By: Paul DiSclafani
The Mets front office had an interesting week, bringing in a new double-play combination, jettisoning an ungrateful pitcher who didn’t figure into their future plans and finding out a veteran outfielder has decided to hang them up. That’s a win-win-win for Mets fans!
Just as the Chanukah celebrations began, the Mets seemed to unwrap gifts every day – sometimes sneaking two in on the same day. And just like the holiday season, negatives turned into positives and at the end of the day, there were smiles.
LOSING OUT ON BEN ZOBRIST
Early in the week, it looked like the Mets were the front-runners on the utility man’s services and when the Nationals jumped into the race, talk around town was that the Mets just might have to overpay to get him and keep him away from their Division rivals. But then a “mystery” team entered the fray and just like that, Zobrist was off the table. The Cubbies and Joe Maddon – his former manager in Tampa –gave him $56M over four years.
Oh, the backlash in the NY media! We Mets fans were disappointed, but did we really want to invest four years into a guy that is turning 35 in May? Don’t we already have that problem with Michael Cuddyer (more on that later)? Last off-season it was the Dodgers spending like drunken sailors, this year it’s the Cubbies.
After looking at the numbers, it turns out that Zobrist and our own Daniel Murphy really aren’t that much different offensively. And Murphy is only 30 years old. So maybe the Cubs did us a favor, right? Rumor has it that the Mets offered $60M, but Zobrist took less from the Cubs because of the way the deal was structured.
The contract for Zobrist is back loaded and he will get $15M in years 3 and 4. That’s two years and $30 million owed to a utility player who will be 37 in 2018. Plus, Zobrist has a full no-trade clause where he can identify up to eight teams that he will consider for a trade. Good luck with that.
THE END OF JONATHAN NIESE
The Pirates and hometown favorite Neil Walker, a Pittsburgh native, could not seem to get together on a new contract. With Daniel Murphy now a Free Agent, the Mets needed a second baseman. The Pirates asked for Jonathan Niese and the Mets hesitated for a nano-second and said, Sure!”.
The 30 year-old Walker was a Silver Slugger winner in 2014 and as a switch hitter, he has the second most home runs in the NL as a second baseman since 2010. He hit 16 last year and drove in 71. Walker was happy to be coming to the Mets and was “excited to be in Mets Blue”
The collateral damage in getting Walker was the Mets had to give up lefty Jonathan Niese, who spent his whole career with the Mets. But as he departed, instead of being a professional (see Michael Cuddyer’s story below) Niese took a shot at his World Series teammates when being interviewed by the Pirates writers:
“I’m sure what I’ll appreciate more than anything is the way (the Pirates) play defense. I’m looking forward to that,”
Really? This from a guy that could never get through the 6th inning? This from a guy that would melt every time a player made an error behind him?
Do you know how many errors the Mets made last season? They made 88 errors as a team, 27 of them from Daniel Murphy and Wilmer Flores. Want to know how many errors the Pirates made? They made 122 of them, most in the NL and 20 of them from their shortstops.
Hey Jonathan, take a look at how the kid Jacob deGrom pitched in and out of trouble against the Dodgers in the postseason when he just didn’t have it. If you had started that game, the Mets would have been in a seven run hole and you would have left the mound shaking your head.
You are the epitome of the “me first” baseball player. So please, take your 61-61 lifetime record with you into Pittsburgh and see how well your “woe-is-me” act plays on a team that will really depend on you. The Mets and their fans put up with you in 2015 because we couldn’t go with a four man rotation all season. But as soon as we could, your ass ended up in the bullpen.
NOW WE HAVE AN ASDRUBEL
Three hours after the Walker trade was announced, the Mets signed free agent shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. Cabrera, a two-time All Star from Tampa Bay, can at a reasonable price of $18.5M over two years with a team option for a third year.
Cabrera was quoted as saying, “I can’t wait to play at Citi Field, in front of the best fans in the world.”
