How do the Mets stack up in the NL East?

We’ve been so busy picking apart the Mets roster this off-season, we’d be remiss if we didn’t take a broader look at our division rivals to see how we measure up. Unlike other divisions, the NL East does not have a doormat team. The Marlins might not be a playoff favorite, but they’ve got more talent than any other projected fifth place finisher in either league. And, as you’ll see, they’re the least of our concerns. Here’s your annual NL East preview.

Atlanta Braves

Strengths: A strong middle-of-the-order with emerging star Ronald Acuna Jr., MVP/Mets crusher Freddie Freeman, and masher Marcel Ozuna. A strong rotation led by young guns Max Fried, Mike Soroka, and Ian Anderson, and a deep bullpen topped by flamethrower A.J. Minter are both bolstered by a collection of carefully assembled veterans.

Weaknesses: The bottom of the lineup is potentially weak as the team is waiting for Austin Riley to establish himself at third and crosses its fingers that the young speedster Christian Pache can take over for the light-hitting Ender Inciarte in center field. Speaking of crossing fingers, as of this writing, the team does not have a proven catcher to back up the ever fragile Travis d’Arnaud. Ozuna can hit, but is a liability in the field and there’s no DH this year.

Best Player: Freeman

Wildcard: Pache

Best Case: Pache and Riley breakout, giving the Braves are strong lineup to support their pitching and they win a fourth consecutive division title.

Worst Case: Ozuna makes errors, d’Arnaud gets hurt, Riley is a bust, Pache isn’t ready and the pitching isn’t good enough to carry them beyond .500.

Prediction: Wild Card

Miami Marlins

Strengths: Sandy Alcantara and Sixto Sanchez lead a new wave of young rotation arms that are developing faster than expected. With so many great third basemen, you don’t hear much about Brian Anderson, but he’s a good ball player. Speedy, young outfielders will track down balls in the gap. Starling Marte is still on this team.

Weaknesses: The bullpen is largely unproven and the lineup lacks a real threat.

Best Player: Alcantara

Wildcard: Magneuris Sierra

Best Case: Some of the other young arms like Pablo Lopez, Nick Neidert and Elieser Hernandez develop and the team fights and scratches to a .500 record.

Worst Case: The Marllins get off to a slow start in a competitive division and trade away Marte at the deadline before sinking to last place.

Prediction: 5th place

New York Mets

Strengths: The strongest lineup this team has had since 2006 features power, speed, contact and balance. Adding a dynamic offensive player like Francisco Lindor to an already good lineup is scary for other teams. Jacob deGrom is without question the best pitcher in the game. A solid and versatile bench and some extra rotation arms should help the Mets overcome the usual injuries. They’ll get a jolt in early June when Noah Syndergaard returns.

Weaknesses: Outfield defense. Starting the season with three of our best pitchers on the IL. A poor fielding third baseman. Question marks in middle relief.

Best Player: deGrom

Wildcard: Syndergaard

Best Case: Those three pitchers return to health and the Mets find another reliable bullpen arm or two among who’s currently on the roster or available at mid-season. With this high octane offense, the pitching doesn’t need to be great, just good and reliable for them to make the playoffs. If Syndergaard comes back strong, this team could win the division and advance in the playoffs.

Worst Case: Syndergaard, Seth Lugo and Carlos Carrasco don’t all make it back and the pitching staff struggles.

Prediction: 1st place

Philadelphia Phillies

Strengths: A good lineup with six of their regulars capable of hitting 20+ homers. A strong top of the rotation.

Weaknesses: The bullpen was terrible last year and Archie Bradley won’t be enough to fix it. The backend of the rotation looks like a problem.

Best Player: Bryce Harper

Wildcard: Spencer Howard

Best Case: Howard has a big rookie year to give the Phillies four capable starters and the lineup stays healthy and keeps the team above .500 til the trade deadline when they bring in some reinforcements for the bullpen.

Worst Case: Zack Wheeler or Aaron Nola gets injured or Zack Efflin comes back to earth and the pitching proves too thin for this team to be competitive.

Prediction: 3rd place

Washington Nationals

Strengths: Rotation is one of the best with 3-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin. Veteran Jon Lester is first in line to fill out the backend with Erick Fedde, Austin Voth and Joe Ross competing for starts. The addition of Brad Hand should strengthen what should be a solid bullpen. Juan Soto is an absolute monster and Trea Turner is an All Star at shortstop.

Weaknesses: Soto will get walked 150 times as his only protection is Josh Bell. The rest of the lineup besides those two and Turner is hardly imposing. This team hasn’t replaced the departed Harper and Anthony Rendon and can’t consistently score runs. They have too many players than can field but not hit and vice versa.

Best Player: Soto

Wildcard: Carter Kieboom

Best Case: Kieboom develops, Victor Robles starts hitting, and Kyle Schwarber stays healthy and adds thump to the lineup. The key pitchers avoid the IL and this team can battle for a wild card.

Worst Case:  Too many errors in the field, too many runners stranded on base and not enough health among an aging pitching staff.

Prediction: 4th place

Can Diaz, May, and Lugo lock down the late innings?

Edwin DiazIt’s been a busy off-season for the Mets and the front office has done an admirable job filling out the 40-man roster with talent, versatility, and depth. The offense, defense, bench, and rotation should all be significantly improved over last year and primed for a playoff run. But as history tells us, a weak bullpen can torpedo a promising season. After all, ever the best starting pitchers rarely throw complete games anymore, so it’s very often left to the relievers to hold the lead or keep the game close.

As for closing, Edwin Diaz figures to hold that role again. Will we see the strikeout machine we saw in 2020 or the homerun derby pitcher we saw in 2019? This is a very big and scary question to consider. What was the main cause of Diaz’s brutal 2019 – the slick ball, the change of scenery, or the pressure of playing in New York? Maybe the raised seems last season helped him find his slider and maybe he got used to his teammates and the big city. Or, as some have suggested, maybe he thrived under the reduced pressure of not having to pitch in front of a packed ballpark. The fans may return at some point this season and the baseballs will be changing again so we can’t rest too easy on our expectations here. One positive is that new catcher James McCann is regarded as a better receiver, pitch framer, and overall defensive catcher than his predecessor and that can certainly help Diaz.

The good news is that there are alternatives if Diaz falters. Newly signed Trevor May is another hard-throwing strikeout pitcher who can be a lockdown setup man and step in to close if needed.  Over the past season and a half in Minnesota, May struck out a whopping 117 batters in just 87.2 innings. Seth Lugo, though expected to begin the season on the IL recovering from surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow, also has some closing experience, as well as the ability to pitch multiple innings. It would be reassuring if the Mets could add one more bullpen piece before the season starts to at least hold the line until Lugo returns, likely in mid May.

The Mets’ 2021 bullpen also features two former All-Star closers in Jeurys Familia and Dellin Betances. Due to injuries or ineffectiveness, neither has been dominant for several years now. However, the hope is that both are healthy with something to prove and at least one of them will prove effective as a useful setup man. The lefty Aaron Loup seemed to transform from an average reliever to a very effective one last year with Tampa Bay and he cranked it up a notch in the playoffs. In nine 2020 post-season appearances, Loup was effective in eight and allowed no home runs. He will certainly be in the late inning mix.

