Jan 02

Answers Mets Hope To Get This Season

The New York Mets have more than a few questions that could be answered after this season. How they are will determine the progress of their rebuilding phase, or if they have to start over again.

If these issues are addressed in the positive, next winter could be especially brutal. Sandy Alderson could survive, but it’s doubtful Terry Collins would be extended again.

Here are the players under the most scrutiny:

Matt Harvey: Any pitcher coming off elbow surgery is a concern, but we’re talking about the club’s marquee arm, one whom they are basing their future. If he proves healthy and has a good season, the Mets could entertain thoughts about signing him to a long-term contract to bypass his arbitration years. If he’s not healthy or is re-injured, how can the Mets go into next off-season assuming he’ll come back strong in 2016? Answer: They can’t.

WHEELER: Facing a big year. (AP)

WHEELER: Facing a big year. (AP)

Zack Wheeler: The Mets resisted trade overtures for him in the belief he’ll blossom into a star. That could happen if he learns to improve his control and reduce his pitch count. That would be the next step in his development. If this is a lackluster season and Noah Syndergaard shows something, they might listen, especially if they don’t fill their offensive holes or still have a question at shortstop.

Jon Niese: Often injured and ineffective, teams no longer clamor for him. If he halfway lives up to expectations perhaps that might enhance his trade value and it will be easier to move him. They might be able to do that at the trade deadline if he has a strong first half. If Niese is a bust this season, the Mets will be looking for another left-hander next winter.

Juan Lagares: He’s the Mets’ centerfielder based on a limited window last year. He needs to improve his on-base percentage if he’s to become their leadoff hitter. If he doesn’t make strides in that direction, the Mets could again be looking at a centerfielder and leadoff hitter. Ideally, they would like to fill both voids with the same player. They have a chance to do that with Lagares.

Curtis Granderson: Twenty homers won’t cut it. Another mediocre season will have the Mets looking again and staring at another non-productive long-term contract. Since the Mets aren’t prone to eat lousy contracts, there could be two more years of heavy strikeouts.

David Wright: He hasn’t hit over 25 homers or driven in at least 100 runs since 2010. For the most part, attribute injuries. If he’s healthy and produces mediocre-to-poor numbers, there will be even more grumbling about his contract. I’ve written Wright is the Mets’ most pressing question, even more than Harvey. A bounce-back season will answer a lot of questions.

Wilmer Flores: He enters spring training with the inside track at shortstop. The Mets eschewed several more expensive options the past two years in the hope Flores would answer this question on the cheap. If he doesn’t pan out this year, they just might be forced to pay in the free-agent market or deal one of their young pitchers.

 

Dec 30

Ten Storylines For Mets In 2014

It was an interesting year for your New York Mets. No playoffs and no .500 record as expected, but for the most part they played aggressive baseball. There was improvement.

The following are ten of the more important Mets’ story lines from the 2014 season:

1. The loss of Matt Harvey: Despite his distracting chirping about wanting to pitch in 2014, and where he wanted to rehab, the Mets held firm and kept him out for the season following elbow surgery. The Mets say his rehab went well and he will be ready for Opening Day. Harvey will work on an innings limit for 2015, and start the home opener.

2. The decline of David Wright: He was named captain and signed to a lucrative contract, but was injured again and only hit eight homers with 63 RBI. Wright last hit 20 homers in 2012 and drove in 100 runs in 2010. He last played in at least 150 games in 2010.

3. The emergence of Jacob deGrom: Nobody saw this coming as most of the preseason attention went to Zack Wheeler, but deGrom went 9-6 and was named NL Rookie of the Year. With Harvey, the three form the nucleus for a potentially solid rotation.

4. Failure to find a leadoff hitter: With Wright struggling, somebody had to be a consistent presence at the plate and it was Daniel Murphy. He was most effective hitting second, but there should have been some consideration to batting him first as for the second straight season the Mets failed to generate a leadoff hitter.

