The pessimists’ guide to the Mets’ offseason

The optimistic Mets fan might be singing “Don’t worry, be happy” this offseason. And why not, with a team including a bunch of young, elite players, led by Pete Alonso. The pessimistic Mets fan, on the other hand, might well sing “Oh, got something worrying me” with a respectable number of worries to fret about during the offseason. In this piece we will look at the worries. We’ll count them down David Letterman style from five to one.

5. The Jeff McNeil “wrist watch.”

No, we’re not talking about his Timex, but about that wrist fracture that occurred on September 25 when Josh Smith of the Marlins fired an inside fastball that struck McNeil on his right wrist. That errant pitch resulted in a right distal ulnar fracture. The ulnar bone is one of two bones that connect the wrist to the forearm. McNeil had surgery on the wrist on October 2, and reports indicate he should be about ready to go by spring training.

The wrist is an important component of a batter’s swing, and even a slight degradation of the strength and/or the flexibility of the wrist could be cause for trouble. McNeil throws right-handed, and of course the wrist is a key part of the throwing motion as well. Most likely McNeil will heal on schedule and he’ll continue being about the player he has been for the Mets, but for the pessimist, that lingering worry will continue until we see McNeil again contending for the batting title.

4. Zack Wheeler and the looming hole in the rotation.

Wheeler had a good year as a starter for the Mets in 2018 with full year totals of 11-8, 3.96 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP. He was really a beast in the latter part of the season, pitching like an ace. As the Mets made their bid for the postseason in the last month, Wheeler was 2-1 with a 1.85 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP. However, Wheeler is a free agent, and most people expect him to sign a hefty contract elsewhere.

Teams with a stacked farm system can often replace a starter from within without losing too much production. The Mets are not one of those teams. So that will most likely mean shopping for a veteran off the free agent list, and the best of those pitchers will have plenty of suitors, including teams with bigger budgets than the Mets. Maybe GM Brodie Van Wagenen can unearth an under-appreciated gem of a starter, or maybe he will end up with a retread on the downside of his career. The 2020 starting rotation is unsettled at this point.

3. The manager-front office interaction.

As of this writing no new Mets manager has been announced. Whoever occupies that position will have to contend with a meddlesome front office. We know that in 2019 the GM phoned in an in-game move (removing deGrom from a game) at least once and most likely more than that. The curious placement of Robinson Cano in the middle of the batting order for much of the season, while he was struggling, also has Van Wagenen’s fingerprints all over it. The GM needs to have input, but micromanaging game decisions is a recipe for trouble.

2. Van Wagenens’ poor record of acquisitions.

The first year GM and ex-agent made a splash in his first off-season, and not in a good way. He showed a marked preference for for aging veterans, especially players who were previously his clients. Sure there were a couple of successes, namely reliever Justin Wilson and slugger J. D. Davis, but there many more misses.

Exhibit A is seemingly redundant infielder Jed Lowrie, inked to a 20 million dollar, two year deal. He was injured almost the entire 2019 season, and when he finally played he had seven at bats with no hits, one walk, and four strikeouts. More misses included aging infielder Cano, the badly regressing relievers Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia (see below) and redundant outfielder Keon Broxton. Maybe Van Wagenen learned from his first year, or, heaven forbid, maybe he follows his MO of last year.

1. The bullpen arsonists need to rebound

Going in to the 2019 season, the Mets seemed to have a solid relief corps with free agent (after a long Mets career) Familia slotted for the eighth inning set-up role, and newcomer Diaz (traded from Seattle,) as the closer. Both were terrible, and both had to be demoted from pitching in high-leverage situations as the year wore on. Familia’s biggest woe was his control, the big right-hander handed out 43 free passes in his 62 innings of work. Far too many of those base runners came around to score, and Familia ended up with a 5.70 ERA and no saves.

For Diaz, his biggest problem was his loss of command of his slider. Diaz has only two pitches in his arsenal, his fastball and the slider, and batters were teeing off on that slider. Diaz finished the year with a 5.70 ERA, and 15 home runs surrendered in 58 IP.

Maybe over spring training Diaz can tweak his slider grip and Familia can learn to find the plate again. If not the FO is going to have somehow find more successful arms to bolster the bullpen, or another disappointing season awaits the Mets.

*****

Takeaways
1. Wrist fractures are on the increase in MLB, they went from 7 in 2017 to 12 in 2018. MLB cited higher velocity and more inside pitching as possible factors.
2. Brodie Van Wagenen’s wife’s stepfather was astronaut Neil Armstrong
3. Edwin Diaz’s FB velocity in 2019 was 97.5 mph, the highest of his career.