The rest of the bullpen may be something of a revolving door as pitchers shuttle back and forth to Syracuse depending on injuries, needs, effectiveness, and options. It’s a bit of a mixed bag. Righties Robert Gsellman and Miguel Castro are likely to be on the opening day roster. The latter can strike batters out, but also gives up way too many walks. Gsellman can go multiple innings and start in a pinch, but it’s been a few seasons now since he’s been really effective.

Jacob Barnes, Franklyn Kilome, Sam McWilliams, Sean Reid-Foley, Drew Smith, Stephen Tarpley, Daniel Zamora Yennsy Diaz figure to battle for the last spot, along with a number of spring training invites, like Jerry Blevins, Tommy Hunter, Mike Montgomery, Arodys Vizcaino, Ryley Gilliam, and others. There’s something to be said for the old adage of “strength in numbers,” but by mid-season, the Mets will certainly have had an opportunity to get a sense of who, if any, of these cast-offs, journeyman, and upstarts is worthy of sticking around in Queens.

Our bullpen is deep in terms of live arms worth a look, but it’s remarkably shallow in terms of arms that Manager Luis Rojas and Mets fans can truly rely on. It would be great if Betances, Familia or Gsellman can make a comeback or if one of these other relievers could emerge, but at the moment it looks like we have four go-to arms and one is injured. This won’t be enough to get us through the long season. Hopefully, Sandy Alderson and Zack Scott can find one more bullpen addition over the next few weeks. Otherwise, this will be our biggest area of concern and may be worth revisiting at the mid-season trade deadline.

The Mets dodged a bullet with George Springer

Noah Syndergaard and Michael ConfortoGeorge Springer is a terrific player and as a playoff-tested, right-handed slugger who plays a solid centerfield, he seemed to be the most coveted free agent for Mets fans. Alas, it was not meant to be, as the Blue Jays swooped in and snagged the former Astro All-Star for six years and $150 million.

The $25 million AAV is not far off what Springer was projected to get, but that extra year is tough to swallow. As this blogger has pointed out many times, centerfielders don’t age well. Sure, he’ll probably be good for another three years, but the back end of that contract could be ugly. At best, he’ll transition to a corner outfield position and still be able to slug 30 home runs per year. At worst? Well, remember Jacoby Ellsbury? How about Dexter Fowler? AJ Pollock? Lorenzo Cain? The list is long.

Back when the Mets signed Carlos Beltran to a then whopping seven-year, $119 million contract, he was just 27 years old. Springer turned 31 in September. There’s little question he will boost the Blue Jays offense for the next few years, but after that, his contract could be a problem. However, with most of their key players still in pre-arbitration years, the Blue Jays can afford to take on this gamble. The Mets cannot.

As Sandy Alderson and Steve Cohen have made clear, they want to build a sustainable winner. You simply don’t accomplish that by stockpiling expensive free agents.

The Mets have a nice core of young talent and some, like Pete Alonso, Dominic Smith, and Jeff McNeil, are still earning well below their market value as pre-arbitration players. However, many of our other key players, like Brandon Nimmo, J.D. Davis, and Seth Lugo, are seeing steady pay increases through arbitration. The biggest concern of course is that four of the main cogs on this team will hit free agency when this coming season ends – Francisco Lindor, Michael Conforto, Noah Syndergaard, and Marcus Stroman. That list also includes Steven Matz, Jeurys Familia and Dellin Betances, but these guys are obviously less of a concern.

Now, if we were still owned by the Wilpons, we’d be bracing ourselves to lose three out of four of those players. But those cheapskates who let us wave good-bye to homegrown favorites like Jose Reyes and Zack Wheeler are thankfully out of the picture. A certain avuncular billionaire owner wants his fans to be happy. Now, realistically, we won’t be able to keep Lindor, Conforto, Syndergaard and Stroman. But in order to have a chance to bring back two or hopefully three of them and keep the band together for sustained winning, we’re going to have to keep our 2021 spending in check.

The trade for Lindor and Carlos Carrasco was our big move and it was enormous. That move alone puts us firmly in the playoff discussion. Bringing back Stroman and signing Brian McCann, Trevor May and Jose Martinez, plus trading for Joey Lucchesi, helps solidify the roster for the coming season. By most accounts, the Mets are still nearly $30 million below the soft salary cap. And, by most accounts, the Mets still have a few remaining roster holes that need plugging.

Without Springer, and hopefully not Trevor Bauer, the Mets don’t need to eat up that remaining space with one contract. Although Brad Hand is currently being courted by multiple teams, a lefty reliever who can close would give us the best bullpen we’ve had in many years. A gold glove centerfielder like Jackie Bradley Jr. would give us a really strong up-the-middle defense. And a gold glove second baseman like Kolton Wong would give us a fantastic infield with McNeil moving over to third. These three combined might make less than what Bauer is seeking.

A cheaper version of this – Justin Wilson, Kevin Pillar, and Jonathan Villar – would still round out the roster and leave wiggle room for a mid-season acquisition, not to mention the possibility of extending one or more of the walk year players. Flexibility is key, as keeping a good team intact.

Look at the Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals as cautionary tales. Yes, they won World Series, but these teams were talked about as a sustained winners, if not potential dynasties. Fans in Boston and San Francisco can more easily swallow the downturn as they have three rings to show for it.

These days, the top players are seeking $30 million AAV contracts. Even if you can support a $200 million payroll, you really can’t have more than two or three of those guys on your team and hope to fill out a roster. This isn’t the NBA where two superstars can win you a title. You could literally have the three best players in baseball on your team – say Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, and Jacob deGrom – and still finish in last place if the rest of your team stinks. The Nationals have $100 million spoken for by the front of their rotation and had to bid adieu to Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon in successive off-seasons. Now their team consists of the three pitchers, a few young stars, and a whole lot of marginal players.

Of course MattyMets wants to see his team win it all for the first time since he was 14, but what he really wants is for the Mets to be like the Cardinals or Dodgers, who seem to be in the playoffs every year. Locking up guys like Conforto and Syndergaard is the best way to make that happen.

Here’s how the Mets could outsmart and outpitch the league.

Mets pitchersIt sure feels like Christmas for Mets fans with a deep-pocketed, new owner ready to spend and a capable and familiar President of Baseball Operations ushering in a new front office equipped to recognize and harness the talent this franchise needs to get us back to playing baseball in October.

As much as the off-season has gotten off to a slow start, the Mets have been dominating the hot stove discussions. Nearly every big name free agent or trade candidate has had their name tied to Queens in off-season rumors. So far so good, but the heavy lifting is about to begin.

Preparing this Mets team for 2021 will take more than an aggressive free agency; it will require a well thought out approach that puts us a step ahead of the competition. Just as we’ve watched other teams revolutionize the game with the use of analytics, shifts, launch angle, and more, the Mets have a chance to have a secret winning strategy of their own this coming season.

We all know the Mets need to add a new starting pitcher. But MattyMets is here to argue we need at least two, if not three. Prediction: rotation depth will be the key to the 2021 season for all teams.

As it stands, our rotation is led by the best pitcher in baseball, followed by a solid number two. You could argue that we could add one quality starter and patch together the back end between the untested David Peterson, the enigmatic Steven Matz and the miscast Seth Lugo. MattyMets disagrees.

