Tag Archives: Curtis Granderson

Offseason Outlook for the New York Mets

The New York Mets had a storybook 2015 season. They captured the division crown over the favored Washington Nationals, returned to the postseason for the first time since 2006, and claimed the NL pennant for the fifth time in their history, defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs along the way. Their tremendously talented starting rotation paved the path to the World Series, along with key contributions from, among others, Yoenis Cespedes and Daniel Murphy.

The legend of the 2015 Mets became less grand, however, as the Kansas City Royals defeated the Mets in 5 games in the World Series. The Mets held a lead in every game of the series, but the resilient Royals capitalized upon defensive miscues and bullpen issues to eke out torturous victories. Murph, the NLCS MVP and provider of countless hilarious gifs (and frequently awful defense) over his years of service with the Mets, booted a key ground ball in Game 4 to allow the Royals to score the tying run. Cespedes, the prized midseason acquistion, developed a habit of kicking misplayed fly balls all around the outfield. Even Wright, the longtime star and captain of this beleaguered ballclub, made a few crucial errors on the way to defeat.

The Royals are no doubt an excellent ballclub. They came 90 feet away from tying up the San Francisco Madbums– sorry, San Francisco Giants, in last year’s World Series, and have quality players at nearly every position. But it seems that, more than anything, the Mets beat themselves in the World Series. In addition to the predictable defensive mistakes that have plagued the Mets all season long, the offense shut down when it was most needed. Excluding Curtis Granderson, Michael Conforto, and David Wright in Game 3, the bats just didn’t get the job done.

So now, the Mets head into the 2015 offseason with several goals. They are likely to lose Murphy and Cespedes, as well as backup infielders Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe and several other expendable pitchers (bye, Bartolo. I’ll miss you always). But for a team that should have a renewed focus on defense after a disastrous World Series, these losses provide an opportunity for GM Sandy Alderson to build a more fundamentally sound team. Alderson has done a great job at acquiring the building blocks for a contender. Now, he must prove he can provide the finishing touches to the roster.

With that said, here are several moves which could be the focal points for the Mets this offseason, and which would be beneficial in New York’s quest to return to the postseason and avenge the championship loss.

  1. Acquire a utility infielder

Going into the 2015 season, the question of who would play shortstop for the Mets loomed. Wilmer Flores had more power and prowess at the plate than the better-fielding Ruben Tejada, but neither seemed like the long-term solution. Amidst frequent switching back and forth between the middle infield positions, the two performed decently. Still, if the Mets are going to be serious contenders in 2016, they need to find a decent backup infielder who can provide solid defense around the diamond. This is especially important considering the uncertainty surrounding David Wright’s long term prospects at third base. Someone like free agent Asdrubal Cabrera, most recently of the Tampa Bay Rays, comes to mind. I also wouldn’t be shocked if the Mets went after Ben Zobrist, who was fairly good during the postseason for Kansas City. Also to be considered is how prospects Matt Reynolds and Dilson Herrera might factor in. If Alderson deems Reynolds and Herrera can be serviceable backups, he might focus his attention elsewhere.

  1. Find a centerfielder/ fourth outfielder

Curtis Granderson showed he was worth his contract this year, leading the way for the Mets in both the regular season and postseason, and it seems like Michael Conforto will be penciled in as the #3 hitter for the next 10 years in New York. While left and right are covered, though, centerfield remains a question mark. Juan Lagares appeared to be the long term solution in center after two seasons of dominant defensive play. The 26 year old was given a four year contract extension before the 2015 season, but a ligament tear in his right elbow sapped his once-lethal throwing arm of much of its strength and Lagares ended up ceding his starting role to Cespedes after the Cuban’s arrival. Though Cespedes will likely be gone, it’s unclear if Lagares can return to prior form or if he requires Tommy John surgery. Therefore, the Mets will be looking for a versatile outfielder who can man center, especially if Lagares is deemed to need surgery. Someone like Dexter Fowler or Austin Jackson would provide New York with something it’s not had since Jose Reyes– a true leadoff hitter. Colby Rasmus, another potential target, would add some lefty pop to the Mets lineup. It’s possible that the Mets could go after Jason Heyward, but he would come at a high cost and likely shift Granderson over to center, which would not be an ideal defensive alignment. In terms of trade targets, there have been rumblings that the Yankees are interested in dealing Brett Gardner– would the Mets be interested in bringing the speedster across town? Prospect Brandon Nimmo is also an intriguing option, but doubts linger about his defensive capabilities in center.

