Dec 28

Top Six Mets’ Storylines For 2016

The season didn’t turn out the way for the Mets the way many hoped. Too many injuries and too few hits with runners in scoring position will do that to a team. There were numerous storylines from this summer, but I’ve narrowed it down to five. I’m sure you have others, but these are mine:

SYNDERGAARD: Pitched big in WC Game. (FOX)

SYNDERGAARD: Pitched big in WC Game. (FOX)

Mets lose wild-card heartbreaker: San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner and the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard were brilliant in one of the most well-pitched games in Wild-Card history. Syndergaard threw seven scoreless and Bumgarner went nine in the Giants’ 3-0 victory won by Conor Gillaspie three-run homer in the ninth.

The loss prevented a playoff rematch between the Mets and Cubs, and of course, kept them from returning to the World Series.

Injuries derail rotation: The highly-anticipated return of Zack Wheeler to the rotation in July and switch of Bartolo Colon to the bullpen never materialized. One by one they went down until three more went down with surgery: Matt Harvey (shoulder), Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz (elbows).

Syndergaard was also hindered with an elbow spur. Injuries always produce opportunities, and this time Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman took advantage.

Piazza enters Hall of Fame: Catcher Mike Piazza was clearly the summer’s feel-good moment with his induction into the Hall of Fame. While there have been many players with links to the Mets that are in Cooperstown, Piazza and Tom Seaver are the only ones who went in as Mets.

Wright’s back limits him to 38 games: For the second straight summer, David Wright’s injured back scuttled his season that put his career in jeopardy.

Wright is progressing on schedule, but we’ll not know about him until spring training.

Cespedes and Walker power offense: Bringing back Yoenis Cespedes and signing Neil Walker were the Mets’ two biggest off-season moves last winter, and together they combined for over 50 homers.

The Mets will bring both back for next year (Cespedes is signed for four years), which just about completes their off-season shopping.

Mets trade for Bruce: With injuries sapping the Mets’ offense – including those to Cespedes and Walker – GM Sandy Alderson pulled the trigger and traded for Reds outfielder Jay Bruce.

Bruce struggled for most of the second half, but finished with a strong ten-day to close the season. Alderson made a big thing of having Bruce as insurance if they couldn’t bring back Cespedes, and if they could they would deal him.

Well, they signed Cespedes to a four-year, $110-million package, then turned around to find no interest in Bruce and might not be able to deal him until spring training, if at all.

Dec 06

Mets Aren’t In Blockbuster Mode

The Boston Red Sox are in a tough division but went all out today in trading for ace Chris Sale at the cost of four prospects.

Meanwhile, the Mets need to build their bullpen, but are trying to make a reclamation project out of Zack Wheeler and reportedly are playing hardball with Jerry Blevins on a multi-year package that won’t exceed $18 million and subsequently might not do anything until January.

SALE: Monster move. (ChicagoNow)

SALE: Monster move. (ChicagoNow)

Yankees GM Brian Cashman labeled the Red Sox the Warriors of Major League Baseball. Does that make the Mets the Knicks of baseball, or worse, the Nets?

The Nationals were poised on getting Sale. In fact, I heard a Washington Post reporter say it was all but a done deal. That was, of course, until the Red Sox swooped in and changed everything.

On Monday, another team in dire need of bullpen help – the Giants – didn’t wait for the market to take shape by having Aroldis Chapman or Kenley Jansen sign. They made a strong play for Mark Melancon.

Sale to the Red Sox and Melancon to the Giants helps the Mets. Their manager, Terry Collins said today, “we dodged a bullet,” after learning of Boston’s blockbuster.

But, do the Mets want to survive this way? They are waiting for somebody to come along and take Jay Bruce or Curtis Granderson off their hands.

What they aren’t doing is being proactive. They aren’t making things happen on their own. Yes, they brought back Yoenis Cespedes, but he was one of their own and their commitment to him is financially tying their hands.

I hear Boston and the Giants saying they want to win and they make bold moves. I hear the Mets say they want to win, but the big story with them today was Collins saying he wants to bring Tim Tebow to camp.

