Brian P. Mangan (MetsBlog Contributor): Mets OF Juan Lagares has been the ninth-most valuable player in all of baseball this season (fourth in the National League). Earlier this week, ESPN's SweetSpot named him the league's best Defensive Player for August.

"He might be the best center fielder in the National League," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said last week (Knobler, Aug. 27).

Lagares will have to start hitting better if he wants to put himself into any kind of MVP conversation, but his historic defensive performance probably makes it a lot closer than people realize... and a lot of fun to talk about.


Lagares Is Already a Star, Has Been a Revelation Defensively

Lagares has exceeded expectations this year, both offensively and defensively; but it's his defense that has turned him unquestionably into a cornerstone of a franchise. In fact, Lagares has been so good this season that some have legitimately questioned whether he has somehow "broken" defensive statistics.

How good has Lagares been, exactly? He leads all Mets in WAR (wins above replacement) according to Fangraphs with 3.7, with Daniel Murphy a distant second at 3.1. Fangraphs might actually be underselling him. According to Baseball-Reference's version of the statistic, Lagares has been even more  extraordinary, with a 5.6 WAR (trailed by Lucas Duda's 3.1).

My favorite part about Lagares is that it's not an old school vs. new school debate, since everyone agrees that he has been amazing...

  • Lagares is among only 19 outfielders since 1961 to earn a defensive WAR (dWAR) of three or more, and he's done it twice.
  • Andruw Jones, Barry Bonds, Paul Blair, Devon White, Michael Bourn and Lagares are the only outfielders since 1961 to post two or more seasons of 2.5+ dWAR.
  • Lagares also leads the league this season in dWAR, ahead of Andrelton Simmons and Jason Heyward.
  • Lagares is the only player since 2002 to record back-to-back seasons of 25 or more defensive runs saved -- and both years he's had 30 or more


So, Can A Glove-Man Win MVP?

Believe it or not, there are only four players since 1965 to win the National League MVP with a slugging percentage of .500 or less.

The most recent, Barry Larkin, won the MVP in 1995 with a .319 batting average, .394 OBP and .492 slugging percentage. Larkin was actually fifth in the NL in WAR that season, but he did not turn in a good defensive season. The same goes for the other three, Kirk Gibson in 1988, Steve Garvey in 1974, and Pete Rose in 1973, all had weak years in the field.

Perhaps the strongest comparisons to Lagares's sustained defensive excellence, Ken Griffey Jr. and Andruw Jones, both failed to win MVP awards while posting their incredible defensive seasons. Ken Griffey Jr. won his only MVP award in 1997 on the back of his offense, in 1996 he posted 3.4 dWAR and finished fourth. Jones failed to enter the MVP conversation when he posted 3.9 or 3.8 dWAR.

In other words, MVP winners are usually among the best hitters in their respective leagues, even if they were excellent on defense as well.  Even Jimmy Rollins, when he won the MVP in 2007 posted only 1.2 dWAR.


Lagares's Bat Will Ultimately Determine His Ceiling

That said, an amazing defensive season can certainly help you get into the discussion when your bat is pretty good. A strong narrative can help as well. Who can forget Ichiro's MVP victory in 2001 (he was 4th in WAR behind Jason Giambi, Bret Boone, and Alex Rodriguez) or Jimmy Rollins in 2007 (he was 7th in WAR behind Albert Pujols, David Wright, Chase Utley, Chipper Jones and Troy Tulowitzki).

Lagares has hit a very respectable .282/.321/.389 this year for a .710 OPS, thanks in part to Tuesday night's 4-for-4 performance. That .710 OPS is good for an OPS+ of 103, or slightly above league average.

Can Lagares tick that OPS upward from .710 this season to .750 or better in future seasons? His minor league resume includes a .779 OPS at Single-A, a .764 OPS at Double-A, and a .943 OPS in his cup-of-coffee at Triple-A; and he hit .300 or better at all three levels from 2011 to 2013. It may well be that Lagares is a true-talent .775 OPS kind of player.

