Maggie Wiggin

Maggie Wiggin writes about the Mets for SNY.tv.

Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Bryan Shaw (Phil Long/AP)
Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Bryan Shaw (Phil Long/AP)

With the Mets turning focus towards the bullpen, as they look to turn around one of the league's worst from last season, we will hear from some familiar names (like the rest of MLB, they will be kicking the tires on Addison Reed and Brandon Morrow), but also some lesser-known relievers with established histories of success.

One right-hander they will likely be looking at that fits this mold is Bryan Shaw. The 30-year-old put in two solid years with the Diamondbacks before blossoming over five excellent seasons with the Indians. His pitching coach there? Mickey Callaway, who knows a good arm when he sees one.

Shaw made 378 appearances for Cleveland from 2011-2017 and hits free agency having put together a 3.11 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP for them. His strikeout rate is far from dominant for a relief arm -- just 8 batters per 9 innings -- but his strong groundball tendency has given him considerable added value in this homerun-heavy era.

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Sep 11, 2017; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain (6) (Peter Aiken)
Sep 11, 2017; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain (6) (Peter Aiken)

The Royals have made qualifying offers (one-year contract offers of $17.4 million that net the team a draft pick if the player refuses) to pending free agents Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, and Eric Hosmer. This move did not come as a surprise but nonetheless may play a role in the Mets' offseason as they look to retool their lineup.

This year marks the debut of a new system of qualifying offers, one designed to have a lesser impact on a player's market than in prior years. If the Mets sign a player who has received a qualifying offer, instead of losing a first round draft pick, they will lose their second-highest pick This is based on there being a big market team that didn't exceed the luxury tax last season, the rules vary for teams in other situations.

To the Mets, this is a lesser obstacle to signing a player than it would have been last year, though the league may see overall sticker prices on these players rise because they don't "cost" as much in draft pick compensation.

Tags: Dominic Smith, Maggie Wiggin
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 (Troy Taormina)
(Troy Taormina)

Though this may have been unthinkable just a year ago, it's undeniable that the Mets are in desperate need of starting pitching. Their 5.14 ERA ranked 27th in baseball and going into 2018, and only Jacob deGrom (and Noah Syndergaard, if healthy) can be reasonably counted on to be major contributors.

The Mets need to improve the rotation fast, and the best way to do that is with a big fish. This offseason, the biggest fish out there is Yu Darvish and if the Mets are serious about contending in 2018, they should have every intention of bringing him to Queens.

Darvish is coming off a solid season, his first full year since he underwent Tommy John in spring of 2015. He brought the same nearly unhittable stuff that has been his hallmark throughout his career, putting up a strikeout ratio of over 10 batters per 9 innings, a mark he has hit every year in the majors. And while control has sometimes been a challenge for him, his walk ratio was well below his career average. He did experience an uptick in home runs allowed, but it was proportionate to the MLB norm in this power-heavy year and certainly not enough to be considered a red flag...

Tags: Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Maggie Wiggin
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 (Shanna Lockwood)
(Shanna Lockwood)

The Mets have made some smart, unexpected moves to open the offseason -- buying a new Triple A affiliate, going with an out-of-the-box manager choice -- but the moves that will determine the future of the 2018 season are yet to come. What we've seen so far is that the team is willing to take risks, and that may be the most promising sign of all.

Under GM Sandy Alderson, perhaps the Mets' biggest flaw has been risk aversion. Right after Alderson's hiring, the team made the most uninspired manager hiring possible, who in turn managed almost pathologically to the book at every opportunity. In player acquisition, they eschewed big contracts, even after payroll began to expand, instead focusing on lower-risk, lower-return smaller deals. Even the trades, which generally involve taking chances on unproven prospects, were relatively low-risk for the Mets as the players being traded offered little value to the rebuilding team.

The Mets are in a tough spot now, with a surging Nationals team, a Braves team teeming with young talent, and more roster holes than you can shake a stick at. But despite the rotation looking as bad as it's ever been, the window isn't quite closed yet...

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The Sandy Bunch: Mickey Callaway 00:00:37
SNY.tv takes a look at Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway as a candidate to be the next Mets manager.

This post was originally publised October 9, 2017...

For a team whose pitching staff collapsed as epically as the Mets' did in 2017, it makes sense to consider bringing in a manager with pitching expertise. And after helping the Indians put together one of the best group of arms in baseball, that's one metric Mickey Callaway might very well lead the league in.

Since taking on the role of pitching coach in Cleveland in 2013, the pitching staff there made a complete 180. After posting a major league worst ERA in 2012, the Indians have led the American League in ERA every year since then and have put up MLB-best numbers in strikeouts and wins above replacement.

Under Callaway's tutelage, they have developed stars in Danny Salazar, Carlos Carrasco, and Corey Kluber, who may be looking at his second Cy Young Award this year. In many ways, the Indians have reached the heights of pitching that the Mets were expected to, and Callaway receives a lot of the credit. It's also noteworthy that, despite throwing hard, they have generally stayed healthy...

Tags: 2017 Mets Manager Search, Maggie Wiggin
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The Sandy Bunch: Joe McEwing 00:00:40
SNY.tv takes a look at White Sox bench coach Joe McEwing as a candidate to be the next Mets manager.

The parade of Mets managerial candidates has included a number of familiar faces, but perhaps none more familiar than Joe McEwing, who spent five years in Queens as a bench player.

While fans' affection for McEwing often outpaced his skill on the field, he has spent the years since his 2008 retirement in a variety of coaching roles with the White Sox organization, and his good reputation has earned him an interview with the Mets this week.

