Walk This Way
Mets keep winning, Jarred Kelenic comes to Citi
The Mets remain the only team in baseball who hasn’t lost a series, extending their unbeaten streak to 10 series after defeating the Nationals, 4–1, in the rubber game of their three-game set.
The win closed out a 13-game stretch against the NL East in which the Mets went 8–5 to improve their overall divisional record to 13–7. They will finally face an opponent outside of the division tonight. Seattle comes to town for the first time since 2008.
Robinson Canó appears to have a new home. I will talk about that in a bit. But first, let’s breakdown yesterday’s win.
IN SHORT: Taijuan Walker had his best outing of the season, pitching seven scoreless innings, as the Mets breezed to a 4–1 win behind the productive bat of Mark Canha, who doubled in the first two runs and added a solo home run in the ninth [Box Score].
🔹 WALK THIS WAY: If Taijuan Walker continues to look as good as he did yesterday, you might as well hand the top seed in the National League to the Mets. At this point, Walker represents the weak link of a starting rotation that, until Wednesday night, boasted four starters with sub-3.20 ERAs. And that’s without Jacob deGrom.
Walker struggled to find the strike zone in his last outing against Philly in which he ultimately surrendered six earned runs in a game the Mets made a dramatic comeback in the ninth. Yesterday, he only threw five balls in his first 14 pitches, commanding the strike zone early.
He located his splitter low in the zone to get the Nats to swing over several pitches, turning a few hard hit balls into groundouts. He told reporters the game plan was to throw at least eight curveballs, and he ended up spinning 16 of them, earning four called strikes and two whiffs.
BACK DISCOMFORT? The SNY cameras picked up Walker trying to get loose in-between innings, suggesting possible back discomfort, but the right-hander told reporters “it wasn’t anything serious.”
🔷 CANHA: Nats starter Joan Abon walked the bases loaded in the first, setting up Mark Canha for his first big hit of the day, turning an inside fastball into a two-RBI single over the head of shortstop Dee Strange-Gordon. He followed that up with a home run in the ninth.
After a strong April, the veteran outfielder has struggled in May, with an anemic .267 on-base percentage in eight games. His power has been lacking throughout the season, yesterday’s long ball only his second of the year. He hit 17 for Oakland in 2021.
Most concerning, Canha hasn’t been hitting the ball very hard. His hard hit rate, average exit velocity and barrel percentage rank in the bottom percentile of the league. Even his first-inning single yesterday was on soft contact. He finally squared up a ball for his 9th-inning homer. Hopefully, it’s a sign of things to come.
🔹 DOUBLE PLAY: The game turned into a little league affair in the fourth inning when the Nationals ran into a double play at third base. An errant throw by Taijuan Walker, after recording the first out, essentially baited Josh Bell into trying to advance from second to third, but he was easily thrown out.
It is these kind of plays that have bedeviled the Nationals, particularly at home, where they fell to a major league worst 4–13 record.
The Seattle Mariners visit Citi Field for the first time in nearly 15 years. If you were thinking about this eventual interleague match-up a few seasons ago, you probably dreaded it: inevitably, super-prospect Jarred Kelenic would remind us what the Mets gave up for a beleaguered closer and a bloated contract attached to Robinson Canó.
That can still happen. As many have noted by now, Kelenic is off to a dreadful start to his major league career. He is slashing .173/.256/.338 in his first 123 games. Perhaps this weekend will provide the moment when he truly breaks onto the scene. It’s far too early to call him a bust.
🔹 The reason Mets fans don’t have to worry about what Jarred Kelenic does during his career with the Mariners (or anywhere else) is because they are owned by Steve Cohen.
There’s no forgiving the ill-advised trade made by Brodie Van Wagenen back in 2018. The Mets are paying Canó over $40 million to play in San Diego. Trading two prospects and absorbing the majority of Canó’s contract was too steep of a price to acquire the services of Edwin Díaz, even if he becomes the lynchpin of a championship bullpen this season.
But with Uncle Stevie paying the bills, the Mets are in better position to absorb the loss of a cost-controlled player who they once had no means to replace. Hell, if Kelenic buds into a superstar, who’s saying the Mets can’t just go out and sign him when he becomes a free agent?
If the Mets were still owned by the Wilpons, they would probably be around where the Nationals are right now, looking up at everyone else in the division. The cost of Canó would continue to prevent them from improving their roster via free agency. And the value of Díaz would be diminished — the less games you win, the less important your closer becomes.
