7/31/16

YANKS BRILLIANT, METS DUMB

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YANKS BRILLIANT, METS DUMB by Tom Brennan

So the other shoe dropped.   Yanks trade another of their pantheon of recently acquired bullpen greats, Andrew Miller, for Cleveland's #1 prospect and some other valuable pieces.  This just days after trading Aroldis Chapman for a great Cubs' #1 prospect and some other valuable pieces.

They signed these two superior superior relievers, got great, terrific, exciting production from them, then got great prospects in two great trades.   BRILLIANT.

The Mets, #2 but not trying harder, always half step, signing dudes like de Aza and Bastardo, with fingers crossed.  DUMB.

The Yanks will likely re-sign Chapman in the off-season, too.
They know quality and ain't shy to get it.

Heck, they'll probably sign Cespedes too this offseason when he opts out of his contract the Mets.  Of course, the Mets could and should have signed with Cespedes long term last off-season when he was cheap.  DUMB.

Mets should have done what it took to land Lucroy - too cautious…too DUMB.  But now that Lucroy turned down Cleveland, maybe the Mets will get lucky and snag him after all.

Yanks will return to dominance next year.  The Mets have a long term plan…of keeping their fingers crossed.  DUMB.  Please stop being dumb..


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7/30/16

Reese Kaplan -- Be Careful What You Wish For

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Earlier today I admonished the GM for not doing anything.  Perhaps I should have been a little more specific.

Today the Mets signed journeyman Justin Ruggiano, released by a good team because he was not deemed capable of contributing to the goal of pursuing a pennant.  For his career he's had roughly the equivalent of two full seasons of play with 1260 ABs.  During that time he's posted a .250 batting average and just a .250 OBP.  Isn't that one of the key problems the team is trying to solve -- getting on base?  To be fair, he's slugged about 24 HRs per "season" over that aggregate number of ABs but he's also fanned 180 times per "season", too.  He's another all-or-nothing type in the mold of latter day Curtis Granderson, but in mirror image.

At minimum wage he's not costing much to fill the vacancy, but if they're going to squander a 40-man roster spot you'd think they might have looked internally at someone like Travis Taijeron.  It's not the worst move they could have made but it's far from the best.
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DREARY HITTING, DREARY TEAM by Tom Brennan

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DREARY HITTING, DREARY TEAM by Tom Brennan

I thought I would repost this today after last night"s dreary affair and after hearing the Mets are dead last in hitting with RISP at .202.  Obviously bad, but Yanks are second worst at .219, and Brewers are 4th worst at .237, 25 points higher than the miserable Mets' bats.  


So here is my repeat:

I was excited coming into this season.  Reality will always, to some degree, intrude on one's excitement.  But it didn't for the first 31 games.  The Mets were hitting a lot of homers, scoring close to 4.5 runs per game, and sitting pretty at 20-11.


Then reality set in...33-37 over the past 70 games, getting great pitching, but DREARY hitting.  A mere 3.35 runs per game, leaving the team at 372 runs, 28th in baseball, a mere 3 ahead of San Diego and 21 ahead of Atlanta.  Very close to the bottom.  And 190 behind the Red Sox.  It is what Met teams historically do - score in the bottom third of baseball teams.  Offensive impotence is part of this team's genealogy.  Root, root, root for the home team - while they sputter.  And they sit squarely at the bottom in terms of batting average, at .238.  Thirtieth out of 30.


Of course, the .238 is much, much higher than the team's batting average with runners in scoring position, which has not been dreary - it has been dreadful, including yesterday.


Yesterday was yet another day that Jake deGrom pitched his heart out and got shafted, not due to Familia - more on him later - but due to this ownership's inability to develop or acquire offensive talent - or, in the case of Murphy(.351/.391/.619), keep it when it is right under their collective noses.


Jake has won 29 of his 70 starts (41%), despite more than a strikeout per inning; a career 2.59 ERA; and the fact that he helps himself with the bat.  This year, he has won 6 of 17 - 5 losses, 7 no-decisions - despite a 2.56 ERA.  Why?  The dreary hitting.


Solution?  Spend money.  Consider that we only got Cespedes back because he got cheap.  The owners are cheap always, fingers firmly crossed...and we get dreary hitting - how bad would we be had we not lucked back into Cespedes?  Historically bad.


Jeurys Familia has pitched in a ton of games this year and last - partly because every game is close because the team's offense is dreary.  He's just plain tired.  Worn out, perhaps.  Mechanical Terry Collins' luck finally ran out there.


How would this team have looked if they were brilliant like the Yanks, got Chapman for a few low level prospects instead of Bastardo, spent a little more on Chapman, got rewarded with 105 MPH-induced fan delight, and then could have auctioned him off for a club's best prospect a few months later (as the Yanks just did), or kept him and had the best darned bullpen in Mets' history - one where Familia is tired, Chapman steps right in.  


But the Mets did not pursue Chapman because of salary cost differential...forgetting that by getting an elite reliever like Chapman, their record would be better, they'd be more exciting, he'd help draw more fans, etc.  How much in cash would it have cost for the Yanks to buy the guy they just got?  $40 million?    Seems like the YANKS understand true baseball economics.


So the Mets are dreary - because they are cheap - and actually stupid enough to think de Aza would be their quality starting CF before Cespedes miraculously dropped into their laps.


I've had it with cheap.  I've had it with dreary.   My brother?  100% agrees.  How about you?
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Reese Kaplan -- Status Quo? Oh, No!!!

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We reached the fish or cut bait portion of the season.  This week the Miiami Marlins have added two starting pitchers as they attempt to catapult themselves from the second division the past few years into the post season for the first time in thirteen years.  They took the bold step of actually trying to improve their roster.  As Saturday begins the Marlins stand 5.5 games back of the Nationals.  The Mets are trailing them by a game and a half.  The Marlins add Andrew Cashner and Colin Rea.  The Mets trot out an injured Yoenis Cespedes, play shorthanded with an injured Jose Reyes, just lost Juan Lagares for the season for the surgery he should have had when he tore his thumb ligaments.  The Marlins seek to improve the roster.

What have the Mets done?  Well, they keep Alejandro De Aza around for no explicable reason.  He’s rallied recently and has his batting average up to a robust .195.  He’s hit 2 HRs  and driven in 6 runs while stealing 3 bases.  That’s a pace for a full time gig of 10 Hrs, 30 RBIs and 15 Sbs for the entire season.  Wouldn’t nearly ANYONE in organized baseball at the major league or AAA level be able to deliver at least that much?   It’s another case of salary dictating roster space.

