Nov 04

How Mets Compare To Cubs

After 108 years, the Chicago Cubs finally won their World Series. The curses are over, so perhaps they can do the right thing and invite Steve Bartman to throw out the first pitch on Opening Day 2017.

It would be a classy gesture, akin to the Red Sox making up with Bill Buckner – who, by the way – felt the curses of both the Red Sox and Cubs.

REED: A priority. (AP)

                    REED: A priority. (AP)

I doubt it would happen, but I always root for the good story. Meanwhile, our Mets have a title drought of our own – 30 long years.

The Cubs won 103 games this summer and the Mets won 87, but is 16 games the real separation between the two teams? The Mets can’t go back to their four-game sweep of the Cubs in last year’s NLCS or a sweep of them this summer at Citi Field.

The Cubs roared past the Mets, and here’s a position-by-position comparison between the franchises:

FRONT OFFICE: Theo Epstein had a plan when he took over in 2012, and it was only four years before he lead a parade in Chicago. Like was said of the Yankees’ Brian Cashman over the years, he better win that payroll. ($171 million and license to spend).

Meanwhile, Mets GM Sandy Alderson’s mission statement when he was hired in 2010 was to get rid of burdensome contracts – Jason Bay, Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo and Francisco Rodriguez to name a few – and cut payroll, which he did.

The Mets’ payroll was $126 million in Alderson’s first year and jumped to $142 million in 2011 because of existing obligations, but from 2012- 2014 had sub-$100 million payrolls.

It subsequently jumped to $135 million this year for Opening Day.

Unlike Epstein, Alderson does not have free reign to spend because the Mets are still recovering from the Ponzi scandal.

EDGE: Chicago.

MANAGER: Joe Maddon is regarded as one of the game’s best minds, but in all fairness with his moves in Games 6 and 7, it would be accurate to say the Cubs won in spite of him and not because of him.

He abused reliever Aroldis Chapman in the last three games. It was absurd he sent Chapman out for the ninth with a huge lead in Game 6. I was stunned he sent him out for the ninth, but it also showed extreme confidence in Chapman but also underscored an overall lack of faith he had in the rest of the bullpen. That’s something Terry Collins would never have done.

I thought he pulled Kyle Hendricks way too soon, something we’ve seen of Collins frequently.

The bunt call with Javier Baez was foolish. There were other moments, but those stood out the most.

But Maddon caught some breaks. The last two games in Cleveland allowed him to use Kyle Schwarber as the DH. Think about that Cubs fans when you rail against American League baseball.

The Cubs also caught a huge break with the rain delay that gave them a much-needed timeout. It also took steam from the Indians.

Since Collins replaced Jerry Manuel, he was initially hamstrung with a limited payroll and Alderson’s domineering hand of calling the shots.

Collins’ in-game managing can be head scratching, especially the use of his bullpen and bench. He has shown questionable loyalties to his players, notably Matt Harvey, Michael Conforto, Wilmer Flores and Yoenis Cespedes.

He has been let down numerous times, but his players hustle for him.

EDGE: Chicago.

ROTATION: Jake Arrieta won 22 games in 2015 to win the NL Cy Young Award. Either Jon Lester or Hendricks could win it this year. They have one more season with John Lackey and Jason Hammel is the fifth starter.

Most of the pre-season pitching accolades went to the Mets’ young core of Harvey, Jake deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steve Matz. Throw in Zack Wheeler and four of the five are coming off surgery. Bartolo Colon is a free agent, but the Mets want him back.

However, that’s no guarantee he’ll be back. Nothing is assured, including Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman picking up where they left off. They gave the Mets a brief, but an impressive window.

The bottom line is the Mets’ rotation can be terrific, but with the surgeries and relative inexperience, they enter spring training with a myriad of questions.

EDGE: Chicago.

BULLPEN

With Chapman on the free-agent market and Maddon’s obvious lack of faith in his bullpen, the Cubs have serious questions.

Mike Montgomery is 27 and worked a lot in the postseason. They also had Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards and Justin Grimm on the postseason roster. They are under 30, had decent seasons, but Maddon had little faith in them in Games 6 of 7. We’ll never know what Maddon would have done if Game 7 went longer.

The Mets have serious bullpen issues with Jeurys Familia facing at least a 30-game suspension and Addison Reed entering free agency. Honestly, they are in a world of hurt in their bullpen.

If you assume Chapman is gone, the same assumption can be made of Reed, left-hander Jerry Blevins and Fernando Salas. They already decided against Jim Henderson. Josh Edgin had a short rebound season from surgery. Hansel Robles is coming off a hot-and-cold season, as did Logan Verrett.

Erik Goeddel and Sean Gilmartin also made appearances, as did Rafael Montero.

EDGE: Even.

CATCHING: Ironically, Maddon’s lack of faith in his bullpen prompted going to Jon Lester, and with him, his personal catcher David Ross. Ross homered to help win Game 7 and retire in style.

