Nov 12

Dissecting The Cuddyer Signing

Michael Cuddyer said all the right things about coming to the New York Mets. He spoke of how the Mets were a team on the cusp; about playing with longtime friend David Wright; and the excitement of playing in New York.

For good measure, he mentioned how he imagined how a packed Citi Field could be when he referenced the 2013 All-Star Game.

Got you going, didn’t it?

Then he ruined the illusion by saying “it always isn’t about the money.’’

But, I’ve been covering this sport a long time, and you’ve been following the Mets a long time. What we both know, is that when it comes to the Mets, money is right there at the top. Money is always the key factor.

The Cuddyer signing tells us a lot about the Mets and their financial situation. It also raises a lot of questions, which I’ll attempt to answer:

Q: Why wouldn’t Cuddyer accept the Rockies’ $15.3 million qualifying offer and go the free-agent route again?

A: That’s his risk. He wanted two and the Rockies were offering one. There was no guarantee Cuddyer would get a second year from anyone. When he gave the Mets a deadline to give him two years or he’d take the qualifying offer, “it gave us pause,’’ said GM Sandy Alderson.

The Mets had things to consider, such as other free-agent outfield options, which would have cost more. Or, trade options, but they had few chips to play and are unwilling to include their young pitching. Or, going from within, which they didn’t have the confidence in doing. And, there was the matter of losing the draft pick, which they didn’t want to do.

The most palatable option was giving Cuddyer two years.

Q: The breakdown is the first year for $8.5 million and the second year for $12.5 million. What does that mean?

A: In giving up their first-round pick – the 15th overall selection – the Mets also save themselves $2.5 million. Given that, the Mets will have filled their outfield hole for $6 million this year, which is $1.25 less than they blew on Chris Young last year. They don’t get their pick, but that player is at least three years down the road anyway. A lot can change in that time. With the $2.5 million they save by not having the draft pick gives them a little more flexibility.

Q: Won’t the Mets feel a pinch in 2016 for the $12.5 million they’d pay Cuddyer?

A: They could, but not if they make the strides they expect. Their gamble is they’ll improve enough in 2015 and experience an attendance spike. That will pay in part for Cuddyer. Of course, that means they’ll have to win this year, or at least “play meaningful games in September.’’ But, if none of this happens by July 2016 and Cuddyer is productive, he shouldn’t be hard to trade.

Q: Was this done to appease Wright?

A: That probably factored into it, but I wouldn’t say that was their first priority.

Q: What does signing Cuddyer say about their bench and minor league system?

A: For one, is tells me they likely won’t bring back Eric Young. It also speaks to their diminishing confidence in Matt den Dekker and Kirk Nieuwenhuis as a fulltime player. The Mets stunted their development last year and that figures to be the same this year.

Q: The Mets kept saying they wanted power, but Cuddyer has hit only 80 homers over the past five years (16 average) and only ten in an injury shortened 2014. Does this fill that need?

A: No. Cuddyer isn’t strictly a pull hitter, which is just as well because the fences aren’t coming in next year. Presumably, he uses the whole field, which is the best way. Cuddyer has only one 30-homer season despite playing his career in the Coors Field and the Metrodome. He’s only had one 100-RBI season as well.

Q: Were there other options?

A: Sure, but nobody screamed out as a “must have’’ talent. Michael Morse, Ryan Ludwick, Nate Schierholtz, Nick Markakis and Josh Willingham were all available this fall, but would have either been too expensive; would stay with their original teams; or not graded as high as Cuddyer.

Q: Where will Cuddyer play?

A: Probably right field, with Curtis Granderson moving over to left field.

Q: Bottom line this for me: Does Cuddyer put the Mets over the top?

A: By no stretch of the imagination. The Mets have questions concerning shortstop; the offensive returns of Wright and Granderson; whether Lucas Duda can do it again; the development of Zack Wheeler and return from surgery by Matt Harvey. If all that happens and Cuddyer can return to his 2013 form when he won the NL batting title.

