Dec 03

So Far, Harvey Buying Into Mets’ Plans

Since it’s only December, everything must be taken at face value when it comes to Matt Harvey. You want to take him at his word, but I wouldn’t be me if I weren’t skeptical after hearing him say at this afternoon’s press conference he was on board with the Mets’ decision to limit his innings this summer.

HARVEY: It is early.

HARVEY: It is early.

Harvey bucked the Mets before, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if he did again.

GM Sandy Alderson said there’s a soft cap on Harvey, which is to say there’s no definitive plan. I prefer something more concrete. Even Harvey conceded 200 innings won’t happen, nor should it 17 months after surgery.

“You know what? I’m going to be happy to throw an entire year,’’ Harvey told reporters at Citi Field. “Whatever they decide, it’s in the best interests of both the team and me moving forward. I can’t wait to throw every five days and just be healthy for a full season.

“Looking forward, if you were to map out a whole season, you’re going to have to figure out some changes throughout the year in order to get to a certain point. I mean, if you make 33 starts and seven innings a start, obviously doing the math that’s over what I’m probably going to throw.’’

That’s logic talking, not the usual emotions we get from him. Alderson said the plan is to limit Harvey during the season, but have no restrictions should the Mets reach the playoffs. However, if the Mets are eliminated early, bet on Harvey being further cut.

What the Mets pledge to do is not just yank the plug on him the way Washington did Stephen Strasburg in 2012.

Harvey has been throwing on flat ground six days a week at Citi Field and plans to report to spring training Feb. 1 and face hitters right away.

All this is optimistic, but if Harvey buys into the Mets’ plans this should go smoothly.

One can only hope.

Nov 19

Mets’ Plan For Harvey Not Concrete

The Mets say they plan to handle Matt Harvey with a “soft’’ innings cap, which is another way of saying they have no plan at all.

HARVEY: Searching for a plan. (Getty)

HARVEY: Searching for a plan. (Getty)

GM Sandy Alderson said the Mets won’t handle Harvey the way Washington dealt with Stephen Strasburg, which was to cut him off in mid-September and thereby miss the postseason, but the speculative nature of his plan could lead to that scenario.

“We can probably accomplish all the things we need to by managing his starts in the rotation,’’ Alderson said.

There’s wiggle room in the word “probably.”

Harvey will open the season on the roster, but there’s no plan to limit him in April when the weather is colder as I suggested. Alderson said the Mets will use off days to by-pass Harvey’s turn in the rotation, but left it more as a “play it by ear,’’ thing than to map out things from the start of the season.

There was also nothing mentioned about shaving his innings per game, such as a seven-inning ceiling.

To me, without anything clearly defined there’s too much of a chance the innings would accumulate and the Mets might get caught short late in the season.

Alderson suggested to give him a two-week shutdown around the All-Star break, which makes considerable sense. The Mets did this last season with Jacob deGrom and he was strong in the second half. A positive to this is it will give the Mets an idea where Harvey stands and from there they could lay out a concrete plan for the second half.

What the Mets won’t do is go with a six-man rotation, which would be a cutting edge move. Harvey pitched 178.1 innings in 2013, and I don’t see any way he’ll pitch more than that in 2014. However, what I can see is if the Mets aren’t definitive about Harvey things could get away from them.

And, that would be a shame.

Oct 13

How Mets Should Handle Matt Harvey’s Innings

Operating under the assumption Matt Harvey will be ready for spring training and subsequently the start of the season, there will undoubtedly be an innings limitation.

In theory, the Mets want him ready for a postseason push. They haven’t announced what the cap would be, but let’s figure on 175-180 innings – which is at least three starts shy of the hoped for 200.

HARVEY: Innings will be an issue. (AP)

HARVEY: Innings will be an issue. (AP)

So, what are their options?

The first is to do nothing and let him pitch … pitch … and pitch. Undoubtedly, that’s Harvey’s choice, but it won’t happen. Why risk another injury?

Another is to pitch him without game or innings restrictions, then cut him in September if the Mets aren’t in contention. However, if they go that route and the Mets are in the race, they would be doing a disservice to their players and fans, and actually the integrity of the game because they wouldn’t be putting their best team on the field.
That’s not ideal, and neither is the pick-and-choose method, which would be to juggle him with off days and selected starts.

Also, not preferred is to pull him if the Mets are winning late in a game. Harvey will moan about this, and his noise would be amplified if the Mets’ bullpen blew the game.

One option because of the off days in April and the high probability of bad weather is to bag that month entirely or at least the first two weeks.

On the positive, it would keep him out of the cold weather. On the negative, he would still pile up innings in extended spring training games.

