As well as the Mets have played in this first month of the season, this roster still has some issues related to injuries and underperformance. This team came to spring training better prepared for inevitable injuries and performance struggles than it has in years. The 40-man roster was stocked with Major League quality players instead of just the usual AAAA types at the back end. And it’s a good thing, because the time is nearing when General Manager Sandy Alderson is going to have some tough calls to make.
At present, the Mets have four struggling veterans to contend with. Each is in the last year of their contract and for each there is an alternative in AAA or elsewhere on the roster who is ready to step in and step up. In each case, these players have no trade value and only one has options remaining. These players, if you haven’t guessed, are Matt Harvey, Adrian Gonzalez, Jose Reyes and Hansel Robles. Let’s examine them one at a time.
Harvey, seemingly healthy in spring training, has struggled with both velocity and command. He has already been bumped from the rotation and begrudgingly demoted to an undefined bullpen role. Harvey’s recovery from TOS surgery and rehab has been an uphill climb. The team wants him to succeed. But in truth, he’s in the last year of his contract and all indications are that he will not be back next season. He hasn’t earned a multi-year contract and the Mets are certainly not going to issue him a qualifying offer that could result in a staggering overpay of $17 million or more. The best case scenario for Harvey is that he remains healthy and can be effective in the bullpen so that he gets plugged back into the rotation when either Zack Wheeler or Steven Matz inevitably lands on the disabled list. In this case he’ll have an opportunity to regain some value, either to the team, or as trade bait in July. The worst case scenario is that Harvey performs poorly out of the bullpen and lets a negative attitude get in the way, in which case the front office will be forced to cut bait and release the fading star. Yes, they’d owe him several million for the remainder of this year, but, in this case, it would open a roster spot for someone more worthy and set an example by expunging a bad attitude. Hopefully, it never comes to this.
Reyes, another former Mets star, was brought back to play an infield utility role, as well as offer some mentorship to rising star Amed Rosario and bring some speed to the roster. Thus far, in limited action, he’s struggled mightily at the plate and even made a costly error in the field. Last year, Reyes also needed some time to get going, but then had a terrific last third of the season. Hopefully, we don’t have to wait that long. Rosario and Asdrubal Cabrera will need days off and Reyes will be useful as injury insurance and in a pinch hitting role as well. However, if he’s still struggling to find his stroke by Memorial Day, it might be time to cut our losses and give his spot to Gavin Cecchini, who hit really well in spring training and is currently slashing .288/.362/.423 in Las Vegas. T.J. Rivera should also be back with the team by June or so.
Gonzalez, once a Gold Glove winner and perennial .300 hitter is a shell of his former self. He’s lost bat speed, range in the field, and he’s a slug on the base paths. Yes, he had that one grand slam and can still scoop a throw in the dirt, but given how well Wilmer Flores is hitting against righties and improving at first base, not to mention Dominic Smith is healthy and getting on base in Las Vegas, it may soon be time to cut ties with Gonzalez. Since Atlanta is footing most of his salary, the Mets are only paying him the league minimum, so cutting him would be an easy move financially. Cutting Gonzalez would also open the possibility to relieve the outfield log jam some by giving Jay Bruce a crack at first base at least every so often.
As most of the Mets360 faithful know, this writer is no fan of Robles. Manager Mickey Callaway briefly fell under the same spell as his predecessor after Robles had a few strong relief outings. He’s a hard thrower with natural movement on his fastball. When he’s on, Robles can strike out anyone. But, when he’s off he’s a disaster. And he has a knack for giving up home runs at the worst possible time. He cannot be trusted in big spots. He may have a million dollar arm, but like Nuke Laloosh, he’s also got a ten cent head. By that, it’s not to suggest he’s a moron – for all we know, he’s a Rhodes Scholar – but he clearly has lapses in concentration on the mound and that may not be fixable. The bullpen is in good shape and has more than enough depth in AAA with guys like Jacob Rhame, Jamie Callahan and others. The next time we need to make room on the 40-man roster would be the right time to bid adieu to Robles and let him become another team’s problem project.
These four players may all remain Mets for a little while, but probably not for long. Should the Mets make a playoff run this year, it’s hard to envision any of these players on the post season roster. DFA’ing players is not easy. There’s a human aspect to it and there are emotions involved. This is why Alderson gets paid the big bucks. Gonzalez and Reyes have had long and lucrative careers full of highlights and achievements, and the two pitchers will get another shot elsewhere.