Morning Report – September 22 – Minor Leagues, Wally Backman, Jon Niese, Brandon Nimmo, New York Yankees

Major League Baseball stars routinely command eight-figure annual salaries; even journeymen with a few years’ major-league experience bring home millions every year. And every summer, the top high-school and college players receive multimillion-dollar bonuses when they sign with the teams that picked them in the annual June amateur draft.But the majority of professional players don’t get huge signing bonuses and spend the bulk of their careers in the minor leagues. Only about 17% of players drafted and signed from 1987 through 2008 played at least one game in the major leagues, according to a 2013 survey by trade magazine Baseball America.  http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2014/09/19/minor-league-players-allege-illegal-work-conditions/

Did you know that minor league baseball is suing the industry for being paid wages before the minimum standard? This is a good primer article on that suit and disparity between the stars of the game and folks like the ones we write about here on Mack’s Mets. And we’re not talking $500,000 per year minimum salary either. That’s the lowest one is paid in the majors, not the minors.
            Read the story. It’s a good one.

Wally Backman begins his September callup today. John Harper and I have both opined that Backman, a great baseball man, should be on Terry Collins’ coaching staff next year, but here’s the reality: It is nearly impossible to imagine Alderson wanting that, as the two are not philosophically aligned. If it happens, it will likely mean either that the GM did not want to choose that battle, or that he feels he can keep a better eye on Backman in New York. http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/baseballinsider/derek-jeter-yankees-fans-lucky-team-mediocre-ny-mets-payroll-wally-backman-question-blog-entry-1.1945416

Mack – Look, it’s no big secret in Met-land that Wally and TC are not on the same table. It even surprises me that they go through this annual ‘sit next to each other’ fiasco in the dugout.

The Mets players love both these guys, but for different reasons, and I can’t see Backman ever becoming manager under Alderson/Wilpon. There simply would be a clash of personalities here that wouldn’t create a lasting situation.

Jon Niese, more-so than Gee, has been subject of trade talks in recent winters. The Toronto Blue Jays have targeted Niese for several years, and clubs value consistency from a left-handed pitcher. His club-friendly contract makes him an ideal candidate for a large return, and his performance has remained in-line with his career averages in 2014. He has tossed 175 innings this season, the second most in his big league career. In addition, his 2.26 BB/9 is the lowest mark he has posted in the bigs. Niese’s peripherals indicate he has not been adversely subjected to luck, as his 3.55 ERA is slightly lower than his 3.79 FIP (He tips his cap to Juan Lagares). - http://aroundciti.com/will-dillon-gee-or-jonathon-niese-be-on-the-2015-new-york-mets/
Mack – I expect trade talks to heat up for Niese once the other General Managers come to realize that there is nothing they can do in talking Sandy Alderson into trading either Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, or Jacob deGrom. Successful left handers are rare to find and ones with team-friendly contracts are even rarer. This guy alone can get you the left fielder you need in 2015.

Brandon Nimmo - Alderson’s initial first round pick, Nimmo did not initially impress scouts, but took a step forward this year -- and gained 26 pounds of muscle while training this offseason with Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez at the IMG Academy in Florida. He credits the confidence gained by hanging with those big leaguers, and doing well with the Mets in spring training, for propelling him forward this year. “Andrew was very, very personable,” Nimmo said of McCutchen. “Very easy to talk to. And I did not expect that from a National League MVP. Any questions that I had about the game, about any situation in the game, he would answer at length. So I learned a lot.” Said Alderson: “He has made a lot of progress this year, also. We saw the foreshadowing of that in spring training, when he came in physically, and looked very different. No longer a young kid, and more of an adult physically.” http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/baseballinsider/kevin-plawecki-travis-arnaud-steven-matz-ready-matt-reynolds-ss-blog-entry-1.1941095

We stay in the AL East and take the train up to the Bronx to take a peek at the New York Yankees.

According to Cot[i], the 2014 Yankee payroll is… $197,230,609

Shortstop is, well, interesting. We know that Derek Jeter is retiring at the end of this season. Stephen Drew was signed to help out in 2014 and was paid a prorated $10.083433mil figure based on the $14.1mil that was determined to be the cost of signing him before the holdout. Drew, who mostly played at second for the Yankees, will once again become a free agent, unless the Yankees want to throw some new money around… or… did anyone remember that there is still three years left on 3B/SS Alex Rodriguez’s contract?

