The Replacements

Here’s a quick exchange with friend of MBTN Dave on Twitter.

I confess to being somewhat ignorant of the 11-year career of Jose Quintana other than his involvement in a big trade between the White Sox (where he was an All-Star in 2016) and the Cubs, who coughed up the then big prospect Eloy Jimenez to get him. He’s a lefty from Columbia who’s worn 62 or 63 throughout his career which included subsequent stops with the Angels, Giants, Pirates and most recently, the 2022 Cardinals where he wore 62 and 63, not certain in which order. Here’s a fun fact: He was originally signed as an amateur free agent by the Mets. Now he’s essentially Taijuan Walker‘s replacement. I liked Walker, now he’s a Philly. Diabolical.

So let’s say Quintana keeps 62, and Drew Smith changes to something he prefers.

The Mets you may have seen made another deal, coughing up a lefty minor leaguer Keyshawn Eskew to the Rays for lefty reliever Brooks Raley. Raley who wore 30 last year with the Rays — but neglected to wear a pride patch and didn’t bother to get vaxxed — looks to be this year’s Joely Rodriguez. Joely wore 30 too.

I gotta say I’m not too excited about this guy.

 

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Cy Old

It didn’t take long for the Mets to address the vacancy of Jacob deGrom as Steve Cohen threw a pile of money at Cy Young winner Justin Verlander who joins 38-year-old Max Scherzer at the top of the rotation. Verlander will be 40 next year so I’m tempering my expectations while still fretting over the prospect of retaining or replacing Brandon Nimmo, securing a reliable designated hitter, and making sure the club has a rotation that’s young enough and deep enough to count on. Carlos Carrasco, the current No. 3 starter, will be 36. Then you’ve got the relatively unproven arms of Tylor Megill and David Peterson. Another arm would be nice.

Verlander will be the first Mets 35 of any substance since Dillon Gee (2010-2015) even though eight guys have worn it since him, most recently the emergency catcher Michael Perez.

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Exes in Texas

If you believe the reports there wasn’t anything that could have been done to prevent Jacob deGrom to fulfill his childhood dream to play for the Texas Rangers, which I always thought to be one of those teams who every so often bang a fist on the desk and insist they win a free agency lottery.

As wonderful a player as deGrom was–and he was awesome from the start–he was also inscrutable and frustrating. Even his injuries were mysterious, and it hurts that he turned his back on us like it did when Darryl Strawberry departed, albeit with a more obvious chip on his shoulder. Let’s say deGrom is departing with a chip on his elbow.

I can only imagine how Steve Cohen will take this bit of news but I’m preparing for one or two big strikes on the free agent market. I’m not a big fan of 40-year-olds, but Justin Verlander is out there; a decade younger but with a spottier track record in Carlos Rodon, then there’s the promising Japanese League import Kodai Senga with whom the Mets have reportedly met in person. I could see the club sign two of the three and bring back Chris Bassitt too.

Meantime the Mets continue to collect obscure castoffs that might make for bullpen depth or sixth starters: Most recently ex-Ray Jimmy Yacabonis; and Denyi Reyes, formerly of Baltimore.

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Going, Going, Dom

Dom Smith, who on his best days looked to be a challenger for Pete Alonso and on his worst an AAA outfielder/first baseman who couldn’t fulfill the glaring need for a left-handed hitting DH, was nontendered by the Mets last night, ending a career with the club that started as a first-round draft pick in 2013. Smith was tossed aside along with Sean Reid-Foley, the bulldoggish reliever who came over from Toronto in the Steven Matz trade.

Dom Smith departs as the Mets’ all-time leader in home runs among guys who wore No. 2 (with 21, surpassing Marv Throneberry‘s 16!) but it should be remembered that Smith spent the early part of his career wearing 22 where his 25 jacks rank a distant third to Kevin McReynolds (122) and Donn Clendenon (45).

You could make a case that Smith was the Mets’ all-time No. 2 but Mackey Sasser is the best compiler (most plate appearances, most RBI and the highest batting average). Free-agent Justin Turner would be third. Of the brief visitors let us not forget Juan Uribe, though my all-time No. 2 remains Bobby Valentine.

Reid-Foley was released while undergoing rehab from Tommy John surgery. Smith had his own injury woes over the years including a famous sleep disorder and an ankle sprain. The acquisition of Daniel Vogelbach and his more cost-effective salary sealed Dom’s fate.

