Feb 10

Mets Have No Significant Position Battles

For a team that hasn’t had a winning season since 2008, the New York Mets are in a unique situation of not having any position battles. There will be roster decisions, but every position has a body that barring injury, won’t change from now and Opening Day.

Currently the rotation is six deep, with the lone questions being whether Matt Harvey will be ready for the start of the season, and all indications are he will.

That leaves Dillon Gee. The Mets have been trying to trade him all winter, and most recently said they would take a minor leaguer. Gee could be in the rotation if Harvey isn’t ready, and barring a trade could possibly be optioned or used in long relief. Whatever happens, there is value to Gee.

For the first time in GM Sandy Alderson’s tenure, the bullpen isn’t a mess. Manager Terry Collins said Bobby Parnell is the closer, but he’s coming off elbow surgery and could miss the first month of the season. That means last year’s closer, Jenrry Mejia, will have the job again to start the season.

However, don’t expect anybody that wasn’t in the pen last year top to bully his way into the pen.

There is no position battle behind the plate with Travis d’Arnaud starting. The infield, from third to first, is set with David Wright, Wilmer Flores, Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda. So is the outfield, from left to right, of Curtis Granderson, Juan Lagares and Michael Cuddyer.

Sure, there will be decisions regarding the bench, although the likely candidates are already on the 40-man roster. There will also decisions regarding the batting order, notably the leadoff slot.

Sure, the Mets have questions as spring training approaches, but for the first time in a long time the eight position players have already been determined, as is the rotation and bullpen.

That gives them a sense of stability they haven’t always had and that’s a positive.

Jan 22

Mets Who Could Be Gone After This Year

As a team trying to reach the next level, the New York Mets have several players entering make-or-break seasons. If they don’t produce in 2015 they could find themselves gone next year.

The reasons for their potential departure range from age, to finances, to performance. Here’s who I am thinking needs to put up or shut up:

Bartolo Colon: At 41, Colon is entering the second season of a two-year contract. Despite working 200 innings last season, the Mets are trying to trade him. They certainly won’t bring him back for another $10 million. The best scenario is to find a taker at the trade deadline.

Jon Niese: All the reasons why Niese was attractive in the past – age, left-handed, reasonable contract – don’t matter much anymore because of his recent injury history and poor performance. Their best bet is for him to pitch well in the first half and draw trade interest.

Bobby Parnell: He’s coming off an injury and has never pitched to expectations. With Jenrry Mejia and Jeurys Familia showing promise, it could be time to cut the cord and move on. This guy had a million-dollar arm, but only recently showed an understanding about pitching. If he’s a bust this year, why would they bring him back?

Curtis Granderson: He has two more years after 2015, which could make him easier to trade. But, if he doesn’t show glimpses of substantial power who would take him? This much we know about the Mets – they will try to get something and won’t eat his contract.

Travis d’Arnaud: He showed some promise in 2014, but the Mets want more offensive production. I can see them moving on if he doesn’t hit this summer.

Daniel Murphy: Like I said when Murphy agreed to a 2015 contract, this year will be his last. Had the Mets wanted to keep him they would have signed him a while ago. Ideally, they’d like to get something in return, but if they don’t, they will let him walk.

Wilmer Flores: This is his chance. The Mets have been looking for a shortstop for a few years, but Flores goes in as the starter by default. They considered a few names this winter, but none seriously. If Flores doesn’t pan out, but their young pitching does, the Mets might be forced to pay up next winter.

 

Jan 17

Murphy A Goner After This Year

Barring something out of the blue, Daniel Murphy is entering his last contract with the Mets in agreeing to a one-year, $8 million deal. In doing so, they avoided arbitration. Murphy’s figure was $8.6 million while the Mets’ countered at $7.4 million.

If the Mets really wanted to keep Murphy, they would have done so by now. He’s a free agent after this year, so barring something unforeseen he’s gone. Then again, if they find a taker, he could be out of here by the trade deadline.

Murphy will end his major league career, probably in the American League where there’s a designated hitter, as a reliable and serviceable player who always hustles, and who’s shortcoming is he doesn’t have a lot of power.

He’s playing his fourth position with the Mets, an indication of the organization’s lack of position-player depth, and his willingness to be a team player.

In an era of self-centered players, Murphy is something of a throwback, and the Mets won’t necessarily be better off when he leaves. In fact, they could, and have, done a lot worse.

Normally, the Mets avoid arbitration and this winter is no different as they’ve already come to terms with Dillon Gee ($5.3 million), whom they want to trade, shortstop Ruben Tejada ($1.88) and Bobby Parnell ($3.7 million).

Who’s left are Lucas Duda (wants $4.7 million; offered $3.75 million) and Jenrry Mejia (wants $3 million; offered $2.1 million).

When you look at the numbers exchanged, there’s usually a million-plus difference, which says a lot about the organization. It wouldn’t be a bad guess that when these players enter their free-agent year, they’ll also soon be ex-Mets.

Dec 04

Tulowitzki Is Wishful Thinking

Unquestionably, a healthy Troy Tulowitzki makes the Mets a better team. I read something again today about the Mets dealing for him, but if you are a true fan of the team you know that’s not how they do business.

TULO: Just wishful thinking.

TULO: Just wishful thinking.

The last star the Mets traded for was Johan Santana, but they were closer to winning then than they are now. Plus, it is debatable how that trade worked out.

At 30, Tulowitzki is still in him prime and last year’s numbers of .340, 21 homers, 52 RBI, .432 on-base percentage and 1.035 OPS through 91 games before he was injured make a compelling argument for breaking the bank.

However, if you’re a true Mets fan – and I assume most of you are – then you also know “the bank,’’ is the franchise’s North Star. Tulowitzki is owed $129 million over the next seven seasons and to the Mets’ line of thinking, that number supersedes those at the plate.

And, we haven’t gotten to the part yet about the Rockies’ demands. Sorry, but Daniel Murphy and Dillon Gee – both of whom the Mets would love to trade because of their salaries, which combined are less than $13 million – won’t cut it. This isn’t talk-radio fantasy land when you give up nothing for a star.

At least two of those young arms the team is building around have to be included. There is also the possibility that to make this deal Tulowitzki’s contract would be modified. He has a clause that prohibits him being traded more than once, so, if the Rockies deal him the Mets would not be allowed if they believe the contract is a burden. At least, not without a cost.

A red flag is Tulowitzki’s injury history, which has prevented him from playing more than 140 games only once since 2009.

If the Mets were really on the cusp, then go for it. However, there are too many variables that scream this is not the right player at the right time. The Mets finally rid themselves of burdensome contracts and are making themselves competitive again.

This is too much of a gamble.

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.