Nov 28

Mets’ Top Five Issues Entering Spring Training

I trust you all enjoyed Thanksgiving with your families. With Christmas fast approaching, followed by the Super Bowl, it is time to forget about the Jets, Giants, Knicks and Nets, and focus on hockey and the upcoming baseball season.

The spring training countdown begins at the conclusion of the Super Bowl. With that, I’ll take a look at what I consider the Mets’ top five issues entering the season.

HARVEY: No hiding he's a key. ESPN

HARVEY: No hiding he’s a key. ESPN

If you disagree, and that’s the point of this exercise, I would be interested to hear your issues.

1. DAVID WRIGHT’S HEALTH: I touched on this the other day, and rank it first because it is the lead domino. If Wright returns to All-Star status it alleviates a lot of pressure from the offense. It takes away a potential distraction and goes a long way toward making the Mets whole.

2. MATT HARVEY’S RETURN: If not Wright, then it has to be Harvey’s return from Tommy John surgery. The Mets have to handle him with kid gloves whether he likes it or not. There will be an innings limit, which has yet to be disclosed which figures to become an issue.

3. THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE BULLPEN: For as long as Sandy Alderson has been here, building the bullpen has been a major issue. With Bobby Parnell’s injury, the Mets went with a patchwork bullpen last year that saw the emergence of Jenrry Mejia and Jeurys Familia. Manager Terry Collins said the job is Parnell’s when he returns, but that’s premature. Let Parnell ease into form. As of now, Mejia, Familia, Parnell and Vic Black bring a lot of heat from the sixth through ninth innings. The Mets need another lefty to complement Josh Edgin and there’s a need to bring back Carlos Torres.

4. THE CONTINUED DEVELOPMENT OF JACOB deGROM AND ZACK WHEELER The Mets claim their foundation is young pitching, which means they need an encore year from deGrom and Wheeler to pitch up to expectations. For Wheeler, that means lowering his pitch count and giving the Mets depth. It can’t all be Harvey.

5.  WILMER FLORES’  ABILITY TO TAKE TO SHORTSTOP: Let’s face it, the Mets aren’t going to land a marquee shortstop, either through trade or free agency. It is time to see if Flores can produce. This should he his shot.

 

Nov 26

Potential Mets’ 2015 Batting Order

Let’s assume the Mets won’t make any significant additions at the Winter Meetings, and what we have now is what we’ll get Opening Day. Given that, here’s what I see as a potential batting order:

Juan Lagares, CF: In the absence of a legit leadoff hitter, the Mets would be making a gamble. Lagares has the speed and showed he can steal a base. He must improve his on-base percentage and cut his strikeouts.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Let’s begin with this notion: He won ‘t be traded. Murphy is patient at the plate and can hit to the opposite field. Those are important qualities for a No. 2 hitter.

David Wright, 3B: In theory, a team’s best hitter – the combination of average and power – bats third. The Mets are hoping for Wright to hit for more power after an injury-shortened 2014 season.

Lucas Duda, 1B: He has the potential to be the power bat the Mets have long needed. Last year, he hit 30 homers with 92 RBI. Of his 130 hits, 57 went for extra bases. He still strikes out too much, evidenced by his 135-69 strikeouts-to-walks ratio.

Michael Cuddyer, LF: Injuries limited him to only 49 games and 190 at-bats last season. However, he won the NL batting title in 2013 and hit 20 homers with a .389 on-base percentage. That player could give the Mets a potent middle-of-the-order.

Curtis Granderson, RF: He could hit fifth, but I’ll slot him sixth to separate the left-handed hitters between Cuddyer. It might be too much for him to hit 40 homers as he did with the Yankees, but 30 shouldn’t be out of the question. Isn’t that why they moved in the fences?

Travis d’Arnaud, C: He hit 13 homers in only 385 at-bats leading to expectations of possibly 20 over a full season (just 108 games in 2014). He’s still a work in progress, but the Mets are hopeful.

