Archive for Wild Speculation

Why R.J. Alvarez Is A Half-Used Chap Stick and Thomas Szapucki Is Foreign Currency

We’re at a point in the Mets’ season where the injuries have piled up and so have the solutions, and my own failure to keep up has made the Mets roster resemble a junk drawer. You’re looking for something and you find an old watch, coins from a foreign country that you don’t collect, a half-a-dozen half-used Chap Sticks, leftover business cards from a job you no longer have, various pens and pencils, cheap earbud headphones that may or may not work and you definitely don’t want to stick back in your ear to find out.

What I’m trying to find in this drawer are the available numbers, so let’s start by gathering up the half-used Chap Sticks, or the guys DFAed in the flurry of recent and not-so-recent moves that I’d failed to completely catch up on.

Into the ziplock bag have gone designated-for-assignment Mets Travis Blankenhorn (27), R.J. Alvarez (71) , Patrick Mazeika (4), Jake Reed (72), Kramer Robertson (15), Chasen Shreve (43), Travis Jankowski (16), Yennsy Diaz (64), and Nick Plummer (18), making those numbers available. I put them in a ziplock because some have already latched back on line in the organization (like Jankowski and maybe Mazeika) so it’s not like their numbers are likely to be reassigned at least right away. Some Chap Sticks however went directly to the trash if they’ve already latched onto another organization (like Jake Reed) or been released (like Yennsy Diaz).

Those foreign coins I can’t spend and don’t collect are now in a separate pile reflecting number changes I’d failed to account for or through looking for additional free numbers are failed to realize till now. For example the database never reflected till now that Mazeika ever wore 4, I fixed that, or that Mason Williams was still “current” at 70, and forgot to note that Thomas Szapucki (63) was traded in the Ruf deal. No longer.

The used business cards are coaches who are tricky to get into the database due to a design error we haven’t yet fixed between the awesome Ultimate Mets Database, where I record and store these records (Note to self: Eric Chavez 51, Craig Bjornson 52, Glenn Sherlock 53, Wayne Kirby 54, Jeremy Hefner 55, Joey Cora 56). That’s because data is generated when players appear in games and coaches don’t appear in games…. We’re working on that and have a longterm solution in mind that will make both the data easier to find and also easier to display.

I’m doing all this clearing out in anticipation of meeting Yolmer Sanchez tonight in Philadelphia. Sanchez is a switch-hitting versatile reserve infielder who spent most of his career with the White Sox but whom was just DFA’ed by the Red Sox. He’s expected to joining the club tonight in Philly where another consequential series begins that’s even more important since the Braves gained much of what they lost when a compromised Mets squad lost 3 of 4 this week. That also means that Deven Marrero is about to turn into a Chap Stick, and the 24 hours of fans moaning and groaning on Twitter when they learned he was up and Baty wasn’t was a colossal waste of time and energy because too many people on #MetsTwitter are ignorant and don’t know it, which is one reason I’m cleaning my junk drawer this morning instead of wasting time on Twitter.

Now I have a better organized drawer and can say for sure that, barring any other changes, the available Met numbers as of now are:

  • 4
  • 7*
  • 8*
  • 15 (almost assuredly)
  • 16**
  • 18
  • 27
  • 43
  • 45
  • 50
  • 58
  • 63
  • 64
  • 66

And that, Sanchez will most likely appear in 15 or 18. My money’s on 15. The junk drawer is nearly clear.

*-Unlikely to be issued because they appear to be in number retirement limbo

**-Unlikely to be issued pending a September roster expansion

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Those Meddling Kids

It was a dark and stormy night…. First it was Luis Guillorme, then Tomas Nido, then Carlos Carrasco to the injured list, and now Taijuan Walker and Eduardo Escobar are at the least compromised.

In two days, the momentum that seemed unstoppable ground to an abrupt halt, and we’ve been overpowered twice by the Braves who have the opportunity to make back all of what they lost during their humiliating 4-of-5 defeat in New York.

