NY Sports Day
Matt Mankiewich

Karpin’s Korner: Mets Intend to Contend, Yanks Need Pitching but Will Bid Farewell to an Arm

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The Mets can be very proud of NL Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom and smile at the prospects of their vaunted starting staff staying healthy in 2019, but they have a lot of work to do if they intend to contend next season.

Provided the staff does stay intact and healthy, there are other needs including catcher, bullpen, a right handed hitting outfielder and first base. (BTW: trading Noah Syndergaard should be out of the question, despite the interest from San Diego)

Now that the Mets know where they stand in regards to a potential acquisition of catcher J.T. Realmuto from the Marlins, they’ll shift their focus to some other options. On his weekly WFAN spot, baseball insider Jon Heyman was reporting the Marlins have no intentions of trading their top asset to a divisional contender. This was not just a snub of the Mets, but the Braves, Phillies and Nationals as well. Miami is willing to limit their options as long as they don’t make a deal within the NL East.

Mets have reportedly shown interest in free agent catcher Martin Maldonado. The 32-year old is a solid, defensive catcher who was starting for the Angels before being traded to Houston at the trade deadline. Maldonado does not hit consistently enough to be a #1 and scouts have labeled him as a “back up catcher.” Even if the Mets sign Maldonado, they will still need another catcher. Do they use the free agent route there or do they decide to keep one of their three catchers (Travis d’Arnaud, Kevin Plawecki, Tomas Nido) on the current 40-man roster.

Soild major league catchers are at a premium in today’s game. With so many teams needing one, it’s an area where there will be a steady and inexpensive market for players who are over 30 years old. With that in mind, 33-year old free agent catcher Jonathan Lucroy or 35-year old Kurt Suzuki is not out of the question. According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, the A’s are showing interest in a reunion with Suzuki. Lucroy is in decline but is still capable of handling a pitching staff and may not have too many suitors but could be useful as an inexpensive piece. The Mets may be able to wait it out as a “plan B.”

The Mets are reportedly serious about making Andrew Miller an offer. I don’t and they don’t see a reunion with Jerry Blevins. The 34-year old Miller will have several suitors but he won’t be as expensive as he would’ve been, provided he was healthy last season. Depending on what happens with the rotation, the Mets will need to decide how they want to use their two promising arms in Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman.

The best right handed outfield bat available via free agency is 31-year old A.J. Pollock who is said to be healthy after a couple of injury plagued seasons. Would the Mets commit to Pollock who would also cost them a draft pick. Andrew McCutchen would not cost a pick and is not a terrible second choice as the rest of the second tier free agent outfielders on the market are not that attractive.

Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen has already made it clear that Jeff McNeil is the starting second baseman next season. Amed Rosario is the shortstop but what about the rest of the infield.

The first base situation needs to be cleared up. The Mets could live with Todd Frazier at third base next season, he has only one more year left on his contract but (with all due respect to the classic Abbott and Costello comedy routine) “Who’s on First.”

Van Wagenen said highly touted, first base power prospect Peter Alonso will get an opportunity in spring training but scouts have said he’s “not a major league fielder.” Jay Bruce is a possibility but his footwork is lacking at the position, his range is limited, we haven’t seen him make many plays on bunts or slow grounders and we still don’t know about his throws around the infield. I get a feeling that Bruce will be dangled as trade bait, while Dominic Smith remains a mystery as to his future with the club.

Arizona may be looking to move 32-year old Paul Goldschmidt, who is a free agent after next season. Goldschmidt fits the Mets’ needs (excuse the pun) like a glove, but it’s going to take someone like Zack Wheeler or Steven Matz to start a discussion.

The Yankees off season game plan appears to prioritize starting pitching and an apparent infatuation with signing Manny Machado.

During an interview on “The Michael Kay Show” on ESPN NY, 98.7 FM, Yankees GM Brian Cashman made it known that they’re satisfied with the way their offense is structured. Despite the reliance on the home run and the abundance of strikeouts, Cashman feels they’re well built for the grind of the 162 game regular season and that they’ll take their chances in the post-season.

If the Yankees ignore their offense for a second straight off season, they’ll be making a grave miscalculation. Last off season, Giancarlo Stanton fell into their laps but their game plan going into the winter months did not include a power bat.

