Sep 12

Forecasting 2018 Mets’ Position Battles

Including tonight’s game at Wrigley Field against the Cubs, the Mets have 19 games remaining in this lost season. That’s not nearly enough time for GM Sandy Alderson to get answers to his most pressing questions heading into next season.

The following are thumbnail sketches to each potential position battle:

DE GROM: Only sure thing. (AP)

                    DE GROM: Only sure thing. (AP)

ROTATION: The Mets enter next season with health concerns for each starter, with the possible exception of Jacob deGrom. Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard are rehabbing after spending most of the season on the disabled list. Harvey has made two rehab starts on the major league level – one bad and the last one encouraging – and could make three more. Syndergaard was scratched from his most recent rehab start, but played catch today.

Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler remain on the DL and will report to spring training as questions. What else is new?

Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo have not pitched to last season’s levels, but have shown glimpses of being viable commodities, but next year – barring the acquisition of a veteran arm capable of going 180 innings – one, or both, could enter the rotation, with the other going to the bullpen. Of course, wanting 180 innings and paying for a starter capable of that workload are two different things.

Rafael Montero has been a surprise and worthy of entering spring training competing for a rotation spot.

BULLPEN: The Mets have spots locked in for Jeurys Familia, AJ Ramos and Jerry Blevins. I’m thinking either Lugo or Gsellman will get a long-relief role, with possibly Montero also getting a spot.

Paul Sewald, Erik Goeddel, Hansel Robles, Josh Smoker, Jacob Rhame, Chasen Bradford and Jamie Callahan likely won’t win a roster spot in the remaining games, but could make enough of an impression to where Alderson to write any of them into his plans for spring training.

Familia will go in as the favorite to close again, but that’s based on his resume over his current performance since coming off the DL.

CATCHING: Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki go in competing for the starter role. Plawecki has been especially impressive since his promotion from Triple-A Las Vegas.

The Mets have been patient, almost to a fault, with d’Arnaud, who hasn’t made the most of his opportunity. Plawecki has been more impressive in his limited window, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he won the job next March.

I don’t envision the Mets signing a veteran – like a Rene Rivera – and believe both d’Arnaud and Plawecki will make the 2018 Opening Day roster,

FIRST BASE: The plan was for Dominic Smith to win the job, but he hasn’t hit enough to make anybody believe he has this mastered. I’m not worried about Smith hitting for power, but simply raise his on-base percentage. As of now, who can’t see Smith platooning with Wilmer Flores?

I can’t see Flores winning the job outright – the Mets won’t commit to him – or for them sign a veteran this winter. Hopefully, Smith will show enough with his bat over the next 19 games to limit Alderson’s agita.

SECOND BASE: It’s wide open. Given that the Mets won’t make a free-agent splash, my first inclination is to think they will pick up Asdrubal Cabrera’s option and he’ll go in as the starter.

Flores, Jose Reyes or Gavin Cecchini, could also compete or win a roster spot as a reserve.

T.J. Rivera will undergo Tommy John surgery, but likely won’t be ready for the start of the season. Rivera can also play first and third.

SHORTSTOP: Amed Rosario has made more of his opportunity than Smith has of his. This isn’t to say Rosario is a given, but you have to like the odds of him going into next year as the starter.

Currently, Reyes seems a good bet to make next year’s roster as a utility infielder, capable of playing second, shortstop and third base.

THIRD BASE: Ideally, David Wright will make a comeback, but nobody is counting on that happening. Wright underwent rotator cuff surgery, but the Mets aren’t counting on him returning, let alone, for Opening Day.

Flores, who is out for the remainder of the season following surgery to repair a broken nose. Depending on what happens with Smith, he could go in as the starter for next season.

Rivera, Cabrera and Reyes could all see significant time at third base.

LEFT FIELD: Yoenis Cespedes is out for the season with a strained right hamstring. He played in only 81 games this year – half a season – and considering he also missed significant time in 2016, his durability must be questioned.

First, Michael Conforto, and then Brandon Nimmo, replaced Cespedes, who isn’t a given to come out of spring training healthy. If he doesn’t, figure Nimmo to start in left.

CENTER FIELD: Unquestionably, Juan Lagares is the best defender, but his offense is a question. Actually, Lagares has hit better than expected, so I wouldn’t be reluctant to start him in 2018.

Alderson said Conforto was more than just a viable defender, but his recovery from shoulder surgery will keep him off the Opening Day roster, so that’s a moot point.

RIGHT FIELD: As much as I like the idea of bringing back Jay Bruce, I don’t see the Mets shelling out the bucks it would take to sign him.

