Lowered Expectations: Mets Should Acquire Todd Fraizer

ICYMI, the former Mets GM and hopefully former playboy Steve Phillips surfaced yesterday and suggested the Mets acquire Evan Longoria from Tampa Bay. As we used to say back in the day Stevie, right church, wrong pew. The Mets should definitely acquire a new third baseman, but not one of Longoria’s age (30), injury history and contract status (still owed $110M for the next 7 years).

Also speaking yesterday was White Sox GM Rick Hahn, using the “R” word to describe his team’s status. Just about anyone is available for the right price, including a certain Long Island native who plays third, hits for power and isn’t tied to a long-term commitment.

The Mets should trade Neil Walker, $2.5 million and a minor league pitchers Gabriel Ynoa and Chris Flexen to the ChiSox for Todd Frazier.

Don’t get me wrong, Frazier is no Yoenis Cespedes. He won’t hit for a high average (217/304/486 slash line). He is slow footed. While he has played elsewhere in the field, he is best suited to third base; meaning that other players on the Met roster need to shift to make room for him. Here is what he does do: he hits homeruns. 28 so far this year for the Sox, a year after hitting 35 for the Reds. He is probably the best the Mets can get in their increasingly difficult task of defending their NL crown—at least without sacrificing one of their young starters or a really good prospect. He offers true protection for Cespedes and if Lucas Duda comes back anytime soon, the Mets may have enough power to compensate for an otherwise putrid offense, giving the remnants of starting pitching staff a break from having to be nearly perfect on each outing.

I get the irony of trading for a player who is the 2016 Met offense in a nutshell, but what’s a boy to do? They can’t overhaul the team on the fly and it is way too early, in my estimation at least, to pull the plug on some of the younger regulars who have been struggling this year. Imagine the hue and cry should the Wilmers, the d’Arnauds or the Confortos of the world reach their potential elsewhere.

Frazier is signed through this year at $8.2M. He is arbitration-eligible this offseason and then a Free Agent after 2017. Walker is making $10m and is gone after this year. The White Sox didn’t exactly surrender any jewels from their farm system to get Frazier last year, so they actually take a step forward with Flexen and Ynoa. The Mets can move the Wilmer Flores/Jose Reyes third base platoon to second base. Frazier also serves as a semi-stopgap in 2017 if Cespedes bolts or if David Wright still isn’t ready (or retires).

It’s a relatively safe move and the offer might be better than anything else Hahn might get for Frazier. I’d make this move, would you?


Recent history suggests this week is crucial for Mets

2010-2012 Mets


Do you remember the 2010 Mets?

Through 90 games, the offense offered a lot to like: Jose Reyes leading off, David Wright having regained his power stroke, hotshot rookie Ike Davis impressing at the plate and in the field, and Angel Pagan seemingly coming into his own at age 28. On the mound, Johan Santana was still more or less Johan Santana, a new splitter had suddenly made Mike Pelfrey great again, 23-year-old lefty Jon Niese was more than holding his own, and R.A. Dickey was a revelation. Francisco Rodriguez was closing out wins, Pedro Feliciano was retiring a lefty or two every single day, and Hisanori Takahashi was the best swing man in the league.

The team’s record: 48-42.

Over the next 10 games, they went 3-7, effectively ending their playoff hopes, and beginning a spiral down below .500.

Carlos Beltran came off the DL but couldn’t play defense, Pagan shifted over to RF, hurting the team defensively at two positions, and neither guy hit down the stretch. Santana tired, K-Rod punched his father-in-law, Reyes pulled an oblique, and it was a sad September in Queens.

Do you remember the 2011 Mets?

