Nov 05

Cespedes To Opt Out Today

By midnight today, Yoenis Cespedes will tell the Mets he is opting out of his contract to pursue the riches of free agency.

The Mets have expected him to leave since they gave him the opt-out clause after one season of a three-year, $75-million contract. In reality, they never him to come back after he was close to signing a five-year, $110-million deal with Washington.

CESPEDES: Where is he running to? (AP)

    CESPEDES: Where is he running to? (AP)

Somehow, Cespedes eschewed that contract for the Mets. Perhaps he was overwhelmed by the World Series experience.

I’ve written several times how the Mets would be better off letting Cespedes go and spend the money elsewhere. I know that it is an unpopular position because we’re supposed to be enamored with Cespedes’ power, but frankly, he’s too high-maintenance for the money.

I’m annoyed he hustles when the mood strikes; that he played golf when he should have been rehabbing his quad; and he couldn’t play centerfield, which pretty much ended Michael Conforto’s play in left field.

If he comes back and has to play left, it stunts Conforto’s development. I certainly don’t want the Mets to fool around with Conforto at first base just to placate Cespedes.

The Mets will make a qualifying offer, which Cespedes will reject to accept a $100-million package with somebody else.

There are a handful of teams Cespedes where could land, but remember the Nationals were the only team to make an offer last year.

The Nationals could go after Cespedes again, which would entail Bryce Harper moving to center and Jayson Werth going to right. An outfield of Cespedes, Harper and Werth could be imposing.

San Francisco, which needs offense and with left fielder Angel Pagan to become a free agent, could be a player. Another possibility is Toronto, which might lose Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Michael Saunders, will certainly have the money.

Another option could be the Yankees. They have long-term outfield commitments to Jacoby Ellsbury and Bret Gardner, but with Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez gone, they have a designated-hitter opening.

Conventional wisdom has Cespedes seeking a five-year contract, but last year’s leg problems must concern the Mets, and a DH position has to be appealing to him.

Oct 06

Bumgarner Wins Classic Duel

For the second straight season, the interlocking “NY’’ on the Mets’ caps stood for “next year.’’ After an improbable run to overcome lengthy offensive droughts and numerous injuries to reach the postseason, the Mets received a sterling performance from Noah Syndergaard.

BUMGARNER: A classic ace. (AP)

BUMGARNER: A classic ace. (AP)

However, it wasn’t enough to beat Madison Bumgarner, who again came up with a game for the ages in October, who spun a four-hitter to beat the Mets, 3-0, to send the San Francisco Giants to the NL Division Series against the Cubs.

Syndergaard throws heat all the time and showed he doesn’t just have ace potential, but that he’s already there. However, Bumgarner will go down as one of the game’s greatest playoff pitchers in history.

In three postseason win-or-go-home games, Bumgarner has thrown 23 scoreless innings. He has reached a level few could ever imagine.

In 2014, Bumgarner won Games 1 and 5 in the World Series, then came back after two days of rest to throw five scoreless innings in relief. When asked what he hoped his legacy would be, Bumgarner simply said: “A winner. That’s all anybody wants to be regarded as.”

Syndergaard outpitched Bumgarner in the early part of the game, but as his strikeouts mounted – he finished with ten – so did his pitch count. Syndergaard threw 108 in seven innings while Bumgarner threw 119 for the complete game.

“Bumgarner, he never gives in,” said Jose Reyes. “We had some chances and couldn’t do anything with them.”

Bumgarner vs. Syndergaard had baseball junkies salivating and weren’t disappointed. The Mets had their best going, but unfortunately, the Giants had one of the best of all time going for them.

The starters were the storyline of the night, with the others being Jeurys Familia and Yoenis Cespedes spitting the bit.

FAMILIA LOSES IN THE NINTH: Familia saved 51 games this season and the Mets weren’t in the playoffs without him.

Last year, Familia blew three save opportunities. Tonight wasn’t a save chance, but it hurt just the same.

