When a team has made the playoffs just twice in the last 11 years, they’re categorized as a losing organization. When there are also little to no changes made from management down in the process, that team has a serious issue at hand. Those two scenarios describe the New York Mets, and General Manager Sandy Alderson is running out of lifelines.
Going into the 2018 regular season, the Mets were viewed as a team capable of competing for a National League Wild Card seeding. That confidence was generated by the presence of a healthy pitching staff — and team for that matter — and the offseason signings of Anthony Swarzak, Adrian Gonzalez, Jason Vargas, Jay Bruce, and Todd Frazier. But ever since beginning the season 11-1, the Mets have been atrocious from all facets; they’re 16-32 since the hot start.
Going into Friday night, the Mets were 28th in runs scored (231), 28th in hits (466), 24th in team batting average (.233), and 25th in home runs (59). The Mets lineup has also produced just three runs in their last 54 innings played. Yoenis Cespedes being on the disabled list is certainly doing them no favors, but the Mets lineup has been unable to provide any consistent or reliable run support for its starting staff.
Look at Jacob deGrom: He currently owns a 1.58 ERA and is looking like a finalist for the National League Cy Young Award, yet the Mets have lost eight of the 12 games he’s started. Righty Noah Syndergaard has also strung together some productive outings; he owns a 3.06 ERA and has been a staple in the team’s rotation over the last four years. Lefty Steven Matz has even turned a corner this season, as he currently owns a 3.42 ERA and is beginning to trust his stuff. The problem with the Mets’ pitching is everything that comes after their top-of-the-rotation trio.
Zack Wheeler has still been unable to blossom into a reliable starting pitcher, as he continues to put runners on base with ease. Then, there’s Vargas, who has been one of the worst pitchers in baseball this season. Currently owning a 7.71 ERA and 1.75 WHIP, he’s been rocked early in games, hasn’t had his command, and has been unable to pitch deep into games; he hasn’t pitched up to the $8 million a year management is granting him. After the backend of the rotation, things only get worse for the Mets.
Currently 25th in bullpen ERA (4.53), the Mets have been unable to finish off games and get crucial late-inning outs. Righty AJ Ramos, who Alderson acquired at last year’s trade deadline, has been a disaster this season. Currently sporting a 6.41 ERA and 1.63 WHIP, he’s been unable to come in and get three outs or a righty batter whether it be in a setup role or closing situation. And the Mets’ full-time closer, Jeurys Familia, was placed on the disabled list with right shoulder soreness Friday afternoon.Amid another disappointing season, Sandy Alderson is running out of chances to turn the @Mets around.Click To Tweet
Mets manager Mickey Callaway also deserves a fair share of the blame. In terms of talent, the Mets aren’t a team that should be below .500, whether it be the proven commodities in their starting lineup, or the talented arms in their rotation. At the same time, Callaway has struggled to manage his bullpen and doesn’t do himself any favors with the media by saying that New York is “tough” to play in. But then there’s the fact that the Mets own one of the worst farm systems in baseball.
When teams have bad farm systems it’s usually as a result of them making a number of trades, but for the Mets, that’s not the case. They’ve made one notable trade in recent memory, and it was for Ramos. The majority of their roster is made up of free agent signees and players brought up from the minors. Even the youngsters that are starting on an everyday basis or are hyped up by the ballclub aren’t exactly excelling. Outfielder Michael Conforto — who is held in high-esteem by the Mets and rightfully so based on his success in years past — is hitting just .223. Shortstop Amed Rosario, while flashy and hits for contact, has struggled to be consistent at the plate.
Heck, management refused to trade outfielder Brandon Nimmo for Pittsburgh Pirates infielder Josh Harrison in the offseason because he’s one of the last remaining young prospects they have. Granted Nimmo is very disciplined at the plate and a versatile player, he shouldn’t be someone who is untouchable in potential trade talks for a star middle infielder or player for that matter. And according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the Mets may become sellers and even consider trading deGrom or Syndergaard if they continue to lose. Now, will they actually trade both hard-throwing righties? Probably not based on the fan backlash that may come from doing so, but the fact that the Mets wouldn’t hang up the phone speaks volumes as to how desperate they are to replenish their farm system.
Is the 2018 season officially a wrap for the Mets? No, but the odds of them making a second-half surge are highly unlikely based on the injuries they’re dealing with, and their depth. Plus, they’re the fourth best team, talent wise, in the National League East. The Atlanta Braves have been one of the more captivating storylines of the 2018 season; they have a star-studded young lineup, and an evolving starting rotation. Alongside Atlanta, the Washington Nationals have won the NL East in four of the last six seasons and appear to be getting second baseman Daniel Murphy back soon. And the Philadelphia Phillies have a potent starting pitching staff and a young lineup which hasn’t come out of its shell yet this season.
Swarzak has made just three appearances this season, Gonzalez has faded at the plate, Vargas has been unreliable on the rubber, Bruce is hitting just .226, and Frazier is hitting .230. Simultaneously, Ramos has been rattled out of the pen, and Cespedes (who the Mets gave a four-year, $110 million deal to after the 2016 season) hasn’t been able to stay healthy over the last two seasons. Those seven players are Alderson’s most significant and/or prominent transactions in recent memory; all of them have been or are panning out to be regretful moves, and there’s no way for Alderson to talk his way around those failures.
Are the Mets’ struggles solely on Alderson? Of course not, management can’t predict injuries, but it doesn’t mean he gets a pass for this team’s inability to sustain any sort of success. The Mets have a number of past free agent signings clogging up their payroll, one of the worst farm systems in baseball, and have very little to sell its fanbase on going forward. At some point, Callaway (and Terry Collins previously) and injuries cannot be the only reasons given for why this team continues to disappoint.
He may be under contract through 2019, but Alderson is running out of time to prove to Mets ownership that he can turn the ship around; his decision-making over the last couple of years is part of the reason why the Mets continue to struggle.