After an off season of scandal, on again off again blockbuster trades, gigantic free agent signings, possible Minor League Baseball contraction, and the Mets being the Mets it is time to return to the diamond. Pitchers and Catchers report to Spring Training, the journey to October begins.
Expectations are high in the Bronx after signing Gerrit Cole. Houston is out to prove they can win without stealing signs, while the rest of baseball is out for revenge. The on again off again trade of Mookie Betts to the Dodgers showed how far Boston has fallen while searching for financial flexibility. The Red Sox continue searching for a permanent manager to replace Alex Cora after he was swept up in the fallout from Houston. Major League Baseball proposed eliminating 42 minor league teams, which immediately angered the communities potentially impacted, baseball fans, and even Congress.
The Mets once again managed to stay in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Yoenis Cespedes reworked his contract after the revelation that his injury was the result of a run in with a wild boar. The Amazin’s General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen, Cespedes’ former agent, now had to alter the contract he negotiated, but from the other side of the table. Carlos Beltran never made it to his first workout of Spring Training as Mets Manager. His involvement in the Astros scandal followed him to Queens. The Wilpons were unable to sell the Mets because they wanted to continue making team decisions once they no longer wrote the checks.
The Cincinnati Reds are poised to climb out of the cellar and into contention after an active Winter. (Kareem Elgazzar)
Anthony Rendon got paid by leaving Washington, Stephen Strasburg got paid to stay with the Nationals. Zack Wheeler left Queens for Philadelphia for a chance to win and a large paycheck. Madison Bumgarner left the Bay for the desert, while Hyun-Jin Ryu left sunny Southern California and moved north of the border. Josh Donaldson added his name to the slugging Twins lineup, a new age Murderers’ Row. The White Sox and Reds loaded up on free agents, vaulting themselves into contention. Hundreds of other moves happened. Time will tell which moves helped teams, and which teams will come to regret.
Baseball lost the legendary writer Roger Kahn. Few, if any, possess his ability to write about the game. He was baseball’s writer. His ability to put the passion and beauty of the game into print will be missed.
It was an odd and harrowing off season, but now Pitchers and Catchers are reporting to Spring Training. The world is a little more perfect because we are getting back to baseball.
It seems like only yesterday the Mets were poised to have a scary starting rotation for years to come. A rotation rivaling the Braves’ rotation in the 1990’s which had three Hall of Fame pitchers coming at you night after night. The future of the Amazings had Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, Steven Matz, and Jacob deGrom. This rotation would dominate the division and baseball for years to come. Yeah…about that. The Dark Knight was banished from Gotham and is now pitching for the Cincinnati Reds, and even the Reds are beginning to discuss trading high on Matt Harvey before he crashes again. Noah Syndergaard has not pitched since before Memorial Day due to injury. Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler are having forgettable seasons and rumors are swirling about one or both leaving Queens. Neither would yield a huge return, but the Mets may be more concerned about getting something before their trade value becomes nothing. This leaves only Jacob deGrom on the mound for the Mets.
Even as Jacob deGrom is producing a career year, the Mets are wasting the work of their best pitcher. The Mets are terrible this year, may be time for a rebuild in Queens, even when deGrom is lights out. deGrom is leading all of baseball in ERA, FIP, and ERA+. Regardless what you think about FIP and ERA+, leading MLB in ERA, with a 1.79 ERA is no small feat. In 18 starts this season, deGrom has pitched 115 ⅓ innings, allowing 23 Earned Runs, with 142 strikeouts against only 29 walks. He also has a 0.988 WHIP. He has gone at least seven innings in 11 starts. Yet despite his brilliance, deGrom has a 5-4 record and the Mets are 7-11 when deGrom starts. No team is successful when they struggle to win with their best pitcher on the mound.
Jacob deGrom has had to grin and bear it this year as he watches his great starts wasted by the Mets. (Michael Reaves/ Getty Images)
The Mets have scored 69 runs, 3.83 per game, in games deGrom starts. However, they have given up 70 runs, 3.88 per game. The bullpen is letting the team down, having allowed 46 runs in deGrom starts. Any close game deGrom leaves the bullpen is struggling to hold the lead or keep the game close for the offense. deGrom is 2-2 at Citi Field and 3-2 on the road. The Mets are currently 35-51 and in 4th place in the National League East, ahead of only the disaster in Miami in the standings. Not a great return for the pitching deGrom is delivering every fifth day.
