Reese Kaplan -- What Can We Expect in the 2nd Half?


While a lot of people are doing the mid season report cards on the club, wringing their hands over the injuries and bemoaning the lack of offense, I’ve come to accept the team for what it is and want instead to examine how to get the best out of the resources at hand. 

First Base
James Loney started slowly, then caught fire, then regressed.  It appears the plan now is for him to platoon at 1B with Wilmer Flores, giving both of them exposure only to the pitchers who they hit best.  While the power numbers may be down from what you’d expect from Lucas Duda, the overall offense – higher batting average and some good RBI production – might actually make Duda’s absence a bit easier to swallow. 

Second Base
Call me crazy, but I think the Mets’ best trade chip right now is Neil Walker.  He’s likely gone as a free agent next year anyway, Dilson Herrera is having another solid season in AAA, and Wilmer Flores is another backup to the position.  You have to give to get, so maybe it’s time to consider dangling the big power numbers from the first half to interested parties and see if it can help net that number five starter the team desperately needs.  To the acquiring club, he’s only a half-year obligation after which they could issue a QO and get the draft pick, so he’s fairly desirable.  (Of course, for the very same reason he’s desirable to keep around for the remainder of the year, but the Mets are more flush with middle infielders right now (throw Gavin Cecchini and TJ Rivera into that mix, too) than they are with healthy starting pitchers.

Asdrubal Cabrera is doing what they hoped he would – providing solid if unspectacular defense and solid offense at a position that was mired in the Ruben Tejada era for far too long.  He’s looking to be worth every bit of his free agent contract.

Third Base
Early indications are that the fans’ affection for Jose Reyes far outweighed the protests over his personal behavior.  His arrival at the top of the batting order along with some unexpected power suggests that there’s no Yuliesky Gourriel in the team’s future. 

Travis d’Arnaud has shown the ability to drive the ball in the gaps and over the wall.  His defense is Piazza-like but if he can provide .275 hitting with some power then everyone will be happy to take it.  Rene Rivera is what he is…perhaps he can impart some of the pitch handling wisdom to the younger catcher (even if he can’t surgically attach his throwing arm). 

Left Field
My suspicion is that Michael Conforto will be back on Friday to begin the second half.  While it’s Brandon Nimmo who will likely be shown the door, most would agree if money was not an issue they’re rather see Alejandro De Aza make his exit.  Still, in the bizarre world of Terry Collins, younger players don’t get to play anyway, so it may be better for Nimmo to go back to hitting .330 in AAA and build up his trade value. 

Center Field
While no one will ever confuse Yoenis Cespedes for Juan Lagares out there, the fact remains that he’s been pretty much a one-man show when it comes to the Mets’ offense.  As long as he stays healthy, you keep him in the lineup wherever he can do the least damage.  In an ideal world that would be right field given his strong arm, but apparently management does not want to ask him to play there.

Right Field
Curtis Granderson is turning it on at the right time.  Not only is his power surge helping the Mets win some games, but, shockingly, it may turn him into a viable trade commodity to a club looking for some power from the left side.  Of course, taking him on means agreeing to pay the remaining approximately $24 million for the rest of this season and next, so it would be a bit of a tough sell, but it may turn out that there’s a similarly expensive pitcher that could be acquired.  Doing so would necessitate playing Nimmo or Lagares every day, but right now as bad as the offense is it would appear a pitcher is actually a higher priority. 

Starting Rotation
Let’s all wish for health for the two question marks – Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz – while the healthy pitchers can hopefully avoid the injury jinx that’s befallen the club.  After Bartolo Colon and Jacob de Grom it’s pretty bleak.  Logan Verrett is rapidly earning the nickname “Gopher” for the number of meatballs he’s serving up to opposing hitters.  The choices in AAA are not too appealing.  It looks as if Sandy Alderson is going to have to use some of his sparse chips to try to acquire outside help.

Jeurys Familia has been tap dancing on the edge of collapse many times, but how can you argue with Saves perfection?  Not to be a Debbie Downer but the law of averages will catch up to him eventually.  Addison Reed has been awesome and Jerry Blevins is getting out right handers as well as left (though the platoon obsessed manager hasn’t really noticed).  Hansel Robles seemed to have turned it up a notch lately and is becoming more of a long man than the quick strikeout artist he’d been in the past.  The problem children, however, are Antonio Bastardo (here for yet another year after this one) and Erik Goeddel.  Both have been getting shelled lately and while it’s not likely Bastardo is in any risk, Goeddel could see his spot taken by someone internally or through acquisition.  As it is, he’s likely under consideration for a trip to Las Vegas once Jim Henderson is deemed healthy enough to return.  That depends, of course, on Seth Lugo’s performance.  While Collins is known to go with the familiar rather than with the untested, he may be tiring of the 9.00 ERA Goeddel has posted in July. 

Kelly Johnson is a veteran who can play many positions and has some home run power.  Juan Lagares is an awesome fielder with good baserunning speed and line drive capability.  Wilmer Flores has shown some good ability to hit when he plays regularly but he’s not gotten it done very well as a bench player.  It gets ugly fast after that.  Rene Rivera is a Mendoza-line hitter.  Alejandro De Aza is John Mayberry-Lite. 

How to Improve
Getting healthy is easier said than done, but any team that’s lost its first baseman, third baseman, catcher and ace starting pitcher to injury already would be happy to be where the Mets are at this point in the standings.  Throw in the implosion of Michael Conforto and it’s amazing they’re actually over .500. 