The fall began with a double by Brandon Crawford. After Angel Pagan failed to get a bunt down, Joe Panik walked then Conor Gillaspie crushed a three-run homer to bring on winter.

“It was a sinker. That’s my best pitch,” said a stand-up Familia. “Every time I try to go out and do the best I can. I missed with the location. I have to move on.`I know these things are going to happen. It’s a game.”

CESPEDES SILENT: For all his talking about living for these moments, for the second straight postseason Cespedes came up empty.

As far as I’m concerned, Cespedes gave away his four at-bats by swinging from the heels at pitches out of his reach. Bumgarner toyed with him getting him to strike out twice and pop up.

Cespedes saw only 18 pitches.

True to form, Cespedes opted not to talk after the game.

Perhaps he had an early tee time.

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Nov 20

How The Market Is Shaping Up; Things Could Happen This Week

When will the New York Mets do something of consequence this off-season isn’t hard to imagine. If recent history is an indicator it likely won’t be until the market is defined, which comes after the Winter Meetings.

However, the week preceding Thanksgiving can get busy. Not much happens usually happens around Thanksgiving. There’s usually activity after the holiday leading up to the Winter Meetings and after until Christmas.

HUDSON: Returning West.

HUDSON: Returning West.

Then, more stuff gets done after the New Year with what’s left of the market leading up to spring training. That’s usually when the Mets have done their work.

So far, there’s been some interesting news, including LaTroy Hawkins signing with Colorado for $2.5 million. He’s somebody I was hoping the Mets would bring back before at 41 because he could still throw in the low-to-mid 90s and for his clubhouse presence.

Hawkins was an astute pick-up last year, and with Bobby Parnell coming off surgery, he would have filled a spot in the bullpen.

The Yankees brought back shortstop Brendan Ryan, who I touted for his defense. I’d still rather have him than Ruben Tejada. We’ll just have to wait to see what happens with Jhonny Peralta, who, as of now, would represent the Mets’ biggest splash in the market. Philadelphia brought back catcher Carlos Ruiz for two years, out-bidding the champion Red Sox.

Perhaps the most interesting acquisition is San Francisco signing Tim Hudson to a two-year, $23 million contract. The 38-year-old Hudson is coming off ankle surgery.

Hudson is the latest in several costly, and expensive, decisions the Giants have made the past few years. The first was signing Angel Pagan – whom the Mets gladly shipped out – to a four-year deal. Then, they extended Tim Lincecum’s contract two years for $35 million when there were no indications he’d be a hot commodity on the market.

However, the Giants won the World Series in 2010 and 2012 with pitching-based teams, so they are doing something right.

Mets GM Sandy Alderson said he didn’t want an injury reclamation project, which Hudson clearly would be. However, Alderson has a history with Hudson when they were with Oakland and I was wondering if he at least reached out the pitcher.

Currently, agents and general managers are talking and posturing – that includes Alderson – but the market is still forming. Mostly, parameter dollar amounts have been exchanged. With the Mets there hasn’t been much in terms of specifics.

In addition to shortstop, the Mets need two starters, bullpen depth and a power-hitting corner outfielder.

Oct 30

2012 Mets Player Review: Situational Right-handers Manny Acosta And Ramon Ramirez

 MANNY ACOSTA, RHP

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: Mets GM Sandy Alderson’s priority last winter was bolstering his bullpen, something by his own admission he wasn’t able to do. Building a bullpen entails a closer, set-up man, situational relievers, and if luxury provides, a long man. The Mets were woefully thin in most of those areas and entered the season hoping for something from Manny Acosta, who gave them 44 appearances in 2011, and Ramon Ramirez, who came to the Mets with Andres Torres in the Angel Pagan trade. Both are situational right-handers expected to be the bridge to the set-up relievers and closer. Acosta throws a fastball in the mid-90s and decent curve. He averages a strikeout an inning, which is the kind of pitcher you want in a jam with runners on and a tough right-handed hitter such as Mike Zimmerman or Matt Holliday coming to the plate. However, like a lot of pitchers with a power arm, Acosta is prone to streaks of wildness. Acosta’s career has not been one of consistency, so there was a bad-Acosta the Mets knew was possible. As for Ramirez, he also has a plus fastball. Ramirez logged 68.2 innings in 66 games for the 2011 Giants, so the Mets knew they were getting a workhorse. They also knew they weren’t getting a dominant reliever.

