Archive for the 'Hot Stove' Category

It’s The Post Season

That was probably the best baseball game to end a world series ever. Perhaps it was better than game six of the 1986 World Series or game six of the 1975 World Series. Those were two of the most unbelievable games in World Series history but neither ended the Series. They could have but in both cases the Red Sox (’75) and the Mets (’86) rallied to tie the series. Last night’s battle between the Cubs and the Indians was winner take all. It was so good that the game required an extra inning to complete.

After 108 years, the Cubs of Chicago are World Champions. GM Theo Epstein has now ended the Curse of the Bambino and the Curse of the Billy Goat. Epstein will one day be in the Hall of Fame for his record of bringing not just one, but two historic baseball franchises to World Series titles after an absence of almost a century in one case and over a century in another. Congratulations to the Cubs organization and to their long suffering fans. Hopefully they can now forget what happened in 1969.

Now that the baseball season has come to an end, what do the Mets learn that could make their future brighter?

One take away that I saw was youth. The Cubs have a lot of young (and very good) players.  On the Cubs World Series roster, there were eight players that were 25 years old or younger, two of whom were 22, 18 that are 30 or younger. So overall the roster is very young and will be competitive for several more seasons.  At the beginning of the 2017 season, the Mets will have only 5 players 25 years old or less. That’s not bad because they have 28 players 30 or under on their 40 man roster. So it’s not like the Mets are a very old team but they don’t have a lot of real young players either. Those of you considering that maybe Michael Conforto is not the real deal, remember he’ll be just 24 for the 2017 season and has the potential to be the kind of player the Cubs seem to have so many of.

Another important aspect of the Cubs was pitching and there again, when healthy the Mets have that covered. But the key is health. If the Mets were so fortunate to have a healthy staff of Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Stephen Matz, and Zach Wheeler, well that will go a long way to getting the Mets back to the playoffs, deep into the playoffs.

One of the players on the other side of 30 is Yoenis Cespedes. I know the Mets like him and will likely try to resign him if… err, when he opts out. However, I’m not going to go nuts if he doesn’t resign with the Mets.  There will likely be bigger offers out there and I can’t see the Mets mortgaging years down the road for a player that will be losing his skills and perhaps be a malcontent to boot.  The problem the Mets have is there is no genuine homerun threat on the team without him. Can the Mets really count on Curtis Granderson and Asdrubal Cabrera to have as productive years as this past one?  They will pick up Jay Bruce’s option so that’s one place the Mets will count on some power. Plus I really feel their needs to be a commitment to Conforto. He should be the everyday left fielder for him to blossom. This guy could be and should be the next David Wright.

The hot stove is just warming up. It’s going to be an interesting winter to see just what the Mets will do before pitchers and catchers report in February.

Good Moves

I like the moves the Mets made for a number of reasons. And in deference to SNY’s Sal Licata (Pysch-cata) I like the way the Mets are building their team and here’s why…

By acquiring Neil Walker from the Pirates for pitcher Jonathan Niece, the Mets get a better defensive second base alternative to Daniel Murphy. Is Walker an all-star caliber defensive player? No. But he has better range than Murph and gives up fewer runs based on defensive miscues be they physical or mental. As someone stated yesterday on MLB Network, I forget who, Walker will not forget how many outs there are. Plus Walker is a switch hitter and a better base runner than Murphy.

With Walker now in the mix to keep the seat warm for Dilson Herrera, it’s clear the Mets have closed the door on Daniel Murphy. I feel it necessary to say that Murphy will be missed. The guy can flat out hit and hit well in Citi Field and he handled the pressure in New York. Licata made a valid point about that yesterday afternoon on SNY. He also made the point that who is to say Walker doesn’t choke playing in New York? Well that’s always a possibility but this move made it clear the Mets front office is no longer comfortable putting insufficient defense out there day after day behind this awesome pitching staff. Outgoing pitcher Niese even may have hinted at that in his comment about joining the Pirates. He said, and I am paraphrasing, that he welcomed going to the Pirates where defense is taken very seriously.

But in fairness, it’s tough to see Murphy go even though I agree with the move. Murph’s performance in the LDS and NLDS where he won the MVP will not be forgotten. And to be fair, the Mets might have beaten the Cubs without Murphy but he single handedly won game 5 of the NLDS against the Dodgers by scoring all three runs in a 3-2 win. That included a brilliant base running play that caught the Dodgers napping as well as hitting the deciding home run off of Zach Greinke (now a Diamondback). Without Murphy, there’s a good chance the Dodgers win the LDS. That being said, after Murphy’s MVP LCS he reverted to the other player we know, making two crucial errors costing the Mets two games in the World Series while his bat went cold. So considering what Murphy is likely to cost in a new contract, the Mets made the smart move and replaced his production with a player who ultimately will give way to Herrera, at least that’s the plan.

