- Michael Wacha turned to some offseason video analysis with his father to help solve mechanical problems from the 2019 season, which put him in a good place heading into his first Spring Training with the Mets, Deesha Thosar of the New York Daily News writes. By the time Wacha met with pitching coach Jeremy Hefner and assistant pitching coach Jeremy Accardo in camp, “they said my mechanical changes that I made over the offseason were exactly what they were going to be telling me,” Wacha said. “Exactly the same type of information or helpful tips that they were trying to get me into, I already made them on my own.” The early returns in Grapefruit League action were somewhat promising, as Wacha posted a 1.17 ERA over 7 2/3 innings, albeit with four walks against only five strikeouts. However, Wacha also didn’t allow any home runs, which was a positive sign after an ugly 1.8 HR/9 helped push his ERA to 4.76 over 126 2/3 innings with the Cardinals last season. Wacha signed a one-year, $3MM with the Mets in the offseason and now looks to be a member of their starting five, in the wake of Noah Syndergaard’s season-ending Tommy John surgery.
If you presumed the Mets had suspended their efforts to find a new owner, think again. Per Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic (subscription link), the club’s representatives are continuing to seek purchasers.
It’s hard to believe it was less than two months ago that the club broke off its anticipated deal with minority owner Steve Cohen. Under that arrangement, the current Wilpon ownership group would’ve retained operational control for a five-year period. The team is now offering an arrangement with no strings attached.
Suffice to say the economic picture for a baseball franchise is rather more complicated now than it was then. Still, it sounds as if the Mets are sticking to their $2.6B asking price and still pressing forward in an effort to find a taker.
As Kaplan writes, some initial leads have already dried up with the sudden economic downturn. Ongoing uncertainty, both generally and in the operation of a major-league organization, will surely give added pause.
Still, this represents quite a rare opportunity to take over a New York-based baseball club. If indeed the team is able to maintain traction on the sale effort, it could make for an interesting test of the value of franchises.
It’s often said that operating profit isn’t the true source of a team’s value; rather, like a piece of fine art, the investment lies in capital appreciation. That may well be. But teams have increasingly shown an appreciation for the end-of-year bottom line. Cash flow is a significant part of the picture when it comes to the game of baseball. In this case, the spigot seems sure to turn back on, but it’s possible it may sputter for a time and may not flow in quite the same way once it steadies.
March 27: Syndergaard underwent surgery yesterday at the Hospital for Special Surgery in West Palm Beach, Fla., tweets Anthony DiComo of MLB.com.
March 24, 2:58pm: The Mets have formally announced that Syndergaard will undergo Tommy John surgery on Thursday. He’ll be out until at least April of 2021. General manager Brodie Van Wagenen offered the following statement, via press release:
After experiencing discomfort in his elbow before Spring Training was suspended due to the pandemic, Noah and our health and performance department have been in constant contact. Based on the persistence of his symptoms, Noah underwent a physical examination and MRI that revealed the ligament tear. A second opinion from Dr. Neal ElAttrache confirmed the diagnosis and the recommendation for surgery. Noah is an incredibly hard worker and a tremendous talent. While this is unfortunate, we have no doubt that Noah will be able to return to full strength and continue to be an integral part of our Championship pursuits in the future.
2:41pm: Mets right-hander Noah Syndergaard has been diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow and is expected to undergo Tommy John surgery, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports (via Twitter). It’s a rather stunning and out-of-the-blue development, as Syndergaard looked relatively sharp in Spring Training — three runs on five hits and no walks with 11 strikeouts in eight innings — and wasn’t known to be experiencing any notable discomfort.
The Syndergaard news is a devastating blow to a Mets rotation that looked to have the makings of a quality group. Jacob deGrom, of course, has won the past two National League Cy Young Awards and will return to front the staff, but Syndergaard had been slotted into the second spot in the rotation behind him. His injury makes last summer’s acquisition of Marcus Stroman all the more important but also serves to highlight the team’s inability to work out an extension with righty Zack Wheeler despite multiple attempts over the past couple of seasons. Wheeler signed a fjve-year deal with the division-rival Phillies this winter, though an extension prior to reaching the open market likely wouldn’t have proved as costly — particularly were it agreed upon prior to the 2019 campaign.
