Dec 31

Wrapping Up Mets’ Season That Wasn’t

Time to take a moment to look back on “The Season That Didn’t Happen,’’ before moving on to panning the Mets of 2017 and wishing you all a Happy New Year.

After being ousted in the World Series in five games, with Game 5 decided by Terry Collins’ decision to let Matt Harvey go out for the ninth, it was easy to project the summer of 2016 for the Mets.

SYNDERGAARD: Sums up disappointing season. (FOX)

SYNDERGAARD: Sums up disappointing season. (FOX)

Harvey, who gave it up and Jeurys Familia, who blew the save, would come back with fiery determination. Hell, I even wrote Harvey would win 20 games.

They brought back Yoenis Cespedes and added Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera. The future was bright for Michael Conforto.

Yes, there was a lot of optimism entering the season as there should have been. But, the World Series was never meant to be.

Writing on Twitter, Noah Syndergaard summed up 2016 in 140 characters:

2016 Mets Recap:

Wright hurt
Duda hurt
Walker hurt
Harvey hurt
DeGrom hurt
Matz hurt
Wheeler delayed
lost Wild Card
Bart leaves

It really wasn’t much more than that.

KEY STORYLINE: Harvey didn’t win 20 and didn’t come close. For the second time in three years, Harvey’s season was cut short by arm surgery. He wasn’t the only one. The knife also fell on Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler never recovered from his surgery.

KEY ADDITION: The Mets got off to a fast start in large part by Walker’s power surge, predominantly from the right side. Alderson plugged holes, adding James Loney when Lucas Duda went down and Jose Reyes to replace David Wright. The high-profile addition was Jay Bruce at the deadline, but the most important pick-us were Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman when Harvey and deGrom went down. Without them, the Mets don’t see the Wild Card game against the Giants.

MAJOR DISAPPOINTMENTS: The injuries to the pitchers and Wright were the biggest. … It can’t be underestimated how vital Conforto’s inability to build on 2015’s first impression. … Once again, the Mets’ inability to hit with runners in scoring

HIGH DRAMA: The puzzlement of what was bothering Harvey hung in the forefront until his shoulder injury was diagnosed. However, most of July was overshadowed by the high maintenance Cespedes, who couldn’t play because of a strained quad, but was able to golf instead of taking treatment. Neither Alderson nor Collins had the backbone to call out the outfielder, but Cespedes’ availability prompted the trade for Bruce. That could have been avoided had Alderson sent Cespedes to the disabled list three weeks before they finally pulled the trigger.

CONTINUING ISSUES: It shouldn’t have been all that hard to project Wright going down again. It shouldn’t be difficult for it happening again in 2017. … Also lingering is not hitting with runners in scoring position. They’ve done nothing to address that situation. … The middle innings in the bullpen also remained a problem, and that’s still in question with the pending suspension of Jeurys Familia.

MOMENT OF THE YEAR: There were a lot of electric moments, many of them of the walk-off variety, but is there any doubt about it being Bartolo Colon’s homer?

GAME OF THE YEAR: The Mets were reeling on Aug. 20, in third place, 12.5 games behind Washington when Colon went to the mound in San Francisco. Colon gave up two runs in 6.1 innings and was picked up by the Mets’ suddenly revived offense, which knocked out 13 hits, including two homers from Cespedes and one from Alejandro De Aza, to beat the Giants, 9-5. That was the first victory in a stretch where the Mets won nine of 11 games to go back over .500 and generate the push into the Wild Card.

 MVP: Cespedes was brought back to provide the spark he did in 2015. Despite playing in 132 games, Cespedes hit 31 homers, but was limited to 86 RBI. There really wasn’t a serious challenger to him.

PITCHER OF YEAR: Working most of the year with a bone spur, Syndergaard started 30 games and compiled 183.2 innings, going 14-9 with a 2.60 ERA. Does Syndergaard have Cy Young potential? You bet.

 

Dec 22

Mets’ Pitching Concerns Hinders McCutchen Trade Possibility

When it comes to trades involving the Mets – whether made or speculated – entails a great deal of reading between the lines. So it goes with this ember in the Hot Stove boiler involving Andrew McCutchen with the Pirates.

McCUTCHEN: Not happening. (AP)

McCUTCHEN: Not happening. (AP)

Sure, I can throw a lot of crap against the wall like I’ve read on other sites about the Mets giving the Pirates Steven Matz, Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo, and while those are all names that could get it done, it won’t happen.

We all know GM Sandy Alderson is reluctant to dip into his glut of young pitching, but this time it isn’t a matter of being afraid of pulling the trigger, but rather trying to protect the Mets’ pennant hopes for 2017.

