Dec 20

Just How Much Better Are The Mets?

New general manager Brodie Van Wagenen vowed the Mets would compete in 2019, and his early moves dictated his seriousness in following through with that promise. Trading for closer Edwin Diaz and second baseman Robinson Cano, with whom the Mets will be on the hook for roughly $100 million remaining on the latter’s contract was indeed a big splash.

In addition, the Mets signed catcher Wilson Ramos to fill a significant void, outfielder Rajai Davis to a minor league contract to compete in center field, and brought back former closer Jeurys Familia to fill a set-up role. Combined, they are appreciably better than the team that finished 22 games under .500 last year, but not close enough to be the contender Van Wagenen hopes.

However, the three teams that finished ahead of them in the National League East last season also improved. Atlanta added third baseman Josh Donaldson and brought back catcher Brian McCann; Washington added lefty starter Patrick Corbin, but doesn’t appear to have a chance to bring back Bryce Harper; and Philadelphia added outfielder Andrew McCutcheon and second baseman Jean Segura, and will host Manny Machado today. They are also reportedly interested in Harper.

Should the Phillies land both Machado and Harper it would make them the odds-on favorites to win the East, ahead of the Braves and Nationals, with the Mets slated for fourth place regardless of what they do, and the Marlins last, despite whom they bring in for catcher J.T. Realmuto.

Ramos was a better signing then Realmuto because it enabled the Mets to keep prospects outfielder Brandon Nimmo and shortstop Amed Rosario, or possibly Noah Syndergaard. Dealing Syndergaard was never going to happen, but not surrendering players was essential to the Mets, who are thin in major league ready talent.

I wrote at the time of the Cano-Diaz trade, which enabled the Mets to shed the remaining $26 million left on Jay Bruce’s contract (that would amount to only one year of Cano’s deal). I didn’t like the trade – still don’t – but added we had to wait on the rest of Van Wagenen’s offseason to draw a full conclusion.

I’m not crazy about bringing back Familia, who will go into the set-up role. I would have preferred they make a serious run at Andrew Miller, which would fill the void of a left-handed reliever. Miller was off last year because of inflammation in his right knee which accounted for two stints on the disabled list, including one of 60 days.

Philadelphia is also a player for Miller, as are a half-dozen other teams. With the money earmarked for Cano and Familia, the Mets are on the outside looking in on Miller, who worked 96.2 innings over the past two seasons.

They still have a myriad of questions: Ramos has a long history of injuries; Peter Alfonso is untested at first base; Cano is 36 and on a downward slide; Rosario has offensive issues; Yoenis Cespedes will be out until at least the All-Star break; the bullpen is still thin despite Ruiz and Familia; and the rotation, outside of Jacob deGrom, is more potential than proven performance.

Van Wagenen has talked a good game so far and the Mets have been on their fair share of back pages but have won nothing, yet. The Mets seem more inclined to make lower profile deals than a blockbuster trade or sign a major free agent.

What the Mets have now is what they’ll likely go into spring training with and that isn’t good enough to contend, which we already knew.

Dec 04

It’s Official: Mets Announce Cano, Diaz Deal

VAN WAGENEN with CANO and DIAZ and WILPON

VAN WAGENEN with CANO and DIAZ and WILPON

Brodie Van Wagenen had his picture taken today with Robinson Cano. Also in the photo was reliever Edwin Diaz, the centerpiece to the deal and COO Jeff Wilpon, who will pick up the balance of Cano’s $120 million contract.

On the surface, I am against this trade because of the money owed Cano and his 36 years. That’s just two reasons. The reason to like the deal is in the interest of fairness and for what Van Wagenen said.

”This trade should be a signal to our players and to our fans that words alone will not define this franchise,’’ Van Wagenen said. ”We did not make this move to have this be the last move. We have talent already on the roster. We want to bolster the team, improve our production next season and add more players around this. That’s our mission.”

