Oct 22

Would Boston’s Free-Agent Building Approach Benefit Mets?

Yesterday, I suggested what the New York Mets could learn from the St. Louis Cardinals in building their team. Today, let’s examine how the Red Sox were built and what the Mets can take from their approach.

The Cardinals’ philosophy of first building from within followed by judicious trades and free-agent signings has always been the traditional and preferred method.

Throwing millions and millions into the free-agent market is costly and risky. The Mets don’t have the resources of the Yankees or Dodgers to throw good money after bad.

ELLSBURY: Will he be too costly for Mets?

ELLSBURY: Will he be too costly for Mets?

There’s pressure to win in both markets, but there’s a greater intensity in Boston – and New York – while there’s a degree of patience in the Midwest. That explains in part why St. Louis has 17 homegrown players on its roster, while the Red Sox have ten.

There was a venomous culture in Boston last season as the Red Sox, burdened by several cumbersome contracts – similar to what the Mets faced when Sandy Alderson took over – and a few cancerous personalities in the clubhouse.

“Say, could you pass some fried chicken this way?’’

The Red Sox cleared nearly $200 million in salaries when they unloaded Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to the Dodgers midway through last year’s disastrous 69-93 summer under Bobby Valentine. They did so because even in a lost season the Red Sox were thinking about this summer. That’s something the Mets never fully explored when they had Jose Reyes and others to dangle.

The Red Sox were far quicker and more decisive than the Mets have been in ridding themselves of too costly and ineffective players, such as Oliver Perez, Ike Davis, Francisco Rodriguez and Luis Castillo to name a few of close to numerous bad deals since 2006, the last time the Mets saw October.

Rather than sink their savings into different long-term, costly signings, the Red Sox signed a handful of productive, yet cost-effective, players in: Shane Victorino (three years, $39 million); catcher David Ross (two years, $6.2 million); first baseman Mike Napoli (one year, $5 million); shortstop Stephen Drew (one year, $9.5 million); outfielder Jonny Gomes (two years, $10 million); and dynamite closer Koji Uehara (one year, $4.25 million plus option).

None bowl you over; collectively, they helped the Red Sox win 97 games.

Boston also extended by two years and $26 million the contract of its own free agent, designated hitter David Ortiz. They also avoided arbitration by offering Jacoby Ellsbury a one-year, $9-million deal. Some signings, such as pitcher Ryan Dempster’s two-year, $26.5 million deal, didn’t pan out. He’s now in middle relief and would be a starter for the Mets.

The Red Sox also hit it with trades, including pitcher Jake Peavy, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and and former Mets first-base prospect, Mike Carp.

Boston’s success in the free-agent and trade markets was overwhelmingly successful. Although Alderson said he could have the leeway to offer a $100-million contract to one player, he would be better off in taking Boston’s approach and attempt to patch several of the Mets’ many holes.

Alderson knows the success the Red Sox enjoyed is rare and shouldn’t be expected, especially since the Mets won’t offer similar deals. However, the idea of pursuing players with playoff success – Napoli and Victorino – is a sound way to augment their present composition of youth and few proven major leaguers.

The Mets are unsettled at first base, but are kidding themselves if they think they could get Napoli by offering a slight raise. Napoli was to get a three-year, $39-million deal, but that fell through when a degenerative hip condition was discovered. He’ll likely get his three years this winter.

As for Victorino, the Mets had their chance to sign him, but now it is too late. They must consider between Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo and Nelson Cruz, what they might each cost, and their various baggage.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Red Sox attempt to retain Ellsbury, but there are already reports the Tigers are interested in either him or Choo, the latter who is reportedly seeking four years.

The Red Sox took a shotgun approach last winter, and still wound up with a $155-million payroll while hitting most of their targets. It worked because their scouts did their homework; they got lucky; and they already had a core to build around. The Red Sox were also forced to be aggressive last winter because of their restless and demanding fan base. Every year it is the same motivation for them and the Yankees.

The Mets’ fan base is already looking at 2015 when Matt Harvey returns. Few are expecting a contender next summer without him. The Mets also don’t have as good a core as Boston had and won’t come anywhere close to what the Red Sox spent, but could go as high as $100 million, maybe a little more.

Everybody in the division save the Miami Marlins will spend more. If the Mets are to emulate the Red Sox, they’ll have to dig deeper and that’s not something they’ll be inclined to do.