I’ve suggested using Gsellman and Lugo for work in the bullpen as well as a protection for their young starters, of which four are coming off surgery: Matt Harvey had season-ending surgery twice in the past three years; Jacob deGrom has had two surgeries; Matz has a problem staying on the field; and Zack Wheeler hasn’t pitched in two years.

Then there’s Noah Syndergaard, who had trouble with a bone spur in his elbow in the second half, so we don’t know how that will be.

With Bartolo Colon gone and five potential starters with health concerns, you can appreciate Alderson wanting a security blanket.

But, Alderson’s apprehension goes deeper. You can also read into this the Mets really don’t know what to expect from their young rotation, and likely won’t until spring training. By that time, they might have to find ways to get Gsellman and/or Lugo innings before Opening Day.

It also tells you Alderson might be concerned the Mets’ window of opportunity is closing faster than he’d hoped.

He’s probably right on that: there’s a question about catching this year, so they’ll be shopping there next winter; they could be without Lucas Duda, Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera; nobody knows about David Wright; and the Mets might not have Jay Bruce or Curtis Granderson.

Alderson is hoping the pitching can hold up and he can get enough hitting from Yoenis Cespedes and what could be a patchwork offense to carry them into October.

Sure, I’d like for them to get McCutchen, but you could see this coming. Trading for McCutchen, or making any kind of deal of that magnitude, pretty much went by the boards after they went all out for Cespedes and ended up with a glut logjam in center field.

Oct 24

Should Injuries Shelve Long-Term Talks With Mets Pitchers?

For the past two years, signing the Mets’ young pitchers to long-term contracts seemed a paramount issue. Whom should they sign first, and for how much? Could they afford to sign two? In their wildest dreams, could they keep them all?

HARVEY: What's his market value now? (Getty)

HARVEY: What’s his market value now? (Getty)

With four pitchers coming off surgery, such talk now is but a whisper. We’re not hearing too much these days about Matt Harvey – who had shoulder surgery to treat thoracic outlet syndrome – leaving after the 2018 season for the Yankees or anybody else for that matter.

Steven Matz had surgery to repair bone spurs in his left elbow and Jacob deGrom, who had Tommy John surgery, is recovering from a second surgery to treat a nerve issue in his elbow. Then there is Zack Wheeler, who had Tommy John surgery and was supposed to ready by July but we didn’t see him all summer and nobody can say for sure when we will.

We won’t know for sure how they are until the spring, but the recovery forecast is looking good for the Mets’ surgically-repaired pitchers as doctors are telling the team they should be ready for the season. Even so, the Mets are likely to handle them all with kid gloves which is why they are interested in bringing back Bartolo Colon and draw relief with Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman.

The Mets have seven young arms – plus Colon – but we’re no longer hearing talk about contract extensions. Whom should they sign first? Can they afford to sign two or three at a time? Who should they trade to plug holes elsewhere?

However, with Harvey, Matz, deGrom and Wheeler, what’s their trade value? Will teams risk dealing high-level prospects for damaged goods? Certainly, the Mets can’t command as much should they explore trading.

Conventional wisdom has the Mets backing off long-term contract talks as to avoid signing somebody who might not win, or even pitch for them. While their potential might be high, their proven production is not.

Then again, it wouldn’t hurt for the Mets to explore extensions now when their market value might not be as high as it could be in two or three years. It’s a gamble worth considering.

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Oct 19

Alderson’s Top Ten Mets’ Questions

Unquestionably, the most important issue confronting the Mets is the health of their young, but battered, rotation. However, since injuries are beyond their control, the following are the top ten questions GM Sandy Alderson must answer this winter:

Should they add a starting pitcher? The Mets can’t control the recovery of their four surgically-repaired pitchers. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t add. Should the Mets rely on Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman continuing their development – and bring back Bartolo Colon – or add a starter from the outside? I’d explore a veteran stop-gap and definitely bring back Colon.

ALDERSON: Faces a lot of questions. (AP)

ALDERSON: Faces a lot of questions. (AP)

Should they bring back Cespedes? This isn’t entirely within the Mets’ control. If Cespedes opts out, which he is certain to do, the bidding reportedly will begin at $100 million over five years. Should they bite the bullet and give Cespedes what he wants in terms of money, years, position preference, and option to hustle, or should they spend the money on the myriad of other issues? I realize how important Cespedes’ bat is, but $100 million can fill a lot of holes, including adding a power bat. I wouldn’t be adverse to pursuing Jose Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion.

Should they bring back Bruce? This might not be first on the Mets’ wish list, but it is essential to guard against Cespedes leaving. He’s a proven hitter, but not as dynamic as Cespedes. Bruce will be cheaper than Cespedes, and they could add an option for 2018, when Curtis Granderson will be gone. They could spend the money earmarked for Cespedes on Bruce with plenty left over to fill holes.