These moves came as the Mets shore up the fringes of the 40-man roster which as of now has just 33 guys, so there’s a lot more to come, presumably more impactful than the quintet of DFAed relievers they’d also recently acquired. They are William Woods, a righty fringe prospect from the Braves; two former Marlins arms, righties Elieser Hernandez and Jeff Brigham; Stephen Ridings, a towering righty from Long Island who pitched last for the Yankees; and Tayler Saucedo, a lefty snatched from the Blue Jays. None of these guys have assigned numbers yet. Hernandez and Brigham cost the Mets a low-level prospect in hard-throwing Franklin Sanchez.

They Mets made no moves to protect their eligible prospects from the forthcoming Rule 5 draft–outfielder Jake Magnum seemed the likeliest–but it would seem the Mets could add this way if they so chose while keeping an eye on resigning or replacing dudes like Seth Lugo, Jacob deGrom, Brandon Nimmo, Chris Bassitt, Taijuan Walker and Adam Ottavino.

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Losing Nimmo

The 2022 Mets were built to win but are they built to last?

Although closer Edwin Diaz signed a new 5-year deal already, there could be three starting pitchers on their way out: Jacob deGrom who apparently has interest in Texas; Chris Bassitt, who rejected the qualifying offer, and Taijuan Walker who didn’t get a qualifying offer.

Then there’s Brandon Nimmo, who could depart for Colorado on the verge of becoming the undisputed all-time No. 9 in team history.

He’s pretty much that now, I’d ague, even if Todd Hundley has a season’s worth more games played, more home runs (123-63) and way more RBI (388-212). But Nimmo has the superior OBP (a 9-best .385) and his slugging percentage is just a tick below Hundley’s at .441 to Todd’s .447. Nimmo is in fact 4th overall in career OBP among all Mets, so he’s not the kind of guy a contending team wants to lose.

The Mets have a lot of decisions to make including replacing president Sandy Alderson. I’m pretty much out of ideas myself, so what do you think?

 

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Whole-Assed to the Finish Line

The biggest series in years starts tonight and with a surprise: Francisco Alvarez is batting 7th and wearing No. 50.

Alvarez is the fourth and we can assume final right-handed attempt at DH this year, and is no doubt energizing Met fans who’ve seen JD Davis, Darin Ruf, and now Mark Vientos try and fail. Alvarez is the biggest fish they’ve got and it surprised me.

Alvarez is considered the Mets’ top prospect and possesses the big-assed build of a catcher. He would be the first 50 to squat behind the plate for the Mets, if and when he gets there. He’s also the first non-pitcher to wear 50 in 17 years: Victor Diaz was last, but let’s hope Alvarez has some Benny Agbayani in him.

I regret to have failed to mark the arrival of Vientos here but little actually changed. Now is the time. Very exciting…

Let’s Go Mets!

 

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A Pennant Pandemic

Down by one ace pitcher and the most reliable of their outfielders, the Mets have tested positive for Pennant Fever.

Tyler Naquin appears to vomit into his helmet then look wobblingly unsteady up there at the plate, which may as well be symptoms, as were two walks, a hit, a run, and just one whiff last night. Mark Cahna, Eduardo Escobar and even Mychal Givens appear to have been exposed. And the slumping Daniel Vogelbach seems to have caught something last night too and looked again he that could be our good year blimp.

It’s still rough for Darin Ruf but perhaps the arrival of rookie Mark Vientos will make Ruf touch his own face and forget to wash his hands. Vientos is a right handed masher who has shown fearsome power at AAA Syracuse but the Mets have been wary of his defense. He’s been assigned No. 27 and may appear in today’s starting lineup at DH so you may as well forget the Jets this afternoon.

I caught something too in the form of a gentle rebuke for the cranky tone of the last post. I hadn’t fully realized that the building drama interfered with my Ya Gotta Believeism, either. I conked out before last night’s Seattle-Atlanta game but seeing the result this morning confirmed my case.

Here’s another thing I realized only today. Both of this year’s most exciting call-ups, Brett Baty and now Vientos weren’t even born when this site first went up. That was in 1999, another year where a Mets-Braves September pennant race was pretty sick.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SHaMeful

Not to put too fine a point on it but September pretty much sucks far for the SHaMs, with patsies beating us up and the Braves still winning and we’re not in first place anymore, at least not alone and at least until the first half of what had better be a sweep today in Pittsburgh, or else.

Max Scherzer is on the disabled list, veteran lefty Alex Claudio has joined the group and Yoan Lopez is back as the 29th Man. How silly is that? Baseball should have smaller rosters, at least smaller active ones like hockey does. 25 guys, dress 22 or 23. Doubleheader, switch between games.

I get it, there’s something in the player’s union for this. These easy to beat Mets put me in a bad mood.

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Mountains of Geese

Here we go again.

