The Mets Report Podcast: 2016 Preview

Posted: March 28, 2016 in Podcast
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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.

By Steven Inman

With less than 2 weeks before Opening Day, the Mets Opening Day roster is pretty much set. The only questions left are with a few injuries along with spots on the bench and the bullpen still to be determined. Here’s how we expect it to all shake out.

The Starting Rotationdownload

  1. Matt Harvey
  2. Noah Syndergaard
  3. Jacob deGrom
  4. Bartolo Colon
  5. Steven Matz

Matt Harvey has already been named the Mets opening night starter in Kansas City. After a strong 2015 season along with a brilliant performance in WS Game 5 against KC, Harvey has certainly earned the honor of starting opening night.  Jacob deGrom’s wife is expected to give birth around April 5th so Noah Syndergaard will start the second game. If deGrom is back from his expected paternity leave he will likely start Game 3 with 3rd year Met Bartolo Colon and rookie Steven Matz behind him in the rotation.

The Starting Lineup

  1. Curtis Granderson RFdownload (1)
  2. Neil Walker 2B
  3. Yoenis Cespedes CF
  4. Lucas Duda 1B
  5. David Wright 3B
  6. Michael Conforto LF
  7. Travis d’Arnaud C
  8. Asdrubal Cabrera SS

Asdrubal Cabrera (hamstring) is questionable for Opening Day. It is unknown if he will get the at-bats needed this spring to be able to be ready for the season. The Mets seem to believe that he will be ready so we will put him in the starting lineup for now. After releasing Ruben Tejada the Mets don’t have much shortstop depth with major league experience.

If Cabrera is not ready Wilmer Flores will likely step in to the starting lineup at shortstop. The Mets will need Wilmer to play third base a few days a week for the aging David Wright. This could be a very big year for the Mets two youngest starting position players, Travis d’Arnaud and Michael Conforto.

The Bullpen

  1. Jeurys Familiadownload (2)
  2. Addison Reed
  3. Antonio Bastardo
  4. Jerry Blevins
  5. Hansel Robles
  6. Sean Gilmartin
  7. Jim Henderson

Terry Collins said a few weeks ago that the first five on this lists already had spots cemented in the Opening Day bullpen. Hansel Robles will be suspended for the KC series but the Mets will not be able to replace him on the roster while he is out. Gilmartin was very solid last year as a long man for the Mets after coming over from the Twins as a Rule 5 pick. Jim Henderson, the former Brewers closer, has regained velocity and looks very sharp this spring. While the Mets can send Henderson to the minors, he has looked very solid and if the Mets believe he can go back to being the reliever he was when he pitched the 9th for Milwaukee, then he certainly would be a fine addition to the Mets bullpen. Other candidates are Erik Goeddel who has been injured most of the spring and Logan Verrett who is likely competing with Gilmartin for the Mets long man role.

The Bench

  1. Wilmer Floresdownload (3)
  2. Juan Lagares
  3. Alejandro De Aza
  4. Kevin Plawecki
  5. Eric Campbell

Thanks to additions to the Mets starting lineup, players that were expected to get major at-bats like De Aza and Flores now become solid and versatile bench players. Flores will help Wright at third and will back up at short and second. Neil Walker didn’t hit lefties much last season so Flores could get at-bats at second vs. lefties. Expect Flores to play a lot this season even though he isn’t an “everyday player” anymore.

While Juan Lagares is a very good center fielder expect him to play some left field as a defensive replacement for Conforto. Terry Collins is wary of moving Cespedes all around the outfield so Lagares may not play much center field while Yoenis is in the game.

The Mets were interested in finding a backup catcher so Kevin Plawecki wouldn’t be sitting on the bench so often but they haven’t found a player they like yet so Kevin stays on this list. The Mets believe an extra 200 plate appearances for Plawecki in the minors would really help his development offensively. Thanks to the trade of Ruben Tejada, Eric Campbell makes the club as the 25th man. Campbell has struggled in the majors the past few seasons but has had a strong spring and can play the infield and outfield corners. A majority of Terry Collins’ bench can play multiple positions.

