Apr 05

Still Plenty Of Questions For Mets

The Mets have their Opening Day roster, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have questions or concerns. This is a team GM Sandy Alderson said has the potential to win 90 games.

But, it is the spring and everybody has the right to be optimistic – even overly optimistic.

Yes, Matt Harvey is back – and with a chip on his shoulder – but, remember he’s only won 12 games in the major leagues. Also, they are without four pitchers – Vic Black, Josh Edgin, Zack Wheeler and Bobby Parnell – expected to be key members of the rotation, and replacing them forced serious damage control to their roster.

There’s reason to be hopeful about the season, but for it to be a truly successful summer, the following questions must be answered in the positive: (Note: I will revisit these questions through out the season.)

1. What can the Mets reasonably expect from Harvey?

Answer: He had a good spring training, but coming off Tommy John surgery they’ll be cautious. Harvey has 12 major league victories in only 36 starts, so expectations must be tempered. Don’t go thinking 20 wins and a Cy Young. The Mets would take 15 wins and for him to be healthy by October.

2. What happens to Bartolo Colon this year?

Answer: The Opening Day starter had a horrible spring training. The decision was based on winning 15 games and throwing over 200 innings last season. The Mets wanted to trade him during the winter, but found no takers.

3. An encore year for Jacob deGrom?

Answer: Last year’s NL Rookie of the Year was 9-6 with a 2.69 ERA and with Zack Wheeler gone for the season, he’ll need a significant boost in his numbers for the Mets to entertain thoughts of being competitive.

4. Will it ever happen for Jon Niese?

Answer: Your guess is as good as mine. At one time Niese was a hot property. However, being left-handed and with a manageable contract have not been enough to offset his 52-51 career record over seven years; a career-high 13 wins in 2012; 17 victories in the past two years; and an injury history that has allowed him to make as many as 30 starts only three times.

5. How long a leash will the Mets give Dillon Gee?

Answer: Let’s face it, if he were pitching a no-hitter, they’d yank him in the seventh inning if somebody called with a trade offer. They waited to name him to the rotation, and if he falters at all there will be talk of Rafael Montero taking his place.

6. Can the Mets trio of lefty relievers do the job?

Answer: An on-going question this spring was whether they’d find a viable left-hander in the bullpen. In the final week they opted to keep Rule 5 pick Sean Gilmartin, and then traded for Jerry Blevins and Alex Torres. You wouldn’t be wrong asking yourself if something were deficient with these guys, otherwise why would they be so available?

7. Can Jenrry Mejia hold the fort until Bobby Parnell returns?

Answer: After being bounced around from the bullpen to the rotation, Mejia assumed the closer role when Parnell went down with an elbow injury and responded with 28 saves, which is six more than Parnell had in his best year. Terry Collins said it is Parnell’s job when he comes off the disabled list. When that happens perhaps the bullpen can settle down into roles.

8. Will the Mets stabilize the rest of their bullpen?

Answer: Mejia, Jeurys Familia and Carlos Torres haven’t had a great spring, and Collins is trying to find roles for Montero and Buddy Carlyle. It appeared at the start of spring training the Mets had the foundation of a solid bullpen. But, without Edgin, Black and Parnell, the Mets are in potentially a lot of trouble.

9. When will Travis d’Arnaud evolve from the prospect stage?

Answer: A trip to the minor leagues helped d’Arnaud in the second half of last season, but he’s still not close to where the Mets hope he’ll be. If d’Arnaud gets off to a slow start, there will be clamoring for Kevin Plawecki.

10. Is Lucas Duda worth that contract extension?

Answer: The Mets tabled talks on a four-year, $31-million extension until next offseason. If he comes through with another 30-homer, 90-RBI summer, he’ll be worth the deal.

11. What will the Mets do with Daniel Murphy?

Answer: Because he’s making $8-million this year and will not be resigned, the Mets will make every effort to deal him by the trade deadline. They might even make a trade regardless of how well they are doing just to save some money.

12. What kind of patience will they show Wilmer Flores?

Answer: Because he had a good spring training and the Mets were preoccupied with a myriad of issues and injuries, Flores was mostly ignored. Rest assured, however, if Flores gets off to a slow start, there will be mutterings of replacing him.

13. Will David Wright regain his stroke?

Answer: Wright’s 162-game averages are 25 homers and 101 RBI, figures he hasn’t reached since 2010. Injuries limited him less than 155 games played in all but two years since 2010. Wright’s stroke is totally dependent on staying healthy.

14. Will Juan Lagares be worth the extension?

Answer: This is not a move the Mets have traditionally made with their own prospects so this is a gamble in every sense. He’s already proven he can field as evidenced by winning the Gold Glove Award, but he must improve his on-base percentage and cut his strikeouts if he’s to excel in the leadoff slot.

