Jan 13

Mets Cruise Through Arbitration; No Drama For Harvey, Familia

Too bad the Mets don’t cruise through the regular season the way they do their arbitration schedule. The Mets traditionally blitz through the arbitration process and this winter seems no different as they came to terms with nine of their ten arbitration-eligible players, with only Wilmer Flores heading to a hearing.

HARVEY: Signs right away. (AP)

HARVEY: Signs right away. (AP)

However, there’s plenty time for a resolution before a hearing this spring. Count on that getting done, because after all, what the gap between Flores and the Mets has to be slim considering he made only $526,000 last summer. What I gather from this is Flores is tired of being pushed around by Alderson, who frequently made him the versatile infielder a butt of his jokes after the proposed deal to Milwaukee fell through two years ago.

If only for the hope of getting a few extra bucks out of Alderson, it’s probably worth it for Flores to make the GM’s life difficult for only a few minutes.

I was happy to see Matt Harvey ($5.125 million), Jacob deGrom ($4.05 million) and Jeurys Familia ($7.425 million) come to terms quickly considering their baggage.

Harvey is 29-28 lifetime and has yet to give the Mets a full season; deGrom, like Harvey, is coming off surgery; and Familia is facing at least a 30-game suspension to start the season. For Harvey and Familia, especially, they rightly figured nobody wanted to hear their drama.

The Mets came to terms with Lucas Duda ($7.25 million) and Zack Wheeler ($800,000) earlier in the week and with Travis d’Arnaud ($1.875 million), Addison Reed ($7.75 million) and reliever Josh Edgin.

Jul 15

Three Mets’ Storylines: Walker The Difference

On a day the Pittsburgh Pirates demoted Jon Niese to the bullpen and their general manager Neal Huntington lamented the trade that brought him from the Mets, the player they surrendered, Neil Walker, hit a three-run homer for the difference Friday night in Philadelphia.

“In hindsight, maybe the two fringe prospects and trying to figure out where to re-allocate the money might have been a better return [for Walker],” Huntington told a Pittsburgh radio station.

WALKER: Powers Mets over Phils. (Getty)

WALKER: Powers Mets over Phils. (Getty)

I applaud honesty – the trade has not worked out for the Pirates – but it’s pretty stupid to trash Niese, whom he admitted he’s trying to deal. As a GM you can’t devalue the product you’re trying to unload. That’s GM 101.

Sandy Alderson did the same thing with Ike Davis, and also wasn’t shy about ripping Wilmer Flores and Daniel Murphy.

Walker’s opposite-field homer to left in the sixth powered the Mets to a 5-3 victory over the Phillies and kept them six games behind Washington. It was Walker’s 16th homer – he had 16 last year – to give him 40 RBI. He made an immediate strong impression with nine homers in April.

Walker has played well but hasn’t made Mets’ fans forget Murphy. And they certainly won’t if Walker leaves after this season while Murphy plays two more years with Washington.

Then again, and here’s a wild thought, what if the Pirates DFA’d Niese? With Matt Harvey gone for the year, and health questions with Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard, would the Mets bring back Niese? They did with Jose Reyes, so why not?

However, on this night Walker was the Mets’ main storyline.

The other two are:

BULLPEN BAILS OUT COLON: Bartolo Colon (W, 8-4) started strong, but gave up three unearned runs on four hits in the sixth.

Hansel Robles, Jerry Blevins, Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia combined to strike out five and give up one hit in 3.1 scoreless innings. Reed worked 1.1 innings, which I like. He’s strong and if the bullpen is a concern, manager Terry Collins shouldn’t be afraid to give him the extra out.

For Familia, he is 32-for-32 in save opportunities. Earlier this year Familia got his saves, but not without angst. He’s slider has a lot more bite and the confidence level is a lot higher with him now.

The Mets entered the second half with their bullpen a priority and one game won’t alter that thinking, but until those moves are made, this is what they need.

