Oct 31

Four Items On Van Wagenen’s Plate

New general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said there are 11 parts to his plans to remaking the Mets. He wouldn’t elaborate what they were, but it is believed he touched on one when he said he wanted Mickey Callaway to return as manager.

I’m speculating the following four are on his list:

Increase the Payroll: They should come in no higher than $160 million. Given the money they’ll save with David Wright’s retirement ($15 million for this summer) and what insurance will pick up with Yoenis Cespedes not likely to return before July, offset by raises earmarked for Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Michael Conforto, and Brandon Nimmo and what the Mets might do in upgrading their bullpen, don’t expect them to splurge on free agents Manny Machado or Bryce Harper.

The Mets are expected to bring back second baseman Jeff McNeil to a raise and need to bring in a center fielder, a catcher and perhaps a first baseman, not to mention a significant reliever. Whether that reliever is top shelf or middle tier, it will cost.

Keep the Rotation Intact: The Mets entertained trading all of their starters last season, and are expected to keep them all this winter. DeGrom and Syndergaard will get hefty raises. Since they aren’t anticipated to do a bullpen game for the fifth slot, they’ll need a fifth starter. Is it Seth Lugo, Jason Vargas or Robert Gsellman, or somebody from the minors?

Van Wagenen will confer with Callaway, John Ricco, Omar Minaya and J.P. Ricciardi this week to get a handle on the rotation. The rotation is potentially the team’s strength and the first four must be kept, but it will increase payroll.

Improving the Lineup: Don’t expect the Mets to dive deep into the free-agent or trade markets despite the optimism Van Wagenen and COO Jeff Wilpon portrayed. The Mets must upgrade at catcher and I don’t see them tendering a contract to Travis d’Arnaud. First base is a concern and decisions must be made on Peter Alonso or Dominic Smith, or will Van Wagenen fool around with Jay Bruce, Wilmer Flores or Todd Frazier? If the Mets are serious about winning now they must improve catcher and first base. They could have traded for Paul Goldschmidt from Arizona, but that boat sailed when they picked up his option yesterday. The radio call-in shows in New York were filled with callers chiming for Machado, but that would be a horrible mistake.

I was against signing Cespedes because the money would have been better spent on filling the numerous holes the Mets have and still do. Considering Machado is reportedly due twice as much as Cespedes, think of all the improvements the Mets could make.

Upgrade the Bullpen: Craig Kimbrel, Zach Britton, Brad Brach and Joe Kelly are the most enticing names in the market. Of course, all will want long-term, expensive contracts. Former GM Sandy Alderson failed to build a bullpen and consistently used the scrap-heap approach. Van Wagenen has to sign a name reliever, and that discounts the possibility of a reunion with Jeurys Familia. Rookies Tyler Bashlor and Drew Smith, and Lugo or Gsellman all pitched well last season at times.

They need to sign one of the four because they desperately need a closer. Bringing back Familia would be a step back. The Mets have plenty of inexperienced hard-throwing relievers, who didn’t distinguish themselves last summer. They have a half-dozen hard-throwers but need at least two or three to show something during spring training.

These four items say the Mets aren’t ready to win now. And, there are at least seven more issues to go.

 

Aug 13

Mets Could Explore Six-Man Rotation

The idea of the Mets going to a six-man rotation has been brought up before and again is an issue. But, everybody needs to be in on it. Using Jacob deGrom on his normal rest so he can squeeze in a couple more starts to boost his chances to win a Cy Young Award.

DeGrom deserves the chance considering how well he’s pitched, but if the Mets are serious about this they have to do it the right way: Pick your six pitchers and stick with them.

The worst thing about a six-man rotation is it would mean less starts each for deGrom and Noah Syndergaard. That would also mean fewer innings pitched, which theoretically would keep them fresher for longer. Currently, the target number of starts is 34; it would mean 27 starts in a six-man rotation.