 

Nov 11

Boyhood Friends Wright And Cuddyer Now Teammates

As boyhood friends, it isn’t unusual for New York Mets third baseman David Wright to send a text or phone Michael Cuddyer this time of year.

“We’d mostly talk about our fantasy football teams,’’ Wright said by phone this afternoon.

CUDDYER: Fills outfield need.

CUDDYER: Fills outfield need.

However, one thing they’ve talked about since their teens growing up in Chesapeake, Virginia – playing together as major league teammates – is now no fantasy.

That became reality when the Mets signed the 35-year-old outfielder to a two-year, $21-million contract, thereby meeting their primary postseason objective to bring in a corner outfielder.

Also reality are the economics of the deal. The Colorado Rockies offered Cuddyer a $15.3 million qualifying offer, which he said he would have accepted had the Mets not agreed to give him two years by a 5 p.m., Monday deadline he gave them.

Cuddyer said this wasn’t about money, but it was about the years. The contract is backloaded with Cuddyer getting $8.5 million this season and $12.5 million for 2016. In signing Cuddyer, the Mets forfeit their first-round draft pick – the 15th overall selection – but that means they get to keep what they would have paid that pick, which is $2.5 million.

So, before we get all warm and fuzzy about the Wright-Cuddyer friendship, always remember this was a business deal. Their relationship was only part of the deal, not the entire driving force. Shortly after the season ended Wright reached out to Cuddyer and he kept phoning.

“I am pretty sure I annoyed him,’’ said Wright, an eighth grader when Cuddyer was a high school senior. “At first, it was a couple of times a week. Then, it was every day. Then, it was a couple of times a day.’’

His message was simple: The Mets are a team on the rise and New York was a great place to play.

Cuddyer, who played in the postseason seven times with Minnesota, said the Mets offered more than October potential.

“As hard as it is for some to believe, it’s not always about the money,’’ said Cuddyer. “And, this was one of those cases. I think just the excitement of being able to come to the East, come play for the Mets – that was the biggest attraction. You get to the point that I’m at in my career, that’s the thing that’s important: One, to win and wanting to be closer to home. Both of those issues were nailed in this signing, for me at least.’’

And, Cuddyer also nailed it for the Mets. He can play both corner outfield and infield positions. He’s more adept in right, but is willing to try left. Meanwhile, right fielder Curtis Granderson offered to move to left field.

Cuddyer hasn’t yet had that conversation with manager Terry Collins.

“I’ve played everywhere,” Cuddyer said. “The main goal for me is to win ballgames. So wherever Terry feels that I’ll be more beneficial to the club, whether it’s right field or left field, that’s fine with me.’’

A career .279 hitter who averages 21 homers a year, Cuddyer adds length to the Mets’ batting order. The 2013 NL batting leader figures to bat fifth, following Wright and Lucas Duda.

One word that describes Cuddyer is “solid.’’ He doesn’t give away many at-bats; he catches most balls he gets to; and knows what he’s doing on the bases.

Plus, said general manager Sandy Alderson, he’s a clubhouse presence, somebody who’ll make a positive impression with the younger players.

“He’s just an outstanding player, a terrific right-handed hitter,’’ Alderson said. “He’s going to give us a lot more balance in our lineup, a length in our lineup. He’s versatile defensively. He’s been in the postseason. He’s a former All-Star. There’s not a lot more I can say about Michael as a player.’’

 

Nov 02

Do Mets Regret Wright Contract?

While the news is encouraging regarding David Wright’s rehab program on his sprained left shoulder, the Mets must be wondering about his future and the eight-year, $138-million contract they gave him that could financially tie their hands through 2020.

Wright missed the last three weeks of the season and all reports say he’ll be ready for spring training. Wright’s rehab program ended Saturday and barring any setbacks he will avoid surgery and begin his regular offseason program.

