Oct 22

Would Boston’s Free-Agent Building Approach Benefit Mets?

Yesterday, I suggested what the New York Mets could learn from the St. Louis Cardinals in building their team. Today, let’s examine how the Red Sox were built and what the Mets can take from their approach.

The Cardinals’ philosophy of first building from within followed by judicious trades and free-agent signings has always been the traditional and preferred method.

Throwing millions and millions into the free-agent market is costly and risky. The Mets don’t have the resources of the Yankees or Dodgers to throw good money after bad.

ELLSBURY: Will he be too costly for Mets?

ELLSBURY: Will he be too costly for Mets?

There’s pressure to win in both markets, but there’s a greater intensity in Boston – and New York – while there’s a degree of patience in the Midwest. That explains in part why St. Louis has 17 homegrown players on its roster, while the Red Sox have ten.

There was a venomous culture in Boston last season as the Red Sox, burdened by several cumbersome contracts – similar to what the Mets faced when Sandy Alderson took over – and a few cancerous personalities in the clubhouse.

“Say, could you pass some fried chicken this way?’’

The Red Sox cleared nearly $200 million in salaries when they unloaded Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to the Dodgers midway through last year’s disastrous 69-93 summer under Bobby Valentine. They did so because even in a lost season the Red Sox were thinking about this summer. That’s something the Mets never fully explored when they had Jose Reyes and others to dangle.

The Red Sox were far quicker and more decisive than the Mets have been in ridding themselves of too costly and ineffective players, such as Oliver Perez, Ike Davis, Francisco Rodriguez and Luis Castillo to name a few of close to numerous bad deals since 2006, the last time the Mets saw October.

Rather than sink their savings into different long-term, costly signings, the Red Sox signed a handful of productive, yet cost-effective, players in: Shane Victorino (three years, $39 million); catcher David Ross (two years, $6.2 million); first baseman Mike Napoli (one year, $5 million); shortstop Stephen Drew (one year, $9.5 million); outfielder Jonny Gomes (two years, $10 million); and dynamite closer Koji Uehara (one year, $4.25 million plus option).

None bowl you over; collectively, they helped the Red Sox win 97 games.

Boston also extended by two years and $26 million the contract of its own free agent, designated hitter David Ortiz. They also avoided arbitration by offering Jacoby Ellsbury a one-year, $9-million deal. Some signings, such as pitcher Ryan Dempster’s two-year, $26.5 million deal, didn’t pan out. He’s now in middle relief and would be a starter for the Mets.

The Red Sox also hit it with trades, including pitcher Jake Peavy, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and and former Mets first-base prospect, Mike Carp.

Boston’s success in the free-agent and trade markets was overwhelmingly successful. Although Alderson said he could have the leeway to offer a $100-million contract to one player, he would be better off in taking Boston’s approach and attempt to patch several of the Mets’ many holes.

Alderson knows the success the Red Sox enjoyed is rare and shouldn’t be expected, especially since the Mets won’t offer similar deals. However, the idea of pursuing players with playoff success – Napoli and Victorino – is a sound way to augment their present composition of youth and few proven major leaguers.

The Mets are unsettled at first base, but are kidding themselves if they think they could get Napoli by offering a slight raise. Napoli was to get a three-year, $39-million deal, but that fell through when a degenerative hip condition was discovered. He’ll likely get his three years this winter.

As for Victorino, the Mets had their chance to sign him, but now it is too late. They must consider between Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo and Nelson Cruz, what they might each cost, and their various baggage.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Red Sox attempt to retain Ellsbury, but there are already reports the Tigers are interested in either him or Choo, the latter who is reportedly seeking four years.

The Red Sox took a shotgun approach last winter, and still wound up with a $155-million payroll while hitting most of their targets. It worked because their scouts did their homework; they got lucky; and they already had a core to build around. The Red Sox were also forced to be aggressive last winter because of their restless and demanding fan base. Every year it is the same motivation for them and the Yankees.

The Mets’ fan base is already looking at 2015 when Matt Harvey returns. Few are expecting a contender next summer without him. The Mets also don’t have as good a core as Boston had and won’t come anywhere close to what the Red Sox spent, but could go as high as $100 million, maybe a little more.

Everybody in the division save the Miami Marlins will spend more. If the Mets are to emulate the Red Sox, they’ll have to dig deeper and that’s not something they’ll be inclined to do.