  1. Bullpen help

In 2015, Jeurys Familia had one of the finest seasons as a closer in the history of the franchise. Slotted in to replace PED lover Jenrry Mejia at the back end of the bullpen in the first few days of the season, Familia starred, saving 43 games in the regular season and five more in the postseason. Familia became the first pitcher to blow three saves in one World Series, but that figure is misleading; in two of those appearances, Familia didn’t give up a hit. Though in recent years there’s been a bit of a revolving door at closer for the Mets, it seems like Familia is the clear choice for the role next season and beyond. Outside of him, though, questions abound. The most reliable relievers in the postseason for the Mets were probably usual starters Jon Niese and Bartolo Colon and midseason acquisition Addison Reed. Niese will slot in as a fifth starter (at least until Zack Wheeler’s return), Colon is likely gone, and Reed is eligible for arbitration. That leaves the Mets with quite a few spots to fill. Assuming that Reed accepts arbitration, the returning members of the Mets bullpen from the World Series roster will be righties Reed and Hansel Robles, lefty Sean Gilmartin, and Familia. Logan Verrett will likely serve in long relief, and it’s possible Niese will return to the ‘pen after Wheeler returns. The makings of a solid bullpen are here, but for it to be elite, the Mets will have to invest in a quality setup man and perhaps a shutdown lefty. Internally, southpaw Josh Smoker could be an option. The 26 year old had an impressive 2015, advancing to AA ball with a heater in the mid-nineties. In addition, Josh Edgin and Jerry Blevins both will return from injury, and it seems likely the Mets can find two or three decent lefties out of the bunch to place in the bullpen. External options for a setup man are intriguing but expensive. Darren O’Day and Joakim Soria will likely fetch impressive contracts on the open market, and potential trade targets like Aroldis Chapman or Craig Kimbrel would cost the Mets some of their most prized prospects. It’s up to Sandy to determine whether a devastating one-two punch of Familia and another top reliever would be worth giving up yet another prospect from the shrinking farm system.

The Mets have work to do if they want to be playing baseball again in October and November in 2016. But the heart and soul of the team is only going to get better. The rotation of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz will be together for an entire season (barring injury– please, knock on any wood you can find) and will have another year of development under their belt. Hopefully, New York can find the right pieces to complement their staff.

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2014 MLB Preview: NL East

Hello, baseball fans, and welcome to the 4th divisional preview of College Sports Town’s 2014 MLB preview. Today, we will begin looking at the National League, starting with the NL East. The Nationals disappointed many analysts last year, as the trendy World Series pick didn’t even make the playoffs. This year, I expect both the Nats and the reigning division champ Braves to make the postseason.

Divisional Breakdown

1. Atlanta Braves

2. Washington Nationals

3. New York Mets

4. Miami Marlins

5. Philadelphia Phillies

Team Breakdowns

1. Atlanta Braves

The Braves had an impressive 2013, finishing with the second-best record in the NL. Many key contributors to that squad departed, however. Brian McCann, Tim Hudson, and Paul Maholm all will be playing for other teams this season, which will complicate the Braves bid to repeat as division champs. Still, I believe they have enough talent to do so. Chris Johnson and Freddie Freeman were both in the top five for NL batting average in 2013. Andrelton Simmons won the Platinum Glove award as the best defensive player in the NL. Before a terrible jaw injury, Jason Heyward looked revitalized in the leadoff spot. Even the Upton brothers, B.J and Justin, should improve upon decent (Justin) and dreadful (B.J) performances from last year. Pitching-wise, the Braves will sorely miss Kris Medlen, who will soon undergo his second Tommy John surgery. Still, the Braves rotation is young and talented. Julio Teheran should improve upon a good rookie campaign and Alex Wood has looked terrific in spring training. Veteran newcomers Aaron Harang and Ervin Santana should do a decent enough job replacing Hudson and Medlen. The bullpen is one of the best in baseball due to closer Craig Kimbrel. Since his rookie season, he has been the best closer in the league, and that will not change this year.

Verdict

Best Case- Freeman wins MVP, the Upton brothers’ level of play is once again elite, Kimbrel is a Cy Young candidate, and the Braves win the NL East again.

Worst Case- McCann, Hudson, Maholm, and Medlen are missed, and the Braves can’t quite recapture last year’s magic, just missing out on a wild-card berth.

Hopefully the Upton Bros. will find a way to top this moment in 2014.

Hopefully the Upton Bros. will find a way to top this moment in 2014.

2. Washington Nationals

2013 was a disappointing year for the Nats. A World Series favorite, the Nationals failed to make the playoffs in their last season under manager Davey Johnson. Replacement Matt Williams aims to lead the Nationals to something they’ve never had- playoff success. The talent is certainly there. Even though it seems people have been talking about him forever, Bryce Harper is only 21. Harper is still improving, as he displayed last year, despite being limited by injuries. A full season from Harper is essential for the Nationals playoff hopes. Ian Desmond won the NL Silver Slugger award at shortstop and Jayson Werth had a resurgent year at the plate Young players Anthony Rendon and Wilson Ramos had solid performances, and should improve this year. Denard Span is a solid leadoff hitter, and even Ryan Zimmerman, though he is in decline, is still an effective third baseman. The lineup should be one of the better ones in the NL, and the same goes for the rotation. The combination of Stephen Strasburg, All-Star Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, and the newly-acquired Doug Fister should be deadly, and not one of those pitchers is over 28. The bullpen is formidable as well. Closer Rafael Soriano is among the better closers in the game, and Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen are fairly solid as well.

Verdict

Best Case- Harper wins MVP, Strasburg wins Cy Young, and the Nats take back the NL East.

Worst Case- For the second straight year, the Nationals talent doesn’t translate to wins, and they miss the postseason.

Harper is as strong as his hair is stupid.

Harper is as strong as his hair is stupid.

3. New York Mets

The Mets are on their way to being less of a joke. The 2013 version of the team finished in third place, and the 2014 edition should follow in their footsteps. This is not to imply the team has not improved; it is merely a consequence of being in the same division as two teams as skilled as the Nats and Braves. The talent the Mets added this offs-season is considerable. When healthy, Chris Young is a nice lead off bat, and Curtis Granderson can put up top offensive numbers. These two will join a lineup with promising prospect Travis d’Arnaud, the consistent Daniel Murphy, the confounding Ike Davis, and, of course, the stupendous David Wright. Injuries are a concern for most players listed above, as well as realizing potential for d’Arnaud and Davis. If everything breaks just right, though, the Mets could have an underrated lineup. The rotation is fairly strong, but should get better as the season progresses. Noah Syndergaard, the prospect who has drawn comparisons to Norse gods, is slated for a midseason debut, as is Rafael Montero. The rotation would really look better with the phenom Matt Harvey, who set the 2013 summer ablaze with his cannon of a right arm, but who underwent Tommy John surgery in October and is unlikely to return effectively this year. Still, flamethrower Zack Wheeler should improve in his second year in the bigs, and solid starters Dillon Gee and Jonathon Niese will be joined by All-Star Bartolo Colon, as well as once-raved-about righty Jenrry Mejia, who looked strong last year before his injury. The bullpen has the potential to be very good or very bad. The unpredictable Jose Valverde joins (for now) healthy closer Bobby Parnell and former Pirate Vic Black in a pen where talent is present but results have been questionable. This year, the Mets will certainly try to make the postseason, but the season is really about proving which pieces will work for the real playoff push with a healthy Matt Harvey in 2015. Still, don’t be shocked if the Mets win 85+ games in 2014.

Verdict

Best case- Wright is MVP, Granderson hits 40 HR, d’Arnaud is ROY, the rotation is strong and grows stronger with the addition of Syndergaard, and the Mets snag a wild-card spot.

