Dec 14

Mets Could Be Better, But Still Have Concerns

Are the Mets better today than they were at the end of the season?

Even after addressing their need of right-handed hitting with the additions of Michael Cuddyer and John Mayberry Jr., the Mets still have pressing issues.

David Wright and Curtis Granderson are coming off subpar seasons, and the former was also injured last year. Another key Met coming off an injury is closer Bobby Parnell.

Catcher and shortstop are critical positions and the Mets don’t know what they have with Travis d’Arnaud and Wilmer Flores. There are reasons to be optimistic, but neither are givens. The same can be applied to center fielder Juan Lagares.

The Mets like to boast about their young starting pitching, but you must go under the assumption a player’s numbers can’t be projected to exceed his best season.

Given that, even with the return of Matt Harvey, you can’t say he’ll win more than nine games because he’s never done it. That also means no more than 13 victories for Jon Niese, 11 for Zack Wheeler and nine for Jacob deGrom.

That’s 42 victories for the four homegrown arms in the rotation. That must get better.

Actually, a lot of things have to get better.

Dec 09

Examining Mets’ Trade Assets

I keep hearing the Mets are willing to trade and have the chips to do so. However, it is well known they aren’t willing to part with Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom or Noah Syndergaard.

So, what’s left to deal, and what is their trade value?

As the Winter Meetings progress, let’s examine their trade assets:

Jon Niese: The pros of being left-handed with a manageable salary have been negated by mediocrity and injuries. That the Mets have hung a “For Sale’’ sign on him further lowers his value.

Dillon Gee: Could have value, but more likely at the trade deadline. Mets’ obvious desire to deal him lowers return.

Bartolo Colon: Mets eager to trade him, also. They would have to eat part of his contract. Again, more likely to attract interest at July deadline.

Travis d’Arnaud: Nobody would trade for him outright as he’s still unproven.

Lucas Duda: Has value, but if he goes who will hit home runs?

Daniel Murphy: Haven’t the Mets been wanting to deal him for years? If somebody wants him, he’s available. But, don’t expect him to draw a significant return.

Wilmer Flores: What does it tell you that the Mets are still searching for a shortstop before he even gets a chance?

David Wright: With six years and $107 million remaining on his contract, plus a recent injury history, he’s not going anywhere.

Michael Cuddyer: They just signed him.

Juan Lagares: He could have trade value for a team wanting to build with speed, defense and youth. Oh, wait, isn’t that what the Mets want to do?

Curtis Granderson: His power is in decline and he has three years and $47 million left on his contract. Sure, the Mets would like to deal him. But, who would take on that contract and what could you get?

Jeurys Familia, Jenrry Mejia and Bobby Parnell: Three power arms in the bullpen would attract interest. However, Parnell is coming off an injury that hurts his value. But, haven’t the Mets been wanting to build a bullpen for four years now?

Dec 02

Look For Mets To Keep Tejada And Non-Tender Young

The Mets have until midnight today to decide whether to tender contracts to infielder Ruben Tejada and outfielder Eric Young. Speculation has the Mets keeping Tejada and cutting Young loose for economic and practical reasons.

The Mets are uncertain about shortstop but appear to be leaning to unproven Wilmer Flores. Given the high probability of not acquiring a “name’’ shortstop this winter, the Mets need a fallback if Flores doesn’t work out. And, at a projected $1.7 million, Tejada is an inexpensive option.

Meanwhile, Young, who’ll make over $2 million, won’t start because he can’t crack the outfield of Michael Cuddyer, Juan Lagares and Curtis Granderson. Young’s 30 stolen bases would be missed, but the Mets prefer the friendly contracts of Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Matt den Dekker.

So, unless something unforeseen happens the rest of the day, Tejada will stay and Young will go. Quite simple, really.

