Reese Kaplan - Just a Minor Touch Up for 2015


With the 2014 Mets season in the books, despite yet another losing campaign for Terry Collins the general consensus is that things will be better next year.  A lot of people will point to the September finish above .500 as reason for optimism…or the tie for second place with the Atlanta Braves…or the fact that David Wright and Curtis Granderson were pretty much ineffectual most of the year…or that the solid production coming from the catcher and shortstop positions didn’t happen until later in the year…or that the bullpen instead of being a hodgepodge of washed up veterans now includes some formidable young power arms.  All of these things are most definitely reasons for guarded optimism.

Now throw a few more probabilities in the mix…moving in the fences yet again…a return to health for Matt Harvey, Bobby Parnell, Vic Black and Juan Lagares…the continued development and maturation of Travis d’Arnaud and Wilmer Flores…and hopefully a new approach against left handed pitchers for hometown slugger Lucas Duda…these factors also help make even the most jaded fan feel the club has turned an important corner.  

There are, however, some contraindications that might temper that enthusiasm among the fans.  First, there was the proclamation by GM Sandy Alderson that the club may be looking to in-house options for addressing their current holes.  Most people are assuming that since Wilmer Flores defensively did not embarrass himself that the job is his to lose (with Matt Reynolds needing a second solid season in the minors to prove it wasn’t just the Las Vegas effect on his numbers).  To most people it then meant that a corner outfield position was the only glaring void that needed to be filled, but a hot September by Matt den Dekker and a few long balls by Kirk Nieuwenhuis may lead the Mets into further inertia when it comes to addressing this need. 

Let’s look at the numbers.  Over 107 August-September ADs den Dekker hit a very respectable .290, though with no home runs, 6 RBIs and 5 SBs while playing his usual solid brand of outfield defense.  He cut the strikeouts way down – 21 over that span – and got on base at a .392 clip.  His track record has shown that he needs time to adjust to each new level and it’s possible that at age 27 he’s ready to show he’s a major leaguer.  His best minor league campaign did feature as many as 17 HRs (twice) and as many as 24 SBs. 

Nieuwenhuis is not quite at that same level.  During the same August-September period he slashed .273/1/5 with 3 SBs in about half as many ABs.  He whiffed 16 times and over his 112 ABs – roughly the same as den Dekker – he’s K’d 39 times, almost twice as much.   For his major league career he has 489 ABs with a .241/13/58 with 169 Ks.  That sounds an awful lot like a replacement level player to me, yet the Mets are talking about the man as if he is potentially part of the outfield solution.  His high water mark for power is 18 minor league home runs, but with the lower batting average and increase strikeout totals, if I have to choose one of these two players (who are both left handed and reminiscent of the Ike Davis/Lucas Duda dilemma) I go with den Dekker.

Still, would potentially 10-15 HRs from den Dekker and 15-20 HRs from Wilmer Flores be enough?  You might bank on a rebound year from Curtis Granderson but David Wright is not even a lock to be healthy enough to play.  To me, any way you slice it you need to bring in a legitimate power bat to provide what’s missing, especially with David Wright’s health being a big question mark. 

The problem is the team will likely want to hedge its financial bets until they see more fannies in the seats.  (It never occurred to them, of course, that putting a better product on the field would help in that effort, but that’s a topic for another day).  I don’t foresee any Carlos Gonzalez or Matt Kemp types on horizon.  Expect instead to see the Scott Van Slyke, Jonny Gomes, Michael Cuddyer or Josh Willingham type of acquisitions and then they’ll call it a day.  I can see a blockbuster happening…but only after they prove they can win.  It’s kind of a tail wagging the dog approach, but such is Moneyball without money, Queens edition. 

If you held a gun to my head and asked me to predict what would happen, I would venture the following:

  • They keep Daniel Murphy in his pre-free agency year until the All Star break as a hedge against David Wright’s health while letting Dilson Herrera build up some gaudy numbers in Sin City (unless Wright starts the year on the DL – then Herrera comes north)
  • They do not find a taker for Bartolo Colon’s contract and he remains in the rotation at least until the All-Star break (after the Super Two deadline coincidentally passes), then he’s gone for some low level prospect
  • Dillon Gee is the odd man out as his numbers are almost a carbon copy of Bartolo Colon’s, but for less than half the price (even factoring in a hefty raise) and he’s 13 years younger.  Despite his health issues more teams will be interested in him than in big Bart.  Although Niese makes more and sometimes butts heads with Terry Collins, he’s the sole lefty until Steve Matz is ready
  • The starting rotation will include Jacob de Grom, Zack Wheeler, Jon Niese, Bartolo Colon and Rafael Montero, with Matt Harvey staying for DL/Extended Spring Training in Florida
  • The very second Bobby Parnell proves healthy enough to pitch Jenrry Mejia is a goner as he shows too much personality for this team to feel comfortable having him in a Mets uniform
  • That B level outfielder acquired through trade or FA acquisition will be a platoon partner with Matt den Dekker
  • Kirk Nieuwenhuis becomes the left handed Andrew Brown, forever on the shuttle back and forth to Vegas
  • Eric Young, Jr. has stolen his last base for the Mets
  • Ruben Tejada may join Eric Young in the “too costly for the bench” category, but the ongoing nervousness about Wilmer Flores’ defense might extend his Mets life one more year.  Still, it must be awfully enticing to the powers that be to consider a Wilfredo Tovar who is on the 40-man roster would play for $500K whereas Tejada would cost about 4 times that much after his arbitration hearing this year.  


Thomas Brennan said...

Cool analysis - seems like Cuddyer would be a good platoon fit. I am in the den Dekker camp until someone evicts me from it.

Still concerned that if Niese is not traded now, it could be Johan II with his shoulder. He has to have some value now after 30 starts and 3.40 - my guess is Matz is essentially ready opening day, or you give him a month or so in minors and he is ready, so we don't go lefty-less too long if Jon is moved.

Parnell? I still think he does not show up ready to really rock, if at all, until May or June...I like Jenrry or Jeurys for closer. Parnell can show he's healthy, then be dealt elsewhere, unless he comes back 100%+.

Reese Kaplan said...

I am of the opinion that Mejia will close until Parnell is ready, then Mejia is a goner.

I will have thoughts on Saturday regarding Niese and achieving Sandy Alderson's Nirvana-like vision for a pitching staff.

Lew Rhodes said...

Reese - I think you are pretty spot on, and if these happen, then the Mets are a legitimate play-off contender.

I was wondering who noticed MDD putting up a .907 OPS in September with low strikeouts - given his pattern, I think he is a legit OFer - not a true stud, but a solid offensive great defensive player - plus, the reason you keep him around is his defense is about on par with Lagares - if Lagares gets hurt, the CF defense stays similar.

MDD does need a legitimate RH platoon partner - paging 2012 Scott hairston! Cuddyer would be a perfect add.

I also agree (and posted it here 3 weeks ago) that Meija is a goner - he strikes me as too immature and emotional ever to be a truly spectacular closer, and his antics on the mound even piss me off - he is more of a sell high candidate than anyone on the team. Plus, Sandy is from the Oakland school that closers are overrated.

If Parnell isn't ready in April, I think Familia and Black could close, but I think Parnell is already on track

I also believe Murphy stays - but more as a super sub than the starting 2bman - I think Herrera comes up in April - Murphy can spot him against tough RH pitchers, can give Wright a break at 3B and can give Duda a break at 1B - Wright should get one game a week off - this would get Murphy 300+ ABs easily, keeps Wright fresh and rested, and hedges against Herrera failing.

Tejada will stay on as the back-up middle infielder - which is a great role for him, he is a solid fielder and could be a decent PH whenever you need a walk.

Reynolds, however, will be given the opportunity to beat him out in the spring - remember Reynolds is Sandy's draft pick - Sandy wants him to succeed.

I am ok with Wilmer at SS with a good glove on the bench - I take his average (at best) defense to go along with an .800+ OPS any day.

