Sources: Mr. Met To Opt Out

mr-met-optout

With the New York Mets already bracing themselves for the potential opt out of Yoenis Cespedes, sources are now indicating that team mascot Mr. Met will also opt out of his current contract with the club. Mr. Met has been with the organization for over 50 years, but when asked about the prospect of a long-term contract extension Sandy Alderson said, “That’s not something we like to do. Those contracts often don’t work out. I’ve said that before. We’ll make those decisions as they’re presented.”

Prior to the Mets’ loss in the NL Wild Card playoff game, Fred Wilpon was asked how the organization could even consider letting Mr. Met, the face of the franchise, leave Flushing to which he responded, “I have made a decision — you guys don’t like, I get it — I want the face of the organization to be Sandy and Terry. I don’t want Mr. Met to be the face. I don’t want Jeff to be the face. And I don’t want to be the face. I don’t want to start because I know you’ll ask me other questions. I don’t want to do it.’’

When asked about his contract situation, Mr. Met indicated he would like to finish his career with the Mets, but noted “I get it. My head is just a giant baseball, so I can pretty much work for any team.”

Further complicating matters is the fact that the team had concerns with the mascot’s behavior during the season on a number of occasions. In April, it was reported that Mr. Met was denied a National League Championship ring because he “didn’t pay his dues”. Then in September during the closing weeks of the season, Mr. Met was seen golfing on two separate occasions with the Phillie Phanatic and Billy the Marlin. At the time, Sandy Alderson stated, “The golf is bad optics. You play golf with a rival mascot during the day and then go out and play against that team in the evening, it’s a bad visual. I think he recognizes that at this point. So we’ll go from there.”

If Mr. Met departs, the team will likely turn to internal options to replace him including Cowbell Man, Jay Bruce, or a random member of the Mets Party Patrol. When asked directly if James Loney would be considered as a replacement, a team spokesperson replied, “No. Never. He doesn’t have the range.”

The Ghosts Of Cold Stoves Past

Did Sandy Alderson’s pre-2015 signing of John Mayberry Jr. excite you? What about when the Mets signed Chris Young before the 2014 season or Alejandro De Aza before the 2016 season? I don’t know about you, but I’ll never forget the 2012/13 offseason when the Mets signed Shaun Marcum and Brandon Lyon and traded for Collin Cowgill all in the span of a few months. What a whirlwind of exciting activity.

Whenever MLB’s all-time best reliever free agent signings are discussed, I know Mets fans love to debate whether the Frank Francisco (2011/2012) or Antonio Bastardo (2015/2016) signing made a bigger mark in Mets history. One day I’ll tell my children about Sandy’s first year as Mets GM when he snagged D.J. Carrasco and Chris Capuano for the staggering combined total of 3.9 million dollars.

Then there’s the list of talented players that have walked (or been forced) out the door during the Alderson era including Jose Reyes and Angel Pagan after the 2011 season, Justin Turner after the 2013 season, and Daniel Murphy after the 2015 season.

The MLB Hot Stove has always been the primary thing that helps me survive the winds of winter. But that stroll down Mets memory lane should serve as a reminder that Sandy Alderson generally keeps the stove pretty cold. He’s never been about the flashy headline grabbing moves.

Sure he’s made the occasional offseason splash during his tenure as Mets GM. He extended David Wright (8 years 138 million) before the 2013 season which obviously hasn’t worked out due to David’s injuries, but was a no brainer at the time. He signed Curtis Granderson (4 years 60 million) and Bartolo Colon (2 years 20 million) after the 2013 season.

He searched far and wide for a big bat before the 2015 season and ended up with Michael Cuddyer (2 years 21 million) who promptly fell apart physically and retired (Whoops!). And then obviously last year he signed Asdrubal Cabrera (2 years 18.5 million (with a team option)) and retained Yoenis Cespedes (even if it only turns out to be for one extra season).

Sandy’s most impactful offseason trade was probably the R.A. Dickey deal since it netted Noah Syndergaard. But the Jon Niese for Neil Walker deal after the 2015 season was a close runner-up.

The bottom line is we’ve all seen the Alderson front office strategy. He generally makes some minor additions to the roster during the winter and leaves something to be desired. He’ll make a few cost efficient signings and an occasional under the radar trade. Then he adds major league depth via trade or the waiver wire to the extent the roster needs it over the course of the season (e.g. Kelly Johnson, Juan Uribe, James Loney, Jose Reyes etc.) before going big at the trade deadline (e.g. Yoenis Cespedes, Jay Bruce).

In no way am I trying to criticize anything Sandy has done as General Manager. Sandy built up the farm system, lifted our franchise out of the doldrums, acquired two of the most talented players to ever don the Mets uniform in Noah Syndergaard and Yoenis Cespedes, and all of his actions have resulted in two straight playoff appearances.

That being said, as a sofa GM who lives for the rumor mill, it would be a refreshing change to see an offseason full of meaningful moves for the Mets. Plus, the whole strategy of making trades over the course of the season to patch up roster holes isn’t the best way to maintain the talented minor league system that Sandy helped create.

I suppose it’s possible we will see some more action this winter considering the last two years the Mets’ Hot Stove has trended up in temperature. But I wouldn’t get your hopes up folks. I’m grabbing my gloves and scarf just in case Sandy sticks to his typical plan and avoids any major signings. But if adding a middle reliever, a right-handed hitting bat for the bench, and a backup catcher on one year deals lights your fire, then I’m sure you’ll enjoy the kind of “heat” the Mets bring.

Editor’s Note: This was first published on Mets Merized Online.

A Bruce Salary Dump Would Be Unacceptable

Jon Heyman recently reported that a rival executive thinks the Mets might consider trading Jay Bruce once they pick up his 13 million dollar contract option after the season. This news really isn’t all that shocking. Mets fans have been speculating for months that this might be a possibility depending on the outcome of the Yoenis Cespedes contract situation.

I want to make one thing clear though. A trade of Jay Bruce for a pitcher or position player that improves the major league roster is completely acceptable. A trade of Jay Bruce for a prospect that improves the overall depth in our farm system is also acceptable provided that the Mets make corresponding moves to enhance the quality of the major league roster in significant ways. But the Mets cannot trade Jay Bruce if they are purely being motivated by financial reasons and plan to just hand the job to Michael Conforto. I refuse to accept the narrative that many fans are citing which is “the Mets can use the Jay Bruce money to pay for Yoenis Cespedes”. The focus of the offseason should be on improving the overall roster relative to last season in an effort to win a championship. I realize every team has payroll limits, but I don’t want those limits to be the running theme that dominates the Mets offseason headlines. And so far, it has already been headline news in the form of the Yoenis Cespedes opt-out discussion and the Neil Walker qualifying offer debate.

The NLCS matchup should be an eye opener for the Mets. The Cubs and Dodgers have incredibly talented farm systems and had arguably the deepest preseason major league rosters. But it’s no coincidence that they were the highest spending teams in the NL at the end of the season. The Cubs “won” the 2015/16 offseason when they signed Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward, and John Lackey and now they have a great chance to win the World Series. When the Cubs retained Dexter Fowler their organization didn’t worry about finding enough playing time for Kyle Schwarber, Dexter Fowler, Jason Heyward, and Jorge Soler. And the Mets shouldn’t worry either if they wind up retaining Bruce and Conforto.

The Dodgers brought in a plethora of starting pitchers (Scott Kazmir (3 years 48 million), Kenta Maeda (8 years 25 million), Brett Anderson (accepted 15.8 millon qualifying offer)) before the season started to replace Zack Greinke, and they certainly made use of their starting pitching depth over the course of the year. They re-signed second basemen Howie Kendrick and Chase Utley and turned the former into a utility player. Despite having the most regular season injuries in recorded baseball history, the Dodgers were able to survive, win the NL West, and make a deep playoff run because of their unrivaled depth.

