Feb 15

Mets Need Frank Francisco Healthy To Trade

The Mets should simply resign themselves to opening the season with Frank Francisco on the DL with the idea of using his roster spot for somebody else. The Mets’ thinking should be not to have Francisco healthy enough to be their closer, but healthy enough to trade.

That would enable Bobby Parnell to have the entire spring training to close. Having this time is better than training him as a closer only to have it pulled from him at the last minute.

FRANCISCO: Others could have interest.

FRANCISCO: Others could have interest.

And, if Parnell doesn’t cut it, then there’s time to work in Brandon Lyon and have Terry Collins configure his bullpen.

Reportedly, Francisco will be shut down for two weeks. What comes next is a period of long toss, followed by throwing on flat ground, then off the mound. Then there’s batting practice and perhaps a split-squad or minor league game before getting into a spring training game. That could be another two weeks, leaving Francisco just two weeks of games to get sharp, which is only asking for trouble.

There’s always the chance of a setback, so it makes sense to avoid rushing him and bring him along cautiously so he could be healthy to trade at the

July 31 deadline. If the Mets have a bad first half, teams will inquire about Francisco. They won’t call if his elbow is ailing.

As they rebuild, the Mets must keep thinking of pieces they can deal to stockpile prospects and draft choices.

Several other Mets fit that description:

Fifth starter Shaun Marcum: If Zack Wheeler is ready and nobody injured that makes Marcum expendable because he doesn’t fit into their long-term plans.

Most anybody in their outfield and bullpen: They don’t want to dangle Parnell and Lucas Duda, but if they could get something, what’s the harm?

John Buck: If Travis d’Arnaud is playing on the major league roster, then Buck could be attractive to a contender with a catching void.

Johan Santana: This is a long shot, but something the club would love to do, even if means picking up much of his remaining contract. If Santana is healthy and pitching well, somebody will be interested and the Mets will listen.

Daniel Murphy: If prospect Wilmer Flores has an impressive spring, he will fit into the Mets’ long-term plans which could make Murphy available to an AL team as a designated hitter.

Jenrry Mejia: Sooner or later he needs to prove he can pitch. The Mets have to be thinking it might not be with them. If that’s their eventual conclusion it is better to make a trade too early rather than too late.

There’s no telling how the season will play out, but expectations are low so looking to divest players not in their 2014 plans must be considered.

NOTE: I’ll have another post around noon.

Feb 13

Mets Shouldn’t Be Surprised At Francisco Injury And Losing Bourn

Two days into camp and the Mets have already taken two shots.

The first was inevitable, that Michael Bourn signed elsewhere. Come to think of it, so was the second when Frank Francisco was shut down with elbow inflammation. The proviso was Francisco would be the closer if healthy and he is clearly not.

How long he’ll be shut down is anybody’s guess, and opening the season on the disabled list is a fair place to start. In the interim Bobby Parnell will close. Again.

I like Parnell over Brandon Lyon or Josh Edgin because he has the greatest upside. Parnell has pitched in several capacities for the Mets, ranging as a starter to a set-up role to closer, and hasn’t excelled in any of them for a variety of reasons.

First, he has been overly reliant on is fastball, which, if it isn’t darting is hittable, regardless of how fast he throws. As a starter, he didn’t develop his secondary pitches. Also, it isn’t unrealistic to think how the Mets bounced him around from role to role didn’t have an accumulating impact on his confidence.

Remember, over the past few years the Mets have not been contenders so there wasn’t really any harm in letting Parnell learn on the job, even if it meant taking his lumps.

The Mets initially wanted Parnell as a starter, but then-manager Jerry Manuel – managing only to save his job – yanked Parnell from the rotation in September.

Parnell never had clear stake to the closer role. Yes, there were times he pitched terrible, but for a team going nowhere it was a chance to learn and turn it around. Don’t think that couldn’t have happened. Parnell closed at the end of last season when Francisco was injured and pitched well holding opponents to a .196 batting average over 17 appearances.

There’s no reason to rush Francisco back other than to attempt to salvage something for his $6.5 million contract (count that as a Sandy Alderson mistake).

So, the Mets will move on for now without Francisco, and also without Bourn, who was a long shot in the first place.

Assuming the Mets could have worked out a deal with agent Scott Boras – the Indians got him for $48 million – there was the matter of Bourn waiting for an arbitration hearing to determine whether they would surrender their draft pick.

If they had to, there would have been no deal. There is no way Bourn would have waited for that outcome and miss another offer. Bourn was never going to happen, and if I were a cynic I’d be thinking going after him was a smokescreen to suggest action.

That would have been a pipe dream, as is thinking Francisco wouldn’t go down again.

 

Feb 11

Mets Pitchers And Catchers Report Today With Several Questions

Pitchers and catchers report today in Port St. Lucie, although dozens of Mets are already in camp, which is the first encouraging sign of spring training.

As with most teams, the Mets have an array of issues and questions they must address over the next six weeks if they have hope of being competitive this season.

Gee: How healthy is he?

Gee: How healthy is he?

It begins with health and pitching, which for the Mets seem intertwined every spring. A competitive season needs a sound Johan Santana and Dillon Gee, with the Mets ideally getting 200 innings from each.

Gee is coming off surgery to remove a blood clot in his arm. He’s shown flashes, but hasn’t been projected any higher than a fourth starter. Then again, Gee has never pitched a complete season where he’s gotten over 30 starts. Obviously, if he can do that and approach 200 innings it would take strain from a makeshift bullpen.

