Sunday, December 17, 2017

Joey's Letter To Sandy Claus (2017)

I hope Sandy Claus brings me lots of presents.  If he needs bows for them, I've got just the place where he can find them.

Dear Sandy Claus,

Greetings from your No. 1 fan, Joey Beartran.  I hope you're not tired of my letters yet.  After all, this is the seventh time I've sent you one and your track record for giving me what I want for the holidays is as dependable as the experts who were certain that Matt Harvey was going to have a bounce-back campaign in 2017.  (Spoiler alert: He didn't.)

This year, I'm going to make my requests quite simple for you.  So simple that even a Nationals fan could understand them.  I'm going to go position by position and include lots of photos for visual aids.  If you still can't see what I'm asking for, just ask your assistant, Ricco the Red-Nosed Reindeer.  He'll light the way for you so you can acquire exactly what I'm wishing for.

Are you ready for my letter, Sandy Claus?  Because we have very little time before Christmas arrives and Spring Training starts earlier this year because of the March 29th season opener.  So put down that "How To Tell Awkward Jokes At Inopportune Moments" book you're so fond of and pay close attention to my missive.  The fate of the 2018 Mets depends on your undivided attention.

If at first you don't succeed, Sandy, try to read my letters more carefully!

At first base, we thought Dominic Smith was going to be the long-term answer.  To be honest with you, I still think he's the long-term solution.  Just because he batted .198 in 183 plate appearances during his late-season call-up doesn't mean he's going to turn into Mario Mendoza with a little pop and a craving for wet burritos.  How about looking at the fact that he drove in 26 runs in those limited times at the plate?  Smith batted .283 with runners in scoring position, which was higher than the team's combined .259 average in those situations.  On a team that occasionally had difficulty scoring runs, Smith averaged an RBI every 7.0 plate appearances.  Compare that to his financially stable teammate, Yoenis Céspedes, who drove in a run every 7.6 plate appearances despite possessing a .292 overall batting average on the season.  (Céspedes batted just .254 with RISP.)  Not even you can expect Smith to bat under .200 for a full season.  Imagine how many runs he'll drive in if he just gets his average up to Lucas Duda territory (.246).  Keep Dominic Smith at first base and you'll have given me my first present of the year.

Second base post-Daniel Murphy has turned into third base pre-Howard Johnson.  And that's not a good thing.

My sources tell me you want to trade for a second baseman.  I can see why, as last season, eight players attempted to play the position, with none of them playing more than 65 games there.  I was also told Ian Kinsler was your top target to become the team's everyday second sacker in 2018.  Well, he's with the Angels now after refusing to take the Mets off his no-trade clause.  Jason Kipnis has been discussed, but he's due to earn $31 million over the next two years (which includes a $2.5 buyout if he's not brought back for $16.5 million in 2020) and he's coming off an injury-riddled year in which he batted .232 in 90 games.

Sounds like your type of guy, Sandy.

Of course, if you don't get Cleveland to eat a chunk of his contract, we'd just be getting Neil Walker's salary back.  And it would serve as a reminder that Daniel Murphy was only paid $36 million for three years by Washington, or a lower average annual value than Kipnis is making for far less production at the plate.

Another option is Josh Harrison, a two-time All-Star as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates.  But I'm not impressed with his lack of pop - he's averaged ten homers per 162 games over his career - and doesn't walk very much, as evidenced by his career-high 28 walks last season.  He's also due to earn $10.5 million in 2018.  I'd like a little more production for that kind of money.

Here's the thing.  This might be an unpopular opinion, but I think a Wilmer Flores/Jose Reyes platoon isn't the worst thing that could happen to this team.  Flores would start against left-handed pitchers and Reyes would bat against righties.  We all know Flores isn't as productive as an everyday player, but has always been able to rake against southpaws.  Similarly, Reyes improved dramatically during the second half of the 2017 campaign, batting .288 with an .828 OPS after the All-Star break, as opposed to his .215 average and .655 OPS prior to the Midsummer Classic.  Both Flores and Reyes love playing for the Mets.  And they can both have their strong points come out in a second base platoon.  Flores will already be a Met in 2018.  Reyes would more than likely come back for far less money than the amount that would have to be doled out to Kipnis or Harrison.  I don't think a Flores/Reyes platoon would be the worst thing that could happen.

Abbott and Costello said "I don't know" is on third.  Sandy Claus claims Asdrubal Cabrera is there.  Who's right?

I'm glad you finally got those visions of David Wright dancing in your head out of your system.  If the $138 million man ever comes back, it should be as a backup player, albeit a very expensive one.  I'm also pleased you brought back Asdrubal Cabrera to play the position, although he had some difficulty there in 2017, making six errors in 40 starts as opposed to his error-free 32-game stint as the team's second baseman.  I think a full slate of Spring Training games at third will help him learn the position and he'll be fine.  But at the recently completed Winter Meetings, you did say, and I quote: "We've kind of zeroed (Cabrera) in at third base and we don't want to move him around, so while he gives us some flexibility, I'm not sure we want to exercise it."

