DAVIS VS. BRYANT

Pitchers and catchers are set to report soon. The Mets are nearly done making moves. There is some talk about adding another starter. However, the most intriguing topic is about the upgrading third base.

Based on recent reports, the Mets are discussing a trade with the Cubs for Kris Bryant. Any serious baseball fan knows that Bryant has a fantastic resume. Since being taken second overall in the 2013 draft, Cubs fans have been in love with Bryant. The three-time all-star took home the rookie of the year award in 2015. The following year Bryant was the NL MVP when the Cubs won the World Series. Besides the ring, he has helped the Cubs with the NL Central in three of his six big league seasons. The Cubs have made the postseason since Bryant entered the majors in all but one year.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 4-1.jpg
Bryant being introduced by Cubs president Theo Epstein in 2013.

Currently, the Mets have JD Davis slatted to play the hot corner. Davis was selected by the Astros in third round of the 2014 draft. He hit very well throughout his minor league career but struggled in limited playing time with the Astros. After an abysmal 2018, the Astros traded him to New York. Once with the Mets, Davis has flourished into a well above average hitter. So should the Mets trade for Bryant or stick with Davis? Let’s break it down:

The offense

Both Bryant and Davis are very good hitters. Over the first 3 years of his career, Bryant was an absolute monster. During this time, he put up a WAR of 18.0 and the talk of being a hall of famer was in the makings:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 1.png

Unfortunately, in 2018, Bryant struggled and had two stints on the injured list. While, he rebounded in 2019, Bryant struggled mightily in the shortened 2020 season. Injuries were a key reason. Since the first 3 seasons, his speed seems to have decline. Bryant isn’t the same threat he was earlier in his career. His WAR is only 6.8 over this span, even when projecting what it would have been over a full 2020 season:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 2.png

Davis took the opposite route. He struggled early in his days but later turned it around. His numbers show what a major transformation once in Queens:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 3-1.png

Stat cast data

In todays game, looking merely at traditional data isn’t enough. Smart teams also look at stat cast to determine how well a player hits the ball. From the data, it seems that Davis is better than Bryant over the last two seasons:

  • Barrel %- Bryant dropped from 9.3 to 5.5. Considering that 6.4 is league average, this is significant. Davis on the other hand was 11.4 and 8.9 over the same time frame.
  • Exit velocity- Bryant is below the league average of 88.3. His last two seasons were 87.5 and 86.1, which is troubling. The 91.5 and 90.1 of Davis during this timeframe is pretty solid.
  • Hard hit %- The average MLB player is at 34.9%, but Bryant was at 34.1% and 31.9%. Davis was at 47.9% and 45.2%, which means that he makes better contact than most players.

These numbers should be a red flag to all those who want Bryant over Davis.

The defense

This is the category in which there is no debate. Bryant is a much better defender. It isn’t close. Over his career, Bryant has a dWAR of -0.9. He is considered to be a good fielder. Over the course of his six-year career, it is estimated that Bryant cost the Cubs a mere 14 runs with his glove. In other words, he is adequate but not a gold glover.

Davis on the other hand is a butcher. His -3.1 dWAR as a Met is terrible. He has cost his team 15 runs over just four seasons when playing third. When you add in the extra 11 runs from his time in the outfield, there is no way to sugar coat it. Davis is a defensive liability.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 6.png
JD Davis is known for his rocky fielding.

Injuries

From 2015-2017, Bryant had been healthy. In 2018, his left shoulder began to act up. In 2020, Bryant barely played in half of the games. Between an oblique and finger injuries, Bryant was not able to help out his club. Davis on the other hand hasn’t had a single IL day as a Met. With Davis being a year younger than 29-year-old Bryant, one can’t help but think Bryant is starting to show signs of aging.

Salary & free agency

The Cubs are in the final year of arbitration with Bryant. Despite recent struggles, he will earn $19.5 million in 2021. After this season, he is entering free agency. Assuming he plays well, Bryant will earn a 9-figure salary. Davis will earn a small fraction of Bryant’s contract. He is in his first year of arbitration and will make $2.1 million. He has three additional seasons of arbitration before becoming a free agent at age 32.

With all of this in mind, what’s the verdict? Truth be told, this is a tough one. While Bryant is a recognized star of the game, his decline in offensive production is worrisome. Citi Field is not the same hitter friendly park that Wrigley is. So while defensively Bryant is the no-brainer decision, offensively Davis has the slight edge.

However, the true decision gets down to dollars and cents. Bryant is presumably a one-year rental. The Mets already have several key players entering free agency that they will want to hold onto. Lindor, Conforto and possibly Syndergaard are the players that the Mets want to extend before the season starts. If Stroman has a good season, we may want to re-sign him after the season. While Steve Cohen’s wallet adds to the Mets spending abilities, this isn’t limitless. This is especially true once we factor in that Cano’s contract is back on the books next season. Of course this all could change if the Cubs take some of the Mets bad contracts or toss in other good players. If the choice is a one for one swap of Davis and Bryant, the Mets should keep Davis.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 5.png
Will getting Bryant mean that the Mets give up on homegrown stars like Syndergaard and Conforto.

Keeping Davis makes sense as a low-cost player who has a high upside. Not every player on a winning team needs to be a star. With this in mind, the Mets will likely need to get used to brining in a defensive replacement late in games. One possibility is to use Luis Guillorme to finish games. Hopefully, the DH will go into effect in the not too distant future and Davis can be taken off the field for good. With prospects like Brett Baty and Ronny Mauricio a few years away, the Mets don’t need a long term fix like Bryant.

(David Weiss is a lifelong Mets fan. He has lived in Israel since 2008 and runs the Facebook page Jewish Mets Fans.)

Unfairly Hated: Armando Benitez

There is something unfair about being a closer. If you do your job well, no one remembers you. When you fail, even slightly, it is all your fault. It is why more often then not, fans do not have fond memories of their closers.

