Reese Kaplan -- I'm Having Flashbacks, Man!

The time was 2015.  The Mets were beset with injuries and struggling to score runs.  The bench was comprised of AAAA players struggling to reach the Mendoza line.  The pitching was top notch but any time the other team scored more than 2 runs it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that it was not the Mets’ night. 

Then a funny thing happened.  When Michael Cuddyer was rendered unable to play, the Mets reached all the way down to AA to promote the untested Michael Conforto all the way up to the big leagues, skipping over AAA, to see if he could help jumpstart the moribund offense.  With Cuddyer, David Wright, Travis d’Arnaud and Juan Lagares all struggling with their health, Sandy Alderson went out to find some professional ballplayers to bolster the bench.  He acquired Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe who also stepped right in and showed the younger hitters how the game is played. 

Then, of course, came the master strokes of adding Yoenis Cespedes to provide the power bat they’d been missing and both Tyler Clippard and Addison Reed to support a bullpen that outside of untested Sean Gilmartin and closer Jeurys Familia, was having its own struggles.  (We’ll give him a pass on the ill-fated Eric O’Flaherty move).   Those changes, along with benching Ruben Tejada and letting Wilmer Flores hit 16 HRs and drive in 65 helped propel the Mets all the way to the World Series.

Now it’s 2016, with the same story and a familiar cast of characters.  Travis d’Arnaud is gone.  David Wright is gone.  Lucas Duda is gone.  The bench contains such luminaries as Ty Kelly and Matt Reynolds.  Kevin Plawecki is once again not showing any offense.  Curtis Granderson is struggling.  What to do, what to do…

So Sandy Alderson looked at last year’s success and instead reverted to the Rick Ankiel/Bobby Abreu strategy of reclaiming players who once were good but now not so much.  He spent literally a dollar and obtained the services of James Loney and his Tejada-like power to play 1st base to replace the 30 HR power of Lucas Duda.

He looked at the David Wright situation and thought, “Well, I’ve got a guy in AAA who’s leading the league in RBIs and hitting .367 (a career .319 hitter).  Nah, let’s take the lazy route and promote the one who’s already on the 40-man roster.”

By the Mets’ own admission David Wright without surgery is out for 8 weeks.  Plus the surgical option is still on the table.  Hmmn…8 weeks times 7 days is 56.  Wouldn’t the more prudent move be to put him on the 60-day DL, open up a roster spot and (music to Fred and Jeff’s ears), start the meter running towards insurance payments covering 75% of Wright’s salary?

Similarly a stress fracture in Lucas Duda’s back lands him on the 15 day DL.  Really?  According to physiotherapists, “Most athletes are able to return to full participation in their sport after about 3 months if they are symptom free.”  By my math 90 days AFTER someone is symptom free is greater than 60 days and hence a stint on the 60-day DL would both make sense and open up a roster spot. 

Everyone is tripping all over themselves to look at internal options the Mets have.  The first obvious one with someone already on the 40-man roster would be to promote Dilson Herrera to play 2B while shifting Neil Walker to 3B.  The little guy is hitting .288 with 8 HRs and 28 RBIs as well as 6 SBs in less than 200 ABs.  This move has not been made likely for financial reasons.  Promoting Herrera would burn his 3rd option and start his service time clock ticking too soon for someone they hope to have in the organization long after Neil Walker is gone.  Scratch that one on the basis of short term losses for long term financial gains.

First baseman Marc Krauss is near the top of the 51s pack in HRs, but think Anthony Recker when you profile him as a hitter.  Yes, he’ll hit some balls over the wall, but in his 400 ABs at the big league level he’s not hit the Mendoza line and K’d with Recker/Nieuwenhuis-like frequency.  Also, without the 60-day DL moves, there’s no room at the inn for someone not on the 40-man roster anyway. 

Travis Taijeron is another guy like TJ Rivera who has done nothing but hit at every level.  This year he’s batting .301 with 8 HRs and 41 RBIs.  However, like Rivera, the probability of him getting a shot is razor thin due to his 40-man roster status.  Furthermore, he doesn’t help the current needs as he’s only played the outfield in his entire minor league career.

Further down the Mets food chain in Binghamton you have a couple of guys capable of playing 1st base, including top draft pick Dom Smith.  While his .267 batting average and 4 HRs don’t make you salivate, his 34 RBIs in less than 1/3 of a season should.  However, roster and option considerations will likely scuttle this move from happening, plus it doesn’t address the power drought. 

Matt Oberste is capable of playing 1B for Binghamton, too, but he’s showing a whole lot to get excited about.  He’s slashing .288/4/23 and also is not on the 40-man roster. 

Others have advocated in-season shifting of Michael Conforto or even Curtis Granderson to 1B in order to open up the outfield slot for….Juan Lagares?  I’m not belittling the many good things Lagares can do, but he’s not going to replace Lucas Duda’s power. 