The Cubs still list Schwarber as a catcher, but after knee surgery, that won’t happen. Willson Contreras had a good year and enters spring training No. 1.

Travis d’Arnaud was hurt each of the last two seasons and still needs to prove he can hit. Kevin Plawecki and Rene Rivera are back-ups. The Mets need a serious upgrade here.

EDGE: Chicago.

FIRST BASE: It’s Anthony Rizzo (.292/32 HR/109 RBI) for the Cubs against the Mets’ perpetually injured Lucas Duda, and possibly James Loney.

The Mets are also toying with the idea of experimenting with Conforto and David Wright at first. It is a reach.

EDGE: Chicago.

SECOND BASE: When Schwarber was injured, Ben Zobrist played more in left field, and that gave Javier Baez more time at second base.

The versatility of MVP candidate Kris Bryant, who can play the infield and outfield corners, enabled Maddon to keep Zobrist fresh at second.

The Mets were surprised by Neil Walker’s power, but he’s a free-agent coming off back surgery. The most they’ll extend is probably a one-year qualifying. They still have Flores, who they repeatedly showed a lack of faith, and the up-and-coming T.J. Rivera. Kelly Johnson, who filed for free agency. Will they trade for him for a third straight season?

EDGE: Chicago.

SHORTSTOP

The Cubs’ Addison Russell is one of the game’s rising stars, while Asdrubal Cabrera was arguably the Mets’ MVP.

However, Cabrera showed breakdown signs several times last summer. They have him for another year and Collins needs to do a better job of resting him.

EDGE: Chicago.

THIRD BASE

If not Rizzo, Bryant (.292/39/102) could be the NL MVP. He’s 24, terrific in the clutch and can play four positions.

The Mets don’t know if Wright will be back, and if he does, where he’ll play and how much are issues. If he doesn’t, they’ll go with Jose Reyes and Flores.

EDGE: Chicago.

LEFT FIELD

The Cubs have the combination of Zobrist – whom the Mets’ coveted after the 2015 season – and Schwarber. The World Series MVP, Zobrist is also one of baseball’s good guys as he signed autographs outside his Chicago home.

How many remember that Albert Belle chased down trick-or-treaters in his truck?

Zobrist is versatile, has power and hits in the clutch. Small wonder the Mets and Nationals both wanted him. Schwarber, meanwhile, thanks to the DH rule was a factor with awesome power.

The assumption is Cespedes will be gone, leaving left field to Conforto. Curtis Granderson could also get time in left with Jay Bruce brought back to play right field.

EDGE: Chicago.

CENTER FIELD: Dexter Fowler had a terrific season, but is a free agent. He said the Cubs are on his list, but as I did in left field with the Mets and Cespedes, I will assume he’ll be gone.

If the Cubs don’t bring back Fowler, and since there’s no way of knowing who’ll the Cubs will fish for, their internal option is 22-year-old Albert Almora Jr.

Ideally, the Mets wanted Cespedes in center, but he balked. Juan Lagares was injured for a good part of the season, but returned to play well.

Granderson will also get center field time in his last season with the Mets because of Bruce’s presence in right field.

EDGE: Mets.

RIGHT FIELD: The Cubs didn’t get $180 million worth from Jason Heyward. He has a tremendous glove, but his bat went into hibernation this summer.

Bruce struggled after coming over from Cincinnati, but picked it up at the end. Even so, it was a good pick-up, and he’s more economically feasible than either Cespedes or Heyward.

When Bruce isn’t playing, they can turn to Granderson.

EDGE: Mets.

 

Dec 06

Mets’ Top Five Winter Meetings Objectives

Despite going to the World Series, the Mets head into the Winter Meetings with several issues. Let’s face it, they wouldn’t be the Mets without questions. GM Sandy Alderson won’t represent the Mets in Nashville, but his lieutenants have the following grocery list of items they hope to address:

ZOBRIST: Lead domino for Mets. (Getty)

ZOBRIST: Lead domino for Mets. (Getty)

Question: Will they get the second baseman they covet?

Answer: That would be Ben Zobrist at the expense of Daniel Murphy. The Mets make no secret Zobrist is the object of their affection, but at the same time appear to be hedging their bets by saying it is possible they could bring back Murphy.

I think they are posturing on that one, but Zobrist’s camp said they would like to wrap things up by the end of the meetings. If they don’t, let’s hope the Mets will not fall into a familiar trap and chase him at the expense of losing out on other options.

Question: Will they restock their bullpen?

Answer: If they do, it won’t be with Darren O’Day, who is expected to re-sign with Baltimore. (Of course, the Mets once had O’Day, but had to cut him loose when Mike Pelfrey refused to miss a start by going on the disabled list). The Mets already tendered contracts to Addison Reed and Jenrry Mejia.

The Mets are not expected to bring back Tyler Clippard, but Yusmeiro Petit, Ryan Mattheus and Steve Cishek are on the market.

Question: Whom can they trade for a bat?