Even if the upcoming season ends up being 162 games with a familiar set of rules, it will be a wonky season. Here’s why. There will need to be innings limits imposed on every single starting pitcher, or else we’re going to see a rash of elbow injuries like we’ve never seen before.

If you give merit to the Verducci effect, pitchers are far more susceptible to arm injuries when there is a significant increase in innings pitched from one season to the next. Going from one 32-start/200-inning season to the next, a pitcher is prepared. But, going from an injury-shortened (or Covid-shortened) 12-start/70-inning season to a full one leaves a pitcher very vulnerable. The leading 2020 innings eater was Lance Lynn with just 84 IP. Jacob deGrom threw 68, Peterson threw 49.2, Marcus Stroman threw zero innings and it’s not yet clear who will fill out the rotation. This is a problem.

Smart teams will be prepared with deep bullpens featuring a few old-school long reliever/spot starter types (where’s Terry Leach when we need him?). Shrewd GMs will stack their triple A affiliate with veteran arms who can step in as needed. Signing former Phillies pitcher Jerad Eickhoff was a good start. Though he struggled recently, he has a live arm and some solid seasons behind him. He’s still 29 so there’s a chance for a bounce back and he’s worth a look. The Mets should look for a few more guys like that.

The smartest and boldest move of all would be to implement a six-man rotation. This way there are reasonable expectations placed on starters, injury risk is reduced, and there’s a better chance of them having some steam left heading into the post-season, which the Mets plan to attend in 2021.

Rather than putting all their eggs in one basket, like say spending $30mm on Trevor Bauer, the Mets might be better served bringing in two $10-$15 million arms, plus taking a flyer on a few guys coming off down years or injuries. The teams that succeed will be the ones that best prepared for the certain uncertainty of 2021.

Steve Cohen could top the 2008 Yankees spending spree

raining cashThe 2008 New York Yankees missed the playoffs for the first time since 1993. They were about to move into their newly renovated ballpark with more luxury suites. The Steinbrenners had money to spend and Yankee fans were eager to get right back into contention. Luckily for them, the stars aligned as the free agent class that winter was topped by three star players who could put the Yankees right back into October baseball.

While the rest of baseball was utterly shocked, Yankee fans celebrated Christmas all winter long as the Yankees committed a whopping $424 million in contracts to snatch up all three of the big off-season prizes. If that seems like a lot of money now, remember that this was 12 years ago.

In desperate need of pitching, the Yankees roped in likely future Hall of Famer CC Sabathia with a 7-year/$161 million deal. At the time, that was a monster contract. To further shore up their rotation, the Yankees also grabbed A.J. Burnett for 5-years/$83 million. However, the biggest contract that off-season went to the switch-hitting, gold-glove first baseman, Mark Teixeira. He signed for a then staggering 8-years/$180 million.

In case anyone reading this doesn’t recall how that investment turned out, the Yankees won the World Series in 2009. Meanwhile, Mets fans were less celebratory upon hearing the Braves outbid us for Derek Lowe and we settled for resigning Oliver Perez to a three-year/$36 million contract. We also signed Francisco Rodriguez to a three-year/$37 million deal.

Now the shoe is on the other foot, or, rather the coin purse is in another borough. Now, at long freakin’ last, the stars have aligned for us. All of our dreams came true as billionaire and lifelong Mets fan Steve Cohen bought the team away from the penny pinching Wilpon family. On top of Cohen’s riches, the Mets also have plenty of wiggle room with contracts coming off the books, including a surprise $20.25 million courtesy of the Robinson Cano PED suspension. And, as luck would have it, many of the top available free agents play our biggest positions of need – starting pitcher, catcher, and center field.

As if that wasn’t enough to get excited about, most teams will be hesitant to spend this off-season, as they lost millions in revenue in 2020 with Covid-19 robbing them of earnings from ticket sales, concessions, parking, merchandise, etc. Cohen lost no money last year because he didn’t own a baseball team until right now. Not only is he the richest owner in Major League Baseball, but he may also be the luckiest.

Maybe it’s so ingrained in us from the lean Wilpon years to think, oh, maybe now we can get one of the big free agents – which one should we get? Hence, there have been endless debates on this blog, and anywhere else intelligent Mets fans gather, about whether we should go after the ace pitcher, the All-Star catcher, or the playoff tested centerfielder. Why can we only have one?

We all dream of winning the lottery. If you win the small state jackpot, maybe you pay off your bills and go on an exotic vacation. But, if you win the Powerball jackpot, you take care of everyone you know, buy a giant house and a fancy car, season tickets to the Mets, and still have more left than you know what to do with. Hmm, maybe I should be shopping for a yacht or a private jet or an island! You get the point?

At the top tier of this year’s free agent class are Trevor Bauer, J.T. Realmuto, and George Springer, referenced above, as well as two-time batting champ DJ LeMahieu and slugger Marcell Ozuna. These are very good players who would look great in blue and orange, but none of them are generational talents like Mike Trout or Mookie Betts. No one above is going to command a 10-year/$300 million+ contract. Factor in the shortage of competition from so many teams in the red, and the Mets are in the catbird seat to corral three of these guys.

How much would that take? Well, the wildcard is Bauer, who has previously been committed to playing on one-year contracts. Coming off a Cy Young season, might he be convinced to finally commit to one team?  If yes, it could set off a bidding war with all of the California teams seeking starting pitching. If that is the case, Bauer could push toward something in the neighborhood of 7-years/$210 million. Is this mercurial and only recently dominant pitcher really worth that much? MattyMets doesn’t think so, but perhaps some of you do.

As for the other four players, Realmuto and Springer could command something like 5-years/$125 while Lemahieu and Ozuna a bit less at 4-years/$92 million. So, if Cohen, Alderson and our as-yet-to-be-named General Manager want to add arguably the three best available free agents to our roster, it might cost $460 million. That would indeed top the 2008-9 Yankees haul, but then, it’s 12 years later.

Cohen likely doesn’t care nearly as much about sticking it to the Yankees as he does fielding a winner in Queens, but if that is a goal of his, a cheaper way to accomplish that would be to simply outbid the Bronx Bombers for LeMahieu.

It’s hard to fathom, like with the Powerball, but we actually won. Yeah, Mets fans really won!  Let that sink in because now, it’s time to spend, baby. #LFGM

A blueprint for the perfect Mets offseason

J.T. RealmutoAlthough the Mets had a disappointing 2020 season and missed the playoffs, MattyMets here feels like a winner. At long last, we have the deep-pocketed ownership this New York team with the world’s most awesome fans deserves.

You have to take the 2020 season with a grain of salt, not only because of the shortened season with weird rules, but because this team suffered a number of unexpected strokes of bad luck from injuries to opt-outs and off-years. In our last full season of play, we were right on the cusp of the playoffs, boasting a lot of talent and our best lineup since 2006. Unfortunately, the front office chose to let Zack Wheeler walk away for nothing. This, plus the injury to Noah Syndergaard and Marcus Stroman‘s opt-out left our pitching staff too thin to compete in 2020, despite a deep, powerful offense. However, this eternal Mets optimist still thinks the foundation is in place and the blue and orange are just one smart off-season away from returning to contention. Here’s the plan.

