Dec 02

Dickey Remains Mets’ Priority As Winter Meetings Open

They’ll start showing up today for the Winter Meetings, and when they do, the Mets will have a lot on their plate, but little hope of cleaning it.

Their first priority, now that David Wright is done, will be to extend R.A. Dickey’s contract. Dickey prefers three years, but would take two if the dollars are higher. You can bet Dickey’s agents will point to the $12-million, one-year deal the Yankees offered Andy Pettitte.

DICKEY: Do you trade a Cy Young winner?

Although Dickey is the Cy Young Award winner, he’s still only done it for one season at a high level, while Pettitte has over 200 victories and is regarded as one of the game’s best postseason pitchers.

While they are trying to re-sign Dickey, the Mets will also be exploring the trade market for him. However, considering Dickey’s age, career productivity and that many still regard the knuckleball as a gimmick pitch, the Mets might not get in return what they’d like.

Any team trading for him would likely want the chance to negotiate an extension, but their apprehensions would be the same as the Mets. Dickey’s best option might be to take the most money he can in a one-year deal – which would still set him for life – and enter the market next year.

The Mets’ next priorities are to build their outfield and bullpen, and bolster their catching.

There are four name outfielders, of which the Mets have no shot at any of them. Josh Hamilton has the greatest upside, but also the most baggage. The Rangers won’t give him a five-year plus contract, but could offer substantially less and see if he’ll turn his life around.

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Nov 01

2012 Mets Player Review: Toronto Imports Jon Rauch And Frank Francisco

FRANK FRANCISCO, RHP

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS:  The Mets thought they plugged two serious bullpen holes with the signings of Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco, both of whom pitched effectively at times for Toronto in 2011. The two combined for 107 appearances, so the Mets knew they were getting some reliability. However, obviously overlooked by the Mets were the reasons why they weren’t brought back by the Blue Jays in the first place. Francisco walked 18 and gave up seven homers in 50.2 innings. And, he did it for $4 million. Rauch gave up 11 homers in 52 innings. In Rauch, the Mets had to deal with a pitcher who didn’t pitch after Sept. 2, 2011, with a knee injury. And, he did so at the bargain rate of $3.5 million. The Blue Jays decided they could get mediocre production for less. Meanwhile, the Mets decided to give Francisco and Rauch $5.5 million and $3.5 million, respectively.  For that kind of money, the Mets had a right to expect holes would be filled. With the Mets no longer sold on Bobby Parnell at the time, they envisioned Rauch in the set-up role and Francisco as the closer.

2012 SEASON REVIEW: It was hit and miss all season for both. Rauch got off to a good start going 3-0 with three holds and a 2.53 ERA in April, but was 0-4 with a 5.56 ERA in May. Rauch was strong in July and August, but was hammered in September, giving up four homers in nine innings. For the season, Rauch had a decent 1.22 WHIP, but also blew four saves and gave up seven homers. Francisco was strong at the start of the season when the Mets’ bullpen was decent, but struggled in the second half, went on the disabled list and ended the season with a strained side muscle watching Parnell close for much of September. Francisco saved 23 games, which any closer should get by accident. Francisco averaged 14.5 base runners per nine innings (10 hits and 4.5 walks), so he was always in trouble. A 5.53 ERA says the same thing.

LOOKING AT 2013: Francisco will be back simply because he is signed for $6.5 million. His is a contract the Mets would love to scuttle, but he’ll be back in the closer role. Rauch was erratic to the point where the Mets won’t be inclined to bring him back as they know they can get similar production for less money on the free-agent market.

NEXT: Josh Thole

Oct 29

2012 Mets Player Review: Situational Lefties Josh Edgin And Robert Carson

 JOSH EDGIN, LHP

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: The San Francisco Giants are World Series champions this morning in large part because of their bullpen, which included situational lefties Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez and Jose Mijares. The team they defeated, Detroit, had Phil Coke in that role. Most of the playoff teams had dependable lefthanded relievers. When the Mets went to spring training, a situational lefthander was a huge void they expected only Tim Byrdak to fill, which put them at a disadvantage. Byrdak bounced around with Kansas City, Baltimore, Detroit and Houston before finding a home with the Mets in 2011, when he appeared in 72 games and struck out 47 hitters in 37.2 innings. Meanwhile, other lefties in the Mets’ system, Josh Edgin and Robert Carson, were simply blips on their radar. Perhaps they’d get called up in an emergency or in September. Either way, neither was counted on for this season.

