It was a tale of two spring training games on Monday for the Mets.
During a split squad afternoon in Florida, lefty Steven Matz’s rough start to 2019 continued in a 9-3 loss to the Red Sox.Matz was tagged for four runs on five hits before being pulled in the 3rd inning in Port St. Lucie.
The 27-year-old was better in his first spring start last week against the rebuilding Marlins, but has given up a homer in each of his starts so far.
Meanwhile, Pete Alonso couldn’t have asked for a better start to his spring as he battles to lock up the team’s starting first base job. Alonso went 2-3, smashing a double and a home run in a 7-4 Mets victory over the Astros in West Palm Beach.
The 24-year-old is hitting .412 with two homers, five RBI, and a scorching 1.356 OPS in just 17 spring at-bats.
His competition for the starting job, former top prospect Dominic Smith, isn’t going down without a fighting this spring. Smith went 2-4 on Monday, giving him 10 hits in 20 at-bats so far.
NOTES FROM MONDAY’S GAMES:
Robinson Cano picked up two more hits against Boston, raising the All-Star second baseman’s average to a cool .400 this spring. Amed Rosario was hit on the hand by a pitch from Boston’s Mike Shawaryn and had to leave the game. Luckily, X-rays on the shortstop’s injured hand came back negative.
Manager Mickey Callaway told reporters after the game the team would see how Rosario was doing on Tuesday before figuring out when he’ll return to the lineup.
Free agent pickup Wilson Ramos continued his torrid start to his Mets career, picking up another hit and RBI on Monday. The team’s new catcher is now hitting .538 with five RBI in just 13 at-bats with New York.
Sunday Night Baseball announcer Jessica Mendoza is joining the New York Mets as an adviser while continuing her ESPN responsibilities, the team announced Tuesday.
Mendoza will work in the Mets' baseball operations department, focusing on player evalution, roster construction, technological advancement, and health and performance. She will also give insight to general manager Brodie Van Wagenen.
"Jessica is incredibly well respected throughout the industry and we are excited to bring her into the organization," Van Wagenen said in a statement. "She is a world-class athlete and experienced television analyst with an extremely high baseball IQ. We are confident that she will help us in our efforts to win now and in the future. This hire demonstrates the continued support from ownership to invest in the intellectual capital of the New York Mets."
Since 2007, Mendoza has contributed to ESPN's baseball, softball and college football coverage. She became the first female analyst for a Major League Baseball playoff game in 2015.
"I am excited to work with Brodie and his team and am thrilled to be associated with the Mets and their storied history," said Mendoza via statement. "I've known Brodie and Jeff Wilpon for years now and I'm honored to be a small part of the organization. I would also like to thank ESPN and Disney for their understanding and confidence as I balance both tasks moving forward. Baseball is a passion of mine and I look forward to expanding on my love for the game."
A two-time Olympian with the U.S. women's softball team, Mendoza won a gold medal at the 2004 Athens Games and a silver medal in Beijing in 2008.
When the New York Mets signed Jed Lowrie to a two-year $20 million contract, the expectation was for him to mainly play third base and serve as depth throughout the infield. Bolstering the team’s depth, many cheered when the move was announced. On the other hand, many jeered, thinking that Lowrie was not the right guy to add.Now, Lowrie is already questionable for Opening Day, making people wonder if they should have gone a different direction.Lowrie, who will be 35 in April, was diagnosed with a “capsule strain” in his left knee. The injury could sideline the switch hitter through Opening Day, forcing him to start the year on the disabled list.
Last year, Lowrie was an All-Star and played in 157 games, but this could turn into a bad signing for the Mets if he is not ready for Opening Day. His durability has been proven over the past two seasons with the Oakland A’s. However, because of his age, the knee injury is a little more alarming.
The Mets need Lowrie to be available for Opening Day for a multitude of reasons. The main reason is for his production. In 2018, Lowrie hit a career-high 23 home runs and 99 RBI. The Mets would love to add that quality of production to their lineup.
With Lowrie mainly playing third, this would enable the Mets to push Todd Frazier over to play first base, allowing Pete Alonso to start his season in the minors.
If Alonso is able to start the year in the minors, the Mets can still call up Alonso later in the month and delay the start of his service time. This would buy an extra year of control of Alonso, adding an extra season of arbitration eligibility.Despite Alonso being ready for the majors now, it is valuable to delay his free agency, so the club keeps control of him for another year. Lowrie’s health is a crucial factor in this situation. The Mets already have a built-in excuse to demote him to Triple-A; his defensive struggles.
Another reason why this signing looks bad is Marwin Gonzalez’s new contract with the Minnesota Twins. The Twins signed Gonzalez to a two-year $21 million contract, just a little more than Lowrie’s deal. Many had already preferred Gonzalez for the Mets over Lowrie.
Gonzalez, who is turning 30 next month, was preferred because he is younger, has more postseason experience and can play the outfield. The Amazins decided to make a move earlier in the offseason and go with Lowrie rather than wait for Gonzalez.
Gonzalez could have played several places if the Mets were to sign him. We may have seen him as the primary left fielder with Jeff McNeil taking over at the hot corner.
The Gonzalez contract seems to be better than the Lowrie deal for a variety of reasons. Furthermore, Lowrie’s knee injury creates even more speculation about his signing. If he opens the year on the injured list, the pessimists’ worst nightmares will come true.
A healthy Lowrie is vital to the Mets. Hopefully, he does not miss too much time and the team can continue their plan and start the season off strong with a roster of 25 men that provide them with plenty of depth.
Five years before the New York Mets landed Robinson Cano in a blockbuster trade with the Seattle Mariners, members of the Met front office met with the second baseman and Jay-Z — his agent at the time — during his 2013 free agency. While a deal was regarded as unlikely from the onset, the New York Post took it upon themselves to Photoshop Cano into a Mets uniform to tease a scenario that appeared destined only for the fans’ imaginations. Five years later, Brodie Van Wagenen made it a reality, completing his first significant move as general manager and, in the process, supplying his new club with a sorely-needed middle-of-the-order bat.
