- “There is no urgency” for the Mets to chase Yoenis Cespedes, a source tells ESPN’s Buster Olney (subscription required) since the team already has some outfield depth on hand and can pursue more on the open market for a lower price than Cespedes will command. That said, the Mets would like to have Cespedes back and they’re willing to wait him out this offseason, perhaps if Cespedes is open to accepting another front-loaded contract with an opt-out clause from the team.
- John Harper of the New York Daily News opines that while retaining Yoenis Cespedes should clearly be the Mets’ top priority this offseason, a pursuit of Kenley Jansen should be a close second. Harper argues that the $17.2MM value of the qualifying offer the team may be comfortable extending to Neil Walker would be better allocated to Jansen, who can team with Jeurys Familia and Addison Reed to give skipper Terry Collins one of the league’s most imposing bullpen trios, thereby taking some pressure off of a rotation that was plagued by injuries in 2016. There’s certainly merit to the notion, and the Mets have been willing to part with a first-round pick in the past for lesser-regarded players. However, while Harper throws out a speculative number of four years and $54MM, I’ll respectfully take the over on both of those figures, as both Jansen and Aroldis Chapman are in firm position not simply to surpass Jonathan Papelbon’s four-year, $50MM record for a relief pitcher but to absolutely shatter it by a substantial amount.
- The Mets are still weighing some of their harder decisions, but Jon Heyman of Fan Rag says the club has already made two rather obvious ones. New York will exercise its league-minimum option over infielder Jose Reyes. The team was able to secure that rather unusually favorable clause because the Rockies still owe Reyes a large sum for 2017 and he was in need of an opportunity after being suspended and designated for assignment owing to his shameful domestic violence episode. Meanwhile, the Mets will pay lefty Jon Niese a $500K buyout rather than picking up his option at $10MM. Niese was even worse in New York than he was with the Pirates, who sent him back to the Mets over the summer after adding him in last winter’s Neil Walker swap, but ought to draw interest as a bounceback candidate.
Burke Badenhop made his Major League debut on April 9, 2008 when he tossed a scoreless inning of relief for the Marlins. In the eight years that followed, he pitched 512 1/3 innings of 3.74 ERA ball with the Marlins, Rays, Brewers, Red Sox and Reds. He’s been a part of four trades (most notably the Miguel Cabrera/Dontrelle Willis blockbuster), tested Major League free agency and been in more than a dozen Major League and minor league clubhouses. We are thrilled to have Burke bring some of that unique perspective to MLB Trade Rumors. This is his fifth offering; he has previously written about the long path to reaching free agency, importance of September roster expansion, the experience of playing the spoiler and how big leaguers separate themselves from the teams for which they grew up cheering.
Upon hearing that Tim Tebow had been training for the better part of a year to play baseball, I didn’t think much of it. I figured he would have a showcase, scouts would show up, and the baseball world would get to see what the Heisman great and former NFLer had to offer. If he were any good, he’d show promise in his workout. I completely assumed and understood that he would be given a bit more benefit of the doubt thanks to his name alone.
As you know, the reviews on Tebow were mixed after the workout. Most reports praised his power, were skeptical of his outfield work, and noted his arm was well below average. The critique that stuck with me most was a scout’s view that Tebow looked like “an actor trying to portray a baseball player.” Such a description summed up so many things in just one sentence. I pictured Bernie Mac hacking away in Mr. 3000 or Freddie Prinze Jr.’s rudimentary mechanics from Summer Catch. The average fan might not notice, but as a pro baseball player, you know the difference between a ballplayer and someone who’s just dressed as one for Halloween.
I checked out the video from the workout out of curiosity. Tebow’s swing looked fine to me. It was definitely long, but it was powerful and fell far short of looking as bad as a Charles Barkley golf swing. Tebow’s outfield work definitely left more to be desired, though. He shagged fly balls with an awkward ‘five step drop’ type of footwork. And I couldn’t stop looking at his glove. Not the type of glove or the color or anything, but how it was broken in. It was just wrong. It didn’t have a pocket, it was bent in a weird way and he had all five fingers in each finger hole, which I’ve never seen an outfielder do.
Despite all the red flags I saw and read about, I figured someone would still sign him. I had no problem with that. He had some pop from the left side. You can teach him how to break a glove in later. The problem for me arose when I heard he signed for $100,000, the equivalent of a bonus for a top ten round draft pick. For some reason, it hurt. It stung.
Big leaguers are found all over the draft. For every first-round superstar like Kris Bryant, you’ll find a Daniel Murphy in the 13th round. I was drafted in the 19th round as a college senior. I signed for $1,000. You could draft 100 of me for the price of one Tim Tebow. Such a thought only elicits feelings of disrespect.
