Archive for Wild Speculation

Chief Brodie

From where I sit, hiring the least experienced candidate they possibly could and putting Omar Minaya a heartbeat away is a mixed message at best for our Mets. We know Omar for all his scouting smarts is an analytical illiterate and closely aligned with Fred Wilpon, typically the root of all dysfunction that accompanies the club including this last coup. Meanwhile it looks as though the ties to the maligned Alderson Administration are to be cut completely, with John Ricco and JP Ricciardi evidently afterthoughts.

Ready for action

As for Brodie, who the hell knows. Putting aside the awkwardness of now lording over talent he once represented in opposition to the brass and the accompanying conflicts-of-interest that entails, it’s hard to guess how he’ll actually address the club’s weaknesses. Though this smells a lot like the first Omar Takeover, where the club will let go of their typically tight grip on salaries so as to make a show of their new willingness to compete, probably by doing something moronic like signing the most expensive relief pitcher out there, or maybe by tearing apart the farm system built by predecessors in a daring trade.

So I’m predicting a newsy offseason likely to result in a few inarguable “on-paper” improvements but I’m going to wait and see whether they actually represent the mix of creativity, boldness and strategic forethought that actual successful organizations employ. It’s not going to be easy even for a smart group.

Were it up me, I’d see what it would take to make Manny Machado the third baseman, which would come with the bonus of forcing Todd Frazier to another club. The Mets may also have a decision to make on the order of Duda-Davis, choosing between the promising but thus-far inconsistent Dom Smith and the promising but older and less-sound defensive player Peter Alonso, which is not as easy as it might look, as both guys could tank. First basemen need to hit.

My secret weapon? See what it takes to get one more really good starting pitcher in the style of the 90s Braves adding Greg Maddux to the Glavine-Smoltz-Avery core. If it turns Steven Matz into trade bait, or the lefthanded reliever we apparently need, so much the better.

You can count on the Mets making a show of acquiring relief pitchers anyhow, as dubious a strategy as I suspect it is (the way to prevent losing close games is to score more runs, and not necessarily count on the other team to fail at the same), but were they to acquire Brooklyn’s own Adam Ottavino to bolster what they’ve got I won’t mind, and if you’re going to select a “proven closer” it may as well be Jeurys Familia.

Roster moves thus far are marking the end of the line for Phillip Evans (28); Rafael Montero (50); Jack Reinheimer (72); and Jamie Callahan (43). Major league free agents are Jerry Blevins (39); AJ Ramos (44); Jose Lobaton (59); Devin Mesoraco (29); Jose Reyes (7) and Austin Jackson (16). I could see Jackson back as a reserve outfielder if nothing else, and I figure they might consider Mesoraco and Ramos.

Props to Mark Healey for the headline/nickname which I’m totally adopting.

 

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Front Office Fred-anigans

Well here we are days or even hours away from a new leader in Metland and the team can’t decide whether they need a grandfatherly caretaker, an egghead disruptor, or an agent fluent in corporate buzzspeak.

But that’s the Mets all over. And it’s not just that they don’t know, it’s that they don’t know why they don’t know, and so whomever they ultimately wind up hiring they’ll have hired for all the wrong reasons. I’ve said here many times and in many ways but the Mets don’t solve problems, they make a show of trying to look as though they do. And the problems they try and solve are almost entirely of their own making, because they’re so incompetent.

Take for example the case for Bob Melvin cited in the Snooze article linked above. If the Mets decide what they need is a people-manager who’ll put out infighting it’s only because Fred assured that outcome when he went behind his GM’s back to secure himself a right-hand man in Omar Minaya and the manager he tried to depose as special assistants. Of course it had bad results.

Or if you believe the Mets are analytically illiterate and in need of Yale grad like Chaim Bloom, that’s probably because they haven’t sprung for a staff in the first place, despite having one of the best minds in the game in charge. Jeff’s remark that it was Sandy Alderson who insisted upon the lack of front-office brainpower has got to be one of the cheapest shots he’s ever taken, but hiring an “analytics guy” would be the best defense against that charge, so there’s your case for Bloom.

