Baseball

Hello there. Over the next couple weeks, I’ll be cycling through some realistic, and not so realistic offseason targets for the Cubs, either via trade or free agency. Today, we start with the not s0 realistic. 

Now that the World Series is over, and as I’ve said already, I’m going to wake up every morning terrified that this is the day the Cubs do something truly stupid. Not that it’s ever been in the Theo DNA to reach for the truly outlandish, but it feels like the walls are closing in on the front office. There’s the pressure of its first truly disappointing season (again folks, they won 95 games in ’18 with half a Kris Bryant), the expectations of fans, and the demands of ownership both for a winner to fill the park and get eyeballs to Marquee while also squeezing the payroll. There seems to be a reckoning coming for the Cubs in two seasons when just about everyone who matters aside from Kyle Hendricks (and possibly Yu Darvish matters now?) are free agents and just how the Cubs will get out of that.

That’s a lot of pushing from opposing sides, which could leave an irrational pimple like me to pop. I’ve concluded that the Cubs will make a big trade, involving a name we all love, and that’s just how it’s going to be. My deepest fears are that it will be Kris Bryant, which I’ve already spent months outlining just how stupid that would be, and will spend many more weeks doing so even more.

But there’s going to be one. So my only hope is that it brings someone fun and good back. Which is why we’re kicking off with Noah Syndergaard.

Why could this happen? Because the he hates the Mets and they hate him. Any Met who ever bothers to point out that the Mets are run in a very Mets way generally ends up not-a-Met before too long. And Syndergaard nearly ended up not-a-Met-anymore at least year’s deadline. Also, Thor will be due his own windfall of cash in two seasons as well, and even though they’re a New York team the Mets seem to find a lot of ways to not pay people anymore. Call it PBSD (Post Bonilla Stress Disorder).

Now hey, maybe the hiring of Carlos Beltran signals a turn to rationality for the Mets. And maybe Blake Lively will leave Ryan Reynolds for me. This is the goddamn Mets we’re talking about. They’re always likely to do something stupid. In fact, they want to do something stupid.

Why A Spoon, Sire? Because it’s Thor! He’s 27, can throw a fastball through three live horses the long way if he wanted to, with a devastating slider and a very improved change-up. He’s got Cy stuff. And he’s under team control for two more years. So even if he’s projected to make $9.9M this year, considering what he can provide he’s the biggest bargain financially you’ll find. He’s been a four-WAR pitcher the past two seasons, with a FIP under four and a 2.80 one in ’18. In a season where everyone was giving up hard contact, Thor simply didn’t, with hard-contact rates under 30% in ’18 and ’19 and a line-drive rate under 20% this year. Quite simply, he can be a dominating presence, and you can’t have enough of those.

Ein minuten bitte, vous einen kleinen problemo avec de religione (he was from everywhere): The thing with Thor is that when you see the stuff, you’re sure he should have deGrom like numbers. And he kinda doesn’t? He’s always struck out a hitter per inning at least, but never gotten into the 11 or 12 per nine innings range where the citizens of Olympus live. And…well actually that’s it, because Thor has put up ERAs under 3.00 twice and another season of 3.03. While deGrom has stolen the headlines with his Cy Young and likely another one on the way, Thor would be the #1 on a lot of teams. It’s not his fault the Mets have been pretty much garbage since his rookie season or that they somehow stumbled into one of the few pitchers better than him on the same rotation.

The other knock on Thor is health, which is a valid concern. But he’s also coming off a season where he threw 197 innings, a career-high, and he’s basically made every start asked in three of his five seasons. With someone who throws this hard there’s always questions about durability. But hey, you can’t make a Molotov cocktail without lighting a fire here and there.

Some Silver? Little Gold?: Ah, here’s the problem. Syndergaard isn’t coming cheap. And we don’t mean in terms of money. The Mets probably know they have a golden ticket here, and sadly they’re not so stupid to miss what that means. So you’re not going to get him pried loose by giving up thrift store fodder.

