2017 offseason

Mets sign LHP Jason Vargas

The Mets signed LHP Jason Vargas to a 2-year/$16 million contract Friday, according to Anthony DiComo.

The 34-year old southpaw had a resurgent 2017 season after missing the majority of the previous two seasons from Tommy John surgery, pitching with a record of 18-11 in 179.2 innings with an ERA of 4.16 and an FIP of 4.67. Vargas also earned his first career All-Star appearance in 2017. Vargas began the first half of the 2017 season as a strong Cy Young candidate, going 12-3 with an ERA of 2.62 and a BABIP of .277. However, Vargas ended up floundering in the second half of the season, pitching with a record of 6-8 with an ERA of 6.38 and a BABIP of .309.

Although Vargas has the fourth-slowest fastball among qualified pitchers (86.1 mph), Vargas found much of his success on the mound last season from his shifty changeup that could generate plenty of swings and misses. According to PitchF/X, Vargas had the 13th highest whiff/swing% among starting pitchers in 2017, coming in around 37.19%. Vargas also forced batters into hitting many ground balls when they faced his changeup. Vargas threw for a 45% groundball rate for his change ups, good enough for 59th-best among starters.

There have been rumblings around the league for the past couple of weeks that the Mets would sign either Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn to a contract, with the caveat of losing a second round draft pick and over $500,000 in international free agent pool money if they were to sign either of the pitchers. By signing Vargas, the Mets will still retain their second round draft pick and their $500,000 of international free agent pool money.

With Vargas tallying close to 180 innings last season, he can be relied on to remain healthy for the majority of the season and shore up the back end of a rotation that is saturated with uncertainty.

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Stats provided by PitchF/X, FanGraphs, and BaseballReference

2017 offseason

Mets sign Todd Frazier

The Mets have signed free agent third baseman Todd Frazier to a 2-year/$17 million contract pending a physical, according to Ken Rosenthal.

The 31-year old third baseman spent one and a half seasons with the White Sox before getting traded to the Yankees at the trade deadline last season.

Although he isn’t considered a contact hitter, Frazier will provide an extremely powerful bat for the Mets. Frazier has drilled at least 27 home runs and has held an ISO above .200 in each of the past four seasons. Frazier has become a pretty strong defender within the past couple of seasons, as his DRS jumped from -2 to 10 between 2016 and 2017.

In a historically non-consequential offseason, the Mets are arguably one of the more active teams in this free agency period. Just last month, Jay Bruce signed with the Mets to a 3-year/$39 million deal. Given the rumblings around the league that the Mets are interested in starting pitchers Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb, the Mets may not be finished this offseason.

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Stats provided by FanGraphs

2017 offseason

Mets re-sign Jose Reyes

The Mets have re-signed 3B Jose Reyes to a 1-year/$3 million contract, according to Ken Rosenthal.

The 34-year old struggled at the plate in the first half of 2017, hitting for a slash line of .215/.284/.370 with a wRC+ 74. However, Reyes bounced back in the second half, hitting for a line of .288/.356/.472 with a wRC+ of 121.

Despite his great offensive second half, Reyes has been a appalling defender. In 31 starts at third base in 2017, Reyes had a UZR of -2.9 and a dismal -5 DRS. Reyes is even worse when he plays at short, playing with -15 DRS in 71 starts.

Barring any more offseason acquisitions, Reyes will likely begin the season as the everyday 3B. There is also a good chance he will split starts at third base with Wilmer Flores and Asdrubal Cabrera, as they have done last season.

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Stats provided by FanGraphs

2017 offseason

Mets sign Adrian Gonzalez

The Mets signed Adrian Gonazlez with a physical pending Saturday, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

The 35-year old first baseman was supplanted of his everyday first baseman role by breakout rookie Cody Bellinger in 2017, who ended up drilling 52 home runs and won the National League Rookie of the Year award last year. Gonzalez has already entered the twilight of his career. In the 2016 season, Gonzalez’s 111 wRC+ was his worst since his 2005 season. His batting production dropped precipitously in 2017. His ISO dropped from .150 to .113, he hit for a dismal line of .242/.287/.355, and his wRC+ dropped to a nightmarish 63.

The details of the contract are still unknown, though it is very likely the Mets will not pay Gonzalez much of anything. The Braves owe Gonzalez $22.3 million after he was traded to the Braves in mid-December, and subsequently released days later, meaning the Mets will likely pay Gonzalez around the ballpark of $1 million, maybe even less.

