Forget Manny Machado, Sign Josh Donaldson

This headline is clickbait, there a ton of reasons to covet Manny Machado over virtually everyone else, but those are obvious, and less interesting to write about. Machado is awesome, he fits the Mets very well, and they should absolutely try to sign him. Alas, all 29 other teams are also aware of this guy, and the Mets could seriously pursue him and still not get him.

So what other infield help is there? Well, there’s Josh Donaldson.

The big risk with Donaldson is that he’ll be 33 and had a bad and injured season. You could read into that as the end of the line for him as a useful player, it wouldn’t be the most surprising thing. You definitely have to give him his physical, look at the underlying numbers, do your due diligence. If you find a red flag, balk, but if you don’t, he could be a huge addition.

Donaldson was a late bloomer, and floundered a bit his rookie year at age 26 in 2012, but after that he’s been among the best in baseball. Last season was hampered by injury, but he was traded to Cleveland and mashed much like he’s mashed in the past. It was a small 60 plate appearance sample, but all the peripheral stats seem to support him being much like himself.

He’s a great hitter, he’s got power, he walks a bunch, he makes a lot of solid contact. He’s not fast, but he’s not a base-clogger. He plays good defense. He’s not exclusively a pull-hitter, shifts don’t seem to hurt him too much. He’s a righty, which plays nicely with the Mets having a lot of lefties providing their power right now.

MLB Trade Rumors is predicting the Cardinals will sign him for $20 million, one year. That seems like a steal. Crowd-sourced predictions at Fangraphs have him signing for 3/58, which could still be a steal if Donaldson puts up even something less than his career line. If he’d simply stayed healthy and had an average year, he’d be getting mentioned with Manny Machado and Bryce Harper.

Steamer projections have him just a tick off his average, at 4.6 fWAR for 2019. Even if he continued to decline from there, getting 10 or so WAR from Donaldson over three years would be worth 60 million, easy.

Donaldson might want to try to have a healthy season and jump back into the fray, but Nolan Arenado will be a free agent next year and Donaldson would be a year older too. Perhaps Donaldson could be the right target while other teams are focused on Machado, and maybe Donaldson takes one option off the board for teams looking for shorter term 3B options, raising possible demand for a Todd Frazier trade.

Oh, and Donaldson’s twitter handle is BringerOfRain, which is cool.

 

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Some Brodie Van Wagenen Quotes

I searched the internet so you didn’t have to, to find anything interesting about the new Mets GM, Brodie Van Wagenen.

 

Information has always been power in any industry and it is certainly true in baseball and contract negotiations,” says Van Wagenen. “The people that are capable of analyzing that data in a more sophisticated way are the people that have had the opportunity to succeed.

Seems fairly analytical to me?

Robbins and outfielder Brodie Van Wagenen, a self-described Los Angeles “Valley Boy” with meticulously gelled hair that earned him the nickname “Do Man,”

Do Man?  This was the team he was on with Astro’s manager AJ Hinch. The Tabloids could have a field day with this one.

Recently, we worked with a client who did not enter free agency after his best statistical season,” Van Wagenen says. “We used complex analysis to recreate the player’s statistical profile in order to more accurately demonstrate his future potential. This convinced two teams to enter the process that had not previously been engaged, resulting in more options for a client.

Another quote that certainly seems to suggest Van Wagenen is going to be open and eager to work with his analytics department and value Sabermetric thinkings.

 

I’m excited to see what Van Wagenen gets up to here. It should be an interesting offseason and I expect we’ll know a lot more about the new GM come Spring.

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Five Hours of Meet the Mets

Sometimes when I’m working I put on those long 10 hour loops of Youtube videos that are “10 hours of people talking quietly” or “10 hours of a fireplace burning” or “10 hours of Kass playing the accordion”

 

I was thinking of things to search for last week and tried “10 hours of Meet the Mets” but it didn’t exist. So I figured I should make one.

 

This isn’t quite that, but I’m sure you’ll enjoy anyway. Five hours, to honor David Wright, of Meet the Mets.

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We’ll Miss You David

David Wright is returning at the end of this season for, probably, just one game, and maybe not even a full one. The spinal stenosis and related injuries have wrecked his back to the point that it’s a constant companion, and one that has made it so doing the one thing he loves more than anything, playing baseball, is agony.

 

That sucks. On so many levels. David has meant so much to the team, to the fans, to baseball in general. I’ll miss him quite a bit, now that he’s officially not coming back.  He’s been a part of the Mets routine for so long that it’s hard to wrap my head around the idea of him not being out there somewhere, swinging a bat and making great plays at third. He was a Met before I had even had my first real job, long ago.

 

It’s crazy to think about how the game has changed since then. The Mets no longer play at Shea Stadium. There’s Twitter, and Smartphone apps, and hell, smartphones. When Wright debuted, MLB TV was still very new, and Moneyball had just come out the previous year. Fangraphs did not exist. Amed Rosario was eight years old.

 

David Wright was a Hall of Fame caliber player,  and he was ours. I think about him hitting these last few years, with the juiced ball that seems to particularly favor the type of hard-contact, gap-hitting player that David Wright is was, and I lament that we didn’t get to see him putting up what surely would’ve been a few more MVP caliber seasons that would’ve cemented his Hall of Fame case.  We’ve spent David’s career watching him climb over and take every Mets record imaginable, and he’s been stuck so close to taking that Home Run title from Darryl Strawberry for so long that it’s been agony.

 

But mostly, I’m just sad for David Wright. By all accounts a great guy that loves playing this game and now he’ll struggle to even play some token innings at the end of a lost season. This isn’t how it was supposed to go.

 

 

 

 

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Brandon Nimmo Is Better Than Aaron Judge

Brandon Nimmo speaks at the Queens Baseball Convention

The Subway Series is here and once again the Mets approach it from a deficit that saps the fun.  The Mets are up against a losing streak and desperately need to get on a roll, and the opponent really doesn’t factor in that. You can’t really savor a rivalry if you’re too preoccupied with your own stuff.

 

That said, the best outfielder in New York will be playing for the home team this weekend, and Yankees fans will get a chance to watch him play. I’m talking about, of course, Brandon Nimmo.

 

Thanks to a stacked outfield with more veteran players, Nimmo has not had the playing time to technically qualify for the leaderboards, but his 167 PA is a reasonably large sample size on the season and his wRC+ of 162 would place him as the third best hitter in the NL behind Matt Kemp and Freddie Freeman.

 

I know it’ll be pointed out that Aaron Judge also has a wRC+ of 162, but Nimmo’s OBP is a little higher plus his BABIP is a little lower. Judge has a few more home runs but plays in Yankee Stadium and has 100 more plate appearances. Nimmo also has twice as many stolen bases and is a better base runner in general.

 

Hopefully you realize this post is somewhat tongue in cheek and simply good rivalry fodder, but I’ll end by saying that Aaron Judge is huge so Brandon Nimmo clearly provides more value per inch.

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Who Will Save The Mets?

It’s been rough hasn’t it? Luckily, the season is still pretty young. Let’s try to find Mets players to latch to as reasons the Mets will be better going forward.

 

Let’s start with Amed Rosario. Our top prospect guy who didn’t suddenly appear and set the league on fire as happened, so far, for teams like the Yankees and Braves. So far. It’s early, remember. A month of mashing does not mean a decade of success is eminent for anyone.

 

Amed Rosario still isn’t walking enough, but he has walked twice in the last few days. Once as a pinch-hitter, which is hopeful for a guy that seems to get over-aggressive even when he has four or five AB in a game. He’s also hitting the ball hard. The more of the beginning season you cut off, the better his numbers look. It’s been a slow climb, but he’s starting to contribute with more than just defense. His talent will continue to manifest as he learns and adjusts, and hopefully he gets a little more patient as well.

 

Michael Conforto is an easy one. He came back earlier than expected and had a good initial few games and then slumped a bit. While he slumped he was still getting on base via walks, which I always find to be a trait in the really good hitters. Carlos Beltran was this way a lot. He’s starting to drive the ball now and get comfortable, which will be make him a real threat going forward.

 

Brandon Nimmo has been great all year, at times being near the top in baseball in wRC+. He’s almost definitely not _that_ good, but enough time has passed that it seems obvious that he’s a very good baseball player and should be playing more. It feels like the media, and maybe the Mets too, have finally started to take note.

 

Devin Mesoraco is better than Matt Harvey, who’s still not missing bats and walking too many, so that’s an upgrade. He was always a guy with talent that maybe hadn’t realized it, and so far he’s thriving here with the Mets. He won’t continue at this pace, but Kevin Plawecki is back now too, and Plawecki has been pretty good this season and last, and has a good eye at the plate. At the very least this means they don’t have a hole at catcher in the lineup, and it helps keep the offense moving.

 

I’m always hesitant to bank on guys coming back from injuries soon to necessarily do so, but the Mets have a few guys starting rehab games which should mean they’re almost back. Getting Todd Frazier and Yoenis Cespedes back will help the offense a lot, and Anthony Swarzak will hopefully be a nice add to the bullpen.

 

The Mets have two of the best starting pitchers in the game, but they’ve managed to queue up some of the worse bullpen performances of the year behind them. Logic states that this is just a lot of bad luck, and as the season progresses it’ll even out, and Mickey Callaway will start to have more trust, and more arms, to use in better spots. An improving offense building bigger leads will help too. Callaway’s bullpen management should adjust as the innings mount and relievers show him who can and cannot be trusted. This should pay off down the road.

 

Wheeler’s actually been better than it seems, and has been one of the victims of some bad defense. He’s given up a few too many home runs, and walked a few too many guys. Some of that’s fly ball luck, some of it might just be something that we have to live with, but he strikes guys out and is due for some more of those bounces to find gloves instead of glance off them.

 

The Mets rotation problems have mainly been pitchers absolutely bombing, and it’s hard to see that continue for long. Technically, Jason Vargas is a lot better than he’s shown, even if he’s not particularly good. He’s pretty much what you’d call a veteran journeyman though, and if he can tweak whatever the problem is and give the Mets a stretch of decent starts, that’d go a long way. Stephen Matz has been wild, but even last year this wasn’t the case. If he settles down and starts executing better, he should at least be serviceable.

 

The Mets still have a lot of potential, even if it feels like they’re squandering some of their best chances right now with heartbreaking walk-off losses. Things will pick up soon, let’s just hope they pick up soon enough, and long enough, to catch and pass the Nationals again.

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Adrian Gonzalez: Secretly Good

via Baseball SavantThe Mets signed Adrian Gonzalez, a former great player, hoping that his 2017 was the aberration and not the start of a steep decline. They liked the idea of a veteran player providing time for Dominic Smith to step up and take the job, as well as have a solid bench piece if they did give the job to Smith. Gonzalez is the type of guy a good team has on their bench to provide depth and options.

 

Gonzalez had a good night in Cincinnati in a hitter’s ballpark against one of the worst pitching staffs ever, but overall the results haven’t quite been there, though there is a lot of good signs when you look at the numbers, specifically in Statcast.

 

His exit velocity is the highest it’s been in the Statcast era (since 2015), and he has his best barrel%, basically a measure of good contact and angle for home runs, too. He’s actually had more barrels this year than all of last year.  His expected slugging and expected wOBA are also way above what they actually are, and his hard hit percentage is way up.

 

He’s also posting a higher walk rate than he has since 2010. He’s making good contact, less weak contact, pulling the ball in the air more, and hasn’t popped up yet, according to Statcast.  I’m not sure how accurate that last one is, as I seem to remember one, but no matter how you slice it Gonzalez is making good contact in ways that generally lead to extra base hits. He’s just gotten very unlucky so far.

 

So expect a lot more from Gonzalez, as he’s actually been better than the numbers suggest, and after last night even those are looking better. Definitely don’t play Jay Bruce at first over him, though getting Wilmer Flores in there against lefties occasionally wouldn’t be a bad idea. The Mets might have to make a tough decision with Dominic Smith being ready to come back up later this season, but until then Gonzalez has been doing a good job.

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I’m Not Dead, Think I’ll Go For A Walk

Losing Jacob deGrom for an unspecified amount of time is bad no matter how you cut it.  Losing one singular player, even perhaps the best player, is not catastrophic in baseball.  It’s way too soon to close the casket on this season, or act like we’re going to close the casket, especially when we don’t even know deGrom’s timetable.  Let’s give it a few days at least? The Mets had two of the best pitchers in baseball, but the good news here is that they still have one. Noah Syndergaard is still awesome.

 

It is still a huge blow though, the Mets depth in pitchers was, and is, pretty large, but none of them have stood out. It’ll need to be more than Thor, maybe some decent Wheeler and Vargas starts, and then hope. Between Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman, Steven Matz, and even Matt Harvey and some of the AAA depth, there’s some potential for quality innings and competitive starts, the Mets just need to find it.

 

The real issue right now is the bats, and getting more offense from some of these guys. Especially with another quality pitcher down, you’d like to score even more runs to account for it, and I suspect the Mets will hit more than they have lately, though the lineup isn’t without it’s own concerns, particularly at catcher.

 

So losing deGrom is a concern, but it’s way too early to panic and there is still a lot of decisions to be made, games to be played, and wins to be had. If you still believe the Nationals are the best team in the division, the Mets still have a nice lead. The Braves and Phillies might be playing well for a month, but there’s no reason to think these teams are this good, even if they were underestimated in the offseason.  It’s time to hold serve, and get back to some winning baseball.  We’ll know more about the holes we need to patch, or repair, in a few weeks.

 

 

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Forgiving Asdrubal Cabrera

Getting thrown out at third was a dumb mistake by Asdrubal Cabrera tonight, especially with Michael Conforto at the plate, but after cooling down a little I have to forgive him.

 

The Mets have been really aggressive on the basepaths this season. They’re going first to third and second to home every chance they get. They’re always moving, always making the defense make plays, keeping them on their toes. It’s been working, and I’d hate to see one mistake blunt what’s been working. Perhaps two mistakes if you want to count the play at the plate earlier, but I don’t, I liked that send.

 

Coming into today Asdrubal Cabera was 9th in Fangraphs  BsR, baserunning runs above average.  Todd Frazier, Yoenis Cespedes, and Amed Rosario are also in the top 36 of 190.  Cabrera knows it was a bone-headed move. Mickey Callaway knows it, the entire team knows it.

 

You take the tough loss, and you move on. The Mets are fallible, unfortunately. but unsurprisingly. Luckily, they still have a solid lead and 15 more games against the Nationals. Keep winning series, winning baseball, just winning in general. Things will be fine.

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Citi Field Beer Review

I did not have time to scour the entire stadium yesterday, as I spent most of the pregame time at Mikkeller NYC and then had a game to watch, so there’s a chance I missed something, but I don’t think so. Finding good beer shouldn’t be something hidden.

 

First off, prices. Beers are up to $11.25 for a 12oz and $14 for a 25oz. That’s a lot. They were $7.50 when Citi Field first opened 10 years ago.

 

At Big Apple Brews the selection has been paired down over the years. It’s always been an Anheuser Busch-Inbev curated list, but now there’s less of the variety.  Mostly the light lager stuff you see everywhere: Presidente, Leffe Blond, Stella, Franzikaner, Shock Top, etc. Followed by a bunch of AB-InBev’s choice of beers from their high end line of acquired craft breweries. These are the beers they’re trying to push nationally, with a touch of local because Blue Point is under that umbrella. Their Mosaic Session Ale is a good ballpark beer.

AB-InBev "craft"

So where’s the real craft? In previous years there was a stand behind home plate on the promenade, with a few drafts and a cooler. Now it’s a Goya stand. There were a few things scattered around the park, but the two main places I found were the “Empire State Craft” stands. The one that’s existed in the left field corner on the field level remains, and there’s a new one just to the third base side of the promenade behind home plate.

This isn’t what I’d call a great selection or variety, but it’s roughly what’s been there the last few years. I had LIC’s Higher Burning and Mikkeller’s Henry Hops, and I enjoyed both. Hopefully as Mikkeller gets up and running they can sneak a few more cans into the stadium as the season goes on. I also wasn’t given the option of a cup for my beer, as I had in the past.

 

The Mikkeller NYC brewery just outside the Right Field gate, outside the stadium, was the real winner. I’ll have a more detailed review of that place coming up.

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