Step 1: Rebuild the front office.
Bringing back Sandy Alderson, a smart, respected, and seasoned baseball man to lead the charge as President of Baseball Operations will be a good start for new owner, Steve Cohen. Next up is to cut our losses with the agent-turned-GM experiment and buy out Brodie Van Wagenen. Most of his moves were short-sighted, he gave away too much of our future and rolled the dice on the wrong pitchers. The right man for the job is someone who is bold, smart, and understands the real value of players, how today’s game is won, and what this team is missing. There are no shortage of quality candidates out there – the Brewers’ David Stearns, the A’s Billy Owens, the Indians’ Mike Chernoff, the Diamondbacks’ Jared Porter, and a few familiar options like J.P. Ricciardi and Paul DePodesta, among others. After settling on a GM and a direction for this team, next up is to build up a robust analytics department to put this organization on the same playing field as the Braves, Dodgers and other teams who’ve found sustained success in this decade.

Step 2: Resolve in-house issues.
The front office needs to make some quick decisions regarding players up for free agency, facing options or getting too expensive in arbitration. The good news is that most of the core is under contract. Starting with the offense, it’s time to move on from Wilson Ramos.  A $1.5 million buyout seems like a steal compared to his $10 million option. He doesn’t hit home runs anymore and the lead-footed, weak-fielding catcher is not worth near that amount of money for whatever singles he hits, especially in a year with some good free agent catchers available. The Mets have a similar situation with the recently acquired Robinson Chirinos as he is due to make $6.5 million, unless they buy him out for $1 million. They should let him walk away too. Tomas Nido is a fine backup and the Mets can always bring back Rene Rivera or a reasonable facsimile to help fill in.

Todd Frazier will cost the Mets either a $5.75 million option or a $1.5 million buy out. I may be alone in this, but, depending on how the chips fall, I’d consider bringing him back. He’s a great clubhouse presence, and a good third baseman who still hits for power and he allows us to play Jeff McNeil primarily at second and minimize the number of innings J.D. Davis sees ta third. Jed Lowrie is a straight up free agent and as much as it stings to have gotten nothing out of that contract, at least there’s no buyout necessary. Jake Marisnick is also a free agent who did not give us any ROI in 2020 so, adios.

On the pitching front, Marcus Stroman, Rick Porcello, and Michael Wacha are all free agents. Wacha and Porcello were bad signings and should be allowed to walk. As for Stroman, more on that later. Among relievers, Justin Wilson is a free agent who should be resigned. Two years, $12 million should get it done. Dellin Betances has a $6 million player option or a $3 million buyout. This one is out of the Mets hands, but it’s safe to assume, after the lousy year he had, that he’ll opt in for the $6 million and try to prove he can still pitch. Righties Brad Brach and Jared Hughes are also free agents and, after mediocre years, they can take their business elsewhere. Brach has a modest player option, but will likely walk away from it. Robert Gsellman and Steven Matz are not free agents, but are both coming off disgusting seasons and are getting pricy in arbitration. Both could use a change of scenery.

At the same time, the Mets need to work on a long-term contract for Michael Conforto. Home grown stars should not walk away for nothing from New York teams. Conforto is coming off a great season and entering his walk yea.r The new, smarter ownership/leadership will make sure we don’t make that mistake again.

Step 3: Take an aggressive approach to free agency.
The Mets number one target should be catcher J.T. Realmuto. Upgrading from the plodding Ramos to an athletic catcher who can frame pitches, throw out runners, hit for power, run the bases, and provide leadership would be the most impactful move the Mets could make and it’s worth an overpay. Despite reports that Realmuto could command a $200 million contract, something on the order of 6-years/$150 million seems more realistic. Yes, he’s the consensus “best catcher in baseball.” but that’s by default. He doesn’t have an MVP trophy and three World Series rings like Buster Posey or an MVP and a batting title like Joe Mauer. A better comparison is Yadier Molina. He’s not Johnny Bench, but signing Realmuto would improve the Mets lineup, defense, and pitching. For this reason, the Mets need to treat signing him like the Yankees did Gerrit Cole last off-season and just jump right in with the big offer and not give anyone else a chance, even if it means eating the last year or two of his deal.

The Mets biggest area of need is clearly starting pitching. While many on this blog are pining for Trevor Bauer, MattyMets disagrees. He’s a pain in the ass. Read the book The MVP Machine (Thanks BK for lending it to me) and you’ll see that he does not play nice in the sandbox. His insistence on one-year contracts may have less to do with his arrogance and more to do with his wearing out his welcome. With an improved defense (more on that in a bit), to better handle all those groundballs he induces, bringing back Stroman makes sense. He can handle New York and he’s a gamer. He makes a solid number two behind Jacob deGrom and five years/$100 million should get it done.

With David Peterson slotted in the fifth starter spot and Noah Syndergaard due back by Memorial Day, the Mets still need at least one more starting pitcher. The good news is that free agency is teeming with mid to back rotation options. Some interesting options that won’t be too expensive include Kevin Gausman, Mike Minor, Jake Odorizzi, James Paxton, Robbie Ray, Drew Smyley, Julio Teheran, and Tajuan Walker. The best play here might be to wait it out as it’s a buyers’ market and, given the economic circumstances, many teams will be pinching pennies this off-season. In the end, the Mets should try to grab two from this list with the plan to move one of them to the bullpen when Syndergaard comes back. Ray would be a great candidate for that as he’s a big strikeout guy who could benefit from short bursts out of the pen.  My guess is Ray could be had for three years, $45 million, and Gausman could be had for two years, $20 million.

With the rotation set, it’s time to look at the bullpen. With Edwin Diaz, Seth Lugo, Jeurys Familia, Betances, Wilson, Chasen Shreve, Miguel Castro, and Drew Smith in the fold, there aren’t a lot of vacancies. With Lugo back in the pen and Ray set to join him a little later in the season, the pen should be strong enough and an upgrade can always be added in July.

The Mets could really use a centerfielder, but with so much money going to Realmuto and Stroman, signing George Springer is not realistic. However, Joc Pederson is. The former Dodger hits home runs, can play centerfield and allows Brandon Nimmo to shift to left field.  It makes for an all-lefty outfield, but we could also sign someone like Kevin Pillar to fill in. He fits the bill as a cheap, right handed centerfielder and can be had on a one-year deal for $3 million. The righty J.D. Davis can also fill in at left field when needed.

Step 4: Let’s make a deal.
Signing Realmuto and Stroman is splashy, but the way the Mets can really win the back pages and the NL East, is through a trade. The stars are in alignment. The Mets have good players out of position and a few players who need a change of scenery. At the same time, payroll is not a major concern and several teams will be looking to cut payroll. Two superstar players could be available this off-season – shortstop Francisco Lindor and third baseman Nolan Arenado. Either player would improve the Mets offense and defense. They both have Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers and are in their prime. Could a package of Andres Gimenez, J.D. Davis, Matz, Gsellman and a minor leaguer or two get it done? It’s worth a shot.

