The 2019 Mets will battle for the pennant – here’s how

On these pages, all winter long, Mets 360 writers and contributors (and what a knowledgeable bunch we are) have dissected and debated every move our bold new general manager has made. Brian and others were not on board with the big Seattle trade – either because they find Robinson Cano‘s contract hard to swallow or couldn’t bear to part with Jarred Kelenic. I was not a fan of the Jed Lowrie signing as I thought the younger and more versatile (and still unsigned) Marwin Gonzalez was a better fit. Really, you could question a lot of Brodie Van Wagenen’s moves – who he signed and who he didn’t consider signing – but one thing he’s done differently than his predecessors, that you have to applaud, is build up the B team.

Many fans and writers felt the Mets should have been in on the big names, like the four most impactful free agents who still remain unsigned. Signing one of those players might have made for a good story, but upgrading the roster will get us more wins. That FanGraphs has us pegged for an 8-win improvement speaks to the improvement and I’m here to argue that their estimate is too conservative. When I look at this roster compared to that of the last two seasons, I see more talent, more depth and more injury insurance.

For too long this franchise has been writing off seasons to injuries. Smart GMs and owners recognize that injuries are an inevitable part of the game and plan accordingly. A big part of the sustained success of the Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers can be attributed to filling out the 40 man roster with solid players and not just AAAA guys and cast-offs.

The Mets will improve significantly this year based on this alone. For the past five years or more we’ve been filling in for injured or resting players with guys who don’t belong in the majors. 2018 might not have gone off the rails in May and June if we had real depth. Last season we gave 800 ABs to Jose Reyes, Adrian Gonzalez, Jose Lobaton and Jose Bautista. Those four retread castoffs looked washed up and can’t find jobs this year, yet they combined to appear in 269 Mets games last year. Think the Mets might have won a few more games if those 800 at bats were given to the likes of Jed Lowrie, Peter Alonzo, Travis d’Arnaud and Keon Broxton? You could argue that it took several injuries to lead to the mid-season signing of Jose Bautista, but the Mets have wisely signed some solid veteran players to minor league contracts so we can stash a few solid backups in AAA to start the season, including outfielders Rajai Davis and Gregor Blanco, infielder Dilson Herrera, and catcher Devin Mesoraco, as well as a number of interesting arms like Luis Avilan, Hector Santiago and others.  Additionally, versatile newcomer J.D. Davis will help push infielders T.J. Rivera and Dominic Smith into this group of Syracuse standbys.

Last season Corey Oswalt got 12 starts (5.85 ERA) of which the team won four. Five other games were started by relievers or AAAA guys that didn’t give us a chance, including P.J. Conlon (2), Chris Flexon, Drew Gagnon, and, yikes, Jerry Blevins. That’s 17 games we essentially gave away. This year, those games will be started by Seth Lugo or Robert Gsellman, who the Mets can better afford to borrow from a much deeper bullpen. And speaking of which, the bullpen was easily our biggest weakness last year. In the second half, we had no closer. Now we have two and one is lights out. Last year we had one ineffective lefty, now we have three southpaw options. Whereas we were auditioning unproven guys for key spots, this year those same guys will battle it out for the last spot, while the others stay loose in nearby Syracuse awaiting the call.

Over the course of a 162-game season there will be injuries, hot and cold streaks, tougher and easier schedule stretches. One way to win 90 games is to give away as few games as possible and give the team a chance to win each time. A day game after a night game or the second game of a double header should not be given away because we have to put guys on the field who don’t belong there. When the scheduled starting pitcher gets food poisoning or tweaks his back in warm-ups, we shouldn’t have to basically forfeit by handing the ball to an ill-equipped set-up man.

When Van Wagenen spoke of “eliminating if’s” he wasn’t introducing a brand new concept. This is what the Red Sox, Yankees and Dodgers always do. They don’t throw in the towel over a few injuries. They expect them and have players in place to step in and step up. The importance of deepening and lengthening our roster cannot be understated. There’s still time for Van Wagenen to add even more depth by seizing on the veteran desperation that is starting to simmer among the available second tier free agents. In the past week, some name players have started accepting minor league deals, including Mesoraco with the Mets. Stashing a few more insurance guys in AAA – namely another starting pitcher, would be wise. There are plenty of worthy candidates like Ervin Santana, Doug Fister, Clay Bucholz, James Shields, Yovani Gallardo, Edwin Jackson, Brett Anderson, and our old friend Bartolo Colon.

As a fan, won’t it be nice to not have to give up hope on our season by July because of a few inevitable injuries? Such a simple strategy, yet we’ve overlooked it for years. Funny we needed to hire an agent to be our general manager in order to figure this out. In any case, it’s time to take this team seriously again.