The numbers speak for themselves: Cano has a .304/.355/.493 slash line, 311 career home runs, a 127 wRC+, a .189 ISO, and a 69.2 bWAR across 14 major league seasons. He has also been named to eight All Star teams and finishing top-10 in MVP voting six times. Cano ranks first in wRC+, home runs, runs batted in, batting average, OPS, and bWAR among all major league second basemen since his 2005 rookie year. There’s a good chance he will find himself enshrined in Cooperstown when all is said and done.
His impressive numbers extend beyond his time with the crosstown New York Yankees. Since signing a 10-year deal with the Mariners prior to the 2014 season, Cano has put up a .296/.353/.472 slash line with 107 home runs, a 129 wRC+, and a 23.7 bWAR in five seasons. His age seems to be one of the main gripes among the trade’s most vocal detractors, but there’s not a lot of evidence to suggest he’s in a decline.
Cano has played in at least 150 games in each of his first four years with the Mariners — in total, he played in at least 150 games over 11 consecutive seasons from 2007-2017 — and recorded at least 20 doubles and a .780 OPS in each of his five season in Seattle. For at least the next two or three season of the five he has remaining on his contract, the Mets will likely get an above-average bat and someone who can play defense dependably up the middle. For a team that sees itself in win-now mode, those are valuable assets.
Last year was a bit unusual for Cano, as he played in only 80 games as the result of a failed performance-enhancing drug test. The suspension came after the test came back positive for Furosemide, which is a diuretic and a banned substance. Cano — who was on the disabled list at the time with a fracture in his right hand after being hit by a pitch — acknowledged his wrongdoing but added that he had not used it as a performance enhancer and had it prescribed by a licensed doctor to treat a medical ailment.
Despite the road block, Cano still put up fine numbers in a half-season’s worth of work. The 36-year-old hit .303/.374/.471 with a 136 wRC+ a .168 ISO, and a 3.2 bWAR in 310 at-bats. Among the 42 second basemen who registered at least 300 plate appearances in 2018, Cano finished first in wRC+, third in OPS (.845), fifth in batting average, seventh in strikeout rate (13.5%), and 13th in walk rate (9.2%). His numbers also improved after returning from the suspension, as he posted a 140 wRC+, a .180 ISO, and an .860 OPS in 167 at-bats after August 14.
Cano — who will likely bat third in the Mets’ lineup this season — arrives with lofty expectations, but the onus of fixing the Mets’ offensive woes shouldn’t rest entirely on his bat. Along with Wilson Ramos and Jed Lowrie, the team has a solid new offensive core that will improve what was one of the worst offenses in the National League last year. In addition, Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto’s continued growth will take some of the heat off of Cano and will give the team a solid nucleus and a much-improved lineup.
The prospect of getting to watch one of the game’s best players has been lost in the debate over whether the trade was worth the price the team had to pay. While it’s a valid question, it’s hard to argue with the team picking up a player of that caliber, especially given their recent offensive shortcomings. In five, ten, maybe fifteen years, we can debate the success of the trade and whether parting with Jarred Kelenic was worth the production the team received from Cano (and from closer Edwin Diaz).
For now, Mets fans should sit back and enjoy watching one of the best second basemen of our lifetime play baseball on a daily basis. It’s not everyday that a player of that stature suits up for your team.
We're going to put runners where we want to at the time, and have hitters get them over and get them in,” Callaway said. “We'll have pitchers in the dugout cheering them on, to be on the field together as a team ... We're going to have the batters hitting off the machine, take a swing, put it in play, run to first at 70 percent. Start getting them used to doing things they're going to have to do the next day.”
Newly acquired Jed Lowrie spoke to the New York Post about his reasons for coming to New York, his motivations, his photography hobby, and his favorite wines.
A full season removed from his devastating shoulder injury, 2019 could signal Michael Conforto’s return to greatness.Mike Puma gave an overview of things to keep an eye out for as spring training draws closer. General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen will join Mike Francesa on his program at 5:30 tonight. Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo are very optimistic about the potential power of the Mets’ bullpen. Left without a spot by the Astros, J.D. Davis hopes that his trade to the Mets can be the start of a productive relationship.Marlon Anderson has been moved up to be the St. Lucie hitting coach after occupying the same role in Brooklyn last season.For the AA hitting coach gig, the Mets have pegged former Reds assistant hitting coach Tony Jamarillo.Lenny Harris took to Reddit to take questions from fans about the 2000 Mets and more.
The Mets weren’t the only team to make moves this offseason as they will be facing a very different National League East in 2019.Over at Talking Chop, they looked at whether the Braves did enough this offseason to hold off the pack and retain their division crown.Billy the Marlin debuted his new look for the 2019 season at Marlins FanFest. Matt LeCroy spoke of his relationship with Frank Robinson while he was a member of the Washington Nationals.
The timetable for Yoenis Cespedes' return to the New York Mets will remain an unanswered question until after opening day.
The 33-year-old outfielder was limited to 38 games last year. Dr. Robert Anderson operated to remove bone calcification from Cespedes' right heel on Aug. 2 and from the left on Oct. 26.New Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen, Cespedes' former agent, has said it is too early to prognosticate when the All-Star slugger will be back in the lineup.
"I don't think we'll have an idea during spring training," Van Wagenen said on a sun-splashed, spring-like Monday while watching the team's equipment truck leave for spring training. "I think that our expectation is that he can make progress every day, that we build him up in a smart fashion, that we're not taxing him too soon, and we want to make sure that he's 100 percent healthy when he comes back, whenever that day is."
