Sep 19

What Can The Mets Do When They Have So Little To Trade?

GM Sandy Alderson said the Mets were more likely to build via the trade route than by making a big splash in the free-agent market. Amidst the Ike Davis flap, one must wonder what pieces the Mets have to trade.

When you read between the lines from what Alderson has said, everybody is fair game outside of Matt Harvey and Zach Wheeler. There might be more arms down below the Mets would find untouchable, and Jenrry Mejia probably isn’t one of them any more.

Let’s examine several of the higher profile Mets as to their trade worthiness:

DAVID WRIGHT: He’s the one that always comes up first, but it appears the Mets will make a play to keep him. He’s their biggest position-player talent, but his contractual situation would make it difficult to move him. Most teams wouldn’t want to pay Wright’s 2013 salary as a rental without having the opportunity to sign him to an extension first. Trading him in the offseason is highly doubtful, but a team with a lot of resources could do something next year at the trade deadline. Signing Wright to the long-term deal he deserves would be pricey and those are difficult to unload. The situation with the Dodgers was a stroke of luck for the Red Sox.

R.A. DICKEY: Dickey is one reason I’m still watching the season and haven’t moved on to football season entirely and Kevin’s NFL picks. Outside of the young prospects, he’s their most valuable pitching chip. He has a movable contract, and even a contract extension would probably be palatable to another team. Even if Dickey wins the Cy Young Award – now appearing doubtful – there’s the specter of the knuckleball and finding a catcher who can handle the devilish pitch. Despite Dickey’s success, too many people in baseball would shy away at such a pitcher. You don’t have to look any further than Tony La Russa’s decision at the All-Star Game to realize there’s prejudice against the pitch.

JOHAN SANTANA: The Mets’ best hope here is if he makes a full recovery and pitches lights out in the first half. Then you might find a taker for the remaining $12 million or so remaining. Even that’s a lot and there’s always the fear of him breaking down again. The Mets got all they could from Santana before he broke down and would be foolish to think they could get anything more in a trade. His value to the team is to come back strong as he did this year in the first half and pitch them into contention for a wild card.

JON NIESE: He’s young, left-handed with a strong arm and affordable. What’s not to like? He’s the type of pitching talent teams are built around. Yes, he would bring something in return, but the Mets covet him and would be crazy to trade him.

JASON BAY: He’s been injured, non-productive and has a ridiculous contract. He’s not going anywhere.

All this makes Davis the most tradable.

Sep 18

Are The Mets Shopping Ike Davis?

ESPN reported this morning the Mets are considering trading Ike Davis. It seems plausible explanation for why Lucas Duda has been getting more playing time at first base. Adam Rubin wrote it, so I trust the reporting.

DAVIS: Anguishing over another strikeout?

But, isn’t Davis one of the bright young talents the Mets are building around? Isn’t he one of the good products from what has been regarded as a weak farm system?

Yes, but there’s more to the story than just his age and power potential, which could reach 30 homers this season despite a slow start. He is on pace for 30 homers, but also on track to hit .223 with 142 strikeouts and only 60 walks.

Davis said he’d like to remain a Met, but understands the business side of the sport.

“If they trade me, they trade me – I can’t do anything about it,” Davis told reporters. “I have to do my job where I am at.” 

Trading Davis, despite his power potential, makes sense on several fronts:

1) The Mets have few chips they could spend and definitely are reluctant to tamper with their young pitching. Davis, with his potential and low salary, is a player who could bring in several pieces in return. In considering the available Mets that could be dealt, David Wright might bring back more, but his salary would be a deterrent. Davis is a player who could be tied up in a long term deal.

As being one of their few tradable chips is important considering GM Sandy Alderson has already spoke of keeping basically the same payroll next season, which would preclude spending lavishly in the free agent market.

2) While Davis is their frontline first baseman, the Mets have depth in the position with Duda. There’s absolutely no outfield depth and they would struggle to replace Wright or Ruben Tejada.

