Aug 19

Granderson Trade Officially Closes Mets’ Window

The Mets’ Great Salary Dump of 2017 continued today when the Mets traded Curtis Granderson to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a player to be named later or cash. Dealing Granderson marked the symbolic closing of the Mets’ window of contention.

The Mets signed Granderson to a four-year, $60-million contract in 2013, and with their young pitching, they promised to be a contender. It wouldn’t be until 2015 that they overachieved and not only reached the playoffs but made it to the World Series.

GRANDERSON: Trade closes Mets window. (AP)

GRANDERSON: Trade closes Mets window. (AP)

They lost in the wild-card game last year but were heavy favorites to return to October – with many thinking the World Series – this season.

I ask: If injuries were the number one cause of the failure this season, doesn’t it stand to reason that with a little tweaking added to the present core, then how far off could the Mets be for 2018? That’s with, or without, David Wright.

That GM Sandy Alderson would cast off so many of the Mets’ veteran assets is only indicative how poorly he constructed this team. Granderson, combined with Jay Bruce, Lucas Duda, Neil Walker, Addison Reed, and soon to be Rene Rivera, adds up to six future free agents after this season.

It stands to reason Alderson wouldn’t bring back all of them. But, to not bring back any of them is simply poor management.

You don’t construct your roster to have eight expiring contracts – don’t forget Jose Reyes and Asdrubal Cabrera – at the same time. That’s 33 percent of your roster. And, coupled with casting off Justin Turner and Daniel Murphy, and that’s just a terrible job by the man whose biographer refers to him as the game’s smartest general manager.

Maybe you don’t keep them all, but if you’re telling the public your goal is to compete, you try to keep the core together. Of all the remnants the Mets received in return, only AJ Ramos – projected in a set-up reliever role – figure to make the 2018 roster.

Turner, for spiteful reasons, brought nothing from the Dodgers. He’s an All-Star who could win the NL batting title this year. Murphy, of course, walked because they wouldn’t spend the money.

Hell, that’s the case with all of them.

The Mets threw good money after bad with trading for and extending Walker when they could have kept Murphy.

Duda, well he was only keeping the seat warm for Dominic Smith. Reed could have been extended when Jeurys Familia was first suspended, then injured. Bruce was signed as a hedge in case the Mets didn’t re-sign Yoenis Cespedes, who, so far, has turned out to be a bust.

Cespedes has been a health and hustling concern each of the past two years. Having Bruce’s 29 homers would be needed next season.

And, still, Alderson tells us he expects the Mets to compete next year. That is, if the three of the core rotation that is on the disabled list return healthy next year, and a fourth – Steven Matz – rights himself.

Ex-Mets Granderson and Turner could meet ex-Met Murphy or ex-Met Rivera, who was claimed on waivers by the Cubs, in the NLCS for the right to possibly meet ex-Mets Bruce or Reed in the World Series.

As it is now, the Mets have only Jacob deGrom from that vaunted rotation. What can you count on from Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Matz? Remember, that rotation has yet to pitch in turn since 2013.

Their best player is Michael Conforto, but they don’t have a set position for him. Smith and Amed Rosario are promising questions. They refuse to play Wilmer Flores full time and Wright can’t be counted on.

The bullpen outside of Jerry Blevins is awful. Do you really trust Ramos and Familia? Don’t tell me you trust Hansel Robles.

I think Rosario could be a star, but as with what happened with Conforto, there could be growing pains. I like Smith, but he needs to get into shape. How will Rosario and Smith fare in a full major league schedule?

So, in looking at the Mets’ current roster, I only trust Conforto, deGrom and Blevins. Everybody else is a question or a black hole.

We know the Mets won’t be big spenders this winter as all their money is tied up wet-nursing Cespedes. There won’t be big-name help coming in from the outside. So, you’re delusional if you think they really would go after Manny Machado or Evan Longoria.

The Mets window to compete opened when they signed Granderson. It officially closed today.

