Panic Time for the Mets’ Rotation?

By Ethan Marshall

 

The disaster that has been the 2017 Mets season thus far has fans thinking “How can this get any worse,” every day.  With Yoenis Cespedes and now Noah Syndergaard sidelined indefinitely with injuries, the Mets need to right the ship without their best pitcher and hitter.

Noah Syndergaard walks off the field with trainer Ray Ramirez after suffering a partial tear of his right lat muscle yesterday in Washington.  Photo credit: AP Photo/Nick Wass.

Syndergaard’s injury may prove more costly in the long run.  With Seth Lugo and Steven Matz still weeks away from returning from their own injuries, the Mets are without a decent replacement.  The current plan for Friday is for Rafael Montero to start, but he’s failed to prove he belongs in the big leagues time and time again.

Assuming the Mets sign free agent Doug Fister (which they should), he would likely need two or three weeks to get himself ready to pitch in a major league game.  As early as it is, the Mets could explore the trade market for a pitcher that can eat up innings.

Bartolo Colon, who the Mets let go in the offseason because they felt they already had enough pitching depth, could be a suitable target for Sandy Alderson.  The Braves are in rebuilding mode, and with Colon signed on a one-year deal, he seems likely to be traded at some point this season.  Colon proved incredibly reliable in his Mets tenure, eating up innings while pitching well.  The Mets could really use a pitcher with a rubber arm like Colon’s right now.  With the Mets beginning their first series at SunTrust Park in Atlanta tonight, this could be a good time for Alderson to talk with Braves general manager John Coppolella about working out a deal for Colon.

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Bartolo Colon pitching at Citi Field against the Mets.  Photo credit: Getty Images.

 

The Mets and Braves have gotten along well in recent years on the trade front.  In July 2015, the Mets traded minor league pitchers John Gant and Rob Whalen for Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson.  In June 2016 the Braves again traded Johnson to the Mets, this time for minor league pitcher Akeel Morris.

Of course there may be problems in negotiating a deal for Colon.  The Braves may try to take advantage of the Mets’ desperation by asking for higher tier prospects in exchange for Colon.  Additionally, Colon has an ERA of 5.59 in 29 innings pitched.

The Mets can’t afford to throw Montero out to the mound every five days for at least the next three weeks.  Whether it’s through the waiver wire, free agency or trading, the Mets need to find a replacement that can give them a quality outing each start.

Perhaps one way to negotiate with the Braves is to consider offering media magnet Tim Tebow.  The Braves just opened a new stadium, and need a way to sell more tickets.  Arguably nobody draws as much a crowd as Tebow.  While he alone wouldn’t be nearly enough for the Mets to give up for Colon, he could still draw the attention of the Braves if he continues to produce in the minor leagues.  While he is only batting .237 for the Class A Columbia Fireflies, he did go 6-21 last week, posting a .285 average.  Trading Tebow for Colon may just be stupid enough to work.

 

 

Mets Re-Sign Blevins, Salas; Sign Tom Gorzelanny

Sandy Alderson had quite a busy day yesterday.  First, he signed left-handed pitcher Tom Gorzelanny to a minor league deal, providing a safety net as a lefty specialist in case they couldn’t sign Blevins or Craig Breslow.  Shortly after that, Alderson brought back Fernando Salas in a one-year, $3 million deal.  Finally, Alderson brought back Jerry Blevins in a $6 million deal, with a second year option.  These moves appear to have stabilized the Mets bullpen.

The 34-year-old Gorzelanny has struggled over the last 2 seasons, including allowing 7 runs in 3 innings of work over the 7 games he appeared in for Cleveland last season.  However, from 2012-2014, he pitched to a 3.13 ERA, with 8.5 Ks per nine innings, and a ground-ball rate of 43.5% over 178.1 innings.  Over parts of 12 seasons in the majors, he has held lefties to a batting line of .229/.302/.356.

Salas was traded to the Mets in late August last season, and pitched very well for them in the roll off the seventh-inning man.  In 17.1 innings pitched with the Mets, Salas allowed just 4 runs, pitching to a 2.08 ERA.  He also posted 19 strike-outs and didn’t walk a single batter.  His role in the beginning of the season will likely be to pitch in the 8th inning, setting things up for Addison Reed to close until Jeurys Familia returns from his inevitable suspension.  When Familia returns, Salas would likely go back to pitching in the 7th inning while Reed pitches the 8th.

I’m most happy about the Jerry Blevins signing.  He was a solid reliever for the Mets in 2016, posting a 2.79 ERA over 42 innings and a career-high 73 appearances.  He had 11.1 Ks per nine innings and a 45.8% ground-ball rate.  Perhaps the biggest reason why I wanted him back was due to the fact that he was also effective against right-handed hitters in 2016.  This may allow for him to be used as a reliever to pitch a whole inning rather than just a lefty-specialist.

