Jan 25

Mets Name Bruce Starter In Right; What Becomes Of Conforto?

It became clear nearly a month ago Jay Bruce would not be traded and would make the Opening Day roster. The no-brainer now has been realized with The New York Post and several other media outlets reported Bruce would be the starter in right field. What else did you expect? The Mets weren’t going to pay him $13 million to sit on the bench.

“Obviously, the market for certain players, certain free agents and therefore trade has been slow at best, nonexistent at worst,” GM Sandy Alderson told reporters about the lukewarm-to-cold market for Bruce. What Alderson neglected to say, however, is a major reason for the sluggish market for Bruce was when the general manager announced his intention to deal him if Yoenis Cespedes returned.

CONFORTO: Could he open season in minors? (Getty)

CONFORTO: Could he open season in minors? (Getty)

There have been several reports stating manager Terry Collins will try to fit four outfielders – Bruce, Cespedes, Curtis Granderson and Michael Conforto – into three slots. That’s not accurate. The fourth outfielder is Juan Lagares being the fourth outfield and not Conforto.

With Granderson to move to center, the Mets need an accomplished player to play center, and that’s Lagares, who won a Gold Glove at the position. It’s inconceivable, if not flat out irresponsible, to go into the season without an accomplished center fielder.

So, where does that leave Conforto?

I’m thinking there are four options regarding Conforto:

FIFTH OUTFIELDER: They could carry him as the fifth outfielder, a role that would give Conforto limited at-bats. Conforto, whom Collins anointed the Mets’ No. 3 hitter of the future, needs regular at-bats.

TRADE HIM: I’m sure you could get something substantial for him, including a reliever, but this is the worst option to me. Long after Bruce and Cespedes are gone, Conforto could be whistling line drives all over Citi Field.

DEFINITIVE PLAYING FORMAT: Rotating Conforto to spell Cespedes, Granderson and Bruce at least once a week could give Conforto up to three games a week, which is doable. Collins could have done the same last year with Wilmer Flores in the infield, but couldn’t manage the juggling. I can’t see Collins doing this successfully with Conforto in the outfield.

MINOR LEAGUES: I hate to say it, but I’m thinking it is more likely Conforto will wind up in Las Vegas. It’s the option that will give Conforto the most at-bats and playing time.

 

 

Jan 23

Looking At Muddled Mets’ Outfield

First, let me apologize for the no-show the past few days. I’ve been recovering from an eye procedure and things are rather blurry.

However, what remains clear to me are what are the Mets’ needs with spring training less than a month away. ESPN recently wrote the Mets are looking for a center fielder, but with possibly six outfielders on the roster, that can’t possibly be their top priority.

Could it?

If it is, then that has to be an indictment of how poorly this roster has been constructed. They already have a Gold Glove Award winner in Juan Lagares, to whom they signed to a four-year contract. The Mets aren’t happy with Lagares’ ability to hit right-handed pitchers. If that’s the case, then why give him a long-term deal?

They are toying with the idea of moving Curtis Granderson from right to center. Because they signed Yoenis Cespedes, who refuses to play center – when they brought him back after the 2015 season it was under the belief from him he would play center – it means finding a place for Michael Conforto.

Last spring, when Cespedes was healthy and in center, and Conforto was on a tear, manager Terry Collins said he was the Mets’ future No. 3 hitter.

Now, they don’t know where Conforto will play, other than it won’t be in left. That’s because they promised the position – and $110 million over the next four years – to Cespedes.

With the logjam in center, that means there’s not an immediate place for Brandon Nimmo. As of now, he could probably be ticketed to Vegas.

If they move Granderson to center, that leaves Jay Bruce in right. They traded for Bruce after Cespedes was injured and the Mets’ offense sputtered. Bruce’s option was picked up despite a poor few months with the Mets.

Why?

GM Sandy Alderson was clear in saying it was to guard against Cespedes opting out of his contract and signing elsewhere. Alderson also wasn’t shy in saying if Cespedes returned he would trade Bruce.

You don’t sign a player as a hedge. You sign a player only if you value and want to keep him. How Alderson handled Bruce greatly reduced his trade value and now the Mets are expecting him for spring training and possibly Opening Day.

So, as of now the Mets have $110 million earmarked in left field; a Gold Glove Award winner in center they don’t trust with a bat; a center fielder moving over from right; a right fielder they don’t want; and two highly-touted prospects they don’t have immediate plans where to play.

 

 

Jan 18

Could Conforto Open Season In Minors?

It was last April when manager Terry Collins said Michael Conforto was the Mets’ No. 3 hitter for the future. A year later, don’t be surprised if he opened the season with the Mets’ Triple-A Las Vegas affiliate.

I don’t like the idea, but considering the Mets’ muddled outfield situation, it isn’t farfetched, especially if they can’t trade Jay Bruce. If Bruce stays, he’ll play right with Curtis Granderson in center and Yoenis Cespedes in left.

CONFORTO: Could he open season in minors? (Getty)

CONFORTO: Could he open season in minors? (Getty)

Juan Lagares must stay to give Granderson rest in center field. Either Lagares or Granderson could give Cespedes rest if he needs a day off. Currently, the Mets aren’t ready to say they trust Conforto in center field.

If the Mets can’t trade Bruce, he must stay and play or totally lose his trade value. The Mets wouldn’t want to pay him $13 million to sit.

