Nov 19

Mets’ Plan For Harvey Not Concrete

The Mets say they plan to handle Matt Harvey with a “soft’’ innings cap, which is another way of saying they have no plan at all.

HARVEY: Searching for a plan. (Getty)

HARVEY: Searching for a plan. (Getty)

GM Sandy Alderson said the Mets won’t handle Harvey the way Washington dealt with Stephen Strasburg, which was to cut him off in mid-September and thereby miss the postseason, but the speculative nature of his plan could lead to that scenario.

“We can probably accomplish all the things we need to by managing his starts in the rotation,’’ Alderson said.

There’s wiggle room in the word “probably.”

Harvey will open the season on the roster, but there’s no plan to limit him in April when the weather is colder as I suggested. Alderson said the Mets will use off days to by-pass Harvey’s turn in the rotation, but left it more as a “play it by ear,’’ thing than to map out things from the start of the season.

There was also nothing mentioned about shaving his innings per game, such as a seven-inning ceiling.

To me, without anything clearly defined there’s too much of a chance the innings would accumulate and the Mets might get caught short late in the season.

Alderson suggested to give him a two-week shutdown around the All-Star break, which makes considerable sense. The Mets did this last season with Jacob deGrom and he was strong in the second half. A positive to this is it will give the Mets an idea where Harvey stands and from there they could lay out a concrete plan for the second half.

What the Mets won’t do is go with a six-man rotation, which would be a cutting edge move. Harvey pitched 178.1 innings in 2013, and I don’t see any way he’ll pitch more than that in 2014. However, what I can see is if the Mets aren’t definitive about Harvey things could get away from them.

And, that would be a shame.

Nov 18

Alderson Defends Moving In Fences

We knew the New York Mets were moving in the fences. This afternoon we learned by how much. Common sense dictates moving in the fences benefits the hitters more than the pitchers, but speaking like any politician you’ve ever heard, GM Sandy Alderson says that’s not the case.

“These modifications are a refinement of previous changes made to the Citi Field fences and continue to be fair to both pitchers and hitters,’’ Alderson said. “A lot of analysis went into this decision. We believe these modifications will increase the number of home runs without adversely affecting our pitchers.’’

Of course, that’s impossible.

In its first three seasons, Citi Field measured 415 feet at its deepest point in right-center. In the last three years the wall was 390 feet. It will now be 380 feet.

Had the Mets played with these dimensions last season, they would have hit an additional 17 home runs while the opposition would have hit 10 more.

It is impossible to project those numbers because it doesn’t into account: 1) wind conditions, and 2) the game situation, which would dictate how hitters are pitched.

Making such a declaration means every fly ball hit last year at Citi Field would have to be analyzed, and quite frankly I don’t believe that was done.

Alderson said the goals in moving in the fences were two-fold: 1) making the more Mets more competitive at home, and 2) increasing offense, which he says increases the entertainment value of the Citi Field experience.

Then again, if the altered fences make the Mets more competitive, it stands to reason the opponents would also benefit. And, it’s not guaranteed the Mets will score most of those additional runs.

The Mets were out-homered by the opposition 71-59 last year at Citi Field. That’s 12 more. Now, if the Mets would have hit 17 more, that’s only a net of five more home runs. That’s less than one a month.

The bottom line is there’s no guarantee the both teams would benefit equally to the fences being moved in. However, one can only surmise if the opposition was 12 homers better than the Mets last season, they enter this year 12 homers better.

Also not being taken into consideration is that the Mets are building their team on young pitching. Why make things harder for them?

Nov 16

Murphy Staying; Could Be Last Season With Mets

One of the more interesting nuggets coming out of the GM meetings last week was Sandy Alderson’s statement the New York Mets aren’t interested in working on a contract extension with second baseman Daniel Murphy.

Alderson also said the Mets would be reluctant to trade Murphy. While both points are contradictory, they also make sense.

It is estimated Murphy will make $8.1 million this season in his walk year, a relatively high sum for a contact hitter with little power and only an average defender. Just how much is that worth?

Also, the Mets finished below .500 for the sixth straight season with Murphy. They can surely finish below .500 without him.

Alderson’s reasoning in avoiding the extension is unknowns Dilson Herrera and Wilmer Flores.  If either shows capable of playing second, especially Flores if a shortstop can be obtained, then Murphy would be an expensive third wheel and they’ll let him walk after next season.

As far as putting Murphy on the block, the Mets are pointing toward this season as one in which they’ll be competitive so they’ll to keep him, especially if Flores and/or Herrera don’t pan out or there is an injury.

It translates to at least one more season in Flushing for Murphy.

Nov 14

Mets Bracing For Innings Showdown With Harvey

It’s getting close to spring training because the topic of limiting innings for Matt Harvey is again a topic. GM Sandy Alderson indicated as such at the GM meetings this week in Phoenix and manager Terry Collins said so Thursday during a public appearance at a food pantry.

HARVEY: Caution, caution, caution. (AP)

HARVEY: Caution, caution, caution. (AP)

It’s a no-brainer with Harvey coming off Tommy John surgery. With Harvey’s return, the Mets are pointing toward 2015 as when they believe they will be competitive. The one thing they can’t afford is to lose Harvey.