Through 90 games, they were clutching out, keeping postseason hopes alive despite an underwhelming roster. With Santana and Ike Davis injured and Wright playing poorly through pain, the Mets nevertheless managed to string their hits together, taking quality AB after quality AB in big spots. They scored runs despite mediocre batting stats, and many were praising Dave Hudgens as a genius. With Jose Reyes putting up an MVP-type year, Lucas Duda getting a full-time job after crushing AAA Buffalo with a 1.011 OPS, and three apparent breakouts in progress (Bobby Parnell, Ruben Tejada, Daniel Murphy), the Mets had hope that if their starting pitching could just perform to their abilities, they’d have a chance.

The team’s record: 46-44.

Over the next 10 games, they went 4-6, effectively ending their playoff hopes, and beginning a spiral down below .500.

A 4-6 stretch is hardly ever the end of the world, but 50-50 is too mediocre a record too late in the season to come back from. Especially when none of the starters turn it around, Wright doesn’t heal, Parnell regresses, Murphy gets hurt, and Duda can’t play RF.

Do you remember the 2012 Mets?

Through 90 games, Wright was raking, Scott Hairston was raking, Dickey was throwing one-hitters, Ike Davis was on his way back after finding himself in the minors, and a finally-healthy Murphy was still teasing us with .300 promise. The futures of Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Ruben Tejada still looked promising, and there was Matt Harvey to look forward to. Optimism abounded for how the second half would be better than the first.

The team’s record: 46-44.

Over the next 10 games, they went 2-8, effectively ending their playoff hopes, and beginning a spiral down below .500.

Wright couldn’t keep it up. Tejada and Murphy and Captain Kirk didn’t live up to the big expectations. Dickey willed himself to 20 wins, and Ike and Harvey put up numbers, but it wasn’t nearly enough.

Are you worried about the 2016 Mets?

Through 90 games, there have been ups and downs. There have been great performances and disappointments. There is a lot of hope for a playoff run, but much of it rests on things improving — hurt players getting healthy, slumping players turning it around, hyped players living up to the hype. I’m finding it uncomfortably familiar.

The team’s record: 48-42.

Over the next 10 games, what will they do (so far they’re 2-2)? The answer may well decide their season. This upcoming series against the Marlins is big.

What will give the 2016 Mets the best chance to finish strong? If history is any guide, juggling outfielders and betting on improved health is not it.


The Qualifying Offer Revisited

Daniel Murphy is slashing 348/387/598 for the Washington Nationals so far this season. He is leading the NL in batting average and if current trends continue, will be one of the front-runners for the league MVP. It isn’t a stretch to state that the Nats owe a large part of their current situation (first place in the NL East by six games) to his presence.

Meanwhile, his former team is languishing in a second place tie and looking at a difficult road back to the post-season. Injuries to a pair of their corner infielders are part of the reason for this. Both are positions Murphy can competently play. He wouldn’t win a Gold Glove at either and he is good for a major lapse or two, but with that slash line, no one could really complain.

It says here that if Murphy was still a Met that they and the Nats would be in each other’s current position as the baseball’s second half begins. I’ll wager that you can probably find a lot of off the record comments from Met officials and players expressing regret that Daniel got away. But I wonder how Murphy must feel about his current financial situation (and his agent).

In case you’ve forgotten, Murphy wrapped up a long and checkered Mets career with a stunning performance in the NLDS and NLCS. He became a free agent after the World Series. The Mets, eyeing younger options at second and believing they had permanent solutions at first and third, made a decision to move on from Daniel. They did however make him a Qualifying Offer, which is a one-year $16M contract. What the Mets really wanted was the draft pick. Murphy declined and signed a $37M deal with Washington on Christmas Eve.

In retrospect Murphy should have taken the Mets offer. His Washington salary for this year is half of what the QO was. He is due $12M next year and $18M in 2018. A little fun with math: Murphy’s deal cost him $8M this year. Coming off an MVP season this winter, wouldn’t he be in line for another $50m or so and an extra year? In other words, he has potentially cheated himself out of $20 to $28 million more in salary by taking Washington’s offer instead of New York’s.

