Posted by Reese Kaplan at 12:00 PM
The Mets are currently in free fall as a result of the spate of injuries that has besieged the team, old age catching up to starters Curtis Granderson and Jose Reyes, and the implosion of both the starting rotation and the bullpen. Throw in the ever ponderous decision making from the manager and it's no surprise that the team is currently five games under .500 and way closer to the bottom of the division than the top.
Some things cannot be controlled. No one knew that Seth Lugo and Steve Matz would start the year on the DL. No one expected that Yoenis Cespedes would be out with a hamstring injury. No one knew that Brandon Nimmo would still be mired in Las Vegas nearly two full months into the season. Most people suspected Lucas Duda would have some issues with his health as he has most seasons. Everyone suspected Travis d'Arnaud -- the Mets own Mr. Glass -- would take his customary place on the DL. How could anyone have predicted Noah Syndergaard would likely be gone for most of the season? Ditto Jeurys Familia? About the only certainty to anyone watching the club for the past three years is that David Wright would contribute nothing.
However, some things can be controlled by the front office. One of the more frustrating aspects of the whole construction of the roster is that people who are on the 40-man get first preference. Even more teeth gnashing results from future salary considerations taking a higher priority than winning ballgames.
To wit, the Mets have promoted Matt Reynolds to be on the big club. Matt Reynolds is likely a nice guy and can every couple of weeks or so in his limited role contribute a hit or two, but his pedigree is not exactly that of anything but a replacement player. His minor league track record of .277 is not bad but it is buoyed by a 2014 season spent in hitter's paradise in Las Vegas where other luminaries such as Eric Campbell actually did better.
Now some were asking for Gavin Cecchini to get a shot since he hit so well in, you guessed it, Las Vegas. However this year despite having the enviable environment in which to play he's struggling with the bat in 2017. Perhaps it is the pressure put on him to learn a new position at 2B. Or perhaps he's simply not that good. However, he is different. He's had four straight stints of good hitting in AA, the Arizona Fall League and last year in AAA. I'm more willing to extend benefit of doubt that he could succeed than Matt Reynolds.
Of course, once the team lost David Wright and were forced to play a seemingly sleepwalking Jose Reyes, people started grumbling about improving the offense. To the club's credit, they did bring hitting machine T.J. Rivera north with them and eventually let him off the bench, taking the place of Lucas Duda at 1B while he was on the DL. For that move I salute the team.
However, when Asdrubal Cabrera went down with a mismanaged injury that of course recurred, the team chose not to promote the .361 hitting Amed Rosario to bring his bat, glove and base running speed to the big leagues. The official line is he needs more seasoning as he adjusts to off-speed pitches. While it's true he's cooled off a bit from his .410 April start, no one thought that was sustainable. The truth of the matter is the team expects him to be a star and towards that end they are manipulating service time to give themselves an extra year of contractual control. Once again future earnings are trumping the desire to win. Instead Jose Reyes (not hitting his weight -- and he's pretty damned skinny) will man shortstop.
The pitching decisions are even more bizarre. For example, Tyler Pill through five AAA starts in the worst pitching environment in organized baseball has a 1.06 ERA. That's not a typo. Before his promotion from AA he was sporting a perfect 0.00 ERA in Binghamton.
The front office decided to place Noah Syndergaard on the 60-day DL which temporarily removes him from the 40-man roster. Did they use that vacancy to promote Pill who through seven combined starts had an ERA under 1.00? No, they went after castoff Adam Wilk who helped them lose another game, then they lost WIlk by dropping him and having him claimed elsewhere. Hmmn...It's not as if Wilk had anything in his record that would make you expect success. He was pitching to a 5.91 ERA in Las Vegas and owns a 7.02 ERA in the majors. One of these things is not like the other.
He was promptly replaced by another castoff -- Tommy Milone. Milone did pitch credibly in his first start, but once again veteran status seems to be more important than taking a chance on someone new who could help. This decision was a little more understandable as Milone's 7 years in the majors has produced a cumulative 4.21 ERA -- about what you'd expect from a 5th starter.
Then the next time an opening was needed they pushed Jeurys Familia onto the 60-day DL and once again Tyler Pill could have been promoted. No, this time they went after reliever Neil Ramirez off the scrap heap. Now I have nothing against Ramirez personally, but the numbers suggest he doesn't have a Fireman of the Year in his future. He pitched quite well in 2013 and 2014 with the Cubs but since then he's been a disaster. The Mets point to his 10.8 K rate per 9 IP, but numbers don't lie.
I fully understand the need for another bullpen arm but once again they went for veteran status over one of their own. Kevin McGowan is pitching to a 3.86 ERA in Las Vegas and has 9.6 Ks per 9 IP. I guess the fact he's 25 years old means he can't possibly be ready for a shot in the majors. For a point of reference, the Toronto Blue Jays entrust closer duties to Roberto Osuna, a 22 year old and it's already his THIRD YEAR IN THE LEAGUE.
I do applaud the team for finally giving Paul Sewald a chance. He averaged over 12 Ks per 9 IP in Las Vegas and thus far has been the most reliable bullpen arm at Terry Collins' disposal, yet he seems to be the pitcher of last resort while he watches others with more tenure in the league blow game after game. Yes, in the majors his K rate dipped to a mere 9.3 per 9 IP but with a 3.27 ERA (which includes one bad game in early April after which he was promptly demoted) he stands as best right handed arm in the pen. Maybe it's time to think about using Sewald in higher leverage situations.
You would think the success of afterthoughts like Sewald and T.J. Rivera would actually open the front office's eyes to the possibility that internal options might actually help, but it's business as usual.