Jan 15

Mets’ Top Ten Questions With Spring Training A Month Away

With the New York Mets a month away from spring training in Port St. Lucie, now is a good time to look at the most pressing issues manager Terry Collins and general manager Sandy Alderson must address before Opening Day.

WHO WILL BE THE FIFTH STARTER?

As of now it is Jenrry Mejia, who is coming off surgery. The Mets are looking, but their first hope is Mejia is healthy enough to open the season.

As teams select their rosters there will undoubtedly be veteran arms that are waived and become available.

Of course, there are several free agents on the market, but Alderson is looking for somebody to sign to a minor league contract, which would preclude Bronson Arroyo. Alderson expressed interest in Daisuke Matsuzaka after the season, but he wants two years.

Freddy Garcia, 37, has been discussed.

WHO IS ON FIRST?

This is a difficult time of year to make a trade as most teams are gearing up for spring training. There are some, like Milwaukee, that need a first baseman, but Alderson said there’s been no movement.

So, it looks as if Ike Davis and Lucas Duda will compete for the first base job. As they are essentially the same type of player, don’t expect them to keep both. If Davis has a hot spring more teams will show interest. Then again, if that happens the Mets might be prone to keeping him.

Should that happen, Duda could be optioned to Triple A if the Mets can’t trade him. Whatever happens, the Mets must be quick to pull the trigger on Davis if he’s not hitting. They can’t afford another year of distractions.

WHO LEADS OFF?

Their best leadoff hitter is Eric Young, but the trouble is if they keep outfielder Juan Lagares, that puts the speedy Young on the bench.

The answer to this question will also determine the composition of the outfield. If it is Lagares, he could play center with Chris Young and Curtis Granderson on the corners.

It would be counterproductive to have Lagares on the bench – he needs at-bats – so if he doesn’t start he season I think he should be sent to the minors. In that case, Eric Young would play left, Granderson center and Chris Young in right.

Young would lead off whenever he plays. If Lagares sticks, don’t expect him to lead off as he strikes out too much.

Collins left open the possibilities of Daniel Murphy or Ruben Tejada leading off.

IS BOBBY PARNELL HEALTHY?

After undergoing neck surgery, Parnell has been given clearance to resume baseball activities. However, this does not mean he will be ready to start the season. If that’s the case, Vic Black would close, but that would mean the Mets must add at least one more reliever. Signing Garcia could give them both starting and bullpen depth.

The Mets currently have four relievers outside of Black and Parnell they are counting on: Scott Rice, Gonzalez Germen, Josh Edgin and Jeurys Familia. Recently signed Ryan Reid could stick and Carlos Torres is also in the mix.

WILL ANY OF THE YOUNG ARMS STICK?

The Mets anticipate seeing Jacob deGrom, Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard this summer, but not before June. That is why Alderson is looking to sign veteran to a minor league contract, which would make that pitcher easily disposable.

DOES WILMER FLORES HAVE A POSITION?

It would be waste of everybody’s time if the Mets concentrate Flores’ time at a position they have no intention of him playing at, such as third base.

Collins said Flores have improved his speed working out at the fitness camp and suggested during the Winter Meetings he might play some shortstop. That would be terrific as his bat is potentially far superior to Tejada’s. Should Flores show promise at shortstop, but doesn’t stick, he should be sent to the minors to concentrate at that position.

HOW GOOD IS TRAVIS d’ARNAUD?

He showed little in his limited window of opportunity last summer, especially at the plate. It is imperative d’Arnaud show something offensively this spring, even though results aren’t often emphasized.

His improvement must also include gaining a familiarity with the staff, although some pitchers, such as Dillon Gee, said they are comfortable working with d’Arnaud.

Collins said he has confidence in Anthony Recker as a back-up, but the Mets signed veteran Taylor Teagarden. The former Oriole, 30, has an out clause in his contract he can exercise if he’s not promoted by June 15.

HAS RUBEN TEJADA LEARNED ANYTHING?

The Mets began the offseason with shortstop a priority, but with the thinness of the market, and cost of the few – see Stephen Drew – they plan to stick with Tejada as they are encouraged by the effort he put in attending a voluntary fitness camp in Michigan.

Last year, Tejada first went on the DL, then options to Triple A Las Vegas, because the Mets weren’t happy with his production and attitude.

Collins said this winter Tejada has to learn a major league job is rare and fleeting. The manager said he’s happy with what he’s heard so far.

WHO IS ON THE BENCH?

I’ve already sent down Flores and Lagares for more work, but that probably won’t happen as the Mets’ bench is very thin. Flores could play some first base, but there is also Josh Satin who would be available.

If the Mets opt to send down Lagares, they would likely keep Matt den Dekker.

The back-up catcher will be either Recker or Teagarden, as I don’t see them keeping both.

While I am hopeful Flores can learn to play shortstop, I’m not overly optimistic and see Wilfredo Tovar sticking as Tejada’s back-up.

