We like things that are easy. It’s why we add together OBP and SLG to get OPS, which we use as a shorthand for offensive production. In mathematical reality, you never add things with different denominators. But adding together OBP and SLG gets you very close to the “right” answer so we do it anyway. If you’re at a computer and can look up FanGraphs, you’re better using wRC+. Here’s a snippet from the FG glossary on wRC+:

Similar to OPS+, Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) measures how a player’s wRC compares with league average after controlling for park effects. League average for position players is 100, and every point above 100 is a percentage point above league average. For example, a 125 wRC+ means a player created 25% more runs than a league average hitter would have in the same number of plate appearances. Similarly, every point below 100 is a percentage point below league average, so a 80 wRC+ means a player created 20% fewer runs than league average.

wRC+ is park and league-adjusted, allowing one to to (sic) compare players who played in different years, parks, and leagues. Want to know how Ted Williams compares with Albert Pujols in terms of offensive abilities? This is your statistic. wRC+ is the most comprehensive rate statistic used to measure hitting performance because it takes into account the varying weights of each offensive action and then adjusts them for the park and league context in which they took place.

Since the glossary mentioned OPS+, let’s bring that into the equation. Since the start of the 2018 season, with a minimum of 900 PA, the top six players in wRC+ are:

Mike Trout
Christian Yelich
Alex Bregman
Mookie Betts
Nelson Cruz
Juan Soto

Few would argue those players didn’t belong as the top hitters in the game. Now let’s check the top six for OPS+ — Trout, Yelich, Betts, Bregman, Cruz and Soto. Actually, we could expand it to the first nine players and they would be the same on both lists but with more guys in different orders. After that we start to see some differences, as guys with extreme OBP or SLG start to show up. The issue is that OPS doesn’t give the proper weight to OBP, which isn’t a big problem most of the time, yet shows up with guys who have really high (or low) marks in one category compared to the other.

Let’s do a chart of the top four Mets hitters the past three seasons with both metrics:

Player OPS+ wRC+
Pete Alonso 141 137
Jeff McNeil 140 139
Brandon Nimmo 138 140
Michael Conforto 130 128

Regardless of which metric we use, we see the top three hitters within three points of one another and then a dropoff of 8-9 points to Conforto. It seems odd that people are willing to trade Alonso but are in a tizzy to extend Conforto. Part of that is because Conforto is closer to potentially leaving the club as a free agent. But part of it is because of the BABIP-fueled fluke season of 2020 for Conforto.

When you’re building out the Mets’ team, specifically the offense, your first three priorities should be finding the homes for Alonso, McNeil and Nimmo. Dominic Smith was really, really good the last two seasons. But because of injuries and the Covid year, those two years represent just 396 PA. Conforto has been really good – just not as good as Nimmo. And that’s with Nimmo playing most of 2019 with a neck injury.

Maybe you make a trade to address the logjam at 1B and/or corner outfield. Or maybe you try to fit all five guys into your lineup. It’s okay to prefer either solution. But if you opt for trades, you need to improve the defense or pitching to a significant degree to make up for the likely offensive drop.

It’s why George Springer is such an attractive free agent for the Mets. Springer has a 138 wRC+ and a 132 OPS+ the past three years. He would represent a tiny dropoff from Nimmo (and an improvement over Conforto) offensively while offering a superior defensive player. There are plenty of people out there stumping for Jackie Bradley Jr. but he checks in with a 95 wRC+ and a 95 OPS+ – which is a significant dropoff offensively.

And similar to Conforto, Bradley benefits in our three-year look in what he did in 2020. Last season, Bradley had a 119 wRC+, thanks in large part to a .343 BABIP. He has a career .298 BABIP. The three previous seasons Bradley had wRC+ numbers of 90, 90 and 89. Having a much better offensive season than we would predict going forward, Bradley had a 1.4 fWAR last year in 217 PA. Nimmo, having a worse defensive season than we anticipated, had a 1.5 fWAR in 225 PA.