Outfield wise, CF Jacoby Ellsbury is locked up through 2020… and LF Brett Gardner is signed through a team option in 2019. RF Martin Prado is signed for $15mil a year for 2015 and 2016. In addition, Carlos Beltran ($15mil through 2016) mostly played DH now and 2015 FA include Chris Young and Ichiro Suzuki.

Prospect wise, the Yankees top outfield prospect is Aaron Judge, who is at least two years away. The closest thing they have to a shortstop prospect would be Jorge Mateo, with an ETA of 2017.

Mack Observation – Obviously, the Yankees don’t need another outfielder in 2015, but that never stopped them before in signing anyone they want. They are going to have find themselves a shortstop which, I assume, will not be A-Rod. Don’t be surprised they don’t make a run at J.J. Hardy before sitting down with Drew’s agent, err, what’s his name.

I not only don’t see anybody here, I also expect to lose a potential free agent signing or two to them also.


Anonymous said...

Mack, you seem to be a nice guy and your blog is an interesting read, but my one criticism is that you are often far too optimistic on Mets players, both major league and minor league.

Niese: his velocity has declined big-time and many clubs are wary of him. Did you read last month that the Mets put Niese on revocable waivers and not a single team claimed him? If a team had claimed him, the Mets could have negotiated a deal or pulled him back, but not a single team claimed him.

The Mets also reportedly offered Niese to a number of teams last offseason including the Mariners in a straight-up deal for Brad Miller and the Mariners declined.

Niese's fWAR this season is 1.4 and last season's fWAR was 1.5. He isn't the valuable commodity you state that he is in this post.

Christopher Soto said...


While what you say is true....the fact of the matter is in terms of WAR, Niese finished the season 68th amongst starters. So out of 150 total starters (5 per team * 30 teams), Niese is just outside the top 3rd.

If you wanna talk xFIP (which is pure pitching only), Niese is 38th. That's in the top 25%.

In today's game where even older marginal #3 Starters like Bronson Arroyo get contracts worth $12 million per season.....Niese's contract looks EXTREMELY attractive to other GM's

That said....I don't think Niese is going anywhere....YET.

Bartolo Colon and Dillon Gee will be first.

Thomas Brennan said...

Keeping Niese past the off season is a gamble that he'll stay relatively healthy - but he has pitched well as is, and that has to count for a lot in the eyes of other teams lacking a lefty component. If Matz is deemed ready, I'd look to sell high - when Niese is healthy. I agree with Chris - yes, there are caution lights - but there also has been above average starter performance in his current health state.

One more Nimmo winter workout and he may look like Mark McGuire when he shows up next spring! Congrats to him for seeing that such an offseason workout regimen made sense, and it should also in 2014's offseason.

Herrera is a machine - I am not surprised he'd play winter ball - 200 games a year seems about right for him! It will help him perhaps grab a starting job next spring with the big club. Seems the more he plays, the better he gets - quick.

Thomas Brennan said...

Side notes:

Grandy has gone 20 for his last 56 since Sept 3. What did he change?

Recker making a late surge - guess he wants to keep the back up job.

Ruben wants to stay as back up. I'd say no - he is too expensive next year to be on this team just to back up. Reynolds or Tovar can do that cheaper.

Anthony said...

But Christopher when you say that Niese's contract looks "EXTREMELY" attractive to other GMs how can that be reconciled with no team claiming when he was placed on waivers?

Because any team in the majors could have claimed him at the deadline, and if the Mets asked for compensation (in terms of players) and were rebuffed, the Mets might have let him go for nothing. Probably doubtful, but a possibility.

And still...on the possibility that they "might" have landed Niese for nothing (or close to nothing in a Mets salary dump to free up money for a new LF), not a single major league GM claimed Niese.

So again, how valuable is he?

When you state that he was 68th in fWAR in the majors, where did you pull that from? I don't know where to find 2014 fWAR pitcher rankings, but I find it difficult to believe that a pitcher with 1.4 fWAR is ranked 68th...1.4 fWAR, for the season, is not very good in my opinion so again maybe you can provide a cite?

Dallas said...

Anthony, the Mets could have pulled him back off waivers if they didnt get what they wanted. They would never have let him go for nothing.

I agree that his value is diminished. Finding pitchers with an ERA around 3.6 is not as hard as it was a few years ago. Finding good hitting Left Fielders is another story.

Ernest Dove said...

