Nov 30

Trading Bruce Next For Mets

The agreement with Yoenis Cespedes triggered the Mets’ willingness – perhaps eagerness – to deal Jay Bruce.

The three-time All-Star is 29 and will be making $13 million this year, all easily digestible numbers. Word is Toronto, which figures to lose both Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, is interested. Reportedly, Bruce nearly landed in Toronto last year, but the deal fell through.

BRUCE: Toronto bound? (AP)

BRUCE: Toronto bound? (AP)

Several media outlets report the Mets and Blue Jays have spoken, giving legs to the possibility of a trade.

What’s not known is what the Mets are asking for Bruce. Do they want major-league ready talent or prospects? Mets GM Sandy Alderson has a reputation for being a tough negotiator in trade talks, and you’ll recall when the Mets traded R.A. Dickey to Toronto for Noah Syndergaard.

The Blue Jays have to be wary of dealing with Alderson. How can they not be?

What could derail a trade is if the Blue Jays signed Dexter Fowler, who played for the Cubs last season. It is not known if the Blue Jays have any interest in Curtis Granderson, whom the Mets are also reportedly willing to deal.

There’s a lot of stuff flying around this time of year, but the most ridiculous thing I’ve read has the Mets trading Travis d’Arnaud (presumably in a package including Bruce) back to Toronto for catcher Russell Martin.

While Martin would be interesting for a team needing that one catching piece, would the Mets really be interesting in taking on the 33-year-old catcher’s contract that pays $20 million for the next three years? Even if they shed Bruce’s salary, the Mets would choke on Russell’s contract.

Nov 29

Mets Play Cespedes Negotiations Perfectly … Get Their Man

Well, Yoenis Cespedes is coming back, which is what both he and the Mets wanted. Good for them, and Merry Christmas to both. I initially wrote the Mets would be better off spending the money earmarked for Cespedes – $110 million over four years reported today– on other areas and still believe that might be the best long-term decision.

CESPEDES: Coming back to Mets. (Getty)

CESPEDES: Coming back to Mets. (Getty)

However, when Cespedes filed for free agency a week after the World Series, I wrote if the Mets really wanted him they needed to set a deadline to prevent negotiations dragging into January. Apparently, both sides wanted this done by the Winter Meetings, which worked to the Mets’ advantage because reports of him going to Washington, the Dodgers or Yankees never developed traction.

Apparently, both sides wanted this done by the Winter Meetings, which worked to the Mets’ advantage because reports of him going to the Dodgers or Yankees never developed traction.

Perhaps Cespedes panicked when he saw there wasn’t a line at his door and he saw his big payday slipping away. Was that why he sent a text to the Mets before Thanksgiving reiterating his desire to come back? Reportedly, nobody was willing to give him the five years he wanted, but the only team to publicly state their interest was the Mets.

We can conclude Cespedes overestimated his value in the market, while Alderson judged it perfectly and applied enough pressure to make the 31-year-old outfielder blink. Good for Alderson: He had a plan and stuck with it.

After two playoff seasons, the Mets felt enough urgency to bring Cespedes back to keep their nucleus intact as much as possible. They already made moves in that direction by bringing back Lucas Duda, Neil Walker and Jose Reyes.

As far as spending the money given Cespedes elsewhere, that was an option, but in retrospect, the market for their primary needs – catcher and a closer to replace Jeurys Familia – isn’t readily available, or inexpensive.

It must also be remembered the Mets own a trade chip in Jay Bruce, so they have the opportunity to upgrade without spending big.

Sure, I have concerns, which I’ll save for later, but the Mets felt a need and they acted on it. They basically are keeping the team that reached the playoffs together, and that’s important. Instead of dabbling and adding two or three other players, they chose the path of least resistance and there’s a lot to be said for that decision.

 

Nov 18

Cespedes Market Might Not Be So Hot

The reported market is six teams, including the Mets, interested in Yoenis Cespedes. However, the interest could be described as “luke warm,” which might have prompted his text to the GM Sandy Alderson indicating his desire to return.

Reportedly, Cespedes wants $150 million over five years, while the Mets are saying $100 million over four years. That’s a significant gap, but those are reported figures not confirmed by the Mets or Cespedes’ representatives.

CESPEDES: Desperate? (AP)

CESPEDES: Desperate? (AP)

It’s interesting the text – reported by multiple outlets – came from the player and not his agent. It also came after Alderson told WOR the Mets could have interest in Jose Bautista, Dexter Fowler and Steve Pearce, all of whom would cost significantly less.

Could it be there’s a growing sense of urgency on Cespedes’ part? Kind of like the teenage girl asking over and over again if the guy in her geometry class really likes her.

“I think we’ve said as an organization that we’d like to have him back,” Alderson said. “Free agency provides its own sort of intrigue, so we’ll see where things take us. … I think we’re gonna have to wait a while to see how this turns out. I think he wants to be back.”

However, Alderson also said he doesn’t want this to drag on into January as it did last winter.