Aug 16

Mets Matters: Syndergaard Begins Long Road Back

If there’s one date in which the Mets’ season went into the toilet it is April 30 when Noah Syndergaard tore his right lat muscle in a game at Washington.

mets mattersSyndergaard threw in the bullpen for the first time since, throwing 20 pitches Tuesday at Yankee Stadium. There will be at least two other bullpens, then batting practice before getting a rehab assignment. It is quite possible the minor league season will be over before Syndergaard gets the opportunity to throw in a rehab game.

Syndergaard will still lift weights in the offseason, but said he plans to incorporate more flexibility exercises.

“I’m still going to lift heavy and be strong,’’ Syndergaard recently told reporters. “We’re still professional athletes here. We’ve still got to be strong and durable. I’m just going to be more smart about it. … I expect to be the same guy in terms of velocity.’’

LUGO TO DL; GSELLMAN STARTS: Seth Lugo is back on the disabled list with a partially torn elbow ligament and shoulder impingement. He will be replaced tonight by Robert Gsellman, who has been on the DL since June 28 with a strained left hamstring.

The Mets believe Lugo hurt his shoulder compensating for his elbow.

“That always concerns me that you’ve changed your delivery to compensate if you’ve got a bad elbow, and then all of a sudden your shoulder [hurts],’’ Collins said. “And I know one thing, I don’t like to hear shoulder problems. Those scare me more than anything.’’

Lugo was 5-3 with a 4.85 ERA in 11 starts and one relief appearance, but 0-1 with a 7.31 ERA in his last three appearances. Lugo believes his elbow is fine, and that surgery isn’t an option for either his shoulder or elbow.

“The doctors said this is an inoperable situation,’’ Lugo said. “Rest is just going to make it better. Surgery’s not even a thought.’’

ABOUT TIME: The Mets requested unconditional release waivers on reliever Fernando Salas, who has a 6.00 ERA in 48 appearances this season. Salas was designated for assignment last week, and barring the unlikely scenario at team claims him, the Mets will be on the hook for the balance of his $3 million salary.

The Mets should also DFA Hansel Robles, who doesn’t fit into their plans for 2018.

METS ACQUIRE OUTFIELDER: Travis Snider, formerly of Toronto and Pittsburgh, was purchased from Texas for cash. Snider, 29, was Baseball America’s sixth-ranked prospect in 2009.

Unless Curtis Granderson is traded, don’t expect to see Snider until the rosters are expanded Sept. 1.

PITCHING REHABS: Closer Jeurys Familia will make his first rehab appearance today. He is recovering from arterial surgery, May 12, to remove a blood clot in his right shoulder. … Matt Harvey will make his second rehab start today for Class A Brooklyn.

 

 

Aug 15

Today’s Question: Why Not Try Harvey As Reliever?

Matt Harvey passed his audition for Single-A Brooklyn in his first rehab start, working one inning for the Cyclones. Undecided is where he’ll throw next.

Here’s an idea: Since the second rehab won’t be longer than two innings, why not have him pitch in the majors out of the bullpen?

HARVEY: Why not the pen? (AP)

HARVEY: Why not the pen? (AP)

Of course, he wants to start, but with the Mets’ bullpen simply awful – I can’t bear to watch Hansel Robles anymore – give Harvey a couple of innings out of the pen.

It could work if Harvey was told in advance what day he’ll pitch. That way:

He could keep his between starts routine and avoid the up-and-down regime of a reliever because knowing when he’ll pitch in a game he can warm up at his own pace.

Besides, he might like it, and if successful, this could lengthen his career. Dave Righetti, Dennis Eckersley and all made the transition, and the latter two ended up in the Hall of Fame.

Harvey’s career to date has been injury filled and disappointing. This could be a revival for him.

The season is lost anyway, so why not try it? It wouldn’t hurt. It is out-of-the-box thinking, and isn’t that what progressive organizations do?

 

Aug 03

Rosario Should Be Hitting Leadoff

The early returns on Amed Rosario are good, giving us a positive glimpse into 2018. With the Mets looking toward next season, with his speed shouldn’t Rosario be leading off?