Nov 26

Potential Mets’ 2015 Batting Order

Let’s assume the Mets won’t make any significant additions at the Winter Meetings, and what we have now is what we’ll get Opening Day. Given that, here’s what I see as a potential batting order:

Juan Lagares, CF: In the absence of a legit leadoff hitter, the Mets would be making a gamble. Lagares has the speed and showed he can steal a base. He must improve his on-base percentage and cut his strikeouts.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Let’s begin with this notion: He won ‘t be traded. Murphy is patient at the plate and can hit to the opposite field. Those are important qualities for a No. 2 hitter.

David Wright, 3B: In theory, a team’s best hitter – the combination of average and power – bats third. The Mets are hoping for Wright to hit for more power after an injury-shortened 2014 season.

Lucas Duda, 1B: He has the potential to be the power bat the Mets have long needed. Last year, he hit 30 homers with 92 RBI. Of his 130 hits, 57 went for extra bases. He still strikes out too much, evidenced by his 135-69 strikeouts-to-walks ratio.

Michael Cuddyer, LF: Injuries limited him to only 49 games and 190 at-bats last season. However, he won the NL batting title in 2013 and hit 20 homers with a .389 on-base percentage. That player could give the Mets a potent middle-of-the-order.

Curtis Granderson, RF: He could hit fifth, but I’ll slot him sixth to separate the left-handed hitters between Cuddyer. It might be too much for him to hit 40 homers as he did with the Yankees, but 30 shouldn’t be out of the question. Isn’t that why they moved in the fences?

Travis d’Arnaud, C: He hit 13 homers in only 385 at-bats leading to expectations of possibly 20 over a full season (just 108 games in 2014). He’s still a work in progress, but the Mets are hopeful.

Wilmer Flores, SS: We won’t know of the optimum spot to hit Flores until he plays a full season – he only has 354 career at-bats. The Mets like his offensive potential, but it is premature to make projections. One thing for certain, his 3-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio must improve.

Pitcher’s spot.

Nov 25

Wright’s Comeback Is Mets’ Most Critical Question

Among the myriad of questions facing the New York Mets this question, I believe the most important is the status of David Wright.

A recent ESPN poll listed baseball’s top ten third basemen and Wright, based on his recent injury history and performance, wasn’t on the list and shouldn’t have been. Therein, is why he’s my most critical Mets’ question heading into the 2015.

WRIGHT: He needs to smile again. (AP)

WRIGHT: He needs to smile again. (AP)

The key focus on Wright is health. Only once on the past four years did he play in as many as 150 games. Last year, a bum left shoulder limited him to 134 games and hurt his performance in the field and at the plate.

As the face of the franchise, Wright was rewarded with an eight-year, $138-million contract that has the Mets committed to him through the 2020 season. He was signed with the hope he’d regain his All-Star form.

This isn’t about whether the Mets should have signed Wright, or whether they should have taken Jose Reyes instead. It is about the immediate situation, which is Wright’s status. He’s here and not going anywhere.

It must be understood Wright has been a star, but his most productive seasons when he was younger and healthier, but also when he was surrounded by supporting talent, notably Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado. Wright has always been an important element to the Mets’ success, but never the centerpiece bat.

This year will be more of the same. The main source of power will come from Lucas Duda followed by Curtis Granderson. If they meet expectations, a lot of pressure could come off Wright.

A seven-time All-Star, Wright figures to bat third and could be prevented with solid RBI opportunities if there’s a productive leadoff hitter and strong season from Daniel Murphy.

It can’t be underestimated how the upheaval at the top of the order, plus the lack of support behind him, coupled with his injuries and propensity for carrying the weight of the team on his shoulders contributed to him not driving in over 100 runs since 2010 or scoring over 100 runs since 2008.

Then again, every time Wright struggles resurfaces the questions stemming from the 2009 beaning by Matt Cain.

This is a critical year for Wright, who at 31, is at the crossroads of his career. Does his slide continue or can he recapture the stroke that made him an elite talent?

Wright as Wright can carry the Mets to the next level to potential playoff contending status. If not, and he struggles again, there will be the lingering questions about his contract, especially if he’s healthy and doesn’t produce.

There are six more years on that contract and could become an albatross.