Archive for Wild Speculation

Choice Cuts

So our old friend Carlos Gomez is in camp wearing No. 85, which happened to be the lowest number available, although roster cuts and reassignments should free up additional space as opening day nears. Already there’s been 13 reassignments and yesterday news came that TJ Rivera had been cut and also released.

This is not a big surprise as Rivera was a one-tool longshot before he missed a year with an injury, but his release frees up No. 19 if anyone wants it. I assume it won’t be long before Dilson Hererra is reassigned and coughs up No. 16; then there’s Gregor Blanco (7) and Rajai Davis (11) who suddenly look more vulnerable now that Gomez is back. In case you’ve forgotten Gomez wore No. 27 in his first appearances as a Met back in 2007. His return suggests to me that Omar Minaya is possibly making the personnel decisions again and just relying on Brodie Van Wagenen to say the right things to the press about them. That’s not a good feeling.

Among pitchers, keep an eye on No. 26, where nonroster invitee Arquimedes Caminero has a 16.20 ERA so far (in a really small sample) but appears to need to beat out one or more better-performing counterparts like Hector Santiago (46), Luis Avilan (43) and Rule 5er Kyle Dowdy (33) who’s going to get every chance despite a Camineroesque ERA so far this spring.

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Keeping Up With The Joneses

Justin Wilson, reportedly on his way to the Mets on a two-year contract, will become the sixth player with the surname Wilson and the ninth overall Wilson in club history, when you include first-name Wilsons (Valdez, Delgado and now Ramos).

The well-traveled lefty reliever, most recently a member of the Cubs, looks like the guy we’ll be turning to when we need to retire Freddy Freeman (and sure, Bryce Harper) and has worn a variety of numbers in his career including the retired 41 and 37, so they’ll likely slot him into some available digit, I’m guessing the 38 or 39 last belonging previous veteran relief washouts Anthony Swarzak and Jerry Blevins, respectively. (An alert reader has pointed out 39 has already gone to Edwin Diaz, so we’re going with 38).

And what about the name? Looks like Met uni-stitchers have applied the WILSON nametag as often as all but four other surnames. Here’s a rundown of the families (excluding first-names, coaches and managers). I last updated this list in the most recent edition of the book and am horrified to learn just now, I appear to have shortchanged the Martinez family by leaving off Teddy; the Smith Boys, along with the Wilsons, have climbed the charts since. (*-yet to appear)

No. of Players Surname Roster
8 Jones Barry, Bobby J., Bobby M., Chris, Cleon, Randy, Ross, Sherman.
8 Johnson Ben, Bob L., Bob W., Howard, Kelly, Lance, Mark, Rob
7 Hernandez Anderson, Keith, Livan, Luis, Manny, Orlando, Roberto
7 Smith Bobby Gene, Charley, Dick, Dominic, Drew, Joe, Pete
6 Wilson Justin*, Mookie, Paul, Preston, Tom, Vance
5 Miller Bob G., Bob L., Dyar, Keith, Larry
5 Taylor Billy, Chuck, Hawk, Ron, Sammy
5 Martinez Fernando, Pedro A, Pedro J., Ramon, Ted
4 Anderson Craig, Jason, Marlon, Rick
4 Bell Derek, Gus, Heath, Jay
4 Marshall Dave, Jim, Mike A., Mike G.
4 Phillips Andy, Jason, Mike, Tony
4 Young Anthony, Chris B., Chris R., Eric
4 Davis Ike, JD*, Kane, Tommy
4 Diaz Carlos, Edwin*, Mario, Victor
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Debate 8

Should Jed Lowrie get No. 8?

Let the debate begin. The Mets surprised the market by adding the veteran infielder on a two-year contract. In addition to figuring out where he’ll fit on an infield with Amed Rosario, Todd Frazier, Robinson Cano, Jeff McNeil, JD Davis, Peter Alonso, Dominic Smith, Luis Guillorme, Gavin Cecchini and TJ Rivera, they need to give him a jersey.

Lowrie’s been around the league a little, most often wearing No. 8, but also appearing in No. 12 and 4. The Mets quietly removed 8 from the rotation in 2003, when Gary Carter was elected to the Hall of Fame. Though it’s never been officially expressed this way, I think the idea at that time was to hold out and see whether the Kid would “go into the Hall” as a Met. When he (rightly) was enshrined as an Expo, his health issues made the prospect of reissuing 8 distasteful and so in mothballs it has remained ever since.

I think it’s more likely we see another Met 8 than see the club retire the number, and if it’s what Lowrie wants I suppose I have no problem with it. As I’ve expressed here before, I’d prefer it were the Mets to judiciously reissue, give No. 8 to the next good young catcher, but simply to uphold a limbo ban seems like a dumb idea so if Jed wouldn’t prefer to retake No. 4, I say let him have it.

I mentioned JD Davis above but haven’t got to his signing yet here. He’s a right-handed hitting corner infielder who tore it up as an Astros prospect and seems as though he could at the least challenge TJ Rivera to a roster spot, or perhaps replace Todd Frazier. Or maybe even pitch mop-up relief as he’s said to have a big-league arm.

At any rate, it’s a curious deal given the Mets coughed up three decent but young prospects for Davis. Is Brodie Van Wagenen addressing the criticism the Mets’ system is too “bottom heavy” by rebalancing the system with “ready” prspects? Maybe. Is he ridding the system of the Alderson Regime’s prize project? Perhaps. Is he really going to do something different here and reel in Bryce Harper? Probably not.