If the Mets come alive, and if Lagares can hit .300, while continuing to rewrite the defensive record books, you never know... MLB has likely only seen back-to-back defensive seasons like this once since integration (Andruw Jones's historic 1998 and 1999), so it remains to be seen how the narrative might shift.


The High Five counts down the top five defensive plays from Juan Lagares in the month of August >> Watch on SNY.tv


Brian Mangan is an attorney who lives in New York City.  His writing can be found at The Read Zone.  Follow his Mets-related thoughts on Twitter: @brianpmangan

Tags: avsny, brianpmangan, matthewcerrone, MetsBlog

New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson speaks to reporters after the trade deadline before a game against the New York Yankees at Citi Field. (Brad Penner)
New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson speaks to reporters after the trade deadline before a game against the New York Yankees at Citi Field. (Brad Penner)
Tags: Curtis Granderson, Jay Bruce, Michael Conforto, Zack Wheeler
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Tonight, Rob Brender and I will be recording a MetsBlog Winter Meetings Podcast, which will post to the site later in the night.

To leave us a voicemail with a question or comment call 1 (860) 245-9851 or use the following recorder (please remember to leave your name and city)...

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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)

Dec. 4 | 5:45PM

Mets GM Sandy Alderson said that it's "unlikely" the Mets will trade more than one outfielder as he arrived for the winter meetings, which get under way Monday in suburban Washington."I don't see that happening."

Dec. 4 | 2:45PM

Tags: Curtis Granderson, Jay Bruce
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What is the ideal Mets outfield? 00:02:33
Mets Hot Stove discusses the Mets outfield options following their re-signing of slugger Yoenis Cespedes.

Mets Hot Stove discusses the team's outfield options following their re-signing of slugger Yoenis Cespedes.

Are they likelier to trade Jay Bruce or Curtis Granderson?

Tags: Curtis Granderson, Jay Bruce, Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes

Sandy Alderson is surrounded by reporters during the 2013 MLB Winter Meetings (Credit: Manning-USA TODAY Sports)
Sandy Alderson is surrounded by reporters during the 2013 MLB Winter Meetings (Credit: Manning-USA TODAY Sports)

MLB's 2016 Winter Meetings will begin Monday, Dec. 5, from the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center outside Washington, D.C.

The Meetings conclude Thursday morning after the Rule 5 Draft.

In short, the MLB Winter Meetings is a three-and-a-half day conference at a large hotel, where MLB executives, their staffs and managers meet with agents, players and other team's executives, staffs and managers in hopes of working on or completing ways to improve their team. There is also a trade expo and job fair for people looking to work in baseball.

The buzz around the game points to more trades next week than free-agent signings...

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Wally Backman (Andy Marlin/USA Today Sports Images)
Wally Backman (Andy Marlin/USA Today Sports Images)

Pedro Lopez will succeed Wally Backman as the Triple-A Las Vegas manager, reports ESPN's Adam Rubin. Lopez had been the Double-A manager of Binghamton.

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Is deGrom ace of Mets staff? 00:03:36
Daily News Live discusses Jacob deGrom's recovery and debate who the ace of the Mets starting rotation will be.

Mets RHP Jacob deGrom expects to begin throwing soon, he told reporters Friday at Citi Field.

DeGrom also said the Mets have not yet approached him about a contract extension. He is arbitration-eligible for the first time this offseason and is under team control through the 2020 season.

He earned $607,000 last season and is projected to make $4.5 million in 2017.

DeGrom had a 3.04 ERA and 1.20 WHIP with 143 strikeouts in 148 innings (24 starts) last season before a pinched ulnar nerve in his right elbow resulted in season-ending surgery on Sept. 20.

Tags: Jacob deGrom

 (Andy Marlin)
(Andy Marlin)

Mets INF Asdrubal Cabrera will play for Venezuela during the World Baseball Classic, reports Anthony DiComo of MLB.com.

The WBC begins on March 6 and ends with the championship on March 22.

