The Mets Haven’t Done Enough

Over the 50-plus years since their inception, the Mets organization has established a tradition of drama. When they win, they seem to win big. When they lose, they self-immolate in spectacular fashion. If I were to tell you a team were Metsing themselves, you’d probably know what I mean. There are likely many reasons for this — the local media, the size of the market, the team itself — but it seems true, nevertheless.

Despite their penchant for theatrics, the Mets have made the playoffs in each of the last two seasons. They’ve done it despite an avalanche of injuries and all sorts of extracurricular nonsense. They went all the way to Game Five of the World Series in 2015, and had the bad luck of running into the buzzsaw of Madison Bumgarner’s left arm in the 2016 Wild Card game.

They’re by no means done, of course. The Mets still have a dynamic young rotation, and they still have Yoenis Cespedes. That’s a great place to start when building a contender. They’ve also got good secondary players in guys like Asdrubal Cabrera, Lucas Duda, and Neil Walker, and a young bat with a bright future in Michael Conforto. Grizzled veteran? Have some Curtis Granderson. Local hero who’s also a capable utility bat, and can crush lefty pitching? Everybody loves Wilmer Flores. If you believe in miracles, they may even have David Wright (remember him?) back for a game or two. The Mets can play ball.

And yet, they still have so much work to do. The Mets are still on track to go into 2017 with real uncertainty behind home plate and a bullpen that leaves much to be desired — especially once you consider that they’ll probably be without Jeurys Familia for a month or so due to a likely domestic-violence suspension. Jay Bruce still doesn’t really fit onto the roster, especially since the re-signing of Cespedes and the need for Conforto to get consistent plate appearances, and the fact that the National League has yet to adopt the designated hitter.

There are still weeks to go before spring training gets into swing, and there are still plenty of free agents out there. A large number of them are relievers, and good ones at that. The Mets have time to make themselves better and ready for a true contention run. We’ll see if they do that.

We’ve not yet been blessed with Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections for the kings of Queens, nor for that matter have we asked Kevin James for his feelings on the subject. In lieu of these, we’ll turn to our Depth Charts assessment of the Mets, and to their official depth chart. Because there are so many balls in the air with their position players (the health of Wright, whether or not Jay Bruce will be on the team, etc.), let’s focus on the bullpen for now. It’s pretty good at the top! Familia, Addison Reed and Hansel Robles can hold their own. It gets fuzzy after that.

The official Mets chart lists Josh Edgin, Josh Smoker, Erik Goeddel, and Sean Gilmartin. The Mets can do better.

Edgin, a LOOGY, had a rocky return from Tommy John, while Goeddel has been volatile when he’s been in the big leagues. Gilmartin has shown he can be a fine long man. It’s Smoker who’s the interesting one. The lefty throws gas (around 95 mph) and has posted big strikeout numbers at every stop. His entry into the big leagues was rocky at times, especially in the home-run department, but he has promise.

Given the injury concerns with nearly every Mets starter (You get a bone chip! You get a bone chip! You get thoracic outlet syndrome! You get Tommy John!), it would behoove the Mets to beef up their middle relief corps. If New York has to dip into their depth beyond Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo, it’s likely that they won’t be getting too many innings from those replacement starters.

This brings us to Oakland. The A’s have brought Santiago Casilla back to what’s left of the Oakland Coliseum; in doing so, they’ve strengthened what’s already a pretty strong bullpen. Oakland had the eighth-best bullpen by FIP in 2016, and included talented arms like Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson, Liam Hendriks, and rookie Ryan Dull. With the addition of Casilla, the A’s may be willing to move one of the veteran relievers. Doolittle and Madson may be out of the Mets’ payroll range unless they move Bruce, so Hendriks seems to be the match here.

Hendriks, a righty, posted roughly the same strikeout rate as Goeddel, but has historically been much better about limiting walks and home runs.

Rate Statistics, 2015-2016
Player K/9 BB/9 HR/9
Lian Hendriks 9.88 1.74 0.63
Erik Goeddel 9.13 3.00 0.78

He’s also been the 14th-most valuable reliever in the game since the start of the 2015 season. He represents a significant potential upgrade over Goeddel, and an important late-inning arm that the Mets would be able to rely on during Familia’s suspension. Hendriks has three years of control left before he hits free agency, so he won’t come overly cheap in terms of a trade package. The Mets have minor-league talent, though, and they shouldn’t be afraid to use it as currency to contend. There’s also a scenario that involves moving Bruce in the deal while eating some of his salary, since Oakland is going to deploy a combination of Mark Canha and Matt Joyce in right field, but that assumes that Oakland would even be interested in Bruce in the first place.

The Mets should also be looking to re-signing Jerry Blevins to upgrade over Edgin, if they can find the cash to do so. That doesn’t solve the catching situation, of course, but it’s unlikely that Mets can find a cheap and readily available plug-and-play backstop option. Not every team can be the Cubs. Not every team can have a perfect team with only the tiniest of holes on the roster.

The Mets can be a lot more prepared than they are, though. Their relief corps isn’t enough for a team that fancies itself a contender, especially not one with a rotation that could be getting even more familiar with the contents of Dr. Andrews’ office. The Mets could be good. They could be really good. But they still have work to do.

Nick is a columnist at FanGraphs, and has written previously for Baseball Prospectus and Beyond the Box Score. Yes, he hates your favorite team, just like Joe Buck. You can follow him on Twitter at @StelliniTweets, and can contact him at stellinin1 at gmail.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
backward galaxy
7 years ago

All discussion of the Mets seems moot if 5 of the 8 hitters in their opening day lineup and 4 of the 5 rotation arms are all on the DL by July. But I digress, I hope they’re healthy. They’re a lot of fun when they’re healthy.

Steve Bob Polkmas
7 years ago

Can’t this strain of logic be applied to all baseball teams? The Mets were annihilated by injuries yet still made the Wild Card last year. Same with the Dodgers, maybe even more so, and they won their division. I will totally agree with you they are quite fun to watch when healthy. Looking at this game in April 2016 (which I attended):