Jul 08

Even If De Grom Stays, Mets Have Plenty Of Issues

Lifeless. That’s pretty much the only way to describe what’s going on with the Mets, now 16 games below .500.  The count is now 14 consecutive series the Mets haven’t won after today’s 9-0 drubbing at the hands of Tampa Bay.

That’s eight times they’ve been shutout this lost season.

And yet, the Mets – who will be sellers at the trade deadline – insist if they keep Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard they will be competitive next season. Of course, that’s contingent on Yoenis Cespedes and Jay Bruce returning healthy and productive.

NIMMO:  A bright spot in lost season.  (Getty)

NIMMO: A bright spot in a  lost season. (Getty)

Let’s assume that happens, and they also keep Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz, who continue to develop, they still have monumental holes, especially if they deal Jeurys Familia and Asdrubal Cabrera.

Here’s how they’ll starting nine will look like:

CATCHER: Devin Mesaroco has been one of the few positives this season since coming over from Cincinnati in the Matt Harvey trade. Kevin Plawecki has played well as a reserve, but he’s never going to be a full-time starter. Ditto for Travis d’Arnaud, who is again on the disabled list.

FIRST BASE: What does it say about Dominic Smith that he started today in left field? Since Adrian Gonzalez left, Wilmer Flores has been getting more playing time, but this is an opportunity that has come too late.

SECOND BASE: They are trying to move Cabrera, who should have value to a contender. If they are successful, they can play Flores at second. Of course, they are also looking to move Flores, which shouldn’t result in Tear Gate II.

SHORTSTOP: Do you remember all the angst when they didn’t bring up Amed Rosario? Of course, you do. He’s playing, but for all his defensive prowess he hasn’t shown much. And, many of the mistakes are mental which no team should tolerate. Rosario is getting time, but isn’t making the most of it, either in the field or at the plate. Here’s a guy with incredible speed, but you rarely see his draw walks and attempt to steal. For a team that lacks offense, that’s a huge mistake. Rosario needs to improve his plate discipline and learn to hit the ball on the ground. He’s shown nothing that leads me to believe he’s a long-time answer.

THIRD BASE: Todd Frazier was a good idea for a contender, but the Mets are far from that label. He’s been hurt and having a miserable season. What’s worse, is he’s signed for next year, too. Maybe they can get something for Frazier, if not they can always try again in 2019.

LEFT FIELD: Currently, the Mets have no idea when Cespedes will come off the disabled list. He’s starting to run in Florida, but we’ve been down that road before. There are times when I start to think the Mets might see David Wright again before Cespedes. There’s no telling how Cespedes will respond physically once he comes back. But, he has two more years after this year, and that’s not encouraging. Smith started in left today, but that’s no answer. Michael Conforto can play left, but started in right to give Jose Bautista got the day off.

CENTER FIELD: Brandon Nimmo won the job after Cespedes was injured and has been one of the Mets most pleasant surprises. Next season will be interesting if Cespedes and Bruce are back healthy, and Conforto and Nimmo are also there. Somebody will have to go, and it won’t be Cespedes.

RIGHT FIELD: Bruce is on the disabled list with a strained hip flexor, and has two more years on his contract. The Mets could try to trade him again, but will Bruce show anything in the next three weeks? It’s doubtful. Bautista has played well enough to open the eyes of a contender, but that doesn’t do anything to help next year’s logjam.

ROTATION: DeGrom and Syndergaard aren’t going anywhere any time soon. But, if the Mets are in similar straits next year, perhaps we’ll hear trade talks again. Then, maybe the Mets will not resist. The problem is the Mets are under the illusion they can compete next year. The sooner they get a realistic appraisal of their team the better off they’ll be. The last thing they need is to hold on to deGrom and Syndergaard for the next three years and don’t get any better. If that happens, all their chips will be gone.

