Nov 10

Mets Sign Cuddyer to Two-Year Deal

Boy, do I feel like a dope. Several days after saying it couldn’t happen, the New York Mets today announced the club signed outfielder Michael Cuddyer to a two-year contract, $21.3 million contract.

It’s a good move because it adds consistency in the middle of the order. Cuddyer, 35, was given a $15.3 million qualifying offer. The Mets got him because they were willing to give him two years.

CUDDYER: Fills outfield need. (Sporting News)

CUDDYER: Fills outfield need. (Sporting News)

“Michael is a tremendous addition to the middle of our lineup,’’ Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson said in a statement released by the team. “He is a proven offensive threat who also brings versatility in the field with the ability to play multiple positions.’’

In signing Cuddyer, the Mets will give up the 15th overall draft pick.

Speaking from the GM meetings in Phoenix, assistant GM John Ricco told ESPN: “I don’t think it’s any secret that we’re looking to improve offensively, and there’s not a lot of options out there on the free-agent market or even in the trade market. Based on what we’ve learned, at least to this point, it’s going to be pretty pricey.

“We thought this was a way to clearly upgrade our team and our lineup. … [General manager] Sandy [Alderson] has talked about we’re looking to turn the corner here and start to compete in 2015. I think this is a message that we’re going to be aggressive. Right out of the box we had a guy we liked, and we went and got him.”

In doing so, they filled their need for a right-handed bat in right field. The signing also leaves Matt den Dekker and Kirk Nieuwenhuis on the bench.

Cuddyer is 35 and a two-time All-Star. His best year was in 2013 when he was NL batting champion (.331) with Colorado.

Cuddyer represents consistency and versatility as he can play the outfield, and first and third base. He might be a better right fielder than left, and it is possible Curtis Granderson could move to left.

He’s not the big bopper people might think, but averages 21 homers.

 

 

Nov 03

Will This Be Nieuwenhuis’ Last Chance?

Will it ever happen for Kirk Nieuwenhuis?

He’s had several chances in each of the last three years, but nothing more than 91 games or 314 plate appearances, which both came in 2012. Last year it was 61 and 130.

NIEUWENHUIS: Last chance?

NIEUWENHUIS: Last chance?

He’s never gone into the season as “the guy.’’ At 27, will he get the opportunity this year? As of now, the outfield consists of Curtis Granderson, Gold Glove candidate Juan Lagares and a left fielder to be named later.

The left fielder could be Nieuwenhuis, or Matt den Dekker or could come in a trade. He likely won’t be a free agent. Many consider den Dekker having the inside track.

Nieuwenhuis has speed and a good glove. He’s shown glimpses of what could be, but too often he fizzles and the window closes.

What he needs is the chance to stay in the line-up after the fizzle. That’s the only way the Mets will learn if they have something.

Sandy Alderson once told me the two things working against Nieuwenhuis is his on-base percentage (.315 for his career) and high propensity for striking out (169 in a career 552 plate appearances). He runs well enough to be a leadoff hitter, but doesn’t reach base enough.

Nieuwenhuis has a career 169-to-53 strikeouts-to-walks ratio, which won’t cut it as a full time player on the major league level.

He’s at the age where he won’t get many more chances. For him to start he’ll have to beat out den Dekker in spring training.

If not, it will be another year as a role player and possibly his last chance.

 

Oct 23

Why Mets Can’t Attract Quality Free Agents

The Mets’ inability to hire a hitting coach illustrates indecision, which is one of several reasons why marquee free agents won’t come here.

Among the others:

New York: The city can be daunting for someone who only experienced it in a hotel room and stadium. It is very expensive to live here, crowded and there’s the media crush.

The Yankees: Considering the above factors, if a player is willing to come, there’s no contest when the Yankees are also interested, as they will always pay more.

Money: The Mets’ track record under Sandy Alderson is to stay away from big money contracts, which is also why a trade for a guy like Troy Tulowitzki and subsequent contract extension will never happen.

Commitment to winning: The Mets’ reputation in the sport is they are not willing to go the extra mile to bring in good-to-great players because of the cost. That might also come to play down the road when it comes to dealing with Matt Harvey.

Youth: The Mets are rebuilding and many veterans not hanging on for a paycheck don’t want to be a part of that situation.

Continuity: Since their last World Series appearance in 2000, the Mets have had four general managers and five managers, which doesn’t promote commitment. For example, the Mets have manager Terry Collins to only a one-year extension.

Treatment of players: Players talk and often gripe. The issue over Carlos Beltran’s surgery, circumstances around Jose Reyes’ departure, and trade of R.A. Dickey all raised red flags about how the organization handles key issues. And, don’t think for a second the bickering between Harvey and management doesn’t raise questions.

Wilpon Situation: Players and agents aren’t stupid. They are aware of the Wilpon’s financial situation and how it impacts the team. They know there will be low-ball offers and salary dumps can come at any time.

Hiring a hitting coach should be a simple matter, especially when others have done the same with former Mets’ coaches.

