The Mets: Here we go again

Baseball News
6 months ago

This kind of article has been written about the Mets so many times since the Wilpons took over, but here’s one more.

If one wanted to write about all the laughable, foolish, downright stupid things that the Mets have done during their existence, it would take a lot more than an article. It could be a book, and that would be just to cover the Wilpons’ reign of terror.

The Mets are currently 20-25, and their recent six-game road trip has been a nightmare. They won their first game in Washington, but then followed that up with five straight losses. Losing two out of three against the Nationals is not a big deal, especially since there is a fair argument to be made that the Nats are the more talented team despite their current record. The most recent three-game series in Miami, however, was a disaster.

Reigning Cy Young award-winner deGrom got knocked around by the Marlins on Friday night to the tune of seven runs in five innings. At least the Mets’ offense put up a valiant effort that night by scoring six runs. This past weekend, however, is one the team would love to forget.

The Mets got completely shut out this weekend. By the Marlins. They managed just three freakin’ hits all weekend, and just seven total baserunners. Against the Marlins. THE MARLINS. I am not sure that I have ever heard of Pablo López, the Marlins’ starting pitcher on Saturday night, nor am I too familiar with Sandy Alcántara, the guy who pitched a complete game shutout on Sunday. This Marlins team is one that would not surprise me if they won fewer than 50 games this season, and the Mets completely humiliated themselves in front of them.

The Mets’ offense so far this season has actually been okay, falling in the middle of the pack when adjusting for league and park effects. Michael Conforto, Pete Alonso, and Jeff McNeil have been raking, and even Dominic Smith has been hitting very well in the little action he has seen. J.D. Davis has a 125 wRC+, but there is a big drop off after that. In fact, the next best hitter is Zack Wheeler! A lot of that is that one big game he had a few weeks ago, but that is still kind of jarring.

It’s funny — or maybe it’s just funny because it’s the Mets and I need to keep myself sane — but the pitchers’ hitting has been more impactful than their actual pitching. The rotation’s 4.98 RA9 ranks in the bottom third of the league, while their hitting is the best in baseball! Because pitchers can’t hit at all, when they do hit some it can be pretty significant. Their pitchers’ offense has been worth nearly a full win, per FanGraphs.

But wait! There’s more!

In one of the more Mets things that have happened this year, it was just announced that Yoenis Céspedes broke his right ankle in an accident on his ranch. He was already going to miss the first half of the season due to recovery from a surgery to remove calcification from his heels. I don’t know what the prognosis is, but I think it is safe to say that he will not be back this season. I would not be surprised to see him miss time next season, too.

When Céspedes does return, though, who knows what we are going to get. Since signing his four-year, $110 million deal before he 2017 season, he has played in only 119 games, the most recent of which was July of last year, and even then that was his first game in over two months. It is entirely possible that when he returns next year, it will have been at least two years since he has had regular playing time.

To the credit of Céspedes, he was very good when he did play on his current contract, hitting .282/.343/.525 in 478 PA over the 2017 and 2018 seasons. But what do we expect when he comes back? As I mentioned, it will be nearly two years or more since he played, and he will be coming off a major ankle injury. Who knows how it will affect him in the field. If the NL does get a DH next year, that would definitely be best for him, but keep in mind that his right ankle is his push-off foot.

Amidst all that is going wrong for the Mets right now, there have been calls for manager Mickey Callaway’s head, and honestly, I don’t get it. I usually stay away from evaluating managers because there is just so much we do not know about what they do behind the scenes and how that impacts the team. It is even more confounding when it comes to the Mets, because of how much the meddling Wilpons like to micromanage everything. It is completely fair to criticize Callaway for wanting to limit Edwin Díaz to save situations, but can we be sure that was completely his call? His former team was the Cleveland Indians, and they did not operate that way. That kind of decision making rises to the level of stupidity that we have come to expect form the Wilpons.

As Joe Sheehan mentioned in a recent newsletter, Callaway has done a pretty good job developing the team’s young players, and certainly a much better job than Terry Collins did. That is one thing I feel I can safely credit Callaway with that the Wilpons did not interfere in, and it’s a big one.

You’re going to want to sit down for this hot take that I am about to drop: the problem is the front office. This disgracefully cheap organization has always shied away from paying top-tier free agents in favor of paying less money to mid-tier free agent. I am all for players getting paid, but history has shown that paying those mid-tier free agents tends to result in little to no production. Robinson Canó is having the worst season of his career. Jed Lowrie has yet to play. Todd Frazier has barely played this year and has not hit. Jason Vargas is just flat-out terrible.

Wilson Ramos has been incredibly disappointing. To be fair, I thought that was a good signing at two years and $19 million, but why not go after Yasmani Grandal, who was a better choice? He only cost the Brewers $18.2 million, and he is hitting .265/.358/.463 and has been worth 1.3 WAR, per FanGraphs, which now includes catcher framing. Ramos, on the other hand, has been worth half a win below replacement level. If Grandal just did not want to play for the Mets, they should have made him an offer of $30 million. Not enough? Dare him to say no to $40 million. Who cares? There is nothing wrong with overpaying for real production.

Speaking of money, this team could really use Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel. They also could have used Manny Machado. I guarantee you that the Mets could have paid all three of those players whatever they wanted, and it would not have affected the Wilpons’ quality of life one iota. With respect to Keuchel and Kimbrel, I understand they would need time to prepare for the season and would not be available for a few weeks after signing, but the NL East is too competitive to not grab on to every advantage you can get.

Playing Vargas and Wilmer Font when Keuchel is out there is just disgraceful. Vargas is no longer a major league quality pitcher, and Font never was. He has pitched in just 71 13 innings since 2012, and he has a career 6.81 RA9. He does not even have a strong track record in the minors, yet the Mets traded for him. They gave up a prospect to acquire Wilmer Font. Neraldo Catalina is not exactly a Guy, but I would rather have hung on to him to see what the Mets’ excellent player development could do instead of using him to acquire a worse pitcher than Vargas.

In fact, if you take a look at the Mets’ trades since Brodie Van Wagenen took over, there is a trend. He has been eager to trade away prospects whom he did not draft and barely knows in order to acquire major league players whom he believes will improve the team. Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn, the players included in the Canó/Díaz trade, are the best examples of this, because they were two of the team’s better prospects. So far, Canó, Díaz, Davis, Font, and Keon Broxton have combined for -0.7 WAR at Baseball Reference.

Again, it is hard to say how much of this is Van Wagenen and how much of it is the Wilpons, but when it comes to not spending money, it is hard not to point the fingers at ownership given their track record. The Mets are great at player development, and they deserve a lot of credit for that, but a contending team needs to spend money and spend it wisely in order to supplement it. The Wilpons don’t appear to ever want to spend money, and at the rate they are trading away prospects, they are minimizing the team’s strengths in player development. Nothing is ever going to change as long as they continue to be in charge.

. . .

Luis Torres is a Featured Writer at Beyond the Box Score. He is a medicinal chemist by day, baseball analyst by night. You can follow him on Twitter at @Chemtorres21.

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