CAN COLLINS FIND A SET LINE-UP?

Last season the Mets had almost as many line-ups as they played games. A lot of that was because of injuries and/or a lack of production.

As of now, Collins doesn’t know his order because a decision hasn’t been made on Lagares and it is uncertain Davis will be on the team.

The leadoff position is wide open if Eric Young isn’t a starter. The job could go to Murphy or Tejada. Should Murphy lead off, I’d go with Tejada hitting second because Lagares doesn’t handle the bat will and has a propensity for striking out.

There are several assumptions, such as Murphy, David Wright and Granderson hitting 2-3-4.

Likely Davis or Duda would hit fifth. Collins could go with Chris Young to separate the lefty hitters, thereby dropping Davis or Duda to sixth.

Batting 7-8-9 would be d’Arnaud, Tejada and the pitcher.

Dec 16

Issues Terry Collins Will Address In Spring Training

New York Mets manager Terry Collins has a lot on his plate these days in preparation for spring training. There are still pieces to add, but that’s GM Sandy Alderson’s job, not Collins.

COLLINS: Issues to address.

COLLINS: Issues to address.

Collins doesn’t appear to be a manager who flies by the seat of his pants. He’s likely to have a plan of players and issues he will need to address, assuming the roster doesn’t change between now and the middle of February.

Ike Davis: With Davis’ name in the news constantly regarding a possible trade, what if it doesn’t happen? If Davis is still on the roster, Collins will have to work out a plan on how to use him and how to keep him in the clubhouse circles. It will be difficult for Collins to juggle the responsibilities of managing a team and handling personalities.

Daniel Murphy: Like Davis, Murphy’s name has also been mentioned in trade talks. Usually managers won’t discuss an impending trade, but if the trade doesn’t materialize he has to keep motivating that player. Also, he needs to know how to answer the inevitable question: Will I be traded?

Ruben Tejada: Collins said at the Winter Meetings he still has faith in Tejada as his shortstop. How will he convey that, especially after the Mets made a run at Jhonny Peralta and reportedly are still in the market?

Eric Young: After going through nine leadoff hitters last season, Young won the job. Now, it appears he has lost it. Collins must formulate a plan on how he will deal with Young and keep him motivated and interested.

Wilmer Flores: This is a man without a position. If Flores makes the team, Collins must define to him a role and where he fits in.

Juan Lagares: This is a guy who needs to hit if he’s to play, and he’ll have to play to stay. Lagares strikes out way to much for his limited playing time, and Collins must impress on him the importance of pitch selection and plate patience for his development. This means potentially sacrificing results in spring training in favor of improving his plate approach.

Chris Young: Collins said he’s the Met he believes the most poised to be a surprise. What is expected of him? There can be no guessing of roles.

Travis d’Arnaud: Collins said d’Arnaud’s plate approach must improve. He’s simply not a major league hitter. If there’s a chance d’Arnaud will be sent down, it must be impressed on him it isn’t permanent and he still fits into the Mets’ plans. The last thing Collins wants to do is destroy his confidence.

Zack Wheeler: Collins said if there’s to be an innings limit on Wheeler, it will be something that would happen during the season and he won’t go into the year on the limit. Collins also knows everybody is different and the leap Matt Harvey made last year might not happen for Wheeler. Everybody’s definition of progress is also different and Collins will need to tell Wheeler what is expected.

Accountability: Last year left the impression there wasn’t accountability among some players, notably Jordany Valdespin and the length of time to send Davis to the majors. If the Mets are to make the next step the players must know they are accountable.

Plate approach: Collectively, the Mets struck out too many times and didn’t walk enough. The Mets’ offensive “gameplan’’ has to be addressed of what is acceptable and what is not. Lucas Duda took way too much heat for working the count and not driving in runs. The run production will eventually come. For any player who waits out the pitcher, he must be told it isn’t a crime.

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

Dec 10

Manager Terry Collins Touches On All Things Mets

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – New York Mets manager Terry Collins addressed a myriad of issues surrounding his club two months away from spring training.

Among them:

* He has the mindset both Ike Davis and Lucas Duda will be on the roster in February, and he’ll “adjust’’ accordingly.

* Said one of the reasons why Davis hasn’t reached his potential is because he presses trying to hit home runs.

COLLINS: Optimistic.

COLLINS: Optimistic.

* He’s prepared to start the season with Ruben Tejada at shortstop. Collins said Tejada understood, “his career is at stake.’’

* Zack Wheeler should be able to throw 200-plus innings. Collins said he liked Wheeler’s composure and ability to throw strikes when asked if he’s ready to take a Matt Harvey step.

* He’s prepared to have Anthony Recker as the back-up catcher.

* Is not worried about strikeouts from Curtis Granderson and Chris Young because they offset the strikeouts with run production. Collins named Young as the player most poised to be a surprise this season. Collins indicated Granderson will hit fourth behind David Wright.

