How Mickey Callaway should handle the rest of 2018

Here’s the dilemma that Mickey Callaway finds himself in down the stretch in his first year as an MLB manager: How do you proceed when wins don’t matter? The good news is that it’s really not that difficult. You play the guys who need playing time. You play the guys that you need to find something out about to define their role in 2019 and 2020. That second year is important and shouldn’t be swept under the rug.

My belief is that Devin Mesoraco is a better catcher than Kevin Plawecki. But what are you going to learn about Mesoraco that you don’t know? He’s proven himself durable in his time with the Mets and it’s not like he’s not gotten whacked multiple times while he’s been behind the plate. The pitchers seem to react positively to his presence. And he gives you a long ball threat when he’s batting. If you’re willing to pay the freight, Mesoraco could be your starter the next couple of years. But what’s Plawecki? He’s always had his supporters but when given a chance to start regularly in the majors, the results have not been good. His solid stretch at the end of 2017 came when he was in a time share with Travis d’Arnaud. Can Plawecki play four out of every five days and be good? Let’s find out.

Wilmer Flores has received a chance to play every day since coming off the disabled list. The jury has been out if he could survive without getting significant time off and from an offensive perspective, Flores has responded with a very good stretch. He’s slashing .295/.344/.497 since mid-June. Those numbers would play at first base. But he’s still a train wreck in the field. What’s more of a benefit to the Mets – seeing if more reps at first will make Flores better or if seeing someone else play the position and getting time? If wins were the only thing that mattered, you’d pick Flores for his bat and keep your fingers crossed with his glove and pinch run for him whenever the situation dictated it. But Callaway should be giving that playing time to others.

Jeff McNeil is the one guy that the Mets are committed to playing who they absolutely should at this point. No one has any hopes about McNeil being a good defender. He is what he is. The hope is that his bat is good enough and he’s getting a chance to prove that it is. But why McNeil and not Luis Guillorme? Earlier in the season, Guillorme got sporadic playing time. He played in 29 of 41 games, making 13 starts, and hit lousy while mostly playing out of position at third base. He should get some time at 2B or SS now when these games are meaningless. He came in with a good defensive reputation but didn’t exactly wow us at third base. If the Mets are serious about giving Amed Rosario consistent time off, then Guillorme should make those starts at short over Jose Reyes. And he should get some time at second base, with McNeil sliding over to play first base.

Under no circumstance should Jose Bautista make another start this year. Since July 1, he has a .555 OPS in 128 PA – yet the 37 year old starts virtually every day. It was an odd experiment and one that worked better than anyone should have expected for six weeks. But reality has come knocking and it’s best to heed the call. Meanwhile, Austin Jackson has been terrific at the plate and the Mets should be playing him over Bautista to get the benefit of his hot six weeks. In the tiny sample size of 77.2 innings, UZR likes what Jackson has given the Mets, while DRS thinks he’s not been good. At least with Jackson, the Mets can play their two best young hitters in the corners. Both can play center but they’re better defensively in left and right. And at age 31, Jackson is significantly younger than Bautista.

And if there aren’t enough moving pieces already, news hit yesterday that David Wright is going to start rehab games. Hats off to Wright for putting himself through all of this in an effort to get back on the field again. But when we last saw him play, his arm was nothing special. Can he make a throw from a regular arm slot and put any kind of zip on it? If not, he shouldn’t play third base if he’s able to make it back to the majors. If you want to do a ceremonial game where Wright plays third and Reyes plays short, fine. Announce the date ahead of time and sell some tickets. But do it once and be done with it.

Plus the team should look for playing time for Peter Alonso and Dominic Smith down the stretch. Alonso recovered from a rough patch in Triple-A to once again be an offensive force. In his last 10 games, Alonso has a 1.361 OPS, with six of those games being in the more pitcher-friendly PCL stadiums in Iowa and Omaha. It’s been a forgettable year for Smith but what’s best for him in the long run? Giving him a shot for face time in the majors or giving him tough love and say – too bad, you didn’t excel so your season is over. Unless you want to play in Venezuela. My belief is there’s more to be gained by having him in the majors before the year is out.

Corey Oswalt has pitched well enough to deserve a spot over Jason Vargas. With a doubleheader coming up, it’s okay to give Vargas another shot. But when Matz returns, it should be Vargas going to the pen. His contract is bad enough, don’t keep playing him to make the situation even worse. Let him try to work out his issues in the bullpen. Also, there’s no reason to give higher leverage innings to Jacob Rhame. Until he develops some type of offspeed pitch, he’s going to continue to put up lousy results. Let him give up runs in games where we’re already down by five runs. Don’t pitch him in extra innings when there are other options remaining.

