Dec 10

Niese Traded Because He Wasn’t That Good

After being pushed out the door by the Mets, Jon Niese took a jab at his former teammates by praising the Pirates’ defense. That’s fair game to a point as the Mets didn’t always field or hit behind him.

However, he could have been a little more delicate because it is a two-way street. A hard-throwing lefty at 29 and with a manageable contract, Niese is a commodity most clubs want. He wasn’t just traded because of the Mets’ young core. Niese was also traded because since 2008 he’s just 61-61 lifetime with a 1.361 lofty WHIP.  He did give the Mets innings, but many times those were precarious innings.

Niese was traded because he wasn’t that good. Some of that silver hair on Terry Collins’ head was NIese related.

NIESE: Takes unfair jab at teammates. (AP)

NIESE: Takes unfair jab at teammates. (AP)

Niese had his fair share of injuries, but his biggest problem is he wasn’t a winner, and it goes beyond his record. Winning pitchers find a way to minimize damage. In close games they find a way to get out of innings and eventually win the game.

Yes, Niese often played behind a patchwork defense, but even so it is his job to overcome adversity. He has to pick up a fielder, but all too often for him, an error, or a broken-bat hit that fell in, or a bad call was followed by a walk, then a hit, then another. Too often, one run became three and turned into a loss.

Niese has made 177 starts during his career, of which 55 turned into a no-decision. There’s no denying he was willing to take the ball, but there were too many times he didn’t know what to do with it once it was in his hand. Many times his post-game comments boiled down to, “I pitched good, but didn’t get any luck.”

The Mets are interested in re-signing Bartolo Colon primarily because he knows how to get out of trouble, which is something Niese hasn’t learned.

Maybe he will in Pittsburgh.

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Dec 09

Niese Traded To Pirates For Walker

Just as the Mets quickly rebounded by getting Yoenis Cespedes when the Carlos Gomez trade fell through, they did it again as they have traded for Pirates second baseman Neil Walker the day after losing Ben Zobrist to the Cubs.

WALKER: Newest Met. (Getty)

WALKER: Newest Met. (Getty)

All it cost is Jon Niese, who wasn’t in their plans in the first place. I wrote last night I wasn’t all that broken up about Zobrist falling through because he was too pricey and there were other options. Zobrist’s 162-game averages are .265 with 17 homers and 77 RBI, while Walker hit .269 with 16 homers and 71 RBI last year. The difference is one hot weekend.

Niese was to make $9 million this year, which is the projected arbitration award for Walker.

Walker doesn’t play the outfield corners like Zobrist, but like him is a switch-hitter and is four years younger. However, with Zobrist they would have him locked up for four years. Walker could only turn out to be a rental as he’ll be a free agent after this season. That could mean the Mets could be going through this again next winter if Dilson Herrara doesn’t show them anything this year.

As for Niese, 29, he was being phased out because of the Mets’ young core of arms. Niese was projected to be in the rotation until Zack Wheeler comes off the disabled list, but are now expected to go with Rafael Montero. The trade of Niese could also spur the Mets to re-sign Bartolo Colon.

 

Dec 09

Not Broken Up About Mets Not Getting Zobrist

I like guys like Ben Zobrist, I always have. All championship teams need players like him. The Mets saw first-hand what he was in the World Series and decided they wanted him. That was a good call on their part, but honestly I’m not all that broken up about the Mets losing him.

Let’s be realistic and not go all ballistic and blame the Wilpons for not ponying up the money. This has nothing to do with them being cheap. There’s no reason to buy billboard space outside Citi Field. They were willing to give Zobrist the fourth year and word is they were around $50 million.

MURPHY:  Could we see him again. (Getty)

MURPHY: Could we see him again? (Getty)

For a 34-year-old whose 162-game average is .265, 17 homers and 77 RBI, that’s not chump change.

“I don’t think this was about money,” Mets assistant general manager John Ricco said. “It was about him finding a place that fit. I think he liked a lot about what we were. He has some history with the manager in Chicago. It’s a little closer to home for him. He made that decision, and we’ll move on.”

Zobrist told the Mets of his decision in person at the Winter Meetings in Nashville, which is his off-season home. It’s short hour flight to Chicago, where Zobrist will play under Joe Maddon, his former manager at Tampa Bay.

Zobrist was the Mets’ No. 1 offseason priority. It didn’t work out so they have to adjust. It’s not as if the Mets haven’t been disappointed before.

