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.
Browsing All Posts By Dan Capwell

Michael Conforto’s Next All Star Game Or Part Two Of The Case For Keeping Jay Bruce

Michael Conforto’s next All Star Game appearance will be for the Frontier League. There, I’ve said it. The crown jewel of the Alderson regime’s drafting history, the hitter of a pair of World Series homers, a part of the Legend of 2015, is looking more and more like a bust, the next John Milner, or if you prefer a somewhat more contemporary reference, the pre-steroid version of Jeromy Burnitz.

Hopefully the Mets understand this as well, because if they don’t, they are probably just days away from giving away the player they could only hope Conforto might someday become: one Jay Allen Bruce. In case you’ve forgotten I made a similar argument here.

Bruce is having a tremendous year with a slash line of 267|335|541 to go along with his 24 home runs. All this after a disastrous start to his Met career after last year’s trade deadline, a start that brought comparisons to he and the infamous Jason Bay. Bruce has proven his resilience, enduring a long winter of trade rumors, that fortunately for the Mets, bore no acceptable offers. To his credit he kept his mouth shut for the entire ordeal and has let his bat do the talking since Spring Training. He did speak up recently, countering Met manager Terry Collins’s somewhat incendiary remarks about the Mets not showing any fight, by making a somewhat understated, yet clearly understood rebuttal.

Like the rest of the Mets faithful, I held my breath last Saturday night when Yoenis Cespedes right knee created a tsunami like divot in the Citi Field outfield. The Mets’ claim that the injury is minor, and that Cespedes is due to return to the lineup tonight has about as much credibility as Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf’s press conferences back in the day. With Cespedes looking at yet another injury-riddled season, Bruce is the only reliable source of power left in the lineup. The key word here being reliable.

Which brings us to Conforto. Once again, he has failed to adjust and after a hot start to his season, he has slashed 206|383|317 since June 1. He took the Golden Sombero on Saturday against some decent left handed Colorado relief pitching and then took another collar in Sunday’s debacle. Just a reminder, he hit 220|310|414 for all of 2016. This is the guy the Mets should build their offense around?

No sir. The Mets need to extend Bruce,and get Cespedes to find another personal trainer in the hopes that he can stay on the field more often. Together, Cespedes and Bruce can form a dangerous right-left middle of the order for the Mets, who need to go with faster players who can pick the ball elsewhere. This will equate to a power outage of sorts, making the home run threat  from the outfield corners an even more needed resource.

And for Conforto? He needs to be packaged with one of the Mets disappointing “young guns” this winter (that’s you Steven Matz) for a fast centerfielder and/or a defensive-minded second baseman.

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Trade Target: Derek Fisher

No one inside the Mets organization will publically admit, but they have to sense what many of us have already concluded: 2017 just isn’t the Mets year. At this point, they need a GPS to find .500, let alone any of the five National League playoff spots. Readers of this blog fully understand the woes of this current team, but essentially the older Met players haven’t aged well and the injured Met players haven’t fully recovered. If they pitch well, their bats go silent, and if they score runs, their pitching staff can’t hold the lead. This is more than a 10-game cold streak, they have played nearly one-third of the season. Yes, they put together some great runs the last two seasons to make the playoffs; but in both years they started off well, tailed off in the middle and then heated up down the stretch. Now, they will have to make a concerted run at winning baseball for over 100 games. Do you see them going 65-35 or so the rest of the way? Me neither, and it’s very disappointing.

The good news is that this probably isn’t 1978, nor 1993, nor 2003 nor 2011 again. Those rock-bottom seasons (notice how they get progressively closer together) featured a roster devoid of talent, some onerous contracts and a feeble farm system. Outside architects had to be brought in to tear the entire structure down and rebuild at a very basic level, a tortuous process that took years—and didn’t always bear fruit.

Maybe wishful thinking here, but I don’t see this as the case with this current incarnation. Other than David Wright’s insurance-covered deal, they are fine in the contract department.  In Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Yoenis Cespedes and probably Michael Conforto and Wilmer Flores, they have a decent cadre of core players. If the scouting reports are indeed true, they will be adding another solid piece whenever Amed Rosario is finally summoned from Vegas. Looking ahead to 2018, they should have two outfield and two infield spots covered, as well as a pair of top-of-the-rotation arms. The task between now and next year’s Spring Training is to supplement that core with some better players than the ones they have now. Which brings us to Mr. Fisher.