Going to Seattle are prospects Jared Kelenic and Justin Dunn, and Jay Bruce, Anthony Swarzak and Gerson Bautista.

You could look at this as two trades. The first is the prospects for Diaz, which I’d do, but the Mariners wouldn’t bite on that without the Mets taking on Cano and his contract.

Cano is owed $24 million a year for the next five, and taking on Bruce and Swarzak will make the first year a wash. But that doesn’t change the fact there are four years left the Mets will be paying $96 million for an aging second baseman – a position where they don’t have an immediate need.

Plenty of holes remain, and with them, substantial rumors, such as trading for Cleveland’s Corey Kluber, but it might cost them either Michael Conforto or Brandon Nimmo. Then there are the on-again, off-again rumors of trading Noah Syndergaard.

Syndergaard is staying, and that was cemented with the Cano deal. As far as trading either Nimmo or Conforto, I don’t want to part with either, but I would have to in order to get Kluber.

Kluber, Jacob deGrom and Syndergaard would give the Mets one of the best staffs in the majors, and enable them to trade either Zack Wheeler or Steven Matz to fill their remaining holes of a catcher, first baseman, center fielder and at least four arms in the bullpen.

Now, if Van Wagenen can do that, then maybe he will make that big splash after all and do what few expected, which is change the culture.

I still don’t like getting Cano, who is at the tail end of his career, which was punctuated by a PED suspension and a reputation of being disinterested and a lack of hustle.

It takes years to evaluate a trade and on the surface, the Mets gave away too much for the promise of Diaz, because, after all, there’s a glut of relievers on the market, and maybe Cano has a spark left.

However, if Van Wagenen is true to his word, then there’s no telling how far the Mets will go.

 

Nov 27

Adding Machado, Harper Or Cano Won’t Be Enough To Lift The Mets

New York sports-radio is all for the Mets signing Manny Machado, but that would be one of the worst things the organization could do. Then again, New York sports-talk radio is for a lot of things that don’t make sense.

Signing both Machado and Bryce Harper would set the franchise back over a decade, by which time all those young, vaunted arms would likely be gone.

New general manager Brodie Van Wagenen vowed the Mets would be competitive this season, but adding Machado or Harper won’t make that happen because that expensive a power bat doesn’t begin to fill all the holes facing them.

There are numerous questions surrounding the rotation beginning with Jacob deGrom who is coming off a historic season. The thing about historic seasons is they usually happen once. While it is doubtful deGrom will duplicate his 1.70 ERA, but it would be great if he won more than 10 games even if it means having a higher ERA.

Zack Wheeler demonstrated breakout signs, but can he continue to progress? So far, Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard have been an uncashed check regarding their potential. Will it ever happen for either of them? The New York papers have been loaded with articles about the Mets shopping Syndergaard, but their asking price is exorbitant.

That leaves another rotation question: Who will be the fifth starter?

The bullpen needs to be completely rebuilt, which means at least six more questions.

The Mets’ best catcher last season regarding defense, game calling and controlling the running game was Devon Mesaraco, but there’s been no mention of bringing him back. There has been talk of trading for the Marlins’ J.T. Realmuto, but Miami wants a haul in return. Kevin Plawecki figures to come back but the odds are long for Travis d’Arnaud.

First base is another wide-open position as Dominick Smith hasn’t proven worthy of getting the position long-term. We know the Mets aren’t sold on Wilmer Flores. The Diamondbacks will listen to offers for Paul Goldschmidt. I’d rather have him than Realmuto, but he’s also going to cost plenty, both in terms of prospects and salary.

Seattle is actively trying to trade second baseman Robinson Cano, and in hope of finding a sucker reached out to the Mets. Cano is 36, coming off a PED suspension and with $120 million remaining on his contract through 2023. Cano also has a reputation from his years with the Yankees for not hustling. That hasn’t changed much from his years in Seattle. Do you want that kind of player on the Mets?