WHAT THEY GOT:  By his own admission, manager Terry Collins said he overworked Byrdak, who, like Pedro Feliciano before him, landed on the disabled list with arm problems. Byrdak appeared in 56 games and threw 30.2 innings. A reliever’s workload is more than innings, it is appearances, and with each appearance comes one or two times warming up in the bullpen. The Mets monitor warm-up pitches in the bullpen and knew Byrdak approached a dangerous limit. Eventually, those pitches took a toll and Byrdak was burned out. The strain was more magnified because he was the only lefthander. The Mets eventually replaced him with Carson and Edgin, both of whom performed well in spots. Edgin threw 25.2 innings in 34 games, and allowed seven of 23 inherited runners to score, a number that needs improvement. Carson has outstanding stuff, evidenced by a Sept. 12 appearance at Washington when he inherited a bases loaded-no outs situation an escaped unscathed. They lost that game, but it was arguably the Mets’ best appearance by a reliever all season. Only one of Carson’s six inherited runners scored.

LOOKING AT 2013: Admittedly, the windows of performance from Edgin and Carson are small, but both are inexpensive options for next season. As the Giants proved, having more than one lefty specialist is essential. The Mets abused Feliciano and Byrdak because they had nobody else, but having two will ease the burden, especially because they seem safe in the eighth and ninth innings with Bobby Parnell and Frank Francisco. Both will likely go into spring training with a spot on the staff. It has been a long time since the Mets had two dependable lefty relievers on the same staff.

Oct 28

On Cheering For The Giants Or Tigers And If Lincecum Gives The Mets Any Ideas About Mike Pelfrey

When covering an event, I pull for good storylines and fast games. I don’t cheer for the teams I have covered. Never have; never will. Instead, I want good things to happen to good people. When you are around a group for nearly nine months, you get a feel for how hard these guys work and how much they care.

Even so, there are those who feel differently. When covering the Orioles, a nationally known columnist stood up in the pressbox and railed at third base coach Cal Ripken Sr., when a Baltimore runner was thrown out at the plate.

PELFREY: Could new role change his career? (AP)

I can’t tell you how many times when covering the Yankees or Mets when I saw radio reporters and those from the smaller papers wearing team colors or caps.

But, that’s just me. What about you guys with October again without the Mets? I know most relished the Yankees getting swept. Lot’s of people root for the underdogs, hence there was a following for the Orioles and Athletics.

What about this World Series?

I’d like to see the Giants because I respect how they play the game. They hustle, play good defense and pitch. Boy, do they ever pitch. The Giants are proof positive a team can succeed without power if they play the game the right way. Conversely, the Tigers also pitch, but they have mashers in the middle of their line-up, and we all know power is the great eraser. In that respect, the Tigers are much like the Yankees.

Only this time great pitching shut down their offense.

I’ve always been a great fan of pitching and defense. It makes for tighter, more intense games. To me, 2-0 is far more compelling than 9-6. It just is. Every once in awhile and 11-10 game can be interesting, but it isn’t a clean game.

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Oct 24

Mets That Should Come Back In 2013

When you scan the roster of the 2012 Mets, there are only a handful you can justify returning, and only fewer they should bring back. The following are the Mets you know will be back next year:

JOHAN SANTANA: I’d love for them to find a taker of his $25.5 million contract, but you know that’s not going to happen. Santana will go down as one of the Mets’ worst trades for what they got from him after signing him to a long-term deal. Never mind the prospects for they didn’t amount to much, but the salary became an anchor that dragged down the franchise, especially considering how often he was injured. The Twins’ asking price forced the Yankees and Red Sox to pull out, essentially leaving the Mets to bid against themselves, both in prospects and salary. He’s back because he can’t be unloaded. That’s the only reason.

R.A. DICKEY: I don’t know what it will take to bring Dickey back, but the Mets can always pick up his 2013 option and continue to muddle through negotiations. My confidence level of GM Sandy Alderson reaching a contract extension is low. Whether the Mets bring Dickey back to continue negotiations or to trade him is uncertain, but he’ll be on the Opening Day roster.