Finally, and I think it is the best – it’s something the Nationals didn’t do with Stephen Strasburg – is to have their figure in mind from the start and schedule accordingly.

That would mean making a schedule for the entire season and not deviate. Rainouts would only help the Mets because it would push him back.

In this format, the Mets could schedule skip days now for Harvey and not go on the fly. In addition, they could put him a rigid innings cap, but that would irritate him and lead to an occasional blown save.

However, if the Mets and Harvey knew from the outset his cap would be seven innings both parties could plan accordingly.

Harvey wouldn’t necessarily have to pace himself and Collins would know his bullpen options before the game started. They would accept the blown save as part of the deal.

This format would require discipline from Collins and acceptance from Harvey, which would be more likely because there wouldn’t be any surprises.

Like it or not, this is the hand the Mets have been dealt and must play.

In addition, they might consider plans for Jacob deGrom and Zack Wheeler.

All of this proves the cliché “you can never have too much pitching.’’

As frustrating as this might be, the Mets are set up for this complicated option because they have Rafael Montero, Carlos Torres and sometime in June, Noah Syndergaard. They also have depth with Jon Niese, Bartolo Colon and Dillon Gee.


Oct 07

Handicapping Trade Value Of Mets Pitchers

To get something, you have to give something, but what the New York Mets don’t want to give up is their young pitching. Understandable, but how long can they hold out?

The Mets say they won’t deal Matt Harvey, remember there is no such thing as an untouchable. What if some team, in the words of Don Corleone, give them “an offer they can’t refuse.’’ If the Angels offered Mike Trout straight up for Harvey, that’s something I would seriously consider. Arguably the best position player in the game for a prospect with all of 12 major league victories? Who wouldn’t?

HARVEY: Everybody likes him. (AP)

HARVEY: Everybody likes him. (AP)

Let’s take a look at the Mets’ young arms in relation to their trade ability and the scenario in which they could be dealt:

MATT HARVEY: Everybody wants him and that’s a given. However, coming off Tommy John surgery there might be a twinge of reluctance of making a big offer although the odds of recovery are good. They might get more if Harvey rebounds with a good season, which would undoubtedly spike his value. The Mets delayed Harvey’s arrival to avoid arbitration and later free agency. But, that’s not to say he won’t eventually bolt when given the chance considering his sometimes rocky relationship with management. If he continues to perform well and the Mets don’t sign him to a long term contract, his contract would increase through arbitration. Sometime in that process, if they can’t get a long term deal done, they might seriously think of trading him off before he leaves as a free agent to the Bronx.

ZACK WHEELER: Some scouts say his stuff is better than Harvey’s, but he doesn’t have nearly the poise or knowledge of pitching. Harvey is way ahead in those areas. Wheeler is reminiscent of Nolan Ryan early in his career when he threw hard with no idea where the pitch would go. Wheeler tries too much for the strikeout, which elevates is pitch count and reduces his innings. His potential is so raw that he’s worth waiting for, but conversely it is so attractive there will be takers. Another thing about Wheeler, and this also applies to Harvey and Jacob deGrom, is they are under reasonable contracts. It’s not like a team is picking up Clayton Kershaw’s contract. Also, with all three the Mets don’t want to sign them to such contracts, but other teams could sense that as a sense of urgency.

JACOB deGROM: It would be a crime if he is not the Rookie of the Year. He’s closer to being where Harvey is than Wheeler. He’s got great stuff, an outstanding breaking ball, poise and a sense about what pitching is all about. He’s definitely more a pitcher than a thrower. Like Harvey in his first year, deGrom caught teams by surprise. It might be different in 2015. But, I like this guy and would be more disappointed if he were traded than Harvey or Wheeler.

NOAH SYNDERGAARD: Some scouts say he might be the best prospect of all, but we really won’t know what he has until he pitches at the major league level, which won’t be June at the earliest. He’s got a terrific breaking ball, great stuff and by all accounts could be the real thing. We shall see, and I hope we see it in Flushing.

JON NIESE: He’s left-handed, throws hard, 27 and signed to a reasonable contract. That makes him attractive to the Mets and other teams. What’s not to like? Well, there’s his injury history, inconsistency (only one winning season in seven years), and the bad habit of not being able to put away hitters and lets innings unravel. The argument is a change of scenery might help, but unlike the previous four mentioned his value has decreased.

RAFAEL MONTERO: He has loads of potential, but other teams also see that in him. He’s a lot like Jenrry Mejia in that the Mets haven’t found a definitive role for him. Starter or reliever? He could be in the rotation until Syndergaard is ready and Niese were traded. But, on Opening Day I see him either in the bullpen or Triple-A.

