Jan 04

Wondering How Mets Will Use Flores

One Met I am curious to see how manager Terry Collins uses this year is Wilmer Flores. Collins has always run hot-and-cold with his usage of Flores, which probably stems from GM Sandy Alderson’s public knocks of the player he unsuccessfully tried to trade in 2015.

FLORES: Needs to play. (AP)

FLORES: Needs to play. (AP)

Frankly, Flores has never gotten an opportunity to play full time, and it won’t come this year. However, there is a way to get at least 500 at-bats and not greatly infringe on the playing time of Lucas Duda, Neil Walker, Asdrubal Cabrera and David Wright/Jose Reyes.

The solution is simple and stems from Flores’ best attribute – other than hitting against left-handed pitching – and that’s his versatility.

He would play first one day, second the next, shortstop the third game and third base the fourth.

Doing this requires discipline on Collins’ part, a trait he has not exhibited. If Collins were to pull this off it will accomplish the following: 1) give Flores more and consistent at-bats, and 2) provide rest for the Mets’ older and injury-prone infield.

It will be well worth it to give Walker and Wright regimented rest, and it wouldn’t hurt for Cabrera and Duda, either.

The bottom line is the projected 2017 Mets’ infield could be gone after this season and they must find out what Flores can do.

Dec 30

Projecting Mets’ Shopping For Next Winter

Other than extending Yoenis Cespedes, the Mets have been relatively inactive this winter. Could it be they are preparing for next offseason? That’s not a stretch when you consider the potential holes in next winter’s roster. General manager Sandy Alderson should be busy – or he’d better be.

Let’s assume for a moment their young pitching staff gets through the 2017 season healthy and productive. That should alleviate that issue, but here are the others:

CONFORTO: Where will he play?  (Getty)

CONFORTO: Where will he play? (Getty)

CATCHER: If Travis d’Arnaud doesn’t take the next step, it’s hard to imagine they’ll bring back Rene Rivera for another year. The Mets are saying they’ll give d’Arnaud another chance to prove his worth. If not, they’ll have to look for help behind the plate. Their top catching prospect, Tomas Nido, is still at least two years away.

FIRST BASE: They have Lucas Duda for another year, but they are still making noise of experimenting with David Wright and Michael Conforto. Either would be a gamble. If Wright is healthy, the outfield glut might make Conforto the pick. However, what they are really hoping for is Duda to hold the spot until Dominic Smith is ready.

SECOND BASE: Neil Walker signed for one year, so he’ll be another issue. If they re-sign him again, it will be costly, perhaps at least $50 million over three years. Of course, there’s Wilmer Flores, but why are they so reluctant to give him a real chance?

SHORTSTOP: Asdrubal Cabrera‘s contract will be over after this season, but the Mets have two prospects in Amed Rosario and Gavin Cecchini. How much time will they see in 2017 and will it be enough to get them ready for 2018?

THIRD BASE: Wright, of course, will be a question every season. The Mets’ top-rated third base prospect, Jhoan Urena, will still be a year or two away. Will Jose Reyes show enough this summer to warrant an extension?

OUTFIELD: It’s complicated now after extending Cespedes. Presumably, he’ll play left, which means Conforto needs to find a place to play. Center field would seem to be the place, but the Mets want him to share the spot with Curtis Granderson. If they can’t trade him, Jay Bruce could share right field with him. Whatever happens, we have to figure both Bruce and Granderson will be gone after this season, so that should ease the logjam. However, the way things project, playing time could be sparse for both Conforto and Juan Lagares, which might wave a red flag.

BULLPEN: There hasn’t been an offseason in recent memory where the bullpen wasn’t an issue. Figuring Addison Reed pitches lights out in the closer role while Jeurys Familia presumably serves a suspension, he’ll be worthy of a raise. Should Familia pitch well again, he’ll get more money. As usual, the Mets will have to look for role pitchers.

Dec 13

Wright Deserves Opportunity To Call Future

Last year at this time, Mets GM Sandy Alderson projected 130 games for third baseman David Wright. Prior to the Winter Meetings, Alderson again said Wright was his third baseman, but failed to put a number on the games he thought he might play.

WRIGHT: What's he thinking? (AP)

WRIGHT: What’s he thinking? (AP)

That’s just as well considering Wright played 37 games last year and 38 in 2015. Wright has been seeing his doctor in California and receiving treatment. The Mets are saying he should be ready by Opening Day. Let’s hope so, but there are no guarantees. None. There never is when it comes to health.

Of course, I want him to return full strength, but we must realistically accept that might not happen and simply hope for the best. He deserves the opportunity of testing his back and drawing his own conclusions.

I don’t know what will happen, but believe Wright has been too good a player, and too good an ambassador to the Mets and the sport not to get the chance to call the shots on his future. Of course, he’ll get plenty of advice from his doctors; his wife, Molly; and the Mets from the Wilpons to Alderson and maybe manager Terry Collins. He might even call some of this former and current teammates to find out what they are thinking.

He’ll get plenty of advice from the press but none from me because I’m in the camp believing he accomplished enough to be given the chance to plot out his departure from the game on his own terms.

