By Steven Inmandownload

Met fans can rejoice as “La Potencia”, Yoenis Cespedes is now back in Queens and locked up long term. The Mets had to give Cespedes the 2nd highest average annual value ever, but the team locked up their best hitter. After years and years of payrolls under $90M, the Mets being broke is a thing of the past. Ownership wants to win and they are giving Sandy Alderson the resources to get it done. While the Mets are back to spending big money, they are still being cautious about it. The Mets in the past when they spent big money always seemed to agree to deals one year too long on key contracts such as Pedro Martinez and Billy Wagner. The Mets stood their ground this time on not giving the 31-year old Cespedes a 5th year and they look very smart today for doing so.

With all that said, the work is not done here just yet. The team now has 4 corner outfielders and no starting center fielder. Based on various reports it seems fairly obvious the Mets plan on trading a corner outfielder with Jay Bruce being the most likely to go. The Mets shouldn’t stop with Bruce, they should trade Curtis Granderson also and get a center fielder. The Mets have never prioritized defense but if they could put Cespedes in left and Michael Conforto in right, planked by a defensive, right-handed, center fielder, the Mets could have one of the best outfields in baseball. Here are a few of their options.

Dexter Fowler

Of the hitters listed here, Dexter Fowler is perhaps the best fit for the Mets. While he will cost a draft pick, Fowler, 30, could be a difference maker for the Amazins. The switch-hitter has been significantly better from the right side of the plate throughout his career which works in this very left-handed Met lineup. Fowler really improved his defensive numbers in center field this year thanks to playing deeper. The questions that would pop up if Fowler can handle center anymore are gone. Fowler is likely looking at a 4 year deal worth around $60M which is what the Mets handed Curtis Granderson 3 winters ago. Fowler was on perhaps the biggest stage in sports when he homered to lead off Game 7 of the World Series to help end a 108-year title drought for the Chicago Cubs so no, New York will not be too much for the Atlanta native to handle.

A.J. Pollock

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Photo by CBS Sports

A.J. Pollock is a gifted, 5-tool center fielder who possesses a blend of power, speed and strong range in center field. He is the right-handed bat that would complete the Mets lineup and would make New York a strong threat to the Cubs to get back to the World Series. Pollock will be 29 next week and has 2 years left of club control before becoming a free agent as a key part of the 2018 monster free agency class. After a breakout 2015 season where he slashed .315/.367/.498, Pollock missed 150 games in 2016 following a serious elbow injury. After all the time he missed in 2016 and the Diamondbacks rough season, it’s hard to imagine the Notre Dame product isn’t available. The team already dealt Jean Segura on Thanksgiving, Segura also had 2 years of control left like Pollock. The Diamondbacks look to be rebuilding with a new front office after a disastrous stint with Dave Stewart and Tony La Russa running the ship.  Pollock will make $6.75M this season before going through arbitration in his final year of club control next winter. Despite his low monetary price tag, he will not be cheap under any circumstance in terms of prospects. The Mets should be willing to give up anyone in their farm system not named Amed Rosario to acquire Pollock if he is indeed available.

Ian Desmond

The Mets have had interest in Ian Desmond in the past. The Nationals dangled him out on the trade market before his final year in Washington but the asking price (Noah Syndergaard) was obviously a non-starter for New York. (Imagine the Nationals with Syndergaard right now) Desmond transitioned to the outfield beautifully in 2016 after a few rough seasons defensively as a shortstop. While he was much better in left field for the Texas Rangers this past season, he showed he could handle center field. Last winter he got frozen out of the market with a compensation draft pick attached to his price tag. I’d be a little concerned about giving Ian Desmond a long-term deal at this stage of his career but he is a big right-handed bat that has shown in the past he can hit the ball a long, long way at Citi Field. Desmond, 31, has a draft pick attached to him again and if he gets frozen out of the market again this winter the Mets should pounce.

It looks like right now the Mets plan is to trade Jay Bruce for anything they can get and try to get by with Curtis Granderson in center field in 2017. While Granderson wasn’t horrible in limited playing time in center field this past season, he certainly doesn’t give the range the Mets are going to need out there and is now another year older. The Mets are trying to win now and to do that they are going to have to sure up this defense. Even with Cespedes’ return this is still a significantly below average offense, remember the Mets last year were tied for 25th in baseball in runs last year despite Cespedes’ fantastic campaign. The Mets are going to need another bat here and they can get the payroll for one by trading both Granderson and Bruce.

What should the Mets outfield look like next season?

