Jan 11

Bruce The First Step

I’m glad the Mets will bring back Jay Bruce, but not satisfied. There are those applauding GM Sandy Alderson’s patience today for letting the market come back to him and there’s a degree of truth to that line of thinking.

BRUCE: That's the first step. (AP)

BRUCE: That’s the first step. (AP)

However, I’m not ready to jump on the Alderson bandwagon because Bruce isn’t nearly enough:

  • The Mets, because of David Wright’s uncertainty, need a third baseman. The market is ignoring Todd Frazier, so that’s a possibility, but how much will he cost? He’ll want at least three years at close to what Bruce is making.
  • They have the potential to have a solid bullpen, but another reliable late-inning arm would be helpful. As long as the Mets are in a reunion mode, Addison Reed is still available.
  • Hoping has always been a Mets’ strategy, and this time it is for the healthy returns of Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard. They won’t be perfect here, so another veteran arm will be needed.
  • Even if they fill all those voids, there’s still the matter of Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto coming back from their injuries.

That’s a lot of things that need to happen for the Mets to become competitive again, but for now, I’ll just say cheers to Bruce.

Even the longest journies begin with a single step and Bruce is the first.

 

Jan 10

Bruce Agrees With Mets

I am pleasantly surprised, no, make that floored the Mets finally signed a free agent, and glad it was outfielder Jay Bruce. Primarily, because I didn’t want to see him traded in the first place.

Multiple media outlets reported Bruce agreed to terms on a three-year, $39-million contract. The deal is pending a physical and it is not immediately known if it contains a no-trade clause. Presumably, it does considering the Mets had previously dealt last year for minor league pitcher Ryder Ryan.

The Mets acquired Bruce, now 30, from Cincinnati in 2016. He struggled with the Mets initially but found his stroke in late September. I never bought into the nonsense that he was overwhelmed by New York, and proved that with 29 homers with the Mets before GM Sandy Alderson’s fire sale last season.

Bruce finished 2017 with a career-high 36 homers and 101 RBI in 146. He also hit two homers with four RBI in the AL Division Series.

I’ve always liked Bruce, but don’t think he’ll make the Mets appreciably better unless they are willing to make additional moves. Bruce is scheduled to make $13 million this year, which is only slightly more than the $10 million they were reportedly believed to have budgeted for 2018.

Initial speculation had Bruce seeking $80 million over four years, but there was little interest outside of the Mets, who as of last week hadn’t made an offer. Outside of familiarity, also tipping the needle in favor of the Mets is willingness to play first base in case things don’t pan out with Dominic Smith.

With Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto recovering from injuries, the outfield is considered to be a need.

Dec 04

Why Would Bruce Return?

Published reports indicate the Mets are one of six teams interested in signing Jay Bruce. While Bruce said he’s open to returning to New York and playing first base, that’s probably a negotiating tactic. Why limit the field, which would decrease your value?

BRUCE: Why would he return? (AP)

BRUCE: Why would he return? (AP)

Most recently, Colorado and Seattle, have come into play, teams that offer great cities, but also complementary power in their lineups which would take pressure off Bruce of having to be the entire offense.

Plus, both teams are closer to reaching the playoffs than the Mets. If either, or any team, is willing to pay the $90 million over five years he is seeking – which the Mets are not – why would he return?

In coming back to the Mets, there’s potential of contending if the pitchers hold up physically. As of now, Jacob deGrom and possibly Noah Syndergaard, seem to be the only reliable starters.

The Mets, despite scuttling their offense for a handful of relievers last summer, are still searching for bullpen help. Whoever they sign will also have to play first. While Bruce said he’s willing, don’t forget he complained of back stiffness after a few games last year.

The Mets finished 22 games below .500 in 2017 and enter this season with a new manager and a myriad of questions and concerns, of which Bruce can only address one or two.

Unless the market completely dries up, or the Mets all of a sudden get giddy with their money, there’s little in the way of compelling reasons why Bruce would come back. It can’t be for sentimental reasons as he was booed after the coming here and traded away last year.

The best chance they had of bringing him back was to not trade him in the first place.

