What they have accomplished so far:
Signing of Michael Cuddyer: Early in the off-season, the Mets surprised everyone by making a splash right away: signing free agent Michael Cuddyer to two year contract worth $21 million ($8.5 million for 2015). Each step of the process surrounding Cuddyer’s free agency puzzled experts. First, Cuddyer had received a qualifying offer from the Rockies despite being 36 years old, playing only 49 games in the 2014 season (after a terrific 2013) and being projected as a 1.5 WAR player according to Fangraphs’ Steamer projections. Therefore valued at around $7.5 million, he would be worth half of the $15.3 million he would receive from accepting the qualifying offer. But luckily for the Rockies there was one team that found value in willing to pay Michael Cuddyer and also be willing to give up their top unprotected pick in the 2015 MLB Amateur draft. This team was the New York Mets. They felt that Cuddyer was worth the price of $21 million over two years and the 15th overall pick of the 2015 draft. The Cuddyer signing will be good or bad depending on how he performs and whether he is able to stay healthy.
But for the Mets, it was a much needed move as they had a mix of six outfielders defend left field in 2014, led by Eric Young Jr. and Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Young Jr. is a terrific defender and base runner but unfortunately has never had success hitting which is something the Mets were really looking for. Nieuwenhuis has also consistently struggled at the major league level, never showing a real ability to hit major league pitching. Despite the downgrade on defense by going with Cuddyer over Young Jr. (who has since been non-tendered), the Mets concern has been to improve the offense with a young successful pitching staff led by Harvey and DeGrom and star defensive center fielder Juan Lagares. Plus, in two years, number three prospect (according to the latest Baseball Prospectus rankings) Brandon Nimmo will be ready for the Major Leagues.
Moving in the Right Field Walls: The other major change/improvement to try to help the offense this off-season has been moving in the outfield walls of Citi Field for the second time since the stadium opened in 2009. Three years ago they moved in the fences in both left field and right field to try to increase the power of the team, including veteran captain David Wright. Unfortunately, while it has not helped him, it has increased the number of home runs hit at the ball park. However, instead of getting players that would play well at Citi Field the Mets get the players and change the stadium to accommodate them. This time they are moving in the fences in Right Field and Center Field with the goal of helping Curtis Granderson and Lucas Duda hit more home runs. But what will this really do besides help the Mets and their opponents hit home runs? Last year the Mets hit had a 36.7% Fly Ball Rate of which 8% was home runs. Their opponents, on the other hand, had a 10% Home Run Rate despite only having a 34% fly ball rate. As seen from the spray charts from Brooks Baseball.
Only this season will tell if this actually helps the Mets and their pull happy hitters, Duda and Granderson. However, if the Mets get slightly luckier with their home run to fly ball ratio then this change could potentially translate to a few more runs and few more wins which could be enough with their starting pitching to make the playoffs.
Winter Meetings Preview:
Trading a Starting Pitcher:
Before the 2015 MLB season begins, the New York Mets will need to trade a starting pitcher. Their staff for 2014 consisted of:
It is clear that the Mets will have to trade a pitcher but the pitchers that they will most likely want to deal are Niese, Colon and Gee. Colon has one year left on his deal, but at age 41 could be a hard sale. Niese and Gee both have years of control left but are not sought after like Syndergaard, Wheeler or Montero would be. It will be interesting to see how the Mets are able to handle this situation because in any trade it is difficult to see how they have any leverage when they are operating with a surplus.Missing from the list is probably two of the most important pitchers in the Mets system: Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard. Harvey will be limited after dominating the Major Leagues in 2013 until being shut down by Tommy John surgery. Syndergaard on the other hand is a potential top of the rotation pitcher who will begin the year at Triple-A Las Vegas but should be ready for the Major Leagues at some point during the season.
Who’s at Short:
Not to be confused with the bad headline contest out of the Arizona Republic, the Mets before spring training need to decide what who is going to play shortstop. They have a few home grown options including Ruben Tejada (career .290 wOBA) with a .287 wOBA projected for 2015 by the Steamer’s system on Fangraphs; Wilmer Flores (also a .291 wOBA) and Matt Reynolds (a Triple-A short stop who isn’t believed to be good enough to hit or field in the majors). With these options in mind the Mets are out to try to find a shortstop that can both hit and field. Flores, however, had a terrific end of the season with a .818 OPS including a .352 wOBA in September. However, most inside reports claim that he is meant to play second base where he is currently blocked by Daniel Murphy, with Dilson Herrera waiting in Triple-A.
Despite the overload of middle infielders, it does not seem as though the Mets are thrilled with any option. Free agent options include Jed Lowrie and Asdrubal Cabrera but both are projected to perform worse than Flores in 2015 from Steamer projections. They could try trading for Brad Miller or Starlin Castro. But at what price is the incremental win worth it to give up valuable pieces in the farm system? The name that most Mets fan would love to have is Troy Tulowitzki. But to get him they would have to give up at least Syndergaard (although they did acquire him and catcher Travis d’Arnaud for RA Dickey, a trade that looks like a steal for the Mets) as well as a few hitting and other pitching prospects. The last option is the Texas Rangers (who according to Chris Cotillo is in contact with the Mets). They have a surplus of shortstops just as the Mets have a surplus of pitchers making for a potential match.
We will see how this week pans out, but I expect the Mets to stand pat and to have Flores start opening day 2015 at short.
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