The New York Mets convened an impromptu zoom press conference late this evening, the logistics of which were certainly more team friendly than when things were done in a pre-covid; traditional fashion. In fact, such a press conference would have been down right impossible… potentially seen as unprofessional. Yet, here we are. In the midst of a pandemic (that without question overshadows the issues with the Mets’ much discussed defensive woes) and the team’s announcements speak more to what they were unable to accomplish in the off-season than what they felt important enough to announce they had done late today.
“We needed to address the defense across the board.” said Team Owner Steve Cohen, speaking on behalf his newly minted Front office. “We have an amazing array of hitters. Every team in this league would love to have our lineup. We want to do everything we can to give these hitters as many at bats as possible. Right now, though it seems pretty clear we have a few ‘Mona Lisas’ being left out in the sunlight and some Pollacks’s on display at the Vatican.”
Cohen then went on to announce that the team had acquired shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa from the Texas Rangers for recently acquired outfielder prospect Khalil Lee (acquired in the three team trade that sent Andrew Benintendi to Kansas City), & third baseman prospect Jaylen Palmer.
At this point of the shotgun presser, I feel I can speak for many in the press pool that it felt quite unnecessary. Watching the games ourselves, it was quite evident that the defensive deficiencies were largely in the outfield with Brandon Nimmo and Dominic Smith patrolling center field and left field respectively. Smith alone has accrued four outfield errors in the one position, outside the diamond, that requires the least attention of batted balls which can challenge a defender. Were we really being pulled from our personal lives (perhaps slumber) to be made aware of this single acquisition?
“And with the next part of this announcement I feel that Zack Scott should take over.” as Cohen exited our zoom frame and Scott (clearly in a different geographical location) entered, the justification was presented. After thanking his boss, Scott announced that the team had traded former closer Jeurys Familia and highly touted 19 year old right handed pitching prospect Junior Santos to the Milwaukee Brewers for a highly respected Major League Center Fielder Lorenzo Cain.
“We look at the exit velocities. You guys look at the exit velocities… hell they are a sponsored ‘stat’ [statistic] on some networks.” Scott said, which was most certainly directed at the Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network (YES). “We, as executives, are lucky enough to have those figures at our disposal. If we don’t pay attention to them, we are not doing our job the right way. You can’t ignore the figures. We weren’t getting ourselves in the way of enough of the line drives.”
Scott went onto describe that Lorenzo Cain is a center fielder who “covers more ground in quick fashion” than any player who qualified at the center field position in the last three years. But the awoken; summoned; proactive group of beat writers demanded some compensation for their attendance: an answer to how this plays out in regards to Dominic Smith, Brandon Nimmo & Pete Alonso?
“Ummm…” said Scott, “Yeah, I mean, we are going to communicate what our guys have for defensive metrics to Luis [Rojas] and see if they outweigh any offensive production. It’s an ongoing dialog. I just know we have the best guy in the world throwing the baseball every five days and we have to make sure that we don’t squander any of those opportunities. Our obligation to Jake [Degrom] carries over to the other four in our rotation should empower them, because it’s legitimate. The moves today provide us with the ability to be defensively sound while preserving all of our offensive firepower. I think we have a team level maturity to survive any lapses in playing time.”
Scott is right when he says that the team has the major league pieces that they need on the roster, but the concern has been moved. It is clear that Pete Alonso and Dominic Smith are going to now be part of a timeshare at first base. More importantly, a source inside the Mets braintrust has informed me that Dominic Smith will maintain his left field role in games against a left handed starter. Alonso, just two years removed from his rookie year homerun record (53), has been a team player through a team ownership change. Dominic Smith, to his credit, has been a team player while experiencing his direct path to franchise first baseman change. The only thing that is clear about this situation is Luis Rojas is about to have the challenge of a lifetime… in his first full year as the manager of the New York Mets.