A rotation of deGrom, Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, Corey Oswalt and Jason Vargas would include two left-handers to keep things balanced. Ideally, I would separate deGrom and Syndergaard as to give more balance in the rotation regarding innings eaters to avoid taxing the bullpen.

“We want to see [Oswalt] pitch Saturday and then sit down and really see exactly what we want to do with all of our players after that,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “Especially since we want to monitor guys like [Noah] Syndergaard and Wheeler, a six-man rotation might make sense at some point.”

Callaway is thinking about keeping his pitchers fresh for this season, but what about next season?

The game is always evolving, and with the investment teams have with these pitchers a six-man rotation could be invaluable in keeping them healthy. For this to really work, the pitchers have to be told at the end of the season that is the plan for 2019 and give them a chance to buy in.

It then has to be implemented in spring training with no deviation.

Of course, for this to work they have to pitch well.

Jun 24

Alderson Lets Down Mets … Again

The Mets deserved to lose today not just because they gave up seven home runs and not just because they continued flounder hitting with runners in scoring position.

They lost because the man who is supposed to put them in position to win, or at least compete, completely let them down. You might even say he betrayed them.

ALDERSON: Puts Mets in no-win situation. (AP)

ALDERSON: Puts Mets in no-win situation. (AP)

I guess we might surmise using seven relief pitchers is not something the Mets want to do any time soon. They were put in that position because scheduled starter Jason Vargas was forced to the disabled list with a strained muscle jogging in the outfield 15 minutes prior to first pitch – not prior to Wednesday’s game in Denver.

That would be nearly four days ago.

Mets manager Mickey Callaway said they didn’t believe the injury was serious enough warrant going on the disabled list. Even so, you’d think if Alderson was sharp he’d have somebody from Triple-A at Citi Field just in case.

They don’t even get a pass because Las Vegas is a four-hour flight. However, Double-A Binghamton is roughly a three-hour drive.

The fact they could have done something if they wanted to. Actually, they already had a minor league starter available in Chris Flexen, today’s losing pitcher, 8-7 in 11 innings to the Dodgers, a team that has now beaten them 12 straight times.

Instead, they opted to start lefty specialist Jerry Blevins, who at 34, was making the first start of his career. Back-to-back homers to start the game was a sign of things to come.

You knew the parade of Mets’ relievers wasn’t going to work, but that wasn’t what really irked me today. That would be Callaway saying “Dominic Smith has never bunted before,’’ when asked why Smith didn’t bunt in the 10th inning with a runner on first and the Dodgers shifting with infielders on the right side.

Actually, Smith sacrificed once in 2014, but isn’t that the ultimate indictment of the Mets’ inability to develop players. Actually, a criticism of today’s players in general is the lack of fundamentals.

What’s the point then in players bunting twice in batting practice before they swing?

There’s one other example of Alderson’s malpractice, and that was Justin Turner’s game-winning home run. Turner, of course, was once let loose by Mets.

That’s not piling on,

Jun 01

Mets Lose Another; Callaway Calls Team Meeting

Mets manager Mickey Callaway said he didn’t believe in team meetings, but called one after Friday’s sloppy 7-4 loss to the Chicago Cubs to fall under .500 for the first time this season.

The headline was the bullpen that gave up five runs and allowed two inherited runners to score, but Callaway said the Mets haven’t been giving themselves a chance to win.

“We’re not snake bitten,’’ an excited Callaway said. “We’re not playing the game the right way. It’s a big snowball effect when you’re not playing the game the right way.’’

It was long overdue. Callaway has been even-keel, and his message was short and sweet.

“He said, `Keep your head up and come in here and do the right thing,’’ said Jay Bruce. “No one cares if you have injuries, you have to play the game the right way, do the little things and expect to come in here and win.’’

Callaway mentioned outfielders Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo overthrowing the cut-off man; failure to taking the extra base and advance runners, and pitchers issuing leadoff walks.

“He’s right,” Conforto said. “It’s something I’ve been working on. I just didn’t do it. This is something I can control. … This is a wake-up call that we needed. … It’s not about bad luck. It’s about playing better baseball.”

