Mar 01

How Prepared Are Mets To Absorb Losing Wright?

Assuming the worst, just how prepared are the Mets to absorb losing David Wright, both in the short and long term?

Clearly, after playing a combined 75 games the past two seasons, GM Sandy Alderson had to anticipate the possibility of Wright going down again, as was the case Tuesday with the announcement he had been shut down because of an impingement in his right shoulder. To put it bluntly, he can’t throw the ball across the infield without pain.

WRIGHT: Mets' options without him. (ABC)

WRIGHT: Mets’ options without him. (ABC)

There are several aspects as to how to examine this issue: financially; 2017 only; from the farm system; from outside the market, and his role if he does play.

Let’s take a look:

FINANCIALLY:  The Mets are on the hook to pay Wright $67 million for the balance of his contract. However, insurance would pick up $50.25 million, which makes the payout more palatable. The issue of paying him in full in exchange for a healthy, productive player isn’t an option. Wright has been shut down for at least three weeks. He returned to New York for a second opinion on his shoulder.

Wright retiring or the Mets approaching him to take a buyout will not be an issue unless doctors tell him not to play anymore. Even then, Wright will take the time to digest the recommendation and continue to strengthen himself in the hope of being able to play.

2017 SEASON: There’s no longer the issue of finding enough at-bats for Jose Reyes, at least not in the immediate future. Reyes and Wilmer Flores are ranked one-two on today’s depth chart. The Mets brought back Reyes last year as a plug when Wright went down. For the most part, Reyes played a representative third base, but we must remember the window of opportunity to watch him was relatively small. Ditto for Flores, T.J. Rivera and Ty Kelly are on the radar, but not expected to get significant playing time.

If the Mets are in contention at the trade deadline and Reyes isn’t performing as hoped, there will be the inevitable trade rumors. Presumably, if he hasn’t been dealt at the time, Todd Frazier‘s name will surface. While with Cincinnati, the 31-year-old Frazier was frequently linked to the Mets. Frazier will be a free agent after the season and with the White Sox not expected to bring him back they will undoubtedly be taking calls. Even if Wright is playing, the Mets would be remiss if they didn’t pursue Frazier.

If they get him, Frazier could be the difference in making the playoffs and sitting home. Frazier is scheduled to make $12 million this year, and the Mets should be given a window to negotiate. The While Sox are certain to ask for a lot and the Mets would be foolish to break the bank with prospects for a rental.

FROM THE FARM SYSTEM: Eight of the Mets’ top 30 prospects according to MLB.com, are shortstops, with Amed Rosario ranked first among them. Since a shortstop is theoretically considered the best athlete in the infield, it will be interesting if they contemplate moving one of their other shortstop prospects to third base, that is if they sour on their third base prospects Matt Reynolds, Jhoan Urena, David Thompson – who could have the highest upside in power – and Eudor Garcia.

Only Rosario and Reynolds are expected to see major league playing time this summer. Of the two, Reynolds is more like expected to play at third base, but barring something unforeseen happening with Reyes or Flores.

FROM THE MARKET:  Outside of Frazier, the most intriguing possibility is Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria, who at 31 and with $100 million remaining on a contract that expires after the 2023 season (assuming the club option is picked up.) Just as Wright is the face of the Mets, Longoria is the same for the Rays. However, Tampa Bay has greatly regressed since it appeared in the 2008 World Series and lost manager Joe Maddon following the 2014 season.

The Rays have always been dollar conscious. They clearly aren’t ready to compete, but it would take a lot in terms of prospects to pry him away. Then there would be the added cost in salary. It seems inconceivable they would add Longoria’s salary to that of Yoenis Cespedes‘ and Wright’s (even with the insurance payout), but it is fun to think about.

Outside of Frazier, the only potential free agent third baseman this winter that jumps out at you is Kansas City’s Mike Moustakas (will make $8.7 million this season).

IF WRIGHT STAYS AND PLAYS: The days of Wright being an All-Star presence are gone even if he’s medically cleared to play. With what is remaining on Wright’s contract and his injury history, no team will trade for him, including an American League team needing a designated hitter.

Assuming he plays out the remainder of his contract and is able to throw, he’ll always be a health question entering the season. Perhaps he’ll evolve into a singles-hitting role player.

Much has been made of the possibility of Wright playing first base, but even if that’s the case it won’t be this season and he still won’t provide the power needed at that position.

Feb 28

Wright Shut Down; Future In Doubt

The return of David Wright was always more about hope than reality, and unfortunately the truth nobody wants to concede reared its ugly head today with the news the often-injured third baseman has been shut down indefinitely because of his inability to throw the ball across the infield.

WRIGHT: Staring into dark future. (AP)

WRIGHT: Staring into dark future. (AP)

The specter of Wright not playing this year, or perhaps ever again, can’t be ignored. Manager Terry Collins said Wright’s absence doesn’t greatly impact the Mets’ playoff aspirations. Considering Wright has played less than a combined 100 games the past two season, that’s a logical conclusion.

GM Sandy Alderson, in announcing Wright’s shutdown, said the question of his retirement or the Mets buying him out, hasn’t yet been reached: “I don’t think we’re at the point where that concern is at a more heightened level. This is all part of the process of rehabilitating, and it’s taking longer than I am sure David would have hoped, and we would hope, but that is part of the process.”