WRIGHT: Do Mets regret contract? (Getty)

WRIGHT: Do Mets regret contract? (Getty)

Said Wright: “No setbacks, we’re moving forward. That’s all you can ask. I’m going to get checked out by the doctors. We’ll see how that goes and that will kind of determine what’s next as far as the plan moving towards next year.’’

Staying healthy has been a problem for Wright in recent seasons. In addition to last year, he missed 45 games with a hamstring strain in 2013, and in 2011 a stress fracture in his lower back limited him to 102 games.

Nobody doubts Wright’s effort, work ethic or competitive desire. They just don’t know if he can stay on the field.

The Mets are looking for power from Wright, whose best season was 2008 when he hit 33 homers with 124 RBI, 115 runs scored, 189 hits, 42 doubles and a .924 OPS. He hasn’t hit 30 homers, scored over 100 runs, hit as many doubles or had as high a OPS since. Only once since then did he drive in over 100 runs.

Just as important is he’s played in as many as 150 games twice since 2008.

The Mets signed Wright long-term because he’s the face of the franchise and what he means to the fan base as much as for his offensive potential. Considering the flack they took for letting Jose Reyes depart, they couldn’t afford to let Wright go.

However, he’s 31 and they have to be thinking if they regret this contract.

Oct 10

Neither Niese Nor Gee Will Bring A Bat; Not Even Together

I read several articles, both on blogs and in the mainstream media, debating whether the Mets should trade either Jon Niese or Dillon Gee in an attempt to add a power bat, preferably to play left field.

There’s a flaw here, namely in the belief either pitcher could bring a bat in return. That won’t happen as neither has a track record that would have another team salivating. Even if you packaged them both it wouldn’t be enough to get them a masher.

To get a slugger, the Mets would have to add considerably to the package and include one of their young arms. Niese’s trade value is limited and Gee’s isn’t any better. Getting a slugger would entail giving up much more, and even then there’s the matter of extending the contract of the hitter.

The Mets currently aren’t inclined to give up their young pitching and not willing to sign a hitter, whether it be a free agent or one included in a trade, to a long-term, contract in the $100 million range. That’s not their mindset, so subsequently don’t be surprised if next year’s team resembles the 2014 model.

The Mets’ current thinking is hoping for Matt Harvey’s return, Zack Wheeler’s development and a bounce-back year from David Wright.

Sep 10

Don’t Buy Into Thinking Wright Injury Could Pave Way For Murphy Trade

My first question stemming from the Mets’ shutting down David Wright for the remainder of the season is: What took them so long, especially considering his propensity for playing through pain and injury?

Seriously, Wright has had a sore left shoulder for weeks. He’s played through worse. Last night, Sandy Alderson said Wright “did what captains do,’’ and he “preserved.’’

MURPHY: Think he's staying. (AP)

MURPHY: Bet on him staying. (AP)

But, could the Mets have been more proactive? It’s easy to say so, but as unlikely as it seemed, the wildcard was still possible, they hadn’t had a winning season since 2008, so their thinking was to go with their best shot, that being Wright.

I won’t bury the Mets for sticking with Wright, but analyze where they are headed without him for the remainder of this season and the future, which some suggest are linked.

It has already been decided Daniel Murphy will replace Wright at third and Dilson Herrera coming off the bench and back to second. In theory, the Mets would be showcasing Murphy for a possible trade this winter.

What’s not to like about Murphy in the eyes of another team? He’s an All-Star; he’s worked hard to become an above average second-baseman; his natural position is third; he doesn’t make a lot of money; and he never stops hustling.

The problem other teams see in him is the same the Mets do, and that’s he doesn’t hit for power, especially at an infield corner position. Nine homers this year and 48 in just less than 3,000 career at-bats won’t have a contender drooling.

The Mets covet a power hitter, and Murphy won’t get them one by himself. The only way Murphy nets the Mets a slugger – especially a corner outfielder – is if he’s packaged with one of the young pitchers they covet.

Bottom line, unless the Mets ease up on their young pitching, I don’t see Murphy going anywhere this winter. That’s because they want to keep their pitching more than they desire a power hitter.