Apr 02

Harvey Is Ready, But Are Mets?

Matt Harvey is ready. Now, what about the rest of the Mets?

Harvey, who’ll start the season’s third game in Washington, threw four scoreless innings today in a 0-0 tie with St. Louis today, and he immediately pronounced himself ready.

“I’m ready to go,” Harvey told reporters. “All the work has been put in, and it is time to just let all that loose.”

Harvey did not walk a hitter and threw 41 of 56 pitches for strikes.

“You hear stories of guys who have trouble with command coming back,” Harvey said. “That was something that I really worked on. Obviously you never know until you start facing hitters and get into a game.”

Harvey is the first of a long list of questions I posed at the start of spring training. As the Mets are in Texas to play the Rangers this weekend before heading to Washington, let’s re-visit those questions:

Q: How healthy is Harvey?

A: This is arguably the most important question of the season. Today was part of the good news. The Mets are thinking 30 starts and 190 innings. He’ll be on a 90-pitch count for the Nationals.

HARVEY: So far healthy this spring.  (AP)

HARVEY: So far healthy this spring. (AP)

Q: Who breaks camp as the leadoff hitter?

A: This remains undecided, but it appears Juan Lagares is the frontrunner based on his speed, not to mention a new four-year contract. However, Lagares must still improve his on-base percentage and reduce his strikeouts. Curtis Granderson could hit second if Daniel Murphy isn’t ready, otherwise he should be in the middle of the order.

Q: How healthy is David Wright?

A: A weak shoulder sapped Wright of his power last season, but he has had a good spring. Wright is the centerpiece of the offense. If he’s on his game, the offense could be as potent as it was in Florida.

Q: Wil Dillon Gee be traded?

A: Unbelievably, the Mets are still interested in trying to trade him. They wanted too much when they dangled him during the winter. They finally broke down this week and slotted him into the rotation.

Q: How good is Wilmer Flores?

A: Flores had a solid spring and nobody is talking about replacing him. He needs a legitimate opportunity, and that includes sticking with him even if with a poor start.

Q: What is the make-up of the bullpen?

A: Bobby Parnell and Josh Edgin will open the season on the disabled list. Jenrry Mejia will come out of spring training as the closer and Jeurys Familia as the set-up closer. The Mets will keep Rule 5 lefty Sean Gilmartin, along with lefty acquisitions Jerry Blevins and Alex Torres. Filling out the bullpen is long-man Carlos Torres and Rafael Montero.

Q: Any injuries?

A: They wouldn’t be the Mets without injuries. Zack Wheeler and Edgin are lost for the season following Tommy John surgery. Lucas Duda missed three weeks with a strained intercostal muscle, but enters the season in good shape. Granderson was hit on the leg with a pitch today and it is questionable for Opening Day. The Mets are adamant Murphy will not start the season on the disabled list. No doubt, that’s a gamble.

 

 

Apr 01

Are Mets Kidding With Long-Term Talk With Lagares And Duda?

A show of hands please, who saw this coming from the Mets? I didn’t and twice in one week no less. The Mets, who have long been noted for their conservative approach when it comes to long-term contracts, are reportedly discussing multi-year deals with Lucas Duda and Juan Lagares.

Several days after an ESPN report the Mets were considering a four-year, $31-million contract with Duda, they reportedly reached terms today with Lagares to an extension through 2019 for $23 million.

While Duda is 29 and this would likely be his biggest payday, Lagares is 26 and could have two more contracts after this one.

The contract would cover Lagares’ arbitration years and the first year when he would become free-agent eligible.

Duda hit 30 homers last year and Lagares won the Gold Glove in center field where he was credited for saving 28 runs. Offensively, he hit .281 with four homers and 47 RBI.

Is this a good idea or not?

Normally, I’??m all for locking in prospects long-term, but what about Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom – we can forget Zack Wheeler for now – to start with?

After all, I always favor the commitment to pitching first. However, before diving off the deep end, the prudent thing would be to get a larger window on both players, especially since they each have questions.

ON DECK: Mets Matters: Today’s notes.

 

Mar 31

Niese Facing Pivotal Season

Jon Niese continued the Mets’ run of strong starting pitching with six scoreless innings Tuesday against St. Louis. The Mets haven’t said where, but Niese will likely be slotted fourth in their rotation, meaning he’ll pitch in the second series at Atlanta.

Niese, who gave up four hits and struck out three in a 2-0 victory over the Nationals, had been trying to correct a striding flaw in his mechanics. He noticed his landing (right) leg was not falling directly toward the plate, but toward first base. Consequently, Niese has been throwing across his body, which placed stress on his left shoulder causing it to tire. Such a strain could cause damage to the shoulder, perhaps leading to surgery.

NIESE: Big year for him. (AP)

NIESE: Big year for him. (AP)

“I’ve been working on my mechanics in between starts and in the bullpen,” Niese told reporters. “It feels good now. It makes my arm feel a lot stronger, and with a little bit better command as well.