The other move the Mets made was to bring in Asdrubal Cabrera to play short or at least share it with Wilmer Flores. Cabrera is not the player he used to be but he’s another defensive upgrade over Flores and a better hitter than Rubin Tejada. These moves give manager Terry Collins some flexibility. He can move these guys around and cover David Wright at third if his back acts up which it surely will at some point during the season.

The moves are not as sexy as signing a Yoenis Cespedes or a Jason Heyward to a long extended contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Even after the Mets made it to the World Series, there are still fans who feel only such a move validates the Mets being a big time team. Look around I say to them. The Mets are not the only club looking to save a nickel. Their crosstown rivals, with the moves they have made, are doing the same thing.

In Moneyball parlance, it’s about buying runs, not players. The Mets have replaced production of Murphy with Walker. With Cabrera, they have begun to replace production lost with Cespedes likely going elsewhere. The money the Mets have saved by not signing Ben Zobrist and not having to give Murphy a multi-year deal (Walker will be a free agent after next season) will likely be used to obtain an outfielder to platoon with Lagares. The production from whoever that player might be will cover the rest of what Cespedes would likely produce. They are replacing Cespedes and Murphy in the aggregate. That is the heart of Moneyball.

The deals are not what Mets fans were hoping. Even Metsblog.com’s Matt Cerrone feels the Mets need to take on a ridiculous contract and go after Jason Heyward. I’m not sure why. First, Heyward is a nice player but has he yet had the type of season that screams superstar? Michael Conforto has the potential to be that type of guy. He’s a player, like the young Mets pitchers, that is going to have to be paid down the road or lose them to free agency. As the GM or his assistants, you must ask if it is worth giving out a huge contract or two to players that may not help you in a few years when you will need to pay your own players.

This philosophy helped the San Francisco Giants win three World Series in five years. It helped the St. Louis Cardinals who appear in the post season almost every season. It also helped the Boston Red Sox before the last few seasons. And it even helped the New York Mets get one step away from a world championship just this season.

Zobrist, Yanks Screw Mets

Well, when you put all your eggs in one basket, the basket better not drop. That’s what happened yesterday when a sure thing suddenly went south. Ben Zobrist chose to go to the Chicago Cubs over the New York Mets who had offered more money to the supper utility player. But I give Zobrist credit that he picked a spot based on comfort rather than money. The Mets allegedly had offered around 60 million over four years but Zobrist settled for 56 million instead to reunite with his former manager Joe Madden and play only two hours away from home. Not sure how Zobrist is going to survive taking four million less dollars.

Then to add insult to injury, the Cubs sent excess second baseman Sterling Castro to the Yankees for pitcher Adam Warren. It had been rumored for a long time that Castro might make his way to the Mets via trade. Realistically however, I don’t think that was ever going to happen because in discussions with the Mets, names like Harvey, deGrom, and Syndergaard always came up.

So what do the Mets do now? What is plan B?

I’m not sure, but it’s likely the Mets will not make any deal at the winter meetings now that the Zobrist signing did not materialize. The Mets hierarchy has shown they do not panic and it’s unlikely that will change after losing out on Zobrist. After winning the National League pennant just a couple months ago, the Mets are not pressured to prove anything at the meetings. But I am sure they will continue to lay the ground work for potential deals or free agent signings. Likely they will try to find someone to platoon with Juan Lagares in center and still may try to find a second baseman while Dilson Herrera gets more experience in Vegas.  The Mets also want to fortify the bullpen and there are a number of options there.

The deal not made is certainly a blow to the Mets who felt confident they would land Zobrist. They will need some time to absorb the loss and regroup. And Mets fans, don’t start with the Wilpons are cheap nonsense. By all accounts the Mets were willing to go four years and upwards of 60 million for a 34 year old but very good utility player. Zobrist would have been a perfect fit but not signing him is not the end of the world.  Too many fans are still caught up in the Mets making a big splash at the winter meetings. For goodness sakes, they got to the World Series in 2015 without making huge deals last winter.

Instead of focusing on what the Mets don’t have, here’s what they do have—a starting rotation of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Jonathan Niese, and Steven Matz. Add to that Zach Wheeler at mid-season coming back from Tommy John surgery and other options as well. They have a dominant closer in Jeurys Familia. They also have many arms available to put together a very good pen and likely the Mets will add from outside the organization.

