Mets Aquire Another Player

The New York Mets have claimed infielder Travis Blankenhorn off waivers from the Seattle Mariners and will be active for tonight’s contest in Arizona.

In return, the Mets have DFA’d Wilfredo Tovar.

Blankenhorn has appeared in one game for the Minnesota Twins this season however has yet to have an at-bat.

Robinson Cano to play baseball, again.

Disgraced New York Mets second baseman Robinson Cano will join Estrellas Orientales of the Dominican Winter League beginning starting on Sunday.

This will be the third time Cano has joined this team in his career. However, this time I’m sure it’s to stay in as best shape as possible as he won’t be suiting up in the Majors until at least the 2022 season.

This time around, Cano will also be suiting up with the young phenom from the San Diego Padres, Fernando Tatis Jr.

On the field, Cano hasn’t been terrible in his Mets tenure however, considering how much he’s making and that he’s also on PED’s, he should’ve had a better run.

Will Cano be back with the Mets in 2022? His contract says yes, but I’m sure that there’ll be discussions going on about how Steve and crew can get up out of it.

Photo from Bleacher Nation

NYM CF Mallex Smith: Candidate for The 2021 NL Comeback Player of the Year Award

Earlier in the offseason, the Mets may have made one of their biggest move in signing 11 minor league free agents that included Jose Peraza, Arodys Vizciano, and 27 year old Centerfielder Mallex Smith! Smith was originally drafted by the Padres in the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft out of Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, FL. Before I go into a deeper analysis as to why I think he could be a comeback player of the year, lets look at the history of Smith as he bounces around different ballclubs.

TRADED TO THE BRAVES: On December 19, 2014 the Padres traded 2B Jace Peterson, LHP Max Fried, 3B Dustin Peterson, and CF Mallex Smith to the Braves in exchange for LF Justin Upton and RHP Aason Northcraft.

2016 SEASON – ROOKIE DEBUT: Smith made his MLB debut with the Braves in 2016 where in 72 games and 215 PA, he slashed a .238/.316/.365 with 3 HR and 16 SB in 24 attempts. The then 23 year old, also had a Strike out rate (K%) of 22.3% with a Walk rate (BB%) of 9.3%, Which is not too bad for a Rookie debut.

TRADED TO THE MARINERS AND TO THE RAYS: On January 11, 2017 The Braves traded Mallex smith to the Seattle Mariners with RHP Shae Simmons for RHP Thomas Burrows and LHP Luis Gohara. A few hours after being traded from the Braves, the Mariners trade Smith to the Tampa Bay Rays along with INF Carlos Vargas and LHP Ryan Yarbrough for LHP Drew Smyly.

2017 – 2018 SEASON – THE GOOD: Mallex Smith played two seasons with Tampa, which included a break out year in 2018. During the course of his time at Tampa, Smith played 222 G with 826 Plate Appearances where he slashed a .287/.354/.389. He’s not known for his power so the youngster only hit 4HR but he did steal 56 SB in 73 attempts. His speed was the game changer as he lead the league in triples in 2018 with 10. It is also worth noting that in 2018, he only struck out 98 times (K% of 18%) and walked 47 times (BB% of 8.6%). He finished 10th place on OBP for the year.

TRADED TO THE MARINERS (AGAIN): On November 8, 2018, the Rays traded Smith to the Mariners with OF Jake Fraley for OF Guillermo Heredia (yes, same guy on the Mets in 2020) and C Mike Zunino.

2019 SEASON – THE BAD: Things started to go south for Smith in 2019. In 566 plate appearances, he slashed a horrid .227/.300/.335 with a K% of 24.9 and a BB% of 7.4%. The only good that came out of this season for Smith was that he had an MLB leading 46 SB in 52 attempts. He also hit a career high of 6 HR that season.

2020 SEASON – THE UGLY: In 2020, Smith production went further south. Smith had delayed his debut to the M’s summer camp for undisclosed reasons. He missed out a few weeks to prepare for the already shorten season due to the pandemic. He was able to make the M’s opening day line-up, but only appeared on 14 games before getting optioned back to the alternative site. He made 47 Plate appearances, slashing a pathetic .133/.170/.178 with while only stealing 2 bases striking out 13 times with while drawing only 2 walks. Meanwhile, the Mariners had some great production coming from Kyle Lewis who earn the AL Rookie of the Year award at CF. The Mariner’s have a bright future in their OF prospects that are close to MLB level in Jared Kelenic (ahem, thanks again Brodie) and Julio Rodriguez. Mariners did not tenure Smith and he opted out to Free Agency.