9 comments for “The pessimists’ guide to the Mets’ offseason

  1. Pete from NJ
    October 8, 2019 at 11:02 am

    I like to say two things up front. The first is that young bones heal nicely while the 2nd is that bullpen guys are not consistent from one year to the next so there’s precedent to a rebound

    Then concerning Zack Wheeler. His objective statistics according to MLBTR: Wheeler’s numbers are just below Garret Cole’s numbers. He will be hard to replace on the roster. As previously noted by the writer’s on this page, the payroll budget is tight resulting in salary trades that are pretty hard to swallow. Read: Conforto.

    Pessimistic-no. Confused/Concerned-oh boy.

  2. Mike Walczak
    October 8, 2019 at 11:52 am

    I am hopeful now. I will be pessimistic if the Mets don’t do much to address needs or make foolish moves.

    Lets do the following.

    Pick up a couple of relievers.
    Replace Wheeler (and hopefully we get lucky)
    Add pitching depth
    Get a true center fielder

  3. Rick
    October 8, 2019 at 1:08 pm

    I’m more worried about the fact that besides the problems addressed in this article, #1 thru #3… they’re all about Jeffy and BVW! And they’re not going to change. I would hope that Girardi is our next manager but I don’t see them paying him what he’s worth and I don’t see him agreeing to allow the stooges to interfere with his decisions. I think all in all that the moves BVW made last year set us back at least 4 years. Cano’s contract alone is a problem. And they’ve yet to shed Cespedes contract as well despite them saying they were going to void it. Hasn’t happened yet and personally, I don’t want him back. And also… what about Realmuto? He’s a free agent, right? And there’s no talk about acquiring him….without having to give up prospects. I just see another 3rd or 4th place finish again next year as all the teams in the division will no doubt be upgrading as we sit idly by using the same words “if” and “hopefully” and “we expect”.

    • John Fox
      October 8, 2019 at 3:10 pm

      That’s one thing I worry about quality control coach Luis Rojas being one of the managerial candidates. He’s been working under Van Wagenen so he’s used to taking orders from him and we might see a lot of game management again from the GM if Rojas gets the job.

  4. October 8, 2019 at 1:11 pm

    I second what Pete said above.

    My hope is that the new manager has the autonomy to allow Nido to catch Syndergaard and to treat Robinson Cano the way they treated Brandon Nimmo.

  5. Bugsy
    October 8, 2019 at 2:00 pm

    mcneil, wheeler, the bullpen, etc. is the kind of stuff every team deals with every year.

    The reason(s) to be pessimistic are
    Jeff
    Brodie VW

    They need a really sharp manager who makes the most of what he is given,
    But if brodie’s judgement of managerial candidates Is anything like his player evaluations, there’s not much reason to have faith in him,
    And as for jeff, well,
    He hired brodie.

    • Chris F
      October 8, 2019 at 2:28 pm

      ^

      My vote for best appraisal of the off season situation. Well done Bugsy.

  6. Eraff
    October 9, 2019 at 8:07 am

    Broadie’s first Offseason had some misses, but He showed aggressiveness and an ability to conjur imaginatve deals. He’s also showed some ability to Move Ownership on some money issues…so I’m hopeful that He won’t be forced to sit on his hands.

    Whatever evaluation they make of their Cano/Diaz Move, and subsequent moves, they must make it with their eyes ahead…they cannot be captive to anything they regard as a past mistake.

    They Must Fix The Bullpen!—- a refrain from almost 3 dozen fan bases!…how are the Bullpens doing in the Japanese League???

    The Mets Led MLB with 941 Starter Innings…. and the Starter ERA was ranked 7th. With a team built around Starting Pitching, it’s an astounding delivery of Production without the anticipated level of success as measured by Team Wins.

    I’ve never seen this team with better quality, young, controllable, productive position players—they have Roster Value and Trade Value…there will be painful trades, but this should be an offseason of Great Opportunity.

    I believe that we will all measure the Mets as a Pre Season Favorite in February— I’ll measure them against that expectation. Everything is there for them to leverage to a Championship.

    Final note…. and this is “The Downer”…. Jeff said that the Goal is not to play Meaningful games in September…he instead said that the goal is to play meaningful games in October. Why doesn’t Anyone in Mets Management Ever utter the Word, “Championship” ?…!!!!!

  7. MattyMets
    October 11, 2019 at 11:32 am

    I completely forgot about Keon Broxton. Didn’t we give up prospects for him? He was downright awful and was clogging up a roster spot for too long.

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