Unlike the Mets, the Houston Astros are having a phenomenal year. As of today’s writing (June 7) they are an incredible 42-16. Even if they “slow down” to a .600 pace they are on track for a triple-win digit year. Yet, they have weaknesses. Their bullpen needs another arm. Nori Aoki is slashing 258/307/315 for them in left and their DH is a 40 year-old Carlos Beltran. But if ever a team looked poised to win it all, this is it. Pardon the expression but they should be “all in.” The Mets have players to deal and would match up well with the Astros. They could offer Houston either Lucas Duda or Addison Reed for Fisher.  I wouldn’t be averse to packaging both of them together to get Fisher in return. Since Houston is looking for more production in their outfield, perhaps they would consider taking Jay Bruce in place of one or either piece. Maybe even Jerry Blevins, although that’s cutting a bit into next year’s team for the Mets, and I am not ready to punt 2018 just yet.

Currently Fisher is slashing 338/403/604 in the PCL. Yes, it’s the Pacific Coast League, but consider the fact that the highly-regarded Rosario is slashing 340/383/494 in the same league. Both players currently have 11 stolen bases. Imagine those two dynamos at the top of the Mets order.

Fisher has power from the left side, and has and has the ability to steal bases. There are concerns about his defense, which may relegate him to a corner outfield position (making Conforto a full time CF). But IMO this type of trade is a perfectly acceptable risk to take. Fisher probably isn’t ready to contribute to the Astros this year. Duda, Bruce, Reed, etc. could.  None of the Mets expiring contracts are likely to return next year. This type of return beats a draft pick or whatever the going rate is these days for losing a player to Free Agency.

They’ll still need plenty of shoring up elsewhere, especially the bullpen, but Fisher could be a useful piece to what is hopefully a quick turnaround from mediocrity.

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When Will We Ever Learn? Wishful Thinking and Wilpon Finances Lead to Mets Stall

Well it had to happen sometime. Those blue and orange shades I’ve had on since August of 2015 have come off. Unless you’ve been totally immersed in the Rangers-Habs series or trying to figure out if the Jets will use or trade the number six pick, you’ve probably taken yours off as well; especially after the massive train wreck that occurred this past weekend at Citi Field. The Mets have stalled and no one it seems, knows how to re-start their motor.

Call it panic, but you’ve heard it here first: The Mets will miss the playoffs. I don’t believe them to be anything better than a third place team this year. Based on what I’ve seen so far, both Washington and Miami have better teams than the Mets. And as far as the Mets surpassing the Yankees in popularity in New York City? Bawhahahahahahahahaha.

When the season started, many people, including myself, figured the Mets to be a playoff team, and gave them a better than even chance to win the division. The Mets themselves believed it. Check out the comments coming from both the front office and the clubhouse before and during spring training. Less than 20 games into the season, a new reality has dawned.

When will we ever learn?

The Mets have two very good players: Yoenis Cespedes and Noah Syndergaard. It speaks volumes about the Mets player development system that both guys came from outside the organization. Syndergaard is the undisputable ace of the Mets pitching staff. More on that in a moment. Cespedes is the Mets best hitter. Now, name the second-best hitter on the team. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

That title goes to Asdrubal Cabrera. It’s not Jay Bruce. Don’t let two stellar games from Bruce fool you. Career-wise, Cabrera is the better hitter. I’d actually put Curtis Granderson ahead of Bruce. We can argue this point all day, the issue is that after Cespedes, the Mets offensive prowess falls off a cliff. Cabrera is good, but c’mon, I highly doubt he strikes much fear in the hearts of the opposition when he strides to the plate. They had the perfect compliment to Cespedes in their lineup, you just saw him this weekend. They knew how good he was becoming and they let him walk away anyway , all but telling us they had his successor in the system. Instead they traded this heir apparent to Cincinnati to get Bruce. The second action is unrelated to the first action, but letting Daniel Murphy walk away cost the Mets the NL East crown last year and is one of the biggest reasons they will miss the playoffs this year. And why? Because they thought they could get the same type of production for less money. They didn’t. Wishful thinking seems to have replaced solid planning.

