Dec 02

Tejada In, Young Out

Not surprisingly, the Mets non-tendered outfielder Eric Young and offered a contract to infielder Ruben Tejada projected to be $1.7 million.

Young, who was arbitration eligible, was projected to make $2.25 million in 2015, too rich for the Mets’ blood for a bench player.

Young was expendable because for all his speed – 30 stolen bases last season – he failed to develop into the prototypical leadoff hitter. One number said it all about Young and that was his .299 on-base percentage.

Consequently, left field remained a black hole the Mets chose to fill with Michael Cuddyer.

Nov 12

Dissecting The Cuddyer Signing

Michael Cuddyer said all the right things about coming to the New York Mets. He spoke of how the Mets were a team on the cusp; about playing with longtime friend David Wright; and the excitement of playing in New York.

For good measure, he mentioned how he imagined how a packed Citi Field could be when he referenced the 2013 All-Star Game.

Got you going, didn’t it?

Then he ruined the illusion by saying “it always isn’t about the money.’’

But, I’ve been covering this sport a long time, and you’ve been following the Mets a long time. What we both know, is that when it comes to the Mets, money is right there at the top. Money is always the key factor.

The Cuddyer signing tells us a lot about the Mets and their financial situation. It also raises a lot of questions, which I’ll attempt to answer:

Q: Why wouldn’t Cuddyer accept the Rockies’ $15.3 million qualifying offer and go the free-agent route again?

A: That’s his risk. He wanted two and the Rockies were offering one. There was no guarantee Cuddyer would get a second year from anyone. When he gave the Mets a deadline to give him two years or he’d take the qualifying offer, “it gave us pause,’’ said GM Sandy Alderson.

The Mets had things to consider, such as other free-agent outfield options, which would have cost more. Or, trade options, but they had few chips to play and are unwilling to include their young pitching. Or, going from within, which they didn’t have the confidence in doing. And, there was the matter of losing the draft pick, which they didn’t want to do.

The most palatable option was giving Cuddyer two years.

Q: The breakdown is the first year for $8.5 million and the second year for $12.5 million. What does that mean?

A: In giving up their first-round pick – the 15th overall selection – the Mets also save themselves $2.5 million. Given that, the Mets will have filled their outfield hole for $6 million this year, which is $1.25 less than they blew on Chris Young last year. They don’t get their pick, but that player is at least three years down the road anyway. A lot can change in that time. With the $2.5 million they save by not having the draft pick gives them a little more flexibility.

Q: Won’t the Mets feel a pinch in 2016 for the $12.5 million they’d pay Cuddyer?

A: They could, but not if they make the strides they expect. Their gamble is they’ll improve enough in 2015 and experience an attendance spike. That will pay in part for Cuddyer. Of course, that means they’ll have to win this year, or at least “play meaningful games in September.’’ But, if none of this happens by July 2016 and Cuddyer is productive, he shouldn’t be hard to trade.

Q: Was this done to appease Wright?

A: That probably factored into it, but I wouldn’t say that was their first priority.

Q: What does signing Cuddyer say about their bench and minor league system?

A: For one, is tells me they likely won’t bring back Eric Young. It also speaks to their diminishing confidence in Matt den Dekker and Kirk Nieuwenhuis as a fulltime player. The Mets stunted their development last year and that figures to be the same this year.

Q: The Mets kept saying they wanted power, but Cuddyer has hit only 80 homers over the past five years (16 average) and only ten in an injury shortened 2014. Does this fill that need?

A: No. Cuddyer isn’t strictly a pull hitter, which is just as well because the fences aren’t coming in next year. Presumably, he uses the whole field, which is the best way. Cuddyer has only one 30-homer season despite playing his career in the Coors Field and the Metrodome. He’s only had one 100-RBI season as well.

Q: Were there other options?

A: Sure, but nobody screamed out as a “must have’’ talent. Michael Morse, Ryan Ludwick, Nate Schierholtz, Nick Markakis and Josh Willingham were all available this fall, but would have either been too expensive; would stay with their original teams; or not graded as high as Cuddyer.

Q: Where will Cuddyer play?

A: Probably right field, with Curtis Granderson moving over to left field.

Q: Bottom line this for me: Does Cuddyer put the Mets over the top?

A: By no stretch of the imagination. The Mets have questions concerning shortstop; the offensive returns of Wright and Granderson; whether Lucas Duda can do it again; the development of Zack Wheeler and return from surgery by Matt Harvey. If all that happens and Cuddyer can return to his 2013 form when he won the NL batting title.

 

Oct 06

Leadoff Hitter Remains A Nagging Question

Of all the Mets’ off-season questions, the matter of their leadoff hitter is one of the most intriguing. That is especially if their intent is to fill it from within.

With no budding Lou Brock or Rickey Henderson in their farm system, their best hope is on their current 40-man roster. I say that because there’s no real answer in the free-agent market and they are reluctant to trade their young pitching.

The primary in-house candidates are Eric Young, Juan Lagares, Ruben Tejada, Daniel Murphy and Kirk Nieuwenhuis. All have something they could bring to the table, but all have issues to the negative.

Young, Lagares and Nieuwenhuis have speed, but also rather low on-base percentages and a penchant for striking out too much.