I fully realize that Tebow will sell a lot of jerseys and will entice far more fans to come to the ballpark than I ever did. From a business standpoint, he will probably be profitable. But, as a former player, those ends don’t necessarily justify the means. Taking a roster spot on a minor league team is one thing, but also handing a guy $100,000 is another. This move comes in a day and age when minor leaguers are finally standing up and voicing their displeasure with how their salaries have drastically lagged behind the overall financial growth in our game. I immediately thought of all the struggles you have as a minor leaguer — all of the two-bedroom apartments you end up sharing with five guys. I would have killed for even a $5,000 bonus.
To see a team give a 29-year-old with no baseball experience a six-figure bonus because he was good at college football was confusing. The road to “The Show” isn’t a walk in the park. You don’t get to the big leagues as a 19th-rounder and stay without earning it. It was a badge of honor for me. This signing makes it seem that maybe teams don’t take the grind as seriously as the players do. It sends a very mixed message.
As a minor leaguer you have to believe that talent wins the day. That if you are talented enough, you’ll become a big leaguer. Without that basic belief, you’d be crazy to spend a summer riding a bus from small town to small town, making less than $7,500 per season.
Whether the Mets signed Tebow because they believe in his baseball ability or because they want to sell jerseys is a mystery. The whole nature of it, though, does nothing but cast doubt that talent will eventually win the day. As I said before, I was somewhat angry when I saw the details of the signing. I’m not angry with Tim Tebow. He didn’t force any team to sign him. As a player who defied the odds to carve out a career in the big leagues, my emotions were just another reminder that for guys like me, maybe our grind to the top isn’t as respected as we’d like to believe.
We’re just a few months away from this winter’s Rule 5 draft, so it makes sense to take a look back and see how things shook out from the 2015 selections. Several organizations found useful players, even if the most recent class didn’t include an Odubel Herrera-esque breakout sensation. Some of the most recent draftees have probably locked up MLB jobs again for 2017, though others who stuck on a major league roster all year may head back to the minors for further development. (Once a player’s permanent control rights have been secured, his new organization is free to utilize optional assignments as usual for future years.)
Here’s a roundup of the 2015 draft class with the 2016 season in the books:
- Tyler Goeddel, OF, kept by Phillies from Rays: The 23-year-old struggled with the aggressive move to the big leagues, carrying a .192/.258/.291 batting line in 234 trips to the plate, but showed enough for the rebuilding Phillies to hold onto him all year long.
- Luis Perdomo, RHP, kept by Padres (via Rockies) from Cardinals: It didn’t look good early for Perdomo, but he showed better after moving to the rotation and ended with a rather promising 4.85 ERA over twenty starts. Though he struggled to contain the long ball, and only struck out 6.4 per nine, Perdomo sported a nifty 59.0% groundball rate on the year.
- Joey Rickard, OF, kept by Orioles from Rays: After opening the year with a bang, Rickard faded to a .268/.319/.377 batting line on the year but held his roster spot in Baltimore. He ended the season on the DL with a thumb injury, though, and may end up at Triple-A for some added seasoning.
- Joe Biagini, RHP, kept by Blue Jays from Giants: The only Rule 5 pick to appear in the postseason, Biagini was a great find for Toronto. He ended with 67 2/3 innings of 3.06 ERA pitching, with 8.2 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9, and now looks like a potential fixture in the Jays’ relief corps.
- Matthew Bowman, RHP, kept by Cardinals from Mets: Bowman rounds out a trio of impressive relievers. He contributed 67 2/3 innings with a 3.46 ERA and 6.9 BB/9 against 2.7 BB/9 to go with a monster 61.7% groundball rate.
Retained By Other Means
- Deolis Guerra, RHP, re-signed by Angels (who selected him from Pirates) after being outrighted: Guerra was in an unusual spot since he had previously been outrighted off of the Bucs’ 40-man roster when he was selected, meaning he didn’t need to be offered back. Los Angeles removed him from the major league roster and then brought him back on a minor league deal, ultimately selecting his contract. Though he was later designated and outrighted by the Halos, Guerra again returned and largely thrived at the major league level, contributing 53 1/3 much-needed pen frames with a 3.21 ERA on the back of 6.1 K/9 against just 1.2 BB/9.
- Jabari Blash, OF, acquired by Padres (who acquired Rule 5 rights from Athletics) from Mariners: Blash’s intriguing tools weren’t quite ready for the majors, but San Diego struck a deal to hold onto him and was surely impressed with his showing at Triple-A. In his 229 plate appearances there, Blash swatted 11 home runs but — more importantly — carried a .415 OBP with a much-improved 66:41 K/BB ratio.
- Ji-Man Choi, 1B, outrighted by Angels after Orioles declined return: The 25-year-old scuffled in the bigs but was rather impressive at the highest level of the minors, where he walked nearly as often as he struck out and put up a .346/.434/.527 slash with five home runs in 227 plate appearances.
- Jake Cave, OF, returned from Reds to Yankees: After failing to crack Cinci’s roster out of camp, Cave impressed at Double-A but slowed at the highest level of the minors (.261/.323/.401 in 354 plate appearances) upon his return to the New York organization.
- Evan Rutckyj, LHP, returned from Braves to Yankees: Sent back late in camp, the 24-year-old struggled in limited action on the Yanks’ farm after missing most of the season with elbow issues.
- Josh Martin, RHP, returned from Padres to Indians: In his first attempt at Triple-A, Martin posted 66 frames of 3.55 ERA pitching with 8.2 K/9 against 3.1 BB/9.
- Daniel Stumpf, LHP, returned from Phillies to Royals: Slowed by a PED suspension, Stumpf was bombed in a brief MLB stint with the Phils but dominated at Double-A upon his return to K.C., posting a 2.11 ERA with 11.0 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9 in 21 1/3 innings.
- Chris O’Grady, LHP, returned from Reds to Angels: Sent back in late March, O’Grady compiled a 3.48 ERA over 95 2/3 innings in the upper minors, though he performed much better as a Double-A starter than he did as a Triple-A reliever.
- Zack Jones, RHP, returned from Brewers to Twins: The 25-year-old was out with a shoulder injury for most of the year, and ended up being sent back to Minnesota in late June, but has shown swing-and-miss stuff when healthy.
- Blake Smith, RHP, returned from Padres to White Sox: Smith ended up making a brief MLB debut upon his return to Chicago, but spend most of the year pitching well at Triple-A Charlotte, where he ran up a 3.53 ERA in 71 1/3 innings with 9.5 K/9 against 3.0 BB/9.
- Colin Walsh, INF, returned from Brewers to Athletics: After struggling badly in his major league stint with the Brewers, Walsh went to Oakland’s Triple-A affiliate and put up a .259/.384/.388 bating line over 245 plate appearances.
- There have already been reports that the Mets intend to exercise their $13MM club option on Jay Bruce for 2017, and a rival executive tells Heyman that retaining Bruce is a move New York has to make. Keeping Bruce would create some defensive issues within the Mets outfield, though the exec noted that “if they don’t want him, they could always trade him.” Bruce slumped badly after joining the Mets but he posted strong numbers in the season’s first four months, so he’d certainly draw interest on the trade market.
- The Mets’ signing of Tim Tebow to a minor league deal with a $100K bonus has received criticism lately, and it appears those criticisms could get louder, to judge from recent comments from a scout to NJ.com’s Randy Miller. “He’s pretty much a rookie ballplayer who’s 29. And I’m being nice,” said the scout, who watched Tebow in the Arizona Fall League. “He’s got a long ways to go. These guys are obviously way better than him.” The scout also criticized most elements of Tebow’s game, noting that Tebow struggled to hit fastballs and that Tebow might have to lose weight in order to play better defense. Tebow is currently hitting 0-for-9 with two walks in the AFL.
The Mets not only gave former quarterback Tim Tebow a $100K bonus, but handed him a cherished spot in the Arizona Fall League, and ESPN.com’s Keith Law argues (Insider link) that both were mistakes. Tebow, 29, lacks the baseline skill of his fellow entrants in the prospect-heavy offseason competition, Law opines after taking an in-person look. The prospect guru panned Tebow’s contact ability at the plate and his instincts in the field, and took no prisoners in assessing the totality of the situation: it was, in Law’s words, “a craven, mercenary move befitting an independent-league team desperate for the added revenue from ticket sales, not something a major league team with postseason aspirations should be doing.”
- Mets GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins sat down with Ken Davidoff of the New York Post this spring, talking through the season to come with the understanding that their comments wouldn’t be published until year end. At the time, none of the challenges that sprung up during the 2016 campaign were really evident, but both leaders noted the variability inherent in the game and acknowledged that the health of the rotation and lineup could never really be assured.
Terry Collins is only under contract as the Mets’ manager through the 2017 season, but even in the event that the team has interest in re-signing him, Collins isn’t certain that he’d manage beyond next year, he tells ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin.
“I just need to re-evaluate at the end of this coming year what’s going on, where I am, how I’m feeling,” said Collins, who admitted that the 2016 season was tough on him. Asked by Rubin if the next season would be his last as a manager if he felt the same in October 2017 as he does in October 2016, Collins indicated that was likely. The 67-year-old Collins is MLB’s oldest manager, Rubin notes, and the toll of traveling for a 162-game schedule understandably takes a toll on any human being — especially on evenings on which the team has to travel following a night game in order to arrive for an afternoon contest the following day.