JON NIESE: He’s signed long-term, which is a smart signing by the Alderson administration. Young, left-handed arms are at a premium. The Mets could get a lot for him, but his real value is in building around him.

MATT HARVEY: He made such a good first impression that he’s already penciled into the Mets’ 2013 rotation, and hopefully will stay there for years to come. When teams call the Mets to talk trade they invariably ask about Harvey and are properly turned down.

NIESE: A building block.

DILLON GEE: The returns on Gee’s surgery are good and he’s expected to be ready for spring training. The Mets could find a veteran capable of giving them Gee’s production, but not at his salary. Gee has been a find, and if healthy, he’ll be a reliable No. 5 starter.

BOBBY PARNELL: Parnell did not grasp the opportunity to be the Mets’ closer and struggled as the set-up option. However, when Frank Francisco went down and Jon Rauch struggled, Parnell showed improvement in the second half. Parnell’s fastball is overpowering and he’s continued to develop his secondary pitches. That he’s healthy and can throw a ball through a wall would make him attractive in the trade market. Considering his age, that’s also why the Mets should continue in developing him.

ROBERT CARSON/JOSH EDGIN: Opportunities are found in the strangest places, and Edgin and Carson found theirs with Tim Byrdak’s injury. The Mets blew out Byrdak’s arm, and desperate for lefty help in the bullpen, dipped into their minor league system for these two. Both struggled at times, but also showed glimpses of what they could bring to the table. Unless the Mets get lucky this winter, they’ll go into spring training with these two lefties in the bullpen.

 FRANK FRANCISCO: He has another year on his contract – a foolish deal, agreed – which is why he’ll be in Port St. Lucie. But, if the Mets can make a deal for him they should as he really doesn’t add much to their porous bullpen.

JOSH THOLE: Both Thole’s defense and offense have regressed. Alderson seems pleased with the way he handles the staff, but he does get healthy. In a perfect world, the Mets would trade for, or develop, another catcher, but won’t as they have little to trade and little in the minor leagues. Thole comes back because the Mets have too many other priorities to address instead of their catching.

IKE DAVIS: Don’t listen to the trade rumors. He’s not going any where. A team void of power and is pinching pennies isn’t about to deal their 32-homer hitting first baseman. Not at his salary. Unless the Mets can get a boatload in return, what’s the incentive in dealing him? And, with Lucas Duda a question, why would they take that risk?

DANIEL MURPHY:  It’s too bad Murphy doesn’t hit for power otherwise he’d be a keeper. Murphy played better at second to the point where the Mets don’t have a red flag waving at the position anymore. As with Thole, he’s good enough to stay at his position while the Mets address other issues.

RUBEN TEJADA: Tejada more than adequately replaced Jose Reyes and should be here for years. If he has another year like he had in 2012, the Mets should think of an extension to keep him away from arbitration and free-agency. Will he ever be as good as Reyes? Probably not, but he’s more than good enough.

DAVID WRIGHT: I don’t see him going anywhere. As with Dickey, if the Mets don’t get anything done they’ll pick up his option and see what they can get in the trade market. It’s harder to trade a player these days during the winter because teams have the free-agent option to improve. I believe the Mets will eventually work out a deal with Wright, who said he wants to be like Chipper Jones and play his entire career with the same team.

JASON BAY: Like Santana, Bay is back because they can’t deal that contract. His value to the Mets is staying healthy and having a strong first half so the team might be able to deal him. But, after doing nothing the previous three years, that’s not likely.

SCOTT HAIRSTON:  It is hard to say good-bye to 20 homers, but that’s what I can see happening with Hairston, who’ll likely get a better offer in the free-agent market while the Mets wait things out. Hairston, despite being a role player, what the Mets’ most productive outfielder. Whether as a starter or coming off the bench, there should be a place for him with the Mets.

LUCAS DUDA: He’s back not based on 2012 production but potential. Duda had a rough season, but he’s strong as a bull and the Mets need the power. Yes, he’s a butcher in right field, but I’d consider flipping him with Bay and playing him in left field.