Jul 19

Mets Top Five Second Half Questions

We know this is a lost season for the Mets, but that doesn’t mean they don’t face four significant questions in the second half. How they answer them could determine whether they will be competitive next year or five seasons from now:

SYNDERGAARD: Not going anywhere.  (SNY)

SYNDERGAARD: Not going anywhere. (SNY)

1. QUESTION: Who will run the show?

ANSWER: In the wake of GM Sandy Alderson’s absence, the trio of assistants John Ricco, Omar Minaya and J.P. Ricciardi will do the daily lifting, but the major decisions will be made by COO Jeff Wilpon. It’s up to you to determine if that’s good or bad. If the Mets are to make an exhaustive GM search in the offseason, it would likely preclude any major trades between now and July 31. One assumption we can make is if the Mets go outside for a general manager it would stand to reason the new hire will want to name his own manager and Mickey Callaway will be let go.

2. QUESTION: What becomes of the Mets aces?

ANSWER: It’s not likely neither Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard will be traded by the current GM trio. Those decisions aren’t made by out-going general managers. There’s been some talk of Zack Wheeler and/or Steven Matz being traded, but I don’t think that will happen, either. The Mets take their time building up to making major decisions, and if I’m Wilpon and know I’m going to name a new GM, then I want that hire to assess where the club is positioned in the short term. Personally, if the Mets get, and stay, healthy, I can see them improving in 2019, but I can’t see them competing. That’s just too big of a leap to make.

3. QUESTION: Who will be gone by the end of the month?

ANSWER: The two biggest reported names on the block are Jeurys Familia and Asdrubal Cabrera. Closers are especially at a premium, so Familia might be the best move to make. Cabrera is having a solid season, and there are several teams needing a second/third baseman. With Dustin Pedroia injured, the Red Sox can use a second baseman. Wilmer Flores is being showcased, but tears alone won’t keep him in Queens this time. They could always trade Jay Bruce again, but he’s injured. I can also see they taking calls about Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman. If they aren’t going to play him, then Dominic Smith has to either be traded or sent to the minors. Yoenis Cespedes has a no-trade clause, so he’s not going anywhere. Lefty reliever Jerry Blevins could also be dealt.

4. QUESTION: What’s going on with Cespedes?

ANSWER: He played nine innings at first base in a rehab game yesterday. First base is an intriguing because of his legs. Cespedes, 32, has been on the DL with a strained right hip flexor since May 16. He’s expected to be activated from the DL on Friday, but with Cespedes, you never know. With this being a lost season, the Mets might as well see what he can do at first base. Cespedes has been a dismal signing, and this is his chance to salvage his career in New York. The Mets are an organization void of young talent, but if Cespedes plays first for the rest of this season and next year, it could stunt the development of the franchise’s second-ranked prospect, Peter Alonso. Chances are we’ll see Alonso as a late-season call-up. Either way, it seems like the end of the line for Smith.

5. QUESTION: Will we see The Captain this year?

ANSWER: For a while, there was thought we might see David Wright before Cespedes. Wright has been throwing and taking batting practice, and there’s speculation he might return this season. Still, there’s no timetable for his return. If not, there’s always next spring training.

 

Sep 22

What Should Be Alderson’s 2017 Regrets

“I always think of things I could have done differently.’’ – Mets GM Sandy Alderson, Today at Citi Field

Yeah, me too, Sandy. There are plenty of things I wish you had done differently when it came to building the 2017 New York Mets.

ALDERSON: Regrets for 2017. (AP)

ALDERSON: Regrets for 2017. (AP)

The following decisions are what I wish Alderson had done differently:

Extending Yoenis Cespedes’ contract.

I didn’t like it then and after how this season unfolded, I certainly don’t like it now. I wrote at the time I thought it was a mistake based on: 1) the $110 million earmarked for Cespedes over four years would be better spent on other areas considering all their holes; 2) Cespedes’ injury history, including last season with the Mets; 3) his history of failing to hustle, which has hurt them on multiple occasions this season.

Failure to be patient with Matt Harvey.

When Harvey’s velocity was down during spring training, pitching coach Dan Warthen said based on his thoracic surgery, he wouldn’t be full strength until the end of May. So, instead of Harvey starting the season on the disabled list, his return was pushed and he was reinjured.

Letting Noah Syndergaard call his MRI shots.

Arguably the season’s dumbest quote belonged to Alderson when his response to why he didn’t force Syndergaard to undergo an MRI, he said he couldn’t force him into the tube. Well, he should have prevented Syndergaard from pitching until he took the MRI. Syndergaard made his next start, partially tore his right lat and spent the next four months on the DL The season was effectively over that day when Syndergaard was injured. Now, he’ll start Saturday and pitch one inning.

Failure to construct a quality bullpen.

Alderson has failed to build a bullpen every offseason since he was hired and last winter was no different.

Trading Jay Bruce.

Alderson said he expects the Mets to be competitive next summer, but if that’s to be the case, it stands to reason they’ll need a left-handed bat with power. In addition to Bruce, Alderson traded Curtis Granderson, Neil Walker, Lucas Duda and Addison Reed for a handful of middling relief prospects. It remains to be seen if any of them will be around next season.

Keeping Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith in the minors.

The season was already lost, but Rosario and Smith languished in Las Vegas. Why? The moment Duda was traded Smith should have been brought up. Ditto Rosario when Asdrubal Cabrera was injured. Just not a smart move by whom Alderson’s biographer calls the game’s smartest GM.

 

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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