Feb 18

Mets Wise To Pass On Nelson Cruz

The New York Mets insist they have no interest in “slugging’’ outfielder Nelson Cruz. Let’s hope they don’t waiver from that position.

Quotes belong around the word slugging because who really knows if he’s a genuine slugger or a chemistry project?

CRUZ: Just say no.

CRUZ: Just say no.

Cruz served a 50-game suspension for his connection in the Biogenesis case so the legitimacy of his numbers must be questioned. After four non-descript seasons totaling 22 homers, Cruz busted out to hit 33 in 2009.

Then 22, 29, 24 and 27. He never had more than 90 RBI in that five-year span. What can you make of those numbers, especially in a line-up as loaded as the Rangers?

Basically, that’s erratic power, but is it real or chemicals? And, when did he start? How long had he been using?

Whatever documents those answers were found in have not, and will not, be released by Major League Baseball. So, if you’re an owner and hear Cruz’s initial demands were as high as five years at $15 million each, you must take pause.

The Mets have been stung by burdensome, long-term, non-productive contracts over the past five years and the last thing they need is to add another to a 33-year-old.

If Cruz had no doubt about his legitimacy, he should ask for a one-year, incentive-laden deal to prove himself, but he didn’t. Why?

That question, plus Cruz’s age, questionable numbers, and contractual demands all combine to make him a risk the Mets should not take.

ON DECK:  What about Wilmer Flores at shortstop?

Feb 18

Mets Putting Themselves In Good Financial Shape For Future

Over the past five seasons – all below .500 – the New York Mets were bogged down by cumbersome contracts to unproductive players. It was economic certainty, but in a bad way.

This should be the third consecutive year the Mets will have a payroll of less than $100 million. They have long pointed to 2015 as when they will put themselves in a competitive position, and are currently set up to do so with payroll flexibility through 2019.

Heading into 2015, the Mets have $54.05 million earmarked to four players: David Wright ($20 million), Curtis Granderson ($16 million), Bartolo Colon ($11 million) and Jonathon Niese ($7.05 million).

Where teams usually get bit in their payroll is during the arbitration process and the Mets will have eight players eligible: Daniel Murphy, Bobby Parnell, Dillon Gee, Ike Davis, Eric Young, Lucas Duda, Jenrry Mejia and Ruben Tejada.

Of the eight, it is possible four – Davis, Young, Duda and Tejada – could be gone, with some before the end of this season.

Only one player is scheduled to be a free agent after this year and that’s Chris Young, who nobody expects to be back.

In 2016, the Mets have $45.05 million designated for three players: Wright ($20 million), Granderson ($16 million) and Niese $9.050 million).

Their arbitration eligible list that off-season expands to 14 to leave open the possibility for a significant payroll spike. The list includes: Gee, Davis, Eric Young, Duda, Tejada, Scott Rice, Matt Harvey, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Mejia, Josh Edgin, Jeurys Familia, Anthony Recker, Andrew Brown and Carlos Torres.

By this time, there’s no telling who will still be in the organization. Harvey and possibly Gee could be given multi-year deals by then. Everybody else is up the air. It’s also questionable if Nieuwenhuis and Brown will still be around, as neither one has made serious strides in sticking around.

Their 2016 free agents will be Colon, Murphy and Parnell.

In 2017, the Mets have $35.5 million earmarked for Wright ($20 million), Granderson ($15 million) and a half-million buyout for Niese.

Their arbitration eligible players will be Duda, Tejada, Rice, Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Nieuwenhuis, Mejia, Edgin, Torres. Familia, Recker and Brown, with their free agents Gee, Davis and Eric Young.

Wright ($20 million) is the only player under contract for 2018. The arbitration eligible Mets will be Rice, Harvey, Nieuwenhuis, Torres. Mejia, Edgin, Familia, Recker, Wheeler and Brown. That year Granderson, Duda and Tejada will be free agents.

In 2019 they’ll owe Wright $15 million, with Torres and Wheeler the only Mets who are arbitration eligible. Potential free agents will be Rice, Harvey, Nieuwenhuis, Mejia, Edgin, Familia, Recker and Brown.

The Mets have long talked about cutting payroll costs to put themselves in position to seriously enter the free-agent market. It now appears they might actually be able to do it.

Feb 17

Memo To Mets On Mejia: Just Pick A Role

The New York Mets are doing the rotation-bullpen dance again with Jenrry Mejia and who believes things will be better this time around?

After the first day of workouts in Port St. Lucie, manager Terry Collins left open the door to the bullpen shuttle. With Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lannan as fifth starter candidates, and the bullpen under construction with Bobby Parnell recovering from surgery, ESPN is reporting Collins is keeping an open mind on Mejia.

MEJIA: Where to put him?

MEJIA: Where to put him?

“One thing we know about him is he can pitch out of the bullpen. We’ve seen it,’’ Collins said Monday.

This debate has been going on since 2010, when Mejia, who wasn’t ready for the major leagues in any role, was force-fed the bullpen by then-manager Jerry Manuel, who entered the season knowing his job was on the line.

Mejia prefers the rotation, which is supported by his numbers, but Collins said his 2.30 ERA last year isn’t a definitive sample size. Mejia made five starts before surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow.

“There were some people in this organization who felt maybe he couldn’t be a starter because there’s such maximum effort in his delivery,’’ Collins said. “He proved them wrong, that he can go out there and start and can get you deep into a game. Now it’s, ‘What’s our best fit?’ Is it, ‘We’ve got five good guys. He’s the sixth. Do we have a spot in the bullpen for an arm like that with that kind of stuff?’ That might be a fit for him.’’

Under Manuel, Mejia started out of the bullpen, but pitched sparingly in mostly non-pressure situations. He understandably struggled and was sent down to start, but eventually hurt his elbow, needed surgery and missed the 2011 season.