Maybe this one of those rare occasions where one of us mostly pessimistic Mets fans is actually taking for granted how amazin our overall pitching staff is.......many teams would LOVE to have Niese.
Im not putting much stock into GMs not claiming Niese. Didnt someone report that Bryce Harper was put on waivers? Im sure therez a lot that goes into the game of the waiver wire. Means nothing unless a trade occurs

Michael S. said...

The fact that he wasn't claimed is irrelevant. Most players pass through August waivers unclaimed.

Anthony said...

Dallas, I am well aware of the waiver rules stating that the Mets could have pulled him back if they didn't want to let him go for nothing.

But what does not seem to be understood is that - logically - if he is so valuable a number of teams would have put in a claim to see IF the Mets would have pulled him back and, if so, what they would have wanted to complete a deal.

I hate to tell you guys: Niese isn't that valuable. Many teams suspect his shoulder (more specifically, labrum) is damaged due to the big decline in velocity.

We are in a pitching-rich era sans steroids and no team is trading a bona fide LFer for Niese as Mack claimed in his original post.

As a Mets fan, I wish that wasn't the case, but it is.

Anthony said...

Dallas, I am well aware of the waiver rules stating that the Mets could have pulled him back if they didn't want to let him go for nothing.

But what does not seem to be understood is that - logically - if he is so valuable a number of teams would have put in a claim to see IF the Mets would have pulled him back and, if so, what they would have wanted to complete a deal.

I hate to tell you guys: Niese isn't that valuable. Many teams suspect his shoulder (more specifically, labrum) is damaged due to the big decline in velocity.

We are in a pitching-rich era sans steroids and no team is trading a bona fide LFer for Niese as Mack claimed in his original post.

As a Mets fan, I wish that wasn't the case, but it is.

Anthony said...

Michael S: Not true at all. Most players that other teams want are claimed.

Most players that other teams don't want - like Colon and Granderson, to name two - are not claimed.

thunder12k said...

I dont think the lack of a waiver claim is irrelevant. Why wouldnt a hopeful playoff team put in a claim? The only reason not to put in a claim is you are not interested in the player or you are not interested in being stuck with his contract. We are saying that his contract is so team friendly, so it must mean that no one is interested in him.

I'm not saying that this means that he is not movable but I don't think this is irrelevant at all.

Christopher Soto said...


I do believe Niese was placed on waivers after his 6IP, 6 runs allowed performance against the Nationals.

Could quite possibly have just been good timing by Alderson to sneak him through.

Also the reference is from FANGRAPHS...I do know there is some differences between how they calculate WAR and how Baseball Reference calculates it. Link is below


Mack Ade said...

Anonymous -

Thank you for your thoughts regarding Jon Niese.

My role here at Mack's Mets is two-fold.

One, I administrate the blog.

Two, I supply a morning report in which many times I highlight what another site/newspaper/writer has said about the Mets in general, or a particular Met player. I then usually follow it with a paragraph of my own.

Everything I do is designed to be informative, enjoyable, and hopefully, generate a comment, even if it doesn't agree with what I said.

I like Jon Niese as a pitcher. I'm not in love with him but I think some team will eventually trade for him.

I don't know why he passed through waivers, just like many more players on many teams that easily could have been traded. Maybe team officials don't care to participate in a process that never seems to generate anything. I don't know.

Anyway, thanks for your opinion and I'll get back to working on tomorrow's report.


Anthony said...

Thunderk: Agreed, and thank you.

What I am not saying is that if, for example, the Mets released Niese no MLB team would sign him to a major-league contract, which is something some of these posters seem to think I am saying. Certainly, no one is saying that.

What I am saying is that Niese is not anywhere near as valuable as people posting here seem to think. It is not realistic, for example, to say that Niese alone will get the Mets a bona-fide LF in a trade immediately after no one claimed him when he was placed on revocable waivers and further the Mets shopped him last winter for a SS or LF and no one bit.

The Mets have a significant number of quality major and minor league pitching as compared with other teams in 2014 - we can agree on that. But overall, pitching is dominating the major league landscape in the past few years and hitters are at a premium. And not just a slightly premium, but a massive, enormous premium! No team is trading a bona fide LF for Niese - it's not going to happen.

It's good to be optimistic, but I think that is rose-colored glasses/unrealistic optimism.

That is all I am saying.

Christopher, thanks for your subsequent comment and I will look into this.

