Monday, August 10, 2015

N.Y. Mets: Staring Risk/Reward in the Face

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET

Ladies and gentlemen, 
this September bound 7-train is now going express....

NEW YORK METS: The dog days of Summer have taken a bite out of the Nationals.  It is the Amazins whom now hold the high ground.

A third of the way through August, and the Amazins have flipped the National League East on its ear.

The Washington Nationals were overwhelming pre-season favorites to win the N.L. East, but the dog days of Summer find them still unwilling to seize the division.  Sure, the Nats have dealt with injuries to key players, but in the name of Dr, Moreau, the Mets have too.

In any event, Washington had numerous opportunities to separate themselves from the Mets this season but failed each time.  Two weeks ago, the Mets were hopelessly undermanned, offensively inept, and trailing the Nationals in the standings.

Last week, Washington got swept at Citi Field, and most recently stumbled against the Colorado Rockies this past Sunday at home, thus helping preserve the Mets 1.5 game division lead despite New York's own 4-3 defeat and series loss against Tampa.

There's a lesson to be learned by the Nationals, and all overwhelming favorites throughout the land for that matter:
  • Linger long ~ Linger wrong!

Now reinforced and better equipped, it is the Mets who own the high ground.

Due to the mid-July emergence of Curtis Granderson, the return of Travis d'Arnaud, Sandy Alderson's subsequent additions and the positive effects they've had on Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda, there's a tangible sense the 1st place Mets have separated themselves from their previously woeful offensive condition, and are now poised to fend off the talent rich, yet ponderously inconsistent Washington Nationals.

Whether Sandy Alderson's deadline gamble eventually translates into a playoff berth remains to be seen, but the early returns are very promising.

Touche to Fred...

Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson, Yoenis Cespedes, and reliever Tyler Clippard all made solid contributions during the Mets recent 7-game winning streak, and as noted helped propel the club into 1st place.

At the end of the day, though, these moves were designed to win now.  My only reservation is the potential inability to retain Yoenis Cespedes.  With regards to 2015, however, I have no issue.  The effort is being appreciated by the vast majority of Mets fans, as the final 52 games of the regular season are shaping up to be very meaningful ones for the first time since Citi Field opened.

So let it be written, so let it be done.

Sandy Alderson did just as well addressing the present without violently compromising the Mets future.  Striking a balance between present and future goals is an age old dilemma that's never ceased being a front office conundrum.  One or two wrong moves could result in someone becoming a former general manager.  For the moment though, it appears as if Alderson had about as fine a trading period a baseball executive can have.

Make no mistake, the Mets paid a stiff price upgrading their roster, which could come back and haunt them (both financially and on the mound) once Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, Steven Matz, etc., enter the latter years of their respective arbitration eligibility periods, and beyond...., or not.

That's clearly putting the cart before the horse.  At this premature juncture, only Fred's bankers can address such scenarios.

In this particular case, the cost/risk of Alderson's non-waiver deadline deals strike me as moderately low to moderate, while the rewards of his gamble could could pay off immeasurably.  Quite simply, should the Mets still find themselves in contention upon the arrival of Autumn, the greater reward the Mets will reap, and so forth.

We fans will also be less likely to wrestle over the cost of said playoff push come the off-season.

On that note there's two things to keep in mind:

   #1) - Among a farm system's primary roles is to develop and provide their parent club with major league ready talent.  In likewise manner, they are to develop and maintain a sufficiently skilled surplus of players to be utilized in trades.

   #2) - Over recent years, the Mets system became overly populated with right-hand pitchers.  If there was an item the Mets were supremely prepared to part with, right-handed hurlers were it.

Now for the bill...

Three separate deals to acquire 4 quality major league veterans cost the Mets five minor league starting pitchers:

  • Luis Cessa: (Rk, A-, A, A+, AA, AAA)
Cessa, 23, was the eldest of the five to get traded, and only whom managed to reach Las Vegas.  A former infielder turned pitcher, he was a member of the Brooklyn Cyclones' Fabulous-Five starting rotation which dominated the 2012 New York-Penn League regular season.

If forced to rate his 2012 performance in comparison to those of his 4 rotation mates, I'd place Cessa's effort 5th.  However, that's furthest from an indictment of Cessa's 2012 season.  Instead, it's an astonishing indication of just how dominant that year's rotation really was.

For the record, Luis Cessa started 13 games for Brooklyn in 2012.  He registered 72.1 innings pitched, posted a 5-4 record with 2.49 ERA and 1.065 WHiP, with a modest 5.5 K/9 average, but a fine 1.6 W/9 mark.
In 89 total appearances over 5 minor league seasons with the Mets, Luis Cessa posted a 31-28 record with a 3.61 ERA and a 1.222 WHiP.   In 481 innings pitched, he improved to an overall 7.3 K/9 average since his Brooklyn days, and remained consistent with a 1.8 W/9 average.

Unfortunately, he became the first of Brooklyn's famed Fabulous-Five to become a casualty of doing business.

  • Michael Fulmer: (Rk, A, A+, AA)
Fulmer, 22, was perhaps the most touted of the lot, and the one remaining minor league pitcher Mets fans were grumbling to keep.  The club selected him in the 1st round (44th/Compensation-A) of the 2011 June amateur draft.  In 71 appearances over 5 minor league seasons he posted an even 23-23 record with a 3.15 ERA and 1.261 WHiP.  In 357.2 total innings pitched, he fanned 338 batters for an 8.5 K/9 average.

Simple stats hardly detail his odyssey.  In 2013, he twice underwent surgery to correct the same torn meniscus.  In 2014, he then underwent minor surgery to remove a bone spur and chips from his pitching elbow.

But by 2015 he seemingly put all that behind him and was enjoying a break out season with (AA)-Binghamton.  Through 15 starts and 86 innings pitched, he posted a 6-2 record with an Eastern League best 1.88 ERA, and 1.116 WHiP, with accompanying averages of 7.6 H/9, 2.4 W/9, and 8.7 K/9.

After two starts for the Erie SeaWolves- (DET), Michael Fulmer lowered his (AA)-Eastern League leading ERA further to a 1.64 mark.  In 12.2 innings pitched since the trade, he's allowed no runs, walked 3, and fanned 11 batters.

  • John Gant: (Rk, A-, A, A+, AA)
Gant, 23, was selected by the Mets in the 21st round of the 2011 draft.  In 69 games and 374 innings pitched over 5 seasons with the organization, he went 28-19 with a 3.30 ERA and 1.249 WHiP, with an 8.6 K/9 average.

  • Rob Whalen: (Rk, A, A+)
Whalen, 21, was the Mets 12th round selection of the 2012 amateur draft.  In 45 appearances and 239.2 innings pitched spanning 4 minor league seasons, he posted a 17-11 record with a 2.48 ERA and 1.076 WHiP, with a 7.8 K/9 average.

  • Casey Meisner: (Rk, A-, A, A+)
Meisner, 20, is the least experienced of the lot.  He was selected in the 3rd round of the 2013 draft.   In 43 professional appearances and 217 innings pitched within the Mets system, he posted a 16-10 record with a 2.99 ERA and 1.244 WHiP, with a 7.8 K/9 average.

Someone is bound to get insulted (in this case uniformed members of the Mets) when broaching sensitive subjects such as backbones and intestinal fortitude.  I'll merely say the Mets seemingly now have enough of both to actually get this thing done.

So goes the business of contending, and chasing down pennants.


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