METS SIGNED MALLEX SMITH TO MINOR LEAGUE DEAL: As mentioned earlier, the Mets quickly signed 11 players into minor league deals on November 4th. They took the opportunity to add much needed depth at CF before other teams could sink their teeth into Smith.

DEFENSIVE UPGRADE:

In 2019, Smith ranked 8th in Outs Above Average (OOA) for any OF Position with 10 while logging in 9 Runs Prevented. In 2020, he did not play enough games to be eligible, but also see below on how horrid the Mets defensive numbers were. Spoiler alert, it sucked.

2019 OOA Rankings Baseball Savant
2019 Mets OOA Baseball Savant
Mets 2020 OOA Baseball Savant

THE OFFENSE: I took a look into Smith’s number to see if I can see any evidence of what exactly changed from his 2019 to 2020 season. Granted 2020 was a much smaller sample size, and in my opinion, Smith did not get enough time to prepare with the team as his sessions at the summer camp were delayed due to undisclosed reasons. That aside, the number one thing that popped out to me during his 2020 season was his BABIP. His BABIP was well below the league average of .300. In short, when he was putting the ball in play, he was a victim of either very bad luck or amazing defensive on the field. His BABIP was .188. This may be me speculating a bit, but I think he may have made attempts to over compensate by attempting to be more aggressive in the strike zone, and trying to sell out for power, a tool in which he lacks. The Speedster, appeared lost, while his counterpart, Lewis was scorching hot.

Fangraphs.com

The 2020 MLB season was a season where every single game was much more significant than ever. Not that a normal season is okay to lose, but in a shorten 60 game season meant that if a team lost, they had more grounds to cover in a shorter period of times. In a regular 162 game season, the club can be more patient as a player works through a slump. You also have the option to send a player down to the minors as long as they have enough available (Smith has 1 option remaining on his contract) to improve and figure out what the issues were. In a 60 game season were the playoffs were expanded, clubs were treating every game as a playoff game and if a player was slumping, there was much smaller tolerance to see if they could figure it out.

THE PROJECTIONS: Most projections have Smith seeing 200 or less AB. This make sense due to the abundance of left handed hitting OFers the Mets currently have, and how the Mets are linked towards the FA acquisition of George Springer. One thing that most of the projections indicate is that Smith will see regression on his OBP which would go back up north of .318. The most compelling projection that I seen is the one on Baseball reference where they are projecting him to see a decent amount of time in the OF and producing the following numbers.

Baseball Reference

Smith is also a left-handed hitter so the need for his bat may be limited. I expect the Mets to make some moves this winter that would shift the team around to work out the current log-jam of having too many poor defensive performers at LF and 3B. I also expect Mallex Smith having the potential to breakout of the 2021 Spring Training which will push the (much more analytical) Mets to include his bat and speed in the line up.

IN CONCLUSION: The Mets signing Mallex Smith to a minor league deal was one of the smartest things they have done in the offseason. They are taking a very low risk on giving Mallex Smith a chance. The pay off could be so significant that it could be the missing piece to the Mets defensive woes in the position and give them a push for a playoff slot or more. It is no secret that the Mets have a great offensive team. They also have a decent pitching rotation in which they are more than likely to further improve. Their bullpen, is top notch! However, if the defenders can not keep the opposing teams from scoring as they have, all that great pitching performance just goes to waste. This pitching staff needs to have the confidence to step up on the mound without questioning their teammates defensive abilities. If they need to throw a sinker to induce that double play ball, then so be it. They should also not have to worry about how much defensive ground their OF would be able to cover. If Mallex Smith gets the opportunity to play every day, he has the upside to be an impactful player that pitchers can trust to make the necessary outs.

(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

Cano continues to let them know

Since being back in New York, well, technically Florida, Cano has proved his play is one of a 26 year old, as well. The Mets took on Dylan Bundy and the Orioles in Sarasota and, well, Cano is still hitting the ball and getting on base. The veteran second baseman went 3-4 with a double and a run scored before being removed for a pinch runner.

Cano is now batting .441 with two home runs and four doubles while driving in six runs in 19 games, but what has really come as a surprise has been his solid defensive play. While Cano continues to be a clubhouse leader, his leadership has definitely translated into his solid hitting, defense, and work ethic.

Last season in 80 games, Cano hit 10 home runs in 310 at bats, with 22 two baggers and 50 R.B.I.’s while batting .303/ .374/ .471/ .845 before he got suspended for the usage of PED’s.

