The strategy is this, according to team insiders: Bide their time and plug it up until Zack Wheeler arrives in town.
“That can be read as a good sign for Wheeler’s readiness”, says Martino. “The phenom needs to iron out minor command issues in Triple-A, and ideally wait out the mid-June Super Two cutoff, so he is less expensive during his prime years.”
He doesn’t get the sense that the Mets are absolutely married to keeping Wheeler from becoming a Super Two if an obvious need arises and he is ready.
Jonathan Mayo on MiLB.com had a great article on Super Two elgibility and spoke to a few GM’s about whether Super Two get in the way of bringing up a prospect who is obviously MLB ready and fills an immediate need for their teams.
He points out that prospects Aaron Hicks was in center field, batting leadoff for the Minnesota Twins on Opening Day. Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. was in the starting lineup against the Yankees. Jose Fernandez was a late addition to the Marlins’ Opening Day roster and the Mariners’ Brandon Maurer broke camp as the club’s No. 4 starter.
But on the flip side of the coin Rays outfielder Wil Myers, Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud and pitching phenoms who many believe are ready; Wheeler and the Pirates’ Gerrit Cole, will all be waiting for the Triple-A season to get underway later tonight.
Were these roster decisions based on Major League readiness and that they don’t currently serve a need on the active roster? Doubtful.
Regarding d’Arnaud, Sandy Alderson recently said, “I know people talk about control and ‘Super Two’ and all of that. If John Buck gets hurt tomorrow, Travis d’Arnaud is the front-line catcher.”
Let’s hope Buck stays healthy for the entire season, but I doubt d’Arnaud would be on a jet to Flushing tonight if the veteran catcher had injured himself and was facing a DL stint. Nevermind what Sandy says, Super Two and retention play a significant part, especially with the Mets and it always will.
In a similar circumstance, Omar Minaya wasted no time when it became clear that Mike Jacobs was finished, and he quickly turned to Ike davis who responded with 19 home runs and 71 RBI in a shortened rookie season. The result of that decision led to Davis’ hefty raise in arbitration this Winter – one year earlier than it could have been.
“Everybody is going to speculate why he is being sent out — and they’re wrong,” Pirates GM Neal Huntington said when Cole was assigned to Minor League camp. “He’s being sent out because in our minds, he’s not ready to compete, to be successful at the Major League level, to be one of those top-of-the-rotation starters, which is our goal for him.”
In that case, Huntington admits that Cole is “not ready” and in the past they had no problems calling up previous top prospects who became Super Two eligible.
Mayo points out that the teams who had top prospects make the Opening Day roster (Bradley, Hicks, Maurer), made those decisions because they believed those players were the best men for the job.
“The guy has earned it,” Twins GM Terry Ryan said last week. “I find it almost humorous that guys are talking service time and starting the clock. The guy has earned it.”
Ryan can be my GM anytime, but this quote from Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik says it all for me:
“We’ve always gone into Spring Training, philosophically, if a guy deserves to be on the club, I don’t see how you can look a player in the eye and tell him he can’t be. We stay true to that.”
“We went in with our eyes wide open and it was hard to deny Maurer. He had such a great spring, it was the right thing to do. We never discussed anything else other than if he deserved to be on the club.”
Retention and Super Two played no role in their decisions. It was based on fielding a competitive team and rewarding the player for a job well done – basically doing the right thing for the organization, the player and ultimately the fans who pay high ticket prices believing they are seeing the best team the front office could put together.
There are two schools of thought on this, as more and more fans are becoming financially-minded which fits in perfectly with what the Wilpons want.
However, I’m always of the mind that you should field the best 25 players you have and play ball. That philosophy has served me well since I fell in love with the game as a kid.
Play your best players and play hard.
It may sound old-fashioned and a bit outdated to most of you, but I’m glad there are still a great deal of current GM’s who share that same sentiment.