Reese Kaplan -- Roster Whack-A-Mole


Although most roster movement won’t begin to take place until the World Series ends, it’s never too early to being speculating who will or won’t be on the 40-man roster as well as who will or won’t be protected from the Rule V draft.  What makes this challenge particularly difficult for the Mets is the large number of injured players who during the season would be on the 60-day disabled list and thus not counted against the total of 40.  People like David Wright and Michael Conforto must temporarily occupy roster spots and thus reduce the number of people the Mets can protect in the short term. 

The first decisions must be made 5 days after conclusion of the fall classic.  By baseball rules that’s the amount of time teams have to decide whether or not to pick up options on players.  For the Mets there are two such decisions.  Jerry Blevins is a no-brainer to retain as he was one of the few consistently good arms in the bullpen that’s still on the team.  Put his $7 million option into the payroll budget right now.

Asdrubal Cabrera is a much more difficult decision we’ve bandied about several times already.  Most pundits have the Mets virtually certain to pick up the $8.5 million option.  While his attitude is about as questionable as his defense, he did rally to provide decent offense worth 1.1 WAR.  At $8 million per WAR, he’s right on target in terms of value, though a considerable drop from the 2.7 WAR he generated the previous year.  I’m on record saying that with so many problems to solve, I’d wish him well, not just to save the $6.5 million after paying his buyout, but also to change the nature of the clubhouse.  I’m also concerned that he’s going to be an old 32 during 2018, missing a significant amount of time for nagging injuries.  I’m fairly confident, however, he’s not only going to be back but he’s going to be handed the starting third base gig.

Let’s take a look at who’s on the 40-man roster who are sure to be back and what they will cost (using aggregate estimates from a variety of sources for players not yet under long term contracts):

Noah Syndergaard -- $2 million
Jacob deGrom – $9.5 million
Matt Harvey -- $6 million
Jeurys Familia -- $7.4 million
A.J. Ramos -- $9.2 million
Zack Wheeler -- $2 million
Wilmer Flores -- $3.5 million
Travis d’Arnaud -- $3.5 million

Then we have a trio of players who are under long term contract:

Yoenis Cespedes – $29 million
David Wright –$20 million
Juan Lagares – $6.5 million

Next are a group of minimum wage (or close to it) players who are surely going to be protected.  For purposes of budgeting allowing for returning young players not yet arbitration eligible along with newcomers, let’s call it a $650K average salary:

Michael Conforto
Kevin Plawecki
T.J. Rivera
Jacob Rhame
Jamie Callahan
Steve Matz
Amed Rosario
Dom Smith
Brandon Nimmo

So before we look at the difficult roster decisions, the Mets are at 22 players and $119.95 million.  Assuming the Mets want to keep the budget around $135 million, that’s only about $15 million to fill three more spots on the 25-man roster.  If that’s the case, it’s going to be a long, painful summer. 

Now many will be quick to say the Mets will recoup close to $15 million of David Wright’s contract assuming he is unfit to play.  Theoretically it means they could spend that much up front which would bring them to $150 in the short term, but that’s nearly the $154 million they spent last year and they’re on record saying payroll is going down. 

So who’s on the bubble?  Well, pretty much everyone else:
  • Nori Aoki – He's due to earn $8 million or more in arbitration.  Yes, they need another outfielder to bide time until Michael Conforto is back, but that seems a fairly high price to pay for a guy who was released by his last team.  I imagine they will non-tender him but invite him back at a much lower price.
  • Chasen Bradford – He pitched better in the majors than in the minors but it wasn’t overwhelming – 2-0, 3.74 ERA, 1.277 WHIP but a strikeout to walk ratio of just over 2:1.  That’s most definitely someone on the bubble.
  • Erik Goeddel – He posted a 4.54 ERA in 2016 and followed it up with a 5.28 ERA in 2017.  Buh-bye, Erik.
  • Josh Smoker – Despite the gaudy strikeout numbers he’s allowed way too many hits and walks as well as nearly an average of 2 HRs per 9 IP.  I think he’s a gone despite being left handed.
  • Chris Flexen – He’ll likely remain on the 40-man roster but to pitch again in Las Vegas.  At age 22 he posted an awful 7.88 ERA but he is at 3.28 for his minor league career, so they will likely want to hang onto him.
  • Tommy Milone – An Alderson scrap heap pick up, it showed.  His 8.56 ERA reflects his career path.  He has been hittable throughout his career but does display good control.  The other problem is he is arbitration eligible and is probably going to earn over $2 million.  I think the Mets would be better off finding a true reliever who is left handed to replace the likely departing Smoker and Milone and the already departed Josh Edgin. 
  • Rafael Montero – His number is up and I can’t see the Mets keeping him around as he’s out of options and not pitched well enough to remain on the 25 man roster all year.  I expect he will be traded as part of a bundle of warm bodies changing teams this winter.
  • Seth Lugo – He exhibits good control, keeps the ball in the yard, started 18 games and finished with a mediocre 4.71 ERA.  I fully expect they will retain him as he was recovering from injury to start the year and no one knows how much toll that took on his overall numbers.
  • Robert Gsellman – After a brilliant 2016 debut he was flat out awful for most of 2017.  He wound up starting 22 games but finished the year with a Pelfreyesque 5.19 ERA.  I expect Lugo has leapfrogged him in the pecking order and he’ll be retained but in Las Vegas.
  • Paul Sewald – There were times he looked brilliant, striking people out with aplomb, but then there were other times he fell victim to blowing leads, ending the season with an unsightly 0-6 record.  However, he put up a respectable 1.209 WHIP, held batters to under a hit per IP, and delivered a 3.29:1 K to BB ratio.  He’s probably got an inside track to landing a middle relief role based upon his 57 games used in his rookie year.
  • Hansel Robles – The arbitration eligible righty was banished to AAA because he was pitching so badly and upon his return it didn’t seem like he’d regained his mojo.  For the year he vultured several victories with a 7-5 record despite a 4.92 ERA with a 2.48:1 K to BB ratio and a penchant for giving up the long ball.  The best thing about him is his stinginess with hits – only 7.5 per 9 IP – but at over $1 million in arbitration he is skating on thin ice. 
  • Kevin McGowan – The barely used reliever could be optioned to Las Vegas but may get outrighted to free a space on the 40-man roster.  He underwhelmed in his 8 IP audition and his minor league numbers suggest he’s at best a mop-up guy as he’s not capable of high strikeout totals. 
  • Gavin Cecchini – While they’re likely not ready to admit defeat with the former first round pick, he’s also reaching the end of his Mets’ life.  He can be optioned to AAA and that’s likely what will happen.
  • Phil Evans – Wow, here’s a toughie.  In my mind, he’s the T.J. Rivera slot until T.J. Rivera returns.  As such, they would need to reserve a 40-man roster spot for him.  However, he barely played under Collins’ stewardship, so it’s hard to know what he could do with an extended look at big league pitching.  He’s hit everywhere (like Rivera) so the assumption is that he would be able to handle it.  I see him coming north with the team if they don’t acquire an infielder FA and do exercise the Cabrera option.
  • Matt Reynolds – Dead man walking, he has had one outlier of positive offensive production.  Versatility works in his favor, but he doesn’t have any outstanding tools.  I hope at best he’s in Las Vegas.  I don’t want to see him coming north. 
  •  Travis Taijeron – I can see them outrighting Taijeron to Las Vegas or just cutting him loose.  His strikeout tendencies were amplified in the majors and he’s never been known for his glove. 
  • Tomas Nido – As thin as the Mets are at catcher, the defensive whiz who a season ago turned in a solid offensive campaign, he’ll be behind the dish every day in Las Vegas. 

