The Mets got quite a bit of negative press this year for how poorly they handled almost every single baseball and non-baseball thing—and have rightfully been criticized for it at every stop.
Believe it or not, though, the Mets have not been incompetent on all fronts this season—and have actually done some things well. Criticizing the Mets is a lot easier, but the team did some smart things this year. So let’s try to counteract some of the negativity and shine some light on some of the positives from this season.
The Asdrubal Cabrera trade
Going into the deadline, it wasn’t believed the Mets would be able to flip their veteran second baseman for much of a return, if any. Cabrera posted a very nice 124 WRC+ and 2.3 fWAR in his time with the Mets, but the market was not favorable for rental players, so most thought the Mets wouldn’t get much for him. Plus, the confidence in the team’s front office was at a low point after they had just seemingly undersold Jeurys Familia.
But the team surprised a lot of prognosticators when they flipped Cabrera to Philadelphia on July 27 for pitching prospect Franklyn Kilome. The right-hander is actually quite a notable prospect, having come in at number 129 on Fangraphs’ midseason top-131 prospect list, and he was rated the tenth-best prospect in a good Phillies farm system by John Sickels coming into the 2018 season.
Signing and trading Jose Bautista
When the Mets signed the 37-year-old, he had just been released by the Braves after a very poor showing for them. The Mets were in need of some bodies in the outfield, but many were afraid this was the Mets preferring a declining veteran who only possesed name value over someone more likely to help the team. Some also feared Bautista could take playing time away from the likes of Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto.
In the end, he did not wind up taking reps away from those two, and actually wound up being quite useful in Flushing. Bautista posted a respectable 106 wRC+ in his time here, blasting nine home runs, including a prodigious walk-off shot against the Rays on July 6. Considering the team signed him off the scrap heap, it turned out to be very shrewd signing from the front office.
On August 28, the Mets sent him to Philadelphia as well. It wasn’t much of a trade, but being able to get anything in exchange for him should be considered a win.
Committing to Brandon Nimmo
Going into the season, Nimmo was only supposed to recieve a handful of starts before Conforto came back from the disabled list, and then he would naturally go back to the bench or back to Triple-A. However, Nimmo’s incredible start to the year raised questions of whether he should be the one to lose playing time when Conforto did eventually return.
As it turns out, he still lost the playing time anyway. The team even sent him down to Triple-A for a few days in April just to get him some at-bats before recalling him a few days later. Many feared this was another case of the team not committing to a young player and stunting his development after showing positive strides. Once Nimmo returned from Las Vegas, however, Mickey Callaway tried to find ways to get him in the lineup as much as possible, and when Yoenis Cespedes went down in May, Nimmo became entrenched in the everyday lineup. Neither him nor the Mets ever looked back.
What’s more, Nimmo didn’t lose many starts to Jay Bruce since he became an everyday player, and he never lost any starts to the other veteran outfielders the team has brought in over the course of the season—namely Bautista and Austin Jackson. That doesn’t seem like a big deal, but Mets fans will remember the days of Alejandro De Aza and Michael Cuddyer getting starts over Conforto. This time, the Mets stuck with their young star.
Trading Matt Harvey for Devin Mesoraco
The trade of Matt Harvey was a tough one for many of us to swallow, but it was completely necessary. Harvey, more than anything else, needed a change of scenery. And to his credit, he has been a serviceable back-end starter for the Reds.
On the Mets’ side, though, the best part of the trade was the surprising return they were able to net for their diminished former star. It was assumed the Mets would only get spare parts or cash in return for Harvey, but they actually received a potentially-useful piece with Mesoraco. The 30-year-old catcher had an uneven year, but he at least least provided value as a second catcher to share time with Kevin Plawecki. And he was far more adequate than either Tomas Nido or Jose Lobaton likely would have been in that role.
Releasing Adrian Gonzalez
There probably wasn’t much purpose to signing Gonzalez in the first place, and it was rather clear early on that Gonzalez didn’t have much left, but the Mets pressed their luck with the veteran first baseman anyway and went into the season with him as the starting first baseman.
It didn’t go very well. While you can argue that the Mets waited too long to cut bait with Gonzalez—holding on to him until June, thus allowing him to play 53 games at a below-replacement level—the team did do the right thing by cutting him before it went on any longer. This is a contrast to other instances where the team held on to a cheap, struggling veterans well into the second half (John Mayberry Jr., Chris Young) or just kept them all season (Jose Reyes, de Aza).
Calling up Jeff McNeil
You would think that calling up a top prospect making waves at Triple-A would be more of a routine move and not cause for particular praise, but given how the Mets handled Alonso, maybe we should give them credit for not handling McNeil the same way. Of course, McNeil was probably ready well before the Mets finally called him up, and they absolutely had to call him up this year or else they’d risk losing him to minor league free agency, but let’s focus on the positives here.
The Mets called McNeil up in late July and traded Cabrera in order to give him playing time. They made a commitment to him, and it has paid off tremendously, as he looks like not only a starter going into 2019, but an impact player at the top of the Mets’ lineup.
The Mets are indeed capable of making smart and productive moves every once in a while. It’s very easy to get carried away with the constant negative media and the team seemingly handicapping itself all the time for no reason, but the smart moves shouldn’t go completely forgotten, either.