McEwing was in many ways the quintessential utility player. In his five seasons with the Mets, "Super Joe" saw time at every position except pitcher and catcher. He eked out a league average batting line in only one season, but was a solid defender and was beloved by fans and teammates alike for his scrappy play and positive attitude. Prior to his release early in 2005, he had served as something of a mentor to a young David Wright, who raved about his character and bemoaned the loss of his friend and teacher...

Tags: 2017 Mets Manager Search, David Wright, Maggie Wiggin
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The Sandy Bunch: Bob Geren 00:00:39
SNY.tv takes a look at Dodgers bench coach Bob Geren as a candidate to be the next Mets manager.

When Terry Collins's position officially opened, it was no surprise that Bob Geren's name was one of the first mentioned. With past managing experience and prior ties to the team, he is a classic Sandy Alderson managerial candidate, though whether he will be their final choice remains to be seen.

While his career lacked the longevity of Alex Cora's, Geren saw his share of playing time, spending four years catching for the Yankees, and one more for San Diego. After retiring at age 32, he took on managing roles for Red Sox minor league teams, before moving over to the Athletics organization in similar roles. It was in Oakland that he got his first shot at the major leagues, first as bullpen coach and bench coach and then as manager, beginning in 2007.

Geren's time as manager of the A's was a mixed bag. He was given mediocre teams to work with, which generally performed as expected, but the front office consistently expressed confidence in him, extending his contract and twice picking up options on him. In 2011, though, there were public complaints from current and former players about his communication and distribution of playing time. Just two weeks later, following a brutal losing streak, he was let go...

Tags: 2017 Mets Manager Search, Maggie Wiggin
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Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Mallex Smith (0) is congratulated by third base coach Charlie Montoyo (25) (Kim Klement)
Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Mallex Smith (0) is congratulated by third base coach Charlie Montoyo (25) (Kim Klement)

While most names connected to the Mets managerial search have had some past affiliation with the team, one that might be new to Mets fans is Charlie Montoyo, current third base coach for the Rays.

On-field, Montoyo's career was short and unmemorable. He spent nine years in the minors as an infielder and saw major league action in just four games with the Expos in 1993. He retired at age 30 in 1996 before launching his career as a coach, with the brand new Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Working at every level of the Rays organization, Montoyo has built an impressive resume. Most notably, he spent eight years as their Triple-A manager, leading the Durham Bulls to six division championships and two league championships. He holds the team record for most managerial wins and has been inducted to the International League Hall of Fame in recognition of his success in that role, which exposed him to a lot of the young talent that fueled the Rays' playoff runs beginning in 2008...

Tags: 2017 Mets Manager Search, Maggie Wiggin
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The Sandy Bunch: Kevin Long 00:00:36
SNY.tv takes a look at Mets hitting coach Kevin Long as a candidate to be the next Mets manager.

There's a lot of skepticism at the true impact a hitting coach can have on a swing decades in the making, but one of the few who has undeniably made his mark is Kevin Long. That talent has made him invaluable to the Mets and has pushed his name near the top of the list of managerial candidates.

Long has had a significant effect on Mets hitting since joing the team in 2015. He translated the organizational focus on plate discipline -- not necessarily with the goal of drawing walks, but with the goal of finding a pitch to drive -- in a way that clicked for many of their hitters.

Curtis Granderson, who had sung Long's praises since they worked together in the Bronx, rebounded from a rough Mets debut to put together one of the best seasons of his career. Yoenis Cespedes, Neil Walker, and Asdrubal Cabrera both saw big spikes in on base percentage working under Long as well. And Long's intense work with Daniel Murphy certainly seems to have paid off as well, albeit not for the Mets...

Tags: 2017 Mets Manager Search, Asdrubal Cabrera, Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson, Lucas Duda, Neil Walker, Yoenis Cespedes, Maggie Wiggin
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The Sandy Bunch: Alex Cora 00:00:38
SNY.tv takes a look at former Met and current Astros bench coach Alex Cora as a candidate for the Mets managerial position.

Of the many names being floated as potential future managers for the Mets, one that has garnered a lot of interest is Alex Cora. Expected to interview soon, his youth and relative lack of managerial experience may put him at a slight disadvantage, but he has a lot to offer a team in transition.

Cora is not a new name to Mets fans -- his 14-year stint in the majors included a brief stop in Queens. Already near the end of a mediocre at best on-field career, his performance with the Mets was quite poor (a .597 OPS over 2 years), but even then, in 2010, he received raves for his clubhouse presence. And there was a widespread assumption he would eventually go into managing.

Since retiring from professional baseball in 2012, Cora spent some time broadcasting, but most notably joined the Astros as a bench coach for the 2017 season...

Tags: 2017 Mets Manager Search, Maggie Wiggin
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 (Adam Hagy)
(Adam Hagy)

Jacob deGrom carried the burden this season of being the most valuable player on his team by far, and is the closest thing the Mets have to a sure bet going into 2018. Though some of his stats took a hit in a season that was strange for pitching in general, he was out there every five days, amassing 200 innings, 15 wins, and showing the consistency that has made him the centerpiece of the team.

Despite his relatively high ERA of 3.53 (still significantly better than most of the league), deGrom did some of the best pitching of his professional career this season.

He struck out a dazzling 239 batters -- fifth-most in baseball, and did so at a rate of nearly 11 batters per 9 innings, by far a career-best and good for seventh in the league. He also put up the best swinging strike rate and the best soft contact rate of his MLB career...

Tags: Jacob deGrom, Maggie Wiggin
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New York Mets catcher Travis d'Arnaud (18) hits a three run home run against the Washington Nationals during the fourth inning at Nationals Park. (Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports)
New York Mets catcher Travis d'Arnaud (18) hits a three run home run against the Washington Nationals during the fourth inning at Nationals Park. (Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports)

All season, the Mets had a significant problem at the catcher position. Travis d'Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki were each batting under .240 with an OPS under .700 at the end of August and minimal history of success to look back on, particularly in Plawecki's case. But both have had a surge of production that may help simplify an issue for a team facing a very complicated offseason.

