The New York Mets will rue the day that they allowed Wally Backman to leave their organization.
At the end of the 2015 Major League Baseball season, second baseman Neil Walker became a hot commodity. Walker had spent the first seven years of his MLB career with the Pittsburgh Pirates which included a trip to the postseason in each of the last three years. But with Walker scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of 2016, the small-market Pirates didn’t want to see him leave town without them getting something in return. This notion led to Walker being traded this past off-season to the New York Mets in exchange for starting pitcher Jon Niese.
Walker is making the most of his season with the Mets as he is one the verge of surpassing his career-high in home runs (23) which he set in 2014, as his 22 homers are currently tied for the team lead in the category. Walker is also batting .279 with an on-base percentage of .341 as in my opinion he should be the team’s MVP. Walker was supposed to be a cog in the wheel for the Mets as they are looking to get back to the postseason, but he has been the team’s best player as injuries to third baseman David Wright, first baseman Lucas Duda, and outfielder Yoenis Cespedes have put him in the spotlight as the go-to-guy in their lineup. Walker’s hustle and slick fielding have made him a fan favorite in Queens, and he could be forcing the hand of Mets general manager Sandy Alderson to fork over a large amount of money to him in the off-season.
When Walker came to New York, he was charged with replacing a fan favorite at second base in Daniel Murphy. Murphy had spent the first seven years of his Major League Baseball career with the Mets, and although that he wasn’t the most talented player in the world, he could never be accused of not giving maximum effort. Murphy enjoyed a career year in 2015 as he hit 14 home runs with 73 runs batted in which helped the Mets win the National League East for the first time since 2006. But Murphy would make his mark in the postseason where he became the first player in MLB history to hit a home run in six consecutive games as he helped the Mets reach the World Series. The Mets were not willing to give Murphy the long-term contract that he was seeking which led to him leaving as a free agent to join the Washington Nationals. And now Murphy has become one of the better hitters in baseball as he has a new career-high in home runs (22), and runs batted in (87), while his .344 batting average is tops in the N.L.
Walker isn’t going to make the folks in the Big Apple completely forget about Murphy; especially since the Nationals are well on their way to winning the National League East, but he really picked the opportune time to have the season that he is currently having.
During the off-season the Mets took some flack for allowing Murphy to leave which came down to money and the fact that Alderson didn’t believe in his defense at second base. And yes the Mets will have the opportunity over the winter to offer Walker the same salary arbitration that they did to Murphy which would enable them to receive an additional draft pick should he leave, but Walker has New York right where he wants them.
The Mets don’t have anyone in their minor-league system that is ready to be a quality everyday second baseman; especially since they traded Dilson Herrera to the Cincinnati Reds last month to acquire outfielder Jay Bruce. Walker has been a defensive upgrade to Murphy, but he is also a switch-hitter which increases his value. And after allowing Murphy to leave town last year, the Mets are going to have to really overpay to keep Walker in Queens.
Alderson will have some decisions to make as Cespedes has the option to opt out of his deal with the Mets during the off-season and it could come down to the Mets re-signing him, or Walker.
And although that winning the National League East here in 2016 is a bit far-fetched for the Mets as they are stuck in third place of the division with a record 60-61 which finds them 11.5 games behind the Nats, they are 4.5 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals for the final wild card spot in the N.L. If the Mets find a way to get back on track and sneak into the postseason, Walker will more than likely have a hand it, which will undoubtedly force the hand of the Mets who will have no choice but to pay him. Walker could then thank Murphy for the money that he would receive as he would be getting paid off of what the Nationals current second baseman did last October, and what he is doing now in D.C.
Daniel Murphy-Second Baseman-Washington Nationals
Last October saw second baseman Daniel Murphy become a household name when he set a Major League Baseball record as he hit a home run in six consecutive playoff games to help the New York Mets win the National League Pennant. Murphy left the Mets in free agency to join the Washington Nationals and the hitting prowess that he displayed last October hasn’t dissipated.
For the first two months of the 2016 Major League Baseball season, Murphy flirted with hitting .400, but he is still leading the National League in batting at .348 while his 17 home runs are a career-high. Murphy is a big reason why the Nationals are in first place in the N.L. East and on pace to win the division for the third time since 2012.
Jeurys Familia-Relief Pitcher-New York Mets
In the 75 years of the National League MVP Award, a relief pitcher has never won it. And as for both leagues, only Dennis Eckersley in 1992 was named the MVP as he did it in the American League. But even though that New York Mets relief pitcher Jeurys Familia is fighting an uphill battle, his accomplishments so far in 2016 need to be recognized. Familia is a perfect 31-for-31 in saves opportunities this year and he is a big reason why the Mets have been able to hang around in playoff contention. Familia has also struck out 41 batters while only allowing 12 runs, and if he is able to reach magical number of 50 in the saves category, he should receive some serious consideration as far as being the N.L. MVP.