DILLON GEE: He’s rated no higher than a fifth starter and could be bumped to the bullpen when Syndergaard is ready. Too bad. Gee doesn’t have great stuff, but is mentally tough – until he gets to Philadelphia – and shows a lot of poise. He’s somebody that could get the Mets something at the deadline as he can also work out of the bullpen in long relief. There’s things a contender could like about him. Question is, will the Mets be such a contender? The Mets could have traded him numerous times, but there were no serious takers. That says something.

BARTOLO COLON: At 41, he threw over 200 innings and won 15 games. Was it all him, or did the move to the National League and spacious Citi Field have something to do with that? Colon will get $10 million in 2015, of which half of that will be gone by the trade deadline. If the Mets are in it, they’d be wise to keep him, but if he’s pitching well he could bring something in return in the right package. He’s being shopped, but nobody will offer anything until they explore the free-agent market.

BOBBY PARNELL: I remember the day he hit triple digits on the radar gun at Fenway Park. Buy, it never happened for him as a starter thanks to Jerry Manuel. He won the closer role in 2013, but missed last season because of an injury. Should Mejia or Jeurys Familia win the closer role and Parnell proves healthy in spring training, he could be attractive and available.

JENRRY MEJIA: When the Mets were bouncing him from the bullpen to the rotation his value declined. Especially when it lead to elbow surgery. Now, it was a sports hernia that cut his breakout season. Mejia showed he has the stuff to be a closer, especially since he’s learning how to pitch rather than just trying to blow heat past a hitter. There’s value here.

JEURYS FAMILIA: Had an outstanding rookie season and drew a lot of attention. Some believe he could be the closer of future, however some teams might think he could be a closer now. This is a tough one considering the fragile nature of constructing a bullpen. Of these three relievers, Parnell could be the most available, but also bring the least in return.


Sep 29

How Mets Answered 15 Key Questions In 2014

The Mets entered the season with 15 key questions facing GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins. Let’s examine how they were answered, and if they still need attention before spring training, 2015:


A: It took awhile, but d’Arnaud is coming and perhaps will be good for 20 homers over a full season. However, d’Arnaud’s future is far from settled with Kevin Plawecki emerging. Are the Mets better off trading d’Arnaud, who isn’t rated as highly by scouts? Can d’Arnaud play another position such as left field? If d’Arnaud can be moved to another position it could address both the outfield and catching questions. Status: Still undecided.

DUDA: A lot to cheer about.

DUDA: A lot to cheer about.


A: The decision between Ike Davis and Lucas Duda was answered quickly compared to 2013. The thinking in 2013 was to give Davis time to work on his myriad of flaws. When Alderson finally relented and sent Davis to Triple-A it was way too late. When Davis stumbled out of the gate this season, Alderson acted quickly – for him – and traded the non-slugger to Pittsburgh. Without the distraction of Davis, Duda emerged as a 30-homer slugger. With the fences to be shortened in right and right center, Duda might be even better in 2015. Status: Looks answered to me.


A: To some, this is still an issue, but not for me. Unless the Mets obtain a top shortstop from the trade or free-agent markets, I believe Flores should get the job. He’s not great defensively, but showed promise. His lack of range can be made up with better positioning. Flores’ bat is better than Tejada’s and over a full season he could have double-digit power. Meanwhile, Tejada’s defense isn’t so superior that he must play. Status: Looks answered to me.


A: That question must be asked again next spring. Wright’s lackluster season was cut short by a shoulder injury. He subsequently said he’s learning how to better manage pain and injuries. We shall see. Wright hasn’t hit 30 homers since 2008, and only twice since then has hit 20. Wright played in just 134 games this year after playing in 112 in 2013. He’s a long way from his All-Star form. Status: To be determined.


A: That’s still an unanswered question. Nine players were trotted out to left field: Eric Young, Chris Young, Matt den Dekker, Eric Campbell, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Andrew Brown, Curtis Granderson, Bobby Abreu and Lucas Duda. That screams of being unsettled. The Mets want power from the position, but nobody currently on the roster is capable of delivering. A trade will cost a top pitching prospect and the Mets don’t want to spend big. Eric Young has the potential to provide the most because of his speed, but the Mets won’t play him full time because he has too many holes in his game. The best defensive option is den Dekker, but the belief is he won’t hit. How will we know if he doesn’t get a long look? Of course, they could always bring back Chris Young for another $7.25 million. Status: To be determined.


 A: Definitely with his glove, but his bat is suspect. He needs to cut his strikeouts and improve his on-base percentage. Lagares showed the instincts to be a good base stealer, but he must get on base more to win the leadoff job. Status: To be determined based on offense.