3) Reportedly, Davis hasn’t taken to being coached well and has a weakness for the night life. If this is true, the Mets wouldn’t want him around to influence the other young talent. Reports like this could work either way in the Mets’ attempts to deal Davis. First, Davis could be viewed as a problem, although there’s been no complaints about him in the clubhouse. Secondly, the perception could be that the Mets have been so poor in recent years that a player not being coachable could be interpreted as not that big a deal.

Davis debuted with a flair, but sustained a severe ankle injury last year and was struck by a virus this spring. He might be totally frustrated and resentful of how the Mets handled the ankle injury and this could explain any reluctance with the coaching. On the flip side, Terry Collins opted to keep him earlier this year when he was struggling instead of sending him to the minor leagues. That action must be regarded as the Mets having confidence in Davis, and that can’t be underestimated.

I often wonder what became of Davis’ approach at the plate. He arrived with a reputation of being patient, working the count and taking the outside pitch to left field. He would wait for his pitch to crush. However, we’ve been seeing less of that lately and more of him over swinging and trying to pull.

What Davis hasn’t realized, or it hasn’t been told to him – although I doubt that – is if Davis was more patient and went the other way, that he has the power to hit it out to left. Also, adding 40 points to his average would translate into more homers.

I can see Davis becoming a star player, but I can also see him evolving into an all-or-nothing slugger. If the Mets can swing a deal and fill a couple of holes elsewhere, then go for it.

 

Sep 17

Mets’ Fade Makes One Yearn For A Pennant Race

Every morning I take a glance at the standings and the pennant races. There’s nothing like the drama and intensity of a pennant race. It is the essence of the sport.

For the record, this morning the Mets are 14 games under .500 and 23 games behind the Nationals with a schedule that could plummet them to 20 below.

So much for a pennant race involving the Mets. Even the collapses of 2007 and 2008 gave those Septembers more meaning than this excruciating month. Of course the remaining schedule is of importance to the Phillies, Pirates and Braves, all in wild card contention. There are six games left with the hated Marlins in the battle to stay out of last place.

Major League Baseball added a second wild card in the hope of creating spice and interest in more cities. So far, it has worked in both leagues.

Sort of.

In the American League there are eight teams – including the three division leaders – that could end up with a wild-card berth. In the AL East there is a dogfight between the Yankees, Orioles and Rays. But, what kind of fight is it really if all three were to qualify for the playoffs? Mathematically it could happen.

In the National League, seven teams are in serious wild-card contention with all three division leaders having comfortable margins.

For all the drama – is it really manufactured drama? – in the wild-card races I think of perhaps the greatest pennant race in history, that being 1967 in the American League when five of the then 10 teams in the league were alive in September, but only one would survive.

For much of that tumultuous summer, the Red Sox, White Sox, Twins, Tigers and Angels were all packed at the top. The Angels were the first to drop out, then with over a week remaining the White Sox’s woeful offense finally wore down their marvelous pitching staff led by Gary Peters and Joel Horlen.

I remember it vividly because I spent that summer in New England and started following the Red Sox on the radio at night. My Indians, of course, were like the present day Mets and well on the outside.

The Red Sox, Twins and Tigers were alive heading into the final weekend. Carl Yastrzemski’s Sox and Harmon Killebrew’s Twins would eliminate one of those teams. All three were alive the final day. Boston eliminated the Twins early, then had to wait until the Tigers lost the second game of a double-header before clinching.

There have been many great pennant races, but for the amount of teams involved, that one had the most.

It’s not the same intensity when so many are involved for a play-in game.

If the old, no-division format were in place today, the Nationals and Reds would be having a great race, with the Braves and Giants on the fade.

The American League would have a spicier race with the Rangers, Athletics, Yankees and Orioles within five games of each other. That combination would give 1967 a run for its money.

Perhaps, because I was a kid and was just developing my passion for baseball

the 1967 race stands out. But nearly four decades later, it is still special reading about it.It is one for the ages.

Sep 16

Mets Matters: Should Chris Young Be Brought Back?

Chris Young took the loss today, but worked into the seventh inning, and in doing so passed 100 innings for the season and received a $150,000 bonus.

More importantly, he’s probably showed enough to warrant a contract for 2013, if not from the Mets, then somebody else.