On September 1, d'Arnaud was sitting on a .232/.281/.394 slash line over 306 plate appearancesm -- a deeply disappointing season in which he finally seemed to be capable of staying healthy for a long stretch. Since the beginning of the month, though, he has been on fire, batting .315/.367/.741 with six home runs in 60 plate appearances, while striking out only five times.

It hasn't all been against September call-ups either -- five of his six home runs came against established major leaguers, and his OPS is seventh-best in baseball for the month. D'Arnaud's season line is still below major league average overall, but better than the average catcher, particularly in regards to power. He's not out of the woods yet, but this explosion could not have come at a better time.

Tags: Kevin Plawecki, Travis d'Arnaud, Maggie Wiggin
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 (Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE)
(Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE)

The Mets will be going into the offseason with a lot of question marks, but one thing is clear: they need more starting pitching. Sandy Alderson has said in interviews that he will be looking for someone who can be counted on for a lot of innings, which probably means they would be steering clear of high-ceiling starters with injury issues, such as Michael Pineda and Lance Lynn.

The sticker prices on Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta will probably deter the Mets, so who are some mid-level starters they should have their eye on?

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 (Brad Penner)
(Brad Penner)

The Mets have two veteran infielders who are having good second halves -- Jose Reyes and Asdrubal Cabrera. With the way the roster is currently constructed, one of them will probably find himself with the team next year, possibly even with a starting role. Which one has the better case?

Asdrubal Cabrera

Cabrera followed up a stellar 2016 campaign as the Mets' starting shortstop with a rough first half of 2017. At the All-Star break, he had just a .736 OPS, and his defense was terrible. Moreover, he had made headlines by asking to be traded after the team asked him to move off shortstop. At the time, it seemed highly unlikely he would remain a Met much longer, despite a team option that would allow him to return in 2018 for just $6.5 million...

Tags: Asdrubal Cabrera, Jose Reyes, Maggie Wiggin
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 (Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports)
(Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports)

In the five weeks since his Mets debut, Dominic Smith hasn't put up dominant numbers in any category, leading some to express concerns that he wasn't ready for the majors. But he is already beginning to adjust, and his .879 OPS in September shows the potential he brings.

Possibly as a function of his relative youth at each level, Smith has a history of adjusting slowly to his promotions. As a 20-year-old in High-A, he mustered just a .220 average with one extra base hit in the month of April. From May onwards, he hit .314 and finished the year with 33 doubles.

Likewise, the following year in Double-A, he put up mediocre numbers well into May, before catching fire and batting .323/.397/.495 from June through September. His start in Triple-A (an .867 OPS in April of this year) was comparatively strong, but he still showed improvement throughout the season, finishing with a career-high .905 OPS, as well as the best power numbers he has shown in professional ball...

Tags: Dominic Smith, Maggie Wiggin
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 (Brad Mills)
(Brad Mills)

The Mets bullpen has underperformed this season, pitching to a 4.56 ERA that ranks 24th in MLB, as well as walk and home run rates that place them in the bottom third of the league. Behind those numbers, though, are two very different seasons.

The first half Mets bullpen was one of the worst in the game -- 27th in ERA and dead last in WHIP. They had blown nearly half of their save opportunities and walked over 10% of the batters they faced. Since the All-Star break, though, they have largely righted the ship, with an ERA in the top 10 and a WHIP around the middle of the pack.

The Mets bullpen is still quite shallow and needs plenty of revamping over the offseason if the team hopes to compete in 2018, but a few notable names have been making the most of their opportunity. Here are some arms to watch over the rest of the season.

AJ Ramos

A big-league reliever with closer experience, Ramos was brought in with the expectation that he will be a lock for late-inning relief in 2018. Luckily for the Mets, he has lived up to expectations and his 3.00 ERA since becoming a Met has helped stabilize a bullpen reeling from the loss of Addison Reed...

Tags: Addison Reed, Josh Smoker, Maggie Wiggin
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Nimmo's second homer of night 00:00:54
Brandon Nimmo smacks a two-run home run to deep center field, his second of the game.

Batting cleanup for just the second time in his career, Brandon Nimmo looked the part last night, slugging two home runs and a double. But, while this unexpected power surge might not last forever, he is showing a steady glove and, most notably, legitimately elite plate discipline...

Tags: Brandon Nimmo, Maggie Wiggin
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 (Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports)
(Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports)

It's hard to imagine Matt Harvey's season going any worse. After posting a 4.86 ERA in just 17 starts in 2016, he has followed it with a 5.97 ERA in 2017, capped off by the worst start of his career last weekend in Houston. He lasted just two innings and allowed eight hits, seven runs, threw two wild pitches, and hit a batter. Mercifully, the Mets scrapped an ill-conceived plan to have him start on short rest, but at this point, it just feels like delaying the inevitable. Are we seeing the end of Matt Harvey?

Not many pitchers have returned to form after being treated for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, though few had his stature prior to it. Chris Carpenter, Cy Young winner with the 2005 Cardinals, was one of them, and it ended his career. That said, Carpenter was 37 years old and TOS was one of a half dozen significant arm injuries that studded his career. Josh Beckett also underwent the same rib-removal version of the procedure as Harvey (again, several years older), though notably he pitched one last exceptionally good season upon returning from it. Former Met Chris Young has also seen success upon return, though he is now beginning to show his age.

It's next to impossible to find good comparison cases for Harvey. Unlike Tommy John surgery, only a handful of major leaguers have undergone treatment for TOS. And what makes comparison even harder is the fact that they tend to have them at a much more advanced age...