Kris Bryant-Third Baseman-Chicago Cubs
When the Chicago Cubs were struggling in 2014, the folks knew that help was potentially on the way in the form of third baseman Kris Bryant. Bryant was the second overall pick of the 2013 Major League Draft by the Cubs and he has lived up to the hype and then some. After winning the National League Rookie of the Year Award last year, Bryant has avoided the sophomore slump as he is batting .286 with 25 home runs and 65 runs batted in. Bryant is a big reason why the Cubs are in first place in the National League Central and the folks in the Windy City are thinking about the World Series for the first time in a long time.
Anthony Rizzo-First Baseman-Chicago Cubs
As there were some very lean years for the Chicago Cubs in the early 2010’s, there was one bright spot for the team which was first baseman Anthony Rizzo. Rizzo was showing his potential on bad Cubs teams which included belting 32 homers in 2014 as he finished tenth in the National League MVP voting. Currently Rizzo is on pace for his best season as he has 21 homers and 63 runs batted in to go along with a .299 batting average here at the All-Star break. And just like Bryant, Rizzo is a big reason why the Cubs are in first place in the N.L. Central.
Nolan Arenado-Third Baseman-Colorado Rockies
The Colorado Rockies might be 16 games out of first place in the National League West, but that doesn’t mean that the year in which their starting third baseman Nolan Arenado is having should go unrecognized. Arenado was the second overall pick of the 2009 Major League Baseball Draft by the Rockies and he is coming into his own as one of the best all-around players in the game. Last year Arenado led the National League in home runs (42) and runs batted in (130), while he also won his third Gold Glove Award.
This year Arenado is batting .287 with 23 homers and his 70 runs batted in lead the National League. Arenado will be fighting an uphill to named as the N.L. MVP as the Rockies will more than likely not make the playoffs, but Arenado simply continues to chug right along.
The New York Mets came out of nowhere in 2015 to win their first National League Pennant since 2000. And although that the Mets fell short of winning the World Series, the expectations for them were still high when the 2016 Major League Baseball season began. But all season long the Mets have been an up and down team which started when they began the year with a record of 2-5. The Mets have not been under .500 since April 17, but each time that they appear ready to take that next step, they have come crashing back down the earth.
Three times this year the Mets have had the opportunity to go 10 games above .500, only to lose on each occasion. The most recent opportunity for the Mets to go 10 games above .500 came this Friday night when they lost to the Washington Nationals 3-1 which was the prelude to them losing three straight games in the series and falling six games out of first place in the National League East. The Mets have series victories over the defending World Series Champion Kansas City Royals, the San Francisco Giants, and the Chicago Cubs. But the Mets are 7-6 against the lowly Atlanta Braves while also being swept by the Colorado Rockies who themselves are eight games under .500. And after being swept last month at the hands of the Nationals, the Mets appeared to be heading into a tailspin until they righted the ship last weekend in sweeping the Cubs in a four-game series.
However the Mets lost three of four games this weekend at home to the Nats and as they are now trailing Washington by six games for first place in the National League East heading into the All-Star break, they are also tied with the Miami Marlins for the final wild card spot.
The strength of the Mets success is their pitching staff which is what propelled them to the National League Pennant last year. But it hasn’t been all systems go for the Mets pitching staff here in 2016. Starting pitcher Matt Harvey was the National League’s Comeback Player of the Year in 2015 as he posted a 13-8 record with a 2.71 earned run average after he had missed the entire 2014 Major League Baseball season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. Harvey hasn’t been right all year as he has attempted to pitch through pain and criticism. Harvey’s record in 2016 is 4-10 with an earned run average of 4.86. Harvey’s season came to a screeching halt last week when he opted to have surgery on his shoulder after he was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome. Starting pitchers Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz are each dealing with bone spur issues in the elbow, while Syndergaard won’t appear in this week’s All-Star Game after he was removed in the fifth inning this past Friday night with what the Mets are diagnosing as “arm fatigue”. And those golden arms that the folks in the Big Apple were drooling about in spring training are now spending more time in the infirmary than they are on the mound which is crippling the Mets chances.
