Tag Archive for Neil Walker

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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Surrender (but Don’t Give Yourself Away)

Chris Flexen, the Class AA starter called up to make tonight’s start in San Diego in place of the injured Zack Wheeler, will be the first Met to wear 64 since Akeel Morris in 2015, another minor leaguer who made a big jump to the big leagues.

Let’s hope this promotion turns out better for Flexen than it did for Morris, who was bombed for 5 earned runs in 2/3rds of an inning, sent back to Class A afterwards, and eventually got traded to Atlanta in one or another of the Kelly Johnson deals.

Flexen you might recall was also considered to have been one of the guys who was on the way out in the Jay Bruce deal last summer but was rejected by the Reds due to physical concerns so perhaps he fits right in as a Met.

At any rate, he’s the first minor leaguer called up this week but likely not the last as time ticks down for the Mets to rid themselves of anything of short-term value, namely closer Addison Reed and perhaps, Asdrubal Cabrera, Neil Walker, Rene Rivera, Curtis Granderson and Lucas Duda, all of whom have come up in rumors. Of those names it will be bittersweet to part with the last few. I’ve always liked Big Duda, who I’m sure is ultimately destined to mash a million home runs as a DH for some AL West team, and Granderson is a terrific pro who’d probably be a nice emotional investment for a playoff-bound club.

But, they aren’t going anywhere with the 2017 Mets who have been betrayed by the health and consistency of their starting pitching, particularly Steven Matz who has probably been the most frustrating guy to root for, either throwing a gem, getting bombed or getting hurt — nothing in between for this guy. I also think it’s been proven their qualifying-offer gambit with Walker was a disaster: This was a useful guy, for sure, but hardly vital given the fact there were 5 other guys who can second base and aren’t spending a second straight year on the disabled list, and aren’t making $17 million. In the end that cash would have been better used for some more relief pitching. The lesson: Don’t go into a year with guys you’d prefer not to have.

I think it’s also likely that after months of waiting we’ll see AAA prospects Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith shortly, the latter particularly if Duda goes. Rosario we’ve established wears No. 1 and that appears to have been reserved for him. Smith is rocking No. 22 in Las Vegas and could take it over upon a recall if coach Tom Goodwin will part with it, with one of or the other of them inheriting Duda’s surrendered No. 21, Walker’s given-up 20 or even Cabrera’s 13.

 

 

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Chasen the Dream

Inevitably, three consecutive nights of staying up way too late only to see the Mets get destroyed by the Dodgers caught up to me and I was unable to respond to commands to update, but you might know by now that Chasen Bradford was recalled from Las Vegas in time for last night’s Mets game but the box score tells me he didn’t get in so that Fernando Salas and Jerry Blevins (who ought to be traded) could make their respective 35th and 36th appearances of the season.

If and when Bradford gets in, he’ll wear No. 46. He’s up to replace Tyler Pill, who resurfaced to replace Matt Harvey (who ought to be traded), or Zack Wheeler, both of whom went to the disabled list since the last time we updated. Also returning over the last week are Gavin Checchini and Brandon Nimmo, finally, the latter too late to sub for a struggling Curtis Granderson who is suddenly a hot Curtis Granderson (and ought to be traded); Matt Reynolds is back down; Yoenis Cespedes is back up; Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera are on the disabled list but ought to be traded.

Hansel Robles is still down.

The Mets in addition to the injuries haven’t executed plays in the field or with men on base as hitters or pitchers, and you don’t need to tell me it looks pretty bleak. The National League in addition resembles one of those seasons in the NBA where I could tell you the playoff teams a third of the way in and so despite a strain of hope that the Mets and Terry will find a way to play better eventually it looks essentially pointless to try and so we’re likely to confront a bunch of big moves earlier than we may have expected.

Bradford by the way will be the first Mets 46 since Tyler Clippard who to my delight is getting lit up as a member of the Yankees, so you know, it’s not all bad.

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Rule of Thumb

They said they’d call up Amed Rosario based on the severity of Asdrubal Cabrera’s thumb injury as though anyone who saw what happened could be convinced we’ll see No. 13 again before the All-Star Break.

I suppose as I write this (6:43 am on a Sunday? what’s wrong with me?) there’s a possibility they’d leave Jose Reyes at short and collect Gavin Cecchini instead, although I’ve been secretly rooting for Cecchini to take Neil Walker’s place. I don’t want to say I saw this coming but, geez. Walker has always been terribly miscast as a middle-of-the-order hitter and it has to burn the Mets everyday that he’s paid like one. Like Granderson, and like Cabrera even, I think Walker’s days as a productive everyday major leaguer at near an end but that, given the right state of mind, they’d all be excellent or at least pretty good reserves.