I don’t know a whole lot about how an agent like Brodie Van Wagenen got this far, but you can guess from the Mets’ point of view it’s an end-around on a renegotiation of the Cespedes contract, and on the brighter side, an avenue to keeping deGrom locked up. Perhaps then the message they’d send with this hire is that they’re getting smart on money finally after being rich-dumb and poor-dumb.

I’ve gotten really cynical, you might say.

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Mets Score Empty Netter

Well anyone with interest knows this already — I was vacationing! — but the promotion of Eric Hanhold from AAA and his appearance the other night wearing No. 70 marked the arrival of the 55th Met of 2018, breaking a 51-year-old record of 54 Mets used in 1967.

That club, by the way, had 55 guys on the active big-league roster but one of them — a young fireballer named Nolan Ryan — didn’t make an appearance.

Do you guys follow hockey? I never really did till recently, I think a midlife crisis of some kind forced me to confront my childhood and I realized I’d been walking around with a dormant NY Islanders gene. Perhaps if the Mets were better, or if I could still pretend I cared about the NFL, I wouldn’t have noticed it.

Anyway, I was struck this morning by an article suggesting the new general manager of the Islanders just went and assigned a bunch of guys new uni numbers without their input — at least four guys, young guys but with some equity like Anthony Beauvillier (72 to 18), Adam Pelech (50 to 3), Scott Mayfield (42 to 24) and Josh Ho-Sang, whose 66 was already attracting attention, now skating in 26. All the numbers, you’ll notice, went down. And there’s no more 91 wearing the C.

While a unilateral change of that magnitude is unlikely to occur in baseball it might be an interesting move for whoever general-manages the Mets next season to execute a similar reordering, just to send a message that the kind of unprecedented revolving-door roster the Mets had in 2018 — and the results that accompanied it — could be a part of the change they seek. To the extent the Mets approach to uni numbers sends a message currently, it’s either “we don’t care that much” and/or “we lack a true identity” and/or “these guys aren’t for real.”

 

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Bring on the SHaMs

So as I write this, the Mets will end the so-called first half of the year either 14 games under .500 or 16 games deep (and maybe if we get rained out, 15). Any one is a farce and speaks to a truly dreadful year in which we learned that young players don’t always perform well and older guys don’t stay healthy, first-year managers make lots of mistakes, and the destabilizing effect of a meddlesome and accountability-free front office in the throes of crisis, completely unprepared for a succession.

Actually we learned every one of those things before, but thanks for the reminder, Mets.

Now here’s the punchline: I’d been slow to catch up to this week’s comings and goings in part because I was too busy going to Mets games.

Last Sunday’s nice weather tempted us to head out as a family only to see a near no-hitter. My regular Tuesday night game with my brother was nearly a repeat but notable because I did to recognize the day’s starting pitcher when I saw it listed and I’m a guy who makes it his business to be on top of that kind of stuff. Then on Friday it was the annual outing with scattered former work colleagues. That one turned out nice, with a big assist from an exceedingly sloppy Washington club.

So meet Drew Gagnon. He nearly got five innings in, had a little bit of bad luck, but when it was over took an 11.57 ERA back to Las Vegas where he’s got to be wondering whether he’ll ever a shot at big-leaguedom again. Gagnon was issued No. 47, which we last saw on Hansel Robles.

Matt den Dekker is also back in action. I liked seeing this addition as the guy could always go and get in center field, and that’s what he’s been doing. He’s wearing 23 now, and not the 6 he used to in his first go-round, since 6 remains tragically bogarted by hitting coach Pat Roessler, and the No. 16 he was wearing in Spring Training had been relegated to since-demoted outfielder Kevin Kaczmarski. 23 belonged last to Adrian Gonzalez.

The Mets are racing toward a record number of players on the roster in a single year — an active trade deadline could nearly assure it — but thus far have only re-issued numbers three times (23, 47 and 62), believe it or not. That’s in part because of their willingness to just keep going higher. That’s one thing to watch as the SHaMs (Second-HAlf Mets) get underway.