With Conforto and Cespedes seriously injured, signing a power bat is imperative, but do you really expect Alderson to write some serious checks?

Personally, it might be a stretch to think they’ll spend enough to bring back Nori Aoki.

Assuming Cespedes is ready for the start of the season, Nimmo will likely open the year in right field.

Once Conforto is ready, I see him taking over in right.

Sep 03

Rosario Out With Bruised Finger; Collins Offers No Details

Amed Rosario is the latest Met to go down, sustaining a bruised right index finger in today’s loss in Houston. Of course, you wouldn’t know that by listening to manager Terry Collins.

He revealed nothing today. He said Rosario hurt his finger, but wouldn’t say how it happened, or when, or what finger it was. He wouldn’t even say what hand was injured.

He’s the manager and doesn’t know any of that information. How can that be? It’s because Collins was following the orders from GM Sandy Alderson, who wants none of that pertinent information known as if the news wouldn’t be found out regardless.

Rosario said through an interpreter that he injured his finger batting in the second game of Saturday’s day-night doubleheader. Evidently, Alderson’s gag order on injuries didn’t reach that far.

Then again, it was pretty difficult to ignore Wilmer Flores’ shattered nose suffered Saturday. The Mets are hopeful Flores can return Tuesday.

Aug 19

Granderson Trade Officially Closes Mets’ Window

The Mets’ Great Salary Dump of 2017 continued today when the Mets traded Curtis Granderson to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a player to be named later or cash. Dealing Granderson marked the symbolic closing of the Mets’ window of contention.

The Mets signed Granderson to a four-year, $60-million contract in 2013, and with their young pitching, they promised to be a contender. It wouldn’t be until 2015 that they overachieved and not only reached the playoffs but made it to the World Series.

GRANDERSON: Trade closes Mets window. (AP)

GRANDERSON: Trade closes Mets window. (AP)

They lost in the wild-card game last year but were heavy favorites to return to October – with many thinking the World Series – this season.

I ask: If injuries were the number one cause of the failure this season, doesn’t it stand to reason that with a little tweaking added to the present core, then how far off could the Mets be for 2018? That’s with, or without, David Wright.

That GM Sandy Alderson would cast off so many of the Mets’ veteran assets is only indicative how poorly he constructed this team. Granderson, combined with Jay Bruce, Lucas Duda, Neil Walker, Addison Reed, and soon to be Rene Rivera, adds up to six future free agents after this season.

It stands to reason Alderson wouldn’t bring back all of them. But, to not bring back any of them is simply poor management.

You don’t construct your roster to have eight expiring contracts – don’t forget Jose Reyes and Asdrubal Cabrera – at the same time. That’s 33 percent of your roster. And, coupled with casting off Justin Turner and Daniel Murphy, and that’s just a terrible job by the man whose biographer refers to him as the game’s smartest general manager.

Maybe you don’t keep them all, but if you’re telling the public your goal is to compete, you try to keep the core together. Of all the remnants the Mets received in return, only AJ Ramos – projected in a set-up reliever role – figure to make the 2018 roster.

Turner, for spiteful reasons, brought nothing from the Dodgers. He’s an All-Star who could win the NL batting title this year. Murphy, of course, walked because they wouldn’t spend the money.

Hell, that’s the case with all of them.

The Mets threw good money after bad with trading for and extending Walker when they could have kept Murphy.

Duda, well he was only keeping the seat warm for Dominic Smith. Reed could have been extended when Jeurys Familia was first suspended, then injured. Bruce was signed as a hedge in case the Mets didn’t re-sign Yoenis Cespedes, who, so far, has turned out to be a bust.

Cespedes has been a health and hustling concern each of the past two years. Having Bruce’s 29 homers would be needed next season.

And, still, Alderson tells us he expects the Mets to compete next year. That is, if the three of the core rotation that is on the disabled list return healthy next year, and a fourth – Steven Matz – rights himself.

Ex-Mets Granderson and Turner could meet ex-Met Murphy or ex-Met Rivera, who was claimed on waivers by the Cubs, in the NLCS for the right to possibly meet ex-Mets Bruce or Reed in the World Series.

As it is now, the Mets have only Jacob deGrom from that vaunted rotation. What can you count on from Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Matz? Remember, that rotation has yet to pitch in turn since 2013.

Their best player is Michael Conforto, but they don’t have a set position for him. Smith and Amed Rosario are promising questions. They refuse to play Wilmer Flores full time and Wright can’t be counted on.

