Mets need to address weaknesses responsible for World Series loss
By Pete Anselmo
Now that we’ve all had a chance to digest the Mets losing the 2015 World Series in heartbreaking fashion, it’s time to turn the page to the offseason, something Mets fans should be used to doing much sooner than November. An underrated benefit for fans of a team getting this deep into the playoffs is that the layoff between baseball games and Hot Stove season is much more abrupt. Sandy Alderson is tasked with getting the Mets back to the World Series in the most important offseason in his tenure as general manager of the Mets and there are several weaknesses that need to be addressed.
I think we can all agree that the 2015 Mets were far from a perfect team. We knew that going into the season and even into the playoffs. Sandy Alderson addressed the offense by acquiring Kelly Johnson, Juan Uribe and Yoenis Cespedes before the trade deadline but at its core, the offense relied heavily on home runs to thrive due to a scarcity of players who were able to take an extra base. We saw the Mets swipe a few key bags in the NLCS but that was largely in part to catching the Chicago Cubs off guard. The Mets ranked dead last in the National League in stolen bases as a team this season with 51, which was 37 steals below the NL average. As we saw in the World Series, it was difficult for the Mets to string together enough hits in an inning to score runs without the long ball because they just were not capable of getting into scoring position without going base to base on hits.
To make run-scoring less of a chore, the Mets should take it upon themselves to address their lack of speed over the offseason. Curtis Granderson was a revelation as a leadoff hitter during the regular season and, especially, in the playoffs, but they need to compliment him with someone who can handle
Mets second baseman Dilson Herrera crosses the plate to score. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
running on a more consistent basis without breaking down as the season progresses. Could Dilson Herrera be the answer the Mets are looking for? Maybe, but Herrera certainly isn’t a burner and is still just twenty one years old. Not to mention he struggled during his brief cup of coffee with the big club in 2015 with a .211/.311/.367 line in 103 plate appearances. Inserting Herrera into the lineup at second base likely means Wilmer Flores is your shortstop in 2016 as well.. not exactly a dream scenario.
The Mets could also look to the free agent market and sign someone like Jason Heyward, who had 23 stolen bases for the season last year and would fit nicely somewhere at the top of the lineup. The only problem is he would have to play center field for the Mets if they keep Granderson in right field and Conforto in left field. Heyward has been a vaccum cleaner in right field throughout his career but many have speculated that he could succeed in center field as well. However, it is fair to question how that project would realistically turn out. Not to mention he’ll command a lot of dollars and years, which the Mets will surely be hesitant to hand out. Other options in free agency that could address the overall lack of speed are Denard Span and Dexter Fowler however, like Heyward, both come with drawbacks.
The late-inning relief core also needs to be touched up. Addison Reed and Tyler Clippard are not lock down relief pitchers but they were critical pieces during the second half of the regular season to
Mets relief pitcher Addison Reed throws a pitch against the Kansas City Royals. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
bridge the gap between elite starting pitching and elite closing. Sandy Alderson needs to do his best to touch up mid and late-inning relief to avoid wasting quality starts made by the Mets starting rotation. It would behoove him to add at least one reliever who’s achieved consistent success. MLB Trade Rumors expects Addison Reed to make $5.7 million in arbitration for 2016 and it wouldn’t be a bad idea for the Mets to pick up the tab on him. Lefty specialist Jerry Blevins can probably be had on the cheap as well after an early season injury derailed the success he was having early in the season. Hansel Robles looked good at times in 2015 and would be expected to take on a larger role as well. They could also look to sign Darren O’Day, but due to a think relief market, he will likely be in high demand.
The most important weakness for the Mets to address this offseason, is the defense up the middle. It’s the reason they lost the World Series after all, isn’t it? The Mets were able to push their defensive shortcomings under the rug for most of the second half and into the first two rounds of the playoffs. The performances from their starting pitchers were so spectacular that defense became less of a factor and when it was, the offense picked up the slack. When the Mets were throwing out deGrom, Harvey and Syndergaard three days out of five during the regular season, most teams just weren’t good enough to make hard contact at fielders or make any contact at all for that matter. It was a different story in the World Series, though as the Royals simply were not phased by Mets pitchers. They stuck to their gameplan and their strength, which was to swing at strikes and put the ball in play. It completely exposed the Mets defensive deficiencies and caused them to unravel in multiple games, on multiple occasions.
With Daniel Murphy most likely gone next season, the Mets have a chance to polish up the middle infield defense. Murph was known for lackluster range, stone hands and a propensity for consistent mental lapses. Normally, his offense would be enough to make up for those drawbacks but with Wilmer Flores up the middle as well, the Mets had one of the worst defensive middle infields in baseball.
Whether the Mets go with Flores, Dilson Herrera or someone else at second base from now on, takes a back seat to their need to find a legitimate shortstop. They could explore options on the trade market.The Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers both have a glut of middle infielders but it’s hard to imagine the Mets landing someone like Javier Baez or Jurickson Profar without sending back a top arm in return, which we already know they’re not comfortable doing. Wilmer Flores did better than we all expected, especially in the postseason but let’s be realistic here, if the Mets want to reap all the benefits of elite starting pitching, Flores won’t cut it up the middle. Shortstop prospect Gavin Cecchini is on the horizon and I don’t think anyone would be surprised if Sandy stuck with Ruben Tejada until he’s major league ready but the Mets need to find an answer as soon as possible while they have this window to contend.
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Center field remains another obvious concern. Cespedes made a few blunders in the field during the playoffs that came back to bite the Mets but even then, he was a below average centerfielder anyway. Juan Lagares clearly isn’t the same defender he was in 2014, elbow injury or not, and his offensive production still leaves much to be desired. The Mets will need to, at least, find a platoon partner for him because, as of right now, center field remains as much a mystery as any other position.
Simply put, the Kansas City Royals beat the New York Mets in the 2015 World Series because they were able to use their strengths to exploit the Mets pre-existing weaknesses, which is something the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs were not able to do. If the Mets want to do what the Royals did this year and finish what they started next season, these weaknesses need to be addressed and it will be fascinating to see how Sandy Alderson approaches the task without breaking the bank or trading one of their starting pitchers.