Feb 16

Five Mets On The Hot Seat

We’re still a long way from Jonathon Niese’s first pitch of the 2014 season against Washington, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t already some New York Mets on the hot seat, broiling under the glare of expectations.

Every spring in every camp there are several players on a short-patience rope and the Mets are no exception. In my mind, there are five facing a make-or-break season, beginning with Niese:

GRANDERSON: Has pressure.

GRANDERSON: Has pressure.

Jonathon Niese: Will it ever happen for him? He was signed to a multi-year extension because he was young, left-handed and could throw hard. However, he’s never won more than 13 games in a season and has sustained a myriad of injuries, including shoulder problems last season. At 29, there’s still time, but could one of the young prospects prompt the Mets to shop him?

Ike Davis: No Mets “question list,’’ doesn’t have his name. It is last-chance time for the former hot prospect. After 32 homers in 2012, that’s the plateau the club is seeking. The Mets would take less, say 25, if his RBI production and on-base percentage were high and his strikeouts substantially cut. He either hits this year or he’s gone.

Ruben Tejada: The Mets toyed with signing Stephen Drew, but were sold on the potential of the younger and cheaper Tejada after his commitment at a Michigan fitness camp. The Mets are pointing to 2015 and Matt Harvey’s return to when they can realistically contend, and they won’t be able to do that with a hole at shortstop.

Curtis Granderson: Signed a four-year deal for big money in the hope of providing power in the outfield. I have two words: Jason Bay. Fans are smart enough to realize he won’t hit for the power he did at Yankee Stadium, but they won’t accept Bay-like numbers. Granderson represents the Mets’ promise  to improve and needs to live up to those expectations.

Chris Young: He’s probably gone after this season, but he’ll start the year with a bulls-eye on his back. With his recent numbers it is incomprehensible for him to get a $7.25 million contract. He must produce for his own peace of mind in shutting up the boos.

Jan 31

Sandy Alderson: More Work To Do

With pitchers and catchers scheduled to report in two weeks, the New York Mets aren’t finished adding to their spring training roster, said GM Sandy Alderson.

ALDERSON: Not done.

ALDERSON: Not done.

Speaking at the Wharton School of Business in Philadelphia this week, Alderson said he liked the direction the team is headed, defended his offseason spending, but insisted there’s more work to be done.

“We’re still looking for more players,’’ Alderson said. “The offseason develops over time in segments, and right now there are still a lot of players out there. The question with teams is: How much money do they have left and what are their needs?’’

Despite committing to $85 million in salaries this winter – Curtis Granderson, Bartolo Colon and Chris Young were the major signings – the Mets still have a myriad of issue.

First base, catching, shortstop, the outfield alignment, the batting order and rotation order will be determined from within, but the Mets’ primary need is the bullpen, which has been an issue since Alderson was hired.

What the Mets don’t know is whether Bobby Parnell, recovering from neck surgery, will be ready. If not Vic Black is first in line to assume the closer role, but that’s based more on his ability to throw 95 mph. than anything else.

The Mets will be looking to bolster their bullpen in the next two weeks, and during spring training as players are released from other teams. Even so, Alderson said he likes the direction the Mets are headed and his strategy is paying off.

“I like our team for a couple of reasons,’’ Alderson said. “The last three years, the strategy I have tried to articulate is threefold: acquire talent and develop talent, create more payroll flexibility – we had a lot of long-term contracts that were just not performing – and third, third, try to win as many games as you can without compromising one and two.

“Now we’ve turned a corner a little bit, and I’d say that now we want to win as many games as we can while being mindful of one and two.’’

Alderson did not define a successful season, but some in the Mets’ organization are privately saying the immediate goal is to finish .500 or better.

ON DECK: Later today, I’ll look at the Mets’ leadoff options.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

 

Jan 21

Lucas Duda Back In The Outfield Not A Good Idea

Most ideas born out of desperation don’t usually pan out, such as the New York Mets’ decision to play Lucas Duda in left field last season. The year before it was right field, which was a greater disaster.

Duda in the outfield this year makes even less sense, as general manager Sandy Alderson told ESPN was possible. Alderson said a decision would be made shortly prior to spring training on if Duda would play in the outfield, and how much time he would receive.

DUDA: Outfield not a good idea.

DUDA: Outfield not a good idea.

Sending Duda back to the outfield became a possibility with the Mets’ inability to trade Ike Davis, thereby creating the potential both could be on the Opening Day roster.

While not great, the Mets’ outfield without Duda is better than they had last year with Curtis Granderson, Chris Young, Eric Young and Juan Lagares.