A: Mets’ leadoff hitters finished dead last in the majors with a .235 average and .308 on-base percentage. They added just eight homers and 40 RBI from the top of the order. Their leadoff hitters had only 63 walks and stuck out 147 times. Eleven players tried, and failed, leading off: Eric Young, Chris Young, den Dekker, Lagares, Tejada, Granderson, Daniel Murphy, Nieuwenhuis, Abreu, Brown and Campbell. From a power perspective, Granderson hit seven of his 20 homers leading off. However, he strikes out too much to be considered for the position fulltime. Eric Young is the best base stealer, but 46 strikeouts in 210 at-bats and a .302 on-base percentage say he’s not the answer, either. If Eric Young isn’t brought back, Lagares might get it by default. Status: Not answered.


A: Not in the long term, but Colon logged 200 innings while winning 15 games at age 41. There’s still something in his tank. Harvey is penciled in at No. 1 if healthy. Colon should start the season in the rotation ahead of Dillon Gee, but might be traded at the deadline. If the Mets are as close as they say, they shouldn’t be so eager to trade Colon. Currently, assuming all are healthy, Collins must select five from the following: Harvey, Colon, Zack Wheeler, Gee, Jacob de Grom and Jon Niese. The Mets wouldn’t mind trading Colon, Gee, Rafael Montero and Niese – in that order. Status: Answered in the positive.


A: Repeatedly saying he wanted to pitch this year was a minor annoyance. Giving in to him and sustaining another injury would have been disastrous. Alderson said Harvey is on track to start spring training on time and with no restrictions, and nobody could have asked for more. Harvey is 12-10 in parts of two seasons. Anything less than 15 next year will be a disappointment. Status: Answered in the positive.


A: Wheeler finished at 11-11 in 15 more starts than in 2013 when he was 7-5. Wheeler struck out 187, but walked 79. His pitch count was way too high as he exceeded 90 pitches in all but four of 32 starts. Wheeler continually works too deep in the count, which is taxing for him, and subsequently, the bullpen. To reach the next level, Wheeler must pitch more to contact and trust his defense. The shorter Wheeler goes in games means the bullpen must go longer. Status: To be determined.


A: We still don’t know. Young, left-handed and signed to a reasonable contract, Niese has been attractive to the Mets and opponents seeking to trade. However, he’s won as many as 13 games once in seven years (13-9 in 2012 in his only winning season). He was 9-11 this year and left his final start with a rapid heartbeat, something he’s had in the past. Niese is signed through 2018 (club option). He could be valuable to teams believing he needs a change of scenery, but they don’t figure to offer a lot. His real value to the Mets is in the hope he’ll live up to expectations, but hoping isn’t much of a plan. Status: Anybody’s guess.


A: That’s an annual question, but there were positives this season, such as finally settling on a role for Jenrry Mejia and emergence of Jeurys Familia. There’s also a lot to like about Carlos Torres, Vic Black and Josh Edgin. Daisuke Matsuzaka could finish his career in Japan and Montero could also be slotted in. The Mets love Gonzalez German’s stuff, but his command is suspect. He’s raw, but worth the wait. Status: Looks good so far.


A: The Mets were 26-29 in one-run games and 38-38 in the NL East. They were 34-42 vs. the East in 2013, but 29-28 in one-run games. The Mets were 7-12 against Washington in 2013, but regressed to 4-15 this year. That last record needs to change drastically. Status: Still needs work.


A: The Mets were better at 40-41, but still haven’t found a way to make Citi Field to their advantage. The belief is moving the fences in again will be the answer, but that’s folly as the opponents will also gain an edge. If the Mets learned anything in their best record in six years (tied at 79-83 with the 2010) is they can compete with pitching and defense. Assuming the healthy returns of Harvey and Wright, and progressions of Wheeler and de Grom, they should have a reasonable expectation of further improvement without tinkering with the dimensions of Citi Field. Status: Still needs work.


A: These things go in cycles. The Mets won’t ever equal the Yankees in career victories and championships, as the Pinstripes have been around for more than five decades as the Mets. That’s a quite a head start. But, the Mets wrestled the town away in 1969 and in the mid- to late-1980s. Although neither made the playoffs this season, the eyes in the Apple would be focused on the Bronx because: 1) the Mets didn’t have Harvey; 2) the Yankees are always more willing to spend, and, above all, 3) this was Derek Jeter’s last season. Next season could be different, as the Yankees are no lock to reach October with a multitude of pitching issues. Status: Time to seize the moment.