* Is pleased with Wilmer Flores attending fitness camp in Michigan. Said he’s added quickness and speed and did not rule out playing some shortstop.

* With Eric Young delegated to the bench, said there’s no clear-cut candidate to hit lead off. Named Daniel Murphy and Tejada as possibilities.

* Has not come up with an outfield rotation, but Juan Lagares will be in it.

* Said he’ll wait until what he sees in spring training before deciding if Bobby Parnell will be ready. Vic Black is the presumed closer if he is not.

Collins said pitchers and catchers will report to Port St. Lucie for spring training on Feb. 15.

ON DECK:  Jeff Wilpon dishes on how Mets’ offseason plans changed with Harvey’s injury.

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

Dec 03

What Non-Tendered Mets Could Be Worth Another Look

The New York Mets sent five players to the free-agent market when they non-tendered Jeremy Hefner, Justin Turner, Scott Atchison, Jordany Valdespin and Omar Quintanilla.

HEFNER: Is he worth another look?

HEFNER: Is he worth another look?

None of the decisions should be considered surprising, and to get where they want to be they would need to do get better than what they had.

The question is, what to do until then? Here’s my take on the five let go:

JEREMY HEFNER: Hefner was clearly a dollar move as he wouldn’t be available any way because he’s recovering from Tommy John surgery. Nonetheless, they could re-sign him at a lower rate and not have him on the 40-man roster.

Hefner proved to be a valuable spot-starter, but would not be considered any higher than a fifth starter.

Working against Hefner, is by the time he was cleared to return, the Mets’ rotation would have Matt Harvey back, plus the expected promotions of Rafael Montero, Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom.

JUSTIN TURNER: Was a valuable role player off the bench, but not somebody who could play for any length of time without his weaknesses being exposed.

The Mets could groom Wilmer Flores to replace him, but Turner can play shortstop so it would be a limited move.

Flores, however, could master the shaving cream pie to the face shtick Turner popularized.

JORDANY VALDESPIN: No way.

SCOTT ATCHISON:  He gave the Mets 47.1 innings last season out of the pen. The Mets need to replace those innings and could do it for the same $700,000 Atchison made, but for a younger arm.

OMAR QUINTANILLA: He played in 95 games when Ruben Tejada went down, and was more than capable defensively, but hit only .222 with a .306 on-base percentage.

Those two numbers have the Mets believing he’s not a fulltime answer at shortstop.

The position remains a hole, and it looks as if they could go with Tejada again. Even so, they don’t have a back-up.

COMING UP: Why the Mets did not non-tender Ike Davis.

Nov 26

Don’t Be Surprised If Ruben Tejada Remains Shortstop Starter

Considering how things have unfolded in the shortstop market, speculation is the Mets will give Ruben Tejada another chance to live up to the expectations he generated two years ago.

Stephen Drew, who would have been ideal at Citi Field, had too expensive a price tag for even the Red Sox, so there was no way he was coming to Flushing.

TEJADA: Could remain starter.

TEJADA: Could remain starter.

The Mets’ next choice, Jhonny Peralta, wound up with St. Louis, which is just as well because as a PED user, his production must be viewed skeptically. And, $52 million over four years is excessive under those conditions.

I’ve never been a Tejada fan. I don’t believe he hustles and his sometimes lack of work ethic and commitment is annoying. However, his attendance at a fitness camp in Michigan – along with Lucas Duda and Wilmer Flores – presents him in a different light.

It demonstrates an effort, and at this point, that’s something important to the Mets.

Two years ago, his first as a starter in the post-Jose Reyes era, Tejada didn’t report to spring training early as manager Terry Collins wanted. He wasn’t technically late, but Collins believed Tejada should have demonstrated more enthusiasm in preparing for his first season.

Was Collins wrong for thinking that? No. Was Tejada wrong for not reporting early? Technically, no, but he did leave a bad impression.

Tejada redeemed himself with a good season, hitting .289 with a .333 on-base percentage. However, Tejada got off to a horrible start, both in the field and at the plate last year. Following an injury and lengthy stay in the minor leagues, Tejada finished with a .202 average and .259 on-base percentage at the time his season ended with a broken leg.

Economically, Tejada made $514-thousand last year, his third in terms of service time, so the Mets know they won’t pay a lot of money.

There’s literally not a better option in the free agent market, at least not one with an injury history – Rafael Furcal – or who’ll want an excessive amount of money.

The Mets’ timetable to pose serious competition has now been pushed back to 2015 following the season-ending injury to Matt Harvey.

Given that, plus the economic factors, paltry market and nothing in the farm system – Flores is not an option – it makes sense to give Tejada another opportunity.

If Tejada plays the way he did two years ago, that’s something the Mets can live with. And if not, then there’s always next year.

ON DECK: How Mets’ 2014 roster currently shapes up.