Dec 11

Mets’ Remaining Shopping List

The Mets upgraded their up-the-middle defense by signing FA shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and trading for second baseman Neil Walker. They also freed up their rotation by trading Jon Niese. They are better today than they were when the Winter Meetings began.

Even so, that doesn’t mean they don’t have things left to do. Here’s what they have to do:

BLEVINS: Will he be ready? (AP)

BLEVINS: Will he be ready? (AP)

* BOLSTER THE BULLPEN:  Re-signing Tyler Clippard is an option. Hansel Robles, Sean Gilmartin and Carlos Torres aren’t the answers by themselves. Their primary need is to get a left-handed reliever.

Maybe Josh Edgin will bounce back from surgery. Perhaps Jerry Blevins will, also.

When you come down to it, the most certain arms in the bullpen are Jeurys Familia and Addison Reed. The Mets are currently considering bringing back Bartolo Colon, who came up big working out of the pen during the playoffs.

* CENTER FIELD:  Most of the talk is finding a left-handed hitting platoon for Juan Lagares. When you sign a player to a five-year extension and after one year are looking to platoon him, that tells me they aren’t completely sold on him. Am I jumping the gun? I don’t think so.

Personally, the Mets signed Jason Heyward, I’d be thrilled, but I don’t think it will happen. I’d rather the Mets get a full-time player than go with a platoon. The Mets have some internal options, which makes be thing the best thing they should do with Lagares is have him undergo Tommy John surgery and prepare him for 2017.

* PAY THE ROTATION: The Mets say they won’t break up their young pitching core, so they might as well sign at least one of them long-term to avoid their arbitration years. Sooner or later they’ll have to make this move, and with the estimated $30 million they saved by not signing Ben Zobrist, it should be sooner.

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Dec 10

Mets A Winter Meetings Winner

The Mets left Nashville this afternoon a better team that showed up Sunday night, even if they come home with a contract having Ben Zobrist‘s autograph.

CABRERA: Makes Mets better. (Getty)

CABRERA: Makes Mets better. (Getty)

The Mets not only upgraded up the middle defensively with second baseman Neil Walker (trade from Pittsburgh for Jon Niese) and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera (free agent signing from Tampa Bay), and in the process improved their bench and came away with a back-up for David Wright.

And, they did it at a minimal cost, $18.5 million in a two-year contract for Cabrera instead of the estimated $50 million they were going to pay Zobrist. The price of what Walker could make in arbitration and what Niese is to make ($9 million) is a wash.

The Mets were poor defensively with Daniel Murphy and Flores (a combined 26 errors) opposed to a combined 16 from Walker and Cabrera. However, defense is more than just errors, it is also positioning and range. For a team built on pitching, they improved in the field with no loss of production at the plate..

Flores will now fall into the role of right-handed hitting platoon with Walker; back-up shortstop; and fill-in for Wright at third.

The decision to sign Cabrera after tendering Ruben Tejada is not overkill because Flores fractured his ankle in winter ball and Tejada is still recovering from breaking his leg in the playoffs. We don’t know if they’ll be ready when spring training opens Feb. 17 (pitchers and catchers) and Feb. 24 (position players).

Assuming both are ready, they can spell Wright at third. Cabrera can do the same.

So, when you add it up, the Mets improved their up-the-middle defense, bench and found a contingency plan for Wright and will save an estimated $30 million.

I’d call it a win-win, leaving them to find a left-handed hitting platoon with Juan Lagares in center and bolstering the bullpen.

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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.