Of the group, Murphy is the best hitter, but for a relatively weak lineup he’s better suited for a run-producing slot in the middle of the order. Also, Murphy’s on-base percentage, at .332, isn’t as lofty as one might think.

If Murphy is still here – a substantial question – he should be hitting between second and sixth.

As for Young, there’s an excellent chance it will be a moot point and not be brought back.

Last winter, manager Terry Collins toyed with the idea of experimenting with Tejada. The catch here is Tejada needs a position to play and that means starting ahead of Wilmer Flores, which isn’t a given.

Mets’ 11 different leadoff hitters ranked last in the majors with a .235 average and paltry a .308 on-base percentage. If they want to change that, they’ll have to hope for a breakout season from the names suggested or be willing to spend.

Sep 12

Mets Flat Against Nats; Colon Implodes

Terry Collins earned his extension after last season because his team played hard, alert and aggressive baseball for him down the stretch.

They did anything but Thursday night. They talk about finishing on a high note, but in their 6-2 loss to Washington looked too much like the “same old Mets’’ of the past few seasons.

COLON: Raked by Nats (Getty)

COLON: Raked by Nats (Getty)

Bartolo Colon started digging the hole early by giving up a two-run homer to Adam LaRoche and then hitting Ian Desmond in the first. In the fourth, he hit Jayson Werth after Anthony Rendon homered.

In the second, Colon’s throwing error led to an unearned run.

Colon was tossed in the fourth to force Terry Collins to go deep into his bullpen. Not a good way to start a four-game series with the Nationals.

“I was surprised,” Colon told, “because … I hit Desmond after the home run and nothing happened.’’

That’s the point. Desmond was hit in the first, but it didn’t look blatant. Werth was another matter, and Colon knows that, even without an admission.

“That was a two-seam fastball that moved inside to him,’’ Colon said of the pitch to Werth. “I was trying to pitch him inside.’’

Despite the ejection, Colon probably wasn’t long for the game anyway as his last pitch was No. 70, it was the fourth inning and the Mets were down six and well on their way of losing their 12th straight Washington at home, and 26th in their last 30 at Citi Field.

There’s being bad, but a team can’t be dominated that much at home to a division opponent. That’s not the way to a winning season.

Neither is their offense, which only once in the 12 games against the Nationals this season scored more than three runs.

Last night, the Mets hit into two double plays, including Travis d’Arnaud losing track of the outs and was doubled off first on Dilson Herrara’s infield pop-up in the second. In another base running blunder, Eric Young was thrown out attempting to reach third on an errant pickoff. Overall, the Mets left six runners on and went 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

NOTEBOOK: Daniel Murphy left the game in the eight when he was hit on his left wrist by a Matt Thornton fastball. Murphy said he doesn’t believe he was hit intentionally as retaliation for Colon. Don’t bet on him playing tomorrow. … Dillon Gee (6-7, 3.74) goes against Gio Gonzalez (8-9, 3.78).

 

Mar 22

Three Homers Power Mets To 10-2 Win Over Marlins

The Mets banged out 13 hits including three home runs to beat the Miami Marlins by a score of 10-2 on Saturday at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter.

There were a lot of great story lines in this game for the Mets, but let’s begin with Travis d’Arnaud, who blasted a two-run homer against Miami Marlins lefthander Brad Hand. The home run snapped a hitless streak that had lasted 21 at-bats for the Mets Opening Day catcher.

Apparently, d’Arnaud and hitting coach Dave Hudgens spent some considerable time together on Friday and hopefully this was a sign that things will now improve for 25-year old backstop.

“I’m seeing the ball well,” d’Arnaud said. “I’m just over-swinging. Yesterday me and ‘Hudgy’ just worked on keeping my eye on the ball. If you keep your eye on the ball, you have a higher chance of succeeding than when you don’t see the ball hit the bat.”

More Highlights:

Perhaps the biggest star on the day was Bartolo Colon  who pitched all the way into the seventh inning and got the win. Colon tossed 6.2 innings and allowed two earned runs on five hits while walking none and striking out three. He threw over 80% of his pitches for strikes including 18 of them in a row at one point in the game. Collins was right – this guy is a strike-throwing machine. Additionally, Colon singled, drove in a run, and nearly beat out a grounder for an infield hit, much to the delight of the crowd who gave him a big ovation. This guy is going to be a lot of fun!

Wilmer Flores with a three hit, four RBI day that include a three-run shot – his second homer of the year. Flores leads the Mets in RBIs this Spring, but will likely begin the season in Triple-A Las Vegas. That’s unfortunate.

Ike Davis had his second big day in a row. After going 3-for-3 on Friday, Davis celebrated his 27th birthday by ripping a two-run homer off Marlins closer Steve Cishek. It was his second home run of the spring and he’s now 5-for-15 with four extra-base hits. Lucas Duda had the day off.

How about Chris Young? He reached base 5 times today and is having himself a fantastic spring. Young finished his day going 3-for-3 with a walk and two steals.

Eric Young Jr. batted leadoff and collected a single and a walk in four plate appearances while stealing a pair of bases including third.

Up Next:

The Mets play a pair of split squad games on Sunday. Jenrry Mejia opposes Washington Nationals right-hander Tanner Roark at 1:10 PM at Port St. Lucie, while John Lannan opposes Atlanta Braves right-hander Freddy Garcia at 1:05 PM at Disney.