By Steven Inman

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Photo by Newsday

A Mets season that was filled with many ups and downs ended on its lowest note as Madison Bumgarner shut down the Mets in the NL Wild Card game at Citi Field. On paper, when healthy, the Mets still have a very good team entering 2017 but if they want to win their first World Series since 1986, or even take the National League East back from Washington, they’re going to have to make some quality decisions. The Mets payroll entered 2016 at around $135 million, its highest since 2011. After acquiring Jay Bruce at the trade deadline, the Mets payroll is in the $140M range now. It’s highly unlikely the club will be able to go much higher than that. Having said that, $140M is a far cry from what the payroll was a few short seasons ago under $85M. The Mets payroll should be in the 6-10 range in baseball which should be enough to support what the Mets are trying to do. With huge raises in arbitration coming for some key Mets, plus Neil Walker accepting the qualifying offer at $17.2M the Mets aren’t going to be able to add much new money so they’re going to have to get creative.

Here are the annual MLB Trade Rumors arbitration projections for the Mets.

Rene Rivera is likely a non-tender guy (who could be brought back at a smaller salary) but the rest of these players will be here, barring a trade. The Mets need to improve their offense and maybe address the bullpen as Jeurys Familia is probably looking at a lengthy suspension for an alleged domestic violence incident. Sandy Alderson and his front office have their work cut out for them but the correct moves can bring Queens a title. Here is what they should do.

 

  1. Re-sign Yoenis Cespedes to play left field

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    Yoenis Cespedes must be the Mets #1 priority this winter

Yoenis Cespedes has been a very polarizing figure since arriving in New York at the 2015 trade deadline but make no mistake about it, the Mets are a completely different team when the Cuban slugger is healthy. When Cespedes did not play in 2016, the Mets had a 13-17 record. He’s a complete game changer, especially as a left fielder. He really struggled range-wise in center field and the amount of running required for that position was taxing on his legs. Keeping him in left field will make the Mets defense better and give Cespedes a better chance of staying healthy. I think at the end of the day Cespedes would return to the Mets on a 4 year deal worth a little over $100M with another opt-out involved in the contract. The Mets are a little concerned not over dollars with Cespedes but the length of any deal. It’s fair to wonder if Cespedes would give an all-out effort if he was not playing for a huge payday but #52 is definitely worth taking that risk.

  1. Sign Dexter Fowler

It’s hard to imagine the Mets finding the funds to sign Cespedes and CF Dexter Fowler but the speedy outfielder is the perfect fit. Fowler would give the Mets an actual center fielder at spacious Citi Field instead of letting a corner guy like Michael Conforto, Curtis Granderson or Yoenis Cespedes patrol out there. Fowler is an on-base machine at the top of a lineup and really improved his defensive metrics this season thanks to playing deeper in the outfield. He is probably looking at a 4-year deal at around $15M a season but at just 30 years old he should be able to hold up health wise. Fowler just helped the starving Cubs fan base end a 108 year title drought so I don’t think the bright lights of New York City would be too much for him. With that said, if the Mets sign Fowler they would have to forfeit a draft pick.

So how can the Mets afford Fowler and Cespedes you may be wondering?

  1. Trade Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson

Both Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson are in the final years of their contracts and in my opinion the Mets would be better off letting the two conclude their deals elsewhere. Both are lefty swinging corner outfielders who really don’t fit on the same team. It didn’t make much sense to bring Jay Bruce to Queens in the first place. Bruce not hitting for an entire summer in New York should have convinced everyone in the Met front office that they should move on from him, especially with better options available at similar salaries. The Blue Jays thought they had a deal for Bruce done last spring; perhaps they have interest in him again. Granderson’s strong finish to the year will probably be able to entice some team to take on the final year of his deal.While the Grandyman has been a good citizen and was huge in the Mets 2015 postseason run, he will be 36 before Opening Day and is a below average defender due to his declining range and poor arm. Clearing Bruce’s $13M and Granderson’s $15M would give the Mets enough money to sign both Cespedes and Fowler and perhaps pave the way to consistent playing time for Michael Conforto. Conforto could become one of the Mets best hitters if they just gave him the playing time he needs. Both Granderson and Bruce are older guys coming off mediocre years so it’s hard to imagine the Mets getting anything of value for either player but getting their contracts off the books would be huge for the Mets offseason. Getting these two out of the Mets lineup would allow the team’s outfield defense to improve tremendously along with preventing the club from being overly left-handed like they were in 2016.

