Oct 31

Four Items On Van Wagenen’s Plate

New general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said there are 11 parts to his plans to remaking the Mets. He wouldn’t elaborate what they were, but it is believed he touched on one when he said he wanted Mickey Callaway to return as manager.

I’m speculating the following four are on his list:

Increase the Payroll: They should come in no higher than $160 million. Given the money they’ll save with David Wright’s retirement ($15 million for this summer) and what insurance will pick up with Yoenis Cespedes not likely to return before July, offset by raises earmarked for Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Michael Conforto, and Brandon Nimmo and what the Mets might do in upgrading their bullpen, don’t expect them to splurge on free agents Manny Machado or Bryce Harper.

The Mets are expected to bring back second baseman Jeff McNeil to a raise and need to bring in a center fielder, a catcher and perhaps a first baseman, not to mention a significant reliever. Whether that reliever is top shelf or middle tier, it will cost.

Keep the Rotation Intact: The Mets entertained trading all of their starters last season, and are expected to keep them all this winter. DeGrom and Syndergaard will get hefty raises. Since they aren’t anticipated to do a bullpen game for the fifth slot, they’ll need a fifth starter. Is it Seth Lugo, Jason Vargas or Robert Gsellman, or somebody from the minors?

Van Wagenen will confer with Callaway, John Ricco, Omar Minaya and J.P. Ricciardi this week to get a handle on the rotation. The rotation is potentially the team’s strength and the first four must be kept, but it will increase payroll.

Improving the Lineup: Don’t expect the Mets to dive deep into the free-agent or trade markets despite the optimism Van Wagenen and COO Jeff Wilpon portrayed. The Mets must upgrade at catcher and I don’t see them tendering a contract to Travis d’Arnaud. First base is a concern and decisions must be made on Peter Alonso or Dominic Smith, or will Van Wagenen fool around with Jay Bruce, Wilmer Flores or Todd Frazier? If the Mets are serious about winning now they must improve catcher and first base. They could have traded for Paul Goldschmidt from Arizona, but that boat sailed when they picked up his option yesterday. The radio call-in shows in New York were filled with callers chiming for Machado, but that would be a horrible mistake.

I was against signing Cespedes because the money would have been better spent on filling the numerous holes the Mets have and still do. Considering Machado is reportedly due twice as much as Cespedes, think of all the improvements the Mets could make.

Upgrade the Bullpen: Craig Kimbrel, Zach Britton, Brad Brach and Joe Kelly are the most enticing names in the market. Of course, all will want long-term, expensive contracts. Former GM Sandy Alderson failed to build a bullpen and consistently used the scrap-heap approach. Van Wagenen has to sign a name reliever, and that discounts the possibility of a reunion with Jeurys Familia. Rookies Tyler Bashlor and Drew Smith, and Lugo or Gsellman all pitched well last season at times.

They need to sign one of the four because they desperately need a closer. Bringing back Familia would be a step back. The Mets have plenty of inexperienced hard-throwing relievers, who didn’t distinguish themselves last summer. They have a half-dozen hard-throwers but need at least two or three to show something during spring training.

These four items say the Mets aren’t ready to win now. And, there are at least seven more issues to go.

 

Aug 20

The Mets Put Smith It Position To Make Error

Zack Wheeler now knows what Jacob deGrom has felt like most of this season with the Mets wasting another one of his solid starts and coming away with a no-decision. Wheeler has been one of the Mets’ bright spot in this dark season and watched his team lose, 2-1, in 13 innings to the San Francisco Giants, Monday at Citi Field.

I GOT IT, YOU TAKE IT. (AP)

I GOT IT, YOU TAKE IT. (AP)

The Mets were beaten because two pop-ups fell in against the shift in the seventh, and Dominic Smith – playing left field – collided with Amed Rosario for a run-producing error.

“It’s frustrating when you make your pitch and there’s no result,’’ Wheeler said. “We should have had somebody there.’’

Wheeler said the shift gives and takes away, “and it’s part of the game.’’

What shouldn’t be part of the game is to have a first baseman play left field. That has the disaster written all over it. Manager Mickey Callaway threw Smith under the bus and put most of the blame on Smith.

“It’s inexperience,’’ Callaway said. “He hasn’t done this a lot. He has a learning curve he has to go through. That’s an easy play for our team and we messed it up. We cost ourselves the game tonight with fundamental stuff.’’

Smith played deep on the play and called for the ball late.

“I called it way too late,’’ Smith said. “That’s on me.’’

No, it’s on the Mets, who played Smith in left field, instead of his natural first base. Seriously, don’t the Mets already know all they need to know about Wilmer Flores, who is not their first baseman of the future?

The Mets have been telling us Smith is their first baseman of the future, and with the season long since over, he should be getting at-bats at the position. This is mismanagement at its highest.

Jun 28

Mets Place Fire Sale Sign Out In Flushing

The Mets are on record saying they will be sellers at the deadline for the second straight summer. For a team 14 games below .500, two games from the NL East basement and this comes as no surprise.

And, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if the same thing happens next season.

“Obviously, the trade deadline is coming up [July 31]. And, that’s a big pressure point in which to better your club,’’ said John Ricco, who, along with Omar Minaya and J.P. Ricciardi, are teaming to take over for Sandy Alderson. “Certainly, we’re going to take advantage of that and look to be active.’’

