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.

35 comments on “On Sandy Alderson’s second act, diminishing defensive returns and Trevor Bauer & J.T. Realmuto

  • Jennifer Corozza

    Regarding Alderson: I felt the same way in that I really didn’t want the stodgy, sarcastic guy who doesn’t care about defense back. However, due to the Wilpons, it’s hard to know how much was Alderson. Still, not exciting at all and I also hope it’s short-term.

  • Remember1969

    Good Stuff! A fun read with nice points from both contributors. A nice format that I wouldn’t mind being a fairly regular addition to the site. Thanks!

    • Brian Joura

      Thanks! We will try to do some more of these in the future.

  • Mike

    Those guys were clowns but the format was cool.

    As far as Sandy, it will be interesting to see what his role actually becomes. Is he just around to act as the head of a transition team or for a longer period? And if he is going to really be a full term Team President how active with daily baseball operations is the vision of Cohen and Alderson? My gut tells me it’s not just an interim gig, but also more of a CEO role than a hands on baseball operations role. But my gut is often wrong, as it is tends to be preoccupied with whether any Chunky Chips Ahoy cookies are heading its way.

    Overall I see everything that is going on as fun and positive.

    Let’s Go Mets!

    • Brian Joura

      I agree with your gut about both cookies and Alderson. Here’s to fun and positivity surrounding the Mets!

  • Rene NYM 1

    I love the comment at the end that they should balance each other out very well.They both compliment their weakness with the others strengths very good so it might be a match made in heaven.Cohen is smart enough to see this happening.As for Realmuto and Bauer sign both ,JT would fit nice our need and a 5 year deal with his health should be fine and yes it will be huge because we need to make a statement 150 Million for 5 years that’s 30 per will tell the world their is a new player in town and he is Cohen owner of the Mets baby.Bauer is the best pitcher available period and we need three so signing him is a no brainer and I could care less about social media we have enough good guys to help him.

    • Jennifer Corozza

      “Enough good guys to help him”: that’s not their job. But, what will happen is his teammates will have to answer for his antics. deGrom, for one, will be the number 1 guy (cause he’s the star pitcher), to have to say some cliche thing on camera to avoid saying something negative about him (which is essentially meaningless). You may not believe the social media stuff matters, but it does to me and other fans. All it does is reflect who he actually is. I don’t root for the laundry blindly. Also, don’t assume his regional NL Central, AL Central work this year w/subpar teams will float over to a more balanced 2021 schedule.

      • Remember1969

        Thank you Jennifer – I agree. Bauer comes with too much baggage and not enough career record. While his numbers are excellent in 2020, but 7 of his 11 starts this year were against teams that had a full year batting average of .223 or lower. 3 of the other 4 were against Detroit and Kansas City, who hit .245 and .244 for the year, respectively and were not good teams. His only start against a team that hit over .250 was against the White Sox (.261) and he lost that one. 3 of his starts were against Milwaukee who led the league in hitting strikeouts. Prior to this year against some poor hitting teams, he has had 8 years (or at least parts of) and has an ERA of less than 4.18 exactly once. Not the superstar pitcher he is made out to be. That is a package I do not want at any cost, let alone the top dollar he seems to be commanding. Give me Stroman who has been a better, more consistent pitcher over the last few years.

  • Steve S.

    I will be interesting to see if Sandy Alderson brings back Paul DePodesta and/or J.P. Ricciardi, perhaps with the former guy as GM.

    I would be OK with a four-year deal with Realmuto, with Alvarez bring brought up in the latter years of the contract.

    With the DH looming for the NL in the future, it makes sense to hold on to both Smith and Alonso. I think Rosario and Davis will both be traded. Giminez will be an improvement at SS, and Guillorme will be around, if he falters to play there. Matz will also be gone. There’s lots of money coming in with Cohen, but also guys coming off the books. They’ll acquire two or three new starting pitchers, I believe.

    • Brian Joura

      DePo is too busy running the Cleveland Browns these days.

      • Steve S.

        Maybe so, but I did read several weeks ago that Alderson might try to get DePodesta to return to the Mets and that Cohen had a “relationship” with DePodesta.

  • TJ

    Enjoyable read, love the format. I align more with Brian’s perspective. Alderson had his wins and losses with the Mets, and sometimes personalities do mesh with portions of the fan base. Judging him cleanly with Jeff in the picture was all but impossible. However, I see his hiring as spot on by Cohen on several levels. The gap between the Braves and Mets is real, but the Mets do have talent; selecting the right mix of who stays will determine the fate of the team in the next 3-5 years.

