Jun 06

Figuring A Busy And Critical Offseason For Mets

Whatever happens with David Wright this summer, we know the Mets must make a decision on his future and formulate a plan for 2017 should something sideline him for a third straight year.

Wright won’t be their only decision and GM Sandy Alderson figures to be busy:

CESPEDES: Can see him opting out. (AP)

CESPEDES: Can see him opting out. (AP)

CATCHER: Rene Rivera is their best defensive option, but neither he nor Kevin Plawecki has produced with the bat. For that matter, neither has Travis d’Arnaud. That is when he’s able to play.

FIRST BASE: If the Mets decide first base is Wright’s eventual landing spot, what becomes of Lucas Duda? He’s still at least a month away from coming off the disabled list with a stress fracture in his lower back and assuming he returns nobody knows what they’ll get from him. He’s arbitration eligible so the Mets might not make an offer as it is doubtful they’ll want him as a backup.

SECOND BASE: Base on how he’s performed, it should be a no-brainer to bring back Neil Walker. But, will they look at him the way they did Daniel Murphy? How much are they willing to pay and for how long? The extra year is always an obstacle. If Walker hits 30 homers, don’t count on the Mets matching his price and he could make a killing this winter.

THIRD BASE: There is nobody among us who doesn’t want to see Wright return to his All-Star form. His on-base percentage and homers were reasonable when he was playing, but his strikeouts and RBI were telling negative stats and he wasn’t good defensively. We shall see if Wilmer Flores is the answer, but it has only been three games. If he fizzles this position must be addressed.

If Fores does well, that will increase the pressure to do something with Wright, who is clearly having problems fielding the position. They can’t trade him, but they could move him to a different position. Or, and this is delicate, they could talk about buying him out.

Everything has to be on the table with him.

OUTFIELD: Despite his slump, I’m not worried about Michael Conforto, but is left his best position? Their ideal defensive outfield has Yoenis Cespedes in left and Juan Lagares in center, so could Conforto play right? If not this year, then perhaps they could test him there in the Arizona Fall League or send him to play winter ball. Curtis Granderson isn’t having a good year and is under contract for one more season.

Considering how he’s playing, Cespedes is sure to opt out after this year to test the market. Why wouldn’t he? If Cespedes bolted that would solve the problem of moving Conforto and they might extend Granderson if he finishes strong.

Frankly, I was surprised to see what the Mets gave Cespedes, but the opt-out clause could make that chump change. Do you see the Mets re-working his contract to give him extra years and money that could surpass $100 million? Not me.

There are a lot of dominos in the outfield.

BULLPEN: Their least agita-inducing reliever is Addison Reed. They might need to make a decision on either him or Jeurys Familia as the closer. Either way, is there really a reliable arm in that bullpen? It was superb in April, but there have been visible cracks since. I’m not yet willing to make the comparison of Familia to Armando Benitez, but my confidence level is being tested.

I would have loved a 7-8-9 bullpen like the Yankees, but the Mets don’t have the reliable arms, largely because they can’t depend on Hansel Robles.

ROTATION: I know many of you won’t like this, but after Sunday’s game in Miami – and if he really has turned the corner – perhaps they should seriously consider trading Matt Harvey this winter. His salary is reasonable and if healthy he should bring something back in a trade. I still think he will walk after the 2018 season and leave the Mets with only a draft pick.

Trading Harvey, coupled with the monetary savings if Cespedes left, could fill several voids.

If they went long-term on a pitcher, I would go after Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz ahead of Harvey. I believe they’ll cost less in the long run and won’t create as many headaches. Can they keep all three? Who knows, but if they signed them it would be for less than if they waited for their free-agent years. Pay more now to avoid arbitration and use the savings to plug holes.

Health is always a risk in signing a pitcher long-term, but if they continue to pitch to expectations, there is no question they will cost a lot more when they become free agents. Pay more now to avoid arbitration and use the savings to plug holes.

As much as people like to say, Bartolo Colon can’t pitch forever. What happens with him is largely contingent on Zack Wheeler, and there’s no guarantee what they get from him when he returns – if he returns – after the All-Star break. The longer Wheeler stays down, the less chance they have to move Colon at the deadline.

If you realistically scanned their 25-man roster, you can make a case for only Asdrubal Cabrera, Conforto, Granderson, Syndergaard, deGrom, Matz and Familia returning for 2017. Who can’t see them low-balling Walker, Cespedes, Reed or Duda?

There were high hopes for the Mets entering the season and they will make the playoffs if they began today. However, injuries are starting to cripple them and their depth is thin. They have little to trade in their minor league system outside of Wheeler – whose health raised a red flag for prospective buyers – and with the combination of health, salary and poor production, they have nothing to trade from the major league roster.

