Nov 11

Josh Thole Will Most Likely be Back In 2013

Yesterday at the GM Meetings, Sandy Alderson spoke with reporters and emphasized that while he gets perhaps a little more payroll flexibility than he originally anticipated, that it still doesn’t change much about the kinds of players they can acquire this winter, and that they still will be looking at the bottom of the free agent market pool.

Mike Puma of the New York Post added that with regard to catcher, Alderson also said they will likely be keeping Josh Thole because of how difficult it is to find just one catcher, let alone two.

Thole, who earned $498,000 in 2012, is arbitration eligible and could easily double his salary and earn close to one million dollars in 2013.

As we highlighted on Mets Merized Online, it’s slim pickings at catcher. I keep hearing many Mets fans mentioning the name of Blue Jays elite catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud as a potential target for the team. But they have as much inclination to trade their top prospect as we do Zack Wheeler, so unless we’re talking a swap of top prospects, it is unrealistic to view him as someone the Mets could potentially go after.

Any team that has a solid catcher that they are willing to trade understands the scarcity of quality at that position and would demand a premium in return and rightfully so. We would do the same in their position.

As far as Thole goes, he’s cheap and has very little offensive value, but he’s shown a good ability to catch a knuckleball, and has developed a good relationship with R.A. Dickey.

Nov 10

Who Will Want To Come To Mets In Future?

This usually is a fun time of the year when you get to speculate where the top free agents will land. The Mets make it easy on us, because we know they won’t go after anybody of substance.

No offense, Mike Nickeas.

The most popular theory is the Mets will jump into the free-agent market when, 1) the Wilpons sell the team, 2) when they resolve their financial problems, or 3) when hell freezes over.

For the sake of the argument, let’s assume No. 2.

We know Sandy Alderson is here at the request of the commissioner to help the Mets get their financial house in order.

But, when will that be, and what will things look like when they do?

It’s an oversimplification to assume after next year when Johan Santana’s contract is off the books. Jason Bay is gone, but reports say the buyout is deferred, so that is money still owed.

It’s wrong to assume the Mets will suddenly have flexibility, snap their fingers and start writing checks. Let’s figure three years from now they might be able, or is it willing?

Why would anybody want to come here?

Think about it, what’s the attraction?

* David Wright and R.A. Dickey could be gone, and if Wright stays he’ll be three years older and perhaps on the downside of his career.

* The assumption is the Mets will undergo more losing, thereby taking away the part of the market that wants to go to a contender.

* We don’t know how the Mets’ top pitching prospects will pan out.

* Ike Davis could leave as a free-agent.

* Most teams build around their farm system and use free agents to complement. But, what core do you see with the Mets, especially if they trade some of their young pitching?

* There’s always the money, but do they really want to sign a Jayson Werth type?

Nov 09

2012 Mets Player Review: The Bench

KIRK NIEUWENHUIS, OF

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: Our player review series concludes today with a look at the bench, which wasn’t without questions. With Ruben Tejada and Lucas Duda starting, that thinned the bench. Mike Nickeas was behind the plate; Justin Turner a capable reserve in the infield; and Scott Hairston and Mike Baxter were in the outfield. Kirk Nieuwenhuis opened the season in the minor leagues. The Mets liked Jordany Valdespin’s speed and ability to make things happen on the bases. In Nickeas, the Mets had a capable receiver, but not much offense; Turner had success as a pinch-hitter;  and Hairston and Baxter showed occasional power. Of the two, Baxter is the better defensive player.

2012 SEASON REVIEW: Hairston proved capable – perhaps too capable – in the outfield as he ended up starting when Duda was optioned and Jason Bay alternatively struggled and was hurt and hit 20 homers. Baxter saved Johan Santana’s no-hitter with a spectacular catch in left field and also provided some pop. Nieuwenhuis got an early opportunity when Andres Torres pulled up lame (calf) the first week of the season and played very well for about two months before major league pitching caught up with him (you’ll keep getting breaking balls off the plate until you prove you can hit them). Kelly Shoppach was brought in late in the season to back-up Josh Thole and hit for sporadic power. Speaking of power, Valdespin provided a long-ball spark as a pinch-hitter.