BULLPEN: Jeurys Familia could be the first to be traded, which puts the Mets in the position to look for a closer in 2019. The obvious first choice would be AJ Ramos, who is on the disabled list for the remainder of the season. The next option could be to convert Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo or Wheeler into that role. Any of the other relievers you can have.

MANAGER: By rights, Mickey Callaway should come back. Callaway has a lot to learn, but it’s not fair to fire a manager after one year. The problems the Mets are having has little to do with Callaway’s in-game decisions. It’s because former GM Sandy Alderson did not give him enough talent, and he, along with John Ricco, J.P. Ricciardi and Omar Minaya over-estimated how good their team is. It will be interesting how much leeway Jeff Wilpon gives the trio in making trades. If Wilpon goes outside the organization for a general manager it stands to reason he’ll want to hire his own manager.

Jan 12

Thanks Mark Phelan For The Kick In The Ass

Sometimes I need a kick in the ass and I got one today from reader Mark Phelan, who wrote my “obsession” for David Wright contributing to the Mets “screws up” my ability to recognize how troubled this lineup really is. Well, Mark, I don’t agree with you on the word “obsession,” but I am hoping Wright can go out on his own terms, which is rare for an athlete.

“Hoping,” after all is a right for any Mets fan.

WRIGHT: Staring into dark future. (AP)

WRIGHT: Staring into dark future. (AP)

If the Mets sign Todd Frazier that tells me they are convinced Wright is done. If they sign Jose Reyes it tells me they also are holding out hope.

Nonetheless, let’s take a look at their troubled lineup:

CATCHER: They are trying it again with Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki. There’s nothing inspiring about that prospect. Talk about beating a dead horse.

FIRST BASE: The fact they are considering a reunion with Lucas Duda says they aren’t thrilled with Dominic Smith. That they brought back Jay Bruce to play some first base also says they aren’t happy with Smith. That they won’t play Wilmer Flores there tells me they want him off the bench, which is stupid.

I would also like to revisit what I wrote during the World Series that they passed on Cody Bellinger in the draft.

SECOND BASE: Asdrubal Cabrera? That tells me they don’t want to spend the money on Jason Kipnis. Cabrera is injury prone and we’ll see Flores there soon enough. Cabrera also says they won’t give T.J. Rivera a chance. Two words: Daniel Murphy.

SHORTSTOP: Amed Rosario is there to stay, but he has problems throwing as he continues to pump his glove, which takes time. He has a lot to learn about playing the position. Offensively, he has a lot of speed but poor plate discipline and strikes out too much. Ideally, he has the speed to be a leadoff hitter but has too many holes in the offensive part of the game.

THIRD BASE: Frazier or Reyes or Cabrera? Of the three, I’d take Frazier. That means the Wright Era would officially be over unless he moves to first. At that stage of his career, it would be difficult. Back to Rivera for a second. Because he’s being ignored it says the Mets aren’t sure of him physically. The black hole at third has long been a Mets’ tradition. This time it underscores GM Sandy Alderson’s terrible decision to get rid of Justin Turner.

LEFT FIELD: Yoenis Cespedes had six great weeks in 2015, which seduced Alderson into bringing him back, completely overlooking his absence during the World Series. Cespedes did hit homers in 2016, but not enough to warrant his injuries, lack of hustle, and drama. The Mets represent Cespedes’ fourth team before the age of 30 says a lot, but something Alderson ignored. As imposing as he can be when healthy, Cespedes has too many leg injuries. He was brought back to play center but now refuses, in large part because of his pulled muscles. Cespedes hustles when he feels like it, which pisses me off no end. The worst part of the Cespedes’ $110 million contract is it screws up the Mets’ budget. Will Cespedes be ready for Opening Day? Who knows?

CENTER FIELD: It’s Michael Conforto if healthy. If not Juan Lagares will start. The Mets gave Lagares a multi-year contract but have no place to put him. He has the speed to hit leadoff, but like Rosario doesn’t have the plate discipline. He’ll likely be the Opening Day starter because Conforto might not be ready.