More realistically, the Mets send Robinson Cano back to the Yankees to finish out his Hall of Fame career in pinstripes. We might have to include cash to offset his salary some (say, the $3.5 million owed to us by Seattle) and in return we’d get marginal prospects, but more importantly, we save money that can be better spent elsewhere and open up second base for Jeff McNeil, DH for Pete Alonso, and first base for Dominic Smith.  With Frazier at third, Gimenez at short, and Realmuto behind the plate, the Mets defense would be light years better. In another small but smart move, the Mets send Steven Matz and Robert Gsellman to the pitching starved Angels, Orioles, or Red Sox in exchange for pitching prospects so we can plant some seeds on that barren farm.

This off-season activity would lead the 2021 Mets roster to look like this:

lineup
Brandon Nimmo LF – league minimum
Jeff McNeil 2B – league minimum
JT Realmuto C – 25 million
Michael Conforto RF – 15 million
Pete Alonso DH –  league minimum
Dominic Smith 1B – 3 million
Joc Pederson CF – 10 million
Todd Frazier 3B – 5.75 million
Andres Gimenez SS – league minimum

Bench

J.D. Davis INF/OF – 2.5 million
Amed Rosario INF – 2 million
Luis Guillorme INF – league minimum
Kevin Pillar OF – 3 million
Tomas Nido C – league minimum

Rotation
Jacob deGrom – 35.5 million
Marcus Stroman – 20 million
Robbie Ray – 15 million
Kevin Gausman – 10 million
David Peterson – league minimum
Noah Syndergaard – 11 million (IR)

Bullpen
Edwin Diaz – 10 million
Seth Lugo – 4 million
Justin Wilson – 6 million
Jeurys Familia – 11.67 million
Dellin Betances – 6 million
Chasen Shreve – 2.5 million
Miguel Castro – 1.5 million

Miscellaneous
Buyouts –  Ramos and Chirinos – 2.5 million
3.5 million from the Mariners (sent to Yankees with Cano)

This off-season activity would put the Mets opening day payroll at $204 million, a notable increase, but still beneath the expected $210 million luxury tax threshold. This team would be much better defensively and a little better offensively with pitching good enough to keep them in games. This is a better than .500 team that could kick it into a higher gear and make a serious playoff run when Syndergaard rejoins the rotation and Ray shifts to the bullpen.

10 Stats Explain How a Talented Mets Team Will Finish Under .500

It’s kind of unfathomable that a team with a killer lineup, the best pitcher in baseball, and a solid bullpen can miss the playoffs in a year when more than half the teams make it. There are plenty of teams who will be playing in October who don’t have half as much talent as this Met roster, yet our season is all but over. Lame duck GM Brodie Van Wagenen definitely deserves blame for shuttling off all our pitching depth in lopsided trades and bringing in some dud free agents. Ownership deserves blame for tightening the purse strings, meddling, and hiring an agent to be the GM. The Noah Syndergaard injury and Marcus Stroman Covid defection certainly played a part as well. However, the below stats go a long way to explain why and how this team so badly under-performed in this shortened season.

4.88 ERA
That’s the Mets team ERA as of this writing. It ranks them 20th out of 30 teams, despite having the best pitcher in baseball on their staff. Mets pitchers also rank 23rd in BAA and 21st in OBP allowed. They are 17th in home runs allowed and 21st in walks issued. No lineup can carry that to the playoffs.  Subtract Jacob deGrom‘s numbers and we fall to dead last in many pitching categories. The Indians lead the Majors in team pitching WAR at 10.2. Mets pitchers have collectively earned a 5.0 WAR, ranking us 15th in the Majors. This is the worst Mets pitching staff in many years, despite the fact that we may have a three-time Cy Young Award winner on our team.

8.48 ERA
That’s the combined ERA of Steven Matz, Michael Wacha and Robert Gsellman over a combined 16 starts. Collectively, this trio offered us just one quality start in 2020.

-0.9 dWAR
Among the 10 Mets players who’ve seen the most action in the field, only three have positive dWAR ratings – Jeff McNeil, Andres Gimenez, and Wilson Ramos. The latter inclusion tells you how flawed this particular stat remains. Led by J.D. Davis‘ ugly -0.9 dWAR rating, the rest of the Mets every day players are all either making errors, mental mistakes or lacking in range. This is not a good defensive team.

24.6% Walk Rate
That fat, juicy number comes courtesy of the Mets bullpen. Of late they’ve been better – partly due to Edwin Diaz finding his confidence, and partly due to the struggling Dellin Betances winding up on the IL. The walks issued by our bullpen have been a killer. How many times have we seen Jeurys Familia enter a game and promptly walk the first batter he faces? And his ugly 14.6% rate is only the third worst on the team. Brad Brach owns a 20% rate! Find the strike zone during your bullpen warm-ups please!

.253 vs. Lefties
As of this writing, the Mets were leading the Majors in team batting average, but the dominance is entirely against right handed pitchers where they fair .30 points higher in batting and .52 points higher in slugging. This Mets offense has been carried by lefty hitters. McNeil, Dominc Smith, Michael Conforto, Robinson Cano, and Brandon Nimmo all have OPS over .900. They can all hit righties. As for their counterparts, Pete Alonso, Amed Rosario, and Wilson Ramos all had down years, while Jake Marisnick struggled to stay off the injured list. J.D. Davis has been the only consistent right-handed bat this year, and he hasn’t been as good as last season. For this reason, the Mets rank 13th in team batting average against lefties. And their record reflects this.

.30 Points Lower At Home
The Mets lead all of baseball with a whopping .366 team OBP on the road. Citi Field does not give our hitters the warm and fuzzies though as the lineup has produced a far more pedestrian .336 OBP at home. Maybe they miss the fans?

18 Stolen Bases
That’s not how many our team leader has; that’s how many we have collectively. It puts us near the bottom of the league, as does our overall team speed, which is a much bigger issue. This franchise lacks team speed and made too many undisciplined base running mistakes this year. We also lead the league in grounding into double plays. We may not have a prime Jose Reyes or Mookie Wilson on this team, but we can certainly be smarter and a bit more aggressive on the bases next season. Amed Rosario is a shining example of how foot speed doesn’t always translate into good base running. That kid has a knack for getting thrown out at second and picked off at first.

29th Out of 30
Here’s a fun stat. The Mets rank 29th out of 30 teams in BsR (Base Running Runs Above Average).  Fangraphs defines this as the number of runs above or below average a player has been worth on the bases, based on stolen bases, caught stealing, extra bases taken, outs on the bases, and avoiding double plays. It is the combination of wSB, UBR, and wGDP.  Having the Buffalo clog up the bases every time he hits a single certainly plays a role in this, but our base running clearly needs to improve next year.

6 for 30 with 1 Home Run
That’s the collective stat line for Mets pinch hitters in 2020. That amounts to a putrid .542 OPS. Last year, led by Dominic Smith before he got thrust into a full-time role, the Mets got a ton of timely hits from guys off the bench. This year, they’ve been sorely missed.

#30 in RISP
Here it is. The granddaddy of all 2020 stats that defines the Mets season. We rank dead last in MLB in runners left in scoring position per game with a hideous 3.87. At home, we rank 24th (3.74 RISP per game), but on the road, we more than make up for that big batting average with a nauseating 4.00 RISP per game that is by far the worst in baseball.  While this may seem to be a familiar problem for this franchise, we actually ranked in the middle of the pack last year so this is a disturbing trend. Certainly getting Alonso on track in 2021 will go a long way to alleviating this issue.