On December 1st, 1998 the Mets made a great trade. The Mets dealt Todd Hundley and in return got Armando Benitez and Roger Cedeno. Hundley had no place with the team. A month earlier, the Mets gave Mike Piazza a seven-year contract and he was left without a position.

Over the course of five seasons with Baltimore, Benitez had earned himself a reputation for being a hard thrower and a hothead. During a May 1998 game in Yankee Stadium, Benitez drilled Tino Martinez in the back with a fastball. Most assumed it was on purpose. It led to a massive brawl. Players were throwing punches and it even spilled into the Orioles dugout. This is virtually unheard of in baseball brawls. After the game, Orioles manager Ray Miller apologized and many of Benitez’s teammates were not happy with what he did. While it was clear that Baltimore didn’t want to hold onto him, it was only after the season that they traded the flamethrower.

The Yankees-Orioles brawl of May 1998

The role of Mets closer at the time belonged to John Franco. Going into the season, he was just shy of 400 saves. Benitez dominated as a setup man early on. When Franco went down with a midseason injury, Benitez took the role and never relinquished it. By the end of the year, Benitez had put up arguably the best numbers the Mets have ever gotten from any reliever.  

So how good was his 1999 season? In the entire history of the Mets, there have been 36 times in which a pitcher got at least 20 saves in a season. Here is how Benitez ranked in 1999 among those pitchers.

Simply put, Benitez was unhittable in 1999. While the righty was at the top of his game in 1999, he was still great in his other years with the Mets. In five seasons in Queens, Benitez had an ERA+ of 159 and a WAR nearing 2.0 per the season. This is fantastic by reliever standards.

When compared to the top 10 saves leaders in Mets history, one can make the case that Benitez was the best closer in franchise history.

Benitez leads all Mets closers in WAR per season, ERA+, strikeouts per 9 innings, hits per 9 innings and saves per season. He was second in ERA. Even if you don’t want to call him the best closer in franchise history, he isn’t far behind.


In addition, from 1999-2003, Benitez was arguably a top 5 closer in baseball. He pitched in more games than any other closer. In fact, during this time period, Benitez was significantly better than hall of famer Trevor Hoffman.

When all is said and done, everyone knows why Benitez was hated. There are only so many times you can blow leads in a must win game before fans turn on you.

The first example of this came in 1999. In game 4 of the NLDS, Benitez came in with two on and outs in the 8th. The Mets had a one run lead. He gave up a double to give Arizona the lead. Luckily, the Mets tied the game in the bottom half and then Pratt hit an epic homer in the 10th for the win. Most fans would have forgotten this moment if he didn’t do it again in the NLCS. In a do or die game 6, Benitez couldn’t hold a lead in extra innings. The Mets eventually lost on the infamous Kenny Rogers walk, and the season ended.

While one can justify that Benitez was being overused in 1999, the blown saves in the 2000 postseason were far worse. Down 1-0 in the NLDS, Benitez was handed a three-run lead in a critical game 2. He promptly gave up a three-run shot to JT Snow and the Mets found themselves tied in the 10th. With clutch hitting and a guts performance by Franco, the Mets pulled off a heart stopping win. When the Mets finally made it to the World Series, Benitez came in to close out game 1. The Mets had a one run lead, but he couldn’t hold it. The Mets never really recovered from that inning as they lost that game and later the series.

The final straw came in late September 2001. The Mets entered a three game series at Shea with the Braves. The Mets were 5.5 games out of first place. After taking the first two, the fortunes of the season seemed to have turned. A win in the finale and the Mets would have been just 2.5 games out with 12 to play. Benitez was handed a 4-1 lead in the top of the ninth. With two outs and one on, things fell apart. Benitez gave up a two-run dinger and then continued to meltdown until the tying run came in to score. The deflated Mets lost two innings later and the team was unable to get back into the race.

Benitez reacting to his meltdown on September 23, 2001

To conclude, we need to face the facts. Benitez was a great closer. Without him, the Mets would likely not have made the postseason in 1999 and 2000. The fact that he was lights out most of time should not be overlooked. However, the failures he had were gut wrenching. It is a sad way to be remembered.

(David Weiss is a lifelong Mets fan. He has lived in Israel since 2008 and runs the Facebook page Jewish Mets Fans.)

Don’t You Dare Overlook Carrasco

Last week, the Mets acquired Francisco Lindor in a trade that has the potential to go down as one for the ages. The Mets acquired arguably the best infielder of the past half-decade. As great as that part of the acquisition was, Lindor came with his longtime teammate, Carlos Carrasco.

The name Carrasco shouldn’t be new to us. His name was often mentioned as one of the tough pitchers in the Indians rotation. Kluber, Clevinger and Bieber were the names that thrown around with Carrasco. While most fans know that they are all were very good pitchers, a deep dive into the data shows that Carrasco is a fantastic pickup.

The Venezuelan born Carrasco has been very quietly one of the best pitchers since 2014. His stats over the last seven seasons are some of the finest in the MLB.

Simply put, Carrasco is a guy who can give his team 30+ starts and average around 6 innings when healthy. However, there is a better way to look at his greatness.

Since 2014, a total of 72 different starting pitchers have gotten at least one vote for the Cy Young award. Of these, only 27 have gotten votes in more than one season. It is fair to say that these are the 27 pitchers we can reasonably call the top starters of the game as they have had multiple great seasons.  So where does Carrasco stand against these pitchers. The answer is… right in the middle:

Here is the full list-

Understand what why this is critical. There are the truly elite pitchers like Scherzer, deGrom, Sale, Kershaw, Greinke, Verlander and Kluber. They have been consistently great for enough years that the only question is if they are first ballot hall of famers or not. However, once you go a level down, you will find Carrasco. He is in the group of great pitchers like Nola, Price, Cole, Lynn, Strasburg, Arrieta, Hendricks, Keuchel and Bumgarner. Carrasco has shown more consistency than pitchers like Ryu, Cueto, Severino and even Bauer. The amazing part about Carrasco is that of all the players listed here, only he and Hendricks have never made an all-star team. In other words, Carrasco is an under the radar stud.