The Schwinden-of-the-Moment is Bryce Montes de Oca, a name even more distinctive than the guy he succeeded numerically, Rob Zastryzny. Translated, the name Montes de Oca means “Mountains of Goose” which if you’re feeling optimistic could suggest Bryce could be a bigger version of Rich “Goose” Gossage, a Hall of Fame reliever who like Montes de Oca, throws hard.

Bryce as you may have seen is a giant of a guy, listed at 6-foot-7, 265, and he fired a few 100-mph pitches last night. He’s also not just any brute but the valedictorian of his Kansas high school and a U of Missouri product who at one time was rated a top-100 draft guy but whom the Mets got in the 9th round of the 2018 draft because he’d had a ton of injuries including a Tommy John so he was something of a Powerball lottery pick.

Montes de Oca, whose father was born in Cuba, is the third guy to wear 63 this year, after the Polish duo of Zastryzny and Thomas Szapucki were spit out. He’s been more walkable than hittable over his minor league career and everything but his uni number looks promising if he improve his control. Were it up to me I’d issue Montes de Oca a more intimidating number, like 98 or something, so as to avoid the Fate of Schwindens.

Montes de Oca got the call when Trevor May caught COVID. The other September call-ups are Deven Marrero (again) and Adonis Medina (again). Medina didn’t have much last night. Let’s hope Max Scherzer is OK.

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The Amazin’ Rise, the Sudden Fall, and the Painful Revenge of Johnny Lewis

Twenty-four was a meaningful number in New York long before the Mets came along.

Once they did, there were six Mets who played in 24 before Willie Mays, and three since. We’ve addressed the first two of the latter group already in Kelvin Torve and Rickey Henderson. Today is for the most Mays-ish of the former group, Johnny Lewis.

Like Mays, Johnny Joe Lewis was born in Alabama. Also like Mays, he was considered something of a five-tool player, hitting for power and average, throwing well, and running well. And while keeping things in perspective for the atrocious Met clubs he’d played for, Lewis was the Mets’ own Willie Mays in 1965, leading the club with 2.4 Win Shares according to Baseball Reference, and was the top scorer in a separate ranking of the ’65 club according to the Crane Pool Forum.

Lewis came to the Mets along with lefty Gordie Richardson in a December 1964 trade with St. Louis for pitcher Tracey Stallard and infielder Elio Chacon.

In his first season as a regular player in his career, the 25-year-old Lewis hit .245 with 15 home runs, 45 RBI and led the Mets in runs scored, walks, and on-base percentage. His 106 OPS+ was the only “plus” on the club that year but for rookie Ron Swoboda (103). Lewis was a lefthanded batter whom Casey Stengel often batted first, third or fourth in the order. Lewis split time in center field and in right, where he showed off a power arm.

On April 15 at Shea against Houston, Lewis caught a Jimmy Wynn fly ball with runners on first and third, and gunned down Walt Bond at the plate. Catcher Chris Cannizzaro then fired to second where Roy McMillan slapped a tag on the advancing Bob Aspromonte to complete a triple play. The game was won 5-4 on a walkoff 10th inning home run by Bobby Klaus.

Bill Gallo, New York Daily News

Bill Gallo’s Daily News cartoon said it best. Though Lewis and the Mets were on their way to their best start in their short history, they’d be buried by 47 games by the end of the year, and Lewis’ own fortunes would turn as well. As he slumped in August, the Mets had Lewis outfitted with eyeglasses; and by 1966, they were were tinkering with his batting stance.

According to John Stahl’s SABR bio, Lewis felt that manager Wes Westrum, who replaced Stengel late in 1965, may have had it in for him.

 “I had more homers and runs batted in than the Mets’ four other outfielders,” he said. “I only played when someone was hurt but I was always in there against the top pitchers. If (manager Wes Westrum) had something against me, or if I had done something wrong, I’d understand. I must say I didn’t get a fair shake by the Mets. But I’ll give them 100 percent.”

Lewis hit just .193 in 1966 when he was farmed out midseason. By the time he’d resurfaced in 1967, the Mets had given away his uniform number 24 to newly arrived third baseman Ed Charles. Charles however gave it back to Lewis when he was called up in May. (Charles took the No. 5 belonging previously to Sandy Alomar (Sr.) who was sent down when Lewis was recalled). When Lewis was sent back to Class AAA in June of ’67, his big-league playing career was over and the Mets were still looking for their Mays.

Lewis was not done with baseball, however, nor with ex-Mets. Cardinals GM Bing Devine, who crossed paths with Lewis in the Mets’ organization, named Lewis the Cardinals’ first-ever Black field coach in 1973. Lewis subsequently became Whitey Herzog‘s Cardinals’ hitting coach from 1985 through 1989. Lewis wore 48 in that treacherous stint, however, as 24 belonged to Herzog.

 

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