New York Mets: What is Next After Bauer Signed With The Dodgers?

New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs, Kris Bryant

The New York Mets lucked out when Trevor Bauer decided to sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers. They did not overpay for a similar version of Carlos Carrasco and gave them more options before spring training. The Mets roster is already the best in the NL East, but what else could they do to improve it?

Option #1: Rich Hill, Jake Arrieta, or any other starting pitching depth

Bauer would have given the Mets a dream rotation, but the Mets did not need him to win a World Series. The current rotation gives the Mets a top-5 group in baseball, and quality depth would make it better. Rich Hill would be the ideal backup plan if Joey Lucchesi does not bounce back or David Peterson has a sophomore slump. Even at the age of 41, Hill would compete with Lucchesi for the fifth starter spot.

Option #2: Jackie Bradley Jr.

The absence of a designated hitter in the National League leaves the Mets with a tough decision in their outfield. Signing Jackie Bradley Jr. gives the Mets four starting outfielders for three positions. The best move would be to give Bradley 2-3 years to have him on the roster once the DH gets to the NL.

Bradley would serve as the fourth outfielder for the first year but start in center field in 2022. The center field for the next two offseasons is very thin. This deal would be done with an eye for the future, but it will be tough to get Bradley to agree on.

Option #3: Kris Bryant and/or Jackie Bradley Jr.

This option requires the most parts to make it happen. Kris Bryant is heading into the last year of his deal with the Chicago Cubs, who are looking to shed payroll. Coming off a down year and currently on the last year of his deal allows the Mets to buy low on Bryant as they did with Francisco Lindor.

Trading J.D. Davis, Jeurys Familia, and a mid-level prospect like Carlos Cortes or Michel Otanez might be enough to get the deal done.  The riskier but more likely move would trade Davis, Nimmo, and a prospect outside the Mets top 30. It would open up two positions for each player, free up money for the Cubs, and give the Mets a dynamic lineup.

The potential lineup of Francisco Lindor, Jeff McNeil, Kris Bryant, Dominic Smith, Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, James McCann, Jackie Bradley Jr., and the pitcher is very enticing. It gives them the ideal righty/lefty combination they have been searching for.

The trade is a huge ask but a viable option. Acquiring Sonny Gray and Eugenio Suarez would require prospects the Mets cannot afford to trade. The ideal 2021 situation with Bryant equals .275/35/110, a World Series ring, and Bryant receiving a lucrative contract during free agency.

 

New York Mets: Is Rich Hill Worth The Risk As A Depth Piece?

There once was a time when the New York Mets employed a 41-year old left-handed pitcher named Tom Glavine. With Rich Hill on the Mets’ radar, he could become the oldest pitcher to start for the Mets since 43-year old Bartolo Colon in 2016.

Hill is still an effective pitcher, but it just depends on how much body wants to let him compete. Since 2015, Hill has a 2.92 ERA but has only averaged 16 starts and 84 innings. Hill is a good replacement if the Mets are not sold on Joey Lucchesi as their fifth starter. He will pitch well until Noah Syndergaard returns, and there is no long term commitment with the veteran.

Hill still has one of the best fastball/curveball combinations despite barely breaking 90 on the radar gun. His curveball is very loopy and about 15 mph slower than his fastball. This allows Hill to work up in the zone with his heat and keep hitters off balance despite the lack of velocity.

The Tampa Bay Rays and the Milwaukee Brewers are the other teams with interest in Hill. Like Trevor Bauer, the Mets will not outbid their competition when their current rotation is set for the upcoming season.

New York Mets to View Jake Arrieta’s Throwing Session on Friday

The New York Mets are one of the multiple teams who will head to Austin, Texas, to watch Jake Arrieta showcase what he has left in his tank. Arrieta was coming off the last three seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies and pitched his worst season since 2012.

Arrieta is heading into his age-35 season and has fallen off dramatically since his illustrious 2015 Cy Young award-winning season. His ERAs since 2015 are 1.77, 3.10, 3.53, 3.96, 4.64, and 5.08. Arrieta’s once unhittable sinker lost its bite, resulting in the lowest strikeout rate of his career.

Arrieta’s effectiveness with his offspeed pitches was the one redeeming quality of his 2020. He threw his slider 23.2% of the time, and batters hit just .178. Arrieta’s changeup had an xBA of .225 and a 30.6 whiff rate. As Arrieta’s sinker declines, he will need the secondary pitches to revive his career.