“It’s disappointing,” Ricco said. “I’m going to be honest. He’s a guy we thought fit very well for us. So I will say that. But we’ve been through many situations where you have to adjust and adapt. That’s why you have a plan that has multiple options and don’t go all in on any one of them. I think we’ll be fine.”

They should be all right for several reasons, not the least of which is the money they’ll save. They could possibly direct some towards re-signing Daniel Murphy. With Zobrist off the boards and the Yankees having traded for the Cubs’ Starlin Castro (to make room for Zobrist), we’ll see how the market for second basemen develops. The Mets now join the Orioles, White Sox, Indians and Angels as teams in need at the position.

Zobrist will be 39 by the time the contract ends, but for me that was too much money considering their other needs, such as a left-handed hitting outfielder, preferably in center; the bullpen; and long-term deals for their core starters. With Wilmer Flores and possibly Dilson Herrera, not to mention Murphy, I didn’t recognize second as a critical need.

ON DECK:  Mets’ second-base options.

Dec 08

Cubs Beat Out Mets For Zobrist

The Mets are back to Plan B, which is another way of saying Square One, as the MLB Network reported tonight with second baseman Ben Zobrist, this winter’s object of their affections agreed to a four-year, $56-million contract with the Chicago Cubs.

Mets manager Terry Collins texted Zobrist today, a clipped “We want you,” but like a teenage girl being asked to the prom, such flirting doesn’t always work.

ZOBRIST: Going to Cubs. (AP)

ZOBRIST: Going to Cubs. (AP)

Zobrist met with the Washington Nationals today and Mets on Monday, but the Cubs emerged as a late player. In the Cubs, the 34-year-old Zobrist finds a comfort level in Chicago, which is close to his offseason Nashville home. The Cubs, who won 97 games last season, offer a better line-up to protect Zobrist, a better hitter’s park, and reunites him with his former manager Joe Maddon.

Zobrist is a switch-hitter whose 162-game average is .265 with a .355 on-base percentage, 17 homers and 77 RBI. Frankly, $56 million is too much for that production. But, for a team like the Cubs that has deeper pockets.

The Cubs are also going after outfielder Jason Heyward and Miami ace Jose Fernandez, whom the Marlins say they won’t trade. The Giants and Dodgers are also reportedly interested in Fernandez. If the Cubs make those two moves they should be favored to get to the World Series. Even if they don’t, the Cubs are better situated to getting to the Series than the Mets.

To make room for Zobrist, the Cubs are discussing a trade of second baseman Starlin Castro to the Yankees. Ironically, the Mets’ loss at second base is the Yankees’ gain.

Despite being swept out of the NLCS by the Mets, the Cubs are in better position of getting into the playoffs next year, despite the Mets’ cache of young arms. In addition to second base, the Mets have holes in centerfield (they have to replace Yoenis Cespedes) and bolster the middle of their bullpen.

The Mets are also banking on a bounce-back year from David Wright and the continued development of outfielder Michael Conforto and their young pitching.

As they are presently constructed, and with the Nationals expected to be aggressive, the Mets aren’t a slam dunk to get back to the playoffs.

Clearly, they have work to do.

Dec 08

Mets Today: More Zobrist

With Ben Zobrist expected in town Tuesday, the Mets will put the full-court press on their top free-agent target. Reportedly, Zobrist wants $60 million over four years. The Mets originally said they didn’t want to go more than three years, but it is looking as if they’ll bend on the years.

If it happens it won’t be the first time as they acquiesced on Curtis Granderson and gave four years and gave two years to Bartolo Colon when they only wanted to give one.

Zobrist has proven to be a solid player who stays in shape, but he’ll be 39 at the end of the contract which makes it a risk. Of course, most teams know players will break down at the end of their contracts so the Mets can expect him to fall off in the third and fourth years.

I like Zobrist, but he’s a complementary player and won’t be the player to put them over the top. The Mets’ primary objectives should the bullpen and finding an outfield bat to platoon with Juan Lagares.

For the past two years we’ve been told by the Mets that Dilson Herrera was the long-term solution for second base, but their pursuit of Zobrist makes one wonder where he really fits into their plans.

The Mets did tender Ruben Tejada, but haven’t said how he’s recovering from his broken leg sustained in the playoffs. Tejada at shortstop and moving Wilmer Flores was thought to be a possible solution, but that seems to be on the back burner.