Jul 18

Today in Mets’ History: This year looking like last summer.

Mets got this break during collapse.

The Mets are entering a strangely familiar territory.

Last year the prevailing midseason issue after the break was whether Jerry Manuel could take control of his team and guide them either into the postseason, or to at least make a wild-card run.

It didn’t happen. On this date last season, the Mets broke a three-game losing streak coming out of the All-Star break with a series-salvaging 4-3 victory at San Francisco in 10 innings.

The game featured an atrocious call by plate umpire Phil Cuzzi that swiped a victory from the Giants. With one out in the bottom of the ninth, Cuzzi called out Travis Ishikawa at the plate, saying he slide under Henry Blanco’s tag.

Replays proved otherwise, but most damning was Blanco’s comments: “He was safe all the way. Everybody was surprised when he was called out.’’

BOX SCORE

With the victory, the Mets moved to 49-43, five games behind in the National East. Not bad on the surface, but the Mets were in the midst of losing seven of nine games, and would go on to lose six of their next eight, all on the road.

This season, the Mets dropped two of three coming out of the break to Philadelphia, and overall have dropped five of their last seven games.

The Mets close out July with a make-up game tonight at Citi Field, followed by three home games with St. Louis. Then they are on the road to Florida for three, Cincinnati for three and Washington for three.

Even with the positive news about Jose Reyes’ rehab game tonight, the Mets are in for an interesting couple of weeks until the trade deadline.

Last year they unraveled, but they had little to give up as nobody wanted Oliver Perez or Luis Castillo. This season there are more attractive things on the Mets’ rosters for contenders.

Carlos Beltran is currently the big prize. He’s healthy, playing well and has adjusted to a new team. The Mets could bring a prospect or two in return, more, if they extend a negotiating window to the team in attempt to land Beltran long term. Of course, Beltran’s agent is Scott Boras, and his preference in similar situations is to play the open market.

Boras is not likely to do anything to help the Mets, who will not receive compensatory draft picks if he leaves as a FA.

Reyes, who hopes to play tomorrow, is also available, but the Mets would like to keep him, and will do so unless they are bowled over. If that were to happen, the team would want a chance to negotiate with Reyes long term. The Mets will get more of a package in this situation rather than if they sell him to a team as a rental.

The Mets have several other players teams could covet in support or bullpen roles, including: Angel Pagan, Scott Hairston, Tim Byrdak, Jason Isringhausen, and tonight’s starter, Chris Capuano.

Here’s tonight’s lineup behind Capuano:

Angel Pagan, CF

Willie Harris, 2B

Daniel Murphy, 3B

Scott Hairston, RF

Lucas Duda, 1B

Jason Bay, LF

Josh Thole, C

Ruben Tejada, SS

Chris Capuano, LP

 

Jul 15

Would sweeping the Phillies make a difference regarding Beltran?

Even should the Mets sweep the Phillies, I’m not buying it will have a great impact on what Sandy Alderson does  with Carlos Beltran. If he gets a deal, he’ll take it, regardless of where the Mets are in the standings.

Make no mistake, the Mets are in the rebuilding mode Alderson vowed when he came to town. The Mets are playing better than anticipated, which has shed a different light on things in the eyes of the fans, but hasn’t altered Alderson’s plan.

The trade of Francisco Rodriguez, and the possible trading of Beltran, has been met with more resistance than expected largely because of the Mets playing .500 ball and Jose Reyes’ strong first half. Those two things have given the impression of the Mets being a contender, but they still have the same issues as they had coming out of spring training.

Jul 14

Reading the tea leaves on dealing Beltran.

Sandy Alderson is working the phones this afternoon about Carlos Beltran. There’s a chance he could be taking more calls than making them.

“Carlos’ situation is well-known, and it’s not surprising given his situation and performance this year that a lot of interest has been expressed,’’ Alderson said. “We have not pursued that interest in great length to this point.’’

BELTRAN: Attracting interest.

As an All-Star, Beltran is probably the premier outfielder and bat in the trade market, so the Mets aren’t completely without leverage.

Where the Mets don’t have leverage, is that Beltran’s contract precludes him from being offered arbitration so they won’t get any compensatory draft picks.

The balance of Beltran’s contract is for roughly $8 million, so the Mets must decide if that’s worth the price to pay to gamble on staying in contention.

Unless the Mets are bowled over, Alderson said he’s willing to ride this out until the trade deadline, and even longer.

While the trade deadline is July 31, the Mets can move Beltran after that in a waiver deal. In that situation, Beltran must clear waivers before he can be traded.