With these signings, I would think that Alderson is finished making any major league signings for the rest of the offseason.  This offseason proved to be a very successful one for Alderson.  Although he was unable to trade Jay Bruce, he did manage to bring back Yoenis Cespedes, Neil Walker, Jerry Blevins, and Fernando Salas.  The only free agent that seemed to have gotten away from him was the incomparable Bartolo Colon, who signed with the Braves, where he would get the opportunity to start.  Still, the Mets starting rotation and bullpen now look very stacked.  The way the team looks right now, they may be able to reach the playoffs for the third consecutive season in for the first time in franchise history, and maybe even reach and win the World Series.

Mets Intend to Keep Jay Bruce

Yesterday, the Mets said they intend to keep Jay Bruce as their starting rightfielder.  This would push Michael Conforto to a bench role.  Ever since the Mets re-signed outfielder Yoenis Cespedes in November, the team had been looking to trade Bruce in order to save money as well as to clear up an already crowded outfield.

Just because the Mets said they intend to keep Bruce doesn’t necessarily mean that he won’t be traded.  General manager Sandy Alderson said the same thing about R.A. Dickey shortly after winning the 2012 N.L. Cy Young Award, but traded him away not long after making this statement.  However, it seems unlikely that the Mets would find a suitable trade partner for Bruce at this point.  The only teams connected to him at this point that haven’t found an outfielder or DH are the Rangers and Giants.  In the case of the Rangers, it seems likely that they will be getting Mike Napoli instead of Jay Bruce.  As for the Giants, they may just try to sign a less expensive outfielder on the free agent market since they want to lower their payroll.

If the Mets are truly in a win-now state of mind, they shouldn’t be worrying about trying to lower the payroll by trading Bruce.  They also shouldn’t let the fact that they are keeping Bruce affect who they want to sign to bolster the bullpen.  They should still be trying to re-sign Jerry Blevins and either re-sign Fernando Salas or sign Sergio Romo.  Considering the fact that this is a team with one of the best pitching rotations in all of baseball, they have a good shot at competing for the playoffs.  Adding a couple of bullpen arms may be the key to the Mets making a return to the Fall Classic.  If the team plays well, people will pay for seats to the game.  Money shouldn’t be as big of an issue when the only moves necessary at this point are to sign relievers that may be able to start the season as the 7th and 8th inning guys.

It’s no secret that Blevins wants to return to the Mets, and that the Mets want to bring him back.  At this point, Blevins likely won’t receive the 3-year deal he wanted.  If the Mets offer him a 2-year deal or a decent 1-year deal, Blevins may be willing to take it.  The remaining free agents will likely lower their asking prices more and more as spring training draws closer with each passing day.  The time for the Mets to act on signing relievers is now.  Money shouldn’t get in the way at this point from possibly putting on the finishing touches of a team with the potential to win it all in 2017.  For Alderson and the free agents, time is ticking.

10 of the Biggest Sports Moments of 2016: Part 1

Many would agree that 2016 has been a very difficult year.  From all the celebrity deaths to the U.S. presidential election, many people just can’t wait for the year to end.  But through this difficult year came many fascinating moments in the world of sports.  Here are 10 of many notable events that occurred in the world of sports in 2016.

#10: The Rio Olympics

Many were expecting the Olympic Games in Rio to be a disaster, given the troubles facing the country, from pollution in the water to the high crime rates to the fear of the spread of the Zika virus, many athletes were hesitant to participate.  The Olympics went surprisingly well (unless your name was Ryan Lochte).  Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt continued their utter dominance in their respective categories.  Phelps broke an Olympic record dating back over 2,000 years when he won his 13th individual Olympic medal, passing Leonidas of Rhodes for the most by any Olympian.  Leonidas won 12 individual Olympic medals from 164 B.C. to 152 B.C.

Ryan Lochte became one of the most hated Americans when he, along with some swimming teammates, vandalized a gas station bathroom after getting drunk.  He later claimed that he and his friends were robbed at gunpoint.  Shortly after this incident, he got on a plane and went back home to America.  While in America, it was revealed through security footage by the gas station that Lochte was lying.  Lochte’s teammates were detained while they were still in Rio.  Lochte’s lies and his abandonment of his teammates led to him being scorned by many in the world.

#9: A Cespedes for the Rest of us

When Yoenis Cespedes was traded to the Mets at the 2015 trade deadline, nobody would have expected him to carry the team as much as he did.  Cespedes ended up batting .287 while hitting 17 homers while driving in 44 runs in his two months with the Mets.  At one point, there was even talk of him being considered for the N.L. MVP despite the fact that he had only played two months in the N.L.  He quickly became a fan favorite thanks to his clutch hits and ability to perform under the bright lights of New York.  While many Mets fans wanted him back for 2016, the ownership and management didn’t expect to get him.  Luckily for them, Cespedes fell into their laps late in the offseason.  The Mets signed him to a 3 year, $75 million contract with an opt-out after the first year.  Cespedes continued to entertain Mets fans.  In spring training, he made daily headlines thanks to his tricked out rides that he would take to the field.  At one point, he and Noah Syndergaard even rode Cespedes’s horses around the spring training facility.  When the season began, Cespedes was able to prove to fans as well as players around the league that he wasn’t a one-trick pony, batting .280 while hitting 31 homers and driving in 86.  Cespedes was rewarded by the Mets this offseason with a four year, $110 million contract, with a no-trade clause.  Ceaspedes will be sticking around in Flushing for quite awhile.