At the time Mejia was one of the Mets’ most sought-after prospects, but the calls stopped because how could they promote him when they didn’t even know what role he fit best? How could the Mets talk him up as a starter if he wasn’t good enough for their rotation? How could they talk him up as a reliever if he couldn’t stay in their bullpen?

Mejia entered this off-season as the primary fifth-starter option, but the Mets obviously weren’t sold on his health as they signed Matsuzaka and Lannan, both of whom have contract clauses where they can opt out if not on the major league roster by June.

So, which is it, starter or reliever? And, if in the bullpen, what is his role?

Whatever they do, considering Mejia’s arm troubles, the best decision is to pick one and stick with it.

 

Feb 17

Mets’ Matt Harvey Doesn’t Regret Surgery Option

Matt Harvey doesn’t give in easily, but finally admitted he won’t be a part of the 2014 New York Mets as anything but a footnote.

Harvey, who recently said he wanted to pitch this season if his rehab from Tommy John surgery is complete by September, caved in Sunday and acknowledged it to be a long shot. Perhaps that his locker isn’t on `Starters Row,’ but close to the training room might have been the deciding factor.

HARVEY: Won't be an easy spring.

HARVEY: Won’t be an easy spring.

“It’s a little bit difficult of a day considering I’m starting to realize that the year is not going to go the way I wanted it to,’’ Harvey told reporters in Port St. Lucie Sunday. “But, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do, and the rehab is going to continue. I’m not sure when I’m going to start throwing, but hopefully in the near future.

“It’s hard seeing all the guys, seeing them put their uniforms on, and realizing that spring training is going to go a little differently this year.’’

It had to be tough emotionally for him considering the high he rode last season until injuring his elbow. He had New York in the palm of his hand, but couldn’t ignore the nagging pain in his forearm and elbow.

Initially, Harvey wanted to choose rest over surgery, but finally relented. He said he’s finally at peace with the decision.

“I needed that time to make the decision and make sure that it was the right one and the one that I wanted to go with,’’ Harvey said. “I’m happy that I did things on my own time. Mentally moving forward I think that was a big thing for me to do.’’

As of now, Harvey will miss 2014. Had he opted for rest he might have been ready, but if he later blew out his elbow he would have missed the remainder of 2014 plus 2015. Considering those options, Harvey opted to miss the least amount of time as possible.

Mets physicians will soon meet with Dr. James Andrews, who performed the surgery, to map out a timetable for his rehab this season and this throwing program.

“Whenever they decide I can throw, that’s their decision. I can only make sure I’m strong and flexible,’’ Harvey said. “It’s definitely tough, but I’ve come to the realization that I have to listen to them and I can’t push too much.’’

That rushing sound you hear is a sigh of relief from Mets’ management.

Harvey is a competitor with no quit. Maybe he needed this experience to understand the fragility of his career and better take care of his arm.

ON DECK: Jenrry Mejia on bullpen shuttle again?

Feb 17

Jeff Wilpon Defends Mets’ Financial Plan

Jeff Wilpon, New York Mets chief operating officer, addressed several financial issues with MLB.com as the club opened spring training.

The Mets’ projected payroll for this season is to be shy of $95 million, but Wilpon said it isn’t necessary to have a Yankees-like payroll to compete.

WILPON: Defending plan.

WILPON: Defending plan.

“I would point to the fact that you don’t have to have that kind of payroll to win,’’ Wilpon said of the $140-million plus payrolls the Mets had prior to bringing in Sandy Alderson as general manager.

Alderson’s first objective was to clear the books of the unproductive salaries of Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo, Francisco Rodriguez, Jason Bay and Johan Santana, all brought in under former general manager Omar Minaya. Alderson also traded Carlos Beltran for Zack Wheeler.

The Mets’ payrolls the past five seasons, all of which they finished below .500 were: $149.4 million (2009); $126.5 million (2010); $143 million (2011); $96 million (2012); and $94 million (2013). The Mets currently have $75 million earmarked for 12 players this season. Barring a surprise signing, they won’t break $100 million. That’s a reflection of Alderson.

“I think he’s put the plan in place, and we’re ready to see the fruits of that labor now,’’ Wilpon said.

The Mets were more active this winter than the past two, and at best are expected to challenge to be a .500 team. Even had they signed shortstop Stephen Drew as most Mets fans want the organization to do, it’s questionable how much better he’d make them.

Another free-agent the Mets passed on was outfielder Nelson Cruz. Alderson wasn’t interested in either, despite a need in those areas.

“If those one or two things were there, we would have expanded the budget for them,’’ Wilpon said. “Just to get a guy because the fans think that’s the right thing to do, that’s not part of the plan.

“Sandy’s not going to overspend for something he doesn’t see value in. The value that we see in those guys versus what their agents were asking for does not meet.’’

The Mets aren’t the only ones thinking that way as both Drew and Cruz remain unsigned.

The Mets are stockpiling young pitching, but have little position-player chips. Wilpon believes that’s their biggest weakness.

“I don’t think we have enough position-player prospects that are ready to compete for jobs at the major-league level right now,’’ Wilpon said. “We’d like to have more, like we have with the pitchers. We’d like to have that same stable of young guys competing for position-player jobs. The guys we have are a couple years away.’’

While Wilpon said it isn’t necessary to have a monster payroll to win, the Mets haven’t won with their $90 million payrolls the past two seasons, either.

The Mets did spend more this year, bringing in Curtis Granderson, Bartolo Colon and Chris Young, but counter those additions with the loss of Matt Harvey and several questions in other areas and what defines a successful season remains unknown.

One thing for certain, it isn’t anything less than a winning record.

ON DECK:  Matt Harvey faces frustrating summer.