In Major League Baseball, the 2018 off season was one of the slowest off seasons in recent memory. So few free agents have been signed, that player agents have suggested the players might boycott spring training games.
The Mets have been extremely active however. A stark contrast to the rest of the league. The Mets have revamped their coaching staff, made several key signings and even bought a new triple-A affiliate.
Las Vegas to Syracuse
The New York Mets have been without a permanent home for their triple A minor league affiliate since 2006, when their 37 year relationship with the Norfolk (or Tidewater, as they are remembered) Tides ended.
The team has bounced from New Orleans, to Buffalo, to Las Vegas. Having your AAA 2700 miles away caused many issues. Mets management were unhappy at times with the conditions of the facilities in Las Vegas. Being so far away also made it difficult to call up players in an emergency. This forced the Mets to play short handed many times.
Having complete ownership of the franchise in Syracuse solves both of these issues. It also helps the Mets increase their brand throughout all of New York State.
The Mets officially take over the Syracuse team to start the 2019 season.
A New Hope
Shortly after announcing the purchase of the Syracuse Chiefs, the Mets made another bold move. They named Mickey Callaway, pitching coach of the Cleveland Indians, to be the new Manager of the New York Mets.
Callaway has been the pitching coach in Cleveland since 2013. Over that time, the Indians have consistently had one of the best pitching staffs in baseball. In 2017, the Indians led the league in both ERA and strike outs. It was the fourth straight season they led the America league in strike outs.
After a disappointing 2017 season, Mets manager Terry Collins decided to step down, ending his coaching career. It is hoped, that Callaway, along with new Mets pitching coach Dave Eiland, can right the ship. If history and past performance is any indication, they seem like the right men to lead the Mets much hyped starting pitching staff.
The winter meetings fail to keep us warm this winter
The annual winter meetings are usually a flurry of activity. It is when the hot stove gets stoked. Deals are signed. Trades are made. And stars switch teams. This years winter meetings saw very little of that.
The only players that were signed were veteran relief pitchers. And a lot of them were signed over a 36 hour period.
The Mets were not left out though, and were able to sign one of the top relief pitchers from last season. The Mets signed 32 year old Anthony Swarzak to a two year, $14 million contact.
Swarzak pitched in 70 games in 2017, splitting time between the White Sox and the Brewers. In 77.1 innings, he pitched to an ERA of 2.33, while giving up 58 hits and only 21 runs. Of the 300 batters he faced last year, only 6 times did a batter take him deep.
Swarzak’s advance stats prove what a solid pitcher he was in 2018. An ERA+ of 187 and a FIP Of 2.74 show he does not cost his team many runs.
Add that to H9 of 6.8, BB/9 of 2.9 and a SO9 Of 10.6, and you can see the Mets signed a top notch player.
He was also one of only two pitchers to have the following stats on no days rests:
SO/BB: 7.00 or better
Era under: 1.00
Pitching in back to back games was a major weakness of the Mets bullpen last season.
A free agency like no other
The 2017 Major League Baseball off season was like no other. As of now, there are still several top free agents unsigned. The New York Mets took a patience, wait and see approach when dealing with free agents. That approach worked well for the Mets.
The Mets played the waiting game, and it finally paid off on January 16, well into the off season. Jay Bruce agreed to a three year, $39 million contract. This was well below the five year, $100 million contract Bruce was hoping for at the start of the off season. The contract also includes a salary of just $10 million for the 2018 season, giving the Mets flexibility to make other moves.
Mets general manager Sandy Alderson deserves a lot of credit for analyzing the market, coming up with and sticking to a plan for free agents.
A return home
There really is no place like home. On January 26, the Mets brought home José Reyes on a one year, $2 million contract.
Despite what has gone on in Reyes’s life the last few years, the Mets are his home. He will still go down as an all time Mets great, and deservedly so.
José was clear since the 2018 season was winding down – the Mets were the only team he wanted to play for. It is clear, and pretty refreshing to see, how much he loves being a New York Met.
Reyes did have a slow start to the 2017 season, but he finished strong, and put up solid numbers the second half of the season.
Reyes’s second half slash line of .288/.356/.472 with an OPS of .828 shows that he still has plenty left in the tank.
The Toddfather (aka Flava Fraz)
The New York Mets played the waiting game again, and it paid off equally as well. New Jersey’s own Todd Frazier signed a two year $17 million contract. Some say this is almost half the money he was expecting to get at the start of the off season.
This blog has been pushing for the signing of Frazier all off season. You can read our thoughts
Here: A case for Todd Frazier
Here: A case for Todd Frazier, part 2
To sum those two article up: Frazier in a professional, modern hitter. He knows what he does well, and tries to do that one thing as often as possible.
That one thing is to hit a fastball very hard. And, he’s learned, the more fastballs he hits hard, and in the air, the better he does. So he looks fastball. He hunts fastballs. His patient, focused approach is why he was top ten in pitches per plate appearances, in 2017.
The Mets used eight different players at third base last season. Combined, they had a slash line of 269/.315/.413.
Frazier also adds much needed leadership and above average defense at the position.
Not done yet
On January 17, 2018, the New York Mets added five time All Star first baseman, Adrian Gonzalez to the team. Gonzalez was signed from the Atlanta Braves, who acquired Gonzalez just a few weeks before, in a salary swap with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The move gives the Mets another veteran presence in the line up and on the field. Gonzalez was limited in 2017 due to a back injury, the first time in his career he has miss significant time with an injury. If he can regain some of his talent, Gonzalez can be a major factor for the Mets in 2018.
The move does block the way for Mets first round draft pick Dominic Smith, and keeps Mets top ten prospect Peter Alonzo in double A one more season. It will be interesting to see if the signing of Adrián Gonzalez has a negative impact on the development of either player.
Even if Gonzalez only stays with the ball club for 70 games, it would save the Mets an entire year of service time with Smith. That alone could make the Gonzalez signing the most important moves of the off season.
After losing over 90 games in 2017, the New York Mets needed a fresh start. They needed to make an impact before the start of the 2018 season. With the hiring of manager Mickey Callaway, pitching coach Dave Eiland and smart maneuvers by the front office, the Mets, it seems, are on the right track.