Tags: Matt Harvey, Maggie Wiggin
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 (Peter Aiken)
(Peter Aiken)

Going into the 2018 season, the Mets have a lot of holes to fill. And with David Wright's absence presumed to be permanent, one of the biggest is at third base.

Unfortunately, the position player market is paper thin, and third base may be the worst spot of all. One of the few pending free agent third basemen having an above average year is Mike Moustakas, but does he make sense for the Mets?

On the positive side, Moustakas is having a strong offensive year with an .854 OPS -- 11th-best among MLB third basemen, and 35 home runs -- by far the most of his career. This marks the third consecutive year he has put up above average numbers, and though his on base percentage is mediocre, his strikeout rate is below league average and he can hit the ball hard, as evidenced by his sudden power breakout. He's on pace for over 40 home runs this season -- perhaps even doubling his previous career high of 22 set back in 2015.

Though he has never shown great speed, Moustakas has historically had a modestly good glove at third base, in the top half of the league by both traditional measures, such as fielding percentage, and modern metrics, such as defensive runs saved...

Tags: David Wright, Maggie Wiggin
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 (Bill Streicher)
(Bill Streicher)

 A strained hamstring brought Yoenis Cespedes's 2017 to a close -- a season with a lot of the highs and lows and long DL stints that have come to characterize his time with the Mets.

Despite frustrating stretches, including a .665 OPS during the month of July, Cespedes's final line of .292/.352/.540 very closely reflects his overall performance since becoming a Met, and his 17 home runs over 81 games put him on a pace for 34 over a full season -- a tick above his career pace of 32 per 162 games.

Most promisingly, Cespedes proved his .354 OBP in 2016, his best since his rookie year, was no fluke. Since coming to the Mets, he has demonstrated growth beyond the all-or-nothing slugger he seemed to be previously. The Mets invested nine figures in a player they believe is an all-around great hitter. And while there are plenty of concerns about his overall value, at the plate he has been everything the team and the fans could have hoped for...

Tags: Yoenis Cespedes, Maggie Wiggin
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Gelbs on Nimmo's approach 00:02:06
On Citi Pre Game Live, Steve Gelbs talks about Brandon Nimmo's approach at the plate that has led to a .406 OBP over his last ten games.

There's a youth movement afoot in Queens. The mass exodus of pending free agent veterans has left holes all over the field, and young players are jumping at the chance -- for some perhaps their last -- to prove their worth to a team in transition. While none have the pedigree of Amed Rosario or Dominic Smith, some former early-round draft picks are going to become familiar faces over the next 5 weeks.

Selected in the first round of the 2011 Draft as a raw center fielder with a good eye at the plate, Brandon Nimmo had the misfortune of being yet another lefty outfielder on a team overflowing with them. The departures of Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson have left the door wide open, though, and he should get a long look as a potential fourth outfielder for 2018.

While Nimmo has shown little power in his professional career, his 13.6 percent walk rate in the minors shows he has the potential to get on base at an elite rate. Early indicators suggest this approach is translating at the major league level, though the hit tool needs to continue to develop in order to justify the lack of power and vulnerability to strikeouts...

Tags: Brandon Nimmo, Gavin Cecchini, Matt Reynolds, Maggie Wiggin
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 (Charles LeClaire)
(Charles LeClaire)

Though he has been in and out of the major leagues since his 2015 debut, Kevin Plawecki has yet to prove himself capable of hitting at the major league level. But the departure of Rene Rivera has given him another opportunity to show he can adjust and provide value to the Mets.

Plawecki is now 26 years old and would be considered well past the development phase of his career at any other position. But catchers do peak late and it's possible that Plawecki will earn a spot in the majors long-term.

Contrary to scouting reports early in his professional career, Plawecki has excellent defensive tools as a catcher. He has a moderately good arm and blocks well, but he excels most in pitch-framing -- the catching skill with the biggest impact on run-prevention. He consistently ranks highly among major league catchers in runs saved via pitch-framing despite having relatively few innings...

Tags: Kevin Plawecki, Travis d'Arnaud, Maggie Wiggin
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 (Jake Roth)
(Jake Roth)

Wilmer Flores seems to have been a Met for a very long time. Since debuting in 2013, he has amassed over 1,500 plate appearances while playing no fewer than 50 games in each of the four infield spots. Along the way, he has collected 54 home runs, 192 RBI, and one dramatic last-minute reprieve from a trade to the Brewers. No wonder it's so easy to forget that he's still just 26 years old.

Despite moving through the Mets system on the strength of his bat, Flores didn't get off to a hot start in the majors, putting up a paltry .675 OPS from 2013-15. But over the past two seasons, coinciding with the end of his experimental shortstop run, he has put together a .272/.318/.478 slash line -- not a dominant offensive performance, but above league average and the kind of line that keeps a hitter in a lineup on a regular basis. It's fairly similar to the numbers Wil Myers has put up in San Diego over the same time period, although Flores has fewer plate appearances.

Flores has seen significant handedness splits over the course of his career, with an .830 OPS against lefties and a .686 OPS against righties. As a result, he has been used largely in a platoon role. But this season, he is showing something new.

Flores' OPS against lefties is almost identical to his career split, but he has made great strides against righties - a .789 OPS along with nine of his 15 home runs. While he is still a dependable hitter against left-handed pitching, he no longer appears to be a liability against right-handers, which would be a big step forward in his development...

Tags: Amed Rosario, Dominic Smith, Neil Walker, Wilmer Flores, Maggie Wiggin
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 (AP)
(AP)

Young slugger Aaron Judge makes his Citi Field debut Wednesday night when the Yankees play the Mets, but he will be met by fellow All-Star Michael Conforto, whose star-making 2017 is quickly climbing the list of best Mets seasons ever.

