Archive for the ‘Hot Stove’ Category

By Steven Inman

Jay

Photo from Chicago Tribune

We’re well aware at this point how much the Mets need to add externally after a disastrous, 70-92 season. The team is going to have to add a 3B or 2B, bullpen help and another starting pitcher. Another piece they’re going to need is an additional outfielder. Yoenis Cespedes missed 81 games this season, Michael Conforto underwent major shoulder surgery and could miss a chunk of 2018 and Juan Lagares has not shown he can stay healthy at the major league level in his big league career yet. Obviously with so many needs and payroll coming down a reported $15-$20M, Sandy Alderson and his staff really can’t afford to spend big bucks on a major outfielder. The perfect guy to compliment the Mets outfield is Jon Jay.

Jay, 32, has been a solid table setter for the Cubs this season. He has stops on his baseball card in St. Louis and San Diego prior to signing a one year $8M deal with Chicago last winter. The Mets might be banking on Juan Lagares and Brandon Nimmo platooning in center field to start next season but that would be a mistake. The Mets must start to accrue depth, so they can have a plan B if/when everyone gets hurt again. If Conforto is in fact not ready for the season, Nimmo and Lagares would be forced to play every day and the Mets 4th outfielder would be someone like Matt Reynolds, who hasn’t distinguished himself in the majors yet.

Jay hits lefties and righties at a great clip (.288 career vs LHP, .289 vs RHP). He is not a guy with much power but he can play all 3 outfield positions well and won’t break the bank. Jay just finished a 1-year, $8M contract with the Cubs and will likely get around the same money next season. Jay has said publicly his preference is to return to the Cubs, who have advanced to the NLCS or further the last 3 years but with the surplus of outfielders in Chicago, the Cubs may be inclined not to negotiate a new contract with Jay.

With the amount of injuries the Mets endured last season (and for the last decade) it would be smart for the club to start to accrue depth. By signing and starting Jay, the Mets would be in a position to have Brandon Nimmo and Juan Lagares as late inning pinch hitters and defensive replacements. Plus they could step in as starters should one of the Mets outfielders get hurt or in the likely event Conforto isn’t ready for the opener.

Does an outfielder like Jon Jay make sense for New York?

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By Steven Inman

Harvey

Photo from NY Times

In what has been a disastrous year for the New York Mets, perhaps no player has been more disappointing than the Mets former ace, Matt Harvey. After leaving the mound in the 9th inning in Game 5 of the World Series 2 years ago, it has been all downhill for the right-hander. The last two seasons, Harvey has been totally ineffective with a dip in his fastball velocity by around a full mile per hour in each of the last two seasons. As a result of that, Harvey is throwing his fastball slightly less and his slider more. Harvey is in rare territory here as a pitcher trying to successfully return from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.

It’s been difficult to find a pitcher to undergo this surgery and come back just as effective as he was before. Not saying it’s impossible, but the early results have been very discouraging. Harvey has a 5.82 ERA and has let up a whopping 17 homers in just 77.1 innings. (2.0 HR per 9) He has given up a ton of hard contact and doesn’t seem to be fooling hitters these days. As a player who has one final year of arbitration next season, it’s time for the Mets to let go of Harvey. In arbitration, whether it makes sense or not, it’s extremely rare for a player to get a pay cut. Matt Harvey is making $5.125 million this season so he will make slightly more if offered salary arbitration.

The Mets have question marks all over their team. With pretty much every top prospect in the organization already promoted to Citi Field, this farm system isn’t going to be able to contribute much in 2018. Sandy Alderson and his staff are going to have to find a second baseman, a third baseman, another starting pitcher, bullpen help and perhaps a corner outfielder with Michael Conforto in jeopardy of missing a chunk of next season. All of that is with the Mets saying it’s likely the team sticks with their current catching duo. Sandy Alderson acknowledged that the club’s payroll is likely to slightly decrease from the $145-150M it started this season as. With so many holes still to fill, paying Harvey $6M without any signs that he can be close to the pitcher that he was is probably not a great use of resources.

It’s highly unlikely Harvey would get $6M guaranteed somewhere if the Mets non-tendered him. If the team didn’t offer him arbitration, they could always bring him back on a smaller, incentive laden contract.

Harvey has had one of the more roller coaster careers an athlete has had in New York. The 28-year old went from the Dark Knight to getting booed in the blink of an eye. His agent Scott Boras along with Harvey were very apprehensive about the righty pitching throughout the postseason after putting so many innings on his arm coming off Tommy John surgery. Pressure from the Mets along with public pressure from fans and media, convinced Harvey not to shut himself down for the year and ignore his “innings limit”. We’ll never know if his downfall is because of all those IP in 2015, but they surely didn’t help him. Matt Harvey deserves a thank you from all Met fans for putting his career on the line in the pursuit of getting the Mets to that 2015 World Series.  He was magnificent in that game 5 vs Kansas City and if things had gone differently in that 9th inning, perhaps Met fans would have a different outlook on Harvey today.

Harvey should be remembered as one of the great Met pitchers that helped the club reached just their 5th World Series since 1962. With that said, it’s time to move on.

The Mets are going to have to make around a 20-game improvement next season if they want to make the postseason, to do that while cutting payroll, the Mets are going to have to make creative decisions like this one.

By Steven Inman

Join Rob DeLucia and I as we breakdown what the Mets did at the Trade Deadline, how the Mets’ payroll will look going forward, early impressions of Amed Rosario, what we hope to see out of Dominic Smith and what does the future in New York look like for Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler & Terry Collins?

Thanks for listening as always and any questions you want answered on the show, leave them in the comments section below!

 

By Steven Inmanlucasdudatravisdarnaud2kkhqgxhhwhm

As Met fans, tell me if you’ve heard this before, the Mets ability to score runs consistently, will come down to the success of Lucas Duda and Travis d’Arnaud. The major league careers to date for both players have been roller coasters, with 2016 being hopefully closest to the low point. Both hitters battled injuries and ineffectiveness all of last season to the point where they lost their starting jobs to inferior offensive players, at a time when the Mets really needed more offense. It’s no coincidence that both Duda and d’Arnaud combined for 11 homers, 38 RBI and less than 100 hits while the Mets finished just 25th in runs last season. The two had their best seasons offensively in 2015 where the Mets finished middle of the pack in runs. For the most part, health permitting, the Mets have an idea of what they’re going to get out of Yoenis Cespedes, Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker. Duda and d’Arnaud when they’re swinging the bats well lengthen the lineup and allow those middle of the order hitters to possibly see an extra plate appearance a game with guys on base.

There isn’t a ton of stability in this Met lineup. Curtis Granderson is getting up there in age, Michael Conforto likely doesn’t have everyday plate appearances after the Mets completely botched the Jay Bruce situation and we all know the issues David Wright is going through to stay healthy. After the poor offensive season this group had as a whole, combined with all the question marks going into 2017, make Duda and d’Arnaud the Mets biggest x-factors offensively in ’17.

Besides the Mets need for these two to perform, 2017 is a HUGE year for both players.

Lucas Duda is set to become a free agent after the 2017 season and the free agent market has recently evolved into one that doesn’t reward all or nothing power hitters. Chris Carter, who tied for the NL lead in homers last season with 42, was non-tendered months ago and now can’t find an everyday job. The same goes for clubhouse favorite Mike Napoli. The Mets can’t even trade slugger Jay Bruce without eating some of his $13M remaining on his contract. Teams don’t value these  less athletic, non-versatile players anymore despite their enormous power. For Lucas Duda to find an everyday job in 2018 and beyond he is going to need to have a career year and show that he is more than just a power threat when healthy. The Mets have top prospects Peter Alonso and Dominic Smith getting closer and closer to the Mets 1st base job so the writing is on the wall for a Duda departure, especially after he turned down a contract extension a few seasons ago. Duda slashed just .229/.302/.412 a season ago but he has put up healthy OBP’s with impressive power numbers in the past. While the Mets need Duda to perform in 2017, he needs a big year even more.

