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

Oct 21

2012 Mets Player Review: Matt Harvey

MATT HARVEY, RHP 

 PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: The expectations of Matt Harvey were minimal for this summer. The Mets’ 2010 first-round pick out of North Carolina – and the seventh choice overall – was to continue his development in the minor leagues. The best-case scenario had him continuing his development at Triple-A Buffalo and join the Mets as a September call-up, when he would make two or three starts to give the big club an idea of whether he would fit into their plans for 2013. Even when the Mets’ rotation started to crumble, the talk was he wasn’t ready and GM Sandy Alderson didn’t want to rush him to the major league level. The scouting report on the 23-year-old Harvey was he had a plus-fastball, good secondary pitches and the ability to keep his composure on the mound. At similar points in their careers, Harvey was rated ahead of Mike Pelfrey, the Mets’ first-round pick in 2005.

2012 SEASON REVIEW: Harvey was 7-5 with a 3.68 ERA in 20 starts for the Bisons before the Mets promoted him in late July. Minor league hitters batted .233 against him and he had 112 strikeouts and only 48 walks in 110 innings, numbers that clearly indicated he was overpowering batters. With the Mets’ rotation in shambles, Alderson had no option but to elevate him to see what he could do on the next level. At the time, the Mets were fading and the summer was spiraling out of control. Unable or unwilling to make a midseason acquisition – take your pick – Alderson had to do something to keep the dwindling attention of Mets fans and Harvey was the answer. Harvey pitched 5.1 scoreless innings at Arizona, July 26 to win his major league debut. He struck out 11 and walked three to have Mets fans drooling about the possibilities. However, he was victimized by the Mets’ dismal offense and lost his next three starts – they gave him only four runs in those games – but there was still a lot to like about Harvey’s game, especially his willingness to challenge hitters and his walks-to-strikeouts ratio. Unlike Pelfrey, Harvey possessed a poise and calmness about him. His command was exceptional and his stuff overpowering. He seemed to get a strikeout whenever the situation demanded. Harvey finished his first year at 3-5 with a 2.73 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. He struck out 70 with 26 walks in 59 innings, and batters hit a paltry .200 with a .338 slugging percentage against him. The Mets shut him down after his Sept. 19 start against Philadelphia to conserve his arm.

LOOKING AT 2013: I don’t know if the Mets will conserve his innings next summer the way the Nationals did Stephen Strasburg. Let’s hope not, but if they are inclined to jump on that bandwagon, let’s hope they don’t yank the rug out from under him in September, but perhaps have him skip a start once a month. That would mean six starts and possibly up to 42 innings for the summer. The Mets are counting on him to be in the rotation on Opening Day and develop into a solid, consistent starter. Actually, they are counting on him to become a star. Anything less than that would be a disappointment.

NEXT:  A look at the other pitchers who started games for the 2012 Mets.

Oct 12

I Hope The Nationals Go Down In Flames For Shutting Down Strasburg

We never got a chance to discuss the pros and cons of the Washington Nationals shutting down their ace Stephen Strasburg who they opted not to include on their post season roster. It was a bold move to say the least by Nats GM Mike Rizzo, but was it the right call?

Bob Nightengale of USA Today asked some rival GM’s what their thoughts were, and not only did all of them call it a bad move, but there was a lot of resentment and anger in what they had to say.

After yesterday’s embarrassing 8-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, the Nats find themselves on the brink of elimination and trail 2-1 in the National League Division Series. But there was no pity for them from rival GM’s who all say the Nationals got what they deserve.

“If we don’t win the World Series, I don’t care who does,” one general manager told USA TODAY Sports, “as long as it’s not those guys.

“They don’t deserve to win it. Not after what they did.”

Said a National League GM: “I hope they go down in flames. I hope it takes another 79 years before they get back to the playoffs. That’s how strongly I feel about it.”

Wow, I guess people are willing to say anything as long as it’s done anonymously, I’d love to know who these GM’s were?

Better yet, I wonder how sandy Alderson would play this if he were in the same situation…

Lets assume “Hell Freezes Over”, “Pigs Fly”, and “Bears Didn’t Shit In The Woods”. Lets assume the Mets clinched a wild card spot next season. Lets further assume Alderson shut’s down an utterly dominating Zack Wheeler who was 17-2 with a 1.76 ERA  because he reached his innings limit. Would you be okay with that?

What really pissed other GM’s off was when Rizzo said no matter what happens, “We’ll be back, we’ll be doing this a couple more times.”

Nightengale said it was the quote “heard round the baseball world”, with general managers and executives making sure everyone saw it.

Who do they think they are, the Yankees? Are the Philadelphia Phillies going to defect from the NL East? Are the Atlanta Braves retiring with Chipper Jones?

What if the Nationals don’t get back during Strasburg’s stay in Washington? What if this is their best chance to ever get to the Series? How do you live with that?

We haven’t heard the last of this as Nightengale also warns that Nationals players, particularly veterans, have grumbled and might sound off more once they depart.

As for my thoughts on all of this?

I’m with that general manager who hopes they go down in flames. I hope they don’t see the post season for the rest of this century and that their drought will forever be known as “The Strasburg Curse”. I have very little tolerance for any general manager who takes competing, winning,  and especially the post season for granted. That’s why I’m always keeping both eyes on Alderson. Until he starts using words like “wild card”, “world series”, and “championships” as part of his regular vocabulary. Those are the only words that will grab my attention.