Then there’s Antonio Bastardo.  He’s rapidly becoming the pitching equivalent of Jason Bay.  It looked like a good signing when it happened (though not as good as they could have done – Bay instead of Matt Holliday, Bastardo instead of Aroldis Chapman), but it should have unfolded better than it has.  Bastardo doesn’t even have the concussion excuse.  He’s been just brutal.  After Friday’s debacle, he’s now offering up a 4.85 ERA as a pitcher who’s being paid to hold the opposition scoreless.  He’s signed for next year as well, so it’s obvious why he’s still here.

I’m going to take heat for this one, but can someone explain to me the love affair with Jose Reyes?  He’s been fairly brutal at 3B defensively.  He’s hitting .239 with a .278 OBP.  Wasn’t he signed to get on base?  On the rare times when he has, he’s stolen bases – 3 with just one caught stealing – but isn’t that what Eric Young, Jr. did and was run out of town?  In his final full season with the Mets he hit .229 with a .299 OBP.  He wasn’t considered even good enough to hold a bench spot on the roster yet Jose Reyes has started nearly every game since arriving.  It’s about time for someone to point out that the emperor has no clothes.

More importantly, what is general manager Sandy Alderson doing to address the run scoring problem, the starting pitching problem and, to a lesser extent, the bullpen problem?  He’s after a middle reliever.  Doesn’t he have his priorities upside down?  Isn’t Hansel Robles capable of holding down the 7th inning before handing it over to Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia?

On the other hand, you have right now one batter other than Yoenis Cespedes in the starting lineup every day – James Loney – hitting over .260.  It’s an embarrassment.

So are the Mets actually trying to win the games, or are they writing off the 2016 season due to injuries and bad decisions.  If the former, DO SOMETHING to fix the problems.  If not, DO SOMETHING to fix the problems.  Doing nothing results in games like the ones we’ve seen lately.
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7/29/16

DREARY HITTING, DREARY TEAM

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DREARY HITTING, DREARY TEAM by Tom Brennan




I was excited coming into this season.  Reality will always, to some degree, intrude.  But it didn't for the first 31 games.  The Mets were hitting a lot of homers, scoring close to 4.5 runs per game, and sitting pretty at 20-11.


Then reality set in...33-37 over the past 70 games, getting great pitching, but DREARY hitting.  A mere 3.35 runs per game, leaving the team at 372 runs, 28th in baseball, a mere 3 ahead of San Diego and 21 ahead of Atlanta.  Very close to the bottom.  And 190 behind the Red Sox.  It is what Met teams historically do - score in the bottom third of baseball teams.  Offensive impotence is part of this team's genealogy.  Root, root, root for the home team - while they sputter.  And they sit squarely at the bottom in terms of batting average, at .238.  Thirtieth out of 30.


Of course, the .238 is much, much higher than the team's batting average with runners in scoring position, which has not been dreary - it has been dreadful, including yesterday.


Yesterday was yet another day that Jake deGrom pitched his heart out and got shafted, not due to Familia - more on him later - but due to this ownership's inability to develop or acquire offensive talent - or, in the case of Murphy(.351/.391/.619), keep it when it is right under their collective noses.


Jake has won 29 of his 70 starts (41%), despite more than a strikeout per inning; a career 2.59 ERA; and the fact that he helps himself with the bat.  This year, he has won 6 of 17 - 5 losses, 7 no-decisions - despite a 2.56 ERA.  Why?  The dreary hitting.


Solution?  Spend money.  Consider that we only got Cespedes back because he got cheap.  The owners are cheap always, fingers firmly crossed...and we get dreary hitting - how bad would we be had we not lucked back into Cespedes?  Historically bad.


Jeurys Familia has pitched in a ton of games this year and last - partly because every game is close because the team's offense is dreary.  He's just plain tired.  Worn out, perhaps.  Mechanical Terry Collins' luck finally ran out there.


How would this team have looked if they were brilliant like the Yanks, got Chapman for a few low level prospects instead of Bastardo, spent a little more on Chapman, got rewarded with 105 MPH-induced fan delight, and then could have auctioned him off for a club's best prospect a few months later (as the Yanks just did), or kept him and had the best darned bullpen in Mets' history - one where Familia is tired, Chapman steps right in. 


But the Mets did not pursue Chapman because of salary cost differential...forgetting that by getting an elite reliever like Chapman, their record would be better, they'd be more exciting, he'd help draw more fans, etc.  How much in cash would it have cost for the Yanks to buy the guy they just got?  $40 million?    Seems like the YANKS understand true baseball economics.


So the Mets are dreary - because they are cheap - and actually stupid enough to think de Aza would be their quality starting CF before Cespedes miraculously dropped into their laps.


I've had it with cheap.  I've had it with dreary.   My brother?  100% agrees.  How about you?



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Reese Kaplan – Playing Shorthanded

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So once again the decision makers at the New York Mets have decided rather than allow players to go on the disabled list to recover properly from injury they will voluntarily play shorthanded and handicap the already challenged manager. 

Take Yoenis Cespedes.  When his quad injury occurred, they figured they would ride it out.  He missed 9 straight days from the time he left early, then missed another game the following week and is on the shelf again now.  Doesn’t it seem reasonable to think that had he been given the 15 days in a row off when the injury occurred that he would be healed and in playing shape by now?

Then there’s Jose Reyes.  Has anyone had an intercostal muscle strain?  It’s quite painful just sitting and doing nothing ,let alone playing sports at the professional level.  Every time your torso twists it feels like a knife slicing into you, but the Mets feel a day or two of rest will make everything all better.  Did they tell him to rub some dirt in it and get back out there?  According to various online sources on recovery:

"The recovery time for a muscle strain in the ribs can take around two weeks for a mild strain, three to four weeks for a moderate strain, and up to eight weeks for a severe strain. Even if there is a muscle tear, these injuries usually don't take longer than eight weeks to heal. Your doctor may advise no lifting or strenuous activity for a few weeks. Also, bed-rest or quiet rest in a chair may be required. During the time, you may need anti-inflammatory medications (Ibuprofen) and muscle relaxers to relieve muscle spasms."

The only silver lining to this one is that Wilmer Flores (remember him?) is finally getting some at-bats. 

Now the torn thumb ligament of Juan Lagares was also magically supposed to heal with a few days of rest and therapy.  In this case they did allow him to go onto the DL, but rushed him back.  Surprise, surprise, he’s back on the DL again.  Hey, no one likes to send a player under the knife for surgery when it spells the end of his season, but you have a long term investment in the man and you’d think they’d want him healed as quickly as possible rather than having him play through it and perhaps exacerbating the injury. 