Originally acquired from Detroit at the 2015 trade deadline, Cespedes hit .287 with 17 homers and 44 RBIs, helped the Mets reach the World Series for the first time since 2000. He became a free agent, agreed to a $75 million, three-year contract, then keyed the Mets' offense by hitting .280 with 31 homers and 86 RBIs in 132 games.Cespedes opted out of the deal after $27.5 million and became a free agent again, only to stay with the Mets for $110 million over four years. Injuries limited him to 81 games in 2017, when he hit .292 with 17 homers and 42 RBIs.He batted .262 with nine homers and 29 RBIs last year, when he missed two months after a May 13 game at Philadelphia with what the Mets said was a strained right hip flexor. He homered at the New York Yankees in his return July 20, then surprised the Mets after that game by revealing the foot issues.
Cespedes is owed $29 million in 2019 and $29.5 million in 2020.
"We're counting on him to make a contribution in '19. We're counting on him to make a contribution in '20, and hopefully he continues to make progress," Van Wagenen said.
New York's major moves were to acquire 36-year-old All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano and All-Star closer Edwin Diaz from Seattle, obtain outfielder Keon Broxton from Milwaukee and sign catcher Wilson Ramos, infielder Jed Lowrie, outfielder Rajai Davis and relievers Jeurys Familia and Justin Wilson as free agents.Van Wagenen has not pursued high-priced free agents, such as outfielder Bryce Harper and infielder Manny Machado. With the start of spring training a week away, dozens of free agents remain available during a second straight slow market.
"There's always been players available in February or March," Van Wagenen said. "I think there's been a higher volume of more-recognizable names than in the past. But I think for us, we set out to target a number of recognizable names, and we've been really excited that those players have chosen to come with us, and we're excited that we can go into camp knowing that we've accomplished most of what we set out to do."
At this time last year, when he was co-head of CAA Baseball, Van Wagenen said behavior of owners in the free-agent market "feels coordinated, rightly or wrongly." He claimed many team presidents and general managers "are frustrated with the lack of funds to sign the plethora of good players still available, raising further suspicion of institutional influence over the spending."
He has a new job with new perspective."You've got to have your own vision, have your own plan and go do it. And hopefully as a sport we can be a compelling entertainment product in all the cities in which we work in," he said. "I think sports in general should be about putting the best product on the field and trying to compete every day, and we'll certainly do that here."
The right-hander announced Monday on social media that he is retiring after eight major league seasons, including 110 starts with the Mets from 2010-2015.“Thank you to this great game!” Gee wrote. “I gave it everything I had and now it’s time to move on. I’m so blessed to have had the opportunity for my career! Thank you to everyone who has supported me through all of this.”Gee was selected by the Mets in the 21st round of the 2007 draft out of the University of Texas. He went 40-37 with 4.03 ERA during his time in Queens and was the Opening Day starter in 2014. Gee, 32, finished 51-48 with a 4.09 ERA and 619 strikeouts for his career, which also included stops with the Royals, Rangers and Twins. He last pitched in 2018 for the Chunichi Dragons of the Japan Central League.Gee went on in the post to thank his family and the organizations he played for. “Thank you @mets @kcroyals @rangers @twins and #chunichidragons and @dragonsofficial for giving me a chance,” he wrote.
Roger Stone Jr., a political operative and friend of President Donald Trump, has been indicted on seven criminal charges in the Justice Department's Russia investigation, including making false statements and witness tampering.
Stone, 66, was arrested in Florida early Friday and appeared in a Fort Lauderdale court a few hours later. At the hearing, a federal magistrate judge ruled Stone didn't pose a flight risk and granted his release on a $250,000 bond. He appeared in court in shackles wearing a polo shirt and jeans.
"I will plead not guilty to these charges. I will defeat them in court," Stone told reporters Friday after his release. He added he won't "bear false witness" against Trump in Mueller's "politically motivated investigation."
"I am falsely accused of making false statements," he added.
The grand jury indictment was unsealed Friday by special counsel Robert Mueller after Stone's arrest.
The self-described "dirty trickster" is credited for getting Trump into politics. He's also been accused of having contact with WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange during the 2016 presidential campaign. Stone has called Assange "my hero" for releasing dirt on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Mueller is examining whether a Russian hacker provided WikiLeaks with damaging information about Clinton that was ultimately passed on to Trump's campaign through Stone. The operative worked briefly for the Trump campaign in 2015 and continued to work for him on an informal basis. In addition to his arrest in Florida, CNN reported the FBI also executed a search warrant at Stone's New York duplex.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said there is no connection between Stone's arrest and Trump.
"My first reaction is real simple: this has nothing to do with the president, and certainly nothing to do with the White House," she told CNN.
Trump also addressed the arrest in a tweet Friday.
"Greatest Witch Hunt in the History of our Country! NO COLLUSION! Border Coyotes, Drug Dealers and Human Traffickers are treated better," he wrote.
Stone's lawyer Grant Smith said the FBI showed up with a SWAT team to arrest his client.
"He's been very public for the last two years about where he was and what he was doing," Smith told NBC News. "If they'd found any collusion they would have charged him with it. "He will fight vigorously because these were things he did not recall and were immaterial to the scope of the investigation."
Stone told ABC News in July he was the member of Trump's campaign who corresponded with hackers from the group Guccifer 2.0, which hacked Clinton's emails. The Democratic National Committee became aware that its computer systems had been hacked in May 2016.
Stone denied knowing that the Russians were behind Guccifer.
"During the summer of 2016, Stone spoke to senior Trump campaign officials about [WikiLeaks] and information it might have had that would be damaging to the Clinton campaign," the indictment read. "Stone was contacted by senior Trump campaign officials to inquire about future releases by [WikiLeaks]."
Stone said in mid-August he'd directly communicated with WikiLeaks, which the organization denied. He then clarified that he'd worked with an intermediary.
After Trump was elected, Congress and the FBI began looking into reports of Russian interference in the election. The indictment alleges Stone made "multiple false statements" to the House intelligence committee, denying he possessed records of the interactions. He also attempted to persuade a witness to give false testimony and withhold information, the indictment said.
In the lead-up to the election, tranches of documents were released that had been stolen from the personal email account of the Clinton campaign's chairman. In all, 50,000 documents were stolen and made public. Stone had been notified that summer WikiLeaks planned two more dumps that would be "very damaging" to Clinton, the indictment reads. They would focus on Clinton's health, say she has a bad memory and that she'd suffered a stroke.
