Nov 23

Jon Niese One Of Few Untouchable Mets

When I look at the current Mets’ 40-man roster there are few players where it would take a lot to pry away from the team. Matt Harvey is one of them, in fact, there’s a thought of re-doing his contract as to buy out his arbitration years.

I keep Harvey, of course. And, prospect Zach Wheeler.

NIESE: An untouchable Met.

Also on the list is Jonathan Niese, who signed a long-term deal that will carry him through 2016, with option years for 2017 and 2018, going as high as $11 million in the last year. A hard-throwing left hander with a positive history and contract controllable for four more years is a bargain.

Considering Niese’s production, contract and being a lefty, it’s small wonder he is the name most often brought up when Mets GM Sandy Alderson is contacted. That’s also the reason the Mets would be foolish to part with him.

As Niese continues to develop, and dare I say it, approach 20 wins and becomes an All-Star, I can see the Mets picking up those options and extending the contract.

Niese is a rare commodity in today’s economics. Harvey could see a long-term offer is he proves the real deal in 2013.

Signing Niese when they did was a smart move and akin to the long-term deal David Wright is on. That’s why they won’t deal him. He and Harvey are on a short list, one that doesn’t include Wright and R.A. Dickey.

The Mets want to keep both but admit they could be dealt. They are currently talking to more teams about Dickey than Wright, presumably because the knuckleballer is on a $5 million contract for 2013 while Wright is more than triple that amount.

Trading Dickey and/or Wright in the offseason would be have the obstacle on them being free-agents after next season and would likely be contingent on the other team getting the opportunity to negotiate its own contract extension, similar to what the Mets did when they traded with Minnesota for Johan Santana.

That other team would be stuck with the task of negotiating with Dickey for roughly $50 million and Wright for perhaps as high as $120 million. Few teams want to assume that burden, which is why Jeff Wilpon said last week he’d rather let them walk and take the draft picks.

From the player’s perspective, the concept of free-agency is deciding where you go and for how much. Chances are both players, unless they are blown away with an offer, would walk after being traded.

The Mets won’t have any such dilemma with NIese, which is why he’ll be in Flushing for a long time.

 

 

Mar 07

Boras backtracks on Mets

On second thought, Scott Boras decided there’s no sense in biting the hand that feeds you. That’s why Boras texted Jeff Wilpon – what’s wrong with a phone call? – to say he wasn’t specifically talking about the Mets when he was quoted in The New York Times the other day.

BORAS: Damage control.

I didn’t say it was an apology.

Boras said: “When you’re seeing franchises in major markets not pursuing to the levels that the revenues and the fan base and the market provide, then I think you have an ethical violation of the game.”

Boras said he wasn’t directly talking about the Mets, but might as well have been.

The bottom line is Boras makes his money dealing with teams and is constantly searching for a market for his players. There have been times, and undoubtedly will again, where the Mets are that market.

Boras plays hardball at the negotiating table, and he’s been very successful. It made no sense for him to take a shot at the Mets. If anything, Boras should take aim at the new collective bargaining agreement, which will really sock it to the richer teams in the form of a harsher luxury tax in a few seasons. That’s why the Yankees’ Hal Steinbrenner was talking the other day about cutting salary.

It won’t technically be a salary cap, but that’s really semantics and eventually baseball will get what it has always wanted.

ON DECK: Today’s lineup and notes.

 

 

Feb 17

Fred declares innocence; K-Rod wants fresh start.

Yesterday it was Jeff Wilpon’s spin on the Mets’ legal issues. Today it was father Fred Wilpon.

WILPONS: Telling their side.

The message was basically the same:  They were duped, insists Fred Wilpon. The father said he invested millions with Bernie Madoff shortly before the Ponzi scheme unraveled. His argument does make sense: Why would he throw good money after bad if he knew Madoff was scamming him?

It’s a reasonable defense, but only the legal process will decide if it holds water. Both Wilpons said the payroll will be around $140 million, which is what it was last season. They also stressed GM Sandy Alderson wants more payroll flexibility, which is to say there will be no big signings or trades at the All-Star break. Contracts might go, but they won’t come.

With all that’s swirling around the Mets these days, it was good to see the Wilpons show up and not go into hiding. There’s nothing that screams guilt like hiding.