With two weeks to go still before the season, injuries can alter this list. On paper this is a very strong roster that should have Citi Field buzzing all summer. Do you agree with this 25-man roster projection?

By Steven Inman  

  Every March on this site, we grade the Mets winter and it usually involves the word “incomplete”. Sandy Alderson and his front office don’t usually do enough in the offseason to have fans and media change their tune when it comes to the outlook of the New York Mets. After reaching the World Series for the first time in 15 years last season, expectations were at an all-time high for the Mets to put on the finishing touches to what could be a world champion roster. Sandy Alderson and his staff will not be getting an “incomplete” for the acquisitions they put in the blue and orange this winter.

Additions:

As you know the Mets big moves this winter were the re-signings of both Yoenis Cespedes as well as Bartolo Colon. Cespedes was a key cog in the Mets revitalized offense back in July. While the slugger did struggle in the postseason, the Mets are very fortunate to have him returning to their lineup. Expect Cespedes to have another quality year in New York before trying to cash in on the open market next offseason. The ageless Bartolo Colon is returning for his third season in Queens, the right-hander was solid for the Mets over his previous contract and reportedly turned down larger offers to return to the Mets. While Bartolo doesn’t have the same potential this season that the Mets other four starters possess, Colon should be able to eat innings for the Mets this season.

The Mets most underrated move this winter was the trade that sent Jonathon Niese to Pittsburgh in exchange for long-time Pirate Neil Walker. The switch-hitting Pirate is an upgrade defensively for the Mets at second base and is a solid hitter. While Walker has never made an All-Star team in his career, the 30-year old has the potential to continue to be a top 5 second basemen in the National League this season.

Walker’s new double play partner Asdrubal Cabrera gives the Mets some much needed depth. While Cabrera isn’t the most “rangy” of shortstops, he is an upgrade defensively over Wilmer Flores. The move allows Flores to play all over the infield. Perhaps most importantly Flores can now spell David Wright a few days a week at third base. Having Flores as the primary right-handed hitter off the bench is a huge upgrade to what the Mets were throwing out there in May and June last season.

Antonio Bastardo will also be a solid late-inning option for the Mets. Terry Collins has said the 8th inning will belong to Addison Reed to start the season but if he struggles Bastardo is more than capable of getting the job done.

Subtractions:

While the Mets spent more money this winter than they seemingly have in a decade, they did lose some key contributors from last year’s pennant winning team.

The subtractions start with Daniel Murphy, who was the second-longest tenured Met behind David Wright before the infielder left for a three-year contract with the Mets biggest rival. Murphy had the greatest postseason a Met has ever had, and the Mets certainly do not reach the postseason without Murphy. With that said the Mets made the right decision to move on from No. 28. Murphy is a good player and he should have a solid season in Washington but Neil Walker is just as good of a player as Murphy and the Mets didn’t have to commit to him long term. Throughout his career Walker has shown better power and higher on-base percentages than Murphy. The Mets also get a compensation pick back for losing their NLCS MVP.

Like Murphy, Jonathon Niese was also one of the longest tenured Mets. Niese had an up and down career with the Mets so it was strange to see the front office was able to spin him for Walker straight up. Trading Niese also freed up a rotation spot to let Bartolo Colon return. The Pirates are hoping for a breakout season from Niese after some work this spring with pitching coach Ray Searage. Niese’s contract wasn’t bad for the Mets but he was certainly expendable. The Mets being able to fill a hole like second base in the process made this move even better.

When the Mets acquired Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson back in July the club really seemed to take off. Both players played well as Mets but once Asdrubal Cabrera signed and Ruben Tejada was tenured a contract, it seemed very unlikely either Johnson or Uribe would be back. Johnson re-signed with the Braves while Juan Uribe went to Cleveland to fill the Indians third base hole.

Veteran outfielder Michael Cuddyer also announced his retirement, forfeiting a majority of his $12.5M 2016 salary. Cuddyer’s sudden retirement likely had an impact on the Mets spending.

Mets Offseason Grade: A+

Yes the Mets had a borderline perfect offseason. They filled all of their holes without trading away key prospects or tying up long-term money. The Mets were able to retain or upgrade every spot on their team. Sandy Alderson and company deserve a ton of credit for the turnaround of the New York Mets. While the Mets look impressive on the field, they must now execute as we get closer and closer to Opening Day.