Cabrera, 31, played through a left knee injury for the majority of the second half of last season.

Tags: Asdrubal Cabrera, Noah Syndergaard
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 (Jeff Curry)
(Jeff Curry)

The Mets have avoided arbitration with C Rene Rivera, agreeing with him on a one-year deal worth $1.75 million, the team announced Friday.


Today is the deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players. Head here to see the other Mets who are eligible >> Read more!


Rivera, 33, hit .222 with a .291 OBP and .341 SLG with six HR and 26 RBI in 65 games last season.

He threw out 30 percent of would-be base-stealers.

Tags: Rene Rivera
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Owners, players, MLB officials and the Major League Baseball Players Association reached an agreement Wednesday night on new a five-year collective bargaining agreement, the league announced Friday afternoon.

The deal includes revised rules for free-agent and qualifying offer compensation, the international amateur market and luxury tax threshold.

In the previous labor deal, teams were fined for payrolls exceeding $189 million. In the new agreement, the luxury tax threshold will rise annually from $195 million to $210 million. Teams that repeatedly exceed the payroll threshold by a certain rate will be subject to increasing tax rates, which could reach as high as 90 percent. 

Teams will still lose their first-round pick for signing a free agent that turned down a one-year qualifying offer. However, this rule changes after next season, at which time compensation will include a variety of picks and be based on whether the signing team is under the luxury-tax threshold.

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Mets C Rene Rivera and 1B Lucas Duda (Credit: USA Today Images)
Mets C Rene Rivera and 1B Lucas Duda (Credit: USA Today Images)

The Mets and MLB teams have until midnight tonight to decide whether to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players.

If they decide to tender (offer, guarantee) a contract, the Mets retain team control over that player, after which the two sides are free to begin negotiating his 2016 salary. If the Mets decide to non-tender the player, he immediately becomes a free agent and can sign with any team.

This year's arbitration eligible players for the Mets include...

Tags: Lucas Duda, Rene Rivera
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Steven Matz joins Mets Hot Stove 00:04:08
Steven Matz joins Steve Gelbs on Mets Hot Stove to examine his injury history and moving forward with his career.

Mets LHP Steven Matz has been cleared by the Mets and team doctors to proceed with his normal offseason routine, he told WOR radio Thursday.

"The doctors said, 'You're good to go,'" he told WOR's Pete McCarthy.

Matz had surgery in late September to remove a large bone spur from his pitching elbow. He ended his season early due to a rotator cuff impingement, which Sandy Alderson said in November did not require surgery. Instead, Matz received a platelet-rich plasma injection in his left shoulder.

Tags: Steven Matz
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Apr 20, 2016; Duda (21), Cabrera (13), Wright (5) and Walker (20) during a pitching change (Credit: USA TODAY Sports)
Apr 20, 2016; Duda (21), Cabrera (13), Wright (5) and Walker (20) during a pitching change (Credit: USA TODAY Sports)

After years of injuries and ineffectiveness leading to a middle-infield-merry-go-round, the Mets find themselves entering the 2017 season with a stable tandem of shortstop and second base. Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker are both coming off strong performances in 2016 and - ideally - they will provide a stable presence to an infield with question marks in the corners.

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Mets Hot Stove: Matt Harvey 00:04:12
The Mets Hot Stove panel discusses Matt Harvey's injury rehab and their expectations from the right-handed hurler in 2017.

In July, 2016, Mets RHP Matt Harvey had season-ending surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome, which was done to restore feeling in his pitching arm and fingers.

According to former Mets GM and SNY analyst Jim Duquette, Harvey is not yet throwing off a mound, but he's feeling strong, on schedule with his post-surgery, off-season throwing program and will be 100% ready for spring training.

"He's had a great deal of time to work out and focus on his body and strength. We expect him to come back and be the Matt Harvey of old," his agent, Scott Boras, told reporters in early November at MLB's GM Meetings. "He's throwing free and easy and he's strong."

