Posted by Reese Kaplan at 10:00 AM
Lately the Mets are looking kind of like the team people expected, with some awesome pitching performances and beating up on the lesser teams like Philadelphia, Atlanta and Cincinnati. Some people are obviously playing over their heads, but what’s encouraging is the fact that three of the regular starters are hovering at .230 or less while the only player off the bench over the Mendoza line is Juan Lagares.
A couple of nagging injuries are forcing the Mets to play shorthanded and with a suboptimal lineup. First it was Yoenis Cespedes unable to play but apparently not sufficiently injured to put him on the DL. That makes a thin bench even thinner. Tuesday word came down for Travis "DL" d'Arnaud's first such trip to the sidelines for 2016. Taking his place on the roster is the Hispanic version of Anthony Recker, Rene Rivera. Granted, Johnny Monell was off to a slow start in Las Vegas, but in half a season last year he hit .324 with 7 HRs and 51 RBIs. I'd take that (plus the option of a left handed bat to insert against the Jose Fernandez/Jake Arrieta types. Kevin Plawecki (and his .188 average) is left to man the plate. To be fair, he had some serious breathing issues last year that came to light after the season ended, so perhaps since his surgery and with steady play he can improve upon his thus far dismal numbers.
The bullpen continues to be much more good than bad. It was a curious decision on the part of the manager to use his so-called long man – Logan Verrett – in a must win type of situation on Monday night. Verrett delivered (and in fact earned the win, courtesy of Neil Walker’s 8th HR in the bottom half of the inning). Perhaps the manager is evaluating whether or not to keep Verrett around once Josh Edgin is ready for promotion.
I had an interesting exchange with a semi-faithful reader who floated the idea that Jerry Blevins could be the odd man out. I hesitated to point out to him that salary often dictates playing time, as does track record. Consequently, despite Verrett’s stellar April he’s the odds-on favorite to head to Las Vegas to start regularly as I opined on Saturday.
Jim Henderson is pitching to a 1.35 ERA. Hansel Robles is 2.00. Addison Reed is 2.70. Antonio Bastardo (prior to Monday’s meltdown charged to Noah Syndergaard) is nonetheless at 2.89. Jeurys Familia is 3.00. Jerry Blevins is 3.18. Sending down the 0.64 ERA Verrett in order to keep Blevins around isn’t an earth shattering move. It’s the reality of baseball economics. Ask Sean Gilmartin, “What have you done for me lately?” All he did last season in his Rule V rookie year was go 3-2, 2.67 ERA, 1.186 WHIP and 3:1 strikeout to walk ratio. His reward was a trip to Las Vegas where he’s picked up where he left off with a 1-1 record and a 1.62 ERA in “Hitter’s Hell”. Soon he’ll be joined by Logan Verrett whose pedigree includes being bounced from two teams last year in a Rule V selection gone bad. I’m not demeaning what he’s accomplished, but Sandy Alderson is not likely going to dispatch pitchers earning $2.4 to $4.9 million based upon a hot month by someone earning major league minimum. Oh, and Erik Goeddel, Josh Smoker and Dario Alvarez are all AAA bullpen possibilities as well. The latter two have fugly ERAs, but are striking out people with alacrity.
Where it becomes even more interesting is when Zack Wheeler returns. Assuming he slots right into the rotation, that means Bartolo Colon gets bumped to the bullpen as he did in the 2015 post-season rendering another successful pitcher out there superfluous.
What got me thinking about this issue is the so-called dream rotation which indeed looks pretty dreamy even without Zack Wheeler in it. Consequently I wonder if the team would consider trading the Dark Knight in order to stock up on position players given Curtis Granderson’s age, David Wright’s health and performance, Lucas Duda’s impending free agency and, thus far at least, the poor contributions from the catchers.
I know, I know – heresy. But consider for a moment that Bartolo Colon could stay in the rotation with Wheeler, with both Logan Verrett and Sean Gilmartin as backups in AAA. The next level of depth isn’t quite as appealing – Rafael Montero, Gabriel Ynoa and Duane Below.
Of course, now is not the time to trade Matt Harvey until he rights his ship. Once he returns to form then it’s a question worth considering. After all, you have to pay Jacob de Grom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler and Steve Matz in the near future, too. I don’t think the Mets are really looking to have a billion dollar rotation. Granderson’s salary is coming off the books after 2017. Yoenis Cespedes may or may not be here beyond this season. David Wright might be persuaded to follow in the footsteps of his buddy, Michael Cuddyer. There will be some ample funds coming available, but aside from Michael Conforto the Mets don’t have any young offensive players around whom to build for the future who are guaranteed to be here after this season. Trading Harvey could help in that regard.