So tonight look for an all-lefty outfield of Michael Conforto,  Alejandro De Aza and Curtis Granderson as the team has pretty much no one else except occasional outfielder (and fellow lefty) Kelly Johnson to trot out there while they again play shorthanded.  Could we see Jose Reyes make his talked about but never happened debut in the outfield?  Nope, he’s on the shelf, too. 

Come to think of it, going into this game Skipper has a bench of the aforementioned Johnson, a catcher and Brandon Nimmo.  Is it any wonder the team can’t win?
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7/27/16

Reese Kaplan -- Trade Deadline Stagnation

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As the trade deadline approaches the Mets are apparently seeking bullpen help.  After Jeurys Familia, Addison Reed, Hansel Robles and Jerry Blevins, the remainder of the warm bodies tested out there have had mixed results at best.  This announcement is somewhat surprising as they are apparently content to live with Logan Verrett as the 5th starter despite his 5.23 ERA, 18 Ks and 15 BBs (along with 32 hits) over 31 IP. 

Then again, in 2015 the team was struggling mightily to score runs but after the addition of bench pieces Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson, the first acquisition made was Tyler Clippard (followed soon by Addison Reed and the ill-fated trial of Eric O’Flaherty).  Yoenis Cespedes, of course, eventually came to fortify the offense. 

This year the rumor about Jonathon Lucroy was interesting as he is indeed a solid bat, but when I floated the idea of approaching the Brewers about him earlier when Kevin Plawecki was getting the lion’s share of the ABs, nothing was done.  Still, he’s not going to add a Cespedes-like charge to the offense. 

We’ve all heard the rumors about various bullpen arms who might be acquired.  I have a few thoughts about quality pitchers they might have considered:

There’s one middle reliever to consider who has a 1-2 record, but a nice 3.05 ERA and a very impressive 0.992 WHIP over 33 games.  There’s another rubber armed pitcher who is 2-1 with a 2.90 ERA over 43 games.  Then there’s a third off to a fast 16 game start with a 3-1 record, 3.00 ERA and a terrific 1.067 WHIP.  All three of these players were once NY Mets and sacrificed for absolutely nothing in return. 

The first pitcher is the St. Louis Cardinals’ Matt Bowman unprotected in the Rule V draft after a minor league career in which his worst year prior to 2015 was a 3.22 ERA.  He hit the usual wall in Las Vegas and the Mets foolishly decided to put him up for grabs. 

The second pitcher was a surprising cut by the Mets – Carlos Torres – who turned in two excellent years for the Mets followed by one poor one.  He was cut loose probably more in fear of what he might earn than due to that one outlier season.  He did nearly double his pay to the $950K range this year but he’s certainly earning it. 

The third pitcher was a result of a bump from the 40-man roster when barely given an opportunity to show what he could do at the major league level despite some pretty gaudy minor league numbers.  Dario Alvarez was DFA’d and the Braves astutely picked him up.  He’s rewarded their faith quite nicely through his first 16 games.  The Mets gave him a whopping 5 innings combined over 2 seasons and declared him a failure. 

Lest we be too harsh on Sandy Alderson, when he tired of some proven mediocrities and cut them loose – Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Ruben Tejada, Anthony Recker, Eric Young, Jr., and Juan Uribe – none have come back to haunt the club.  In fact, one might even question why the Mets were enamored with them as long as they were. 

Oddly, for a club that eschewed the free agent marketplace for a long time as a way of filling roster vacancies, the 2016 club is mostly comprised of a great many free agent acquisitions.  This year saw Jim Henderson, Asdrubal Cabrera, Bartolo Colon, Alejandro De Aza, Yoenis Cespedes, Antonio Bastardo, Jerry Blevins and Jose Reyes all come to the Mets by them choosing simply to go for the money.  James Loney was a cash transaction and no resources were sacrificed in that deal either.

In fact, the only trades that Alderson has made are the Pittsburgh Pirates deal sending Jonathon Niese for Neil Walker – edge to the Mets – and the very silly Braves trade sending Akeel Morris for former 2015 Met Kelly Johnson.  Granted, with a .250 average as a Met last year, he didn’t exactly set the world on fire, but you sacrificed a quality arm who thus far in the Braves system is 3-0 with a 3.12 ERA and 22 Ks in 17.1 IP.  You could have had Johnson for dollars alone.  Now you pay him the dollars and lost a prospect to reacquire him.  That’s a clunker of a deal (though not quite as bad as the Alejandro De Aza or Antonio Bastardo disasters). 

Today the Mets said the Lucroy deal is off the table but relievers are still on their radar.  I guess there will be plenty of 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 losses for the remainder of the year.  At least they will have battled.  
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7/25/16

LOWER MINORS HIGH RISERS

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LOWER MINORS HIGH RISERS by Tom Brennan

Some Mets' LOWER MINORS guys are showing signs of being HIGH RISERS.  Here's a few (list not all-inclusive):

TOM SZAPUCKI: the 20 year old lefty fireballer had his debut for the Cyclones yesterday: 5.1 shutout innings with 8 Ks.  In 34 innings in 2016, 0.52, 55 Ks.  Pretty brilliant.  Next Mets ace?

HAROL GONZALEZ: the 21 year old eighty is dazzling in Brooklyn, with a record of 2-1, 2.14, 0.90 WHIP, 52 Ks in 42 IP.  LITTLE PEDRO?

DESMOND LINDSAY: last year's 2nd rounder has played very little, but his recent play has been promising: he's been on base 11 of 21 times.  Stay healthy, Desmond, and keep up the .545 OBP.

KEVIN KACSMARSKI: OK, not so low minors, but in his first 12 games in St Lucie he is hitting .391, with an OBP of close to .500.  After hitting .355 in his Kingsport debut last year, to me he looks like he could be another Brandon Nimmo type.  And Nimmo is up to .338 with 7 smacks in Vegas, not counting his smile bomb in Queens.

PETER ALONSO: this year's 2nd rounder is hitting like a Cyclone in Brooklyn. After 15 games, .315/.413/.574. Like the pop.

DAVID THOMPSON: another recent graduate to St Lucie, the only thing finishing the 4th rounder in 2015's accomplishments this year is losing about 20 games to injury. In 79 games, he has a whopping 70 RBIs, 36 extra base hits, and is a shade under .300.

BEN GRISET: also not so low, Ben has tossed 41 innings for St Lucie this year in relief, allowed just 3 earned runs, and has a 0.85 WHIP.  3-0, too.

PJ CONLON: couldn't not include the finesse lefty, who between Columbia and St Lucie is 11-2, 1.93 in 18 starts this year. Sterling.

