Oct 22

Would Boston’s Free-Agent Building Approach Benefit Mets?

Yesterday, I suggested what the New York Mets could learn from the St. Louis Cardinals in building their team. Today, let’s examine how the Red Sox were built and what the Mets can take from their approach.

The Cardinals’ philosophy of first building from within followed by judicious trades and free-agent signings has always been the traditional and preferred method.

Throwing millions and millions into the free-agent market is costly and risky. The Mets don’t have the resources of the Yankees or Dodgers to throw good money after bad.

ELLSBURY: Will he be too costly for Mets?

ELLSBURY: Will he be too costly for Mets?

There’s pressure to win in both markets, but there’s a greater intensity in Boston – and New York – while there’s a degree of patience in the Midwest. That explains in part why St. Louis has 17 homegrown players on its roster, while the Red Sox have ten.

There was a venomous culture in Boston last season as the Red Sox, burdened by several cumbersome contracts – similar to what the Mets faced when Sandy Alderson took over – and a few cancerous personalities in the clubhouse.

“Say, could you pass some fried chicken this way?’’

The Red Sox cleared nearly $200 million in salaries when they unloaded Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to the Dodgers midway through last year’s disastrous 69-93 summer under Bobby Valentine. They did so because even in a lost season the Red Sox were thinking about this summer. That’s something the Mets never fully explored when they had Jose Reyes and others to dangle.

The Red Sox were far quicker and more decisive than the Mets have been in ridding themselves of too costly and ineffective players, such as Oliver Perez, Ike Davis, Francisco Rodriguez and Luis Castillo to name a few of close to numerous bad deals since 2006, the last time the Mets saw October.

Rather than sink their savings into different long-term, costly signings, the Red Sox signed a handful of productive, yet cost-effective, players in: Shane Victorino (three years, $39 million); catcher David Ross (two years, $6.2 million); first baseman Mike Napoli (one year, $5 million); shortstop Stephen Drew (one year, $9.5 million); outfielder Jonny Gomes (two years, $10 million); and dynamite closer Koji Uehara (one year, $4.25 million plus option).

None bowl you over; collectively, they helped the Red Sox win 97 games.

Boston also extended by two years and $26 million the contract of its own free agent, designated hitter David Ortiz. They also avoided arbitration by offering Jacoby Ellsbury a one-year, $9-million deal. Some signings, such as pitcher Ryan Dempster’s two-year, $26.5 million deal, didn’t pan out. He’s now in middle relief and would be a starter for the Mets.

The Red Sox also hit it with trades, including pitcher Jake Peavy, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and and former Mets first-base prospect, Mike Carp.

Boston’s success in the free-agent and trade markets was overwhelmingly successful. Although Alderson said he could have the leeway to offer a $100-million contract to one player, he would be better off in taking Boston’s approach and attempt to patch several of the Mets’ many holes.

Alderson knows the success the Red Sox enjoyed is rare and shouldn’t be expected, especially since the Mets won’t offer similar deals. However, the idea of pursuing players with playoff success – Napoli and Victorino – is a sound way to augment their present composition of youth and few proven major leaguers.

The Mets are unsettled at first base, but are kidding themselves if they think they could get Napoli by offering a slight raise. Napoli was to get a three-year, $39-million deal, but that fell through when a degenerative hip condition was discovered. He’ll likely get his three years this winter.

As for Victorino, the Mets had their chance to sign him, but now it is too late. They must consider between Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo and Nelson Cruz, what they might each cost, and their various baggage.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Red Sox attempt to retain Ellsbury, but there are already reports the Tigers are interested in either him or Choo, the latter who is reportedly seeking four years.

The Red Sox took a shotgun approach last winter, and still wound up with a $155-million payroll while hitting most of their targets. It worked because their scouts did their homework; they got lucky; and they already had a core to build around. The Red Sox were also forced to be aggressive last winter because of their restless and demanding fan base. Every year it is the same motivation for them and the Yankees.

The Mets’ fan base is already looking at 2015 when Matt Harvey returns. Few are expecting a contender next summer without him. The Mets also don’t have as good a core as Boston had and won’t come anywhere close to what the Red Sox spent, but could go as high as $100 million, maybe a little more.

Everybody in the division save the Miami Marlins will spend more. If the Mets are to emulate the Red Sox, they’ll have to dig deeper and that’s not something they’ll be inclined to do.

May 20

Appearances Are Piling Up For Reliever Scott Rice

scott riceLefty reliever Scott Rice tossed two scoreless innings to pick up the win against the Cubs on Sunday. It was his major league-leading 25th appearance of the season.

Rice lowered his ERA to 3.05, and is now on pace for 99 appearances. That would surpass Pedro Feliciano‘s franchise mark of 92 games in 2010 and rank second all-time to Mike Marshall‘s 106 appearances for the Dodgers in 1974.

That is one heck of a workload to say the least, and to think that it’s coming from a pitcher who has toiled for 14 years in the minors before finally getting his shot in the majors makes this all the more amazing.

Rice, the 31 year old rookie, is proving to be the second best weapon in the Mets bullpen after closer Bobby Parnell. However, how long can he continue on this torrid pace before it all catches up to him and he begins to breakdown?

“Right now it’s early enough in the year”, manager Terry Collins said. “We’ve tried to get him some days off. But he keeps pitching four out of five, it’s got to be a concern. We’ve got to certainly pick up some of the workload with somebody else.”

Rice has no complaints and is enjoying every minute of his new-found life in the majors, but he also understands the risks.

“If my arm is feeling fine, I’m going to go out there and throw,” Rice said. “I’m going to be smart, and I know my body. I know how to take care of myself and prepare myself to throw every day.”