ROSARIO: Hit him leadoff. (AP)

ROSARIO: Hit him leadoff. (AP)

Rosario has proven he can field the position, and his speed gives him the range the Mets haven’t had since Jose Reyes ten years ago. In three games, he already has two triples, going into third standing up both times. Speed can’t be taught. While that’s been impressive, what I like most about him has been his hustle coming out of the box.

I hope that never goes away.

Rosario should bat first with Michael Conforto dropped to third, which is a prime run-producing spot in the order. That’s the way it will be next year, so why not do it now?

The Mets have him batting seventh to alleviate the pressure of leading off.  But, I want him to experience the pressure to see how he handles it. How he deals with the pressures of leading off is something the Mets need to learn. And, he needs to hit first to learn how to handle that spot in the order, which includes being selective, working the count, bunting and stealing.

That’s what they are doing with playing Conforto is playing center field, which is where he’ll play next year assuming Jay Bruce is brought back. Conforto – who is the Mets’ best fundamental hitter – should be hitting third, with Yoenis Cespedes clean-up and Bruce fifth.

Since the Mets are gearing up for 2018, that should also mean Hansel Robles shouldn’t see the ninth inning. Yesterday I wrote how manager Terry Collins should return if he wants. I also wrote my primary criticism of Collins has been how he handles the bullpen, and that was the case in today’s 5-4 loss to the Rockies, on a bases-loaded walk from Robles, his third walk of the inning. He also hit a batter.

Robles seemed to injure his groin in the eighth, but he threw a couple of warm-ups and stayed in to strike out Trevor Story.

Collins had other options besides Robles, who never should have come out for the ninth, and definitely should have been pulled after he hit Jonathan Lucroy with a pitch leading off.

Robles has been a weak link for much of the season, and we won’t see him in the ninth next year, so why did we have to see him today?

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Jul 18

Mets Wrap: Wheeler Unravels In Loss; Gets No Help From Pen

Sometimes too much is made of baseball’s specialized statistics, but one of them speaks volumes of the Mets’ Zack Wheeler. It all fell apart for Wheeler in the Cardinals’ six-run sixth inning, which raised his ERA for that particular inning this year to a lofty 13.50.

WHEELER: Sixth inning blues. (AP)

WHEELER: Sixth inning blues. (AP)

Outside of injuries that sidelined him for the past two years, what has primarily prevented Wheeler from reaching stardom has been high pitch counts, often culminating into hitting a wall in the sixth inning.

Such was the case again tonight, as Wheeler cruised through four innings, but things began to unravel in the fifth, and he completely lost it in the sixth, highlighted by a two-run homer by Paul DeJong and a RBI double by pitcher Adam Wainwright.

As puzzling as Wheeler has been was manager Terry Collins’ decision to send him out for the sixth inning, considering he walked the bases loaded in the fifth.

“He certainly didn’t look tired or like he was laboring,’’ Collins said.

Wheeler said he lost the feel for his curveball and it wasn’t spinning out of his hand the way it should.

Asdrubal Cabrera robbed Jedd Gyorko of a two-run single to get out of the inning. Instead of being grateful, Collins pushed the envelope with Wheeler in the sixth.

Collins not only made a mistake in trusting Wheeler, but compounded it by keeping him in after DeJong’s homer, and doubled down on that mistake by bringing in Hansel Robles, who promptly gave up a three-run to Tommy Phan.

“It was my fault,’’ said Wheeler, who was stand-up and refused to throw his bullpen under the bus. “I should have made my pitches and gotten out of it.’’

Wheeler gave up four runs on seven hits and four walks in 5.1 innings and has gone eight straight starts without a victory.

So, after routing Colorado in the first two games coming out of the All-Star break, Mets’ pitchers Steven Matz and Wheeler were routed themselves.

“You can’t go on a run if you don’t get consistent pitching,’’ said Collins, stating the obvious.

Meanwhile, prior to the game, Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey played catch on flat ground. Both were pleased, but it was only catch.

Of course, what Collins couldn’t say is he stuck with Wheeler and went to Robles because GM Sandy Alderson gave him no other alternative.