Trading for Cano would be a catastrophic deal of monumental proportions, especially since second base isn’t a priority. Personally, I’d rather have Jeff McNeil, who hustles and has a high on-base percentage.

Third base belongs to Todd Frazier unless the Mets can do better, and that doesn’t mean Machado, whose, ”I’m not Johnny Hustle,” quote during the playoffs has come back to haunt him. The only thing worse than saying something so stupid was his trying to walk it back. If you say something like that. at least own up to it.

The Mets are also open for a right-handed hitting outfielder with Yoenis Cespedes out until at least the All-Star break.

Cano at $120 million and Machado and Harper at a reported $300 million each represent a lot of money which can go a long way at answering all their questions, which I have at least 16 at last count.

If the Mets are going to sign anybody to a long-term mega contract, it will go to deGrom, and even that won’t help them. Competitive isn’t what the Mets are going to be in 2019. Not even close.

Nov 15

DeGrom Wins Cy Young Based On The Eye Test

In what was hardly a surprise, Jacob deGrom was the runaway winner in the National League Cy Young Award today.

In the end, deGrom’s Cy Young Award was less about analytics than it was about domination. The Mets’ ace dominated the voting like no game this season, collecting 29 of 30 first-place votes by the Baseball Writers Association of America – Washington’s Max Scherzer got the other – to become the sixth Cy Young Award winner in franchise history.

After a summer of debating over the value of wins and losses and pitching WAR, it all boiled down to nobody coming close to how easily deGrom handled hitters this season and in the process set a Major League record of closing the summer with 29 straight starts of giving up three runs or fewer runs.

Only once in 32 starts did he give up more than three runs. Once.

”I really do love competing, that is why we play this game, to go out there and compete,” deGrom said. ”Just every fifth day, it’s your day, and you want to stay out there as long as possible and try to put your team in a position to win. My thought process was, ‘Take the ball every fifth day and continue to try to put this team in a position to win and control what you can control.’ ”

What deGrom couldn’t control was the chatter about whether wins still matter in evaluating a pitcher’s effectiveness. Roger Clemens once told me a great pitcher will find a way of winning a game when things fall apart for his team. DeGrom finished at 10-9 with a major-league low 1.70 ERA (easily the most definitive statistic for a starter because it measures runs allowed which goes the furthest in determining whether a team wins or loses).

DeGrom’s ERA was the sixth lowest for a starter since 1969, when the mound was lowered as Major League Baseball tinkered to generate more offense.

There are other numbers that matter in evaluating a pitcher, such as 269 strikeouts in 217 innings pitched, and averaged 6.8 innings per start. DeGrom gave up a league-low ten homers, had one complete game, compared to Tom Seaver’s 18 complete games in his first of three Cy Young Award seasons. Dwight Gooden and R.A. Dickey are the other Mets to win baseball’s premier pitching award.

Despite his dominance, deGrom was frequently victimized by a porous bullpen and an offense that only gave him 3.5 runs a game, the worst support in the game for a starter. Overall, the Mets ranked 12th in the National League in scoring, and such paltry support was the genesis of the pro-analytic conversation after deGrom said winning the Cy Young Award was something that meant a lot to him.

At 30, deGrom is in his prime and will become a free agent after this season. He made $7.4 million this year and Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen, who was deGrom’s agent two weeks ago, has said it is a priority to re-sign him.

”Jacob clearly established himself as the best pitcher in baseball for 2018,” said Van Wagenen. ”His consistency and competitiveness were unmatched. I’ve always been impressed with his professional and dedicated approach on and off the field in addition to being a tremendous teammate.”

DeGrom’s ten victories are the fewest ever by a Cy Young Award winner in a non-strike-shortened season.

”This was one of my goals,” deGrom said. ”The team didn’t end up where we wanted to be this past season, but you kind of set personal goals, and I think being able to accomplish something that has been a dream of yours is just something special. To be a Cy Young Award winner, you’re in great company, and it truly is an honor.”

And, deserving based on the eye test, not by any new wave thinking.