Wright, who’ll be 34 one week from today, has already earned $125 million in his 12-year career, and since he’s not reckless with his behavior, the presumption is he has enough to live on comfortably if not lavishly for the rest of his life. He’s signed through 2020 and will make $67 million through then.

The only thing Wright wants from the game is the game itself. It’s not about money, but determining his future and continuing to compete. I believe when Wright gets to spring training he’ll know enough about how he feels and what he can do. I can’t imagine he’ll force the Mets to put him on the Opening Day roster if he’s not physically able.

Unlike last season, the Mets are hedging their bets by holding onto Wilmer Flores and extending Jose Reyes. It would be terrific to trade for Todd Frazier. No trades are imminent on anything involving the Mets, but maybe something could happen in July. Hopefully, the season progresses to where they are in it by then and the trade deadline is meaningful.

Wright pressed the envelope with his health in the past, but the thinking is he learned and if he can’t play he’ll come to that conclusion gracefully. Numbers never meant anything to him, so I can’t imagine he’ll hang on to pad his stats.

Behind the scenes, I’m sure the Mets are talking to Wright about what he’s thinking and how he’s feeling, but so far there hasn’t been any pushing and that’s a good thing. He deserves to do this without any pressure from them.

The only pressure he’s getting is coming from within and that’s more than enough.

Nov 23

Alderson’s Dilemma: Cespedes Now Or Pitching Later?

The New York Post reported what I speculated for weeks, and that’s Yoenis Cespedes wanting a five-year contract. The dollar figure is north of $100 million, likely in the neighborhood of $120 million.

SYNDERGAARD: Paying him or Cespedes. (FOX)

SYNDERGAARD: Paying him or Cespedes. (FOX)

That’s a lot of money, and with his reputation of offensive inconsistency – too many strikeouts against his home runs and RBI – and on-again-off-again hustling, that’s too much.

Also, he showed signs of physically breaking down last year by playing in only 132 games. You might say 2016 was a fluke, but think about his durability four or five years from now.

That brings us to the five years, figuring the Mets could be paying Cespedes close to $30 million for the last two years when he’s 35 and 36 and possibly not playing in more than 100 games in those seasons.

Considering they’ll also be on the hook for the remainder of David Wright’s contract, not to mention any long-term deals they might have for their young pitching. What do you want in five years: a fading Cespedes or Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard or Steven Matz locked up? You can throw in Matt Harvey if you want, but I’m still banking on him bolting when he’s a free agent in two years.

That’s the dilemma GM Sandy Alderson is facing: Does he go in deep for Cespedes now or save it for those young, powerful arms?

Frankly, since there’s usually a bat or two in the free-agent market every winter, it’s really a no-brainer.

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Aug 31

Walker’s Season Likely Over; What Of Career With Mets?

UPDATED: Walker facing surgery.

Before leaving the podium, Mets manager Terry Collins dropped the other shoe. After all, they wouldn’t be the Mets if they didn’t encore good news with bad. This time, it was the sobering news Neil Walker was facing having season-ending back surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck.

“This is a big disappointment,” said a dejected Collins. “He’s had a big year for us.”

The announcement came moments after Kelly Johnson‘s three-run double in the eighth inning proved the difference in the Mets’ 5-2 victory over Miami. The other two runs came on Wilmer Flores‘ two-run homer. Ironically, Johnson and Flores figure to get the lion’s share of the time at second base with Walker gone.

WALKER: Status unknown. (AP)

WALKER: Facing surgery. (AP)

With the victory, the Mets have won nine of their last 11 games to climb back into the wild-card race. They are in it, also in large part, because of what Walker gave them in April with nine homers and 19 RBI and his hot streak in early August.

In April, there were numerous reports about the need to bring Walker back for 2017, because with Yoenis Cespedes expected to opt out, the Mets couldn’t afford to lose both.

With Walker’s season over, one must wonder if the same can be said of his Mets’ career. Walker can leave as a free agent this winter, but the injury takes away whatever leverage he had because a bad back represents a terrible credit report.

As good as Walker played, perhaps an even longer-lasting impression is David Wright. Looking at how long Wright struggled might have been a deciding factor in Walker’s decision. After all, having surgery now might enhance his chances of playing next season considering a six-month recovery time.

Somebody will sign Walker, but it will likely be a one-year deal with incentives based on games played. Considering what they’ve gone through with Wright, I’m not sure they’ll go in that direction with Walker.

Walker was having a tremendous season, hitting .282 with 23 homers and 55 RBI. In 23 games since July 27, Walker was batting .440 with seven homers, 15 RBI and 19 runs scored. That’s a significant loss for a team in a pennant race.

For the short term, the Mets are in decent position at second base with Flores and Johnson.

When Daniel Murphy left, there was speculation Flores could inherit second base, but that notion was quickly dashed when the Mets signed Walker. Then, when Wright went down, Flores was to play third, but that changed when Jose Reyes was signed.

Now, with Walker gone, Flores might finally be getting his chance.

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