Oct 22

Mets Matters: Ike Davis Could Score In Arbitration Process

There’s little that passes for news from the Mets these days as the club braces for a winter of non-spending.

Their primary contractual concerns are extending David Wright and R.A. Dickey, both of which will be pricey. The two are linked in that both said their decisions to test the free-agent market after next season is contingent on the efforts the Mets will take to be competitive. Dickey flat out said he would follow Wright out the door.

The Mets also face the prospects of going through the arbitration process with Josh Thole, Ike Davis, Manny Acosta, Daniel Murphy, Bobby Parnell, Andres Torres and Mike Pelfrey.

They also faced arbitration with Rob Johnson and Fred Lewis, but both chose free agency instead. It’s not as if the Mets can’t live without them.

Pelfrey and Torres are expected to be non-tendered, which would remove them from the process. Pelfrey, however, might cause the Mets to think twice because he’s 28 and their rotation has numerous questions. The Mets also have outfield issues, but Torres proved he’s no Angel Pagan. I never thought I’d write that line.

Acosta isn’t worth keeping, but Davis, Murphy and Parnell are potentially valuable pieces. Thole has regressed, but the Mets have few catching options other than him.

The owners cry about free-agency causing the spike in player salaries, but in reality arbitration is the culprit. In the process, both player and management submit figures to an arbitrator, who picks one or the other. The arbitrator can’t find a compromise number. The owners usually lowball the players, while the players aim high. The arbitrator’s decision isn’t based on career numbers, injuries or other factors, and is usually determined by the salaries of other players.

So, if a player has a one-time good season the arbitrator will review what players with comparable stats are making and rule that way. It’s why the owners frequently get smoked in this process.

Meanwhile, the Mets usually attempt to settle before the arbitration hearing.

Of the players eligible for the Mets, Davis has the potential to be the most costly.

In other Mets Matters:

* Dickey underwent surgery in Philadelphia to repair a torn abdominal muscle. After his final start Dickey revealed he’d been pitching with discomfort for most of the season.

Perhaps throwing the knuckleball helped Dickey get through the season because there’s less stress involved throwing that pitch. Even so, he’s testing the muscle with each pitch and it has to hurt. That, combined with his numbers, is why Dickey should win the Cy Young Award.

* Jordany Valdespin has played both right field and second base during the Dominican Winter League.

* Last week I started a series on Player Profiles of the 2012 Mets, analyzing their preseason expectations, what they accomplished this summer and what to expect.

I’ll continue tomorrow with those pitchers not in the rotation who made starts.

 

Oct 22

Should Mets Take A Flyer On Juan Pierre?

Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly looks at which corner outfielders the Phillies are likely to keep or are on their way out.  Among the ones who could be free agents are Juan Pierre, Laynce Nix, and Ty Wigginton.

I have a mild interest in Wigginton, but Pierre may be a better fit for the team and he shouldn’t be too costly. Here is what Salisbury writes:

Juan Pierre

For a guy who lingered on the free-agent market into January and came to camp on a minor-league deal, Pierre made a huge contribution in 2012 and was a bargain at $800,000. He made 98 starts in left field, ranked second on the team in batting average (.307), tied for second in hits (121) and third in on-base percentage at .351. He also led the team with 37 steals and was caught just seven times.

In addition to his contributions on the field, Pierre was one of the most prepared and professional players to come through the Phillies’ clubhouse in years. He never took a play off. If Pierre wants to stay in baseball after his playing days, some organization would be wise to hire him to mentor young players on the art of being a big-leaguer. The guy has a baseball IQ that is off the charts and excellent people skills. Future manager? You heard it here first.

Despite Pierre’s contribution in 2012, the Phillies face a tough decision regarding the 35-year-old’s future. There are indications that the team would like to add more of a power bat in left field. Pierre also hits left-handed on a team that is heavy in left-handed bats. The heart says bring Pierre back, but the head says the Phillies may go in a different direction.

