Nov 10

Mets Sign Cuddyer to Two-Year Deal

Boy, do I feel like a dope. Several days after saying it couldn’t happen, the New York Mets today announced the club signed outfielder Michael Cuddyer to a two-year contract, $21.3 million contract.

It’s a good move because it adds consistency in the middle of the order. Cuddyer, 35, was given a $15.3 million qualifying offer. The Mets got him because they were willing to give him two years.

CUDDYER: Fills outfield need. (Sporting News)

CUDDYER: Fills outfield need. (Sporting News)

“Michael is a tremendous addition to the middle of our lineup,’’ Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson said in a statement released by the team. “He is a proven offensive threat who also brings versatility in the field with the ability to play multiple positions.’’

In signing Cuddyer, the Mets will give up the 15th overall draft pick.

Speaking from the GM meetings in Phoenix, assistant GM John Ricco told ESPN: “I don’t think it’s any secret that we’re looking to improve offensively, and there’s not a lot of options out there on the free-agent market or even in the trade market. Based on what we’ve learned, at least to this point, it’s going to be pretty pricey.

“We thought this was a way to clearly upgrade our team and our lineup. … [General manager] Sandy [Alderson] has talked about we’re looking to turn the corner here and start to compete in 2015. I think this is a message that we’re going to be aggressive. Right out of the box we had a guy we liked, and we went and got him.”

In doing so, they filled their need for a right-handed bat in right field. The signing also leaves Matt den Dekker and Kirk Nieuwenhuis on the bench.

Cuddyer is 35 and a two-time All-Star. His best year was in 2013 when he was NL batting champion (.331) with Colorado.

Cuddyer represents consistency and versatility as he can play the outfield, and first and third base. He might be a better right fielder than left, and it is possible Curtis Granderson could move to left.

He’s not the big bopper people might think, but averages 21 homers.

 

 

Nov 08

Maddon To Mets Had No Chance

MADDON: Wouldn't have become a Met.

MADDON: Wouldn’t have become a Met.

There are a lot of crazy things floating around this time of year. I heard this today and it made me laugh because there’s no chance it could have happened.

One report said the Mets could have gotten Joe Maddon as their manager after his decision to bolt the Tampa Bay Rays.

Maddon is a tremendous managerial talent, one of the best, and he would look great in the Mets dugout, but several variables combined to make that impossible.

First, they already have a manager in Terry Collins. Now, managers and coaches have been fired before while under contract, but the Mets hate the idea of paying a manager’s salary to two people at the same time.

More importantly, even had Maddon been available to them, as they wouldn’t have acted as quickly, or decisively, as the Cubs. Reportedly, Maddon was given a five-year, $25 million package, which would have been well out of their price range.

Maddon left the Rays because of their austerity program, evidenced by the departures of James Shields – who’ll likely leave Kansas City – and David Price. The Cubs’ payroll last year was $92 million, which isn’t in the stratosphere, but far more than the Rays’ $76 million.

The Cubs have shown a willingness to pursue free agents, something neither the Rays nor Mets are inclined to do.

The Mets have made steady progress over the past few years, and Collins deserves some credit. The expectations are high with the return of Matt Harvey, bounce-back seasons from David Wright and Curtis Granderson, and the continued development of Zack Wheeler and Jacob deGrom.

Given that, do they really want to start over with a new regime?

Maddon as a Met is a fun idea, but there are a lot of fun ideas this time of year. But, this one had no chance.

Nov 03

Will This Be Nieuwenhuis’ Last Chance?

Will it ever happen for Kirk Nieuwenhuis?

He’s had several chances in each of the last three years, but nothing more than 91 games or 314 plate appearances, which both came in 2012. Last year it was 61 and 130.

NIEUWENHUIS: Last chance?

NIEUWENHUIS: Last chance?

He’s never gone into the season as “the guy.’’ At 27, will he get the opportunity this year? As of now, the outfield consists of Curtis Granderson, Gold Glove candidate Juan Lagares and a left fielder to be named later.

The left fielder could be Nieuwenhuis, or Matt den Dekker or could come in a trade. He likely won’t be a free agent. Many consider den Dekker having the inside track.

Nieuwenhuis has speed and a good glove. He’s shown glimpses of what could be, but too often he fizzles and the window closes.