 

Nov 18

Cespedes Market Might Not Be So Hot

The reported market is six teams, including the Mets, interested in Yoenis Cespedes. However, the interest could be described as “luke warm,” which might have prompted his text to the GM Sandy Alderson indicating his desire to return.

Reportedly, Cespedes wants $150 million over five years, while the Mets are saying $100 million over four years. That’s a significant gap, but those are reported figures not confirmed by the Mets or Cespedes’ representatives.

CESPEDES: Desperate? (AP)

CESPEDES: Desperate? (AP)

It’s interesting the text – reported by multiple outlets – came from the player and not his agent. It also came after Alderson told WOR the Mets could have interest in Jose Bautista, Dexter Fowler and Steve Pearce, all of whom would cost significantly less.

Could it be there’s a growing sense of urgency on Cespedes’ part? Kind of like the teenage girl asking over and over again if the guy in her geometry class really likes her.

“I think we’ve said as an organization that we’d like to have him back,” Alderson said. “Free agency provides its own sort of intrigue, so we’ll see where things take us. … I think we’re gonna have to wait a while to see how this turns out. I think he wants to be back.”

However, Alderson also said he doesn’t want this to drag on into January as it did last winter.

The initial market for Cespedes was reported as the Mets, Washington, San Francisco, Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox, along with the Yankees.

After trading Brian McCann to Houston, the Yankees have more room for Cespedes.

“I’m sure we’ll talk again,” Yankees GM Brian Cashman told The New York Times. “Now that we have more flexibility, it gives us more choices.”

However, the Yankees have been linked to the Angels in a possible trade for AL MVP Mike Trout, and it has been widely speculated they could make a run at the Nationals’ Bryce Harper in a couple of years.

It seems doubtful if they really wanted either of those players they would inflame their payroll now with Cespedes.

As for the Giants’ interest, they are already embroiled in long-term deals with Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzjia, Buster Posey and Hunter Pence.

If the Giants were to add a bat, it would likely be one of a lower profile are the reports from San Francisco.

And, the White Sox’s first priority is finding a market for stud pitcher Chris Sale, which presumably would include a power hitter.

Cespedes is aware of this, or at least should be. He has to be wondering it the market for him is all that big and really isn’t six teams.

Given that, the Mets seem to have the leverage and would be wise to press Cespedes to make his demands soon and get back to him with their best, and final, offer.

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Oct 12

Mets Arbitration Eligibles

The following Mets are arbitration eligible. The Mets traditionally settle with their players to avoid the process.

The website MLB Trade Rumors lists what it projects will be the settle figure.

PITCHERS

Josh Edgin ($500,000): MLBTR projects $800,000. Considering that’s hardly much of a raise, if the Mets want him back this should be easy.

Jeurys Familia ($4.1 million): Projected settle figure is $8.8 million, which is a huge raise. The Mets will low-ball him, but his production is worthy of settling because he’ll win.

Matt Harvey ($4.3 million): Projected settle figure is $5.2 million, but for what?

Jacob deGrom ($600,000): Projected settle figure is $4.5 million, roughly a 700 percent raise. This should give the Mets an idea of what a long-term contract might cost them.

Addison Reed ($5.2 million): First thing I thought about when the Giants’ closer blew the last two games of their playoff series what they’d better extend him somehow because he’ll be in high demand as a closer. Projected settle figure is $11.1 million.

Jim Henderson ($507,000): Considering all those eligible, the Mets might not even offer arbitration. Projected settle figure is $1.4 million

Zack Wheeler ($546,000): See Harvey. $1 million

CATCHERS/INFIELDERS

Travis d’Arnaud ($540,000): He certainly isn’t worthy of a raise, but there’s no industry with a salary structure like baseball. Looking at their other catching options means he’ll be offered arbitration. Projected settle figure is $1.7 million

Rene Rivera ($443,000): The projected settle figure of $2.2 million is a lot for a backup.