Springer had a 1.9 fWAR last year and if he and Nimmo both maintained their production over a 162-game season, Springer would have been a full win better. If a win on the free agent market is valued at $8 million, can you bring in Springer for fewer dollars than what you’d pay Nimmo + $8 million? And even if you can – are you better off spending to replace pretty good production rather than sinking that money into starting pitching?

The dream is that Steve Cohen’s fortune will allow the team to seek improvements everywhere with little to no regard to money – either actual dollars or opportunity costs. And if enough teams need to cut payroll 30% to make up for 2020 lost ticket revenue, maybe that can happen. It’s fun to dream about the Mets adding Trevor Bauer, J.T. Realmuto and Springer in free agency and then trading for Francisco Lindor.

Mets fans, after having to watch the team cut payroll and watch expenditures like a hawk in the wake of the Bernie Madoff pyramid scheme falling apart, would find an extra bit of satisfaction if half the teams in the league had to go through a half a dozen years of belt tightening like the Mets did.

According to Cot’s, the Mets had the second-highest Opening Day payroll in the game in 2009. And despite salaries going up, they did not top that raw dollar expenditure until 2017. And they were 12th that year in OD payroll. The Mets suffered from a one-two combo of having limited dollars to spend while the rest of the league upped expenditures. And maybe now the worm turns.

Few doubt the Mets’ ability to spend. And now the question is if that will come when others have fewer payroll dollars at their disposal. After years of being a laughingstock or a punchline, the Mets may now be able to look at other teams and chuckle.

The Mets should enter the offseason with the idea of making acquisitions that give them the biggest bang for the buck. But they should be prepared to pivot and go into full talent acquisition mode if bargains are to be had everywhere. If on September 1 you figured Bauer to get an AAV of $30 million, Realmuto $25 million and Springer $20 million, you might have thought the Mets should get one of them. But if they each go for $5-$7 million fewer, and with Cohen firmly in place as owner, are all three not attainable?

And sure, that’s best-case scenario. It’s a new day in Mets land where we can realistically think in best-case terms. We’ve seen the Mets be aggressive in the draft, going after top-shelf talent. But that was a zero-sum game when it came to total dollar expenditure. Now, we may get the chance to see them go after the best, when money definitely comes into play.

But if we don’t get to see the dream scenario play out in real life in this offseason, we should remember who the key players are on the Mets and where they really need to spend in order to put the best team on the field. The three best hitters, in some order, are Alonso, McNeil and Nimmo. And there’s not the same type of depth with pitching.

18 comments on “The Mets’ offensive core is Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil and Brandon Nimmo

  • NMK

    There’s a substantial flaw in your logic – sample size. Don’t get me wrong, I love rooting for Pete, Squirrel and that kid from Wyoming. They’re exciting, homegrown and relatively young.

    But you’re also comparing three players with no more than 1,300 plate appearances vs 2,500 plate appearances. Also, Conforto has better corner outfield defense than we were led to believe.

    IMHO, pay Nimmo and Conforto long-time, get a better fourth outfielder/defensive centerfielder and make a rotation with Dominic Smith work.

    • Brian Joura

      I’m not looking at career rates and TFA clearly stated so – these numbers are all what they did in the last 3 years. Here are the PA in question:

      Alonso – 932
      McNeil – 1,024
      Nimmo – 1,014
      Conforto – 1,519

      Still an edge for Conforto but not as dramatic as you tried to portray. I’ll side with the lower PA against the fluke BABIP.

