Feb 24

No Guarantee Mets Would Have Gotten Nelson Cruz For Bargain Price

It is an oversimplification to suggest the New York Mets could have signed Nelson Cruz for the same $8 million the Orioles did, if not a little more. Especially when juxtaposed against the Chris Young signing for $7.25 million.

I was against the Young signing, but that had nothing to do with Cruz, whom I would have balked against because of his connection to PEDs and defensive liabilities.

The Mets signed Young prior to the Winter Meetings when the market was fresh. Cruz was signed after spring training had begun.

Don’t forget at the time the Mets were apprehensive about giving up a compensatory draft pick. They didn’t have to surrender a pick for Young.

The market has dwindled dramatically since they signed Young. GM Sandy Alderson, who initially suggested he might let things play out in the market, had no way of knowing Cruz would sign for what he did, especially when the early reports had him asking for $75 million over five years.

Signing a power-hitting outfielder was a primary need and Alderson rolled the dice with Young. His odds were more in his favor later with Curtis Granderson.

But, for Cruz, who would have guessed this?

Maybe had the Mets re-visited Cruz with a low-ball offer, he could have signed with them, but the feeling is it wouldn’t have been a good fit because of the PED issue.

And, had they inked both Young and Cruz to one-year deals, the odds are good they would have needed to shop again for outfielders next winter.

As for Cruz, this is the best thing that could happen to him because it affords him an opportunity to put up monster numbers in bandbox Camden Yards and try free agency against next year.

ON DECK: Collins wants players to reveal injuries.

Feb 22

Wrapping Up The Day: Matt Harvey Throws; Mets Re-Fi; Collins To Ease In Vets

Matt Harvey’s first throwing session and news of the New York Mets’ refinancing their debt incurred from the Ponzi ruling were today’s most significant developments from the Mets’ spring training camp in Port St. Lucie.

Harvey made 20 throws on flat ground from 60 feet Saturday morning and described his feelings as “awesome.’’

Harvey will continue to throw on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. He described it as part of a process and acknowledged he must resist the urge to throw harder.

In addition:

* The Mets’ application to refinance was accepted with the organization several weeks away from having to make a $250-million payment. The five-year loan was priced at Libor plus 3.25 percent.

* Saturday was the first day of full-squad workouts. John Lannan, Gonzalez Germen, Rafael Montero and Scott Rice were among the pitchers to throw live batting practice.

* Manager Terry Collins plans to “ease’’ his veterans into spring training games. Daniel Murphy, David Wright and Curtis Granderson aren’t expected to play the first week.

* Overall, Collins is pleased with the workouts. “I have never seen the drills done with more enthusiasm, with more energy without major mistakes than we have in the last six days. It’s incredible,’’ Collins said.

* Prospect Erik Goeddel will work as a reliever during spring training and the regular season, said general manager Sandy Alderson, whose reasoning is the Mets’ starting pitching depth in the minors.

* Alderson will delay the decision where Harvey will rehab this season. He prefers Port St. Lucie; Harvey wants New York. Since there’s no need to make a decision now, he’ll wait to later in camp.

* Alderson expressed no regrets in the Mets signing outfielder Chris Young and not waiting to sign Nelson Cruz, who just agreed to an $8-million, one-year contract with Baltimore. That’s $750-thousand more than they’ll pay Young.

 

Feb 22

Mets Re-Financing In Place

Outside a miraculous recovery by Matt Harvey, the New York Mets have the best possible news today. On the day of their first full squad workout, the Mets finalized their refinancing, reported The New York Post.

So, if Fred and Jeff Wilpon are spotted smiling on one of the fields in Port St. Lucie, you’ll know why.

The Wilpon family, stung in the Ponzi scandal, were five weeks from having to make a $250 million payment on an expiring loan. Had the loan been called, it is questionable whether the Mets could have come up with the money.

Reportedly, the Mets lost $10 million last season, but with their payroll to be under $100 million for a third straight year and Major League Baseball’s new television contract, they could turn a profit this season.

The new loan, which is for five years and headed by Bank of America, is for the Libor average plus 3.25 percent. According to the report, the Mets did not have to pay down their former loan to make this one happen.

The Mets, who are currently valued at $1 billion, still need to have Major League Baseball approve the deal, which will be a formality.

Irving Picard, who was assigned to recovering funds for victims in the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scandal, initially sued the Wilpons for $1 billion, which would have necessitated selling the Mets. However, the courts reduced that to $386 million.

The Mets’ financial restraints were loosened this winter with the signings of Curtis Granderson, Bartolo Colon and Chris Young.

While that was an encouraging sign, as is the re-financing, don’t expect a spending spree next winter and the team to return to the days of a $143 million payroll.

If the Mets are competitive this season with a $90 million payroll, they will likely increase spending in small increments.

ON DECK: I’ll have a notebook pertaining to the first full-squad workout.

 

 

Feb 21

Terry Collins Alludes To Outfield Roster Cuts

The New York Mets haven’t played an exhibition game yet and already manager Terry Collins is hinting at several roster cuts.

With a congested outfield, Collins suggested Matt den Dekker – arguably the best defensive outfielder in the organization – Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Andrew Brown and Cesar Puello beginning the year at Triple-A Las Vegas.

It is also conceivable Juan Lagares will open the season in the minor leagues. Collins is very high on den Dekker.