The initial market for Cespedes was reported as the Mets, Washington, San Francisco, Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox, along with the Yankees.

After trading Brian McCann to Houston, the Yankees have more room for Cespedes.

“I’m sure we’ll talk again,” Yankees GM Brian Cashman told The New York Times. “Now that we have more flexibility, it gives us more choices.”

However, the Yankees have been linked to the Angels in a possible trade for AL MVP Mike Trout, and it has been widely speculated they could make a run at the Nationals’ Bryce Harper in a couple of years.

It seems doubtful if they really wanted either of those players they would inflame their payroll now with Cespedes.

As for the Giants’ interest, they are already embroiled in long-term deals with Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzjia, Buster Posey and Hunter Pence.

If the Giants were to add a bat, it would likely be one of a lower profile are the reports from San Francisco.

And, the White Sox’s first priority is finding a market for stud pitcher Chris Sale, which presumably would include a power hitter.

Cespedes is aware of this, or at least should be. He has to be wondering it the market for him is all that big and really isn’t six teams.

Given that, the Mets seem to have the leverage and would be wise to press Cespedes to make his demands soon and get back to him with their best, and final, offer.

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Nov 15

Updating Mets’ Top Ten Offseason Issues

Maybe the Mets made Bartolo Colon an offer. I haven’t heard. So far this winter their heavy lifting has included picking up the options of Jay Bruce and Jose Reyes, and extending qualifying offers to Yoenis Cespedes and Neil Walker.

ALDERSON: A lot of his plate. (AP)

ALDERSON: A lot of his plate. (AP)

Other than that, it has been a relatively quiet offseason for GM Sandy Alderson. With the Winter Meetings less than a month away, here is what I see as Alderson’s Top Ten priorities:

1. Keep Bruce for now: There is an Internet report stating the Mets are talking with Toronto about Jay Bruce. It makes sense from the perspective of the Blue Jays, who could lose both Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion to free agency.

Reportedly, the Mets have feelers out on Bautista, although I prefer Encarnacion, who could enter into a first base platoon with Lucas Duda.

However, trading Bruce with the Cespedes situation unresolved makes no sense. They picked up Bruce’s option as a safety net for losing Cespedes, so what’s the point of dealing him without know what happens with Cespedes?

2. Decide on Cespedes: For a myriad of reasons, I believe the Mets should let Cespedes play through to the next hole. You guys know that by now. However, the Mets insist they want him back.

Fine. If that’s their position, get Cespedes’ contractual demands as soon as possible and go from there. He already rejected the Mets’ qualifying offer, so they would be in their right to ask what the player wants and go from there.

With a new CBA on the table, this could extend into January, which wouldn’t be prudent.

3. Bring back Reed: Yes, I know Addison Reed isn’t a free agent unless the Mets pass on him. Sign Reed and establish him now as the closer because they have to know Jeurys Familia will be suspended for at least 30 games.

If not Reed, the Mets have to go in on a closer. They won’t pay the big bucks for Aroldis Chapman or Kenley Jansen, but what about Mark Melancon? He won’t be cheap, either.

4. Bolster the bullpen: Without Familia and the change of roles with Reed, there are other bullpen holes. Will they bring back Jerry Blevins? Will Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman have starting or bullpen roles? With Colon gone, the Mets could go for a middle reliever capable of multiple innings. Is that guy Hansel Robles or somebody in the market?

5. Define the back-up infielders: For somebody coming off back surgery, a $17.2 million qualifying offer to Neil Walker was fairly generous. It was a no-brainer to bring back Walker to team with Asdrubal Cabrera would solidify the double-play combination for another year. The offer will undoubtedly frustrate Wilmer Flores, but there has to be some area of consistency. It’s unlikely they can trade Flores, but if he’s on the 25-man roster what will that mean for T.J. Rivera?

6. Figure out what to do with Conforto: First base seems a reach for Michael Conforto. If they try that, the platoon with Duda should be with a right-handed hitter. They would be better off earmarking him for center field, because we know Cespedes doesn’t want to play there.

Defining Conforto’s role should also help dictate how they’ll use Curtis Granderson.

7. Figure out Wright’s role: I’d like to know now, but realize that’s not practical. But, assuming for the moment he’s healthy, is there a rough projection of how he’ll be used and how much? Seriously, is first base a realistic option?

8. Determine the health of the rotation: Four pitchers from this vaunted future All-Star staff are coming off surgery. The early reports are positive, and that includes no surgery to remove Noah Syndergaard’s bone spurs. But, we really won’t know until March.

If everything works out for the best, Alderson and manager Terry Collins must figure out where Lugo and Gsellman fit and resist the temptation of dealing either because they think they are in a position of strength because they are not.

I wouldn’t be opposed to picking up a veteran as insurance.

9. Improve the catching: If they enter the season with Travis d’Arnaud as the starter, it has to be with a short leash. He’s been frequently injured and unproductive, and frankly the rotation performs better with Rene Rivera.

