Reese Kaplan -- Glimmers of Hope in the Darkness


While the majority of Mets fans are gnashing their choppers over the plight of injuries that’s befallen the team, there have been some somewhat magical developments during the cow poop that is the 2017 season that have to varying degrees flown somewhat under the radar.  Towards that end, it could change some of the conventionally accepted wisdom of who will stay and who will go come 2018.

Has anyone paid attention to what Lucas Duda has done since returning from the DL?  This year he’s actually hitting lefties better than righties – a problem for him in the past.  His batting average is up to .278 which is the highest mark since his .290 rookie campaign.  He’s fielding with aplomb and seemingly even more confident with the media.  It was assumed that he would be allowed to depart at year’s end as a free agent but his season as a 31-year old may actually show he’s figured this game out.  That opens up the question of what to do with Dom Smith?  Obviously the often miserly Wilpons would rather see a minimum wage alternative like Smith patrolling first base than the $13 million or so per year it would take in a multi-year deal to secure Duda, but there’s a LOT of money coming off the books next season.  Could Smith instead be part of a package to improve another area?  He’s doing well in AAA but approximately at the same level he did in AA without the benefit of the hitting paradise of Las Vegas. 

Wilmer Flores is finally getting some steady ABs and he too is performing at a higher level than has been seen before in his major league career.  His issue now is figuring out what to do with him defensively, much like the Mets faced with a certain lefty doubles machine now plying his trade in the nation’s capital.  It may indeed be that his future will be at 2B where his throws are far less challenging considering that Neil Walker is playing on expensive borrowed time.  The Gavin Cecchini experiment thus far has been a failure in AAA offensively though his defensive performance at 2B has been quite good.  Asdrubal Cabrera has logged plenty of time at 2B and has an affordable option, but his defensive woes and lackluster offensive performance don’t necessarily make it an automatic that he’ll be invited back.

There’s not much to say about Michael Conforto at this point but it’s nice to see him get a chance despite his relative youth given the crusty veteran Curtis Granderson.  Who here believes Conforto would be playing (let alone in the majors) had Yoenis Cespedes not turned up injured?  He took the opportunity created and ran with it.  Now it will be interesting to see what they do going forward with Granderson flirting with the Mendoza line and Conforto getting heavy write-in consideration for an All Star berth.  One of these things is not like the other…

When Jay Bruce arrived last year it seemed a great trade – a good but not great prospect going to Cincinnati in return for the league’s leading RBI producer.  Givven his horrific Mets debut there were a great many advocating letting him walk away rather than picking up his $13 million option.  I was one of the few who said you had to retain him at that rate because 30/90 hitters don’t grow on trees.  His torrid start has had a lot of people dining on crow, and even though he’s cooled off considerably you can’t argue with his .248/13/36 one third of the way through the season.  The question becomes what his future is in Queens?  There’s very little in the way of outfield talent in the minors and although he’ll be pricy, this off season indicated that there was not as much a market for him as you would have believed.  One way to go would be to sell high right now and get some prospect help and another would be to try to work out a contract extension while you have exclusive negotiating leverage.  In either case, you can’t necessarily think it’s a fait accompli that he’s a goner at year’s end.

After two years away from the game no one knew exactly what to expect of Zack Wheeler.  His control is definitely not where you’d like it to be, but he’s pitching like a solid member of the rotation and hopefully as the rust continues to shake off he can achieve better command.  I think if anyone had said that at this point of the season Wheeler would be pitching regularly every 5th day and sporting a 3.72 ERA most people would have signed up for that.

Robert Gsellman got off to a very shaky start after a wondrous debut in 2016, but lately he appears to have turned a corner.  Tyler Pill’s relief debut was highly forgettable but then he turned in a brilliant start and another credible one.  Maybe they are not the final answers but at least there are no more Rafael Montero, Adam Wilk, Tommy Milone and Sean Gilmartin starts in the foreseeable future. 

After an initial rude awakening at the big league level, Paul Sewald made himself into the team’s best right handed relief option.  He did get hammered in a game over the weekend, but that was a course correction, law of average or whatever you want to call it.  The fact is he strikes people out and is much more often than not a steadying presence out of the bullpen.  That’s not bad for a 27 year old rookie who was not even on the 40-man roster.  

There will come a time when Sandy Alderson rediscovers that mechanism called a "trade" in which he sends one or more of his resources packing for talent in return.  The dead weight without a Mets future like Curtis Granderson, Jose Reyes, Neil Walker and possibly Asdrubal Cabrera won't be here forever.  The next 4 weeks determine if the Mets are buyers or sellers, but as Alderson has shown us, he's very skilled at doing nothing as he did all off-season when he brought not a single new major league player onto a team that was one and done.  Even if nothing happens in 2017, there will be a lot of new faces for sure in 2018.  