In left field they have a super star in the making named Michael Conforto. Lagares in centerfielder has already won a gold glove and should be better offensively next season, especially if the Mets acquire another player to support him. Don’t forget the team offensive MVP Curtis Granderson who will be back in right field. Lucas Duda still has the potential of being a monster offensive player if he can just be more consistent. He has 30 and 27 home runs in the last two seasons respectively and he’s more than good enough defensively at first base. Behind the plate the Mets have two very good catchers in Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki (provided d’Arnaud can remain healthy and figure out how to throw out runners). Wilmer Flores started out as a train wreck at short in 2015 but worked his way to being a more than adequate defensive player with good pop in his bat. Flores, still very young, should only get better. Maybe the Mets bring back Daniel Murphy now or bring in someone else to play second but I would not be at all opposed to letting Dilson Herrera man the position. He’s 21 years old and has the potential to be a real star in the league. And of course there is the captain David Wright. Wright’s back will always be a concern now moving forward but no one works harder than David and when he’s healthy he will contribute.

Plus there is Michael Cuddyer who it appears played hurt most of the season. If he’s healthy, he’s too good a hitter not to be an offensive force off the bench. Of course you can become overly optimistic based on past statistics but it’s always safe to bet a player will perform to the level of the back of his baseball card.

Look, next year could be a complete disaster. That’s true of any team regardless of what happens in the winter meetings. The Padres and Marlins were the darlings of the winter meetings in 2014. How did that work out for them? Both clubs finished below .500 nowhere in the running for a playoff spot.  With the pitching the Mets have, they will still be a competitive club. Washington will look to prove something after a dreadful season when they were predicted to win it all. A young talented Miami Marlins team will also be much improved. It will be no easy task for the Mets to repeat in the National League East. But it’s hard to imagine with that pitching that the Mets are going to become a sub .500 team again. The Mets will make moves and improve the club. But patience is a virtue right now.

It’s disappointing the Mets did not get Ben Zobrist but it’s not Armageddon.

No Way Am I Trading Pitching

If I were Sandy Alderson, I would not trade one pitcher for next season. Not one. Not even Zach Wheeler who likely will not be able to contribute until the second half of the season because of Tommy John surgery. I don’t understand the constant discussion of why the Mets should trade Matt Harvey now because the Mets won’t be able to afford him in three years when he is a free agent. Why are we concerned with the 2019 season right now, before the hot stove has hardly warmed up for the 2016 season? If Harvey and Bryce Harper end up on the Yankees in 2019 for roughly one billion dollars for two players, so be it.

I’m sure it has to do with the fact that the New York baseball writers need something to write about in this twelve month baseball season. Sure, I understand the basic premise. The Mets are about to lose two of their big bats this off season. They are going to have to make moves to make up for the lost run production. I get it. Ipso-facto, trade a deGrom or a Harvey and bring back a big bat. Well unless the big bat is Giancarlo Stanton or Mike Trout, hang up the phone.

Let’s first look at what the Mets are losing in terms of offense for next season.

First, it is very unlikely that Yoenis Cespedes returns to the Mets and based on his performance in the post season, I’m not too upset about him leaving. Cespedes will likely get his big contract from San Diego who tried to trade for him before. If not the Padres then another destination could be the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim where owner Arte Moreno has never been afraid of signing players to huge contracts. There is no question that against not so good pitching, Cespedes is an absolute monster. But against good pitchers who are able to exploit a batter’s weakness, Cespedes could simply not adjust. Yoenis has great talent but he also has some major flaws. He at times and inexplicably does not hustle and his ability for situational hitting is surely lacking. For three years and sixty million, I would sign Cespedes, no question but beyond that—adios.

Second, Daniel Murphy’s days with the Mets are likely over also. He has already rejected the Mets qualifying offer of 15 million dollars for 2016. That will guarantee the Mets a sandwich pick in next June’s amateur free agent draft if he signs elsewhere. There is no question that Murph can flat out hit. He was the NLCS MVP and a main reason why the Mets persevered and made it to the World Series. He single handedly won game five of the NLDS against Los Angeles. He drove in two runs and scored another via one of the most heads up plays you will ever see a runner make on the baseball diamond. Yes, we are talking about Daniel Murphy and any casual Met fan understands the irony in that. But it’s his body of work over eight seasons with the Mets that makes the front office hesitant when considering a long term contract for Murph. While he was Dr. Jekyll in the NLDS and NLCS, he was Mr. Hyde in the World Series making two crucial errors that led to losses in game four and game five. And in the Series, his bat went suddenly silent. There is a better chance that Murphy returns then Cespedes however.  It was reported this week that the Mets still want to make a serious offer to retain Murphy, hoping his love for New York will give the Mets a discount. We’ll see.

I would love to see Murph come back but only on a reasonable two or three year deal.  I would like to see him become a super sub guy off the bench, a player who could play some third for when David Wright’s back is acting up or to give Duda a blow at first. Murph would also be the number one DH in ten interleague games in AL ballparks and his patience and approach at the plate give’s manager Terry Collins a premier pinch hitter in a crucial situation. There is no question that Murphy would continue to contribute to the Mets, just not at second base at least on a regular basis where the Mets must improve defensively.