“One of the things we’re very lucky with, when you come into camp and you have the likes of the outfield we have right now, they’re so athletic. They can all run,’’ Collins told reporters today in Port St. Lucie. “Matt is in that [group]. He is still very, very highly thought of – a tremendous defender, as we know.

“One of the things you’ve seen in his career, he gets to a level and he may have a rough time in the beginning. And the next time he goes to that same level he advances. And we’re hoping the same thing occurs now, that he now knows what’s expected at the major-league level, what kind of pitching he’s going to see, what adjustments he has to make.

“I think Matt den Dekker is still a huge prospect here. It gives us an ample amount of insurance.’’

While Collins said den Dekker will need at-bats, the same applies for Lagares. Should Eric Young start over him, where will Lagares get his at-bats?

The Mets currently have three players competing for on outfield position. Curtis Granderson and Chris Young are givens, leaving Eric Young, Lagares and Lucas Duda for the other spot.

Should Lagares be optioned, Duda is not a viable outfield reserve and definitely can’t play center. That might force Collins to re-think Nieuwenhuis or Brown.

Feb 19

Judging Sandy Alderson’s Tenure With Mets

Sandy Alderson said he’d like to stay on as general manager of the New York Mets for another two or three years.

In judging Alderson’s first three years, we must first understand why he was hired, and it wasn’t to build a winning team – at least not initially.

Alderson might have had the Mets in the playoffs had he thrown good money after bad, as the franchise was doing since the end of the 2007 season when they bid against themselves to sign Johan Santana.

ALDERSON: How would you judge Alderson?

ALDERSON: How would you judge Alderson?

Alderson’s objective was to put the Mets in position to win by changing their economic structure, which meant first stripping the team of its cumbersome, unproductive contracts.

It began by getting out from under the contracts of Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo, which meant eating salary, but counteracting that by not bringing in more payroll.

Next Francisco Rodriguez had to go, which happened in a trade to Milwaukee. Then Alderson had to buy out Jason Bay and wait for Santana’s contract to expire.

With over $75 million off the books and the Wilpons getting a favorable ruling in the Madoff scandal, Alderson could slowly rebuild the Mets.

There are three ways to build a team: trades, free agency and the draft. Let’s look at how Alderson has fared in these categories.

TRADES:  Alderson has completed four significant trades with the Mets, beginning with sending Francisco Rodriguez to Milwaukee in 2011 for pitching prospects Adrian Rosario and Danny Herrera. Neither prospect has amounted to much, but the key was getting out from under Rodriguez’s contract, which would have been $17.5 million in 2012 or a $3.5 million buyout.

The Mets tired of Rodriguez’s high-wire act on the mound and explosive personality off the field, which included assaulting his fiancé and her father, the latter inside Citi Field.

Alderson’s second big trade was to obtain pitching prospect Zack Wheeler from San Francisco for Carlos Beltran, which saved the Mets an $18.5 million option on the outfielder.

Beltran remains a productive player, but Wheeler is a key to the Mets’ pitching foundation.

Next, Alderson sent 2012 Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey, whom the Mets wouldn’t be able to afford to re-sign, and catcher Josh Thole to Toronto for catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud, pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard and catcher John Buck.

Finally, after a productive first half of the 2013 season, Buck was traded to Pittsburgh for reliever Vic Black and second base prospect Dilson Herrera.

So, at the cost of three players whom the Mets would not, or did not, want to keep, they obtained Wheeler, d’Arnaud, Syndergaard, Black and Herrera, all of whom represent inexpensive building blocks.

On the negative side, Alderson has not been able to resolve the first base logjam by trading Ike Davis. There could still be time as reportedly Baltimore and Pittsburgh are still monitoring the Mets in the possibility of making a trade.

It also must be remembered it has been difficult for the Mets to trade because they want to keep their young pitching and have few other chips to deal.

FREE-AGENCY: Unquestionably, Alderson’s biggest decision was to bring back captain and centerpiece, All-Star third baseman David Wright to an eight-year, $138-million extension last winter.

His other key decision was to not bring back Jose Reyes, which was a good move in that it gave them the latitude to keep Wright. Also, Reyes is a speed player with a history of leg injuries making the likelihood of him breaking down very real.

Alderson also signed Byrd, which he parlayed into prospects, and outfielder Chris Young, which is not a popular decision.

He also spent this offseason on Curtis Granderson and Bartolo Colon. The outcome of those two remain to be seen.

Alderson receives criticism for the signings he did not make, such as Bronson Arroyo. Some of it is fair if one is looking at the short term. When looking at the long term it isn’t because it doesn’t take into account his initial plan, which was to restructure the Mets economically and then build them up.

However, signing reliever Frank Francisco to a two-year contract was a bust.

It can also be argued by offering Davis arbitration when they really don’t want him was a mistake. However, that can be erased if Davis is eventually traded.

DRAFTING: Matt Harvey, by the way, was drafted by Omar Minaya’s regime. It is too soon to make a call on prospects pitcher Rafael Montero, who could come up this season, outfielder Brandon Nimmo and catcher Kevin Plawkecki.

Mets Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon said the organization’s biggest weakness is a lack of position-player prospects in the minor leagues.

Conclusion: Alderson was hired not to make the Mets immediately competitive, but to put them in position to compete within four years. That timetable was pushed back because of Harvey’s injury.

His first priority was to strip the Mets of non-productive payroll, which he accomplished. Ownership likes him, so if he wants to stay he will stay.

ON DECK: The market remains open for Ike Davis.