Thomas Brennan said...

If Jake does not snap back, we are doomed.

Montero (the man with thousands of lives) was masterful for Vegas last night in 7 innings.

Thomas Brennan said...

I stumbled across what I believe is an audio interview by SNY with Dom Smith, who said he still had things to refine, and as an example, referred to pitches he feels he should hammer but is missing on. It sounded to me that he needs at least another few months, perhaps the full AAA season. He only turns 22 next week, so it is understandable.

Mack Ade said...

Reese/Tom -

A few thoughts.

1. First, welcome home Reese from your diplomatic visit to Bulgaria. Question? Are they in NATO?

2. Tom, I'd rather talk about Tebow than Montero.

3. I do not worry LONG TERM about deGrom. You are watching a complete mental breakdown of a team that knows they do not have enough on the field to turn it around. The players always know this first

4. I've been working on 'my 2018 Mets' on my Morning Reports this month and I have to tell you I have not worked myself up yet regarding what to do about both Duda and Bruce. I go back and forth on these two guys.

5. As for Dom, one of the reasons I want this year's worn out version of this team to shut down, is so I can call up players like Smith, Cecchini, and Rosario and see what I have first hand against major league pitching.

6. Hold on to your seats. There's another 'Peter-post' coming up this morning.

Reese Kaplan said...

Actually I was near Bulgaria but in Romania (who is in NATO -- as is Bulgaria).

Regarding the mental breakdown of the team, you'd think someone would be paid to motivate them and keep them focused...maybe a white-haired gent...

I have extensive thoughts on 2018 scheduled for Saturday.

The Duda/Smoth question is an interesting one. Just as there wasn't much market for Jay Bruce, I could see a similar tepid response to Duda. On the other hand, prospects are the preferred currency to most teams, so Smith could probably net a lot more in trade. Of course, then you could screw yourself by peddling Smith and seeing Duda opt to walk away as a FA.

Mack Ade said...

Collins for Comey

Anonymous said...

Well done, Reese........I hate to give up on a season in June, but I just don't see this current edition turning things around (at least to the extent that they would need to, in order to get into Wild Card contention).

With that said, EVERYTHING that is done going forward should be for 2018 and beyond.

Duda is having a typical "contract year", IMO. I tend to rely more on the entire body of work as a predictor of future performance. Lucas is a nice player, but I don't see him justifying the money it will take to secure his services and Dom Smith will be ready soon (I see him as a Keith Hernandez type, by the way).

Bruce is justifying the trade/faith Sandy had in him last year, so we should strike while the iron is hot and deal him for a useful, future piece or two (I don't see a place for him in 2018).

Conforto should be installed in RF for the foreseeable future, along with Cespedes in LF.......that leaves CF as a position of need going forward (Granderson should be allowed to walk and I already traded Bruce in the last paragraph).

I think Syndegaard, DeGrom, Matz are going to anchor the rotation in the short term (Harvey will move on, or get traded). I am torn on Wheeler.....it comes down to money, I suppose.


Reese Kaplan said...

I'm all for remaking the team into a more successful, balanced offense without the all-or-nothing types like Granderson, Bruce and Duda.

Regarding preparing for 2018, perhaps if they're not ready to fire the Skipper, they can instead install a coach to shadow him to learn what it takes to do the day-to-day job in preparation for his, ahem, retirement. What's David Wright doing, anyway?

Viper said...

I say trade Duda, Cabrera, Granderson and Bruce if possible if not, let them walk. We have seen this Duda on a yearly basis, he gets hurt, comes back and hits, goes into prolonged cold spells.

If the Mets sign Bruce, then it means Conforto is the CF which doesn't help the defense. The Mets clearly should have used the time that Cespedes been hurt in order to play Lagares in CF. See if Lagares like Flores could find the old form that made Sandy the Genius give an extension. But the Imbecile continued to play the veteran Granderson even thought he is hitting around the Mendoza line.

Lets not forget that the only reason Conforto has shown be belongs is the fact that Cespedes got hurt. You can say the same about what Flores is showing only because Jose hasn't hit or fielded well.

The Mets need to turn over this team and replace veterans like Duda, Walker, Granderson, Cabrera with younger, faster, hungrier players like Flores, TJ, Rosario, Smith.

With the money coming off the books next year, why can't the Mets fix the BP, get another veteran starter and a better bench? Another CF if Lagares doesn't work out? But he can't show anything playing once every 2 weeks.

And lets not forget, a new manager with a brain and common sense.

As happy as I was when Jose came back, I think his dancing career is about to start in 2018. I can see it now "Dancing with Jose"

Adam Smith said...

