Oct 21

Mets Would Do Well To Follow Cardinals’ Blueprint

The World Series is upon us in a matter of days and the New York Mets can learn from both the St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox in building their team.

Today, I’ll examine the Cardinals and see where there any familiarities. Tomorrow, I’ll look at the Red Sox.

Mets Could Learn From Cardinals

Mets Could Learn From Cardinals

The Mets say they want to build with young pitching, which has always been the Cardinals’ way. A look at St. Louis’ rotation shows the rotation highlighted Adam Wainwright is entirely homegrown. Wainwright was drafted by Atlanta – another franchise that knows how to grow pitching – but was traded and never pitched an inning for the Braves. Wainwright pitched in the Cardinals’ minor league system before he pitched in the majors for them.. A testament to how deep the Cardinals are is rookie 15-game winner Shelby Miller didn’t even pitch in the NLCS.

The Cardinals have been highly protective of Michael Wacha (the compensatory draft pick received for losing Albert Pujols), whose innings limit began on spring training and lasted through the season to the point of where he is ready for the playoffs without reservation.

St. Louis did this by not starting the innings limit in spring training but by backdating his projected starts from the playoffs. This made it easier because the Cardinals had a clear idea of how many innings Wacha would throw from each start and held firm.

Wainwright, Lance Lynn, Miller, Wacha and Joe Kelly are all homegrown and developed in the same system.

With Matt Harvey out for the year, logically more would be demanded of Jon Niese – coming off a shoulder injury – and Zack Wheeler, who was scratched from his last start because of a stiff shoulder. But, the Mets must be careful as to not have another injury like Harvey’s. That Wheeler complained after his last start is alarming.

The Mets are also looking at prospects Rafael Montero, Jacab deGrom and Noah Syndergaard. Presumably, they will all have innings limitations, which should include restrictions on the minor league level and the major league level after they are promoted following the deadine to protect their Super Two status.

The Mets’ plan emulates the Cardinals. When Harvey returns in 2015, he Wheeler, Niese, Dillon Gee will form the nucleus of the rotation, with either Jenrry Mejia or Montero being the fifth starter.

It could be this way in midway through 2014 when or if Montero joins the rotation and possibly deGrom. Wainwright didn’t become a starter until his third season, and was a reliever when he threw that dynamic curveball past Carlos Beltran. This might be something for the Mets to consider with Montero.

The Mets tried Mejia as both a starter and reliever. He underwent elbow surgery this year, but should be ready for spring training.

Whatever the Mets do with him, they should pick one role and stick with it, something they failed to do under Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel.

The Cardinals believe strongly in building up the middle, which is why they chose to keep Yadier Molina and say goodbye to Pujols. One might have though Pujols would stay after the Cardinals won the World Series after the 2011 season.

The Mets are attempting to do the same with Travis d’Arnaud, who is a long way of becoming another Molina – any of them.

St. Louis has a reputation of being a small market team, but it has a big market swagger in that it has won more World Series than any franchise other than the Yankees.

The Cardinals signed slugger Matt Holliday, which was a gesture to Pujols of their intent to keep him and protect him in the lineup.

The Cardinals built with prospects – a reflection of a strong scouting system and minor league system – with first baseman Allen Craig, who could be activated for the World Series; second baseman Matt Carpenter; third baseman David Freese; and outfielder Jon Jay.

This enabled them to add what they needed from the outside, notably right fielder Beltran and shortstop Rafael Furcal.

The difference between the Mets and Cardinals isn’t so much in philosophy as it is in talent. The Mets are hoping Ike Davis or Lucas Duda could be as productive as Craig. Life would be simpler for the Mets if that occurred.

Offensively, the Mets don’t have a Holliday, and there are no similar players currently in the projected free-agent market.

Boston’s Jacoby Ellsbury is a proven outfielder, and could thrive in spacious Citi Field. Red flags are his health, potential salary and the reputation of production of Red Sox players after they leave Fenway Park. He also doesn’t have Holliday’s power.

Potential free-agent outfielders include Beltran, Shin-Soo Choo, Nelson Cruz, Curtis Granderson and Nate McLouth.