So, beyond getting Alonso out of his sophomore slump, what can we do to fix this team in 2021? For starters, we need a catching upgrade. Ramos’ defense and base running are both really detrimental to this team and his bat just wasn’t what it used to be. Next we need to bolster the rotation with two reliable arms. And we need to bid adieu to a few players who need a change of scenery, like Matz, Gsellman and maybe Rosario.

Although we couldn’t be in attendance this year, Mets fans deserved a lot better in 2020. Hopefully, having a new owner with deep pockets will help us plug the holes and right the ship. #LFGM

deGrom and Matz and win with the bats

The Mets need starting pitchers STAT!

Not long ago, the Mets were loaded with pitchers. But then we traded away three of our best pitching prospects, let one of our top starters leave via free agency, and lost another to Tommy John surgery.

Despite all that, we still had the makings of a good rotation, led by two-time Cy Young Award winner, Jacob deGrom, backed up by former Blue Jays ace Marcus Stroman and lefty Steven Matz. The trio was bolstered by the additions of former AL Cy Young winner Rick Porcello and former Cardinals phenom Michael Wacha. It was a thin rotation, but still potentially good.

When Stroman suffered a calf injury, rookie David Peterson stepped in. Then Wacha got injured and the team was trying to determine who, from among a rag tag group of journeymen and possible waiver pickups, could fill in for a start or two until Stroman was ready. Only now, Stroman announced he’s opting out of the season due to Covid-19 concerns.

Given Wacha’s shaky injury history and the early struggles and diminished velocity from Porcello, our rotation now looks like deGrom and Matz and win with the bats. The bullpen has been coming around and just got some reinforcements off the IL. The lineup hasn’t begun firing on all cylinders yet, but once Alonso and Ramos start hitting, we won’t be stranding all those runners on base anymore. But even at full blast, our lineup can’t carry an incomplete rotation. The Mets need another reliable starter and he’s just not in the system.

The emergence of Andres Gimenez, plus the positional flexibility of Jeff McNeil, J.D. Davis and others, affords the Mets a few expendable trade chips. Despite the expanded playoffs, there are at least a half dozen teams who are simply not playing for this year. The Pirates, Giants, Royals, Orioles, Tigers, Marlins, Blue Jays, and Mariners are all building around prospects and would be happy to shed veteran pitchers for young players or prospects. There’s no Cy Young winner to be found on those rosters, but there are a few solid veteran pitchers like Matthew Boyd, Tanner Roark, Danny Duffy, Caleb Smith, Kevin Gausman, et al.

In a 60-game season, it gets late awfully early and the Mets can’t afford to let the season get away. This team has it’s flaws, but so does every team. Players are getting injured, sick or opting out all over the place. No team looks unbeatable. The 2021 Mets could look a lot different, with roster churn, a new GM and even new ownership. We have as good a shot as any team this year, but need to add another arm before this year quickly slips away. #LFGM

Mets baseball is back and it will solve all of our problems

In typical 2020 fashion, baseball is now really weird. There are cardboard cutouts of fans in the stands at Citi Field. Yoenis Cespedes is finally playing…as a DH. There’s a phantom runner on second base to start extra innings. Some ball parks are piping in recorded crowd noise. Relievers now have to face a minimum of three batters and there’s an expanded roster and something called a taxi squad to stand in for dormant minor league teams. It’s all going to take some getting used to, but we’re okay with that because we get to root for our favorite team again and that’s exactly the distraction we’ve all been pining for during this upside down year.

Despite missing the playoffs last year, the Mets had a great second half and offered a lot of reasons to cheer – with a home run king, a two-time Cy Young Award winner, and the emergence of an unstoppable hitting machine. This team is loaded with talent and personality and there’s every reason to believe we’ll have plenty to cheer for in this abbreviated 60-game season.

We’re in a tough division, maybe the toughest in baseball, with four out of five teams in the NL East boasting competitive rosters. Our lineup is the deepest and most powerful one we’ve had since 2006 with table setters Brandon Nimmo, Amed Rosario, Jeff McNeil, and Jake Marisnick waiting to be driven home by a parade of thumpers including Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto J.D. Davis, Yoenis Cespedes, Wilson Ramos, Robinson Cano, and Dominic Smith. For once, the Mets pitching staff won’t need to be lights out for this team to win.

And that’s a good thing, because there are concerns in that department. The bullpen, which cost us the playoffs last year, should be better. The addition of Dellin Betances gives us another fireballer with closing experience to join Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia – both poised for bounce back years, if for no other reason than this year’s ball should have raised seems again, giving them, and long man Robert Gsellman (assuming his arm injury doesn’t turn out to be serious) a chance to recapture their sliders. Seth Lugo returns as one of the most dynamic relievers in the game and Justin Wilson and Brad Brach (on injured list) provide a nice lefty-righty setup man balance. Hopefully, these arms are enough because beyond that we’ve got a mixed bag of marginal prospects, reclamation projects, bounce back candidates and waiver pickups. The Mets pen should be good and could possibly be great if it doesn’t have to rely too much on the likes of Paul Sewald, Drew Smith, Hunter Strickland, Chasen Shreve, Tyler Bashlor and Jared Hughes (injured).

As for the rotation, it starts with the surest thing in baseball. Ace Jacob deGrom is healthy, hungry, in his prime, and ready to defend his Cy Young throne. Next up we have Marcus Stroman, a gritty ground ball machine with a gold glove who’s pitching for a big contract. He makes for a sound number two. Unfortunately, he just went on the injured list with a tear in his calf. If he’s out more than a few weeks, this could be an issue. More on that in a moment.

Lefty Steven Matz is healthy and looked good in summer camp with an improved curve ball. A big year from him would really help. Former Cy Young Award winner and New Jersey native Rick Porcello is coming off a tough year, but he has plenty in the tank and a lot to prove. Switching leagues should help him as batters are less familiar with his repertoire. The last spot in the rotation is a potential problem and with a tightly packed schedule, the fifth spot may get just as many starts as the rest.

Before Noah Syndergaard succumbed to Tommy John surgery, the former Cardinal Michael Wacha was signed as insurance. Once a top prospect and then a quality starter with great stuff, the towering righty is coming off a pretty terrible year in which opposing hitters hit .290 off of him and he floundered with an ugly 1.56 WHIP. In 2018, Wacha was quite good, holding hitters to a .221 average and posting a 1.23 WHIP, however, he only pitched half the season due to injuries. Hopefully, Wacha can surprise us, but if not, there are some intriguing options, including rookie lefty David Peterson and off-season pickup Erasmo Ramirez. Holdover Cory Oswalt is another possibility, though not an exciting one. One of these three may already be in the rotation to hold Stroman’s spot. Having two of them in the rotation, especially with limited days off in the 2020 schedule, could really hurt us and might necessitate a trade, especially given that GM Brodie Van Wagenen felt it necessary to trade away three of our best high level pitching prospects and let Zack Wheeler walk.

