Sunday, February 28, 2021

Spring Training Thoughts

When you have a team that's been together for a while, with most of the key players returning, spring training becomes boring fairly quickly. That's certainly not the deal with the Mets this season. Two, possibly three, members of the starting rotation are brand new to the club. In the field, there will be a new catcher, shortstop, and a rebuilt bench. There will be new guys in the bullpen this season as well.
The coaching staff has undergone some changes, too. Dave Jauss is replacing Hensley Meulens as bench coach, Tony Tarasco replacing Tony DeFrancesco as first base coach (an exchange of Tonys, if you will), and hitting coach Chili Davis doing his job in person rather than remotely this season.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Coming Soon to a Ballpark Near You, Baseball That Looks Familiar

2020 will always be remembered as a bizarre baseball season, by far the weirdest of my lifetime. The only seasons that approached it in sheer peculiarity were 1981, where a strike shut the game down for two months from June 12 - August 9, and 1994, when baseball just packed up and shut down for the rest of the year without crowning a champion. Still, at least to my mind, 2020 stands alone. Not only for the dramatic accommodations MLB had to make to play an abbreviated season at all, but how very weird all of our lives became outside of the game itself.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

The Edwin Diaz Dilemma

Prized by who
I'm going to start this off with a confession. Watching Edwin Díaz attempting to hold the lead in the ninth inning makes me very nervous. (I know, I know, that's a shocking revelation.) I spent a good chunk of time this winter hoping the Mets would sign Brad HandLiam HendriksTrevor Rosenthal, Justin Wilson, and several other guys to bolster their late-inning relief and provide some Díaz insurance for the season. They did sign Trevor May early on, and he is certainly an option to close games if Díaz reverts back to his 2019 form, but the Mets didn't sign any other big-ticket bullpen guys. They pursued Brad Hand pretty hard and kicked the tires on other closer types. Ultimately, however, they elected to spend money to fill different needs.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Breaking With the Past

Yesterday, I started writing a piece on the opening of spring training. I had a bad cold that limited me to a few short hours of heavily interrupted sleep, but I sat at my computer for a couple of hours and knocked out several paragraphs of thoughts. At the time, I felt like I had an excellent start. I took a couple of hours off. By the time I sat down again, I still felt tired but was also more clear-headed. I read through the words that I had written earlier, and I'm pretty sure that the look on my face was reminiscent of Edvard Munch's famous painting. I decided that, while it felt a little like slacking off to not post something on the first official day of workouts for the whole squad, it was the right move to table those thoughts for a day. So, belatedly, some thoughts on the opening act of the first Mets squad of the post-Wilpon era.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

No Free Pass for Luis Rojas This Time Around

Tim Britton had a good profile of Mets manager Luis Rojas up on The Athletic earlier this week. All in all, Rojas endured a strange year in his first season on the job. It started with Carlos Beltran resigning as manager three weeks before spring training started, thanks to the Astros sign stealing scandal. That spring training came to a screeching halt, but not before it was revealed that his second-best pitcher Noah Syndergaard needed Tommy John surgery. Then, after we all sat around for a few months, waiting to see if there would be a baseball season in 2020, everything ramped up way too quickly for the weird 60-game season that followed. Before that season even began, his now second-best pitcher Marcus Stroman opted out of the season. The abbreviated slate of games was barely underway when his star player, Yoenis Céspedes, also opted out in a manner that was equally poorly handled by the player and the club. To put a cherry on top of it all, Rojas was given a roster, particularly the pitching staff, which proved woefully inadequate, and Brodie Van Wagenen did a poor job of juggling the useful pieces the Mets did possess.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Signing Taijuan Walker Was a Terrific Move

Mets fans received some good news today. Signing a starting pitcher to compete for one of the two bottom-of-the-rotation slots really was a must for this team. Don't get me wrong, David Peterson and Joey Lucchesi are both perfectly acceptable options for the role, but there needed to be more competition for those spots. Now there is. Bringing Taijuan Walker into the fold for a reasonable 2-year, $20 million deal seems to be, at least in my opinion, exactly the right balance of risk and potential upside. While it seems almost comical to refer to a $10 million per year salary as "reasonable," it really is in the context of how players are valued these days. As a fan, I feel much better about the Mets' chances of having enough starting pitching to survive this season today than I did yesterday.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Analyze This

