The New York Mets Net Negatives
Every New York Mets fan remembers the phrase Gary Cohen famously said in 2015. Daniel Murphy is a New York Mets Net Negative. This was after Murphy carried the Mets into the World Series against the Kansas City Royals. All Murph did was hit seven HR and drive in 11 runs in nine games earning the NLCS MVP.
But still this did not impress Cohen and the Mets let Murphy leave the team via free agency and sign with the division rivals Washington Nationals. The Mets had a good 2019 season with several players having great seasons. Now it’s time to talk about the bad from the 2019 season. If Murphy is a Net Negative what words would you use to describe the following players?
The Destruction of Edwin Diaz
When Mets rookie General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen pulled off a blockbuster trade acquiring Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano this was supposed to be his signature move of his first offseason. Instead, the trade completely blew up in his face. Diaz was supposed to be the Mets closer for the next decade. Diaz is a player who is under team control through the 2022 season and was looked at as the answer to the Mets bullpen issues. Instead, Diaz is widely considered the reason the Mets did not play October baseball.
Diaz had a 2018 season for the ages. His 57 saves led the majors and his 124 strikeouts in 73 innings were even more impressive. In his first year as the Mets closer Diaz had one of the worst years by a closer in a very long time. It was so bad that Diaz was removed from closing games and Mets manager Mickey Callaway eventually became wary of using him at all. To put his season in perspective Diaz’s ERA in 2018 was 1.96 as he saved 57 games. This year his ERA ballooned to 5.59 while saving only 26 games. Diaz allowed only 5 HR in 2018. In 2019 that amount tripled to 15.
Van Wagenen has gone on record saying that Diaz will not be traded and will remain a Met in 2020. The beleaguered General Manager really has no choice but to keep Diaz. He was the centerpiece acquisition of Van Wagenen’s first year leading the Mets. The price the Mets had to pay to acquire Diaz was steep with top prospects Jarred Kelenic ranked 13th overall and Justin Dunn ranked 70th overall going back to the Seattle Mariners. Fixing Diaz will be a top priority for the Mets going into the 2020 season.
Yes Or No Cano
Robinson Cano was the other player in the Diaz trade. Van Wagenen was Cano’s agent in 2018 so that was one of the driving forces behind the Mets trading for him. Bringing Cano to the Mets was not without some questions. In 2018 Cano was suspended for 80 games for testing positive for PED’s. But he was on track to have a typical Robinson Cano season.
At 36 years old and with a salary of 24 million a year from 2019 through 2023 there is a lot of skepticism of how productive he will be the last few years of his contract. Cano had three separate stints on the injured list with one occurring when he was playing his best baseball of the season. Cano overall struggled in 2019 and the fickle Mets fan base called for his benching on many occasions.
The Mets will most likely be stuck with Cano for the next four seasons. Whether he remains a starting player should depend on how he is playing. Cano’s presence blocked young star Jeff McNeil from playing his more natural position of second base.
Aside from the problems Diaz caused the rest of the bullpen was terrible. Only Seth Lugo and at times Justin Wilson were affective. Jeurys Familia was brought back to the Mets and was awful. Robert Gsellman was not any better. Both aforementioned pitchers spent considerable time on the injured list.
The rest of the bullpen resembled a revolving door between the minor leagues, the injured list, and the big club. Pitchers such as Luis Avilan, Drew Gagnon, Walker Lockett, Tyler Bashlor, Paul Sewald, Chris Mazza, Chris Flexen and Daniel Zamora finished the season with an ERA north of 4.00. A real case can be made for none of these pitchers to be on the 2020 roster.
Thor Was Not So Super
Perhaps no other Mets player is as perplexing as Noah Syndergaard. The man the fans call Thor had his worst season as a pro despite having career highs in starts and innings pitched. Syndergaard has as much talent as any pitcher in the game. But he has not yet put together that dominant season that the Mets organization expects from him.
Syndergaard had his worst games of the season in the stretch run with the Mets fighting for a playoff spot. Syndergaard’s name is always mentioned in trade talks in part for the players the Mets would get back for him. His very public outcry to not pitch to Mets catcher Wilson Ramos was a big story this past season. This surely irked the Mets brass as the staff ace Jacob deGrom could win his second straight Cy Young pitching to Ramos.
Like Diaz, Van Wagenen has already gone on record stating that Syndergaard will be a Met in 2020. Syndergaard is signed through the 2021 season. The type of haul the Mets would get for Thor would be very different if the was traded in 2021 instead of now.
Callaway Is Gone
The Mets already have fired Mickey Callaway as their manager. This move was indeed a long time coming. Callaway could have been removed at several points during this past season. But ultimately the Mets decided to let him finish out the season.
Callaway’s moves at times were definitely head-scratchers. His explanations of these moves were worse. Callaway was never embraced by the Mets fan base. At times he would get all the blame when most people felt Van Wagenen and his staff were managing the team. Callaway was hired with no prior managerial experience and it showed. His management of the bullpen was questioned daily. His lineups were always scrutinized
Callaway always played the percentages even if it meant sitting a hot player. Perhaps his biggest obstacle was that Van Wagenen did not hire him. The team did play hard for Callaway. But that was not enough to save his job.
New York Mets General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen has never had a position in a major league organization before he was hired. The former agent’s every move was analyzed. His big blockbuster trade was an absolute bomb. Diaz and Cano did not live up to their reputations. But other moves did not work out too. The trade for Keon Broxton was a disappointment. His signing of Familia was a disappointment. Jed Lowrie was signed to be a big part of this team. Lowrie got hurt in Spring training and only had a handful of at-bats in September.
His overall building of the bullpen was indeed a disaster. The roster was not constructed well at all. The Mets defense was a huge issue. Ramos was good offensively but very poor behind the dish. The overall depth of the organization was tested often and failed. The Triple-A team failed to supply the Mets with anything of any substance when it was needed. The acquisition of J.D. Davis was a real bright spot.
Van Wagenen has a penchant for bringing in his former clients. Or at least he tried to. But perhaps the biggest issue was the lack of direction the Mets showed at the trading deadline. The Mets traded two more top prospects for pitcher Marcus Stroman a few days before the trading deadline. Afterward, the Mets were reportedly listening to offers for Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler.
But the Mets did not add any bullpen help which was sorely needed. Instead, quality bullpen arms were getting traded to competing teams. As we all know the Mets poor bullpen lead directly into the demise of the 2019 season.
Another huge issue the Mets had was their overall team defense. With players like McNeil and Davis playing out of position and the midseason struggles of shortstop Amed Rosario the Met defense was extremely poor. Ramos had issues blocking the balls in the dirt and was very poor throwing out base stealers. In an attempt to get Dominic Smith’s bat in the lineup he was put in leftfield. Smith is a natural first baseman and his lack of defense in leftfield cost the Mets a few games.
Yoenis Cespedes could definitely be looked at as a negative. Although he was always thought of as a long shot to play in 2019. After having surgery on both heels in July of 2018 Cespedes was going to be out for 8-10 months. On May 20th of this year, Cespedes fractured his right ankle on his ranch in a non-baseball related injury effectively ending his 2019 season. The Mets hope to have Cespedes back in 2020 but that is not guaranteed.
With this long list of negatives, the New York Mets were still in the wild card race deep into September. But unless these issues get fixed the New York Mets will still be on the outside of the 2020 playoffs. Van Wagenen has a lot of work to do. The first order of business is hiring a new manager. That is the first move of many more to come.