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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Oct 05

Looking At Mets’ Free Agent Options For Position Players

Supposedly, with money to spend the New York Mets are scouring the free agent market to ascertain options to address their numerous issues and holes.

GM Sandy Alderson said adding to the rotation and bolstering the depth of the bullpen is a priority. Even so, Alderson has a multitude of other issues to address, with only two positions – David Wright at third base and Daniel Murphy at second – seemingly secure.

BELTRAN: An encore?

BELTRAN: An encore?

There’s a question nearly every where else:

CATCHER: Travis d’Arnaud goes into spring training the starter despite a small window of performance. Anthony Recker proved more than a capable back up behind John Buck. However, d’Arnaud and Recker together is a young combination, and a veteran back up is likely to be signed.

Free-agent catching market: The best catcher on the market is Atlanta’s Brian McCann, but that will never happen. The way McCann calls a game and his leadership capabilities would be ideal for a young staff, but that’s a dream. The Braves are built on pitching and would be foolish to let McCann go. … John Buck will be on the market, and I wonder if the Mets will attempt to bring him back. They could do far worse. … Jose Molina, Dioner Navarro, Miguel Olive are available, but neither stands out. … A.J. Pierzynski and Jarrod Saltalamacchia will be on the market, but both will want to start.

FIRST BASE: The Mets haven’t decided between Ike Davis and Lucas Duda, although speculation is they’ll choose the latter and attempt to deal Davis. Duda has shown a better plate presence than Davis when it comes to working the count and having a higher on-base percentage. However, the Mets remain seduced by Davis’ power potential and have not forgotten his 32 homers in 2012. Given they have two options, it’s unlikely they’ll sign a free agent unless they work deals for both.

Free agent first base market: The guy I am most interested in is Justin Morneau. He’s healthy and his line-drive style would be ideal for Citi Field. However, he might cost too much, but if the Mets clear the roster by dealing Davis and Duda, it might be worth it to give him a call. … Mike Napoli would also be expensive. … Mark Reynolds would provide power, but if the Mets are trying to reduce their strikeouts, he’s not the best option. … In looking at the first base market, it is easy to understand Alderson’s comments on a thin selection.

SHORTSTOP: Ruben Tejada will get every chance to regain his position, but he’s recovering from a broken leg, so there’s no telling if he’ll be ready. Omar Quintanilla was more than capable off the bench and should be invited back. … I would have liked to see Wilmer Flores play shortstop. He did some in the minors, but there’s concern about his range.

Free agent shortstop market: Yunel Escobar is out there, but the Rays have an option. … Rafael Furcal and Stephen Drew would be an upgrade over Tejada. … With Derek Jeter rehabbing for the Yankees, the Mets will get competition in the market.

OUTFIELD:  The Mets like Juan Lagares and envision him in their 2014 outfield. They also like Matt den Dekker’s defense, but wonder about his offense. The Mets’ improvement coincided with the acquisition of Eric Young, who resolved their leadoff hole. Young’s speed is an asset, but some scouts don’t have him rated any higher than a fourth outfielder. The Mets say they want power in the corner outfield spots, but if they replace Young their leadoff dilemma will resurface.

Free agent outfield market: The marquee names are Shin-Soo Chin, whom I am cool on. He’ll want a lot and I don’t think he’s worth the dollars. … Jacoby Ellsbury could turn this into a productive offense, but he’ll cost a lot. … Nelson Cruz, who is coming off a PED suspension, could be had for less than expected. … There has been talk in the media about bringing back Carlos Beltran, who should go down as one the Mets’ most productive players. Mets fans never forgave him for taking that third strike against Adam Wainwright in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, but they easily forget what he gave them over the long haul. Two years plus an option might get him back. … Also expensive, but somebody who could give the Mets the power they seek is Curtis Granderson, who made $13 million this season with the Yankees. … Another option who could be pricey, but is the kind of player the Mets should consider is Hunter Pence. … Nate McLouth, whom the Mets considered at one time, will be on the market.

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