11 comments for “The 2019 Mets will battle for the pennant – here’s how

  1. February 8, 2019 at 7:35 am

    Great article that tells the story / how Mets can get to 90 wins.
    I agree with all of it, yet, they need one more SP. Go get Gio.
    Go- Gio- Go ! Given 10-12 starts, he can win 6-7 of them or put the Mets in position to win 6-7 of them. I don’t want to see Flexen, Oswalt, any of those dudes either early or late in the season starting a game because the staff is depleted. Those are the same games Mets will lose and then be short W’s at the end of the year.
    Mets can improve about 13 games and get to 90W’s.
    From the new guys, here is my ‘Fangraphs’ :
    Cano is worth 3 games alone, Ramos 2, Lowrie 2, Diaz 2, J.Wilson 1, Alonso 1, having McNeil all year 2, and with the starters health because there is depth, will make all the difference. Not to mention…. ANYTHING Cespy can give the team – July – Sept.

    • MattyMets
      February 8, 2019 at 9:29 am

      Edwin- I would love to get Gio not just for 2019 but with an eye toward 2020 as two of our starters are in their walk years. I don’t see how BVW can pull it off. Forget the money for a second. The Mets have a full 5-man rotation and by full I mean 5 guys who are all out of options and none of them has bullpen experience. Gio is not going to sign without a guaranteed rotation spot and moving Vargas and his 8 or 9mm contract to the back of the bullpen wouldn’t sit well with him, his agent or the Wilpons. I think we do need to snatch up a veteran depth starter, but we’re going to have to settle for one who will take a minor league deal.

      • Chris F
        February 8, 2019 at 12:17 pm

        Id think youd need to ask is Gio going to be really any better than Vargas. Im not so sure. His CitiField numbers are meaningless because was playing the Mets, the team he would be on, and a team he owned.

        Heard a very interesting comment on MLB radio this morning about standings predictions, in this case discussion was about the Pecota prediction for the NL Central and the Brewers finishing from first to fourth in different models. After some interesting discussion about reality, like who gets hurt, who bounces back, who craters, what weather will do etc etc, not a single bit any computer modeling can account for, the conclusion was awesome: all these models and 5 bucks will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks! I couldnt agree more. I was thinking about scouring the old predictions for records and seeing just how bad they are. I imagine they are much like the blind squirrel finding a nut or a broken clock being right twice a day. Probably not any better than consulting a Magic 8 Ball!

        • MattyMets
          February 8, 2019 at 12:45 pm

          Chris F – it doesn’t take a computer to look at a team like the Brewers and see a regression. They’ve done very little this offseason and got lucky with both health and career years last season. Same can be said of the A’s and Braves. Those three teams are not as stacked as the others that made the 2018 playoffs and have not done enough to bolster their rosters while other teams have and are poised to bump them down the standings.

          The way I see it, there’s little competition in the AL, where 4 teams are a virtual lock and one spot remains for the Angels, Rays and A’s to fight over so they can lose to the Yankees in a one game playoff. In the NL, the only sure thing is that the Marlins will finish in last place. And it’s probably a safe bet that the Pirates, Padres, Dbacks, Giants and Reds won’t make the playoffs. That still leaves 9 teams fighting for 5 spots.

          • Chris F
            February 8, 2019 at 12:56 pm

            Sure, the thing is the Mets are exactly the same. If you look at Pecota putting them in first, the whole top 4 are separated by 5 games. It means the Mets are realistically anything from 1st to 4th. Right now neither would surprise me.

            Sure, the AL is a lock for Yankees, Red Sox, Astros, Indians etc. In the NL, The Dodgers, Cubs, Nats are locks…you dont need a computer to tell you that. But the Mets are not in that position by any stretch. Its time to let them play and see how it shakes out and forget about predictions, which with 5$ gets you a cup of coffee and nothing more.

            • MattyMets
              February 8, 2019 at 1:08 pm

              Chris – I don’t see any NL team as a lock. Dodgers maybe but too much competition in the other two divisions.

      • Mike Walczak
        February 8, 2019 at 1:22 pm

        Vargas will be on a short leash. If he is terrible and the Mets are in contention, they could be buyers at the deadline.

        • February 8, 2019 at 4:44 pm

          But that’ll take assets when you can get Gio now for just money.

  2. BVac
    February 8, 2019 at 1:52 pm

    The Jerry Blevins’ start last year reminds me of his new team’s (well Oakland isn’t new to him) employment of an all bullpen game in the Wild Card game last year. While his start for the Mets last year signaled a low point in the season moral-wise, the A’s chose that tactic for their paramount game of the year. Hopefully the Mets can throw an Ace out there for a hypothetical winner-take-all game, but perhaps if the Mets find themselves in a Game 7 with no suitable starter available they’ll turn to this tactic with the revamped bullpen.

    By the way they lost that Blevins game 7-8 to the Dodgers to drop to 4-17 for the month of June.

  3. EBloom
    February 8, 2019 at 6:49 pm

    Pecota was 4 games off for the Mets last season. Had us at 81-81.

  4. Eraff
    February 10, 2019 at 7:03 am

    This is all , Finally, about Starting Pitcher Health…as it is for all serious and willing teams.

    I don’t need them to solve for every move now…the biggest targets remain possible SP depth, BP Length, RH OF Bat. VW has shown me that He’s willing, so I’m willing to look at the team as it arrrives and plays in the Spring and during the first leg of the season.

    There will be good and bad surprises over 162 games ahead— I don’t like solving for October in February…it just isn’t reality. I’d prefer starting with a team that has a clear opportunity to be real by Mid June.

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