Just in case you thought there was one correct way to successfully integrate analytics into running a baseball team, that's apparently not the case. A couple of days ago, I was reading a terrific piece in The Athletic by Brittany Ghiroli and Eno Sarris about how teams were using the position of quality control or quality assurance coach to maximize their use of data:

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

More Baseball, Less Drama Please

I woke up this morning with a smile on my face. For a baseball nerd, the first day of training camp is always special. Sure, after a couple of weeks, spring training gets boring. You find yourself pining for the regular season to start. But this year, with so many new faces around, even the spring games will be more fun than usual. In any case, it's not just about baseball coming back. As I get older, I find myself with drastically diminishing patience for winter to pack up and ship out. The start of spring training offers an early promise that warm weather will eventually return to the icy northeast. With another crappy weather forecast for tomorrow, you take all of the hope you can find.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Have the Mets Done Enough? Let the Evaluations Begin

The Mets signed OF Kevin Pillar yesterday. Nice depth move, but hardly a game-changer. There was a time that he was an excellent CF, but that is no longer the case. You can make an argument that, by defensive metrics, Pillar is no longer that big of a defensive upgrade over Brandon Nimmo. I'm no expert on defensive metrics, nor have I had much chance to watch Pillar play CF in recent years. Perhaps the Mets think they see something in Pillar that the metrics are missing. In any case, it's quite doubtful that Pillar was signed to be the starting CF. He's a right-handed bat who hits lefties fairly well, and he'll most likely be doing that in some sort of part-time role with the Mets. His track record shows he's a better bet to contribute with the bat than recent pickup Albert Almora. Almora also has a minor league option left, so they're not necessarily going to be on the active roster together.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Are the Mets Signaling a New Bullpen Strategy?

Once the news broke about Seth Lugo's elbow surgery, it seemed like bringing LHP Justin Wilson back into the fold would be a no-brainer. Wilson has been an effective pitcher for the Mets, showing an ability to handle a late-inning role. Assuming a contract in the range of the $5 million per year Wilson was paid the previous two seasons, that money shouldn't have been prohibitive for a post-Wilpon Mets club. Yet, from multiple sources, it's the Yankees who are close to a deal with Wilson. While it's undeniably the prerogative of any front office to place a value on any player that they're looking at acquiring, it's a real head-shaker to me that the Mets aren't pursuing Wilson with more vigor.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

At the Gates of Spring

It's hard not to feel the excitement of baseball returning this week, even amidst the still-ongoing concerns about COVID-19. Mets pitchers and catchers will report Wednesday, while the position players will be in camp a week from Monday. While Acting GM Zack Scott has indicated that the Mets are not done improving their roster, it will still be a blast to see the team they've assembled so far over the offseason. A new era of Mets baseball truly began when Steve Cohen took over the team in October and handed the keys to Sandy Alderson, but it will all start to get real this week.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Seth Lugo's Elbow Hurts All of Us

The bad news about Seth Lugo came along with my morning coffee. When I saw the words Lugo, elbow, and surgery together in the headline, my first thought was that the frayed medial ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow had finally gone and we were kissing him goodbye for the season. While the news proved to be better than that, the Mets are going to have to figure out their bullpen without one of their best relievers for a while. Lugo will be shut down completely for "at least six weeks," and then he has to ease back into pitching shape. And this is assuming no hidden damage when they cut into the elbow and no setbacks in his rehab. Given what we've seen previously with pitchers and elbow problems, would it shock you if Noah Syndergaard was pitching again before Lugo?

Thursday, February 11, 2021

More Comings and Goings

The Mets made an interesting move Wednesday night, getting involved in a trade between the Red Sox and the Royals. While Andrew Benintendi was the "name" player in the deal, Khalil Lee is the prospect coming over to the Mets. Lee will probably begin the season in Triple-A, so his addition gives the club an outfield prospect close to major league-ready. With the Mets system's real prospects at the lower levels, this adds a layer of roster depth they were previously lacking. It's also possible that Khalil Lee might see some playing time with the Mets before the season is over.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Mets Working on Filling Out the Roster