The Mets’ potential trade market for Bruce was dramatically sliced within the past week when Baltimore traded for Seth Smith; Toronto re-signed Jose Bautista and Philadelphia signed Michael Saunders.

Personally, I’ve always been in Conforto’s camp and opposed the Cespedes signing in part because I felt it would stunt Conforto’s growth. If the Mets kept Conforto as one of their five outfielders, he’d struggle for at-bats and playing time, notably from Lagares and Bruce.

One possibility is to keep Brandon Nimmo over Conforto, but again they’ll face the issue of one of their prime outfield prospects struggling for at-bats.

Jan 17

Mets’ Issues To Be Resolved This Spring

One month from today, Mets position players will report to spring training. They’ll take ground balls and batting practice for a couple of weeks. There will be daily reports on what pitchers are throwing and with the Mets there will be the daily, “how’s the arm feeling?’’ questions.

The Mets have numerous questions they must have answered in spring training:

BRUCE: Desperately want to trade him. (AP)

BRUCE: Desperately want to trade him. (AP)

ROTATION: With four pitchers coming off surgery, they’ll undoubtedly ease them into form. Probably one of the first five questions asked will be on innings limits.

Hopefully, manager Terry Collins will have a definable plan as to not duplicate what happened with Matt Harvey in 2015. More to the point, hopefully, he won’t deviate as he did with Harvey.

Coming off surgery, it’s not a bad idea to have limits on Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler. At one time the Mets didn’t discount the idea of using Wheeler out of the pen. If that’s the conclusion, then stick with it. They can always announce an innings format and if there aren’t any setbacks, discard it have May or June. But don’t announce something then deviate on a whim.

Collins will also need to define roles for Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman.

BULLPEN: They have to be expecting at least a 30-day suspension for Jeurys Familia, so they’ll need to define the bullpen roles with the assumption Addison Reed will be the closer to start.

This is an area where I can see the Mets signing relievers off the scrap heap at the end.

FIRST BASE: Lucas Duda had back issues last year so they’ll need to find a replacement. Wilmer Flores seems the logical choice, so Collins needs to give him innings.

Will Dominic Smith get enough at-bats this spring to leave the impression he could get the call-up chance should something happen to Duda?

As for Michael Conforto, if they are going to do it, then do it right. If so, it is important for Conforto to get substantial innings at first base, meaning that’s more important than playing in the World Baseball Classic.

SECOND BASE: They’ll need to keep a close eye on Neil Walker, who is coming off back surgery. Walker can’t be pushed, so Collins has to give out playing time to Flores and Ty Kelly.

It will be interesting to see how much time Jose Reyes will get at second. If he’s going to be the super sub, then he should get time at second.

SHORTSTOP: Amed Rosario is the future, but is he ready now? The Mets have Asdrubal Cabrera for this year (they have an option for 2018), but their thinking is Rosario should be ready for 2018.

Rosario needs to play, so if the Mets don’t have a way to get him in the lineup regularly, he’ll open the season at Triple-A.

THIRD BASE: The hope is David Wright will be ready for Opening Day, but nobody really knows. Reyes is Plan B.

Wright hasn’t played 100 games in the last two years combined, so there should be no bold projections for 2017.

Things change over the course of a season, but Collins needs to format a strict play-rest plan for Wright.

OUTFIELD: This is GM Sandy Alderson’s biggest mess. He basically announced to the world the Mets’ plan was to pick up Jay Bruce’s option as a hedge to not getting Yoenis Cespedes back. Of course, that automatically reduced Bruce’s trade value.

Sure, the Mets will keep making calls to dump Bruce, but at the same time they need to get him ready for the season. They also need to get Curtis Granderson ready to play center and right field.

There’s also the matter of getting Juan Lagares and Conforto ready. That leads to an interesting question: If the Mets are unable to trade Bruce and he’s on the Opening Day roster, then would they possibly start the season with Conforto in the minor leagues?

Jan 16

Let’s Hedge Raves About Mets’ Rotation

Many of the baseball preview magazines are already on the newsstands, with more than a few suggesting the Mets have one of the sports’ top rotations. However, they omit one word in the description, that being “potentially.”

The Cubs, Giants, Boston, Cleveland are all right there. So are the Nationals. The Mets? Well, if healthy, their group can throw as hard as anybody, but throwing hard isn’t the issue. Four potential starters will be coming off surgery, with a fifth, Noah Syndergaard, gutting through the second half of the season with bone spurs in his elbow.

Matt Harvey (shoulder) had seasons cut short by the knife in 2013 and 2016 and missed all of 2014; Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz each had elbow surgery; Zack Wheeler hasn’t pitched in two years; and, they did not bring back Bartolo Colon. The Mets clearly have health issues, which is why they aren’t listening to calls for Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman, knowing they might need them this summer, either as a starter or in a relief role.

Harvey, deGrom and Matz each have had surgery twice, and Wheeler’s surgery hasn’t worked out. We can’t assume the four recovering from surgery will pitch without incident in 2017, nor are there any guarantees all four will bounce back. That’s banking on a lot of things working out positively, including nothing happening with Syndergaard.

Even if they did, you can’t forget none of the Mets’ young studs have won more that 15 games, much less 20, or pitched more than 200 regular-season innings. The Mets’ young arms are immensely talented with loads of potential, but championships are won on proven production and not potential.

If everything breaks to the positive, it could be a sweet season reminiscent of 2015, but there are no guarantees.