Gonzalez will become a cheap plan B to rookie Dominic Smith in the scenario that Dominic Smith is not ready for the major leagues. This deal poses as a low risk, low reward deal.


2017 offseason

Jay Bruce signs with the Mets

The Bruce is loose again. RF Jay Bruce is set to make a reunion with the Mets in the 2018 season by signing with the Amazins for a 3-year/$39 million deal, first reported by Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.

Bruce was traded from the Reds on trade deadline day in 2016 and performed dismally in his first couple of months with the Mets, batting for an anemic slash line of .219/.294/.391, along with a putrid 84 OPS+ in 50 games. Bruce regained success at the plate in 2017, hitting for an average of .256, along with drilling 29 home runs and driving in 75 runs in 448 plate appearances before getting traded to the Indians in August for relief prospect Ryder Ryan.

The 30-year old lefty will return his formidable power to a Mets lineup in dire need of a reliable 3-4-5 hitter, especially since the Mets expect Michael Conforto to not return until May, at the latest. Bruce will also provide the luxury of his ability to play at first, as Bruce has started 10 games and played 91 innings at first base in 2017, which will provide the Mets with a backup plan to slot Bruce as the everyday first baseman in case Dominic Smith is not ready for the major leagues.


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2017 offseason

Mets sign C Jose Lobaton to a minor-league deal

The Mets signed catcher Jose Lobaton to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training Friday, according to Anthony DiComo.

After beginning his career with the Padres, Lobaton was claimed off waivers by the Rays in 2011. Lobaton bounced between the minors and the majors in his three seasons with the Rays, not finding much success before getting traded to the Nationals in 2014. Lobaton primarily served as the backup catcher for Wilson Ramos and Matt Wieters in his four seasons in D.C., hitting for an average of .210 in 590 at-bats.

In his career, Lobaton has been a below-average hitter, even by a catcher’s standards. He hits with a career batting average of .218 and a dismal wRC+ of 72. However, he compensates for his ineffectiveness at hitting with a great arm behind the backstop, something the Mets lack with current starting catcher Travis d’Arnaud. Lobaton would provide the role of a defensive backup catcher, the same role Rene Rivera served in the two seasons he had with the Mets. Barring any injuries, Lobaton will likely begin the season in Las Vegas.


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2017 offseason

The Stanton trade shows (again) the discrepancy of free agency and trading philosophies between the Mets and the Yankees

We all know at this point that Giancarlo Stanton was traded to the Yankees today, forming the omnipotent baseball-mutilating duo of Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. However, this move left me pondering how the Mets can handle free agency in such a cheap manner compared to the Yankees, despite the fact that both teams play in the largest market in the country. I understand Stanton ruled out any chance of agreeing to a trade for the Mets, but this move, along with the several actions taken by the Mets front office before, shows the disparity of the front office ideologies between the Mets and the Yankees.

For the entirety of the Mets 50-year history, the front office has pinched pennies during free agency. There were so many names in free agency that the Mets were considered front-runners to pick up early on, but ultimately backed out of signing them because they would have to pay anything more than cut-rate. It’s only once in a blue moon will the Mets actually trade for a big-name player or make a blockbuster signing. It’s even rarer when that player actually performs well. For every Carlos Beltran signing, there is a Jason Bay or Luis Castillo move. It is unreasonable that a large-market team should spend less than some small market teams.

After seasons where they have found postseason success, the Mets have done little to attempt to sustain that success, which is telling in the fact that the Mets have never reached the postseason for three straight seasons.

Looking back at their most recent pennant-winning season in 2015, the Mets did not make a big move to sustain their success going into 2016. Trading for Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera upgraded our infield for sure, but getting Walker and Cabrera would not be enough to push the Mets over the top. After losing in the Wild Card game in 2016, the Mets made zero moves in the offseason afterwards. If you want any more evidence on the Mets’ proclivity of cheap spending, the Mets’ top free agent target this offseason is Bryan Shaw. With a relief pitching free agent class that features Wade Davis, Greg Holland, Brandon Morrow, and Tony Watson, the best reliever they are targeting is Bryan Shaw.

This complacency has killed any semblance of sustained success time and time again. In no way, shape, or form am I saying the Mets should burn truckloads of money for an aging veteran out of pure necessity. It’s the fact that the front office has treated this team like a middling small-market team from a flyover state, and has throttled the success of the team on dozens of occasions. Meanwhile, the Yankees strive to build on their current roster, despite already holding a formidable, World Series-contending squad. This Stanton trade may be a good time for the Wilpons and co. to take an introspection on their habits of cheap spending.

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