Let me get one thing out of the way.  You're obsessed with the word "flexibility" the way Mike Piazza was always "frustrated" and Art Howe's guys "battled".  Stop that.  Now that I got that off my furry chest, I still think you need to acquire a good defensive third baseman in case Cabrera can't handle that end of the bargain.  I mean, if it's not Cabrera, then it's Flores at third, and we know how that's worked out in the past.  If Juan Lagares is going to be a part-time player in center field because of his defensive prowess, then why can't we have a guy who's a good glove at the hot corner for those times when we need steady defense?  At least you need someone there for when Cabrera demands a trade at some point during the regular season.

In case you hadn't noticed, I've intentionally skipped shortstop and catcher.  Hopefully, the lack of visual aids don't throw you off and you end up demoting Amed Rosario and signing a guy like, oh, let's say Jose Lobaton to be a potential backup catcher.  (Wait, you did the latter already?  Maybe I should have included that visual aid.)  That being said, I trust in you to leave Rosario as the starting shortstop and Travis d'Arnaud as the No. 1 catcher, especially since d'Arnaud set career highs in home runs (16) and RBI (57) despite not setting high marks in plate appearances.  He'll be 29 in February and may finally have taken the turn into being a solid contributor in the lineup.  Shortstop and catcher are not positions I need filled in my Christmas stocking this year.  Come to think of it, neither is the outfield, as Céspedes and Michael Conforto (when he's fully healed from his "that's so Mets" shoulder injury) will be out there, as will a combination of Juan Lagares, Brandon Nimmo and whatever scrap heap outfielder you can coerce to come to the team with the promise of a Mex Burger.  But pitching is another story...

What was once a strength has crumbled like a poorly-made biscuit.  Speaking of which, I may be a little hungry.

You know what I really want for Christmas more than anything?  I want the pitchers to not give up four runs and be taken out before the end of the fifth inning.  That kills their ERA and their bullpen brethren.  I mean, the team's collective ERA was 5.01.  Not since 1962 had the club's pitchers done something like that.  And it's never a good thing to be compared to that squad.

I also want more than one starter surpassing 120 innings, as Jacob deGrom was the only Met to reach that figure in 2017.  Back in 1983, Jesse Orosco and Doug Sisk had 110 and 104.1 IP, respectively.  It should be noted that both of them pitched exclusively in relief.  Now the Mets can't get starting pitchers with those numbers.  Hopefully, with the departure of Ray Ramirez, Robert Gsellman won't be second on the team in games started and Rafael Montero won't be asked to pitch 119 innings.  Just keep the pitchers healthy and in shape and I'll be a happy bear.

Mets pitchers allowed 220 HRs in 2017.  If the apple went up for opponents' blasts, it would've malfunctioned due to overuse.

So there you have it, Sandy.  You're the architect of this team.  If everything crumbles apart like it did in 2017, you're the one who has to take responsibility.  And once again, I don't want to hear about payroll or player flexibility.  The only flexibility I want to hear is the flexibility to hire someone who can make Mex Burgers great again.  They used to be my go-to burger at Citi Field, but the one I ordered last season reminded me of the burgers in the "Where's The Beef?" campaign used by Wendy's in the mid-'80s.  And trust me, that's not a good thing.

I've got a beef with the lack of beef on Mex Burgers.

Did you get all that, Sandy?  If you didn't, allow me to recap my letter for you.  Keep Dominic Smith on the field and away from wet burritos.  Settle on a second baseman that won't make us constantly remind you that you didn't bring back Daniel Murphy.  Don't go back to the days when Mets fans counted the number of third basemen in team history.  Have current starting pitchers on the mound for more innings than 1980s relievers.  And speaking of the '80s, find some beef to put on those tasty burgers at Keith's Grill.  Or just reduce the size of the buns, call them Mex Sliders and give us three per serving.

Thanks so much for reading my letter, Sandy Claus.  I know it's hard to grant everyone's wishes, but I think it's about time you answered mine.  I've been writing for seven years and all I've gotten from you is one pennant, one early wild card exit and five losing seasons.  I'm too faithful to the team to get that kind of treatment, don't you think?

I hope you, Ricco the Red-Nosed Reindeer and all of your jolly elves have a Happy Holiday season.  Until then, I'll just sit here by the fire on top of these unopened presents, hoping that because Ray Ramirez is gone, I won't give myself a paper cut while I unwrap them on Christmas Day.

Love and Mex Burgers forever,
Joey Beartran

I hope my Mets knit cap doesn't catch fire.  If so, I'll have to add something else to my letter to Sandy Claus.

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