There you have it. Instead, my guess is we’ll see lots of Mesoraco and Flores and Bautista, while Reyes will get more playing time than he should, too. And it won’t be a surprise to see a lame Wright get more starts than he deserves at the hot corner. The kicker will be if they don’t promote Alonso and Smith at all, saying there’s no reason to crowd the clubhouse and besides, the club absolutely needs to see Gerson Bautista again this year…

18 comments for “How Mickey Callaway should handle the rest of 2018

  1. b
    August 12, 2018 at 10:21 am

    dominic no

  2. TJ
    August 12, 2018 at 11:46 am

    Brian,
    Great piece, as usual…you set the bar very high.

    Agree with most everything you say. However, a few counterpoints for dialogue. First, this may be wordsmithing a little, but on the “wins don’t matter”, I get it that they don’t matter in the standings, but they still matter from the perspective of how these guys auditioning contribute to wins vs contributing to losses.

    Bats, Jose, and Vargas should be used like#23, #24, and #25. KPlaw should get 75% of the starts. Mesoraco has been adequate, but the Met catching tandem ranks at the MLB bottom in DRS and overall defense, from what I can see. And, even if KPlaw steps it up for the rest of the year, I would view him only as a platoon guy requiring a solid back-up.

    Oswalt most certainly should be starting every 5th day. School is out on him but as several have pointed out, despite not the best stuff he shows positive attributes and looks like a pitcher.

    Our beloved Wilmer may be the toughest call. Alonso has clearly demonstrated that he should get priority given his play, but as we know these prospects are no sure thing and his defense has to improve. Wilmer temps us with his bat in these medium samples, and I suspect that his defense could improve some focusing and getting reps at one position (-10 DRS to -5 DRS is +5 DRS). But, will he be worth the arb $? Probably not. I’d still give him 1B reps over Dom Smith in August, given his more proven bat, their need for some righty pop, and his ability to play several positions (if we want to call it that).

    Guillorme/McNeil is also very tough, but it is not fair judging Guillorme at 3B, and he should get at least 3 starts a week between 2B and SS. No way should Jose get any of those starts over Luis.

    • August 12, 2018 at 12:27 pm

      Thanks for the kind words!

      You should join us in the Game Chatters. People drop in and out during the game, so it’s not like you’re obligated to watch all 9 innings should you show up.

      • TJ
        August 12, 2018 at 5:17 pm

        Brian,
        Thanks for the invite. I will certainly tap when I have the opportunity.

  3. Madman
    August 12, 2018 at 2:14 pm

    Here’s the dilema, even if the Mets have a potential great starting three or four IF they stay healthy they don’t have one average, much less one above average starting every day player!

  4. Mike Walczak
    August 12, 2018 at 2:53 pm

    I agree with you 100%.

    How is any team going to win when four starters not including the pitcher are hitting under .220.

  5. MattyMets
    August 12, 2018 at 3:55 pm

    Makes good sense to me. Yet here we are watching strange decisions made by the FO and dugout day after day.

  6. Bob S
    August 12, 2018 at 5:00 pm

    Can’t say I disagree with anything you said. I’ve seen enough of Reyes, Bautista, Flor’s hitting and Plawecki trying to be a major league catcher. I like Wright a lot but he needs to take his $100M and go home and enjoy his young family. It is time for us to rebuild around our pitching.

  7. August 12, 2018 at 7:43 pm

    The Mets should offer and extension to Devin Mesoraco immediately. If an he accepts then Plawecki status quo. If Devon refuses then his playing time would be drastically reduced and Kevin majority of playing time. This isn’t an ideal solution but it will stabilize the situation.

  8. BR28
    August 12, 2018 at 8:45 pm

    The Mets never gave Guillorme a fair opportunity to succeed. During his first trip to the majors got 58 AB in 6 weeks and in this 2nd trip 9 AB in 2 two weeks. McNeil has already 51 in almost 3 weeks.
    Guillorme after 4200+ innings as MIF and just 48 innings on 3B in the minors has been graded with a 70/80 in 2B and 60/70 in SS but has played 3B most of the time. McNeil is graded with a 50, played 2000+ innings in 2B and 1200+ in 3B in the minors, it is playing 2B.
    One more thing, why is Rosario getting 95% of the play time in SS if his defense and offense is not that impressive to do so?
    Let the kids have a fair competition for a spot in the starting lineup and let’s see what happens. Competition is always good.

  9. Eraff
    August 12, 2018 at 9:40 pm

    I’m in favor of seeing guys play, but Guillorme’s last two full MILB seasons were a 647 ops at St. Lucie, and a 706 at Bingo. He walked about 10% of the time and k”s about 10% of the time. I like contact and pitch recognition as offsets to production at MILB….. but No Production is No Production! He’s a rare case of a guy who needs to provde it further in MILB—– he’s probably an off-season decision to keep or not…I don;t know.

