Reese Kaplan -- The Benchwarmers


We've finally come to the last entry in the 11 part series examining the makeup of the roster for 2017. We've considered each of the positions, the starting rotation and the bullpen.  The last article will be who sits on Terry Collins' bench for next season:

The Virtual Certainties
  • Wilmer Flores – He’s in the borderline starter category.  He’s demonstrated an ability to be an offensive weapon, particularly against lefties, but he’s struggling a bit against righties.  Not getting opportunities against them exacerbates this problem, but his defensive versatility (such as it is) makes him more likely to be the poor man’s version of Ben Zobrist rather than being penciled into one particular defensive position on a daily basis.
  • T.J. Rivera – He certainly opened eyes with his hitting and his competent if unspectacular fielding.  His only hope of a steady gig is the departure of Neil Walker combined with more DL time for David Wright.  Otherwise he’s a part of an increasingly competent bench.
  • Rene Rivera – His work with the pitchers (Noah Syndergaard in particular) made people overlook his otherwise lackluster contributions with the bat.  He’ll be the number two catcher for sure.
  • Juan Lagares – Assuming his surgically repaired thumb is good to go, you can’t kick about having a Gold Glove centerfielder available off the bench, especially when he’s added speed to his singles/doubles offensive game. 

On the Bubble
  • Michael Conforto – The reason he’s in this category is because the uncertainty about Yoenis Cespedes returning and a possible conversion to 1st Base put his role up in the air.  If they go with an outfield alignment of Cespedes, Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce as they did down the stretch then Conforto becomes a bat off the bench.
  • Jose Reyes – His role becomes bench warmer if they decide to re-sign Neil Walker and David Wright makes a miraculous recovery. 
  • Brandon Nimmo – While he didn’t exactly set the world afire with his bat, he did have some key contributions down the stretch and was well received for his enthusiasm.  Coming off a .352 season in AAA it’s not likely he has much left to  prove there.
  • Justin Ruggiano – Gone almost as quickly as he arrived, Ruggiano has always had power (52 home runs in 1200+ ABs) and plays a competent outfield.  Given how much they like their veterans, I wouldn’t necessarily count out the Texan.  Of course, being right handed with Lagares already penciled in he may not be the smarter choice. He wouldn't cost much to sign.
  • Kelly Johnson – He’s delivered many times for the club, can around the infield and in the outfield.  Rather than giving up a prospect for the third year in a row, they should give serious consideration to signing him for a bench role as a FA.

The Improbables
  • Ty Kelly – Despite his excellent numbers in AAA and his positional versatility, he doesn’t have any one outstanding tool that suggests he’s among the first or even second tier of possibilities.
  • Gavin Cecchini – His conversion from shortstop to 2nd base likely means another year in AAA.  He’s playing there in the Arizona Fall League.  Considering the Mets have another option year for Asdrubal Cabrera, Amed Rosario rocketing his way up the system and Cecchini’s struggles defensively at shortstop, I’m guessing he’s stocking up on poker chips. 
  • Matt Reynolds – Organizational filler, likely bypassed by Gavin Cecchini and Ty Kelly already. 
  • Kevin Plawecki – His only hope is that the club moves Travis d’Arnaud but if they do it would not likely be to hand the job to the thus far underwhelming Plawecki.  He had a nice run in AAA but barely played once promoted in September. 
  • Eric Campbell – Please just go the way of Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Anthony Recker and Eric Young, Jr.
  • James Loney – As J. Peterman once said to Elaine on “Seinfeld”, thank you for a job done. 


The first four are carved in stone unless by some chance they decide to peddle one of them as part of a trade to fortify another position (such as catcher).  Reyes is on the team in some capacity for sure, so he’s number five.  Much of the year they went with just a five-man bench, so that could be it.  There’s a lot of ifs still to be decided, but should Cespedes walk then Conforto becomes a starter.  That would make the next man up for me Kelly Johnson given his familiarity, veteran status and the ability to play multiple positions.  If Reyes is a starter and they go with a six-man bench then Ruggiano is probably their guy over Nimmo and Brandon becomes trade bait off his solid offensive season.  After all, with potentially Lucas Duda, Curtis Granderson, Michael Conforto and Jay Bruce they need some right handed power to balance things out.  


Thomas Brennan said...

Lots of decisions to make. GM job can be a challenge in such cases.

Of course, the absence of Danny Muno makes it all so much easier. LOL

Hobie said...

Nice series, Reese. You have put all the chips on the table. Many decisions to make, some much easier than others. Some a flip of the coin, some agonizing.

Everything comes after re-signing Cespedes--or not. My take assumes we can sign him, if not it becomes a lot more complicated. Predicting trades is playing poker with yourself--can't do it/won't do it.

OF: LF-Cespedes, CF-Legares/Nimmo (more 50/50 than L/R platoon); RF Keep one of Grandy/Bruce
IF: 1B-Conforto/Wright (if there is any chance of productivity from David, otherwise consider starting his managerial career in LV), more likely Conforto/Wilmer; 2B-sign Walker (especially if no Wright); SS-Asdrubal; 3B-Jose; as I have only 4 OF above, TJ & Johnson can be true IF/OF UT's (and Conforto's availanle)

SP: Still can & want to see Fab 5 (and would be selling low on any but Thor anyway), Sign Bartolo. Plus Gsilman, Lugo & Montero may be in Queens while others stretch out in LV, then swap--or not.
BP: Back End-Familia, Reed, Blevins/Robles; LR-Bartolo, MR-Robles/Blevins, Smoker/Edgin, Salas/Sewald

C: Biggest question mark. FA Ramos is almost as fragile as TdA, FA Wieters? See above on trades (would like Colo's Murphy though)

Outside the box. RA Dickey

TP said...

Good points. I like the return of Bartolo but if he commands two years Dickey could be a reasonable backup plan.

Nobody knows what will happen with Cespedes, but something tells me he will not be back, and I think the Mets need to find out early and the quickly plan life without him. As you state, it will be quite complicated to add RH power and make the necessary decisions.

Reese Kaplan said...

Rumblings are being made about Andrew McCutchen being in play as a trade option. He's earning a very modest $14 million, can play CF, bats right handed and is in the final year of his contract ni 2017 (option in 2018). He would be a reasonable Cespedes replacement, but what would it take to get him?

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