Anyway, I predict today will be the last Neil Walker-related stadium giveaway ever, and perhaps, the first of Rosario’s career. Maybe not though. Maybe the right move is not to interfere with the temperamental Reyes now that he’s finally got himself going and wait for him to reveal he can’t hack it over the long haul before starting up the Rosario era.

I admired the Mets’ restraint of giving Rosario 61 in Spring Training but he looks forecast for a single digit.

In the meantime it’s been good to see the club hitting for the first time this year.

 

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Tic Tac Toe

During Sunday’s victory over the Braves, an unusual and perceptive notice popped up in my feed. In the bottom of the first inning, Jay Bruce reached on an error, Neil Walker singled and Lucas Duda followed with a base-on-balls, setting up the following bases-loaded situation as described here by TJ:

Not to speak for Elias Sports, but I’d bet it is. I’ve played around a little bit trying to determine whether the Mets ever had an all-ascending uni number starting lineup (haven’t found one yet) and I can recall lots of notable sequential teammates but this question never occurred to me and figuring out would be a task, which is why I’m opening it up to you guys out there.

My first thought on this matter was the possibility of the 16-17-18 combo of Gooden on third, Hernandez on second and Strawberry on first, which had lots of opportunity to happen. Their teammates on the ’86 champs Wally Backman, Kevin Mitchell and Gary Carter, had a whole season of opportunity to pull this one off too, but also hard to envision a scenario where Backman stops at third. Foster-Gooden-Hernanez 15-17 would be a less likely scenario but I don’t want to rule it out yet.

Looking further into the likely possibilities would also require an examination of the 1969 World Champs, who had Agee, Jones and Clendenon stacked up 20-22 (Tim Foli, No. 19 in 1970-71, could be another engine in this train). Back when numbers were lower and retirements fewer we can envision scenarios of Ashburn on first, Throneberry at second and Bouchee or Harkness on 3rd, but I got no idea.

Anyone brave enough to dive into this please speak up!

Following is my list of notable Mets teammates wearing consecutive numbers, though by no means an exhaustive list of all possibilities over the years:

6 numbers:
1986: Foster 15, Gooden 16, Hernandez 17, Strawberry 18, Ojeda 19, Johnson 20
1987–88: Aguilera 15, Gooden 16, Hernandez 17, Strawberry 18, Ojeda 19, Johnson 20
1989: Darling 15, Gooden 16, Hernandez 17, Strawberry 18, Ojeda 19, Johnson 20

5 numbers:
1989: Gooden 16, Hernandez 17, Strawberry 18, Ojeda 19, Johnson 20

3 numbers:
1968–71: Seaver 41, Taylor 42, McAndrew 43
1969–71: Agee 20, Jones 21, Clendenon 22
1975–77: Kingman 26, Swan 27, Milner 28
1986: Backman 6, Mitchell 7, Carter 8
1992: Gooden 16, Cone 17, Saberhagen 18
2015-17: Matz 32, Harvey 33, Syndergaard 34
2016-17: Bruce 19, Walker 20, Duda 21

*

 

Goodbye and good luck to Ty Kelly, the reserve we were discussing below, and who was claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays yesterday. This Ty was no Cobb, but I liked having on the team.

 

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When there’s nothing to speculate about, speculate

Around here, this time of year often inspires lots of speculation about inbound freight and what to outfit them in, but it was pointed out to me yesterday that other than the 40-man additions noted below, and the re-signing of three of our own free agents (Neil Walker, Rene Rivera, Yoenis Cespedes), there has been a grand total of zero new names on the sacred scrolls since September.

53Well, one new guy if you count incoming third-base/catching coach Glenn Sherlock, who will replace Tim Teufel in an act of mercy. Sherlock by the way wore No. 53 in a similar role with the Diamondbacks, so he feels more like a real coach and less of guy whose main qualification for the role was a job with the Mets in 1986.

Players? There’s been none. No journeyman catchers with spring training invites, no Rule 5 picks, no lefthanded relief pitchers, no veteran bats on make-good comeback contracts, and of course, no Winter-Meeting-Three-Team-Twelve-Player Blockbusters (WMTT12PBs), which on a chilly December morning like this would warm old the hot stove. In the meantime we’ve seen a few Mets go away: Bartolo Colon, Logan Verrett (we’ll never forget how few craps he gave taking No. 35 still warm from Dillon Gee), and Johnny Monell.

Obviously this will change if and when the Mets get around to addressing the Jay Bruce Question; for now I’m pleased that the team hasn’t given him away for nothing and I’m dubious in general that any relief pitcher ought to be fair value for a flawed but legitimate power bat like Bruce.

19And just maybe, they’re holding out on a secret WMTT12PB. Perhaps Bruce can find a home again — in Cincinnati. Trade him, Lucas Duda and Steven Matz for Joey Votto and a reliever? Votto’s the kind of Olerud/Hernandez type bat this club could really use, David Wright can’t be counted on being anymore, and guys like Conforto and Nimmo might not get the chance to be.

Otherwise, we’re a adequately situated and familiar club that will require a lot to go right again in 2017.

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Bye Bye Bart

40As you know by now, Bartolo Colon has signed a 2017 contract with the Braves, where he’ll join fellow new arrival R.A. Dickey as a veteran dynamic duo we may well encounter when the Mets open the 2017 season against Atlanta in April.

Colon can’t be blamed for seeking a regular starting gig as he pursues a few personal milestones: He needs 10 wins to catch Juan Marichal for the all-time lead among Dominican pitchers, and 12 to surpass Dennis Martinez and become the winningest Latin American pitcher of all-time. I speak for all Mets fans wishing him the best of luck most nights, anyway.

I had no idea what to expect of Colon when he arrived as a 40-year-old ostensibly to hold Matt Harvey’s place in the rotation in 2014, and would not have predicted he’d depart three years later having set the all-time mark for wins (44) and strikeouts (415) among guys who wore No. 40 (Pat Zachry was the prior king and still leads this club in losses). Colon was a surprising guy all around, obviously a better athlete than he looked to be and a fun presence who really helped the Mets especially this last year. We’ll miss him!

20That’s the first significant departure of what’s looking to be an interesting offseason for the Mets. At the moment I cannot picture a scenario that doesn’t involve a significant trade or two. Briefly I’m sort of rooting against a return engagement for Neil Walker but can’t see how he’ll turn down that $17 million waiting for him, and if he takes it that’ll put a strain on the budget to re-engage Cespedes, so I suppose if the Mets want Walker they can do so with a compromise kind of multiyear deal, and just maybe, prepare him for a kind of caddy deal where his switch-hittingness becomes valuable for the bench while ushering in Gavin Cecchini who keeps on hitting.

While pursuit of a new deal for Cespedes could be hair raising it could be argued that the club already has the next-best available outfielder of a relatively weak class in Jay Bruce, and so I’m rooting for Sandy and the guys to make hay of this and surprise us.

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Send Me an Angel

59The Mets following Wednesday’s victory over the sinking Marlins said they have acquired veteran right-handed reliever Fernando Salas from the Angels in exchange for Class A pitcher Erik Manoah. Salas, a one-time closer with the Cardinals and currently serving that role part-time in Anaheim, is expected to add depth to the “7th-inning” level of the Met bullpen, where Hansel Robles and Jim Henderson have encountered recent struggles.

49Salas has worn No. 59 in both St. Louis and in Anaheim, although that figure currently belongs to Josh Smoker. It would seem an awful lot of work to accommodate him but it could be done if Smoker goes back to the 49 he was issued when he first arrived, or grabs one of the few remaining unassigned numbers (2, 46, 53, 58). More likely though we’ll see Salas in one of those.

00Here’s a suggestion though. What if they took advantage of SALAS’ palindromic qualities and gave him a number that looks the same frontward and backward? 00?

Salas’ arrival by the way ensures he can be post-season eligible, as can the four guys the Mets have already announced are getting recalls from Class AAA Vegas: Michael Conforto (30), Kevin Plawecki (26), Ty Kelly (56) and Gabriel Ynoa (63). With news that Neil Walker is also likely to be out for the rest of the year you wonder if or when Gavin Cecchini gets a call but perhaps this is T.J. Rivera’s time to shine.

Four games into the below mentioned “21-12” scenario, the Mets are 3-1 and sure enough are making the progress they have to towards the playoffs but my pennant fever at this point is still just an itchy rash. As I’ve said all year if and when they puncture that 10-games-over plateau, maybe the temperature rises.

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Here Come the SHaMs!

That’s the Second-Half Mets, who are going to need to be considerably better than their first-half counterparts if they want to turn this year into something.