Breaking down Former Mets Prospect Justin Dunn

Seattle Mariners top pitching prospect, right hander Justin Dunn was drafted by New York with the 19th overall pick out of Boston College in the 2016 Amateur Draft. He quickly rose through the lower minors and is beginning to make a case for the 2019/2020 rotation.

While it’s 100 percent likely Dunn won’t be considered early in the 2019 season however, with a long 162 game season full of injuries there very well may be an open slot for him down the line. We should get somewhat of look before the season starts during Spring Training.

Last season, Dunn made it up to the AA Binghamton Rumble Ponies, while he didn’t fare too well, he wasn’t exactly terrible either. He went 6-5 with a 4.22 ERA over 89.2 innings, striking out 105 batters at a 10.5 SO9 for 2018 and a 9.2 SO9 over 3 minor league seasons. It seems that the feeling within the organization is that Dunn is going to miss some baseball bats and I’m not hating the sound of that.

Binghamton manager Luis Rojas was quoted on The New York Post saying “His change-up needs to sharpen up” and that “He needs to be more consistent with his fastball at the bottom of the zone. He needs to know when to use his fastball to play up more. Once he becomes more consistent doing that, I know he’s going to keep moving up in the ladder, and he’ll be a big league pitcher one day”.

“He still needs to be finished off a little bit, but he has got all the fastball you need and it’s got life… The slider is real good, a great change up and is a real good athlete… He is heading in the right direction” said recently departed executive J.P. Ricciardi to Baseball America.

There are a few people out there that think that Dunn won’t be able to develop a third or fourth pitch and is destined to be apart of the bullpen. The righty is not unfamiliar with the bullpen either as he started his collegiate career in the pen before making the move to BC’s starting rotation during his junior year.

In my opinion, it’s a positive when you have a pitcher knowing the difference and understanding he’s a lot more valuable when a when a flame thrower is able to do both, especially with starters pitching fewer innings and relievers pitching more.

All in all, it’s kind of hard not to have a bro-crush and be excited about Dunn’s career when we keep hearing about his fastball and the life he has on it. I’m not a scout nor will I ever claim to be but my guess is that Dunn will start out the 2019 campaign in AA.

However, with the AA and AAA team not too far off from Citi Field, Dunn knows he’s going to have the Mariners Front Office monitoring his every pitch and is potentially a quick call away from suiting up in a Seattle Mariners uniform.

Source: LongBallsAndSuperKix.com

#MetsCrushMonday: Edwin Diaz

I genuinely love the off-season and this is apart of the reason why. Reading up on rumors and new acquisitions, and of course praying on a nightly basis that the owners will sell the team (to me, of course). However, I digress. Let’s take this time to read about one of the newer acquisitions from the Mariners, Edwin Diaz.

The Mets received Diaz along with Robinson Cano for Jay Bruce, Anthony Swarzak, Justin Dunn, Jared Kelenic, and Gerson Bautista. Dunn and Kelenic project to be stars within the next few years so even though the Mariners chipped in $20M, the Mets still paid a hefty price.

While Cano is the one with a bloated contract and is on the decline, Diaz is the kind of player that would negate all the negatives tied in with the remainder of Cano’s deal. Executive’s are predicting that Cano has another 2-3 years of productivity left in his five remaining years.

Mets fans should find comfort in knowing that there’s a solid reliever in the backend of their bullpen for years to come. One person that’s finding comfort as well as excitement is sophomore manager, Mickey Callaway.

He was quoted saying this about their newly acquired closer;

Diaz was drafted by the Mariners in 2012 in the third round and debuted for Seattle in 2016 where he pitched in 49 games, 51.2 innings, and owned a 2.79 ERA in his rookie season. In 2017, he tossed 66 innings in 66 games while striking out 12.2 K’s per 9 innings.

However, last year in his age 24 season, pitched 73.1 innings in 73 games and struck out a tremendous 15.2 batters per every 9 innings. He has 109 saves over his three seasons in the majors.

As of now, Diaz is slotted to pitch the ninth to close out games but the Mets are still in the market for another late inning reliever.

Cano has a message for Mets fans

Robinson Cano took to Twitter via his account @RobinsonCano and let fans know that he’s thrilled to make his return to “The Big Apple”.

Of course Cano will be joining closer Edwin Diaz in the second baseman’s return to the city where Canó began his Major League career.

I wonder if Brian Cashman releases a statement on the trade.