Worst case- d’Arnaud is a bust, Granderson and Wright get hurt again, Colon looks as washed up as a beached whale (in addition to looking like a beached whale), and the development of Syndergaard and Montero is slowed.

Sorry, Trout-- Wright leads the MLB in smiles!

Sorry, Trout– Wright leads the MLB in smiles!

4. Miami Marlins

The 2013 Marlins were supposed to be dreadful, and they were. Born out of that cesspool, however, was one of the most exciting pitchers the MLB has showcased in a while, Jose Fernandez. Fernandez had an unbelieveable rookie year, and while I don’t expect to see any postseason starts from him this season, he and slugger Giancarlo Stanton should inspire hope in the hearts of Marlins fans (however few of them exist). The lineup should be slightly improved to due to several acquisitions, but it still is one of the weaker lineups in baseball. World Series champ Jarrod Saltalamacchia adds some pop, prospect Christian Yelich should continue to improve, and former Pirate Garrett Jones is not a terrible option at first. In addition, the Marlins are hoping young defensive stalwarts Marcell Ozuna and Adeiny Hechavarria can become a little more effective at the plate. The rotation is extremely young and fairly talented. Fernandez has little room to improve, but the development of staffmates Jacob Turner, Nathan Eovaldi, and Henderson Alvarez is essential for Marlins fans to be optimistic about 2015. The bullpen is fairly strong, led by impressive closer Steve Cishek, lefty Mike Dunn, and hopefully Carlos Marmol, if he can gain some semblance of control.

Verdict

Best Case- Fernandez wins the NL Cy Young, Stanton wins the home run crown, Yelich, Ozuna, and the young starting pitchers develop, and the Marlins finish third in the division.

Worst Case- Fernandez takes a step back, Stanton trade rumors fly around, there is not much development with young talent, and the Marlins flounder.

Fernandez should have more fun in his sophomore season.

Fernandez continue to have fun in his sophomore season.

5. Philadelphia Phillies

The 2013 Phillies had a difficult year, finishing fourth in the NL East. A team with playoff aspirations, the Phillies were affected by injuries and suspensions. There should be less disappointment for the 2014 Phillies, simply because of the lack of positive expectations of the team.  hey have a decent amount of talent, but their key players are both old and have troubling injury histories. Jimmy Rollins has been in decline for a couple years and he is already feuding with new manager Ryne Sandberg. Ryan Howard hasn’t been elite since 2011, and Chase Utley, while the best of the remaining 2008 World Series nucleus, has dealt with injuries for the past several years. Carlos Ruiz, just signed to a new three year deal, is 35 and also faced injuries last season. A year of aging is not going to help injury troubles and decline. Not everything is negative, though; the outfield is fairly robust. Dominic Brown had a breakout All-Star season in 2013 and should build upon that this year, Ben Revere is a nice leadoff hitter, and new acquisition Marlon Byrd revived his career in New York and Pittsburgh last season. Still, the outfield alone can’t carry the team. For the Phillies to be good, their aging core needs to stay on the field and produce. The rotation is not bad, but faces similar injury and age concerns. Cliff Lee is still a terrific pitcher, and A.J Burnett played very well for the Pirates last year, but both are on the older side. Cole Hamels is one of the better lefties in the league, but he is out indefinitely with a bum shoulder. Kyle Kendrick and Fausto Carmona- I mean, Roberto Hernandez are decent, but this team needs a stronger rotation in order to achieve their playoff goals. To be fair, the bullpen is fairly good, with closer Jonathan Papelbon, Antonio Bastardo, and new acquisition Brad Lincoln, but Papelbon could get dealt at the deadline if the Phillies flop.

Verdict

Best Case- The 2008 holdovers Howard, Utley, Rollins, and Hamels make a playoff push, but fall short.

Worst Case- The 2008 holdovers decline further, the clubhouse situation with Rollins turns ugly, Hamels is out for an extended period of time, and the Phillies finish in the NL East cellar.

In order to not enrage Phillies fans (a dangerous prospect), Utley needs to contribute in 2014.

In order to not enrage Phillies fans (a dangerous prospect), Utley and the Phillies need to slow their decline.

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