Jan 31

Sandy Alderson: More Work To Do

With pitchers and catchers scheduled to report in two weeks, the New York Mets aren’t finished adding to their spring training roster, said GM Sandy Alderson.

ALDERSON: Not done.

ALDERSON: Not done.

Speaking at the Wharton School of Business in Philadelphia this week, Alderson said he liked the direction the team is headed, defended his offseason spending, but insisted there’s more work to be done.

“We’re still looking for more players,’’ Alderson said. “The offseason develops over time in segments, and right now there are still a lot of players out there. The question with teams is: How much money do they have left and what are their needs?’’

Despite committing to $85 million in salaries this winter – Curtis Granderson, Bartolo Colon and Chris Young were the major signings – the Mets still have a myriad of issue.

First base, catching, shortstop, the outfield alignment, the batting order and rotation order will be determined from within, but the Mets’ primary need is the bullpen, which has been an issue since Alderson was hired.

What the Mets don’t know is whether Bobby Parnell, recovering from neck surgery, will be ready. If not Vic Black is first in line to assume the closer role, but that’s based more on his ability to throw 95 mph. than anything else.

The Mets will be looking to bolster their bullpen in the next two weeks, and during spring training as players are released from other teams. Even so, Alderson said he likes the direction the Mets are headed and his strategy is paying off.

“I like our team for a couple of reasons,’’ Alderson said. “The last three years, the strategy I have tried to articulate is threefold: acquire talent and develop talent, create more payroll flexibility – we had a lot of long-term contracts that were just not performing – and third, third, try to win as many games as you can without compromising one and two.

“Now we’ve turned a corner a little bit, and I’d say that now we want to win as many games as we can while being mindful of one and two.’’

Alderson did not define a successful season, but some in the Mets’ organization are privately saying the immediate goal is to finish .500 or better.

ON DECK: Later today, I’ll look at the Mets’ leadoff options.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

 

Jan 30

What Would Define A Successful Season For The 2014 Mets

Some teams define a successful season by the pouring of champagne. The New York Mets are not one of them.

The Mets last tasted champagne in 2006, after beating the Dodgers in the NLCS. They last tasted the good stuff in 1986, and if a baseball hadn’t squirted between Bill Buckner’s legs, we’d have to back to 1969, the year man walked on the moon.

After five straight losing seasons, the Mets did enough adding this winter to warrant the thought this summer might be different.

It’s wishful thinking to think the Mets will play into October, but it isn’t premature to wonder what could define a successful season. After winning 74 games last year and finishing in third place, there’s room for improvement.

The Mets finished 22 games behind first-place Atlanta and 12 behind Washington, and it is unrealistic to believe they can make up those games.

However, it isn’t out of the question to think .500 can’t be reached. The additions of Curtis Granderson and Bartolo Colon – plus the anticipated improvement of Jon Niese, and dare I suggest, Ike Davis and Ruben Tejada – should be worth at least one more victory a month.

With the baseball season six months long, that’s six more victories. If the Mets could squeeze out one more win, that puts them at 81-81.

That’s plausible.

So, what’s it going to take for that to happen?

For one thing, Niese must win more than eight games and Zack Wheeler must continue to progress. They also can’t afford a setback from Colon. The Mets also need improvement from their bullpen, which was more than spotty last year. That begins with Vic Black adequately replacing closer Bobby Parnell.

Offensively, David Wright needs to approach the .300, 30-homer and 100-RBI levels expected of him. Granderson won’t hit 40 homers in Citi Field, but at least 25 shouldn’t be out of the question.

It’s folly to predict what Davis might provide, but then again, any improvement would be welcome. As for Chris Young, considering what he’s done the past few years, he falls into the Davis category of “anything is better than nothing.’’

Of course, slumps and injuries can’t be forecast. However, if most expectations are reached, I’m thinking .500 is possible, with 85 reachable in the best-case scenario.

It could happen.

Jan 27

How Mets Answered Off-Season Questions

The New York Mets faced a myriad of questions entering the off-season. Now, with spring training staring us in the face. let’s see how have they answered them.

REBUILDING THE ROTATION

With Matt Harvey lost for the season following Tommy John surgery, the Mets needed to add two starters because they had no assurances of help from their minor league system that includes Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom.

Bartolo Colon was signed to a two-year contract, theoretically to fill the void this season and in 2015 if there was a problem in Harvey’s rehab.

Within the past two weeks they signed John Lannan and Daisuke Matsuzaka, which should give them the promise of at least five innings from the fifth starter.

Colon is an upgrade over Aaron Harang, and if Matsuzaka pitches as he did in his final three starts last season, he will keep things in order until the prospects arrive.

Conclusion: They are better now than after the season, but not good enough to make them better than a .500 team without some help.

BOLSTERING THE BULLPEN

With Bobby Parnell recovering from neck surgery, the Mets’ Plan B is to make Vic Black the closer.

