Cyrus Tarapore | October 17th, 2019
No one teases their fan base quite like the Mets do. My first two articles for this site came earlier this year in March and April if my memory serves me correctly. It was a time of optimism, a time of hope, a “let’s see what happens” kind of thing with mild to moderate expectations. Needless to say, I was disappointed. But the Mets have reasons for some optimism.
Make sure to check out all of our other MLB team recaps here.
What Went Right
Pete Alonso is a legit superstar. Jeff McNeil made the all-star team. J.D. Davis has a beautiful slash line. Three rookies who legitimized themselves as all-star caliber players. Alonso had 53 home runs and is a lock for Rookie of the Year. McNeil led the league in average the first half of the season, then proceeded to get his slugging percentage over .500 in the second half. The guy has been called a modern-day Pete Rose. J.D Davis also ended the year batting over .300. The team stayed healthy all year, with the exception of Yoenis Cespedes. The starting rotation stayed healthy. Yet here we are again, because of Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, and Mickey Callaway (or whoever is running this team).
You cannot tell me this Mets team does not have a future. Not when Alonso became the first major league player EVER to lead the entire league in home runs as a rookie. Not when you have superb seasons from multiple young players who will be here for years to come. Jeff McNeil, J.D. Davis, Amed Rosario, Michael Conforto, and Brandon Nimmo (after he was healthy). Not when Jacob deGrom is about to win his second consecutive Cy Young award (He would be only the tenth pitcher in history to complete such a feat). Brodie did his job. Wilson Ramos was a great pickup and helped tremendously. Davis was Brodie’s pickup as well. A diamond in the rough. Justin Wilson had a hell of a season as the second-best reliever on the team.
What Went Wrong
The Edwin Diaz/Robinson Cano trade was a disaster. Diaz blew countless games for the Mets. I could look up myriad stats, but I don’t see that as necessary considering how ridiculously bad his year went. In his first three years in the big leagues, Diaz pitched to a 2.79 ERA in 2016, a 3.27 ERA in 2017, and a minuscule 1.96 ERA in 2018. Not to mention he’s got that black ink stat of 57 saves which led the American League last year. His WHIP almost doubled from last year to this year (.791 in 2018 to 1.404 this year). He was not injured this year. His velocity was not down. I have never seen such a thing that I can remember.
Perhaps Diaz couldn’t take the pressure of New York. Many acquisitions have an off-year their first year in New York. Perhaps the juiced ball era really fleeced him, and his long fly ball outs last year subsequently became home runs. The guy was a machine. Bomb after bomb after bomb. 15 home runs given up. He had given up 20 in the previous three years combined. It was befuddling.
Familia, who the Mets signed presumably when the likes of Ottavino and Britton chose to go elsewhere, was another disaster. He has a 3.18 career ERA. Very respectable. This year? 5.96.
The bullpen completely sabotaged the Mets season this year.
Another reason they failed to make the playoffs? Management.
Mickey Callaway, or whoever made the Mets lineup card, insisted all year on not making J.D. Davis an everyday player and CHOSE to start Frazier over J.D. Davis many times. Davis would have been fine defensively in left field, with McNeil at third, and Nimmo and Conforto manning center and right field, respectively. Nimmo was hurt for a large portion of the season so in those times the Mets had to play Lagares. However, when Nimmo came back from injury and was getting on base at a high clip, Lagares still got at-bats. They liked Lagares’ defense? Give me a break. He’s not half the defender he used to be when he won the gold glove in 2014. Playing Lagares and Frazier over J.D. Davis and Nimmo cost them games. Plain and simple.
Impending Free Agents
Frazier and Lagares are likely gone as there really isn’t a need to hang on to them. The Mets may be wise to pick up Brach’s option. He was decent in the short time he was in Queens, pitching to a 3.68 ERA and a 15/3 K/BB rate while only allowing one HR in 14.2 innings. $5 million isn’t bad and the Mets have paid more for less in that bullpen.
Players to Watch For
Andres Gimenez – The Mets’ top infield prospect played fairly well in AA Binghamton last season. Although he could probably use a little more seasoning to develop his bat, he slashed .250/.309/.387, the Mets could use his athleticism and speed in the middle of the field. His glove plays at shortstop, but he has also tried his hand at second base. He can flat-out pick it wherever he is on the diamond. Gimenez can run a bit also stealing 28 bags last year. It’s likely Gimenez starts the season in AAA next year, but if his bat is hot he may force the Mets to bring him up.
David Peterson – The big lefty was drafted in the first round just two years ago and could see the big leagues soon. He made 24 starts at AA Binghamton this year and although the 4.19 ERA was a little high, he has solid upside. He had a nice 122/37 K/BB rate and only allowed nine HRs in 116 innings. He has very good downward drive on his pitches which allow him to keep the ball on the ground. If the Mets don’t sign Wheeler, don’t be surprised to see Peterson grab that fifth spot in the rotation before long.
The Mets fired Callaway. He didn’t know when to pull a pitcher, when to keep a pitcher in, or how to make a lineup card. These three things are essential in managing. They sent a message that mistakes won’t be tolerated. Not making the playoffs won’t be tolerated. Especially in a year where so many things went right for the Mets. Who will the Mets get to replace Callaway? Possibly Carlos Beltran, or even Joe Girardi?
Re-sign Zack Wheeler if he doesn’t ask for the world. The 29-year-old has shown he is fully healthy after returning from Tommy John Surgery in 2017. He’s made 60 starts over the past two seasons and has a solid 3.65 ERA and 1.194 WHIP while striking out just under a batter per inning and allowing less than a HR/9.
Get bullpen help. Diaz can’t possibly be as bad as he was this season. For the disaster that he was, he is still only 25 and maybe this was just an unlucky year. As mentioned, they can pick up Brach’s option and add another arm to go with Lugo and Wilson.
Baseball reference.com estimates the Mets payroll at $188 million for next year. You can forget about any big-time acquisitions. Just in case you were wondering.
The Mets don’t necessarily need any big-time signings though. In spite of Callaway, they still almost made the playoffs with a lot of homegrown talent. The Mets won 90 games in 2015 en route to the World Series after a 2014 season in which they turned things around. They only went 79-83 that 2014 season, but it was their most wins since the 2010 season at the time. They turned a corner that year. The Mets finished 86-76 this year. It’s time to turn that next corner.
These Mets are capable of doing it.
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Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images