ANDRES GIMINEZ: the 17 year old is flourishing in the DSL with .338/.450/.507 in 38 games.  Bonus baby doing real good.

That's my list folks.  G'day.
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7/23/16

Reese Kaplan -- Time for a "Grand" Farewell?

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After a horrific start to the season which reminded many of his 2014 Mets debut, Curtis Granderson has come on strongly over the past several weeks, raising his home run total to 16 and on a pace to potentially reach 30 for the season.  He’s under contract for the remainder of this year and next which means the acquiring team must pay him $16 million for his services and that pro-rated amount for the remainder of this season. 

He’s the ultimate “good citizen” and not just in a baseball sense.  His charitable efforts in both the New York and Chicago areas have been fantastic and he’s probably got a career in broadcasting when he decides to close his locker for the last time. 

Why then would it make sense to consider moving him in the right deal? 

Right now the Mets have a logjam in the outfield.  Superstar Yoenis Cespedes is likely going to get his way and play LF for the remainder of the season.  Michael Conforto, while no Gold Glover, is certainly adequate in the outfield and will be pushed to RF where he has a whopping 4 games of experience.  That leave the true Gold Glover, Juan Lagares, with nowhere to play since Granderson makes too much money, and, combined with his recent hot streak, he’s going to be in there nearly every day.  Unfortunately Granderson’s legs and arm make him a liability in the outfield, though he has more experience out there than the rest of the other options combined.

Now some would say it’s foolishness to consider dealing away one of the few productive bats on a team that struggles to score runs, but I would suggest that he’s got decent power but little else.  What they need are fewer all-or-nothing types of players.  They’re treading water right now with the lineup they field every day and in September will likely have a virtual Granderson clone returning in Lucas Duda. 

Everyone knows the club is reeling from the Matt Harvey injury and the Antonio Bastardo/Erik Goeddel implosions in the bullpen.  With very little available on the farm to offer in trade, you have to start thinking about what the club needs to win and how they can reshape themselves into thunder and lightning offense with some decent power complemented by some base running ability.  At one point Granderson provided that as well, but at age 35 he’s slowing down and speed isn’t much a part of his game anymore. 

Of course, any prospective trade of Granderson also opens up the question of who takes the outfield roster spot?  While the quick answer is Brandon Nimmo, it would mean having two left handed replacements in Nimmo and Alejandro De Aza.  Would the payroll savings possibly be the push needed to part ways with De Aza and let a right handed outfielder such as Travis Taijeron finally see the big leagues? 

With the manager apparently committed to Jose Reyes at 3B, having Juan Lagares batting in the two hole would give the club two players to set the table for the thunder that follows from Cespedes, Conforto, Duda (when he returns),  Neil Walker, Asdrubal Cabrera, Travis d’Arnaud and even the Haley’s Comet frequency of Wilmer Flores starts.  What the club gets right now is a lot of solo homers.  Granderson’s almost imponderable stats – 16 HRs and only 29 RBIs – is the best evidence of that phenomenon. 

If you assume after his contract ends, he won’t be offered another one, then you’re really looking at sacrificing the rest of 2016 and his age 36 season in 2017.  Personally, I could live with that if it meant bringing on board a pitcher or two who could help, or a high quality AA outfield prospect who might be ready to play towards the end of next season. 

To some extent I know I’m grasping at straws, having previously entertained the notions of trading Neil Walker and an astute reader suggested Asdrubal Cabrera.  I’d like to see SOMETHING done in the way of signaling you’re actually trying to improve the club.  Would you offer Granderson straight up for Tyler Clippard, knowing you’re taking on his $6.12 million salary for the remainder of this year and next?  I’d certainly have to consider it, knowing you pocket $10 million in payroll savings next year and the pro-rated amount this year to go towards addressing other needs. 

Thoughts?
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7/22/16

MINORS SMITH 2016 VS. CONFORTO 2015

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MINORS - SMITH 2016 VS. CONFORTO 2015 by Tom Brennan

As a follow up to yesterday's Dominic Smith article by me, I thought it would be interesting to compare Smith of 2016 to Michael Conforto of 2015 in the minors to see how the two stack up side by side.

CONFORTO 2015:

Age 22, .297/.372/.482 in 91 games, 54 RBIs, 12 HRs.  At bats split roughly 50/50 between High A and AA.

SMITH 2016:

AGE 20/21, .294/.353/.466 in 90 games, 12 HRs, 67 RBIs.  All at bats in AA.

What an eye opener...virtually identical, except Smith is doing it younger, against stronger competition (all AA), and Smith is knocking in more runs with the support of (in my opinion) a weaker offensive squad than Conforto had in the minors last year.  Michael, after all, had Rosario, Nimmo, and Smith hitting alongside him at times last year.

It has to make one wonder if Smith, were there openings in Queens, is just as ready as Conforto was last year.

My point?  Don't count Smith out as being on this Mets team in September if there is a pennant race.  And don't count him out as the Mets' 2016 first baseman next year - probably premature to consider that, but let's see what Smith does the rest of this year.  



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7/21/16

SMITH ON FIRE by Tom Brennan

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SMITH ON FIRE by Tom Brennan

Let's be honest, Dominic Smith was plodding along with a low power, low average season through June 23.  Made me start to think perhaps he was another bad Mets pick, hitting just .259 with 4 homers through that date. 

Somebody must have walked up to him and said, "hey, Smitty, my lad, you turned 21 last week, you're on the clock now", because he hit a homer on June 24 and now has 8 homers and 24 RBIs over his past 23 games, while raising his average 35 points to .294, going 34 for 86 (.395) over that stretch.  Hey, his 67 RBIs on the year aren't shabby neither...on his way to 100.

No doubt, he has been energized by the stupendous AA debut of 20 year old Amed Rosario hitting in front of him, coincidentally, for 23 games, during which he has hit a mighty fine .379 and scored 20.  Rosario has a superb 54 RBIs this full season to go along with his overall .327 average for 2016.

Two future stars.

On a closing note, Belfast-born PJ Conlon lost last night, a rarity which happens when your team scores ZERO.  PJ allowed just 1 run (one too many, sadly), and is now 11-2, 1.93, 1.01 on the season.  Quite a season.  Amazing.

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7/20/16

Reese Kaplan -- Why Can't the Mets Develop HItters?

