The Bruce is Loose

By Ethan Marshall

 

The Mets’ trade of Jay Bruce to the Indians speaks a lot about the state of the organization right now.  Ownership appears to be focused more on saving money than getting valuable prospects in return.  While the trades of Lucas Duda to the Rays and Addison Reed to the Red Sox allowed for the Mets to save money too, the prospects received in return may prove valuable pieces of the Mets bullpen in the near future.  All of the young arms the Mets acquired in these trades are described as throwing in the mid-to-upper-90s by scouts.  All three of the pitchers acquired for Reed are hard-throwing 22-year-olds.  However, some of the pitchers are further along in their development than others.

The pitcher the Mets received for Jay Bruce, Ryder Ryan, wasn’t even a ranked prospect in the Indians’ system.  A 30th round pick, Ryan has posted a 4.50 ERA in two minor league seasons.  Considering how solid Bruce has been this season, this trade is mind-boggling.  According to Ken Rosenthal, the Mets were focused more on getting a team to pick up the $5 million remaining on Bruce’s contract than to receive decent prospects in return.  This is further shown by the fact that the Yankees were willing to give the Mets multiple prospects who were much better than Ryan in exchange for Bruce if the Mets were willing to take on 4/5 of his salary.

For several years, Mets fans have complained about the Wilpons preferring to pad their own wallets rather than improving the team they own.  This trade has only added more fuel to this notion.  As far as MLB contracts are concerned, $5 million isn’t that much money.  If the goal is to save money for free agent signings in the upcoming offseason, the Mets could’ve (and should’ve) taken the Yankees offer, which allowed them to save some money while also gain valuable prospects in return.  By trading Bruce for what likely amounts to a player who will never see the MLB, the Mets wasted one of their most valuable trade chips.  They likely would’ve received a better return by keeping Bruce and giving him a qualifying offer at the end of the season.

 

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Drew Smith pitching for the Rays’ Advanced A Charlotte Stone Crabs.  Photo Credit: Dilip Sridhar.

Drew Smith was Tampa Bay’s 30th ranked prospect when he was traded, with a fastball that could reach 98 m.p.h.  He has pitched well at each level in the minors, posting a career 1.74 ERA with 141 strikeouts in 129 innings.  While he was assigned by the Mets to AA Binghamton, Smith could play a valuable role for the team in 2018.

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Stephen Nogosek pitching for the Oregon Ducks college baseball team.  Photo credit: Mark Humphrey.

Stephen Nogosek may be the furthest from being major-league ready among the young arms the Mets received from Boston.  However, he was also the highest-rated among the three pitchers acquired for Reed, at number 18.  He was assigned to High-A St. Lucie upon his acquisition.  He’s posted a 3.27 ERA with 99 strikeouts in 85.1 innings pitched in the minors.  The main point of concern for Nogosek right now is that he has control problems, with a career 3.5 walks per nine innings.  While he clocks in as reaching 96 miles per hour, his fastball has no movement whatsoever.

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Jamie Callahan pitching for the Red Sox low-A affiliate Lowell Spinners.  Photo credit: Jonathan Raymond.

Jamie Callahan may debut for the Mets as early as September.  He’s currently pitching for AAA Las Vegas.  In 376 career minor league innings, Callahan has posted a 4.79 ERA with 365 strikeouts.  His velocity typically sits in the mid-90s.  He was ranked as the 23rd-best prospect in the Red Sox system.  Since being moved from a starter to a reliever, his velocity has increased from the low-90s to the mid-to-upper-90s.  He has a great splitter that has become his out-pitch.  However, like Nogosek, Callahan has very little movement on his four-seamer and has control issues, with 4 walks per nine innings in 28 innings pitched this season.

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Gerson Bautista pitching for the Red Sox organization.  Photo credit: Kelly O’Connor.