Davis wore 28 in a brief run in Houston but 26 is his twitter handle and minor-league assignment. That number became available when the Mets dumped Kevin Plawecki on the Indians in exchange for a fringe starting pitcher prospect, Walker Lockett, and a minor league infielder called Sam Haggerty. Lockett never pitched in Cleveland but instead passed through on paper from San Diego, which traded him with the idea they were to lose him in the Rule 5 draft anyhow. Lockett appeared in four games with the Padres last summer wearing No. 62: He’s the Mets’ problem now.

So long to Plawecki a 1st round Alderson draft choice who like his mate Travis D’Arnaud, simply seemed too nice to make it as a real starting catcher in the league; a forced promotion due to injuries probably got his career off to the wrong start anyway, so good luck on the reset in Cleveland.

And bye-bye, David Wright! The Mets gussied it up with a fake promotion to a fake front office job they but released him just the same.

 

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Wilson, Dilson, Schmillson

Word came in this evening the Mets have come to an agreement with chubby veteran free-agent catcher Wilson Ramos, a longtime Met nemesis who if he can 1) pass the physical and, 2) stay on the field, and, 3) slow the aging process typical for fat catchers in their 30s, just might improve the Mets’ stagnant backstop situation.

It’s only a two-year deal so what’s not to like, especially if it cools Brodie’s jets of entertaining three-way swaps with the Yankees involving Nimmo, Rosario, Conforto or Syndergaard, so it has a mild stamp of approval from us for now.

What number will he wear? Ramos is a longtime No. 40 and old enough to dictate it, so I can see Jason Vargas changing his shirt. Vargas in fact has already changed once; you might recall before being thrown in in the idiotic JJ Putz deal of 2008-09, Vargas spent a brief period with the Mets wearing 43. That figure was worn last season by ineffective reliever Jamie Callahan, whose season ended with shoulder surgery. He refused to be outrighted to the new Syracuse club and so became a free agent. This is a long way of saying 43 would be available should Vargas want to switch back.

And in the event the Mets actually care what Vargas wants, Ramos could wear No. 4, sadly surrendered by the nontendered Wilmer Flores. Let’s hope Wilmer returns as a coach or something someday. I get that his time was likely up given injuries and a little less production than would behoove an arbitration-eligible ballplayer, but as far as I’m concerned, he doesn’t have to buy a drink among Mets fans for the rest of his life, and that’s something.

I didn’t update you all on this but of course 27 will available for Juerys Familia next season. I’m no fan of blowing cash on relief pitchers, but if you’re going to you may as well get a guy whose stuff you know and mostly trust and whom the fans admire. Familia ought to make a good team with Edwin Diaz especially if they’re utilized effectively, but count on the Mets to justify the strenuous Cano trade by carefully designating Diaz as the “9th inning guy.” Not said, if Diaz happens to screw the pooch or tear his UCL as acquired relievers with 100-mph heat have from time to time, it’s good to have a backup.

Speaking of reunions the Mets signed Dilson Herrera to a minor league deal. Perhaps if it all goes wrong this year they can trade him to Seattle for Jay Bruce.

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A Matter of Taste

Let’s get this part out of the way first and say if Robinson Cano wants his old No. 24 back he can go talk to Willie, and if he wants 22 he can talk to Dom Smith. As to Edwin Diaz, the best closer nobody ever heard of wears 39 in Seattle; the same digits belonging last to the presumably departing free agent Jerry Blevins.

Now let’s get to the part where I explain why even though this trade could presumably help the Mets get better a lot faster, how I don’t much like it in a matter of taste. As a fan, I don’t want to cheer for a 36-year-old former Yankee steroid cheat, especially one presumably taking over the position of one of the only guys on the club I was excited to see playing every day next year in Jeff McNeil. Yeah I know there’s still much detail to work out, there’s always a role for a good bat, guys get hurt, Frazier could still be traded, and so on, but I don’t have to like it that McNeil looks like the first victim here.

As for Edwin Diaz, well, he’s a relief pitcher, relief pitchers are unpredictable and erratic by nature, and I strongly believe the way to get them is to make them (Jeurys Familia) and not not buy them, even if and when they are cheap and controllable. When they’re cheap and controllable is when you trade them. Even a washed-up bullpenner like Jerry DiPoto (a former Met 45, doncha know) knows that!

So those are the new guys, we cough up capable-but-expendable Jay Bruce, who was a kind of bad-penny Met whom they never really wanted but kept going out and getting; the alleged best return of the Addison Reed trade booty in Gerson Bautista (watch him blossom into Seattle’s next closer); last year’s top draft pick, Jerred Kelenic, who if nothing else seemed like a hitter, and Anothy Swarzak, aka Exhibit A in the don’t-go-get-relievers-based-on-one-season-of-goodness department. Swarzak will presumably bounce in Seattle back too, then go at the summer deadline, probably to a win-now dreamer, like the Mets. And if he doesn’t rebound, then he’ll be out of a job.

Maybe the principals mentioned above will change, but if you needed evidence the Mets were back in control of Omar “Big Splash” Minaya there you have it. Move heaven and earth for 60 innings of relief and a veteran with “talent.” Yuck.

The question is, what’s next? Well if they’re truly serious about contending let’s see them really strap one on, go sign Bryce Harper, keep Syndergaard, sign Nathan Eovaldi and trade Steven Matz for that catcher instead. What are you, scared? If this didn’t do it, what will?

 

 

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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┬ácan’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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