So I finally learned last night who R.J. Alvarez actually is and our first meeting didn’t go well. Same with Deven Marrero. Same also with Michael Perez, the catcher I once thought was on his way to replace an injured Nido, only for a different injury. Nido by the way is dealing with a “Non-Injury Related Illness,” or NORI which is one letter less than COVID as a signifier. Perez wears 35, and knew he wasn’t the first catcher to wear it as I recall John Gibbons wearing 35 in 1986–another eerie parallel to that championship season. I checked the records just to be sure and his debut last night came just one day before Gibbons’ run in 35 began on Aug. 17, 1986–or 36 years ago today. Mike Jacobs and Joe Nolan were also 35 as Met catchers.

We also learned that Darin Ruf is our best emergency reliver but pushing our luck won’t be advisable.

Pretty spooky stuff right? And that reminds me of a remark a few few posts back from the alert reader Jim A who said:

Lost in all of this is the fact that 2022 may be the year of no fewer than FOUR “Phantom Mets”. That is, players who spent time on the active roster, but never got in a game.

#25 – Gosuke Katoh
#71 – RJ Alvarez
#46 – Sam Clay
#15 – Kramer Robertson

Alvarez last night removed himself from that list, still wearing 71, and in my mind enters a category something akin to an “Apparition Met,” being a Phantom Met whose disguise was yanked off him in the top of the third inning last night as though Walker’s back spasms were the gang from Scooby-Doo revealing Alvarez was not a ghost, but a shaggy-haired, bearded relief pitcher about to turn a 0-0 game into 3-0 game via tape-measure home runs and hard-hit balls everywhere, and he’d have gotten away with it were it not for those meddling kids. Marrero was unmasked as a flamed-out first-round draftee of the Red Sox with experience there and as a Marlin whom the Mets added from the roster of the Long Island Ducks in June.

I’ve covered Katoh before and somehow missed both Sam Clay and Kramer Robertson. Clay is lefty reliever who’s done a tour of the NL East’s farm clubs this season being DFAed first by the Nationals then by the Phillies before he arrived as a Met depth guy and remains on the 40-man roster where he’s assigned 46.

Kramer Robertson sounds like a made-up name to me but he’s a journeyman minor league infielder who was assigned 15 and called up to the Mets and DFAed a few days later, and re-signed by St. Louis, making him an Actual Ghost Met and not just a potential one. His number now belongs to Marrero, who is a flamed out one-time First Round Draftee of the Red Sox with experience as a reserve there, Arizona and Miami and whom we scooped up as AAA depth in late June when he was cut loose by the Marlins.

It’s not all terrifying though. Anthony DiComo has already published an encouraging article that suggests the Mets have more pitching depth than it seems, including soon-to-return guys like Joey Lucchesi (47) and Tylor Megill and a fast-moving prospect whose still something of a longshot at least presently, Jose Butto. And Marrero, reports say, is on his way out as the one of the team’s most promising prospects, third baseman Brett Baty, is reportedly en route to Atlanta. Baty was a No. 1 Mets’ draft pick in 2019 and has been compared to David Wright. He’s killing it wearing No. 2 for Syracuse; on the Mets’ 40-man roster, that number belongs to Baty’s current AAA teammate, Dom Smith, which should be frightening if only for Dom and what remains of his cheering section.

Otherwise it’s sunny-side up despite a scary start to a difficult road trip in which the compromised SHaMs face back-to-back tests from their closest two pursuers.

LGM YGB etc.

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Welcome Back

So I’m pleased to see the players and owners come to an agreement, doubly so because had it gone on any longer, our little vacation in Arizona timed to the Mets’ series there in April was also under threat.

As you may have heard last night the Mets made a trade for Oakland’s Chris Bassitt, a late blooming All-Star righthander. I can’t recall having ever watched him but the back of his baseball card looks pretty good recently, and he’s a big guy. He wore No. 40 in Oakland that’s been available since Geoff Hartlieb (who?) was selected off waivers by Boston late last year.

To get Bassitt, the Mets coughed up propsect Adam Oller, himself a late bloomer who pitched his way onto the 40-man roster in the minors last season, and JT Ginn, one of the high-drafted pitchers of the Brodie Era, who’d shpown a promising start to his pro career after the requisite elbow surgery they all have to go through.