Still just 24 years old, Conforto began his third MLB season looking to put aside the memory of his disappointing sophomore effort -- and he has succeeded in a big way. His .957 OPS is 10th-best in baseball and is the seventh-best season mark in Mets history, alongside such names as Mike Piazza, David Wright, and Darryl Strawberry. He trails Judge's 1.029 mark for 2017, but is rapidly closing the gap -- and hasn't had the luxury of playing in cozy Yankee Stadium, nor the luxury of playing at his natural position.

Once scouted as a 15-to-20 home run bat, Conforto has found his power stroke in a way few Mets his age ever have. With six weeks of baseball left, he has knocked 26 home runs, tying David Wright's 2006 total for fifth-most among Mets under 25. He should easily smash the record of 30, also held by Wright. And Conforto is only getting better as the season heats up, with 12 home runs in the second half...

Tags: Aaron Judge, Michael Conforto, Maggie Wiggin
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New York Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen has a mound conference with catcher Travis d'Arnaud and pitcher Steven Matz in the first inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Citi Field. (Wendell Cruz/USA TODAY Sports)
New York Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen has a mound conference with catcher Travis d'Arnaud and pitcher Steven Matz in the first inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Citi Field. (Wendell Cruz/USA TODAY Sports)

Steven Matz's midseason return to the Mets began with much promise, as he posted a 2.12 ERA over his first five starts. Even with impressive results, though, he was showing many red flag, and unfortunately it has all come crumbling down since. 

In 23 2/3 innings since July 9, he has allowed 29 runs, ballooning his season ERA to 5.77. He has allowed a career-high home run rate, and his hard-contact rate, formerly one of his strengths, has skyrocketed.

These are things that he also faced earlier in the season, but survived with a combination of an exceptionally high strand rate and a low batting average on balls in play. Both of these were expected to regress to league norms and they have indeed come plummeting back to earth. 

Tags: Steven Matz, Maggie Wiggin
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 (Steve Mitchell)
(Steve Mitchell)

Former top-100 prospect Travis d'Arnaud has been an enigma for the Mets, showing flashes of offensive prowess while struggling to stay on the field. As the Mets look ahead to an offseason of question marks, he is working diligently to prove he isn't one of them.

D'Arnaud's biggest strike against him has been an inability to stay healthy. And while he has not avoided the disabled list completely, his three-week stint in May is a minor blip compared to the long stretches of missed time in prior years. While many of his injuries have been considered "freak," he still shows a tendency towards bone injuries beyond what would be expected of someone at his position.

The persistence of his lost time has suggested there's something more than bad luck in play, but this season has arguably been a step in the right direction...

Tags: Travis d'Arnaud, Maggie Wiggin
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 (Brad Penner)
(Brad Penner)

The departures of Addison Reed and Lucas Duda, and the arrival of Amed Rosario, signaled the end of the 2017 Mets. The team is now playing for next year -- preparing for a significant team turnover and hopefully beginning to answer some important questions. 

What will the infield look like in 2018?

Part of that has been settled. Rosario is, deservedly, beginning his tenure as the Mets' starting shortstop, and Dominic Smith's inauguration as first baseman is only a matter of time. Duda's trade indicated that any doubt as to Smith's readiness is gone and even slow starts to their respective MLB careers will not take him or Rosario out of the 2018 Opening Day lineup.

As settled as shortstop and first base look at this point, second base and third base are anything but. Compounding the uncertainty is a truly dreadful collection of pending free agents at these positions, so the Mets will be closely monitoring internal options as the season wears on...

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 (Colin E. Brale/AP)
(Colin E. Brale/AP)

According to ESPN.com's Buster Olney, Sandy Alderson and his staff deserve a B- grade for their work prior to Monday's July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

While the Mets were able deal Lucas Duda and Addison Reed for four pitching prospects, they did not trade away Neil WalkerAsdrubal CabreraJay Bruce, or Curtis Granderson, all of whom are eligible to be free agents at the end of this season.

Bruce, 30, and Walker, 31, are both owed roughly $6 million for the remainder of 2017. Granderson, 36, is due around $5 million, and Cabrera, 31, who has an $8.5 million team option or $2 million buyout for next season, is owed roughly $2.5 million.

While July 31 is considered the "trade deadline," trades can and do happen through August via waivers, and the Mets will be looking to take advantage of this process...

Tags: Addison Reed, Asdrubal Cabrera, Curtis Granderson, Dilson Herrera, Jay Bruce, Lucas Duda, Neil Walker, Wilmer Flores, Yoenis Cespedes, Maggie Wiggin
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To call Jacob deGrom's last six weeks "dominant" would be an understatement. Over his last eight starts, he has faced 230 batters and allowed just 13 of them to cross the plate. He has failed to finish the seventh inning only once (coming just one out shy) and completed the eighth inning five times.

In decisions, he is approaching rarified territory for the Mets. His active streak of eight is tied for the 10th most consecutive wins among Mets starters, and most of his peers in this regard date back to an era when pitchers were allowed to go deeper into games, increasing the chance of a win. 

Of starters over the past 10 years, deGrom's eight wins are third, behind an 11-win streak for R.A. Dickey in 2012 and a 10-win streak for Johan Santana between 2008 and 2009.

In all of MLB this year, only three starters have longer winning streaks -- Dallas Keuchel, backed up by an unstoppable Astros offense, and Alex Wood and Clayton Kershaw, playing for a team on pace for 112 wins. For deGrom to achieve a streak like this for such a poorly performing team overall is truly unusual and a testament to his endurance and skill (and a little bit of luck)...

Tags: Jacob deGrom, Maggie Wiggin
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 (Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports)
(Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports)

To fill the latest hole in the rapidly dwindling Mets rotation, the Mets made an unexpected call in promoting right-hander Chris Flexen from Double-A Binghamton.