Carrasco is the type of pitcher who would get big bucks if he were a free agent. Coming off of a strong 2020 campaign in which he put up a 2.91 ERA in 68 innings, teams would be all over him. Being that he is going into his age 34 season, he would likely have gotten about 3-4 years and about $20 million per season. However, he is on a team friendly contract. Carrasco will earn $12 million both this and next season. For 2023, he has a $14 million option with a $3 million buyout.

This means that the Mets current payroll is projected to be around $180 million. If they want to, they can still make another splashy move.

Probably the most impressive part about Carrasco’s resume is that he is a cancer survivor. He struggled in the first two months of the 2019 season. In early June, it became clear why. Carrasco was diagnosed with leukemia. Not only was his career in jeopardy, but so was his life. Carrasco made a miraculous recovery and was able to pitch in September. While his production was down, it was amazing to see that he could even throw a baseball. It is for that reason that he was the clear winner of the 2019 AL comeback player of the year and Roberto Clemente awards.

Carrasco was honored at the 2019 All Star Game in Cleveland

The 2020 season proved that Carrasco can pitch at the same dominant level he had in the past. However, it is reasonable to wonder how he will age. Even great pitchers typically decline in their mid-30’s. The Mets are hopeful. If he can be anything like his old self, the Mets will be more than happy.

(David Weiss is a lifelong Mets fan. He has lived in Israel since 2008 and runs the Facebook page Jewish Mets Fans.)

Lindor, Uncle Stevie and the Professional Front Office

When Steve Cohen bought the Mets, he made several things clear. He wanted to win. In order to get there, the Mets would model themselves after teams who have achieved sustained success like the Dodgers. In addition, Cohen showed humility. At no point did he pretend that he was a baseball expert. Cohen doesn’t come from the industry and has reinforced the point that he has the same knowledge as an educated fan, nothing more. Lastly, he would spend and spend wisely.

The first move that Cohen made was to bring Sandy Alderson along. Alderson had previously been the Mets GM and was now going to serve in the role of team president. This role was previously held by Fred Wilpon’s brother in law, Saul Katz. In addition, Wilpon appointed his now hated son, Jeff, to run the team in the role of COO. Why is this important? Cohen made a clear statement that the Mets will not be run as a family business. Katz and Jeff Wilpon knew that they were not getting fired. No amount of incompetence was too much. Alderson, on the other hand, knows that he has to deliver results in order to keep his role.

The old guard: Jeff Wilpon, Saul Katz and Fred Wilpon (left to right)

Alderson has an impressive resume in baseball. However at this stage in his life, he doesn’t have the energy to run the operations. He is a cancer survivor and doesn’t need the headache of dealing with the daily grind. Rather, Alderson wants his voice heard. He put it well when saying: “I have a seat at the table, but I don’t sit at the head of the table.” In other words, he wants to be seen as someone who has insights and can share his knowledge while not being the one who makes the final call.

Alderson got his wished when he hired Jared Porter. Porter is exactly what the type of GM that smart teams hire. Despite only being 41 years old, he has worked in MLB front offices since 2004. That year he was an intern under Theo Epstein, but he worked his way up the ranks. In under a decade, Porter became the director of scouting for the Red Sox. He later spent time in the Cubs front office before becoming the assistant GM in Arizona. Porter is analytically driven and understands the value of building a strong farm system.

New Mets GM Jared Porter

The Mets current front office is the polar opposite of the mess that Brodie Van Wagenen oversaw. Brodie was a sweet talker who came across as very egotistical. A month after getting the job, the inexperience GM made one of the worst trades in franchise history. He acquired his former client in Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz. Cano was entering his age 36 season and still had a bloated contract after the Mariners provided some salary relief. Worst of all, the Mets traded away two first round draft picks, including the highly regarded Jarred Kelenic. Bottom line is that the Seattle robbed the Mets.

Trading away prospects became a bad habit of the Mets under Brodie. This became clear when Alderson came back and admitted that the upper levels of the minors had thinned out. Have a look at the Mets current list of top 30 prospects. Even after trading Josh Wolf (20) and Isaiah Greene (19) the vast majority of players are young. 11 of the top 17 are 20 years old or younger. Thomas Szapucki is the only relatively high prospect who is projected to enter the majors this season. While the Mets do have some good prospects, they are mainly at the lower levels.

The Mets top hitting prospects… before and after the Lindor trade.

With this in mind, the new front office made a brilliant trade. Some are hopeful that it could go down as one of the greatest in club history. The Mets got Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco from the Indians for Andres Gimenez, Amed Rosario as well as Wolf and Greene. The brilliance in this trade wasn’t just that they got one of the best players in the game. In fact it also wasn’t even that they got a pitcher who can be a strong 2 or 3 kind of guy in the rotation. It was that they didn’t destroy the future to do so. Ronny Mauricio, Francisco Alvarez, Brett Baty, Matthew Allan, and Pete Crow-Armstrong are considered to be the Mets top prospects. Had the Mets had to trade one of them, it would have been sad but understood. You don’t get Lindor for nothing. Two of those top five would have meant that the Mets gave up a lot. However, the Mets traded none of these guys. In fact, Wolf and Greene were ranked as the 9th and 10th best prospects in the Mets farm system. While both have good potential, neither are currently considered to be stars in the making. Porter and Alderson were patient and they ended up with a great deal. They made a good market read.

