Jul 23

Mets Wrap: Back In Sell Mode?

Had the Mets won six out of every ten games all year, this might have turned out to be an enjoyable, if not a memorable season. It remains to be seen – although it is unlikely – if going 6-4 on this homestand will be enough to change GM Sandy Alderson’s definition of “exceedingly well.’’

MONTERO: Coming together for him? (AP)

MONTERO: Coming together for him? (AP)

That’s the rate Alderson said the Mets had to play at in their homestand coming out of the All-Star break to shift out of sell mode.

Manager Terry Collins believes Alderson has already made up his mind.

“I can tell you that’s the belief in the clubhouse, but I don’t know if that’s the feeling from the outside,’’ Collins said, while not naming Alderson. “Going 6-4 might not be good enough. Eight and two would be good enough.’’

Once again, the Mets failed to complete a sweep on a home Sunday, losing 3-2 today, as Oakland won on the strength of three solo homers. The Mets remain the major’s only team not to win a three-game home series. They begin a 10-game trip tomorrow to San Diego, Seattle and Colorado that will take them through the non-waiver trade deadline.

The Mets regrouped in each of the last two seasons to reach the playoffs. Their odds are longer this year.

“Next week will be hard,’’ Collins said. “Again, I will do the best I can to keep their mind on the game. …

“I’ve pushed and pushed and pushed to let them know, you gotta go play. If you’re building up your hopes that maybe you’re gonna get traded to a first-place club or something, they’ve got to realize that stuff’s completely out of their control, and a lot of things can change at the last minute.’’

Jay Bruce knows what Collins is talking about. He lived through it last year before Cincinnati traded him to the Mets.

“Obviously, the fact that this could be the last home game for a lot of us here is something that’s a bit odd, but nothing happens until it happens and we don’t know for sure and we’ll just see how it goes,’’ Bruce said. “We don’t need to be reminded [about what Alderson said]. We know what situation we are in.’’

Bruce is one of several Mets whose next trip to Citi Field will be that as a visitor. Asdrubal Cabrera, Addison Reed, Lucas Duda, Curtis Granderson and Jose Reyes are some of the others.

MONTERO PITCHES WELL: The Mets would take three runs in seven innings every time from Rafael Montero.

“He did a nice job again today,’’ Collins said. “We didn’t have many opportunities, but he gave us every chance to get back and win the game.’’

The only trouble is Montero gave up three of his five homers this year today. Two came on hanging sliders.

“I think I need to keep the ball a little bit lower,’’ Montero said. “That’s really where I got into some trouble and there was damage done against me. Those home runs, when they occurred, that’s because I kept the ball too high.’’

Montero has worked into the sixth inning or later in his last four starts. The Mets might not reach the playoffs this year, but they might have found another starter.

CESPEDES’ WOES CONTINUE: Yoenis Cespedes, who went 0-for-5 Saturday, did not start, but flied out as a pinch-hitter in the ninth.

Since June 24, Cespedes has two doubles, no homers and just three RBI.

He hasn’t homered in 80 at-bats.

UP NEXT: Jacob deGrom (11-3, 3.37) has won seven straight starts. He has a 1.51 ERA in that span with 50 strikeouts and ten walks. LHP Clayton Richard (5-10, 5.35) will start for San Diego.

Jul 21

Here’s Hoping Flores Gets Traded

It was two years ago next week when Wilmer Flores carved out a niche in Mets lore when he openly wept on the field after hearing a report he had been traded. Flores endeared himself to Mets fans everywhere that night because he showed the fans he was a player who genuinely wanted to play here.

How could you not cheer for a guy like that? How can you not cheer for a guy who showed such human emotions?

FLORES: The night he became a Mets' icon.  (AP)

FLORES: The night he became a Mets’ icon. (AP)

The trade to Milwaukee fell through and he remained in Queens, but his situation only briefly changed for the better regarding playing time. Off the field, there was still a shameful lack of respect from GM Sandy Alderson, who made him a butt of jokes on his stand up tour, and manager Terry Collins, who never trusted him enough to give him a position full-time.

However, in those moments when he did play – when Lucas Duda and David Wright were injured – Flores showed streaky power. He did so again yesterday with a pinch-hit homer in the win over St. Louis.

I always liked Flores, even before the tears, and openly advocated the Mets work him into a regular playing rotation. Now, I want the Mets to trade him. To Boston. To Houston. To Milwaukee, again. To any team where he’ll get a chance to play.

The Mets will soon move out Asdrubal Cabrera to make room for, and keep him away from, Amed Rosario. And, maybe they’ll trade Duda to make room for Dominic Smith. Neil Walker will soon be coming off the disabled list, and a midseason slump cost Flores his at-bats in favor of T.J. Rivera.