As a compliment to the Walker trade, the 30 year-old Cabrera brings another professional ballplayer to the Mets infield and solidifies the up-the-middle defense to support our young stud pitchers. But he also brings some pop.
Cabrera hit just .265 last year, but .328 after the all-star break. He also hit 15 HR and drove in 58. That gives us a double play combination with over 30 HR and 130 RBI – but they can catch the ball and play defense more consistently.
Only two shortstops have hit over 90 home runs since 2007 and Cabrera is one of them.
MICHAEL CUDDYER RETIRES
When I first heard the news, like most Mets fans, I just couldn’t believe our luck. Cuddyer had turned into just another one of the Mets bad free-agent signings. A former really good player who turned into a shell of himself once he put on the Orange and Blue. Now that he was retiring and leaving $12.5M on the table, that was good news, right?
But as much as Cuddyer’s body betrayed him over the last few years of his career, what he meant to the Mets couldn’t be measured in the box score anymore. It was his veteran presence and leadership that helped the young players on the Mets. The way he went about his business. He always played hard – right to the end. Never took one second of his major league career for granted.
He played the game like it was mean to be played. And he always did it with a smile on his face. Please take the time to read his retirement announcement on Derek Jeter’s website “The Player’s Tribune” called “Play Hard and Dream Big”. Stay with it until the end, it’s worth it. It put a lump in my throat and made me feel bad about how I booed him and was overjoyed when I first heard he was retiring.
Maybe if we had five more like him, we would be the World Champs…
“Finally, thank you to the game of baseball. I was one of the lucky ones who got to play the game for a living. One of the lucky ones who got the play for All-Star managers and coaches. One of the lucky ones who got to be a poster on a kid’s wall. I never played for money or fame, but you showered me with both. I played baseball the way I did because I knew one day it would be over. Today’s that day.
I hope you know that physically, mentally and emotionally, I gave you everything I had.”
A life-time average of .277, 197 home runs and 794 RBI in 1,536 major league games is not enough to get him into the Hall of Fame, but baseball is losing a Hall of Fame player. He will make a great manager or coach one day, a great mentor to young players. He will teach them how to play the game.
BUT WE STILL NEED A BAT
With all this going on – reshaping the infield and resolving a glut of pitching and corner outfielders – what about a big bat? The Mets still don’t have it. I’m sure that Cuddyer didn’t just walk away from $12 M, there must have been a buyout involved. Nobody is THAT benevolent.
On September 1st, there was not a Mets fans out there (including your humble narrator) that would not have given Yoenis Cespedes a blank check. But lately the Mets faithful seem fairly divided. There are a lot of pros and cons on this one because of his performance down the stretch and in the postseason. Add in the years and the money he is looking for and the word out on the street is that the Mets want no part of it. That’s sad to me.
Remember that feeling when you found out he was coming to Flushing? Was that not the single, most defining moment of the 2015 season? And now we are willing to let him get away for nothing?
I know he might be a selfish player, but look at his arm in the outfield! A baseball team needs a good mix of young studs, veterans like Michael Cuddyer and Juan Uribe and star players like Cespedes. A team without star players is like, well, the July 2015 Mets.
He brought a lot of things to the Mets lineup that didn’t show up in the box score. Teams were suddenly afraid of the Mets lineup. What other player in the lineup would ever be intentionally walked to get to Lucas Duda?
And the home runs, oh, those home runs! Did we all forget that?
I know they are most likely not going to sign him, but man, I loved watching him play. We haven’t had that kind of player since Darryl Strawberry. Did you ever change the channel or get up from your seat to go do something else when Strawberry was at bat? Of course not, because there was always the chance he was going to hit it over the scoreboard. Same with Cespedes.
Pay the man. He’s not afraid of our ballpark. He’s going to hit 30-35 home runs, isn’t he? He is going to throw out base runners, but more importantly, they are not going to attempt to take too many extra bases on that arm. And what is going through that pitcher’s head when he strolls to the plate with a man on third?
Pay the man…