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I couldn’t help noticing the batting averages of the Chicago Cubs players as they came to bat in this series.  With the exception of (surprisingly) Jason Heyward, there are no easy outs.  It seemed like nearly everyone was over .280 with power.  Ithey lose a Kyle Schwarber and up comes a Willson Contreras.

t got me to thinking about the New York Mets and how few homegrown hitters they’ve developed over the years.  It makes you wonder the reason for the greater success in honing pitchers than in finding guys who slug the ball.  Also, the dearth of hits with runners in scoring position points to another flaw in the winning formula.  Remember how the Royals seemed to make every at-bat a tough out?  How many tough outs are there on the Mets?

How much of this offensive dearth is the result of bad drafting?  How much of it is bad talent evaluation on the trade front?  How much is the result of bad coaching?  How much of it is the pressure of being asked to play in New York?  How much of it is the manager benching the players that are hitting until they grow cold and create a self fulfilling prophecy for why they’re not starting?  Or is it a combination of all of the above?

Then there’s the question of hitting philosophy.  It seems the Mets have precious few players who know fundamentals like hit and run, hitting behind the runner, bat control and working the count.  Again, how much is on the player, how much is on the hitting coach and how much is on the manager?

Anyone who’s watched the team doesn’t need to know the actual numbers to underscore the difficulties, but bear with the most obvious ones.  Asdrubal Cabrera who has had a fine season overall has not had a hit with a runner in scoring position since May 23rd.  Curtis Granderson has clubbed 16 HRs this year but has only 29 RBIs to show for it.  Is it any wonder the Mets are at or close to the bottom in just about every offensive category?  David Wright still leads the team in steals with a whopping total of three!!!

Of course, the club is doing itself no favors with the AAA club in hitter-happy Las Vegas.  Look at the roster of high .300 hitters who have flourished there and it’s filled with luminaries who have gotten a look such as Ty Kelly, Eric Campbell, Josh Satin, Brandon Nimmo and Johnny Monell.  Then there are those hitters who for reasons of 40-man roster status do not get a look, including T.J. Rivera, Travis Taijeron and Gavin Cecchini.  The problem is that the stats are so over inflated that you don’t know whether or not the gaudy numbers will be replicable in the majors.

The flip side is the number the altitude and dry air does to the minds of the pitchers.  There are a great many who hit the wall while playing for the 51s, including Rafael Montero, Matt Bowman and Darin Gorski.  Some move on and become productive players (like Bowman) while others may be beyond repair.  News came out today that the owners of 51s are looking to get a new stadium on the outskirts of the city with proper cooling, luxury boxes and all the accouterments of a modern minor league franchise.  It doesn’t change the weather nor the altitude, however, so it is akin to putting lipstick on a pig.

Today it was announced that Lucas Duda will return to light baseball activities starting Monday with an eye towards returning him in September when the rosters expand which would allow them to keep both he and James Loney around.  It’s ironic that Loney, a singles hitter above .280 is likely being shown the bench when the team can't put men on base, but Wilmer Flores can tell him what it’s like to do your job and only get to watch..

By the way, did you happen to catch Jose Reyes’ mental gaffe in the 9th inning vs. the Cubs last night?  With runners on 1st and 2nd the batter hits a spinning bunt down the 3rd base line which was headed right into foul territory but Reyes’ shortstop instincts likely kicked in and he felt compelled to field it.  To add insult to injury, he didn’t get the batter running to first and it loaded the bases.  Jeurys Familia tap danced out of the bases loaded and no one out situation to preserve the win, but it was sure looking ugly.

To be fair to Reyes, he did pull a triple to RF which lead to the Mets’ first run, but the offensive road has been a rough one for the guy so far.  If he’s not hitting and not fielding and not drawing walks, why is he playing every day?  I know, I know…Collins has just got to get him going.  It’s going to go down in Mets’ history as a derisive refrain alongside “We battled.”
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7/18/16

Reese Kaplan -- Between a Rock and a Hard Place

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As the designated keeper of the lineup card, I think pretty much everyone is in agreement that Terry Collins has a tendency to zig when others would zag.  I won’t go through the entire ponderous litany of questionable decisions he’s made in the past but will instead focus on what’s facing him now.

Remember the “If you don’t hit, you sit” line that was fed to us quite some time ago?  The mirror image of that would be, “If you do hit you don’t sit” yet that’s not been the case.  After clubbing five home runs in less than a week and hitting close to .300 for 6 weeks Wilmer Flores is apparently suffering from some malady that’s rendered him invisible.  Nevermind that the Skipper declared publicly that the promotion of Jose Reyes meant sharing time at 3B.  The last time I looked Jose Reyes was hitting a robust .226, so there’s a certain logic to…ummm…no there is not. 

We will all be experiencing a similar sense of déjà vu but this time starring former Gold Glover Juan Lagares.  Since being inserted into the lineup regularly due to Yoenis Cespedes’ balky calf, he’s hit .333.  That’s a really nice four game run, but bear in mind that even with that surge he’s hitting a paltry .207 for the month of July. 

With the promotion of Michael Conforto and the departure of Brandon Nimmo we will see how the manager chooses to juggle his outfield options. 

Option Number One:
Play Cespedes in LF, shift Curtis Granderson to CF and insert Conforto in RF.  Call this the maximum offense option.  If Conforto has indeed rediscovered his swing and his confidence, he’s surely a middle-of-the-order threat.  The down side would seem to be Granderson’s rag arm.  While the throws from CF are shorter than the across-the-diamond throws from RF, this liability will get exposed more often.  Use Juan Lagares as a late inning defensive replacement, pinch hitter and/or pinch runner.

Option Number Two:
Status quo.  Conforto returns to LF, Cespedes goes back to CF and Granderson remains in RF.  The problem here, of course, is Cespedes vocalizing that he thinks the strain on his calf is greater in CF than in LF.  I don’t foresee this one being implemented since, as Jim Bouton pointed out in Ball Four many years ago, superstar players are higher on the totem pole than are managers. 

Option Number Three:
Shift Cespedes to LF.  Create a weird platoon of sorts with Juan Lagares playing CF against lefties and Curtis Granderson playing it against righties.  Conforto would be in RF against righties and sit against lefties. 

I’m the first to admit and actually empathize that Collins is in a no-win situation in the OF.  People who value defense will want Juan Lagares out there.  People who appreciate small ball will consider his speed and Reyes’ speed to be an essential part of that game. 

Others will say you didn’t promote Conforto to sit.  They will point to the team’s inability to score runs and demand you put the best bats in the lineup.

There is no perfect solution but I’d opt for number one.  I suspect we'll see number three.  What do you think?
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7/17/16

SATURDAY IS CHURCH DAY

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SATURDAY IS CHURCH DAY by Tom Brennan

Usually, for the church-going faithful, Sunday in Church Day.

Yesterday, on Saturday, it was Church Day in Mets Land.

Andrew Church spun a brilliant 1 hit shutout, needing just 99 pitches, allowing just 1 walk and fanning 10 for the Columbia Fireflies. 

He is now 5-1, 2.38 in 9 starts this year, with an 0.99 WHIP.   Great control this year in all but one start, too.

After a rough and injury-plagued 2013-15, the 2nd round 21 year old righty is looking like, well, a 2nd rounder.  

Who else is doing well, in case you did not know?  

Here's a few:

Amed Rosario and Dom Smith - the 2 future major league stars (hopefully).  20 year old Amed is hitting .331 in 85 games, including a fabulous .414 thru 19 games in AA.  Smith in 87 games in AA has a splendid 62 RBIs, and emerging power to go with an average closing in on .290, nice for a guy who just turned 21.

PJ Conlon is a stunning 11-1, 1.94, split between St Lucie and Columbia.  In relief for Brooklyn last year, an ERA of 0.00, with which I found 0.00 things to critique.  This guy may be someone special, possibly another John Tudor?  I'm getting a little crazy here, I know, but we're both Irish.

Kevin Kacsmarski (last year's 9th rounder) tore up Kingsport in 2015.  Bypassing Brooklyn in 2016, the OF started slow with Columbia, then hit the DL - but once off it, he hit nearly .300 for 2 months, and has gone 7 for 16 for St. Lucie post-promo.  He seems to have a lot of Nimmo in him.

The high end Kingsport lefties, Tom Szapucki and Max Wotell, are totally getting it done as their season approaches the 1 month point.  Both have lots of Ks and really low ERAs, and may be bringing really high excitement to Queens within a few years.

Lastly, 17 year old SS Andres Giminez signed for big bucks and is hitting .350 with 15 extra base hits in 32 games in the DSL.  Could he possibly turn into Amed II?  Time will tell,

That's it, folks…happy Sunday.


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Quick Hits on Last Night's Game

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So how's Logan Verrett looking?  His gopher ball is in fine form.  Others will argue that he had a solid start yesterday.  I saw the ball off a washed-up Ryan Howard's bat that still may be in orbit.

How's Erik Goeddel looking?  After a rare clinker by Jerry Blevins, who'd have thought that Antonio Bastardo would be the most solid arm out of the pen?

You're down by two runs in the 9th inning and need to get baserunners and/or a long ball.  Your options include Kelly Johnson who is left handed and hitting .302 as a Met.  So, of course, Skipper decides to thrust .182 hitting Alejandro De Aza into the limelight in the most crucial spot of the game.  Per script, and he hits a weak fly ball to end the game.

There are a lot of stories being written today about the rarity of the Mets playing small ball and failing to win the game.  During the telecast they revealed that the Mets had won just 5 games all year in which they did not hit a home run.

While you can fault the players for failing to execute, failure to strategize falls squarely on the shoulders of the manager.  What happened to hit and run?  Bunting?  Hitting behind the runner?  Working the count?  Stealing bases?  (During the telecast they revealed that the club leader in steals is David Wright with 3.  I'm sure there are players around the league who have had that many in a single game!)

I got into an exchange yesterday about how the Mets are allegedly better than they were at this time a year ago.  The won-lost record is marginal.  There is excellent pitching from two starters -- Noah Syndergaard and Bartolo Colon -- the same from Jacob de Grom -- and worse from Steve Matz.  Furthermore both Matz and Syndergaard are having arm issues.  Then there's the whole Matt Harvey/Logan Verrett disaster.  There's no Tyler Clippard.  There's no Jose Uribe. For the fall run they had David Wright, Lucas Duda, a healthy Yoenis Cespedes and a rookie-of-the-year caliber Michael Conforto.  We have Alejandro De Aza and Brandon Nimmo.  We have James Loney.  We have Jose Reyes.

Sorry, but this team is markedly worse.
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7/16/16

Reese Kaplan -- Planning to Make Mets Great Again

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While I can’t pretend to know the political leanings of the Mets’ brain trust, they’re certainly acting as if they are channeling their inner Trump when they say and do things that make the most loyal fans just shake their head with incredulity. 

Take for example the current state of needs for improving the club.  They have lost David Wright for the year (and possibly forever).  They have lost Lucas Duda for most of the year.  They are now without Matt Harvey for the remainder of the year.  They have suffered multiple setbacks in Zack Wheeler’s recovery.  They have lost Travis d’Arnaud for a large chunk of the season.  They have had to contend with the sophomore slump of Michael Conforto and demoted him to Sin City to find his swing. 

Word has filtered down that the “Plan” is to allow the current crop of players to get healthy and that will address the needs on the ballclub.  Allow me to repeat that – wait for David Wright (who is out for the year), Matt Harvey (who is out for the year) and Lucas Duda (who has yet to resume baseball activities) to get healthy and all is right with the world.  Huh…I guess I must be a heretic for not sharing that same deluded vision of faith. 

Of course, then they immediately doubled back and reversed course by declaring that they will seek to find a relief pitcher in the trade market.  Really?  What happened to waiting for guys to get healthy (cough, Jim Henderson, cough, Josh Edgin).  Isn’t that like saying you want to bring jobs back to America but then outsourcing your own clothing manufacturing to China?

While no one is denying that Antonio Bastardo, save for one brilliant bases loaded game in which he came in the whiff the side, has been an unmitigated disaster.  Lately Erik Goeddel has not been much better.  The jury’s still out on Seth Lugo who, being unknown to the Skipper, will only see the light of day in blowouts.  However, Hansel Robles, Jerry Blevins, Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia have all been quite solid. 

Word has also come that they are likely out on the Yuliesky Gourriel sweepstakes.  No surprise there…their xenophobia also mimics their political doppelganger.  You can’t have someone from another country come here and expect him to perform like a good American can.  Remember Josh Satin?  Remember Eric Campbell?   One’s status as a “proven” commodity doesn’t by definition make them a superior choice.  Yes, for every Yoenis Cespedes there’s a Hector Olivera waiting to happen.  Still, the Mets have a need at 3rd base not just now but likely for the future as well.  Plan A – Jose Reyes – was apparently the only plan as he cost just pro-rated major league minimum and they’re still holding onto the delusion that David Wright will try to play again (and thus be on the payroll).  So winning once again takes a backseat to this faint glimmer of hope. 

The strangest one of all, however, is the decision to keep Michael Conforto in AAA.  Yes, he was totally lost at the plate when he left (and probably was kept around a month longer than he should have been).  However, it didn’t take much for him to regain his swing and confidence.  The team is, as usual, struggling to score runs by means other than the long ball.  Throw in the fact that Yoenis Cespedes is also ailing, and you’d think the logical thing to do would be to return the suddenly hot Conforto to the majors to begin the second half, but no…that makes way too much sense.  Instead we get more of Alejandro De Aza whose $5.75 million contract is apparently keeping him employed because once again the sunk cost is more important to the club than the incremental cost of cutting him loose and letting a minimum wage player such as Brandon Nimmo take his spot permanently on the roster.  

The Mets talk a good game about winning, but they failed to plan for inevitabilities like the David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud DL stints.  The Duda and Harvey situations were unpleasant surprises, but in neither case did they take aggressive steps to address the issues.  James Loney is not the answer.  Logan Verrett is not the answer.  They’re all ecstatic that Jose Reyes hit a few home runs in a week but when Wilmer Flores, the man he replaced, hit FIVE in that same amount of time he was directed to plant his butt on the bench.  

Maybe I’m too harsh.  After all, they told use they’ll hire the best people to be in charge.  Who does that sound like?  And how’s it working out? 
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7/15/16

GORSKI, ANYONE?

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GORSKI, ANYONE?  by Tom Brennan


As the Mets look to replace Matt Harvey in the rotation, and Logan Verrett has not been impressive (in fact 0-6, 6.14 in his last 15 games), what are the minor league alternatives internally?

Sean Gilmartin?  Kinda shaky lately.   Well, he's 7-2 in his last 10 starts, but with a 5.49 ERA over that span.

Gabe Ynoa?  Gone from early season ace to BP pitcher. 

Rafael Montero?  A deteriorating 7.20 ERA is all you need to know.


How about Darin Gorski?

Darin has returned to the Vegas team strongly, posting a 3-1, 3.65 mark through 4 starts, the last 3 being his strongest of the 4.

Career-wise, he excelled up to AA, but AAA was his speed bump, as it is for so many - prior to this year, Gorski had tossed 198 innings for Vegas, with a 13-12 record and a 5.36 ERA.

I am more and more convinced that pitching in Vegas adds 2 runs per game to one’s ERA (heck, the team’s pitchers are allowing 6.2 RPG), so Darin has actually fared pretty well in Vegas (now 16-13) and could be the short term answer.

If it were me, I’d go with Gilmartin, but it is good to know there is at least another half way viable in-house alternative in the minors in Gorski.

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7/13/16

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

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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.

Shortstop
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. 

Catcher
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.

Bullpen
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. 

Bench
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?
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7/12/16

Desmond Lindsay Sighting

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DESMOND LINDSAY SIGHTING by Tom Brennan
 
 
Last year's 2nd rounder out of high school, Desmond Lindsay, finally got into what was presumably a rehab game for the GCL Mets yesterday.
 
He managed just a walk to go with 2 strikeouts, but it is good to see someone finally return from the injured list.  Maybe he can get 2 months in this year, and be ready for full season ball next year.
 
What else?
 
Zach Wheeler?  We're still waiting. Apparently he has nerve pain in the healthy reconstructed elbow joint.  My guess is it is something he could pitch with right now, but each day for him is one day closer to when he can ultimately become a free agent.  If I were him, I'd look at Harvey's travails and think to myself that I am a high risk arm, and if I can just be healthy when free agency arrives, I can cash in big, so (just speculating), I think he is being super cautious.
 
Lefty Tom Szapucki, who reportedly can hit 97 on the gun, is killing it in Kingsport: 0.42, 38 Ks in 21 IP in Kingsport.  One to watch.
 
Another is lefty 19 year old teammate Max Wotell.  Max got touched up a bit late in his last start, but the control issues he showed in his brief pro cameo last year seem to have been alleviated.  In 26 pro innings, he has fanned 32 and allowed just 13 hits.  Don't stand too close to Mad Max, though - 6 hit batters already.
 
That's it - writer's fatigue has set in.  Have a great day.
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7/10/16

PCL AAA SUCCESS AND MAJOR LEAGUE SUCCESS ARE TWO DIFFERENT THINGS

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PCL AAA SUCCESS AND MAJOR LEAGUE SUCCESS ARE TWO DIFFERENT THINGS by Tom Brennan

I noticed yesterday that Matt Bowman is pitching quite nicely for the St Louis Cardinals this year since he was snatched from the Mets in the offseason.  

Matt was an awful 7-16, 5.53 and 1.68 WHIP with the Vegas 51s in 2015.

In the majors with the Cards in 2016, a vastly better 1-2, 3.12, 0.95 in 28 relief outings.

Say what?

Brandon Nimmo may have been torching Vegas, but last night got "Scherzered", with 3 Ks.

Kevin Plawecki and Michael Conforto in 91 combined at bats in Vegas since being sent down by the Mets are hitting .330 with 6 homers and 26 RBIs, and a .600+ slug %.  Making it look REAL easy.

With the Mets, they had 330 at bats and combined to hit about .210 with 11 homers and 40 RBIs and about a .350 slug %.  Inflated #s actually, due to Conforto's great April with the Mets.

Virtually every hitter in 2015 that the Mets promoted from Vegas, except Conforto, collapsed in a heap when facing big league pitching once removed from Vegas Hitters' Heaven.

So how do you project how a AAA guy will do when he joins the Mets?  Heck if I know, but if you are a hitter, generally "much worse" and if you are a pitcher, often "much better."

So we need pitching in Queens, and Rafael Montero is getting pounded in Vegas and has a 7.20 ERA.  Based on the above, he's probably ready for a call up.  Probably has a no hitter up his sleeve too.  
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7/9/16

Reese Kaplan -- With Harvey Out, Who Should Be In?

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With the news about Matt Harvey’s shoulder problems perhaps responsible for his subpar performance this season, it put the Mets into a bit of a temporary quandary regarding what had always been their strength – starting pitching.  Now with Harvey on the shelf and Zack Wheeler far from ready, the team must decide what it plans to do to fill the void.  A lot, of course, depends on the Harvey prognosis but news trickled out Thursday suggesting it is indeed looking like Thoracic Outlet Syndrome with a recommendation for season-ending surgery.  The temporary internal reinforcements become far less palatable when you realize they may be needed for as much as half a season.  That development may force open the door to external resources.

The internal options are frankly not too exciting – a big change when it seemed the Mets had too many hurlers in the minors to ever hope to get them into Queens.  Now you have Rafael Montero who went rapidly from uber-prospect to head case and is definitely in Terry Collins’ doghouse.  Think of him as the pitching equivalent of Wilmer Flores – he would only get a chance when every other option had extensive opportunities to fail first. 