The abundance of right handed hitting played right into the predominantly right handed relief corps of the Red Sox. The Yankees need left hand hitting and they can’t be expecting it to come from Greg Bird, who, up to this point, has been a major disappointment.

The Yanks have prioritized starting pitching and have reportedly shown interest in free agent Patrick Corbin. The Yankees have inquired about Mariners left hander James Paxton and the Indians Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco.

Sonny Gray will be with another club next season. According to Andy Martino of SNY, as many as “11 teams” have shown interest in trading for Gray. Including Cincinnati and Oakland. Obviously, the sentiment from the interested suitors is that Gray will be a much better pitcher outside of New York. Last season, Gray posted a 6.98 ERA at Yankee Stadium, while his road ERA was 3.17.

What stood out to me right away about the beleaguered right hander was that he didn’t attack the hitters. Gray’s reluctance to contact led me to give him a nickname of a new Batman villain, “The Nibbler.” Gray would get out in front of the count but would fail to put the hitter. 0-2 and 1-2 counts became 3-2 and Gray would give up a hit or walk the hitter at that point. The pitch count started to accumulate, the hitters saw more of his stuff and games seemed to snow ball on the 29-year old. Additionally, Gray tries to be too perfect on every pitch and doesn’t get into a rhythm. Any team that acquires him will have to deal with these issues.

There’s a report stating Braves right hander Julio Teheran’s stock has fallen and he could be a candidate to be non-tendered. Teheran is arbitration eligible and Atlanta has until November 30th to offer him a contract or he could become a free agent. I don’t really think the Yankees are that interested in Nathan Eovaldi.

There may be some trade options for the Yankees to acquire a starter at next season’s deadline. If the Pirates are not in contention, Chris Archer’s name will once again pop up in trade rumors. Archer is heading into the final year of his current contract and would be an attractive get at the trade deadline for a team in need. The Giants may find themselves in a similar situation with Madison Bumgarner.

Two sons of former major league players could be making an impact next season.

Padres 19 year old SS prospect Fernando Tatis Jr is healthy after fracturing his thumb last July. He’s playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic and homered in his first at bat. The #2 overall prospect was putting up impressive numbers at AA San Antonio when he slid head first into second and fractured his thumb. Tatis was ready to move to AAA and maybe the big club in September before he was injured. Some think the injury may hamper his chances of making the big club out of spring training next season.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is expected to get a good shot to become Toronto’s starting third baseman next season. The 19-year old, who will be 20 in March, is baseball’s top prospect. Guerrero, who was hearing calls to bring him up last year, had a terrific minor league season and except for a slow stretch towards the end of the Arizona Fall League season, he starred in that developmental league as well.

HK Looking: Have to wonder how much Buster Posey has left as a full time catcher. Giants may be considering some more time at first base…..Astros are making a strong push for Realmuto but reportedly would have to give up a top prospect such as highly touted outfielder Kyle Tucker or highly regarded pitcher Forrest Whitley. Houston is also in the market for a starting pitcher and reportedly have inquired about Gray, with the thought they could turn him into another Gerrit Cole. Houston is also seeking an outfielder…..Milwaukee needs starters and have reportedly shown interest in veteran Anibal Sanchez…..Indians need an outfielder and may be thinking of a reunion with Bruce, who was acquired from the Mets at the 2017 trade deadline. Would Cleveland part with catcher Yan Gomes?…..The consensus on where Bryce Harper ends up seems to point to Philadelphia. The Phillies have let it be known they are spenders this off season and figure to land either Harper or Machado…..How far has Troy Tulowitzki’s stock fallen…..A Case of Over-Reaction: John Maffei of the San Diego Union Tribune did not deserve the abuse he took for being the only BBWAA voter to not give Jacob deGrom a first place vote for the Cy Young Award. Maffei voted for Max Scherzer which is his prerogative, but his comments (not the WFAN interview) where he said he carefully watched Scherzer and deGrom’s last five starts before he decided on who he would vote for, struck me funny, so I decided to look up each of their last five starts. Scherzer’s last five starts: 34 IP, 16 ER, 6 BB, 51 K’s, 3 HRS, 4.24 ERA. deGrom’s final five starts: 35 IP, 7 ER, 5 BB, 45 K’s, 2 HRS. 1.80 ERA. You tell me how those final five starts made Scherzer more worthy than deGrom. Just saying!


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