One piece away? The Mets might be good after all

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I know…I know…It has been a head-scratching off-season for the Mets, such that your intrepid columnist was less-than-intrepid during the Holiday Season and took a brief hiatus: I was stumped as to what to write about. There was nothing – no thing – going on until after the tree came down. The only solace was that the Mets weren’t the only stagnant team. Pretty much everybody was at a standstill, waiting for the markets to set. Oh, sure, that team across town picked up Giancarlo Stanton, who could lead them to the title their fans have been starved for, going all the way back to 2009 – where is the /sarcasm font when you need it? – but he could just as easily be the second coming of Dave Winfield: splashy, big-name, talented acquisition who never won nothin’.

Finally, amidst the bitter New York cold, the ice broke and a familiar face rose out of the lake. Jay Bruce returned to Queens and while there hasn’t exactly been dancing in the streets, it has been hailed as a “nice” pickup for the Mets, certainly a team-friendly deal. Good job, Sandy Alderson. Then a few days later, they signed shopworn former All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to either (A) be the starter, (B) be the backup and mentor young Dominic Smith or (C) be this year’s version of Todd Zeileor Bobby Abreu. It is puzzling as to what, exactly Gonzalez is doing here. Oh sure, if he’s got anything left, the Mets got the bargain of the century with the Braves picking up all but the MLB-minimum of his $20-plus-million salary, but his reminds me of late-1982, when the Mets brought Tom Seaver back and there actually was dancing in the streets. Then a week or so later, they signed starting pitcher Mike Torrez to form the oldest one-two punch in the NL. Fortunately, they had previously cut ties with Randy Jones.

Now, the rest of infield needs to be addressed. One would think shortstop is covered, with Amed Rosario getting past the baby-steps stage, so the focus has been on second or third – the assumption being that Asdrubal Cabrera will man one of those positions, depending on who is acquired. No less a personage than radio voice Wayne Randazzo has stated his belief that one of Eduardo Nunez, Todd Frazier, Josh Harrison or Neil Walker will be a Met before spring training begins, some three weeks hence. One would be happy with any one of them – I’m hoping for Harrison, myself – and that could be the final piece to the puzzle.

In any case, it will always depend on the health of the pitching staff. If Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard can keep themselves upright and two of Matt Harvey, Seth Lugo, Steven Matz or Zack Wheeler make a contribution, the Mets could be a challenger to a Washington Nationals team that currently seems kind of in flux. It will be interesting to see how the new manager, new training staff and new – and newly titled – Director of High Performance Jim Cavallini deal with the injury cloud that has seemingly taken up permanent residence where the Willets Point chop shops used to be.

Welcome to 2018, folks!

Follow me on Twitter @CharlieHangley.

Editor’s Note – Before leaving a comment for this story, make sure you have read our new comment policy.

21 comments for “One piece away? The Mets might be good after all

  1. larrydarylndaryl
    January 18, 2018 at 8:19 am

    Todd Frazier for 3B is my choice & move Asdrubel to 2B or attempt to off-load him in a trade somehow, saving the 8.5M. Flores, Guillorme, TJ or bring back Reyes (on the cheap)…Plenty of options for 2B……Lets Play Ball!!

  2. Metsense
    January 18, 2018 at 9:10 am

    I believe that the Jay Bruce press conference revealed much about the way the Mets are thinking. Bruce is only to play first base in a pinch. Gonzalez was signed as a backup plan in case Smith is not ready. The Mets said they have no intention to trade Smith. Eventually Conforto will be the center fielder leaving Lagaras as the fourth outfielder. They say they like Nimmo but where are they fitting him in when Conforto comes back? They should not hold up a trade of a 3.3 bWAR second baseman , Harrison, for a fifth outfielder.

    • David Groveman
      January 18, 2018 at 10:05 am

      “They should not hold up a trade of a 3.3 bWAR second baseman , Harrison, for a fifth outfielder.”

      Agreed

      • MattyMets
        January 18, 2018 at 12:54 pm

        +2. More on that tomorrow….

  3. Eraff
    January 18, 2018 at 9:36 am

    Gonzo Starts olr Leaves…he’s not a bench piece.

    I’d like to see a 3b Starter/2b starter—and they will need to assume a 25% or more “time share” between Cabrera and another rotational Infielder. …right now, that would be Flo.

  4. Mike Walczak
    January 18, 2018 at 9:45 am

    Here is my gut feeling. David Wright is going to retire and the Mets will sign Frazier.

  5. David Groveman
    January 18, 2018 at 10:02 am

    No matter what the Mets do, they lack a solid plan for the front of their batting order. Michael Conforto is out through the first full month and isn’t a natural leadoff hitter and no other current Met seems to fit the role.

    1.
    2. Amed Rosario
    3. Michael Conforto
    4. Yoenis Cespedes
    5. Jay Bruce
    6. Adrian Gonzalez/Dominic Smith
    7. Asdrubal Cabrera
    8. Travis d’Arnaud

    Of the options, Harrison fits the top of the order best and Todd Frazier/Mike Moustakas extend the heart of the Met’s order. Nunez and Walker seem like pieces that don’t necessarily improve the Mets that greatly from Wilmer Flores. Even Brandon Phillips fits better than those two players.

    Alderson indicated that he had money for a “significant” free agent signing which seems to indicate someone better than Walker, Phillips or Nunez anyway.

    I’m betting the Mets sign Frazier.

    • Chris F
      January 18, 2018 at 10:19 am

      I guess comfort “trumps” reason. Sandy said the Mets are a pitching first team, meaning we need to be strong defensively.

