Feb 18

Mets Putting Themselves In Good Financial Shape For Future

Over the past five seasons – all below .500 – the New York Mets were bogged down by cumbersome contracts to unproductive players. It was economic certainty, but in a bad way.

This should be the third consecutive year the Mets will have a payroll of less than $100 million. They have long pointed to 2015 as when they will put themselves in a competitive position, and are currently set up to do so with payroll flexibility through 2019.

Heading into 2015, the Mets have $54.05 million earmarked to four players: David Wright ($20 million), Curtis Granderson ($16 million), Bartolo Colon ($11 million) and Jonathon Niese ($7.05 million).

Where teams usually get bit in their payroll is during the arbitration process and the Mets will have eight players eligible: Daniel Murphy, Bobby Parnell, Dillon Gee, Ike Davis, Eric Young, Lucas Duda, Jenrry Mejia and Ruben Tejada.

Of the eight, it is possible four – Davis, Young, Duda and Tejada – could be gone, with some before the end of this season.

Only one player is scheduled to be a free agent after this year and that’s Chris Young, who nobody expects to be back.

In 2016, the Mets have $45.05 million designated for three players: Wright ($20 million), Granderson ($16 million) and Niese $9.050 million).

Their arbitration eligible list that off-season expands to 14 to leave open the possibility for a significant payroll spike. The list includes: Gee, Davis, Eric Young, Duda, Tejada, Scott Rice, Matt Harvey, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Mejia, Josh Edgin, Jeurys Familia, Anthony Recker, Andrew Brown and Carlos Torres.

By this time, there’s no telling who will still be in the organization. Harvey and possibly Gee could be given multi-year deals by then. Everybody else is up the air. It’s also questionable if Nieuwenhuis and Brown will still be around, as neither one has made serious strides in sticking around.

Their 2016 free agents will be Colon, Murphy and Parnell.

In 2017, the Mets have $35.5 million earmarked for Wright ($20 million), Granderson ($15 million) and a half-million buyout for Niese.

Their arbitration eligible players will be Duda, Tejada, Rice, Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Nieuwenhuis, Mejia, Edgin, Torres. Familia, Recker and Brown, with their free agents Gee, Davis and Eric Young.

Wright ($20 million) is the only player under contract for 2018. The arbitration eligible Mets will be Rice, Harvey, Nieuwenhuis, Torres. Mejia, Edgin, Familia, Recker, Wheeler and Brown. That year Granderson, Duda and Tejada will be free agents.

In 2019 they’ll owe Wright $15 million, with Torres and Wheeler the only Mets who are arbitration eligible. Potential free agents will be Rice, Harvey, Nieuwenhuis, Mejia, Edgin, Familia, Recker and Brown.

The Mets have long talked about cutting payroll costs to put themselves in position to seriously enter the free-agent market. It now appears they might actually be able to do it.

Feb 15

Mets Week In Review: Davis Surprised; Drew Not Coming

Although Saturday was the official reporting day for the New York Mets pitchers and catchers, most of them – including many position players – have already been in Port St. Lucie much of the week.

And, it has been a pretty eventual five days:

* In arguably the quote of the week, Ike Davis said he was “a little bit shocked,’’ he wasn’t traded. Davis goes into spring training as the starter ahead of Lucas Duda.

* General manager Sandy Alderson said it remains unlikely the Mets would sign shortstop Stephen Drew despite persistent reports to the contrary.

* Bobby Parnell threw ten pitches off the mound on Valentine’s Day, roughly two weeks ahead of schedule.

* Manager Terry Collins said he is leaning toward Jon Niese as the Opening Day starter and stated a preference for Eric Young as the leadoff hitter.

* Collins said Wilmer Flores would get some time at shortstop. He also said the shortstop starter has not been determined.

* Matt Harvey said he hopes to pitch this season, but Collins said he would not rush him.

* Alderson left the door open lefty for Jack Leathersich or Rafael Montero making the Opening Day roster in the bullpen.

* Reliever Kyle Farnsworth, now with his eighth team, said he has no illusions and will accept whatever role the Mets have in mind for him.

* Credit Bartolo Colon for telling the truth, saying he signed with the Mets because no other team would offer a second year. If his body holds up, Colon said he would pitch after his contract expires.

Note: It my intent to post a Mets Week in Review every Saturday.

Feb 15

The Five Questions Terry Collins Must Answer In Spring Training

Spring training is finally here, and with it comes several issues the New York Mets must address. A lot of things must break right if they are to contend for a wild-card, but manager Terry Collins has five key questions to answer if they are to have a winning season, something they haven’t had since 2008:

COLLINS: Has questions to answer.

