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.

A Mets fan since 1971, Dan spent many summer nights of his childhood watching the Mets on WOR Channel Nine, which his Allentown, PA cable company carried. Dan was present at Game 7 of the 1986 World Series and the Todd Pratt Walkoff Game in 1999. He is also the proud owner of two Shea Stadium seats. Professionally, Dan is a Marketing Manager in the Bulk Materials Handling industry. He lives in Bethlehem PA with his wife and son, neither of whom fully get his obsession with the Mets.
  1. argonbunnies June 9, 2016 at 2:26 pm
    I like the subjective, psychological element of the Johnson acquisition. It tells the team and the fans that the front office won’t just sit back and do nothing as hitters fail to produce. It gives Collins the option to try “hit or sit” again, which worked out well in 2015.

    Practically, though, the Mets have no use for Kelly Johnson. He’s not going to change anything. He might even make things worse — if Collins rotates guys too much, that may prevent any of them from getting in a groove.

    I suspect that the best hope for the Mets’ second-tier players is for one or two of them to get hot. That seems more realistic to me than asking six or so guys to all be okay at once.

    Unfortunately, the Mets are very low on upside. Wilmer Flores, at age 24, with under 1000 MLB ABs, and having done well in the minors, is one of the few players in the roster with a chance to improve significantly. I don’t know if that’s LIKELY — my eyes tell me no — but at least it’s possible. De Aza and Johnson and Loney and Kelly and Reynolds and Campbell and Lagares, on the other hand, either are who they are or have pretty low offensive ceilings. No one of them is more likely to go on a tear than any other, so collecting a large number of them is basically pointless.

    Look at Eric Campbell:
    – doesn’t swing at too many pitches off the plate
    – solid speed, can steal an occasional base
    – defensive versatility, able to handle IF and OF corners
    – has been the team’s best defensive 3B this year
    – equally viable vs LH and RH
    – has destroyed AAA pitching more than anyone in the Mets organization, way beyond touted guys like Herrera and Flores

    It doesn’t really get much better than that for a utility guy. But, playing sporadically and moving around the field, he hasn’t hit. Just like every other second tier Met.

    Maybe Kelly Johnson and James Loney will happen to be the ones who get hot, and Alderson will look like a genius. I don’t know. It seems to me, though, like nobody’s going to hit much until Granderson and Conforto and Cespedes all start mashing and take some of the pressure off their lesser counterparts.

    Also: Asdrubal Cabrera’s defense is declining rapidly. Of all the people Collins needs to rest, he’s probably #1. Isn’t this why Matt Reynolds is on the roster?

    • Hiltonian June 11, 2016 at 12:59 am
      The key is not what you do in the Minors, but how you perform in The Show. Campbell defensively must be playing differently than I have seen him. He is a liability. We cannot make excuses for his anemic hitting due to being shifted around various positions. He has not, and probably will not help NY down the line. “Anti-Clutch” might be a more apt name for E.C. Time to boot him out.
  2. John June 10, 2016 at 4:38 pm
    Although the jury is still out on Flores, he is a significant upgrade over Wright at this stage of their careers. I think he will hit, the question is it enough. His minor league record is very strong and he has shown glimpses last year and now that he is playing everyday. He has been pretty good in the clutch for a young kid who has played irregularly. He is a defensive liability but no more than Wright who has been painful to watch trying to throw the ball across the infield.
    Johnson is an upgrade over Campbell. It is too difficult for a younger guy to be a bench player. And Campbell really looks like a AAA player.
    Loney is a solid player, although clearly not the long term answer. But neither is Duda. You’re not going to find a big upgrade in the trade market so this is the hand you have been dealt.
    Grandason is absolutely killing them, not getting on base not driving in any runs. This is not a slow start, this is who he has been for the last 4 or 5 years. He masked it in Yankee Stadium with the little league right field fence. You have to wonder at what point you try Nimmo. He is crushing it now. How much is LV and the PCL? Don’t know but he can’t be worse than .200 AVERAGE and .300 OPS.
    The real issue is Conforto. They have found that inside weakness and he will have to adjust. If he can’t then they will have to make a decision. Can’t keep him out there forever. It has been a month and maybe he is figuring it out, maybe not.

    So I guess what I am saying is that what is here is probably better than the cast offs you are looking at in the trade market. If Conforto can’t figure it out there is a problem because there is no plan B. Grandison needs to become a bench player. They could probably find a bat in the outfield but this early it may make some sense to try Nimmo first to see what you have. But I would not have an issue making a deal as long as it isn’t one side in the wrong direction.

  3. Dan Capwell June 11, 2016 at 6:45 am
    Here’s a trade thought: Walker back to the Bucs for Freese.
  4. argonbunnies June 12, 2016 at 2:10 pm
    I don’t think sufficient new talent is out there, in trade or at AAA. Maybe Nimmo would be a little better than De Aza or Herrera would be a little better than Reynolds, but I don’t think the difference is really going to impact the Mets’ season.

    For this team to succeed, Granderson and Conforto need to hit, period. And Duda and d’Arnaud need to come back at full strength. If these things don’t happen, the Mets have little chance at the NL East crown (absent big injuries to the Nats).

    • argonbunnies June 12, 2016 at 2:10 pm
      Well, I guess there’s one other solution: the Mets could start hitting in the clutch. But that seems like even more of a longshot than trading Granderson for Manny Machado. In the last 10 years, the only time the Mets have hit particularly well in the clutch is when everyone in the lineup is red hot and no one’s feeling any individual pressure.
      • david June 15, 2016 at 8:26 am
        Good teams hit with men in scoring position. It is really that simple. We can debate the talent, chemistry, manager elements until the cows come home but the numbers and your eyes don’t lie – this team has been atrocious all the way back to ST hitting with men in scoring position.

        Mets need to lighten things up a little, relax. Something to snap them out of their current funk. I sense some guys expect to be dealt or demoted – and rightly so.

        On a final note I think at least 1 of the AAAA guys needs to grasp the opportunity already. I’ve been hoping Reynolds would be that guy. If not, then give Rivera a chance. Or Trajeron.

  5. argonbunnies June 12, 2016 at 2:12 pm
    If we do attempt trades, I’d like to see what we can get from some of the teams out there who are desperate for relief pitching.
  6. DaveSchneck June 14, 2016 at 9:43 pm
    This team is in trouble. The Cespedes deal was a once in a decade deadline hit. I don’t see them with enough chips to do it again this year. Additionally, it would not be wise to be all in for 2016. Even with their pitching, there may be too many problems to address. Unfortunately the best option may be to go with what they have. If they opt for Nimmo, he needs to play regularly, which will most likely mean Conforto goes to AAA.
  7. david carl harrer July 5, 2016 at 1:31 am
    Remember 1969? Addition of Don Clendenon! And the World Series victory, over the dominating Baltimore pitching staff.

    DP combination of Buddy and Ken Boswell. Ed Charles the 3rd baseman.
    Cleon and Agee and Shamsky.

    Those were the days.