McLouth could come the cheapest; Granderson strikes out a lot and his power numbers must be carefully examined because of Yankee Stadium and the protection (outside of last year) he had in the lineup; Choo could be a one-year wonder and is a risk for a multi-year deal; and Cruz has the PED flag,

None, outside of Beltran, offer the stability of Holliday. If Beltran doesn’t stay in St. Louis, the Mets would have to consider his age and salary demands (he’ll want at least two years).

The Cardinals are an ideal blue print for any franchise and the Mets would do themselves good if they build that way.

 

Nov 21

Wilpon Lays Out Scenarios For Wright And Dickey

At least they are talking.

Mets CEO Jeff Wilpon said there’s dialogue between the team and David Wright and R.A. Dickey, then added he’s optimistic about keeping them.

WILPON: Facing a future without Wright and Dickey.

What else is he going to say? “No, I think they’ll both leave.’’ Yeah, that will sell a lot of tickets.

You have to be skeptical whenever any side in a negotiation says something on the record, as much of the time it is posturing and sending a message to the other party. Parties will talk with the media when it is their best interests.

The most interesting thing said was having a preference to letting them play out their options and taking the draft picks rather than orchestrating a trade. That’s the route they chose with Jose Reyes after not even making an offer. This time, numbers have been exchanged.

Draft picks are cheaper than major league players. It also makes one wonder if they don’t believe they’ll get much in return, or would be able to keep the new players.

Reportedly, Wright is seeking a seven-year, $125-million package, while the Mets are offering much less.

How far is the divide? I don’t know, but presumably the Mets are offering roughly $100 million over five, which isn’t bad, but not a superstar deal.

I’m not crazy of deals longer than five years because of the injury factor, so I’d inclined to front load the contract.

Continue reading

Nov 19

What Should The Years Limit Be For David Wright?

I like David Wright and want the Mets to sign him to an extension.

However, the question is: For how long?

The other day I wrote the Mets should get going and sign him and R.A. Dickey. What I should have said is they should put their best offer on the table, and if nothing else, be creative. My thoughts were the longer this drags on – especially after saying they wanted to get something done quickly – the more their price rises, as does the chances of losing them.

WRIGHT: How much? How long?

Contracts over five years are in vogue for superstars, Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Alex Rodriguez all received them based on past and future performance. However, most of these teams have, or will, regret the decision. The Yankees certainly do with Rodriguez. Pujols likely gave his best to the Cardinals.

These deals are precarious, as evidenced by the contract Johan Santana signed with the Mets. Then again, the Mets regretted four with Jason Bay. Injuries are always a risk, but seldom do players produce as they did in the seasons leading up to the payday.

The Mets didn’t want to give a long-term deal to Jose Reyes because they feared him breaking down physically. The Mets had plenty of signs about Reyes’ durability, and are now getting the same indicators with Wright.

From 2005-2008, when the Mets played in Shea Stadium – and for the most part he was surrounded in the line-up with sluggers Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado – Wright was an offensive force, never hitting below .300 and never having an on-base percentage less than .388. He never hit fewer than 26 homers, drive in less than 100 runs, or have a .912 OPS.

Those numbers would have been worthy of a $100-million plus deal.

Continue reading

Oct 12

Thoughts On A-Rod, Washington Nationals And Playoffs

This has been a compelling postseason and it is getting more intriguing with each day. At the start of the season I projected the Giants and Yankees to meet in the World Series, and that’s still in play.

The Yankees’ showing makes them hard to figure out, but one thing is for certain, and that’s things will never be the same for Alex Rodriguez and how he’ll respond to being benched for this afternoon’s game is anybody’s guess what it will do to that clubhouse over the next five years.

Rodriguez played the good soldier when Raul Ibanez pinch-hit for him and ended up homering – twice. He was the same last night when Eric Chavez batted for him. Both had to be blows to his fragile confidence and pride, but being benched is another animal.

Joe Girardi’s actions have stripped Rodriguez of his emotional armor in a far worse way than Joe Torre dropping in the batting order several years ago. Back then, Rodriguez was still a dominating player, but one going through a slump. Torre also had cache in managing four World Series champions.

However, Rodriguez, through the aging process, injuries and it has been suggested the residual effect of his admitted steroid use, is simply not the same player anymore. Whether is year is an aberration remains to be seen, but remember he’s 38 and what player gets better and more productive as he gets older. Other than, of course, one of baseball’s greatest cheaters, Barry Bonds?