LAGARES SHINES: Juan Lagares homered, stole a base and manufactured a run with a strong slide, and made an outstanding catch in right-center.

Collins told reporters “that’s the kind of player he can be.’’

A Gold Glover two years ago, he was out of shape and a bust last season, but is playing with an aggressiveness the Mets should continue to expect.

May 18

Will We See D’Arnaud Again?

ESPN’s Adam Rubin reports Travis d’Arnaud is in California rehabbing his right shoulder with a private trainer, which makes me wonder if we’ll ever see him in a Mets’ uniform again, much less develop into an All-Star player anywhere.

His inability to stay on the field is rapidly derailing a career that has never gotten off the ground.

D'ARNAUD: Gone, but how soon forgotten? (AP)

D’ARNAUD: Gone, but how soon forgotten? (AP)

D’Arnaud working with a private physical therapist makes me wonder why he isn’t in Port St. Lucie or in New York where he can be around team doctors and officials. When I recall the controversy of where Matt Harvey would rehab his elbow, I wonder why the double standard.

It’s a given the Mets value Harvey more than d’Arnaud, but this detachment makes me think he’ll never make it as the player they hoped he’d be and are beginning the process of cutting ties.

D’Arnaud went on the disabled list April 26 with a right rotator cuff strain, which was aggravated when he tried throwing May 7 in Port St. Lucie. GM Sandy Alderson said the pain in his shoulder subsided, but couldn’t provide a possible return date. He couldn’t even pinpoint a month.

As for the California question, Alderson said: “He’s more or less as well off out there with somebody who knows him as well as our guys would know him. Right now I can’t give you chapter and verse on exactly what his return [date] is. We have to keep in mind that sometimes when we cite chapter and verse on when he will return, we’re kidding ourselves.”

That was a fairly evasive answer, which we’ve come to expect from Alderson.

The season began with d’Arnaud the starter and Kevin Plawecki the backup. Depending on how the year progressed, one ocould be traded as a catcher with major league experience is a valuable commodity.

Plawecki has proven good defensively, in fact, Mets’ pitchers have a better ERA with him behind the plate. He offense picked up on the last road trip, but he still needs a way to go. Gone are the days when a catcher was supposed to be an offensive force – Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, Carlton Fisk, Thurman Munson and Mike Piazza – as defense is now paramount.

Buster Posey and Yadier Molina are today’s premier catchers, but Plawecki has potential. Should d’Arnaud play again this season and the debate resurface between him or Plawecki, the Mets must consider his injury history.

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Jan 05

Losing DePodesta Will Impact Browns More Than Mets

It was interesting to see the Cleveland Browns hire Mets assistant GM Paul DePodesta from the Mets to be their Chief Strategy Officer, a position by its very title denotes incredible power. DePodesta, by all accounts, is a bright guy, so for a professional sports franchise to be interested shouldn’t be a shock.

DE PODESTA: Goes to Brown. (NBC)

DE PODESTA: Goes to Brown. (NBC)

But remember, DePodesta, who oversaw the Mets’ draft and player development departments, is also an “analytics” guy, which devalues the baseball manager. Football, however, is a different beast and coaches are supreme. Hell, the NFL even devotes an entire day – the Monday after the regular season is “Black Monday,” – for the mass firing of coaches.

The Browns, once a proud franchise relegated to an NFL doormat, took the early lead by firing head coach Mike Pettine and general manager Ray Farmer after their loss to Pittsburgh Sunday. The Browns then promoted Sashi Brown to executive vice president of football operations.

Considering the power yielded by coaches and general managers in the NFL, it is odd the Browns would go to such unconventional means without those two key positions. Does this mean DePodesta has more power than the coach or GM? If so, aren’t the Browns limiting their pool of potential coaches and executives? That would seem the case. They appear to be limiting that pool for candidates who’ll take anything to be hired.

In that case, I am interested.

