LOS ANGELES — At the moment the Cubs are no lock to win that ever-elusive world championship over the next couple of weeks, but based on their six games in this post-season, they’ve already upped the ante on other challengers for National League supremacy in the next few years.
How? Well, have you seen what Javy Baez has been doing on this national stage, astounding the baseball world with his talent, playing offense and defense like Roberto Alomar in his prime?
We knew the Cubs already had the best young position-player talent in baseball; if Baez is blossoming into a superstar, as seems quite possible, it is one more reason they are going to be the team to beat in the near future.
So here’s a thought, based on what else we’re seeing in this NLCS:
If the Mets want to take a huge step toward re-claiming that supremacy next year and beyond, they should make a big splash this off-season by signing Kenley Jansen.
The Dodgers’ closer has been overshadowed by the heroics of Clayton Kershaw, but Jansen has been no less important to the Dodgers’ cause in this post-season, throwing a career-high 51 pitches in that Game 5 against the Nationals and then delivering a no-sweat, six-out save on Sunday night.
All of which is a reminder that he’s as dominant as any closer in the game at the moment, Aroldis Chapman included, with a cutter that is close to Mariano Rivera-like.
The Dodgers know how good he is but there are whispers that they’re more interested in signing Chapman this off-season. Remember, they had a trade in place with the Reds for the Cuban lefthander last December just before the news broke of his domestic violence incident, convincing them to back off at the time.
The Cubs and Yankees figure to be in the market for Chapman as well, and if they’re outbid they might look to sign Jansen, but if the Mets want to cash in on their window to win championships with their young starters, spending big to add such a weapon to their bullpen would go a long way toward making it happen.
I can’t say it’s more important than making sure they don’t let Yoenis Cespedes get away — that has to be their first priority.
But otherwise, well, if the Mets are willing to make Neil Walker a qualifying offer, which will cost $17.2 million for next season, as seems quite possible, I’d make the case they’d be better off allocating such resources toward Jansen.
As long as they find a way to keep Cespedes, the Mets would be okay at second base using some combination of Wilmer Flores, T.J. Rivera, and possibly Jose Reyes if David Wright returns from his neck surgery to prove he can still play third base.
More to the point, bullpens continue to become more and more important in baseball these days, with managers using their best relievers earlier than ever in this post-season.
(Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
And while I think Jeurys Familia is still capable of closing in October, despite his hiccups the last couple of years, his occasional control issues last season are at least a bit of a concern.
Jansen, who turned 29 last month, pitched to a spectacular 0.670 WHIP last season, walking only 11 hitters in 68 innings, and his numbers were about the same in 2015 as well.
Putting him behind Familia, as well as Addison Reed, who is under contractual control for one more year, would create the type of super-pen that would allow Terry Collins to protect the likes of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and the other starters coming back next season from their various injuries — and make the Mets especially tough to beat in October.
Obviously Jansen wouldn’t come cheap, especially if multiple teams pursue him. But if it costs, say, four years, $54 million, it would be the best non-Cespedes money the Mets could spend, and with Familia two years away from free agency, they could utilize the two of them until then.
Simply put, if they want to win a championship, it’s time to make this type of move.
Obviously the Mets need to re-take the NL East from the Nationals first, but there’s no ignoring the specter of the Cubs.
Let’s face it, the Mets can’t match up in terms of position players. Baez’s astounding play at second base in this post-season, as well as his impact bat, has made that clearer than ever.
As an NL scout said on Monday, “It’s like he went from being this raw, cocky, undisciplined kid to a great player overnight. He looks like he’s going to be one of the 10 best players in the game in the next couple of years.”
Consider that Kris Bryant already looms as the likely NL MVP for 2016, with Anthony Rizzo pretty close behind, and when you throw in 22-year-old Addison Russell at short, the Cubs appear to have assembled one of best infields in the history of the game.
Meanwhile, don’t forget, Kyle Schwarber will be coming back from his knee surgery next season to add 40 or so home runs, which will more than make up for shaky defense in left field.
Good luck, then, to the teams in the NL Central trying to outplay them over 162 games. Fortunately for the Mets, they would only need to beat them in a short series, as they did in dominant fashion a year ago.
The way to do it is with pitching, obviously. Adding Jansen to good health for their starters would be the ideal formula to beat the Nationals, the Cubs, or anybody else in the path toward a title.
Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News