The indictment, issued by a grand jury Thursday, said Stone received a text message on Oct. 1, 2016, stating, "big news Wednesday ... now pretend u don't know me ... Hillary's campaign will die this week."
The release of information led to Clinton's campaign making a "full-court press" to keep Assange from releasing any more information.
The indictment said WikiLeaks released the first set of emails on Oct. 7, prompting a text message from Trump's campaign to Stone that said, "Well done."
Stone's arrest occurred hours before former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was set to appear in a Washington, D.C., court as part of Mueller's investigation. He is accused of lying to investigators after a plea agreement to cooperate with Mueller's team.
The Knicks could be one of the busiest teams in the NBA over the next few weeks.
With a season that's slated for NBA Draft lottery status, New York isn't trying to hold onto middling veterans simply for a shot at the dance. Instead, a refocus on the future and cap space is the objective.
That could lead to veteran guards on the way out the door in the form of a trade.According to Marc Stein of The New York Times, the Knicks are shopping guards Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee. The Knicks have made Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee available via trade in advance of the N.B.A.'s Feb. 7 trade deadline, according to three people familiar with the team's stance.The team's motivation in both cases is largely financial, according to the people, who were not authorized to discuss the situation publicly.Stein explains that the cap room motivation stems from trying to free up as much space as possible to go after big names like Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker when the offseason arrives. Hardaway Jr., 26, is averaging 19.6 points per game. The former first-round pick signed a four-year, $71M deal with the Knicks in the summer of 2017 after spending two seasons with the Atlanta Hawks.Lee, 33, is averaging 5.3 points per game this season. The 33-year-old shooter is owed $12.7M next season in the final year of his deal. Joe Giglio may be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JoeGiglioSports. Find NJ.com on Facebook.
Every great Patriots Super Bowl run needs a great Patriots controversy. Spygate. Deflategate. Mascotgate (ft. Jamal Adams). The latest thing is the stupidest thing, with Jets safety Jamal Adams tackling Pat the Patriot and the joking about sending him to the hospital. Watch out for Jamal if you mess with him he will come after you too. The Jets Macot is Jamal Trying to Recruit Players and Even Mascots as well.
Money is always a hot topic when it comes to the Mets. The team plays in the largest market in the country, yet its annual payroll since 2012 has ranked closer to the middle of baseball — or lower.After its busy winter, the Mets’ payroll, according to RosterResource.com, is about $145 million. That figure includes the money the Seattle Mariners kicked in to offset Cano’s contract and the insurance savings from the deals for David Wright (who retired) and Cespedes, but it is less than the Mets’ 2018 opening-day payroll, $150 million, and significantly under the luxury-tax threshold, $206 million. Wilpon said Van Wagenen still had some wiggle room for more spending, but the amount was not specified.Van Wagenen said the Mets talked this winter about every player available via free agency or trade, but concluded the team’s best plan for improvement was to spread its resources, to address multiple needs and not just commit themselves to a single, huge investment.
“The goal from the beginning was to address all of our needs in the most efficient way we could,” Van Wagenen said.With Lowrie and Cano joining an infield that may include, among others, Amed Rosario, Todd Frazier, J. D. Davis and perhaps the prospect Peter Alonso, Wilpon said the Mets were crowded there. In the outfield, Van Wagenen said the Mets had multiple options, too. Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo will return, as will the oft-injured Juan Lagares. Keon Broxton, an athletic but light-hitting outfielder, was acquired in a trade earlier this month, and Jeff McNeil is a converted infielder who has not played the outfield regularly since college.“One of things we looked at last year and a reason we failed: We just weren’t deep,” Wilpon said.
That problem, the Mets said, has been addressed. But the solution does not appear likely to include Machado or Harper.
The New York Mets were able to reach agreements on one-year deals with Zack Wheeler, Steven Matz, and Michael Conforto prior to the Friday deadline, meaning they successfully avoided arbitration with all six of their eligible players. Earlier in the day, the club settled with both Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom.
Wheeler will earn $5.975 million in 2019—a sizable bump from the $1.9 million he made in 2018. It is a well-deserved increase for Wheeler, who put together his best season in the majors after beginning the season in Triple-A and struggling for much of the first-half. He carried a 4.44 ERA into the All-Star break but emerged as one of the best pitchers in baseball in the second half, posting a 1.68 ERA and 2.53 FIP in 75 innings to go along with a 25.7% strikeout rate and an impressive 5.3% walk rate. He earned victories in six straight starts and won 10 of his last 11 decisions while finishing with a 4.2 bWAR.
Matz—who reached the 30-start plateau for the first time in his career—will earn $2.625 million in 2019 after making $577,000 last season. The left-hander rebounded from a disappointing 2017 campaign and finished with a 3.97 ERA and a 4.62 FIP in 154 innings, which was good for a 1.7 bWAR. While he posted a career-best 8.88 K/9, he continued to struggle with walking opposing batters. He finished the year with a career-worst 3.39 BB/9 and 8.9% walk rate, although he did allow a career-low 7.8 hits per nine innings.
Conforto will earn $4.025 million in 2019 after making $605,094 in 2018. The 25-year-old outfielder—who had his All-Star 2017 campaign cut short after injuring his shoulder in August—returned quicker than anybody expected and played in 153 games last year. Like Wheeler, he struggled during the season’s first half, which likely could be attributed to the aforementioned shoulder injury. However, he recovered nicely in the second half of the season and finished with a .243/.350/.448 slash line to go along with a 120 wRC+, a 124 OPS+, and a 2.9 bWAR. He also hit a career-high 28 home runs—one more than he hit in 2017—and set career bests in runs scored (78) and runs batted in (82).
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The Mets and infielder Jed Lowrie have agreed on a two-year contract, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports. The deal is for $20 million, according to Fancred’s Jon Heyman.