Tags: Matt Harvey, Matthew Cerrone
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 (Steve Mitchell)
(Steve Mitchell)

Mets pitchers and catchers will report to Spring Training in Port St. Lucie, FL on Feb. 12, the team announced Thursday.

Position players are required to report by Feb. 17.

Earlier this month, the Mets today their official 2017 Spring Training Grapefruit League schedule, which begins Friday, February 24 against the Boston Red Sox in Fort Myers, FL

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McCutchen (22) at bat at PNC Park (Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)
McCutchen (22) at bat at PNC Park (Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

The Pirates are shopping OF Andrew McCutchen, with the Nationals in pursuit and hoping to acquire him before Friday, reports Jayson Stark of ESPN.

"Of all the big names available in trade, McCutchen might be the most likely to go," FoxSports.com's Ken Rosenthal added last night.

In addition to the Nationals, the Giants, Rangers, Mariners, Blue Jays, Orioles and Dodgers, among others, have all reportedly expressed interest in acquiring an outfielder this winter.

The Blue Jays, Giants and Orioles have been linked in rumor to Mets outfielders Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson, who the team would like to deal for at least a relief pitcher.

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Mets relievers Jeurys Familia and Addison Reed (Credit: USA Today Sports Images)
Mets relievers Jeurys Familia and Addison Reed (Credit: USA Today Sports Images)

Sandy Alderson has repeatedly said this offseason that he'd like to add at least one reliever to his bullpen before the start of spring training.

"There are some questions in the bullpen that we are going to have to answer, either internally or from external sources," he reiterated during Wednesday's press conference to announce the signing of Yoenis Cespedes.

Alderson said in early November that he has no interest in signing free-agent closers Aroldis Chapman, Mark Melancon or Kenley Jansen, who similarly have little interest in the Mets because Jeurys Familia is already the team's closer.

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New York Mets starting pitcher Zack Wheeler (45) during spring training at Tradition Field. (Brad Barr)
New York Mets starting pitcher Zack Wheeler (45) during spring training at Tradition Field. (Brad Barr)

The Mets have discussed using RHP Zack Wheeler in the bullpen to start the season, according to MLB.com's Anthony DiComo.

Wheeler, who had Tommy John surgery during March, 2015, was shut down in early September after being examined by Dr. James Andrew and diagnosed with a mild flexor strain in his pitching arm.

Wheeler went 11-11 with a 3.54 ERA for the Mets in 2014. In addition to the flexor strain, his return to action was also delayed in 2016 after having an undissolved stitch surgically removed. He also had an anti-inflammatory injection to treat nerve pain...

Tags: Zack Wheeler
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Steve Gelbs interviews Cespedes 00:03:25
SNY's Steve Gelbs caught up with Yoenis Cespedes after the press conference announcing his deal with the Mets on Wednesday.

The Mets reintroduced OF Yoenis Cespedes during a press conference at Citi Field on Wednesday afternoon.

"The last two years in Mets history have been about winning," GM Sandy Alderson said. "It has been clear that when Yoenis Cespedes plays for the Mets, the Mets win."

After COO Jeff Wilpon presented him with a Mets jersey, Cespedes weighed in on his return, saying he was "very proud to once again be back with the New York Mets."

Cespedes said Mets fans have "made New York feel like home," adding that his "goal will be to bring back another World Series championship to this team, to the fans, and the organization"

Tags: Yoenis Cespedes
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BNNY on Cespedes deal 00:06:48
The BNNY panel discusses the ramifications of the Mets' deal with Yoenis Cespedes, who agreed to a four-year, $110-million deal.

The Mets have announced their four-year deal with OF Yoenis Cespedes and will hold a press conference on Wednesday at 5 p.m. at Citi Field, which will air live on SNY.

The deal will be worth $110 million, according to FoxSports.com's Ken Rosenthal.

"Yoenis is a dynamic player who can beat you in many ways," Mets manager Terry Collins said in a press release. "It's a great holiday present for the Mets to know he'll be in the middle of our lineup. He makes everyone around him better."