So, there’s a new Murphy’s Law: don’t automatically reject the Qualifying Offer. Murphy was a good Met player coming off a stupendous post-season run. He followed conventional wisdom and rejected the offer. As a result he had to “settle” for a $37M offer from Washington. He could have doubled his 2015 salary for one year this year, while increasing his value exponentially for the next contract. He should fire his agent. The Nats as good as they are, are largely unknowns in their market behind Golden Boy Bryce. Murph would have had his face and his name everywhere here if he’d stayed. His loss and ours.

Oh and that draft pick the Mets got? It’s a pitcher with a sore arm.


Raise the White Flag

Another year, another failed defense of the pennant for the Mets. That’s five if you’re counting.

In case you missed it yesterday, the Washington Murphies put a 3-2 beating on another sore-armed Mets phenom, padding their NL East lead over the Mets and the upstart Miami Marlins to six games. All of the air has gone out of the Mets’ balloon: they’re injured and tired-looking, a far cry from the team that stormed it’s way into the World Series just a few months ago. The sole bright spot in yesterday’s debacle was two-homer effort by the returning and apparently repentant Jose Reyes.

Wait…Reyes wasn’t the only bright spot, there were three others yesterday for the Mets, but they occurred 2,700 miles away in San Diego. Three Mets prospects appeared in The Futures Game, a clever name for what is essentially a minor league all star game. More on that in a second.

The next three weeks are like the Christmas shopping season for baseball websites and blogs, as trades and rumors of trades will drive clicks through the roof. Expect a passel of rumors about the Mets, with the pot already being stirred about the previously unlikely possibility that they should add a starting pitcher. I have the distinct impression that many Mets fans will be very disappointed at 4PM three weeks from today (this year’s trade deadline was pushed back a day for some reason) and the Mets are fielding nearly the same roster. 2015’s torrid trade deadline may have spoiled some of you, but I highly doubt the Mets add anyone. In fact, if they’re smart they might make a few subtractions.

I know that I predicted otherwise here, but at this point a divisional crown, while still possible, looks very improbable. The Mets are in actuality playing for the chance to travel across the country to face Clayton Kershaw in a one-game playoff. I wouldn’t like their chances in a game like that. I suggest that instead of mortgaging their future for a long shot at the brass ring this year that they focus on playing for the next few years and that period of sustainable success they’ve long been touting.

Part of that sustainable success was on display yesterday in San Diego. Amed Rosario and Dilson Herrera have got to figure prominently in the Mets future plans. Ironically, both are throw backs to an earlier age, the slick-fielding, surprisingly quick, contact hitters from the Luis Aparicio/Davey Conception mold. It’s funny how everything old is new again. Back 25-30 years ago, good teams were strong defensively up the middle, with power at the corners. During baseball’s power surge, this concept was lost in pursuit of putting a home run hitter at every position. It now looks to be coming back. If that’s true, the Mets are on the cutting edge of this old/new paradigm, with Rosario at short, Herrera at second and Juan Lagares in center.

First baseman Dominic Smith was also in the Futures Game. Smith strikes me somewhat as the Lagares of infielders, a great glove but a sketchy bat. Still, that kind of defense could be valuable coming off the bench in late and close situations; giving the Mets the flexibility to add a pure power hitter at first with Smith’s glove in there at the end. It’s a real waste of a high draft pick if that is Smith’s ceiling, but just ask 1986 Red Sox how valuable a defensive replacement at first base can be. Plus, Smith’s recent power surge bears watching to see if this is merely a blip on the radar or if he has really figured something out.

Those three players, along with Brandon Nimmo, are probably the Mets best non-pitcher trading chips at this point. IMO, trading any of them is a mistake. Small sample size, but I really like the energy Nimmo brings to the team. It still comes down to starting pitching, which in theory should give the Mets a long window of opportunity. At this point, there is no reason to believe that Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler won’t be ready for Spring Training (that could change of course) . Trading any of them after the collective down year they have experienced would be an all-time sell-low mistake. Mets GM Sandy Alderson can be exasperating at time, but I would be shocked if he moved any of them in the next three weeks.