    I believe they’re playing McNeil with an idea that he may play 2b, or be a rover…I lile what they’re doing there.

    I’m wondering whether they are managing 40 man or Salary Clock for Alonzo.

    I’ve seen enough of Flo—I love him. He can’t play, and you wouldn’;t play him 6 million dollars, would you!!!???

    They need to bring Smith Here…even though he doesn’;t deserve it. Play him and keep him or wash him out. This is his opportunity…even though he hasnt earned it. 90-95 losses says you can waste the next 30 games on him.

    Pitch Oswalt….go 6 man…whatever.

    Rosario…. I’m especially concerned about his Saturday Game—- maybe he bounces off of that. He has to play…he has to succeed. This isn’t a choice. He’s had some rough patches. This is the price you pay for a 22 year old cutting it on a bad team.

  10. August 13, 2018 at 1:18 am

    When Bruce returns the Mets should get him a first baseman’s mitt to use exclusively. Eventually when Cespedes returns the outfield will be Cespedes Nemo and Conforto. The Mets should prepare now even though it’s 1 year still.

  11. Eraff
    August 13, 2018 at 12:15 pm

    So…they like Luis and want to be sure they’re getting him ab’s at Vegas??? They hate Luis and never want to see him again???? What kind of Horseshit move is this!!!???

    How long ’til we’re asking why Reineimer is not getting ab’s???…wait…He’ll start 3 straight games!!!

    https://metsmerizedonline.com/2018/08/mets-recall-rhp-tim-peterson-and-inf-jack-reinheimer-from-triple-a.html/

    • August 13, 2018 at 12:43 pm

      My opinion is that the Mets don’t think Guillorme is worthwhile.

      Would love to know what they see in Jack Reinheimer. They got him off waivers (.665 OPS in the PCL when he was waived) and immediately put him on the 40-man and now bring him up to the majors after 30 PA and a .756 OPS in Vegas.

  12. Eraff
    August 13, 2018 at 1:29 pm

    They wanted a RH No Hit Middle IF instead of a LH No Hit Middle IF

  13. SI Mike
    August 13, 2018 at 3:55 pm

    Agree with most of the comments in the article. Rosario may not make it, his defense is really troublesome. He can’t go to his left and a mediocre arm. I don’t see Guillorme as the long term solution but play him at SS down the stretch to see his defense. This team needs average hitters so Mcneil needs to play every day at 2B. His fielding has been fine.
    Smith stinks but I have no prob playing him at 1B in order to make a final determination on him. Forget mesoracco, all they need is to sign another injury prone player. He’s been hurt his whole career. They need to go after Ramos or Grandel.

    This should be their 2019 plan:

    C Sign Ramos or Grandal
    1B Sign D. Murphy
    2B McNeil- if he goes in the tank down the stretch, let Rivera & Flores fight for it next camp
    SS Rosario
    3B Frazier
    LF Conforto
    CF Nimmo
    RF Bruce

    If Murphy will come back they should grab him for 3 yrs. He has in spades what this team needs the most- high average & clutch hitting. He can hit .300 in his sleep. Let Alonso get a full AAA year and work on his defense. In 2020 move Murphy to 3B so Alonso can play IB. If he’s ready mid next yr, trade and/or eat Frazier salary to make room. The mistake the Mets made was not re-signing Murph and moving him to 3B his best position. Along with signing a closer this will get us back to the playoffs.

  14. SI Mike
    August 13, 2018 at 4:18 pm

    Pitching is easier, the big 4 plus Oswalt as the 5th. Oswalt knows how to pitch & has some fire. Agree 100% Vargas should go the bullpen. Vargas was Callaway & Eiland’s signing, so they are hellbent on proving this was a good move. Difference b/w Mets and Yankees, Yankees cut their losses. They need to sign a closer (Cody Allen?) and ideally another reliable arm. I say David Robertson, a workhorse. Yankees have too many RP & will let him sign elsewhere. Pitching staff:

    SP
    Degrom
    Synergard
    Wheeler
    Maz
    Oswalt

    RP
    Allen or Britton- closer
    Robinson
    Lugo
    Gsellman
    Drew Smith
    Vargas
    Bashlor, Wahl or Rhame (all have to find another pitch)

    The payroll is down to 95M I believe, my FA should cost about $60M or so. Even the wilpons can do that.

  15. Eraff
    August 13, 2018 at 5:42 pm

    Murph has missed games…decreased production…he’ll be 34—pass

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