 

When it comes to the Mets, for those on the outside looking in, perception is reality.

Oct 22

The Differences Between The Giants And Mets

I hope Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins took notes in Game 1, because the Giants have the blueprint the Mets should be following. So, in comparing the wild-card Giants to the Mets, there’s more than just a 3,000-mile difference:

Solid starting pitching: Madison Bumgarner was lights out, pitching quickly, and with command and composure. This is what the Mets expect from Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler. The rap on Mets pitchers is an inability to put away a hitter and keep damage to a minimum. This especially applies to Jon Niese.

BUMGARNER: It always begins with pitching. (Getty)

BUMGARNER: It always begins with pitching. (Getty)

The game’s turning point came in the third inning when the Royals put runners on second and third with no out, but Bumgarner kept it together and got out of the inning with no damage. Bumgarner also helped himself by starting a double play to get out of the second.

I’m not saying Mets pitchers haven’t done the same, but not consistently.

Bumgarner threw 21 first-pitch strikes to the 26 hitters he faced for an incredible 81 percent efficiency. For all the new wave stats, first pitch strikes percentages are missing. In particular, this is something Wheeler – originally in the Giants’ organization – must refine his game.

Who is to say the Giants didn’t know this when they traded him to the Mets for Carlos Beltran?

Relief pitching: The bullpen has long been part of the Giants’ success, with the pitchers and how manager Bruce Bochy manages them. There’s nobody better.

Alderson has tried to build a pen since he came here, and this season is the closest he’s come. Now, it is up to Collins to slot in Bobby Parnell, Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia in the right roles.

Aggressive base running/productive at-bats: The Royals’ speed drew considerable pre-Series attention, but the tone for the game was set in the first inning when the Giants executed what I consider one of the most exciting plays in baseball.

Gregor Blanco singled and tagged up and advanced on Joe Panik’s fly ball, making it a productive out. The dimensions at Citi Field are such that this is something the Mets should be more aware of doing.

So, instead of fooling around with the dimensions and moving in the fences, the Mets would be better off tailoring their offense with speed, aggressive base running and timely hitting to complement their young pitching.

In Game 1, the Giants were 5-for-12 with RISP, a situation in which the Mets are weak. Timely hitting begins with being patient and working the count. Last night, of the 43 hitters the Giants sent to the plate, 20 took a first-pitch ball or put the ball in play.

Management expertise: Bochy is the best manager in baseball. This is the fourth time he’s taken a team to the World Series, and win-or-lose, he’s worthy of the Hall of Fame.

He gives his players defined roles and they buy in. I can’t imagine Bochy fooling around by juggling Wilmer Flores and Ruben Tejada at shortstop, or with the myriad of left fielders.

It is Alderson’s responsibility to bring in the right players. The Giants bettered themselves with Jake Peavy and Hunter Pence; in recent years the Mets brought in Curtis Granderson and Frank Francisco.

Big difference.

Bochy once left Barry Zito off a playoff roster and put Tim Lincecum in the bullpen. There were no waves. Conversely, Matt Harvey, although it was determined he wouldn’t pitch this season, complained about where he would rehab and that he wanted to pitch this summer.

Neither Alderson nor Collins forcefully laid down the law with Harvey, and prior to that Jordany Valdespin. The Mets have had through the years a line of headaches such as Francisco Rodriguez and Ike Davis (complaining about going to the minor leagues and refusing to adjust his hitting approach).

I can’t imagine the Giants putting up with a non-productive player for as long as the Mets did with Davis.

The Mets also didn’t give Angel Pagan a legitimate chance in center field. He’s hurt now, but on a four-year contract with the Giants.

Sabean has been the Giants’ general manager since 1997. Conversely, Alderson is the fourth general manager have had in that span.

Of course, Sabean has been given ownership’s blessing to build the team as he sees fit. Alderson doesn’t have that leeway.

The Mets won 79 games this season, while San Francisco won 88. Nine more wins over six months doesn’t seem like much.

Let’s see if the Mets can close that gap.

Oct 15

Will Another $10 Million In Payroll Make Much Difference?

As it usually is this time of year, the issue is money, specifically how much are the Mets willing to spend.

The days of $140 million payrolls for them are long since gone. It was around $83 last season and ESPN’s Adam Rubin said they might go as high as $93 million. I trust Rubin’s reporting. As far as I am concerned, he’s the best reporter on the Mets’ beat.

searchIt’s not how much you spend, but how it is supposed to be spent. Therein lies the problem, in that none of us know what GM Sandy Alderson is capable of doing with a lot of money.

He was hired to cut payroll, not add to it and dip into the free-agent market. Assuming a $10 bump in payroll, most will go to raises and arbitration cases. Another $10 million won’t substantially improve the Mets, who have questions at shortstop, left field and maintenance of their bullpen.

This also doesn’t account for on-the-fly patching, which could not only be at catcher – where Travis d’Arnaud is no sure thing – but any position.

The Mets’ problems have been identified, but another $10 million won’t make much difference. Not if they want to be competitive.