By Steven InmanHellickson

For all the talk of the Mets acquiring a bat at the trade deadline, it appears now the team will be reversing course and looking at the scarce starting pitching market to help bolster the team. The Mets have been ravaged by injuries this season, and the latest hits have come to the Mets star-studded rotation. Zack Wheeler has had some setbacks in his return from Tommy John surgery. With the season half way over it would be unfair to expect much out of Wheeler, if anything in 2016. He will need about a month to build his pitch count up in the minors which the Mets were hoping he would have started by now. Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz are dealing with bone spurs as well as general fatigue while Matt Harvey is now out for the season. It isn’t known if last year’s massive innings increase is the reason Harvey is injured but he deserves a ton of credit for putting everything on the line for the Mets in the 2015 postseason. Met fans including myself owe Harvey an apology as he really put the team over his own future last season. The Mets don’t get to the World Series without Harvey and if the Dark Knight doesn’t come back from this uncommon surgery at full strength, he could cost himself over $100 million as a free agent in a couple of years.

The Mets must now replace Harvey in the rotation, while Logan Verrett has been decent as a swingman it would behoove the Mets to go out and get another arm. With two Wild Cards in each league there aren’t too many teams that have thrown up the white flag yet but one of those teams looking to next year already is the Philadelphia Phillies. After a hot start, the Phils have had a miserable summer but one bright spot has been trade chip Jeremy Hellickson. The former AL Rookie of the Year is having a solid 2016 after coming over in a trade with Arizona last winter. While Hellickson is certainly more of a back of the rotation guy, he could help the Mets by eating innings and saving the Mets overworked bullpen.

Hellickson, 29, has a 3.39 ERA in his last 11 starts but perhaps most important is that he has thrown at least six innings in 10 of those 11 outings. Hellickson isn’t a huge strikeout guy but he could keep the ball in the ballpark at Citi Field and would be a nice fit for the Mets. Hellickson’s contract wouldn’t be a huge issue for Sandy Alderson and company as he is making just $7M in the final year of his deal. Having said this, due to the lack of starting pitching available, the Phillies are going to ask for a solid prospect or two in exchange for Hellickson’s services. It’s unlikely either the Mets or the Phillies would have a problem trading within the division.

Other than top prospects Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith, the Mets don’t have a ton in their system that they shouldn’t be willing to deal. With the Nationals expanding their lead in the NL East, the Mets join a large group of teams after a National League Wild Card spot. It would be smart for the Mets to add talent in any way they can. The final Wild Card spot could come down to a game or two and adding a veteran arm like Hellickson could actually be the difference maker. Expect the Phillies to be heavy sellers over the next few weeks and Hellickson will likely be at the top of that list. He would be a nice get for the Mets.

By Steven Inman

When the Mets got swept by the Nationals last week, Met fans thought that this team was in major trouble due to a lack of offensive firepower. It seemed like no matter who Dusty Baker summoned to the mound for the Nats, they were going to put up a zero. Once the Mets returned home to face the Cubs everything changed. The Mets began clicking offensively and while middle of the order hitters Yoenis Cespedes and Neil Walker began playing the home run ball again, the key to the Mets recent turnaround is the re-emergence of Travis d’Arnaud.

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While the Mets called up their former spark plug Jose Reyes on Tuesday, the hitter that makes the Mets go now is actually d’Arnaud.

Last season when Travis d’Arnaud returned from the disabled list, the team took off. Yes obviously acquiring Yoenis Cespedes last year and then re-signing him this winter was crucial but this offense just seems to click when the Mets catcher is hitting. The Mets are 10-4 this season when Travis gets a hit, but just 4-7 when he doesn’t. He was 8-13 with a homer and 4 RBI during the Mets 5-game win streak.  Travis d’Arnaud put up 12 homers in just 239 at-bats last season. The backstop recently changed his stance to help him drive the ball better but for Travis it really comes down to him just staying on the field. It’s hard to get into a rhythm offensively when you miss a month or two every year.

Many thought the Mets were fine without d’Arnaud with Kevin Plawecki getting a real shot to be the everyday catcher. Plawecki badly struggled offensively and his throwing behind the plate wasn’t much better than d’Arnaud’s. Rene Rivera has been solid defensively in spot duty and Noah Syndergaard loves throwing to him but the Mets simply need Travis’ bat in the lineup. While d’Arnaud’s defense leaves much to be desired, his offensive potential could give the Mets a solid lineup the rest of the summer, even without making a trade. If #18 can stay healthy the Mets have a shot at catching the Nationals and winning their second straight National League East crown.