And, Flores? He’ll get moved to the bench where we won’t see him for ten more days. Collins never gave Flores a chance to work his way out of his slump; he wouldn’t work Flores into a rotation when all the infielders were coming off some kind of injury; he’ll bury him again.

Ken Davidoff, the talented baseball columnist for The New York Post, quoted a baseball scout on Flores and Rivera: “I like them more as fringe everyday players. Maybe guys you plug in for two weeks, or maybe even two months. But I wouldn’t be comfortable with them in a six-month situation for the full season.’’

That’s understandable because Flores has never been given more than a month to play. He tore things up earlier this season, then, like all players eventually do, tailed off. Hey, even Aaron Judge has cooled.

That’s the essence of a full baseball season. There will be stretches where everything falls in and others where even scorched balls are caught. His defense has never been good, but couldn’t that because he’s never been given a fulltime position? That’s the same way it was with Daniel Murphy.

Nobody knows what Flores can do for a full season because he’s never gotten the chance. Collins and Alderson put him in position where he’s always looking over his shoulder.

Flores can play adequately anywhere in the infield and has shown he can hit right-handed pitching. He can tear up lefties.

Flores was a valuable piece in the playoff runs of 2015 and 2016, and surely, can help a contender. Boston is in desperate need of a third baseman and the Yankees can still use a first baseman.

Flores can help either, but the hope here is he is traded by the deadline to a team that appreciates his value and will let him play.

Give him 550 at-bats before you tell me he can’t play.

 

Jul 15

Rosario’s Tweets Won’t Help Him

Amed Rosario might be physically gifted, and could very well develop into a major league star. While the Mets’ impatient fan base and media might be clamoring for his promotion over GM Sandy Alderson’s judgment, this much is sure: Rosario is not emotionally ready for the major leagues.

If he were, he wouldn’t be going on social media, Twitter to be exact, literally begging for a promotion.

ROSARIO: Needs to put the phone down.

ROSARIO: Needs to put the phone down.

“On my knees and I Just want to propose to Queens — NY that is. AR = Amed is Ready #Facts #DontBeSurprisedBeReady..’’

If Rosario was really ready, he wouldn’t be pleading for a promotion. He would simply keep his mouth shut and let his playing do his talking for him.

That’s old school thinking, I know. I also know Alderson has his reasons and won’t be swayed by what the media reports or what his players may post on social media.

“We want Rosario, we want (Dominic) Smith to come up under the best possible circumstances, and right now, we think the best thing for both of them is to continue to play at Las Vegas until the situation here clarifies one way or the other,’’ Alderson said. “Either we’re back in the race and everybody’s clicking on all cylinders, or we’re not, and we make some other decisions. But right now, I just don’t think it’s the right time.’’

That doesn’t mean Alderson doesn’t believe Rosario can’t play in the major leagues, he just doesn’t think that with the Mets still going for it, there’s not a fit for him in Flushing.

Alderson is figuring he might as well ride Jose Reyes for as long as he can while knowing Rosario, who is hitting .327 for Triple-A Las Vegas, will be there when he wants him.

Jul 14

DeGrom Overpowering In Winning Sixth Straight

GM Sandy Alderson said the Mets are willing to trade viable players, but if they deal their two most valuable assets it could prevent them from fielding a competitive team for next year.

The Mets believe they can contend in 2018 if the pitching Alderson termed as “lousy’’ rebounds. That would entail the healthy returns of Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey, both of whom are close to throwing.

“This is not a tear down situation,’’ Alderson said prior to tonight’s 14-2 rout of the Rockies. “This is what I believe is a pause button. We’re going to have a lot of players that are free agents at the end of the year. A lot of payroll will become available. We’re not looking to rebuild, we’re looking to make sure we have a nucleus of a competitive team going into next year.’’

De GROM: Overpowering tonight. (AP)

De GROM: Overpowering tonight. (AP)

But, just how competitive will they be if they deal Jay Bruce and/or Addison Reed? If they do, won’t they be searching for power – especially from the left side – if they trade Bruce? And, if they don’t, and aren’t able to re-sign him, how will they replace his power? Certainly not with Brandon Nimmo.

Pitching is always at a premium, and a reliever/closer the quality of Reed should fetch a decent return. However, trading Reed would officially raise the white flag on the season. The Mets should get Jeurys Familia back, but to what degree? Should they deal Reed and Familia not return to form, that puts the Mets in the market for a closer.

Alderson said he’s willing to listen to overtures on any player, even Jacob deGrom, who has been linked to Houston.

“I think that’s a possibility, only because you never quite know what’s going to be presented,’’ Alderson said. “But I’d say that that sort of trade is exceedingly unlikely.’’

DeGROM SPECTACULAR: DeGrom was magnificent tonight, giving up two runs on four hits with one walk and 11 strikeouts in eight innings in winning his sixth straight game.

