Oct 22

Mets Matters: Ike Davis Could Score In Arbitration Process

There’s little that passes for news from the Mets these days as the club braces for a winter of non-spending.

Their primary contractual concerns are extending David Wright and R.A. Dickey, both of which will be pricey. The two are linked in that both said their decisions to test the free-agent market after next season is contingent on the efforts the Mets will take to be competitive. Dickey flat out said he would follow Wright out the door.

The Mets also face the prospects of going through the arbitration process with Josh Thole, Ike Davis, Manny Acosta, Daniel Murphy, Bobby Parnell, Andres Torres and Mike Pelfrey.

They also faced arbitration with Rob Johnson and Fred Lewis, but both chose free agency instead. It’s not as if the Mets can’t live without them.

Pelfrey and Torres are expected to be non-tendered, which would remove them from the process. Pelfrey, however, might cause the Mets to think twice because he’s 28 and their rotation has numerous questions. The Mets also have outfield issues, but Torres proved he’s no Angel Pagan. I never thought I’d write that line.

Acosta isn’t worth keeping, but Davis, Murphy and Parnell are potentially valuable pieces. Thole has regressed, but the Mets have few catching options other than him.

The owners cry about free-agency causing the spike in player salaries, but in reality arbitration is the culprit. In the process, both player and management submit figures to an arbitrator, who picks one or the other. The arbitrator can’t find a compromise number. The owners usually lowball the players, while the players aim high. The arbitrator’s decision isn’t based on career numbers, injuries or other factors, and is usually determined by the salaries of other players.

So, if a player has a one-time good season the arbitrator will review what players with comparable stats are making and rule that way. It’s why the owners frequently get smoked in this process.

Meanwhile, the Mets usually attempt to settle before the arbitration hearing.

Of the players eligible for the Mets, Davis has the potential to be the most costly.

In other Mets Matters:

* Dickey underwent surgery in Philadelphia to repair a torn abdominal muscle. After his final start Dickey revealed he’d been pitching with discomfort for most of the season.

Perhaps throwing the knuckleball helped Dickey get through the season because there’s less stress involved throwing that pitch. Even so, he’s testing the muscle with each pitch and it has to hurt. That, combined with his numbers, is why Dickey should win the Cy Young Award.

* Jordany Valdespin has played both right field and second base during the Dominican Winter League.

* Last week I started a series on Player Profiles of the 2012 Mets, analyzing their preseason expectations, what they accomplished this summer and what to expect.

I’ll continue tomorrow with those pitchers not in the rotation who made starts.

 

Oct 08

Forecasting What Mets Have To Spend Next Year

The Mets might have received a favorable ruling in the Madoff case, but that doesn’t the economic climate around Citi Field is that much better.

Hardly, in fact, with a sub-par showing at the gate, caused largely in part by the club’s failure to improve their bullpen and outfield at mid-season, which led to a second-half collapse.

With a team going 15 straight home games without scoring more than three runs, who is going to come out?

The burgers aren’t that good.

The Mets’ payroll was $100 million this year and is forecast to be much the same in 2013. It is possible to reach the playoffs with a sub-$100 million payroll as Cincinnati, Washington, Baltimore and Oakland are still standing. The Athletics’ payroll is nearly half that of the Mets, and they also play in a two-team market, so it can be done. The Nationals, of course, finished 24 games ahead of the Mets in the NL East.

It takes superior scouting and farm system, prudent trades and free-agent signings, and a patience to let your young talent develop. The Mets have done precious little in those areas and since 2005 have relied on veteran free agents that were either too old on the down side of their careers, or became injured and non-productive.

Pedro Martinez and Tom Glavine gave the Mets some good moments. Both had physical issues and the team couldn’t build around them.

Frankie Rodriguez, Jason Bay, Johan Santana, Billy Wagner, Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo were all too pricey and failed in their expectations. The Mets are saying they really won’t be able to do anything in the free-agent market until after the 2013 season when Santana and Bay are off the books.

Other signings, such as Guillermo Mota, Julio Franco, JJ Putz and Scott Schoeneweis – that’s a name I almost forgot about – were simply bad as the Mets overpaid in dollars and years.

Outside of Jon Niese and possibly Matt Harvey, what has come out of the farm system? David Wright, Ike Davis and Ruben Tejada are the only homegrown position players who had substantial seasons. Lucas Duda and Josh Thole are to be determined, Mike Pelfrey has been hit or miss, is now injured and likely won’t be tendered a contract.

Do you remember that star-studded outfield of prospects Lastings Milledge, Carlos Gomez and Fernando Martinez? Gomez was in the Santana trade, but other than that, the Mets got noting from the trio that was supposed to patrol their outfield for a decade.

While four teams in the playoffs have payrolls less than the Mets, none are as expensive market as New York. The Mets face the problem of working extensions for Wright and R.A. Dickey within that $100-million parameter, but not much higher.