After starting the season at 11-1, the Mets are now 27-28, and losers of seven of their last ten games. They are 12-15 at Citi Field, and lucky to be one game under .500 considering they have a minus-23 run differential overall.

BRUCE HURTING:: Another day, another Met is hurting. Bruce left tonight’s game with tightness in his lower back. Bruce is also slowed with plantar fasciitis, and you have to wonder whether that brought on the sore back.

Bruce said he felt something prior to the game, but was unable to play through it.

The Mets already have outfielders Yoenis Cespedes and Juan Lagares on the disabled list, so it would hurt to lose Bruce, but if he’s hurting he’s not doing them any good and should go on the DL. Bruce is hitting .228 with three homers and 15 RBI.

Callaway said Bruce should be available for Saturday.

The Mets added Jose Bautista, who has played well, and Nimmo is making the most of his opportunity. His OPS is over 1.000, and he hit a two-run homer in tonight’s 7-4 loss.

ROTATION WOES: Noah Syndergaard remains on the DL with a strained ligament in his right index finger and his not expected to be activated prior to next weekend’s series against the Yankees.

Zack Wheeler started tonight and pitched well, giving up just two runs [inherited runners that the bullpen allowed to score].

Jacob deGrom will start Saturday and Steven Matz Sunday.

Either Seth Lugo or Jason Vargas will start Tuesday against Baltimore. Whoever doesn’t start Tuesday – or Wheeler – could start Wednesday.

GSELLMAN SITS: Once again the Mets bullpen imploded, and surprisingly Robert Gsellman wasn’t used considering he didn’t pitch Thursday. Callaway said Gsellman, who had been pitching a lot lately, was scheduled to be off.

EXTRA INNINGS: Kevin Plawecki will start at first base Saturday. … Callaway is hoping for Todd Frazier and/or Cespedes to come off the disabled list for the Yankees series. … Jose Lobaton was recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas, giving the Mets three catchers. That’s not a lot of flexibility for an already weak and thin bench. … Reliever Anthony Swarzak is expected to be recalled Tuesday.

May 30

They Are The Mets, So Things Can Always Get Worse

They are the Mets, so when it comes to injuries, of course, things can get worse. Expect it. The team that began the season boasting about its pitching depth is now scrounging for healthy arms. Forget productive arms for now, the Mets just need somebody to get the ball across the plate.

Strikes would be nice, but manager Mickey Callaway will take what he can get for now.

MATZ: Will he go on the DL? (AP)

MATZ: Will he go on the DL? (AP)

On Tuesday, Noah Syndergaard went on the disabled list with a strained ligament in his right index finger. Later that day, Steven Matz left at the start of the fourth inning with a bone bruise to his left middle finger.

This came after he doubled in the top of the inning.

X-Rays were negative, but an MRI today could determine if he joins Syndergaard on the DL.

“When I was standing on second base [the finger] was starting to throb a little bit out there,’’ Matz said after the Mets lost 7-6 loss in Atlanta. “I threw a couple of [warmup] pitches and felt it.”

Matz said the pain in the knuckle.

Jason Vargas will start in place of Syndergaard tonight, and Seth Lugo will get the start Thursday against the Cubs at Citi Field.

Currently, Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler and Vargas are the only projected starters still in the rotation. Vargas, who will start on three-days rest, is pitching as if he were injured with a 1-3 record and 10.62 ERA in five starts.

“He won’t be that limited,” Callaway said. “We will really just have to see how he does and gets through the game fatigue-wise.”

Injuries helped derail the Mets last season, and are threatening to do so again this year. The Mets were fortunate to have deGrom miss only one start because of a hyperextended elbow. Not so lucky are Yoenis Cespedes, Todd Frazier, Wilmer Flores, Anthony Swarzak, Juan Lagares, AJ Ramos, Kevin Plawecki and Travis d’Arnaud.

Asdrubal Cabrera is also playing with a sore knee.