Cyrus Tarapore | March 13th, 2020
The off-season for the Mets was a loss. Most notable was that Steve Cohen’s potential
purchase of the Mets fell through. Had he purchased the Mets, it could have changed the entire long term trajectory of the franchise. If the transaction went through, the Mets would have had the richest owner in the entire league.
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Fred Wilpon had said he was willing to sell the team but that he still wanted to control the team for five years. Steve Cohen didn’t accept those conditions nor would anyone for that matter. Wilpon continues to hold the Mets fans hostage. Undoubtedly he will sell to another deep pocket. But until then, Mets fans will just have to wait. The off-season was uneventful and mistake-ridden.
For starters, the Mets didn’t resign Zack Wheeler. His asking price was high, and the Mets didn’t shell out the $23 million a year he received from Philadelphia. Wheeler has a career 3.77 ERA that should be lower because he pitched injured in 2017 to the tune of a 5.21 ERA in 17 games. He is a very stout number-three pitcher and possibly a number-two pitcher. He has Ace and Cy Young potential. Now Stroman becomes the number-three for the Mets. Although Stroman has a nice 3.76 career ERA, he has a career 1.29 WHIP which is too high. Stroman would have been much better in the four slot with Matz in the fifth slot. The starting rotation used to be a strength for the Mets, and now it has taken a step back. Mark my words, the loss of Wheeler will sting.
Wilson Ramos comes back on the second year of a two-year $19 million deal
with a 2021 option. He had a nice offensive season last year batting .288 with 14 home runs and 73 RBI. However, his defense proves to be a problem. At a position where defense is valued, Ramos ranked 50th in runs from extra strikes at -4 which converts strikes to runs saved on a .125 run/strike basis and includes park and pitcher adjustments. In other words, he is framing the ball very poorly and not doing his pitchers any favors by stealing strikes from the umpires. His backup, Tomas Nido, struggled with the bat but ranked much better in framing at 4 runs from extra strikes ranking 17th in the league. If Nido or Ramos get injured, the Mets have the 37-year-old veteran Rene Rivera as insurance. Although Rivera isn’t much of a hitter, he does have sound defense.
At first base, the Mets have Pete Alonso, who slashed .260/.358/.583 with 53 home runs
and 120 RBI. His defense was adequate last year after many thought he would be a liability. Alonso continues to improve his defense and even stated that he wants to win a gold glove in 2020. Hopefully, he continues to progress defensively, and he doesn’t have a sophomore slump with the bat. Last year he also scored 103 runs and won Rookie of the Year honors.
At second base is Robinson Cano at 37 years old and four more years left on his contract
at $22.8 million per year. What a mess the Mets got themselves into when they traded for this overpaid, ancient fossil. The Mets didn’t do anything to improve their defense which was dead last in the league last year with 99 errors. They lack the range needed to get to balls which need to be made into outs. Perhaps Andres Gimenez, who has had a decent spring training, makes the team as a backup. That should help a bit but it surely isn’t enough. Gimenez is slashing .313/.389/.563 this spring. If Cano wasn’t clogging second base at 37 years old the Mets could plug Gimenez right in there. The Mets likely want to see Gimenez produce in the minor leagues a bit longer to prove he can make the jump to the majors. Expect him to be in the majors sometime late this summer.
At third base, the Mets have Jeff McNeil. This guy can do it all. He can play multiple
positions and is one of the best hitters in the league. Thank god the Mets have this guy for years to come and hopefully he stays healthy. He batted .319/.384/.531 with 23 home runs and 75 RBI. He also had a 5.0 wins above replacement just like Pete Alonso. He will be a mainstay and cornerstone of the franchise for years to come.
At shortstop, you have Amed Rosario who has quietly come into his own after much disappointment over the hype he received as a prospect. Once touted as the number two prospect in all of baseball, Rosario disappointed in his rookie 2017 season with a slash line of .248/.271/.394. However last year he slashed .287/.323/.432. He continues to improve both offensively and defensively. He also stole 19 bases last year but led the league with 10 times caught stealing. He continues to trend upward.
LF: J.D. Davis/Yoenis Cespedes
CF: Brandon Nimmo
RF: Michael Conforto
In left field, you have the promising young player J.D. Davis who came out of nowhere
last year to slash .307/.369/.527. His defense continues to be a concern but he continues to get better in left field after he wasn’t able to hold down third base last year. He truly was a great pick up by general manager Brodie Van Wagenen last year. His attitude and passion continue to inspire the team. He is currently battling a shoulder injury but is expected to be ready by opening day.