By Steven Inmanimages (1)

Throughout the entire postseason, Terry Collins had trouble finding a reliever to help bridge the gap from his starting pitcher to Jeurys Familia. That situation cost the Mets a few times leading up to the World Series. The Mets had hoped that a trio of Addison Reed, Tyler Clippard and Familia would help the Mets make games shorter. It certainly didn’t work out that way as Tyler Clippard looked finished by the time the postseason came around and Reed was the losing pitcher in the Mets final game of the season.

Reed is back after settling at $5.3M in arbitration with the Mets and Clippard is still a free agent. Expecting that Reed would be better than he was in ’15 and hoping somebody else internally stepped up as a set-up man was a naive approach for a contending club so the Mets went out and got arguably the best set-up man on the market in Antonio Bastardo.

Bastardo has been an elite reliever with the Phillies and Pirates the past few seasons. Being left-handed many assume Bastardo is strictly a lefty specialist but that is not the case. Right-handed bats have hit just .211/.308/.332 against Bastardo in his 7-year career. (LHB just .178/.277/.319) He can be the Mets 8th inning guy against lefties and righties.

While Bastardo’s big red flag came from being involved in the Biogenesis scandal a few seasons ago, the 30-year old lefty has been very durable throughout his career. Bastardo has not been on the disabled list since 2010. To continue being an elite reliever the lefty must limit his walks going forward.

Bastardo at 2 years for $12 million is a terrific signing for the Mets. Lesser relievers have done less and earned more this winter and the combination of Bastardo and Familia at the back end of the bullpen will be very formidable. This is a very good signing by the Mets and will help put less pressure on the Mets starters to go deep into games early in the season.

The Mets for the first time in the Sandy Alderson era have now addressed all of their needs in an offseason. They enter Spring Training as one of the favorites to return to the World Series.

By Steven Inmandownload (1)

In what looked like a pipe dream a week ago, is now reality. The Mets have reportedly re-signed free agent slugger Yoenis Cespedes to a 3-year, $75M deal. It appeared unlikely that the Mets would fork over this kind of cash for any player, let alone one that isn’t a perfect fit. Cespedes isn’t a true center fielder and lacks the on-base skills that Sandy Alderson and his front office normally crave.

That being said Cespedes is a difference making bat that turned the Mets’ worst ranked offense in July into one of baseball’s best. The Mets don’t sniff the postseason without the trade for Yoenis Cespedes. Now with their cleanup hitter back the Mets are just as good as the club that went to the World Series. New York enters the 2016 season as the favorites in the NL East. If the club can keep their young pitchers healthy it should be a very fun year in Queens.

The Mets deserve credit for spending the money and bringing back Cespedes. As his price continued to drop the club maintained that they would not go more than 3 years on a contract. Assistant GM John Ricco on SNY last month said it was highly unlikely the Mets would bring back Cespedes.

Alderson deserves credit for playing the market well and giving Cespedes enough incentive to return instead of taking a more lucrative offer from rival Washington. Having more money up front along with a year one opt-out certainly enticed Cespedes to return for at least another season.  Ownership deserves credit as well for forking up at least $27.5M to help round out a championship caliber team. The Mets now have a payroll near $140 million, their highest total since the end of the 2011 season. Fans can’t complain that the franchise doesn’t spend money now.

The deal is perfect for the Mets. They keep another key piece from last year’s World Series roster. They also don’t commit major money long-term which would allow them money in the future to still sign their super rotation long term. The Mets are also thrilled that with Cespedes’ opt-out he stays motivated for the possibility of cashing in again next winter at age 31. The deal is also good for Cespedes. If the slugger has a great year he will enter the free agent market as the best bat available. If he struggles or gets injured he would still have two more guaranteed years with the Mets at big money. Many thought the Mets would never spend enough to win. This is a very encouraging deal for the future of the New York Mets.

 

By Steven Inman

New York Mets Spring Training

Daniel Murphy’s bat will be missed on the 2016 Mets

After years of speculation that Daniel Murphy was on his way out of Queens, it has finally happened. Daniel Murphy held out hope this winter that the Mets would change their minds and negotiate with him but it never happened.