RIGHT FIELD: Hello again, Mr. Bruce. Did the Mets panic or did Bruce because of the slow market? They should never have traded him. As of now, he could be their lone power hitter in the lineup.

BULLPEN: Alderson traded Bruce, Curtis Granderson, Duda and Addison Reed for relief help but none of the five relievers brought in turned any heads last year or threaten to make the roster now. Reed remains unsigned. Closer Jeurys Familia is recovering from surgery; AJ Ramos was spotty in his window of opportunity and Jerry Blevins is the overworked situational lefty. Hansel Robles is a nightmare and the rest are all questions. Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo could find their way into the bullpen if they don’t end up in the rotation.

STARTERS: It’s Jacob deGrom and a bunch of questions. … Can Noah Syndergaard recover from a torn lat muscle caused because he foolishly thought lifting weights would help him get stronger so he could last longer in games? The problem with Syndergaard’s high pitch count is because his command is inconsistent. Just throw the damn ball, stay off Twitter and don’t think so much. … Matt Harvey never became the ace we all hoped. Harvey needs a big year because he’ll be a free agent next winter. Odds are he’ll leave to give us the memories of one fine moment in 2013, followed by hiding an injury leading to surgery and subsequently landing on the disabled list and bitching about where he’ll rehab.There’s also the stories about him dating the Supermodel of the Day. However, his lasting image will be shouting down Terry Collins in the dugout in the ninth inning of Game 5 to stay in the game, which he subsequently blew. … Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler are coming off injuries. You can substitute Gsellman, Lugo or Rafael Montero at any time. … This rotation has yet to pitch a complete full cycle.

BENCH: Flores is still searching for a place to play and a backup outfielder is needed if it isn’t Lagares. … There’s no power threat for the late innings.

MANAGER: Mickey Callaway is unproven but comes with Terry Francona’s endorsement. Nobody knows what he can do under pressure. Let’s hope his ideas about keeping the rotation healthy pan out.

So Mark, there you have it. This is my take on the Mets’ lineup which doesn’t include Wright. When you look at the rest of the lineup please indulge me the thought of hoping arguably one of the three best position players in Mets history can come back despite it being a long shot. When you look at the Mets, the only proven position is Bruce in right.

So, thank you, Mark, for reading, your comments and being my inspiration today. Personally, I think Wright is done and I nailed it with the lineup.

Sep 12

Forecasting 2018 Mets’ Position Battles

Including tonight’s game at Wrigley Field against the Cubs, the Mets have 19 games remaining in this lost season. That’s not nearly enough time for GM Sandy Alderson to get answers to his most pressing questions heading into next season.

The following are thumbnail sketches to each potential position battle:

DE GROM: Only sure thing. (AP)

                    DE GROM: Only sure thing. (AP)

ROTATION: The Mets enter next season with health concerns for each starter, with the possible exception of Jacob deGrom. Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard are rehabbing after spending most of the season on the disabled list. Harvey has made two rehab starts on the major league level – one bad and the last one encouraging – and could make three more. Syndergaard was scratched from his most recent rehab start, but played catch today.

Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler remain on the DL and will report to spring training as questions. What else is new?

Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo have not pitched to last season’s levels, but have shown glimpses of being viable commodities, but next year – barring the acquisition of a veteran arm capable of going 180 innings – one, or both, could enter the rotation, with the other going to the bullpen. Of course, wanting 180 innings and paying for a starter capable of that workload are two different things.

Rafael Montero has been a surprise and worthy of entering spring training competing for a rotation spot.

BULLPEN: The Mets have spots locked in for Jeurys Familia, AJ Ramos and Jerry Blevins. I’m thinking either Lugo or Gsellman will get a long-relief role, with possibly Montero also getting a spot.