At any rate, Bassitt looks like a No. 3 in a rotation — deGrom, Scherzer, Bassitt, Walker, Carrasco — that looks great on paper but is a little old and not necessarily the healthiest in the league. I’d be shocked if I’m not here later this week writing about the Big Jeff McNeil Trade, in which we’ll get a pretty good relief pitcher and the red-assed squirrel winds up hitting third for a club that’s not going to contend.

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Beane Counter

So that’s a wrap on a really disappointing 2021 season, and manager Luis Rojas’ career is over. Whatever promise he represented, the record shows Rojas’ clubs missed the playoffs in two of the easiest seasons ever to have made them, and with clubs that looked capable of getting there, especially this year when they’d allegedly shored up the pitching and defense deficiencies that prevented them from succeeding a year before, despite a more-than-adequate offensive attack.

The starting pitching came down to injuries: Sydergaard (2 starts), deGrom (15), Carrasco (12), and Peterson (15) all missed considerable time, combining for just 41 starts between them. The first-line depth guys–Yamamoto (2), Lucchesi (8) and Eickhoff (4)–were awful and/or got injured themselves over a combined 14 starts. Only the free-agent-to-be Marcus Stroman (33), and Taijuan Walker (29) lasted the year; the club was fortunate that Tylor Megill arrived and chipped in 18 starts; and Rich Hill 12. The remainder were divided between relievers who began a series of “bullpen games” (Loup 2, Castro 2, Smith 1, Gsellman 1) and secondary-market depth guys Trevor Williams (3), Robert Stock (2), Tommy Hunter (1), Corey Oswalt (1). That’s 19 starters. Holy moly.

The Defense was bolstered by the arrivals of Lindor and McCann, but played a role in an undercurrent of dysfunction that played out elsewhere. The fist-fight between McNeil and Lindor was the Story of the Year–so much more so than the overanalyzed Thumbgate or Donniegate. It showed fissures in dynamic of the club, the camaraderie of the wholesome and harmonious 2020 club seemed disrupted, and it all attached at some level to the offensive struggles of the principal combatants and their cookie-eating teammates like Smith and Davis. This also led to an odd trade deadline that only further complicated things, not just because of Thumbgate and the benchings, but because by mollifying an unhappy Lindor better options to fix the club went elsewhere, like Kyle Gibson to Philadelphia and Adam Duvall to Atlanta, clubs that in no time at all left the Mets behind.

Dysfunction and a brainpower shortage in the front office contributed to that, leaving the club with the offseason task of rebuilding from the top down.

Billy Beane, whose presence in the 86 Mets ESPN documentary brought him into contemporary focus, is the right guy to get here. He’s got a history with Alderson and the Mets, and a 20 year track record of clean-living and success as a front-office executive in Oakland. He ought to trade himself for Jeff McNeil, and we’ll be on our way. It’ll free up No. 6 for Bob Melvin.

 

 

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The Sisco Kid

So what’s up with Chance Sisco? During his stay on the 40 man in Syracuse, he was assigned #15, as befits his kinda sorta veteran status. Then he finally makes it back to the majors, and they give him #77? Maybe as a sign of respect to Mazeika?

That’s a great question (from Jim, in the below post) to which I don’t know the answer. But maybe it has something to do with debuting on a West Coast road trip, and also, something to do with the fact that the team simply has too many guys to keep track of anymore. Sisco is the 61st Met of the year and the 40th guy to have joined the organization for the 1st time this year. With the veteran reliever Heath Hembree also on the way, this team is threatening to surpass the all-time mark for debut Mets set all the way back in the team’s debut, 1962 when every Met–45 of them–was a first-time Met by definition.

It’s Tuesday, so we’ll be out at CitiField tonight. Hopefully we see what number they offer Hembree, but we’ll rooting against an appearance, given the recent trajectory of the career that landed him here. Of greater interest is the anticipated paring of Lindor and Baez in the middle infield for the first time. If there’s any kind of catalyst for this club–and it may well be too late, given the Braves have been even hotter than the Mets have been cold–this is it.

