Feb 13

Wheeler Must-See Watch In 2015

Of all the Mets, Zack Wheeler is the one I am most curious to watch this summer. Wheeler made a strong first impression in 2013 and improved last season to 11-11 with a 3.54 ERA while working 185.1 innings in 32 starts.

WHEELER: High expectations. (AP)

WHEELER: High expectations. (AP)

His durability last year indicates 200-plus innings is within reach. We don’t know Wheeler’s ceiling, but our expectations are realistically high.

Wheeler averages over nine strikeouts per nine innings, but also just over four walks which is  red-flag worthy.

There’s no doubting his stuff, but his command must improve. It’s not just the walks, but consistently running deep into the count. Consequently, he only worked into the seventh just 13 times. By comparison, 41-year-old Bartolo Colon pitched into the seventh or longer 18 times.

When looking at the development of a young pitcher, innings pitched might be most important as it indicates an ability to work out of trouble to give his team a chance to win.That’s why 200 innings was important to Colon last year and to Dillon Gee the previous season.

If Wheeler can cut the four walks he gave up in half and convert them into outs, that could have pushed him into the seventh nine more times last year if not longer because it would have reduced his pitch count. As it was, he threw over 100 pitches 24 times and at least 110 in 13 games.

This is the step Wheeler must take this summer. If he can, a lot of good things can happen.

 

Feb 09

Niese Faces Pivotal Season

Every spring there is that singular player whose career might hang in the balance as is Jonathon Niese’s with the New York Mets.

NIESE: Will it ever happen for him?

NIESE: Will it ever happen for him?

It was in 2012 when the Mets signed him to a long-term contract through 2016. They signed him for all the right reasons. He threw hard; is left-handed; the contract provided cost certainty; he had some degree of major league success; and at the time was relatively healthy.

In the three years since, he’s won just 30 games, hadn’t pitched 200 innings in any season, and sustained one form of injury or another every year.

With Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard and left-hander Steven Matz waiting in the wings – and let’s not forget Bartolo Colon and Dillon Gee remain on the 40-man roster – it doesn’t take much to figure Niese’s value to the Mets is rapidly diminishing, especially since they put him on the block over the winter.

All the reasons why the Mets signed Niese, and why he was coveted by other teams in trade talks, aren’t as prevalent. If 2015 is anything like the last three seasons, next year at this time we might not even be talking about him in the rotation as Matz could supplant him.

Of all the Mets who need a big and healthy season, Niese ranks at the top of my list.

 

Feb 03

Mets Agree To Terms With Duda; Should Consider Extension

Barring a trade, the Mets have all their players signed, sealed and delivered with the announcement of settling with Lucas Duda to a $4.2 million contract to avoid arbitration.

In agreeing with Duda the Mets’ payroll is now close to $100 million, with still the potential matter of trading pitcher Dillon Gee.

The Mets will have control over Duda through the 2017 season.

Duda, who turned 29 today, will be entering his first season as the Mets’ starter at first base. Duda hit .253 with 30 homers and 92 RBI last year. Duda also had a .349 on-base percentage. Just think how much better it would have been had he not struck out 135 times.

If Duda has a similar season in 2015, the Mets should consider signing him to a long-term deal as his value with increase.

Jan 23

Gee Emblematic Of Difference Between Mets And Giants

It is more than talented players that separate the San Francisco Giants from the Mets. There is also an organizational philosophy. The Giants’ is about winning; the Mets is about pinching pennies.

It was simply a single line item in the transactions, that the Giants opted to re-sign pitcher Ryan Vogelsong. Here is a team with three World Series titles in the past five years that is loaded with pitching. Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Tim Hudson and Jake Peavey. That’s five starters. Vogelsong makes six, and don’t forget Yusmeiro Petit.

They all have substantial major league track records.

Meanwhile, the Mets are optimistic about their young rotation, and despite legitimate questions about every pitcher, they are determined to deal Dillon Gee, who’ll make just $5.3 million in 2015.

What the Giants realize, that although they have a glut of pitching, you can never have enough pitching. And, this is a perennial winner.

Meanwhile, the Mets, who haven’t had a winning season since 2008, are gambling they will have no pitching issues this summer and are willing to deal Gee to prove their point.

It’s not a gamble they should make.

Jan 19

Gap Between Mets, Nats Wider Than You Think

The Mets finished in a second-place tie last season in the NL East 17 games behind the pennant winning Washington Nationals.

GEE: Trying to move him. (Getty)The two current storylines of these teams suggest a wider gap – much wider.

The Nationals, who won 96 games last season with the NL’s deepest rotation, will add free-agent prize Max Scherzer. Meanwhile, the Mets are taking flak for charging their players to participate in an off-season conditioning program. The Mets are also still attempting to trade Dillon Gee, and word is they don’t have to get a major leaguer in return. Shows what they think of their most reliable starter the past few seasons.

The Nationals are trying to sell the prospect of the World Series to their fan base. The Mets are still trying to sell a .500 season.

To make room for Scherzer’s contract, the Nationals are willing to trade shortstop Ian Desmond, who will become a free-agent after this year. Yes, the Mets could use Desmond to address their shortstop question, but the Nationals’ asking price would be exorbitant for a one-year rental.

Trading for Desmond could be a giant step back if he leaves, and put on the financial shackles if they signed him to an extension.

While adding Scherzer doesn’t guarantee anything, it definitely puts them in good position to be thinking deep into October.

Reportedly, San Francisco, San Diego and Colorado are interested in Gee.

The Mets would like to unload Gee before spring training, but I believe they would get a greater return if they waited until the trade deadline.