Lowrie, 34, has had a productive last two seasons with the Athletics, posting an OPS above .800 both years. He set career-bests in 2018 with 23 home runs and 99 RBI as well. The veteran has plenty of experience playing shortstop, second base, and third base.
The Mets’ infield is already crowded, so it’s not clear exactly where the club plans to play Lowrie. It is possible Lowrie functions as a super-utilityman. The addition of Lowrie does give the Mets flexibility to, for instance, trade Todd Frazier, move a player to a new position (e.g. Frazier to first), or dangle a prospect in a trade.
New GM Brodie Van Wagenen continues to keep the Mets active. This offseason, he has added Robinson Canó , Edwin Díaz, Jeurys Familia, and Wilson Ramos. With the offseason far from over, the NL East is shaping up to be a very interesting and competitive division.
the reason the Mets stumbled the last two seasons was a startling lack of depth. The teams that succeeded them as National League champions since 2015 — the Chicago Cubs and the Los Angeles Dodgers — had versatile, interchangeable parts throughout their lineups. Their players stayed fresh and their managers had the tools to exploit matchup advantages. The Mets did not, and they fell far behind.
To help remedy that, the Mets reached a two-year, $20 million contract agreement on Thursday with Jed Lowrie, an All-Star for the Oakland Athletics who hit .267 with a .353 on-base percentage and a career-high 23 home runs last season. The deal was confirmed by two people with direct knowledge of it who could not speak publicly because Lowrie must pass a physical to make the contract official.
Lowrie, a switch-hitter who turns 35 in April, has made 265 starts over the last two seasons at second base — the same position as Robinson Cano, whom the Mets acquired from the Seattle Mariners last month in Brodie Van Wagenen’s first trade as general manager. But the Mets do not see this as a problem.
Lowrie has made 480 career starts at shortstop and 111 at third base. Cano, 36, can also play first base, as can Todd Frazier, the everyday third baseman who turns 33 next month. The Mets’ two other primary infielders — shortstop Amed Rosario and first baseman Dominic Smith — are only 23 years old.
The idea would be to divide the four infield spots among those five players based on matchups, with infielder Jeff McNeil — who hit .329 in 63 games as a rookie last season — shifting to the outfield. McNeil has started only five games in the outfield in the minors and has not played there in the majors.
Even so, the idea of McNeil joining the group of outfielders — with Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, Juan Lagares and Keon Broxton — excites the Mets, who envision a unit there that is as versatile as the one in the infield. The potential summer return of Yoenis Cespedes, who is recovering from surgery on both heels, would further jolt the offense.
The Mets need the lift. Only one team in the majors had fewer hits last season than the Mets — the division-rival Philadelphia Phillies, who have added shortstop Jean Segura and left fielder Andrew McCutchen and are courting Manny Machado and Bryce Harper in free agency.
While the Mets are not negotiating with Machado or Harper — who could return to the Washington Nationals, another division rival — Van Wagenen has been active on the market. He has also signed catcher Wilson Ramos to a two-year, $19 million deal; reliever Jeurys Familia to a three-year, $30 million deal; and traded for Cano, closer Edwin Diaz, infielder/outfielder J.D. Davis and Broxton, among others. (Lowrie, like Cano, was a client of Van Wagenen’s in his former career as an agent.)
The Mets announced another signing on Thursday to fortify their bullpen, agreeing on a minor league deal with Luis Avilan, a left-hander who has spent most of his career with the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers. In 70 games last season for the Chicago White Sox and the Phillies, Avilan, 29, had a 3.77 earned run average and held left-handers to a .220 average.
Recently, the Yankees announced they were spending $13 million a year on a pitcher who will likely slot in as their fourth- or fifth-best reliever. It's hard to know what's crazier about that fact -- that no one was all that surprised by the move, or that the Yankees might soon sign a potentially superior relief pitcher for eight figures a year, meaning Mr. $13 Million-A-Year could be the sixth option out of the pen.
Our mystery reliever is Zach Britton, the two-time All-Star who in 2016 enjoyed one of the greatest seasons of all time by a relief pitcher. That year, he recorded a perfect 47 saves in 47 tries, struck out 74 batters and allowed just one home run in 67 innings, and flashed a microscopic 0.54 ERA. Those numbers thrust him into heady and rare territory for relief pitchers, as he finished fourth in Cy Young voting and 11th in MVP voting.
Things have gone downhill from there, numbers-wise if not necessarily salary-wise. In 2017, Britton suffered a forearm strain that caused him to make just two appearances between mid-April and early July. His previously excellent control then abandoned him, as Britton posted an ugly 22-to-14 strikeout-to-walk rate the rest of that season, in the process ending his incredible run of perfect save opportunities at 60. A knee injury ended his season early, and a torn Achilles suffered in December 2017 pushed his 2018 season debut all the way back to June 12. He wasn't particularly sharp thereafter, fanning a modest 34 batters while walking 21 in 40 2/3 bumpy innings.So why did the Yankees sign him to a three-year, $39 million deal that includes an option for a fourth year, also at $13 million?
The first reason is Britton's sinker. The Yankees are hoping that a full, healthy season will see Britton recapture some of the strikeout prowess he showed in 2016, and even more so trim the alarming walk rates that plagued him in each of the past two seasons. Even if that doesn't happen, though, Britton remains an asset, because of his preposterously high groundball rates. In 2017, 72.6 percent of the balls in play hit off Britton were grounders; that number hit 73 percent in 2018. Those were the highest figures in all of baseball by a wide margin, yet somehow lower than Britton's 2014-2016 campaigns, when 75.3 percent, 79.1 percent, and a stupefying 80 percent of the balls in play hit against him killed hordes of unsuspecting worms. It's extremely difficult to do major damage at the plate when a pitcher can so easily seduce you into pounding balls into the turf. At homerific Yankee Stadium, with its tantalizingly short porch in right field, a left-hander with that kind of bowling ball action wields more value than he would anywhere else, even if Britton never regains the elite command he showed three years ago. Britton has fired that flummoxing sinker more than 90 percent of the time in each of the past five seasons, and very few batters have ever managed to do very much with it.