Lucas Duda ($4.2 million): Considering the uncertainly of their other options they will probably end up paying the projected settle figure of $6.7 million.

Wilmer Flores ($520,000): He’s worthy of getting the projected settle figure of $1.9 million

OUTFIELDER

Justin Ruggiano ($180,000): They probably won’t offer arbitration and be stuck paying the projected settle figure of $1.5 million.

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Oct 05

Mets-Giants Matchups; Loney Gets Start

Regardless of how Terry Collins explains it, the Mets’ manager made the right decision to start James Loney at first base in tonight’s wild-card game.

Collins said Loney is better defensively, but we already knew that to be a no-brainer. It is also a slam dunk that in what could be a classic pitcher’s duel – Madison Bumgarner vs. Noah Syndergaard – runs figure to come at a premium placing an emphasis on defense.

LONEY: Gets call. (AP)

LONEY: Gets call. (AP)

Collins also said Lucas Duda might not be physically ready, but why did the Mets go through the motions without knowing for sure?

Duda is a strikeout machine when he’s not on his game, and after missing most of the season, it was a reach hoping he’d catch lightning in a bottle. Loney doesn’t have great numbers against Bumgarner – 2-for-13 – but did play 100 games for the Mets and hit .265 with nine homers and 34 RBI. One of those homers was a deciding two-run blast Saturday to clinch home field for the wild-card.

Even so, Loney said he’s anxious to face Bumgarner.

“He’s been a great pitcher for many years now,” Loney told reporters. “[He] throws strikes and competes out there. A fierce competitor.”

Here’s the Mets’ lineup tonight and the likely Giant opposite number:

Jose Reyes, 3B: Returned to his roots and supplied the spark the Mets needed. … It could be a game-time decision for the Giants to start Eduardo Nunez (hamstring issues) or Conor Gillaspie.

Asdrubal Cabrera, SS: Depending on your perspective, he could be their MVP with solid defense and clutch hitting despite two bad knees. … Brandon Crawford should have been on the All-Star team. He hit .275 with 12 homers and 84 RBI, but has been prone to the strikeout (115) this year.

Yoenis Cespedes, LF: Is the center piece of the Mets’ offense despite finishing the season on a 3-for-24 slide. … The Giants go with a familiar face – former Met Angel Pagan – who has been a solid switch-hitter in his five years on the West Coast. Is a stolen base threat with 15.

Curtis Granderson, CF: Had a strong second half to finish with 30 homers, but his RBI total was shockingly low. Has played a solid center. … Former Washington National Denard Span is back to torment the Mets. Hit 11 homers and still plays a decent center.

Jay Bruce, RF: Did not provide the pop the Mets wanted, but might have salvaged his tenure here to the point of returning next year with homers in three of his last five games. … Hunter Pence is a guy the Mets should have gone after when he was in Philadelphia. Has played hurt most of the year, but hit .289 with 13 homers and 57 RBI.

T.J. Rivera, 2B: Minor league batting champion is still hitting as Wilmer Flores’ replacement. Hasn’t been rattled yet. … Joe Panik has also played hurt most of the year, but still drove in 62 runs. Is beyond solid defensively.

Loney, 1B: Good glove and a steady bat. One of GM Sandy Alderson’s midseason replacements that helped put the Mets here. … Brandon Belt led the Giants with 17 homers. Is patient at the plate and solid defensively.

Rene Rivera, C: Wasn’t on the Opening Day roster, but his calming presence helped Matt Harvey early and later Syndergaard, especially against the running game. … Buster Posey could be the game’s premier catcher. Calls a great game and is a clutch hitter.

Syndergaard, RHP: Has overpowering stuff and with injuries to Harvey and Jacob deGrom emerged as the ace. Can support himself at the plate, but a weakness is an inability to slow down the running game (48 stolen bases in 57 attempts). … If you believe in the law of averages, the Mets could be in good shape against Bumgarner, who is 4-0 with a 0.62 ERA lifetime at Citi Field, and a 0.91 ERA in his last eight postseason appearances.

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