The reason that the Mets got arguably the Mets are where they are, is because the Mets are run by professionals. The days of being petty, Nepotism and incompetence are over. The Mets have moved into the modern age. Best of all, they are taking the right steps to ensure a better future.

(David Weiss is a lifelong Mets fan. He has lived in Israel since 2008 and runs the Facebook page Jewish Mets Fans.)

Unfairly Hated: Jon Niese

With the slow offseason, I though it would be fun to start a miniseries. Throughout Mets history, there have been players who have been hated by the fans. When their names are mentioned, we cringe. However, when enough time passes, we start to realize that this hatred is unfair. The player wasn’t actually as bad as we think he was. So with this in mind, let’s roll back the clock and look out our first contestant: Jon Niese.

Niese was selected out of high school by the Mets in the 7th round of the 2005 draft. His selection got little fanfare, as the teams big selection that year was Mike Pelfrey of Wichita State. Despite all the hype, Pelfrey struggled in Queens. In his 7 seasons with the Mets, Pelfrey underperformed as his key stats show:

While Pelfrey had good seasons in 2008 and 2010, he didn’t do much else the rest of the time. Now compare that to the lowly regarded Niese:

While neither had tremendous success, Niese was a more effective pitcher. Nevertheless, Niese seems to come off as more hated, but it was Pelfrey who was a bust.

A look at the numbers will show that Niese was an effective pitcher. While he made his MLB debut in 2008, it was only in 2010 that Niese became a full-time starter. In his first two full seasons, Niese was essentially what you would expect from a back of the rotation kind of guy. He put up a 4.30 ERA while giving the the Mets 56 starts. However, his 3.75 FIP indicated that the Mets poor defense as well as Citi Fields dimensions did not do him any favors.

Over the next three seasons, Niese was above average. His ERA was 3.40 in both 2012 and 2014. In 2013, his 3.71 ERA was pretty solid as well. In this three-year window, Niese had an ERA 3.49 and averaged 28 starts a season. Look at Wheeler by comparison. From 2018-2019, Wheeler had a 3.65 ERA and averaged 30 starts. Wheeler ended up getting a megadeal from the Phillies and Niese went on to be hated. Even if we look at Niese’s 2015 season, he had an ERA of 4.13 in 29 starts. The 2015 Mets had such great pitching that Niese was clearly the fifth man in that rotation.

So this gets down to the main question. Why was Niese hated so much? He averaged over 6 innings per start from 2010-2015 and had a 3.86 ERA. That is not bad for a back of the rotation guy. When he got traded for Neil Walker, fans were elated. Here are the 5 reasons I believe that this phenomenon exists:

Reason 1: The team was bad

When the team is losing, the abysmal level of play is magnified. Even when an individual player is good, we often have bad feelings. Niese played most of his career prior to the Mets becoming good. He is associated sub-.500 seasons. For example, who remembers the good seasons that Eddie Murray had for the Mets in 1992 and 1993? It is the problem of being a good player on a bad team.

Reason 2: Comparison to pitching stars

By the end of Niese’s tenure with the Mets, he was unneeded. Names like Harvey, deGrom, Syndergaard, Matz and Wheeler represented the future of the rotation. Heck, Bartolo Colon even had a cult following. Niese was just there. He pitched and that was it. Did anyone buy a Niese jersey? Probably not too many were sold. However, every other player mentioned had the star potential Niese never had. Even if we look at the earlier years that Niese was a starter, he was never the big gun. Johan Santana and R.A. Dickey got most of the attention.

Here was the Mets dream rotation. Niese was an afterthought.

Reason 3: The Madoff effect

The years Niese was a key starter, the Wilpon’s were not spending money to improve the team. When a big free agent hit the market, you could rest assured that the Mets were not interested. Due to the Madoff fiasco, the team had to rely on cheap talent. That was literally what Niese represented. He wasn’t a bad pitcher, but the Mets needed more. In many ways Niese was the symbol of the impoverished Mets.

Reason 4: Men on base

This could be why so many people didn’t like watching Niese pitch. It could be painful. Whenever Niese pitched, it seemed like baserunners were always on. He was in and out of trouble. In 2010, 2011 and 2013, his WHIP was over 1.400 on the season. He averaged over a hit per inning during his career with the Mets. So while Niese didn’t give up many homers, he frequently appeared to be one pitch away from being yanked from the game.

Reason 5: 2016 left a bad taste in our mouths.

The 2016 season saw multiple disastrous injuries to the pitching staff. Wheeler never came off the DL. Harvey was a tragedy. By September, Matz and deGrom were out for the season. When the Mets reacquired Niese in a trade with the Pirates, the hope was that he could return to his old form. Sadly, he was a nightmare and his career never got back on track.

When all is said and done, we should cut Jon Niese some slack. He was a respectable pitcher who had the misfortune of playing at the wrong time. Hopefully, Mets fans will one day look back at him and appreciate what he did for the team.

(David Weiss is a lifelong Mets fan. He has lived in Israel since 2008 and runs the Facebook page Jewish Mets Fans.)

The Case for George Springer

Here is a general rule I have. Teams should build around a strong young core of everyday position players. High end position players should only be acquired when they meet the following criteria:

  1. It is at a position you cannot fill on your own (e.g. catcher).
  2. The player is significantly under 30 years old.
  3. The team is getting a player so beyond excellent (Mike Trout/Mookie Betts), it is worth going all in. These are guys on a hall of fame path who are only expected to decline in their mid/late 30’s.

The big mistake of the Mets in 2017 and 2018 was ignoring this rule. The 2017 Mets opening day lineup made this abundantly clear. Every position player was 30 or older. Reyes (34), Cabrera (31), Cespedes (31), Granderson (36), Walker (31), Bruce (30), Duda (31), and Rivera (33) took the field that day. The 2018 opening day lineup still included Cespedes (32), Bruce (31) and Cabrera (32). However, they added veterans like Gonzalez (36) and Frazier (32). The reliance on veterans over youth cost both teams big time.