Paul Sewald, Erik Goeddel, Hansel Robles, Josh Smoker, Jacob Rhame, Chasen Bradford and Jamie Callahan likely won’t win a roster spot in the remaining games, but could make enough of an impression to where Alderson to write any of them into his plans for spring training.

Familia will go in as the favorite to close again, but that’s based on his resume over his current performance since coming off the DL.

CATCHING: Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki go in competing for the starter role. Plawecki has been especially impressive since his promotion from Triple-A Las Vegas.

The Mets have been patient, almost to a fault, with d’Arnaud, who hasn’t made the most of his opportunity. Plawecki has been more impressive in his limited window, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he won the job next March.

I don’t envision the Mets signing a veteran – like a Rene Rivera – and believe both d’Arnaud and Plawecki will make the 2018 Opening Day roster,

FIRST BASE: The plan was for Dominic Smith to win the job, but he hasn’t hit enough to make anybody believe he has this mastered. I’m not worried about Smith hitting for power, but simply raise his on-base percentage. As of now, who can’t see Smith platooning with Wilmer Flores?

I can’t see Flores winning the job outright – the Mets won’t commit to him – or for them sign a veteran this winter. Hopefully, Smith will show enough with his bat over the next 19 games to limit Alderson’s agita.

SECOND BASE: It’s wide open. Given that the Mets won’t make a free-agent splash, my first inclination is to think they will pick up Asdrubal Cabrera’s option and he’ll go in as the starter.

Flores, Jose Reyes or Gavin Cecchini, could also compete or win a roster spot as a reserve.

T.J. Rivera will undergo Tommy John surgery, but likely won’t be ready for the start of the season. Rivera can also play first and third.

SHORTSTOP: Amed Rosario has made more of his opportunity than Smith has of his. This isn’t to say Rosario is a given, but you have to like the odds of him going into next year as the starter.

Currently, Reyes seems a good bet to make next year’s roster as a utility infielder, capable of playing second, shortstop and third base.

THIRD BASE: Ideally, David Wright will make a comeback, but nobody is counting on that happening. Wright underwent rotator cuff surgery, but the Mets aren’t counting on him returning, let alone, for Opening Day.

Flores, who is out for the remainder of the season following surgery to repair a broken nose. Depending on what happens with Smith, he could go in as the starter for next season.

Rivera, Cabrera and Reyes could all see significant time at third base.

LEFT FIELD: Yoenis Cespedes is out for the season with a strained right hamstring. He played in only 81 games this year – half a season – and considering he also missed significant time in 2016, his durability must be questioned.

First, Michael Conforto, and then Brandon Nimmo, replaced Cespedes, who isn’t a given to come out of spring training healthy. If he doesn’t, figure Nimmo to start in left.

CENTER FIELD: Unquestionably, Juan Lagares is the best defender, but his offense is a question. Actually, Lagares has hit better than expected, so I wouldn’t be reluctant to start him in 2018.

Alderson said Conforto was more than just a viable defender, but his recovery from shoulder surgery will keep him off the Opening Day roster, so that’s a moot point.

RIGHT FIELD: As much as I like the idea of bringing back Jay Bruce, I don’t see the Mets shelling out the bucks it would take to sign him.

With Conforto and Cespedes seriously injured, signing a power bat is imperative, but do you really expect Alderson to write some serious checks?

Personally, it might be a stretch to think they’ll spend enough to bring back Nori Aoki.

Assuming Cespedes is ready for the start of the season, Nimmo will likely open the year in right field.

Once Conforto is ready, I see him taking over in right.

Mar 27

Mets’ Remaining Issues

OK, Matt Harvey had a good start Sunday, and for now, isn’t an issue for the 2017 Mets. However, that’s not to say they don’t have questions as they enter the final week of spring training. Manager Terry Collins and GM Sandy Alderson have a lot of thinking to do in this final week of spring training:

MATZ: What's the plan? (AP)

MATZ: What’s the plan? (AP)

ROTATION: Steven Matz was shut down Monday, but will throw on flat ground. The Mets say there is no structural damage or ligament damage, yet they have no plans for a MRI. I’ll never understand that logic.