Beyond the combination of deGrom and Stroman, the Mets will turn to Steven Matz and rebound candidates Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha — both signed to one-year deals in the offseason. Porcello remained a durable workhorse for the Red Sox but was tattooed for a 5.52 ERA and better than 10 hits per nine innings in his 32 starts and 174 1/3 innings last year. Wacha, meanwhile, battled injuries for the third time in four seasons, spending time on the IL due to a knee problem and finishing out the year on the sideline due to shoulder troubles. Since emerging as a full-time member of the Cardinals’ rotation in 2014, Wacha averaged 24 starts and 134 innings per season.
The injury to Syndergaard will put to test general manager Brodie Van Wagenen’s offseason comments about having “probably the deepest rotation in baseball.” After all, if any of deGrom, Stroman, Matz, Porcello or Wacha struggles or lands on the injured list, the Mets’ slate of alternatives in the upper minors looks decidedly pedestrian. Walker Lockett, Stephen Gonsalves, Franklyn Kilome and Corey Oswalt — the latter three of whom were already optioned out of Major League camp — are the top names on the 40-man roster. Veteran righty Erasmo Ramirez was trying to win a job in camp on a non-roster deal after enduring a pair of miserable seasons.
With Syndergaard out for all of the 2020 season — assuming there is one — the Mets will be left with only one year of club control remaining over the powerhouse righty. Syndergaard is owed a $9.7MM salary after avoiding arbitration this winter, and he’ll surely command the exact same salary for the 2021 campaign; virtually all arbitration-eligible players who miss an entire season due to injury are brought back at the same rate they’d earned the previous season (with the exception of first-time eligible players). And given the timing of the surgery, Syndergaard can reasonably expect to pitch the bulk of next season, so there’s almost no chance he’ll be non-tendered, barring some notable setback(s) prior to December. Syndergaard is slated to become a free agent upon conclusion of the 2021 season.
MLBTR’s Jeff Todd has recently taken a look at some potential impact rookies throughout the AL Central and AL West. Steve Adams handled the NL West. Now let’s move on to the NL East, which was one of the strongest divisions in baseball in 2019, with four teams finishing .500 or above. 2020 figures to be just as competitive. Perhaps a strong rookie season could be a difference-maker for one of these teams. Who could it be? Let’s take a look at some of the contenders.
The Braves already have a crowded outfield at the big league level. But if any kind of opportunity should present itself, Cristian Pache is going to be waiting in the wings. The 21-year-old has received more praise for his defense and speed than for his offense. But his bat seemed to turn a corner in 2019. Over 433 plate appearances at Double-A, he put up a slash line of .278/.340/.474, good enough for a wRC+ of 134. His Triple-A numbers aren’t as strong, with a line of .274/.337/.411 and a wRC+ of 92. That was over a smaller sample of 105 plate appearances, though, and he was only 20 years old.
Pache could have competition in the form of fellow outfield prospect Drew Waters, who is following a similar trajectory. Waters was also 20 last year and spent the bulk of the season at Double-A, where he managed a lofty 144 wRC+. He also had a cup of coffee at Triple-A, where his wRC+ dropped to 84 at Triple-A. While both Pache and Waters while played 26 games at Triple-A, Waters dwarfed Pache in the strikeout column, 43 to 18.
On the pitching side, the Braves have a pile of young arms who are slated to be in Triple-A to start the year, fighting to be the first one to get the call. The 24-year-old Kyle Wright has electric stuff but hasn’t been able to translate it into success at the big league level yet. It’s a similar story for 22-year-old Bryse Wilson. Ian Anderson is only 21 and isn’t on the 40-man, but he has already been bumped up to Triple-A after dominating in Double-A.