“Certainly we might skip him here and there once in a while, just to save him,’’ Collins told reporters. “That will all be explained to him and there’ll be arguments and he’ll throw a tantrum in the office but it’s all part of the job because he wants to pitch and he wants to win.’’

Yeah, yeah, yeah. That sounds good. Sounds heroic. Sounds inspiring. Sounds like a lot of nonsense.

If Harvey can’t understand the Mets’ reasoning for limiting, then he’s not as bright as he has been portrayed. Then again, pitching smarts and off-the-field smarts are two different things.

Don’t get me wrong, I like what Harvey brings to the table, but he can’t bring anything if he’s hurt. He’s already been a thorn to Alderson and Collins for how he handled his rehab and insistence of wanting to spend more time in New York instead of Florida.

He made a big deal about wanting to be with his teammates, yet went to Yankee Stadium to watch Derek Jeter. Nobody connected with the Mets says anything negative about Harvey for fear of alienating him.

Never mind that, my take is Harvey tweaking the Mets’ brass and Alderson’s often testy relationship with the pitcher’s agent, Scott Boras, says he’s a goner once he becomes a free agent.

Of course, that’s a bridge Alderson has to jump off of later. For now, it’s now to cut the innings.

The best way is to tell Harvey during spring training and making sure he understands this isn’t negotiable.

There are six months in a baseball season, so missing one start a month shouldn’t be hard to figure out. Assuming six innings a start, that’s 36 innings saved. They might also consider missing more time in April when the weather is still cold and there’s a greater chance of hurting his arm. Then, there are shaving innings in blowouts, one way or another. Put a cap on his starts at seven innings.

This shouldn’t be hard to figure out for Alderson and Collins. As for Harvey, he has to realize he’s not in charge. With only 12 major league victories, he’s hardly in position to be calling the shots.

 

Nov 11

Boyhood Friends Wright And Cuddyer Now Teammates

As boyhood friends, it isn’t unusual for New York Mets third baseman David Wright to send a text or phone Michael Cuddyer this time of year.

“We’d mostly talk about our fantasy football teams,’’ Wright said by phone this afternoon.

CUDDYER: Fills outfield need.

CUDDYER: Fills outfield need.

However, one thing they’ve talked about since their teens growing up in Chesapeake, Virginia – playing together as major league teammates – is now no fantasy.

That became reality when the Mets signed the 35-year-old outfielder to a two-year, $21-million contract, thereby meeting their primary postseason objective to bring in a corner outfielder.

Also reality are the economics of the deal. The Colorado Rockies offered Cuddyer a $15.3 million qualifying offer, which he said he would have accepted had the Mets not agreed to give him two years by a 5 p.m., Monday deadline he gave them.

Cuddyer said this wasn’t about money, but it was about the years. The contract is backloaded with Cuddyer getting $8.5 million this season and $12.5 million for 2016. In signing Cuddyer, the Mets forfeit their first-round draft pick – the 15th overall selection – but that means they get to keep what they would have paid that pick, which is $2.5 million.

So, before we get all warm and fuzzy about the Wright-Cuddyer friendship, always remember this was a business deal. Their relationship was only part of the deal, not the entire driving force. Shortly after the season ended Wright reached out to Cuddyer and he kept phoning.

“I am pretty sure I annoyed him,’’ said Wright, an eighth grader when Cuddyer was a high school senior. “At first, it was a couple of times a week. Then, it was every day. Then, it was a couple of times a day.’’

His message was simple: The Mets are a team on the rise and New York was a great place to play.

Cuddyer, who played in the postseason seven times with Minnesota, said the Mets offered more than October potential.

“As hard as it is for some to believe, it’s not always about the money,’’ said Cuddyer. “And, this was one of those cases. I think just the excitement of being able to come to the East, come play for the Mets – that was the biggest attraction. You get to the point that I’m at in my career, that’s the thing that’s important: One, to win and wanting to be closer to home. Both of those issues were nailed in this signing, for me at least.’’

And, Cuddyer also nailed it for the Mets. He can play both corner outfield and infield positions. He’s more adept in right, but is willing to try left. Meanwhile, right fielder Curtis Granderson offered to move to left field.

Cuddyer hasn’t yet had that conversation with manager Terry Collins.

“I’ve played everywhere,” Cuddyer said. “The main goal for me is to win ballgames. So wherever Terry feels that I’ll be more beneficial to the club, whether it’s right field or left field, that’s fine with me.’’

A career .279 hitter who averages 21 homers a year, Cuddyer adds length to the Mets’ batting order. The 2013 NL batting leader figures to bat fifth, following Wright and Lucas Duda.

One word that describes Cuddyer is “solid.’’ He doesn’t give away many at-bats; he catches most balls he gets to; and knows what he’s doing on the bases.

Plus, said general manager Sandy Alderson, he’s a clubhouse presence, somebody who’ll make a positive impression with the younger players.

“He’s just an outstanding player, a terrific right-handed hitter,’’ Alderson said. “He’s going to give us a lot more balance in our lineup, a length in our lineup. He’s versatile defensively. He’s been in the postseason. He’s a former All-Star. There’s not a lot more I can say about Michael as a player.’’