The 2017 Mets struggled as they relied heavily on a veteran team.

When the 2019 Mets ended up 10 games above the .500 mark, the offense primarily relied on younger players like Pete Alonso (24), Amed Rosario (23), JD Davis (26) Michael Conforto (26), Jeff McNeil (27), Brandon Nimmo (26) and Dom Smith (24). The primary veterans the Mets used were Robinson Cano (36), who was a disaster as well as Wilson Ramos (31) who was fine.

Going into the 2021 season, the Mets are expected to rely heavily on young guys again. In addition to the players mentioned above who are still under 30, the Mets also have Andres Gimenez (22) and Luis Guillorme (26), who finally put it together with the bat. The only critical player above 30 is James McCann. The goal will be to have similar offensive numbers to Ramos in 2019 but with better defense. In other words, he isn’t expected to be the star.

With all of this said, it would seem reasonable to say that George Springer should be avoided. After all, he turned 31 in September and plays centerfield. This is usually where you expect someone young with speed to cover ground. In addition, he was part of the Astro cheating crew so there are question marks around his stats. Nevertheless, the Mets should make a serious push here since they don’t have any great options for center.

To begin, we need to state the obvious. George Springer has been very good with the glove. If you look at the traditional fielding percentage stat, he makes 99.7% of the plays in center. However, that is only part of the story. When you look at the advanced defensive metrics like Rtot or Rdrs, it becomes clear that he is one of the best defenders out there and has actually gotten better over the last couple of seasons.

It goes without saying that no one on the Astros can be discussed without mentioning the elephant in the room… or trash can in the tunnel. Springer had great years on a team that was stealing signs. There is no doubt this benefited Springer. However, there are two key points. The first is that George Springer is the only one to not see a big drop in his offensive numbers in 2020.

The second is that Springer is actually a better hitter on the road than at home in his career. This means that it is fair to assume that it wasn’t just the trash can that made him good nor the fact that Minute Maid Park is very hitter friendly.

Even in 2017, when cheating most certainly occurred, it didn’t seem to give him the same boost that a road trip did.

What the Mets are hoping for is that Springer can be like Lorenzo Cain. Cain is a special player. This is because he is the only centerfielder who has aged well recently. From 2011-2019, a total of 160 men have started at least a hundred games in center over the course of a season. Of them, only 21 have been 31 years of age or older. If you have a look at WAR by season, it becomes clear that most have not been great. Only two players other than Cain have had a WAR above 3 on the season, and the last one was in 2013. In other words, teams are avoiding older centerfielders.

I am going out on a whim here and saying that Springer has the potential to be the next Cain.

This gets to the final point. Signing Springer will get down to years and dollars. A 5 years deal is a lot to ask for, considering he probably won’t be in center for much longer. In addition, he turned down a qualifying offer, which means Springer will cost the Mets a draft pick. With that said, he doesn’t need to be the big basher in the Mets lineup. Batting him lower down, like sixth, could help keep him fresh. With Conforto, Nimmo, McNeil, Alonso, Dom Smith and Davis in the lineup, Springer doesn’t have to be the messiah with the bat. If he hits well enough and plays solid defense, he will be doing his job and the Mets will be much better off.

(David Weiss is a lifelong Mets fan. He has lived in Israel since 2008 and runs the Facebook page Jewish Mets Fans.)

No to Nolan

Over the last several days the MLB hot stove has been ablaze with rumors about a Nolan Arenado trade. Like many teams, the Rockies are looking to cut salary. Being that Steve Cohen became the Mets owner after the 2020 season, he is not hemorrhaging money due to lost revenue. Additionally, Cohen bought the Mets for less than he originally offered earlier this year and has been clear that he will spend. It is for this reason that a trade between the Rockies and Mets appears logical.

The problem is that the Rockies are not only looking to shed salary. They also want to restock the farm system. In a September article by Jonathan Mayo, MLB’s draft and prospect expert, he ranked the Rockies as having the third worst farm system. They have a grand total of one prospect on the top 100 list, and he isn’t projected to reach the majors until 2024. With the Dodgers and Padres in win-now mode the Rockies are not expected to be more than a third-place team. That is why a rebuild should be in order.

The Mets by comparison are ranked 20th by Mayo, but have 3 players on the top 100 list, Others are not far behind. The Mets upper levels on the minors are thin. This means that in 2021 we shouldn’t expect to see many impact players graduating the system. However, from 2022-2024 the Mets could see quite a number of good young players coming to Queens. Ronny Mauricio (SS), Francisco Alvarez (C), Brett Baty (3B) and Pete Crow Armstrong (OF) are the main prospects expected to reach the show. Do the Mets really want to add a player who is entering his age 30 season on a long expensive contract?

This gets to the main issue. Arenado has an enormous contract. Prior to the 2019 season, the Rockies locked up Arenado to a massive $260 million deal for 8 years. However, they did not set it up to pay him $32.5 million each year. They back ended the deal so to save money on the first season. Bottom line is that Arenado is currently owed $199 million for the next six seasons. This can increase based on incentives. While, Steve Cohen can afford this, even the richest owner has to say what he wants to invest in.

Salary still owed to Arenado

In terms of production, Arenado is right now at his peak. Some might even think that he is starting to decline. It is hard to make the case that he will get better out of Coors Field. From ages 24-28, the man was an absolute monster. His numbers are off the charts awesome as seen here.

Not only is he a great hitter, but he always wins the gold glove award. The problem is what to make of his 2020 stats. He was great defensively, but his offensive numbers took a nosedive in the short season. When you try to project his numbers for a 162-game season, they aren’t too impressive.