While I am dead set against any trades of starters, I would dangle Jerry Blevins in front of teams like Cleveland or Texas, trying to pull a top five prospect from either one. Otherwise, I’d hold on to Blevins and try to resign him. Addison Reed’s big season could also be converted into a top prospect in those or other pennant-starved cities. In both cases, however these players still have some utility to the Mets, who could be relying heavily on their contributions next year.

Yes, losing the division back to Washington sucks. I don’t know whether to hate or applaud Murphy at this point. I take solace in the adage about making a deal too early rather than too late. He might win the MVP this year and then hit .260 for the next two. Hopefully by then Herrera’s star is in ascendency and he and Rosario are a nightly highlight reel. We need to look no further than Stephen Strasburg or Jose Fernandez to see that it is possible for a pitcher to overcome serious injury. The Mets have holes that will need filling, but I hope and pray they don’t reach for that quick fix this year at the expense of what still figures to be one of the better periods in team history.

Enjoy the All Star break folks.


Is this 2016 or 2012?

Dickey Syndergaard

Do you remember the 2012 Mets? If you’ve chosen to forget, that’s understandable. Outside of a certain knuckleballer, it was a dark time for the organization, just part of a years-long spiral deeper and deeper into laughingstock status. The 97-win run of 2006 was followed by two straight choke jobs, a plague of injuries, a regime change, and a wishy-washy rebuild through a pretender 2011. In 2012, a slightly improved roster got off to a very respectable start, spending their first 93 games over .500 and giving fans hope that if they could overcome an awful bullpen, they might make a wild card run. Most fans wanted the Mets to either acquire relief help and make a run, or commit fully to 2014 and beyond by cashing in on Scott Hairston, Bobby Parnell and others at the trade deadline. Mets GM Sandy Alderson did neither, and stood pat. Before long, Mets news was once again the news of disgust and dithering and Ponzi schemes and LOLs.

Fast forward to the beginning of 2016, and the word was that everything had changed in the Mets’ universe. After a wheel-spinning 2013 and a promising 2014, 2015 brought us Yoenis Cespedes, a healthy Matt Harvey, a rebounding Curtis Granderson, an improved Jacob deGrom and Jeurys Familia, an emerging Noah Syndergaard and Michael Conforto, and a run to the World Series. With Lucas Duda, Travis d’Arnaud, and Juan Lagares already on board, and with Steven Matz and Asdrubal Cabrera expected to provide further improvements, the 2016 Mets looked miles away from their 2012 counterparts.

Do they still look that way today?

Similar Records

Both the 2012 and 2016 teams started off 8-7.
Both teams then put together some win streaks to get to 31-23.
Both teams then played under .500, achieving records of 39-33 and 40-36.

The 2012 Mets then won 6 of 9 to get to 46-39 before utterly collapsing with a 28-49 finish to a 74-88 season.

Are the 2016 Mets at risk of a similar fate? Unfortunately, I see a disturbing number of parallels in the player roster.

Similar Performances

Let’s look back at who did what in the first half of 2012, who’s doing the same so far in 2016, and how it panned out in each case in 2012.

David Wright: The 2012 team’s best player put up an MVP-level first half.
2016 version: Yoenis Cespedes
In the end: Wright regressed to his career norms in the second half. After the season, the fan favorite signed a huge contract for his 30s, which would currently be crippling the team if not for insurance provisions.

R.A. Dickey: Took a jump from good to great, establishing himself as a Cy Young contender.
2016 version: Noah Syndergaard
In the end: Dickey didn’t quite keep it up in the second half, but was still excellent and took home the award (from a much easier field than the 2016 NL).

Johan Santana: Former dominator showed brief flashes of his former self.
2016 version: Matt Harvey
In the end: Fell apart amid much speculation (ankle? workload?). Turned up a serious injury in the second half.