With Neil Walker becoming the Mets second basemen, Murphy, the 2nd longest tenured Met, is no longer is a fit. After the Neil Walker trade, Murphy’s agreement to join the rival Nationals came together fairly quickly. The Mets were never interested in bringing Murphy back on anything longer than a one or possibly two-year contract. Even though Murphy wanted to stay, the club really never considered a contract extension for Murph while he wore the blue and orange.

Having draft pick compensation attached to the postseason hero hurt Murphy in free agency, but not enough to prevent him from netting a three-year contract worth a reported $37.5M with the Nats.

While Walker is a very solid player, it is easy to see Murphy returning to Citi Field next season and hurting the Mets in an important divisional matchup.

In a league where offense is down throughout the sport, Murphy’s strengths make him a good fit on most teams but he is a perfect fit for the Washington Nationals. The Nats are extremely right-handed as Bryce Harper and the switch-hitting Danny Espinosa are the only lefty bats in the Nats everyday lineup. (Espinosa is a career .217 hitter left-handed)

Murphy will likely play second base for Washington which will allow Anthony Rendon to continue to play at third base. If Rendon or Ryan Zimmerman (two players who missed a combined 149 games last season) go down Murphy could move all around the infield.

Murphy, 30, is a .294 hitter in 56 career games at Nationals Park. No everyday player struck out less than Murphy in 2015. He is a consistent hitter that will bring some stability to a Nationals lineup that was extremely streaky a season ago. Perhaps most importantly the Nationals are taking away that consistent bat from their biggest threat to take back the NL East.

Will the Mets regret letting Murphy walk?

By Steven Inman

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Courtesy Post-Gazette

As you may have heard, the Mets front office came home from Nashville with a brand new middle infield with the additions of Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera. While the trade for Walker and signing of Cabrera came together rather quickly, it doesn’t appear that bringing the pair to New York was the Mets Plan A.  For whatever reason the Mets, along with the rest of baseball seemed to covet Ben Zobrist during the Winter Meetings so much that New York offered him a 4-year deal worth a reported $60 Million. The 34-year old Zobrist may have taken that deal with the Amazins if it wasn’t for a trade that went down between the Cubs and the Yankees.

The Cubs liked Zobrist but didn’t have a spot for him to play in their infield or outfield. Theo Epstein and company at Wrigley Field were able to move Starlin Castro and the $38 Million guaranteed left on his contract to the Yankees. Without that move Zobrist likely wouldn’t have been able to find 500 at-bats with the Cubs and would have looked to his other suitors the Mets and the Nationals. The Mets rolled out the red carpet for Zobrist, even showing him places in Connecticut and Westchester where he could raise his family.

Ben Zobrist is a nice player. He is versatile and known as a good clubhouse guy. Perhaps most importantly in this area of the country Zobrist is remembered for killing the Mets in the World Series, With that said, giving Ben Zobrist a contract in the vicinity of what Zobrist got with the Cubs (4 years, $56M) would have been a disaster for the New York Mets.

For starters Ben Zobrist will be 35-years old next season and missed a chunk of last season after a serious knee injury. Defensively he’s not what he used to be so that versatility, while still valuable isn’t as important as it used to be. The Mets also have a pair of older players in David Wright and Curtis Granderson on the payroll at pretty hefty salaries for the next few seasons. Adding Zobrist to that duo would mean having half your payroll tied up in three players in their mid-30’s for the next few seasons. Lastly if the Mets signed Zobrist he likely would have played second base which would have meant possibly another season of Wilmer Flores at shortstop. The Mets must get better defensively if they want another crack at the World Series.

It didn’t make much sense that the Mets would want Ben Zobrist on a 4-year deal. He’s not the difference making bat that transformed their lineup last July. After seeing what the Mets Plan B was, it is even more of a head scratching thought how much they wanted Zobrist. The Mets have the Cubs for stealing Zobrist away and the Yankees to thank for giving the Cubs to motivation to sign the veteran. The Mets “Plan B” will have their infield much improved defensively at a decent price.