As for Francisco Rodriguez. He said all the right things about anger management, wanting to apologize to his teammates, and needing to turn his life and career around. For his part, manager Terry Collins said Rodriguez’s appearances to finish 55 games aren’t an issue and haven’t been discussed.

I know Rodriguez has to say those things, but who really knows what’s in his heart? Ditto for Collins.

The Mets can’t come out and say they will limit Rodriguez’s contract as it would raise ire with the Players Association and send a clear signal to the fans the team doesn’t want to compete.

It will be interesting to see what will happen if the Mets amazingly are competitive this season and are in the race deep into September. If there is a slight chance of making the playoffs, how can they limit Rodriguez.

Even so, smart money says the Mets will closely monitor Rodriguez to close save siutations. There will hold him back whenever they can to avoid the $17.5 million option from kicking in. This option is in his contract and makes him nearly impossible to trade, so don’t expect him leaving in July.

I know Carlos Beltran is going and the team doesn’t want to bring back Rodriguez. The Mets will do everything they can to unload Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo. None of that is surprising and shows their financial concerns.

To me, the one issue that dictates financial fear is Jose Reyes. If Reyes has a good year and they don’t bring him back it will raise the red flag. However, if Reyes has a poor season, it would be his third straight down year and they can’t be faulted for being conservative.

Nov 18

Mets managerial decision due shortly

Sandy Alderson will have his second round of interviews today with Wally Backman (noon) and Terry Collins (2 p.m.) then deliberate with his staff.

COLLINS: Is Mets MGR frontrunner

A decision could come as soon as Sunday or Monday.

“I think it is important that one have time to reflect, but I don’t think we need to sleep on this for a week and a half,’’ Alderson said Wednesday night at the GM meetings. “In fact, I think you get less effective at some point if you wait too long. I think that we should be in a position to make a decision Sunday/Monday.’’

Alderson’s planning and organization is coming through with these interviews, and he’s been open enough to give the fans a glimpse of what is going on. The sense of secrecy that was before isn’t there.

Don’t get me wrong, there will be times – during trades and in the free-agent process – where Alderson will play it closer to vest, but his overall openness has been refreshing.

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Oct 25

Mets’ GM search in second phase

Mets fans might have celebrated hollow victories over the weekend when the Yankees and Phillies were eliminated from the postseason on consecutive nights, the final out in each game coming on a called third strike. Alex Rodriguez one night; Ryan Howard the other.

Of course, rooting against the Yankees and Phillies is futile work, as it does nothing toward the improvement of the Mets.

However, the most important development lately has been the narrowing of the GM candidates to Josh Byrnes and Sandy Alderson.

Byrnes will interview with ownership, including Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz, today, and Alderson will be on stage tomorrow. Both are highly regarded and will inherit a team with a high payroll and a myriad of issues.

Neither will be able to turn the program around in a year, and such a promise hasn’t been made by either in the first round of interviews.

Both GM candidates indicate Wally Backman is on their list of prospective managerial candidates, which parallels the Wilpon’s thinking. That is not to say Backman is a given, but he will get an honest shot. There are several things about Backman that concern me, most is the perception he is the Wilpon pick and he’s being forced on to the new general manager. My preference for Backman is to be promoted to bench coach and work under an experienced manager.

The new GM will inherit a team slightly below .500, meaning there is reason to be optimistic about improvement should all the pieces fall into place, notably the healthy returns of Jason Bay and Carlos Beltran, continued development from Mike Pelfrey and Jon Niese, and an encore from RA Dickey. The Mets aren’t void of talent, and improvement should occur, but they are still behind the Phillies and Braves, but those teams have their own issues.

A GM decision could be made as soon the off day following Game 2, which is a travel day in the World Series. As written here before, the GM candidates have their thinking on the manager, so that process should turn around rather quickly.

The first order of offseason business might night be conducted by assistant GM John Ricco and Jeff Wilpon, and that would be the re-signing of reliever Hisanori Takahashi. The Mets have until Oct. 31 to re-sign Takahashi, otherwise he can become a free agent.

Takahashi did everything the Mets asked of him last season as a starter or in a variety of bullpen roles, but the left-hander prefers to start. The Mets could promise him a chance to compete for a starting job in spring training or they could overpay to keep him in the pen.

Reportedly, Takahashi is seeking a two-year deal and he’s worth it based on what he did in 2010.