“I’m striding probably a foot further toward home plate. It’s good. I’m using my legs, using my body to do the pitching instead of just trying to muscle it up there with my arm.”

This is a pivotal season for Niese, who has two years remaining on a five-year, $25.27-million contract. Niese was a hot commodity then as a young, hard-throwing left-hander with a manageable contract.

However, since a 13-9 season in 30 starts (190.1 innings) in 2012, Niese’s stock has nosedived. He’s gone 17-18 and made only 54 of a potential 68 starts.

In their growing disenchantment, the Mets tried to trade Niese over the winter, but their asking price was too high. Niese could also be expendable this winter, especially if Steven Matz is brought up and shows potential.

The Mets gambled, and to date lost on Niese. But, he’s only 28 so there’s still time for him to cash his potential check.

ON DECK: Mets Matters: Today’s notebook.

 

Mar 31

Quit Screwing Around With Idea Of Trading Gee

You have to wonder what Dillon Gee was thinking yesterday during Mets owner Fred Wilpon’s closed-doors meeting.

How could he possibly get swayed away in any emotional thoughts when there are reports of the Mets still wanting to trade him? How could he possibly feel a part for what they are building if they are always trying to show him the door?

GEE: Keep him. (Getty)

GEE: Keep him. (Getty)

Gee won’t make waves; he doesn’t have that type of personality. He said all the right things Monday on SNY, saying he’s only concentrating on getting ready for the season regardless of his role.

Gee, despite limited experience in that capacity, was supposed to open the season in the bullpen prior to Zack Wheeler’s season-ending elbow injury. At the time, manager Terry Collins said he would replace Wheeler.

Then all of sudden enter Rafael Montero, and Collins began backtracking. You have to wonder, considering the talk about the manager’s relationship with the general manager, if Sandy Alderson didn’t have a finger in all this.

Just wondering.

Now, we’re hearing again about Gee being shopped. Such talk won’t dissipate in the wake of Montero throwing six scoreless innings Monday. (Never mind Gee threw seven scoreless Sunday).

Gee has a 40-34 record with a 3.91 ERA in 106 appearances with the Mets. He’s shown an ability to pitch with composure and eat innings in big games. Conversely, the 24-year-old Montero has a big upside, but we don’t know what he’ll do if given the ball every fifth game.

For that, matter we don’t know what Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz could do.

Sure, they are banking on their young pitching and there’s nothing wrong with that optimism. However, they can’t operate under the assumption any of those three will immediately give the Mets what Gee has proven to give.

If Alderson is the genius he’s been portrayed to be, he should know a team could never have enough pitching. In Alderson’s tenure with the Mets, he’s lost Matt Harvey, Johan Santana, Wheeler, Gee (last year) and Jon Niese at various times. Isn’t that enough of a clue?

Alderson is telling us the Mets will be competitive this year. Yet, he’s willing to go with an unproven as a fifth starter this year, and this despite also knowing they won’t have Bartolo Colon next season and Wheeler until at least June.

So, what’s this about trading Gee? Unless they are blown away – and they won’t be – it would be incredibly stupid to trade him.

And, we don’t need any more stupid things.

ON DECK:  Mets Today: What’s happening today.

Mar 30

Good Games From Montero And Duda Raise Questions

Two pertinent Mets’ issues surfaced in today’s 7-1 rout of the Marlins. The most urgent is the competition for a starter’s spot between Rafael Montero and Dillon Gee. The second is the idea of giving Lucas Duda a contract extension.

DUDA: Are Mets talking long-term? (AP)

DUDA: Are Mets talking long-term? (AP)

Coming on the heels of Gee’s strong outing Sunday, Montero was equally dominating today against Miami with six scoreless innings. He gave up two hits and no walks with six strikeouts.

The assumption is Gee would get the starter job, which is what Terry Collins said after Zack Wheeler’s season-ending elbow injury. However, the Mets have dragged their feet on making an official announcement, and now there are reports they are trying again to deal Gee.

Considering the fragility of starting pitching, and clear questions surrounding their bullpen – of which Montero would be more effective – the prudent decision would be to commit to Gee in the rotation.

As for the 29-year-old Duda, there are reports of a four-year, $31-million contract. Duda is coming off a 30-homer, 92-RBI season and will make $4.2 million this year. He went deep today and drove in five runs, so you might think Duda’s agents at the Beverly Hills Sports Council will be putting in a call to GM Sandy Alderson soon.

Reportedly, Duda’s people are interested in talking this week, but don’t want to negotiate during the season. The Mets don’t operate well when under the gun like that, which is probably a good thing.

Normally, I’d be in for signing Duda long term, but you must remember he’s only had one good season. I’m not sure one good year is worth a four-year deal.

If he does it again, then sure, but the price will go up.

ON DECK: Mets Matters: Today’s notebook.