In this week’s version of the mailbag, the questions that mostly arose were the Mets decisions surrounding the right side of the infield. Generally speaking, the questions focused on what the Mets are doing against what the Mets should be doing with some of the more controversial players on this roster:
@bigmetsfan1 asks . . .
Had the Mets turned down the option on Asdrubal Cabrera, how much would he have received on this open market?
John replies . . .
Given Neil Walker just signed a one-year deal for $5 million to play second base for the Yankees, the odd way this entire MLB offseason has transpired, and the Mets getting maligned for their decision to pick up Cabrera’s option, this is a very interesting question.
Before going more in depth, one thing does need to be clarified with Cabrera. If the Mets decided not to pick up his option, the team owed him a $2 million buy-out. Essentially, this means the team only had to give him an additional $6.5 million to play next season. Arguably, the team was going to have to spend at least that much to find someone to play second or third base for them in 2018. Therefore, whether it was Cabrera or someone else, the position was going to cost the Mets somewhere between $7 – $10 million.
Going back to your original question, there is no clear-cut answer. Howie Kendrick, a much more versatile player who was willing to be a utility player, received a two-year, $7 million deal to play for the Nationals. As noted above, Walker just received $5 million to play second for the Yankees. If Cabrera was truly a free agent, it’s possible he would have had to settle for a one-year deal worth anywhere from $3 – $5 million.
If he insisted on a starting job, it’s possible Cabrera is still a free agent. It’s always difficult to ascertain why a team values one player and not another. Ultimately, the conclusion here is the Mets did overpay Cabrera, but it may not be as much of an overpay as many believe it to be.
Jan Allen asks . . .
Rafael Montero. Out of options, out of gas, out of time…
Why is he still on the team in any capacity?
Deadwood sinks all ships.
John replies . . .
Like all Mets fans, I’m as frustrated as you are. Time and time again, the team has parted with talented pitchers while holding onto Montero. At this point, there are only two possible conclusions why Montero is still a Met: (1) he has proof implicating the Wilpons were not the victims of the Madoff disaster they purported to be; or (2) the team really does believe in his talent.
Believe it or not, there is some evidence present to support the latter claim. Despite his terrible 5.52 ERA and 1.748 WHIP last year, his FIP was a more respectable 4.37. With an atrocious defense behind him, he surrendered an almost impossibly high .376 BABIP. And believe it or not, he was not hit hard.
According to Sports Info Solutions, Montero was among the 20 best pitchers in baseball last year when it came to surrendering the lowest rate of hard-hit balls.
Ultimately, the question is whether these stats are a complete fluke or if they actually mean something. Unlike past years, the Mets actually have something tangible in these stats to fuel their decision to have Montero make the Opening Day Roster for the second straight season and for three out of the past four years.
Obviously, the Mets have doubled-down on this pitching staff with Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland. With the Mets having had so much invested in Montero, and with the team having a great coaching staff for pitchers, we might as well give Montero one last, last chance.
Puddy asks . . .
John replies . . .
Judging from what we have seen this Spring, this isn’t a question of if. Rather, between their respective injuries, it does seem Gonzalez is done and Smith is not going to be ready to start the season in Flushing.
Regardless of what we might believe, recent reports indicate it’s a fait accompli the Mets are going to go with Gonzalez as their Opening Day first baseman. However, that doesn’t really answer your question.
What the Mets probably should do is have Jay Bruce begin the season at first base. This could help him because he has been dealing with plantar fasciitis this Spring. It could also help the Mets get a better read on Brandon Nimmo and Juan Lagares.
Based on Spring Training, Nimmo has won the center field job. However, Spring Training results are only one part of the equation. While Nimmo has shown himself to be much improved, he is nowhere near the same planet as Lagares defensively. In the end, it may behoove the Mets to platoon the two in center, or the Mets could let one of them beat out the other during the regular season.
That’s if that center field job is really up for grabs. The initial plan seemed to be for Michael Conforto to be the center fielder once he returned from the DL. Based on recent reports, that seems like it will happen much sooner than anyone possibly believed, making this all the more likely.
Realistically speaking, from an offensive and defensive standpoint, you’d be hard-pressed to argue the Mets would be better with Conforto in center, Bruce in right, and Gonzalez at first than Nimmo/Lagares in center, Conforto in right, and Bruce at first.
While you would be hard-pressed to make that argument, it seems like this is the plan the Mets are pursuing to begin the 2018 season. Considering there is much riding on this decision, the Mets better not be wrong.
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Hopefully, you enjoyed this mailbag as much as I enjoyed answering your questions. Keep the questions and comments coming and make sure to send them to AskMMO@metsmerizedonline.com