There are 38 games to go. The Mets probably need to win 27 or 28 of them.

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Off Center

He’s no George Springer. But look out, Guillermo Heredia.

The Mets this morning have signed erstwhile Cubs flychaser Albert Almora Jr., presumably to shore up the defense in center field and provide a right-handed bat reserve bat.

Almora wore No. 5 with the Cubs so will need to shop for a new uni with the Mets. In the meantime all the stuff I speculated on below with respect to adding another Cub or two to the mix seems even more likely.

The signing comes as Juan Lagares, whose brief return to the Mets last season included a stint in the ridiculous No. 87, has found a new home in Anaheim. Also spotted on the developing Mets roster: New lefty reliever Aaron Loup assigned 62, with current issuee Drew Smith numberless.

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Bauerless, Not Powerless

It’s easy to make an argument the Mets dodged a bullet this week when the arrogant free agent pitcher Trevor Bauer left them at the altar and agreed instead to a deal with the Dodgers that’d make him the best-paid player in the game and grants him multiple opt-outs should he want to try to pull this clown show again either of the next two years.

And they did given all that baggage but I’d certainly like to see another Cy Young winner on the staff, given what they were evidently willing to part with and the abuse they were willing to withstand should they have added yet another guy without the common sense to behave himself on the Internet, even if it comes off a giant douchy act.

Where to from here? There’s free agent Jake Odorizzi out there still, a 15-game winner in 2019 who missed most of last season after taking a line drive off the No. 12 on the front of his Twins jersey. There’s money in the bank were the Mets to lock in guys like Conforto and Lindor, or buy a free agent center fielder, and flexibility were they to take advantage of the Wrigleyville’s teardown and acquire Kris Bryant in a trade. It’s not like the Cardinals’ addition of Arenado is going to increase their chances this time.

I’m expecting something, is what I’m saying.

Catching up on recent moves that didn’t accompany all that much hype the Mets traded with Miami for pitcher Jordan Yamamoto, a young righty starter with terrible big-league numbers but the kind of curveball spin rate that gets the geeks excited. Yamamoto is from Hawaii and naturally wears No. 50 in the tradition of Sid Fernandez and Benny Agbayani. Adding Yamamoto to the 40-man roster also cleared the Mets of a seeming controversy with infielder Robel Garcia who was issued a placeholder 00, waived and subsequently claimed by the Angels.

Miguel Castro, the kind of down-on-his-luck would-be relief ace the Mets always seem to scoop up in the hopes he’ll improve next year (see AJ Ramos) wore No. 50 last year. He’s got that Brody stink and maybe he goes in my fantasy Kris Bryant trade which is built around the $16 million the Cubs save by taking JD Davis, and a friend suggests, taking a real prospect for Kyle Hendricks. They can even have Jordan Yamamoto in that case. Bryant by the way wears No. 17 with the Cubs and will test the quiet mothballing of those figures here should he arrive.

I dunno what to say about another black eye for the organization re: Mickey but in retrospect I was far too kind to a guy who hardly ever won a game with X’s and O’s, fished with Donald Trump Jr., batted the Mets out of order, blew up at reporters, couldn’t say “I’m sorry,” and finally, was a creep.

 

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Catching Up

Wow. So quite a bit has happened since we last caught up. As I’d mentioned I’d sort of involuntarily “opted out” of the fraudulent 2020 season that while deeply unsatisfying in so many ways, is already one of the most consequential for us in orange-and-blue (and in red-white-and-blue too, but that’s another regrettable nightmare that mercifully appears very close to an end as well).

Let’s recap a few things I missed real quick

Goodbye Fred and Jeff

Beat it. I mean, GTFO.

I’m not overstating it even a little bit when I say the Wilpons’ stunning incompetence and inability to learn despite making the same mistakes over and over and over again had so badly damaged my enthusiasm for the club I was losing interest in something as natural and enjoyable as this goofy little project. I understand that there’s no sure bets in life and financial realities interfere from time to time, but it was never too big an ask that an owner avoid actively making the process of rooting for a team you love an exercise in futility and self-hatred. How hard could it be to sell the Mets to Mets fans?

