There’s a whole generation of fans who never experienced the late, great “2 Guys Talking Mets Baseball.” For those who missed out, it was two pals – Michael Geus and Jimmy Preller – who had a blog with daily articles where they would have a conversation about the Mets. It was like a podcast except in print rather than a voice format. It was ahead of its time. Well, let’s do a cheap imitation here. Please welcome Chris Flanders to the scene.
Chris: It’s too bad you ran Jimmy off – he made great comments here! I’m looking forward to picking this up. It should be fun. Anyway, how about we talk about defense and the Mets building teams where it is ok playing guys out of position. Do you think that works in general, and if so, is there a point where there’s diminishing or even negative returns?
Brian: I didn’t run Jimmy off. We’re Facebook friends and I would love it if he would come back. But he’s very busy with publishing and promoting his books for young adults. As for defense, it seems pretty clear you place a higher value on it than me. But that doesn’t mean it’s worthless in my eyes.
My big thing is that your fielders have to make the routine play. Can your bat that you’re forcing in make those plays? Dominic Smith plays LF to get his .993 OPS bat in the lineup. And this year he had a 0 DRS and a (-0.4) UZR in left. He was essentially league average in this small sample. How do you put a Gold Glove guy out there (who the Mets don’t have) with a .700 OPS (which is probably overstating the offensive ability of the defensive player that the Mets do have) and come anywhere close to matching Smith’s overall production? As for diminishing returns, the only way that happens is with a below-average SS and 2B, the two players who have to work together on a regular basis. Or a 1B who was just awful scooping throws. Neither applies to the Mets.
The goal should be to start acquiring the players who can contribute both offensively and defensively. But those guys are expensive. You’ve got to start drafting and signing those guys. And not trading five-tool talents you do have for a 36-year-old 2B owed $100 million combined over the next five seasons.
Chris: To me, there’s definitely a big plus in fielding a team that is solid in the field. It seems that solid fielding correlates well with both high baseball IQ and athleticism, which to me gets to quality baseball. I also equate runs saved to runs scored. How about the platoon between Amed Rosario and Andres Gimenez? To me watching a guy go both glove and arm side comfortably and throw accurately really was a big improvement, and a huge plus to pitchers. Perhaps watching the Braves enough makes me appreciate solid defense, especially up the spine, pairing with solid offense.
All this makes me wonder a bit about how you think the idea of Steve Cohen selecting Sandy Alderson to run the team? Everyone is super excited about Cohen taking over, and being the wealthiest owner in the game, but Alderson is hardly known for running up the tab with long, expensive free-agent contracts. When I see all the fan interest in signing J.T. Realmuto or Trevor Bauer as the two top free agents of the class, the competition will be very high and that always leads to extra years and even deferred salary. It’s hard to see Alderson doing anything like that.
Brian: It seemed like Gimenez was a superior fielder to Rosario. When both were in the game, Rosario played shortstop, which was odd to me. Maybe it was a way to soothe Rosario’s ego. Perhaps it was due to a concern that Rosario would be a big negative at another infield spot. But it’s also possible that it was just another move to add to the pile of questionable dugout decisions in 2020.
As far as Alderson’s return – sign me up! Maybe there’s the slightest bit of trepidation about his age but he doesn’t have to keep up with the day-to-day doings of the club. Instead he sets the tone and acts as a check on big moves. It seems to me the two biggest missteps of the Brodie Van Wagenen era — trading for Robinson Cano and hiring Carlos Beltran — wouldn’t have happened if Alderson was around to be the adult in the room and say that these were awful ideas.
Chris: The departure of Alderson was overdue in my mind and it’s hard to be enthused about his return. All the reports frame this as Cohen putting a rudder in the water with Alderson, keeping owners happy that he won’t swoop in and take all free agents! Maybe the best thing is it’s hard to see Alderson being around for too long, just enough to bring Cohen through the turbulence and get him in with MLB upper tiers. I’m not a fan of his style of play, and hold him responsible for the imbalance of the team as it has devolved into.
So, do you see an Alderson run team going $20 million for seven years to get Realmuto? Not me, especially in a pretty poor free agent class. Realmuto is going to get a lot of attention. Would you do something like $30 million for a year of Bauer? That is the kind of thing it seems Alderson would be interested in, high AAV and short duration, but I think the Mets are still some distance off from beating the Braves. That is a lot of money, so my view doesn’t have either on the Mets next year.
Certainly, the Cano deal, or as I think of it, the team-damaging Jarred Kelenic deal, is the epitome of poor decision making and itself is enough for disqualification. I also agree with the Beltran selection for manager, for which there is no doubt in my mind that Van Wagenen was aware of the brewing troubles. So, do you envision a new GM or perhaps two GMs in the future? It’s not particularly hard to envision an operations GM and a game GM both feeding to Alderson. It will be interesting to see just what tack Alderson takes to build a “perpetually” competitive team.
Brian: There’s no point making an offer to any catcher that extends that long, much less to a guy who will be 30 when next seasons starts. And given how one of the Mets’ top prospects is Francisco Alvarez, who should be about three years away, going seven years for Realmuto is silly for another reason. I would be open to exploring a two-year deal at a high AAV for Realmuto but my expectation is he’s going to look for years and dollars that the Mets just shouldn’t be interested in.
A President and a GM seems like enough, two GMs seems like overkill. My expectation is that Van Wagenen is history. But it does seem to me that Alderson and Van Wagenen could potentially complement each other well. Alderson at times seemed complacent and that’s probably the last word you would use to describe Van Wagenen. And Van Wagenen’s impulsiveness would be balanced nicely by Alderson’s calculated nature. And Van Wagenen could be the public face that seemed to be such a chore for Alderson.