Mack Ade said...

Anthony -

The Mets just traded Jon Niese to Atlanta for B.J. Upton.

(just kidding )

Reese Kaplan said...

I think the pendulum swings both ways. You tend to overvalue the players with whom you are most familiar and also demonize the ones for whom you have some disdain. To another team, for example, a Ruben Tejada might be considered a viable backup infielder with ML experience who could start in a pinch. To us he's an overpriced spare part.

Niese is in that overvalued category. If I'm another GM I run scared of both his drop in velocity and his injury history. Ditto Dillon Gee on the latter. Still I think either of them would be easier to move than the $11 million senior citizen in the rotation.

John Zozo said...

I think one thing that scared them away from claiming him is that it is perceived that other GMs find it very hard to deal with Sandy Alserson. I believe cause he demands too much and his know it all attitude doesn't help either.
I do believe he is trade able but probably for some high end single A players.

Mack Ade said...

Zozo -

You have brought up an additional factor.

The other GMs just simply don't like dealing with Alderson. It's just that simple.

So, Niese and Gee suck and no one wants them...

so, what do we do with them?

Anthony said...

Haha, that's funny Mack because I am assuming a LF is not a possibility if his contract is reasonable. The Mets COULD trade Niese for an over-priced guy like B.J. Upton but of course the Wilpons will accept a big, underperforming salary like that and hope for a rebound - that is not this team's owners. But B.J. Upton's 2014 WAR of 0.0 in 566 ABs? Yeah, the Braves would do that trade in a heartbeat.

Reese makes a fair point although, in my humble opinion, the pendulum is more tilted towards overvaluation although again the point is fair that we will tend to demonize some guys on our team unfairly (once in awhile, in my opinion).

Thomas Brennan said...

Looked up Niese - owed $7MM in 2015, $9MM in 2016, and then if a team turned down signing him, he is owed $1MM. Not too steep even for a sore-shouldered but effective lefty. Someone ought to want him for value.

Anthony said...

Thanks Thomas. Here I agree with John Zozo (above individual who posted) that he would probably yield a couple lower minor league players.

I do think many teams are concerned about the lack of velocity. I keep saying that but I wouldn't be surprised if Niese suffered an injury in spring training and I don't think other teams would be surprised either.

Let's hope that doesn't happen, as much for him on a personal level as for our "fandom".

Mack Ade said...

Just an overall thought on Niese...

he REALLY isn't on the same page as TC... and he hates to admit there ever is anything wrong with him.

You don't want to be a Mets rotation pitcher right now and be complaining about aches and pains... you may never get back in the rotation.

bob gregory said...

Other organizations reluctance to engage Alderson in trade discussions should be a concern for the Mets. Considering upcoming talent, pitching depth, and 40/25 man roster limitations the trade market should be an area of interest due to necessity this winter. If trade partners that present themselves are limited the Mets could be forced into some difficult decisions.
Perhaps Alderson needs to step back and allow Ricciardi to be the point person in this respect.

Mack Ade said...

Bob Gregory -

You make a good point and have a good idea, but I would be surprised if Alderson's ego would allow himself to give up the reigns.

What I was told is that GMs of other teams get frustrated when Alderson negotiates with them and doesn't pull the trigger. He's also been very reluctant to get into a discussion with players he doesn't want to get rid of.

I wouldn't operate that way. If you called me and asked if I was willing to trade, let's say Harvey, or deGrom, or Wheeler... I would tell you that I was highly reluctant but you were welcomed to put together a package to offer to me for the services of one of them. I would love to see what their value was to certain GMs.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Niese has the value to bring back a LF on his own, but pitchers with a demonstrated track record of success, especially left handed, have some value in this league, particularly at the trade deadline when demand is high, but supply is tight. Look at the Yanks this year and all of the arms they brought in to fill spots. Why didn't Niese get claimed? I really don't know, but I would not assume that this means he has no value to any other teams. I think that he can bring back a solid upper level minor prospect, along with a high ceiling lower level guy, I mean he definitely has more value than Ike did when he got moved. I am ok with pursuing higher level prospects in return for Niese, Gee, Colon and Murphy; none of them will bring back a legitimate ML bat (too much value to everyone) but it will allow them to restock the upper minors depleted by graduation and increase trade inventory that does not include the names deGrom, Thor and Matz. Moving all of those players at the right time to the right suitor will bring return, but it is not going to be an all star OF

Christopher Soto said...