Should Duda become the starting left fielder, Granderson would play right and Chris Young, because of his $7.25 million contract would play center.

That scenario would keep Eric Young’s speed on the bench and decrease Lagares’ playing time. Even should Duda come off the bench as a pinch-hitter, his presence limits their playing time and deprives the Mets of another roster spot.

So this leaves the Mets to choose between Duda’s powers potential, Eric Young’s speed and Lagares’ development.

What having Duda on the 25-man roster, and playing him in the outfield, does more than anything is call into question the sense of signing Chris Young as one less outfielder would make this more practical.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Dec 18

Harvey Excited About Mets’ New Additions

harvey

So far, Mets GM Sandy Alderson has gotten many of his players pumped up after shelling out $87 million for outfielders Chris Young, 30, and Curtis Granderson, 33, plus the addition of 41-year old starting pitcher Bartolo Colon. In the space of one week, Alderson added 44 years of baseball experience to the 25 man roster.

David Wright has already given the moves two thumbs up, and on Monday night, Mets ace Matt Harvey gave his vote of confidence.

“I like it,” Harvey said on the MSG Network Monday night at halftime of the Knicks’ 102-101 loss to the Wizards. “I talked to owner Jeff Wilpon, and he gave me a call after he signed both those guys. We’re really excited for Mets baseball.”

Harvey, who will miss the 2014 season due to Tommy John surgery, said his rehab has gone according to plan so far.

“Everything’s going really well,” he said. “Obviously, at this point, I wish I could be out there for Opening Day. I’ve come to the realization that’s not really possible. Rehab is going really well, and my arm feels extremely well. It’s a slow process, but everything’s going really well.”

“Bartolo’s going to have to hold it down for me while I’m gone,” he said.

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Dec 13

The Times, They Are A Changin’

jeff wilpon winter meetings

Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post

Maybe this really is a sign the Mets are back in the business of brandishing, pairing the Colon signing with Curtis Granderson and seemingly stating, for the first time in forever, Madoff’s $50 billion lie finally has stopped chiseling away at their finances and their foundation. The Wilpons and the Katz’s have been steadfast in their argument that Madoff didn’t kill their baseball team as much as you would believe, but the counter evidence of what has become of the Mets these last five years is compelling.

Remember, before Dec. 12, 2008, the Mets had taken on several varsity-level contracts — Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltran, Pedro Martinez, Johan Santana, Billy Wagner, even Paul Lo Duca — and bought out the arbitration of their young stars, Jose Reyes and David Wright. The spending didn’t yield a title. But it did produce the best three-year stretch in franchise history, and puts a lie to the theory that whenever the Mets spend money, it winds up in flames. Before Dec. 12, 2008, the Mets had learned to behave like the Yankees — and had learned to like it, truth be told.

Bob Klapisch of The Record

But Jeff Wilpon had a rough day in several of the local newspapers Wednesday, including The Record, as he was challenged to do more after signing Curtis Granderson, and not to punt on the 2014 season. By mid afternoon, the Mets decided to yield to Colon’s demand for a second year. Just like that, the team had its temporary replacement for Matt Harvey.

Of course, Colon is not Harvey; that’s an understatement. And we’ll never know for sure whether the stinging criticism had anything to do with Wilpon’s sudden willingness to stretch the budget. But Mets fans shouldn’t be concerned about the particulars, because Colon is a legitimate front-of-the-rotation presence, despite his risks.

David Lennon of Newsday

The Mets just changed the conversation.

It took close to $90 million, and yesterday’s sizable risk in the extra-large Bartolo Colon. But for the time being, we’re done ripping the Mets for not reaching into their pockets to improve the team. The Mets were the only team to go to four years for Granderson, and with Colon now on board, it’s probably safe to say that no other club was willing to do two. But that’s what we ultimately needed to see from the Wilpons — some signs that they weren’t mailing in 2014 because of the injury to Harvey.

At least the Mets are making us feel like they are back in business. Rather than just hearing about blueprints and a multiyear rebuilding plan, we’re seeing the actual remodeling effort going on, with the addition of impact players who should make a difference right away — not five years from now. Spending money isn’t the answer to everything. But it does stop all the chatter about not having any. For the Mets, that has value.

Thoughts from Joe D.

I beat the Wilpons up all the time, actually I kill them all the time… But to be fair, they are giving Sandy Alderson the opportunity to spend and transform the roster this offseason. Sandy is getting a chance to buy and not just sell. Vaccaro, Lennon and Klapisch do a nice job of conveying that. The Mets do seem to be back in business and regardless of what you think of the moves, just be happy that we can make moves like this again. LGM

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