August 7, 2020

Monday Mets: Mailbag #1

From time to time I receive questions on on my Facebook and Twitter pages. This week, I’ve decided to address some of the Mets-related ones…

1. Can you explain why Jose Reyes is still on this team? 
Honestly, I can’t. Maybe it’s because he has been able to avoid injury, like the how a virgin in a horror movie avoids the killer/slasher/monster/demon/sharknado. Or maybe they think he’s a good influence on Amed Rosario (although we’re yet to really see that pan out). It’s probably because he’s inexpensive and can play multiple positions, and there’s nobody realistically available at the moment who would be that much better that would be worth the price. All season long I was hoping that the reason Reyes was still one the team was just in case David Wright makes it back and they would get to play together again. Now, I find myself hoping that this is the reason, as I guess it would be one of the few enjoyable moments this season.

2. What do you think of the Asdrubal Cabrera trade?
It’s hard to evaluate a trade that involves a minor leaguer. The pitcher they got in return, Franklyn Kilome, had been highly regarded for some time, but lingering command issues continue to plague him and that’s no small thing. I’m not sure what else the Mets could have gotten for Cabrera, especially in a deal in which they don’t have to cover his remaining salary. On the one hand, Cabrera led the Mets in all three triple crown categories (batting average, HRs, RBIs). On the other hand, that’s like saying he’s the best sandwich artist at Subway, given this team’s season-long offensive struggles. That’s no knock on Asdrubal, by the way. He gave more to this team in his 2+ years in a Mets uniform than I ever expected. I didn’t fully understand why they originally signed him and was pretty skeptical about the whole thing. He provided enough moments and heart to make me think otherwise.  Side note – the Phillies now have an Odubel and an Asdrubal; this seems like the kind of thing with which David Letterman would have a field day.

3. What are you expecting from this year’s trade deadline?
Last year the Mets had a few tradable pieces and they got rid of pretty much all of them (and even got one of them back in the offseason). By the time they were done unloading Lucas Duda, Addison Reed, Jay Bruce, Neil Walker, and Curtis Granderson, they had a fresh corps of young relievers to show for it. So far, that hasn’t really turned out so well. The thought process seems to be that if a team has a free agent to-be and is not contending then they must trade him. I understand why that’s the belief and I’m not so sure I agree. Four of the pitchers that the Mets picked up for the guys mentioned above have pitched for the team this year: Drew Smith, Gerson Bautista, Jamie Callahan, and Jacob Rhame. They haven’t contributed much to the Mets bullpen. It is important to keep in mind that it’s only been a small sample size, so it’s a little early to make a meaningful judgment. The point is that the Mets seemed to have made these trades for guys who were almost ready to possibly contribute to the a major league team, in the hopes that they’d catch some lightning in a bottle and at least one of them could be a much-needed important piece of a pennant race. For this year’s deadline, the Mets are really going to need to come up with an approach and stick to it. If they’re going to trade away Wheeler (semi-likely), or deGrom/Syndergaard (seemingly not as likely), or even someone like Devon Mesoraco, what are they trying to accomplish? Are they rebuilding for the not too distant future, or are they trying to turn things around and compete next year? Only after they’ve figured that out and made it clear, will it be worth evaluating what deals they do/don’t make this year. To make a deal just for the sake of making a deal feels empty and unlikely to provide a reward.

4. What should the Mets strategy be for the trade deadline?
Oh, good question, glad you asked. Also, I have no idea. I can tell you this…deGrom has had a Cy Young Award-quality season so far. He obviously deserves to be in that conversation, even if he may or may not end up actually winning the award. He is also slightly over-30 and may only have a few good years of high-quality pitching remaining. At least this high quality. Syndergaard is young and usually awesome, when he pitches. He’s also started just 20 games over the last 2 seasons, and his injuries have ranged from scary to ridiculous, even if none seem to have any long-term effects. In 2016 though, he started 30 games, had a 2.60 ERA, and showed what an almost-full season of Thor could look like. This year, we have seen more of Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler than we have ever seen before, and the results have been intriguing, to say the least. They may not have shown themselves to be “aces” worthy of the “Five Aces” moniker that was once thrust upon them (along with deGrom, Syndergaard, and now former Mets pitcher, Matt Harvey), but they have shown enough that a full season of starts from these two would give the Mets one of the best rotations in the league. So it’s hard to fathom rebuilding when at the core the Mets already have an inspiring starting rotation. The rest of the team, however, is a mess. Well that’s not totally fair – Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo have generally been reliable and even superb, at times. Now, the rest of the team, however, is a mess. It’s possible that some of these players just had down years and will regress to their respective means next year. Conforto is better than this, Rosario is probably better than this, Brandon Nimmo is probably exactly what we’ve seen, we never really saw Jay Bruce, who knows when we’ll see Yoenis Cespedes again. The Mets had only two extra-base hits in the final two games of their weekend series against the Pirates, and both of those hits came off the bat of the respective game’s starting pitcher (deGrom and Wheeler). Look, I don’t set the Mets budget, so it’s silly for me to tell them how to spend their money. At the same time, as someone who follows them closely, I hope that instead of tearing the whole thing down and rebuilding, they give a thorough look at what’s out there, at what’s available through free agency and maybe a creative trade of some kind, and build on what’s already there. I realize that’s a fairly obvious statement, and honestly, at this moment, I don’t know who those free agents, or available players might be. My suggestion is to start with batters who put the ball in play more often, maybe some guys who have shown an ability to, you know, get on base, and then one or two who could drive them in. I do believe that Rosario, Conforto, even Bruce, will be better players next year, and some smart additions can really turn things around quickly. “Smart additions”, however, does not mean spending very little on a guy who was once good but probably isn’t anymore. I had hopes for Adrian Gonzalez, I’ve enjoyed Jose Bautista somewhat, and yet, they’re not the solution to the problem.

Thank you for these questions, as well as the ones I didn’t answer yet. Please find me on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/shai.kushner) and Twitter (@ShaiKushner), and keep ’em coming.