Should they add a first baseman? Moving Michael Conforto from the outfield could be a reach. Should they gamble on Conforto or add from the outside – Encarnacion can play first – extend Lucas Duda or bring back James Loney? Duda and Loney maintains the status quo, which wasn’t productive. I like the idea of Encarnacion, which would fill the first base hole, replace Cespedes’ power, and allow Conforto to play full time in left.

Should they add a catcher? Clearly, Travis d’Arnaud hasn’t lived up to expectations. However, whether by free agency of trade, they can’t afford to go into 2017 with d’Arnaud and Rene Rivera. They must improve here this winter.

Should they examine another closer? After back-to-back flat Octobers by Jeurys Familia, the question has been posed by several. I think bringing back Addison Reed is their top bullpen priority, then building up the middle-innings bridge. I’m not worried about Familia.

Should they extend Collins? Manager Terry Collins isn’t sure if he wants to manage past 2017. I hate the idea of a lame duck manager, so I would make him an offer.

Are they good enough at second base? This begins with bringing back Neil Walker, who is recovering from back surgery. They also have Wilmer Flores, who is recovering from wrist surgery. They also have T.J. Rivera, who could be the future. Going outside for a second baseman isn’t necessary.

What should they do at third?  Their preparation in the event of David Wright being injured again was poor. If Wright is healthy, he has a spot on the roster, but where will he play? He’ll get first crack at third, but could also be tried at first base. However, the problem with trying Wright and/or Conforto at first base is we won’t know until spring training. That means they have to bring back Duda/Loney as a hedge. Either way, they need to bring back Jose Reyes, who also gives them a back-up at shortstop.

How good is the bench? Both Riveras, Juan Lagares and Kelly Johnson made positive impacts. Previously, Alderson built the bench last, but if you have proven performers, then why not address that right away? If nothing else, it will prevent them from trading for Johnson a third time.

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Oct 08

Mets’ Top Ten Internal Decisions

GM Sandy Alderson was brought here clean out deadwood (Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo, etc.) and trim payroll while the Wilpons tried to withstand the howling financial winds of the Ponzi Scandal.

BRUCE: First domino. (AP)

BRUCE: First domino. (AP)

It took several years, but the Mets are heading in the right direction – their Opening Day payroll was $135 million – but they can’t be accused of being spenders.

I see Alderson having to deal with ten players this winter:

OUTFIELD

Jay Bruce: Contractual control in 2017 was a key factor in making the trade in the first place. The want Bruce as a hedge for losing Cespedes, which means they must sign him first. The worst-case scenario is to screw around with Cespedes and delay with Bruce – which could cost them both. They must pick up Bruce’s $13 million option, and if Cespedes leaves, fine, so be it. Bruce is the lead domino.

Yoenis Cespedes: The ball is totally in the player’s court, which is not a good position for the Mets. Last year Cespedes dragged this out and there are no indications that won’t change this year. Early reports are Cespedes will want at least $100 million. Secretly, I’ll bet Alderson wants Cespedes to opt out and sign elsewhere.

INFIELD

Lucas Duda: He is arbitration eligible, but injury prone and coming off a back problem that is always scary. How much Duda will make is uncertain (he made $6.7 million this year and I’ve heard numbers as high $9 million). If not Duda, the Mets could go with a Loney-Flores platoon.

James Loney: I’m probably in the minority of those who wouldn’t mind seeing Loney return. However, they have other options, including seeing what Wright and Michael Conforto could do at first.

Neil Walker: Back surgery will reduce Walker’s bargaining power, so I don’t see people lining up to give him a two- or three-year deal. If they are set on Cespedes, they won’t go long term with both. With Wilmer Flores – assuming his wrist heals – and T.J. Rivera, it isn’t as if second base is a must. As they did with Daniel Murphy, they’ll probably extend a qualifying offer.

Jose Reyes: The Mets hold a team option on Reyes for 2017. The Mets got more than they expected from Reyes, and with David Wright’s return a question, there’s little doubt they won’t bring him back.

Kelly Johnson: They’ve already traded for him twice, and each time he produced. He’s versatile and produced as a pinch-hitter. This should be a no-brainer.

PITCHERS

Bartolo Colon: The biggest mistake Alderson could make is to assume all their surgically-repaired pitchers – there are four of them so far – will return healthy. The $7.25 million they paid for 15 victories was well spent. They need to bring him back.

Jerry Blevins: Stayed healthy, pitched well and wants to return. This shouldn’t be a problem. Not knowing what the Mets could get from Josh Smoker and Josh Edgin should help Blevins.

Jon Niese: Not happening.

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