The second reason the Yankees threw that much money at Britton is the Bombers' eagerness to take a growing trend to the extreme. At a time when teams are shifting a greater percentage of resources toward building strong bullpens, the Yankees are outspending everyone, in an effort to be stronger and deeper than everyone, while also steering clear of monster deals for starting pitchers.When New York acquired Britton from the Orioles on July 24, the lefty became the third Yankees reliever on last season's staff to make more than $10 million, joining David Robertson ($13 million) and closer Aroldis Chapman ($17.2 million).
The term closer carries extra weight here. Last season, more than ever since Tony La Russa built the modern bullpen archetype in the 1980s, we saw more teams do funky things with their bullpens. The Phillies refused to anoint a closer all year long, with manager Gabe Kapler at first growing so trigger-happy with his amorphous pen that he brought in a pitcher who wasn't even ready to pitch. The Rays blew up the concept of the modern closer and the notion of the typical starting pitcher in one fell swoop, as erstwhile ninth-inning guy Sergio Romo started five games, part of an "opener" strategy that gained traction as the year wore on.
Amid all that reliever flux, the Yankees used Chapman fairly conventionally, enabling the flame-throwing southpaw to record 32 saves, while recording more than three outs only twice in 55 appearances. It was the rest of the pen that became a breeding ground for rookie manager Aaron Boone's whims. Robertson and Britton had both spent multiple seasons as traditional closers, while human redwood Dellin Betances had notched double-digit saves in both 2016 and 2017. Yet despite all that closing experience, Boone rotated those three big arms through a variety of high-leverage situations that rarely involved loud closer music pumping through the PA system -- not unless Chapman was unavailable to ring up the final out of the game.
The Yankees' approach to modern bullpening, then, seems to be simply flooding the zone with as many beasts as possible. Right before Britton signed, The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal noted that the Yankees could sign Britton and former Rockies right-hander/New York native Adam Ottavino. Ottavino was a revelation in 2018, punching out an incredible 112 batters in 77 2/3 innings while pitching to a tidy 2.43 ERA despite spending half his time at pitcher-smushing Coors Field. The story of how Ottavino made himself into a sudden pitching star at age 32 while practicing in a vacant Manhattan storefront is almost as amazing as his out-of-nowhere emergence into the second-most-coveted reliever on this year's market, behind only lights-out closer Craig Kimbrel.Given the Yankees' stratospheric revenue streams, General Manager Brian Cashman could have unlimited resources to acquire every pitcher in the known universe, if his bosses would let him. They do not. The advent of the luxury tax has given even the richest teams a great excuse to talk up the value of frugality and efficiency, over simply getting the best players at top dollar. The result is that the once-Evil Empire Yankees might somehow currently trail the Phillies and White Sox(!??!?!?) in the race for Manny Machado, and might also be underdogs in the battle to sign Bryce Harper.Instead of spending to the moon on those top hitters, or even established starting pitchers like Patrick Corbin and Dallas Keuchel, the Yankees are funneling some of those eight-figure salaries to relievers -- but still with fewer years and fewer zeroes on those contracts. This is how the Yankees' top seven relievers stacked up by Wins Above Replacement, and salary, in 2018 (we omitted Adam Warren, the right-hander who made $3.3 million last year, and got dealt to Seattle at the trade deadline):
The New York Mets have signed Luis Avilan to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training. The move mirrors the signing of Hector Santiago, which the club announced earlier this week. Avilan has played for the Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago White Sox, and Philadelphia Phillies during his seven-year career. The 29-year-old left-hander sports a 3.09 ERA, a 3.25 FIP, a 21.5% strikeout rate, and a 9.2% walk rate in 308.2 career innings out of the pen. Last season, he posted a 3.86 ERA and 2.71 FIP in 39.2 innings with the White Sox (0.9 fWAR) before being dealt to the Phillies in August. He made 12 appearances for Philadelphia and finished with a 3.18 ERA and a 5.81 FIP (-0.1 fWAR).
Avilan has been successful in his career against left-handed batters, and that trend continued in 2018. Against 93 batters, he allowed 18 hits, which amounted to a .220 batting average against and a .646 OPS while striking out 25.8% of opposing lefties. Righties, on the other hand, hit .280 with a .733 OPS against him in 104 at-bats
while striking out at a similar clip.
With the additions of Avilan and Santiago, it appears the Mets are content to fill their lefty void in the bullpen with these low-risk signings. In addition to the two newly-acquired relievers, the club will likely take a look at Daniel Zamora during spring training in an effort to replace Jerry Blevins as the primary left-hander in their bullpen.
Tim Tebow and former Miss Universe Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters are engaged! Any dreams I've ever had, you've exceeded them all! I love you and I can't wait to spend forever with you!" the South African-born beauty queen captioned a series of photos from the couple's special moment on Instagram on Thursday.Tebow posted, "Thank you for saying YES and making me the happiest man in the world. You’re the love of my life, and I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with you."The former NFL quarterback popped the question with a 7.25-carat sparkler on Wednesday at his family's farm outside of Jacksonville, Florida, according to People magazine.“I’m so excited for the wedding, and I can’t wait to spend forever with Tim," Nel-Peters, 23, told the outlet.Per People, Tebow, 31, secretly flew in Nel-Peters’ family and her closest pals from South Africa so they could be there for the pair's engagement, along with the former NFL pro's loved ones. “I actually wasn’t really nervous,” Tebow, who got down on one knee underneath a wooden arbor flanked by flowers, admitted. “I was excited. I wanted everything to be perfect and to go smoothly. But I wasn’t nervous to actually ask her.”The surprises didn’t stop there though. According to People, South African singer Matthew Mole was also on hand to sing the newly engaged couple one of their favorite tunes — “The Wedding Song.”Last December, the model opened up about her relationship with Tebow to Fox News."It’s wonderful to be able to share my life experiences with somebody who's so understanding and supportive," Nel-Peters told us. "He supports me in everything that I do. He’s just the sweetest person ever and it’s such an honor for me to be able to get to share my experiences with him."