“It means I’m healthy,’’ said Young. “I think I’ve pitched pretty well, better than my record probably indicates. But, there’s a lot of room for improvement.’’

There is, because although Young had his moments when he worked deep into games like today, there were others when he was rocked. Still, he started 18 games, his most since 2008.

Veteran arms are important, so we shouldn’t write off Young returning even though he’s not included in next year’s rotation. Although the Mets have ideas as to how their rotation will look, there are significant questions that make Young’s presence desirable.

Both Johan Santana and Dillon Gee are coming off injuries so there will be caution with them. You have to like Matt Harvey’s future, but it is premature to label him an ace right now.

Something will happen next year, you know it, so having depth is essential. If not Young, then the Mets will shop in the bargain aisle for veteran pitching depth. The advantage of bringing back Young is the Mets’ familiarity with him.

More Mets Matters:

* Terry Collins said Jeremy Hefner would likely get the start Wednesday against the Phillies. A couple of weeks ago this series meant nothing but the Phillies, like the Brewers, have become wild card contenders.

* David Wright now has 1,411 hits, seven shy of Ed Kranepool, the franchise’s career hit leader. Yes, statistics is what it has come down to for the Mets this season. I’d also like to see Wright finish with at least 90 RBI. He has 81. Another milestone would be Ike Davis hitting 30 homers, joining Eddie Murray, Carlos Delgado and David Kingman as Mets first basemen with 30 homer seasons.

* After Jenrry Mejia was shelled Saturday, pitching coach Dan Warthen said he views him as a reliever, claiming he didn’t believe he would be able to throw 200 innings year after year. I wonder how Warthen can make that assessment when the organization keeps bouncing Mejia around from being a starter to the bullpen.

* The opportunities are getting winding down for R.A. Dickey’s bid to win 20 games. He’s scheduled to start tomorrow night against the Phillies and maybe two more after that. He’s stuck on 18 victories.

Sep 15

Jenrry Mejia Getting His Chance

A mark of a good manager is putting his players in position to succeed. He shouldn’t force a player to do something he’s unfamiliar or uncomfortable with, thereby increasing the chance of failure.

That’s what Jerry Manuel did to Jenrry Mejia in 2010. With his job clearly in jeopardy and no bullpen to speak of, Manuel insisted on putting Jenrry Mejia in a relief role coming out of spring training despite no experience at it and, no definable role with the Mets.

Mejia didn’t work for long stretches and struggled when he did get in games. Eventually, he performed so poorly he was optioned out. Once in the minors, they tried him as a starter again. He was eventually injured.

He starts tonight at Milwaukee, despite his last three appearances at Triple-A Buffalo being in relief, this after a solid stretch as a starter.

You guessed it, the Mets still don’t have an idea where Mejia fits into their 2013 plans.

Mejia had dramatically more success at Triple-A Buffalo this season as a starting pitcher than working in the bullpen. He had a 2.75 ERA in ten starts and a 5.48 ERA in 16 relief outings.

His manager at Buffalo, Wally Backman, has faith in him as a reliever.

“You know what? He had never really relieved before, until he got to the big leagues for the short time [in 2010],’’ Backman said. “They sent him back to Triple-A and he started. And then he got hurt. So this year he started as a starter.

“`And [then] we put him in the bullpen. And, believe it or not, I think it was his last three outings in the bullpen, he was pretty good. Then we all of a sudden started him again. To me, he was figuring it out.’’

Mejia has it figured out in his mind as to what he wants to do and where he’s most comfortable and it is starting.

“That’s what I’m looking forward (to),’’ Mejia said. “I want to show them I want to be a starter. I can do my job like a starter.’’

Mejia said he feels more in control with his pitches starting, perhaps because at the start of the game there’s less pressure and more a margin for error than in the eighth or ninth innings.

On paper the Mets’ rotation seems set for 2013, but it must be remembered Johan Santana and Dillon Gee are coming off injuries; Jonathan Niese has a way to go before reaching his potential and might have regressed this year; and Matt Harvey is unproven over the long haul.

All those variables could open up a spot for Mejia.