Baseball Reference predicts that this season he will improve over his 2020 stats but will not return to his old form. So while Arenado is still a good player, he is not the expected to maintain that superstar status we are familiar with.

However, there is one major factor that makes an Arenado risky. His splits show that he is definitely benefiting from hitting into that Rocky Mountain air. When in Denver, the guy is a stud. Outside, he is a good but not a great hitter. This is what has many teams worried. When you see a 50+ point drop in batting average and OBP to go along with a 100+ point drop in slugging, it is a red flag.

Arenado’s career splits

When you compound these factors, you have to ask the obvious question. Is he worth it? Do the Mets want to trade away top prospects for Arenado? While Arenado was great through his age 28 season, 2020 raised some questions. He is certainly still a great defender but the bat is a question mark. Arenado has always been a much better hitter at home and Citi Field has never been known to be hitter friendly. While he probably has some more good seasons left in him, the question is how many and how good? The winning formula generally calls for a good core of young everyday position players and not aging veterans. The Mets have some solid prospects coming up in a few seasons but they could be blocked by Arenado.

Unfortunately, the Mets still have two more seasons with Cano’s gargantuan contract. The wise move would be to not add another one. The future of the DH in the NL is unclear. Smith and Alonso are holding down the fort at first base. This doesn’t leave anywhere from Arenado to move when the defensive decline eventually hits. The money needed to get Arenado would be used more wisely locking up our own stars like Conforto or even Syndergaard.

(David Weiss is a lifelong Mets fan. He has lived in Israel since 2008 and runs the Facebook page Jewish Mets Fans.)

10 reasons why Matz is still here

Last week, the Mets tendered a contract to Steven Matz. The two sides quickly agreed on a one year $5.2 million deal. This led to an interesting debate. Some argued that Alderson should have non-tendered Matz and let him become a free agent. They claimed that he isn’t worth the money nor roster spot.

The disappointment in Matz is legit. He was selected in 2009 as a high school kid from Long Island with the Mets top draft pick. It took him six years to reach the majors as the early stages of his career were beset by injuries. This included Tommy John surgery. However, by the time he reached the majors in 2015, his stock was on the rise. While a muscle injury caused him to miss two months, Matz pitched well in September and the postseason. This success continued in 2016. By the end of his first two seasons, Matz had shown that he was a very good pitcher. Between the first two seasons in the majors, Matz had pitched the equivalent of one full season and the numbers were impressive.

Unfortunately, it was downhill from here. Sadly, Matz is plagued with a twofold problem. The main problem has been that he is very injury prone, and the second is that Matz has never been that good since his early days. From 2017-2020 Matz has not been particularly effective. The early comparisons to Jerry Koosman quickly went out the door. Here are his post-2016 numbers:





With all of this said, the Mets did make the right move by holding onto Matz. Here are the 10 reasons why:

Money

When Steve Cohen bought the Mets, he made it clear that they will not be acting like a small market team anymore. One of the things that small market teams have to do is cut arbitration eligible players to make salary space. Big market teams cut players who have no value. Matz is making just $5.2 million this season. That is not a lot of money by Cohen standards. The 2019 Mets cut Wilmer Flores over a similar amount. Those days are over. Decisions are now being made that are value driven.

The rotation of aces that never worked out as well as planned.

The #5 starter

Matz is not a frontline starter. He is currently the Mets 4 or 5 starter. Barring injuries, he will not move up that list before the season. This is important to remember since the last pitcher in any rotation is generally quite bad. In fact many are downright terrible. This has gotten so extreme that some teams don’t even bother with five starters. After running an analysis on 27 guys were defined as a #5 starter in Baseball Reference from 2019, I found that the average one made just 20 starts. They combined for an ERA of 5.10, a FIP or 5.15 and a WHIP of 1.421 during the season. They typically only toss about five innings. There were a handful who were actually good pitchers like Rich Hill of the Dodgers and Alex Young of the D-backs. However, most were like Jason Vargas, Tanner Roark and Kevin Gausman. Only a third of the #5 starters had an ERA+ of 100 or above. Another third has one that ranged from 78-99 and a third below that. All in all, Matz doesn’t have to be that good to be an effective #5 guy.

Take 2020 with a grain of salt

Matz was horrendous in 2020. With an ERA of 9.68, an ERA+ of 44 and WAR of -1.0, it would have been better if he just didn’t show up. However, 2020 cannot be the season used to judge a pitcher. It was a short season without any real spring training. Let’s give him a pass on this one.

2018 & 2019

With the previous point in mind, have a look at his 2018 and 2019 stats. He started 30 games in both seasons, so his past injury issues were not a factor. Did he dominate? No. Was he an average major league pitcher? Pretty much. Do we want him in the middle of the rotation? Not at all. Are his numbers good enough to be an above average #5 guy? Absolutely. This is the realistic hope for Matz. He will reliably toss 5 decent innings every five days. Everyone wants him to dominate, but this is a realistic goal.

Rotation depth

Currently, the Mets have three solid guys in the rotation. Leading the way is Jacob deGrom, followed by Marcus Stroman and David Peterson. Syndergaard is expected back around the all-star break. While the Mets are in the hunt for Trevor Bauer and Jake Odorizzi, they may not land either. There needs to be depth. Good teams go into spring training with lots of options. Even if the Mets end up acquiring two more starters, you want a guy like Matz to be the sixth man just in case of injury.

Walk Year

The is a make or break year for Matz and he knows it. He will turn 30 in May. His career has been turbulent. Matz knows that if he puts up good numbers in 2020, he will get a big payday. Teams pay a premium for starting pitching. So far, Matz has earned roughly $10 million playing profession baseball. While that is a nice chunk of change, he knows that a season along the lines of 2018/2019 will likely get him around 3 years of $30 million. Teams are willing to pay if they feel he is worth it. Have a look at those #5 starters mentioned earlier. Jason Vargas has made $40 million from 2015-2019. Kevin Gausman had a solid 2020 and got a qualifying offer from the Giants, which he took. Tanner Roark signed a 2-year $24 million deal with Toronto prior to 2020. Matz knows that this is the time.