Yoenis Cespedes is also battling back from an injury that sidelined him for over a year
and half. He was slated to make close to $30 million this year in the final year of his contract, but the Mets cut that down to $6 million with a possible $14 million in incentives after his run-in with a wild boar on his ranch. Cespedes is an unknown and many are questioning if he can come back to what he used to be since he is now 34 and there is some doubt if his legs can take the load of the long season. We will see. Anything Cespedes provides is a bonus.
In center field, you have Brandon Nimmo who had a down season last year due to injury.
In his 2018 season, Nimmo showed a lot of promise with a .263/.404/.483 slash line. That .404 on-base percentage was good for third in the league. He projects as a leadoff hitter who can get on base at a high clip and he also has shown he has a little pop in his bat. Nimmo has shown he is healthy slashing .357/.471/.429 in spring training.
There was much talk about a Starling Marte trade for the Mets to fill the void of needed
defense in center field. A former gold glover, Starling Marte had a -9 defensive runs saved in center field last year. He seems to be at the start of a decline. I’m glad the Mets did not bite on this move. Although Marte is a proven base stealer and an upgrade in center, the Mets likely would have had to deal 2-3 young prospects or players in a trade. Baseball is a young man’s game, and dealing several young players for Marte would have been a mistake. Let’s hope the Mets continue to hold onto their good young players.
Finally in right field you have Michael Conforto who proves to be a steady force.
Although Conforto has been criticized by Mets fans for not being clutch, it would still be in the Mets best interest to extend his contract this season before it expires. His career slash line of .253/.353/.481 is very respectable and he continues to play good defense in right. Conforto will be a positive force all season and if Nimmo gets injured he will be used in center field.
Starting Rotation Projections
The Mets signed two starting pitchers, Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha, to one year
deals. Porcello, who had a 5.55 ERA last year to finish dead last among starters, was signed to one year and $10 million. Wacha got a one year, three million dollar deal, with another possible four million dollars in incentives. One can not help but ask why the Mets did not just sign Madison Bumgarner, who has a very nice 3.11 career ERA and an excellent 1.11 career WHIP. Bumgarner got $17 million a year in free agency. Had the Mets signed Bumgarner instead of Porcello and Wacha they would have been much better off. The only positive to what the Mets did is that if a starting pitcher gets injured you will see the odd man out of the rotation step up and fill in. Mets fans should like this idea, as in past years when a starter got injured you always had some scrub fill in and blow a game. For example, Wilmer Font.
Jacob deGrom is the best pitcher in the game and is coming off his second consecutive
Cy Young season. Should deGrom or Syndergaard get injured, the team will surely fall apart. Look for Stroman to step up and Porcello to turn in a good season for the team he rooted for as a kid. Should anyone else get injured Wacha will step up from the bullpen to fill in for a starter. Health is the key for this group.
One bright spot of the off-season was the signing of Dellin Betances. The soon to be 32-year-old boasts a 2.36 career ERA and a 1.04 career WHIP. Last season he was injured, but prior to that, he had five consecutive seasons of 100+ strikeouts which is rare for a reliever. It is suspicious that the Yankees didn’t resign him, and perhaps they know something about his Achilles injury last year and think it will linger. We will have to see.
Overall the bullpen doesn’t project to be that bad despite a horrible showing last year.
The addition of Betances should help. Diaz was a disaster last year but many are expecting a better showing this year. Same with Familia. Brad Brach comes back on a team-friendly deal and Wilson and Lugo were great last year. Paul Sewald has been up and down and fills out the bullpen. Michael Wacha should also contribute although he had many injury concerns over his career.
All in all, I put the Mets at 85-77 on the outside looking in at a wild card spot. It will be a
winning season if the team stays healthy but I wouldn’t have lofty expectations. Mets fans will have to wait. Let’s hope ownership doesn’t take too long to sell and the Mets make a run at Mookie Betts next year. He would be a game-changer and with a bunch of money coming off the books next year it is definitely possible, despite what many may think. Also high on the wish list is extending the contracts of Syndergaard and Conforto. The Mets cannot afford to let another good young player go.
Cespedes is back this year but we don’t know what he will provide. He is a big unknown. The starting rotation got worse with the loss of Wheeler, even with the additions of Porcello and Wacha. The bullpen is a little improved with the addition of Betances. The defense was not improved and was last in the league last year. There is little to no speed on the roster with the exception of Rosario. The hitting was decent last year and I don’t see that being a problem. Overall, it all adds up to about 85 wins and 4-5 games out of the playoffs. However, if the Mets are in the race by the trading deadline, and they should be, management will try to add an extra piece or two to make a run. Let’s see how this all pans out.
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