Alderson’s stance is actually a good negotiating ploy. Everybody knew the Mets were desperate to deal Rodriguez, but by showing a willingness to wait on Beltran it’s possible he could force some general manager to blink and offer up a better prospect.

The Giants and Red Sox are the teams reported to have the most interest in Beltran. ESPN reported the Tigers might be players for Beltran.

As far as the Yankees, their primary objective is pitching.  Even with Alex Rodriguez out for at least a month, the belief is the Yankees still have enough offense.

If the Mets go all out in the trade market, they have several pieces that could prove attractive to a contender, including Chris Capuano, Jason Isringhausen, Tim Byrdak, Scott Hairston and Willie Harris.

All have served a purpose for the Mets this season, but all can be replaced in the winter.

 

Jul 13

Alderson dances around trade and future.

What else was Sandy Alderson going to say?

In a classic case of GM-Speak, Alderson said today in a conference call, “I certainly wouldn’t draw any conclusions from this transaction,’’ regarding this morning’s trade of Francisco Rodriguez to Milwaukee.

ALDERSON: Dances the dance.

 

 

He might be the only one.

This was about dumping salary, totally understandable considering the Mets didn’t want to pick up Rodriguez’s $17.5 million option. How well the Mets have played was irrelevant because clearing themselves of the option was their primary objective, although Alderson downplayed this issue.

He wasn’t believable.

Alderson insisted the Mets’ goal the rest of the way will be winning games, but that’s a tough sell considering he just traded their closer, and is actively looking to move Carlos Beltran, and wouldn’t say no to anybody asking about Jose Reyes.

Trading Rodriguez offers payroll flexibility, but realistically we’re only talking about 2012, and Reyes reportedly will seek six or seven years.

Alderson said there’s no connection between Rodriguez and possibly trading Beltran, but what other conclusion can you make? The Mets want to shave payroll and aren’t a realistic contender, so the fire sale seems the only realistic way for this season to play itself out.

Anybody can see that, so why can’t Alderson just admit it and spare us the GM-Speak?

 

Jul 12

Beltran showcased tonight at All-Star Game.

Carlos Beltran, potentially a future former Met, has the national stage in tonight’s All-Star Game to showcase his talents for a potential trade.

Of course, if teams have been paying attention during the first half they will know he’s physically holding up, that he’s adjusted to right field without a problem, and is playing well.

BELTRAN: Who is watching?

Beltran will start tonight as the designated hitter and bat second.

The Mets have exceeded expectations at 46-45, but are 11 games behind the Phillies and 7.5 behind Atlanta for the wild card. The only concession the Mets are making toward investing for the future is saying it is unlikely Jose Reyes will be traded.

Not so with Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez. Beltran knows the Mets are trying to move him, and jerked around by the organization over his knee surgery, his relationship with the team isn’t warm and cozy despite his guarded comments yesterday at the All-Star media sessions.

“A lot of teams this time, they’re looking to improve, some others are looking to rebuild,’’ Beltran said. “Right now, the Mets are playing good baseball.  I like where I am. We’re having fun and we just hope to continue to improve.’’

Beltran is in the last year of a seven-year, $119 million deal. Roughly $9 million will be paid Beltran in the second half, but if the Mets aren’t a contender, and they know they won’t bring him back, their best option would be making a trade.

San Francisco and Boston are two of the teams with a reported interest in Beltran.

Beltran went through this in 2004 when he was with Kansas City, so he’s treading familiar waters.

“I guess that experience makes you understand the business side of baseball a little better. You can’t take it personally,’’ Beltran said. “Having the no-trade clause gives me a little bit of control. I will choose if I like the trade. This is my 12th year in the big leagues, so at this point, all I want is to win and to have the opportunity to be in the playoffs.’’

Beltran’s agent is Scott Boras, who recently convinced Francisco Rodriguez to abandon his agent. Paul Kinzer to sign with him. On the surface, dumping Boras shows loyalty isn’t one of Rodriguez’s strong suits, so the Mets shouldn’t expect anything from him.

Mets GM Sandy Alderson said he doesn’t know how signing with Boras will impact Rodriguez’s future with the team. Rodriguez said he would accept a deal to a contender and work as a set-up reliever if there’s a contract extension in the picture.  If Rodriguez completes 55 games this season, a $17.5 million option will kick in, and that’s something the cost conscious Mets can’t afford.

Boras will not make things easy for the Mets regarding Rodriguez.

“Francisco Rodriguez is a historic closer,’’ Boras told reporters yesterday in Arizona. “He’s not going anywhere to be a setup man. … Closers don’t make good setup men. Does anybody want an unhappy setup man in their clubhouse?’’