    • Rae

      Dom Smith is not on the starting rotation. He should remain the Mets 1B man. I think they need to work with Alonso who really benefitted in 2019 from working with hitting coach, Chili Davis who opted out from coaching in 2020. I’d like to see if the Mets could work with Pete to play 3B and 2B, along with 1B. He can split some time at third along with JD Davis. Alonso also needs to DH as does Davis as well as Cano. I’d love to see the Mets sign LeMaiehu as the right handed bat that they seriously need as the guy can rake plus he can play either 2B and 3B. Sign Jake Odorizzi, Robbie Ray, or James Paxton, and I definitely recommend the Mets sign Charlie Morton to round out the rotation with Jacob deGrom and David Peteson. Morton has a WAR in 2020 of 7.0 which os damned good. Morton is an interesting and very competent starter. They also need to sign Rich Hill who can both start and relieve depending upon the teams needs. He has made a career of doing both well. Lugo showed in 2020 that he is not starting rotation material. Realmuto doesn’t like NY then f__k him, and sign either McCann, Molina or Suzuki to be the starting catcher with Nido as the back up backstop. Upgrade the pen by signing Yates, Treinen while resigning Shreve and possibly Wilson or my preferred lefty reliever, Jake McGee. Last but not least sign a decent CFer like Bradley, Jr or Springer. Springer wants to go home to Connecticut so he might desire to play at Citi Field. Worse comes top worse sign Pillar to play CF with Marisnick as a defensive back up.

      • Steve S.

        I’m not against Dom Smith staying as the primary 1B man, but with no DH apparently in the NL (at least for next year), it’s tough to squeeze Davis, Cano, and Alonso into the lineup. ( LaVelle Neal of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune wrote on Thursday the NL will go back to requiring pitchers to hit in 2021.)

        Maybe Smith can play more LF and Alonso more 3B. That’s possible. We need depth when injuries hit. But trading Davis might be a good idea.

        The right handed bat should be Springer to also improve the defense in CF (not LeMaiehu, since they can put Cano at 2B and McNeil at 3B much of the time).

        The starting pitchers that you speculate on signing would be fine, along with Stroman and/or Walker.

        And enough money would get Realmuto to NY, but McCann would be fine, as long as the Mets sign pitchers and Springer.

  • Thomas Pagano

    From a position player perspective, it really looks like Springer makes the most sense. I would be thrilled with adding him, a legit defense/game-calling catcher, and placing most of the focus on pitching. DH or no DH combined with how Stroman decides on the QO will go a long way towards the offseason evolution for the Mets.

  • Remember1969

    This is an interesting, if perhaps a bit tunnel vision article. It assumes your best, or core hitters have 3 years of stats to select from. It is possible (probable?) that Dom Smith is a better hitter than Brandon Nimmo, but he does not have 2018 to use. If I’m the Padres and I did this exercise, the lack of Fernando Tatis, Jr. would be a major issue with the approach.

    I understand that this is not the entire team you are building, but only defining a third of the lineup. It would be interesting to roll about 20 years of 3 year snippets together to see how many guys actually remain as core top 3 hitters for more than 5 years running. If you had done this analysis a year ago today, neither Alonso nor McNeil would have been included.

    • Brian Joura

      But Smith did play in 2018.

      I’m not in a hurry to trade Smith and I believe the answer is to fit both Smith and Alonso into the lineup. I just have a problem when people are eager to trade Alonso and/or Nimmo and then rush out to sign Conforto to an extension.

  • Herb G

    Brian, I have been haunted by a trade proposal that I can’t get out of my head since I first thought of it. Tell me what you think:

    Pete Alonso, Stephen Matz, Edwin Diaz, J.D. Davis and Franklyn Kilome to the Angels for Mike Trout and Jose Soriano (or another good pitching prospect)

    Yeah, I hate to give up Pete, but that Smith kid can handle 1B pretty well. Would the Halos bite on that offer? Would substituting David Peterson for Matz make a difference?

    Securing Trout for CF would obviate the need to go after Springer, and I would also shun the other two obvious hole fillers in Realmuto and Bauer. (No need to sacrifice draft choices when there are satisfactory alternatives.) Rather, I would sign the poor man’s Realmuto, James McCann, to meet the need behind the plate.

    Regarding the rotation, there is a plethora of good options. If Stroman accepts the QO I would probably make my initial push to sign Taijuan Walker to a 2 or 3 year deal, and Corey Kluber to a heavily incentive laden contract. If Stroman declines, I would add Jose Quintana to the mix.

    Concerning the pen, there are a ton of possibilities too. So I’ll wait to see what shakes out.