COLLINS: Has questions to answer.

Q: WHO WILL BE THE FIFTH STARTER?

A: Ideally, it should be Jenrry Mejia, but if the Mets are thinking they could have a winning season, Collins could go with veterans John Lannan or Daisuke Matsuzaka. “I’ve always said those veterans can really get you out of the blocks,’’ Collins told reporters in Port St. Lucie Friday. “Then, when those kids are ready, they’re the ones a lot of times that bring you that extra energy, especially late in the summer.’’ Perhaps one of those kids could be the 24-year-old Mejia, but the Mets have eyes on Noah Syndergaard.

Q: WILL BOBBY PARNELL BE READY BY OPENING DAY?

A: We might not know the answer until they break camp. Parnell underwent surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck and wasn’t supposed to throw off the mound for two weeks. However, he threw 10 pitches Friday and reported no discomfort. Of course, with a pitcher recovering from surgery, it is always the next few days that count. If healthy, Parnell is the closer. If not, Vic Black gets the first opportunity.

Q: WILL THE IKE DAVIS SAGA EVER END?

A: It sure would be nice. The Mets tried to trade Davis since October, but reportedly their asking price was too high. Davis kept tabs on the rumors and acknowledged he is surprised to be in Port St. Lucie. “The articles would say I wasn’t going to be here, so [it’s] a little bit of a shock I didn’t get traded,’’ Davis told reporters Friday. Davis goes into spring training as the projected starter and Collins said he’ll get at least 90 at-bats in hope of avoiding another slow start. The Mets haven’t said whether they’ll keep both Davis and Lucas Duda on the Opening Day roster.

Q: CAN RUBEN TEJADA BECOME THE PLAYER EXPECTED OF HIM?

A: Your guess is as good as mine. The Mets soured on Tejada last year, but after his dedication in attending a fitness camp in Michigan are prepared to let him keep his job. Collins hedged on making a formal announcement and mentioned Anthony Seratelli as a back-up infielder. The Mets also plan on giving Wilmer Flores time at shortstop, where he played in 2011. Flores is potentially a better offensive threat, so if he takes to the position it could be interesting.

Q: WHO WILL BE THE LEADOFF HITTER?

A: The answer could also finalize the outfield alignment. Collins stated a preference for Eric Young, who stole 38 bases last year, but must improve his .318 on-base percentage. Tejada, Chris Young and Daniel Murphy have been mentioned, Eric Young gives the Mets a base running threat they’ve missed since losing Jose Reyes. If Eric Young gets the job he’ll play left field. There have been whispers of moving him to second and Murphy to first. However, that would entail breakdowns by both Davis and Duda. As far as second base, Eric Young has only played 56 games at the position. It will take more than a few games in spring training to learn the position. Assuming Eric Young in left, the rest of the starting outfield would be Curtis Granderson and Chris Young, meaning Juan Lagares would probably be optioned.

ON DECK: It’s reporting day; Kyle Farnsworth talks.

Feb 10

Mets Who Could Be On The Trading Block In July

Realistically, the New York Mets could be a .500 team if everything breaks right. That’s an improvement of at least one more victory a month, which isn’t unrealistic. However, let’s say it unravels early for them and it becomes apparent they have no shot at a wild card berth much less finishing at .500 or better.

What then?

GEE: Could draw trade interest.

GEE: Could draw trade interest.

Should they opt to scuttle their ship, and go from buyers to sellers, they have numerous assets they might unload. And, none are their young pitchers.

Here’s where they could start:

Dillon Gee: He’s under appreciated, yet consistent and an innings eater. Last season he gave them 199 and overall was their most durable and consistent starter. If the Mets can’t appreciate |that, somebody else will. He’s attractive because of his consistency, willingness to take the ball, and reasonable contract. If he’s healthy and having good season, teams could be lining up for him.

Daisuke Matsuzaka: Should they bring up Noah Syndergaard and he pitches well and there are no injuries in the rotation, Matsuzaka could draw interest from a contender. Especially, if he’s pitching like he did in his final three 2014 starts.

John Lannan: The same applies to Lannan as Matsuzaka. He’s not in their long-term plans so get what they can.

Kyle Farnsworth: If the Mets are cooked by midseason and Farnsworth is pitching well, teams are always looking for a reliable reliever.