Still others have advocated obtaining more Loney-like retreads like return engagements from the aforementioned Johnson and Uribe, Aaron Hill, Chase Utley, Martin Prado and others that either cost very little in salary or are on bad contracts and would cost little in resources if you swallow a large chunk of what’s owed to them.

For the first four years of the Alderson regime he tried that lazy approach and finished in the second division.  Last year he tried something new and it worked.  Spending money and spending trading chips to bring in quality ballplayers not only helped to win ballgames but increased revenues at the turnstiles.  Imagine that!

One outside-the-box thought for the risk-averse Mets is Cuban defector Yulieski Gourriel.  He's a power hitting third baseman regarded as the best player in the somewhat opened island nation.  At age 32 he's not going to count against any international bonus money and is essentially a straight free agent due only money to sign him.  His best season was probably 2009 when he hit 30 HRs, drove in 105 and hit .363 in just 344 ABs.  What really stands out about him more than his career batting average of .335 is the fact in his WORST year he only struck out 58 times.  Better yet, he's considered a plus defender at 3B.  They don't have to look too far to get an assessment of his talent.  Yoenis Cespedes played in the same league against him for 8 years.  

So going forward what would be your course of action for the Sandy-man to take?  I hate to sound like a broken record, but I’d still pursue Hyun- Soo Kim from Baltimore and Jonathan Lucroy from Milwaukee given the fact that Wright may have reached the end of the line, Curtis Granderson is not getting any younger and there’s no guarantee of a return of Yoenis Cespedes.  You need some younger quality players around whom you may have to build not only for the remainder of 2016 but into the future as well.  The 32 and over retreads are not the way to go.  


Dallas said...

On the positive side I think the bullpen is better. Minus the last week where they imploded they were pretty stellar. Someone was postulating that they added Reynolds instead of Rivera because they expect to burn Reynolds spot with a trade. I think they would lose Rivera if they made a trade and tried to put him back through waivers. I'm pretty sure our ptiching staff could out hit Reynolds.

Zozo said...

I would go with Reyes playing third and batting leadoff. He could be had on the cheap salary wise (Rockies would pay most of his salary) and prospect wise.
He has ignited this team before and this ball park was built for his speed. With him here we wouldn't be so reliant on home runs to win all the time.
Jose Jose Jose chants would be awesome once again. That's where I would go.

Thomas Brennan said...

Hey, Reese. Wright has almost undoubtedly reached the point where this injury will keep him out until Sept 1, when rosters can expand. At that point He is reasonably healthy and ready for a run at the WS, or really not healthy but willing to give it a few stirring pinch hit at bats and maybe a final start.

I worry that all this exertion on his back could worsen it long term, so that seems the best plan...then retire.

Money gave you an "oh yeah?" and hit one last night but he is likely just a short term stop gap.

Love to see them try TJ Rivera enough to see if he could hit big league pitching...maybe he'd succeed, or maybe there is something we all don't know. But he has hit .343 since the start of 2014...wouldn't that translate into a .250 hitter in the bigs?

Taijeron - puzzled why he never, to increase his value, played 1B.

You have some great out of the box ideas. The Cuban might be worth pursuing. Cespedes has done really well, Moncada (who they passed on) looks like a future star, with 80 steals in 130 minor league games so far.

Grandy to first, Lagares more full time just might work, but could Brandy play 1B?

Hobie said...

I don't think SA will exercise the "Herrera option" because Walker is not a lock at 3B, the current 2B/SS combo has been solid and they feel Wilmer's bat is => Dilson's right now. And while restricting Herrera to < 53 days on active status postpones his Arb Clock , he's likely to b a super 2 anyway (the 3rd option year has already been burned this year)--so that's not the key.

TJR--a ho-hum 2/4 (.370) last night, 2B (14)--makes more sense as the 24th man (De Aza is 25th) to platoon with Loney or even an occasional LF start against LHP.

I certainly wouldn't mind a Lucroy for TdA + X swap (depending on the X). What would Kim cost? Valencia (OAK)? Take a flyer on the Cubn guy? sure.

Thomas Brennan said...

Hobie, this is the first time in his career TJ Rivera is hitting middle of the order. Look at the RBIs. He is hitting very much like Flores did in his time in AAA, and forgetting his poor start as a 2016 part timer, look at what Wilmer did last year. I bet TJ could do similarly, except fewer homers.

Gary Seagren said...

Here's a real big question: would it not make sense to promote Dilson and move Walker to 3rd to see how well he'll handle the promotion so we'll have a better idea of what to do with Neil as he heads to FA. The middle of the lineup is Cespedes and Walker and both are scheduled to test the FA market and if they both leave then what? Sandy almost HAS to resign YC or the fan base will burn down Citi-field and there are no replacements out there for him.

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