Mets Making Moves But 2018 Still Riding On Noenis Cespergard

According to the Mets analytics-driven front office we lead the league in the all important offseason metric “doing more than the average team percentage”.

I guess that means the Mets are the team to beat. Right?!? Sandy implied our offseason has been successful because we’re doing stuff so it must be true!

Sandy must be forgetting that four of the “additions” are just returning players from last year’s stink squad (Jay Bruce, Jose Reyes, Jerry Blevins, and Asdrubal Cabrera).

Sandy essentially replaced the best reliever from the 2016/17 teams (Addison Reed) with Anthony Swarzak and AJ Ramos. Ramos pitched pretty poorly in his brief stint with the Mets last year and Swarzak has had one good season in the majors (2017).

Sandy replaced injury prone Lucas Duda with the aging injury prone Adrian Gonzalez who the Mets snagged at the league minimum while simultaneously managing to block their top major league ready prospect Dominic Smith.

Finally, the Mets have added thumbs down Jersey boy Todd Frazier to play third base. In essence they’ve replaced perennial 2.5 – 3 WAR player second baseman Neil Walker with perennial 2.5 – 3 WAR third baseman Frazier.

I realize my take sounds pretty negative, but I honestly don’t hate the moves the Mets have made so far. I see the upside. Jay Bruce was awesome in 2017 for the Mets. I like Bruce’s power bat in the lineup. It sucks that Bruce forces Michael Conforto to play CF, but Bruce is also insurance for the Mets if Conforto’s shoulder is shot.

Reyes as a starter sucks, but he really adds value in a backup infielder role. Asdrubal will stink defensively up the middle but he can still hit.

I love Blevins. I expect Ramos will perform at a high level in his walk year. And the expert stat heads seem to agree that Swarzak was a great pickup, so I’ll take their word for it.

Adrian Gonzalez is a low risk/high upside player. Maybe he’ll show remnants of his former All-Star bat. If (when) his back gives out we’ll get to see Dom Smith again.

I also think the Frazier move is smart. He brings leadership and a strong glove at third base. He’ll hit some dingers. And for the first time in four years the Mets have acknowledged that David Wright ain’t coming back and made a move to fill the void at third base. It took them long enough. Hopefully this won’t screw up the Wright insurance scam that the Wilpons are running.

Have the Mets made the most efficient use of their resources from a financial standpoint? The talking heads agree that these moves have at least been “bargains”. Forgive me if I refuse to break out the discount champagne to celebrate Alderson’s efficient way of doing business.

It’s hard to evaluate these moves without knowing the actual Mets budget. They had 60 million come off the books, and so far they’ve added close to 55m in salary with all the new and returning players mentioned above. Given all those expenditures it seems odd that the Mets didn’t at least consider adding two of the high impact players like J.D. Martinez, Lorenzo Cain, Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta instead of spending everything on these complementary guys.

Even with all these new additions the Mets still haven’t addressed last year’s historically bad pitching staff, but I’m sure Sandy will do that. Right? Right?!?

Oh well. Looks like we’ll have to settle for this group of useful complementary players and a swingman for the pen/rotation. If that’s the reality, then these offseason moves won’t really matter unless Noah Syndergaard and Yoenis Cespedes are healthy. Yo and Thor are the difference between a playoff competitor and a dog doo ballclub.

Obviously the core players all matter. A healthy Jacob deGrom, Jeurys Familia, and Michael Conforto combined with Thor/Yo can take this team to an elite level. But considering Conforto is likely to miss a chunk of the season recovering from his shoulder surgery, it’s pretty obvious that Thor and Yo remain the key pieces on this roster. Cespedes propelled the Mets to the playoffs in 2015. Thor’s elite pitching helped them get that Wild Card spot in 2016 while the other pitchers battled injuries.

Most of the projection systems anticipate that Syndergaard and Cespedes will be just as valuable to the Mets in 2018. Noah Syndergaard and Yoenis Cespedes were both included in recent Top 10 rankings by MLB Network. The Shredder on MLB Network ranked Syndergaard as the 7th most valuable pitcher in 2018 and Cespedes was ranked as the 2nd left fielder.

Yo and Thor have a chance to be one of the most valuable pitcher/position player tandem in Mets history in 2018 if they stay healthy. Thor’s 2016 Baseball Reference WAR of 5.3 ranked 10th in baseball. Yo’s 2016 and 2017 bWARs were limited as a result of his injuries woes. But Yo’s 2015 combined bWAR of 6.3 was elite.

I looked back at the best single season pitching/position player bWAR combinations in Mets history and made a chart highlighting the top pitching/position player combined bWAR seasons in Mets history (with a fake Yo/Thor 2015/16 combo season wedged in).

To be included on this list, both the pitcher and the position player had to post a bWAR of at least 5. I set that bWAR floor of 5 because Baseball Reference defines 5+ WAR as an All-Star level of production. The designated minimum threshold of 5 caused a number of elite Tom Seaver seasons to fall off the list solely because his team didn’t have a position player posting a 5+ WAR in the same year.

All time mets duo WAR chart 3

If by some miracle Yo and Thor stay healthy in 2018 and perform near their 2015/16 levels (respectively), their combined talents can put this club in the playoff hunt. It’s nice that the Mets are adding these complementary players, and they absolutely must add more depth to the rotation and bullpen. But ultimately the 2018 season will ride on Yo’s bat and Thor’s arm. The Mets can’t survive without Noenis Cespergard.