The Fate of the 2017 New York Mets Starting Lineup

The following explains what happened to the players on this year’s Mets opening day starting lineup.  There is one month to go of this dreadful season.  This season, the Mets missed an opportunity to make the playoffs for a third straight season for the first time in their history.  Why did this happen?  There are a lot of reasons.  Here’s a look at the fate of the April 3 starting lineup against the young and improving Atlanta Braves.

1 – Jose Reyes (3B) led off on April 3.  He has played in 118 games and for the most part remained healthy with a trip to the DL recently.  He is still on the team and active but is not the player he was when he first came up with the Mets.  In fairness to Reyes, he was never expected to be an everyday player in 2017.  With David Wright being lost for the entire season, among other injured players on the team, Reyes was forced into starting more often than expected. So far in 118 games in 2017 Reyes has 9 homers and 40 RBI and leads the team with 16 stolen bases (ouch!).  He is a free agent after the season and it is unclear if he will soon play is last game for good with the Mets.

2 – Asdrubal Cabrera (SS) at short became a bit of a prima donna when he was told he may have to play second base or third.  After being asked that, he demanded to be traded.  Ironically he remains on the team, still playing, when so many others are gone or hurt.  Cabrera remains productive with 10 home runs and 41 RBI in 107 games.  He recently reported he hopes to be back next season.  The Mets hold a team option on Cabrera.

3 – Yoenis Cespedes (LF) (Injury) had a disappointing season not due to his production but his inability to stay on the field.  Now done for the season with his second hamstring injury, a point of contention has to be the Mets conditioning staff.   Why in the world do the Mets not have a universal message to their players regarding what are reasonable baseball conditioning exercises during the offseason?  How can it be that two star players (Noah Syndergaard) were allowed to press excessive weights that likely led to injures that kept them off the field for the majority of the season?  This is a question that needs answering and a solution must follow so these types of injuries are minimized in the future.  Cespedes played in just half a season, 81 games.  He had 17 homeruns and batted in 42, not bad considering the games played but certainly not what the Mets were hoping after giving Cespedes a 110 million dollar contract.

4 – Curtis Granderson (CF) (Traded) is now a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers, traded during the August waiver period.  Granderson had his typical year of starting off dreadfully cold but then heating up and enjoying his usual production.  In Grandy’s final 111 games with the Mets he hit 19 home runs with 52 RBI.

5 -Neil Walker (2B) (Traded) also traded during the wavier period, now roams the infield for the Milwaukee Brewers.  Walker missed time during the season due to injury and when he was playing he did not have nearly the numbers he had in his first season with the Mets. In 73 games, Walker hit 10 homers with 36 RBI.  The Mets could bring back Walker has a free agent however, they can save money and likely get the same production from in-house solutions, such as Wilmer Flores.

6 – Jay Bruce (RF) (Traded) was the most productive offensive player the Mets had in 2017. But because of the poor performance and injuries to so many, like Granderson and Walker, Bruce was sent packing to the Cleveland Indians during the waiver period.  In 103 games, Bruce hit 29 homeruns and batted in 75, the most by far of any hitter on the club.  The Mets have expressed interest to bringing back Bruce during the off season.  And now that Michael Conforto will likely require shoulder surgery and may miss part of the 2018 season, bringing back Bruce may be a smart move.  But the Mets better be ready to pony up.  There is a slim market this off season and Bruce will likely be able to choose the contract he wants.

7 – Lucas Duda (1B) (Traded) once again could not get through a season without injury.  Not that he missed a lot of time but he did suffer a hyperextended elbow on a play at first base that caused him to miss some time.  With the Mets ultimately going nowhere, he was traded before the July 31 deadline, sending him to Tampa where he is enjoying similar success that he did with the Mets.  In 75 games, Duda hit 17 home runs and batted in 37.  Duda was traded because he is a free agent, the Mets season was already toast, and they needed to make room for Dominic Smith.

