It’s standard operating procedure for a new GM to come in and show little to no allegiance to guys already on the team, or especially, in the farm system. Omar Minaya did this, as did Sandy Alderson then Brodie Van Wagenen and Alderson again. Because the Mets are in prospect acquisition mode now, we haven’t seen David Stearns deal away guys from the farm system. But we can ask a related question: Will Stearns show more loyalty to the players he added to the team than perhaps he should?

We saw that with the way he handled the 40-man roster that Stearns wasn’t afraid to cut ties with players he signed. That’s an encouraging omen. But will that carry over from fringe major leaguers to guys making eight figures? It’s one thing to DFA Cooper Hummel; it’s another thing to pull Luis Severino from the rotation if he’s healthy and not getting the job done.

One of my criticisms of Alderson was that he seemingly didn’t have a Plan B. If things went wrong with the original plan, there wasn’t any sense of either urgency or direction on what to do next. While you don’t want to deviate from a good plan at the first sight of trouble, you also need to be honest about when things aren’t working like you imagined.

It’s a little easier with pitchers than with hitters to identify that a change needs to be made. But it’s one thing for me to say that from the comfort of my office chair with virtually no repercussions whatsoever. It’s another thing to hand a guy who had a 6.65 ERA last year a $13 million deal and then not give him every shot to justify that contract.

How long is the leash with Severino? If at the end of April, he’s got an ERA over 5.00 – does he continue to make starts? Given how the Mets have struggled so much in the month of June, does Severino still make starts if he ends May with a negative WAR?

And it’s not just Severino. Stearns imported Adrian Houser and Sean Manaea, too. The same questions about struggling apply to those two, as well. Last year, Houser made 21 starts and 12 of those he didn’t make the sixth inning, including six starts where he didn’t pitch long enough to qualify for a win. If you’re seriously trying to compete for the playoffs, can you consistently start a pitcher who fails to complete five innings nearly 30% of the time?

With hitters, you have to balance the production both offensively and defensively. Stearns brought in Harrison Bader because he was an elite defensive player. But it’s not like defensive runs are more valuable than offensive ones. Casey Stengel once said, “I don’t like them fellas who drive in two runs and let in three.” But what about the other end of things? How about the defensive star who doesn’t drive in any runs?

It’s better to win a game 8-6 than to lose a game 1-0. It’s far from easy to know where to draw the line where a defensive player’s value is negated by his offense. But that line exists and it’s foolish to pretend otherwise. Do you continue to play Bader every day if his OPS+ is below The Galvis Line, like last year’s 69 mark? Do you continue to play him versus RHP if he produces the .587 OPS and the 64 wRC+ he’s posted against them the past two seasons?

Stearns has put his eggs in the upside basket. And there’s nothing wrong with that as Plan A. All of his acquisitions have had some version of success at the MLB level, even if they didn’t reach that last year. It’s fine to wager on players to bounce back to previous levels, given health and experience. But if these players don’t recover to former heights, there has to be a plan on what to do next. Because odds are overwhelmingly against Bader, Houser, Jorge Lopez, Manaea and Severino all rebounding to former glory.

And it’s not enough to go into the season saying that if those guys falter that you’ll plug in one of the depth starters or select someone from the laundry list of relievers. You’ve got to know when to cut the cord on a reclamation project that just isn’t working. Also, these evaluations need to be player specific and not tied to team performance. It’s not okay to keep giving playing time to an under-performing guy, just because the team is winning. That’s not what the Braves would do.

Unfortunately, there’s no magic number for when to pull the plug on a scuffling player. It’s not like we can say if things aren’t good by May 1 or 150 PA then they’re not getting better. You have to combine feel, along with knowledge.

We know Bader has struggled tremendously versus RHP the past two years. We know it’s been a hassle for Houser the second time thru the order. We know Lopez has a lifetime 5.51 ERA in 480 IP. If they repeat those patterns, it would be crazy to keep throwing them out there and not adjusting on the fly. There’s no doubt that the decision makers know this. Later this season we’ll get to see how they do in the “feel” department and how quickly they’ll transition to Plan B.

7 comments on “We’ve seen the Mets’ Plan A but they need a Plan B, too

  • NYM6986

    So much is up in the air. If Marte comes back as the 2022 version it takes pressure off the offense. How 3B progresses will tell a lot about the D because we are all worried about putting Baty or Vientos out there. They need to hope that Megill, Butto and Lucchesi are ready to start the season like they ended last year – with great pitching if one or more of the fingers crossed acquisitions does not pan out.
    I would imagine they come the trade deadline, if the Mets are in a good place, we will see how Stearns deals with moving some prospects for a chance
    to win. It will also be interesting to see if Stearns calls the shots like Eppler did or will he let the manager do his thing.

  • T.J.

    Plan B = 90+ losses, add a little salt and pepper, and swallow hard.

  • AgingBull

    It’s an interesting question: Does Stearns have a Plan B? This seems like his approach could be somewhat predicted by looking at how he handled his teams in Milwaukee. That said, I am not sure how to analyze that because it’s not just the W/L record. Maybe it would be to look at the projected core team (starting lineup, top 3-4 starters, top relievers) and assess Stearns’ actions when some underperformed or were injured. To my mind, while this would be a complicated assessment, it would shine a light on what we can expect from Stearns when the weak spots of the roster are exposed. Or when the IL starts to get crowded. I can’t imagine that the Brewers playoff seasons were smooth sailing – I wonder what Stearns did to right the ship when that was needed.

  • Paulc

    If the reclamation projects and other short-term FA signings are failing come July 1, then let the rookies and top farm prospects play as Plan B. Better to see if playing time reveals a star or two than to give a long leash to guys who haven’t been good in a while (Severino, Bader) and guys who have been good only the last 3 months (Manaea). That said, expectations are low either way.

    • Brian Joura

      That’s certainly a reasonable plan.

      My issue is that the Mets are publicly proclaiming that this is a team that will compete for the playoffs. If that’s the case, can they wait on under-performing guys for 3 months?

  • Metsense

    Plan A is to not increase the Luxury Tax and to be competitive for a playoff spot. If it is successful then they supplement the team at the trade deadline with rentals and not worry about the increase of the Luxury Tax because the 2025 playroll won’t be affected. They will try to get a World Series ring. If Plan A is unsuccessful then will sell like did last year. Alonso, McNeil, Marte or anyone that are successful will be in Jeopardy.
    I don’t see too many options (plan B) before the trade deadline. Maybe Taylor will replace Bader vs RHP. Houser can will be replaced by a depth starter. Third base will be secure no matter what the outcome with Baty and Vientos. There are no options if they fail.. Severino and Manaea are secure with their contracts. I would be surprised that the minor leaguers will be called up before July. I hope Plan A is successful because there isn’t a good Plan B.

    • Brian Joura

      I guess I have a hard time seeing them trading McNeil, as he’s on such a reasonable contract. I know there are minor league options for 2B but unless the return is great, my guess is he’s a Met after the trade deadline.

      Marte is still showing some of the terrible swing decisions he did last year. It’s hard for me to imagine he’ll have much trade value, even with the Mets picking up most of his salary.

      I don’t want Severino and Manaea to be guaranteed starts because of their contract. If one or both of those guys have a 6-something ERA when Senga comes back, I hope they aren’t granted sacred cow status.

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