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Triple Play

So the time has come to move on from Adrian Gonzalez, who more or less did what was expected of him, providing the Mets with evidence of a long but steadily declining career while giving prospects like Dominic Smith and Peter Alonso a little more time to bake in the oven. I said it before the Mets would be lucky if either of those prospects crafts a career nearly as good as the one Gonzalez had, and if weren’t for the fact that Yoenis Cespedes will be missing even more time than expected we might be seeing Jay Bruce as the new first baseman beginning tonight.

Instead Dom Smith gets a new chance and hopefully he runs with the opportunity this time. You may remember Dom as having worn No. 22 last year and very briefly this year.

Coming up along with him is the switch-hitting utility player Ty Kelly, whom I like and have advocated for previously. Sure he’s not not exactly lighting the world on fire in Vegas, and he won’t up here, but he’s understanding of his role and oozes with regular-guy appeal that I want to think will help light up a morose clubhouse where there’s a failure virus infecting half the lineup.

What number will Ty wear? The Mets haven’t said. He’s previously worn 55, 56 then 55 again and upon his return to the organization this spring was issued No. 11 — a designation I’d argued for in the past. The Mets in the meantime issued 11 to Jose Bautista. He’s sort of out of uniform himself, preferring No. 19.

So here’s my suggestion. Let’s get Jay Bruce out his slump, Jose Bautista back in familiar clothing and Ty Kelly into his preferred No. 11 with a three-way trade putting Kelly in 11, and Bautista in 19 while Bruce moves to occupy the No. 23 left behind by Gonzalez. For Bruce it could mix up the mojo while also reflecting a spin on the 32 he wore previously with the Reds.

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Red Menace

So maybe it’s all connected, and P.J. Conlon got No. 60 instead of No. 29 because the Mets were secretly working on a Matt Harvey-for-Devin-Mesorasco deal all along, and had a guy already stitching a 29 jersey with his name on it. Until last night, when he made his Mets debut as a pinch hitter, Mesorasco had worn 39 for the Reds.

Anyway, Mesorasco, like Harvey, is a former top draft pick who’d become somewhat worthless for their clubs but still have contracts to play out. It practically goes without saying that Tomas Nido, whom Mesorasco pinch-hit for last night, will go back to the minor leagues and work on his game.

There more to this as well. Todd Frazier is on the disabled list with a hamstring and it’s widely speculated that Luis Guillorme will be up. That’s significant inasmuch as Guillorme — not Conlon — wore No. 60 in Spring Training. Conlon by the way was swapped out for Corey Oswalt following his appearance.

Here’s my thought, with Guillorme due to arrive and Nido likely in for a long spell of seasoning, let’s put Guillorme in the newly available No. 3, which befits his middle-infielder profile and isn’t far off from his Las Vegas No. 13 jersey.

Finally we’d like to wish chubby Matt Harvey all the luck he has coming with the last-place club and lifeless downtown he deserves in Cincinnati. He might not even get No. 33 there, as Jesse Winker wears it, and he has a promising future.

 

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Yo Adrian

Reports indicate the Mets are close to signing veteran first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who presumably could provide a safety net in the event Dominic Smith can’t handle a regular job as the first baseman.

That would obliterate my argument below that Jay Bruce was inked to be the first baseman and at worst, Gonzalez could be the veteran left-handed pinch-hitter we’d need anyway. Gonzo is a lifetime .288/.359/.488 hitter — I’d sign on if Smith could put up that line — but he’s also 35 years old and coming off a year interrupted by a back injury and the sudden emergence of Cody Bellinger in Los Angeles. The Dodgers traded him away in a salary dump to Atlanta earlier this offseason and the Braves subsequently released him, allowing the Mets to pick him up with hardly any impact to their precious salary structure so there’s little cause to be alarmed.

Gonzalez has worn No. 23 for 10 of his 14 years in the big leagues, and would presumably inherit the No. 23 jersey last worn by bench coach Dick Scott, who was not renewed after last season. A proud Mexican-American, Gonzalez made headlines last season when he refused to stay in a certain Chicago hotel while the Dodgers were visiting the Windy City.

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Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown

Jay Bruce wasn’t gone long enough to even reissue his number 19, but speculation as to his uni is the least of my questions this morning.