Now we get to the Rule V protection decisions – in other words, who must be added to the 40-man roster.  If we start with the 22 players identified as no-brainers to return, then add in Bradford, Sewald, Flexen, Lugo, Gsellman, Evans, Cecchini, Reynolds, Robles and Nido, that’s another 10 players.  Theoretically you would then have 8 slots on the 40-man roster.  However, if you plan to acquire any free agents or Rule V draftees, then you need to reserve a few spaces.  For the sake of argument let’s say there are 5 available slots up for grabs, leaving three vacancies for player acquisitions.

I would defer to Tom Brennan, Mack and others who follow the minors more closely than I do for a further assessment, but the names that would jump out at me to add to the 40-man roster would include seven:

Tyler Bashlor
Gerson Bautista
Matt Blackham
Luis Guillorme
Corey Oswalt
Adonis Uceta
Jhoan Urena

Others are either too far down in the minors, recovering from injury (such as David Roseboom) or performing at subpar levels.  The problem here is that if the first 32 players are indeed going to be on the 40-man roster then there’s no room at the inn.  Does that mean some of these attractive options become trade bait or do they gamble with the lower level minor leaguers like Bautista who may not be claimed never having pitched above A ball?  Jhoan Urena is probably the most vulnerable of this group as he’s a less developed Wilmer Flores who can hit but can’t field.  Gold Glove level defenders are always appealing to clubs, so Guillorme would seem to have a lock despite not being known for his bat or his running.  Starting pitcher Oswalt was the Mets’ top minor league arm so he’s a sure bet.  That leaves the four relievers who posted gaudy numbers.  I guess that’s why they pay the front office personnel the big bucks because you could make a case for saving all of them. 

Frankly, if it was up to me, I would indeed protect all seven of them and outright some folks like Matt Reynolds and look to move Hansel Robles in a trade. 

What’s your take?


Mack Ade said...

Wow. A lotto digest while I am getting my oil changed at WalMart this morning (no Tom... not MY oil, the oil in my wife's car).

I have Goedell, Milone, gone.

I have Flexen, Nido, Robles, McGowan, Bradfo0rd in AAA

I have Lugo, Gsellman in Queens pen

I have Montero as SP5

The rest have to decide what their role will be in spring training

Also, all this is, of course, before any outsiders come in.

Ed Marcus said...

So Mack you don’t see the Mets going outside the organization for a Veteran SP5 ? I figured they might look for a Colon or an Edward Jackson to act as an innings water

Reese Kaplan said...

I thinks that they have given Montero a three year look and he's not shown the consistency they need. Then again, perhaps a new pitching coach could help as he's excelled away from Warthen.

Mack Ade said...

Ed - like i said, all this could change if outsiders come in

Thomas Brennan said...

Hop you got there oily, Mack. Your oil change may have taken 10 minutes but Collins could change pitchers 5 times in 10 minutes.

Reese, that minors list of 40 man guys is spot on. Hobie knows Cruzado is ready to strike free agent gold unless the Mets offer him a David Wright-sized contract!

Reese Kaplan said...

Cruzado is .271 with no power and no speed in his minor league career. A less productive Wuilmer Becerra ( which isn't saying much).

Reese Kaplan said...


You think Alderson will actually add major league talent? Well, there's a first time for everything I suppose.

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