Nov 25

Mets’ Alderson Graded Highly By Ownership

I have been hearing how Sandy Alderson will be held accountable for the Mets’ performance this summer and I don’t believe that to be the case, regardless of what happens with David Wright and R.A. Dickey.

Alderson is getting A’s across the board, because those handing out the grades aren’t the fans or the press, or even his colleagues. Grading Alderson are the Wilpons, who are passing him with gold stars because he is doing exactly what is expected of him.

Alderson was brought in here at the urging of Wilpon’s friend, Commissioner Bud Selig, with the purpose of bringing some stability by slashing payroll for a floundering franchise.

To that degree, he has done his job.

Alderson acted to clean up the Mets’ toxic contracts by cutting Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo, and despite it being too late, finally Jason Bay.

He also traded Carlos Beltran for prospect Zach Wheeler, and got rid of Francisco Rodriguez, who embarrassed the team by getting into a fight with his father-in-law outside the family lounge at Citi Field.

Best of all for the Wilpons, is he took the Mets into the 2012 season with a $100 million payroll, some $43 million less than in 2011. A good part of that was because of the decision to let go of Jose Reyes, thereby shedding the Mets of another potentially burdensome contract for a player with an injury history.

Doing so might help the Mets extend the contracts of Wright and Dickey, that is, if the team wants to make that call. As of now, talks seem stagnant.

The Mets have a myriad of holes and issues, with few immediate answers. On the plus side are young pitchers Jon Niese, Matt Harvey and Wheeler to give them a promising rotation from which to build.

Losing Wright and Dickey would be damaging to the Mets on the field, but they will benefit from compensatory draft picks. At worst, the Mets restart their rebuilding program, but they would further reduce payroll.

There are voids in the bullpen and outfield, and also questions in the rotation and at catcher.

Clearly, they are several years away, and based on that Alderson should be strongly judged.

However, the criteria the Wilpons are using to evaluate Alderson is in reducing payroll and toward that end, he is passing the test.

Alderson has already been evaluated by the people whose opinion of him matter most.

Nov 11

Josh Thole Will Most Likely be Back In 2013

Yesterday at the GM Meetings, Sandy Alderson spoke with reporters and emphasized that while he gets perhaps a little more payroll flexibility than he originally anticipated, that it still doesn’t change much about the kinds of players they can acquire this winter, and that they still will be looking at the bottom of the free agent market pool.

Mike Puma of the New York Post added that with regard to catcher, Alderson also said they will likely be keeping Josh Thole because of how difficult it is to find just one catcher, let alone two.

Thole, who earned $498,000 in 2012, is arbitration eligible and could easily double his salary and earn close to one million dollars in 2013.

As we highlighted on Mets Merized Online, it’s slim pickings at catcher. I keep hearing many Mets fans mentioning the name of Blue Jays elite catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud as a potential target for the team. But they have as much inclination to trade their top prospect as we do Zack Wheeler, so unless we’re talking a swap of top prospects, it is unrealistic to view him as someone the Mets could potentially go after.

Any team that has a solid catcher that they are willing to trade understands the scarcity of quality at that position and would demand a premium in return and rightfully so. We would do the same in their position.

As far as Thole goes, he’s cheap and has very little offensive value, but he’s shown a good ability to catch a knuckleball, and has developed a good relationship with R.A. Dickey.

Nov 09

Sandy Alderson: Talks Slow With R.A. Dickey And David Wright

Speaking at the GM meetings in California, Mets GM Sandy Alderson said it was conceivable R.A. Dickey could win the Cy Young Award next week and then be traded. It’s another way of saying, “these are the Mets, anything is possible.”

“It would be a little unusual to trade a Cy Young winner,” Alderson said. “ … We’d love to retain him. We’re trying to.”

Alderson said talks with Dickey and Wright are on-going, but currently slow. He hoped picking up their 2013 options ($16 million for Wright; $5 million for Dickey) would jump-start talks, but that hasn’t happened.