They wished that David Wright would somehow heal and become a reasonable facsimile of his former self. Wrong. They wished that Jose Reyes at 33 still has something left and that his dismal stops in Toronto and Colorado were mirages. Wrong. They wished that Travis d’Arnaud, Lucas Duda, and Wilmer Flores would all somehow avoid the injury jinxes that have sidetracked their careers. Wrong. They wished Juan Lagares would finally learn to hit right handed pitching. Wrong (and he can’t hit lefties much either). About the only thing that has gone right, outside of Bruce’s hot start, is Michael Conforto. But in true Met fashion, they have been shoe-horning Conforto in the wrong spot in the lineup, both the batting order and on the field. A few oh-fers and watch what happens to the kid’s confidence. In fairness, almost everything that could have gone wrong has gone wrong. But, you can’t tell me that any of this is totally unexpected, and should agree that to basically ignore the facts exposed by sabermetrics and medical reports is a very risky proposition. But don’t worry, they all said, even if all that falls apart, the Mets still have that great starting pitching.

When will we ever learn?

No doubt that Syndergaard is the larger-than-life, as-good-as-advertised ace of the rotation. Jacob deGrom is well-suited as the understudy. I like Jake, but I think his ceiling is #2 starter, the modern day comparison to the Miracle Mets Jerry Koosman or Jon Matlack (yes I know both were lefties) behind Tom Seaver; or if you prefer the late 80’s, he’s this era’s Ron Darling to Doc Gooden. Unfortunately, I have witnessed many, many, many outings by Koos, Matlack and Darling where they pitched just well enough, as the saying goes, to lose. That description fits deGrom’s last two outings pretty well, don’t you think? But what about the other three or four “aces” they were supposed to have?

A pair of major surgeries have all but extinguished Matt Harvey’s brilliance. He seems quiet and humbled, both on the mound and in front of cameras. Not saying all of this is a bad thing, but right now Matt is the #3 pitcher on just about any good staff, including this one. The wish (there’s that word again) is just that he stays healthy. So far, so good; but it is a long season. Steven Matz hasn’t stayed healthy, and reading between the lines of the comments made by the GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins, I think the organization is entirely disillusioned with Matz, just as they were with erstwhile ace and first major Alderson acquisition Zack Wheeler. The later is still on the comeback trail and the jury is most definitely out on him. He had a golden opportunity last night to re-establish his star and one swing from Murphy ended that. The starting pitching isn’t that all that deep and the bullpen is in disarray, partially due to Jeurys Familia’s suspension, partly due to Collins’ poor handling of the others, and partly due to the wishful thought that they might not be relied upon so much. They should have held on to Bartolo Colon.

That last thought brings us to the real problem: ownership. Yes the Mets payroll has risen, most of it organically via annual pay raises, but they did shell out big bucks for Cespedes, Bruce and Neil Walker. But to paraphrase and old saying: you can lift a person out of the poorhouse, but you can’t lift the poorhouse out of the person. While the Red Sox, Dodgers, Cubs and Nationals do whatever it takes to win, whether it’s giving out big contracts to veterans or overpaying in prospects for needed pieces, the Mets still look for the way to save a buck. Re-think the roster with both Colon and Murphy still on it. How about the batting order with Adam Eaton at the top? It’s a compelling argument to hold on to young players. It looked great for example, when the Mets five starters combined were making less money than Mike Pelfrey. It looks far less smart when the team still lacks a true leadoff hitter (and any speed at all) lacks a true #3 hitter, lacks a true #5 hitter, and has no one reliable coming off the bench. The problem comes back the credibility issue–both with the front office and with ownership.

It now begins to clearly appear that the real reason for this youth movement is to depress payroll. The Mets have been lucky that Harvey, Syndergaard, deGrom, et. al, have some star power. Up to now, this brilliance has eclipsed the flaws in the team’s makeup. Baseball has a very cruel way of exposing every hidden weakness. This April has been all about the Mets getting exposed. There is a definite spending threshold for these guys and by all indications, it  falls below what it’s going to take to bring home the championship. All of this winter’s moves where made with an eye on future payrolls. That might be great from an accounting standpoint, but from a winning while the window is open standpoint, it really stinks.

Fortunately it is still April. There is plenty of baseball left. Cespedes is capable of putting the offense on his back. Conforto could settle into a niche. The walking wounded can heal. Maybe the Mets decide that the time is right for uber-prospects Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith to be promoted (both have played more minor league games and have had more at-bats than Conforto did at the time of his promotion). Maybe GMs of other teams decide to run up the white flag and Alderson is able to import some help. Maybe…

When will we ever learn?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Our “Streaky” GM

Enjoying this hot streak? Living so close the Philadelphia, I sure am. Some silver-haired manager, I think it was either Tommy Lasorda or Whitey Herzog, once made a remark to the effect that you are never as good as you look when you are winning; nor are you as bad as you look when you are losing. The Met lineup, from top to bottom (and on the bench), is full of streaky hitters. After what seems like an interminable period of waving at outside breaking balls or popping weakly to corner infielders in foul ground, they will get white-hot, not only hitting homers in bunches, but also grounders that squirt through shifts or bloopers that fall in front of outfielders playing deep.