As I stated yesterday, the Red Sox seem like a good trade partner is regards to Niese, Gee, and Colon.

While their rotation is young and contains promise, its still one of the worst in baseball right now. At the same time they are over-loaded in the OF.

Methinks the Sox may bite at a Gee for Allen Craig offer.

Anthony said...

I think the Sox would bite on Niese for Allen Craig, but I'm not sure I would do that if I'm the Mets.

Craig was okay in the three years prior to this year, but he was awful this year and is signed through 2017.

Maybe Craig rebounds next year...tough to say, really. But is he a much better platoon option for MDD than, say, Eric Campbell?

Again, not saying he is not. Not really sure about that one Christopher.

Mack Ade said...

Allan -

You wouldn't take Alan Craig for a pitcher you have no plans for?

(Mets fans...)

thunder12k said...

Craig for Gee seems like a pretty good trade to me for both teams.

They traded away most of their rotation to give their young prospects the first crack. They will size someone to a big contract but adding Gee as a SP3/4 to bridge the gap to the young guys makes sense.

Not a big fan of Craig's defense but I like him more than Cuddyer.

Charles said...

I'd take Craig in a second. But only if I'm giving up Gee or Colon. I still believe in Jon Niese and his ability to perform.

Niese's only issue is that he consistently makes only 2o-25 starts a year. However, for his price tag, that's not too shabby. And still, there's upside there with him if he can somehow make 30 starts next year.

I'd look to keep him until at least Matz is ready.

bob gregory said...

still have to keep in mind...
getting rid of more 25/40 man roster members than you get back.

Anthony said...

Mack, I think that comment was directed to me even though you wrote "Allan" at the start of the comment.

I certainly didn't say I had "no plans" for Niese only that is not going to net a good LF option in a straight up deal as you indicated would be the case.

The problems with Craig are:
(1) that he makes a considerable amount of money through 2017;
(2) he was below replacement level in 2014;
(3) he is (slightly) on the wrong side of 30 y/o.

I suppose (1) is not a huge deal if the price is Niese because Niese makes a similar amount of money so the dollars may be something of a wash - I'd have to look closer into that but I think the money is similar as Craig is signed for one year longer than Niese.

But Craig was awful in 2014 so he is no sure thing.

If we're going after someone to play LF, I'd prefer to package Niese plus other assets and get a good LFer rather than finding a journeyman-type who is under contract for three more years like Craig.

thunder12k said...

You could easily drop Carlyle, Eveland, Dice-K, Rice, Torres, Recker, Satin, Abreu, Brown & EYJ to clear 10 40-man roster spots. Putting Parnell & Harvey back on leaves you with 8 openings to fill.

They want to move Colon for the best offer so there is another spot. You also have Kirk & Tejada. Then start to come the arms with no place to go Goeddel & Walter.

There is plenty of room to operate within the 40 man constraints but they will eventually need to start moving some bullpen arms.

Christopher Soto said...


You have a point....for some odd reason I thought Craig was arbitration eligible. Did not realize the Cardinals bought out all 3 of his arbitration seasons and 2 years of FA with a contract extension.

Anthony said...

Thanks Christopher.

Here's Allen Craig's contract:

2018:$13M option w/ $1M buyout

So total guaranteed is $26.5M for a guy who put up -1.2 fWAR this year (yes, negative 1.2) and has only had three positive fWAR seasons for his career with a peak of 2.7 fWAR in 2012.

To me, with the Mets current financial constraints, that is a lot of money for this guy.

I'd keep Niese at

2017:$10M club option ($0.5M buyout) 2018:$11M club option ($0.5M buyout),

or $17M guaranteed (rather than Craig's $26.5M guaranteed) because I think you could package Niese plus some prospects for a better LF option than Allen Craig.

thunder12k said...

I don't think the Mets would move Niese for Craig. I think they would move Gee though.

Mack Ade said...

Where's Allen ???

John Zozo said...

How bout Murphy and Niese/gee for Mookie Betts? And put him in the outfield and lead off spot. They can use a 3rd basemen and a pitcher.

Mack Ade said...

John -

My guess is that Betts is not available.

John Zozo said...

If they get the other Cuban outfielder as well that makes for a pretty crowded outfield? Pedroia at second and Xander at short. Where do they play him 3rd?
I like him, and just wanted to throw it out there.

Mack's Mets © 2012