A Dream of Spring: Mets Pitchers and Catchers Report

Pleasantville1) Opening Day   2) Pitchers and Catchers   3) Christmas

That is probably my “day of the year” power rankings. I’m not one to pay attention to the Farmer’s Almanac or Groundhog predictions. Spring starts for me when pitchers and catchers report to camp. It’s always been that way and always will be. It may not be sweatshirt weather yet in New York, but it’s coming. Once the pitchers are long tossing in Florida, the cold winds of winter start to die down and the Long Night gradually comes to an end.

Today is the day when most of the players officially reunite and start stretching and smiling. Sandy Alderson, who’s still undergoing chemotherapy, rolled into camp today with an enormous Spring Training grin on his face. He said, “I haven’t been this upbeat about a team in a long time.” Despite all the adversity he’s faced since his cancer diagnosis, he’s still glowing with positivity. There’s no doubt that the players and the fan base share in his optimism.

Talk of the Day: During his interview today, Sandy refuted something that a number of people have floated around during the offseason. He squashed the idea that Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera will potentially serve as 3B on days when David Wright needs time off. Certainly makes sense considering Walker has played 15 total major league games at 3B in his career and Cabrera has played 1. Not to mention those games at 3B came during their rookie seasons, and they aren’t exactly known for their defensive skills at their natural positions.

Speaking of positional flexibility, Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki said they are going to get some reps at 1B this spring. Just some casual grounders to get a feel for the position. Looks like 1B and 3B are going to be a little hobby this spring for every Mets player. But don’t worry. We are lucky to have well established utilityman Wilmer Flores to fall back on just in case some of these experiments don’t work out. With a grand total of 58 career games at 2B and 27 at 3B, Wilmer has really established himself as a regular Venezuelan Army Knife. If you aren’t familiar with Wilmer’s primary defensive resume, he’s known for his below replacement level defense in 154 career games at SS.

Now I don’t mean to turn this into a Wilmer bashing party. I really like Wilmer. He cried because he loves the Mets so much. I couldn’t respect his passion or offensive skill set more. I love him at the plate. He’s got power, and he can put the ball in play when he needs to. He’s been a real competent major league hitter for us over the last two seasons particularly at times when we had very few of them. And I even like the idea of him coming off the bench and serving as infield depth. But we have to acknowledge the reality that he’s played 27 games at 3B in his major league career and 0 at 1B. And currently he’s number 2 in the depth chart at 1B, 2B, SS, and 3B. It’s a definitive weakness in the design of our roster.

And that brings me to my next point. Once again today, there was talk about the possibility that we may trade Alejandro De Aza. Jon Morosi said the Rangers are keeping tabs on De Aza. Ken Rosenthal said we aren’t yet entertaining a trade of De Aza but might eventually. I rambled on and on ad nauseum about this in a February 3rd post. Trading De Aza simply because he may not get as much playing time as we originally anticipated and because he’s going to get paid 5 million dollars as a reserve is absolutely insane. People really need to stop reporting how much sense it makes to trade him. Somebody even implied today that our minor league signing of Roger Bernadina makes De Aza more expendable. Bernadina being a guy who hit .167 in 2014 and didn’t play at the major league level last season. I can’t even get into it. I just don’t have the energy to once again defend the need for depth and the need to have 25 quality players on the roster in order to succeed. But why aren’t these writers making the actual rational point regarding De Aza and the roster spot he represents?

Points:

  • Trading Alejandro De Aza makes sense because we won’t be able to give him as much playing time as originally anticipated.- False
  • Trading Alejandro De Aza and replacing him with an equally talented player that plays 1B/OF and is better suited for our roster makes sense.- True

It’s really that simple. As I mentioned above, the weakness on our roster as it is currently constructed, comes in the form of the lack of right-handed hitting depth at 1B/OF. We never replaced Michael Cuddyer. Lucas Duda only started 127 games at 1B last season. Daniel Murphy and Cuddy appeared in almost 40 games at 1B for the Mets in 2015. Now Murph is a National and Cuddyer sits in a retirement home suffering from some combination of the Coors Field withdrawal and METS disease that prematurely ended his career. All it will take is one simultaneous DL stint for Duda and Wright and our weakness will be exposed. Don’t forget, Eric “Soup” Campbell waits in line behind Duda to take grounders at 1B in Port St. Lucie. He would be behind Flores in the drills, but Wilmer is too busy taking grounders at every other damn position. Now I don’t have the answer for how to fill that De Aza spot with a more appropriate player. None of the free agents currently available fit the description I outlined above. I’ve poured over the list. I keep thinking about Ryan Raburn, and then I remind myself that he’s only played 14 games at 1B in his 10 seasons in the big leagues. Might as well go with Flores if we can’t find someone with experience.

Long story short, I just don’t want to hear about De Aza being traded anymore unless someone is proposing exactly how to improve the roster by trading him. But let me just stop. Now is not the time for negativity. Spring. Rejuvenation. Rebirth. Everything’s blooming. All that crap.

By the way, the best thing about all my vocal support for Alejandro De Aza is going to be when he’s batting .180 in May and I’m calling for his head.

Quote of the Day: Bob Nightengale in a USA Today interview quoted Terry Collins saying, “I’m not going to sit there today and look at all of these (bleeping) numbers and try to predict this guy is going to be a great player. OPS this. OPS that. GPS. LCSs. DSDs. You know who has good numbers? Good (bleeping) players.”

Gotta love crotchety old Terry. Once he gets his tan on point in that Port St. Lucie sun, I’m sure all that old man rage will just melt away.

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