The Amazings cannot expect deGrom to continue putting up these numbers with nothing to show for it. The Mets need to rebuild around deGrom or find a trade while he is hot. A pitcher like deGrom should bring back a slew of prospects that could turn the franchise around. deGrom does not reach free agency until 2021, he would be more than a trade deadline rental. Regardless what the team does, the Mets should not waste deGrom’s brilliance. The Mets are ridiculed for their decision-making, such as Bobby Bonilla and the Wilpons, but at some point the team needs to either act like a small market team that happens to play in New York or responsibility act like a big market team. Stop giving big contracts players at the back-end of their prime like Jason Bay, 4 years $66 million, and Yoenis Cespedes, 4 years $110 million. Spread the money around, spend money on the bullpen, spend money on developing a retaining guys like you did with David Wright, and hope they can avoid injury. Yes, Jacob deGrom is having an amazing season wasted by the Mets, but this is the latest symptom of the Mets inability to capitalize on the talent they draft and develop. The team needs to focus on putting a winning team on the field. Winning baseball will attract the fans and media attention and make New York a two team town.
The best moves in Major League Baseball for the week of December 9th through December 15th and their impact on the teams involved for this season and beyond.
Bartolo Colon has signed a two year, $20 million contract with the New York Mets. Coming off a 2013 campaign which saw him go 16 and 6 with a 2.65 ERA, Colon instantly provides veteran leadership and depth to the Mets rotation. He will protect Zack Wheeler by not thrusting him into being the Mets ace before he is ready while Matt Harvey is recovering from Tommy John surgery. Colon will be 41 during the 2014 season, and many are wondering how much longer he can pitch like a man a decade younger than he is. His increasing age and the history of PED use and suspension have made Colon a fairly low risk signing for the Mets as they begin to climb back to .500.
The Miami Marlins seem like they could be serious about building a winning ball club. The signing of Garret Jones to a two year deal gives them a corner outfielder with Giancarlo Stanton in Center. Jones will also aid in protecting Stanton in the batting order as adding an extra left handed bat to their line up should give Stanton more pitches to hit and more opportunities to drive in runs. Jones, along with the signing of Rafael Furcal and Jarrod Saltalamacchia last week seems to be signaling that Miami has finally figured out that building a winning team takes time. Instead of going after the big money free agents they are starting with the solid free agents and then they should become a destination for free agents in the future. All this however is dependent upon Jeffrey Loria not hosting his seemingly biannual fire sale.
Omar Infante will help the Kansas City Royals win the extra games they need in order to make the playoffs. Having signed a four year deal, Infante will provide stability and leadership for the Royals in their infield and in the club house. His leadership and playoff experience will help the young Royals handle the extra stresses that come with a playoff race in August and September. An above average hitter and fielder, much of Infante’s value does not show up in a box score. His ability to play five or six different positions allows his teammates to get a day off, yet he prevents a roster spot from being filled by a player who is solely a backup. The Royals need every player they can get as they march towards October and Infante will help them get over the hump and make the playoffs.
There should be plenty of Home Runs for Diamondback fans to catch after Arizona completed a three team trade which brought them former Angels slugger Mark Trumbo. Unfortunately for Arizona fans, those Home Runs come at a price, lots and lots of strikeouts. While Trumbo will never be mistaken for Andruw Jones in the outfield, he can provide average defense. His value is his ability to launch a baseball into the next county. Trumbo has major upside with his bat if he can harness his power and cut down on his strikeouts, even a little. Adding him to the lineup that already has Paul Goldschmidt and Gerardo Parra could instantly make the Diamondbacks a major threat in the National League West. I think Trumbo has the ability to be an amazing player, but he needs to understand that a base hit is not a failure and that hitting a Home Run should not be the only goal of an at bat.