Like Duda, Travis d’Arnaud also badly needs a breakout season. The former top prospect has never been able to stay healthy at the major or minor league level. The backstop has struggled defensively and has shown he is unable to throw out runners to date. There are plenty of offensive minded catchers in the game and there is nothing wrong with that but d’Arnaud hit just .247/.307/.323 last season after a strong 2015. Even when d’Arnaud was healthy he lost at-bats to backup Rene Rivera, who the pitchers preferred to throw to. The two catchers offensive potentials are vastly different but the Mets didn’t seem to regret Rivera taking over for d’Arnaud down the stretch, which is terrifying considering Rivera is a career .213/.264/.332 hitter across 8 major league seasons. It seems as if the Mets are willing to give d’Arnaud another chance as the Mets starting catcher but it would surprise no one if this was his last chance. It’s no secret the Mets were interested in Jonathan Lucroy last summer and were willing to include d’Arnaud in a deal for him. Travis d’Arnaud’s upside is still of an elite offensive catcher (albeit with defensive issues) but the catcher will never be able to show off those skills if he doesn’t stay healthy this year. The Mets are a better and deeper team when d’Arnaud is hitting. Whether or not you believe in RBI as a legit stat, the Mets were 8-2 in ’16 when d’Arnaud drove in a run. The Mets are going to need d’Arnaud to drive in a run (or runs) in more than 10 games if they want to be a decent offensive club.

It’s pretty clear to any baseball fan that the New York Mets will rely heavily on their pitching in 2017 but without Duda and d’Arnaud contributing to this offense the Mets will remain an unbalanced team that will continue to be forced to search for offensive help.

By Steven Inman

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Photo by Fox Sports

After losing the N.L. Wild Card Game, the Mets entered the offseason with a long list of needs. The club did most of their heavy lifting early by bringing back Yoenis Cespedes and Neil Walker. The Mets feel their bullpen is an area that needs improvement with the possibility that closer Jeurys Familia will miss time with a suspension after an alleged domestic violence incident. The Mets reportedly had interest in a few relievers that have gone off the board recently such as Brad Ziegler, who signed a multi-year contract with division rival Miami.

Junichi Tazawa, 30, would also have been a good fit for the Mets to eat up some middle relief innings but he also went to the Marlins. The Mets have been saying to agents that they are unable to add more salary now until they can move one of their expensive outfielders, most likely Jay Bruce or Curtis Granderson. The Mets have gotten more bites on Granderson than Bruce but neither has been seen by other teams as much more than a salary dump. Granderson finished the season red hot for the Mets and in my opinion is the better fit for New York in 2017. The Mets should have just dumped Jay Bruce so they don’t get left out in the cold on the reliever market. The longer the Mets stubbornly hold on to Bruce, the more likely they are going to miss out on adding to this bullpen.

The trade for Jay Bruce was very perplexing when it happened as the Mets didn’t really have a fit for him and the team was overly left-handed before the deal. The team was probably hoping Bruce, who didn’t cost much to get, would get hot like Cespedes did when acquired the summer before, but Bruce went on to not hit at all in his 2 plus months in Queens. That should have been the reason for the Mets to decline Bruce’s $13M team option as he really didn’t have much trade value. There is also the legitimate question of whether Bruce can handle the spotlight of playing in New York City. Some Mets fans believe picking up Bruce’s option was done as a “hedge” to protect themselves if Cespedes departed. If the Mets lost Cespedes they would have been better off declining Bruce’s option and using that money to add a different outfielder like Ian Desmond. It’s easy to wonder if the Mets, who were 25th in runs last year, lost Cespedes and replaced him with Jay Bruce for a full season, would they have scored the least amount of runs in the National League?

To start the offseason teams like the Blue Jays and Orioles reportedly were willing to take on Bruce’s contract but the Mets demanded something for the slugger. When the Orioles showed interest earlier in the offseason, the Mets reportedly asked for All-Star reliever Brad Brach. It seems like the Orioles moved on to trying to re-sign Mark Trumbo after that request, at least for the moment.

Now with so many notable home run hitters still stuck on the free agent board the Mets would be very fortunate to get someone to take Jay Bruce off their hands. Think of the scenario from an opposing team’s viewpoint: why would a team take on Bruce’s $13M and give the Mets something in a trade when they can just sign a similar player like free agent Chris Carter to a cheaper contract?

The Jay Bruce move continues to hurt the Mets and if they don’t clear payroll soon, they might lose out on re-signing Jerry Blevins or another lefty specialist that they need.  Also moving Bruce is vital for the Mets so they can get Michael Conforto every day at-bats. It’s going to be a distracting storyline in Spring Training if the Mets are unable to move Jay Bruce before camp opens in 6 weeks.

Do you think the Mets have been asking for too much in a Jay Bruce deal?

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

pollock

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?