“Maybe it was a little bit unrealistic on my part to think that we’d get something done,” said Alderson. “But I think it was important for me to emphasize that we were going to get going early, in order to avoid any speculation about a Jose Reyes-type approach to this. So in that sense it was probably a good idea to emphasize speed but unrealistic to expect that this was all going to be concluded quickly.”

That’s fair enough.

Alderson said the Mets’ position of strength is their starting pitching, and although we doesn’t want to trade Dickey, Jonathan Niese or Dillon Gee, “it’s logical for us to consider that.”

That’s also fair, but in doing so it could weaken the staff if Matt Harvey doesn’t progress as planned.

I have no problem, right now, with Alderson’s approach. The dialogue is there with Wright and Dickey, and unlike Reyes, both know they are wanted. How much they are wanted, is shown by the dollars.

LATER TODAY: Concluding the Mets Player Review series with a look at the bench.

 

Nov 07

So Much More To Do Now Than Two Years Ago

What frightens me most about this coming offseason as compared to the last 3-4 is the enormity of moves that will be required to fill the vastness of areas that need correcting if we are to make a dent in the standings in 2013 to 2015.

Whereas in off-seasons past where each year had 2-3 items on our list of immediate priorities, we now find perplexing questions, major problems, and deep concerns at almost every position on the team. In a baseball sense, the Mets organization now resembles a scene from a post apocalyptic movie.

So let me start dealing out the cards, at least the way I see it, and don’t worry, I won’t be dealing from under the deck.

Catcher: Would Josh Thole be a starting catcher for any other team in the major leagues save the Mets? Thole will be arbitration-eligible for the first time in his career and while your first impulse is to non-tender him, the Mets catching situation is so bad that they will be forced to tender him and keep him. He has zero value to any other team but the Mets and that’s because the rest of the catching corps is even worse. Catching is certainly an area that needs immediate attention, even at backup, but will it get any help?

First base: Will the real Ike Davis stand up. Truth be told I believe we saw the real Ike Davis in the second half and for now he is the Mets’ best power hitter, bar none. But will he remain a Met? Or will he be the one that goes as part of the new and bold changes Alderson warned would be coming? Davis will get an easy $3 million in arbitration this Winter, which will be nice for him and not so nice for the budget conscious Alderson. Follow the money.

Second base: Daniel Murphy may be a liability defensively, but he’s gotten better. He’s become a doubles machine at the plate, and who doesn’t love his intensity?  Ironically, Murphy has more job security with the Mets than either David Wright and Ike Davis right now. Cheap is good in Flushing. I find it all amusing. Justin Turner and Jordany Valdespin might get some airtime if they’re still here when the clock strikes twelve.

Third base: Until David Wright’s contract situation is resolved, we don’t even know if he’ll be here in 2013. Sad, isn’t it? He holds about a dozen different franchise records and at 29 he may already have one foot out the door. If that happens, I’m not even sure the Mets will reinvest his $16 million – they haven’t reinvested a dime from Castillo, Perez, K-Rod, Beltran and Reyes, why would that change now? Top prospect Wilmer Flores is close, but still not ready.

Shortstop: Who would’ve thought that losing Jose Reyes would make the shortstop position the least of our concerns? Ruben Tejada will never be the catalyst that No. 7 was, but he sure can pick’em at short. He is definitely not a leadoff hitter, or a number two hitter for that matter, but he provides steady offense and the occasional timely hit. His backup is a toss-up and with Ronny Cedeno gone they’ll have to do some dumpster-diving to find a replacement.

Outfield: Wow, what a mess. The outfield and the bullpen is what defined Sandy Alderson in 2012. They were both his creations, and that’s indisputable. The plan according to Sandy is a Bay/Duda platoon in LF, Kirk Nieuwenhuis takes over in CF, and I have no idea who’s in RF. If Jordany Valdespin is still here, I’m sure we’ll see him, and the same goes for Mike Baxter. Scott Hairston is long gone. If Hell freezes over and they do add a significant player via trade or free agency, you can bet he’ll be an outfielder. That’s the plan. Hey, I didn’t say it was a good plan, but give the man credit, he has a plan.