    • TexasGusCC

      Herb, fun thought. Let me play Angels fan. You want to take from us the best player in baseball, you need to fix our team. We need controllable young pitchers. We have the money to sign Lindor or Baez next winter but don’t have ready arms. I just can’t see a trade because we would need McNeil, Nimmo, Alonso, Diaz, and Gimenez just to start thinking about it without promising to do it. If you want to look at it from a WAR standpoint, Trout is around 10 and four replacement players in 14 – and that is four scrubs which we should be able to do better than. The five guys I’ve named from your side equals to about 14-15, which is our minimum. Had Syndergaard been available to sub out Diaz, you have our attention.

      This is how the other side views deals. That is why the Red Sox trading Betts was a bad deal for them, because that player can’t be replaced. Now look at him, and Bloom even rejected the pitcher from Minnesota that the Dodgers gladly accepted. The Red Sox had the money to sign Betts, and now they probably need to rebuild around Verdugo and Benitendi. Good luck.

      • Herb G

        Thanks for you reply. Fun thought. I would counter with adding Gimenez, and subbing Peterson for Matz. I would have no trouble including another promising pitching prospect, but to me, adding Nimmo and McNeil is just going too far. Besides which, I don’t think the Angels really need them. They have really good players at 2B, 3B and SS already. The do need a closer badly, hence Diaz.

    • Brian Joura

      Asking the Angels to trade Trout is like asking the Mets to trade deGrom. The other team just wouldn’t give enough to make it worthwhile.

      • TexasGusCC

        Everything has a price. If the bounty is heavy enough – say a baseball version of the Hershell Walker trade – we can talk. I’d trade JDG if the return was Wander Franco, Brendan McKay, Bitsko, Baez and Honeywell from the Rays or if the Padres offered MacKenzie Gore, Luis Patino, CJ Abrams, Quantrill and Clevinger. We’re giving them a chance to beat the Yankees or Dodgers and they’re giving us their future rotation.

  • Metsense

    “there’s not the same type of depth with pitching.” and that should be the Mets primary concern.
    The Mets have to fill the deep chasm between #1 deGrom and #5 Peterson and Syndergaard should not be counted in the plans if the want to win the division. Two free agent starters would a start. The Mets have a Top Five Offense in MLB so they can afford to trade a good core player for a #2 starter to fill the remaining rotation spot. Starting pitching prevented them from making the playoffs.

  • NYM6986

    Nice analysis. I have to chuckle at the proposed trade for Trout, and Bravo to another comment comparing that with giving up deGrom. You don’t get star quality without giving up something that hurts and then benefits the other team. Dont see trades until we see how Mr Cohen is willing to spend. We need a CF and a catcher and a rotation piece. Let’s go get viable strong players and hope we don’t keep trying catch lightning in a bottle from some inexpensive near also runs.

  • TexasGusCC

    Two deals from Indians fans on their beat writer’s request for possible deals in The Athletic:

    -Lindor for Dom Smith and Pete Crow-Armstrong

    -Lindor, Carrasco and Hedges for Smith, Nimmo, and two prospects.

    I think they’re drunk but I would entertain Lindor and Plesac for Smith and Gimenez.

    • Remember1969

      And I suspect they would question your inebriation levels if you proposed that last trade.
      As a Mets fan, I would not want either one of those first two trades. I hope we have learned the lesson about dealing #1 picks.

      • TexasGusCC

        Lindor only has one year of control. What would you expect from a high cost one-year player even though he is very good? I look at it as Smith is slightly better or close to Plesac, and Gimenez is a young, very controllable player with upside.

        • Remember1969

          I do not see them dealing Lindor for Gimenez straight up. With 28 other teams to deal with, they will be asking for more than an unproven, yet promising shortstop . .especially since they are top-heavy with shortstops on their top 30 prospect list. And if they can be talked into giving up controllable pitching (till 2025), they will want some pitching coming back. I don’t think Smith for Plesac even up will get it done. I would guess that at a minimum, they will ask for either Szapucki or Peterson, and more likely either Wolf or Allan. The Indians are an odd team to read. They have more holes than the Mets and seem to be in a payroll teardown mode. You may be able to get Lindor for under value, but not one of their young starters. I don’t want Carrasco at this point.

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