With the Mets 17 games under .500 and seemingly getting worse by the day, the attention is clearly shifted to 2019 and beyond. Naturally, this leads to questions about what exactly the Mets are going to do and the development of their young players. Those issues are tackled in this week’s mailbag.
Mr. Belvedere asks . . .
With $92.5 million locked into Yoenis Cespedes, David Wright, Jay Bruce, Juan Lagares, Todd Frazier, Jason Vargas, and Anthony Swarzak, why would anyone think the Mets can compete in 2019?
John S. replies . . .
It’s really bizarre. We live in a world where we complain about the way the Wilpons financially invest in this team while watching them just set nearly $100 million on fire. Even if we take out the part of David Wright‘s $15 million which will be covered by insurance those numbers are a staggering $81.25 million.
Still, you asked for hope, so here it is.
The one thing Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland have accomplished is getting the most out of this starting pitching staff. In the event none of the pitchers are traded, the Mets rotation is going to include Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, and Steven Matz.
As we saw with the 2015 Mets and even this year’s Phillies team, you line up four starters like this, and you are going to be difficult to beat.
Sure, the bullpen has blown more than their fair share of games. The good news is much of that dead weight is gone or will be gone. Hansel Robles, Chris Beck, AJ Ramos, and Buddy Baumann are already gone. Next year, we will see Jerry Blevins pitch elsewhere.
As an organization, the Mets do have some interesting bullpen arms. For example, Tyler Bashlor has looked quite good in his limited appearances. We know P.J. Conlon can’t start at the Major League level, but he very well could serve as a left-handed pitcher out of the pen. Add them to a mix with Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman, and you have the beginnings of a pretty good pen. If Anthony Swarzak looks like the guy he was in his first few appearances in April instead of the guy he has looked since coming off the disabled list, that bullpen looks even better.
Really, the question for this team is going to be the lineup.
The good news is Brandon Nimmo has shown he can be a lead-off hitter. Michael Conforto will have a full offseason and Spring Training to get back to full strength. Since coming off the Disabled List, Wilmer Flores has hit quite well while playing a pretty good first base. He can be in the mix at first or second base depending on the health of a few players. Also, at this point, we know when he is capable of playing Lagares is a Gold Glover who has no issue serving as a defensive replacement or platoon bat.
With Frazier, we’ve seen plenty of Mets struggle in their first seasons with the team only to rebound in year two. That includes former Yankees like Curtis Granderson. It’s entirely possible he rebounds next season.
After this, you are going to need either Yoenis Cespedes or Jay Bruce to be healthy enough to play every day, or possibly even split time to keep both healthy. With their salaries, it seems like a farce this would be the case, but with their injuries, you have to even question if they can be contributors next year.
No matter how you look at it, it’s apparent the Mets are at least a bat or two short. If you are as intent on contending as the Mets say they are, they have to go out and either sign Manny Machado to play on the left-side of the infield, or they are going to have to sign Bryce Harper, who has been working out at first base to increase his versatility.
In addition to this, the Mets have to get a good look at their young players. We need to know what Dominic Smith is. We need to know what Jeff McNeil is. The fact neither one is playing while Jose Reyes and Ty Kelly are in the lineup is a complete and utter farce. Really, there is no justifying it.
And that right there is where hope dies.
Right now, no one should even pretend a Mets team 17 games under .500 can even pretend to contend. You could argue the Mets being this far out this soon is a blessing because it gives them extra time to get a look at these players. However, it’s not happening, and it probably won’t happen anytime soon.
When a franchise can’t adequately handle it’s roster or read the writing on the wall, it’s hard to have the faith they are going to do the things they need to do in order to make this team a contender in 2019. That is unless Omar Minaya turns the charm back on and convinces ownership to REALLY open the pocketbooks this winter.
Jack S. asks . . .
Since his walking extravaganza, Rosario has walked only once in 21 plate appearances. Is he slipping into bad habits? How do you account for this about-face?
John S. replies . . .
When assessing Amed Rosario, the one thing that is constantly overlooked is this is a 22-year-old kid playing shortstop every day in the biggest sports market in the world. More than that, this is his first full season in the majors.
Just for the sake of comparison, consider when Reyes was that age, he hit .273/.300/.386 with a 3.7 percent walk rate. As we know, the light turned on for Reyes in 2006, and he was a terrific player for the next eight years.
Really, the overriding point is unless your name is Mike Trout, chances are you are going to struggle as a 22-year-old in the majors. You’re also going to see some uneven play.
So yes, you are going to see Rosario go a stretch with six walks in three games and he hit two triples to left field in the same game. You’re also going to see him hit .218/.284/.311 for the Month of June.
One thing the Mets have to really assess this offseason is the composition of the roster and coaching staff to help Rosario make the leap.
Back in 2005-2006, the team had Willie Randolph, Manny Acta, and Sandy Alomar. Carlos Beltran took Reyes under his wing to show him how to be a professional. There were other players like Cliff Floyd and Carlos Delgado, who were veterans who made sure to help young players in their development.
At the moment, you really do have to question if the Mets have the proper support system in place for Rosario.
As a player, we have only seen him regress in the field and at the plate. We saw Rosario irritated as Reyes refused to defer to him when he was called off. While this was a relationship or dynamic which worked in 2016 and 2017, it is not working in 2018.
Ultimately, when looking at Rosario, we all need to just take a step back and remember this is a 22-year-old who is a truly gifted baseball player. If we are having these same discussions in 2019 or 2020, it’s time to start getting worried. For now, let him take his lumps and learn from them.