Posted by Reese Kaplan at 8:00 AM
Somehow the script people envisioned at the end of 2015 didn’t unfold the way everyone anticipated. Some revisionists are proclaiming now that they were on the “sign Daniel Murphy” bandwagon when you could pretty much find four leaf clovers with greater frequency than you could others who advocated paying up for the Irish Dr. Strangeglove with Dilson Herrera waiting in the wings to deliver power, speed and defense for years to come at minimum wage. Then when Sandy Alderson was able to flip disgruntled Jon Niese to Pittsburgh for one year of Neil Walker at an almost even exchange of paychecks there was rejoicing in the streets.
Fast forward six plus months into the lackluster 2016 season and the injury bug has afflicted the Mets with a disproportionate vengeance. David Wright, Lucas Duda, Matt Harvey, Travis d’Arnaud, Asdrubal Cabrera and Jose Reyes all hit the DL for longer than anticipated. As a result, the offense has been so diminished that Sandy Alderson had to rethink the original plan and include Dilson Herrera as a part of the trade that landed (at the time) the league’s leading RBI bat, Jay Bruce. All of the sudden the future is in flux.
It doesn’t help the Mets fanbase any that Daniel Murphy is having an MVP type of season for the division leading rival Washington Nationals, hence all the 20-20 hindsight by prognosticators who felt they should have, for example, traded Lucas Duda and slid Murphy over to man 1st. That theory would have had Herrera promoted immediately up to the majors. The problem with this strategy is that Herrera hit something of a wall this year, hitting a mere .271 in the hitting paradise of Las Vegas where guys like Eric Campbell, Ty Kelly and others were in the .330 range.
Anyway, Mr. Herrera is water under the bridge and now the Mets are in the odd position of entertaining the prospect of signing Neil Walker to the type of deal they felt was inappropriate for Daniel Murphy. Walker is having a nice season with 20 HRs and 51 RBIs thus far out of the 2-hole most of the season (because as we know, in Collinsville second basemen must bat 2nd). Murphy got 3 years and $37.5 million from the Nationals. That’s probably the same range you’d have to pay to retain Walker. Assuming Walker finishes the season with about 27 Hrs and 70 RBIs, he should have plenty of suitors.
Suppose they can’t keep him or won’t pay to keep him. They may feel that with Jay Bruce, David Wright, Lucas Duda, Curtis Granderson, Michael Conforto and perhaps Yoenis Cespedes under contract for next year, they may go with a combination of Jose Reyes, and Asdrubal Cabrera up the middle. They do have an option on Reyes for nearly minimum wage. Then there’s Wilmer Flores who could man second or even Gavin Cecchini, but you’d think that Wally Backman would have him looking to move to the other side of the diamond given his defensive struggles and Herrera’s departure.
Some of the non-roster types like T.J. Rivera could play themselves into utility roles similar to what Matt Reynolds and Ty Kelly are doing at the major league level right now, but the team has thus far not been willing to give Rivera a shot despite his fielding versatility and solid record of hitting in non-PCL environments. L.J. Mazzilli is a distant possibility too but he’s not exactly set the minors on fire with his bat.
There are a lot of moving parts going into next season. Is Lucas Duda healthy? What do you do with James Loney who has done everything you could have hoped in his rescue from El Paso obscurity.
What does Jose Reyes have left? Will his distant All-Star history and low price tag trump other potentially better solutions?
What of David Wright? You’re paying him and he’s publicly stated he wants to come back, so the team is somewhat hamstrung in its personnel decisions until they see whether or not he’s done.
The real challenge is in the outfield where Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson are both under contract, and Michael Conforto needs to demonstrate he’s more like what was seen in 2015 than 2016. Then there’s the Cuban elephant in the room, Yoenis Cespedes, who, despite his proclaimed love of playing in New York might want to try to parlay his solid season into a longer term deal elsewhere. That’s another great unknown ranking up there with Wright’s and Duda’s respective health.
Then there’s the pitching. Will the Fab Five finally be able to form the enviable rotation that everyone envisioned with Noah Syndergaard, Jacob de Grom, Matt Harvey, Steve Matz and Zack Wheeler? What becomes of guys like Bartolo Colon and Jon Niese? Are they willing to take long man bullpen roles to serve as insurance or do they turn to the Logan Verretts, Sean Gilmartins and others of that ilk?
By the way, has anyone noticed that once Rafael Montero got out of the pitching hell of Las Vegas he has returned to the form that skyrocketed him through the system. He’s currently 3-1 with a 2.27 ERA and a nice WHIP of just over 1.000. The only down side seems to be his decreased strikeout numbers – fewer than 7.1 per 9 innings pitched when he’s previously done about 2 more. Still, the demotion may have made him into a viable trade candidate since he’s obviously fallen out of favor in New York.