I sit here and listen to my fellow peers talk about my Mets’ competing for a playoff berth in 2018, and I honestly can’t say they are wrong. There is still a direct avenue to the postseason for the Mets’, but that doesn’t stop me from being my pessimistic self and looking at the glaring issues the Mets are facing heading into next season. The team has significant holes in their lineup and bullpen and major health question marks heading into 2018.
Let’s start with the issues in their lineup. When the Mets considered 2017 dead in the water, they shed payroll. A lot of it. They traded, Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson, Neil Walker, and Lucas Duda ahead of free agency. The loss of these players, while good for the Wilpon’s pockets, leaves a huge hole to be filled in the Mets’ lineup.
First let’s start with what we know when healthy Yoenis Cespedes is the key cog to this Mets offense. When healthy, in 2017, which was about half the time (played in 81 games) Cespedes performed, he slashed .292/.352/.540 with 17 home runs and a 131 wRC+. If you expand these numbers to a full season, they are roughly equivalent to his 2016 season
Next, Amed Rosario should break camp as the Mets everyday shortstop heading into the 2018 season. But, his 2017 debut had question marks. I can’t say I didn’t read Eno Sarris’ article and not leave very concerned. While Rosario has shown an above-average glove at shortstop and is probably the best defensive shortstop the Mets have had since prime Jose Reyes in the mid-2000’s. But his brief stint in 2017 left many Mets’ fans concerns with his bat going forward.
I want to preface this by saying, I’m not panicking yet. But there is this itching concern that all Mets fans have in the back of my head regarding prospects.This innate fear that all highly-regarded Mets’ prospects will turn into Fernando Martinez or Lastings Milledge. Rosario totaled only 170 plate appearances, so all conclusions that you try to draw should be taken with a grain of salt. He slashed .248/.271/.394, with only a 74 wRC+. He showed a bit more pop than expected, hitting 4 HR, and showed the speed as well with 7 SB. While clocking in the fastest sprint speed of all shortstops at 29.7 (FT/S) One of the glaring issues is Rosario’s inability to take a walk, his BB% of 1.8 is the lowest among any batter with more than 150 PA’s.
The small sample size is one-way glimmer of hope, as well as Rosario’s health issues during 2017. He was hospitalized in both late July and September due to gastroenteritis, so we as viewers are not exactly sure how much these stomach issues affected Rosario’s ability at the plate.
Outside of those two players, the Mets lack any real certainties. The organization does look like they are comfortable heading into 2018 with in-house options at catcher. Travis D’Arnuad while not turning into the offensive power-house that Mets fans wanted, still turned in a serviceable year at the plate. He hit 16 home runs, with a .443 SLG%. His Iso (.198) was the 6th best among NL catchers with 300+ PA. While I’m not advocating that D’arnuad is an elite catching option, but he is good enough that the Mets should look elsewhere to spend the little amount of money that Wilpon’s provide Alderson.
As I began writing this, the Mets decided to pick up Asdrubal Cabrera’s for 6.5$MM in 2018. Cabrera was a bit of a headache in 2017 when asked to move off of short due to his god-awful defensive play ( -13.8 UZR/150 and was a -8 DRS in 386 defensive innings) he requested a trade. Cabrera I would assume will be the Mets’ third base option unless the Front office brings in outside help. His defense did improve when moved to third and he actually had a positive DRS (+1) in 350 innings.
Since joining the Mets, Cabrera’s bat has never been the question. In 2017 he slashed 280/.351/.434 slash line with 13 home runs and a 111 wRC+, while raising his BB% from 6.7% in 2016 to 9.3% in 2017. His career slash with during his tenure with the Mets is .280/.343/.455 which is the highest slash line he has had with a team in his 12-year career.
After these 4 players, the Mets offense get a lot murkier.
A healthy Michael Conforto would give me a lot less anxiety when it comes to this 2018 team. But, they are the Mets and of course, they have injuries. When healthy, Conforto would be without question the Mets every-day right fielder. His junior campaign, prior to his shoulder injury was electric. He slashed 279/.384/.555 while swatting 27 Home Runs and posting a 146 wRC+ (Top 10 in the NL of players with 400+ AB’s). While playing a serviceable RF and showing off a strong arm in the OF.
Unfortunately for Mets fans, Conforto underwent shoulder surgery due to a nasty injury. He suffered a dislocation of his left shoulder and a tear in his posterior shoulder capsule. The recovery from this injury can range anywhere from 4-12 months. The Mets need to head into the 2018 off-season under the assumption that Conforto will not be leading off on opening day.
Realistically the Mets have holes at first, second, right field and center field. They have some in-house options in names like Brandon Nimmo, Dom Smith, Juan Lagares, Wilmer Flores. But those are not names that I can say I would be comfortable with heading into the 2018 season.
The Mets have serious holes to fill and as many Mets, fans know the Wilpon’s can be stingy with their money. A report by Marc Carig stated “With free agency beginning on Monday, the Mets figure to have approximately $30 million to spend on plugging holes in the lineup, the bullpen and possibly the starting rotation.“ which rules out the big bats like Mike Moustakas or JD Martinez.
So who are some more realistic answers for the Mets?
First, on the trade front, I hope Sandy Alderson is ringing up the new Marlins front office in regards to Dee Gordon’s price. The Mets could use the speed at the top of the order and could use Gordon’s hit tool. On top of the speed, Gordon and Rosario would make an electric defensive combination up the middle. Which is something the Mets desperately need after posting a league-worst -73 DRS as a team. I can’t say exactly what the Mets would need to give up, but I would think it would be a valuable piece, and I have heard distant whispers of Steven Matz name.
Another name, entirely dependent on the price is Eduardo Nunez. Nunez has shown the ability to play all over the infield (2B, SS, 3B) and even shown an ability to play in the outfield. He would give the Mets similar things that Dee Gordon would provide, speed and a good bat-to-ball approach. He slashed .313/.341/.460 with a 112 wRC+ with the Red Sox and Giants in 2017. While Nunez looks like a great in theory, depending on his interest in other teams I can see his price tag being pushed outside what the Mets are willing to spend
Zack Cozart would also make sense for the Mets, Cozart was not given a qualifying offer by the Reds and is officially a free agent. He would be a perfect fit for the Mets and can fill the potential infield hole that the Mets have. Cozart put together his best season in 2017, accounting for 5 WAR (prior best was 2.5 in 2016) while slashing .297/.385/.548 with a 141 wRC+. It’s important to realize that Cozart is already 32, so most teams won’t be exploring more than 3-year deals. Cozart could potentially give the Mets a perfect hitter to protect Cespedes in the 4/5 hole or be the plate setter for the team with his high On-base percentage.
A reunion with Jose Reyes’ would make sense from the Mets perspective too. He fills the need of a utility man who has the ability to steal bases. Reyes finished 2017 strong, slashing .288/.356/.472 with a 121 wRC+ in the second half. Unlike Dee Gordon or Eduardo Nunez, Reyes won’t draw a lot of suitors, and with his familiarity with Flushing Reyes’ seems like a no-brainer as a depth piece.