    Bauer and Realmuto are high quality players, and the Mets need to be in on them, but I’d like to see a plan take shape. Moneyball with money is possible with Mr. Cohen’s money. Defense matters, but to an extent. Yes, the Braves play better D than the Mets, but they flat out rake as well. I like Dom in left with Pete at 1st. I like Giminez st SS with McNeil at 2B most days. Cano can DH most days. Give me a solid defensive CF that bats RH and a quality glove behind the plate and I’m good positionally. Then it will come down to what they can obtain SP wise.

    • Chris F

      The Braves are better almost everywhere on defense and offense. In the post season defense really matters because of short series format which blows out a season average. I don’t want to see a runner on first and a fly ball into the LF corner and Dom out there. The ball always finds that person, especially in a game 7.

  • John Fox

    I think there was a bigger misstep than hiring Beltran, don’t forget a lot about the cheating scandal had not come out when Beltran was named manager. To me the catching screw-up of giving Travis d’Arnaud away after just a handful of at bats in early 2019 had a bigger impact.

    • Chris F

      Travis d’Arnaud fascinates me. He sucked as a Met, almost incapable of staying On the field. He’s a lousy defender and all the sudden he’s something special. I don’t see it lasting. It was criminal to let him go as BVW did, but I would have let him go before spring training. Maybe he just couldn’t get it done as Met; wouldn’t be the first time.

      • JImO

        I totally agree with Chris on the d’Arnaud assessment.

  • Edwin e Pena

    Getting JT Realmuto for a long term deal is a pipe dream. Mets can settle on McAnn from the Chisox and put the big dollars to George Springer and the starting staff. Springer is an exc hitter and finally the CF answer for the Mets. Dom can hopefully hold down LF as his offensive production is needed, keep Marisnick for late defense. Sadly, this means Nimmo is probably gone if you consider Conforto stays in RF and is signed up long term as he should. The lineup would be something like > CF Springer, 2B McNeil, 1B Alonso, RF Conforto, 3B JD Davis, DH Cano, LF Dom, C McAnn, SS Rosario / Gimenez. Add a pitcher in Nimmo trade and add couple as F/A’s, it won’t be Bauer, perhaps Mets go back to Stroman. Staff of Degrom, Stroman, Peterson, F/A, new trade addition, will hopefully be good enough, with the least performing of them replaced by Thor after the All Star Break, if he is ready by then. Try Matz in the BP , and send Lugo back to BP as well. Full year 2021 will need him there.
    FA haul of Springer, Stroman, McAnn is good show and fast start by S.Cohen.
    Oh, of course, get riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiid of BVW !

    • Remember1969

      You had me on pretty much everything until the last statement. I play the devil’s advocate on BVW and could argue that he has not done that bad a job and he should be kept (Another discussion).
      I ‘d advocate McCann over Realmuto unless they can steal Realmuto for under value because of the whole market situation, and only for 3 years, 4 tops.
      My top offseason priority is Springer. I agree whole-heartedly with Chris F in the article, having recently joined the ‘defense matters’ bandwagon, especially up the middle.
      As far as pitchers go, my choices align with yours – Stroman, Taijuan Walker as a free agent, and Zach Plesac as a trade target.

  • Rich

    I thought the 2 GM thing was interesting, not because they are going to do that but because under Cohen the Mets will be run very differently than under the Wilpons. Order, organization and competence will be the new order of the day. The wilpons couldn’t do that because, their total incompetence aside, they didn’t have the money to do it. Its a whole new ballgame folks. Steve Cohen knows how to operate a business and when you can do that well the rest will work itself out.

    As for JT, I dont think they will pay him over 7 years. It is not a good business decision and I hope they would pass. The Mets offense is more than capable, especially with the DH in play. Find a strong defender and lets go Mets

  • Metsense

    The defense at 3B, CF and C needs improve.
    Out of position plays are not a problem as longer as they are in the average defensive range and their bat are the reason that they’re in the lineup.
    Alderson is conservative and shrewd. He signed Cespedes at $29M with an opt-out so he does spend the money but not foolishly. He was the best choice because of the circumstances. He knows the Mets and can hit the pavement running. BVW should be replaced with a new GM and with a new front office structure and Alderson will be an overseer .

  • Mike W

    Thanks for the banter guys. It was great. For once, what we do have is hope, and that feels good.

