Reese Kaplan -- That Was Then, This Is Now

Mets fans are a frustrated bunch, particularly when we see other teams making splashy moves in free agency, international signings of marquee players and trades for All-Star caliber talent while Sandy Alderson and company seemingly sit on their hands waiting for the market to come to them, prices to fall or whatever other euphemism for “We ain’t got no money” you choose you use. 

Take, for example, the recent Aroldis Chapman deal to the NY Yankees that cost them none of their top 5 minor leaguers which has been thrashed in the Queen City media for selling low on their star closer.  Surely the Mets could have pieced together an equivalent package of quantity and dubious quality to land Chapman if only they had the $13 million with which to pay him.  There’s no obligation to him beyond 2016 unless he receives a major suspension for his domestic violence case, then it’s conceivable he would lose a year of service time and still be under team control for 2017.  If he gets a slap on the wrist, then they could make a QO and see what happens.  If he reverts to the team for 2017, oh well, you’re stuck with the best left handed reliever in the game.  It seems a win-win. 

Lost in the shuffle, sometimes, is how far the Mets have progressed since the beginning of 2015.  Let’s take a look at the roster that began the season and then compare it with who is likely going to be on the payroll when April rolls around. 

Travis d'Arnaud            C
Lucas Duda                 1B
Daniel Murphy              2B
David Wright               3B
Wilmer Flores              SS
Michael Cuddyer            LF
Juan Lagares               CF
Curtis Granderson          RF
Anthony Recker             BE
Kirk Nieuwenhuis           BE
John Mayberry Jr.          BE
Ruben Tejada               BE
Bartolo Colon              SP
Jacob deGrom               SP
Matt Harvey                SP
Jon Niese                  SP
Dillon Gee                 SP
Jenrry Mejia               RP
Jeurys Familia             RP
Carlos Torres              RP
Alex Torres                RP
Jerry Blevins              RP
Rafael Montero             RP
Sean Gilmartin             RP
Buddy Carlyle              RP

Travis d'Arnaud            C
Lucas Duda                 1B
Neil Walker                2B
David Wright               3B
Asdrubal Cabrera           SS
Michael Conforto           LF
Juan Lagares               CF
Curtis Granderson          RF
Kevin Plawecki             BE
Alejandro De Aza           BE
(RH hitting outfielder)    BE
Ruben Tejada               BE
Wilmer Flores              BE
Matt Harvey                SP
Jacob deGrom               SP
Noah Syndergaard           SP
Steve Matz                 SP
Bartolo Colon              SP
Jeurys Familia             RP
Addison Reed               RP
Erik Goeddel               RP
Jerry Blevins              RP
Hansel Robles              RP
Sean Gilmartin             RP

Final Bullpen Roster Spot Contenders
Josh Edgin
Logan Verrett
Buddy Carlyle
Rafael Montero
Dario Alvarez
Josh Smoker

As we all know, neither Travis d’Arnaud nor David Wright came anywhere close to the production expected of them due to injuries.  Michael Conforto in his brief major league trial already exceeded the output of the mercifully retired Michael Cuddyer.  Those three full-season additions are already cause for optimism going into the 2016 season.

Next there are the middle infield acquisitions of Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera.  Both promise both more offense and better defense than the DP combos tried during 2015.  More optimism.

The carry-overs from last year’s lineup include Lucas Duda, Curtis Granderson and Juan Lagares.  In the case of the big man at 1B, when he’s on he’s as good as anyone in the game, but his streakiness can drive someone to drink.  Curtis Granderson showed last year why they signed him and he more than earned his contract value after his 2014 initial campaign was Bay-like.  Juan Lagares may be the key among this triumvirate as he was not producing at the plate or in the field during this past season when his arm woes diminished his formerly laser-like accuracy.  What was more puzzling was his seemingly mediocre route-running on fly balls.  This winter he’s been solid with the bat and making spectacular throws during his stint in South American ball, so he could be a major cog on both sides of the ball.

On the bench the team has shed some of the all-or-nothing free swingers like Anthony Recker and Kirk Nieuwenhuis.  Wilmer Flores has been transitioned into the super sub role and is envisioned to play all of the infield positions.  Alejandro De Aza may not be Yoenis Cespedes, but when you consider some of the other people who got ABs in the outfield last year for the Mets, he is a step forward on the bench.  I could foresee a Ruben Tejada trade taking place to free up salary with Matt Reynolds taking over his backup shortstop role. 