And just like year, the Mets offense is still anemic. The Mets are second in the National League in home runs with 122, but most of those have been of the solo variety as they are 13th in runs scored with 335 which includes them scoring two runs or less on 34 occasions this season. The Mets have been without the services of their third baseman and captain David Wright for the majority of 2016 as he has a herniated disc in his neck which will sideline him for the rest of the season. First baseman Lucas Duda is still sidelined with a back injury which has kept him out of action since May 20, while outfielder Juan Lagares recently returned to the roster after suffering a thumb injury. The Mets have talent in their lineup with the likes of outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, but they’ve been unable to consistently put it together as a team as it has either been outhouse or penthouse with this offense. Mets general manager Sandy Alderson has done several things to shake up the offense which has seen him demoting outfielder Michael Conforto to the minors, and signing infielder Jose Reyes. But just like this time last year, the Mets have been consistently inconsistent, while the Nationals are not the same team that they were at this point in 2015, and the same can be said about the Marlins.
The Mets are far from being dead in the water as they are right there in playoff contention and alot can happen between now and the end of the season which is still two and a half months away, but they must find a way to put it altogether. I do foresee Alderson making more moves between now and the trade deadline as there will soon be some teams that’ll wave the white flag and become sellers which will help a New York team that can use another starting pitcher.
However the All-Star break came at the right time for the Mets as players such as Cespedes and outfielder Curtis Granderson who are attempting to gut it out through nagging injuries need to rest for a few days. And being that Cespedes has the option to opt out of his current contract with the Mets after this season, I do see him getting on another vintage tear at the plate like we witnessed during his two months in New York last year.
The Mets will begin the second half of the season with a nine-game road trip against the Philadelphia Phillies, Cubs, and Marlins. But it really won’t matter who the Mets will face as they can be their own worst enemy at times if they are not hitting. So far we’ve seen plenty of Dr. Jekyll from the Mets, but at some point Mr. Hyde needs to consistently reappear in Flushing in order for this team to get back to the postseason.
The New York Mets entered the 2016 Major League Baseball season with high expectations after winning the National League Pennant last year. After a 1-0 victory over the Chicago White Sox on May 30, the Mets found themselves with a record of 29-21. But since then the Mets are 2-5 and they’ve also been dealing with a glut of injuries. In the past two weeks the Mets have seen third baseman David Wright and first baseman Lucas Duda sent to disabled list with injuries that are going to see them each miss a significant amount of time. Wright has been diagnosed with a herniated disk in his neck, while Duda is dealing with a stress fracture in his back. This past weekend saw outfielder Yoenis Cespedes scratched from the Mets lineup due to an issue with his hip, while outfielder Juan Lagares suffered a partially torn thumb ligament while making a diving catch against the Miami Marlins. And once you factor in that catcher Travis d’Arnaud has been on the disabled list since April 25 with a shoulder injury, the Mets are now down four starters from their opening day roster.
The Mets offense has been painful to watch as they’ve only managed to muster 3 runs in their last three games which has seen them fall in the standings. The Mets are now 3.5 games behind the Washington Nationals for first place in the National League East, while they have a 0.5-game lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers for the final wild card berth in the NL.
The Mets have one of the top pitching staffs in baseball as their team earned run average of 3.15 is second in the National League entering play today. But you cannot expect the pitching staff which is loaded with studs to constantly put up dominant outings without giving them some run support.
Mets general manager Sandy Alderson now finds himself in a very tough spot as he needs to make some moves to improve his team’s offense, but we’re at a point in the season where teams aren’t willing to wave the white just yet. And as they know that the Mets are desperate for a bat or two, their asking price is going to be astronomical.
Today the Mets were able to acquire utility man Kelly Johnson from the Atlanta Braves. The Mets had previously acquired Johnson from the Braves last summer, and he was used as a bench player for them during the stretch run. But Johnson’s return to the Mets is only going to serve merely as being another body in the lineup as he is not the difference maker that they could use.
There are some teams that already appear to be out of contention such as the San Diego Padres, Cincinnati Reds, and Braves who have players that the Mets could use, but Alderson is attempting to hold off of on making a mega deal for now. Padres outfielder Jon Jay has picked the right time to have the best offensive season of his career as he is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this winter. And even though that the Padres are in last place in the National League West, I doubt that they’ll pull the trigger on a deal now as they will more than likely want Jay to represent them in the All-Star Game next month since it will be held in San Diego. The Reds have a first baseman that the Mets can use in Joey Votto. But Votto is in the midst of his worst Major League Baseball season, while he is still owed nearly $175 million on his contract which runs through 2024. The Braves also have a first baseman that the Mets could use in Freddie Freeman. However I don’t see the Braves making a move that would keep Freeman in the NL East.
Now we get a chance to watch baseball’s version of high stakes poker as teams are attempting to call Alderson’s bluff. When healthy Alderson knows that the Mets are a World Series contender. But even if the Mets are able to make it back to the postseason, it won’t be easy since the National League has greatly improved from last year. In the NL East alone, the Nationals have found new life under manager Dusty Baker and they don’t appear to be the pushovers that they were last year. Wright and Duda aren’t coming back anytime soon, and although that Cespedes can carry a lineup, he only gets four at-bats per game, while he is also currently attempting to fight through an injury. Alderson cannot simply wait around for guys to get healthy as the small holes that are currently in the Mets dam are not going to stay like that for long if they aren’t properly addressed. And a season that began with so much promise for the Mets could get away from them in a New York minute if they don’t take care of their business.