By Steven Inman

If you haven’t noticed, the Mets season is at a crossroads. The Mets offense is at a point where it’s hard to expect runs no matter who is on the mound for the opposing team. While losing Lucas Duda and David Wright has hurt, the rest of the team just hasn’t produced offensively. The Mets were counting on Michael Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes to carry the load like they did in the second half of last season. Cespedes has cooled off dramatically since a hot April and Conforto is in the minor leagues after not being able to adjust to pitchers strictly throwing him breaking balls. The Mets have really had no answers on how to fix this lineup internally. Since then the Mets have brought back Jose Reyes.01-terry-collins-080915-getty-ftrjpg_dduuxh7xyqfg1ckk33738rts9

No matter what you think of Reyes’ off the field issues, it’s pretty clear that this isn’t the same Reyes that won a batting title in his last tour with the Amazins.  Reyes was never a gold glove caliber shortstop by any means, but his defense has dramatically regressed over the last few years with the Marlins, Blue Jays and Rockies. Now the Mets are relying on Reyes to be the dynamic spark plug he once was along with learning third base, a position he has never played in the big leagues. Reyes is a good enough athlete where he could adapt to third base or even the outfield but the Mets wouldn’t be asking this of Reyes if the guys in the lineup were producing. It seems pretty desperate to bring in Reyes and hope he can be the Reyes of old and not just an old Reyes. Expect him to be up at Citi Field next week.

Washington just swept the Mets and while there is still half a season still to be played, it’s hard to imagine the Mets offense being good enough to hang with Dusty Baker’s club down the stretch. The Nationals clearly look like the better team and the Mets starting pitching looks tired. It may be because of all the extra pitches the young starters endured in the postseason or perhaps some nagging injuries that we haven’t been made aware of but this rotation just isn’t the same as it was last year. That doesn’t mean the Mets should regret throwing their arms deep in the playoffs by any means but it’s clear that there’s some fatigue.

Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz are both dealing with bone spurs in their elbows. While the Mets doctors have ensured the team that pitching through these injuries won’t make their elbows worse, you often see players develop new injuries trying to overcompensate from the pain they are dealing with.  Steven Matz has basically stopped throwing his slider in June, you have to wonder if that pitch was causing him pain. Matt Harvey hasn’t been the same elite pitcher this season and Jacob deGrom’s velocity has been down most of the season. Bartolo Colon at the ripe age of 43 is still pitching as strong as ever.

While there is still plenty of baseball to be played, the Mets are in a very dangerous part of their season as we head towards the All-Star Break…

By Steven Inman

As the Mets lone All-Star last season, Jacob deGrom impressed the baseball world with a strong inning of work at the 2015 All-Star game. The Mets have had just one All-Star each of the past two seasons.

Coming off of a World Series appearance and a strong start to the 2016 season, expect more Mets on the National League roster next month. With just 5 weeks until the annual midsummer classic, this year in San Diego, let’s take a look at who on the Mets has a chance at an All-Star appearance.

Noah Syndergaard: The mighty Thor has picked up right where he left off in the 2015 playoffs. Of this impressive Mets pitching staff, Syndergaard was the only pitcher for New York to win a game in the World Series last season. Syndergaard has dazzled with his 100 mph fastball and a low 90’s slider. If Clayton Kershaw wasn’t in the NL, there would be talk of Syndergaard as a NL Cy Young candidate. Barring an injury, it would be difficult to imagine Syndergaard not being invited to the All-Star game in what should be a great group of young stars on the NL staff.

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Photo from Newsday

Yoenis Cespedes: After a breakout 2 month stretch with the Mets last summer, Yoenis hasn’t stepped off the gas pedal. The slugger has a team high 15 homers and to the surprise of many has played a decent center field through the first third of the season. Cespedes has a few nagging injuries which is the only thing that could slow down the MVP candidate in another walk year. It’s crazy to think what the struggling Met offense would look like without him. Cespedes could be elected as one of the three starting outfielders with the fan vote. He currently ranks 3rd in votes among NL outfielders. If he doesn’t get on that way, expect him to be an alternate in San Diego.

Jeurys Familia: The Mets closer has been perfect in save opportunities this season and is coming off one of the best seasons a Met reliever has ever had. While Familia hasn’t been as great this season as he was last year, he still has been very effective for one of the best bullpens in baseball statically. His 18 saves this season are tied for the most in baseball. Usually relief pitchers get All-Star recognition the year after their breakout season. With Terry Collins in charge of the final few NL roster spots, along with the replacement players, expect Familia and several other Mets to be heading to San Diego.