15. What is the power range for Curtis Granderson?

Answer: The Mets don’t expect him to hit forty as he did twice with the Yankees, but they’d like him to hit more than the 20 he did last season in his first as a Met. There was talk of hitting him in the leadoff spot, but 141 strikeouts are contrary to success hitting first.

16. Can Michael Cuddyer hit like a former NL batting champion?

Answer: Cuddyer hit .331 in winning the NL crown in 2012, and was at .332 last year when injuries cut short his season. The Mets aren’t expecting him to hit for power, but he hit six homers this spring. The Mets are planning to bat him fifth behind Duda.

17. Just how long before their decision to use contractual decisions to build their Opening Day roster hurt them?

Answer: It could happen any time. Gilmartin, Carlyle and reserve outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis are on the Opening Day roster primarily because of contractual obligations. In addition, they will be without role player Eric Campbell and be forced to carry eight relievers. In addition, did the Mets put their best pitching staff together by leaving off Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz?

18. What one stat could best determine if the Mets are to become competitive?

Answer: There are dozens of stats the Mets must improve on, but their 4-15 record against the Washington Nationals is arguably the most telling. Even if they were just 8-11 last year that would put them over .500 for the season.

19. How important is a fast start?

Answer: Huge would be an understatement. Apart from screwed up notion of playing three interleague games against the Yankees, the Mets schedule is entirely within the NL East. They’ll have three games against the Nationals; six against Atlanta; three against Philadelphia and four against Miami. There should be no excuse not to make a statement within the division.

20. Will there be a time when Collins and Alderson clash?

Answer: Undoubtedly yes. The make-up of the Opening Day roster has already caused head scratching. What should really tell us something is what happens if the Mets are competitive at the trade deadline and Alderson doesn’t pull the trigger on a deal.


Mar 29

Alderson Facing A Lot Of Questions This Week

The Mets are entering the final week of their eventful spring training. Unless the Mets make a surprise trade – and what are the odds of that? – there shouldn’t be any notable additions, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t decisions to be made.

ALDERSON: A lot of thinking to do. (AP)

ALDERSON: A lot of thinking to do. (AP)

And, if you’ve followed closely, you know GM Sandy Alderson will make the final call on those decisions with only a minimal input from manager Terry Collins. The most successful teams have collaboration between the GM and the manager, usually based on respect, but that’s not the basis of this relationship. When the GM tells an author of his eroding confidence in his manager, what does that tell you?

So, operating under the theory this is Alderson’s team, here is what he must decide:

LEFTY RELIEVER: With Scott Rice optioned out, the thinking in Rule 5 pick Sean Gilmartin will get the nod over Dario Alvarez. There’s been talk about going outside, but that’s been going on all spring.

DISABLED LIST: There have been reports of Daniel Murphy and Vic Black being ready for Opening Day, but it’s a long season so why push it?

SECOND BASE: If not Murphy, then who? Alderson discusses Danny Muno or Matt Reynolds, but ignores Ruben Tejada, who is supposed to be the backup.

LEADOFF HITTER: They really don’t have one in the traditional sense, but based on their options it should be Juan Lagares. Quite simply, Curtis Granderson has more value as a run producer in the middle of the order.

BATTING ORDER: Primarily because of the juggling at the leadoff spot, there’s been little consistency in the order. We’ve seen the Mets have over 100 different batting order combinations in recent seasons. Unfortunately, it could be that way again.

ROTATION ORDER: Most teams who already know their rotation would have an order. Not the Mets.

So, Alderson has a lot to think about this week.

Mar 24

Mets’ Handling Of Harvey’s Starts Leads To Speculation

On one hand, I admire Mets GM Sandy Alderson’s veiled attempt at honesty. He admitted today the decision not to start Matt Harvey over Jacob deGrom for the Mets’ home opener is partially based on ticket sales. The Citi Field home opener will likely draw a full house anyway, so the Mets are saving Harvey for later in the homestand.

HARVEY: Already there are questions. (MLB)

HARVEY: Already there are questions. (MLB)

Alderson explained to reporters the timing of when to pitch Harvey: “Look, we take a lot of things into account. I think the first and foremost is: Does any pitcher deserve to pitch in a game of that sort? And I think that was the primary focus. You’re assuming people are more interested in seeing Harvey pitch than Jacob. That’s probably true, but not something that I would acknowledge.’’

Of course, he won’t because the Mets’ decision spoke for itself. Alderson also acknowledged other considerations and didn’t discount ticket sales. How the Mets handled announcing their starting rotation and saving Harvey for later in the first homestand screams several things, and none of them very good:

* The front office isn’t on the same page with manager Terry Collins. But, if that’s not the case, then Collins – as I suggested Monday – isn’t being decisive. There have been reports Alderson and Collins aren’t working in harmony and this doesn’t discount that thinking.