Don’t answer till you consider these guys not once but twice failed to execute a sale of the team (remember the Einhorn debacle?) mainly because they couldn’t NOT interfere. I’ve been re-reading THE WORST TEAM MONEY COULD BUY recently and reminded that Fred was screwing things up back then too, a pattern that would continue for nearly 30 years. Stunning! Most recently the stealth coup that landed the Mets most recently with a green chair-throwing general manager who promptly mortgaged the future for a steroid case, let a terrific starting pitcher walk to a division rival, screwed up his only chance to name a field manager, and leaves a worse team than he found.

Thank goodness Steve Cohen had the sense to give Sandy Alderson a chance to rescue the team once again. Did you notice Terry Collins and Omar Minaya are also out? What a turn of events. I’m not on the Cohen Crack like everyone else quite yet but his performance so far indicates he’s at least diagnosed many of the same problems we fans have (how hard could that be?) and I’m confident things cannot possibly get worse than they’ve been.

Other Comings and Goings

Sandy and his non-existent front-office team so far have signed a decent relief pitcher (Minnesota’s Trevor May, who seems like a swell guy and as mid-career bullpenners go, not a bad shot), invited a bunch of intriguing guys to Spring Training (OF Mallex Smith, SS Jose Peraza, RP Arodys Vizcaino) and picked up a lottery ticket or two including a 6-foot-7 minor league reliever called Sam McWilliams. The qualified offer to Marcus Stroman was accepted raising the possibility they’ll have a No. 0 after all. This week they got contracts done or offered to fringe 40-man guys that by now include the exasperating Omar-Era Holdover Steven Matz and outfielder Guillermo Heredia whose garbage-time arrival in September wasn’t even noted in our numerical rosters till just now. Sorry about that. He wears 15. Brian Dozier, whom I’d forgotten was ever a Met, no longer does. Chasen Shreve got whacked. So did Paul Sewald.

May by the way wore 65 in Minnesota, which belongs to the damaged Robert Gsellman.

And Now

The Mets have lots of possibilities again. Brodie didn’t necessarily screw up everything beyond what ought to have been decent chances this year and last, thanks mainly to the core assembled by his predecessor and successor.

Cohen has said he’d open up the checkbook so it seems likely they could add a pitcher like Trevor Bauer, reassembling a slate of strong starting pitching they had until Brodie interfered (and possibly interiting the No. 47 surrendered by Shreve). George Springer is available as is uni No. 4, uselessly occupied by Jed Lowrie for two friggin years. J.T. Realmuto (no. 10 in Philadelphia) might catch on, but someone new will at any rate.

We could see some new coaches (were the Wilpons so dumb that thinking did a hitting coach could work from home?) and front office personnel, a trade or two. I’ll try and pay attention.

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Addition By Subtraction

Sorry for the dearth of posts lately! Among other things, the MBTN Headquarters building moved to Queens from Brooklyn after 15 years. Like Carlos Beltran, this is a return engagement in the boro: MBTN, now approaching its 21st birthday was born in Manhattan and moved to Queens shortly thereafter, decamping for Brooklyn in 2004.

Also, how can I say this? It hasn’t been a very inspiring offseason yet, unless you are a fan of addition by subtraction. By this I mean the Wilpons and not Zack Wheeler. Five years by my estimation is way too many (for the Wilpons, not Zack Wheeler). That, and the silly chatter on ugly black uniforms, idiotic threats of trading Brandon Nimmo for Starling Marte, and the latest Yoenis Cespedes kerfluffle… So far, yuck.

I’ll miss Zack Wheeler, who departs New York as the Mets’ all-time strikeout king among guys who wore #45 (and 12th among wearers of any Met uniform). He was second to Tug McGraw in win s and innings; and second to Mark Carreon in hits, doubles, runs, home runs, and RBI. He was a good player and I especially don’t like that he wound up in Philly.

