with the Mets was Brandon Nimmo. Today, he should be added to the 40 man roster, and he looks like he will begin the year in AAA.
When the Mets drafted him, they were just drafting on potential. Sure, you could make that argument with any first round pick, but it really applied to Nimmo. He played in Wyoming, a state that produces very few major league players. He showed glimpses of being a give tool player, but in a state like Wyoming, who really knows?
The Mets knew he was a long term project. That’s fine. You draft the best talent. He’s definitely talented. He’s a Top 100 MLB prospect and the Mets number two overall prospect (behind Steven Matz). He’s shown he can handle centerfield everyday. He’s got good speed and a good arm. While he may not have 20 home run power, he’s got a good eye and he’s a contact hitter. In his minor league career, he’s hit .263/.383/.391. After his call-up to AAA last year, he hit .264/.393/418 in 32 games.
It’s possible he gets called up in 2016. It’s even more possible he gets called-up in 2017. Fact is, the sooner he’s ready the better. Right now, the Mets seem to want a platoon bat in CF for Juan Lagares. They deem this such a need they’re talking with players who can’t play the position. Personally, I’d let Kirk Nieuwenhuis be the platoon option until Nimmo is ready. It’s not like Kirk is any worse than the other options. I believe everyone in the Mets organization wants Nimmo to force them to make the decision.
That’s why the clock is ticking. Everyone is waiting for him to take over CF. We’re looking forward to seeing Nimmo and Michael Conforto continue to drive each other to become the best players they can be. If they bring out the best in one another just watch out when they’re reunited in the majors.
I’d like to see Nimmo get his chance. I’d hate to see him blocked by what will be an albatross of a contract. Right now, it’s up to him. Conforto forced his way to the majors. Nimmo has to be the same. He’s now on the 40 man roster, which means there’s one less hurdle.
Soon, it will be Nimmo’s time.
There’s no nice way to put it. Juan Lagares did not have a good 2015. He took a step back offensively and defensively. He basically forced the Mets to go out and get Yoenis Cespedes and play him out of position.
The Mets made it work in July and August. However, when you play with fire you eventually get burned, and the Mets got burned in the World Series. It showed the need to have an actual centerfielder in centerfield. On the flip side, Lagares started to play much better in the postseason, even if he wasn’t all the way back defensively.
The Mets now have two options. They can go with Lagares or they can go out and sign someone. The argument for Lagares is:
- He was injured and may be better with an offseason to heal;
- Even in a down year, he was an above average defensive centerfielder; and
- He will have more time to work with Kevin Long to get better at the plate.
The argument against Lagares was he regressed in every way possible. He had real platoon splits, and if you can’t hit righties, you can’t play everyday in the majors. Also, this is a championship contending team. You need to be ready to compete day one, especially when you’ve lost your two biggest trade chips on rental players.
The cheapest option, and possibly the best, is to carry Kirk Nieuwenhuis as your 4th outfielder. After an abysmal 2015, he will be cheap. He’s also an every other year player:
- 2012 – .252/.315/.376
- 2013 – .189/.278/.337
- 2014 – .259/.346/.482
- 2015 – .195/.270/.375
Sometimes things don’t make sense. That goes doubly for every other year players, but it seems to be a thing. If it continues, Nieuwenhuis is primed to be better in 2016, which would be good news.
For all his faults, Nieuwenhuis is a useful player. He can play all three OF positions. He’s got some pop in his bat and some speed. Looking over his UZR, he grades out as average at all three positions (making him a much better CF than Cespedes). That’s important because very few big league teams carry a legitimate CF on the bench.
It’s important because if Lagares can’t hit righties again, the Mets need to figure something out quickly. We saw the platoon work in 2015, and it should in 2016:
- Lagares vs. Lefties – .279/.325/.427
- Nieuwenhuis vs. Righties – .245/.314/.423
The numbers aren’t tremendous, but keep in mind this comes with good to great defense. It also comes with a presumably improving Lagares and the good year Nieuwenhuis. Also, this is going to presumably come from the 7th or 8th spot in the lineup.
If the Mets don’t like these numbers, they have a baseline for external options. Right now, here are the free agent centerfielders:
- Rajai Davis career .269/.316/.387 hitter with a 3.4 UZR last year
- Dexter Fowler career .267/.363/.418 hitter with a -1.7 UZR last year
- Austin Jackson career .272/.333/.399 with a 7.5 UZR last year
- Justin Maxwell career .220/.303/.399 with a -1.6 UZR last year
- Colby Rasmus career .245/.313/.443 hitter with a 2.1 UZR last year
- Shane Robinson career .237/.302/.313 hitter with a 0.9 UZR last year
- Denard Span career .287/.352/.395 with a -4.9 UZR last year
- Drew Stubbs career .244/.313/.395 with a -0.2 UZR last year
Looking over the list, the only players that could be an improvement are Fowler, Jackson, or Span. I’ll address them in reverse order.
Span is the best offensive player of the group and could leadoff. He is projected to receive a three year $36 million offer. It’s 50/50 if he’ll receive a qualifying offer. However, in a large outfield, it is not wise to go with a centerfielder with poor range. He’s a definite no if he gets a qualifying offer. You do not want the Nationals getting your first round pick.
Jackson is the best defensive player. He is projected to receive a three year $30 million contract, but he probably won’t receive a qualifying offer. However, isn’t he essentially an older, more expensive Lagares? I’m not sure this is the way to go.
That leaves Fowler. The benefit of Fowler is he’s a switch hitting leadoff hitter. He’s in the middle of his prime. He just played well for a playoff team, even if he did not have a good postseason. He will receive a qualifying offer, and he’s projected to get a 4 year $56 million contract.
There’s no doubt in my mind Fowler would improve this team. Realistically, the Mets should be able to get him and re-sign Daniel Murphy, who is projected to receive 4 year $48 million contract. To put it in perspective, Fowler and Murphy are worth a combined $26 million a year or just $4 million more than what Cespedes is slated to receive. If the Mets have money, this is the way to go.
However, my Fowler/Murphy choice presumes they can sign them and give arbitration raises to everyone. If Fowler or Murphy prevents you from signing one pitcher, you go with Lagares. I’d be comfortable going that way.
Ultimately, centerfield is one of the positions the Mets can improve easily in 2016. If the Mets can’t bring in Fowler, they’ll need it to come from Lagares.