So what could they use? Wilson Ramos wasn’t exactly terrible for them last year, but he’s going to be 33 next year and has fallen off some of his big years with the Nationals and his one year in Tampa. He’s got two years left on his deal, though the second is a team option and both are at $10M. They couldn’t really find anyone behind him.

So Willson Contreras would be an upgrade, considering he was the best hitting catcher in all of baseball last year in wRC+. He’s an offensive upgrade on everyone, whether you like it or not. He’s also five years younger than Ramos, with what at least appeared or could be argued was improving defense/framing. The Mets had a middling offense last year and could use the boost.

Sure, the Mets could probably more use an upgrade in centerfield, but I don’t think Albert Almora is getting this deal done somehow.

Would Willson for Syndergaard be enough for the Mets? Probably not. But you wouldn’t have to throw in too much more than that, especially if you took Ramos back to split time with Caratini.

Could It Happen?:

But we can get to reality later.

 

Baseball

Game 1 Box Score: Cubs 5, Mets 2

Game 2 Box Score: Cubs 10, Mets 7

Game 3 Box Score: Cubs 4, Mets 1

While the Cubs may be the only team, or fanbase, that still gets shivers when thinking about the Mets, it’s also important to remember they’re still the Mets. Which means they can METS at anytime, and it just might be for your benefit if you time it right. There was no better cure for the Cubs than the Mets on a downswing, And once again, this team looks on the upswing, and we’re just going to have to get used to the ride if you haven’t already.

Let’s..

-I wish Yu Darvish‘s overall numbers reflected how good he’s been lately. This fucking baseball, amirite? It’s something when walking one dude is newsworthy, but the Mets weren’t anywhere close to him. Then again, no one has been lately except for that weirdness with the Giants. He apparently struck out Jeff McNeil with a knuckle-curve he just decided a week ago to fuck with. That’s the good stuff, baby. It’s gone to where you’re actively looking forward to his start Sunday.

-Of course Kyle Hendricks would fail to get through five with a nine-run lead on the same day I went at it with Joe Sheehan about calling him a #3 starter. Timing, Cerebral Assassin!

-It can be a little upsetting when Baez busts out by going the other way and up the middle, because he should never get away from it. But as long as he gets back there, because the Cubs will need him.

-Ok, that’s enough of Jason Heyward in the leadoff spot. Yes, he doesn’t want to be moved around, but he lost the right to complain by not being able to hit a bull in the ass with a banjo since he moved there. Back to Schwarbs, now.

-The first inning off Thor might have been the most enjoyable inning of the whole season. Not only did the Cubs tee off on a premier starter we had turned into Darth Vader in our heads, but it contained some true Mets-iness with Rosario’s error that started it all. Without that, they might not even get one.

-Remember when everyone was shitting themselves that the Cubs didn’t have a backup catcher? That Willson would die of exhaustion because of it? Good stuff there.

-It felt like it was going to be one of THOSE Lester starts. Itchy, sweaty, twitchy, yell-y, bad. When he gets through five or six innings well, it still doesn’t feel like it. You kind of wonder how he did it. But if we call him the 5th starter, that’s what 5th starters do. It’s never really comfortable unless you’re blessed.

-This pen can make last night’s game interesting, and then smother for nine outs tonight, because they hate us. I kind of wanted to see if Chatwood could take it to the house, but with Kintzler not having thrown on Wednesday it’s fine. I’m not going to lose a kidney over it.

-I was going to shit a chicken over removing Schwarber and Happ for Lucroy and Kemp against deGrom, as it felt like Maddon felt that two of three was enough and tonight was a bonus. The Cubs have lost that right. But hey, whatever works. Though I don’t need to see Kemp start again, I really don’t.