May 14

Mets Matters: Matt Harvey On SI Cover; Collin McHugh Brought Up

When you’re fading fast and it’s not even June, you celebrate the little things. For the Mets, that would be Matt Harvey on the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated.

HARVEY: No jinxes please.

HARVEY: No jinxes please.

Harvey won his first four starts, but has no-decisions in his last four. He has a Major League-best 1.44 ERA and is scheduled to start Friday in Chicago against the Cubs.

ATCHISON TO DL: Reliever Scott Atchison was placed on the disabled list today with numbness in the fingers of his right hand. He experienced the same thing last season before he was diagnosed with a tear in an elbow ligament last year.

Last year, while with Boston, he rejected Tommy John surgery in favor of rest. Looks like a bad decision.

Replacing him will be Collin McHugh, who is 3-2 with a 2.74 ERA in eight starts for Triple-A Las Vegas. McHugh is also capable of spot starting or working in long relief.

McHugh made eight appearances (four starts) for the Mets last season, going 0-4 with a 7.59 ERA.

METS REACH LOW FOR FOX: The Mets signed Matt Fox from York of the independent Atlantic League with plans of working him out of the Vegas rotation.

How much of a reach is this?

The thirty-year old Fox last appeared in the majors in 2010 with Boston and Minnesota. Fox was 1-0 with a 1.59 ERA in four starts for York.

TRAVIS d’ARNAUD UPDATE: Catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud, who fractured his left foot a month ago, will be re-examined Friday in New York. He is hopeful of shedding his walking boot.

Initially, the Mets projected he’d be out at least two months and that still stands.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Apr 19

Live Blogging From Citi

600x763_harvey_vs_strasburg

Live Blog From Citi Field Pressbox

Top First: It starts to rain right after the anthem and moment of silence for Boston and Texas. The weather isn’t Minnesota-Denver bad, but I thought there would be more people here for Harvey-Strasburg. Harvey strikes out his first hitter and gets out of the inning with a runner on second.

Bottom First: Jordany Valdespin leading off again. Glad to see Terry Collins running with this. Valdespin reaches on E6. Takes third on Daniel Murphy’s hit-and-run single and scores on wild pitch. Murphy takes third on fly ball and scored on John Buck’s RBI. That’s 20 RBI for him. Really is amazing. I like Murphy’s aggressiveness in advancing on fly to right.

john buck

Mets 2, Nationals 0

Top Second: A lot of attention in the press box on what’s going on in Boston. Harvey breezing. Fans Chad Tracy. A 1-2-3 second.

Bottom Second: Marlon Byrd doubles, but is stranded on third as Strasburg punches out Valdespin. That’s a wasted opportunity and you don’t get many off Strasburg. We’ll see if this haunts them later. Strasburg nearing 50 pitches already.

End Second: Mets 2, Nationals 0

Top Third: Strasburg doubles, but Harvey gets out of it by striking out Jayson Werth.

werth strikes out

Bottom Third: Rain gone. Doc Gooden gets a nice ovation when they show him on the video board. He tweeted Harvey is the real deal. Looks like it. … Meanwhile, Boston PD has suspect cornered. That’s where a lot of the attention is. … Ike Davis strikes out for second time. Buck fans and another runner is left in scoring position.

End Third: Mets 2, Nationals 0

Top Fourth: Harvey finished the fourth with one hit and two walks and five strikeouts. He’s thrown 62 pitches, 41 for strikes. Everything is working for him tonight.

Bottom Fourth: There’s a steady falling mist again. Strasburg walked Duda, but set the next three hitters down. He’s settled down since the first, giving up two runs on three hits and two walks and five strikeouts. He’s pitching a good game, too.

End Fourth: Mets 2, Nationals 0

Top Fifth: A 1-2-3 inning for Harvey, Strikes out Suzuki swinging. They have apprehended the second suspect. Pressbox buzzing.

matt harvey 3

Bottom Fifth: Valdespin, Murphy, Wright go down in order. Just in – Brandon: Nimmo is 3-for-3.

End Fifth: Mets 2, Nationals 0

Top Sixth: Everyone watching the breaking news of suspect capture in Boston. Terrific job by law enforcement across the board. Boston can sleep easier tonight.… Harvey throws DP grounder started by Murphy, who is looking better and better at second. … Valdespin makes diving catch to end inning.

Bottom Sixth: Davis and Duda homer. Davis hit his to left and Duda’s went to center. … Crowd chanting “Harvey’s better.’’ Actually, pretty funny. … Strasburg already over 100 pitches, so this figures to be his last inning.

