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.

I'm not sure how this might affect any effort to sign Jackie Bradley Jr. It probably reflects a thought process by the front office that JBJ in a Mets uniform would be unlikely. As to how I feel about all of this, it would depend. If Bradley Jr. signs a deal with anyone for 3 years or under, I'd be disappointed that the Mets didn't nab him under those terms. If he manages to secure a longer-term deal, I can't blame the Mets for passing. Unlike George Springer, JBJ doesn't provide the offense to justify paying him a large salary once his time as an elite CF is over.

When Steve Cohen and Sandy Alderson took over this franchise, they talked a lot about future sustainability. Despite speculation in the press right after Cohen took over that the Mets would go on a big-time spending spree, the team throwing caution to the wind and going all-in on 2021 was never promised. For all that, the Mets did swing a huge trade for a real impact young superstar along with a badly needed starting pitcher. They've made some significant signings. Unfortunately, it's the "close but no cigar" status on a couple of free-agent targets that the media and Mets Twitter have fixated upon.

This focus belies that this winter has been the most active Mets offseason in many, many years, at least since the winter of 2004-2005. While they didn't sign two future Hall of Famers this time around, there have been important additions (Francisco Lindor, Carlos Carrasco, James McCann, Trevor May), depth moves (Almora, José Martínez, Jordan Yamamoto, Khalil Lee), and moves that fit in between (Pillar, Jonathan Villar, Joey Lucchesi, Sam McWilliams. Aaron Loup). Whether the team has taken enough steps forward to truly compete this year is yet to be determined — very much dependent on how well they put a rotation and bullpen together from the pieces they've assembled.    

Some Mets fans that I like and respect are of the opinion that Sandy Alderson is too cautious of an executive to be leading this club. If you think Alderson has dropped the ball by missing out on Springer, Brad Hand, Trevor Bauer, and J.T. Realmuto, I understand where you're coming from. If you believe it was really short-sighted to let Justin Wilson sign with the Yankees, I can't say that you're wrong. The truth is that I'm not sure. The answers to these questions can only be revealed over time. Some answers will come this season; some are further off in the future.

When Cohen and Alderson first took over, it was easy to cheerfully endorse what they said and what they did. Once the actual decisions were being made, and free-agents started coming off the board, then universal applause for the new owner and team president was bound to come to an end, and it did.

The Porter revelations and dismissal was a huge black eye, but even that can't be fully judged right now. What's really important is that something similar doesn't happen again. Moreover, do the Mets use the experience as a catalyst to create an organization where women can be comfortable both as team employees and journalists interacting with their players and employees? Get the future right, and the past can be chalked off as a learning experience.

Yesterday I wrote a piece positing that some of the bullpen decisions were reflective of a new philosophy in building a 'pen, choosing to eschew spending big bucks on relief pitchers as much as possible. Although the Mets signed Trevor May and pursued Brad Hand, the rest of the pitchers brought in were more speculative. Even Wilson was apparently seen as too extravagant for this philosophy. Now, I'm a believer that overspending on relievers was something the Mets should be moving away from, but I need to see some success in this area before I'm comfortable with what the Mets are doing. When a team's underperforming bullpen sinks its playoff chances, that is not a fun thing to watch.

While it's obvious that long-term goals like building a much deeper and more productive farm system can't be reasonably judged for years, once we get into the season, we can start evaluating how good the Mets were in finding some real value from the inexpensive pieces they've assembled. They won't hit on all of them, of course, but they'll need to roll sevens with some of them. For all of the odious constraints the previous Alderson regime had to work under when the Wilpons were still around, they seldom found real value in the bargain aisle. That has to change this time around if this is really the front office that will lead the club out of the wilderness.

I'll never be a mindless cheerleader for Cohen, Alderson, acting GM Zack Scott, or anyone else in this organization but, at least with this Mets fan, they get a fair shot to prove that they were the right choice to do the job. I can't remember the last time I was this psyched to get spring training underway. I'm eager for the opportunity to begin evaluating the efforts of our current leadership.

I'm out for today. Please stay safe, be well, and take care.

 Follow me on Twitter @MikeSteffanos

1 comment:

  1. I do think one more 'proven' stating pitcher is needed. I am OK with the crew they have in the bullpen, and the centerfield depth is second to none.

    Now they just have to do the things that are necessary to win ballgames.

    Improvements required for 2021:
    * Pitchers throwing more strikes, particularly the relievers and particularly on the first pitch.
    * Hitting at least league average with runners in scoring position.
    * Running the bases more effectively
    * Turning the double plays that have to be made
    * Reduce the number of 'dumb' outs while on offense
    * Reduce the number of poor plays that extend innings while on defense

    Play Ball!


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