Mets roster puzzle is still missing a piece or two

The Mets entered this season with a number of roster holes; so many in fact, that you could make a case for tearing it down and rebuilding. In recent years, the Reds, White Sox, Blue Jays, Rangers, Tigers, Orioles, Royals, and, most recently, the Mariners, made the difficult decision to throw in the towel and start over. Each of those teams had talented players on their roster but lacked the trade chips and/or budget flexibility to fill in at the margins and remain competitive.

That most of the above mentioned teams are in the American League is no coincidence. With the Red Sox, Yankees, Astros and Indians all stacked with talent and virtually assured playoff spots for the next few years, that leaves just one wild card spot for everyone else to fight for a one game, do-or-die playoff against the Yankees or Red Sox. Is that really worth trading the farm or stretching the payroll? Fortunately for the Mets, there’s a bit more parity in the National League, where there is no juggernaut team positioned for a dynasty. Despite having rosters loaded with quality hitters and pitchers, the Nationals, Dodgers and Cubs are all fallible and beatable, especially by a team with a monster pitching staff like the Mets.

In the second half of 2015 and into the playoffs, when this team was firing on all cylinders, we learned that a dominant rotation and a lights out closer can make mince meat of a great lineup. And with enough offensive support, such a team can win a pennant. The Mets roster has seen some churn since then, but it’s still built around a killer rotation of flame throwing starting pitchers. With the addition of Edwin Diaz, the return of Jeurys Familia and the emergence of Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman, the bullpen should also be a strength going forward. The Mets could potentially have the best pitching staff in baseball in 2019 with a bit more depth in the bullpen. If everyone is healthy and if a few of those young right-handed relievers step up the Mets pitching could be special, like 1969, 1986 special. Problem is, Mets fans and their new GM are leery of ifs. Ifs don’t lead to rings and banners.

To solidify a roster, you have to envision it in-season and with the typical injuries, slumps and streaks. So, when and not if a Mets starter gets injured what is the reverb? Either someone like Corey Oswalt comes up from Syracuse (or is it “comes down,” since they’re heading south?) weakening the rotation, or else Lugo or Gsellman steps into the rotation, weakening he bullpen. Ideally, the Mets add another strong, reliable bullpen arm, preferably a lefty. This bullpen is going to get worked hard. Jason Vargas is a five-inning pitcher and so is Lugo if he’s in the rotation. Steven Matz isn’t known for going deep either and Zack Wheeler has had issues with pitch counts. As it stands now, the Mets have a very good bullpen, but it’s not deep enough.

The same can be said of the outfield, where the Mets are currently flimsier than a subway platform knock-off tee.  It’s easy to dream about a Mets lineup built around a middle order of Cano-Cespedes-Conforto, but the reality is that we won’t see that until summer and possibly not at all in 2019. Yoenis Cespedes‘ injury is serious. The surgery recovery is complicated. Without a certain timetable for his return, the Mets need a sure thing. Injury-prone, light hitting Juan Lagares is an “if” and Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo, while great emerging players, will never be mentioned in the same sentence as Cal Ripken and Lou Gherig. Rajai Davis was a nice depth pickup. He makes for a good fifth outfielder and Lagares makes for a good fourth. Until Cespedes returns we need a third.

The additions of Wilson Ramos and Robinson Cano give us significant upgrades at two positions. If Peter Alonso does what we think he’s gonna do, make that three positional upgrades. Factor in continued improvement from Amed Rosario and Brandon Nimmo, and healthy seasons for Michael Conforto and Todd Frazier and we should be improved all over the diamond, except for one hole in the outfield.

Van Wagenen has done a nice job improving the team thus far, and not just by plugging holes like his predecessor. Ramos and Cano do more than just provide upgrades at their respective positions; they also help mitigate the loss of Cespedes in the lineup. The National League East has been the busiest division this off-season. The Braves, Nationals and Phillies have all made moves and are far from done. To really be the division favorite he speaks of, Van Waganen needs to complete the puzzle with another solid reliever and a good outfielder.



10 comments for “Mets roster puzzle is still missing a piece or two

  1. TexasGusCC
    December 21, 2018 at 10:38 am

    Matt, while the Mets are trying to finalize the trade with the Rangers for the very erratic but talented LeClerc and the ex-Brave Mike Minor (who listed the Mets as one of his no-trade teams) that sends away one of our mediocre lefty starting pitcher prospects, the other relievers are coming off the board. Soria signed a very affordable 2/$15MM contract and Miller is finalizing with the Cardinals.