It seems more than possible that given the shaky defense as constructed and a potentially crowded outfield again the Mets signed Bruce to a three-year contract not to patrol right field but to play first base, and that their extra outfielder (Nimmo or Lagares); and Dominic Smith, the young first baseman with a tenuous hold on his job, could be their on their ways out. I’m just making this up, but could two of them go in a trade for someone else’s center fielder? That would seem to make sense from a number of angles, and if that center fielder in question happens to be Andrew McCutcheon, well that’s convenient too in that he and Smith both rock No. 22.

I’m as excited as the next guy about feeding the big-league club with our own seedlings but Major League first basemen are especially hard things to develop in captivity. Maybe it’s been done before but you wouldn’t want to bet on a first baseman who may or may not be capable of contributing at the big-league level and also compete — just think about how long it took Lucas Duda to establish himself, and even then…

The other question the Mets need to ask themselves is if Smith works out, how good can he be? There’s little doubt the guy is capable of good on-base percentage and line drive hitting — there are worse skills to have and I’m not suggesting the Mets couldn’t use that — but if it all adds up to a career like James Loney and not like, say, Joey Votto, is it worth the investment? We’re more assured to have another young guy in the lineup everyday in Rosario anyway, and if we manage to hang onto Brandon Nimmo, we’ll get the seeming skill set of Smith anyhow.

 

If Sandy Alderson is thinking along with me, he just signed his regular first baseman and will very shortly be sending Smith to Pittsburgh in a Uni Swap. Perhaps Nimmo or (my preference) Lagares go along with him, but one of those two also gets moved shortly, if not in a Pirates deal to a loser in the Lorenzo Cain sweepstakes.

Oh, and welcome back, Jay. Thoughts?

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Better Dead than Fred

Hi again.

I don’t need to tell you things have been so quiet in Metville that the organization must be up to no good again. Sure enough some reports indicate a sinister take on the recent front-office announcements that have me worried beyond the fact they’ve done so little this year to address the on-field product.

So there you go. I don’t doubt Omar’s baseball smarts, even if he was an awful General Manager for the club: He got pushed around by underlings, destroyed in trades, too often proved too generous in contract negotiations, hired two bad managers, and frequently embarrassed the organization at the podium. A job behind the scenes, and not in front of them, is the right role for him.

So what’s the worry? Well, it would appear as though his hiring came as something of a favor to Fred Wilpon, who at age 81 ought to be over this kind of meddling, but this kind of stuff is seemingly always happening. You can draw a dotted line directly to Fred to just about every stupid move and setback this team has faced since Jeff Torborg. He’s unaccountable; he’s incompetent but doesn’t think so; and the organization under Fred frequently develops these indirect channels of command that lead to conflicting circles of influence. Stapling Omar Minaya to the back of a new contract for Sandy against the wishes of the rest of the front office just stinks. Just as Fred undermined Jim Duquette’s influence 13 years ago.

I’m not one of these angry suffering dipshits who believe a team should do everything they wish but the idea that the club is united in trying to win ought to be the right of every fan. What we get with the Mets, all too often, is the image of a club that’s trying to benefit conflicting points of view encouraged by one unaccountable and very stupid owner. It’s really hard to root for this.

As for the personnel, there’s been more departures than arrivals lately. Let’s all say goodbye to Erik Goeddel, who wore No. 62 for parts of four seasons and at times looked capable but was frequently injured. My lasting memory of Geody was a terrible appearance protecting a 9-run, 9th-inning lead in Game 3 of the NLDS and forcing Terry to go to Jeurys Familia, who’d prove in the coming weeks he’d need rest. Goeddel signed a minor league deal with Texas.

Also officially a former Met is Travis Taijeron, who signed a minor league deal with the Dodgers. This is no tragedy given Taijeron’s awful play in the outfield and power that didn’t appear to come with him from Triple A. And Tommy Milone, who in my mind ought to go down as the owner of the poorest toughness-to-tattoos ratio in Mets history, signed with Washington. It’s always a tragedy to see guys unable to cash in a golden opportunity to rejuvenate their careers. I know it’s not easy. Their departures open up Nos. 28 and 29.