Since I last wrote here, the Mets signed another not-very-exciting bench player, infielder Jonathan Villar. As with the signing of Albert Almora, who also didn't cause goosebumps to appear when I heard of his signing, this looks like a solid addition to the team's bench. I know some folks get frustrated by moves like this, but I like it so much more than the sort of Quad-A ballplayers the Mets used to build their bench in previous years — think John MayberryDaniel MunoEric Campbell, Ty Kelly, and the like. Sure, there's a reason no one signed Almora and Villar to be starting players for their teams, but they both have some upside and some decent talents.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Welcome to the Dynasty

Who needs George Springer?
I'm Albert Freaking Almora!
Now that the Mets have added Albert Almora Jr, I think that most of us can agree that the future dynasty is complete. Okay, so maybe that was a bit of an overstatement but, at least to me, it was a decent signing. He was once a #6 overall pick in the amateur draft. It doesn't seem likely that he'll ever play up to that level, but if he could bounce back to the level he was at from 2016-2018, he could be a decent bench player for the Mets. There's a little more upside there than with Guillermo Heredia, who's my leading candidate to be replaced on the 40-man, despite the preponderance of pitching on the roster. As I mentioned yesterday, 26 of the 40 spots are currently occupied by hurlers. Barring trades, some of these pitchers are likely to go before opening day, but right now it seems like Heredia is superfluous, although they might want to keep him around into spring training for some OF depth.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Where Do We Go Now?

The New York Mets will not be employing Trevor Bauer in 2021. If the details are important to you, you've already had plenty of time to read at least some of the many thousands of words written on the subject. I don't really have much to add, as most of what I would say has already been said by others. I have no idea how Trevor Bauer may have performed with the Mets had he signed here. I don't think that's something that you could extrapolate based on his performance this season with the Dodgers. Every situation is different. The Dodgers are a better team and won last year — both truths add up to less pressure on Bauer out west than there would be had he signed with the Mets. And maybe that contributed to his decision, who knows? We'll never know if Bauer would have helped the Mets contend for a championship or just flopped in New York, or more likely somewhere in between those possible outcomes.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

The Best Sleep I Ever Had in a Movie Theater

I get the feeling right now that the Mets' offseason has come to a virtual standstill, awaiting Trevor Bauer's final decision on what is reportedly an offer the Mets have already made to the free agent pitcher. While we have witnessed a trend in recent years where big free agents are comfortable going past the start of spring training without signing, I honestly wonder how long the Mets wait on Bauer before they move on to alternate plans. The Mets supposedly went with James McCann over J.T. Realmuto because they wanted some certainty with the catching situation, but apparently are willing to wait indefinitely for the reality show that the Bauer sweepstakes has become to come to a conclusion. Maybe I'm just getting a little old and cranky, and admittedly Bauer isn't my first choice, but I just wish this thing could be resolved one way or the other without further delay.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Stuff You Should Have Learned in Junior High School

What a strange few months this has been. When Steve Cohen was approved as the Mets' new owner, it seemed that this offseason would be all about significant player moves and signings, something Mets fans like myself have been hoping to see for years. The trade for Francisco Lindor was all that and then some, but all of the extracurricular noise has overshadowed it a bit. In fact, I had to look up the exact date of the deal and was shocked to realize it went down less than a month ago. Then it occurred to me that it's only been two weeks since Jared Porter was shown the door and barely over three months since Steve Cohen's purchase was approved. Didn't he used to have a Twitter account, or am I remembering that wrong? I know time feels different since COVID-19 gummed everything up, but this is nuts. I picked an interesting year, indeed, to return to blogging.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Spring Feels a Long Way Off

I'm still working through some health issues, but I thought I'd check back in on some of the Mets- and baseball-related topics. I'll stay away from Trevor Bauer for now, as I've already said my piece on the guy. If the Mets sign him, I'll root for it all to turn out well. If they don't — well, if you read my other piece, you can probably guess that I won't be heartbroken. Either way, I learned a long time ago not to live or die based on decisions that the team you root for makes. You only hope that they operate in a way that makes sense, and only time will tell on this current Mets' brain trust. The one thing that I do feel strongly about is that hope this Bauer pursuit comes to an end one way or the other very soon, because a) it's been going on for too freaking long and b) I think it's holding up the other personnel moves the Mets need to make before the season starts.

The Defense Doesn't Rest

A renewed emphasis on defense would be a good thing for the New York Mets. Mike Vaccaro had an interesting column in the New York Post  abou...