Pierre has been incredibly consistent over the last three seasons and has averaged 150 games per season in that span. He would certainly give the team such much needed speed, would be a better leadoff hitter than Andres Torres, and fills a need in the outfield. He’s just a slap-hitting, singles guy with the occasional triple, but he still does a good job of rattling a pitcher’s concentration and can lay down a bunt. He’s a great contact hitter and averages only 38 strikeouts a season in his career. The fact that he knows the game and has great fundamentals won’t hurt either especially if it rubs off on some of the other players.

Oct 21

2012 Mets Player Review: Matt Harvey

MATT HARVEY, RHP 

 PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: The expectations of Matt Harvey were minimal for this summer. The Mets’ 2010 first-round pick out of North Carolina – and the seventh choice overall – was to continue his development in the minor leagues. The best-case scenario had him continuing his development at Triple-A Buffalo and join the Mets as a September call-up, when he would make two or three starts to give the big club an idea of whether he would fit into their plans for 2013. Even when the Mets’ rotation started to crumble, the talk was he wasn’t ready and GM Sandy Alderson didn’t want to rush him to the major league level. The scouting report on the 23-year-old Harvey was he had a plus-fastball, good secondary pitches and the ability to keep his composure on the mound. At similar points in their careers, Harvey was rated ahead of Mike Pelfrey, the Mets’ first-round pick in 2005.

2012 SEASON REVIEW: Harvey was 7-5 with a 3.68 ERA in 20 starts for the Bisons before the Mets promoted him in late July. Minor league hitters batted .233 against him and he had 112 strikeouts and only 48 walks in 110 innings, numbers that clearly indicated he was overpowering batters. With the Mets’ rotation in shambles, Alderson had no option but to elevate him to see what he could do on the next level. At the time, the Mets were fading and the summer was spiraling out of control. Unable or unwilling to make a midseason acquisition – take your pick – Alderson had to do something to keep the dwindling attention of Mets fans and Harvey was the answer. Harvey pitched 5.1 scoreless innings at Arizona, July 26 to win his major league debut. He struck out 11 and walked three to have Mets fans drooling about the possibilities. However, he was victimized by the Mets’ dismal offense and lost his next three starts – they gave him only four runs in those games – but there was still a lot to like about Harvey’s game, especially his willingness to challenge hitters and his walks-to-strikeouts ratio. Unlike Pelfrey, Harvey possessed a poise and calmness about him. His command was exceptional and his stuff overpowering. He seemed to get a strikeout whenever the situation demanded. Harvey finished his first year at 3-5 with a 2.73 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. He struck out 70 with 26 walks in 59 innings, and batters hit a paltry .200 with a .338 slugging percentage against him. The Mets shut him down after his Sept. 19 start against Philadelphia to conserve his arm.

LOOKING AT 2013: I don’t know if the Mets will conserve his innings next summer the way the Nationals did Stephen Strasburg. Let’s hope not, but if they are inclined to jump on that bandwagon, let’s hope they don’t yank the rug out from under him in September, but perhaps have him skip a start once a month. That would mean six starts and possibly up to 42 innings for the summer. The Mets are counting on him to be in the rotation on Opening Day and develop into a solid, consistent starter. Actually, they are counting on him to become a star. Anything less than that would be a disappointment.

NEXT:  A look at the other pitchers who started games for the 2012 Mets.

Oct 20

2012 Mets Player Review: Mike Pelfrey

MIKE PELFREY, RHP

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: After falling far short of the expectations of a No. 1 draft choice in 2005 – the ninth overall selection – Mike Pelfrey had what was thought to be a breakout year in 2010 when he went 15-9 with a 3.66 ERA and career high 204 innings. Pelfrey did not have dominating numbers, but clearly made progressions in his approach to pitching that suggested he might become the pitcher the Mets hoped. Pelfrey finally was pitching with poise and guile. There was an undeniable composure he never displayed before and his pitch selection was far better. Hitters could no longer sit on his fastball because he was getting his secondary pitches over in fastball counts. Could Pelfrey finally become an ace? Well, no. Pelfrey regressed in 2011 going 7-13 with a 4.74 ERA. Hitters ripped him at a .286 clip with a .344 on-base percentage and crushed 21 homers. With two back-to-back polar opposite seasons, the Mets didn’t know what to expect from him for the $5.6 million they would pay.