Beyond the stacked lineup, deep but concerning bullpen, and suspect rotation, you have to love the energy around this team. New manager Luis Rojas looks like a great fit as the new dugout leader. Alonso is a great clubhouse leader, Smith is a spark plug and we have gritty players like McNeil, Nimmo, and Marisnick kicking up clouds of dust all over the field. The usual roar of the Citi Field crowd will be missed, but hopefully these 2020 Mets can sense all of us cheering them on from home. #LFGM

 

 

For the Mets, even top 10 picks have been a crap shoot

In their 58-year history, the Mets have made 68 first round picks. We’ve had a few years with no top round pick and a few where we had more than one, hence the big, crooked number. Of those 68 picks, 22 were chosen among the top 10. While the odds of making a smart pick that high are a little better than among later first round picks, success is still far from guaranteed.

Of these 22 top 10 first round picks, only about a third of them enjoyed noteworthy MLB careers. Meanwhile, half of them are names the average fan has never heard of and I’ll bet some of you reading this, as knowledgeable and devoted as you are, may not recall them either.

From 1965 to 1969 the Mets had a run of futility in the draft. Chosen among the top five each year in that span were pitchers Les Rohr, Jon Matlack, and Randy Sterling, shortstop Tim Foli and catcher Steve Chilcott. Matlack, who was the 1972 Rookie of the Year and a three-time All-Star was clearly the cream of this crop. The Pennsylvania-born lefty had a career ERA of 3.18 and won 125 games over 13 seasons with the Mets and Rangers.

If Matlack was the leader of this pack, Rohr and Sterling were the caboose. The lefty Rohr, the Mets first top draft pick, suffered an elbow injury in his first relief appearance in 1967. After missing significant time, the Mets nearly traded him but a physical revealed a more serious back injury that ended his career just as it was beginning. Over parts of three seasons, Rohr pitched just 24.1 innings. The righty Sterling was even less prolific, tossing 9.1 Major League innings, all in 1974. Sterling, from Key West, Florida of all places, did manage a few solid seasons for the AAA Tidewater Tides.

Chilcott was a highly-touted catching prospect out of California. The Mets made him the number one overall pick in the 1966 draft. Chilcott holds the dubious distinction of being just one of three retired first round picks who never played a day in the Majors. The others, for you trivia buffs, are Brien Taylor and Mark Appel. Chilcott played seven minor league seasons, but injuries, including a brutal shoulder injury sustained on the bases, prevented him from ever advancing beyond AAA.

Surely you’ve heard of Tim Foli. The journeyman infielder lasted 16 years in the Majors, playing for the Mets (twice), Expos, Pirates (twice), Giants, Yankees, and Angels.  Foli was a career .251 hitter with no power. He was a very typical shortstop of the 70s and 80s. He had a solid glove and could make contact, but he never once had an OPS over .700. Later in his career, he saw some time at second and third base.

In the early 70s, due to their 1969 World Series win and 1973 pennant, the Mets didn’t have any top 10 picks. That changed in 1975 when the Mets drafted a catcher from Tallahasse, FL with the sixth overall pick. If you guessed Butch Benton, you win a cigar. Benton made 105 plate appearances over four seasons – 25 with the Mets in 1978 and 1980. You can’t say he made the most of his ABs, as the righty batted .162 with 0 home runs, good for a career WAR of -0.9. Yikes. Benton does have one claim to fame though. For a moment, he was the youngest player in the league. In 1978, injuries forced the Mets to bring him up from AAA to be their backup catcher for four games. He was barely 20.

From 1978 to 1983 the Mets reaped the rewards of being lousy in the 70s with six top five picks. In 1978, the Mets used the third overall pick to draft an outfielder from Arizona State University named Hubie Brooks. A Queens fan favorite, Brooks played his first five seasons for the Mets, mostly at third base. Brooks was the central piece in the trade that brought Gary Carter to the Mets and he went on to have his best seasons in Montreal, including two All-Star appearances. In all, Brooks played 16 seasons and finished with a lifetime slash of .269/.315/.403.

In 1979, the Mets used the number two overall pick on a pitcher from California named Tim Leary. The right hander made 10 starts and 13 relief appearances for the Mets before moving on to the Brewers, Dodgers and several other teams. Though he had a few good seasons with the Dodgers in the middle of his career, the journeyman really struggled later on and it’s a wonder he hung on for 13 years.

In 1980, the Mets used the top overall pick on the Southern California kid known as “the black Ted Williams.” I never understood that moniker as Strawberry’s long, loopy swing was never conducive to a batting title. Despite his never reaching his much ballyhooed potential, Strawberry did provide us with some highlight reel home runs and was a major contributor to our mid- to late- 80s dominance. Strawberry was a worthy number one pick, in spite of being one of the most overrated players in history (one blogger’s strong opinion). To those of you who just sat up in your chairs, ready to fire off a strongly-worded comment, consider that the word “zero” is the answer to all of the following: number of Strawberry MVPs, significant records broken, 40-home run seasons, and .290 or higher batting average seasons. He had some good seasons that were held up by exciting hot streaks, but he never put together the big year we all expected.

From 1981 to 1983 the Mets had three top five picks. One is a Mets legend. The other two might not even sound familiar. In 1981 and 1983, the Mets used their number four picks on outfielder Terry Blocker and third baseman Eddie Williams. In 1985, Blocker spent a little time on the Mets roster and managed one hit in 15 at bats before moving on to the Braves organization. The career .205 hitter found little success there either. Williams, meanwhile, managed to stick around for parts of 10 seasons. He bounced around six teams, but never wore a Mets hat. Between those two years, the Mets used the number five pick on a kid named Dwight Gooden. Shawon Dunston was the top pick that year and the three guys drafted between them were named Augie Schmidt, Jimmy Jones, and Bryan Oelkers. Don’t worry, they don’t ring any bells for Matty Mets either. After electrifying New York, winning Rookie of the Year, a Cy Young Award and a World Series ring, Gooden is an all-time Mets great and arguably the best draft pick we ever made.

In 1984, the Mets again had the number one pick in the draft. Mark McGwire went in this draft, as did Terry Mulholland, Billy Swift, Jay Bell, and Norm Charlton. The Mets, however, opted for a high school outfielder from Pennsylvania named Shawn Abner. Abner was traded to the Padres along with Kevin Mitchell and others in the Kevin McReynolds deal. While that trade turned out to be terrible for other reasons (it also included Kevin Brown going the wrong way), Abner was not the reason. He went on to bat .227 as a reserve outfielder over parts of six seasons.

The Mets had their next high draft pick in 1992 when they selected Preston Wilson with the ninth pick. Wilson’s tenure with the Mets organization was short-lived as he was part of the package sent to the Marlins for Mike Piazza. Wilson had a nice career with the Marlins and Rockies, including one monster season in Colorado when he had 141 RBI, yet finished 16th in the MVP voting. Remember the steroid era?

In 1993, the Mets used the eighth pick in the draft on Mississippi pitcher Kirk Presley, who never made it to the Majors. This one stings because 1993 was an all-time draft packed with future All-Stars. Among those chosen after Presley include Billy Wagner, Derrek Lee, Chris Carpenter, Torii Hunter and Jason Varitek. The next year, the Mets had the number one pick again and the chance to make up for this swing and miss. They chose can’t miss pitcher Paul Wilson. Following a rookie season in Queens in which he struggled with control, Wilson suffered a shoulder injury that would sidetrack his career. After a year of rehab, he spent several mediocre seasons with the Devil Rays and Reds.