The bullpen outside of Jerry Blevins is awful. Do you really trust Ramos and Familia? Don’t tell me you trust Hansel Robles.

I think Rosario could be a star, but as with what happened with Conforto, there could be growing pains. I like Smith, but he needs to get into shape. How will Rosario and Smith fare in a full major league schedule?

So, in looking at the Mets’ current roster, I only trust Conforto, deGrom and Blevins. Everybody else is a question or a black hole.

We know the Mets won’t be big spenders this winter as all their money is tied up wet-nursing Cespedes. There won’t be big-name help coming in from the outside. So, you’re delusional if you think they really would go after Manny Machado or Evan Longoria.

The Mets window to compete opened when they signed Granderson. It officially closed today.

Aug 16

Mets Better Served With Lagares In Center

As much as I enjoy watching Michael Conforto, and have no doubt about his ability to play center field, the Mets would be better served – assuming they don’t shock everybody and bring back Jay Bruce – if Juan Lagares plays center field.

LAGARES: Gold Glover. (AP)

LAGARES: Gold Glover. (AP)

After all, Lagares won a Gold Glove in center and is blessed with outstanding speed, and if GM Sandy Alderson expects to build the 2018 Mets with pitching, defense should be at a premium.

Lagares has flashed his defensive brilliance in this series, and had two hits in tonight’s 5-3 loss to the Yankees. He doubled leading off the game, and what I loved to see, beat out a bunt leading off the eighth.

JUDGE GOES DEEP: Seriously, he went deep for the second time against the Mets, this time driving a Robert Gsellman pitch into the third deck – in left center.

Judge’s 37th homer was measured at 457 feet.

NEW FACE AT THIRD: Both Jose Reyes and Wilmer Flores were scratched from the starting lineup, each with sore rib cage muscles. Travis d’Arnaud started his first professional game at third base.

Rib cage injuries can take a long time to heal so don’t be surprised if one, or both, end up on the disabled list.

The Yankees eschewed a chance to test d’Arnaud in the first inning when they had a runner on third, but Didi Gregorius elected not to lay down a suicide squeeze bunt.

Depending on the situation, d’Arnaud rotated between third and second, but amazingly the ball didn’t find him until Aaron Hicks popped out in the ninth.

WRIGHT UPDATE: David Wright, on the 60-day disabled list with a shoulder impingement and spinal stenosis, thinks it is possible he could play this season, but GM Sandy Alderson doesn’t think he’ll have enough time.

“I don’t know how many answers he will have, or we will have through the end of this season,’’ Alderson said, adding the Mets could attempt to add a third baseman in the offseason.

EXTRA INNINGS: Matt Harvey threw three scoreless innings in his second rehab assignment for Class-A Brooklyn. Harvey struck out the side on ten pitches in the third inning. … Rene Rivera homered, the Mets’ 179th of the season. … Mets’ hitters struck out eight times. … Gsellman, who started for Seth Lugo, gave up three runs on four hits in 5.1 innings. … Paul Sewald gave up a two-run double to Gregorius in the seventh to take the loss.

 

Aug 05

Granderson: Shows How Valuable He Can Be

I will miss Curtis Granderson if the Mets end up trading him. Watching him today was watching a consummate player. On the day in which he passed through waivers, he gave the Mets a homer, two walks and a stolen base offensively, and made two spectacular catches and threw out a runner on the bases.

Not bad for a day’s work.

GRANDERSON: Would help somebody. (MLB)

GRANDERSON: Would help somebody. (MLB)

Unfortunately for the Mets, it didn’t prevent the Dodgers from winning again, this time, 7-4 on the strength of five home runs.

Granderson has been a stalwart in the Mets’ offense in the four years he’s been here. Today he hit his 15th homer to give him 91 overall with 237 RBI in his four years here.

“Curtis Granderson has been nothing but a professional since the day we signed him,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “Today was another example of what he can do.’’

He’s been doing it since breaking in with the Tigers in 2004, and with the Yankees after being traded following the 2009 season, and with the Mets since he signed a four-year, $60-million contract.

He was signed to give the Mets a power complement to David Wrightthen with Lucas Duda, and finally as a spare part when GM Sandy Alderson signed Yoenis Cespedes and couldn’t trade Jay Bruce.

At 36, the Mets found no takers at the trade deadline, in part because of Alderson’s high demands in a poor market for position players. However, with the Mets not having any intention of bringing him back, they are in position of trying to get whatever they can for him.

What Granderson gave the Mets today he could give to a contender and it might be enough to produce a wild card, and from there, anything could happen.

That’s what Alderson has to sell.