What he needs is the chance to stay in the line-up after the fizzle. That’s the only way the Mets will learn if they have something.

Sandy Alderson once told me the two things working against Nieuwenhuis is his on-base percentage (.315 for his career) and high propensity for striking out (169 in a career 552 plate appearances). He runs well enough to be a leadoff hitter, but doesn’t reach base enough.

Nieuwenhuis has a career 169-to-53 strikeouts-to-walks ratio, which won’t cut it as a full time player on the major league level.

He’s at the age where he won’t get many more chances. For him to start he’ll have to beat out den Dekker in spring training.

If not, it will be another year as a role player and possibly his last chance.

 

Oct 24

New Hitting Coach Long Can Help This Suggested Outfield

Let’s operate under the assumption, which isn’t hard to do, the New York Mets won’t acquire the long-ball hitting left fielder they covet. Given that, the Mets’ outfield – from left to right – should be Curtis Granderson, Juan Lagares and Matt den Dekker.

Lagares is a finalist for the NL Gold Glove in center field, along with Billy Hamilton and Denard Span. The award is determined by 75 percent input from managers and coaches and 25 percent by statistics.

LAGARES: Needs to hit.

LAGARES: Needs to hit.

Lagares proved this season he can field the position and steal a base, but he’s far from polished offensively, evidenced by a low on-base percentage and propensity for striking out. If he’s going to compete for the leadoff spot those two areas must be improved.

I would move Granderson from right to left – there’s your homer hitting left fielder – because it’s easier to play than right. You want a polished defender in right, which is den Dekker.

This should the full time opportunity he didn’t get last season because the Mets wasted their time with Chris Young. Yeah, I know it’s piling on.

All three could benefit from new hitting coach Kevin Long’s tutelage.

Granderson thrived under Long with the Yankees, hitting over 40 homers and driving in over 100 runs in 2011 and 2012. Unfortunately, he also struck out 169 and 195 times in 2011 and 2012, respectively.

Maybe Granderson will benefit with the closer fences in Citi Field, but if Long can get him to cut his strikeouts and use the whole field, he could live up to that contract. Granderson’s on-base percentages and strikeout rates were much better playing in spacious Comerica Park, giving the impression he was seduced by the Yankee Stadium bandbox.

As for Lagares, his 87-to-20 strikeouts-to-walks ratio is something he must improve because in this era teams can’t afford to carry an offensive liability no matter how good he is in the field.

Den Dekker showed he’s worthy of the opportunity based on his production over a limited 152 at-bats with a .250 average and .345 on-base percentage.

This is potentially a good outfield defensively, but if they prove they can hit, the Mets will be greatly improved.

Oct 11

Moving Fences In Not A Good Move

If we were playing one of those games where you match a word to an action, you might choose “embarrassing,’’ for the Mets’ decision to change the dimensions for the third time since Citi Field opened in 2009.

Three times in six years is a clear indication this team doesn’t have a grasp as to its desired identity.

When Citi Field opened, the Mets wanted to build on pitching, defense and speed. Even so, their first signing was Jason Bay, who turned into an $80 million bust.

When David Wright was injured, Bay floundered and Ike Davis failed to hit management moved in the fences. Bay and Davis are gone, Wright is still injured and last year’s signing Curtis Granderson came up with a mediocre year, they are moving the fences in again.

That seems counterproductive considering the Mets finally have some good, young pitching, and there’s the speedy Juan Lagares in center field. The Mets don’t have significant power outside of Lucas Duda, but there’s potential with Travis d’Arnaud.

The Mets have some speed, but traditionally lack patience and ability to hit in the clutch. Those two attributes are more important than pure power.

However, this doesn’t mean home runs can’t be hit in Citi Field. There were 130 homers hit there last season, of which 59 were hit by the Mets and 71 by the opposition.

Assuming a healthy Wright, a full season from Duda, and improvement from Granderson, d’Arnaud and Wilmer Flores, it is reasonable to expect that gap to close. And, the Mets are expecting Matt Harvey’s return and the continued development from Zack Wheeler and Jacob deGrom.

The opposition also gets to hit, so whatever advantage gained by the Mets’ offense is neutralized by what it takes from their pitching. Moving in the fences is designed to jack up the home run numbers, but in the end that’s not what gets a team into October.