Ike Davis: First-round slugger who scouts saw as a middle of the order bat. After a great rookie year, things went downhill. Was it the foot injury that derailed his career, or was it the Valley Fever, or was it a high-maintenance swing? After a brutal first half, was sent to the minors.
2016 version: Michael Conforto and his sprained wrist cartilage
In the end: Ike ran into some homeruns in the second half of 2012 but was otherwise done as a productive player.

Andres Torres: Great attitude and effort but not enough talent to warrant the everyday job he was handed. His previous great season wound up looking like a fluke.
2016 version: Curtis Granderson
In the end: Torres was consistent, playing the same mediocre baseball in both halves of 2012.

Jordany Valdespin: An enticing talent with good pop but OBP issues and no true position, Valdespin elicited both hope and caution. Evaluators spoke of his chance to be something more than a utility guy, but he was basically used as a utility guy.
2016 version: Wilmer Flores
In the end: Valdespin had a nice power spike in July, but never really made permanent gains. He’s since established himself as a classic AAAA player, getting chances when someone on an MLB roster gets hurt.

Jason Bay: Once counted on to be a middle of the order force, but couldn’t stay healthy. His high-maintenance swing made him ill-suited to playing in fits and starts.
2016 version: Travis d’Arnaud
In the end: Bay got healthier in the second half, but the injuries and missed time had taken their toll, and he was terrible.

Josh Thole: A bat-first catcher who showed great contact skills in the minors. Power and defense were question marks, but everyone expected him to spray line drives. His first half wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad enough to completely dispel all hope.
2016 version: Kevin Plawecki
In the end: His one contribution, batting average, eventually declined, leaving Thole as a minor leaguer (well, if not for R.A. Dickey).

Daniel Murphy: A capable hitter holding down a demanding defensive position, Murphy was cause for much debate. Was he a major asset, or were his deficiencies hurting the team as much as his bat was helping it?
2016 version: Asdrubal Cabrera and his limited range
In the end: Murphy spent 2012-2015 as basically the same guy throughout, averaging 1.7 WAR. Not the team’s biggest problem, but not a significant asset either.

Lucas Duda: Lucas Duda.
2016 version: Lucas Duda
In the end: Lucas Duda.

Scott Hairston: Veteran having a career year on the homerun front.
2016 version: Neil Walker
In the end: Kept it up! Nothing after 2012, though.

Chris Young: Crafty veteran confusing hitters with unusual fastballs.
2016 version: Bartolo Colon
In the end: Young eventually got hurt, which has been the norm for him. What Mets fans forget is that, before joining the Mets, Colon was ranked #1 on a list of pitchers most likely to suffer injury, based on his age and past injury history.

Dillon Gee: Second-year pitcher with great peripherals but a few too many blow-ups. Looked like a fixture before shoulder discomfort turned into an aneurysm.
2016 version: Steven Matz and his bone chips and elbow pain
In the end: Gee missed the entire second half after surgery for the aneurysm.

There are also some parallels between Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Juan Lagares (great athletes with holes at the plate and trouble staying healthy), Jon Niese and Jacob deGrom (third-year pitchers seeing declines in stuff and strikeouts), Justin Turner and Matt Reynolds (solid base of skills but not great at anything), and Ruben Tejada and Dilson Herrera‘s scouting reports (precocious young guys whose physique and athleticism limits their ceilings).

None of these situations are exactly equivalent — Flores doesn’t have an attitude problem like Valdespin, d’Arnaud isn’t in his 30s like Bay, Niese was never half the pitcher deGrom was in 2015 — but the overall picture I’m seeing looks eerily familiar.

Cause for concern?

Is this similarity between the 2012 and 2016 teams real, or an illusion? Are the Mets still in great shape heading forward, or have a few flops and injuries changed their whole future landscape? Even if we can’t predict the distant future, should we expect a better or worse second half from the current squad?

Please share your thoughts in the comments!