It’s a beautiful day today and I don’t want to rain on your picnic, but even with their young core of arms, the Mets’ window of winning could be rapidly closing. If you thought Alderson did magic last year at the trade deadline, he’ll have to do even more this July.

ON DECK: Pirates Series Borders On Critical

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Jun 05

Mets Wrap: Harvey Says It Is Only One More Step

HARVEY: Another step. (AP)

HARVEY: Another step. (AP)

It is hard to say Matt Harvey turned the corner for the simple reason the Mets’ pitcher himself won’t acknowledge the possibility.

Harvey encored the seven shutout innings he threw in his last start against the White Sox with seven more strong innings in Sunday’s 1-0 loss to the Miami Marlins. He sure looked good, but …

“It’s still two starts,” Harvey told reporters. “Obviously, there were massive struggles that happened before. The only thing you want to think of is not letting that creep back in. Today was, I guess you could say, a second step from the last start. But obviously going deep into the game and feeling pretty good, it’s definitely a positive.”

Harvey struck out only three hitters, but that’s a positive because the Marlins put the ball in play to keep his pitch down to 104.

METS GAME WRAP

June 5, 2016, @ Miami

Game: #55          Score:  Marlins 1, Mets 0

Record: 31-24     Streak: L 1

Standings: Second, NL East, two games behind Washington.  Playoffs: First WC, 1.5 games ahead of Pittsburgh.

Runs: 54    Average:  3.8   Times 3 or less: 27

SUMMARY: Harvey was superb, but Miami starter Jose Fernandez was basically untouchable.

KEY MOMENT:  Wilmer Flores struck out to end the seventh with two runners on to end the Mets’ best scoring opportunity.

THUMBS UP:  Yoenis Cespedes did not start, but was able to bat as a pinch-hitter. He should be able to play Monday in Pittsburgh. … Michael Conforto continued his breakout signs with another hit. … Another hit by James Loney.

THUMBS DOWN:  Only four hits and 15 strikeouts by the offense. … Three strikeouts each by Curtis Granderson and Neil Walker.

EXTRA INNINGS:  Juan Lagares did not play because of a sprained left thumb. He’ll return to New York Monday to be examined by team doctors.

QUOTEBOOK: ““It was one of those game where you have a great pitching match-up head to head, and that’s exactly what you would expect — a 1-0 game,” Mets manager Terry Collins said.

BY THE NUMBERS:  2: Number of Mets to reach scoring position.

NEXT FOR METS: Steven Matz (7-1, 2.60) vs. former Met Jonathon Niese (5-2, 4.36) at Pittsburgh on Monday.

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Jun 04

Mets Wrap: No-Names Spark Victory

If the Mets return to the World Series, they’ll get there with their young starting pitching and the power that has become their offensive trademark. However, they’ll also need what they received in Saturday’s 6-4 victory at Miami; a representative start from Bartolo Colon and important contributions by their non-descript players; those off the bench, at the bottom of the order and newcomers.

CONFORTO: Breakout signs. (AP)

CONFORTO: Breakout signs. (AP)

All came into play to support of Colon, who gave up two runs in five innings.

“We’ve said all along that we need guys to step up and pick each other up,’’ manager Terry Collins said.

With David Wright, Lucas Duda and Travis d’Arnaud on the disabled list, and on a day when Yoenis Cespedes was a late scratch with a sore right hip and they didn’t homer, the Mets got:

* Three more hits from Wilmer Flores, Wright’s replacement at third. He has five hits over the last two games.

* Matt Reynolds, who collected his first career RBI with a pinch-hit single in the eighth for what proved to be the game-winning hit.

* James Loney, acquired to replace Duda, had three hits, including a double in the eighth, and scored the tying run on Michael Conforto’s single hit.

* Juan Lagares made a diving backhand catch to rob Ichiro Suzuki of two RBI to end the sixth.

* Alejandro De Aza hit a two-run double iced the game in the ninth.

* Another strong relief appearance from Addison Reed.

Although the Mets didn’t homer and stranded 14 runners, they did string together 15 hits and went 5-for-14 with runners in scoring position.

There will be more days like Friday when they ripped three homers – something they’ve done 11 times this year – there will be more when they don’t and will need what they received today.

METS GAME WRAP

June 4, 2016, @ Citi Field

Game: #54          Score:  Mets 6, Marlins 4

Record: 31-23     Streak: W 2

Standings: Second, NL East, 1 game behind Washington.  Playoffs: First WC, 1.5 games ahead of Pittsburgh.

Runs: 54    Average:  3.8   Times 3 or less: 26

SUMMARY:  Reynolds, Loney and De Aza – the non-stars – backed Colon, who gave the Mets five innings despite not having his best start.

KEY MOMENT:  Lagares’ diving catch – in which he bruised his left thumb – robbed Suzuki of two RBI and possibly stave off a potential big inning.