Keeps Lugo in the bullpen

Matz in the rotation, likely means that Lugo is a relief pitcher. This is a must for the Mets. Lugo is fantastic out of the pen. In 2017, Lugo was primarily a starter and struggled. He pitched a few innings in relief and was fine. In 2018, he had 5 starts and 49 relief appearances. It was clear that Lugo was better in relief. In 2019, Lugo was the Mets best bullpen arm all season and was even the closer for a while. In 2020, Lugo was excellent in relief, but the Mets mistakenly used him as a starter late in the season and it did not go well. By keeping holding onto Matz, we are more likely to see Lugo in the bullpen.

Lefty in the pen

While Matz is really a backend of the rotation kind of guy, he has been used several times out of the bullpen. Currently, the Mets do not have any lefty relievers. In addition, the concept of a situational lefty is not much of a thing anymore as there is a three-batter minimum. Therefore, it could make sense to use Matz as a reliever who can give the team multiple innings.

Trade piece

Just because the Mets tendered Matz a contract, doesn’t guarantee he will be on the opening day roster. The Mets could trade him. As established above, Matz has some value. Don’t be surprised if a team is willing to part with a mid-level prospect or two for Matz.

Stuff

The reason that no one ever seems to give up on Matz is because he has ‘stuff‘. Simply put, Matz has the potential to be a good pitcher. He has a good repertoire of pitches and doesn’t just try to blow people away. Often he seems to get overly frustrated on the mound and with the right coaching, could end up being a very solid pitcher.

(David Weiss is a lifelong Mets fan. He has lived in Israel since 2008 and runs the Facebook page Jewish Mets Fans.)

McCann Is Our Man

The Mets need a new catcher. While Wilson Ramos did a nice job in 2019, he regressed in 2020. That is why the Mets cut ties with him after the season. While there are several intriguing options, James McCann is the best suited for the job with the Mets.

This is the right but not the popular decision. With JT Realmuto available on the free agent market, it is bold to say that McCann is the better choice. While Realmuto has been great and will probably be good for a few more years, he is entering his age 30 season. This is important. In today’s game, catchers have a way of not aging gracefully. What happened to Wilson Ramos was no fluke. Have a look at Buster Posey. He was considered to be the best catcher of this generation but at age 31, his power numbers dropped off. The following season, he was a below average hitter. At the age of 29, Salvador Perez missed all of 2019 with an injury. Yan Gomes was an all-star in 2018 at age 30. The following year the Nationals picked him up and his numbers declined. He ended up splitting time with Kurt Suzuki. Jonathan Lucroy and Matt Wieters were both studs until they reached age 31. Even if you think that Realmuto is the new Buster Posey, it gives the Mets only one more great and another good season.

Posey, Wieters and Lucroy combined for 11 all star appearances through their age 30 season. They have combined for one after that.

There are some exceptions to this rule. The most obvious is Yadier Molina. At age 37, he batted .262 while playing above average defense. However, he too declined from his zenith. In the six seasons from age 26-31, Molina had an average WAR of 4.3. The average WAR of 1.6 in the six following seasons is nothing to rave about. Molina has been steadily declining since 2016. Yasmani Grandal has also been going strong through his age 31 season but this year will be a real test for him.

The issue with Realmuto is money and years. He is projected to earn in the area of $25 million a year for 5-6 years. That is risky. As stated above, two good seasons is reasonable. After that, the Mets could end up with a behemoth of a contract on their hands. They will not be as cashed strapped as they were during the Wilpon era. Nevertheless, big spenders don’t like to have guys earning over $20 million a year and not contributing.

With this in mind, McCann is the best option. For starters, unlike Realmuto, McCann did not get a qualifying offer. The team that signs him doesn’t have to forfeit a draft pick. Ramos was entering his age 31 season in 2019 as is McCann entering 2021 which means that they will likely have similar contracts. Like Ramos, McCann is not expected to start more than 110 games. He hasn’t had the injury problems that Ramos had, but has never played more than 118 games in a season. In addition, McCann doesn’t have a long track record of offensive success. Rather, he has a short track record of success. His first five seasons with Detroit were mediocre compared to his last two with the White Sox.

When comparing McCann to other catchers in MLB, he is probably one of the top hitters. Consider where he ranks among the 38 catchers in the last two seasons who have played in at least 100 games.

McCann will likely bat lower down in the Mets lineup as he does not need to be the big bat. Defensively, the Mets need a guy like McCann behind the dish. Throughout his career, he’s been very good at throwing runners out.

However, McCann brings another advantage to the Mets. The guy is a good cheater and can get away with it. While he was always considered to be an above average pitch framer, in 2020 he took it to another level. Here is an article which includes video evidence of how good McCann was. According to baseball savant, McCann was the 9th best catcher at framing in 2020. He got a score of 51.3% of what are considered ‘shadow zone’ pitches that can go either way. Realmuto was a bit higher at 51.9%. However, the best example of McCann’s success came in the August no-hitter he caught for Lucas Giolito. In that game all pitches with at least a 50% chance of being called strikes, were in fact called strikes. Of pitchers with a probability under 50%, four of them were called strikes. This means that he not only helps get extra strikes but doesn’t lose any that should be called strikes.

