Feb 14

Wilpon Said Mets Will Spend, But Doubts Are Raised

Fred Wilpon’s proclamation in Port St. Lucie yesterday the Mets are now out of debt and ready to jump into the free-agent market brought a skeptical response.

The feeling wasn’t  “oh boy, let’s go get Jacoby Ellsbury next year,’’ but rather “I’ll believe it when it see it.’’

Remember, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and not re-signing R.A. Dickey spoke volumes about immediately competing.

I never thought the Wilpons were cheap. I thought they didn’t always spend wisely and gave Omar Minaya almost carte blanche to bring in whoever he wanted.

The Wilpons once were spending over $140 million in payroll and meted out generous contracts to guys like Oliver Perez, Johan Santana, Luis Castillo, Jason Bay, Francisco Rodriguez, Billy Wagner, Tom Glavine and Pedro Martinez.

That’s not being cheap.

They also gave long-term contracts early in their careers to Jose Reyes and David Wright when they could have had them for much cheaper. That was good business.

Also, don’t forget lesser tier contracts to guys like Scott Schoeneweis, Moises Alou, Orlando Hernandez, Guillermo Mota and Julio Franco. That’s more misguided than cheap.

Wilpon’s name was on all those checks, so let’s dispense of the notion they aren’t willing to spend. Isn’t going after Michael Bourn some indication?

The Mets are committed to stocking their farm system, which is the right way to go. The minor leagues represent a two-pronged approach to building a franchise: 1) to develop the talent to play on the major league level, and 2) to have the trade chips to deal for proven talent.

The Mets have some good, young pitching with potential, but are thin on position player prospects. They don’t want to deal their pitching and have few major players of value to trade – they don’t want to part with Jon Niese or Ike Davis and can’t trade Wright now – so their primary route for immediate improvement is by the free-agent market.

Sandy Alderson was an austerity-driven general manager while with Oakland and San Diego, and his first two years with the Mets. If Wilpon is willing to spend, it will be interesting to see how Alderson will react.

I don’t expect him to abandon his method of evaluating players, but hope he’ll show some daring if there is a big-ticket player available. Curtis Granderson could be had next winter, but are all his homers – figure a decline moving out of Yankee Stadium – worth all his strikeouts? I don’t think Alderson would agree.

Ellsbury would be ideal for Citi Field, but won’t come cheaply.

But, that’s next year.

The first test to the believability of that statement will come at the end of spring training when players are released to create a new free-agent market. That’s a wave of available talent, and I would guess, there could be an outfielder or two that could start for the Mets. Nothing great, but better than what is there now.

There could also be a reliever or two.

The second test will be at the trade deadline if the Mets are competitive. Alderson waited too long yesterday in the hope the Mets’ bullpen would right itself. It didn’t happen and soon after the All-Star break the season began to spiral out of control. By the deadline it was clear the season was lost.

The first two tests are important because they will show the Mets’ true intentions as to fielding a competitive team.

Wilpon also said yesterday spending would in part be contingent on attendance. Attendance has steadily declined and the way the roster is presently constructed doesn’t inspire confidence.

Signing Wright was the first step, but there are so many more to take.

Feb 06

Mets Players Campaigning For Bourn

David Wright reached out to Michael Bourn and plugged the Mets. Last night, Ike Davis said he’d also like the Mets to bring Bourn to Flushing.

The Mets have done nothing this winter to improve their outfield, and while Bourn would not make them an elite team, he could make them competitive. At least moreso than an inexperienced Kirk Nieuwenhuis  and a possible platoon in center.

DAVIS: Wants Bourn

                          DAVIS: Wants Bourn

Bourn is a good defensive center fielder and a contact hitter. He won’t hit for power, but he will get on base for Wright and Davis. The latter said as much last night when speaking at the Thurman Munson Awards Dinner in Manhattan.

“As a guy that likes to drive in runners, I would love Bourn to be on the bases when I’m hitting just because how he changes the game,” Davis said. “We’re going to see more fastballs if he’s on the team, he’s definitely going to help out the second hole hitter, Davis and me, in every aspect of the game. Yeah, it would be great. He’s also an amazingly good defender out in center field.”

The biggest splash the Mets have made this winter was extending Wright’s contract and trading R.A. Dickey. GM Sandy Alderson has tweaked the bullpen, but the outfield lays barren. Bourn could at least give the impression the organization is interested in more than just a casino around Citi Field. Their current plan seems to be hoping for everybody to getting better.

Hoping is not a good strategy.

The Mets do not want to part with the 11th overall draft pick as compensation and that’s understandable.  The players don’t care about the pick because by the time that player reaches Citi Field they might be gone from the Mets.

By record, the Mets would have a higher pick, but Pittsburgh leapfrogged them because the Pirates were unable to sign their pick. It hardly seems fair the Mets should be penalized because the Pirates failed. That’s a decision that should be overturned.

If the draft pick weren’t such an issue, Bourn would be an improvement, but he’s certainly not worth a $100-million package as has been suggested. Two, three years at the most plus an option. Anything longer is just putting the Mets in the position of taking on another bad contract. Long-term burdensome contracts have held back the Mets and the last thing they need is another.

Davis believes the Mets are heading in the right direction, but you didn’t expect him to say anything else, did you?

“I think the signing of David means the Mets are getting more aggressive. Just shows that we’re not too far away and we are in the year, or the next year or two, are trying to put winning baseball on the field,” Davis said. “I’m excited David’s going to be here for a long time, hopefully I can join him, and hopefully we can change the culture around here a little bit.”

Davis is thinking two years down the road and that’s about right, that is if the Mets are willing to spend. They have no significant trade pieces and are trying to hold onto their prospects. That leaves the free-agent market as the immediate source for building.

So far, the Mets have gone on the cheap in free-agency in recent years. That must change.

 

Jan 21

Sandy Alderson’s Odd Sense Of Humor

A message to Sandy Alderson: Stop with the jokes and sign an outfielder.

Under normal circumstances, he might be funny, but Alderson’s sense of humor is getting a little thin. From joking about driving to spring training to his speech at the Baseball Writers’ Association of America when he cracked wise about the Mets’ outfield, Alderson’s humor strikes a nerve.

The other night he said: “A message to Mets fans: There’s been a lot of talk about our outfield. And I want you to know that I’m in serious discussions with several outfielders I met on the Internet. There’s one I really like. He says he played at Stanford.’’

A not-so-veiled reference to Manti Te’o, but not funny. Everybody is a comedian, but the Mets are a team looking at another losing season and are demonstrating an unwillingness to spend much, if anything, to change that conclusion.

I understand Alderson wants to lighten things up a bit, but the Mets are asking their dwindling fan base to spend a lot of money to come to Citi Field to see their team and they want something worth watching. With the joking, Alderson leaves the impression Mets fans’ concerns aren’t all that serious.

At least that would be the first thing that would come to mind is I were spending thousands to watch the Mets.

Jan 18

Santana Wants To Pitch In WBC

I understand Johan Santana’s desire to represent his native Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic, but that doesn’t make it a good idea. And, not because I’m not crazy about the whole WBC concept.

The Mets have been burned by players being injured in the WBC before – Oliver Perez – and who is to say the fragile Santana won’t come up lame?

Santana is currently on the WBC’s injury-disqualified list because he ended last year on the disabled list, not having pitched after Aug. 17 because of lower back problems. Even so, he wants to push this through.

Santana made his full complement of starts, 34, in 2008, his first season with the Mets, but hasn’t done so since. He didn’t pitch in 2011 following shoulder surgery and made only 21 starts (117 innings) last year.

For this, he has been paid over $100 million and will make $31 million this season (including a $5.5 million buyout for 2014).  For this, he won just 46 games for the Mets and only once game them at least 200 innings.

For Santana to be declared eligible the WBC must clear him physically and then be insured so the Mets aren’t stuck with the entire bill if he does get injured. Privately, Santana getting hurt in the WBC and the Mets not being stuck with his entire salary would be a plus.

SANTANA: Should stay away from WBC this spring.

I realize in today’s world this is an outdated thought, but considering all he has made and stands to make from the Mets, and considering a healthy Santana could make going to Citi Field a good thing this summer – if not for the remote trade possibility – I would have hoped Santana would show the Mets some loyalty.

They made Santana rich beyond his wildest dreams, but never pitched one playoff game for them.

Santana is a smart guy and knows the Mets won’t pick up his option for 2014, but one would hope he’d be smart enough not to risk anything in the WBC. Since he won’t be thinking he owes the Mets to be at his physical peak, if nothing else he should be thinking about staying healthy for somebody else in 2014.

After all, this is all about him.

Jan 14

What Would A Successful 2013 Look Like For Mets?

Here we are, a month away from spring training, and really last summer’s collapse doesn’t seem that far away.

The winter is for expectations, grandiose in some cities that fell short last year and tepid in others. In Flushing, what would a successful season look like?

On paper, it’s not even close, the Mets aren’t as good as they were when the season ended with them 14 games under .500. And, they were struggling to get that kind of record.

Let’s look at the progress they’ve made:

* Their Cy Young Award winning 20-game winner, R.A. Dickey was traded for prospects – one of which is coming off back and knee injuries, which aren’t good for a catcher – at least two years away.

* Another starter, Dillon Gee, is a health issue, as is their $25 million investment in Johan Santana. That makes Jon Niese, with a career-high 13 victories, their de facto ace.

* There have been no significant additions to a “Let’s-see-what-they-can-do’’ outfield. I guess it is better by the subtraction of Jason Bay, who’ll hit at least 20 homers for Seattle (Who can’t feel that?).

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