Since Wright is already on the books for $15 million for next year and Dickey for $5 million, that’s $20 million of their extensions already accounted for in 2013. The Mets could backload their contracts to ease some of the strain, but they still have $79.5 million of the $100 million already earmarked for six players.

In addition to Wright and Dickey, the Mets are committed next year to Santana ($25.5 million plus a $5.5 million buyout); Bay ($16 million plus a $3 million buyout); Frank Francisco ($6.5 million) and Jon Niese ($3 million).

That means they must spread $20.5 million among 19 players to complete their 25-man roster. Of that, figure in a raise to maybe $3.5 million for Davis, who is arbitration eligible.

There’s not a lot of wiggle room, and definitely not enough to sign a big-ticket free-agent. They will have to rely on minor league promotions and free agents signing for no more than $1 million.

Good luck with that.

Oct 05

How Mets Answered Preseason Questions

Like all teams, the Mets had questions entering spring training. The Mets, of course, had more than most. At that time I listed the top ten questions facing the 2012 Mets. Let’s take a look back at how the season answered those questions. Some were in the positive, others not.

1) QUESTION: To what degree will the Wilpon’s financial problems impact the Mets?  

ANSWER: Did you see any new faces of consequence added at the trade deadline? Nope, I didn’t think so. Despite a strong first half, the Mets had issues – notably the bullpen – which they did not address at the end of July. Failing to improve the team, the Mets spiraled down in the second half. While the Mets received a favorable verdict in the Madoff case – they have two more years before they have to pay off – it will not induce GM Sandy Alderson to significantly enter the free agent market. The Mets spent $100 million this year on player salaries and don’t expect them to pay much more than that in 2013.

2) QUESTION: What will we get from Johan Santana?

ANSWER: Actually more than anticipated, including the first no-hitter in franchise history. There remains speculation throwing 134 pitches in that game might have derailed him. Even though there were no arm issues, Santana did lose his command and struggled in the second half before being shut down with an injury. The Mets are on the hook for $31 million more to Santana next year, including a buyout.

3) QUESTION: How long will David Wright remain a Met?

ANSWER: Well, he’s still here and Alderson said retaining him will be an offseason priority. Because of a good first half Wright’s name didn’t come up at the trade deadline as Jose Reyes’ did the year before. Wright proved to the Mets his durability this season and had a good season, hitting .306 with 21 homers and 93 RBI. How much better could it have been had he not slumped trying to carry the team in the second half?

4) QUESTION: Which Mike Pelfrey will we see?

ANSWER: He was good while he lasted, but was shutdown early with an injury and underwent surgery to his elbow. Pelfrey might not be ready until May or June, making it highly unlikely for the Mets to tender him a contract despite Terry Collins’ urging. After a seemingly breakthrough 2010 season, Pelfrey regressed dramatically last year. Overall, Pelfrey has not lived up to expectations. The only way I see him staying with the Mets if he were to re-sign with them at a discount, but with Scott Boras his agent, don’t count on it.

5) QUESTION: What is the configuration of the bullpen?

ANSWER: That was supposed to be Alderson’s priority last winter, but it wasn’t to be as the pen factored greatly in the second-half swoon. Frank Francisco was the primary closer, but finished the season with tendinitis. Bobby Parnell pitched considerably better later in the season and will likely enter spring training in a set-up role if Francisco is healthy. The Mets received promising production from lefties Josh Edgin and Robert Carson. Look for Jon Rauch to be a part of the housecleaning.

6) QUESTION: Is Ruben Tejada the answer as Jose Reyes’ replacement?

ANSWER: That’s still up in the air over the long haul, but for now Tejada is the right fit. Tejada has a great glove, and his .289 average was better than one could have expected. With other pressing needs, Tejada showed enough to where the Mets don’t have to shop for a shortstop this winter.

7) QUESTION: Can Daniel Murphy make it at second base?

I don’t think we’ll see the second coming of Wally Backman, let alone Ryne Sandberg or Roberto Alomar. Murphy’s range could be better, but he showed promise this summer that the position isn’t a lost cause for him. He was less awkward around the bag and made most of the plays. His footwork on the double-play needs to get better. Overall, he showed enough to where the Mets don’t need to sign a second baseman in the offseason.

8) QUESTION: How healthy is Ike Davis?

ANSWER: There was speculation the virus was a contributor to a poor first half, but he refutes that notion. Not wanting to shatter his confidence, and probably moreso that there weren’t other alternatives, the Mets didn’t send him down when he hovered under .200. Davis responded with a strong second half and finished with over 30 homers.

9) QUESTION: What’s the make up of the rotation?