Tags: Yoenis Cespedes
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 (Rick Osentoski)
(Rick Osentoski)

The Mets have trade RHP Logan Verrett to the Orioles for cash considerations, the team announced.

The trade frees up a 40-man roster spot for recently re-signed OF Yoenis Cespedes.

Verrett, 26, had a 5.20 ERA and 1.56 WHIP while striking out 66 batters in 91 2/3 innings (12 starts, 23 relief appearances) for the Mets last season.

He had a 3.03 ERA and 0.87 WHIP in 38 2/3 innings for the Mets in 2015.

Tags: Logan Verrett

Aug 1, 2016; Alderson speaks to reporters after the trade deadline (Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)
Aug 1, 2016; Alderson speaks to reporters after the trade deadline (Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

The Mets are expected to turn their attention to "reconfiguring the outfield," and, "adding to the bullpen," as a source recently told me, now that Yoenis Cespedes is back in the fold.

Also, though it's far from a top priority, I expect the Mets to explore finding a new every-day catcher, "specifically a veteran to handle their pitching staff," as a rival team described it.

How do the Mets reconfigure the outfield?

According to multiple reports since early November, the Mets are open to dealing Jay Bruce or Curtis Granderson to eliminate a left-handed bat, open a spot in the outfield and save money on payroll. Alderson has been asked a lot about Michael Conforto, but the Mets are unlikely to deal him because he's got a ton of potential as a hitter, plus he's athletic enough to center field and first base.

The Mets will use next week's MLB Winter Meetings to pin down a deal for Bruce or Granderson. However, because there are several teams in the market for a corner outfielder, I think Alderson could find himself in a situation where he may be able to trade both of these guys, add speed and a reliever and either upgrade at catcher or save money.

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Sandy Alderson (left) talks with Wilpon at Citi Field (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)
Sandy Alderson (left) talks with Wilpon at Citi Field (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

According to multiple sources and reports, the Mets want to keep their Opening Day payroll around $140 million, which would leave money in reserve for mid-season acquisitions.

However, their current projected payroll already sits around $145 million when including upcoming raises, players under contract and after bringing back Yoenis Cespedes and Neil Walker.

At the same time, the Mets will likely save on part of Jeurys Familia's estimated $8.5 million salary, because they don't have to pay him during a potential suspension. Also, trading away Jay Bruce's $13 million would free up additional money.

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New York Mets left fielder Michael Cuddyer warms up before a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. (Bill Streicher/USATSI)
New York Mets left fielder Michael Cuddyer warms up before a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. (Bill Streicher/USATSI)

The Twins announced on Monday that they've hired Michael Cuddyer, Torii Hunter and LaTroy Hawkins as special assistants in the team's baseball operations department.

The trio will work with Twins executives and coaches to ensure development in player understanding of culture, talent evaluation and organizational vision, as well as be available as a resource for players and coaches in the mental and fundamental aspects of the game, the team said in a press release.

Cuddyer played for the Mets in 2015, after which he officially retired from baseball with one year left on his contract.

Tags: Michael Cuddyer, Matthew Cerrone
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Tim Teufel will stay with the Mets as a roving infield instructor and club ambassador, the team announced Friday.

Teufel was replaced as third base coach by Glenn Sherlock on Nov. 15.

He was also offered the position of Triple-A Las Vegas manager, Anthony DiComo of MLB.com reported.

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The Rays would like to bring back free-agent 1B-OF Steve Pearce, who they traded to the Orioles last summer, according to their local beat reporter Marc Topkin.

Last week, Mets GM Sandy Alderson mentioned Pearce and free-agent OF Jose Bautista as the type of players he might pursue if the Mets are unable to re-sign Yoenis Cespedes.