Wilmer Flores, SS: We won’t know of the optimum spot to hit Flores until he plays a full season – he only has 354 career at-bats. The Mets like his offensive potential, but it is premature to make projections. One thing for certain, his 3-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio must improve.

Pitcher’s spot.

Nov 24

Mets’ Shortstop Question Defines Winter

To get an accurate read on how the New York Mets feel about themselves, look no further than their handling of the shortstop position.

It’s an oversimplification to call them cheap for not going after Troy Tulowitzki because the asking price, both in what the Rockies would demand in players and the salary the Mets would have to pay would have been exorbitant.

Everybody, of course, knows the Red Sox are always serious about winning, so signing Hanley Ramirez is something in the Boston’s DNA.

The Mets won’t go that high-end, but there is talk they might go after Stephen Drew, but he’s not the missing piece to their puzzle. He might be a better, more experienced and expensive alternative to Wilmer Flores.

However, is Drew the player the Mets want to build around? He might cost them $4 million, but if he proves himself he would likely walk after 2015 and the Mets – who deem themselves competitive this year – would be searching for a new shortstop next year.

And, teams considering themselves contenders aren’t usually in the market for a shortstop.

Alexei Ramirez or Starlin Castro have been linked to the Mets, but they don’t want to surrender their young pitching.

That brings us full circle to their shortstop at the end of last, which is Flores. He represents their least expensive option. He could also be their future, if they were to give him a full shot at the position.

And, if it didn’t work out, then they could always go get a shortstop next year.

Meet the new winter, just like the old one.

Nov 16

Murphy Staying; Could Be Last Season With Mets

One of the more interesting nuggets coming out of the GM meetings last week was Sandy Alderson’s statement the New York Mets aren’t interested in working on a contract extension with second baseman Daniel Murphy.

Alderson also said the Mets would be reluctant to trade Murphy. While both points are contradictory, they also make sense.

It is estimated Murphy will make $8.1 million this season in his walk year, a relatively high sum for a contact hitter with little power and only an average defender. Just how much is that worth?

Also, the Mets finished below .500 for the sixth straight season with Murphy. They can surely finish below .500 without him.

Alderson’s reasoning in avoiding the extension is unknowns Dilson Herrera and Wilmer Flores.  If either shows capable of playing second, especially Flores if a shortstop can be obtained, then Murphy would be an expensive third wheel and they’ll let him walk after next season.

As far as putting Murphy on the block, the Mets are pointing toward this season as one in which they’ll be competitive so they’ll to keep him, especially if Flores and/or Herrera don’t pan out or there is an injury.

It translates to at least one more season in Flushing for Murphy.

Nov 13

Tea Leaves Say Shortstop Is Flores’ Job To Lose

Without saying so directly, GM Sandy Alderson indicated the 2015 Opening Day shortstop would be Wilmer Flores.

FLORES: It's his job.

FLORES: It’s his job.

Speaking at the GM meetings this week in Phoenix, Alderson said the market isn’t good and Flores is acceptable as a fall back option. For those familiar with the Mets’ vernacular, that means they will probably go with a pat hand.

“I know there are fans out there that don’t want to hear it, but if we had to go into the season with Flores as our shortstop, I’m certainly not in a panic mode at that point,’’ Alderson said. “Wilmer at shortstop is one of those guys that doesn’t pass the eye test. But if you start to look at his metrics a little bit, you realize there’s maybe a little more there than we give him credit. And, offensively, there’s as much potential with him as probably anybody that’s available.’’

That hardly counts as an endorsement, but if I’m Flores I have to believe it’s my job to lose.

Alderson called the market “slim,’’ and the Mets have to be smart enough to not throw good money on “slim.’’ Plus, if they are reluctant to trade, what else can it mean? Also, when was the last time you heard Ruben Tejada’s name mentioned?

So, ladies and gentlemen, introducing your 2015 Mets’ Opening Day shortstop – Wilmer Flores.