Jack Flynn - Reality Set In


As Spring Training drew to a close and Opening Day approached this year, optimism abounded among Mets fans.

The Amazins were eight starters deep – at least four of whom were going to challenge for the Cy Young Award – and they had a bullpen that was only going to be asked to work roughly as often as the Maytag Repairman. They had a lineup that looked like a modern-day Murderer’s Row, with a deep bench and at least two Rookie of the Year Candidates waiting in the Sin City wings.

And then, the 2017 season actually began. Games were no longer being played on paper, but on oddly shaped fields of grass and dirt in heavily populated American cities. Highly-compensated human beings in varying patterns of orange and blue ran and jumped … and began pulling hamstrings, hyper-extending elbows and developing knee infections.

In other words, reality set in.

In the past 7 to 10 days, there have been dozens of articles about what’s wrong with the Mets, how to fix the Mets, and who should be blamed for what’s wrong with the Mets. As far as I can tell, there are really only two things wrong with the Mets – and only one of them was actually in someone’s control.

There’s not much that anyone can do about the most of the injuries that have befallen Met players this season. You may be skeptical of the training and medical staff, but no one could have prevented Lucas Duda’s arm from bending the wrong way or Travis d’Arnaud smacking his hand on Aaron Altherr’s bat. The Mets aren’t a particularly old team – most of the regulars are in the sweet spot of the aging curve between 27 and 32 – and so you can’t even fault the general manager for investing too heavily in veterans.

Now, as for the more controllable problem, I can present it in the form of a math equation:

Four outfielders + three infielders = one not so easily fixable problem.

Sure, it seems easy enough. Trade an outfielder for an infielder, preferably one who can hit at the top of the order, and you have a perfectly balanced lineup. Now, put on your general manager’s hat, and answer these two questions:

·         Which outfielder are you trading?
·         What infielder can you get for that outfielder?

You’re not trading Yoenis Cespedes, of course. (If you were, please stop reading this article right now and think about a different interest to pursue.) That leaves you with Michael Conforto, Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce as trade options.

Are you trading Conforto? You can certainly get the most value in return for him. He is also having the best season out of the three outfielders so far and as the potential to become one of the better hitters in the National League. Granderson and Bruce are likely free agents that won’t be returning in 2018, so you better get the right package in return if you trade him.

Are you trading Bruce? Maybe, but he’s known for being a streaky hitter and so the hot start won’t be as impressive as you’d think to other general managers. The previous off-season also made it clear that $13 million corner outfielders are NOT in demand, and certainly not for a top-of-the-order infielder of any type of value to a contending team.

Are you trading Granderson? No, you aren’t. He has all the same problems as Bruce, but with an additional six years of wear and tear. And no, he may play center field in Queens, but he won’t play that position anywhere else in the league.

So maybe you’ve sufficiently weighed the pros and cons of each and selected the outfielder you’re going to trade. Now, you have to scour the league and tell me what infielder you are going to get in return, one that fits the description we’ve described and can appropriately relegate Jose Reyes to a reserve role. While you do that, I will be over here living my life and waiting for you to reach the same conclusion I have …

That player is not available.

He might be available in July, when the cost will be prospects and will not be Conforto, Bruce or Granderson. But he will not be available before then, and that’s a reality that has nothing to do with your personal opinion of Sandy Alderson’s acumen as a GM.

It’s not easy being patient right now, but there is no realistic alternative. This is the team we have to root for. It is not perfect, and it may not be perfect until the trade deadline, but it is good enough to stay in contention until that point in time comes


Mack Ade said...

Jack -

There are very few players on this 'current' team that I would not trade.

Michael Conforto is one of them.

Thomas Brennan said...

Hi Jack

Good article.

I personally don't think we will remain in contention. Every team has potential and then actual results that follow. The Nats have really good hitters who are firing on all cylinders, which is the main problem, and frankly I do not see them suddenly going collectively cold. Their hitters are too good. Top 3 RBI guys in the majors, etc.

Our Mets potentially looked competitive - but in actuality seem quite inferior (e.g., Reyes and Grandy) - so I think we are going to fade from contention fast. To me that is my take on the Reality Setting In.

Anonymous said...

Mets made WC with 87 wins last season.

Game 163 is still totally within reach.

Unfortunately, that's all they were really shooting for. Meaningful games in September -- good enough, not excellence.

Team has got a shot. The starters are still really, really good.

It was always odd that they pinned the hopes for the 2017 season on the 2016 roster. A disinclination to improve.


Thomas Brennan said...

@ JP - I am not so sure starters are that strong. Uninjured, they sure are, but when will Thor, Lugo, and Matz return to form? If it were quick, I agree the Wild Card looks viable.

If not back quick, pitching is not great, and the hitting without Cespedes is suspect. I could easily see this team slipping to 70 wins if those 4 guys remain out for a long period of time.

Jack Flynn said...

Washington is too good, even without Adam Eaton, for me to believe that they won't be 10 up on the Mets by July 1. I don't see a division crown as a realistic option. But as long as the loser's reward that is the Wild Card still exists, the Mets have a shot to go deep into the playoffs.

The starting rotation, now that Thor is out for the foreseeable future, is DeGrom, Harvey, Wheeler, Gsellman and oh-God-please-let-it-rain-today. It's still not a bad rotation, and one that will hopefully replace Gsellman (who I think we all may have bought in too highly on) and the fifth starter by the All-Star Break. If the Mets are within five games of a wild card spot by then, it's not hard to envision a scenario where they are buyers instead of sellers.

Thomas Brennan said...

Jack, we can start to see if winning is possible by beating the Braves this week (the Braves? Again?)

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