John Buck, Ike Davis

End Sixth: Mets 4, Nationals 0

Screenshot_1

Top Seventh: Harvey enters the inning with a two-hit shutout on 82 pitches. But, a walk and a couple of hits later and his shutout was gone. … Perhaps even more impressive was getting out of a bases loaded jam with no outs without giving up further damage. … Harvey finished with one run given up on four hits, three walks and seven strikeouts.

Bottom Seventh: Strasburg didn’t come out. He gave up four runs on five hits and two walks with six strikeouts in six innings. “USA – USA – USA -USA!” The crowd chants as news of arrest shows on scoreboard.

End Seventh: Mets 4, Nationals 1

Top Eighth: Big cheer when news on the scoreboard announced second suspect was captured. … Another cheer when Boston Police Department was saluted. … Scott Rice pitched a scoreless inning.

Bottom Eighth: Drew Storen now pitching and gives up leadoff triple to David Wright and two-run homer to Davis. … Duda added another homer, his fifth of the season.

End Eighth: Mets 7, Nationals 1.

Top Ninth: Sweet Caroline was played as Bobby Parnell threw his warm-up pitches. The Mets did it before, but it sounded better tonight. … Sweet, diving play by Murphy to get the second out.

Final: Mets 7, Nationals 1

Apr 17

Classy Gesture By Yankees

Give the Yankees credit, when they want to put on a show few do it better.

CLASSY GESTURE

CLASSY GESTURE

There was a moment of silence prior to the game – also one for former Giants player Pat Summerall – but a note of peace and unity on the scoreboard in honor of those killed and injured in Monday’s terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon.

It has become a cliche in troubled times to say tragedy goes beyond the rivalry, but it is true. Just as Boston and the nation supported New York after the September 11 attacks, the nation and New York has come to give its emotional support to Boston.

I flipped over to the Yankees game last night because I wanted to hear the Fenway Park anthem “Sweet Caroline,” sung at Yankee Stadium. Normally, it would sound out of place, as it did when the Mets played it several years ago. But last night, it felt normal, if not right. It was a great gesture that only could have worked at Yankee Stadium because of the nature of that rivalry.

It was heartwarming to hear and read about the reactions of Bostonians to “Sweet Caroline,” last night. It brought a good feeling while bad emotions were swirling.

Feb 17

Johan Santana Has A Good Throw Day

The highlight of the day in Mets’ camp was Johan Santana’s first mound session of the spring; 20 pain-free pitches in chilly Port St. Lucie.

“This is my first time in a while, but it was fine,” Santana told reporters in Florida, where the weather has been brisk and rainy. “I don’t think it was my best or anything, but it’s Day 1. You’ve got to start at some point.

“Today was a beginning for me. … You always worry about how you feel and everything, but at the same time I was just trying to get my job done and not trying to overdo things out there.’’

Not surprisingly, the Mets’ plan is to treat Santana with kid gloves. He needs to throw again and pitch batting practice before getting into an exhibition game. Usually the first exhibition is 30 pitches or two innings, and there’s no reason to think the Mets would deviate. Normally, pitchers make six starts and up to 30 innings during spring training.

The Mets are scheduled to pay Santana $31 million this year, including a $5.5 million option. A $25 million option for 2014 kicks in if he throws 215 innings this summer, and there’s no way the Mets will let him approach that figure.

The Mets are in a difficult position because they need to move on from Santana’s contract, yet at the same time if he were healthy and productive it gives them a chance to have a competitive season. Ideally, the Mets would like to deal him, but the innings clause applies to any team that trades for him and that would make him more than just a rental.

Santana didn’t pitch in 2011 as he was rehabbing from shoulder surgery. His first season with the Mets in 2008 was his only one with the team where he made all 34 starts. He ended last season on the disabled list with lower back inflammation.

In looking at the Santana trade, it is clear the Mets overpaid, both in terms of prospects – although none panned out to have successful major league careers – and obviously in terms of salary. In looking at a trade, one must also consider the circumstances at the time.

In 2008, the Mets were coming off a historic season in which their bullpen collapsed and they blew a seven-game lead with 17 to play. The previous season they lost the NLCS in seven games to St. Louis. In both seasons their pitching was suspect and a workhorse was needed.

Both the Yankees and Boston were after him, but pulled out when Minnesota’s asking price was deemed to high. Then GM Omar Minaya said Santana fell back to them and he did because there was no other competition.