This came as a surprise for a team that has rigorously stuck with a patient approach with its prospects, giving them extended exposure to Triple-A to further develop them. 

The last Mets prospect to skip Triple-A entirely was Michael Conforto in July 2015. The last pitcher to do so was fringe reliever Akeel Morris, who arrived from High-A, got shelled, and is now with the Braves organization. Noah SyndergaardJacob deGrom, and Seth Lugo all spent most of a full season in Las Vegas, if not more, regardless of results.

A big reason for this deviation is that the Mets simply lack pitchers at the higher levels with anything approaching MLB-quality stuff. Half of the Vegas rotation is already here, with Tyler Pill the most recent arrival. The other half is bad, old, or both, and, perhaps more importantly, not on the increasingly crowded 40-man roster...

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 (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)
(Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

In a long-awaited return from Tommy John surgery, Zack Wheeler has had a season of ups and downs. 

Wheeler's last start was emblematic of his year as a whole. Despite having walked four, he had held the Cardinals scoreless until the sixth inning, when he gave up four runs -- and ultimately took the loss. 

At times, Wheeler has shown glimpses of the promising -- if sometimes frustrating -- hurler he was in 2013 and 2014, but at others he looks overmatched.

Tags: Zack Wheeler, Maggie Wiggin
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 (Frank Franklin II/AP)
(Frank Franklin II/AP)

In the midst of a lost season for the Mets, an unlikely bright note has emerged -- T.J. Rivera. A red-hot July during which he has hit .394 with five extra-base hits over 37 plate appearances has pushed his OPS over .800 and he shows no signs of slowing down. 

Despite going undrafted, Rivera has developed into a solid hitter and has the potential to be a valuable piece of the team going forward.

From the time he arrived in the Mets system, Rivera showed that he could hit. He never batted below .300 at any level and secured the 2016 Pacific Coast League batting title with a .353 average and a .909 OPS. He was never ranked as a top prospect, in part due to his relatively advanced age, but that performance earned him a well-deserved call-up to the big leagues last season, where he slashed .333/.345/.476 in 113 plate appearances.

There were few expectations of a repeat performance from Rivera going into 2017. His walk rate was under 3 percent, he didn't have much power and regression seemed inevitable from a 28-year-old entering his rookie year. Instead, he has been one of their best batters and may be hitting his way into a bigger role in 2018 and beyond.

Tags: TJ Rivera, Maggie Wiggin
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 (Brad Penner)
(Brad Penner)

In the middle of a Mets bullpen in constant disarray stands the stalwart Jerry Blevins. The lefty specialist has put up solid numbers in his three years in New York and is an interesting trade candidate for a team looking towards 2018.

Overall, Blevins is having a decent season, though not quite up to last year's exceptional standards. He has a 3.54 ERA, and while his strikeout rate is excellent, his walk rate has jumped to nearly 5.0 per 9 innings.

The caveat is that while it feels as though he has pitched every day (and he does in fact lead baseball with 44 appearances), his 28 innings pitched is still a small sample. And there's every chance his wildness evens out as the season wears on.

As has been the norm throughout his career, Blevins has been absolute murder on lefties. They are managing just a .401 OPS against him this season. Righties, on the other hand, are putting up a whopping 1.175 OPS against, though sample size is a major issue here as well. His career splits are .570/.741 OPS against lefties and righties respectively, which is along the lines of what to expect going forward -- and still quite good for a specialist...

Tags: Jerry Blevins, Maggie Wiggin
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 (Steve Mitchell)
(Steve Mitchell)

While most of the attention this season has been paid to top prospect Amed Rosario, there's another Mets infielder waiting in the wings -- first baseman Dominic Smith.

With Lucas Duda's tenure with the team likely about to come to an end, either via trade or free agency, Smith is presumed to be lined up for a starting role in 2018.

Smith was the Mets' first round pick in the 2013 MLB Draft and he has an unusual profile for the position. Unlike Duda, he is not a power hitter at all. His 14 home runs in Double-A last year were a career high and he has only 36 over 514 professional games.

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The Mets are home run machines this year -- on both sides of the ball. Mets batters are on pace for a whopping 243 bombs in 2017, which would shatter the prior record of 218, set all the way back in…2016. Not to be outdone, their pitchers are on pace for 230 home runs allowed, which would dwarf the record held by the infamously hapless 1962 Mets.

The Mets are far from alone in seeing this spike in home runs. Teams across MLB are watching home run totals skyrocket and the league is on pace to surpass the single-season home run record -- set in 2000 during the peak of the steroid era -- by a wide margin. Home run rates have increased across the league every year since 2014 and there's no indication that's going to slow down anytime soon.

And it's affecting unexpected names as well. Jacob deGrom has allowed 18 home runs this season, the same number allowed by Clayton Kershaw (already his career high). Johnny CuetoJulio Teheran, and Gerrit Cole have allowed even more and are all looking at new personal records...

Tags: Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Maggie Wiggin
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 (Anthony Gruppuso/USA TODAY Sports)
(Anthony Gruppuso/USA TODAY Sports)

After losing over two months of the season to a somewhat mysterious elbow injury, Steven Matz's return has been a much-needed salve to a beleaguered rotation.

Coming off a scoreless effort in Washington, Matz dropped his ERA to 2.12 -- a career best -- and continued a season-long streak of starts of six or more innings pitched.

However, there may still be concerns ahead for Matz, the most notable of which is a huge drop in his strikeout rate. He's notched less than six strikeouts per 9.0 innings, well below league average, and nearly three full strikeouts lower than his 2015 and 2016 rates. His swinging strike rate is way down and contact rate is way up. In short, he's not fooling anyone. When he does throw out of the zone, he gets few chases and a lot of contact.