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New York Mets starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard throws during the first inning of an exhibition spring training baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals Thursday, March 10, 2016, in Port St. Lucie, Fla. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)  (Jeff Roberson/AP)
New York Mets starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard throws during the first inning of an exhibition spring training baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals Thursday, March 10, 2016, in Port St. Lucie, Fla. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) (Jeff Roberson/AP)

Mets starter Noah Syndergaard will not participate in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, his agent, Ryan Hamill, said in a statement Tuesday.

"Noah feels his performance the past two years is, in large part, due to his offseason and spring workout routines," Hamill explained. "After consulting with the Mets, and given the injuries that plagued their rotation last year, and his role on the team moving forward, both Noah and the Mets feel it is important to stay in his established routine."

Syndergaard, 24, was diagnosed with a bone spur in his elbow earlier in the season, which did not impact his performance and does not require surgery, Sandy Alderson said in early November.

Tags: Noah Syndergaard
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April 1990: Mets LHP Frank Viola starts at Shea Stadium (Associated Press via MLB.com)
April 1990: Mets LHP Frank Viola starts at Shea Stadium (Associated Press via MLB.com)

The Orioles, who had interest in Frank Viola for their pitching coach vacancy, have hired Roger McDowell for the position, reports Adam Rubin of ESPN.

Viola has been the pitching coach for Triple-A Las Vegas since 2014. He interviewed for, but did not get, the Twins' pitching coach job after the 2014 season.

McDowell, who pitched for the Mets from 1985 to 1989, had spent the last 11 seasons as the pitching coach for the Braves.

Tags: Baltimore Orioles, Matthew Cerrone
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It's a weak market for free-agent relievers. So, free-agent LH reliever Jerry Blevins must have smiled earlier this week when the Cardinals gave LH reliever Brett Cecil a four-year, $30.5 million deal. Because, if that's the high mark for a left-handed reliever, Blevins will be justified asking for at least two years... maybe even three years guarenteed...

Tags: Jerry Blevins, Josh Edgin, Josh Smoker, Matthew Cerrone
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The Mets have talked to multiple teams about trading for an established reliever, under team control, with experience pitching late in games, according to MLB insiders.

The same people say the Rays, White Sox and Padres have been the most aggressive teams offering up relievers that fit this mold, specifically Dave Robertson and Alex Colome.

Why do the Mets want a late-game reliever?

The Mets anticipate their closer, Jeurys Familia, will eventually miss time next season serving a suspension by MLB for domestic violence, despite it looking like those charges may be dropped. If you recall, similar charges against Jose Reyes were dropped a year ago, yet MLB still found enough evidence to suspend him 51 games. The Mets must believe the same could happen to Familia...

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 (Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE)
(Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE)

Former-Mets LHP Johan Santana, who turns 38 years old in March, will attempt a comeback this coming season, reports Chris Cotillo of SB Nation.

Santana has not pitched in the majors since 2012. He had anterior capsule shoulder surgery in 2013 and tore his Achilles tendon in 2014.

He attempted comebacks with the Blue Jays in 2014 and Orioles in 2015 but suffered setbacks that prevented him from returning.

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Jeurys Familia's wife has asked for the simple assault charge against the closer to be dropped, the prosecutor told Jim Baumbach of Newsday.


Familia (27) reacts during the ninth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Citi Field (USA TODAY Sports)


Most Recent Updates...

Nov. 19 | 8:55 PM

Familia's wife, now identified as the victim, asked for the charges to be dropped and does not have any concerns about her safety. 

Tags: Jeurys Familia
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Amed Rosario plays in the Futures Game in San Diego July 10 (Gary A. Vasquez)
Amed Rosario plays in the Futures Game in San Diego July 10 (Gary A. Vasquez)

The Mets have added SS Amed Rosario, RHP Marcos Molina, OF Wuilmer Becerra, RHP Chris Flexen, and C Tomas Nido to the 40-man roster, which will protect them from December's Rule 5 Draft.

The deadline for teams to file their list of minor-league players that will be protected was today.

"Generally speaking, college players drafted in 2013 and high school players drafted in 2012 are Rule 5 Draft eligible this offseason," Joe Rodgers of the Sports News recently explained.

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