Likely though, some team out there is going to offer Murphy a better deal than the Mets will be willing to give him and for that reason, he is likely gone. It will be the only time in Murphy’s career where he will be able to cash in and set his family up for life. So there is the Mets dilemma. How do they replace the production from Murphy and Cespedes?

Well for me, it’s not by trading Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Wheeler, or Jeurys Familia—ain’t happening. I am not robbing Peter to pay Paul. There are other avenue’s to pursue and it likely would be through free agency and the farm system. And when discussing the farm, I’m including players that have already contributed at the major league level this past season. As for trades, the problem there is that anyone the Mets might be interested in, opposing GMs are asking for one of the elite pitchers. And in many cases, the cost is not equal. The Mets are not going to give up a deGrom or a Syndergaard, or even a Matz, for a guy who is going to platoon with Juan Lagares.

So what can the Mets do to add to their offense? Some of the answers are already in place.

Michael Conforto will become a much bigger part of the Mets offense next season. He will move up in the order and he will be in the lineup every day, even against left handed pitching. I would expect him to get better with more experience. There is no doubt that Conforto has the ability to become a star.  I also expect both Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki to be more consistent offensively. The key for d’Arnaud is twofold. First he must stay healthy. If this guy gets 550 at bats, the Mets are going to score some runs, you can bet. Two, he also needs to work on his defense, specifically throwing out base stealers. Most importantly, d’Arnaud has got to figure out how to stay on the field. He has been plagued by injuries over his career, with the Mets at the major and minor league levels as well as when he was in the Toronto system. Plawecki should hit too. As a backup to d’Arnaud, Plawecki is close in talent although his hitting as not blossomed as of yet. d’Arnaud has more pop but Plawecki is a better average hitter, at least his minor league stats suggest that. Put simply the Mets are set at catcher for a while and injuries aside, this is a position not to be concerned with.

Curtis Granderson is a solid offensive player. He may still be the leadoff hitter or he could move down in the lineup depending on what other moves the Mets make like if they get a leadoff hitter through free agency or trade.  Juan Lagares has the ability to be a better offensive player as well and he’s already a gold glove center fielder. The Mets would like to get a lefty hitting center fielder to platoon with Lagares. Extra outfielders include Michael Cuddyer who hopefully will be better next season. He underwent surgery on a core muscle injury he must have played through all season long. Certainly no one is going to rely on output from Cuddyer but if he can produce more than last year, it will help.

Wilmer Flores should be a better offensive player also with a full year now under his belt. He faded toward the end of the long season. He’s still a very young player and playing deep into October was not something he was accustomed to. Some better conditioning and a bit more muscle could help Flores mature and be the type of hitter everyone expects. But he’s likely going to play second or at least share time with young Dilson Herrera who most scouts believe will be a star player one day.  It’s unclear who the shortstop will be next year. It could be Flores or perhaps Ruben Tejada who played very well down the stretch before he was taken out by a dirty slide from Chase Utley in game two of the NLDS. Perhaps Matt Reynolds will finally get a shot at short. He made his major league debut in the playoffs at least in terms of being on the roster. He has yet to take the field or get an at bat at the major league level. But Reynolds is a scrappy player and could be a Wally Backman type of infielder who is a catalyst on offense.

Outfielder Brandon Nimmo has made huge strides in the minors and could make his debut in 2016. Not sure where he would fit into a crowded outfield but it’s a nice problem to have. Then there are reasonable free agents available like Ben Zobrist, Gerardo Parra, Denard Span, and who knows who else the Mets may have interest in.

So obviously the Mets need to make moves especially in light of likely losing Cespedes and Murphy. Ideally they want a shortstop, an outfielder, and a solid setup man for Familia. Honestly I think Addison Reed could be the bridge to Familia. Of all the imports the Mets traded for in late July and early August, Reed is the one player who is not a free agent and still on the roster. But I do agree that finding another solid guy in the bullpen is a necessity this offseason.

Sometimes the best deals you make are the ones you don’t make.  The Mets will need to tweak, not rebuild. I do not think for a second the Mets should trade one of their bright young pitchers unless they are simply blown away by an offer. And folks, that is not going to happen because any player the Mets are interested in, opposing GMs are going to ask for deGrom, Harvey, or Syndergaard. They are gauging the Mets for players of unequal quality. There is no way Sandy is going to bend unless he is bowled over.

So stop giving any credence to these reports that the Mets should or might trade one of the big three or even Matz or Wheeler. It is not going to happen and I agree with that decision.