Collins also addressed next year’s rotation, implying the obvious truth that there are uncertainties throughout the staff. “As we saw from Zack Wheeler, not everything is etched in stone,” the manager explained. “…We’ll make sure we don’t push them too much early in spring training, so that they are ready. Coming out of spring training, are they ready to go seven innings? Probably not, some of those guys.”
Collins did note, though, that there’s “no reason” the team would expect Wheeler not to be ready come Spring Training, as it’ll have been nearly two full years since his Tommy John surgery at that point. The offseason should also give Matt Harvey (thoracic outlet syndrome), Jacob deGrom (ulnar nerve repair) and Steven Matz (bone spur removal) ample time to heal up, though there can be no certainties until each is on the mound next spring. (That fact is what prompts many to believe that the Mets are likely to re-sign veteran Bartolo Colon.)
[Related: New York Mets Depth Chart]
Furthermore, Collins emphasized the importance of getting Travis d’Arnaud back up to full strength. While he cautioned that it’s not his call as to whether the team pursues outside help behind the plate, Collins spoke like a man who currently anticipates that d’Arnaud will have every opportunity to be the regular catcher again in 2017. “We’ve got to get him better,” said Collins of d’Arnaud. “…He had 250 at-bats when he should have 500. You’re talking about a guy who missed half the season. … He is going to be one of our No. 1 projects in spring training. We’ve got to get this guy back, and we’ve got to get his bat going. If he is what we thought he’s going to be, he’s a middle-of-the-lineup guy who can do damage from the right side.”
Indeed, d’Arnaud struggled greatly in 2016, batting a mere .247/.307/.323 with four home runs in 276 plate appearances. That represents a precipitous drop-off from a 2015 season in which d’Arnaud slashed .268/.340/.485 with 12 homers in roughly the same number of plate appearances (268). Set to turn 28 years old in February, d’Arnaud has never been a poster child for healthy seasons, as he’s never topped 108 games or 385 plate appearances in a big league campaign.
This past season he missed nearly two months with a strained right rotator cuff and upon his return was ineffectual enough with the bat that he lost playing time to light-hitting veteran Rene Rivera over the season’s final weeks. He’s also spent time on the disabled list due to a concussion, a fractured finger and an elbow sprain as a Major Leaguer in addition to knee troubles while still playing in the minors.
If the Mets do wish to look outside the organization for some help at catcher — which would be a disappointing outcome for a team that not long ago boasted a pair of Top 100 prospects behind the plate in d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki — the free-agent market does offer its fair share of alternatives. Top free agent Wilson Ramos saw his future clouded by an ill-timed ACL tear late in the season, but Matt Wieters, Jason Castro, Nick Hundley and Kurt Suzuki are each coming off respectable seasons and figure to avoid being tagged with a qualifying offer. Additionally, the trade market could bear some options, including Yankees backstop Brian McCann, although the Big Apple’s two teams don’t line up on trades particularly often.
Mets fans will want to check out Rubin’s entire column, as it’s chock-full of quotes from Collins and also contains insight from Rubin, who once again indicates that the Mets fully plan on exercising their $13MM option over Jay Bruce, as he suggested following the team’s exit from the postseason.
Doctors have given Mets righty Matt Harvey reason for optimism in assessing his recovery prognosis after surgery to address thoracic outlet syndrome, his agent Scott Boras said today. MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo reported the latest on the star hurler.
“You kind of rely on the doctors here, and the doctor was extremely positive about the results of what he found when he did the operation, and the relief that he gave Matt,” said Boras. The surgeons were clear that they viewed the procedure as a success, the agent emphasized. “The doctor was very clear,” he said. “The doctor’s certainty is that he was able to give a nerve space so it could function normally.”
In his comments today, Boras also revealed some details about just what Harvey was dealing with in his abysmal 2016 season. “It was really just a nerve compression,” Boras explained. “[Harvey] didn’t have sensation [in his fingers]. And so clearly, the procedure allowed that relief where the nerve is now free and he should have full feeling in his hand.”
That Harvey was pitching with that kind of challenge seemingly helps explain his results. Though his velocity was largely in line with his career numbers, the 27-year-old not only scuffle to a 4.86 ERA in his 92 2/3 innings, but gave up 111 hits in that span and managed only 7.4 K/9 on the year.
The expectation in Harvey’s camp seems to be that he’ll be able to ramp up for a normal Spring Training. Harvey plans to build up his conditioning and finish off his rehab over the winter. Harvey has already resumed throwing.
It goes without saying, but the news seems to be highly promising for a Mets organization that has had a startling run of health issues in its rotation after pushing the unit hard in 2015. The club ought to have a chance to make at least a preliminary assessment of Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler before deciding how hard to push for added pitching depth over the winter.