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.

Feb 05

Mets’ Latest Plan For Ike Davis

Recent news coming out of Port St. Lucie concerning New York Mets giving first baseman Ike Davis at least 90 at-bats is interesting.

The first being the Mets will have a short leash this spring with Davis. They’ll give him every opportunity to start strong to win and keep the job.

DAVIS: Still in Mets' plans.

DAVIS: Still in Mets’ plans.

Theoretically, this should eliminate the slow starts that defined his last two seasons and sent him to the minors last year. This shouldn’t be interpreted as Davis being handed the job as in the two previous years.

He’d better make good use of those 90 at-bats.

“In the past you look to get him 60-70 at-bats,’’ Collins told The New York Post. “Well, he’s going to get at least 90. Yeah, he might get a little tired, but he’s too big a piece. We have to know what we have there.’’

Davis, at 26, has an upside evidenced by 32 homers hit in 2012. They know what they could have. They also know what they have had, meaning a low on-base percentage and batting average, lots of strikeouts and little run production.

Lucas Duda moved ahead of Davis last season when he improved his on-base percentage, but his run production was miniscule. The knock on him is he became too selective and passed on money pitches.

The Mets will also be aware of giving Duda his at-bats during spring training unless Davis doesn’t pan out or can’t deal him.

GM Sandy Alderson has tied to deal Davis since the end of the season, much to the anger of his father, former Yankees pitcher, Ron Davis, who ripped the Mets for being too open about their intentions.

In doing so, their asking price was scoffed at as being too high.

That’s something they can’t go back on, so Davis still won’t bring much. Plus, if he has a hot spring, he won’t be going anywhere, making Duda the more likely one to be traded.

If both Davis and Duda have miserable springs, the Mets have options in moving Daniel Murphy from second base or possibly Wilmer Flores.

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