It is unlikely for the Mets to take a risk on Arrieta unless he shows flashes of his Cy Young caliber years. The Mets do not have a rotation spot to offer him, especially with Trevor Bauer potentially on the horizon. The bulk of their offseason moves show they are looking for younger, more reliable depth options for their starting pitching.

New York Mets: Brad Hand and Front Office Off By A Year

The New York Mets are still in pursuit of Brad Hand to round out their bullpen with an All-Star left-hander. Though there is mutual interest from both sides, the Mets hope to offer Hand a one-year deal while Hand is looking for multiple years.

It is hard to find a reason why Hand does not deserve the same deal as Liam Hendriks. Hand has pitched with the same level of production but for a longer period of time. Since 2016, Hand has a 2.70 ERA while Hendriks has a 3.08 ERA.

Should The Mets Him Multiple Years?

Contract extensions for Michael Conforto and Francisco Lindor and other arbitration cases give the Mets plenty of big decisions in the 2021 offseason. The decision with Hand is based upon whether the Mets want to pay a high large amount for another reliever who is not their closer. If he signs, Hand will become the second-best reliever on the roster.

The Mets should give Hand the extra years because they do not have a left-handed reliever remotely close to Hand’s level. Dellin Betances, Jeurys Familia, and Brad Brach become free agents after 2021, which frees about $20 million for next season. About $13 million-$15 million can go towards Hand, and his production alone would be better than Betances, Familia, and Brach combined.

Hand is a difference-maker in the bullpen as a left-handed version of Seth Lugo. Adding him gives the Mets the best bullpen in baseball and makes them the number one contender to challenge the Atlanta Braves for the National League East crown.

New York Mets: Brad Hand is a Tremendous Fit For Their Bullpen

The New York Mets need another good left-handed reliever after Justin Wilson became a free agent. If Steve Cohen owned the team when Brad Hand was waived, he would already be a Met. Now that Hand is a free agent, he would be a good fit in their bullpen.

Hand has a 2.70 ERA since his transformation to a full-time reliever in 2016. While the Mets want Liam Hendriks in the bullpen, they do not need him. Edwin Diaz, Seth Lugo, Trevor May, and potentially Dellin Betances are all late-inning relief options. Hand is an upgrade to Wilson and is much cheaper than Hendriks.

Freddie Freeman, Juan Soto, and Bryce Harper are just a few of the fearsome left-handers in the NL East. Hand can neutralize them while completing the ninth inning against right-handed hitters due to the three-batter minimum. Much like an offense, the more dynamic a bullpen can be, the better chance of success each reliever has.

While the Mets wait for a decision on Trevor Bauer and George Springer, Hand is a good signing which continues to solidify the roster. It is clear the Mets are interested, but can they seal the deal for their first signing of 2021.

 

New York Mets: Are James Paxton or Corey Kluber Worth The Risk?

New York Yankees, James Paxton

On Tuesday, reports surfaced of the New York Mets planning to attend Corey Kluber‘s showcase on January 13 and viewed James Paxton throw a couple of weeks ago. Both pitchers come off disappointing 2020 seasons and hope to resurrect their careers this year. The Mets plan to be contenders in 2021, but are these the answers to their rotation problems?

Paxton came to the New York Yankees in 2019 as the left handed-starter they needed after C.C. Sabathia’s time in pinstripes was coming to an end. He started slow but pitched to a 2.25 ERA in his last 10 starts, all wins. Paxton continued that dominance into the postseason with two dominant starts against the Houston Astros.

He suffered from a lack of spring training in 2020 and had a 6.64 ERA in five starts. A flexor strain in his left forearm caused his season to end prematurely. It was Paxton’s first full season with an ERA over four, and it dramatically dropped his value. Paxton’s injury history and inability to pitch deep into games limit him as a front line starter, but he fits as a back end option.

Should they sign a more reliable starter, Paxton is a good choice for the fifth spot. Three healthy months from Paxton is a solid expectation. When Noah Syndergaard returns, the Mets can opt for a six-man rotation or put Paxton in the bullpen.

Two-Two-Time Former Cy Young Winners?

Corey Kluber has an imposing resume over his ten big league seasons. He is a two-time Cy Young winner, three-time All-Star, and an ERA champ. His downside of heading into his age-35 season and going two full years without pitching a full season is a red flag. Kluber’s last two seasons are injury-plagued, with a torn teres major muscle limiting him to one inning in 2020.

Unless the Mets scouts are 100 percent sure Kluber is at his Cy Young form, the Mets should not guarantee him a rotation spot. If they were too cheap to get better options, then Kluber would be fine. Kluber is an older pitcher who has logged plenty of innings in a short amount of time. The Mets do not have the minor league depth to replace another injury-plagued pitcher.