 

Gerson Bautista has a 2.73 ERA with 167 strikeouts in 198 innings in his minor league career thus far.  He was ranked as the 28th-best prospect in the Red Sox farm system upon being traded.  Along with Nogosek, Bautista was assigned to High-A St. Lucie.  He’s shown the ability to reach 100 miles per hour at times, but also has control problems, with 4.1 walks per nine innings in his career.  While he does have a slider that sits in the high 80s, he hasn’t mastered the pitch yet.  The slider can prove to be very effective if he can get better control and movement from it.  Another issue is that he was suspended in 2013 for testing positive for PED use.

The trade of Bruce may also signify the Mets may not be that interested in attempting to re-sign him in the offseason.  While the Mets recently said they believe Michael Conforto could play centerfield in the long term, this trade may mean they will be pursuing a centerfielder in the offseason and move Conforto to rightfield.  As a result, the Mets may be more focused on pursuing Lorenzo Cain than Jay Bruce this winter.

The Mets basically traded Bruce for money.  Players who are usually traded for cash are usually minor leaguers who may have had cups of coffee in the majors, not star players. The one positive thing to come out of this trade is that, unlike the Rangers with Ernesto Frieri, the Mets didn’t trade Bruce for $1.

Who’s at First?

By Ethan Marshall

 

With Mets first baseman Lucas Duda dealing with back and hip issues, now is the time for the Mets to test out some of their other players at first base.  While there is no reason to think right now that Duda won’t be healthy by opening day, the Mets will need to have a backup plan at first in case Duda gets hurt, remains hurt, or struggles.  It is worth noting that Duda missed most of last season due to a stress fracture in his back.

The leading candidates to take over first base for Duda are Neil Walker and Jay Bruce.  Both players have been taking reps at the position this spring.  While Walker moving to first base provides flexibility around the infield, allowing for Reyes and Wright to be in the lineup at the same time, it makes way more sense for the Mets to move Bruce to first base.  With Bruce playing first base, Michael Conforto would be able to fit in at right field, solving the logjam the Mets face in their outfield.  Additionally, Wilmer Flores would still see plenty of playing time at first base against lefties if the Mets were to go with Bruce at first base.

Duda’s injury couldn’t have come at a better time.  Since it’s still very early in spring training, Bruce and Walker have plenty of time to get acclimated to the first base position. Even if Duda is healthy again before the end of spring training, the Mets would have should something happen to Duda.

Another first base option could be David Wright.  Wright is still trying to get his arm strength back.  Moving Wright to first base would allow for Reyes to play third while also sparing Wright from having to throw across the diamond.  While this seems practical, it isn’t really necessary for the Mets to have another right-handed hitting first baseman.  The Mets want Flores in the lineup against lefties.  Last season against lefties, Flores hit .340, with a .319 on-base-percentage, .710 slugging percentage, and 11 homers.

 

 

 

 

Is David All-Wright?

The Mets and David Wright are trying to do everything they can to keep him healthy enough to make it through the 2017 season.  Wright has been spending the first week of spring training continuing his rehab from the surgery he had to remove a herniated disk in his neck.  So far, his rehab has gone smoothly.  Wright has been able to take ground balls, do some light running, and can now take some swings.  However, he still hasn’t been cleared to throw the baseball, and has yet to face live pitching.  Still, Wright’s goal is to be ready to play come opening day.

There have been discussions about the possibility of Wright seeing some time at first base this spring.  Manager Terry Collins said, “If we decide he needs to get some ground balls at first base, that can be done late in spring training.  He’s such a good athlete, he’ll catch on to that easily.”  If Wright’s throwing becomes an issue, he could very well find himself at first base, similar to what the Nationals did with his buddy Ryan Zimmerman in 2015.

Wright said recently that he is open to playing first base if necessary.  “I’m open to doing anything that helps this team win.  I haven;t been approached about it so right now I’m a third baseman until somebody tells me different.  But of course I’m all ears because we think we’re on the cusp of being a World Series-contending team, and I want to help in any way I can with that.”

