Jan 21

Wright Remains Mets’ Most Overriding Issue

Yesterday I examined the top ten issues facing the Mets with spring training five weeks away. It isn’t hard for me to pick out the player shouldering the most pressure.

The bullpen is the positional area of most concern, but individually the player remains David Wright. Somehow, last year the Mets withstood playing without him for over four months, but several things combined to make that possible, notably the ineffective Washington Nationals and acquisition of Yoenis Cespedes.

WRIGHT: We want to see that smile again. (AP)

WRIGHT: We want to see that smile again. (AP)

Will the Mets be as fortunate if Wright goes down this year?

Baseball-reference.com projects Wright to hit .275 in 2016 with nine homers and 37 RBI, which would be terrible news for the Mets. The scary part is based on Wright’s recent injury history I can envision that before I can him returning to 30-homer form.

Wright hasn’t hit 30 homers since 2008 and has only hit at least 20 twice since then. He has a combined 31 in his last three years, and only once since 2013 has he played in as many at 130 games. Including the 2009 season, he’s had as many as 500 at-bats only four times.

You can talk about OPS and WAR all you want, but all statistics are predicated on at-bats and Wright hasn’t had many in recent years. Look, readers of this blog know I am one of Wright’s biggest supporters, but I can’t ignore the facts he hasn’t been healthy lately.

He missed over four months last year with spinal stenosis, and that he even returned late in the season was remarkable. Considering the good feelings about his return, recovery and playing in the playoffs, it would be another devastating blow is he were to go down again.

The Mets did not add a right-handed hitting power bat during the winter, perhaps with the outside hope Wright would come back close to form. As of now, they won’t have Cespedes back and it could be a dangerous gamble if they are thinking they can make another at-the-wire trade.

Let’s face it, as long as Wright is here he’s the face of this franchise, but if he’s hurt again and doesn’t produce, that contract with five years and $87 million remaining will be an albatross.

Imagine how much better things will be if Wright plays in 130 games, hits at least 20 homers and drives in 80 runs. Could make for another fun year, and for me that’s why Wright is the Mets’ most overriding issue.

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Dec 14

Wright’s Visit To Doc Reminder Of Key Mets’ Issue

When third baseman David Wright checked in with Dr. Robert Watkins about his back today in Los Angeles – where he spent much of his summer – to come up with a plan on treating his spinal stenosis, it served as a reminder of an underlying issue that will stay with the Mets until he retires.

It should also serve as an emphasis of what they must continue to do this winter.

The acquisition of Neil Walker was a positive because he can back-up Wright if needed and it also allows Wilmer Flores to play some third, but that’s not enough. Consideration should be given to re-signing Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe, as both proved valuable this summer.

The bottom line is Wright’s health will always be an issue for the remainder of his career. They aren’t going to get Todd Frazier, but they need to pay attention to this issue.

 

Dec 10

Mets A Winter Meetings Winner

The Mets left Nashville this afternoon a better team that showed up Sunday night, even if they come home with a contract having Ben Zobrist‘s autograph.

CABRERA: Makes Mets better. (Getty)

CABRERA: Makes Mets better. (Getty)

The Mets not only upgraded up the middle defensively with second baseman Neil Walker (trade from Pittsburgh for Jon Niese) and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera (free agent signing from Tampa Bay), and in the process improved their bench and came away with a back-up for David Wright.

And, they did it at a minimal cost, $18.5 million in a two-year contract for Cabrera instead of the estimated $50 million they were going to pay Zobrist. The price of what Walker could make in arbitration and what Niese is to make ($9 million) is a wash.

The Mets were poor defensively with Daniel Murphy and Flores (a combined 26 errors) opposed to a combined 16 from Walker and Cabrera. However, defense is more than just errors, it is also positioning and range. For a team built on pitching, they improved in the field with no loss of production at the plate..

Flores will now fall into the role of right-handed hitting platoon with Walker; back-up shortstop; and fill-in for Wright at third.

The decision to sign Cabrera after tendering Ruben Tejada is not overkill because Flores fractured his ankle in winter ball and Tejada is still recovering from breaking his leg in the playoffs. We don’t know if they’ll be ready when spring training opens Feb. 17 (pitchers and catchers) and Feb. 24 (position players).

Assuming both are ready, they can spell Wright at third. Cabrera can do the same.

So, when you add it up, the Mets improved their up-the-middle defense, bench and found a contingency plan for Wright and will save an estimated $30 million.

I’d call it a win-win, leaving them to find a left-handed hitting platoon with Juan Lagares in center and bolstering the bullpen.

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Nov 30

Signing Zobrist Not A Given

The Mets want free-agent infielder Ben Zobrist, that much we know. However, wanting him doesn’t make signing him a given. Not by a long shot.

At 34, Zobrist wants a four-year deal at a reported $14-million a season. It isn’t so much the dollars, but the years, that have the Mets hitting the pause button. The Mets would figure to use Zobrist at second – with Wilmer Flores at shortstop, presumably – but can also play him at the corner outfield positions and as a back-up to David Wright at third.

Although the Mets say re-signing Daniel Murphy is a possibility, the odds on that are long. There are also reports the Mets don’t figure on trading for a shortstop, but could make a run at Asdrubal Cabrera. If they were to land Cabrera, Flores would play second base, which is where the Mets say he is at his best defensively.

The Mets also have designs on Dilson Herrera as their 2016 second baseman with Flores at shortstop.

With the Mets having several options other than Zobrist at second, and with numerous other needs, the likely course would be to use their resources on them and pass on Zobrist.

 

 

 

 

Nov 17

Collins Deserves Manager Of Year Award

The popular choice is Joe Maddon of the Cubs, but the right choice for NL Manager of the Year has to be the Mets’ Terry Collins. Considering all he went through this summer, and the preceding four years, how can it be anybody else?

Seriously, how can it be?

COLLINS: Deserves Manager of Year Award. (AP)

COLLINS: Deserves Manager of Year Award.

In normal seasons, Maddon is a great and easy choice, but the Cubs were consistently good this summer, and he is the popular, sexy pick because of the history of his team. But, what about Collins?

The Mets kicked away an 11-game winning streak to fall below .500. With David Wright out for over four months; Travis d’Arnaud also out for an extended period; there was a patchwork bullpen; and a team last in scoring in the NL at the trade deadline; and a young rotation, including Matt Harvey coming off Tommy John surgery, there were few that had the Mets finishing .500, much less reaching the World Series.

Yet, with their season crumbling and rumors Collins’ job was in jeopardy, he held his team together. Unlike other losing teams where players don’t hustle and point fingers, Collins’ players played hard for him, which is the ultimate sign a manager has their respect.

This award is voted on prior to the playoffs, so the Mets’ sweep of the Cubs can’t be considered. All too often, this is a popularity contest, which is why I can see Maddon getting this. But, the expectations of Collins’ Mets were low. He kept his team together and playing hard. He had the Mets overachieving, if there is such a thing.

Maddon and the Cardinals’ Mike Matheny also had outstanding years and normally would be deserving. But, this year, Collins deserves it most.