Ricco said he’ll listen to calls about everybody, including Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard. Personally, I’m open for the Mets trading anybody right now except deGrom, Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto. Anybody else, they can do want they want.

I would keep those three because the Mets do have to field a team next year.

First on the block should be Jeurys Familia, who as a closer should bring something in return. Plenty of teams can use a closer. Next would be Asdrubal Cabrera. The Boston Red Sox, with Dustin Pedroia ailing and in a tight race with the Yankees, need a second baseman. Brandon Phillips might not be enough.

Third would be veterans such as Jose Bautista, who is playing well; Jose Reyes, Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier. They probably wouldn’t get much for any of the four, but lower-ranked prospects aren’t out of the question, especially if put in a package.

I wouldn’t be against dealing Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz. Those three would likely bring back the most in terms of prospects or young major-league ready talent.

The Mets don’t have much talent in the minor leagues but do have major league prospects Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith, both I wouldn’t mind see dealt.

Jun 11

Timing Of Gonzalez Release Is Bizarre

Not that Adrian Gonzalez was going to turn their season around, but the timing of the Mets releasing the 36-year-old first baseman after Sunday night’s game – even with three strikeouts – seems a little odd.

For a team in desperate need of offense, why would you release a player who is third in RBI with 26, especially with the leader Asdrubal Cabrera leaving Sunday’s game with an apparent hamstring injury and the second-ranked player in Yoenis Cespedes suffering a setback in his rehab and is out indefinitely?

GONZALEZ: Gone already. (AP)

GONZALEZ: Gone already. (AP)

Bringing up Dominic Smith, who wasn’t impressive in his trial last season, doesn’t appear to be the answer, especially when the Mets are also throwing out the idea of trying Jay Bruce and Jose Bautista at first base.

Smith, who was injured and missed most of spring training because of a strained quad muscle, never had the opportunity to compete with Gonzalez and learn from the All-Star.

As is often the case with GM Sandy Alderson, the announcement was made after the media availability to Gonzalez was over and reporters didn’t have a chance to speak with him.

The Mets will also bring up Ty Kelly with Smith and for the second time in a month, catcher Jose Lobaton was designated for assignment.

As far as Cespedes goes, there’s no timetable for his return any longer. Cespedes played in a rehab game Friday with Double-A Binghamton without incident and sustained a setback Saturday. He’s now in Port St. Lucie working with the Mets’ rehabilitation staff.

“We had been excited about the prospect of getting him back in a few days,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “But we can’t let these injuries stop us from doing what we need to do. We have other Major League players who can step up and get the job done, and that’s what we need to do.

“As this continues to move forward, and it continues to drag on, there has to be a level of understanding that it’s maybe something you battle throughout the rest of your career.

“But I don’t think we’re at that point yet. The goal is still to get him to where he can be out there and feel normal.’’

Cespedes missed 81 games last season and has already missed 24 with more games coming off the schedule on a daily basis.

Apr 11

Mets Wrap: Wheeler Sterling In First Start

The most important thing to take away about the Mets from tonight’s victory in Miami isn’t that it was their eighth straight, but how well Zack Wheeler pitched in his first start of the season.

If I were into bandwagon hopping, I would say if Wheeler continues to bring it as he did in beating the Marlins, 4-1, to extend the best start in franchise history to 10-1.

WHEELER: Solid debut. (AP)

WHEELER: Solid debut. (AP)

Wheeler, who hasn’t pitched for the Mets in two years, gave up one run on two hits and one walk with seven strikeouts in seven innings. It is the longest a Mets’ starter has gone this young season.

“I thought he did a really good job of staying ahead,’’ said manager Mickey Callaway. “He pitched with a lot of confidence.’’

Wheeler, who had a spring training ERA north of eight, gave up a first-inning homer to Miguel Rojas in the first, was in complete control after that and retired the last 16 batters he faced.

“I was trying to go out there and give up a chance to win,’’ Wheeler said. “I was able to pound the zone and have command of my fastball for the most part. It was very satisfying.’’

We can presume Wheeler will get at least another start with Jason Vargas on the disabled list.

PLAWECKI GETS HIS BREAK:  Catcher Travis d’Arnaud was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. The Mets recalled catcher Tomas Nido from Binghamton (AA), who was activated for tonight’s game.

The ten days enables the Mets time to evaluate the injury, including the possibility of Tommy John surgery. If that happens, d’Arnaud could be transferred to the 60-day disabled list, and former Washington National Jose Lobaton would be promoted to the Mets. That decision could be reached as soon as Friday.

“That’s a long road if he goes the surgery route,’’ Callaway said. “Anytime anybody has to go through that, that’s tough.’’

Callaway had a sense something was wrong with d’Arnaud’s arm from watching try to throw runners out at second – unsuccessfully.

Plawecki was struck on the left hand by a pitch and sustained a deep bruise. X-Rays were negative.

GONZALEZ DOES IT AGAIN: Veteran Adrian Gonzalez, who hit a grand slam in Washington, drove in the game-winning runs with a two-run, pinch-hit single in the eighth inning.

Gonzalez, who made the Opening Day roster in large part because of Dominic Smith’s leg injury, is hitting .298 with a .406 on-base percentage. Gonzalez’s two-run single gave the Mets their sixth-come-from-behind victory of the season.

“When we’re down, we know how to get the job done,’’ Callaway said. “You can feel the energy in the dugout.’’