Nov 30

Mets’ Smith Responds To Criticism About Weight

If there has been a positive to the Mets’ uneventful offseason, it has been Dominic Smith’s response to criticism he was out of shape this summer. Reportedly, Smith has lost 12 pounds, admitted he underperformed and said he was determined to get better.

SMITH: Watching his weight. (AP)

SMITH: Watching his weight. (AP)

All positive developments. Now, it doesn’t mean the Mets won’t consider other options, but perhaps it will make them think twice before they leap. If you’re looking to save money, which the Mets are, a platoon of Smith and Wilmer Flores makes more sense than going after Carlos Santana, who’ll cost plenty but won’t put them back into the playoffs.

“This is something I want to get under control and never make an issue again,’’ Smith told The Post about his weight. “I would rather go through this at 22 than go through this in my prime.

“They drafted me in the first round, so they expect me to be a first-round type player. They expect me to be a star in New York City. Of course, I didn’t live up to the expectations, and I am not going to take that and am upset about that. I know my capabilities and what I’m able to do. I am just going to put it all together and I am going to show the world.

“I definitely have a different mindset coming into next season. I am working my butt off every day continuously and I’m just working. I learned a lot. I got up there for six weeks and I learned from that and I am not taking anything for granted. It’s an honor and pleasure. Every day I get to wake up and play for the New York Mets, it’s an honor and pleasure. You know that you have to work hard. You have to be realistic with a lot of situations, so I definitely am.’’

Other than his nine homers in 49 games last summer, Smith did little to distinguish himself. Even so, the Mets finished 22 games below .500 last year and have a myriad of holes that Santana or Logan Morrison or Adam Lind or Jay Bruce won’t be able to fill.

Forty-nine games is not a big enough window to draw any definitive conclusions on whether Smith will be able to become a viable player, let alone be a star. As much as I’d like to see the Mets be a contender next season, I don’t think they will. There are just too many unanswered questions, of which Smith is one.

However, Smith can stop being a question if he’s given a chance to prove himself over a wider window.

Nov 20

Mets Trying To Light A Fire Under Smith

Dominic Smith is done with the Mets if they are able to sign – and each one of these guys will get at least three years – Carlos Santana, Jay Bruce, Logan Morrison or Adam Lind, then where does that leave Smith?

Certainly not on the fast track to Flushing.

SMITH: Mets trying to motivate Smith. (Getty)

SMITH: Mets trying to motivate Smith. (Getty)

Smith did not distinguish himself last summer – but did hit nine homers in 183 plate appearances – and GM Sandy Alderson indicated as much, saying he “didn’t win [the job] in September.’’

Smith was the Mets’ second-ranked prospect at the time of his promotion, but despite the surprise in his power, he was a disappointment in his plate discipline and on-base percentage, and defense, which was supposed to be his strong suit. In addition, Alderson was upset, and rightfully so, about Smith’s conditioning.

“Dominic’s going to have to be careful about his conditioning, certainly in the next few years, if not throughout his career,’’ Alderson said at the GM Meetings last week. “He was in excellent shape coming into Spring Training. … As happens with any long season, fitness dissipates and he’s put on some weight.’’

If the Mets surprise us all and sign a free-agent, Smith will undoubtedly open the season at Triple-A Las Vegas. That’s fine for 2018, but what about the following two years?

Barring an injury, that would leave Smith stuck in the minor or a reserve, because for the money the Mets would pay a free-agent, he’d have to be above Smith. And considering his play last season, Smith would have to tear it up in the minor leagues in 2018 to build up his trade value.

Smith hit .198 with a .262 on-base percentage and struck out 49 times [with only 14 walks] in 49 games. Those are lousy numbers that don’t merit coming into spring training with a job waiting for him.

So, what are the Mets’ first base options?

There’s signing a free-agent, of course, which seems a long shot because the Mets don’t want to spend the money. They could go into next season with a platoon of Smith and Wilmer Flores, which probably is how they’ll go, or they could stick with Smith.

I think the free-agent talk, coupled with the criticism about his weight, is designed to light a fire under Smith.