Answer: For the second straight winter they will attempt to deal Jon Niese, who showed some promise during the playoffs working out of the bullpen. At 29, and one year remaining on his contract (with team options for 2017 and 2018) Niese has value both to the Mets and prospective buyers. He’s also left handed, has had some success and still throws hard. There are things to like about him.

However, with the anticipated emergence of Rafael Montero and Zack Wheeler due back in July, there’s no room for him in the rotation.

Question: Can they obtain a center fielder?

Answer: After the 2014 season, the Mets extended Juan Lagares to a five-year, $23-million contract, but now they want to find a platoon for him. He’s clearly fallen out of favor.

The most prominent names are Dexter Fowler, Gerardo Parra and Denard Span, but they might be too expensive and likely not willing to sign for a platoon situation.

Question: Will they make a free-agent splash?

Answer: I wouldn’t count on it, unless you’re counting on Zobrist to be that splash. However, reports are he could be had for something in the $50-million range. Conversely, Murphy could come for less.

One thing we can count on is they won’t re-sign Yoenis Cespedes. His reported price is six years at over $100 million.

Dec 05

Lagares Contract Turning Into Bust

Is it too soon to call Juan Lagares a bust?  As of now, that appears the call on the Mets’ 5-year, $23-million deal given to the flashy center fielder after his 2014 Gold Glove Award winning season. He might get a pass because of a bad elbow allowed base runners to take liberties on him.

However, after a summer in which balls were consistently hit over his head and he lost his starting job after the Yoenis Cespedes trade, the Mets go to the Winter Meetings with the idea of obtaining a center fielder to platoon with Lagares. What does that say?

LAGARES: Falling short. (Getty)

LAGARES: Falling short. (Getty)

We know the Mets won’t re-sign Cespedes or move Curtis Granderson to center. And, we also know Lagares has a lot of room for improvement at the plate and must stop his defensive regression if he’s to remain in the Mets’ plans.

Working in Lagares’ favor is the contract that will pay him $2.5 million in 2016, $4.5 million in 2017, $6.5 million in 2018 and $9 million in 2019. While that might not be a lot of money for a full time player, it could be too much for a platoon player, and definitely a lot for late-inning defense.

The primary free-agent targets to platoon with the .259-hitting Lagares are Denard Span and Dexter Fowler, both of whom will command a large salaries, and most likely would not accept a platoon situation. Gerardo Parra and Colby Rasmus are corner outfielders, but the Mets have MIchael Conforto and Granderson. And, if you go further down to David Murphy and Will Venable, the Mets might as well stick with Kirk Niewenhuis.

Lagares has not played to the level the Mets want, but the limitations of the market could prohibit a chance. But, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been a bust so far.

 

 

Nov 08

Mets Brass Headed To GM Meetings

Mets GM Sandy Alderson and his staff, along with manager Terry Collins and his coaches, already had internal discussions to evaluate what went right and wrong this year, and what is needed for next season.

ALDERSON: Leads GM Meetings. (AP)

ALDERSON: Leads GM Meetings. (AP)

This group travels today for Boca Raton, Fla., for the GM Meetings which run Nov. 9-12. The primary focus of the meetings are primary to discuss business and league issues, but there will be some kicking of the tires on potential trades and free-agent signings.

The Mets made a qualifying offer to second baseman Daniel Murphy on Friday and he has a week from then to accept. Several names have already been linked to the Mets, including outfielders Dexter Fowler and Denard Span, and infielder Ben Zobrist. The interest in Zobrist is predicated on Murphy rejecting the $15.8-million qualifying offer.

It is anticipated the Mets will only make a token offer to outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.

Among Alderson’s priorities are to obtain a shortstop – once again – and retool the bullpen.

 

 

Oct 19

Mets’ Series Lead Could Enable Harvey To Rest

In addition to the historical percentages of advancing to the World Series, winning the first two games of the NLCS against Chicago, gives the Mets the advantage of bypassing the injured Matt Harvey in Game 5 if necessary.

Harvey took a line drive off the bat of Dexter Fowler to the back of his pitching arm in the sixth inning of Game 1, and already, manager Terry Collins is alluding to possibly of starting Jon Niese or Bartolo Colon.

HARVEY:  Questionable for Thursday. (Getty)

HARVEY: Questionable for Thursday. (Getty)

“He’s pretty sore and pretty swelled up,’’ Collins said Monday at Wrigley Field. “He, as we sit here today, is a go. But that could certainly change in the next couple of days.

“I was pretty surprised at how swelled up it was yesterday. So we certainly are going to keep a really close eye on it the next couple of days.’’

Of course, the Mets want to wrap this up as soon as possible, but if they win one of the next two games, they’ll be sitting pretty with a 3-1 series edge heading into Game 5.

Harvey, who won his first two postseason starts, played catch today. Harvey’s innings became a focal point at the end of the season, but if he’s held back Thursday, it will have nothing to do with his workload.

Harvey stayed in the game after he was struck, and pitching coach Dan Warthen said that was beneficial because it enabled him to keep his arm stretched out.

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