ANSWER: It changed considerably, beginning with Pelfrey’s injury. Dillon Gee and Santana also went down. Chris Young was brought in and gave them over 100 innings. The positive developments were Jon Niese taking another step and the emergence of Matt Harvey. Most positive of all was R.A. Dickey, who won 20 games to become a Cy Young Award candidate. Dickey has gone from journeyman to an offseason priority to be re-signed. 

10) QUESTION: Will it ever happen for Jason Bay with the Mets?

ANSWER: The newest theory is Bsy’s concussion last year caused him to be sluggish at the plate. It’s only speculation. A greater speculation is it won’t happen for Bay, who has given the Mets nothing for the $66 million they’ll pay him. Not even moving in the fences helped Bay. The Mets are just counting the days until he’s off the books.

Oct 02

Mets Matters: Last Look At Dickey As A Met Tonight?

We will get our last look at the best part of this season tonight when R.A. Dickey goes for his 21st victory to make his final Cy Young audition against the Miami Marlins.

It might even be Dickey’s last appearance as a Met if the team deems him to expensive to re-sign and opts to trade him this winter.

The Mets say bringing back David Wright and Dickey are priorities, but if Wright signs first and it is decided they can’t afford Dickey they might not have any other choice.

Whatever happens this winter, it has been a thrill watching Dickey pitch this summer. Every five days he gave the Mets a chance to win, and he did it on the mound with guile and grit, and off the mound with class and humility.

It would be a shame to see him go. There are so few like Dickey these days.

In other Mets Matters:

* CEO Jeff Wilpon and GM Sandy Alderson are with the team in Miami. The Mets say they are optimistic about retaining Wright, but have not announced an off-season timetable or give an indication how much it would cost. For that matter, they haven’t done likewise with Dickey.

Wright indicated he’d like to return, but also left open the possibility of leaving. That’s smart because he doesn’t want to bid against himself.

Wright’s decision to return will not only be money – he said he’s not interested in every last nickel – but what steps the team is willing to take to improve. As of now, all signs point to limited spending.

Wright said he would not negotiate in season in 2013.

 

* Thanks to Joe DeCaro for posting this morning about Terry Collins wanting Mike Pelfrey back. Considering the holes in their staff and potential concerns in the rotation, it could be a smart move. However, Pelfrey will open the season on the disabled list and I don’t expect the Mets to tender him a contract.

* The Mets will make everybody available this off-season in a possible trade. Reportedly, Boston is scouting the Mets in regards to Ike Davis.

It has been reported the Mets could trade Davis, but it comes with the presumption Lucas Duda fill his power void. Since there’s no assurances Duda will develop as the Mets hope, they would need to receive power in return. If that’s the case, why bother? Especially since Davis’ contract is reasonable.

Sep 25

What If David Wright Doesn’t Want To Stay?

I keep hearing, “Will the Mets re-sign David Wright?” and “What will it take to keep David Wright?” and “How can the Mets not afford to bring back David Wright?”

All very good, pointed and legitimate questions. Here’s some more: “What if David Wright wants to leave?” and “What’s keeping David Wright tied to the Mets?”

Unquestionably, Wright is the face of this franchise, he’s the most popular, he’s their best player. And, he’s still young enough where the team can build around him. But, what if Wright doesn’t want them to build around him anymore?

Seriously. Mull that over for a moment.

Jose Reyes is gone and so is Carlos Beltran, the latter whom is having a great season. Those were the position-player building blocks the team had around Wright. They are gone and if published reports are to be believed, might Ike Davis be next? Afterall, outside of their young pitching Davis figures to bring back the most in return.

Sandy Alderson has already said not to expect a winter spending spree, so realistically, the 2013 Mets will be vastly similar to this year’s second-half collapse model, with the hope being improvement from within, notably a strong first full season from Matt Harvey. Even so, the Mets are probably two or three years away from serious playoff contention.

Wright will be 33 in three years and perhaps nine years removed from his last playoff appearance (2006). Don’t you think he might be tired of being pitched around, losing and making public relations appearances for a team not going anywhere?

By that time, if not traded or having left as free agents, what will the 2015 Mets look like?

Just last week Wright said there are no moral victories and it is all about making the playoffs. At the same time, R.A. Dickey said “you’re kidding yourself if you think we’re more than one piece away.”

Wright said he wants to remain a Met, but hasn’t said he can’t say he’ll stay a Met regardless. He’d be crazy to say such a thing because it would limit his bargaining power. As it is, Wright won’t come close to hitting 30 homers, a milestone he’s reached several times, most recently in 2008. It has been part injuries, part Citi Field, part being pitched around and part bad habits that have led to Wright’s drop in power.

Wright has an option for next season which the team will undoubtedly pick us as to not risk heading into the ticket-selling offseason without their key player. If the Mets fail to sign him to an extension and then aren’t able to trade him as they didn’t Reyes, Wright will be a free agent and his phone will ring.

And, if the Mets don’t add some pieces around him soon, he’ll listen. He’d be a fool not to.