    Now, there are many options for the bullpen so there’s no rush there, but I just can’t see much of an option for CF if it isn’t Nimmo or Conforto. Lagares has only had about 500 plate appearances in three years combined but even if he gets first dibs, who’s the backup plan if Lagares once more hurts himself with his reckless abandon that makes him such a great defender? Not only is there no real option in the organization (neither Davis nor Lee are starting options), but there isn’t much in free agency either.

    Is Jon Jay your only affordable option to be serviceable as a starter and still come off the bench? Is Adam Jones too expensive? Cameron Maybin or Carlos Gomez do anything for you? What’s the cost for other teams’ serviceable CF’ers that can come off the bench like Michael Taylor of the Nationals? That to me is the harder hole to fill than the bullpen spots as things stand right now, today, because there’s plenty to “acceptable” arms still out there like Cody Allen, Kelvin Herrera, Greg Holland or Adam Ottavino.

  2. December 21, 2018 at 11:04 am

    Interesting first two graphs.

    I wonder if it’s just cyclical. You mentioned the Reds but they seemed to have started theirs years ago, when they traded Chapman, Cueto and Frazier from a team that won 90 games in 2013. The Cubs and Braves already came through their tear downs. And you can argue that the Mets did theirs by trading Beltran and K-Rod and letting Reyes walk. Perhaps the Phillies had their tear down thrust upon them.

    How much are the Indians being propped up by their division? Everyone talked earlier about the Phillies getting both Harper and Machado but maybe the White Sox should be the team to do that.

    • MattyMets
      December 21, 2018 at 2:21 pm

      Brian – White Sox should absolutely pounce on one of the big names. They have some emerging talent and an opportunity to sneak up the standings in a weak division. My concern for them is that Yoan Moncada was supposed to be awesome and so far has been very disappointing.

  3. Mike Walczak
    December 21, 2018 at 12:29 pm

    I hope that Harper and Machado stay out of the division. Minor and LaClerc would fill two needs. These two would be a good pickup as long as the cost is a hill of beans.

    Then, I think adding another decent outfielder will come into play. I expect Van Wags to get creative on this one. I do like the Davis pickup.

    • Steve S.
      December 21, 2018 at 3:18 pm

      I would love to add LaClerc, but the cost could be high for a 24 year old flamethrower who seems to be coming into his own! Nice stats for him!

      Minor would also be a nice pickup, but he would also cost more than some beans.

      • MattyMets
        December 22, 2018 at 11:08 am

        Minor has Mets listed on his no trade list and Phillies are interested in him too. He’d be a nice get.

        Maybe a Dom Smith/Kevin Plawecki/prospect could get this or a similar trade done.

  4. Metsense
    December 21, 2018 at 11:16 pm

    Marwin Gonzalez would compete the puzzle. He could spell Rosario weekly and is an average defensive player at all positions he played. He is an average offense player also. (a 103 Career OPS+) . He would make a good utility player for a championship team.

  5. TJ
    December 21, 2018 at 11:52 pm

    The Mets still need three or four quality pieces, and without further depleting of the system after the overpay in the Cano trade. One quality positional player, two quality bullpen arms. If one of the bullpen arms is a guy that could be stretched for a backend starter, they can get away with three.

    While the Ranger pitchers interest me, I can’t help but be concerned that their interest in trades is more driven by unwillingness to spend on payroll than it is on interest in gaining value. I hope I am wrong.

    Plawecki has some value and could help fill a need. Perhaps there is one more deal out there that could strengthen the 2019 team without mortgaging the future. But, they still need to open their wallet some. Blanco and Davis provide some spring training depth, but these guys are nothing more than the 25th player at best.

  6. Chris B
    December 22, 2018 at 12:13 pm

    When a SP or two get hurt, the dominant staff supposed to breeze through opponents will be a weakness. Sign or trade for three more arms across starter and bullpen. That is true depth.

    • TexasGusCC
      December 23, 2018 at 2:12 am

      Chris, how much “depth” do you think you can stash? Good players don’t want to be just left as depth pieces. Too, as they have Lugo, possibly Gsellman, Oswalt and now we have starters, and that is a ton of relievers that can be brought over front syracuse in an hour.

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