Jul 27

Mets Do As Well As Can Be Expected In Duda Trade

Since they weren’t going to bring back Lucas Duda anyway, the Mets did about as well as could be expected in today’s trade to Tampa Bay for Triple-A pitching prospect Drew Smith.

Duda had been linked to the Yankees and Seattle, and with the Rays, he has a chance to make the playoffs for a third straight season.

DUDA: Traded to Rays. (AP)

DUDA: Traded to Rays. (AP)

It wasn’t too long ago that the Mets chose Duda over Ike Davis, both high-strikeout first basemen with plenty of power. Duda ranks seventh on the Mets all-time homer list with 125. While it is unfair, Duda’s Mets’ legacy will be his wild throw to the plate in Game 5 of the 2015 World Series.

“I’m excited to join the Rays. They’re in the hunt,’’ Duda told reporters in San Diego. “Kind of mixed emotions. There are guys here I’ve grown pretty close to, and [the Mets] are a first-class organization. I was very proud to be a New York Met, and I’m gonna be very proud to be on the Tampa Bay Rays.’’

With his power, Duda would fit in well with the Rays, who have the DH in the American League. He is hitting .246 with 17 homers and 37 RBI.

Trading Duda opens the door for Dominic Smith’s promotion to the Mets from Triple-A Las Vegas, but until he gets here they have other options, namely Jay Bruce, who is in the lineup tonight in San Diego, T.J. Rivera, Wilmer Flores and even Neil Walker. Playing Bruce at first also enables the Mets to play Curtis Granderson in center, until they trade him.

“I’ve heard a lot of good things about Dom,’’ the ever classy Duda said. “I hope he becomes a 10-year All-Star.’’

Duda will be a free agent this winter.

In Smith, 23, the Mets will add to their bullpen, which will be important especially if the Mets are successful in dealing Addison Reed. Smith was a third-round pick by Detroit in 2015 and traded to Tampa Bay in April. He has pitched for four minor league teams in the Rays’ organization and compiled a 1-2 record with a 1.60 ERA and seven saves in 31 games.

 

Jul 27

Interest In Mets’ Assets As Trade Deadline Nears

Once again, the Mets haven’t been able to trade Jay Bruce, and that could turn out to be a good thing. Bruce’s year suggest he could bring a lot in return, and even he said the “Mets would be crazy,’’ not to trade him. That could help the Mets in the long run if they are able to re-sign him in the offseason.

Reportedly, Colorado had interest in both him and Addison Reed, but they likely won’t move on the latter after acquiring All-Star closer Pat Neshek from the Phillies for three prospects.

BRUCE: Little interest. (AP)

BRUCE: Little interest. (AP)

Perhaps the Rockies won’t be able to meet whatever the Mets are asking for after what they paid in prospects for Neshek. The Mets say they believe they will be able to compete next season, so that means they prefer players who are major league ready. However, the Rockies, who would be in the wild-card if the season ended today, won’t want to weaken their current 25-man roster by trading multiple players for Bruce.

From his perspective, Bruce, who has 25 homers, knows he could be an asset to a team, and recently told Newsday, “I feel like this is the most consistent I’ve been, which is huge. I pride myself on playing every single day, preparing, being ready to go, being the guy you can count on to post, and being a quality piece to a winning team. Individually this year, so far I’ve done that.’’

Bruce, a free agent this offseason, will make $5 million over the balance of this year. That, plus a player, could make for an expensive rental. It also must be remembered that Bruce’s production must be replaced if the Mets are to be competitive in 2018.

Whether the money goes to Bruce or his replacement, it should cost more than the $13 million he is getting this year.

Not surprisingly, Reed has drawn the most interest as closers always generate a premium. The Mets have also received calls about Reed from Milwaukee, the Dodgers and Boston.

Reed will also be a free agent this winter, and with how well he’s replaced Jeurys Familia, will likely command a contract in excess of the $7.75 million he’s making this year. The Mets are hoping Familia, who is making $7.425 million this offseason, will rebound from surgery to remove a blood clot in his shoulder, and won’t want to spend over a combined $15 million for the back end of their bullpen.

Of course, if they expect to contend, they’ll need to replace Reed, and there’s no guarantee Familia will return to his 40-save form.

In addition to Reed, Boston inquired into Asdrubal Cabrera, because they are unsold on 20-year-old prospect Rafael Devers at third base. T.J. Rivera and Wilmer Flores are also on Boston’s radar.

Also, calling the Mets are the Chicago Cubs, who are asking about Seth Lugo and catcher Rene Rivera.

Lugo is 5-2 with a 4.10 ERA in eight starts, with the last three being defined as quality starts [at least three runs in six innings or more]. Lugo came up in the second half last year to help the Mets get into the playoffs.

He entered spring training this season as depth for the Mets’ “young and vaunted rotation,’’ but started the year on the disabled list after being injured in the World Baseball Classic.

However, considering Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler and Robert Gsellman currently on the disabled list, and Steven Matz pitching poorly, the Mets shouldn’t be all that eager to deal Lugo.

The Cubs’ interest in Rivera stems from cutting ties with Miguel Montero in early July.

There has been no reported no to little interest in first baseman Lucas Duda, outfielder Curtis Granderson and infielder Jose Reyes.

The Mets hope things could change between now and Monday.

 

Jul 27

What’s Wrong With Matz?

When will Steven Matz’s current troubles develop into a reason for physical concern from the Mets? Over his last four starts, Matz has a staggering 14.18 ERA, but worse, hasn’t worked longer than five innings. He’s 0-3 with a no-decision in that span.

MATZ: What is wrong? (AP)

MATZ: What is wrong? (AP)

Speaking of numbers, he spent the first two months of the season on the disabled list with elbow inflammation. This after pitching the first four months of last year with a bone spur in his elbow, and spending the last two months of the season on the disabled list with a shoulder tightness.

Perhaps the Mets pushed him last season or this year, that’s highly plausible and he aggravated something. Perhaps he hit a wall and has a dead arm. That seems likely because manager Terry Collins said there’s no movement on his fastball.

It is fast, but straight. A pitcher needs movement, location and velocity to be successful, with the last being the least important.

“The ball is down the middle,’’ Collins said. “You look at a lot of the replays of the hits, they were center-cut. We have to get the ball off the middle of the plate.’’

Matz seemed to have a decent curveball, and previously said throwing the slider stings his elbow.

Matz said, “I feel good and healthy out there, so there is really no excuses for my pitching.’’ You can plug that same quote next to Matt Harvey’s name, or Noah Syndergaards, or Zack Wheeler’s.

Of course, both Collins and GM Sandy Alderson have also said similar things.

I suggested something could be wrong after Matz’s last start. Now, I am convinced. The point is four straight stinkers from a pitcher usually signifies something isn’t right with the arm. The only question is: When will the Mets admit it?

The only question is: When will the Mets admit it?

ON DECK:  The latest Mets’ trade rumors.

Jul 25

Trading For De Grom Wouldn’t Really Benefit A Contender

Just like you, I would be curious to learn what the Mets could get for Jacob deGrom. He’s won eight straight after beating the Padres last night, posting a 1.61 ERA in that stretch.

Also important considering the Mets’ bullpen issues is he routinely works into the seventh inning or deeper [doing so in seven of his last eight starts].

DE GROM: Untouchable. (AP)

DE GROM: Untouchable. (AP)

With a 12-3 record his value to the Mets is clear, especially with Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey and now Zack Wheeler on the disabled list.

The Houston Astros are salivating over deGrom, but other teams would love to add him for the stretch drive. Also making him attractive is his one-year, $4.05-million contract. He’s arbitration eligible and will be a free agent in 2021.

A smart team would trade for him and sign him to a long-term deal. Of all the pitchers in the Mets’ vaunted rotation, he’s the one worthy of getting a long-term contract.

With Clayton Kershaw sidelined for up to six weeks, if deGrom continues this roll he could merit Cy Young consideration. His performance in the 2015 postseason against the Dodgers says he can rise on the big stage.

Who wouldn’t want deGrom?

But, what would be the price? I’m thinking up to four major-league ready players, including at least one starting pitcher. That seems reasonable from the Mets’ perspective.

DeGrom should command a big package, and with the Mets saying they will compete for the playoffs next year, they want major-league ready talent in return. The problem from the other team’s perspective is they are already a contender and losing four key pieces could derail their plans.

Would Houston, or any team, benefit from adding deGrom at the expense of gutting a contender? If the Mets were really interested in trading him this is something better fitted for the off-season. In doing so, if Syndergaard, Harvey and Wheeler return this year, the Mets would have a better idea on next year’s staff.

Frankly, I would sign deGrom long-term and build around him. I know GM Sandy Alderson won’t say it, but he should say: “The price is four starters. Wow me. Otherwise, deGrom is off limits.’’

DeGrom is a keeper. He’s the only one of five I wouldn’t trade.

“[DeGrom] loves to be out there and loves to compete, and with his stuff and his command, he’s going to win a lot of games,’’ manager Terry Collins said.

Hopefully, it will be with the Mets.

Jul 24

Today’s Question: Will Cespedes Ever Hit Another Homer?

It has been a month, 80 at-bats since Yoenis Cespedes hit his last home run. Of course, inquiring minds want to know if he will ever hit another homer. More importantly, Cespedes is probably wondering the same.

CESPEDES: Feeling the pressure. (AP)

CESPEDES: Feeling the pressure. (AP)

Hitters are like that, especially hitters who take pride in being “the man.” Cespedes will be paid $110 million over four years to be “the man,” and believe me, this stretch is killing him. If he’s anything like any other player I’ve covered over the past 20 years, this is eating him up.

But, he’s too good for this to continue much longer.

If Bartolo Colon can hit a home run, so can Cespedes, even if it is by accident. He hit several long fly balls during the home stand, just missed a few. And, he hit several balls hard, so it isn’t like he forgot how to hit.

In watching him, and talking to several scouts I still keep in touch with, the problem seems to be with his legs. The stride, the torque, just isn’t there, caused by his hamstring and quad problems. He’s swinging too much with his arms and lunging at pitches trying to pull too much.

Eventually, Cespedes will run into a pitch and crush it, and when that happens the homers will come in bunches and the feelings of frustration will disappear. He said the other day that he’s working hard. Perhaps, he’s working too hard. Getting away from home, where the pressures are obvious could clear his mind.

Cespedes understands much is expected of him and with the Mets in sell mode he has to be thinking “if I were hitting we would be winning and they wouldn’t trade anybody.”

He’s only human, after all.