Taylor Teagarden: He has a contract clause that allows him to leave if he’s not on the major league roster by June. So, if both Travis d’Arnaud and Anthony Recker show the catching situation is in good hands. It makes sense to showcase him.

Ike Davis: The assumption is if he’s shown anything in the first half. If there’s some run production, somebody might bite. They certainly didn’t during the winter. Davis has to show some measure of progress because teams had no interest over the winter.

Lucas Duda: Pretty much everything that applied to Davis does for Duda. Also, if one is outperforming the other, they can keep the hot bat and deal the other.

Daniel Murphy: He will make $5 million this year, but over half will be eaten by the end of July. That’s a reasonable contract for a consistent hitter. Should Wilmer Flores demonstrate he can play the position, it might push the Mets to deal Murphy.

Eric Young: Another with a doable contract. He came to the Mets because they needed speed and a leadoff hitter. Surely, there might be another contender who would need the same.

Chris Young: I still don’t know why the Mets signed him to a one-year, $7.25 million contract. If he doesn’t play well it is a waste and there will be likely no interest. However, if he performs, the Mets won’t go high in re-signing him and with only a one-year deal teams could show interest.

So, there you have it. Out of a 25-man roster, the Mets have ten chips. Most are average, but the potential to help a contender. They probably won’t bring back much, but in the Mets’ position stockpiling players is a positive.

None of these players are untouchable or seemingly in their long-term plans. You might make a case for Davis if he’s broken out of his funk, but they’ve been saying that for three years.

Jan 31

Looking At Mets’ Leadoff Hitter And Batting Order

As of now, New York Mets manager Terry Collins prefers outfielder Eric Young as his leadoff hitter, but telling ESPN nothing is etched in stone.

It never is this time of year.

ERIC YOUNG: First leadoff choice.

ERIC YOUNG: First leadoff choice.

If Young hits leadoff, and Chris Young – he of the $7.25 million contract – plays center and Granderson in right, the odd man out is Juan Lagares, arguably the Mets’ best defensive outfielder.

While Lagares prominently displayed his defensive abilities in center last season, he still has a lot to learn as a major league hitter, in particular learning the strike zone, being patient and going to the opposite field. Lagares’ 96 strikeouts with 20 at-bats and .281 on-base percentage in 421 plate appearances screams he’s not leadoff material.

Those numbers don’t fly anywhere in the order and he’s better off getting at-bats to learn those things on the minor league level rather than sitting on the bench in the majors. The Mets haven’t made that decision, but that would be the smart move.

Eric Young’s speed is a definite plus – he stole 38 bases last season – but his career .325 on-base percentage needs improvement. His 67-35 strikeouts-to-walks ratio last year is not acceptable for a leadoff hitter.

The Mets were 14th out of 15 teams in the National League in on-base percentage from the leadoff spot, so clearly improvement is needed. Young assumed the leadoff role in midseason after the Mets tried nine other options. NINE.

The non-productive nine were: Jordany Valdespin (16 games), Ruben Tejada (15), Collin Cowgill (nine), Mike Baxter (eight), Daniel Murphy and Omar Quintanilla (seven), Lagares (six), Justin Turner (three) and Kirk Nieuwenhuis (one).

Valdespin, Cowgill, Baxter and Turner are out of the organization; Nieuwenhuis has fallen out of favor because of his propensity for striking out.

Tejada, Murphy and Quintanilla will make the Opening Day roster.

Collins indicated at the winter meetings if Tejada played to his potential he has the necessary skills to hit leadoff, but he’s still a project.

Assuming Eric Young hits leadoff, here’s the projected batting order for the Mets:

Eric Young: Is the Mets’ fastest player and their best base stealer.

Daniel Murphy: Has the patience and bat control to protect Young.

David Wright: The best hitter on a team, the best combination of power and average hits third. Wright has been his best hitting in front of an established power threat, whether it was Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado or Marlon Byrd.

Curtis Granderson: Theoretically, Granderson’s power potential should give Wright better pitches.

Chris Young: Will bat fifth to separate lefty hitters Granderson and Ike Davis.

Ike Davis: I am assuming Davis will make the team. Having him hit sixth should minimize the pressure on him.

Travis d’Arnaud: Showed little offensive presence last season. He’s no threat so pitchers might work around Davis, which, if nothing else, might help the struggling first baseman learn patience.

Ruben Tejada: At one time this guy hit .289. If he can reach that level again he could hit leadoff if Eric Young doesn’t pan out. Also, if he hits that clears the pitcher’s spot in the order and sets up the next inning.

But, that’s for now.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos