Mets Trade Future MVP Lucas Duda

The Mets officially kicked off their trade deadline sell off by sending Lucas Duda to the Tampa Bay Rays. In exchange for Duda the Rays sent the Mets the 30th ranked prospect in their farm system (per MLB Pipeline), pitcher Drew Smith. The experts certainly weren’t kidding when they said the return for Duda would be limited. Jesus Christ.

This kid Smith is 23 years old, can throw 96-98 MPH, and has pitched at Triple-A this season. I was hoping to get a couple of prospects in return for Duda, but I can understand why his value is limited. He’s an impending free agent, there were only two teams reportedly competing for his services (Rays and Yankees), and also the supply of power hitters is at an all-time high thanks to the new juiced up baseballs. So I suppose this is the best we could do for ol’ Lucas.

I love how every conversation about Duda ignites a goddamn fiery debate amongst Mets fans. Half the fan base says he sucks and half the fans love him and spend their days defending him on Twitter. You know what I think of him? He was fine. He was aight. I liked when he would go on one of his signature home run hot streaks. But I’m not crying and losing sleep over his departure.

You know when I will lose sleep? I’ll lose sleep the second he signs with a new team in the offseason and transforms into an MVP candidate. You know that’s coming. If you’re a Mets fan you know how it works at this point. Mets dump underappreciated long-time player who wants to stay with the team. Then the player becomes an MVP candidate. The transformation is not based on anything logical. We’ve all watched Duda for years now. We’ve all looked at his stats a million times. We know what he is. In his career he’s been an above average hitting major league first baseman with some pop, decent OBP skills, and an average glove at best. But we also know what those stats mean once a player leaves the Mets. Zilch.

Justin Turner is still leading the league in hitting this year with his .365 average. Daniel Murphy still hanging around right behind Turner with his .340 average. How is this possible? It’s just God’s anti-Mets voodoo magic. I can’t wait to see if the streak continues and Duda magically goes from decent player to megastar the second he sheds the cursed orange and blue jersey. Remember his back woes? They’ll “magically” disappear now that he’s escaped the wrath of Ray Ramirez.

I’m imagining Duda transforming like the Beast at the end of the Disney movie. The second he pops on a new uniform sparks start flying all around him. He inexplicably floats into the air and then is slowly lowered back to the ground. By the time he lands his back injuries are healed, and he’s developed extra power, elite contact skills, and a Gold Glove.

P.S. – The Mets didn’t pick up one dollar of Duda’s remaining salary in an attempt to try and improve the return they received from the Rays. Shock of the century.

Shock Of The Century: Duda’s Back Still Cracked

The most shocking news in the history of professional sports just broke. A player with an injury that was never operated on and never healed apparently still has the same injury.

I’m so confused. Lucas Duda is still injured? His cracked back is still slightly cracked? Why didn’t the back problem just magically go away over the offseason?

Duda arrived at camp, took a few swings and grounders, and now he’s back (get the pun?) to getting painkilling injections all over the place. Pooooor Lucas.

You know the deal. Pray for Lucas. Don’t you worry. The Metssiah will be doubling his pray effort for Duda. I host a special vigil in my living room for Mets players with cracked backs literally every weekend.

The real person we need to pray for is Terry Collins. Duda will be on his third back injection a week before Opening Day and only then will Terry consider trying Jay Bruce or Michael Conforto at first base. Pray that Terry wakes up and finds a way to utilize his players (namely Conforto) in the most effective way possible. Otherwise #TeamCrackedBack (i.e. David Wright, Lucas Duda, Neil Walker) will all be out on Opening Day and Terry will have T.J. Rivera at second base and Wilmer Flores at first base and still find a way to have Conforto rotting away in the Vegas sun.

Give Bruce A Chance (For Now)

The “bench Jay Bruce” movement that has quickly gained momentum among the Mets fan base and the mainstream media is truly baffling to me. I am aware that he has posted a .192/.271/.315 slash line in 144 plate appearances since he joined the Mets at the trade deadline. I am aware that the Mets are in the thick of the Wild Card race and every game matters. But do Mets fans really want Terry Collins to demote Bruce to equipment manager for the final 16 games and have Michael Conforto play everyday? That’s what the masses are calling for right now. To me that’s insane.

I’ve said this since the day he was acquired. Jay Bruce is a streaky veteran slugger like Lucas Duda. Bruce, like Duda, has long droughts at the plate where he looks lost and then all of a sudden he unexpectedly delivers a power streak. Duda hit like .187 last year in June with one homer. Then in July he still hit under .200, but he went on one of his signature homer streaks and put 8 balls into the seats. And in August/September he mashed posting an OPS near 1.000. The Mets put their faith in Lucas and his homer streaks, and they are doing the same thing with Bruce. They are hoping that a prolific slugger with a track record will ultimately catch fire in the final two weeks of the season and carry that momentum into the playoffs.

I love Michael Conforto, but he’s done absolutely nothing this season that would justify giving him the bulk of the playing time in September over an established major league slugger that’s hit 20+ homers for 9 of his 10 major league seasons. This is a man who in 2016 will probably hit 30 homers for the fourth time. It would be one thing if Conforto was compelling the Mets to start him with his bat, but he hasn’t done a damn thing. And the team has managed to score runs lately against weak opponents despite Bruce’s black hole in the lineup. With our weak schedule, Bruce will have every opportunity to break out against poor pitching.

I suppose it’s not that shocking to see the fan base grow impatient with an established veteran. I’m often one of the first people calling to bench people. In July I was ready to take away ABs from Neil Walker. But the Mets ended up sticking with Neil and he turned his season around (before his back injury).

The bottom line is I don’t think you bench a guy like Bruce because he’s had a poor 100+ ABs with a new team. And furthermore, it’s a little late for the fan base to abandon ship on the live by the dinger die by the dinger, feast or famine strategy. This team was built on the backs of many streaky power hitters (Walker/Duda (before their injuries), Asdrubal Cabrera, Curtis Granderson, even Yoenis Cespedes to some extent). The Mets will either pitch and slug their way to a playoff spot or they will strike out trying.

Please God Let Us Win This Series 

Final Score: Mets 3, Nationals 1

According to all the Weather Channel fanatics a storm’s a -comin’. Some Hurricane/Tropical Storm is ripping down the east coast per all my second hand news sources. If that’s the case then maybe tonight’s game will be a washout. Or even worse, maybe it’ll be one of those ESPN televised games in the rain where the Mets make a million sloppy rain induced errors and guys slip and we embarrass ourselves on national television.

But if the storm veers off course and this game is playable, I really hope we win. Please God let us win! We need to beat the Nationals. A home series win against the Nationals won’t do a damn thing to impact the NL East race. The Nats locked that up long ago. A loss tonight won’t kill us in the Wild Card race. All the Wild Card contenders stink. We’ll still be in the playoff race no matter what happens. But I’ll feel great about our chances if we beat the Nats tonight on the big national stage. At least it would represent a little bit of vengeance after Daniel Murphy and Co. have embarrassed us so much in 2016.

Long Hair Equals Success: Robert Gsellman outdueled Tanner Roark. Gsellman pitched 6 innings and gave up 1 run on 6 hits. He struggled in the first inning after giving up back to back singles to Jayson Werth and Daniel Murphy and then walked Bryce Harper to load the bases. But he limited the damage to an Anthony Rendon sac fly to make it 1-0 Nats. He wiggled out of a jam in the fourth inning and the sixth inning. He also held runners on base unlike Noah Syndergaard last night. He picked off Bryce Harper in the fifth inning. The long haired fill-in dude stepped up. I like what I’m seeing from him. Seemingly for the Mets, long hair has a Samson like effect. Long hair equals success.

Grandy and RISP: In the third inning with two outs Jose Reyes walked, Asdrubal Cabrera doubled, and Yoenis Cespedes was intentionally walked to load the bases. And of all people Curtis Granderson singled to drive in two runs. The guy has failed all season with runners in scoring position, but he came through last night to make it 2-1 Mets.

Stinko Loney: In the sixth inning with two outs, Travis d’Arnaud singled and then James Loney ripped a double down the right field line to score Travis from first base and make it 3-1 Mets. The Loney saga in 2016 has been an amazing storyline to follow on MetsTwitter and in my opinion really sums up why we struggle to compromise on important issues as a society. Here’s what happened in reality. The Mets took a flier on Loney on like June 1st. It was a no brainer move considering they were playing him over Eric Campbell. Anyway he’s essentially played everyday since. For about a month and a half he hit .285 and played dependable defense. And since early August he’s been a terrible hitter and has showed his flaws in the field as well. It’s become very obvious why he was in the Padres minor league system, and Terry probably should have benched him long ago.

The reason I say it’s been an interesting storyline on MetsTwitter is because initially some fans overreacted to Loney’s performance and said things like “he’s better than Duda” which is objectively wrong. Because of that reaction half the prominent writers were against Loney from day 1 and made it their business to point out how crappy he is and basically have rooted against him for months. And now that he’s playing poorly, we still have the same fans saying he’s better than Duda and the same beat writers rooting against him and hoping he gets released. Seemingly nobody can agree on all the objective facts I pointed out up front and would prefer to continue to argue about the same stupid issues. Ridiculous.

Big Smoke: In the 7th inning Jim Henderson retired a batter but then gave up a single to Jayson Werth. Terry brought in Josh Smoker to face Daniel Murphy and Bryce Harper. Murph lined a ball to center field and Michael Conforto made a diving catch. If the ball went past him it would have been a disaster. But Mikey made the big play. Then Smoker struck out Harper on a nasty 1-2 breaking ball to end the inning.

Big Pen Doggz: Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia shut down the Nats in the 8th and 9th inning. 2016 has been a tough season, but the reliable back end of the pen has been an incredible luxury. The Mets basically have 7 inning games when they have a lead. I hope that magically continues next year. If Reed matches his 2016 numbers next year he’ll go somewhere else and close for big money. So we better enjoy him now.

Duda Comeback: The Mets said Duda is swinging a bat and may be back before the end of the season. Yeah right. The next time Duda’s ready to suit up it’ll be as Santa Claus for the annual Christmas party.

Not What MLB Had In Mind: This Wild Card race can’t be what MLB had in mind. The Pirates, Marlins, Cardinals and Mets are just constantly losing and showing new weaknesses. It’s a race to be the last mediocre team standing.

Today: Seth Lugo goes tonight in the big night game on ESPN. Please God let us win this series.

2017 Mets: The “Walk Year” Season

Neil Walker’s 2016 season perfectly highlights the potential risks/rewards associated with contract years for players. In his 2016 “walk year”, Neil Walker was posting the best numbers of his professional career. His .282/.347/.476 slash line represents his highest ever. His 23 long balls tied a career high. Neil was stepping up his performance when it mattered most. But the news that he will have season-ending back surgery to fix a herniated disk is a reminder of how quickly the potential financial rewards for on-field performance can evaporate once injury red flags are thrown into the mix.

The walk year talk is especially relevant for the Mets when you consider their prospective roster for the 2017 season. If the Mets pick up all contract options and tender deals to their arbitration eligible players for 2017, as currently constructed, the Mets will have Jay Bruce, Asdrubal Cabrera, Lucas Duda, Curtis Granderson, Addison Reed, and Jose Reyes playing for a contract. Duda and Reed are playing for their first big payday. Reed has a chance to score a 3-4 year deal as a closer if he has a big 2017. Duda will need to return to his slugging form to show the masses that his back woes are a temporary ailment. Bruce will be a free agent for the first time.

After his poor 2016, Grandy’s 2017 play may be the difference between him scoring one more lucrative 2 or 3 year deal or him fighting to get one year contracts each season until he retires. Cabrera is a veteran in a similar spot as Grandy. The Mets have a 2018 option on Cabrera, but if he struggles they’ll just buy it out. For Jose Reyes, the truth is his off the field actions almost got him blacklisted from the sport. But if his current 2016 performance carries over into 2017 and he has a big year, he’ll probably receive another big payday from some club (not likely to be the Mets but who knows).

Despite his injury, it’s hard to ignore the uptick in Neil Walkyear’s 2016 performance. There’s no doubt that the Mets will be hoping for similar increases in production in 2017 from all the aforementioned players. The contract year phenomenon is consistently discussed and debated in the context of free agency in sports. There’s been plenty of studies conducted regarding the contract year phenomenon that indicate the impact on player performance is somewhere between overhyped to non-existent. Some research shows that the overall impact to batting stats in the contract year are negligible while the year after the contract is signed batting stats historically diminish.

There’s also plenty of examples of players raising their game with a payday on the horizon. Nelson Cruz did that in 2014 when he signed a one year 8 million dollar deal with the Orioles after his steroid suspension. He went on to hit 40 homers, drive in 108 RBIs and slash .271/.333/.525. Then he scored a 4 year 57m dollar deal with Seattle. In 2011 Matt Kemp, in the final year of a 2 year deal, went on to finish second in the MVP voting. He hit 39 home runs, drove in 126 RBIs and stole 40 bases. He slashed .324/.399/.586. He posted career highs across the board. Then he scored a 8 year 160 million dollar extension.

There have also been plenty of Mets with walk year success. In 2009 and 2010 Carlos Beltran played 81 and 64 games respectively. He was plagued by injuries. Then in 2011 before he hit free agency he played 142 games and slashed .300/.385/.525. He hit 22 homers, drove in 84 runs and was traded by the Mets at the deadline for Zack Wheeler. Then he scored a 2 year 26 million dollar deal with the Cardinals. Beltran is no stranger to the walk year explosion (see 2004: 38 homers, 104 RBIs, Mr. October run and resulting 7 year 119m dollar contract). Hell Beltran is having an incredible walk year right now at 39 years old.

Jose Reyes, Daniel Murphy, and Yoenis Cespedes are some other examples. Jose won the batting title in 2011 right before he signed his mega-deal (6 years 106m) with the Marlins. We all know Daniel Murphy is having an MVP season right now, but last season was his walk year with the Mets. And until this season, his 2015 regular season combined with his postseason home run barrage represented the best stretch of baseball in his career. Yoenis Cespedes for two years in a row now has put up big time walk year numbers (assuming he opts-out of his 3 year deal at the end of the season). In his last 162 games he’s hit 46 home runs, driven in 115 RBIs and slashed .293/.354/.592.

Sure for every walk year success story there’s probably a corresponding bust (see Denard Span 2015 injury-fest, Ian Desmond 2015 performance drop-off, and Carlos Gomez 2016 poor season). But I’ll take the extra player motivation any day of the week. The contract year certainly doesn’t guarantee anything, but as Sparky Anderson once said “Just give me 25 guys on the last year of their contracts; I’ll win a pennant every year.” Based on the current roster construction it would appear that Sandy Alderson feels the same way.

Duda’s Back Still Cracked; Out For Good

“Look, I bought flowers for my funeral!” -Lucas Duda 2016

The Mets officially announced that Lucas Duda has been shut down from baseball activities for another 30 days because his back is still cracked. The stress fractures haven’t quite healed. Well that’s that. Duda’s season is over. Toss another body in the pile. I suppose this will temporarily silence the raging Loney vs. Duda debate on #MetsTwitter. Or maybe the injury will increase the chatter among the fan base? I don’t know. I don’t care.

It’s crazy to me that fans are genuinely split regarding which player is “better”. Obviously I’m on team Duda because Lucas is a more productive offensive player. That’s a fact. As Poppie once said on Seinfeld, “On this issue there can be no debate!” He hits more home runs and gets on base at a higher clip. James Loney has done a nice job filling in and has a steady glove, but he’s not on Duda’s level offensively. The advanced metrics don’t even tell that glowing of a tale about Loney’s glove. Although I fully acknowledge he’s very good at scooping all those horrendous throws from our infielders at first base.

All that being said, I’m really on team health. I am so sick of the stench of death that surrounds this ball club. Do healthy players exist? Can we fire Ray Ramirez and the training staff and hire a team of experts who are capable of pinpointing the healthiest players in the sport? I only want those players on the roster. If they can use sabermetrics and advanced stats to identify the most productive players, there must be some combination of math and science skills that will help us bring in talented players while simultaneously maximizing the health of the roster. It has to be possible.

I have a feeling this Duda injury is endangering his future with the team. I mentioned it in my game recap this morning, but Gary Cohen was talking about non-tendering Duda last night in the booth. That’s insane. If the Mets are dead set on getting rid of him, they at least have to tender Duda a contract and then try and trade him. So much for that long-term deal talk. Remember when the Mets supposedly put that on the table? Good luck getting paid now Lucas.