The rebuilding Marlins already have lots of promising youngsters on the roster right now, and there are more on the way. Sixto Sanchez hasn’t reached Triple-A yet, but after dominating in Double-A with a 2.53 ERA over 103 innings, it’s possible he won’t need too much time there. Same goes for Edward Cabrera, whose Double-A ERA was just a smidge higher at 2.56, though in a smaller sample of 38 2/3 innings. Evaluators are split as to which of the two should be ranked higher. If you’re the Marlins, that’s a good problem to have.
In terms of position players, the most exciting options are outfielders. Jesus Sanchez has a tremendous bat but lacks plate discipline. Monte Harrison’s defensive skills give him a decent floor. But the bat will need to take another step for him to reach his ceiling. He put up a decent line of .274/.357/.451 in Triple-A in 2019, good enough for a wRC+ of 97, just below league average.
The Mets’ rotation took a big hit when it was announced that Noah Syndergaard will undergo Tommy John Surgery. And while they may turn to veterans like Michael Wacha or Seth Lugo to pick up the slack, they could also look to some of the rookies they have in the minors. David Peterson hasn’t reached Triple-A just yet, but he threw 116 Double-A innings in 2019, with an ERA of 4.19 and 9.47 K/9. Franklyn Kilome missed all of last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2018, but he was the Mets’ fifth-best prospect at that point. Stephen Gonsalves was once a highly-touted prospect in the Twins’ system, though an injury-plagued 2019 led to them losing him to the Mets on waivers. He’s still 25 and could be a wild-card factor if he can get healthy and regain his form.
As far as position players go, shortstop Andres Gimenez is an exciting prospect (mostly because of his speed and defense). The 21-year-old swiped 66 bags from 2018-19, so the big question is how he’ll do with the bat. Gimenez spent 2019 at Double-A, slashing a mediocre .250/.309/.387, but he’s still young. And since the Mets have plenty of middle infield options such as Amed Rosario, Robinson Cano, Jeff McNeil and maybe even Jed Lowrie, it will be difficult for Gimenez to contribute as soon as 2020.
For the Nats, the most important rookie is definitely Carter Kieboom, one of the best prospects in baseball. The infielder had an excellent 2019 at the Triple-A level, slashing .303/.409/.493 for a wRC+ of 123. The 22-year-old wasn’t able to carry those numbers into his MLB debut last season, but it was only an 11-game sample size.
With Anthony Rendon moving to California, there’s an opening for Kieboom to be the everyday third baseman. He’ll have to earn it because the Nats brought back Asdrubal Cabrera as a fallback option, but they’d surely prefer for the 22-year-old Kieboom to take the job. That would enable the Nats to use Cabrera in a utility role.
Alec Bohm’s calling card is his bat. As a 22-year-old in 2019, he played 22 games in A-ball and produced a wRC+ of 196. In A+, he played 40 games with a wRC+ of 165. In 63 games at Double-A, the wRC+ was 146. If he can keep hitting in Triple-A, the question will be where to put him. Bohm mostly plays third, but many evaluators feel that his defense is too weak for the hot corner and suggest a move to first. The Phillies would surely love for Bohm to prove those evaluators wrong because they have Rhys Hoskins entrenched at first. Their current plan for the rest of the infield is to deploy Jean Segura at third, Didi Gregorius at short and Scott Kingery at second. But since Segura can also play shortstop or second, Bohm could nudge his way into the picture if any one of them goes down with an injury.
On the mound, the big name to watch is Spencer Howard. Despite injuries limiting his total output in 2019, he still put up great numbers when healthy. In 30 2/3 innings at Double-A, his ERA was 2.35. And Howard, 23, capped off his season with 21 1/3 innings of 2.11 ERA ball in the Arizona Fall League. The Philly rotation is a bit flimsy, with guys like Vince Velasquez, Zach Eflin keeping a tenuous hold on back-end spots, so a healthy Howard could shove his way into the equation.