The Mets will bring back most of their 2013 bullpen, but there won’t be enough arms in camp to create widespread competition.

Conclusion: Things would be better if the Mets could depend on Parnell’s status, but the bullpen heading into spring training is no better than last year’s.

SETTLING ON A FIRST BASEMAN

Most Mets fans said the team should have done this last July and cut ties with Ike Davis. Unable to trade him – and initially showing signs of leaning toward Lucas Duda – it appears the Mets are back to square one by giving Davis another chance.

The Mets’ outward efforts to deal Davis only decreased his value. Duda doesn’t have much trade value, either. Neither does Wilmer Flores, who won’t be given a chance to compete for the first base job.

Conclusion: What was a season-long distraction lasted through the winter and will greet us in Port St. Lucie.

ADDRESSING SHORTSTOP

Acquiring a shortstop was a top priority during the winter, but the Mets were never in it for Jhonny Peralta and Stephen Drew is well out of their price range.

Prior to the Winter Meetings, GM Sandy Alderson suggested Ruben Tejada would get another chance. The Mets also brought back Omar Quintanilla as Tejada’s back-up.

Conclusion: Instead of upgrading, the Mets are reduced to hoping for Tejada to play better than he had ever been before.

ADDING POWER TO THE OUTFIELD

Curtis Granderson was signed to a four-year contract and Chris Young was given a one-year deal. Granderson is coming off an injury prone, non-productive year.

Granderson is young enough to give the Mets hope he can bounce back, although nobody expects him to duplicate his Yankee Stadium numbers at Citi Field.

Conversely, Young is several years removed from his best seasons. The Mets are hoping for lightning in a bottle from him.

Conclusion: A productive Granderson will upgrade the offense, improve the outfield and protect David Wright in the batting order. No guarantees, however.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jan 23

Would Have Been Interesting To See A Grady Sizemore Comeback With Mets

The Red Sox did something yesterday I wish the New York Mets had done, and something I suggested before. I realize I’m in the minority on this, but I wish they signed Grady Sizemore.

SIZEMORE: Would have been fun gamble.

SIZEMORE: Would have been fun gamble.

You read that correctly. For the bargain-basement price of $750,000 – with incentive clauses on games played and plate appearances that could reach $5 million – the Red Sox took a gamble on a former All-Star.

From 2005-2008, Sizemore averaged 27 homers and 81 RBI with the Indians and was on the cusp for becoming one of the game’s best players before his career hit an injury-plagued tailspin. Then, from 2009 on, he’s had six operations, including his left (throwing elbow), two hernias, two knee operations – one on each side – and his lower back.

He missed all of last season rehabbing his right knee and back.

That’s a lot of cutting and the odds are long on him returning to star status. If he doesn’t, the Red Sox would only be out $750,000, which in today’s baseball economy is chump change – even by Mets’ standards.

It would have been a low-risk, high-reward gamble for the Mets. Conversely, they’ll give Chris Young $7.25 million, which I still can’t get over.

The probability of Sizemore reaching the 27-81 plateaus is long, but the Mets would take – and be happy with – a lot less for fewer than a million. Plus, his reputation of a hard worker and gamer would be good examples for a young team, and you don’t think Juan Lagares can’t learn a thing or two about playing centerfield from Sizemore?

I always liked Sizemore and hate to see a promising career go down as his has done. But, I also like comeback stories and Sizemore would have been a good one. Again, I know I am in the minority on this, but I’m allowed to cheer for good stories and it would have been fun to see it happen at Citi Field.

ON DECK: Mets sign Duda. All arbitration players locked up.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jan 21

Lucas Duda Back In The Outfield Not A Good Idea

Most ideas born out of desperation don’t usually pan out, such as the New York Mets’ decision to play Lucas Duda in left field last season. The year before it was right field, which was a greater disaster.

Duda in the outfield this year makes even less sense, as general manager Sandy Alderson told ESPN was possible. Alderson said a decision would be made shortly prior to spring training on if Duda would play in the outfield, and how much time he would receive.

DUDA: Outfield not a good idea.

DUDA: Outfield not a good idea.

Sending Duda back to the outfield became a possibility with the Mets’ inability to trade Ike Davis, thereby creating the potential both could be on the Opening Day roster.

While not great, the Mets’ outfield without Duda is better than they had last year with Curtis Granderson, Chris Young, Eric Young and Juan Lagares.

Should Duda become the starting left fielder, Granderson would play right and Chris Young, because of his $7.25 million contract would play center.

That scenario would keep Eric Young’s speed on the bench and decrease Lagares’ playing time. Even should Duda come off the bench as a pinch-hitter, his presence limits their playing time and deprives the Mets of another roster spot.

So this leaves the Mets to choose between Duda’s powers potential, Eric Young’s speed and Lagares’ development.

What having Duda on the 25-man roster, and playing him in the outfield, does more than anything is call into question the sense of signing Chris Young as one less outfielder would make this more practical.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos