May 03

Conforto Comparisons, Contract Speculation Premature

When Michael Conforto finished second to Bryce Harper for NL Player of the Month honors for April came the inevitable comparisons and with them predictable comments the Mets might be wise to consider signing him to a long-term contract.

That won’t happen anytime soon.

CONFORTO: Too soon to talk contract. (AP)

CONFORTO: Too soon to talk contract. (AP)

While the thought of securing Conforto is appealing, it’s not on the Mets’ priority list for a variety of reasons.

If the Mets sign a player to a long-term deal before declaring free-agency, they will be inclined to do so with Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Matt Harvey, although I still maintain the last one will eschew any early contract negotiations and wait until he’s on the market.

The Mets have the money to sign all four pitchers, plus Conforto, if they are inclined, but that’s not the way they do business. It’s early in all their careers and so much can happen, such as injuries and poor performance that could derail plans all together on long-term contracts.

Let’s not forget Tuesday night’s game against the Braves was the 80th of Conforto’s promising, yet still very young career. Conversely, Harper – a three-time All-Star – is in his fifth season and has played in 535 games. Putting the brakes on the comparison even further, Harper has 106 career homers while Conforto has 75 career hits.

It’s way too soon to compare Conforto to Harper or Mike Trout, or to a lot of people. Eighty games, people. That’s half a season.

I like Conforto. There’s so much about his game to like, including his potential. His career is off to a good start, but the reality of it is it’s way too soon to be talking about such things as long-term contracts.

Apr 22

Mets Wrap: Harvey Not Sharp, But Wins

The answer was an empathic NO, Matt Harvey did not find it. Regardless of how Friday night’s game would turn out, the main storyline for the Mets was going to be Harvey, and whether he could avoid hitting the wall that marked his three losses to start the season.

HARVEY: Still searching for answers. (Getty)

HARVEY: Still searching for answers. (Getty)

Harvey was far from sharp, but came away with his first victory, 6-3, over the Braves, whom you must remember aren’t the Braves of old who routinely tormented the Mets.

Harvey, backed by a pair of Curtis Granderson home runs, struggled but pitched well enough to temporarily take the collective fingers off the Mets’ off the panic button. Even so, Harvey was pushed and despite winning the Mets know it can’t keep going on like this for the pitcher who craves the moniker of “ace.”

Manager Terry Collins finally admitted Harvey’s light spring training workload, compounded by a bladder infection, has been a strong contributor to his career-high four-game losing streak (dating back to last year).

Harvey gave up two runs on seven hits and a walk with five strikeouts in five arduous innings in which he threw 101 pitches. For that many pitches, the Mets would want at least another two innings from Harvey. His primary problem was not keeping the ball down and his slider didn’t have the bite he must have to succeed.

Staked to a 4-0 lead in the second on Granderson’s grand slam homer, Harvey labored through a 33-pitch bottom of the inning to give back two of the runs.

METS GAME WRAP

Game: #15   Record: 8-7    Streak: W 1

 SUMMARY: Granderson’s two homers and five RBI carried Harvey to his first victory in a performance that can kindly be called “not a gem.”

 KEY MOMENT: Granderson’s slam.

 THUMBS UP: Yoenis Cespedes threw a runner out at the plate to end the fifth. … His RBI double in the seventh marked his seventh straight game with an extra-base hit. … Strong showings by relievers Antonio Bastardo and Addison Reed.

THUMBS DOWN: Harvey’s short start forced the Mets bullpen to log four more innings. … David Wright struck out two more times and already has 21. … Juan Lagares was doubled off second in the ninth when another run would have helped. … Jeurys Familia got the save, but wasn’t sharp. … Cespedes aggravated his leg injury on the double.

EXTRA INNINGS:  Jacob deGrom threw a successful bullpen session in Port St. Lucie Fla. He will rejoin the team Saturday and start Sunday. Collins said deGrom could be limited to 85 pitches. DeGrom last pitched April 8 and has been away from the team when his son, Jaxon, was born with medical complications. … Collins was a passenger in a taxi involved in a minor traffic accident Thursday. There were no injuries. … Pitching coach Dan Warthen is away from the team for his mother’s funeral. … The Braves haven’t announced Sunday’s starter. … The game was delayed by rain in the bottom of the eighth inning.

QUOTEBOOK: “Matt can be a little aloof at times.” – Keith Hernandez on Harvey after the pitcher seemingly walked away from a conversation between innings with catcher Travis d’Arnaud.

 BY THE NUMBERS: 4: Granderson became the fourth player to hit grand slams for both the Mets and Yankees, joining Robin Ventura, Darryl Strawberry and Carlos Beltran.

NEXT FOR METS: Steven Matz (1-1, 7.27 ERA) attempts an encore of last Sunday’s gem in Cleveland. He’ll go against Jhoulys Chacin (0-0, 2.38).

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Mar 05

Understanding Lack Of Urgency In Signing Pitchers

Mets GM Sandy Alderson said there haven’t been any talks with their young rotation for long-term contracts, but added that doesn’t mean there can’t be negotiations later in spring training. But, if it doesn’t happen this spring there shouldn’t be a cause for great concern.

DeGROM: It's just business (GETTY)

DeGROM: It’s just business (GETTY)

I’ve long liked the idea of the Mets signing their young pitchers to long-term contracts. My thinking is the price will eventually increase so it makes sense to lock them up early for the sake of cost certainty. It makes sense, but I can also understand why Alderson hasn’t been more aggressive in that area.

It starts with a sense of urgency, and frankly there is none. Matt Harvey won’t be a free agent until after the 2018 season. Jacob deGrom won’t be eligible until 2020, which is four years away, and Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz until 2021.

“I think that’s something that everyone needs to keep in mind,” Alderson told reporters. “There seems to be a fixation on some of our players and the brevity or length of their time with the Mets. I all of these cases, they’re going to be with us for a while. From that standpoint, is there urgency? From our standpoint, is there urgency?”

There’s time to do something and yes the price can increase. Conversely, there’s always the possibility of injuries and underperforming. That’s always the chance you take when you sign players to long-term contracts.

On the flip side, the Mets are taking a chance of alienating these pitchers if they continue to do things as they did with deGrom. Until a player becomes arbitration eligible, a team can assign a player his salary, which is what the Mets did when they issued him a $607,000 contract.

The conventional wisdom is the team holds the hammer early in a player’s career, and the athlete puts the screws to the team later on. If a team plays hardball all the time, it could come back to bite them.

For now, deGrom told reporters all is well with the team.

“That’s the business side of the game,” deGrom said. “That’s why I hired my agents. I feel like I have some of the best in the business. It was a business decision that we decided to make. We have great respect for the Mets and the system that they have, and I feel like I have a great relationship with them.

“As I’ve said before, I love playing here. And I want to be in this uniform for a long time. It was just a decision based on the business side of the game.”

It’s also the business side when the player takes it to the team in the arbitration and free-agent process.

Mar 31

Quit Screwing Around With Idea Of Trading Gee

You have to wonder what Dillon Gee was thinking yesterday during Mets owner Fred Wilpon’s closed-doors meeting.

How could he possibly get swayed away in any emotional thoughts when there are reports of the Mets still wanting to trade him? How could he possibly feel a part for what they are building if they are always trying to show him the door?

GEE: Keep him. (Getty)

GEE: Keep him. (Getty)

Gee won’t make waves; he doesn’t have that type of personality. He said all the right things Monday on SNY, saying he’s only concentrating on getting ready for the season regardless of his role.

Gee, despite limited experience in that capacity, was supposed to open the season in the bullpen prior to Zack Wheeler’s season-ending elbow injury. At the time, manager Terry Collins said he would replace Wheeler.

Then all of sudden enter Rafael Montero, and Collins began backtracking. You have to wonder, considering the talk about the manager’s relationship with the general manager, if Sandy Alderson didn’t have a finger in all this.

Just wondering.

Now, we’re hearing again about Gee being shopped. Such talk won’t dissipate in the wake of Montero throwing six scoreless innings Monday. (Never mind Gee threw seven scoreless Sunday).

Gee has a 40-34 record with a 3.91 ERA in 106 appearances with the Mets. He’s shown an ability to pitch with composure and eat innings in big games. Conversely, the 24-year-old Montero has a big upside, but we don’t know what he’ll do if given the ball every fifth game.

For that, matter we don’t know what Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz could do.

Sure, they are banking on their young pitching and there’s nothing wrong with that optimism. However, they can’t operate under the assumption any of those three will immediately give the Mets what Gee has proven to give.

If Alderson is the genius he’s been portrayed to be, he should know a team could never have enough pitching. In Alderson’s tenure with the Mets, he’s lost Matt Harvey, Johan Santana, Wheeler, Gee (last year) and Jon Niese at various times. Isn’t that enough of a clue?

Alderson is telling us the Mets will be competitive this year. Yet, he’s willing to go with an unproven as a fifth starter this year, and this despite also knowing they won’t have Bartolo Colon next season and Wheeler until at least June.

So, what’s this about trading Gee? Unless they are blown away – and they won’t be – it would be incredibly stupid to trade him.

And, we don’t need any more stupid things.

ON DECK:  Mets Today: What’s happening today.

Mar 25

Yankees In Better Position Than Mets To Make Playoffs Sooner

The Mets beat the Yankees again Wednesday, which undoubtedly will lead to a myriad of columns in tomorrow’s papers stating New York City is up for grabs and the Mets are in better position to win sooner.

Easy does it folks.

METS: Wishing and hoping.

METS: Wishing and hoping.

The Mets’ two victories this spring over their crosstown rivals – in light of many bookmakers having the teams ranked even heading into the season – have people thinking the Yankees are ripe for the taking. While each team has issues – starting with pitching as is always the case – which team is better equipped to overcome their flaws?

Operating under the assumption the Mets are potentially deeper with prospects Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz, plus the potential of Rafael Montero, the edge would seem to be in Flushing. This is even with the Mets losing Zack Wheeler for the season. As of now, the Mets have their rotation set, while the Yankees are piecing together their back end.

Closer Bobby Parnell will open the season on the disabled list for the Mets, who have Jenrry Mejia and Jeurys Familia. Conversely, Yankees manager Joe Girardi isn’t ready to name his closer. The Mets have a closing edge, but their bridge to the end isn’t good, especially lacking a lefty specialist.

The Mets have the greater potential to overcome their pitching issues, but the Yankees have the edge at catcher, the outfield and infield.

I give the Yankees the edge in the outfield because the Mets are weaker in the corners. The Yankees have the greater offensive potential in the outfield, especially if Carlos Beltran is healthy. As good a glove as Juan Lagares is, offensively he’s no match for Jacoby Ellsbury.

I’d give David Wright the edge over Chase Headley at third, but first baseman Lucas Duda needs to do it again to consider putting him on a par with Mark Teixeira, even if he is coming off an injury. At second, Daniel Murphy has a better bat than the Yankees’ Stephen Drew, but the latter is better defensively. However, Didi Gregorius is better on both ends than shortstop Wilmer Flores.

However, despite the Mets’ supposed pitching edge, the Yankees are in overall better position to reach the playoffs sooner based on their division and pedigree.

There’s no power in the AL East comparable to what the Mets face in their division with the Nationals. However, how the Yankees are dealing with the Alex Rodriguez scenario shows the different mentality of the two franchises.

With a salary of $21 million earmarked for Rodriguez in 2015, most teams would not sink another $52 million in a package for Headley, including $13 million this season. However, coming off a one-year suspension for PED usage and multiple hip surgeries, the Yankees weren’t willing to take a “wait-and-see’’ stance with Rodriguez.

Conversely, could you see the Mets taking the same approach if they were undecided about adding a replacement for an injured player? We are all familiar with the questions the Mets faced in the offseason, but all they did was add Michael Cuddyer. Excuse me while I catch my breath.

Alderson entered the offseason with concerns at catcher, shortstop, in the bullpen and in the outfield. They still have them.

There’s no comparison in the team’s spending habits, but if you need another reminder, consider the Mets will delay bringing up Matz and Syndergaard to push back their free-agent eligibility a year – and that’s five years away.

That is the difference between Yankees GM Brian Cashman and his Mets’ counterpart in Sandy Alderson, and by extension, the respective ownership groups.

The AL East is more balanced than the NL East, and if the Yankees are in position in the middle of the season to make a move there’s no doubt Cashman won’t be afraid to pull the trigger. Meanwhile, if the Mets were in a similar situation, I have little confidence in Alderson to make a move, even if the Wilpons gave him the green light.

The Yankees finished out of the money last year, but were 84-78. The Mets had their sixth straight losing season in 2014.

The Mets might have the slight pitching edge now, but the Yankees would be more aggressive in overcoming it and filling any other voids.

I would bet on them playing in October before the Mets.