And, the beauty of all this is the Yankees have him for five more years, in which they’ll pay him in excess of $100 million. It’s hindsight now, but they should have let him walk when they had the chance. Odds are there were no teams that would have given him Yankee money, but late owner George Steinbrenner ended up bidding against himself. With an increased luxury tax coming, the Yankees will be forced to reduce payroll and they might have a completely different look, and maybe one no so dominant.

If Rodriguez is indeed on the decline as it appears, having him get all that money for not producing will undoubtedly cause a strain among the players. How can it not?

However, Rodriguez was greedy and wanted every last time and the Yankees were smug and arrogant in their free-spending ways. They both got what they deserve.

Another impression about the postseason is the arrogance of the Washington Nationals. I like Davey Johnson, always have, but their GM Mike Rizzo is annoying. I couldn’t agree more with my colleague Joe DeCaro’s post this morning on Rizzo’s decision to shut down Stephen Strasburg. It was beyond arrogance for Rizzo to suggest the Nationals would be back many times to the postseason.

I covered the Orioles for ten years and I remember what Cal Ripken once told me. He appeared the 1983 World Series, and afterward said he thought he’d get back every year. Ripken didn’t play in another postseason game until 1996, a mere 13 years later. There is no guarantees in sports. The Nationals might never get here again during Strasburg’s career, regardless of how good it evolves. Then again, Strasburg has already had an arm injury. What if he has another and his career is cut short?

Above all, I have to wonder about the feelings among Strasburg’s teammates toward management. The pitcher is on record saying he wanted to pitch, so they can’t hold that against him. But, management is sending a bad message to the players. What if they never get here again? How will they feel about Rizzo’s decision?

Meanwhile, the Giants are an interesting story. As they were two years ago, they are pitching reliant. They got by Cincinnati without Tim Lincecum in the rotation, but they won’t be able to get away with that in the NLCS. Lincecum pitched brilliantly in relief, looking like his old self. This is a very good team that is flying under the radar.

Also in that position are the St. Louis Cardinals – they know what to do in October – and Detroit Tigers. The Cardinals could have the chance to defend their title without Tony La Russa and Albert Pujols, something few thought would be possible. The Tigers, meanwhile, have the game’s premier pitcher in Justin Verlander and one-two punch in Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder.

Cardinals vs. Tigers in a rematch? That wouldn’t be bad, either.

 

Jan 20

Thinking Mets and other things.

Just want to say thanks again to Joe DeCaro for posting on the blog as I go through some things. Going in today for a procedure. Have been in a lot of discomfort lately and hoping this will help. I will keep trying to post whenever I can.

In the interim, some thoughts have been going through my mind I’d like to share with you.

1) I understand selling bricks on the walk ways surrounding to Citi Field. It’s the norm these days outside the new stadiums. It brings in some cash, but hardly dents the expenses of a team. You’re certainly not going to sign a front line pitcher selling bricks. You’re not going to do it either by selling parts of the outfield wall. I know the Mets won’t pass on an opportunity to bring in some money, but this really looks desperate, which, of course, the Mets are … it is embarrassing, really. What’s next, having players stand outside the gates this summer holding tin cups or tip jars?

2) Saw a nice write-up in the papers where Carlos Beltran was in town to honor a a long time Mets fan and friend who passed away. He presented the man’s children with Mets jerseys. I don’t know why it was Beltran wasn’t fully appreciated here, but he is arguably one of the best position players in franchise history and was always a gentleman. He represented the Mets with class, but wasn’t always treated well by the front office, media and fans. It will be a long time before the Mets see another like him.

3) Prince Fielder talked to the Nationals and Rangers, and both could be ideal landing spots. If the money is comparable, you would have to think Texas would be ideal for him because the Rangers are already a good team; the Rangers have a band-box of a ball park; the weather is ideal for hitting year round; the Rangers offer more protection in the line-up; and the American League has the designated hitter. Yes, there are a lot of good reasons why he should lean toward Texas, just as Albert Pujols logically should have been thinking about staying in St. Louis. But, logic has nothing to do with it and it will come down to the largest check.