LOOKING AT 2013:  Hairston was so good he’ll command a multi-year deal in the free-agent market, something the Mets don’t want to do. Say good-bye, although with what they have returning in the outfield they should think twice. With Bay gone and Torres not expected to be tendered, Nieuwenhuis will get a chance to earn a spot during spring training. He can handle the job defensively, but needs to cut down on his strikeouts and increase his on-base percentage considering he’s not expected to hit for power. Valdespin played some second base in the fall league, which should enhance his value. Valdespin could also benefit by Bay’s departure. Turner could be brought back, and if not, there will be plenty of alternatives on the market. Shoppach had his moments, but the Mets won’t pay over $1 million for a back-up when the starter makes half that amount. GM Sandy Alderson said there won’t be any big-ticket free agents, but inexpensive reserve outfielders and a catcher could be found.

Nov 09

Sandy Alderson: Talks Slow With R.A. Dickey And David Wright

Speaking at the GM meetings in California, Mets GM Sandy Alderson said it was conceivable R.A. Dickey could win the Cy Young Award next week and then be traded. It’s another way of saying, “these are the Mets, anything is possible.”

“It would be a little unusual to trade a Cy Young winner,” Alderson said. “ … We’d love to retain him. We’re trying to.”

Alderson said talks with Dickey and Wright are on-going, but currently slow. He hoped picking up their 2013 options ($16 million for Wright; $5 million for Dickey) would jump-start talks, but that hasn’t happened.

“Maybe it was a little bit unrealistic on my part to think that we’d get something done,” said Alderson. “But I think it was important for me to emphasize that we were going to get going early, in order to avoid any speculation about a Jose Reyes-type approach to this. So in that sense it was probably a good idea to emphasize speed but unrealistic to expect that this was all going to be concluded quickly.”

That’s fair enough.

Alderson said the Mets’ position of strength is their starting pitching, and although we doesn’t want to trade Dickey, Jonathan Niese or Dillon Gee, “it’s logical for us to consider that.”

That’s also fair, but in doing so it could weaken the staff if Matt Harvey doesn’t progress as planned.

I have no problem, right now, with Alderson’s approach. The dialogue is there with Wright and Dickey, and unlike Reyes, both know they are wanted. How much they are wanted, is shown by the dollars.

LATER TODAY: Concluding the Mets Player Review series with a look at the bench.

 

Nov 08

2012 Mets Player Review: Outfielders Lucas Duda And Andres Torres

LUCAS DUDA, OF

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: The expectations were in the form of wishful thinking when centerfielder Andres Torres and right fielder Lucas Duda reported to spring training. Unwilling or unable to add quality outfielders in the offseason – take your pick – the Mets opted for the bargain basement route. The Mets sent the underperforming Angel Pagan to the Giants for the non-productive Torres. A change of scenery has worked before and the Mets were hoping it would again. Theoretically, Torres was going to bring speed and a high on-base percentage at the top of the order while patrolling Citi Field’s spacious outfield. The hope for Duda was two-fold: 1) provide power to a line-up void of it, and 2) learn how to play right field.

2012 SEASON REVIEW: Torres’ nightmare season began the first week when he strained his left calf and went on the disabled list. Torres was sluggish upon his return and was hitting .213 by the end of May. Torres hit .230 (11 points below his career average) with a paltry .327 on-base percentage, .664 OPS and just 13 stolen bases. He also struck out 90 times. Yes, the injury set back Torres, but he also played poorly when he was in the line-up. It was a learning process for Duda, first in learning major league pitchers while playing a new position. The Mets became enamored with Duda’s power potential when he hit 10 homers in 100 games in 2011. Things soured for Duda last year to the point where he was sent to the minor leagues to work on his mechanics and approach at the plate, and he wasn’t happy about it. Duda played in only 121 games, with 105 in right field where he committed four errors and showed limited range. Offensively, he hit 15 homers with 57 RBI, both well below what the Mets were hoping. Perhaps Duda’s most significant offensive stat was his 120-51 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. That’s an awful lot of nothing.

LOOKING AT 2013: Torres made $2.7 million last season and is arbitration eligible. As weak as their outfield is, the Mets won’t tender him. Kirk Nieuwenhuis played well when he replaced Torres last year, and barring an unforeseen addition, will get a chance to win the job in spring training. Meanwhile, Pagan will hit the free-agent market and make big bucks. There was a rumor of the Mets dealing Ike Davis and moving Duda to first. I’m not buying. Duda could move to left now that Jason Bay is gone, which is a better position for him. Wherever Duda plays it won’t cost the Mets much. He made $497,318 last season.

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