In 1997, the Mets had another shot to land an ace pitcher but somehow settled on Geoff Goetz with the number seven pick. The righty from New Jersey lasted seven years in the minors and never even made it to AAA. The Mets should have drafted Jon Garland who went four picks later. In 2004 and 2005 the Mets used back-to-back high picks on big right-handed pitchers – Philip Humber and Mike Pelfrey. In 2004, the top pitching prospect was Justin Verlander and the Mets would have loved to take him, but he was chosen one pick sooner and Humber was the consensus number two. We can’t have chocolate ice cream, so let’s settle for a stale tea biscuit. Humber didn’t last too long in Queens as the Mets sent him to Minnesota in the Johan Santana trade. He went on to enjoy a rather unspectacular career, making 97 starts over eight seasons. He did enjoy one pretty good season with the White Sox though that included an unlikely perfect game.

Mike Pelfrey was a likable Met and a rotation workhorse for four seasons in Queens. He was a solid mid-rotation starter who never quite made the leap to reliable number two. He was known for his imposing size, childish smirk, obsession with licking his hands, and a hard, sinking fastball. In 2012, with the Mets out of contention and Pelfrey in a walk year, he was obvious trade bait, only he tore his UCL, ending both his season and tenure with the Mets. After rehabbing, he hung on to pitch a few more years in the American League, but was never quite the same.

In 2010, the Mets again went for a power right hander, this time selecting Matt Harvey out of UNC with the number seven pick. For a while there, it looked like this might be the best pick the Mets ever made as Harvey looked poised to become the heir apparent to the Franchise nickname. For a few seasons, he was our Joe Namath, but as Elton John sang, his candle burned out long before his legend ever did.

In 2014, the Mets got lucky when the top ranked hitter in the draft fell in their laps at number 10. Sweet swinging Michael Conforto has been a fixture for the Mets in right field and if ownership is smart, they’ll make sure he’s our new David Wright.

2018 was the last time the Mets had a top 10 draft pick. They used the number six pick on a Wisconsin high school outfielder said to have five-tool talent – Jarred Kelenic. This was widely hailed as a smart pick at the time. The promising prospect was sent to Seattle as part of the blockbuster trade that netted us Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz. Time will tell if this will turn out to be the worst trade we’ve ever made or just the answer to another Mets trivia question.

Life aint right without my beloved Mets

Life has not been normal for anyone. Most of us have been quarantined for 75 days, and, even if we’ve been lucky enough not to get sick or lose a loved one or our job, it’s been a trying time.

We’re working from home (if at all), kids are home schooling, we miss friends and family, and we all need a haircut. We miss restaurants, movies, concerts, and malls (well, not me, but some people). And lest you try to to take your mind off of the fact that we’re living through a pandemic for even a moment, there are reminders everywhere. “Closed” signs on everything from shops and restaurants to parks, bowling alleys and roller rinks. So, we stay home and stick to TV.

Only THERE’S NO SPORTS. Unless you count The Last Dance and grainy classic re-runs of 80’s Mets and 90’s Knicks games. Those were fun for a while, as was Netflix and Amazon Prime and whatever other streaming service you have. Forget network TV. Every commercial, whether for insurance or canned soup, has to pander to us about “these uncertain times.” Besides, the major networks are not showing any sports. Not even golf or tennis. This is really not normal. And the main thing that reminds me of this, is that there are no Mets games.

My life without the Mets doesn’t seem right. I’ve been through the ’81 and ’94 strikes and 9/11, but this is different. This is not short-lived, there are no scabs, and uncertainty about the season is frustrating. No matter what’s gone on in my life, the Mets have always been a constant. Saddened by a death in the family? At least there’s a Mets game to watch. Disheartened by a job loss? Injured in a car accident? At least I’ve got the box scores and the radio commentary to distract me. Now? Nothing. No pre-game. No post-game. No next game.

The weather may be warming, but summer is one big cloud of uncertainty. Will the beaches be open? Will summer vacations happen? Will my son play baseball? Will my daughter go to camp? All I want to know is, when can I turn on the TV and hear Gary, Keith, and Ron?

Will we get to find out if this 2020 Mets team is as good as we predicted? What kind of manager will Luis Rojas make? Surely, we’ll all be picking apart his in-game decisions on these pages soon. Will we get to see a healthy Yoenis Cespedes in the middle of this lineup? Can Jacob deGrom, Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil be that good again? Will we get the chance to redeem ourselves against the Nats and Braves? Will I get to go to Citi Field at all this year?

I love TV shows and movies. The good comedies make me laugh out loud and the action and thriller flicks keep me on the edge of my seat, but nothing makes me jump up and yell at the TV like the Mets. And that’s when I’ll know things are back to normal. #LFGM.

 

 

Mets will face a tough decision on Marcus Stroman

With the 2020 season up in the air, any Mets who were entering their walk years, will be suddenly facing free agency. This includes Yoenis Cespedes, Wilson Ramos, and several pitchers, most notably, Marcus Stroman.

After the Mets parted with two of their top pitching prospects – Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods Richardson – to land the former Blue Jays ace at last year’s summer trade deadline, the expectation was that Stroman would serve as the mid-rotation replacement for Zack Wheeler, who was on the verge of free agency. Once Noah Syndergaard went down for Tommy John surgery, Stroman became the Mets number two starter heading into the 2020 season.

The former ace, who is in the prime of his career and seems excited to be in New York, was up to the challenge. In less than half a season as a Met last season, Stroman showed an uncanny ability to induce ground balls, as well as the best fielding off the mound we’ve seen since Ron Darling was our number two. Stroman, short in stature, but long on athletic prowess, possesses an interesting pitch repertoire that offers a nice change of pace in the Mets hard throwing rotation. He relies on a mix of sinkers, two-seamers, cutters, sliders and change-ups. He generally pitches low in the zone and pitches to contact, though he does rack up his share of strikeouts too.

Born and raised in New York and just short of 29, Stroman seemed to be poised to have a nice second act with the Mets, only he’s very quickly going to hit free agency. The sacrifice in prospects was significant, but the Mets thought they were getting a season and a half of control at the time, which may not be the case now. Of course, the Mets could never have predicted that the 2020 season would be either shortened or canceled at the time of the trade, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re going to have to make an important decision on the right hander sooner than later.

Simply letting him walk is probably not wise given that, in 2021, Syndergaard will be coming off a lost season to surgery and entering his last year of control, and rotation mates Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha will also be hitting free agency. Stroman was set to earn $12 million this year, his last arbitration eligible season. On the open market, a prime age pitcher with Stroman’s pedigree is sure to command a $20 million per season, multi-year contract. Given the economic turn of events since Zack Wheeler cashed in on his deal, Stroman might command a bit less, but still will not come cheap given the dearth of quality, available starters each off-season.

Offering that type of deal would require a pretty big leap of faith on the part of Mets ownership who, fairly, won’t have seen much of Stroman in New York. However, with so much uncertainty right now, from the 2020 season to Mets ownership change rumors, it remains a possibility.

If, on the other hand, the Mets front office decides to let Stroman walk, the Mets would be left with both a depleted farm system and a half empty rotation.