Then you have last year’s Cinderella Rule V pick – Sean Gilmartin – who started off like a house afire in AAA but rapidly descended into mediocrity.  His brief recall as a reliever did not likely win him any additional innings with the big club.

Seth Lugo was a surprising promotion when he got the call based upon his very pedestrian performance not only this season, but throughout his minor league career.  He acquitted himself well in his two innings in the majors but aside from a nice run in Savannah in 2013, he’s been a strikeout guy who has proven far too hittable when the pitches are over the plate.  His career record is 28-22, 4.26 with the highlight being 8.6 Ks per 9 IP.   Somehow I don’t think he’s going to morph into an All-Star. 

Logan Verrett has been arguably the Mets’ worst pitcher all year.  The ERA isn’t awful at 4.01, but he’s given up an astonishing 9 HRs in just 49 IP while sporting a K:BB ratio of just 1.55.  Ugh!

Untested Gabriel Ynoa is on the 40-man roster and is having a credible year in AAA.  However, the Mets have always been reluctant to give opportunities to young players, are wary of service time clocks ticking too soon, and may succumb to FUD -- fear, uncertainty and doubt -- while in the midst of a pennant race.  The fact he gets his job done -- 3.31 ERA for his minor league career -- without overpowering strikeout stuff is another mark against him.  

None of these options is very appealing, though based upon real world performance for the entire 2015 season I’d be in favor of giving Sean Gilmartin another look.  However, it would appear that the Mets are going to go with Logan Verrett to take Matt Harvey’s place.  Given the fact that Harvey himself was pitching to an ERA even worse than what Verrett has provided, maybe they’re simply hoping to tread water until Zack Wheeler returns.

Suppose, however, the Mets had a proactive GM who actually acted as if he wanted to win ballgames.  Then you’d think he’d be evaluating pitchers who are likely going to be relatively easy to acquire, such as pending free agents.  These pitchers would only put the Mets on the hook for the remainder of the year and would allow them to continue their long term plan of a rotation filled by Matt Harvey, Jacob de Grom, Noah Syndergard, Zack Wheeler and Steve Matz. Let’s take a look at some players who are on second tier teams who might be in sell mode right now.

The Mets have had a good trading relationship with the San Diego Padres over the past few years.  You win some – James Loney – and lose some – Alex Torres.  Right now Andrew Cashner is a pending FA and has delivered some quality years in the bigs already.  Although this year he has a 4.42 ERA, he’s a career 3.66 pitcher and these days that kind of quality is highly desirable.  He is currently earning $7.15 million.

A less obvious and desirable name, Jhoulys Chacin, toiled in the toughest pitching environment in baseball in Colorado before being moved to better environments where ironically he has not pitched as well.  For the Rockies he had a career ERA of 3.78 and it surely wouldn’t take much to dislodge him from the last place Angels.  He’s sporting an ugly 6.05 ERA but compare that to the 5 years of success in Colorado and it’s a gamble perhaps worth exploring. 

The Houston Astros are one of those teams who have to make the buy or sell decision very soon.  They’re 6.5 games back and since they are in striking distance they may not want to tinker.  However, Doug Fister is on a one year $7 million deal and he’s again pitching credibly.  He’s a 3.44 ERA for his career and during his time in Washington certainly proved he can win in the NL. 

The Philadelphia Phillies have exceeded some expectations this year by performing significantly better than the Atlanta Braves.  They currently stand 11 GB while Atlanta is 22.5.  Even though they are probably pretty happy in Philly, the fact remains they’re more than one piece away from contention.  Starter Jeremy Hellickson has done a fine job for them, pitching to a 3.92 ERA in a hitter’s ballpark.  Since he’s earning $7 million this year and slated to be a free agent, he’s likely going to be up for grabs in trade. 

My dark horse selection for the Mets to pursue is 36 year old lefty Rich Hill of Oakland.  The A’s have already fallen out of contention and they have a long history of moving players if they think they are not going to be part of the future (or will be too expensive to keep around).  Hill earns a modest $6 million.  He is striking out 10.3 per 9 IP, has a better than 3:1 K to BB ratio and has a very impressive 2.31 ERA.  He’s become something of a late bloomer having pitched quite well since 2014 for various teams.  I can’t see Oakland building around him for the future and since he’s set to depart as a free agent, he can likely be pried away in trade. 

The Tampa Bay Rays are allegedly considering full fire sale mode with players such as Jake Odorizzi already rumored to be in play with the Texas Rangers.  Even longtime stalwart Evan Longoria could be on the block.  However, there are two other pitchers worth exploring.  Matt Moore is a pending free agent who never quite lived up to his big year in 2013.  However, for his career he’s still sub 4.00 in ERA and guys in their final months before free agency had better keep their bags packed. 

My preference, however, would be the somewhat unheralded Drew Smyly who has quietly put together a nice little career.  He started off shuttling between the bullpen and rotation for the Detroit Tigers before making his way to Tampa.  The lefty owns a career 26-25 record with a 3.69 ERA, a 9K per 9 IP strikeout record and a nice WHIP of under 1.2.  This year he’s earning $3.75 million and is arbitration eligible for the first time next season, not a free agent until 2019.  He doesn’t fit the profile of the kind of players on this list and his price is modest enough that the Rays may hold a tight grip on him.  Names like Gavin Cecchini, Wuilmer Becerra, Gabriel Ynoa and even Zack Wheeler might get the conversation started (though I'd like the last one to be part of a monster deal to land Longoria as well). 

Another reunion possibility (though the bridges burned make it unlikely to happen) is the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Jon Niese.  He can also be a free agent next year for a modest buyout of his contract.  In the realm of pitchers on this list, he’s far from the top but he would likely provide better quality than Verrett or Lugo. 

With the Toronto Blue Jays only 2.5 games out of 1st, it’s unlikely they’re going to want to tamper with their current formula for success.  Many pundits have already suggested the Mets reach out for yet another reunion, this time for former Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey.  Personally, I can’t see it happening as Toronto is not exactly flush with pitching and they have to be smarting mightily from the results Noah Syndergaard, minor leaguer Wuilmer Becerra and when he’s on the field, Travis d’Arnaud, have been providing. 

Finally, a crazy, outside the box idea that was shot down once before it ever came to fruition was when the Cincinnati Reds having toyed with converting then closer Aroldis Chapman into a starter.  He had been a starter in Cuba so it’s not like it would be new to him and the Yankees have been public about moving him in a deal.  I can’t see it happening, but it’s a nice pipe dream.  
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