Steven Matz: The Mets lone rotation lefty has been brilliant after a blowup start against the Marlins in his first outing of the season. Matz has dealt with the injury bug throughout his young career but when he has been on the mound he has been a very pleasant surprise for the Mets. While pitcher wins isn’t the most noteworthy stat in 2016, Matz is 7-1 and has won 11 of his first 12 regular season decisions in his brief time with the Mets. Believe it or not Matz is still just a rookie having pitched less than 50 regular season innings last season. The National League is going to be stacked with pitchers and every club must be represented at the All-Star game but with pitchers bowing out with injuries, expect Matz with another strong month to find a way onto the club.

Neil Walker: While Daniel Murphy has taken his offensive game to a whole other level after departing New York, the Mets new second basemen has emerged as an All-Star caliber player as well. Despite moving to a pitchers park, Walker has found his power stroke, slugging 13 homers in just 53 games. Walker’s career high in homers is just 23 so barring a long slump he should shatter that. What is even more shocking about Walker’s home run total is his ability to hit homers off lefties. In Walker’s career entering this season, the switch-hitter had hit just 6 homers off lefties in 721 at-bats. He already has 5 this season in just 44 at-bats off southpaws. Walker has been streaky for the Mets but overall he is putting up career best numbers in what is a very weak class of candidates at second base for the National League. Only Daniel Murphy and Ben Zobrist are putting up All-Star caliber seasons at second in the NL. Walker has always been a dependable, solid player in Pittsburgh but he has never been an All-Star. Like Cespedes, Walker is also in a contract year.

Jacob deGrom: While everyone seems concerned with deGrom’s loss in velocity, the right-hander is still putting up top of the rotation numbers. Jacob’s strikeouts are down but he still has a strong 2.62 ERA in 9 starts. With all the talk about Matz and Syndergaard, deGrom has fallen under the radar. It seems unlikely the Mets would be able to get three starters on the NL Roster but deGrom can certainly make a case for himself with a strong month.

Addison Reed: With the number of quality closers in the National League this one seems unlikely but the Mets 8th inning guy has been fantastic this season. Reed, 27, has been stellar for the Mets since coming over in a trade last August from the Diamondbacks. With the number of shutdown innings, Reed is putting up, along with the fact that the pitching replacements are Terry Collins’ call, Addison has a shot at his first All-Star appearance. While Reed is unlikely for San Diego it cannot be ruled out.

Expect the Mets to have their most All-Star selections since 2006.

Who should represent the Mets at the All-Star Game?

By Steven Inman

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Photo from NY Post

 

On Monday, Lucas Duda was placed on the disabled list with a stress fracture in his back. Duda wasn’t hitting much recently but the Mets offense could use all the help it could get. Only the Braves and the Padres have scored less runs than the Mets (73 runs) in May.

Duda is expected to miss 4-6 weeks. David Wright had the same injury a few seasons ago and winded up missing a little over 2 months. The Mets are going to have to find some offense at first base. While the trade market hasn’t fully developed yet the Mets do have a few alternatives to Duda. Here are some of their options.

David Wright: With David Wright’s recent throwing issues this could make some sense. It seems inevitable at some point now that David Wright will eventually wind up at first base before his contract is up but the captain has struggled with preparation before games due to his well documented back problems. Adding a new wrinkle like learning a new position after 13 years in the majors might be too much for the veteran to handle right now. Plus then the Mets would have to find someone capable of playing third base every day.

Wright could be an option long-term for the Mets at first base, just not now.

Michael Conforto: At this point, this seems to be Terry Collins preferred option. It would present an opportunity to free Juan Lagares to roam center field every day again and allow Yoenis Cespedes to move back to left field while keeping Conforto’s bat in the lineup. Other than Cespedes, Conforto has been the Mets most consistent bat all season, so making him learn a brand new position doesn’t make a ton of sense either. Conforto, 23, has played a very solid left field for the Mets to start the season. The Mets should leave Conforto alone and let him continue to get better in left field.

Wilmer Flores: Wilmer is expected to be activated from the disabled list on Friday and he should get the first look at playing first everyday with Duda out. Flores has badly struggled this season adjusting to a bench role. If Flores hits the way he did last season, expect him to be the everyday first basemen until Duda is ready to return. The Mets likely won’t consider outside options unless Flores fails to hit as the first basemen.

Eric Campbell: While Campbell has proven to be a very versatile player for the Mets, he hasn’t hit at all since his rookie season, with a career slash line of .227/.316/.320. Campbell has played first in all five games since Duda went down. The Mets can and should do better here.

Ty Kelly: Mike Puma of the NY Post called Kelly “Campbell with more speed” on twitter. If that’s truly the case, not sure why the Mets would want another Eric Campbell on the roster. While the switch hitter raked in Las Vegas, Kelly will probably not be in the first base competition unless he can impress coming off the bench for now.