Apr 23

METS CHAT ROOM: Game #15; Can somebody please go seven?

CHAT ROOM

CHAT ROOM

Sooner or later, it won’t be early anymore. Baseball seasons tend to get old quickly, like your old college roommate after at the reunion.

Damn, he was young and spry and had hair. He’s gotten so old.

Pitching tends to age even the best teams having pennant aspirations. The Mets are now Johan Santana and pocket change, with any of the four capable of going either way. That’s right, the rest of the rotation has morphed into Oliver Perez. Good one night; bad the next.

We have a pop group: Johan and the Four Coin Flips.

HERNANDEZ: Mets need him to go long.

HERNANDEZ: Mets need him to go long.


Can you honestly say you know Livan Hernandez will pitch lights out this afternoon? Nope. You count on five and hope he doesn’t implode the third time through the lineup.

John Maine? Well, he started out on the rocks last night and settled down late. By that time, the Mets’ listless offense had called it a night. Coming off shoulder surgery, Maine isn’t right and there’s no timetable that says he’ll be a 15-game winner again.

Mike Pelfrey? He’s been sandpaper smooth so far, and now he’ll try it again this weekend. He has facing the Washington Nationals going for him.

Yes, the Mets addressed their bullpen, but did precious little to shore up their starters, who barely got five these days save Santana.

The keys to the collapses the last two years have been the bullpen, specifically, over work of the pen. The Mets are already averaging 3.2 innings per game, which would be 514.2 innings on the season.

We’ll see how that 2.06 bullpen ERA stands up with that workload.

Somewhere down the road – three months at the trade deadline – the Mets might be confronted with some hard choices if they are to pick up a viable arm. That might mean losing Jon Niese or Daniel Murphy or F-Mart. It might mean losing two. It could mean all three if somebody like Jake Peavy or Roy Halladay are on the other end.

I was on a radio talk show last night in St. Louis and was asked if the Mets were good enough to win the World Series. Even with their dismal production with runners in scoring position they are if their pitching improves.

If it doesn’t, well, then it’s another long winter.

Apr 10

WANTED: Pitching

Sorry for the late post today.

I know it has only been three games, but I didn’t even need them to tell me the Mets still need to improve their starting pitching. After Johan Santana are you really convinced of what you’ll get from the other four in the rotation.

I believe in Mike Pelfrey, but his first start shows there are still growing pains. After reaching a career-high in innings pitched last season, will he hit a wall? There’s no way of knowing, but the assumption has to be made, and it has to be addressed.

John Maine goes tonight and he’s coming off shoulder surgery. Supposedly, it is minor, but everybody else’s surgery is always minor. Tonight will not be conclusive, one way or another.

Livan Hernandez is an innings eater at the end of his career. I liked the signing. Still do, but he is what he is. He’s a .500 pitcher these days, which is the definition of a fifth starter.

OK … Oliver Perez is next. He can be nails-on-a-chalkboard annoying to watch at times, such as yesterday. I don’t want to say the Mets can’t win with Perez, because afterall, he did win 15 for them two years ago. But, that’s looking more and more like a fluke.

Jake Peavy, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt could all be available come the end of July. The Mets can’t afford to be timid then. If it costs them F-Mart, then so be it. Quality pitching is more important anyway.

Jan 28

Heilman traded to Cubs

Aaron Heilman’s stay in Seattle was shorter than some of his appearances on the mound this summer. Heilman was traded to the Cubs today for infielder Ronny Cedeno and pitcher Garrett Olson.

Immediate speculation is this deal would enable the Cubs to free up some of their young pitching to re-start trade talks with San Diego for Jake Peavy.

Jan 08

Mets talking with Boras ….

BORAS: Talks with Mets.

BORAS: Talks with Mets.

Scott Boras was in town the other day. Had a tour of Citi Field. Spoke with the Mets about Derek Lowe and Oliver Perez. Manny Ramirez, it appears, was not one of the topics. Meanwhile, reports out of Boston and Atlanta have the Braves making a push for Lowe.

The mystery team?

Perhaps. Of course, I would have given the no-trade to Jake Peavy if I were the Braves. The Mets were never in the talks with San Diego about Peavy.

If the Mets to get Lowe, I think they’ll have to give up more money per year than give the extra years. That’s the way to go. Besides, they can also make up extra years by adding options.