Yoenis Cespedes has led a very interesting career since signing with the A’s out of Cuba eight years ago. MLBTR’s Jeff Todd chronicles the excitement and the boars in today’s video.
This will mark the final option year for the 29-year-old Sewald, who has been up and down between the Mets and their top minor league affiliate for much of the past three seasons. The 2012 tenth-round pick made 57 appearances and racked up 65 1/3 innings out of the ’pen in his debut effort back in 2017. His time in the big leagues since that time has been more sparse. He spent just 19 2/3 frames with the Mets this past season. To date, Sewald has posted a 5.16 ERA in 141 1/3 innings — an ugly number despite strong marks of 9.5 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9. Fielding-independent metrics are more bullish on him, in part because of his abnormally low strand rate (64.3 percent). Given Sewald’s prior MLB experience, he’ll likely be called upon again in 2020 as injuries arise.
Zamora, 26, has only pitched 17 2/3 innings in the Majors, but he’s managed 24 punchouts against six unintentional walks in that tiny sample (a 31.1 percent overall strikeout rate). A rare 40th-rounder who’s made it to the big leagues, Zamora has steadily posted quality ERA, strikeout and walk marks throughout his minor league tenure and should continue to receive opportunities to establish himself in the big league bullpen.
The Mets brought Brad Brach back for the 2020 season and also inked Dellin Betances, adding that pair of righties to the existing core of Edwin Diaz, Seth Lugo, Jeurys Familia, Justin Wilson and Robert Gsellman. That limited the chances of either Sewald or Zamora earning Opening Day roster spots, although if the league does begin with expanded rosters this summer when teams ramp up (as has been rumored), it’s possible that either could again be considered for a bullpen spot.
With the disappointing news of Noah Syndergaard’s Tommy John surgery, MLBTR’s Jeff Todd traces his tumultuous career arc. Check out today’s video here.
- The Mets have optioned shortstop Andres Gimenez, right-hander Tyler Bashlor and catcher Ali Sanchez to Triple-A Syracuse, Mike Puma of the New York Post tweets. Bashlor’s the lone member of the trio with major league experience, but he endured immense struggles as a Met last year. The most promising player in the group is the 21-year-old Gimenez, whom MLB.com ranks as the sport’s 84th-best prospect. Gimenez could be a long-term factor in the Mets’ infield, though he hasn’t advanced past Double-A ball yet. He batted .250/.309/.387 with nine home runs and 28 stolen bases over 479 plate appearances at that level last season.
Major League Baseball formally announced today that the Diamondbacks/Padres series that had been planned to take place on April 18-19 in Mexico City and the Marlins/Mets series that was set for April 28-30 in San Juan, Puerto Rico have been canceled. The series will be held in Phoenix and Miami, as the D-backs and Marlins had been designated the “home” team for each of those neutral-location sets of games.
It was something of a fait accompli that both series would be postponed at the very least. Major League Baseball has already pushed back the season opener until at least mid-May, making it clear that those games wouldn’t be played as scheduled. Still, it’s a tough break for baseball fans in Mexico City and in San Juan that they won’t have the opportunity to attend those games, just as the organizations and players are likely disheartened not to play in such unique settings.
“It breaks our heart we won’t be playing in front of the incredible fans in Mexico this year, but health and safety come first,” the D-backs said in a statement announcing the cancellation of the series.
There’s yet to be an indication as to what will happen with Major League Baseball’s London Series between the Cardinals and Cubs, which is scheduled to take place on June 13-14. Those contests are technically designated as “home” games for the Cardinals, so if the league takes a similar course of action, they’ll be postponed and held in St. Louis at a later date.
Who is the best extension candidate for the Mets, Nationals, Braves, Marlins, and Phillies? Jeff Todd suggests the Polar Bear, Childish Bambino, and a few players you might not expect in today’s video.
Jump to a team:
- Braves – 1:23
- Marlins – 3:17
- Mets – 4:57
- Nationals – 7:07
- Phillies – 9:36