Rotation: Pitching was a strength for the Mets last season. Minaya holdovers Santana, Dickey, Niese, Harvey and Gee all combined to give the Mets a solid rotation that included a Cy Young caliber season, a couple of breakthrough players, and even the franchise’s first no-hitter. Now as we enter the offseason, rumors abound that Dickey could be traded and even Niese. Santana and Gee will both be coming back from season ending injuries, and Harvey will be shouldering a bigger load. This might be the one area that Alderson should leave untouched, but nobody believes that will happen. It will be revamped and the Mets could lose an ace and their only southpaw. If that happens the Mets could be in store for a historic 100 loss season.

Bullpen: Whose up for another bullpen revamping? Do I have any takers? Like it or not, here it comes and I can’t wait to see what underachievers will be joining the pen for Season 3 of Bullpen Wars. For now, the only holdovers are the atrocious Frank Francisco who will get $6.5 million for his services, and fireballer Bobby Parnell who will get a huge raise in arbitration. They’ll be the highest paid and neither is a safe bet to close out games. Josh Edgin should easily beat out Robert Carson for the LOOGY role. Then it’s take your pick between Mejia, Familia, Hefner, Schwinden, and McHugh. That’s quite the assortment of question marks and not a sure thing among them. Buy hey, at least Carrasco is gone.

Can you believe that we have only one safe zone – shortstop? Everything else is up in the air right now…

Progress?

Nov 06

2012 Mets Player Review: David Wright

DAVID WRIGHT, 3B

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: Fortunately, one expectation of David Wright did not come true, and that is the Mets would trade him by the deadline. Wright’s situation wasn’t quite like Jose Reyes’ in that Wright has an option for 2013, but the fear of losing him was there, nonetheless. A six-time All-Star who missed 60 games in 2011 because of injury, it was hoped he would return intact and prove his durability by playing a full season. And, if so, he might regain his power stroke. With the fences brought in, it was figured his homer numbers would increase as it was 2008 when he last hit 30.  Since then, Wright has frequently been injured – including a horrific beaning in 2009 when he hit 10 homers with just 72 RBI, but struck out 140 times. Prior to that year, Wright’s strikeout high was 118 in 2008. It was hoped by shortening his stroke and being more selective, Wright would cut his strikeouts and increase his homers, vitally important for a team lacking in power.

2012 SEASON REVIEW: Wright proved his durability and the trade deadline passed with the Mets playing surprisingly well and the third baseman sizzling at .351, but with only 11 homers. Even so, Wright had 59 RBI at the break and a dazzling .441 on-base percentage and 1.004 OPS. Translated, he was on base all the time. However, Wright succumbed to the pressure of trying to carry the Mets, and when they sputtered and went into a second-half freefall, so did his numbers. He hit 10 homers with 34 RBI while batting .258 in the second half. His OPS dropped 254 points to .750. Even with the team in a collective second-half drought, Wright’s overall clutch numbers were good, as he hit .349 with two outs and runners in scoring position and .296 after the seventh inning with the game in a one-run balance either way. Above all else, the second half proved the Mets needed complementary bats to Wright’s and how valuable he is to the team.

LOOKING AT 2013: And, by 2013, I mean this winter because Wright will not negotiate during the season. GM Sandy Alderson has repeatedly said the offseason priorities are to sign Wright and R.A. Dickey and not go into their walk years. Reportedly, there is a $100 million package on the table, but talks have been sluggish. It is doubtful anything was discussed last week. It is a very real possibility that if Wright is unsigned by spring training he might be dealt by July. How much of a home team discount Wright gives the Mets is uncertain, but if he hits the free-agent market he will test it, and like Reyes, receive an offer Alderson can’t match.

NEXT: Jason Bay