Robert Gsellman will be the fifth starter, but the Mets have the resources in Seth Lugo, Zack Wheeler and Rafael Montero to fill in as Matz’s replacement. It seems the prudent option would be to put Matz on the disabled list or in an extended spring training to let him strengthen his elbow and get rid of the irritation. Rushing him back – as they have done with pitchers in the past – will only backfire.

Don’t do it.

Wheeler and Lugo will work Monday in split squad games, but the Mets remain undecided as to how to use Wheeler. Starter or reliever? Does anybody remember how they juggled Jenrry Mejia?

It was first 110 innings, now it is 120-125, and recently told reporters “we’ll worry about those innings limits in the middle of the summer.’’ You have to love a man with a plan.

BULLPEN: The names and roles have to be determined, but the Mets have the numbers. Either Lugo or Montero could be placed in the pen if they don’t go into the rotation.

Because of the up-and-down, inconsistent nature of relievers, using Wheeler in that role could be a mistake.

Hansel Robles, Josh Edgin and Sean Gilmartin figure to have worked their way into Collins’ pen. Paul Sewald has pitched well and could have won a spot.

Fernando Salas is back with the Mets following a visa issue. He pitched in the WBC, but there’s concern if got enough work.

THE OUTFIELD: Juan Lagares has a strained left oblique, but said he’s feeling better. That’s an injury that tends to linger, so the likely option is for him to open the season on the disabled list and use Michael Conforto as the center field back up.

If Conforto makes the Opening Day roster, I would hate to see him linger on the bench. He needs to get consistent at-bats and it won’t be coming off the bench, but will the Mets devise a playing rotation in the outfield with Curtis Granderson, Jay Bruce and Yoenis Cespedes? I’m not seeing it.

 

 

Mar 20

Mets’ Remaining Issues With Two Weeks To Go

It seems hard to believe, but it’s true … Opening Day for the Mets is two weeks from today. Fourteen days and a lot of things needing to be determined, beginning with the rotation.

Let’s take a quick look:

HARVEY: Big start today (AP)

HARVEY: Big start today (AP)

ROTATION: I wrote after his last start that perhaps the Mets should consider leaving the battered Matt Harvey back. They haven’t publicly discussed it, but if Harvey gets hammered today the question should be answered. Pitching coach Dan Warthen said Harvey likely would not be full strength until May, at least. And, with a lot of off days in April, it would be an optimum time to let Harvey get stronger and work on his mechanics.

Assuming Harvey is in the rotation, the fifth starter spot between Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman and Zack Wheeler is undecided. Leaving Wheeler behind would be the prudent option.

BULLPEN: The Mets won’t learn of Jeurys Familia’s suspension until the World Baseball Classic is over. The popular guess is 30 games, but you never know. Addison Reed hasn’t done well as the expected replacement. … Rafael Montero has pitched well, but others have not, like Erik Goeddel. … Fernando Salas just reported to camp following a visa issue. … We’re still waiting for Hansel Robles to show something. … A potential problem with the bullpen is that the starters won’t go long early, so there could be an exposure problem.

FIRST BASE: Jay Bruce as a potential backup hit a snag because he developed a sore hip when he started taking grounders. Could that be because he didn’t start practicing there in earnest until recently? It’s probably Wilmer Flores as the backup for now.

OUTFIELD ALIGNMENT: Michael Conforto has had a good spring, but there’s been no mention as to how – where and how much – he’ll be used. If Conforto and Brandon Nimmo will be on the Opening Day roster, there should be a rough playing rotation as to keep everybody sharp and nobody gets worn down. We haven’t seen a hint of that.

Fourteen days to go and it seems like that many unresolved issues.