THUMBS UP:  The struggling Conforto drove in two runs with a single and sacrifice fly. … Another strong inning from Reed, who has 12 holds. … Jim Henderson relieved Jerry Blevins to get out of the seventh. … Reynolds, Loney, Flores and De Aza combined for eight hits and four RBI. … Lagares’ defense.

THUMBS DOWN:  Kevin Plawecki failed to touch the plate on a force play. … Jeurys Familia remains an adventure in the ninth. … Hansel Robles, quick pitch or not, gave up a run on a hit and two walks in two-thirds of an inning.

EXTRA INNINGS:  Cespedes was scratched 30 minutes before the game with a sore right hip and is day-to-day. … Lagares bruised his left thumb on the catch and was unable to grip a bat. The DL is a possibility. … Jacob deGrom pinch-hit for Reed and popped out to end the ninth. The Mets had a three-run lead at the time. It begs the question of why risk an injury to a starting pitcher. Just let Reed hit.

QUOTEBOOK: “I bruised my finger a little. We’ll see how it feels [Sunday],’’ Lagares on his thumb injury.

BY THE NUMBERS:  13.1: Consecutive scoreless innings by Reed.

NEXT FOR METS: Matt Harvey (4-7) goes for the sweep Sunday against Marlins ace Jose Fernandez.

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Jun 04

Hoping Flores’ Opportunity Is Legit

I am on record as being an advocate of Wilmer Flores long before the tears. He’ll be getting his second straight start Saturday in Miami as David Wright‘s replacement at third base. Here’s hoping this opportunity is legitimate.

FLORES: Be patient. (Getty)

FLORES: Be patient. (Getty)

By that, I mean if he goes hitless for two or three games that he goes out there for a fourth game. He played a lot last year when Wright was injured and Terry Collins needs to keep him in the lineup now. It has to be Flores’ job to lose.

Pulling him after a week for Eric Cambell or Ty Kelly isn’t a good idea. If they can pull off a solid trade now, go for it, but it really is too soon for a major trade.

I floated several trade options Friday, among them getting Kelly Johnson back from the Braves, Milwaukee’s Aaron Hill, San Diego’s Yangervis Solarte or the Angels’ Yunel Escobar. All are making more than Flores, but honestly, are any of them that far superior they should get the job instead?

Probably not.

It is also premature to move Neil Walker off second base and bring up Dilson Herrera. The latter has done nothing to prove he’s more deserving of a full time shot than Flores.

The Mets will never learn of Flores’ true abilities – and value – if he’s not given a long-term opportunity. If he’s not adding something offensively by the All-Star break, then explore other options before the trade deadline.

If the Mets appear too eager now in the trade market, they could overpay, so it’s in their best interests to stay with Flores right now.

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Jun 04

June 4, Mets’ Lineup At Miami

Bartolo Colon goes for the Mets today as they try to make it a two-game winning streak. Is two games really a winning streak? BTW: Miami is where Colon entertained us with his behind-the-back flip to first base.

Here’s today’s order:

Curtis Granderson – RF: (.203/9/16) Should have a lot more RBI for the number of homers. Hitting paltry .103 (3-29) with RISP. Hitting .217 lifetime against Marlins.

Asdrubal Cabrera – SS: (.275/5/19). Hitting .297 (11-37) with RISP. Lifetime .301 hitter against Marlins. Ranks third in All-Star voting.

Yoenis Cespedes – LF: (.278/15/37). Hitting .250 (10-40 with 21 RBI) with RISP. Ranks third in All-Star voting.

Neil Walker – 2B: (.284/13/25). Hitting .314 (11-35 with 10 RBI) with RISP. Hit 16 homers last year. Ranks third in All-Star voting.

Juan Lagares – CF: (.277/2/6). Hitting .273 lifetime against Marlins. Is batting .310 (13-42) on the road. Back to playing superb defense.

Wilmer Flores – 3B: (.190/1/3). Getting the first opportunity at third with David Wright on the DL. Had two hits and scored twice Friday night.

James Loney – 1B: (.231/1/2). Hit 100th career homer Friday night. Career .247 hitter against Miami. Was batting .342 in minors before trade from San Diego.

Kevin Plawecki – C: (.198/1/7). Playing time reduced because of Rene Rivera. Has gone 51 at-bats since his last homer (at Dodgers vs. Scott Kasmir).

Colon – RHP: Is 7-4 with 2.92 ERA lifetime vs. Miami. Is 3-1 on the road this year.

COMMENTS: Four of today’s starters weren’t in Opening Day lineup. … I know Michael Conforto is in a terrible hitting slump, but he’ll never learn to hit lefties if he doesn’t face them. … Mets are 12-5 in day games.  … The Mets have eight come-from-behind victories this season.

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