    I would like to have Realmuto for three years, but someone will overpay for him, probably the Phillies or Yankees.

    If Bauer is a whack job in the clubhouse, I dont want him.

    The Mets have some trade chips and they need to make some shrewd moves. Also, let’s see what they do with Conforto.

    No matter what they do, the Braves are a great team. Look at how much young talent they have and look where they are without Soroka. It will be tough to catch the Braves in a year, but maybe in two.

  • Name

    The highest contract ever given out to a FA catcher is Brian McCann who signed for 5/$85 at the same age Realmuto is right now.

    I don’t know who is feeding him the fantasy of 7 years and/or $30 mil a year. Has he won a MVP like Posey or Mauer? Nope! He hasn’t even finished in the top 10 for christ’s sake.

    I don’t even know if he’s deserving of $100 mil based on his more comparable peers like McCann and Grandal.

    • Brian Joura

      While you can argue that Posey & Mauer got hometown “premiums,” it seems likely that both would have eclipsed $100 million if they made it to free agency and their original teams were not allowed to bid on them.

      One of the reasons that the Phillies are looking for a new GM is his inability to get Realmuto re-signed. Do you think he’s offered Realmuto less than what Brian McCann got back following the 2013 season? That doesn’t seem likely to me.

      MLBTR had this quote from an article by Tim Britton at The Athletic:

      “Looking at a collection of catchers with similar career arcs to Realmuto’s, Britton lands on either a four-year, $96MM deal or a six-year, $128MM deal as the proper valuation for Realmuto’s services moving forward.”

      The questions will be if Covid finances kill the FA market. Or, if having several teams interested drives the deal past the “proper valuation.”

      • Name

        100% Mauer and Posey would have gotten 100+ mil in FA. But i dont think they are fair comps given that they were former MVP winners and frequent contenders and JT is not.

        “Looking at a collection of catchers with similar career arcs to Realmuto’s, Britton lands on either a four-year, $96MM deal or a six-year, $128MM deal as the proper valuation for Realmuto’s services moving forward.”

        Does he say who are the similar catchers? If we had to compare McCann and Realmuto, i would say McCann has had the better career through age 29. Realmuto has the career edge versus Grandal, but ages 27-29 i would basically call it a wash.

        If you wanted to add some inflation to McCann’s contract -my perception of “fair market value” is 5/$95 . Anything past that is an overpay based on comps

        • Brian Joura

          From the Britton article:

          “I took a sample of a dozen catchers, including Realmuto, who have produced the way he has through from age 26 to age 29 in the wild-card era. It’s a sample that ranges from Mike Piazza and Buster Posey at the top to Charles Johnson and Jorge Posada at the bottom, with Realmuto right in the middle. (The whole sample: Piazza, Posey, Realmuto, Yadier Molina, Jonathan Lucroy, Ivan Rodriguez, Brian McCann, Miguel Montero, Joe Mauer, Russell Martin, Johnson and Posada.)”

          • Name

            His flaw is including 3 guys who had won a MVP by age 29 (Mauer, Posey, Ivan) and the HOFer Piazza
            Those guys are clearly in another class above and it’s not particularly close.

            • Brian Joura

              I don’t know any more about Britton’s group than you do. But he took a group of high-performing catchers centered around Realmuto. There should be guys who were better and guys who were worse. The fact that there were guys who were better doesn’t invalidate the approach.

              We know that Posey got 8/$159 and Mauer got 8/$184. Britton is suggesting that Realmuto get 4/$96 or 6/$128. If Posey/Mauer had signed for fewer years, they would have gotten a higher AAV. The fact they were better than Realmuto is why they got 8 years.

              I have no interest in signing Realmuto to a deal longer than two years. But I don’t see either of Britton’s suggested deals being unreasonable.

              • Name

                I think his selection of players does invalidate his conclusion. The whole point of comps is to measure what the market has historically paid for a particular skillset. Choosing players that are clearly way above or way below the player you are trying to measure does not result in a sound output.

                If we had to choose a similar sample for Stroman, it wouldn’t make sense to have a group that includes deGrom or Scherzer with the rationale being that they were all aces at one point in their career. Yes Stroman has been an ace in some years but not over an extended stretch and never did he come close to winning a Cy Young.

                That being said, while 4/$96 or 6/$128 would be a market overpay, it might not be a value overpay as just because you set a new high water it could mean that the market was undervalued to begin with.