      By position

      2. Below avg
      3. Below avg
      4. uncertain, but Flores, TJ, Reynolds, Cabrera all below avg
      5. uncertain, but Cabrera maybe avg
      6. avg, hope for more
      7. sorry, Ces has a way to go. avg at best
      8. Lagares +, Conforto avg, Nimmo avg at best
      9. Bruce avg

      Maybe I am missing something. I’d like to see them get a strong defender with high OBP that can play 2B. I think Droobs at 3B has to stand. They need an athletic person.

      • January 18, 2018 at 11:28 am

        I would like to see a good defender brought on for the infield.

        I’m not sure what to expect from the outfield defense, especially in the corners. Bruce has been all over the map defensively in his career but he’s been good with the Mets. Sample size issue? That’s definitely a possibility but I’d rather what little evidence we have be positive. And Cespedes has traditionally been good in LF when healthy. Is he healthy? If he’s not healthy now, he’s probably never going to be again as long as he’s playing.

      • Name
        January 18, 2018 at 11:50 am

        “Sandy said the Mets are a pitching first team, meaning we need to be strong defensively”

        Why? Unless you can prove synergies, a 3.00 FIP pitcher produces 3.00 FIP regardless of the defense behind him. A pitchers raw talent doesn’t get better or worse depending on the fielders behind him…

        • Chris F
          January 18, 2018 at 4:45 pm

          the swing and miss days of not needing a team behind you are not here, and quite frankly, never were.

          • Name
            January 18, 2018 at 5:24 pm

            That’s not the point i was trying to make. The importance of defense shouldn’t depend on how well you view your pitching. Defense is not a dependent variable, they are both independent variables.

            Does a good defense help a good pitching staff more than a bad pitching staff? No. Does a bad defense hurt a good pitching more than a bad pitching staff? No. Defense doesn’t discriminate who is on the mound…

            If you think defense is important for a good pitching staff, then you should also think it’s important for a bad pitching staff.

            • TJ
              January 18, 2018 at 9:03 pm

              Name,
              Good points and technically accurate. While good defense does help both good pitching and bad pitching, and good defense helps bad teams as much as it helps good teams, good defense is more important to teams with good pitching since teams with good pitching have a much better chance to win.

              Now, good offense is also more important to teams with good pitching. For this Met team, with a young SS and 1b prospect, I am an advocate of a “significant”acquisition that brings good defense, even if it is at the expense of some offense. This translates as preferring Frazier or Harrison over Nunez or Walker. It’s hard to measure why with stats, but as Joe Torre has noted, the game also has a heartbeat. Good defense seems to contribute more than statistics measure. Good defense, or perhaps the avoidance of bad defense, seems to have a very positive impact on teammates and fans, and over a long season it also seems to raise the bar for everyone. Hard to measure, for sure, but just an observation from years of watching.

            • Chris F
              January 18, 2018 at 10:49 pm

              “If you think defense is important for a good pitching staff, then you should also think it’s important for a bad pitching staff.”

              It is. They clearly are not independent variables. “Good pitching” is very much dependent on good defense. It follows that bad pitching would be even worse without good defense.

            • TexasGusCC
              January 18, 2018 at 11:45 pm

              Name, your premise that FIP is unaffected by defense is true. However, when you are trying to maximize wins, FIP means nothing. We saw how having to get the extra outs due to lack of range early last year made deGrom’s life harder and all the other guys. Having to get an extra out in most of your innings will catch up to you.

              Conversely, we have seen strong defense help the Giants win three World Series and the Royals one with less than stellar overall pitching. Good defense shortens an inning and great bullpens shorten a game. A good formula if Alderson can actually listen to the BS he was feeding us last November.

              • Name
                January 19, 2018 at 1:14 pm

                Pitching and Defense are independent. But defense and offense are not independent – there’s a tradeoff. That’s because the guys who play defense and offense are the same players, and there are very few players who excel at both sides.

                You could feature a defensive whiz at every position and have the best defense and save outs, but if they can’t score and put up 0 runs on a nightly basis then what’s the point? The key to maximizing wins is finding the right balance of offense and defense.

                What i object to are guys who look at defense in a vacuum and not consider the players offensive contributions. JD Martinez may be a complete butcher in the OF, but his bat more than makes up for it and overall he’s a bigger contributor than Jason Heyward who catches everything but cant hit a lick.

                • TexasGusCC
                  January 19, 2018 at 10:57 pm

                  I agree to this comment completely. It was your previous comment where you suggest that a good defense wouldn’t help and a bad defense wouldn’t hurt a pitching staff where I disagreed.

    • Mike Walczak
      January 18, 2018 at 2:07 pm

      It would be tough to have Rosario hit second. He rarely walks.

  6. Hunter
    January 18, 2018 at 10:27 am

    Nunez for second and the lead-off spot, that’s the big move. And one more pitcher.Lets rock and roll.

  7. TJ
    January 18, 2018 at 4:21 pm

    Some random comments –

    Rosario cannot hit at the top of the order until he shows discipline and OBP at the major league level. In a perfect world, he grows into the leadoff hitter.

    I like Harrison but I think he needs to be viewed as a 2.0-2.5 WAR player. Additionally, his career OBP is .321, not great. Jose Reyes has a .337 career OBP, although it has been down in recent years. based on what we make of his 2017 2nd half, he could be a better value than Harrison as he will cost less in salary and not require dealing any players. For what it is worth, UZR liked his 2b defense, and he is the most experienced leadoff hitter available.

    If I could sign Reyes and a #3 starter, that would be optimal, notwithstanding the David Wright long shot. If not both, I would go with signing Frazier and keeping Nimmo for the time being.

  8. Jack Strawb
    January 24, 2018 at 6:12 am

    The Mets picked up a 2 WAR corner OFer in Bruce, and actually made their OF worse in the process by taking away 500-600 PAs from Nimmo and Lagares.

    The team is now three All-Stars away from a shot at contending.
    Unbelievable.

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