  1. Re-sign Jerry Blevins

Often the most overlooked pitcher in the Mets brilliant 2016 bullpen, Jerry Blevins was terrific in his second season for the Mets and retaining him should be a priority for the Mets. With Familia facing a potential suspension the Mets need to find as many reliable arms as they can get their hands on and Blevins has proven in New York that he can get big outs. Terry Collins was able to push a mostly injured Met group to the playoffs but one of his huge weaknesses as a manager is overusing his best bullpen arms. If the Mets do not find more bullpen help Collins will overuse Addison Reed without a doubt. With big left-handed bats like Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy with the Washington Nationals, the Mets could probably use a second Jerry Blevins, much less lose the one they already have.

The offseason is a tricky time for baseball front offices. All teams enter the winter with holes they would like to address but budgets can cause teams to be unable to fill all of their concerns. The Mets would love to upgrade at catcher and possibly add some rotation insurance after they lost 4 of their 5 young stud starters to season-ending injuries but that is unlikely to happen. If the Mets are able to re-sign Cespedes and Blevins along with adding another key bat (preferably a center fielder) the Mets could be parading down the canyon of heroes next November.

How should the Mets upgrade their team this winter?

By Steven Inmangiants-mets

After a rollercoaster year, the Mets 2016 season comes down to one game. As Met fans, it’s easy to complain that after 162 games  it’s unfair to be put in this position, to face off with the best postseason pitcher of this generation in a 1-game series but after all the injuries the Mets had, this 87 win team should consider themselves lucky to be here. If this was still 5 years ago with just the 1 Wild Card, the Mets would be in this spot anyway with the Giants, who finished with the same record as New York. They would have just played a 1-game tiebreaker at Citi Field anyway. While this Met team has made an incredible run, the statistics are not on their side. Madison Bumgarner is coming off the best regular season of his career in terms of ERA (2.74), innings pitched (226.2) and strikeouts (251). The Mets also badly struggle against lefties and that has gotten worse since Wilmer Flores slid head first into a catcher and was lost for the season. Flores had 11 homers against left-handers this season, the most by any Met.

With that said the Giants are not unbeatable. Other than a huge confidence boost to the San Francisco club, even-year magic is not a thing. If the Mets do the following things, they will be in Chicago on Friday.

 

  1. Get that Bumgarner pitch count up

This one seems fairly obvious but the Mets chances to advance would spike dramatically if Bumgarner doesn’t go long tonight. Bumgarner averaged just 15.8 pitches per inning in the regular season which would give him at least 7 innings tonight. That isn’t going to get it done for the Mets. Not only is Bumgarner efficient but he works deep in games. No National League pitcher averaged more pitches per game than the Giants ace (105 per game). Bumgarner throws a ton of strikes and the Mets are going to have to work good at-bats. The at-bats that end in 7 or 8 pitch outs will be considered small victories tonight for New York.

Keep in mind that the Giants will have two starters waiting in the pen should Mad Bum not give San Francisco the length they need or if this game goes extras like the American League Wild Card game did. While Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija are no slouches, I would rather take my chances with them over a guy with a 0.25 ERA in 36 World Series innings and a 5-0 record with a 1.80 ERA against the Mets.

 

  1. Stick with the home run ball

While it’s not going to be easy to square up Bumgarner, he has been susceptible to the long ball this season. Bumgarner gave up 26 homers this year, a career high. When the Mets don’t homer they flat out don’t win a lot of ball games. It’s crucial that the Mets flex their muscles tonight whether against Bumgarner or the Giants bullpen. Both Jay Bruce and Rene Rivera have a home run against Bumgarner in limited at-bats. The Mets are going to need Yoenis Cespedes, who left the regular season in his biggest slump since becoming a Met, to wake up. Bumgarner doesn’t walk many so it’s unlikely he’ll pitch around Cespedes tonight.

 

  1. Noah Syndergaard, Rene Rivera slows down the Giants running game

It seems pretty obvious to the baseball world now that Noah Syndergaard can’t hold baserunners. The number of stolen bases he allowed led baseball by a wide margin. It looked like for most of the regular season if a player on first or second felt like padding his stolen base stats he could at any point in the game without contest. While Rene Rivera becoming the starting catcher has helped calm things down, Syndergaard and Rivera are still going to have to deal with that tonight. The Mets catch a huge break as Eduardo Nunez (hamstring), one of the Giants biggest stolen base threats, is not on the Wild Card roster. Syndergaard doesn’t have much of a pickoff move, allowing runners to get huge leads so he must change his times to the plate by holding the ball different amounts of times before going home. Or he can simply get everyone out tonight and not let the running game influence this critical matchup.

