As General Manager Sandy Alderson takes stock of his roster and its many holes, question marks, and uncertainties, he can take solace in knowing that at least he’s learned five valuable lessons this season. This knowledge should help inform the many complex decisions and judgments he’ll need to make in the coming off-season…assuming that is, that he decides to re-up his contract and take on this festering conundrum.
1 – These are pitchers, hitters, and fielders, not linebackers and lineman who need to hulk up with heavy weight-training. This writer previously pegged the blame on strength trainer Mike Barwis, but yesterday’s NY Post article disputes this theory. According to Alderson, Noah Syndergaard packing on 17 pounds of muscle in the off-season and Yoenis Cespedes attempting to leg press a UPS truck, or the near equivalent in weight, was of their own inclination. If that’s the case, these fellas need a talking to about switching to regimens that focus on flexibility and endurance more than brute strength. Also, inviting a yoga instructor to spring training might not be the worst idea.
2- There’s no such thing as too much pitching depth. With seemingly seven healthy starting pitchers in spring training, plus Rafael Montero, the Mets’ brass thought it prudent to create roster space by unloading Logan Verrett and Gabriel Ynoa for nothing, or close to it, in return. The AAA Las Vegas 51’s couldn’t remain competitive all year without a decent rotation. And, more importantly, either Verrett or Ynoa would have been a better option than some of the guys we trotted out this season – Adam Wilk! Tyler Pill! Tommy Milone! Chris Flexen! Given the fragility of Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, and Seth Lugo, and the uncertainty of Robert Gsellman, and Matt Harvey, it’s absurd to enter another season under the same mistaken notion that “surely five of these guys can be healthy and effective.” One solution is to offer non-guaranteed contracts to some veterans with something to prove and/or scan the transaction wires for pitchers released in Spring Training. A better idea might be to sign a proven commodity to slot into the middle of the rotation and let some of the aforementioned battle for the last two spots and serve as the depth themselves. If by some miracle, everyone is healthy, well then, whoopie do – trade bait!
3 – Three reliable arms does not a bullpen make. Jeurys Familia‘s injury would not have been nearly as crippling had Fernando Salas and Hansel Robles pitched as well as they did last year. Bullpen arms are funny that way. But seeing Robles enter the game with the bases loaded four times this season only to crap all over the box score each time like a sea gull on a beach blanket is no laughing matter. Familia, A.J. Ramos, and Jerry Blevins is a nice start, but this pen needs two more big arms. All those other guys that have had moments can compete for the last few spots or rotate in and out depending on who’s healthy and hot. Nothing crushes win streaks and team morale faster than a bad bullpen. As an added bonus, bullpen arms make great trade chips as we learned with Addison Reed who’s half season of closing fetched a better return than Jay Bruce‘s 34 home runs (and counting).
4 – Defense matters. It keeps games close and gives young pitchers confidence. We can already see the upgrade with Dom Smith and Amed Rosario over Lucas Duda and Asdrubal Cabrera. It sure would be nice to compliment them with a third baseman who could consistently throw across the diamond and a second baseman who can smoothly turn a double play.
5 – The Nationals really are that good. They finally have a serviceable bullpen to pair with their strong rotation and their top half of the lineup is among the best in baseball. They have power, speed, and guys who can get on base. Not only will this team be back for more next year, but they’ll finally be rid of Jayson Werth‘s albatross contract and Adam Eaton will be back (did you forget they had him too?). The good news is that the Phillies are terrible, the Marlins have no pitching in sight and the Braves, unless they spend a fortune this off-season, still have a ways to go in their rebuild.