Adam Gase wasn't unemployed for too long. After being fired by the Miami Dolphins, the 40-year-old will be hired as the head coach of the New York Jets, per Adam Schefter and Jeff Darlington of ESPN.
Ian Rapoport explained why the Jets were intrigued by Gase
The #Jets wanted to someone to come in and work with QB Sam Darnold, and Adam Gase’s prowess with the QB is well-known. Ryan Tannehill wasn’t often healthy but when he was, they went to the playoffs.
Gase produced a 23-25 record in three years with the Dolphins, although things went south in a hurry after reaching the playoffs in his first season with a 10-6 record.
Miami finished 6-10 in 2017 and 7-9 in 2018, including three straight losses to end the year. While injuries to Ryan Tannehill during this stretch didn't help, the losing seasons were enough for his tenure with the team to come to an end.
There were also questions about his former stars such as Jarvis Landry and Jay Ajayi especially happy to see him fired. According to of ESPN, several names in the locker room said they felt "alienated" by Gase.
On the other hand, receivers Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson supported him after he was let go:
a full year I could of shown how much of a genius he was! I don’t know who your source is, but this is completely false. I’ve never publicly or privately “disavowed” Coach Gase.
Gase is still highly respected as an offensive coach and has been since his days as a coordinator with the Denver Broncos and Chicago Bears. His 2013 Broncos remains the most productive offense in NFL history with 606 points scored.
This made him an obvious candidate once he became available, as Schefter previously noted:
Within three hours of being fired in Miami, Adam Gase already had heard from the majority of teams with an HC opening, per source. Gase is expected to start his HC interviews this week.
With eight teams replacing head coaches this offseason, it appeared destined that Gase would find a new landing spot.
The Jets ended up winning the sweepstakes as the organization tries to move on from Todd Bowles.
After a down season, they will hope Gase's offensive prowess will help turn things around going into 2019
Santiago would get a $2 million salary in the major leagues if added to the 40-man roster as part of the deal announced Tuesday. He would be able to earn $400,000 in performance bonuses: $100,000 each for five, 10, 20 and 25 starts. The 31-year-old had a 4.50 ERA and two saves in 42 relief appearances and seven starts last year for the Chicago White Sox. He struck out 103 in 102 innings but allowed 102 hits and 60 walks.
He is 46-49 with a 4.06 ERA and six saves in eight seasons with the White Sox, Los Angeles Angels and Minnesota Twins, making 137 starts and 101 relief appearances.
The Chicago Tribune reports Todd Bowles' deal with the Buccaneers is not complete and the former Jets head coach could become the defensive coordinator for the Bears, with Vic Fangio leaving Chicago to become the head coach for the Denver Broncos.Fired Jets head coach Todd Bowles has landed on his feet, and he will work in 2019.With the Buccaneers hiring 66-year-old Bruce Arians to replace Dirk Koetter as their head coach, Bowles is heading to Tampa Bay as Arians' defensive coordinator, according to The MMQB. This isn’t surprising at all, of course, since Bowles has known Arians since the early 1980s.Bowles didn’t get any attention for head coaching openings in this hiring cycle — which also wasn’t surprising, after he went 5-11, 5-11, and 4-12 in his final three seasons with the Jets
.Bowles lasted four season with the Jets. Before that, he was Arians' defensive coordinator with the Cardinals for two seasons, 2013-14. That was Bowles' first stint as a full-time NFL defensive coordinator. It was also his first time working for Arians, his longtime friend and mentor.Arians — who briefly retired after the 2017 season as Arizona’s head coach — was the head coach at Temple from 1983-88. Bowles played for Arians at Temple before entering the NFL as an undrafted rookie in 1986. The two men kept in touch and remained close over the years — before, during, and after their time in Arizona. And now, Bowles is back together with Arians in Tampa Bay.
Jets coaching search updates Bowles, who turned 55 in November, would surely love to get another NFL head coaching job. But how likely is that to happen? The NFL appears to be trending toward hiring more offensive-minded head coaches. Plus, Bowles' final three seasons with the Jets were a disaster, even though he didn’t exactly have a surplus of talent at his disposal, because of general manager Mike Maccagnan’s failures.
Still, Bowles went 10-6 as a rookie head coach in 2015, barely missing the playoffs. And if he is able to lead a strong defense in Tampa Bay — which finished dead last (11th spots behind the Jets) in Football Outsiders' defensive DVOA ratings last season — he might just get another shot to prove himself as a head coach. Maybe as Arians' eventual replacement in Tampa Bay?
In the first of two trades they made yesterday, the Mets traded a trio of prospects for the Astros’ utility man J.D. Davis.
For the second half of the doubleheader, the Mets traded Kevin Plawecki to the Indians for a pair of minor leaguers.
At Fangraphs, Eric Longenhagen analyzed yesterday’s Davis trade as well as Saturday’s Keon Broxton swap.
Mike Puma took a look at the pair of trades and what they mean for Travis d’Arnaud and the rest of the offseason.
Cut4 took a look at J.D. Davis’ prowess on the mound during his three appearances.
The Amazin’s appear to have some competition in their pursuit of Justin Wilson as six or seven clubs are said to have interest in the lefty.
A Mets ticket rep took an interesting approach in trying to get a certain fan to renew their season tickets.
Around the National League EastOver at The Good Phight, they have an interesting theory as to why Machado and Harper haven’t signed with the Phillies yet.
Jamal Collier broke down the Nationals outfield going into the 2019 campaign.
Around Major League BaseballIn the short-term, the Rockies are interested in acquiring Brian Dozier.
Shohei Ohtani took a trip to a Japanese hospital to visit a one-year-old baby also named Shohei who is dealing with a heart defect.
The Pirates made a pair of major league additions to their front office with the hiring of David Eckstein and Jeff Banister to be baseball operations special assistants.