 

  1. Terry doesn’t pull a Buck Showalter

Jeurys Familia has had an incredible season, a year where he eclipsed the Mets save record by a wide margin but there was a better closer in the American League this year by the name Zach Britton. Britton was perfect in save chances on the year and watched his team’s season end from the bullpen. Now not using Familia or even Addison Reed has never been a Terry Collins issue but it is imperative that should the Mets have a lead in the 7th he skip the middle men and get the ball to Reed and Familia once Syndergaard’s day is done. The Mets may need the two dominant relievers to get 9 outs tonight.

If the Mets get Bumgarner’s pitch count up, hit a homer or two, limit the Giants running game and Terry Collins doesn’t do anything head scratching, the Mets will be set to face the 103-win Cubs Friday night. The Giants have a ton of experience in games like this but the experience that Noah and the team received in Game 5 of NLDS on the road last year should help prepare them for the pressure that come with surviving an elimination game tonight.

By Steven Inman

Despite playing some of their worst baseball of the season, the Mets have entered the most pivotal part of their schedule. If the Mets want to get back to the playoffs they have to make their run now. Join Rob DeLucia and myself as we break down the Mets chances of grabbing a Wild Card, the Michael Conforto situation, the Jay Bruce trade and we evaluate Terry Collins’ season as Mets manager.

By Steven InmanSandy

The Mets came out of the All-Star break thinking if they could just get a little more offense in the second half they could go on a run similar to the incredible fireworks of last summer. The Mets offense in the first half was embarrassing, headlined by poor at-bats with runners on base. Somehow this Mets lineup has gotten even worse over the last few weeks to the point where the Mets are on the brink of being swept at home by a Rockies pitching staff that entered this series with a 4.87 ERA as a team. Pitchers like Jorge De La Rosa and Tyler Anderson who were badly scuffling, easily shut down the Mets hitters. The Mets have scored just 4 runs in the first 3 games of this series. It has gotten so bad this week for the Mets that they have the Rockies thinking they can compete for an NL Wild Card.

The Mets are batting .202/.279/.318 with men in scoring position on the season, one of the worst triple slash lines with RISP in the history of baseball. While a lot of that is probably just being unlucky, the players must know how bad they’ve been. Asdrubal Cabrera was able to recite his recent 0-30+ AB slump with RISP to reporters after a recent game. There’s a good chance the team’s offensive futility with men on base is in the player’s heads to some degree.

The Mets have been active in trying to resurrect this offense through trades but with a lack of impact bats available it is going to take the last of the Mets farm system to acquire such a hitter. Even a miracle trade for a Jonathan Lucroy won’t save this Met offense. Instead I suggest the Mets turn around and sell.

Now obviously this isn’t going to be the popular opinion coming off a World Series appearance but this team without a major offensive overhaul isn’t going anywhere. The Mets don’t have a true center fielder on the roster except for Justin Ruggiano who they signed Saturday. With Matt Harvey out for the year and Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz clearly not the same dynamic players with their bone spurs, the Mets huge starting pitching advantage is no longer that big of an edge over other clubs.

Instead of trying to deal Zack Wheeler for Jay Bruce again (who doesn’t fit here as another corner outfielder) the Met should turn around and consider dealing free agents to be Yoenis Cespedes, Neil Walker and Bartolo Colon.

The Mets will get compensation picks for Walker and Cespedes if they depart since they are likely to offer the two arbitration but the Mets should be able to get more in a package in what has been an extreme sellers market.

The Mets really stripped down their farm system last season to acquire all the pieces that helped them reach the World Series. Trading Cespedes who will likely opt-out for a larger deal could bring you an elite prospect like Michael Fulmer who the Mets traded away at this time last year. Fulmer is 9-2 with a 2.50 ERA in 16 starts as a Tiger this season. While the Mets can’t get him back, they can get a good young piece who can really help next season with (hopefully) a healthy starting rotation. So far this month teams have shown they are willing to trade top prospects for rentals. The Yankees who are just a game back in the loss column to the Mets entering Sunday have transformed their farm system by trading elite relievers Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller this week. Now instead of bringing back the same old team next season they will have blue chip prospects like Clint Frazier ready to make an impact in 2017.

While this will never happen as the Mets would never sell coming off a World Series appearance, the season continues to head in the wrong direction and if the Mets could retool here and acquire some assets that could help them in 2017, they could be looking at another trip to the World Series in the not so distant future.Selling off now could be the Mets best chance to extend their window to win a World Series.

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.