James Loney: The veteran first basemen is currently in Triple-A in the Padres system. He is a solid defensive first basemen who has 10 years of big league experience under his belt with the Dodgers, Red Sox and Rays. The lefty bat has been playing some right field as a way to become more versatile for a big league team. Loney has never been a big power hitter but he has always hit for a high average. Loney has an opt-out that would allow him to leave El Paso if a club was willing to put him on their big league roster. Loney is a perfect fit for the Mets, as he hits for a high average, especially against right-handers. He has hit .340/.372/.425 in 41 games in the Pacific Coast League this season. Plus Loney’s contact skills could work well off the bench as a pinch hitter once Duda returns. The Mets would only need to pay the prorated version of the league minimum since the Rays are still on the hook for Loney’s $9.66 million 2016 salary.

Juan Uribe: While Uribe didn’t hit well for the Mets when he came to New York last season, the Mets seemed to take off when he and Kelly Johnson were traded to Queens from Atlanta. Uribe hasn’t hit much with the Indians (.237/.305/.342) but he is a versatile player who could play some first along with filling in for David Wright at third. Uribe is only making $4M this season so he could be an option for the Mets but the Indians are unlikely to sell off a clubhouse leader while they are in the race.

Dom Smith: Many think that Dominic Smith is the heir apparent to Lucas Duda at first base. The lefty bat was the Mets first round pick back in 2013. Coincidentally some scouts believe Smith is a very similar player to Loney. Smith, 20, has hit solidly in 44 Double-A games but likely isn’t ready for the big leagues. Smith isn’t an option to fill the Mets first base hole right now.

Who should get the first crack at the Mets first base gig?

By Steven Inman

harvey1

Photo from NY Post

The Mets have gotten off to a hot start this year despite getting very little out of key players such as David Wright, Curtis Granderson and Travis d’Arnaud. With that said the most difficult start to the season for any Met has to be from Matt Harvey. After dominating the Royals for the first 8 innings in Game 5 of the World Series, Harvey has been largely ineffective this season.

It’s really unknown how and why Harvey has a 5.77 ERA and has given up 65 hits in just 48.1 innings. It could be just a slow start, or an injury that Matt isn’t revealing to the Mets, or perhaps fatigue from such a large number of innings in 2015. Regardless at this point it’s probably best for the Mets to place Matt Harvey on the disabled list to regroup.

There is a reason why teams place innings limits on their young pitchers and while it isn’t clear if Harvey throwing 216 innings (including postseason) last season coming off Tommy John surgery is the reason for his 2016 struggles, it didn’t help him.

Stephen Strasburg, who Matt Harvey has often been compared to, went through a very similar ordeal that Harvey is experiencing now. The Nationals right-hander was badly struggling to start last season, his first 10 starts included a 6.55 ERA and opponents were hitting .325 off him. The Nationals placed him on the disabled list for about a month and when he returned he was dominant. Whether it was the rest or being able to take a step back to refine his mechanics, something changed for Strasburg. Since coming off the DL last June, Strasburg is 15-2 with 2.20 ERA and 185 strikeouts in 143.0 innings.

Strasburg and Harvey aren’t the only two pitchers to struggle coming back from Tommy John. Left-handers Patrick Corbin and Matt Moore both looked like they were on the cusp of stardom before they went under the knife. Both have struggled with command since returning and while that hasn’t added to their walk totals, it has caused both to give up home runs at an alarming pace this season.

While Tommy John is now a common occurrence for pitchers, no starter had ever come back from the surgery and thrown as many innings as Harvey. The Mets are in uncharted waters here so it is probably best if they play it safe.
As of right now the Mets are not planning on placing Harvey on the DL or skipping his start. He is expected to pitch Tuesday in Washington.

While Matt has been a soldier for the Mets, never asking for his start to be skipped or blaming his struggles on a defense that hasn’t helped him much, it’s probably in the Mets best interest to place Harvey on the disabled list. It’s a long season and the Mets can get by without one of their star right-handers while he gets himself right.

At the end of the day this season for the Mets is about finishing what they started last year and that’s winning the World Series and the Amazins can’t get that done without Matt Harvey at his best.

The Mets Report Podcast: 2016 Preview

Posted: March 28, 2016 in Podcast
Tags:

With Opening Night less than a week away, join Rob DeLucia and myself as we break down the outlook of the 2016 season. In this podcast we discuss the following: 

  • The state of the NL East
  • Are expectations too high for the Mets? 
  • Who can be the difference maker for the Nationals and Mets in the race for the NL East?

If you want your question answered in the next podcast leave a comment below and it can be answered on the next show.