For Wright, the process includes him staying in Florida working to strengthen his shoulder. He’ll also work at first base, perhaps not so much for this year, but 2018 when presumably Lucas Duda won’t be brought back. However, the truth remains we don’t know if Wright will be able to play in any role.

Financially, the Mets owe Wright $67 million on the balance of his contract, but insurance will cover $50.25 million. But, insurance can’t hit or field, or offer an element of stability and leadership in the clubhouse.

Although it has been years since Wright produced like an All-Star, but make no mistake he brought in significant stability when he came off the disabled list to join the 2015 pennant race.

Initially, Wright will be replaced by Jose Reyes and Wilmer Flores in the short term, but if they are struggling and the Mets are in contention at the trade deadline, could they make a run at Todd Frazier. Would they make a play for Frazier even if Reyes is playing well?

 

 

 

Feb 27

A Plan For Using Reyes

On days Jose Reyes doesn’t play, who will hit leadoff for the Mets?

Asdrubal Cabrera was there today and homered in today’s 5-2 loss to Houston. Other reported candidates are Curtis Granderson, because he’s had success there before, and Neil Walker, because he has a decent on-base percentage.

REYES: A plan for him. (AP)

REYES: A plan for him. (AP)

Another option is Juan Lagares on days he plays center.

My first inclination is Granderson because of his success, but I’m also thinking of ways of getting Reyes more playing time. A healthy, productive Reyes still has the potential to be an impact player.

I’m projecting Reyes will play a lot of third base in April because David Wright is likely to stay back at the start of the season for an extended spring training, but what about when Wright is on the major league roster?

If manager Terry Collins does this the right way, he could conceivably give Reyes three starts a week, not including as the designated hitter or in the outfield.

Collins has three fragile infielders, four if you include first baseman Lucas Duda. I would think giving Wright, Cabrera and Walker rest at least once a week would be a paramount concern.

Start Reyes at least three starts a week, or rotate him with Wilmer Flores (who also homered today). That way, you’re giving Reyes and Flores enough starts to stay sharp at the plate, and you’re also giving everybody else at least one day off a week to keep them fresh.

However, Reyes will miss time this spring playing for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic. In this case, if you’re the Mets and want to see Reyes at multiple positions, he’s not doing himself any favors by missing a lot of time in camp.

While the Mets made a deal out of emulating the versatility of the champion Chicago Cubs, it must be remembered they don’t have somebody like Ben Zobrist. Nor do they have a MVP caliber bat like Kris Bryant they can move around.

Feb 26

Mets’ Shouldn’t Be Eager To Deal Bruce

It’s one thing for the Mets to force-feed first base to Jay Bruce. It’s another when the players wants to play the position. Bruce is a smart guy. He knows when Lucas Duda back barks that is an opportunity for him to get in the lineup.

BRUCE: Has value. (AP)

BRUCE: Has value. (AP)

Both Bruce and Neil Walker took grounders at first base prior to today’s 5-2 victory over Detroit, but there are no immediate plans to get him in a game. There should be because the Mets shouldn’t want to be forced to play Bruce at first with him not getting time there.

“I am going to work at it,” Bruce told reporters. “I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t to do it, so I am going to work at it.”

The Mets have a fluid situation in their outfield and at first base. Yoenis Cespedes ($27.5 million), Curtis Granderson ($15.1 million) and Bruce ($13 million). Their salaries will give them most of the playing time, but Michael Conforto is also pushing for playing time.

But, if Conforto plays, that would leave Bruce needing to play first when Duda’s back acts up. A stress fracture kept him out for most of last season and his health will always be an issue. And, for all that has been reported of GM Sandy Alderson’s intent to deal Bruce, he shouldn’t act too hastily because of Duda’s fragility.

Trading Bruce and then losing Duda to injury could be disastrous, especially with the health issues with David Wright and Walker. Duda’s back places a premium on Bruce’s value. The Mets are fortunate to have the resources if Duda misses significant time.

Manager Terry Collins liked Bruce’s workout: “It looks like he’s got the athleticism. He’s got the hands. He’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”

Bruce appears up for the move and he’s hopeful of redeeming himself for last season. The Mets shouldn’t be too eager to let him get away.

Feb 25

Not Expecting Wright Or Wheeler For Opening Day

Although it is early, don’t expect either David Wright or Zack Wheeler to be ready by Opening Day. Frankly, there is no reason to be concerned with either starting the season in the minor leagues.

For the next two to three weeks, Wright will play as a designated hitter, because he’s that far from being able to throw. And, Wright isn’t fast enough to run the ball across the infield. This should also limit talk about moving to first base because he has to throw from that position, also.

It’s not alarming now because it is a long spring training and the Mets have depth at third with Jose Reyes, Wilmer Flores and even Neil Walker, if pressed. It is better to have Wright later rather than risk additional injury and be without him longer.

As for Wheeler, he had elbow tenderness but has thrown two strong bullpen sessions since. The Mets currently see him as the fifth starter rather than a bullpen arm, which is fine as long as they stick with that plan.

The Mets also have Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman as fifth starter candidates, so if Wheeler isn’t ready until May or June, so be it.

Spring training is to get ready for a long, grueling season, but there’s written in stone all players must be ready for Opening Day.