Mets Need More Than Kelly Johnson
News Flash: The New York Mets have traded relief pitcher Akeel Morris to the Atlanta Braves for IF-OF Kelly Johnson. This is KJ’s second go-round with the club and the second time he was traded from Atlanta to the Mets. The first time was last July 24, when he arrived in a deal along with Juan Uribe for a pair of minor league pitchers.
Has Mets GM Sandy Alderson opened a storefront in Panic City? The 34-year old Johnson is slashing a paltry 215/279/289 for the Braves. Better at least than the player (Eric Campbell) that he is replacing, but still a far cry from the proverbial shot in the arm the Mets putrid offense needs. For the record, Campbell is hitting 159/270/222 as a Met this year.
I think the plan coming into this year was to plug in the veterans for another year-plus until the next wave of bats arrived from the farm in the form of Dilson Herrera, Dominic Smith, Amed Rosario and Wuilmer Becerra; meanwhile relying on the Mets greatest strength, their starting pitching, to keep them atop the division. The quartet of youngsters has done their part: all of them are putting up some good offensive numbers in the minors and with the exception of Smith, look ready to move up a level. The Mets rotation, despite a hiccup here or there has proven to be one of the best and deepest in the National League. The bullpen, once feared as the team’s Achilles heel, has actually performed well, although a few cracks are showing.
It’s that bridge of veteran bats in the lineup that have almost totally collapsed, leaving the Mets a season-high 3.5 games behind the very formidable Washington Nationals. The Mets rank dead last in the NL in hits (432), 14 in team BA (.230) and 11th in OBP (.307). They hit homers (77, tying them for the league lead with Washington), but that’s about it. They have struck out 523 times and trail the rest of the NL with only 12 steals in 21 attempts. Essentially, if they don’t hit a solo homer, they don’t score.They don’t play small ball well either, not drawing many walks nor doing much in the way of sacrificing. Thanks in part to injuries, their bench is surprisingly weak, as Met pinch hitters have tallied on 13 pinch hits in 74 ABs, a .174 average. Travis d’Arnaud, David Wright and Lucas Duda have been sidelined for weeks with injuries. Wright and Duda could very well be lost of the season and Wright’s career may be ending. Their replacements have performed poorly offensively, although the jury may still be out on James Loney, who is Duda’s replacement. Curtis Granderson is absolutely killing the team right now. It’s a lot of bad news that portends to a long and disappointing summer if they don’t turn it around.
Based on the evidence, I don’t think KJ is even part of the answer and it could be argued that a red chip like Morris could have been better utilized. Ideally, the Mets need to add both a speedy outfielder and an infielder who can drive the ball (or vice versa). I am not exactly sure they could get although I did some speculation here. How they bring this talent over is the bigger question. Here are a few possible ways, listed in order of probability:
• They trade a few “red chips” for some offensive help. This is by far the most likely scenario, as they still have Rafael Montero, Brandon Nimmo, Gavin Cechinni, Josh Smoker and a few other interesting names left in their system. One or more could be packaged together to bring in veterans as they did last year in the deals for Johnson and Tyler Clippard. Their trade partners would probably come from the Minnesota/Oakland/Atlanta/Cincinnati/San Diego/Milwaukee pool of teams, clubs far away from contention that need to fill multiple holes. What any of those teams have to offer the Mets in return is open to debate.
• They trade a veteran. Here the probability meter starts to tilt towards improbable. A veteran for a veteran? Who does that? I doubt any NL contenders would want to help the Mets out, or vice versa. Perhaps an American League team is in need of an arm later this summer and bids for Bartolo Colon. As I mentioned here, I think the way to go is to trade Neil Walker and bring up Herrera, but that might be a roll of the dice no one in the Mets Front Office wants to take. Walker’s value is very high right now, however.
• They trade a “blue chip,” someone like Herrera or Rosario. I know Matthew mentioned moving Dilson, but as I stated earlier, I believe the plan is to plug those guys into the lineup, where they produce while making the big-league minimum, freeing money to extend the starting pitchers. I don’t know for sure who Sandy considers a red chip vs a blue chip, but he does have a plan and as we saw last year, he won’t back down from it.
• They trade one of the Fab Five. This just isn’t happening. There is a better chance of someone they draft today being in the majors by August than there is of them trading one of their golden arms.
So to answer my earlier question, I don’t think Alderson has moved into Panic City…yet. For his sake and ours however, here’s hoping he can scrape together enough loose change to buy something more useful than just Kelly Johnson.