* The indecision when Harvey would make his first two starts indicates they don’t have a definitive plan to limit his innings. They will fly by the seat of their pants and hope for the best, just like many of us thought all along. Frankly, I believe the Mets are afraid to annoy Harvey, who has already shown little regard for management’s decisions. If they are thinking placating Harvey now will give them an edge when he becomes a free agent, they are kidding themselves.

* If weather is a factor as suggested by saving Harvey for the afternoon game in Washington instead of Opening Day, that raises concerns about his physical status. The Mets are banking on a warmer day for the season’s third game instead of the first. If it’s really cold in Washington when he’s scheduled to pitch, will the Mets pull him? Either he’s ready or he’s not. It’s not that hard. If that’s the case, then why not keep him in Florida for an extended spring training and bring him up in May? If they did that, then both the weather and Harvey’s innings become moot points. They obviously won’t as to not alienate Harvey.

* If saving Harvey for later in the first homestand is so the Mets can sell a few more tickets, that tells you how financially solvent they are heading into the season. What difference will those extra tickets make? How will that money be spent? Harvey might be the Mets’ best pitching draw, but he’s no Tom Seaver or Dwight Gooden in that regard. That’s penny pinching and it tells you they really aren’t ready to compete, because that costs money.

Basically, we’re talking about several thousand extra dollars. If that’s going to make that much of a difference, then the Mets aren’t ready to get off the porch and run with the big dogs.



Mar 21

If Tejada Isn’t In Mets’ Plans, Then Release Him Now

The signs of what the Mets really think about Ruben Tejada couldn’t be any more clearer if they were in neon.

With Daniel Murphy a likely DL candidate to open the season, GM Sandy Alderson said Danny Muno – who went 2-for-4 in Saturday’s 6-4 loss to Detroit – and Matt Reynolds, who is scheduled to start Sunday against the Yankees, are contenders to start the season at second base.

TEJADA: Just set him free.

TEJADA: Just set him free.

So, where does this leave Tejada?

“We’ll wait to see what the prognosis is on Murphy in a few days,’’ was how manager Terry Collins addressed the issue with reporters today.

What gives?

If neither Alderson nor Collins believe Tejada is a viable candidate to start in place of Murphy – and he’s supposed to be the primary infield backup – then what is he doing in camp?

I’m not a big Tejada fan, but believe in being fair and respectful of players, not to mention honest. If Muno or Reynolds represent a future with the Mets that doesn’t include Tejada, then release him now and move on.

Alderson repeatedly toyed with Wilmer Flores over the winter, and his treatment of him was in a word, deplorable. Now, Alderson is trumping Flores as the starter. Exactly what kind of faith does Flores have with Alderson now?

Probably as little as Tejada’s faith in him.

It stinks how the Mets handle some players. This is a business and I comprehend promises can’t just be made and the team does have to protect itself. But, that doesn’t mean they have to handle things so coldly.

Don’t they realize there are players inside the organization taking notes on how the Mets treat their own?

They either don’t know or don’t care.

Mar 20

Mets Matters: Murphy Could Go On DL; Syndergaard Optioned

The hits keep coming for the Mets, who could start the season with Daniel Murphy on the disabled list with a pulled right hamstring. The initial prognosis was tightness in the hamstring, but after a MRI the injury was called a pulled muscle.

When will GM Sandy Alderson ever learn not to label an injury until all the exams are completed? First Wheeler, then Murphy, then Josh Edgin, then Vic Black … one day it is one thing and the next it is something else, usually worse.

mets mattersAnd, let’s not forget Bobby Parnell, who has been pushed back again, this time from today until tomorrow.

“He’ll be out a week or so, maybe a little longer,’’ Alderson told reporters about Murphy’s injury. “Hamstrings take longer than people want to admit.’’

Alderson also said today either prospect Matt Reynolds or Danny Muno could make the roster coming out of spring training if Murphy is placed on the disabled list.

SYNDERGAARD OPTIONED: If a player on the 40-man roster is still camp by then end of today and is injured, he is entitled to major league service time if the injury extends into the start of the season.

Given that, it is easy to understand why Noah Syndergaard, who took a baseball off his left ankle Thursday – while playing catch of all things – was optioned to the minor league camp.

Syndergaard had X-rays taken and Alderson said the prospect is “more or less fine,’’ which means this is was purely done for long-range economic reasons.

ALDERSON ENDORSES FLORES: Murphy’s injury will not forced the Mets to move Wilmer Flores to second base and use Ruben Tejada at shortstop.

“Wilmer is the shortstop. Wilmer is the shortstop,’’ Alderson said. “It’s taken us this long to convince you guys that Wilmer is the shortstop.’’

EXTRA INNINGS: Bartolo Colon, who gave up two runs on six hits in 4.2 innings in Friday’s 5-4 victory over St. Louis, is currently lined up to be the Opening Day starter. … Steven Matz is scheduled to start Saturday.