To replace him, the Mets have signed two down-on-their-luck veterans, both of whom believe they’re going to be starters, begging the question as to who’ll be the odd man out among the returnees. I could probably get behind Steven Matz going the bullpen but not sure if that’s what the club has in mind. Perhaps they’ll copy other clubs and do “bullpen games.” The new guys are Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha.

As relayed in the comments by MBTN reader Richard, Wacha wore No. 52 with the Cardinals, which is not available if Yoenis Cespeds overcomes whatever foolish activity he took up while rehabbing and cost himself millions. Wacha wore No. 38 at Texas A&M, but that’s taken by Justin Wilson.  I’m pencilling him in to wear 45. Shudder.

Porcello wore No. 22 on the Red Sox and prior to that, Nos. 21 and 48 with the Tigers. Richard relayed: “My guess is he takes #21 since Todd Frazier won’t return. He could also take #22 if Dom Smith is traded.” I’m on board with 21 myself seeing as Porcello also replaces Frazier as the obligatory resident New Jersey guy, and I don’t want to trade Dom Smith. I almost wanna trade Alonso instead: Bigger reward, worse glove, even a little older, and I think it’s going to be hard to match the magnificence of his 2019 year (Alonso, not Smith). No way though will the Mets have the stones to try that.

In the outfield the Mets have added ex-Astros speedster Jake Marisnick, who looks as though he’ll take over Juan Lagares’ role as the right-handed hitting, glove-first, pinch-running, late-inning-defensing center fielder. Marisnick wore No. 6 in Houston; with Jeff McNeil occupying that now let’s pencil in Jake as No. 12.

A bunch of other guys have also arrived, re-upped and departed. Brad Brach is back (No. 29) after a handful of decent bullpen appearances last year. New to the 40-man roster and looking for uni assignments are pitchers Stephen Gonsalves, who wore No. 59 in a couple of appearances with the Twins two years ago; and minor-leaguers Jordan Humpheys and Thomas Szapucki; catcher Ali Sanchez and infield prospect Andres Gimenez.

We can also cut official ties with Lagares (12); Wheeler (45); Kevin Kaczmarski (16); Aaron Altherr (23); Drew Gagnon (47); Chris Flexen (64) and Chris Mazza (74). Another 40-man cut is coming when they add Porcello.

New coaches? We have them too. Jeremy Hefner (remember him?) wore the coachly No. 53 as a Met back in 2014; he could take that over from departing first-base coach Glenn Sherlock. We’ve also added Hensley Meulens as the bench coach. Meulens wore No. 31 (I think) in the same role for the Giants last year and so would need a new assignment, as will new first-base coach Tony DeFrancesco. The remarkable Phil Regan (No. 58) is out as pitching coach.

We’ll build a winter roster soon! Much still to do though.

 

 

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Str0man

We got one right for a change. Pitcher Marcus Stroman revealed in a tweet that he would wear the rarely-issued No. 0 jersey in 2020, switching from the 7 he’d originally selected but preferred not to wear because he felt it would interfere with memory of Jose Reyes.

We covered the dubious reasoning below and even correctly predicted his new landing spot but wish Marcus the best of luck in his new jersey and hope that in addition to becoming the 1st, 2nd and now 3rd Met pitcher ever to wear a single-digit uni number he makes other team history as well. Among Zeros, he joins Terry McDaniel (1991), Rey Ordonez (1996-97) and most recently, Omar Quintanilla (2014).

In other matters for someone not entirely comfortable with the selection of a new manager, the news that Carlos Beltran reportedly played a role in the creation of Houston’s cheat scheme is a mixed message at best. If they knew it must have been a factor in the decision to hire him. If they didn’t, it’s a black eye for Carlos before making a spring training lineup. Same old Mets?

We’ll see what Chief Brodie does in his second visit to the Hot Stove in the weeks ahead but between us I’d be pleased were we to retain Zack Wheeler then figure out what to do next. It’s been signaled that the Mets are shopping for a real center fielder, which to me seems like a pretty good idea, while upgrading the defense behind the plate would also help.

Keeping an open mind and terrified as usual.

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