Part of this inability to miss bats may be a result of a very different pitch distribution. He's throwing hardly any sliders and when he does throw them he's averaging 2 miles per hour less than in prior years. Instead, his curveball usage has soared -- nearly a quarter of the pitches he has thrown all year have been curveballs -- despite the fact that his curveball isn't as sharp or effective as in prior years...

Tags: Steven Matz, Maggie Wiggin
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 (Adam Hunger/USA Today Sports Images)
(Adam Hunger/USA Today Sports Images)

Jacob deGrom entered 2017 with a career ERA of 2.74, ranking him as the 3rd best pitcher in baseball since 2014. The Mets expected the usual quiet dominance from him, but instead he has been a roller coaster ride all season. Fresh off a dazzling three-start stretch, has he finally righted the ship?

Prior to June 12th, deGrom had followed a solid, if unspectacular, start to his season with two of the worst games of his career -- an 8.0 inning stretch in which he allowed 18 hits and 15 earned runs, leaving him with a 4.75 ERA and a big question mark. Ever since, though, he has been nothing short of incredible, dropping his ERA a full run and resting a beleaguered bullpen by going deep into every game.

Still, despite one of the best three-start stretches any pitcher has put up this season, there are some concerns going forward. Perhaps the biggest red flag is that he is walking more batters than ever. He has walked three or more batters six times this season and has yet to put up a single walk-less start. His walks per 9 innings is 3.4 -- by far the highest of his career...

Tags: Jacob deGrom, Maggie Wiggin
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 (AP)
(AP)

In the middle of Wednesday night's 8-0 rout of the Marlins, Curtis Granderson did something that's become almost commonplace for him at this point: he hit a home run. That marked his 8th since the start of June and his 5th in the last week. He is on absolute fire right now and his value is steadily climbing, both in a potential trade and to the Mets.

On May 2nd, Granderson looked like he might be done. Another hitless day had brought his slash line down to a pitiful .122/.175/.211 over 97 plate appearances. Even for the notoriously slow-starting Granderson, this was awful. But the next day, he hit two doubles, kicking off a hot streak in which he has hit 26 extra-base hits with a .408 OBP. His OPS for the year has climbed to .801 and he is once again looking like vintage Curtis.

This raises an interesting question for the Mets: is it time to trade him away? The pro-trade argument is clear -- he's a pending free agent, he's not a great center fielder anymore, and the Mets outfield is awfully crowded these days...

Tags: Curtis Granderson, Jay Bruce, Maggie Wiggin
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Mets are sellers 00:05:05
Jon Hein and Dan Graca react to the news that the Mets are making Curtis Granderson, Addison Reed, Jay Bruce and Asdrubal Cabrera available.

One constant at the trade deadline is that pitching is always in demand. Contenders looking to plug rotation holes and bolster bullpens offer far more valuable packages in July than in January. The Mets don't have an especially deep cache of arms to offer up, but there are a few names to watch for.

Addison Reed has largely righted his ship after a difficult start to 2017 and now has a 2.59 ERA dating back to 2015. His 4.89 strikeouts-to-walks ratio is the 10th best in baseball over the span and his 2.58 FIP is 13th best.

He has never been in the top tier of relief aces alongside such names as Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen, but he has been surprisingly close. As a pending free agent capable of setting up or closing, he should garner plenty of interest from contenders with weak bullpens, such as, unfortunately, the Nationals...

Tags: Addison Reed, Aroldis Chapman, Jerry Blevins, Maggie Wiggin
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Mets 1B Lucas Duda swings at a pitch during a game in 2017. Credit. Jason Getz. USA Today Images
Mets 1B Lucas Duda swings at a pitch during a game in 2017. Credit. Jason Getz. USA Today Images

The Mets have little to show for a largely atrocious season so far, but they do have one thing in great supply: pending free agents. The team will turn over half the starting lineup in the offseason, so expect trade rumors galore over the next six weeks.

GM Sandy Alderson has earned his reputation for generally getting value as a seller, so they could end up being one of the more active teams in baseball at the deadline.

So who should the Mets be looking to move? 

Tags: Asdrubal Cabrera, Curtis Granderson, Jay Bruce, Lucas Duda, Neil Walker, Maggie Wiggin
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Jul 17, 2016; Syndergaard (34), Matz (32) and deGrom (48) during national anthem at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 17, 2016; Syndergaard (34), Matz (32) and deGrom (48) during national anthem at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Mets have been hurt by injuries up and down the lineup, and by consistent ineptitude in the field, but the more significant culprit is clearly their pitching.

It wasn't supposed to be this way. Even with an injury-plagued rotation, the 2016 Mets surpassed expectations and ranked as one of the top staffs in the league. With nearly all of last year's successful hurlers returning (Bartolo Colon, who is struggling mightily in Atlanta this year, being the lone exception), reasonable projections anticipated similar results, even if not quite up to 2016's exceptional standards.

Instead, Mets fans have watched nothing short of an unmitigated disaster unfold in the rotation, one start at a time...

Tags: Bartolo Colon, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero, Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Steven Matz, Maggie Wiggin
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 (Noah K. Murray)
(Noah K. Murray)

The 2017 Mets are not offensive juggernauts. Their .247 team batting average is 20th in MLB, and their .322 OBP comes in at 19th. Yet they're scoring close to five runs per game, ranking seventh in baseball. How are they doing it? By killing with runners in scoring position...

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 (Brad Penner)
(Brad Penner)

An enormous number of players have undergone Tommy John surgery -- over 80 percent of MLB games now feature at least one -- so we've been able to learn a lot about what to expect from a pitcher his first year back.

The pattern is clear -- a little wildness, often an uptick in velocity, but overall a slight regression from years past. Which is why Zack Wheeler's return has been so notable -- he's almost exactly the player he was prior to his surgery, despite (or perhaps because of) his exceptionally long layoff.

Thus far, Wheeler has been effective on the mound, with a good-though-not-great ERA of 3.72. This is just a hair over his career mark of 3.54, an increase that mirrors the league-wide spike in offense going back to 2015 (his increase in home run rate also reflects this trend across MLB). 

Wheeler is striking out a respectable 8.25 per 9 innings while generating 9 percent swinging strikes. That said, he's also still walking an awful lot of batters -- his 3.72 per 9 innings is a slight improvement over his 3.91 for his career, but still leaves a lot of room for improvement...

Tags: Zack Wheeler, Maggie Wiggin
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 (Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports Images)
(Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports Images)

The Mets have been hitting rockets all year, putting up a 35 percent hard-hit rate that ranks 3rd in the majors. But their .493 average on those balls in play ranks 28th, per Fangraphs, a factor that contributes to an offense that is overall around league average. So where are these hard-hit balls ending up?

To begin with, a lot of them are going in the air. The Mets lead MLB with a 42 percent fly ball rate, with Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce both in the top 10.

Fly balls are generally considered more valuable than groundballs because even though more grounders go for hits, fly balls generate much more power and ultimately more runs. So being a fly ball hitter is not necessarily a bad thing (though less desirable than a line drive hitter), but it does mean sacrificing average for power.

Tags: Curtis Granderson, Jay Bruce, Maggie Wiggin
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Maggie Wiggin, MetsBlog.com:

With the roster largely set, the Mets have begun looking at lineup construction to maximize the offense from a team that underperformed for much of last season. As usual for this team, one of the spots still pending a long-term answer is leadoff.

When Jose Reyes is starting, it's largely a given that he will bat leadoff, assuming his bounceback 2016 numbers continue to hold steady. With major question marks surrounding David Wright's health, this may very well resolve the leadoff issue for the bulk of the season. 

The vast majority of Reyes's career plate appearances have come out of the leadoff spot and despite no longer displaying the stolen base prowess that secured him that spot in his youth (nor the on base percentage that tends to define the classic leadoff hitter nowadays), his reputation and general offensive competence will certainly place him there for the foreseeable future...

Tags: Asdrubal Cabrera, Curtis Granderson, Jose Reyes, Neil Walker, Maggie Wiggin
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Mets left-handed hitting outfielders Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson and Michael Conforto (Credit: USA Today Sports)
Mets left-handed hitting outfielders Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson and Michael Conforto (Credit: USA Today Sports)

During his lunch with reporters at Citi Field last week, Mets GM Sandy Alderson said it's possible he begins spring training with all of his current outfielders in camp, including Jay Bruce.

"Obviously the market for certain players, certain free agents and therefore trade candidates has been slow at best, nonexistent at worst," Alderson said, according to NJ.com. "What we continue to do is reassess where we are and what our options are going forward, and those options range from doing something soon, which is possible or was possible, is possible, or doing nothing."

Alderson indicated it would be difficult to trade Curtis Granderson, instead of Bruce, because the Mets need Granderson to play center field.

In the event Bruce starts the season in a Mets uniform, he'll presumably remain a midseason trade candidate. However, for at least a couple of the month, Terry Collins may find himself with a jam-packed outfield. How might they juggle four every day players - Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto, Granderson and Bruce - for three spots? And, do it in a way that maximizes their production?

Tags: Curtis Granderson, Jay Bruce, Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, Maggie Wiggin
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Expectations for Duda in 2017 00:02:45
Mets Hot Stove debates whether or not Lucas Duda can produce consistently in 2017.

Going into 2016, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Lucas Duda would man first base for the bulk of the season, coming off two straight years of solid production.

A back injury derailed that plan, though, and the Mets found themselves turning to James Loney as a fill-in for the majority of the season, with Wilmer Flores seeing time against left-handed pitching until he too hit the disabled list...

Tags: James Loney, Lucas Duda, Maggie Wiggin
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Steven Matz expectations 00:03:48
The Mets Hot Stove panel discusses the expectation for Steven Matz next year.

Maggie Wiggin, MetsBlog.com:

Steven Matz battled through bone spurs in his elbow for much of 2016 but had a strong sophmore season that secured his reputation as one of the better young lefties in the game -- if he can stay healthy.

While Matz understandably fell short of his ridiculous 2.27 ERA from his debut year, his 3.40 ERA was solid, backed up by close to a strikeout per inning and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 4.2 that puts him in the company of ace-level performers like Yu Darvish, Johnny Cueto, and Corey Kluber. 

Tags: Steven Matz, Maggie Wiggin
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The Mets signed submarine-throwing RHP Ben Rowen to a minor league deal in Decmeber.

Rowen has never pitched well enough to stick in the big leagues. However, with fewer than 12 innings under his belt, it's difficult to use that background to draw conclusions about his underlying talent or what to expect.

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Recapping deGrom in 2016 00:02:09
The Hot Stove panel discusses Jacob deGrom's injury-plagued 2016 season with the Mets.

Jacob deGrom was well on his way to a third consecutive ace-level season in 2016 before an injury to the ulnar nerve in his elbow derailed it. 

His condition, which occurs most commonly among those who have undergone Tommy John surgery, resulted from irritation to the scar tissue at the site of the incision, which swelled and compressed a nerve in the region. He underwent surgery on September 24, which moved the nerve to relieve the compression (the standard treatment)

DeGrom's final line for the season was strong -- a 3.04 ERA (135 ERA+) with close to a strikeout per inning and an average of just over six innings per start -- but they were all career-lows, coming after two years of quietly being one of the best pitchers in baseball. 

Tags: Jacob deGrom, Maggie Wiggin
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