NY Sports Day
Matt Mankiewich

Karpin’s Korner: Mets’ Front Is Center, Yanks’ “Cole Hand Look” in Pinstripes?

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The acquisition of Jake Marisnick makes sense because he is an elite defender who is a significant upgrade from Brandon Nimmo and Micheal Conforto in centerfield. Nimmo is a fourth outfielder and certainly not a starting centerfielder, while Conforto is a corner outfielder who is not athletic enough to handle CF on an everyday basis.

Marisnick is an elite defender but can he be enough of a productive offensive player to justify him playing everyday. Some think a platoon of Marisnick and Nimmo may work, with the former taking the place of the latter late in games that he does not start. Perhaps, but if Nimmo is not getting to balls that Marisnick would run down, the pitchers may show a preference for the elite defender. Not to mention, Marisnick has a much better arm than Nimmo.

There was a report that the Mets had an eye on a potential acquisition of Brewers closer Josh Hader. Unlike, the trade that landed Edwin Diaz last season, the Mets have player on the big league roster that may satisfy Milwaukee’s asking price.

I would not trade Jeff McNeil in a deal for Hader but I would use Dom Smith as a starting piece. Milwaukee is looking for starting pitching. Would the Mets be willing to include Marcus Stroman and Smith for Hader?

Stroman is a free agent after next season. There is no room for Smith, who is only a first-baseman and whose value will never be higher than it is now. If the Mets acquired Hader, he would close, and other relievers move down a notch. Diaz could potentially become the 8th inning man while the Mets could move Seth Lugo to the starting rotation to fill Stroman’s spot. The rotation would feature two time Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Seth Lugo. A fifth starter could come courtesy of an “opener” or maybe the Mets do have an option from the minors.

Right hander Matthew Allan will not be ready yet, but a couple of southpaws may have a chance to earn a spot come spring training. David Peterson (Mets’ 2017 first round pick) has not pitched higher than Double-A and was slated to start next season at AAA Syracuse, but he could get a chance to make the team in spring training. Last season in the minors, lefthander Thomas Szapucki was starting to show the form that had him rated as a #2 type starter before he had Tommy John surgery in 2018. Szapucki was shutdown because of an innings limit but he’ll be in spring camp.

The Mets wisely brought back Brad Brach, who was solid down the stretch of last season and was one of their better relievers.

A lot of Met fans are excited about the news that came down two days ago when it was announced that the Wilpon family was selling a majority stake of the team to minority owner and hedge fund billionaire, Steve Cohen. Fred and Jeff Wilpon will reportedly remain in their current positions of CEO and COO respectively, as they transition control of the team to Cohen.

Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz have co-owned the team and have had control since 2002 when Nelson Doubleday was bought out. So the Wilpons will finally extinguish their hold on the team and let’s be frank, the team has not been a consistent winner during their tenure.

A couple of things to ponder over the “water cooler.”

If Mr. Cohen is willing to be more of a player (and we don’t know that for sure but early indications are this will be the case) in this market than the Wilpons have been, who’s going to be making the personnel decisions as the Mets GM. Will Brodie Van Wagenen be the one who will be able to take advantage of this new philosophy? Omar Minaya spent wisely (Carlos Beltran, Pedro Martinez) when he had the means. The new controlling party may not want to wait five years to take control of the team. Cohen still has to be approved by the other owners but that will not take long to get done.

The other item that caught my fancy was a report that Katz, the other party in all this, was not pleased with Jeff Wilpon as the person who would eventually take full control. NY Post Mets beat reporter Mike Puma cited multiple sources saying “A rift between Katz and Jeff Wilpon left the family uncomfortable with the idea of the younger Wilpon assuming control of the club once Fred Wilpon is no longer involved.”

Yankees are making a strong push to acquire Gerrit Cole. The Yankees kept touting their bullpen depth to carry them through last season, but they saw (like the rest of the baseball world) a renaissance of the value of starting pitching, but they can’t ignore other aspects of the team that may need tweaking.

The Yankees, by no means, are a complete team. Beyond the pitching, I see some question marks on-field that need to be addressed including back up catcher, first base and as I’ve pointed out before in my previous columns, left hand hitting.

You can “pooh-pooh” the back up catcher spot but it’s important, especially with Gary Sanchez as the starter. Austin Romine filled in, more than admirably, and was probably the best back up catcher in the sport. Will Kyle Higashioka be just as effective, I have my doubts.

If Didi Gregorius is gone and Gleyber Torres becomes the everyday shortstop, D.J. LeMahieu is penciled in for second base, so that means Luke Voit is the everyday first-baseman. Just who is Luke Voit? The player that came to the Yankees late in 2018 and made a splash or the player who was inconsistent last season while striking out, literally twice as many times as he walked (142 to 71) Voit has holes in his “launch angle” swing and opposing pitchers were exploiting those.

Defensively, Voit is a little below average at best. With the proposed changes in the infield, it’s imperative that the Yankees have a strong, defensive presence at first base.

I haven’t even mentioned third base. Gio Urshela is a solid glove, who had a career year during the 2019 season. Is Urshela the real deal and what about Miguel Andujar. Do the Yankees try the 2018 Rookie of the Year runner-up at first? His problems at third were of the throwing variety, not the glove. Maybe first base is where Andujar belongs.

Winter Meetings begin next week in San Diego and the hometown Padres have shown they intend to be active.

San Diego acquired Tommy Pham from the Rays for OF Hunter Renfroe and the 5th rated prospect in the Padres’ system, infielder Xavier Edwards. Padres also received two-way player Jake Cronenworth in the deal. The Padres had a need for offense in the outfield and Pham is an underrated bat and a very tough out.

Nationals Owner Mark Lerner has spoken about the possibility of signing both free agents, Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg. Lerner said, “We really can only afford to have one of those two guys.” I get the feeling that the Nats would prefer to sign Rendon and that lends me to believe that the Padres are going to make a strong push for local product Strasburg, who played at San Diego State under the late Tony Gwynn.

Judging by what’s gone on so far this off season, there figures to be some activity next week. You’ll hear Starling Marte’s name being bandied about. There is significant interest in the 31-year old center fielder, who still has two years of control, including a team option for the 2021 season. Centerfielders are at a premium this off season, so Pirates GM Ben Cherington will be looking to make a splash by using Marte’ as bait.

The outstanding NY Post baseball columnist, Kevin Kernan penned a terrific piece on Thurman Munson in today’s paper, touting his case for enshrinement into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

A couple of weeks ago, I put forth a case as to why Munson belongs in the Hall. Sunday, the Modern Era Baseball Committee will announce the results of their votes. 9 players and Marvin Miller are up for election. A candidate needs 12 of 16 (75%) for election. Munson’s time has come.

Karpin’s Korner appears every Friday on nysportsday.com


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