5. The inability to find a shortstop: There was to be a competition between Wilmer Flores and Ruben Tejada, but it never materialized. At the end of the season Flores did most of the playing. There was again the show this winter of searching for a shortstop, but nothing happened. Flores enters spring training as the frontrunner.

6. The emergence of Juan Lagares: Nobody can cover centerfield like Lagares, who even showed signs of becoming a base stealer. Now, if he could only cut his strikeouts and improve his on-base percentage the Mets might finally have a leadoff hitter.

7. They finally got a power hitter: Lucas Duda assumed the first base job full time after Ike Davis was traded to Pittsburgh and responded with 30 homers and 92 RBI. Amazingly, Duda took some heat for being too patient.

8. Jon Niese continued to struggle: A young, hard-throwing lefthander with a manageable contract made him alluring to other teams. Unfortunately, an injury history and string of mediocre seasons – only two double-digit victory years in his seven-year career – took away his appeal.

9. They filled an outfield hole: Michael Cuddyer was signed to a two-year contract to presumably play left field. The projection is he’ll bat fifth behind Duda.

10. They spent some money, but maybe not wisely: Curtis Granderson was signed to a four-year deal last winter, but coming off an injury in 2013, hit only 20 homers with 66 RBI, paltry production for $13 million. He had some success leading off and might get another shot if Lagares spits the bit.

Dec 26

David Wright Gets It

It was a simple gesture, but further proof David Wright gets it.

The son of a policeman, Wright knew what Jaden and Justin Ramos – the sons of slain NYPD police officer Rafael Ramos – would be feeling Christmas Eve. So, he called to invite them to spring training and to hang with the Mets this summer at Citi Field.

A police source told The Daily News: “You should have seen them — what a reaction. They were really smiling. It gave them a few minutes to smile and be excited.’’

Wright declined to talk to the newspaper about the phone call, which is also fitting.

There are hundreds of athletes in all sports who understand what they mean to people and just always know what to do. It is what makes them so special.

In no small part, this is why the Mets gave Wright that contract and named him captain. He is not only the face of the franchise, but arguably the most important position player in their history.

He’s always been one of the good guys.

Dec 14

Mets Could Be Better, But Still Have Concerns

Are the Mets better today than they were at the end of the season?

Even after addressing their need of right-handed hitting with the additions of Michael Cuddyer and John Mayberry Jr., the Mets still have pressing issues.

David Wright and Curtis Granderson are coming off subpar seasons, and the former was also injured last year. Another key Met coming off an injury is closer Bobby Parnell.

Catcher and shortstop are critical positions and the Mets don’t know what they have with Travis d’Arnaud and Wilmer Flores. There are reasons to be optimistic, but neither are givens. The same can be applied to center fielder Juan Lagares.

The Mets like to boast about their young starting pitching, but you must go under the assumption a player’s numbers can’t be projected to exceed his best season.

Given that, even with the return of Matt Harvey, you can’t say he’ll win more than nine games because he’s never done it. That also means no more than 13 victories for Jon Niese, 11 for Zack Wheeler and nine for Jacob deGrom.

That’s 42 victories for the four homegrown arms in the rotation. That must get better.

Actually, a lot of things have to get better.

Dec 06

Wondering Why Mets Opted For Cuddyer Over Morse

I don’t know if the Mets signed Michael Cuddyer just to appease David Wright. I suppose there’s some truth to that thought, but to what percentage?

Was Cuddyer the only right-handed option for the Mets? Was he their best option?

Yes, Cuddyer won the NL batting title two years ago, but for a team needing power, how much consideration did they give Michael Morse?

Morse, at 32, is three years younger. He averages 23 homers a season with a career .808 OPS and made $6 million last year. Cuddyer averages 21 homers with a career OPS and will be paid $8.5 million by the Mets in 2015.

Both can platoon with Lucas Duda at first base.

There’s not much difference in production, but for the cost conscious Mets you figure age and salary would be important.

There’s a lot that goes into signing a player. I wonder why they went in this direction.