A platoon at first base with Lucas Duda may actually prove to be beneficial to Wright, Duda, and the Mets.  Duda is a very good hitter, but struggles against lefties.  Wright has tortured lefties throughout his playing career.  Additionally, a platoon would allow for Wright to get several days off, something he needs in order to play a full season with spinal stenosis.  Moving Wright to first base would also allow for the Mets to put Jose Reyes in the lineup every day lineup at third base.  Reyes adds much-needed speed to a Mets lineup that is otherwise harmless on the basepaths.

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David Wright speaks to reporters for the first time after undergoing surgery to remove a herniated disk in his neck.  Photo credit: SNY.TV/ Mets Blog/ Matthew Cerrone.

“He hasn’t thrown in a long time, so we’ve got to get that arm back.  That’s why we’ve got to be careful, because if you force it, tendinitis can pop in there in a second.  So, we’ll bring him along slow on the throwing side,” manager Terry Collins said about Wright.

Wright recently revealed to reporters where he currently stands in his rehab process.  Wright said,”I have been put on a shoulder strengthening program, that should be wrapping up here soon.  And then I go on to a throwing program, which for position players shouldn’t take that long to get going if everything is OK.”  However, there is no guarantee that everything will be OK at that point for him.  Wright will be limited in his workouts by his spinal stenosis, which, along with the neck surgery, bring Wright’s future with the team into question.  There is no guarantee that Wright will be able to make it through the 2017 season.

As much as Wright wants to be back on the field, he knows he needs to be careful in his rehab.  A healthy David Wright provides a solid bat on the field, and leadership in the clubhouse.  His presence has been missed over the majority of the last two seasons.  Over his 13 year career with the Mets, Wright has been through the good times and the bad times, always remaining loyal to the only team he knows.  The Mets ultimate goal going into the 2017 season is to get their captain a World Series title, a goal shared by Wright.  For now, Wright’s current goal is to be in the Mets starting lineup for opening day on April 3rd.

 

 

Written by Ethan Marshall

What Should the Mets do With Conforto?

The Mets intended to trade away Jay Bruce over the offseason in order to clear up the team payroll and the crowded outfield.  With the Mets deciding not to trade Jay Bruce, it appears that Michael Conforto is the odd man out in the outfield.  The Mets wanted to use Conforto as their everyday rightfielder in hopes that putting him in the lineup on a regular basis would help him with his confidence and allow him to recover from the sophomore slump he suffered last season.  As it stands now, Conforto may be reduced to a bench role.

The Mets need to make sure they don’t mishandle the 23-year-old outfielder.  Sending him to the minors doesn’t seem to be a realistic solution at this point, considering he hit .422 in 33 games for the Triple-A Las Vegas 51s in 2016.  The best solution of getting regular playing time for Conforto may be to move him or Jay Bruce to first base.  First baseman Lucas Duda is coming off an injury-plagued 2016 season, and there is some uncertainty to just how healthy and effective he may be in 2017.  Having Bruce or Conforto available to play first base in case Duda is unable to play or struggling allows for Conforto to get extra playing time while also keeping the bat of Bruce in the lineup.

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Michael Conforto.  Photo Credit: Anthony J. Causi.

The Mets can also have Conforto take reps in center field during spring training.  This would allow for an alternative offensive threat from that position if Curtis Granderson is hurt or struggling.  He played 6 games at the position last season without making any errors, though he didn’t seem 100% comfortable at the position.  Having a whole spring training to learn and practice more at this position may let him look and feel more comfortable.

If Conforto is on the bench, it may also be likely that he gets a lot of opportunities pinch-hitting.  Just because he isn’t starting a game doesn’t mean he won’t see a lot of action.  He adds depth to an already impressive Mets bench, providing power and likely getting many opportunities to get big hits and drive in runs.  If Conforto starts to look impressive off the bench, the Mets may just start putting him in the starting lineup over other players who may not be hitting as well as him.  Conforto and the rest of the Mets hitters need to remember Terry Collins’ mantra that the players that are hitting get to be in the strating lineup.