Can end the Brewers season over the next week. Onwards…

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Cubs 69-61   Mets 67-61

GAMETIMES: Tuesday-Thursday 6:10

TV: NBCSN Tuesday/Wednesday, ABC 7 Thursday

OUR DAY WAS RUINED: Amazin’ Avenue

PREVIEW POSTS

Depth Charts & Pitching Staffs

Mets Spotlight

It feels like this season is on the precipice now, doesn’t it? And three games in Queens only exacerbates that. Queens. The Black Cat. Victor Fucking Diaz. The Goddamn Mets. Arrieta running out of gas in ’15. Daniel Motherfucking Murphy. If they asked you where any Cubs season was most likely to come totally unglued, you’re picking right off the 7 train and you know it.

The Cubs sit three games out, which feels significant, though the Cardinals won’t get to play the Rockies and decomposing Brewers the rest of the season. They’ve just come off getting swept at home, and are now staring down the gun of the meat of the Mets pitching staff. Their lineup feels like it was exposed against the Nationals, though that’s just three games. They have a whole bunch of questions and a dearth of answers. That teetering feeling is real.

So what do the Cubs have to get past here to remain on terra firma? They already spent a week not getting Jeff McNeil out earlier in the season, so that’s on the list. It’s not a great offense in Queens, as past Alonso and McNeil there isn’t that much. Michael Conforto has the sweetest swing and looks like he should hit .330 every year, but he hasn’t yet though he still gets on base a ton. J.D. Davis has juiced the lineup a bit from left field, though he probably should be playing third, but it’s a top-heavy crew. Still, Alonso already has 41 homers and can get the Mets close to a lot of wins by himself. When the Cubs need big out against him or McNeil or Conforto…well, you know the drill.

A string of Marcus StromanNoah SyndergaardJacob deGrom is just about the last thing you’d ask for when you need at least two wins, but the Cubs blew the chance to get past the Nats when they didn’t have to see Scherzer or Corbin and actually came out tied with Strasburg. So now they have to do it the hard way. Stroman doesn’t get the mass amount of grounders he used to, and has had pretty big walk problems. Thor and deGrom are Thor and deGrom though, so Hendricks and Lester are just going to have to be at the top of their games. No other way around it.

And if you can hang close with the starters of the Mets, the bullpen is aching to give it all back to you. Edwin Diaz has been a mess all season, same goes for Jeurys Familia, and they’ve been making up the rest along the way. Of late, they’ve been counting on Justin Wilson for big outs, which is a choice. Luis Avilan has been good the last month, but never count on Mickey Callaway to make the right choices at the right times. Again, this is the Mets. You have to allow them the platform to be the Mets.

And they come in licking their wounds as well. They just got swept at home by the Braves and their wildcard hopes are on the line here. They’re two games behind the Cubs, which is something the Cubs have to be aware of now. Since that big streak to get back into things they’re 5-7, so they need to find it again.

There’s also the road woes to consider for the Cubs, which eventually might be their undoing. On the other side, they did win their last road series in Pittsburgh/Williamsport. We keep saying it’s time for the Cubs to stand up, be counted, show what they really are. But at this point, it’s hard to conclude they’re anything else than what they’ve shown. Which means if they continue their wayward/doofus ways this week, they may find the division is already over. And then the questions they’ll have to answer are a lot harder than the ones they biffed after last season.

Baseball

The one thing you can count on is that the Mets will always try and destroy anything special about themselves. But this being the Mets, they can’t ever be consistently successful at anything, which every so often works to their benefit. Take their acquisition of Marcus Stroman. There is no one on this planet who believes that getting Stroman was part of some short-term or long-term plan. Most believe he was insurance to make up the gap when either Zack Wheeler or Noah Syndergaard were traded mere hours later.

But neither happened. And even with Wheeler likely to move along in the winter in free agency, the Mets are better than they were for 2020 with Jacob deGrom, Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Stroman. It certainly wasn’t the plan, but thanks to the Mets inability to always shoot themselves in the face, they’ve come out ahead.