It was deGrom’s fifth straight start of at least seven innings, and his ninth start overall of that length. It was also his seventh game with double-digits in strikeouts.

DeGrom had an overpowering fastball and command of his secondary pitches.

OTHER THOUGHTS FROM TONIGHT: Michael Conforto started in center over Curtis Granderson, which is how things will likely to be barring an injury. Conforto drove in four runs on a single and a three-run homer. Of course, whatever trade value Granderson has left will be diminished if he sits for three weeks. … Yoenis Cespedes had four hits, and looked great running on his double and an infield single. … The Mets rapped out 19 hits, their second most this season. … Jose Reyes had three hits to raise his average to .221. Reyes’ time will be cut once Amed Rosario is brought up, or when Neil Walker is activated from the disabled list (in roughly two weeks) and if Asdrubal Cabrera moves back to short. The trade values of Reyes and Cabrera is limited and neither is expected to be brought back next season.

Jul 14

Top Ten Mets’ Questions In Second Half

The Mets are home tonight for the start of a ten-game homestand that will determine the course of what is becoming a lost season.

While there’s little hope other than mathematics that they will be able to make a playoff push, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t significant questions that must be answered that could determine the direction of this franchise for years:

ALDERSON: Facing a lot of questions. (AP)

ALDERSON: Facing a lot of questions. (AP)

  1. Will they be buyers or sellers at the deadline?

A: The Mets can’t advertise that they are giving up on the year before their longest homestand of the season. Their two most valuable commodities are closer Addison Reed and outfielder Jay Bruce, both of whom will be free agents this winter. This would make them rentals to any team dealing with the Mets.

Other assets who would command less are Curtis Granderson, Jerry Blevins, Lucas Duda, Asdrubal Cabrera and Jose Reyes.

2. Will we see Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith?

A: That was one of the prevailing first-half questions. GM Sandy Alderson insists they aren’t ready, when in reality he was just waiting out the market. Rosario would mean the end of Reyes and Cabrera – assuming they aren’t dealt – and Smith would likely determine Duda’s future.

3. Will Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey pitch again this season?

A: Harvey has already begun throwing and Syndergaard is two weeks from starting, but neither have a definitive timetable to return. Syndergaard has a partially torn lat muscle and the Mets want to know what they have moving forward. Syndergaard likewise wants to know where he is physically, which would dictate his offseason conditioning and throwing program. Hopefully, this winter he won’t hit the weights too much.

As for Harvey, it could very well be his real value to the Mets is as trade bait. I have written numerous times Harvey is just biding his time before he’s a free agent after the 2018 season. He hinted as much in 2015 when his agent Scott Boras brought up Harvey’s innings ceiling. The Mets can explore trading Harvey now or they can hope he comes back strong in the second half and the first half in 2018 before shopping him next year. Either way, his time with the Mets is numbered.

4. Will Yoenis Cespedes stay healthy and become the hitter the Mets are paying all that money to?

A: He’s strong, but muscle bound, which makes him susceptible to muscle pulls. Watching Cespedes run, whether on the bases or in the outfield, and you have to think it is a matter of time before he’s hobbling again.

5. Will manager Terry Collins finally give the Mets’ All-Star, Michael Conforto enough playing time?

A: Assuming Bruce and Granderson aren’t traded, then Collins must either bench the latter or devise a playing rotation for the four.

6. Will Collins do the same for Wilmer Flores and T.J. Rivera?

A: Neither Flores nor Rivera are the physical prototypes Alderson craves, but they produce despite not having a designated position. Both can play anywhere in the infield save shortstop.

7. Speaking of infielders, what will happen with Neil Walker?

A: It wasn’t a bad gamble to give Walker a $17.2 million qualifying offer. After all, it was for only one year and the Mets believed they were competitors. Walker wants a multi-year deal, which the Mets would be foolish to give him, especially with the money owed Cespedes and David Wright.

8. Will we see Wright?

A: The Mets don’t have a timetable for Wright’s return following his back surgery. Thinking positively, if Wright could come back and play well, it could make the Mets’ offseason plans a bit smoother. If he doesn’t come back, will he retire?

9. What is Collins’ future with the Mets?

A: The major league’s oldest manager is in his last year with the Mets. He could retire, but after this season, the Mets could decide not to bring him back. There remains the question of whether he would want to return.

10. What is Alderson’s future with the Mets?

A:  He’ll be 70 this winter and you have to wonder how much longer he wants to do this, especially if the Mets opt to rebuild. The young, vaunted pitching staff has not made one uninterrupted cycle through the rotation together and there’s no guarantee it ever will. There is a multitude of other issues with the Mets and maybe Alderson doesn’t want to go the building process again.