8 -Rene Rivera (C ) (Claimed)  Rivera, primarily the backup catcher got a lot of work because Travis d’Arnaud just can’t stay off the disabled list and Rivera’s production was on par with d’Arnaud.  Rivera was eventually claimed off of waivers by the Chicago Cubs where he is enjoying a division title run. In 54 games, Rivera hit 8 home runs and batted in 23. Who knows, the Mets could always bring Rivera back for ’18 but likely the Mets will go with a combination of d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki who has shown much improved offensive skills since being called up.

9 – Noah Syndergaard (P) (Injury) Syndergaard was pitching great until he tore a lat muscle that has kept him out of action since the end of April.  Syndergaard explained that he wanted to build more muscle with the silly idea he could throw the ball even harder than before.  Most experts believe this extra muscle mass created an imbalance that led to this injury.  As with Cespedes’s injuries, this type of lifting exercises is detrimental to baseball activity.  Thor had a record of 1-2 with a 3.29 before going down.  He is expected to make a rehab start this weekend and it’s unclear if he will start at the major league level prior to the end of the season.

Five of the starting nine are gone from the organization. Of the five Jay Bruce might be the one to return but I believe it’s unlikely.  Cespedes and Syndergaard will be back.  Reyes won’t but’s it’s possible Cabrera will.  As a bonus, here are the rest of the players that appeared during that afternoon on opening day back in April.

Travis d’Arnaud (C ) d’Arnaud (pinch ran on opening day) just can’t get through a season without getting  hurt.  This season he stuck his hand out in front of the plate and got hit with a bat sending him to the DL for a while.  Early in the season he was not particular productive but has been better of late.  However his defense and handling of pitchers is suspect.  Catcher is a position the Mets may have to think about during the off season.  In 91 games, d’Arnaud has 10 dingers and 38 runs batted in.  He likely will get one more shot with the Mets in 2018 but if Plawecki continues to hit as he has, he could possibly become the club’s favorite to start.  He’s already better defensively that d’Arnaud but that bar is not too high.

Wilmer Flores (Inf) Flores (pinch hit on opening day) has remained healthy all season and has contributed.  However, his future is not the replacement for David Wright at third.  He just doesn’t have the quick hands or arm to be a consideration as an everyday third baseman.  However, with a weak market at second base this off season, Flores might be the option there.  His bat is much more consistent against righties and lefties and will likely be more productive if not more than Neil Walker.  In 107 games, Flores has 17 home runs and 48 RBI.

Hansel Robles (P), (relieved on opening day) was truly the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of the Mets pitching staff.  There were times when Robles was just brilliant then other times where he was simply awful.  Too often he tried to throw the ball through the catcher and forgot about pitching.  There is no question to Robles’s talent however he needs to learn to be more consistent in the future.  Robles is 7-5 with a 4.26 ERA.

Fernando Salas (P) (DFA) (also relieved on opening day) was not good at all in 2017.  He struggled all season long and was finally designated for assignment to make room for other players.  He was 1-2 with a 6.00 ERA.

Robert Gsellman (P) (pitched the final inning of a 6-0 win on opening day) had a down year compared to his miraculous work of 2016 that helped a surging Mets team win the first wildcard spot.  This season he struggled to regain the form that looked so promising last season.  It didn’t help that he bad-mouthed General Manager Sandy Alderson either but apparently he has patched things up.  Gsellman is 5-6 with a 5.60 ERA.  Considering all the injuries to Mets pitchers this season, Gsellman cannot be ruled out for a spot in 2018.

Notes:  This weekend, once again, the Mets will be the center of attention.  This time it will be tomorrow in Houston when they play a day night doubleheader.  It will be the first games back in Houston since Hurricane Harvey devastated the area.   Of course the Mets were involved in the first game back in New York after the 9/11 attacks.  That was September 21, 2001 when Mike Piazza hit his most famous homerun.  Also the Mets were playing a Sunday night game in Philadelphia on May 1, 2011 when the crowd started chanting “USA, USA…” in response to Osama Bin Laden being killed by Seal Team 6.  The Mets seem to have an unusual knack for being in these situations.  Perhaps former Met Carlos Beltran will have a Piazza-like moment.

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