Steve Cohen changes all of that. The Amazins enter play Friday with one of the best records in baseball. Off the field, they are investing heavily in analytics. The decision-making process appears to have the right ingredients to avoid trades like this one in the future.
🔻 BOTTOM LINE: In one of the closing scenes of the mini-series WeCrashed, a main character asks, Who wins? The crazy one or the smart one? To which he answers himself, It’s a trick question: it’s the one with all of the money!
The Mets have all the money. It’s time to move on from the Kelenic trade.
Robinson Canó has reportedly found a new home. He is nearing a major league deal with the Padres, which is expected to be finalized today.
WHAT THIS MEANS: Good for Canó. He gets another shot to prove he can still hit big league pitching. As for the Mets, they are still on the hook for ~$40 million over the next two seasons. They will offset a pro-rated amount of the league minimum to be paid by San Diego (less than $700,000).
WHY SAN DIEGO? The answer might be as simple as Fernando Tatis Jr. The star shortstop grew up “minutes from the second baseman” in the Dominican Republic.
Tatis spoke glowingly of Canó during his last trip to Citi Field. Despite two PED suspensions, players around the league still respect the veteran slugger.
San Diego will use Canó as a left-handed bat off the bench, while also spelling the right-handed Luke Voit at DH. The Padres next trip to Citi Field is July 22–24, in case you’re wondering.
Some more news and notes from yesterday…
🤕 SORE: Catcher James McCann missed his second consecutive game due to a sore left wrist, but he is expected to be back in the lineup on Friday.
McCann will catch Max Scherzer, who struggled in his last start, pitching to McCann for the first time this season. Scherzer built a 2.61 ERA with Tomás Nido as his battery mate over his first five starts.
🍎 ROSTER MOVES: The Mets called up Jake Reed to replace Stephen Nogosek in the bullpen.
Meanwhile, they demoted prospect Khalil Lee from Syracuse to Single-A St. Lucie. The young outfielder was hitting .149 with a 37% strikeout rate against Triple-A pitching.
🔥 FASTBALL: MLB Pipeline listed right-hander Michel Otanez as the Mets’ prospect with the best fastball. The Double-A reliever has four saves and 13 strikeouts through 10.1 innings this season. The article notes, “he’s worth following the deeper we get into May and June because the fastball gives him a shot at the Majors.”
💣 BOMBS: Third base prospect Mark Vientos has hit three home runs in his last two games. After a slump in April, he is hitting .389 in his past five games, with four home runs.
🗓 UP NEXT: It’s a good weekend to head out to Citi Field, as the Mets will send Max Scherzer, Chris Bassitt and Carlos Carrasco to the hill against the Mariners.
Seattle arrives in New York with a disappointing 14–18 record, having lost 12 of their last 15 games, including two of three to the Phillies this week. Opposite the Mets, they have lost five straight series.
Injuries have contributed to their early-season woes. Slugger Mitch Haniger has only played 12 games and might not return until July; 2020 American League Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis is still rehabbing from a torn meniscus in his right knee; catcher Tom Murphy, who was one of the few players actually hitting in the lineup, dislocated his shoulder last week; and reliever Sergio Romo is hoping to return soon from shoulder inflammation.
The Mariners have four regulars hitting below .260. Only J.P. Crawford and Ty France have proven consistent at the plate. As mentioned, Jarred Kelenic, who plays mostly vs righties, is struggling with a .140 batting average. Let’s hope the bats don’t suddenly wake up this weekend.
◾️ Bryce Harper has a small tear in his ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, preventing him from throwing for a month, but he will remain in the lineup as the Phillies’ DH.
🔗 10 reasons why Mets have yet to drop a set in 2022, by Anthony DiComo, MLB.com: “The Mets are MLB’s only team featuring an undefeated series mark. Their overall 22-11 record rates third-best in the league, behind only the Yankees and Dodgers. And beyond that, the Mets have offered plenty of evidence that this sort of run might be sustainable.”
🔗 Brandon Nimmo knows ‘pressure’ struggling Jarred Kelenic has ahead of Mets visit, by Mike Puma, NY Post: “More than most players, Brandon Nimmo can understand the burden of expectations saddled on a former Mets first-round draft pick who will be arriving to Citi Field with the Mariners on Friday.”
🔗 Ranking the 10 people most responsible for the Mets’ 22-11 start, by Rustin Dodd, The Athletic ($): “The Mets’ depth has been a formidable weapon, so much so that when searching for the people most responsible for the club’s 22-11 record, one can easily look past Walker and Canha, two players who could be important pieces at various points of 2022.”
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