To open next season in Japan, the Mariners plan to put Ichiro Suzuki back onto the roster for the two-game set.
This Date in Mets HistoryIn 1992, Tom Seaver was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame with 98.84% of the vote, a mark that would stand as the highest overall percentage for 24 years and remains the highest percentage for a pitcher.
Yesterday at Amazin’ AvenueTeddy Zaphiris took a look at Adam Ottavino as a potential bullpen option.
Lukas Vlahos covered the Kevin Plawecki trade while Allison McCague handled the J.D. Davis deal.
When the Mets hired Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway to be their manager, his former boss, Terry Francona, said Callaway was a “star” in the making.
Although Callaway’s team went 77-85 and finished fourth in the NL East in his rookie season, his star hasn’t dimmed a bit, at least in Francona’s eyes.
“Mickey’s incredibly talented in what he’s doing,” Francona said on Thursday. “And sometimes in baseball, the won-loss record doesn’t quite match maybe the job a guy did behind the scenes.
There’s so much disparity in baseball, I think sometimes you’ve got to give a guy a little more time, let him settle into who he is and what he wants to do, and then you’ll find out how good they are.”
Francona knows of what he speaks. He went 67-94 with the Phillies as a rookie manager in 1997 before going on to become a two-time World Series champion with the Red Sox.
“I think I was a little bit naive coming in to Philadelphia, and then after the first year, I knew what to expect,” Francona said. “Anybody who loses  games in Philadelphia will tell you it’s not a whole lot of fun.”Receive stories, photos and videos about your favorite New York teams plus national sports news and events.
Losing 85 is not that much fun in New York, either. Callaway got to keep his job, though, even after the Mets hired a new, aggressive general manager in Brodie Van Wagenen. That might not last if the Mets stumble out of the gate in 2019, but Francona said he isn’t worried about Callaway’s future.
“He’s going to be a star whether it’s a pitching coach, manager, running the minor leagues,” Francona said. “He’s going to be a star at whatever he sets out to do.”
Francona, who said he kept in touch with Callaway during the 2018 season, didn’t offer an opinion on the day-to-day workings of Callaway’s first year as a manager.
“During the year, we get so consumed with what we’re doing with our own teams,” Francona said. “I mean, it’s hard enough to manage your own team, let alone try to manage somebody else’s. Because he’s a real good friend of mine, we certainly keep in touch. But he doesn’t need me to manage his team. He knows what he’s doing. That’s why he got the job.”
Francona was speaking on a conference call for the LPGA season-opening Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions, which will take place Jan. 17-20 in Orlando, Florida, and will feature LPGA champions from the past two seasons plus 45 celebrities such as Francona and baseball Hall of Famer John Smoltz.
Mets sign two. The Mets announced the signings of righthanded reliever Arquimedes Caminero and outfielder Rymer Liriano to minor-league contracts. Both will be invited to spring training.
Caminero, 31, has gone 7-5 with a 3.83 ERA in 149 games with Pittsburgh, Miami and Seattle. He spent the past two seasons in Japan with the Yomiuri Giants and had 40 saves. His 2018 season ended after right elbow surgery.
Liriano, 27, has appeared in 59 games with the Padres and White Sox. The righthanded hitter has a .220 career average with two home runs and 12 RBIs.
Enes Kanter may be frustrated with his current role on the team, but he is willing to stick it out.
The frustrated Knicks center said after Tuesday's 115-108 loss to the Nuggets that he recently had a conversation with GM Scott Perry over his status with the team, but he did not ask for a trade at any point.
"I did not say that. I like it here a lot," Kanter, a free agent at the end of the season, told reporters. "I probably wouldn't say it to Scott's face, 'I want to be traded.' No. Because I like it here a lot. In the end, we're all competitors, basketball players and I like it here so much, but again, I want to win and I want to get in the playoffs one day. So this is my blood, man, I'm sorry. If anyone asks anything else I'm not going to do it. I'm trying to get a win every time."
The Knicks' loss on Tuesday marked their eighth straight and dropped them to 9-29 on the season. Kanter scored 20 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench following an 0-for-6 shooting night in Saturday's blowout loss to the Jazz.
Kanter said after that game that the loss was "embarrassing" and that he did not understand why he was being "shut down" so early.
While speaking with Perry, the 26-year-old veteran asked the GM what he would do in his situation?
"He said ... right now, I know you are a very good basketball player," Kanter said. "I want you to go out there and try to have good character, try to be a good teammmate, try to help all the people. I understand we're not winning a lot right now but I guess it's all for young guys."
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport confirmed Demovsky's report and added McCarthy may choose to interview with only the Browns and Jets.
NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported earlier in the day that McCarthy had resisted overtures from the Arizona Cardinals.
Of the two teams McCarthy is considering, the Browns are arguably the more attractive landing spot.
Baker Mayfield finished his first season with 3,725 passing yards and a rookie-record 27 touchdowns, and Cleveland went 6-7 with Mayfield as the starter. The team is also projected to have $85.8 million in salary-cap space available, per Over the Cap, so the front office can add to what's already a promising young roster.
McCarthy wouldn't have to worry about being on the same page with Browns general manager John Dorsey either, since they worked together during McCarthy's first seven seasons in Green Bay.
The Jets wouldn't be a bad alternative, though. Like Cleveland, New York boasts a talented first-year quarterback and a ton of financial flexibility.
Sam Darnold appeared in 13 games, throwing for 2,865 yards and 17 touchdowns. He was particularly good down the stretch, going 80-of-125 (64 percent) for 931 yards, six touchdowns and an interception in the Jets' final four games. McCarthy and Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan would have $106 million to spend upgrading a team that won four games in 2018.
McCarthy helped guide the Packers to a Super Bowl in 2010 and compiled a 125-77-2 record in 13 years with the team. His desire to be selective with his next step is understandable, but the Browns and Jets will have plenty of candidates from which to choose. By limiting his choices, McCarthy risks losing out on both gigs and being relegated to watching the 2019 NFL season from home.