Our rotation and bullpen will be so good next year - with big support in AAA - that our offense doesn't need to be any better than it was in Sept for the Mets to make the play-offs

Bill Metsiac said...

I'm with Bobby O on Mets needs for next year---forget the "Big Bopper" (those who might be available are too costly and locked in for too long anyway) and look for people who can hit .270-.280 with good contact #s.

New dimensions or not, I see HR increases from current players at almost every position.

Whoever plays SS will give us more HRs than what we got from Flores' part-season and "Babe"Ruben's 5.

A healthy David should provide 20.Grandy should be more like the 2nd half version and give 25.Duda is just coming into his own, and without the distractions of '14's first half plus learning to hit LHPs better, should add a few. Lagares is just coming into his own, and Travis is doing the same. Whoever plays RF (I still feel Grandy must move to LF)will give us more than the Youngs and dD/Kirk did this year.

I'm sure not all of the above will come to pass, but I'd bet right now that the current team will hit a minimum of 25+ over '14. If we add Cuddyer, add even more.

As for Mejia, he may or may not be the closer, and there'll be plenty of competition from Parnell/Black and Familia (my pick) for that spot. The others will fill the 7th-8th inning roles with Edgin, Torres and Carlyle, Montero or Eveland. There's NO reason to believe that Harvey won't be ready for OD.

As for Ruben's salary, I've told Reese many times that he will NOT go to a hearing (NO Mets player has in many years), and surely will not double his $1.1m salary.

Reese Kaplan said...

If Flores is truly the SS, then a backup is just that. I'd go for the minimum wage guy. Normally I don't advocate kids sitting on the bench, but Tovar is not likely a ML starter. It's not like when Flores was buried behind the Mendoza-hitting Tejada or everyone who was buried behind the Youngs.

Thomas Brennan said...

@ Bill Metsiac

You wrote "New dimensions or not, I see HR increases from current players at almost every position."

All the more reason to move the fences in. The Mets hit a meager 125 HRs last year. Let's say you're right that every position hits more - add 25. Fences in, add say another 25, and we're at 175, a very acceptable and reasonable annual #.

Every guy in the line up goes from having a 2015 where their performance is later described as "not so good" or "good except for...." to having their 2015's described as good or very good. They're happy, I'm happy.

Bill Metsiac said...

The bottom line is our Runs Scored vs the opponents', whether by HR or not. Pulled-in walls will result in increased HRs by us AND them. And, of course, will have no effect on road HRs.

Any way we can gain more than they do is fine with me.

Steve from Norfolk said...

If we get Cuddyer, I see him getting the 3B AB's, not Murphy. Cuddyer is even more of a super-sub. He has ML experience at RF, LF, CF, 1B, and 3B. If we get him 500AB's, he should easily hit 20 HR's. His OPS over the last 4 years is .871 - he would be by far the best offensive player we have next year.

Christopher Soto said...


Cuddyer played a few games at 3B this year and did not look good PLUS he got hurt.

At this stage in his career, Cuddyer is not more than a Corner OF + 1B.

Thomas Brennan said...

Too bad Jairo Perez can’t seem to stay healthy. He might have pushed himself into the periphery of consideration for the Cuddyer role you talk about.

Sounds ridiculous, I know, but I read that Perez in the Venezuelan Winter League batted .342/.407/.591 with 12 doubles, seven HRs and 35 RBI in 149 at-bats, and was then signed to St Lucie, where he unfortunately missed a lot of time with a major injury and only got in 65 games, but hit a superb .353 with a .550 slug %.

He's played sporadically for several year, but had many injuries, including Tommy John surgery limiting his playing time. Had he stayed healthy and put in a full season in 2014, who knows? Clearly he can rake. Not much outfield time in his career though (14 games), mostly 1st, 2nd, and 3rd.

I'd put him in Vegas next spring if he is not holding anyone back and see what he can do - if, of course, the Mets retain him.

Reese Kaplan said...

Dilson Herrera notwithstanding, the Mets prefer the slow route to promoting people.

Mack Ade said...

There should be room to keep Perez in the organization in 2015 but he probably has missed the window for Queens someday due to age

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