Posted by Reese Kaplan at 8:00 AM
Baseball fans are more opinionated than a certain orange haired presidential candidate. Quite often we’re wrong but sometimes things are obvious to anyone with a scintilla of knowledge of the game yet due to misplaced loyalty the lineup construction and decisions are dictated by past accomplishments, salary and/or veteran status when none of the above are guarantees of success in the present nor in the future.
Right now the club is still operating under the delusion that the post-season is a virtual certainty when they can barely keep their collective heads above .500. Now no one can put the onus of the collapse on any one thing – not even injuries. There are a multitude of factors that have gone wrong but the manager has managed to wrest the least of the available resources. Am I being unfair? Who has flourished offensively under this regime? I’ll give you Yoenis Cespedes who appears to be the latter day answer to Reggie Jackson, the straw that stirs the drink. However, he had a solid reputation before arriving here. Neil Walker is another one. He’s likely going to eclipse his season-best mark for the long ball. After that it gets pretty dismal very quickly.
If you buy into the belief that “You Don’t Gotta Believe” in 2016, then the club should be thinking ahead to 2017 to prepare for some tough personnel decisions ahead of them. Towards that end a number of changes need to be made in order to ascertain who’s going to be part of the cure and who’s already demonstrated they’re symptomatic of what’s gone wrong.
Play Wilmer Flores there day in and day out. He’s shown solid offensive ability for a few months now, albeit primarily against lefties. Challenge him to learn to hit righties as well. He’s not going to learn if he doesn’t have the chance. On the upside he will provide more power than will James Loney who’s been an adequate warm body in Lucas Duda’s stead, but he’s not part of the solution.
Start thinking long and hard about whether or not you want to extend Neil Walker. Arguments can be made either way, but the fact is with Dilson Herrera no longer in the picture, Mr. Walker’s negotiating leverage just skyrocketed. That development will likely have him eclipsing the contract of potential MVP Daniel Murphy and will draw scorn and ridicule from the media for the Mets’ financial malfeasance.
Now here’s an interesting dilemma. You have incumbent Asdrubal Cabrera under contract for a very reasonable $8.5 million salary for 2017. You have a minimum wage option on Jose Reyes who could provide leadoff capabilities. You have 1st round draft pick Gavin Cecchini tearing it up offensively in AAA while showing a huge improvement of late with the glove. What to do, what to do…I predict Cabrera will be on the trading block with the money saved put towards other needs. For now, keep playing Cabrera but get a peek at Cecchini after September 1st.
With David Wright still an unknown commodity the position has belonged to Jose Reyes. He’s been more good than bad and with the proper amount of time to get back into prime playing condition he’s likely still got something left in the tank. However, it might behoove the club to see what they really have in TJ Rivera. He’s hit at every level and is not just a PCL phenomenon a’la Eric Campbell, Josh Satin and others who couldn’t hack it in the big leagues. Keep Reyes fresh by resting him and also increase his versatility by occasionally spelling Cabrera and Walker.
Leave Yoenis Cespedes in LF. Yes, he really should play RF given his arm, but in the pecking order of decision making a superstar player outranks the manager (or so sayeth the sage words of Jim Bouton in Ball Four).
Promote Michael Conforto on September 1st and thank Curtis Granderson for a job…done. I’m sorry, but the man is simply not helping the club and despite being saddled with his contract for 2017 there’s no reason to use the September expanded roster period to have future starters sit on the bench. A solid month of Conforto in CF every day should give you an idea of how he handles the role defensively while simultaneously letting you see if his AAA gaudy numbers are smoke and mirrors or the real thing. Sorry, Curtis, but you are the weakest link.
Jay Bruce may have gone into a hitting coma, but he’s got a relatively inexpensive option for 2017 for a guy close to the top of the league in RBIs. The Reds let him go for relatively little return, so it’s not likely you could sign and trade him. He is what he is – Lucas Duda, outfield version (no bad flashbacks intended by that analogy). I meant with what he can provide with the bat.
Yes, I want to see Travis d’Arnaud build on what he’s finally started doing of late, but Kevin Plawecki has rebounded very nicely and should usurp the Rene Rivera ABs to see if he can indeed hit at the major league level. If so, he opens up trade possibilities of either he or d’Arnaud. Right now he’s a great unknown.
After the healthy one-two punch of Noah Syndergaard and Jacob de Grom it gets pretty murky with the recent DL stints by Steven Matz and Jon Niese. Seth Lugo is a nice story so far but his minor league pedigree isn’t exactly the stuff of Westminster level. Gabriel Ynoa was somewhat better throughout his journey to the big leagues and at times Robert Gsellman has been downright dominant. I think it’s time once they acknowledge reality to transition big Bart to the pen and see what they have in these rookie pitchers. Granted, exposing them could diminish their trade value if they falter but it’s a small sample size either way even if they dominate. You might even reach down to AA and give Rafael Montero another shot given his spectacular time in Binghamton. Everyone wants the five potential aces to pitch in the same rotation, but injuries have derailed that plan once again, so it behooves the club to see what they really have in other resources.
That’s my not so humble opinion on what the club should be doing between now and the end of the year. What’s your take?