In thinking about 2018, let's start with what we have. Cespedes is your LF (so let's. Or forget we'll need depth) and Conforto is your RF (why take a plus RF and turn him into a marginal CF?). That leaves Bruce and Grandy out in the cold. Grandy is no one's idea of a CF this year, forget next. So Trade Bruce at the deadline, and get Lagares in there NOW (he looked pretty good at the plate last night) to give him the rest of the season to win the gig. You're paying him next year anyway, and the guy was once a gold glover, IIRC. At the very least, it'll help the defense for the remainder of this year. Nimmo should be brought up to get some reps to see if he's possibly an answer to that depth thing going forward. Maybe, just maybe, you won't have to spend any of that money on a starting CF, which would be nice, since there are lots of other holes.

On the IF, Rosario is obviously your SS, and the only guy we can post in ink. Flores and his bat has to have a spot, so either 2B or 3B. This gives some flexibility. That leaves 1B, and here you may not be able to screw it up either way. I would urge signing Duda if you can get him for three years at reasonable dollars, he'll almost certainly give you the most production next season and probably in '19 as well, but I wouldn't argue if Smith ends up there, though I have a feeling that another year in AAA would do him some good - he's not yet 22! Cabrera s no longer a big league defender (he was never even average in his younger days) and There's no reason to invest in 31 year-old Walker long term. They both need to go, with Walker possibly netting something of value at the deadline. So, you need either a 2B or 3B but that needs to be an IMPACT player, not a Cecchini type. This is where you spend some money to really bolster the position player ranks.

Unless something changes with TdA over the next few months, or unless Thomas Nido sets the world on fire in the second half,you need to go get a catcher (I might keep Rivera as a backup.)

The rest of the money should go to the pitching staff (SMH). I'd target a 2-3 starter and one other reliable innings type guy, a top flight reliever, and one other proven arm down there.

Finally, give TV his watch, and find someone who's, I guess, willing to take orders from SA's underlings while not destroying both he bullpen and the development of the young guys.

Also, get rid of Barwiss and anyone else on the conditioning staff. And give Jeff Wilson a twitter account and a 60 inch TV, amd tell him to have fun, just stay away from the team.

Adam Smith said...

Er, that should read "give TC his gold watch"

Thomas Brennan said...

I also go back and forth on 1B solutions. I think Duda should go and pencil in Smith at first. If Duda is traded at the trade deadline, that's 40 more games for Smitty.

Duda is TOO QUIET to ad to clubhouse "chemistry" other than with his bat. However, Smith was compared to Keith Hernandez - he could be a similar glove and bat with more power and fewer walks - but a key asset of Keith was his killer attitude, which Smith certainly does not have at this time.

So, move Duda, Bruce, Grandy along this mid-season, and call up Smith and Nimmo and let Lagares play a lot.

I don't care if Yu Darvish is tough on righties, Juan Lagares psychologically HAS to play tonight after his great game. He gets on base, he hustles - and his defense is still premier. Even if he takes a Sombrero tonight. Start playing Lagares - the excuse to trot Grandy out there almost every game because Juan was not hitting just went out the window.

Adam Smith said...

Totally agree, Thomas. Lagares should be in CF every day, with Nimmo up as the backup.

Thomas Brennan said...

Hey Adam, far from a good comparison when it comes to Lagares, I was a NJ Nets fan back in the 1970's.

They acquired a guy named Bubbles Hawkins, who had scored 3.9 points per game in his rookie season with Golden State in an average 4.8 minutes.

The Nets ripped him off the bench and he scored 19.3 PPG in 28.5 minutes per game as a 22 year old.

Future NBA star? Nope - he hardly played as a 24 year old and his career ended there.

So I NOT intimating that if Lagares plays a lot his career will super-nova and then end like Bubbles' career did. Rather, it is a sign that given a lot of playing time, a guy like Juan can excel. But only if he learns the Cespedes lesson - "can't play if you're hurt."

Adam Smith said...

I know, the guy has to stay healthy. But from what I've seen of him, he's got a lot of offensive potential that hasn't been tapped - combo of the above mentioned health, but also of getting buried for a guy like Granderson in CF. We've got most of a season to see whether he's ready to put it all together, and he's certainly got the tools to succeed. It kills me that he's going to keep sitting behind guys who have no future here.

eraff said...

The AFTER 2017 structural plan was for the payroll to begin a rotation toward paying the Starting Pitching as their Arb and FA status came in to play, with a placement of young and cheap positional players graduating to the MLB roster and replacing some of the pricier vets

That won't work IF the Pitchers don't re-gain form, and if the prospects don't advance strongly.

The Pitching concerns are obvious, and the only positional prospect knocking loud and ready is Rosario.... Nimmo and Chechinni look like guys who may do a slow roll tonbecoming mlb players---- they don't look worthy of being HANDED positions. Likewise, Smith is a guy who doesn't look ready to be HANDED a spot... he's still a bit younger, and that may change quickly

Mack's Mets © 2012