Spending big money on payroll doesn’t always equate to success in baseball. But in 2016, the NL teams that flexed their financial muscle in the offseason and assembled deep rosters made it to the NLCS. That can’t be ignored.

Please don’t read this post and confuse me for a member of the Jay Bruce fan club. I don’t think Jay Bruce has to be on the 2017 team for the Mets to have success. And I certainly don’t want the Mets to spend money for the sake of spending money or to “make a splash”. But the days of the Mets making a purely financially motivated roster decision should be over. They appeared to be over last offseason when the Mets raised payroll and retained Cespedes. But the Mets must continue on that track if they want to win it all. Otherwise they will be at a real disadvantage when trying to overtake the Dodgers and Cubs going forward. Because those teams certainly aren’t going to stop spending like big market clubs any time soon.

Editor’s Note: This was first published on Mets Merized Online.

Is A Dickey Reunion Possible?

Let me say this right off the bat. I’m not writing this to sell people on the notion that R.A. Dickey has another Cy Young caliber season left in his right arm. I’m not writing this to try and convince people that Dickey the knuckleballer is a better rotation option than our five young aces, our newly emerging Triple-A starting depth, or our other 43 year old Big Sexy starting pitcher. But I am writing this to say that it may be worth bringing in some cheap veteran rotation insurance this offseason considering all the injuries we witnessed this year.

Matt Harvey (thoracic outlet syndrome), Jacob deGrom (ulnar nerve), and Steven Matz (elbow bone spur) all had season-ending surgery to repair their pitching arm issues. Noah Syndergaard was pitching this season with a bone spur, but the team decided against surgery to repair the issue. Robert Gsellman had his labrum surgically repaired in his non-pitching shoulder. Zack Wheeler has missed two straight seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery (he’s probably still listed as day-to-day).

From now on every single conversation about one of the Mets’ young starters will include the caveat “if he can stay healthy”.

Bartolo Colon will eventually be a free agent at 43 years old, and there’s no guarantee he returns to the Mets. The young aces are all supposedly going to be recovered and ready to pitch come spring training. But on the off chance that one of the young starters experiences a slightly delayed recovery timeline (very unlikely because as we all know an injury recovery setback has never happened to a single Mets player in history) it might make sense to have a veteran innings eater like R.A. Dickey as an option.

Dickey will be 42 years old this month and wasn’t that effective last year for the Blue Jays (10-15, 4.46 ERA). His walk rate was up (3.3 BB/9) relative to his career norm (2.8) and his strikeout rate (6.7 K/9) was down relative to his best seasons where he averaged over 7 Ks per 9 innings. But prior to last year, he had pitched 200+ innings for five straight seasons. In 2014 and 2015 he posted an ERA under 4.

He said he’s considering retirement after the season, but if he does continue to play, he’s openly said he wants to play for a team that gives him a chance to win it all. The Mets certainly fit that description. If the interest in Dickey is limited league-wide, and he would sign a one-year deal at a minimal cost (significantly less than the 12 million he made in 2016), I think he’d be a fine rotation insurance policy for the Mets.

The Mets have plenty of major issues to tackle this offseason before they even begin to think about starting pitching depth. And despite all the question marks surrounding their young starters, it’s unlikely the Mets will spend big money in free agency on a starter or trade for a big time arm.

This team is built on the backs of our five young aces. If we are ever going to make it to the promised land in October, the young arms will be the ones that lead us there. But Bartolo Colon emerging as the most durable pitcher in the Mets rotation in 2016 has served as a very real reminder of how fragile the young rotation can be.

Plus, imagine how amazing the 2017 storyline would be if we paired Bartolo and Dickey in the same rotation even for a short stretch. If the stars align and the cost is minimal, I would have no problem watching two 40 year old fan favorites serving as insurance for the Mets young studs. After all, whether they are among the youngest arms in the league or the oldest, you can never have enough pitching.

Editor’s Note: This was first published on Mets Merized Online.