Posted by Reese Kaplan at 8:00 AM
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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?