Back in December, the Mets front office received heavy criticism from the fan base and the media for being hesitant to spend money and improving the roster. However, fast forward a little over a month later and you could argue that the New York Mets could have had one of the most productive off-season’s of any franchise in major league baseball. In what has been a very slow moving off-season, the Mets were able to take advantage of the slow moving free agency market by making some productive signings.
It started by signing 32 year old relief pitcher, Anthony Swarzak to a two year, $14 million contract to help solidify the depth in the backend of that bullpen. Already with veteran closers Jeurys Familia and A.J. Ramos and one of the most consistent lefty specialists in the league in Jerry Blevins, Swarzak just adds some depth to the middle innings of that bullpen and takes some pressure off of Familia, Ramos, and Blevins.
After spending his first five big league seasons with the Minnesota Twins, Swarzak has bounced around the past few seasons as he has been with four different teams throughout the past three seasons. In 2017, Swarzak posted a 2.33 ERA, a 1.04 WHIP, and a strikeout to walk ratio higher than 4:1 in 70 total appearances between the Chicago White Sox and Milwaukee Brewers.
New Mets manager, Mickey Callaway is familiar with Swarzak as he worked with the veteran relief pitcher in 2015. While Swarzak was pitching for the Cleveland Indians at the time, Callaway was the pitching coach in Cleveland and a reunion with Callaway could be beneficial for Swarzak in 2018.
A few weeks later, the Mets made a low risk move by signing 35 year old first baseman, Adrian Gonzalez to a one year, $545,000 contract. After Mets top first base prospect, Dominic Smith didn’t really impress the organization after his call up late last season, Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson thought that the Mets could use a veteran presence at first base to take some pressure off of Smith and to motivate Smith to fight for that starting first base job.
In 49 games in the big league level late last season, Smith only batted .198 with nine home runs, 26 RBIs, and an OPS of .658. So after seeing those 49 appearances last year, the Mets just simply don’t think that Smith is ready to be that everyday guy at first base to start the 2018 season. So essentially, the plan for the Mets at first base is to have Smith start the season in Triple-A Las Vegas to make some adjustments while Gonzalez will be the starting guy at first base on most days to start the season.
Gonzalez ended his 2017 season as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers, but had a very disappointing and limited season. Gonzalez only appeared in 71 games last season due to injuries and the fact that breakout rookie; Cody Bellinger basically took over his everyday first job in LA. Gonzalez batted .242 with three homers, 30 RBIs, and a .642 OPS.
This led to Gonzalez getting dealt to the Atlanta Braves in the trade that sent veteran outfielder, Matt Kemp back to the Dodgers. However, the Braves released Gonzalez after the trade and the Mets just signed him to a minimal contract, in a hope that he can stay healthy in 2018 and be that veteran at first base to help Smith’s development.
Then, in mid-January, the Mets decided to bring 30 year old outfielder, Jay Bruce back to the big apple as they agreed to a three year, $39 million deal. After being traded to the Mets from the Cincinnati Reds at the 2016 trade deadline, Bruce saw some success with the Mets before they traded him to the Cleveland Indians in August of 2017.
In a total of 153 games with the Mets from August 2016 through August 2017, Bruce batted .245 with 37 homeruns, 94 RBIs, and a .795 OPS. After the Mets traded Bruce to Cleveland late last season, it seemed very unclear on whether or not there would be a reunion between Bruce and the Mets. However, Sandy Alderson made it happen to bring back one of the few bright spots the Mets had in their 2017 season.
With their young star outfielder, Michael Conforto not expected to return from a major shoulder injury until May, and veteran power hitting left fielder, Yoenis Cespedes coming off of a season where his hamstring failed him, the Bruce signing gives the Mets some options in their outfield.
If everything goes as planned, the Mets starting outfield on Opening Day should be Cespedes, Juan Lagares, and Bruce from left to right. And when Conforto returns from his shoulder injury, it is expected that he takes over as the everyday center fielder, while the speedy gold glover Lagares moves back to the bench. The resigning of Bruce gives the Mets a potential everyday outfield that could include three guys (Cespedes, Conforto, and Bruce) who are all more than capable of hitting 25+ homeruns and driving in at least 80 runs a season.
And last but not least, Mets General Manager, Sandy Alderson made sure that he gave the Mets one more starting infielder to solidify their depth on the infield. The Mets signed 31 year old third baseman, Todd Frazier to a two year, $17 million deal to give the Mets a solid everyday third baseman, something this organization has lacked for years.
Ever since their captain and one of the greatest players in franchise history, David Wright went down with spinal stenosis in 2015, third base has been a revolving door for the Mets as many guys have come and gone at that position. Throughout the past couple of seasons, the Mets have seemed to hang on to hope that Wright would eventually return which is why they have seemed hesitant to acquire a new everyday third baseman. But nearly three years since being diagnosed with spinal stenosis, the Mets are starting to realize that it is highly unlikely that Wright will ever get back on a baseball field again, which is why they went out and signed Frazier.
With the signing of Frazier, the Mets basically have their Opening Day starting infield set with Frazier at third, Amed Rosario at shortstop, Asdrubal Cabrera at second, and Gonzalez at first. Frazier is a guy who can play a very solid defense at third base and can bring a much needed veteran presence in that Mets clubhouse.
Even though Frazier can be an inconsistent hitter at the plate who strikes out a lot, he is still capable of hitting 25+ home runs and driving in over 80 runs in a season. So for a guy the Mets are giving a two year, $17 million deal to, I think this is a good value deal for the Mets as they fill a third base void that has been haunting this franchise throughout the past few seasons.
Overall, if I were to grade Mets General Manager, Sandy Alderson based on his work he has done to help improve this team for the 2018 season; I would give him a B.
For starters, I think Alderson did a good job of addressing the bullpen depth by signing Swarzak. He is a solid experienced veteran relief pitcher who has worked with manager Callaway before with the Indians a few years ago. This gives the bullpen a good bridge option in the middle innings of games to get the game to Familia, Ramos, and Blevins in the back end of that bullpen.
Alderson did a good job of addressing the Mets depth in the outfield and infield by signing Gonzalez, Bruce, and Frazier. Even though that all three of these guys are solid successful MLB veterans, I don’t think these are the types of players the Mets need to be successful in 2018. Even though the signings of all three of these guys certainly make the team better, they are all very similar hitters.
Gonzalez, Bruce, and Frazier are all guys who lack speed, have low batting averages, and strikeout a lot, but all of them make up for it with their power, their ability to drive in runs, and their consistency on defense. After signing Bruce and Gonzalez to fill the power void, I feel that the Mets should have gone after somebody who is more versatile defensively and has better abilities to get on base and steal bases. Nothing against Todd Frazier, I feel that he is a very solid everyday third baseman, but I just don’t think he is the best fit for the Mets.
Either Josh Harrison of the Pittsburgh Pirates or free agent Eduardo Nunez would have been a perfect fit for the Mets as they both can play multiple positions defensively and are low strikeout, high on base guys at the plate. With power hitters of Cespedes, Bruce, Conforto, and Gonzalez in the middle of that lineup, Harrison or Nunez could have been a perfect number two hitter in that Mets lineup to get on base ahead of those big boppers in the middle of that lineup. But instead, Alderson decided to sign another high power, low on base kind of hitter in Frazier, which is why my grade of the Mets offseason comes short of an A.
With Spring Training just around the corner and many free agents still unsigned for the 2018 season, there certainly could be some more roster moves on the horizon, but for now I stand by my grade for the Mets 2018 offseason which is a B. If General Manager Alderson does make one more move before the start of the season, which would probably be for a back end rotation starting pitcher, I will improve my grade from a B to a B+ as the Mets starting rotation could use some depth to keep their power arms healthy. But due to the fact that Alderson did not address the Mets lack of speed and versatility, that is why I cannot give the Mets offseason the highest grade of an A.