10. Determine Duda’s leash: Duda is another prone to injuries and slow starts. They had to sign James Loney last summer and he performed well. However, it is unlikely they’ll bring him back.

Duda has monster power, but the past few years it has taken him into the second half before he warms up.

Other than Cespedes – pro or con – I don’t see the Mets making a major personnel decision this winter. But, whatever they decide, it will have far-reaching ramifications.

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Nov 08

Amazing Alderson Still Needs Clarity On Cespedes

I do not accept the term “undecided,” whether it be at the voting booth today or Mets GM Sandy Alderson’s stance on whether to bring back Yoenis Cespedes.

After all this time, you can’t honestly say you flipped a coin at the voting booth. Just the same, I don’t buy for a second Alderson needs more clarity on whether the Mets should bring back the high maintenance Cespedes.

ALDERSON: Needs to take control of Cespedes talks. (AP)

ALDERSON: Needs to take control of Cespedes talks. (AP)

The Mets didn’t reach an agreement with Cespedes last year until Jan. 26, and that resolution meant giving him an opt-out after one season.

Here’s what Alderson told reporters at the start of the general manager’s meetings in Arizona: “I think realistically, from our standpoint this year, things will probably have to resolve themselves a lot sooner than they did last year.

“But it’s hard to predict where things will go. Things could go quickly. Things could linger. But certainly, from our standpoint, between now and the winter meetings, and through the end of the winter meetings, would be the right time to get some of these issues resolved. But that doesn’t mean it will happen.”

What Alderson is saying is so far all the leverage in these negotiations belongs to Cespedes. These meetings will linger if Alderson doesn’t take control of the negotiations.

Alderson admitted he long thought Cespedes would opt out of the contract and test the market. Hell, he should have figured it when he signed him in January. Alderson is a smart guy. If he knew Cespedes was leaving, then he could also forecast the financial market for him and what teams might be interested. Above all, he should know by now whether the Mets can live with Cespedes’ antics and if they can afford him.

Alderson should already know the answers to the following questions:

* One, do the Mets want Cespedes back?

* Two, are they willing to put up with the negatives Cespedes brings to the table, which includes stunting the opportunity for Michael Conforto?

* Three, how much money are they willing to throw at him at the expense of their other issues?

If Alderson doesn’t know the answers by now, he’s not doing a good job. It’s not all that hard to figure out.

Alderson met with Cespedes’ representatives last week, but said salary was not discussed. Why the hell not? Alderson said the meeting was to inform Cespedes’ agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, of the Mets’ interest.

Reportedly, the Mets are concerned about giving a contract of more than four seasons because, 1) they aren’t sure Cespedes will give maximum effort after getting the security blanket, and 2) Cespedes’ injury history last year (only 132 games played).

If they are worried about injury and effort, they why are they going through this? Those are serious red flags.

If the Mets really want Cespedes back they have to assume control of the negotiations. They have to play hardball. The $17.2 million qualifying offer given Cespedes and Neil Walker was to assure receiving a compensatory draft pick. That’s the first step and it was to protect themselves.

The key to is for Alderson to get Cespedes’ demands now and not wait for the market to develop. Don’t dance with this guy. Alderson needs to set a deadline, tell the Cespedes camp what his best offer is, and other issues, such as playing center field, receiving rehab and golfing.

The Mets have a myriad of issues to address this winter and dancing with Cespedes into the new year will hamper those efforts. Fixing their bullpen which they must assume will not include Jeurys Familia for at least the season’s first 30 games; upgrading their catching; and ascertaining the health of their young rotation are all more important issues than Cespedes. They can always get a cheaper right-handed bat in the market and figure a refreshed Jay Bruce will fill the offensive void left by Cespedes leaving. That void can also be further filled with Conforto playing more.

Frankly, Alderson’s most important offseason decision is to decide just how good are the Mets. Was the World Series in 2015 a fluke or are they an 87-win team, capable of contending but not going much further than the wild card?

If you think the Mets can’t win without Cespedes, think again.

Cespedes was hot in August of 2015 and surely the Mets wouldn’t have reached the playoffs without him. However, it was Daniel Murphy and solid pitching that took them to the World Series.

Cespedes disappeared that posteason, much as he did for much of this September when he hit .214 with a .297 on-base percentage, four homers and 18 RBI. Unquestionably Cespedes had glittering moments, but it must be remembered in the second half of the season, with every game important, he hit .246 with ten homers and 34 RBI.

If you believe the Mets can’t win without Cespedes, ask yourself what have they really won with him? Is getting to the World Series and losing that big of a deal?

So, if Cespedes still is a Met priority, Alderson has to set the financial parameters early, making sure the numbers – both money and years – is in the form of a take-it-or-leave-it format. And, when the deadline date is reached – perhaps at the end of the Winter Meetings – walk away.

Like I said, the Mets have a lot of work to do and they can’t afford to let Cespedes impede what must be done.

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