Diving into the depths: New York Mets

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This is part of a 30-article series looking at each team’s depth chart headed into spring training.
New York Mets
Rotation
1. Johan Santana
2. John Maine
3. Mike Pelfrey
4. Oliver Perez
5. Fernando Nieve
6. Jon Niese
7. Pat Misch
8. Nelson Figueroa
9. Tobi Stoner
10. Josh Fogg
11. Bobby Parnell
12. Elmer Dessens
13. Jack Egbert
14. R.A. Dickey
15. Jenrry Mejia
It’s hard to believe the Mets are really about to enter spring training with that rotation. Sure, there’s considerable upside, but Santana is coming off elbow surgery, Maine has had shoulder problems, Pelfrey had a 5.03 ERA last year and Perez is the biggest question mark of them all.
Nieve is supposed to enter spring training with a leg up on Niese, though that makes little sense to me. Nieve does have the talent to help the Mets as a starter, but he hasn’t turned in a healthy season since 2005.
Bullpen
1. Francisco Rodriguez
2. Kelvim Escobar
3. Pedro Feliciano
4. Ryota Igarashi
5. Bobby Parnell
6. Sean Green
7. Nelson Figueroa
8. Pat Misch
9. Fernando Nieve
10. Josh Fogg
11. R.A. Dickey
12. Clint Everts
13. Jack Egbert
14. Tobi Stoner
15. Elmer Dessens
16. Eddie Kunz
17. Arturo Lopez
18. Jay Marshall
The Mets opened up some additional bullpen competition by trading Brian Stokes for Gary Matthews Jr. They do have plenty of depth, particularly when it comes to swingmen. Figueroa, Misch, Nieve, Fogg, Dickey and Dessens are all capable of moving back and forth between the rotation and the pen. Still, they’re going to be hurting in the seventh and eighth innings if neither Escobar nor Igarashi comes through.


Catcher
1. Omir Santos
2. Henry Blanco
3. Josh Thole
4. Chris Coste
First base
1. Daniel Murphy
2. Fernando Tatis
3. Frank Catalanotto
4. Mike Hessman
5. Ike Davis
6. Nick Evans
7. Chris Carter
8. Mike Cervenak
Second base
1. Luis Castillo
2. Alex Cora
3. Anderson Hernandez
4. Fernando Tatis
5. Russ Adams
Shortstop
1. Jose Reyes
2. Alex Cora
3. Anderson Hernandez
4. Andy Green
Third base
1. David Wright
2. Fernando Tatis
3. Mike Hessman
4. Mike Cervenak
5. Shawn Bowman
The Mets should be among the worst in the league at catcher and first base. Perhaps second base, too, unless Castillo can bounce back a bit defensively. I like Tatis, but the Mets probably would have been better off paying the price for Carlos Delgado and pushing Murphy into a reserve role.
Left field
1. Jason Bay
2. Angel Pagan
3. Gary Matthews Jr.
4. Fernando Tatis
5. Frank Catalanotto
6. Daniel Murphy
7. Fernando Martinez
8. Nick Evans
9. Chris Carter
Center field
1. Carlos Beltran
2. Angel Pagan
3. Gary Matthews Jr.
4. Fernando Martinez
Right field
1. Jeff Francoeur
2. Angel Pagan
3. Gary Matthews Jr.
4. Fernando Martinez
5. Fernando Tatis
Pagan deserves every opportunity to start in center field while Beltran is out at the beginning of the year. It’d be bad news for the Mets if Matthews hits .400 this spring and wins the job.

MLB Network airs segment listing “good” and “bad” $100 million-plus contracts

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On Wednesday evening, Charlie Marlow of KTVI FOX 2 News St. Louis posted a couple of screencaps from a segment MLB Network aired about $100 million-plus contracts that have been signed. The list of “bad” contracts, unsurprisingly, is lengthier than the list of “good” contracts.

As Mike Gianella of Baseball Prospectus pointed out, it is problematic for a network owned by Major League Baseball to air a segment criticizing its employees for making too much seemingly unearned money. There’s a very clear conflict of interest, so one is certainly not getting a fair view of the situation. MLB, of course, can do what it wants with its network, but it can also be criticized. MLB Network would never air a similar segment in which it listed baseball’s “good” and “bad” owners and how much money they’ve undeservedly taken. Nor would MLB Network ever run a segment naming the hundreds of players who are not yet eligible for arbitration whose salaries are decided for them by their teams, often making the major league minimum ($545,000) or just above it. Similarly, MLB Network would also never think of airing a segment in which the pay of minor league players, many of whom make under $10,000 annually, is highlighted.

We’re now past the halfway point in January and many free agents still remain unsigned. It’s unprecedented. A few weeks ago, I looked just at the last handful of years and found that, typically, six or seven of the top 10 free agents signed by the new year. We’re still at two of 10 — same as a few weeks ago — and that’s only if you consider Carlos Santana a top-10 free agent, which is debatable. It’s a complex issue, but part of it certainly is the ubiquity of analytics in front offices, creating homogeneity in thinking. A consequence of that is everyone now being aware that big free agent contracts haven’t panned out well; it’s a topic of conversation that everyone can have and understand now. Back in 2010, I upset a lot of people by suggesting that Ryan Howard’s five-year, $125 million contract with the Phillies wouldn’t pan out well. Those people mostly cited home runs and RBI and got mad when I cited WAR and wOBA and defensive metrics. Now, many of those same people are wary of signing free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer and they now cite WAR, wOBA, and the various defensive metrics.

The public’s hyper-sensitivity to the viability of long-term free agent contracts — thanks in part to segments like the aforementioned — is a really bad trend if you’re a player, agent, or just care about labor in general. The tables have become very much tilted in favor of ownership over labor over the last decade and a half. Nathaniel Grow of FanGraphs pointed out in March 2015 that the players’ share of total league revenues peaked in 2002 at 56 percent, but declined all the way to 38 percent in 2014. The current trend of teams signing their talented players to long-term contract extensions before or during their years of arbitration eligibility — before they have real leverage — as well as teams abstaining from signing free agents will only serve to send that percentage further down.

Craig has written at great length about the rather serious problem the MLBPA has on its hands. Solving this problem won’t be easy and may require the threat of a strike, or actually striking. As Craig mentioned, that would mean getting the players all on the same page on this issue, which would require some work. MLB hasn’t dealt with a strike since 1994 and it’s believed that it caused a serious decline in interest among fans, so it’s certainly something that would get the owners’ attention. The MLBPA may also need to consider replacing union head Tony Clark with someone with a serious labor background. Among the issues the union could focus on during negotiations for the next collective bargaining agreement: abolishing the draft and getting rid of the arbitration system. One thing is for sure: the players are not in a good spot now, especially when the league has its own network on which it propagandizes against them.