                • Brian Joura

                  If you use that tight of a definition to create your pool of comps, you’re going to end up with a very small list, especially for a catcher.

                  I think a much better critique would be not somehow “normalizing” the dollar values. Piazza got an AAV of $13 million when the average salary was $1.4 million. Last year’s average salary was $4.4 million. Realmuto would need to get an AAV of over $30 million (over 7 years) to equal Piazza’s deal.

  • Mike W

    Realmuto’s best season with the bat was .275 25 HR 83 RBI. He is a very good defensive catcher, but he is no Johnny Bench. Plus he will be 30. His ability to throw out runners isnt as important as ot used to be, because teams just dont run anymore. My heart says hey let’s sign him, but my brain says no.

    I’d rather build an organization like the Braves. How many expensive free agents do they have? They had a need last year. They signed Donaldson. This year they signed Ozuna. No long term boat anchors.

  • Scott Ferguson

    I think part of the Mets problem has been is that you can play someone out of position, but that needs to be balanced out by a plus player next to them. Smith is why CF is so important this offseason and why I think trading Nimmo is such an important move. If you do that, you either get back a CF or a Pitcher and then sign a CF. Above all else, the team needs those two items.

    Cool format by the way. I’d forgotten about that blog.

    • Brian Joura

      I recognize that we’re all just throwing opinions out there but an elite CF – at best – can only help a poor LF or RF in one direction. He won’t help on balls hit toward the line, he won’t help on balls hit over the corner OFers head and he won’t help on balls hit towards the infield. He’ll only (potentially) help on balls hit in the gaps.

      The worst defensive LF to qualify for the leaderboards in 2019 was Eloy Jimenez. If we eliminate Inside Edge’s “Impossible” and “Routine” plays from consideration, Jimenez had 33 plays ranging from a probability of 1% to 90% to handle. The worst defensive player in LF in 2019 made catches in the following breakdowns:

      Remote (1-10%) — 0-7
      Unlikely (11-40%) — 1-7
      Even (41-60%) — 4-10
      Likely (61-90%) — 5-9

      So, we’re looking at 23 plays that weren’t made, where an elite CF “might” be able to help. So, you have to figure out how many of those 23 balls were hit into a zone where a CF could potentially catch the ball and how many of those where he actually could get there.

      None of us can say how many balls an elite CF might have caught without reviewing the games and what happened with Jimenez (who played mostly with above-average but not elite CFers) may not be a typical experience. But Jimenez had 268 balls hit to him and we’re talking about 8.5% of the total ones where a CF “might” help. And it’s likely that the overwhelming majority of those wouldn’t even be a possibility just based on the 1-of-4 directions discussed earlier. And then how many in the right direction are even remotely possible?

      I think the burden of proof is completely on the side of those suggesting that an elite CF would make a big impact on a poor defensive corner OF.

  • Edwin e Pena

    Mets offseason in a nutshell: Big signing is CF Springer. Next up is Catcher – McAnn for 3 years and one year option / buyout. Mets prospect will be ready by then – Alvarez. No need for a dollar busting long term deal for Realmuto to be late 30’s by the time contract is done. Next move is two pitchers. One is Stroman. Get him back.
    The other is likely via trade. Nimmo or JD Davis may be the piece to use and bring in a bonafide starter. With Springer in CF, Conforto in RF, let Dom play LF and get better, even just avg at it. Keep Marisnick for late inning defense. Last item ? ? Why not try Rosario at 3B, Gimenez at SS, McNeil at 2B, probably his best position. This may be the best infield set up if Rosario can play 3B and flourish. Cano full time DH, stays healthy and rakes doing that alone. Staff: Degrom, Stroman, Peterson, Lugo, new P from Nimmo or JD Davis trade, Thor comes in midseason and puts Mets over the top. BP ? Just pray Diaz comes back again ok and get rid of Familia (addition by subtraction) keep Wilson, Shreve, Bach, Castro add Matz.

  • MattyMets

    I think BVW has to go. As for Alderson, I think he is ideally suited to being a pres. of baseball operations who can make measured decisions and offer guidance and balance from the 20,000 foot viewpoint. Where I disagree with Alderson in philosophy is the way he discounts defense. Look no further than the Tampa Bay Rays to see what a difference a strong defense can make.

    • TexasGusCC

      +1. Alderson needs to get a GM from an organization that has a good culture and teaching history in the minors, and will look for balanced players instead of one dimensional. The one dimensional ones are always cheaper…

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