With either pitcher, I would be inclined to bring one of them in once the rotation is set. Using each pitcher as a fifth starter is plausible but using Kluber as a safety net is preferable. In the end, both pitchers will get better offers from teams most desperate than the Mets. Those offers make Paxton or Kluber signing with the Mets unlikely.

New York Mets: Is There a Difference Between Sugano and Tanaka?

Tomoyuki Sugano, New York Yankees

The New York Mets have a big decision to make on Japanese pitcher Tomoyuki Sugano by Thursday. If Sugano selects their offer, he will become a new member of their starting rotation. There are plenty of similarities between Sugano and Masahiro Tanaka, but their small difference could make or break any deal.

The career NPB ERAs for Sugano and Tanaka are 2.32 and 2.30, respectively. Sugano spent one more season in Japan and only threw 45 more innings than Tanaka. Both pitchers are six-time NPB All-Stars, and both won the league’s best pitcher award twice. Each has similar repertoires, sharing a 4-seam and 2-seam fastball, a slider, and the trademark splitter as their strikeout pitch. Both are also pitching through elbow ligament issues that they rehabbed in past seasons.

What Makes Them Different?

Age is a big difference between the two Japanese stars. Tanaka garnered all his success and made his major league debut at the ripe age of 25, while Sugano would be 31 on opening day. Sugano still has to prove himself in the major leagues after his NPB success. Tanaka is a proven big-league pitcher and is only one year older. Over seven MLB seasons, Tanaka has a 3.74 ERA and is a two-time All-Star.

Sugano’s elbow issues are more in the past, and Tanaka’s forced the New York Yankees to be extremely cautious in recent years. Sugano also dealt with injuries at the end of 2019 but put any doubts to bed with his stellar 2020 season. In most rotations, Sugano would fit in the 2-3 spot, falling to four in elite rotations.

Sugano will cost a ton of money, but he is the second-best starting pitching option behind Trevor Bauer. Much like a lot of the pitching market this offseason, it is a huge wild card to give him a lucrative contract. Even if they lost the Sugano sweepstakes, Tanaka is a suitable replacement.

Tanaka has thoughts of heading back to Japan but asking Tanaka to change pinstripes to remain in New York is plausible. Either one of these pitchers automatically makes the Mets starting rotation better. If they want a long term addition, Sugano is the move while Tanaka fits best for the short term.

New York Mets: Padres Trades Proves Free Agency Belongs to the Mets

The last 48 hours were the first time the New York Mets played second fiddle to another team this offseason. The San Diego Padres made two major trades, which brought in Blake Snell and Yu Darvish. Both players make the Padres significantly better, but it still leaves the free-agent market wide open. It still leaves the Mets to move in any direction they want.

San Diego was a big player in the free-agent market for starting pitching, but they no longer need the help. They are absorbing $32.5 million for 2021, $31.5 million for 2022, and $34 million for 2023 by their major trades. The $98 million for two great pitchers over three seasons seems like a bargain. Those figures are exactly why the Padres made the deals.

It was a cost-effective way to better their starting rotation. The trades show the Padres are reluctant to improve through the free agents because they already rank in baseball’s top five payrolls. Improving through the free-agent market would push them toward the luxury tax threshold. A small market team during a global pandemic will not survive with a large payroll for a long time. They are doing all they can to take advantage of their small window to win.

Sweep the Market

Unlike the Padres, running out of money will never worry the Mets. This allows the Mets to control the market because this offseason’s two biggest moves did not affect their plans. Snell and Darvish were not on the top of their list if they were even on their radar. Trevor Bauer, George Springer, and Liam Hendriks are still on the market, while Francisco Lindor is still an Indian.

The Padres are the offseason winners at the moment, but the Mets still have a bevy of moves to make. They will not act like “drunken sailors” despite having the money to act like one. Through free agency, the Mets will not lose any of their prospects like the Padres did in their trades. The loss of a draft pick is the worst loss the Mets could suffer by signing anyone who declined a qualifying offer.

The lesson of the Padres moves and the slow churning offseason is that every team is strapped for cash. Cohen’s money will not sign everyone on the free-agent market, but it will not stop the Mets from getting their targets. The funds put the Mets at the top of every agent’s and their client’s list in the offseason. The Mets are using a patient approach with their acquisitions, which is paying off so far, but as the calendar flips to 2021, the sense of urgency will need to increase.