Last week the New York Mets announced that their captain in third baseman David Wright would miss 6-8 weeks due to a herniated disk in his neck. Wright is 33-years of age and the herniated disk adds to a laundry list of injuries that he has had to deal with in past few years. In 2009, Wright suffered a concussion when he was hit in the head by San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Matt Cain. In 2011, a stress fracture in Wright’s back forced him to miss 60 games. In 2013, a hamstring injury was added was added to Wright’s growing list of ailments and he missed 50 games. In April 2015, Wright suffered another hamstring injury, and while he was rehabbing, he was diagnosed with spinal stenosis. Wright would only appear in 38 games for the Mets in the regular season. But Wright would return to the Mets in late August to help them for the stretch run which resulted in New York winning their first National League Eastern Division Title since 2006. In the postseason, Wright didn’t hit for average, but his presence alone was important for the Mets which included him getting the game-winning hit in Game 1 of the National League Divisional Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. And with the Mets trailing the Kansas City Royals 2-0 in the World Series, it was Wright’s two-run home run in the first inning that propelled New York to its only victory in the series. But the guy that was a heartthrob with the young ladies in the Big Apple upon his arrival in 2004 is now beginning resemble a former baseball star in Gotham in former New York Yankees first baseman Don Mattingly as injuries (especially to the back) are beginning to catch up to him and take their toll.
Like Wright is to the current Mets, Mattingly was to the Yankees in the 1980’s as he was one of the few bright spots on the team during his tenure. With the Yankees, Mattingly was a six-time Major League Baseball All-Star, along with being the American League MVP in 1985. Mattingly joined the Yankees in 1982 which was the year after they won the A.L. Pennant, and he would toil on non-playoff teams throughout the rest of the decade and the early 1990’s as New York failed to make the postseason. The Yankees would finally make the playoffs again in 1995, but at that point Mattingly was a shell of himself which led to his retirement following New York’s elimination to the Seattle Mariners in the American League Divisional Series as his bad back could no longer take the riggers of playing in MLB. Mattingly’s retirement would be a sad one as the following year would see the Yankees win their first World Series Championship since 1978, and the former captain would miss out on it.
Wright spent the majority of his prime years playing on Met teams that weren’t close to contending as the organization’s finances were hampered by the Bernie Madoff scandal. But Wright has always been the good soldier and the face of the Mets franchise through it all. Wright became the de facto spokesperson for the Mets in 2013 when they hosted the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, and he finally got a taste of the Fall Classic last October. But at the age of 33 with a bad neck and back, it will never be the same for Wright and the Mets no matter how much that he attempts to gut it out.
Currently the Mets find themselves two games back of the Washington Nationals for first place in the National League East and the team’s front office is going to give players within the organization such as infielders Matt Reynolds and Wilmer Flores every opportunity to show what they can do at third base before exploring trade options. But a bad back isn’t going to get any better than what it already is for a baseball player that is in his early-to-mid 30s which means that the time for the Metropolitans to begin grooming their next starter at the hot corner should be starting now.
Over the off-season when it became apparent that the Cincinnati Reds were shopping third baseman Todd Frazier, I felt that it would have been prudent for the Mets to at least extend a feeler on acquiring him. Frazier is in the prime of his career, and his acquisition would have allowed the Mets to move Wright to first base as his defensive skills are diminishing due to his bad back. But the Reds would end up trading Frazier to the Chicago White Sox. And with other quality third baseman around Major League Baseball such as Nolan Arenado of the Colorado Rockies and Evan Longoria of the Tampa Bay Rays not appearing to be on the trade market, it looks like the Mets will be managing their third base position with spit and glue until Wright returns.
But even if the Mets wanted to bring in another quality third baseman via a trade, they have to deal with the little thing that is Wright’s contract. Wright is under contract with the Mets through 2020, and he is still owed $67 million after this year. And with Wright once again expected to be out the New York lineup for an extended period of time, it won’t be easy to replace his leadership; especially since the Mets allowed second baseman Daniel Murphy to leave in free agency over the winter to the Washington Nationals. The Mets are hopeful that they’ll be able to do the same thing that they did last year when they stayed close enough to the Nationals in the standings until things began to come together for them in late July and early August. However it’s not a guarantee that history will repeat itself, and somebody has to step up now at the hot corner for the Mets, in their lineup, and in the locker room as Wright’s contributions to the club aren’t that easy to replace.