2012 SEASON REVIEW: The Mets received pretty much what they expected from Acosta and Ramirez. They got the innings they needed, although they weren’t necessarily quality innings. Acosta started so slowly that he was optioned to Triple-A Buffalo as the result of a gagging 11.86 ERA over his first 19 appearances. Acosta worked out his mechanical issues in the minors concerning his release point and in the second half batters only hit .148 off him and he cut his ERA down by almost half. Ramirez threw 63.2 innings in 58 appearances, and wasn’t effective as he put on 93 runners in that span. He only struck out 52, so we’re not talking a power arm. The Mets’ bullpen was woefully inadequate this summer and these two were a part of the problem.

LOOKING AT 2013: Of the two, Acosta is the one most likely to return next summer. Acosta made $875,000 last season and is eligible for salary arbitration. Considering how strong Acosta was at the end, they could offer arbitration and still take the hit if they were to lose the case. Ramirez made $2.65 million in 2012 and will become a free agent. He did not have the season worthy of bringing him back and can find comparable production at a lower cost elsewhere.

Oct 22

Mets Matters: Ike Davis Could Score In Arbitration Process

There’s little that passes for news from the Mets these days as the club braces for a winter of non-spending.

Their primary contractual concerns are extending David Wright and R.A. Dickey, both of which will be pricey. The two are linked in that both said their decisions to test the free-agent market after next season is contingent on the efforts the Mets will take to be competitive. Dickey flat out said he would follow Wright out the door.

The Mets also face the prospects of going through the arbitration process with Josh Thole, Ike Davis, Manny Acosta, Daniel Murphy, Bobby Parnell, Andres Torres and Mike Pelfrey.

They also faced arbitration with Rob Johnson and Fred Lewis, but both chose free agency instead. It’s not as if the Mets can’t live without them.

Pelfrey and Torres are expected to be non-tendered, which would remove them from the process. Pelfrey, however, might cause the Mets to think twice because he’s 28 and their rotation has numerous questions. The Mets also have outfield issues, but Torres proved he’s no Angel Pagan. I never thought I’d write that line.

Acosta isn’t worth keeping, but Davis, Murphy and Parnell are potentially valuable pieces. Thole has regressed, but the Mets have few catching options other than him.

The owners cry about free-agency causing the spike in player salaries, but in reality arbitration is the culprit. In the process, both player and management submit figures to an arbitrator, who picks one or the other. The arbitrator can’t find a compromise number. The owners usually lowball the players, while the players aim high. The arbitrator’s decision isn’t based on career numbers, injuries or other factors, and is usually determined by the salaries of other players.

So, if a player has a one-time good season the arbitrator will review what players with comparable stats are making and rule that way. It’s why the owners frequently get smoked in this process.

Meanwhile, the Mets usually attempt to settle before the arbitration hearing.

Of the players eligible for the Mets, Davis has the potential to be the most costly.

In other Mets Matters:

* Dickey underwent surgery in Philadelphia to repair a torn abdominal muscle. After his final start Dickey revealed he’d been pitching with discomfort for most of the season.

Perhaps throwing the knuckleball helped Dickey get through the season because there’s less stress involved throwing that pitch. Even so, he’s testing the muscle with each pitch and it has to hurt. That, combined with his numbers, is why Dickey should win the Cy Young Award.

* Jordany Valdespin has played both right field and second base during the Dominican Winter League.

* Last week I started a series on Player Profiles of the 2012 Mets, analyzing their preseason expectations, what they accomplished this summer and what to expect.

I’ll continue tomorrow with those pitchers not in the rotation who made starts.