Pitching between the starts of the two seasons couldn’t be further apart.  Last year the likes of Dillon Gee and Jon Niese filled out the rotation, along with carryovers Bartolo Colon, Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom.  This year Noah Syndergaard and Steve Matz replace the departed pair of Gee and Niese with Colon assuming 5th starter’s duties when he was the Opening Day starter in 2015.  That’s a vastly improved pitching staff that, if healthy, gives the team a chance to win every single day. 

The bullpen is similarly reconstructed for the better.  Jeurys Familia was forced into closer’s duty when Jenrry Mejia went on his first of two Club PED vacations.   As good as Mejia was in 2014, Familia took the role to a whole new level of shutdown performance.  Then you have the veteran presence of Addison Reed who has been a closer in the past, but seemed to thrive in the 7th inning role.  Barring more trades or free agent signings, he may be bumped up to 8th inning duty out of necessity.  Erik Goeddel and Hansel Robles showed the ability to strike people out.  With health and more opportunity, they can help get the team out of some late inning jams.  The duo of lefties – Jerry Blevins and Sean Gilmartin – were both better than hoped, though Blevins, of course, suffered the two breaks to his pitching arm.  Still, memories of Alex Torres and his Great Gazoo hat still pop up in my nightmares.  There should be a nice competition for the final spot in the pitching rotation with Josh Edgin having the upper hand if he’s healthy. 

With all the doom and gloom about the small payroll, the need for a big bat and the lack of movement in free agency, the fact remains that the club going into 2016 is far superior to the one that began 2015 (even without Yoenis Cespedes and Tyler Clippard).  Obviously another bat and a veteran reliever would be nice to have, but they are the defending National League Champs and with the team they’re putting on the field it’s entirely possible they have what’s necessary to repeat.  


bob gregory said...

They are defending National League Champions whose roster is not as good as it was when it won the National League Championship.

Thomas Brennan said...

Good points, Bob and Reese both.

Reese Kaplan said...

So you don't buy into the "full year of d'Arnaud, Wright, Conforto, Matz, Syndergaard" spin that we're already hearing? :)

bob gregory said...

Just how many games have D'Arnaud & Wright averaged the past 3 yrs?

Why should it be believed?

jshapps77 said...

We are the same or better than last year's opening day roster at every single position. I don't see how this can be a negative. Sandy clearly has the ability to improve the roster, if needed, at the trading deadline, which would make us even better than last year's NL Champion. I'm pretty excited, that for the first time in forever, I don't have to concoct outlandish scenarios in my head to get the team above .500.

Mack Ade said...

jshapp and bob gregory represent the full spectrum of Mets fans... one the eternal optimist the other, the opposite...

from now on, I'm going to try and stay on the high road...

bob gregory said...

Remember, I went into this off season choosing to be optimistic. Believing that Alderson & the front office learned from last year about acting to solidify and maximize the major league roster's potential.

jshapps77 said...

@bob- It feels like a good idea, but soooo few of these long term contracts work out. Beltran is probably the only one that has worked out for the Mets. Just as you can look at the opening day roster from last year and see 1/3 of the guys weren't there at the end of the year, the same will likely be true this year. There's usually a few players you don't expect to contribute as much as they did, and vice versa. You can't predict ball. Considering that, and the roster/payroll realities, I like the depth approach they're taking.

Adam Smith said...

I'm as frustrated as anyone with the apparent state of the Mets' finances. Having said that, I'm expecting bounce back years from Lagares and Duda, 150 games more from Wright and TdA, a big year from Conforto, a step
forward from Flores, Robles and Plawecki, and an average of 25 starts each from the big 4. If most of that happens, I think that makes us significant favorites in this division.

Frank Anon said...

How are we better at every position from last year opening day ?

Only 3 position changes occurred and 2 of the 3 (Walker and Cabrera are equal offensively) are pretty much a wash except Walker is a little better defensively. Biggest change from last year is Conforto for Cadaver and who knows how sophomore year effects him

FO has simply put together a team that will compete for the playoffs. They could have made us a strong force but did not. Other important teams have improved so even a wildcard is going to be a fight.

If we have to count on beating up the phils and braves to get to the playoffs then God help us when we get there

jshapps77 said...

Yes, God help the Mets and their 4-ace rotation if they make the playoffs.

Mack's Mets © 2012