2012 SEASON REVIEW: Pelfrey started fast this year with a 2.29 ERA in three starts and resembled his 2010 performance. He pitched with composure in that window and the thought was perhaps he would take the next step. However, Pelfrey sustained an elbow injury and underwent Tommy John surgery that finished his season. Would it also finish his Mets’ career?

LOOKING AT 2013: The cost conscious Mets, despite holes in their rotation, aren’t expected to tender Pelfrey a contract this December, even if they were to offer the maximum 20 percent cut from his $5.687 million contract. Many pitchers have rebounded from Tommy John surgery, so even if the Mets don’t bring him back there will be interest as there is no shortage of teams with pitching needs. If the Mets think they can cut him loose and bring him back at a discount, they should think again because at 28, he’s young enough to where his career isn’t over. Pelfrey is a career 50-54 with a 4.36 ERA and .284 batting average against him. Of all the statistics on his resume, his age is the one most likely to cause the Mets to take a flier on him again. Considering the potential holes in the Mets’ rotation and bullpen and inevitable need for pitching, he might be worth the gamble. If healthy, he could give the Mets close to 200 innings. With Johan Santana gone after 2013, the Mets will need a starter and there are no guarantees from Matt Harvey, Zach Wheeler or Jenrry Mejia. The idea has also been floated of putting Pelfrey in the bullpen with potential of eventually becoming the closer.

NEXT: Matt Harvey

Oct 19

2012 Mets Player Review: Chris Young

                                                              CHRIS YOUNG, RHP

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: With veteran Chris Young there was first a hope before any expectations. Signed as a stop gap starter to begin with prior to the 2011 season, Young pitched effectively at first before injuring his shoulder. In four starts he was 1-0 with a 1.88 ERA, giving the Mets six innings a start. Although an injury risk, when sound he was a veteran presence who pitched with composure and guile an a sharp curveball. He could pump up his fastball if needed, but wouldn’t overpower hitters for any length of time. Young was coming off a shoulder surgery as severe, if not moreso, than Johan Santana’s. The Mets didn’t when he’d be ready when they signed him to a minor league deal in late March. He was signed as a reward for a good April in 2011, his desire to remain with the organization, and the inevitability there would be breakdowns in the rotation. After all, there always is. If Young could pitch, they were hoping for the same calming presence whenever that time came.

 

2012 SEASON REVIEW: That’s exactly what the Mets got when they purchased his contract in June. As expected, there were health cracks in the rotation when Mike Pelfrey went down early, Santana became ineffective following his 134-pitch no-hitter, and Dillon Gee went down with numbness in his arm. A breakdown from Young never happened and he gave the Mets 20 starts. Some were solid, others not so much, but he did reach an innings incentive in his contract which the club probably didn’t expect. Young finished at 4-9 with a 4.15 ERA and 1.35 WHIP, but he pitched better than his numbers and was often frustrated with a lack of run support and porous bullpen evidenced by seven no-decision. Realistically he could have finished at 7-7, which is acceptable for a No. 5 starter who made 20 starts.

 

LOOKING AT 2013: As of now, there isn’t a clear spot in the rotation for Young, with presumably Santana and Dillon Gee – both coming off injuries – R.A. Dickey, Jon Niese and Matt Harvey ahead of him. Then again, that rotation is a house of cards. What if Santana and Gee aren’t ready? What if the Mets can’t extend Dickey’s contract and they trade him? What if Harvey has a setback? All of those things are possible and would leave the Mets with gaping holes in their rotation. So, if not Young, the Mets would need a veteran like him to fill the emergency void. There’s a sense of familiarity with Young, and last year he earned a reasonable $1.1 million salary. The Mets would be lucky to get 115 innings for that price somewhere else in the market. Young’s starts and innings could induce a contending team with a rotation hole to give him a shot as he proved his durability.

 

NEXT: Mike Pelfrey