On their way is Anthony Swarzak, the only addition made at the Winter Meetings that helped fuel the restlessness among fans and the void of activity that often leads to the crap I was discussing above. I still haven’t heard if Swarzy has been issued a number yet. He’s worn five of them so far in his career but two of them — 37 and 41 — are unavailable at the present time.

Also new to the org will be Jose Lobaton, an 8-year veteran catcher who presumably will push d’Arnaud and Plawecki and catch spring training games. Lobaton has worn the bullpen-catchery number 59 with both the Nats and Rays in his career. That’s available here now that Fernando Salas has gone away.

Chubby lefty reliever Josh Edgin has also departed, to Baltimore on a minor league deal. Edgin dates back to the first Omar era, and hung around the organization for six years as the team’s first and only No. 66.

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New World Order

Hey guys, I’m back from a lengthy vacation where among other things I was there to witness Amed Rosario’s doomed first game as a Met at Coors Field but missed a ton of other stuff so here’s the happy(?) recap of a busy few weeks.

Chris Flexen is wearing 64 and is in the starting rotation. Flexen was recalled in late July from Class AA where he’d been pitching quite well. Flexy is the fourth guy to wear 64 for the Mets. In keeping with current tradition he was simply reissued the same number he wore in Spring Training. I used to think that if guys proved themselves in this role they might get more dignified numbers down the road, but Seth Lugo says no.

Flexen the other day was opposed by Texas’ AJ Griffin, promoting a question I never thought would be asked:

I don’t know the answer offhand!

Lucas Duda, Addison Reed, Jay Bruce and Neil Walker have been traded away. I liked Duda quite a lot and would say that if his newly recalled replacement could accomplish all he has (let’s say, lead his number in all-time home runs) we’ll be fortunate. As for Reed and Bruce, easy come easy go.

On the other hand, daring Neil Walker to take a $17 million qualifying offer to remain a Met in 2017 ought to go down as one of Sandy Alderson’s bigger goofs as it was clear even last year Walker was no $17 million player, there were already plenty of potential second basemen in the organization, and I suspect that paycheck became a obstacle to having done more with the 2017 roster. As it is we’ve got to pay Milwaukee to take him. That said Walker was a pro, whose terrific start in 2016 was you know, something. Like Bruce’s 2017. It was announced just after I published that the Mets have recalled Las Vegas reliever Kevin McGowan to take Walker’s roster spot: He’ll wear No. 61.

In the midst of all this getting-rid-ofs, Alderson also did an clever thing in acquiring closer AJ Ramos of Florida. I have no idea whether Ramos is actually good but his acquisition helped the Mets move Reed without completely destroying themselves, gave themselves another affordable option for next year, and may have made Reed relatively more valuable by reducing the Proven Closer inventory. Ramos was a 44 in Florida but is wearing 40 as a Met. Braden Looper notched 57 saves wearing that number.

Who knows if any of the dudes we received in exchange for these surrendered pieces amount to anything but they seem to consist nearly entirely of hard-throwing bullpen wannabees. This reminds me of the 2003 selloff when Jeromy Burnitz, Armando Benitez, Roberto Alomar, Rey Sanchez, Graeme Lloyd and probably others I can no longer remember were sent packing, mostly for relief pitchers, none of whom ever really worked out.

And like 2003, we did so anticipating a brighter future on the strength of recent (and anticipated) callups. As mentioned Amed Rosario debuted in Denver, and this weekend first baseman Dominic Smith arrived, in 1 and 22, respectively, the numbers they had in Las Vegas. Whether these guys turn out to be the new Reyes-and-Wright remains to be seen but welcome aboard. Rosario is the 31st different player to don No. 1, which has basically been held under reserve for him for a few years even if Justin Ruggiano was seen wearing it last. Smith has two World Series MVPs as his precessors in 22; and the home-run king is Kevin McReynolds with 122.

Smith’s promotion coincided with coach Tom Goodwin’s switch to No. 88: He’s the first Met to have ever won that. Oh, and it resulted in the long-deserved designation of Fernando Salas who always seemed to be a dead-cat bounce and might not have been counted on so heavily had we not fattened up on Neil Walker salary.

Thanks again to the commenters here and on Twitter who kept the conversation going in my absence! LGM

 

 

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