I’ve been pulling for Rice since back in Spring Training and was so glad for him when he made the team, but I never expected he would play such a significant role this season. Here’s to more great outings for this veteran rook, who definitely knows his place. He earned it the hard way.

Apr 30

Jeremy Hefner Tries To Stop Mets’ Slide

Jeremy Hefner: Streak stopper.

Some clairvoyant on television said this morning, “the Mets have lost five straight for the first time this season.’’  He’s probably right, but that’s an awful assumption.

All streaks must end somewhere, and while Matt Harvey didn’t stop the slide last night, the Mets will ask Hefner to do it tonight.

Hefner, who hasn’t been consistently good this season, is coming off a solid start in which he gave up a run in seven innings, April 25, against the Dodgers.

The Mets, losers of five straight and nine of their last 12 games, will need Hefner to contain two horrible statistics: he’s walked at least three in each of his last three starts, and he’s given up seven homers in 21 innings

A big Ouch! on that last number.

“It bugged me a little more than I let on,’’ Hefner said of the homers allowed after the Dodger start. “If I’m successful, I’m getting groundballs. … So that’s something I’ve still got to work on.’’

A case can be made Hefner saved his job last week against the Dodgers, but then again, just whom do the Mets have to replace him? They won’t bring up Zack Wheeler before he’s ready, and he’s not close.

Hefner was thrust into the rotation when Johan Santana went down, but he’s become a mainstay. Hefner matter-of-factly says his objective with each game is to give the Mets a quality start, which is three runs given up in six innings, something he’s done twice in four starts.

The offense has to shoulder some of the blame for the Mets being 0-4 in Hefner’s starts as it has given him eight runs in 20 innings.

Hefner is what he is, and that’s a fifth starter. His outpitched his job description in his last start, but he’s not living up to his stated goal of six innings.

The bullpen worked 9.1 innings last night, and with the short turnaround before Wednesday afternoon’s game, the Mets need six from Hefner tonight. His job would be a little easier if the Mets scored some runs, too.

Just saying.

Dec 09

Mets Matters: Wright Should Be Named Captain

As expected, with David Wright signed comes the inevitable talk of him being named captain. This isn’t like Santonio Holmes being made captain; this would have meaning.

WRIGHT: Future captain?

The meaning comes in Wright’s teammates already regard him in that capacity. Wright is already the team leader, whether it be telling the manager Jose Reyes isn’t healthy; or talking to a pitcher; or telling a young player, such as Jordany Valdespin he’d better hustle.

Wright, referred to as the face of the franchise, is as much a captain to his teammates as Derek Jeter was to the Yankees before George Steinbrenner made it official. When things go wrong for the Mets, as they frequently have since 2008, Wright is the voice in the clubhouse. Everybody in the media wants a Wright comment.

It would shock me if the Mets didn’t make it official in spring training. What’s really surprising is this hasn’t been done sooner.

VALDESPIN SHOWS PUNK SIDE: Valdespin had attitude issues last season, and things haven’t changed.

Valdespin was suspended for two games by his winter ball team for failing to run out a ball, and then the following day had a fit when he was pinch-hit for.

His latest example was when he tweeted a photo of himself wearing a Miami Marlins hat. Hell, if he wants to be a Marlin so bad, let him go.

With the Mets are trying to establish a new culture, the last thing they need is a punk attitude. Valdespin is damn lucky to be a major league ballplayer. He should take his $500-thousand minimum salary and be grateful.

NOTHING NEW WITH DICKEY: CEO Jeff Wilpon reiterated R.A. Dickey could not be traded and could play out this season with his $5 million option and negotiations could continue next winter as the knuckleballer doesn’t want to talk during the season.

Enhancing the chances Dickey stays with the Mets will be if the Dodgers sign Zack Greinke. The Rangers and Dodgers are the two key players to get the former Royals ace.

I would like this thing to just get done and have the Mets going into the season without this hanging over their heads.

HAMILTON ON YANKEES’ RADAR: Despite their talk of wanting to cut payroll, you knew eventually the Yankees would be paired to Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton.

Instead of establishing the bar, the Yankees seem content to let this play out and have Hamilton come to them. Hamilton still might stay with Texas, but most everybody knew the Yankees would factor in this somehow.

 

Dec 08

Rangers Blow Away Zack Greinke

Jim Bowden of ESPN tweeted that free agent starter Zack Greinke was “blown away” by the offer from Nolan Ryan and the Rangers Front Office.

Greinke said he loves the Rangers roster and their minor league prospects, and is turned on by their chances to win a World Series.

Meanwhile it looks like both the Dodgers and Angels are retreating from the chase to sign Greinke.

According to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, Greinke talks have reached a “critical stage” and the Dodgers are now considering bowing out and moving on to other pursuits. Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti offered a pessimistic response when asked whether the club was close to signing Greinke.

“We’re not on the front lawn.We’re barely out of the car at the curb. It’s better than driving around the neighborhood looking for the house. We know where the house is located. We just can’t seem to get out of the car.”

Bowden also adds that according to a source there will be no last minute strike by the Angels to land Greinke like they did last year for Pujols. VERY UNLIKELY, is how he puts it.

Once Greinke signs and is off the market, it is expected to usher in a phase of depravity and desperation unlike anything we’ve ever seen before in prior offseasons.

It is exactly what Sandy Alderson has been waiting for as he dangles R.A. Dickey in front of a pack of ravenous and voracious wild dogs who all hunger for the taste of his flesh.

At least that’s what some fans and bloggers think. 😉

"I think I see a knuckleballer all alone and in distress." "What's a knuckleballer?"