As for Santana, this is his walk year. If he remains healthy and productive, the Mets have a chance to approach .500. However, regardless of how well he pitches the Mets will not pick up his option for 2014. Trading Santana is wishful thinking, but should they get lucky the Mets would have to assume a portion of Santana’s contract.

Complete and healthy seasons from Santana and Gee, plus the continued development of Matt Harvey will only begin to make up for the loss of R.A. Dickey, assuming, of course, he doesn’t fall back to his pre-Cy Young performance. Dickey is not the second coming of Tom Seaver, and last year was his first as a dominant pitcher. Still, it’s 20 fewer wins from the rotation.

Figuring the Mets break camp with their rotation intact, the next issue is their makeshift bullpen.

GM Sandy Alderson backtracked and Frank Francisco is the closer going in, but that’s written in pencil as he’s coming off elbow surgery. This means spring training is for the Mets to determine Francisco’s health or come up with another closer, probably Bobby Parnell or recently-signed Brandon Lyon.

Continue reading

Feb 05

Mets’ Pitching Questions Heading Into Spring Training

With spring training less than two weeks away, the Mets have a myriad of questions they’ll hope to resolve before Opening Day. That’s six weeks to get done what hasn’t been completed all winter.

With a late push, GM Sandy Alderson added a fifth starter and has tinkered with his bullpen. The operative word there is “tinkered,’’ because there’s more hope than actual production in what he’s done.

Many of the questions, not surprisingly, are concerned with pitching. Here’s the pitching questions I’m asking:

Q: How healthy is Johan Santana, and what is his mindset in his walk year?

A: Once again, Santana didn’t complete a whole season with the Mets. This time, it wasn’t his shoulder, although he did experience some tiredness after his 134-pitch no-hitter. Santana has to know the Mets have no intention of extending his contract beyond this year, so he’s pitching to impress new suitors. In that case, he might give a little extra in his walk year. Then again, he might just coast to show he’s healthy. There’s a gradual build-up in spring training to 100 pitches so we should get an idea of how sound he is. If he’s not, the Mets might have to scramble for another starter.

Q: What is Dillon Gee’s status?

A: Gee’s 2012 was cut short because of a blood clot in his shoulder. The projection for him is as a fourth or fifth starter. Surgery removed the clot and he has been cleared. I’m curious as to his strength and stamina. Clots are serious things and Gee has probably been prescribed blood thinners to prevent them. Still, until he gets out there we won’t know for sure.

Q: Does Zack Wheeler make a statement?

A: Wheeler isn’t expected to make the rotation, but will be a call-up during the season. With concerns about Santana and Gee – and you know something else will pop up – Wheeler might be counted on sooner than expected. The Mets don’t expect Wheeler to be a full-time contributor until 2014, but that’s only a rough timetable.

Q: What is the composition of the bullpen?

A: The Mets added Pedro Feliciano, LaTroy Hawkins and Scott Atchison, and are talking to Brandon Lyon. Jose Valverde won’t happen and Frank Francisco is a $6.5 million health issue. Kind of gives you a warm, optimistic feeling doesn’t it? The bullpen is essential to any progressive step the Mets might take and currently it doesn’t seem better than last year. On a positive note, Josh Edgin and Robert Carson showed potential worth grooming and Bobby Parnell was a positive when Francisco went down at the end of the season.

Feb 01

Report: Mets Considering Valverde As Closer

Maybe Sandy Alderson believes the Mets might be ready to compete this year.

That was my first impression – perhaps wishful thinking – after reading an ESPN report they are considering signing former Detroit closer Jose Valverde to replace Frank Francisco. No problems there. Actually, I have no problem with anybody replacing Francisco, who was a bad signing.

Valverde saved 35 games last year for the Tigers before unraveling and was replaced in the postseason by a committee pen. Valverde’s agent is Scott Boras, but the Mets say they need this on their terms, with a reported $4 million base plus incentives. Valverde earned $9 million last year, but with how he finished nobody will bite on that figure.

With spring training less than two weeks away – my, where did the winter go? – Valverde falls under the category of beggars can’t be choosers. If he’s signed and does well, he can try the market again. There are always a multitude of relievers every winter.

Reportedly, the Mets thought of asking Roy Oswalt to convert to closer like John Smoltz, but he was cool to the idea. He might have second thoughts if he doesn’t get any offers. Actually, if the Mets are in a spending mode, why not invite Oswalt and give him a minor league contract to start? They signed Shaun Marcum to a one-year deal as the fifth starter, but does anybody believe the Mets will make it through the season with only five starters? Not happening.

As Alderson attempts to build a bullpen at the last minute, he should not consider bringing back Francisco Rodriguez, who punched his girlfriend’s father at Citi Field, hurt himself and was traded to Milwaukee. The Mets don’t need that headache.

Evidently, this does not bode well for Bobby Parnell’s future with the Mets. He’s had several chances but spit the bit. It was thought he could get another chance if Francisco – who was injured at the end of last season – faltered again.

Parnell pitched well in place of Francisco, but there was admittedly no pressure on him. If Alderson thought the Mets could not be competitive this year, it would have been the perfect opportunity to force-feed the role to Parnell. If I’m Parnell, I’d be wanting to leave town.

By adding Valverde, Alderson believes the Mets could make something of the summer, but even with an improved bullpen there remains an enormous hole in the outfield, a thin bench and several questions in the rotation.