The most famous of these hot streaks was by one Daniel Thomas Murphy in the 2015 NLDS and NLCS. Unfortunately, he cooled off in the World Series (thanks Sports Illustrated), but all of his former teammates/current Mets are also guilty as charged. These up and down streaks have served the Mets well, at the end of the season many of the players end up with better than respectable power numbers and as the team’s PR shrills remind us on a daily basis, this Mets squad has made the postseason for consecutive years for only the second time in team history.

But, wanna know what Met has been on the biggest hot streak lately? Try GM Sandy Alderson. For years it seemed, he whiffed on his acquisitions, as you can read about that here. Then something happened. He made a few minor deals with Atlanta and Oakland in July of 2015. Those trades may have been the equivalent of taking extra BP. It was as if he flipped the switch and became the hottest GM on the planet. He had the incredible good luck of the Carlos Gomez deal falling through, which paved the way for his signature (to date) trade for Yoenis Cespedes. Yes was a costly trade, but Cespedes has emerged as this era’s Keith Hernandez or Mike Piazza. Like those two icons, the day Cespedes stepped onto the field wearing a Mets uniform, the team was elevated to true contender status.

Since then? Well, Alderson stole Addison Reed from the Diamondbacks (anybody remember that he claimed Mark Rzepczynski from the Padres a few hours before the Reed trade, only to have the Friars pull him back?) He let Murphy walk, which in retrospect was a bad move, but few of us minded at the time. He lost out on Ben Zobrist, but made a pair of good moves, getting Neil Walker for Jon Niese and signing Asdrubal Cabrerra to a very-team friendly deal. He correctly gauged the market for Cespedes not once, but twice. Antonio Bastardo was a mistake, but he was able to cut bait on him rather quickly. Nobody, including me, liked the Jay Bruce deal, but give Alderson credit: he stuck to his guns all winter in trade discussions. I’ll bet either Baltimore or the Giants would be very glad to re-open negotiations on that deal now. He has also been patient with Jerry Blevins and Fernando Salas and as a result, along with Reed, the Mets have a solid late inning bullpen that is costing them less per year than what the Yankees are paying Aroldis Chapman.

Alderson hasn’t been perfect (see Murphy), but he has been right and probably more than a bit lucky a lot more in the past 18 months than he was in the previous 55 months as Mets GM. Not only that, but he stuck to his principles, not trading then under-the-radar prospects like Jacob deGrom or Robert Gsellman for veteran filler when the team was really tanking.

He’s hot right now. But even the great Frank Cashen, the architect of the last Mets World Championship went cold again. Cashen’s hot streak went from June of 1983 when he traded for Hernandez until December of 1986 when he traded Kevin Mitchell away. That marked the beginning of an ill-fated dismantling of a potential dynasty. For the record, Cashen’s hot streak lasted just about 40 months.

Here’s to another twenty-two good months from the current Mets GM.

 

 

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The Mets: What Will “All In” Look Like?

On paper, the Mets are a very deep team. They have an excess number of starting pitchers, multiple relief options and a bench so strong that several guys that could start for other teams might begin this season in the minors. They are also a battle-tested bunch, with everyone on the roster having been either through a playoff push or having gone deep into the post season. Their principal owner is now an elderly man who wants to win now and their GM (who is no spring chicken himself) has recently declared that the team is “all in” for the 2017 season.

That juicy remark has stirred the long-time cynical Mets fan within me. How well have other front office pronouncements such as “Meaningful Games In September,” “Payroll Flexibility,” and “90-win Season” played out? Hint: none of them bore much fruit.

So, how might “all in” look like this year? I normally hate answering a question with more questions, but here goes:

How Much Rope?  

What happens if/when David Wright proves he isn’t an everyday player anymore? Do the Mets attempt to maximize their investment in David, trotting him out day after day, even if he OPSes below .700, or do they relegate him to the bench in favor of a more productive options? It doesn’t exactly fill one with confidence that David’s top replacement is the equally brittle Jose Reyes. If both veterans struggle, do the Mets finally give Wilmer Flores a full-time job or T.J. Rivera an extended look? A long shot, but maybe they gamble that Gavin Cecchini can handle the position? Third base is one spot the Mets have plenty of in-house options for, should Plan A prove to be unworkable.

Let’s take the opposite track with Jay Bruce, whom I  believe the Mets really, really, really want to trade. I also fully expect the Mets to stash Michael Conforto  in Las Vegas, as all this talk about getting him reps in outfield during the regular season is transparently disingenuous. So, what happens if Bruce gets off to a fast start? What if by July he is hitting the way Xavier Nady did for them back in 2006? Do they trade Bruce while his value is high and bring up Conforto? Or do they ride Bruce out to the bitter end and let him walk as a Free Agent after the season? While Conforto could make the decision easier by hitting well in Vegas, the Mets might not have the stomach to trade a productive Jay Bruce in the middle of a pennant chase.

Next to Bruce, the most maligned Met these days in Travis d’Arnaud. Once considered the crown jewel of the R.A. Dickey trade, Travis’ inability to stay healthy, coupled with his poor production when on the field last year and the whispers of some poor pitch calling, made him persona non grata among the Mets faithful. The Mets went so far as to hire Glen Sherlock this offseason to provide some additional coaching for Travis. If he struggles again this year with poor play and nagging injuries, we will finally get the answer to how much time former top prospect pedigree buys you.

 

The Future is Now (Or Is It?)

So let’s say that as expected, the Mets and Washington are locked in mortal combat for NL East supremacy. Will the Mets mortgage a part of their future to avoid the risk of another do-or-die tussle against an all-world pitcher like the one they ran into in last year’s elimination game? Here in late February, it’s easy to say yes. But let’s fast forward a bit to the trade deadline. Several second division teams are contacting Alderson offering names like Pollack, Abreu, McCutchen or Dozier. Each of them have their eyes not on one of the Mets current crop of pitchers (I think the word is out on their untouchable status), but on the up and comers in the farm system. And for the sake of the discussion, both the veterans being offered and the prospects discussed are all healthy and productive. How far would Alderson go? I don’t think Amed Rosario is going anywhere unless its to shake Mike Trout lose from the Angels. But would he sacrifice say Dom Smith or Des Lindsay along with Thomas Szapucki to bring in that last big piece? Dream for a moment: what if the Angels do make Trout available? Does Alderson jump in?

A little more likely scenario is that a known-quantity, late-inning relief arm goes on the block in late July. Like most teams, the Mets will almost definitely need help in the ‘pen down the stretch. How much do they give up to get this as-of-yet undefined figure? Stay tuned.

 

Innings Limits Be Damned? 

Now it gets really dicey: how far do the Mets let Matt Harvey, Steven Matz and Jacob deGrom go this year? In pursuit of a divisional crown, do they let all of them exceed career highs for innings pitched? Many have blamed the extra work they took on in 2015 as the reason for their injuries the following year. But does “all in” mean they go for it this year, with the knowledge that some of these guys could be back on the shelf in 2018? What about Robert Gsellman? His max number of innings pitched in any season major or minors is 143. If as expected he is the 5th starter this year, he will likely exceed that number. And after two years of inactivity, do the Mets dare push Zack Wheeler past 125 innings, provided he is healthy and effective?

 

Funny what kind of firestorm a simple remark can start! I think this can be a fascinating and fun year. Let’s Go Mets!

 

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Would Wood Help?

This slow offseason has made the Baseball Network virtually unwatchable, but I was channel surfing the other day and stumbled on and then stuck with their Top Games of 2016 segment.

#9 on the list was a midsummer clash between the Cubs and Mariners that included an awkward-looking catch in leftfield by a Cubs reliever, whom manager Joe Maddon inserted there when the game seemed like a blowout loss. That “blowout loss” was later transformed into a Cubs win, which is  the real reason the game was featured on the show.

The less than nimble relief pitcher turned outfielder was one Travis Wood, who is currently (a) left handed and (b) an unsigned free agent. While statistically current/former Met Jerry Blevins is a better performer, I believe that Wood fits the profile of the kind of player that GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins like to target.

From the GM perspective, Wood can fill more than one role. He has 133 career starts, although none since the nine he started in 2015. His transformation to the bullpen began that year, as Maddon inserted him into 46 other games as a reliever. The results were mixed: his K/9 rate rose and his WHIP declined, but his BB/9 jumped by nearly a full walk per nine innings. In 2016 he appeared in a whopping 77 games (Terry’s kinda guy), his K/9 and WHIP ratios stayed the same, however so did his BB/9. He was a better “late and close” pitcher in 2016 than in less high-leverage situations, which is a good sign.

The Mets have claimed to have faith in the Joshes (Smoker and Edgin) to fill the lefty roles in the pen. They are penciling in another lefty, Steven Matz into their rotation. Edgin and Matz are definite injury concerns and Smoker, although showing flashes of brilliance at times down the stretch in 2016, is untested and had a earlier promising career derailed by injuries. Wood might be able to start the season in the pen, perhaps co-handling the 8th inning with someone like Hansel Robles until the expected suspension of Jeurys Familia ends. From there he could be available to “swing,” moving into the rotation if perhaps Matz can’t go, or sticking to the pen if the rotation stays healthy the whole year (yeah, right). He doesn’t really block Edgin or Smoker if either proves to be effective beyond a cameo role or two.

Former Met GM Steve Phillips once coined the phrase “payroll flexibility.” Alderson and Collins seem somewhat hooked on a lineup flexibility and the 2017 Mets appear to be  constructed around players that can handle multiple roles, especially off the bench. Travis Wood represents another example of that type of player, should the Mets be interested.

Plus, they could probably get him cheap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Case For Keeping Jay Bruce

So everyday and sometimes several times a day, I visit or refresh MLB Trade Rumors to see if the Mets have moved Jay Bruce. Apparently, I’m not alone. Take yer 30-homers elsewhere ya big palooka, we want our boy Conforto playin’ right.

But, will the past prove to be prologue?

In 1975, the Mets had a hot rookie outfielder named Mike Vail, who burst on to the scene, highlighted by a 23 game hit streak, which was the best ever for a rookie up to then. He finished the year with a slash line of 302/339/420. The fans and apparently the FO were ecstatic enough about this guy, to the point where they deemed folk hero  Rusty Staub and his team-record 105 RBI’s expendable and traded him to Detroit that offseason to clear an outfield spot  for Vail.

Then, in a foreshadowing of Bobby O’s hedge trimmers and Duaner Sanchez’ cab ride, Vail hurt himself playing basketball during the winter, and began the ’76 season on the DL. He just never got untracked after that. He went on to have a semi-productive, but essentially unremarkable big league career, playing for half a dozen other teams. Only his immediate family, close friends, former teammates and Met geeks like me remember him as a big leaguer. Staub also played another 10 years, outhitting Vail and staying productive, albeit in a limited role, into his 40s. He is fondly remembered both here and in Montreal for his swagger and his style, and he threw out the first pitch at one of the 2015 home WS games. While Vail and his replacements struggled in 1976 (the last good Mets year for the next eight), Staub hit 299/386/433 for The Tigers that year, with a 4.5 WAR.

So….fast forward to January of 2017. The Mets have another prized young ouftielder named Michael Conforto, who broke into baseball at age 22 (one year younger than Vail) in 2015, wowing everyone with his offensive prowess.   Like Vail, he suffered an injury that essentially ruined his sophomore year, although by all accounts Conforto’s was baseball-related. Also like Vail, Conforto faces an early career crossroads in his third season. No one can determine if he is the next Moises Alou or the next Domonic Brown.

There is no guarantee that Conforto bounces back. Absent those assurances, doesn’t it make sense that the Mets hold on to Bruce, at least through Spring Training? Bruce will turn 30 right around Opening Day (Staub was 31 when the Mets traded him).  Could Bruce put together a season reminiscent of Staub’s 1976 campaign? Of course he could. He’s done it before. Think about the impact those types of numbers could have on the Mets attack and on the NL East. A right-left-right-left batting order of  Yoenis Cespedes, Bruce, Neil Walker and Lucas Duda could approach 90 homers and wear out a lot of pitching staffs.

Maybe Conforto is really that good. I hope so. Maybe Mets GM Sandy Alderson can get a good return for Bruce in the next few weeks, something that will shore up the bullpen or add some speed to the lineup. But if all he can fetch in return are some low-A ball flamethrowers and partial salary relief, isn’t he better off holding on to Bruce and setting up a loser leaves town competition in right field this spring between Bruce and Conforto? I don’t fully buy the idea that the Mets haven’t added any relief help because they’re pinching pennies. As of today, there are a glut of relievers still out on the market, meaning a passel of teams are suddenly cash-strapped or the majority of them have determined that the harvest has yet to ripen and the time for handing out contracts for all but the most elite of relievers hasn’t occurred yet.

Why make a bad deal, be it signing a pitcher like Mike Dunn to a incredible contract or trading Bruce and his power for scrubs? Answers to this question can be posted below.

 

 

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