By hiring an analytics guy first, aren’t the Browns devaluing the coaching position? That could be the case. It will be very interesting to be in the Browns’ draft room to see the interaction between DePodesta, the coach and GM as they decide where to spend their first pick, and by extension, what to do with head case quarterback Johnny Manziel, who, listed OUT because of a concussion, was partying in Las Vegas on the eve of the season finale.

One thing also to consider, that in baseball there are three levels of minor leagues – and the ability to have multiple teams on the lower levels to develop players. Not so in the NFL, which for the most part has a “use him or lose him,” attitude with its players.

For example, the Mets bounced around Kirk Nieuwenhuis before losing him to waivers recently, and before him did the same with Dillon Gee. The pressure to use a player at the highest level can be averted for years.

How long ago did the Browns draft Manziel?

Yes. DePodesta has some fascinating decisions coming up.

Losing DePodesta, whose biggest contribution so far is Michael Conforto – that we know of – puts pressure on Sandy Alderson, who is battling cancer.

The Mets can give more power to assistants John Ricco and J.P. Ricciardi, and could also juggle within. Reportedly, Kevin Morgan will take over as minor league field coordinator.

There might be bumps, but I can see the Mets moving on without too  much difficulty. Meanwhile, 500 miles to the West, there could be a fascinating train wreck in the making in Cleveland.

 

Jan 02

Did Mets Make Right Call On Cespedes?

New York Mets v Atlanta Braves

When last we checked, free agent outfielder Yoenis Cespedes not only had appeared on the radar of the Chicago White Sox and Baltimore Orioles according to Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com, but both teams had emerged as the frontrunners to sign the former New York Met juggernaut. That was three days ago.

However, we have a little more clarity on the Cespedes front as the calendar flips to 2016, and none of it is particularly good news for the free agent who bellowed his demands for a six-year deal three months ago.

To begin, it turns out that the Orioles – while interested – never had any intentions of coming close to the $150 million Cespedes and his representatives at Roc Nation had set their sights on. The two sides are reportedly not even in the same zip code.

And as for the other frontrunner on the south side of Chicago, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported today that their interest in Cespedes is limited to a deal for no more than three years.

Sound familiar? It should. Three years was the most Sandy Alderson and the Mets were willing to offer Cespedes according to what team sources told Jon Heyman, and that firm stance ultimately led to the end of any negotiations with Roc Nation. In fact, the conversation between the two sides never even advanced to the point of discussing dollars.

Now, I’m never one to defend the Mets’ frugal ways, however last week I raised the possibility that perhaps this was not a case of the Mets being cheap, but simply a smart baseball decision by a general manager who has never taken kindly to handing out second generation contracts to players on the wrong side of thirty. It’s possible isn’t it?

Those of you who have followed this site since its inception 12 years ago, know all too well that I am not the least bit squeamish about hammering the Wilpons every chance I get. But this feels different to me.

Oh. I’m sure there’s no doubt Fred and Jeff were doing Ralph Kramden’s version of the Watusi when they heard about Sandy’s stance on Cespedes. I’m just saying that this wasn’t a case of them pressuring their GM to back off, or applying those well-polished fiscal handcuffs. Maybe giving Cespedes a six year deal is just a terrible baseball decision for the Mets or any other MLB team.

Still, our poor Mets took a lot of flak upon the news of their three-year or nothing posture, with most of the incoming fire coming from their own fan base itself. Perhaps the Mets front office was being judged a little too harshly based on today’s rumblings on the Cespedes front. Perhaps the Mets may have even been a little ahead of the curve?

In an offseason fraught with spending madness and vast ungodly sums of dollars being thrown about with such reckless abandon, maybe on this one occasion Sandy Alderson and John Ricco were being the adults in the room? It’s possible, isn’t it?

Anyway, there it is… My first article of 2016 is in the books and whether you agree or not, I hope I gave you something to think about. Happy New Year, my friends.