 

#8: The Rise Of Lugo and Gsellman

Nobody doubted that the Mets starting rotation entering the 2016 season was one of the best, if not, the best in the MLB.  The Mets had Matt Harvey, Jacob DeGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Bartolo Colon, with Zack Wheeler scheduled to return around July.  Unfortunately, the Mets 2015 run to the World Series appeared to have a hangover effect on many of the pitchers.  Harvey struggled in 2016 before being diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome in July.  His season ended when he elected for surgery to fix it shortly after the diagnosis.  Syndergaard and Matz were both diagnosed with bone spurs in their pitching arms, with Matz’s being large and requiring surgery at the end of the season.  While Syndergaard was able to pitch through the season with little to no effect on him from the bone spur, Matz struggled to pitch as well as he did before the diagnosis, as well as to stay healthy.  Matz was eventually shut down in late September.  DeGrom had issues with his velocity early in the season.  While he eventually recovered from this, he was eventually shut down in September when he needed surgery to repair an ulnar nerve.  The 43 year old Colon would end up being the healthiest and most consistent of the Mets starting rotation in 2016.

Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman were eventually brought on to try to replace Harvey and Matz.  From the moment that they joined the rotation, they shined brightly.  Many fans had not even heard of these two pitchers before they were brought in as reinforcements.  Gsellman ended up going 4-2 with a 2.42 ERA while Lugo went 5-1 with a 2.68 ERA since joining the starting rotation.  Both pitchers were key reasons as to why the Mets clinched a playoff birth for a second straight season for only the second time in franchise history despite all of the injuries that the team suffered.

#7: The Sanchize?

Gary Sanchez burst onto the scene with the New York Yankees in 2016 after making his season debut with them in early August.  In 53 games, Sanchez batted .299 with 20 homers and 42 runs batted in.  He tied Wally Berger as the fastest player to hit 20 homers to begin his career, at just 50 MLB appearances.  Yankees fans consider him a catalyst for the upcoming youth movement for the franchise.  The fans and organization hopes that Sanzhez will continue his strong play in 2017, and that some of the other top prospects in the organization can show promise just as Sanchez did in 2016.

 

#6: The Farewell Tours of Kobe and Big Papi

2016 saw the end of an era in Los Angeles and Boston.  Kobe Bryant announced that his 20th season in the NBA, all of which were with the Lakers, would be his last.  Bryant won 5 NBA championships as a member of the Lakers, winning MVP in 2 of the finals.  He was an 18 time NBA all star, including 4 all star game MVP awards.  He won the 2008 NBA MVP award.  Throughout the 2015-16 NBA season, he was greeted cheerfully by opposing players and fans in opposing arenas.  Kobe added to his hall of fame career in his final game when he led the Lakers to a victory over the Utah Jazz by scoring 60 points in the Staples Center in Los Angeles.  He ended his career with one last legendary performance, cemented his status as one of the greatest to ever play the game.

Shortly before the start of the 2016 baseball season, Red Sox star David Ortiz said that this would be his final season.  He then went on to have one of the greatest final seasons by an athlete.  Ortiz batted .315, hitting 38 homers, and leading the league in doubles with 48, runs batted in with 127, slugging percentage at .620, and OPS at 1.021.

In his 14 seasons as a member of the Boston Red Sox, Ortiz was a 10 time all star, 7 time silver slugger award winner, and 3 time World Series Champion, winning World Series MVP in 2013.  Ortiz played a critical role in ending the curse of the Bambino in 2004 when he led the Red Sox to a comeback to beat the Yankees after trailing them 3 games to none in the ALCS.  Ortiz hit the walk-off homer in the 12th inning of game 4 that extended the series, and hit a walk-off single in the 14th inning of game 5.  In the 2004 ALCS, Ortiz became the first DH to win the ALCS MVP award, batting .387 with 3 homers and 11 runs batted in.

Ortiz became the face of the Red Sox franchise in his years there.  It was only fitting that he give a powerful speech in the first Red Sox game at Fenway Park following the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013.  He concluded his speech as any Bostonian would- by swearing like a sailor.  He told the fans “This is our fucking city, and no one is going to dictate our freedom.  Stay strong.”  Ortiz and the Red Sox would face off against the Detroit Tigers in the 2013 ALCS.  Ortiz had another dramatic moment in him when he stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded and two out in the bottom of the 8th inning of game 2, representing the tying run.  Ortiz belted a game-tying grand slam homer that was just out of reach of the leaping Torii Hunter in right field.  The image of the ball landing in the bullpen and the raised hands and joyous expression of a Boston police officer in the bullpen became very iconic for the city of Boston.  The Red Sox would go on to win the game, and later, the series against the Tigers, before beating the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.

David Ortiz established himself as one of the most clutch hitters in postseason history.  He finished his career with a .289 batting average in the playoffs (including a .455 average in 59 plate appearances in the World Series), with 17 homers and 61 runs batted in during the playoffs.  He transformed the Red Sox from a team that was cursed into one of the most dominant franchises of the 21st century.

 

 

Stay tuned tomorrow for the rest of this list.