Judging by the Daniel Murphy/Dilson Herrera situation, I’m guessing this is how first base plays out. After the 2017 season (or maybe even this season) we will let Lucas Duda walk, and the front office will hard sell first base prospect Dominic Smith as the heir apparent. Then we’ll bring in some mook to hold the job the following year and halfway through that season we’ll trade Smith at the deadline. We’ll probably package him with a pitching prospect and trade him to the Braves for Kelly Johnson.

So much for my 2016 dream of having the Neanderthal brothers Lucas Duda and Jay Bruce in the same lineup. RIP Lucas. Send our regards to the rest of the dead Mets hanging at the morgue (Port St. Lucie).

Michael Conforto in Center Field Is Bananas

Let me start by saying I fully understand the Mets current predicament. Yoenis Cespedes is playing injured. His legs are sore, and he has stated openly and on the record that playing center field has contributed to his leg problems. As a result of that assertion, the Mets have no choice but to accommodate Cespedes’ request and play him more often in the corner outfield to keep him in the lineup.

I also understand the notion that Cespedes isn’t really a true center fielder, and according to the advanced defensive metrics he hasn’t been that great defensively out there this season anyway. Therefore, if we were willing to play Yo in center field and sacrifice defense, why wouldn’t we be willing to try someone else out there and make a similar sacrifice? I get how someone could come to that conclusion. Unfortunately, that conclusion makes no sense when the “someone” we plan to use in center field is Michael Conforto.

Michael Conforto in center field just feels like something the Mets would try and completely bungle. It’s so Mets. My biggest concern with even entertaining the notion of Conforto in center field is he’s 23 years old, never played the position, and just got sent down to the minors for hitting struggles. Hitting is supposed to be his strength. Hitting is what comes natural to him, and he’s struggled with that at the major league level in 2016. And those struggles are completely understandable for a young player. Now we are going to ask him to figure out hitting as well as learn a position that requires arguably the most athleticism of all the places in the field? It’s borderline unfair to ask Conforto to learn a new position when he’s still learning to hit MLB pitching.

I’m not saying Conforto wouldn’t be able to eventually succeed in center. But this just reeks of a failed Mets experiment that sets a young player’s development back. Let’s teach Jose Reyes a different running style! Let’s move Reyes to second base and make room for Kaz Matsui! For God’s sake, Lucas Duda still wakes up in cold sweats after having nightmares where he’s hurriedly retrieving balls in the left field corner as runners are rounding third and heading home. The Duda outfield experiment screwed with Lucas at the plate, and as a result it took years for the Mets to see what he was fully capable of in the batter’s box. But Conforto in center field sounds great. I’m sure it’ll be different.

I get that Curtis Granderson can’t effectively play the position anymore. He can’t cover the ground in center and doesn’t have the arm. Unfortunately, this whole outfield debacle really exposes one big issue that we’ve all been ignoring/pretending doesn’t exist. If Cespedes opts-out and the Mets pony up the dough to keep him, they have to trade Curtis Granderson for a player that fits better on this roster. I love Grandy. He’s one of the best players on the team and a class act off the field. I don’t want to get rid of him at all. But if Yo can only play the corner then there’s no place for Grandy.

As far as this season goes, there’s only one real answer. If Cespedes can only play center field once or twice a week, then Juan Lagares gets the rest of the starts. That’s the only real option. I realize the plan was to have Juan platoon against lefties. Well throw that plan out the window because having Cespedes in the lineup is the only thing that matters.

Frankly, I’m not quite sure why this is even being made out to be an emergency situation. Michael Conforto wasn’t hitting when he was demoted. We crowned him as our number three hitter before he even had a chance to get fully acquainted with big league pitching. But he’s struggled this season, so why are we rushing to reconfigure our defensive alignment to “get his bat in there”? We’ve tried every configuration imaginable this season, and the team has still failed to produce with runners in scoring position.

The idea of giving Juan Lagares more at-bats and starting him more often in center field down the stretch doesn’t scare me at all. I actually like the idea of prioritizing defense the rest of the season. Our young studs are pitching through elbow bone spurs. Matt Harvey is out for the season. That should mean strikeouts will be down and more balls will be in play. Let’s see how many runs Lagares can save with a healthy throwing arm (let’s just pretend he has two healthy thumbs). Let’s not forget the Mets paid Lagares. We need to determine if he really is the future full time center fielder who will be flanked by Conforto and Cespedes for years to come. There’s no better time to assess that than the present.

Duda’s Discs Are Popping Out; Mets In Trouble

Rafiki from the Lion King once said, “You can’t change the past. But the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it.” Well no offense to Rafiki, but when it comes to this Lucas Duda injury, I choose to dwell on the past. I said all spring that the Mets had no contingency plan at first base. I said in my season preview that arguably the biggest risk in the makeup of our roster was the non-existent depth at first base. I’ve been ranting and raving all season about how Wilmer Flores has never played first base, and we’re screwed if Lucas goes down. Well one of the worst possible scenarios for our lineup has officially unfolded. I guess Wright’s back problems are officially airborne because Lucas needs a backiotomy. The official diagnosis is back stress fractures, and they will keep him inactive for 4-6 weeks minimum. Instead of being well prepared and having a known first base succession plan, the Mets are scrambling. The following options have been thrown around:

1) Conforto To First Base: So the Mets first proposal is to take a 23 year old that they’ve already thrust into the three hole in the batting order and asked to be their franchise hitter, and now they want him to play a position he’s never played before. “Hey Mike, we know you’ve never played first base before and aren’t even a great outfielder, but grab a glove big guy.” Terry already said Mike’s going to take grounders at first. I think this suggestion is so stupid. I think you put Michael Conforto at risk for an injury at first base. How is it going to look if he breaks his wrist trying to slap a tag on somebody or gets caught out of position and gets run over by a base runner? And you create a situation where his lack of confidence in the field could affect him at the plate. Umm hey Mets, remember when we did this to Lucas Duda in the outfield you morons?? The very player we are looking to replace. Let’s do it to Conforto now. Brilliant.

2) Wright to First Base: No offense to David Wright, but he’s liable to throw his back out walking up to the booth to have a ten minute conversation with Keith about playing the position. Pass.

3) Walker To First Base and Herrera to Second Base: Honestly, this scenario appeals to me most of all. We want to see what the young Dilson Herrera brings to the table. The Mets are never going to pay Neil Walker to stay on this team long term. Hell we wouldn’t even extend a modest 3 year 37 million dollar offer to the league’s leading hitter Daniel Murphy (who was our previous contingency plan at first base and literally played there every single season), so there’s no way we’re paying Neil to stay. Walker has no experience at first base either, but he’s a strong athlete. The Mets have all but dismissed this scenario entirely. Better to shove a franchise cornerstone like Conforto out there temporarily than use a one year mercenary who would probably love to increase his free agency value by showing some versatility.

4) Wilmer Everyday: Right now it sounds like the Mets are going to wait until Wilmer Flores finishes his rehab assignment (by week’s end I think), and then install him as the everyday first basemen. Obviously this involves Eric Campbell being promoted to the super-sub/Wright’s full time backup. Any scenario that involves Soup getting a bunch of at-bats and Wilmer’s glove being used in the field (at a new position no less) is definitely the worst possible option. But this seems like the route the Mets will go. Genius!! In Wilmer’s defense, he was a real viable hitter last year, and I think he would benefit from the extra at-bats. But those stone hands are a real net negative.

5) Morse/Loney/Anyone That’s Available: So James Loney is currently playing for the Padres Triple-A affiliate and Michael Morse is currently sitting on his couch in Florida watching Days Of Our Lives and The Price is Right all day. We should be exploring the possibility of adding one of these guys to our active roster. Remember when Juan Uribe was released by the Dodgers last season and instead of signing him at that time we waited for him to rebuild his value in Atlanta and then we gave up prospects for him? Remember? It’s called taking a flier on a guy. We should do it. A flier is better than Soup. I guarantee that anything is better than Soup and Ty Kelly and Josh Satin and Nick Evans and Vinny Rottino and Valentino Pascucci and every other Quadraple-A dude we’ve employed over the last 5 years.

In conclusion, I have no idea how this first base situation will play out, but my meltdown has temporarily concluded. I’m sorry, but this injury news combined with the possible rainout in Washington tonight, and the fact that it’s Monday. It’s just all too much.

P.S.- Yoenis Cespedes needs to be under guard at all times from now on, and when he hits he needs to wear a protective exoskeleton suit similar to the one worn by the aliens in Independence Day. And will somebody please order him some custom chainmail batting gloves. Without Yo it’s all over.