And their handling of Syndergaard all season matches that kind of confusion and goofiness. From spring training on, Thor has heard trade rumors and whispers that the Mets didn’t want him anymore. Of course, deGrom heard the same thing during the winter, and then he ended up with a fat new contract extension. You never know which way the wind blows with the Mets.

It seems ridiculous that the Queens Club would ever consider moving Syndergaard along. After all, this is probably still the best pure stuff in the game, and in the team photo if it’s not. He’s also under team control for another two seasons after this one, so even if he gets a good settlement in arbitration the next two years he’s still probably coming in at value. He’s also only 26. Could you ever get more than 75 cents on the dollar for him? What were the Mets thinking?

Well, this is the Mets, so there’s never a guarantee they ever were. Certainly health played a role. Syndergaard missed most of 2017 with arm problems, and only made 25 starts last year. Considering how hard he throws everything, the idea that his arm would never be able to hold up isn’t a farcical notion. So naturally, because logic never applied to Queens, he’s taken the ball for every start this season. Maybe that takes its toll down the road, or maybe he’s finally matured into the burden he asks his arm and body to carry.

Syndergaard has clashed with the Mets brass in the past, as he definitely is a free thinker. But that would seem ultimately petty, at least it would for most any other organization in any sport. But again…METS.

Perhaps the Mets thought, or still think, that Syndergaard is just never going to live up to what they original hype, what the stuff suggests, and what he’s flashed in the past. Considering he’s got their repertoire, Thor has never vaulted himself into Cy contention with deGrom or Scherzer or Verlander or the like. His best season was ’17, but his strikeout rate has declined in each of the next two seasons. And his walks have increased.

However, it’s not like his stuff has got worse. His fastball averages 98 MPH, and while he’s lost velocity on both the slider and curve, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Syndergaard has gone away from his slider more this season, but has used his four-seam more rather than a sinker, even though he threw a sinker at 97 goddamn miles-per-hour. Still, you’d think you’d get more Ks from him considering how hard he throw.

But like we discussed with Giolito earlier today, or rather opposite of that, Thor doesn’t use the upper part of the zone with it nearly as much:

Which seems a shame, because there’s gold for him higher than he’s using his fastball:

But he just doesn’t use it as a put-away pitch:

He also doesn’t use his curve enough at all, especially with two strikes, because it gets half whiffs when anyone swings at it. Just overthinking things?

Still, you’d bet on something being unlocked with Syndergaard much more than him just being a pretty good #2 starter–which admittedly is all the Mets need him for when they have deGrom. But when you’ve got this guy for cheap for the next couple years, why let him go?

It’s the Mets, so what they really want is to be cheap. And while Thor isn’t expensive yet, the prospects he would have brought back are even cheaper. And now that Pete Alonso is up, the Mets don’t have much in the minors. But still, with this pitching staff next year, and Alonso, Conforto, and McNeil in the lineup, the Mets can’t be all that far away from competing. That is if they’d stop doing dumbass things like getting Robinson Cano‘s name and wasting what little money they deign to spend. Or trying to crowbar Jay Bruce into the lineup like last year. Or playing Todd Frazier ahead of J.D. Davis at third.

But it’s the Mets. You can always overdose on logic when studying them.

Baseball

With the trade deadline looming, and the Mets already active in it with their acquisition of my personal Man-Crush Marcus Stroman last night, I thought it would be fun to take a look at the man behind the madness, Brodie Van Wagenen. Plus I find the inner workings of professional sports teams fascinating, and this gives me the perfect excuse to delve even further down that rabbit hole.