Do the Mets need to try less situational hitting?

On Wednesday afternoon, Asdrubal Cabrera came to bat with Curtis Granderson on first. Batting second, with a dangerous power hitter behind him, Cabrera’s “job” could be interpreted as “try to work a walk or poke a single to bring Yoenis Cespedes up with two men on.” Some Baseball People would consider that the “professional” or “situational” approach. Fortunately for the Mets, Cabrera ignored that wisdom and took a big rip, hitting a two-run homer to turn a deficit into a lead.

Is that what the Mets need?

This team has been an utter abomination in clutch hitting situations. When the #2 homerun hitting team in the National League is also the #13 team in scoring (well behind #12), it’s obvious that something is wrong. A .207 team batting average with RISP (runners in scoring position) is pretty obvious too. What’s less obvious is how we got here. Are Mets hitters nervous? Playing tight? Lacking confidence? Pressing? Is it a spiral where a little bit of bad clutch hitting becomes contagious and spirals out of control?

I have a theory. When Gary, Keith and Ron talk about situational hitting, they talk about hitting to the opposite field, about putting the ball in play, about not swinging for the fences, about advancing runners, and on and on in that vein. Terry Collins and Kevin Long don’t have three hours of air time to fill every night, but they sometimes (occasionally to the media, who knows how often to the players) talk about situational hitting too, and I’m guessing they’re talking about the same things. In doing so, however, they might be getting in the way of what their roster does best. These are Alderson players. They draw a few walks and hit a bunch of homeruns. Attempting situational hitting, which they aren’t good at (see that .207 AVG), just interferes with their strengths.

Here are the Mets’ rates of hitting homeruns, drawing unintentional walks, and striking out, by situation:

SplitHR %UIBB %K %
No RISP4.4 %8.3 %26.0 %
0/1 Out RISP3.4 %5.6 %27.7 %
2 Outs, RISP1.8 %8.8 %32.1 %

So maybe the 2016 Mets would be better served following the model of other Alderson-style offenses: take your walks, swing for the fences, and don’t ever change that.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments!


Granderson for Beltran?

All of this Jose Reyes talk/speculation/click bait has gotten me to thinking: if the Mets are seriously considering bringing back stars from the Omar Minaya era, why don’t they inquire about Carlos Beltran?

If any player symbolized the failed Minaya era better than Beltran, it isn’t apparent to me. He slashed 280/369/500 in his seven years here–near elite numbers, even for that steriod-assisted era. He slugged 149 homers and stole 100 bases. He won three Gold Gloves, two Silver Sluggers and was a 5-time All Star. Despite this impressive resume, he never quite got the big prize and his Met career will always have an asterisk next to it because of The At Bat. However in typing those stats, I realized that he never really quite got the appreciation he probably deserved around here.

I get it that Met-Yankee trades are about as rare as late April snow in Pennsylvania, but I propose that the Mets trade Curtis Granderson to the Yanks for Beltran. Before you scoff and click somewhere else, bear this in mind: the Mets will not trade any of their young pitchers for a bat, unless said bat is a near lock to be an offensive mainstay for the next several seasons. Instead, they will look to rinse and repeat deals like this, rent-a-bats that they hope they could catch lightening in a bottle with the way they did last year with Yoenis Cespedes.

The Beltran and Granderson 2016 contracts are essentially a wash, but the Mets would have to come up with some creative way of assisting the Yanks with Curtis’ 2017 salary. Grandy returns to the stadium where he twice hit 40+ homers, while Beltran becomes the Mets 4th outfielder, a sort of roving left fielder/right fielder.

This move gets Juan Lagares back into center field and frees up right for Beltran, Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo or any other hot bat, either here or in Vegas. Maybe the Mets also add Reyes as well, giving them a bench that on paper at least has speed and power, two commodities they will need if they plan to reel in the Nationals.

So what do you think? Bring back Jose? Get Beltran? Got another idea? Sound off below.

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