The New York Mets can improve from within, but refuse to

Getting no-hit by San Francisco Giants’ rookie Chris Heston last night was another low point to the New York Mets’ season. Despite the morale blow, the Mets are still, somehow, in first place in the NL East.

But not for long.

For you see, the Mets have the ability to improve — without even making a trade — but for reasons unknown, they refuse to. Simply put, promoting Steven Matz, and sticking both Dillon Gee and Jon Niese in the bullpen, would improve their chances of winning.

While Niese’s 3.81 xFIP suggests his 4.43 ERA isn’t telling the full story, the left-hander has surrendered 23 earned runs over his past five starts. That’s 4.6 earned runs on average, per start. And the Mets’ lowly offense has only scored 219 runs this season — which is about 3.71 runs per game.

Gee has been even worse than his disgruntled counterpart, sporting a 4.50 ERA (versus a 4.26 xFIP). Needless to say, the right-hander has little-to-no trade value.

Do both of these pitchers have a track record of being productive starting pitchers? Yes.

But could Matz and his 1.91 ERA at Triple-A conceivably outperform both of them right now? Yes.

With a cellar offense and elite rotation, the Mets’ road to the playoffs is contingent on out-pitching their opponents. So why isn’t Matz, a potential ace, on the major-league roster?

Perhaps the cost-conscious Mets are worried about Matz’s Super Two status. But according to FanGraphs‘ Dave Cameron, “If they wait another week or two […] the probability of Matz obtaining Super Two status will have moved from something like 0.1% down to 0.0%.”

Essentially, it’s a non-issue now, and will be even more of a non-issue in a few weeks.

And since the Mets didn’t seem concerned with Noah Syndergaard‘s Super Two status when they promoted him in May, the Mets’ motive for not calling up Matz now is perplexing.

Given the way Niese has pitched, the Mets’ expectation (or so it seems) of netting an impact bat or top prospect is a bit delusional. Niese is owed $4.45 million for the remainder of 2015 — and another $10 million next season (including buyouts for 2017 and 2018). Why would a team — even a pitching-starved one, like the Boston Red Sox or Toronto Blue Jays — buy high on Niese? Heck, even the Philadelphia Phillies are willing to eat salary in a potential Cole Hamels trade.

Per usual, there are too many unanswered questions:

  1. If the Mets’ intention was always to swap Niese for a hitter, why didn’t they just trade him before the season (when he had more value)?
  2. If the Mets have another potential ace on their hands in Steven Matz, why are they so concerned about the fate of two fifth starters?

But, as always, it boils down to: Why aren’t the Mets prioritizing winning?

Statistics and salaries sourced from FanGraphs and Cot’s, respectively.


12 responses to “The New York Mets can improve from within, but refuse to

  1. No one wanted Niese, he hasn’t had much trade value since 2013, since more or less every GM is concerned about his shoulder, as are the Mets.

    • I hear that. But if there has been on-going concern — concern that perhaps can never be reversed — then Niese’s value only plummets with each given day/start/season. And if teams are hesitant to deal for Niese (I assume his contract is a major barrier, too), then eat a chunk of his contract, and make him a $3-5M per year investment instead of an $8.5M one. Niese is/was never going to be an ace, so there shouldn’t be an expectation to receive an ace-worthy bounty.

      The front office also knew that Thor and Matz (and heck, even Montero) would enter the fold by at least midseason (if not sooner…), so this situation should not have come as a surprise. Maybe the Mets could have swapped Niese for a 1-to-1.5-win hitter in the offseason, and then avoided overpaying Cuddyer (and surrendering a pick). I also find it odd that the Mets aren’t willing to eat a percentage of Niese’s contract, but were willing to hand Cuddyer $21M, and lose a pick worth around $10M.

      I guess the underlying point is that the front office has a very convoluted, and in many ways, hypocritical vision for the franchise. Honestly, it’s not even a Wilpon/money thing anymore. A cash-strapped organization doesn’t/shouldn’t dole out big bucks to free-agents no other team shows interest in (i.e. Curtis Granderson and Michael Cuddyer), surrender first-round picks in the process, and then also feel squeamish about promoting MLB-ready talent.

      I just hope the Mets don’t squander this fantastic, young rotation. The team isn’t that far away from being a serious competitor — but could be if the right moves aren’t made.

  2. Better question for me is, why not promote Reynolds?

    • A Reynolds promotion should be a no-brainer, too. But the addition of Matz would have a much more dramatic affect (in a good way…) on the Mets’ ability to win.

      Reynolds isn’t really considered a top or prospect, even. That said, shifting Flores to 3B, and letting Reynolds handle SS seems like a prudent move.

      • It’s not. There is literally one skill Reynolds /might/ provide the team. A modest batting average, assuming the babip gods smile upon him. He doesn’t get on base, and has zero power. He isn’t even a well regarded defender at shortstop, which isn’t to say he’s terrible, just that he clearly isn’t an upgrade anywhere to the team, no matter where you look.

      • Reynolds is hardly a savior, but he’s hitting well enough at Triple-A to warrant a chance. It’s not as if he’d be pushing out a long-term option…

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  5. Literally Everyone

    What a garbage article. Go hang yourself and spare us all this crap.

      • All I'm saying is that

        I just think it’s silly how people complain about having guys like Gee or Niese on the team, as if the Mets are the only team in the league rolling out an average or even slightly below average starter every fifth day. By definition, there are roughly 75 pitchers currently in a major league rotation who are below average. Jon Niese isn’t a problem. He’s underperforming his peripherals, likely in part due to a career low strand rate, and a career high HR/FB%, numbers that should stabilize themselves over the course of the season. There’s also no reason to suggest that Niese or Gee is better served to pitch in the bullpen. Pitchers are creatures of habit and routine, and you suggest ripping them out of their routine and throwing them each into a situation neither has ever been in, because (I’m paraphrasing here) “some kid who has never gotten major league hitters out can almost definitely do it better.” Not every rookie pitcher comes up like deGrom or Harvey. In fact, almost none of them do, and to expect it is foolish, and to mismanage other assets to conduct the experiment is doubly so.

      • I agree, Niese/Gee are not the problem — the offense is.

        That being said, Matz has a far higher ceiling than either Niese or Gee. Therefore, he deserves a rotation slot.

        I’m also not trying to make the point that Niese/Gee would make for good relievers, simply that Matz has the potential to be an ace. And the Mets need ace performances because their offense can’t really support anything but.

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