I’m not saying they can’t do that, and I’m definitely not saying I’m not rooting for it, but based on what we saw in the first half, I have my doubts.

21I’d have felt better had the team managed to pierce the 10-games-over-.500 barrier but we only approached it several times before settling back into that 80-something win pace. Nobody seems to be acknowledging the biggest loss for the club was big Lucas Duda, who allowed guys like Neil Walker to bat 6th or 7th instead of 4th or 5th. Duda is a mysterious creature. Do we even know how he broke his back? Is his return even a possibility? I’m skeptical of a strong back half without him or someone as terrifying.

20I like Walker enough, but he’s not a middle-of-the-order guy and he hasn’t been much of a force since April. The Mets have Flores, Hererra, Reyes, Reynolds and Cecchini as potential middle infielders. The Mets have no doubt gotten the better of the Niese-Walker swap so far but you wonder, with the Pirates potentially losing an infielder (Kang) and the Mets a starting pitcher, whether they’d shake hands, swap apartments again and pretend it never happened. Niese has been awful, but throw in a prospect, Pittsburgh, and maybe you have a deal. While you’re at it, would you be interested in a reunion with Antonio Bastardo?

Michael Conforto plummeted even more dramatically than Walker but appears to be regaining his stroke in AAA. His return to form would be a considerable boost. Jose Reyes’ return seems to have interrupted Brandon Nimmo’s shot at becoming the leadoff hitter we were looking for anyway. Referring to my recent failed campaign to outfit Travis d’Arnaud in a new number an MBTN reader made a clever suggestion that I might support in helping Conforto to a better second half:

 

I’m all for it, Eric.

33They say it’ll all come down to pitching in the end and I agree. Matt Harvey’s loss, while disappointing, isn’t a setback for the club inasmuch as he wasn’t doing nearly enough to help them win when he was out there. Do they trade for a reliable 5th starter type (Niese again!) or trust things to Sean Gilmartin, and Seth Lugo and Logan Verrett? Maybe they aim a little higher and come away with a Jorge De La Rosa or Rich Hill. Maybe the injury to Snydergaard is worse than expected and they unload. I guess we have to wait and see.

Finally, my friend Conor captured this video from the National broadcast over the weekend! Go us!

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Struggling Sophomores

So it’s come to this.

Swept by the Braves at home, the third-place Mets are expected to, and let’s face it, probably ought to, shake the team up at least a little before the hated Royals arrive for a two-game set starting Tuesday.

26Some of the changes appear obvious. Travis d’Arnaud will return behind the plate and hopefully, he’ll stay healthy. It appears very likely that Kevin Plawecki to Last Vegas will be the corresponding move. No excuse for how poorly he’s hit — wearing 26, Plawecki’s barely any different than the overmatched 22 he was in his rookie year — but thanks in part to d’Arnaud’s fragility Plawecki’s never had that two months in Las Vegas he so obviously needs.

30Will Michael Conforto join him on that plane? It would appear to be a consideration, and one I advocated weeks ago. I have little doubt Conforto can and will be a very good hitter but it’s long past the point where he ought to work out his issues in Las Vegas, even for just a short while.

Top draft pick Brandon Nimmo is having a fabulous year out there by the way, slashing better than 300/400/500 (that’s a positively Fonzerian line), is already on the 40-man roster, and could presumably succeed as a leadoff hitter. That would allow Curtis Granderson to drop in the order and take up at least some of the power slack. Nimmo wears No. 7 in Vegas, but 9 — and 1 — are just sitting around waiting for someone here.

Less likely in my estimation — but inevitable it would seem — will be a reacquaintance with Dilson Hererra. I don’t think that happens unless Neil Walker is hurt, or traded, but I wouldn’t necessarily reject the latter idea. Walker’s a free agent to be and won’t get “Murphy Money” from us, and isn’t on a 40-home-pace any more.

16Finally it takes a special kind of uselessness to be a reserve and yet fail to fit into this lineup but it’s my guess Alejandro De Aza won’t be around for too much longer. Traded? Released?

59The bullpen may also get a rocking, although injuries may determine that as much as performance. Even if Antonio Bastardo were having a good season, which he’s not, his deliberate pace drives me crazy as a fan and he would appear vulnerable but for the expectations that come with his career and contract, and the fact that’s he a left-handed relief pitcher. Hansel Robles, like Conforto and Plawecki, may just need a few weeks in AAA to work things out. Sophomores.

What are your thoughts?

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