Under Steve Cohen, the Mets want to create an organization built around sustained success. One of the key components is developing minor leaguers. Currently, the Mets have Francisco Alvarez in the lower levels of the minors. Alvarez is currently considered to be the fourth best catching prospect in baseball and the 58th best prospect overall. In 2019 (age 17), he absolutely tore up rookie ball. Alvarez slashed .312/.407/.510 with 7 homers in just 42 games. He is projected to reach the majors in 2023. This means that the Mets should be looking to sign McCann to a 2-3-year contract in order to pave the way for Alvarez. If the Mets commit 5-6 years to Realmuto, one of three things can happen:

  • Best case: Realmuto is still a good catcher in 2023 and will be blocking Alvarez.
  • Medium case: Realmuto will have an effective bat but is no longer able to catch everyday. Alvarez will catch most games while Realmuto will DH, be the backup catcher and/or play some first base.
  • Worst case: Realmuto will be an ineffective player and Alvarez will just replace him. The Mets eat Realmuto’s contract.

In all three cases, it makes more sense to just have a guy like McCann as the starting catcher for the next 2-3 years. Realmuto is a good catcher, but he is entering free agency right around his peak. It is doubtful that the Mets will get many productive years out of him. Lastly, there is one strange fact about Realmuto. The guy has never been a winner. Not only has he never been to the playoffs, but he has never played for a team that finished above .500 on the season. Moreover, many of those teams have been loaded with superstar bats. The Marlins had Stanton, Yelich, Ozuna, Prado and Gordon. The Phillies had Harper, McCutchen, Segura, Hoskins and Gregorius. Both teams lost due to lack of pitching. At some point, you have to wonder if the issue is the catcher.

(David Weiss is a lifelong Mets fan. He has lived in Israel since 2008 and runs the Facebook page Jewish Mets Fans.)

We Appreciate Your Stupidity

Late Wednesday afternoon, the baseball world was shocked to find out that Mets second baseman, Robinson Cano, tested positive Stanozolol. This is a performance enhancing drug (PED) and is banned by Major League Baseball. Since this is the second time he has failed a drug test, Cano was suspended for the entire 2021 season. In 2018, Cano tested positive for using furosemide. While this substance is not a PED, it can be used as masking agent and obstruct PED tests. Therefore, it is also banned by the league.

The 2018 suspension was bad, but forgivable. Afterall, it was not proven that Cano was using PED’s. He claimed that he simply didn’t know the substance was banned. It was proscribed to him by a doctor in the Dominican Republic and he took it while visiting his native country. If he was using it to cover up PED’s the numbers didn’t show it. Once Cano returned in 2018, he actually had better numbers.

Regardless, this situation makes the Cano/Diaz trade seem even worse than it originally was. It was definitely a red flag to go all in on an aging infielder who was coming off a PED suspension. Former GM, Brodie Van Wagenen must be glad that he doesn’t have to address the media on the situation of his former client.

It needs to be stated without any equivocation. Cano looks like a complete idiot. Getting caught cheating once is bad. Getting caught a second time, puts you in a mind numbing category. Once you get caught, you are forever on the radar of the drug testers. As a player, you need to be extra careful about what you put into your body. You’d almost think that as a veteran player, he’d know some tricks to beat the system if he was going to cheat anyway. For example, take a new substance that isn’t on the official MLB list.

What could be the most shocking part, is that Cano doesn’t fit the mold of a PED user. He turned 38 in October. A typical user will be someone young who needs the extra edge to make it. Think of Jenrry Mejia. The reason he kept using is because clearly, he wasn’t that good without PED’s. It makes sense why he’d think that he just needed that extra boost to get that big contract and be financially settled for life. Without it, he’d probably be a fringe major leaguer. The problem is that Cano isn’t that guy. He is one of the best second basemen of all time. This failed test means that he will likely not get into the hall of fame. Heck, if he retired a week ago, he’d likely have gotten in despite the first suspension. At this stage in his career, the goal is to just put up decent numbers to increase longevity stats. Currently, he is high in many of the key metrics used to judge a player’s greatness. Have a look at where he ranks among second basemen.

As a result of his foolishness, Cano will lose $24 million. This is after the COVID season in which he only made $7.5 million because of the salary cuts. In other words, he lost over $40 million in a short period of time.

With all this said, it’s great news for the Mets. One of the big mistakes of the BVW era was thinking that older position players would be the key to success. Cano, Lowrie, Cespedes, Gomez and Hamilton are all examples of guys brought in way past their prime. Cano had the extra burden of the massive long-term contract. The Mets are now off the hook for $20,250,000 in 2021 (The Mariners were responsible for the rest). We will soon find out if this changes the outlook for this offseason. Can the Mets now afford Bauer and Realmuto? What about Springer and LeMahieu? Heck, why not go after a reliever like Hendricks and lock up Conforto for the long haul? As of yesterday, Steve Cohen had in the area of $60 million to spend before worrying about the salary cap. It is now $80 million.

Beyond the money, the Mets are now much more flexible as a team. Cano was only able to play second and DH. While we don’t know yet if the DH will be permanent, the Mets have more options in the middle infield. They can use Gimenez and Rosario up the middle to improve the defense. McNeil could move back to second to make room in the outfield. Dom Smith can be at first and Alonso DH. The possibilities really open up without Cano tied to second.

Additionally, the Mets can go out and get a righty bat. One of the big problems that they have had is that the lineup is too lefty heavy. Conforto, Nimmo, McNeil, Smith, Gimenez all hit lefthanded. Adding Cano to that mix made them very susceptible to southpaws. If the Mets replace Cano’s bat with a righty or switch hitter, there is a lot more balance to the lineup.

Smith, Conforto, Nimmo and McNeil are now the main lefties in the lineup.

Time will tell if this is the end of the road for Cano. One more strike and he is out for good. There is no doubting that Cano comes across as looking very dumb. It is rare that a player of his stature gets caught and even less common for it to happen twice. However, this does open up a lot of possibilities for the 2021 Mets.

(David Weiss is a lifelong Mets fan. He has lived in Israel since 2008 and runs the Facebook page Jewish Mets Fans.)