The composition of the Mets in 2020 is an ongoing theme of Reflections On Baseball.
It’s special to me when a reader takes what I’ve written and embellishes the article. Such is the case in an email I received from Dave Mills.
The text of Dave’s thoughts is unedited. I’ve created additonal paragraphs for a more user-friendly internet experience. I also added links to players mentioned by Dave as well as a few images.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Thank you, Dave Mills, for your insight.
Read your piece today, and here are some comments…
Without a doubt and in tune with your piece, the two most pressing items for Brodie Van Wagenen (BVW) and the Metsecutives is what to do about Mickey Callaway and Zack Wheeler.
Mickey seems like a good guy and was probably a very good pitching coach in the American League, but strategic, in-game decisions are clearly not his forte.
His AL background, where strategy takes a back seat due to the designated hitter (and all its negative ramifications) really stood out and never seemed to be mitigated with experience or a new bench coach with managerial bonafides.
The one thing most of the faithful have seized upon during the terrific 46-26 stretch run is that the Mets actually have a core of quality young offensive players and starting pitchers.
That being said, they have a two-year window to make a run at one or two World Series appearances before the weight of contracts makes tough choices and rebuilding inevitable.
Anything short of a WS appearance next season will doom Callaway. So, what is to gain by anointing him this week as a lame-duck manager?
The Wheeler issue will also play itself out rather quickly with sobering effects. No doubt, the Mets will make an under market offer (like $60 million for four years) to Zach and end up serving him the QO. This will at least guarantee a quality draft choice.
Keeping Zach and trading Thor (off a decent season) would have been the way to go, but a decent season was not to be. Instead, the Mets pitching mentors absolutely have to rehabilitate Noah, as well as Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia. So, how can the Metsecutives replace Wheeler?
Many of the successful Mets teams have had multiple southpaw starters—1973: Jerry Koosman, Jon Matlack & George Stone; 1986: Bob Ojeda & Sid Fernandez; 1999: Al Leiter, Mike Hampton & Glendon Rusch.
Not to mention the Baltimore Orioles of the late 60s/early 70s: Dave McNally & Mike Cuellar OR the today’s Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw, Hyung-Jin Ryu & Rich Hill. So, how about taking a run at Wade Miley and/or Gio Gonzales as the 5th starter? The price would be right, if not downright inexpensive, and both have plenty of MLB experience and success.
Now that we’ve solved the managerial and starting rotation questions, let’s talk about realistic scenarios that can actually improve the line-up, bench and bullpen.
Let’s start with the goners. Wave goodbye to Luis Avilan, Juan Lagares, Todd Frazier, and Joe Panik, all of whom had their moments.
The bullpen was, to put it bluntly, a helluva mess for most of the season. With the exception of Seth Lugo and Justin Wilson, everyone else underperformed. Start with retaining Lugo in the pen, rather than as 5th starter. That leaves three hurlers with the potential to close games and appear in the 7th or 8th—Lugo, Wilson & Diaz.
With Lugo on the back end, it opens up the long man role for Robert Gsellman and a mid-game/setup role for Mets fan extraordinaire Brad Brach (looked like he may be a plus arm in this pen) and Familia, who might thrive when the game is not on the line.
Now, let’s focus on specialty arms. It has been a while since the Mets had a reliable dropdown pitcher and three pretty good ones are free agents later this month—former Mets Darren O’Day & Joe Smith, as well as Steve Cishek, all of whom can be approached at reasonable, albeit not cheap, price levels.
Cishek and Smith are sidearmers and O’Day is a true submariner. These are valuable skills that redefine the way hitters see the baseball. One must be signed. They also need another southpaw or two in the mix, which would have to be accomplished via a trade. Daniel Zamora disappointed all season and Avilan was a placeholder at best.
The everyday lineup is probably the best collection of young hitters the Mets have ever had as a group. The problem is that defense is lacking up the middle. Wilson Ramos may have been the best offensive catcher in the game in 2019, but his lack of defensive skills and speed hurt the Mets where it counts.
Pitchers need a receiver who can stick strikes and Ramos is one of the worst framers in MLB. His lack of speed also clogs up the bases and creates an inordinate number of double plays. Does he have value? Not to an NL franchise, but to an AL team looking for a quality right-handed DH and third-string catcher, who knows?
Not much Brodie Van Wagenen (BVW) can do about the middle infield except to have a very good glove on the bench—Luis Guillorme fills that bill already and deserves a few more opportunities. Amed Rosario really came around during the second half, both offensively and defensively. His problem continues to be going to his right/backhand side.
No doubt, that will be his focus in the offseason and spring training. Robinson Cano is the 2nd Baseman and still delivers quality defense, but with a much-reduced range. At the corners, 1B is well manned. 3B should go to Jeff McNeil. It seems 3B is his best position (after 2B) and he delivers tremendous range there.
So, in addition to catcher, the Met’s biggest defensive improvement could come in CF, where Juan Lagares will no longer roam, and where Brandon Nimmo is nothing more than a little better than adequate. His arm is really his worst feature.
But Nimmo and his on-base prowess and speed has to be in the lineup almost every day. That means someone has to go. Should it be Michael Conforto or JD Davis, one of the true offensive surprises of the year? And remember, Yoenis Cespedes is looming, warts and pins and all.
So, in addition to adding a southpaw 5th starter, a dropdown arm and lefty specialist, Brodie’s big decision really boils down to where would he prefer to improve the defense? Behind the dish or in center-field? Or both. Jed Lowrie has a little value, Ramos has moderate value,
Dominic Smith has good value, JD has very good value and Conforto has excellent value. Moving a couple of these players should have a lot to do with improving the up-the-middle defense and adding a lefty option to the bullpen.
Now, let’s see what transpires. It should be a fascinating study in front office machinations.