Van Wagenen was hired this past off-season after previous GM Sandy Alderson decided to take an extended leave of absence to spend more time with his remaining brain cells. Van Wagenen previously had been a player agent, having represented some of the Mets top talent (and Tim Tebow) like Jacob deGrom, Robinson Cano and the remaining ligaments of Yoenis Cespedes. While you might think that hiring a former agent to be the GM of a baseball team that has previously negotiated with said agent might be a conflict of interest, it’s not without precedent. Former A’s and Blue Jays ace Dave Stewart went from being a player, to an agent, and then eventually to GM of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The issue that a lot of people in baseball had with this move is that as the agent of some of these players, Van Wagenen was privy to the medical information of his clients which he could then in theory use against them in salary negotiations.  Granted, the likelihood of that is slim as it would immediately result in a grievance being filed against the Mets by the player’s union but it’s not a concern without merit.  This didn’t deter the Mets, however, as they signed Van Wagenen to a five-year contract last October.

Van Wagenen didn’t waste much time making moves, as he sent their top rated OF prospect Jared Kelenic and Jay Bruce to the Mariners for the 2018 saves leader Edwin Diaz and the corpse of Robinson Cano and it’s $100 million dollar price tag.  Also in the deal was the Mets top pitching prospect Justin Dunn who also sits in the top 100 ranked ML players as of last week.  He also signed free agent catcher Wilson Ramos and added infield utility man Jed Lowrie to one year deals.

The only one of those moves that has panned out thus far is Wilson Ramos, and then only just barely as he’s been worth 0.2 WAR thus far this season slashing .259/.335/.387 with 10 dingers and 45 RBI. The guy he replaced behind the dish was Travis D’Arnaud, who ended up with Tampa Bay and has produced 1.2 WAR for them with a .249/.316/.482 line. Whoops. Robinson Cano has predictably continued the downward spiral on the back half of his career.  He’s been worth -0.2 WAR thus far and played below average D at 2B.  He’s also logged a decent amount of time on the IL with various maladies.  Edwin Diaz has been a shadow of his former self at the back end of the Mets bullpen.  His ERA currently sits at an ugly 4.95, and he’s blown five saves thus far and has been worth 0.4 WAR.

Even if that brutal off-season wasn’t enough, Van Wagenen seems to be a might bit…unstable.  Earlier in the month it was reported that during a post game meeting with staffers Van Wagenen lost his shit and ended up throwing a chair around the room. He’s also been known to manage games from the comfort of his home by calling Mets staffers to relay instructions to manager Mickey Callaway regarding the pulling of deGrom from the game. This new style of management certainly brings back memories of George Steinbrenner doing the kind of shit that made him such a great Seinfeld character.

All this brings us to the trade deadline, which in typical fashion Van Wagenen has jumped by trading top pitching prospects Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods Richardson to Toronto to bring in Marcus Stroman.  On the surface, the move doesn’t seem to make much sense. The Mets currently sit 11.5 games back in the division and six games in the wild card race.  Stroman was largely regarded as the best pitcher available on the market other than Noah Syndergaard at the deadline, and was actively being pursued by the Braves and Yankees.  Granted Stroman has another year of team control before hitting the market, but it seems the Mets need more than just him to compete next year as Zack Wheeler and Syndergaard himself are not long for the team.

Which might be why he traded for Stroman, as a potential replacement for Syndergaard if he’s dealt at the deadline.  If that’s truly the case, it will be very interesting to see the return the Mets get for him. In addition to that, I would sincerely hope that Rick Hahn would be calling and asking about the price for Thor as he’s an immediate upgrade over anyone not named Lucas Giolito.  The main question at this point would be asking price.  Syndergaard has two more year of team control left, then hits the free agent market in a year pretty devoid of starting pitching.  If the Mets were to ask for Michael Kopech, would Hahn be open to making that deal? I think I would, though it would be a tough pill to swallow. I’m hoping Hahn isn’t the one to break Van Wagenen’s streak of terrible deals by getting fleeced by him. Though I’m not expecting much out of this deadline for the Sox, Thor would be a nice surprise as long as the price is right.

Should be an interesting few days.