Still, there is a great need to acquire someone who can give them Matt Harvey’s innings at a close-to-2015 and prior Matt Harvey level.  Getting that pitcher is going to require the sacrifice of some chips at the major or minor league levels.  In the majors it could be Neil Walker as you do have Wilmer Flores and Dilson Hererra available to play 2B (or Reyes with Flores to 3B).  It could be Curtis Granderson whose recent power surge might raise some eyebrows and start some rival GMs salivating.  Still, if trading away a Granderson means an everyday role for a Nimmo/Lagares platoon, that’s a pretty steep drop off in power.  There are the minor league chips – Herrera, Cecchini, Dom Smith and even Nimmo – but people’s opinions vary widely on their value. 

The easiest thing in the world to do would be to sign Gourriel, shift Reyes to 2B and use Neil Walker to acquire the pitcher, but that would require more guts and imagination than Sandy Alderson has ever demonstrated.  He’s cautious to a fault and the results show that.  Instead of trading Curtis Granderson last off-season coming off a solid 2015 he did nothing.  Instead of coming up with a plan to back up David Wright who he knew was likely to miss a lot of time, he did nothing.  Signing Gourriel would allow him to preserve his other trade chips for other needs down the road.  Trading away Neil Walker would offset most of Gourriel’s salary anyway (for this year).  

How do you think the Mets can solidify and improve the team?


Tom Brennan said...

88 games down and only 74 games left, so we are lighter on corrective time to fix our situations.

I would sign Gourriel, as you suggest, and trade Walker. Reyes frankly could be better than Walker.

Walker for a pitcher would make sense. Ever since Verrett joined the Mets, I believed his homer-every-9-innings-in-the-minors record would catch up with him, since guys in minors on average hit a lot less homers than 1 every 9 innings. They NEED someone else.

I'd also send Montero to AA and see if getting out of Homer Heaven might help him find himself again - 41 earned runs in his last 36 innings is mind-boggling, even for Vegas.

Seth Lugo is almost as bad career-wise, with a homer every 10 innings. As a starter in Vegas, spanning 60 innings, his ERA is almost 7 and the league was hitting .333 against him, WAY above the collective teams he's faced which probably are averaging under .280.

I'd lop of 2 runs per game for Lugo to normalize his AAA ERA, but that would make it a way-too-high 5.00 as a starter.

Gsellman missed time at the wrong time and is not ready. Ynoa has been pounded lately. If they had to resort to a guy for a start or 2, my only possible option is AA Tyler Pill. He has the advantage of a live bat, even if he is a marginal MLB starter at best.

Duda I guess is a month away so a 1B platoon of Flores and Loney is fine until then. I'd get Flores 2 games a week at first, one at 2nd, one at SS, one at 3B.

Herrera has hit with good power, but his average this year (mid-.270's, with a meager .319 on base %). And Cecchini's error-every-2-games rate disqualifies him. Reynolds had some success, so if Walker goes, call him up. Phil Evans surprisingly has hit .311 in 48 AA games with only 6 errors in 50 games in the field at 2B, 3B, and SS in 2016, so he has to be a long shot, and LJ Mazzilli has hit about .305 in AA since June 1 and has "just" 8 errors at 2B in 72 games - another long shot.

Of course, the best of them all (Amed Rosario) is just too soon to call up.

Your buddy Ruben Tejada is hitting .226 in 14 minors games for the Giants, BTW.

Robb said...

btw, any player traded during the season is exempt from the QO in free agency. players headed to free agency who arent necesarily going to get huge money and arent going to resign want to be trade to avoid the QO.

Anonymous said...

Reese... I can't agree with you more with your analysis. Especially the limitations of both the manager and the GM. One of the things that irks me to no end are leaders who are not forward thinkers who also show a little bit of guts. It's like a pitcher with good stuff who nibbles around the plate and gives up too many walks. I love the idea of trading Walker who is a predictable drop off from Murphy. It seems to me that Murphy was simply not liked by this Gm and a sizeable portion of the fan base to begin with. As such his defensive deficiencies were always overblown. Unlike you however, I have not accepted the inconsistent offense. It's been like this for several years now. I have serious doubts that Sandy and Terry are the leaders to fix it.

Tom Brennan said...

Neil walker is just .200/.269/.274 in his last 30 games, by the way. Flores can play 2 games per week at 2B, IMO. Wilmer in lat 30 days .293/.337/.565

You dont hit, you sit.

Reese Kaplan said...

You don't hit you sit unless the manager is full of...

Tom Brennan said...

A Terry, Terry good point, Reese. If Johnny Cochran were still around, his (correct) call would be "if the dude don't hit, he's got to sit".

Tom Brennan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eddie Corona said...

Actually Thomas wouldn't the best trade chip we have be Cabrera?
He is playing far better than expected therefor he would provide the highest return...
Reyes actually makes this move easier to swallow... Reyes is not what he once was at SS but he may be solid enough to offset the loss of Cabrera (and hopefully the return Improves us).
Walker value is highest with the Mets (especially since the QO only applies to us).

Great Idea about Montero to AA... I think that could help him...

Reese Kaplan said...

That is a very creative thought, Eddie. Reyes could muddle through this year and potentially next, then Amed Rosario should be ready for the majors. There's also Gavin Cecchini, but I have a feeling his future role is trade bait.

Eddie Corona said...

Gavin Cecchini i thinks needs to start playing the OF, 2B, 3B, 1B (and heck maybe even emergency C)...
his Errors means he cannot play SS but maybe he has a future as a Poor man's Zobrist...
Anyway to improve value...

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