 

New York Mets: The Possible Infield Options With D.J. LeMahieu

New York Yankees, DJ LeMahieu

The New York Mets have “recently contacted” D.J. LeMahieu, according to Jon Heyman. Take that as you may but signing LeMahieu would strengthen their offense and drastically better their infield defense. If signing LeMahieu has traction, then the Mets have multiple combinations to work with during 2021.

The continued guessing game on a designated hitter for 2021 makes dealing with the free-agent market harder for every National League Team. The Mets already have DH options in place, but it does not make decision-making any easier.

In a few of these situations, J.D. Davis becomes very expendable. He was already part of rumors along with Amed Rosario for a Francisco Lindor trade. The obvious missing part is the missing prospect(s) needed to complete the move. As enticing as the trade seems, Davis, Rosario, plus a prospect might be too much if Lindor does not remain with the Mets past 2021. If Lindor was the difference separating the Mets from being a World Series contender, giving up a little extra would be reasonable.

No DH Option 1: LeMahieu to Third, McNeil to Second

With Robinson Cano suspended for the entirety of 2021, the Mets can move Jeff McNeil to second base. LeMahieu plays third base while Dominic Smith and J.D. Davis handles the left field. The infield defense would be significantly better than in 2020, but the outfield would still suffer. Signing LeMahieu could make signing George Springer tougher. It certainly could still happen, but Jackie Bradley Jr. or Kevin Pillar is more realistic in that situation.

No DH Option 2: LeMahieu at Second, Davis/McNeil at Third

LeMahieu at second shows, the Mets are content with either Davis or McNeil at third base. Davis was better defensively in 2020, but neither one stood out. Second base is LeMahieu’s natural position and is where he won all three of his Gold Glove awards. Andres Gimenez should play shortstop when pitchers like Marcus Stroman and David Peterson are on the mound. Stroman especially is a groundball pitcher, and solidifying the defense up the middle would attempt to make up for the weak corner options.

DH Option 1 (With Springer in CF): LeMahieu to Third, McNeil to Second, Nimmo in Left, Smith DH

This is the dream scenario for the Mets, especially with the DH in place. They would get a good balance of offense and defense they have not found in years. Offensively, the lineup would become a nightmare to pitch to, and the overall team defense improves. Even if the center fielder becomes one of the two names mentioned earlier, the defense still improves, but the offense would lose some punch.

DH Option 2 (Without Anyone New in CF): LeMahieu to Second, Davis to Third, McNeil to Left, Smith DH

With Brandon Nimmo in center field, the Mets cannot afford two below-average fielders in their everyday outfield. McNeil defended much better in the left-field after moving from third base. While Nimmo struggles in center field, McNeil and Michael Conforto would handle the corners. This is the least likely option as the Mets are almost guaranteed to sign a new center fielder.

Of course, there are way more options than the four mentioned. The idea of Rosario at third base or Gimenez at shortstop changes the whole dynamic of LeMahieu at the roster. The great part of this offseason is the ability to contemplate good solutions. In the past, ownership settled for options similar to slapping duct tape on a leak.

New York Mets: Wilfredo Tovar and Tom Windle Signed to Minors

Simeon Woods-Richardson

After making an impactful minor league move by signing Jerry Blevins and Jerad Eickhoff, the New York Mets made a subtler move. Former Mets shortstop Wilfredo Tovar and left-handed pitcher Tom Windle signed to minor league deals with an invite to spring training.

In 2008, Tovar first signed with the Mets as a young 16-year old out of Venezuela. He never stood out offensively during his minor league career and only played in nine big-league games with the Mets. Tovar went 3-for-18 (.167) from 2013-14 with the Mets and was granted free agency after the 2015 season.

He spent 2016-19 in the minor league systems for the Minnesota Twins, St. Louis Cardinals, and Los Angeles Angels. During 2019, the Angels brought Tovar to the big leagues but only hit .193 during that period. Tovar is likely a defensive replacement for the Mets should any of their good defense infielders get injured.

Another Former Phillie

Windle started his career in 2013 after being drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers. They shipped Windle to the Phillies, along with Zach Eflin, in exchange for Jimmy Rollins. From 2015-19, he pitched in relief throughout the Phillies farm system but never made it past AAA. After his release in 2019, he signed with the Boston Red Sox and became a minor league free agent this offseason.

Windle has a similar pitching motion to Kenny Rogers and throws from a three-quarter arm slot. He throws a fastball that sits in the low 90s with cut at times. Windle also features a mid-80s slider but is only useful against lefties. His inconsistent control and lack of dominant pitches have left him stuck in the minors. It will take a dramatic change in pitching style for Windle to crack the big league roster in 2021.