Jul 02

Mets Would Be Foolish To Deal Jeremy Hefner

Matt Harvey isn’t the only New York Mets pitcher not receiving any support from his hitters. The true measure of how well Jeremy Hefner has pitched this year isn’t found in his 2-6 record, but 3.72 ERA. Hefner has arguably been the Mets’ second most effective starter behind Harvey, which should mute any trade discussions.

HEFNER: Having understated season. (AP)

HEFNER: Having understated season. (AP)

Hefner, tonight’s starter against Arizona, was 1-1 in June with three no-decisions despite a 1.80 ERA. The Mets gave him all of nine runs for the month, including just one in his previous start, last Thursday in Denver.

Conversely, Hefner has given up 14 runs in his last four starts, with nine of them unearned, so he’s getting it on both ends. Hefner took a no-decision in the Colorado start, but didn’t go away discouraged.

“I knew that I could pitch this way,’’ Hefner said that day in Denver. “My performance is finally matching up to the expectation. This doesn’t surprise me. I know I’m capable of doing this. So it’s not a shock to me.’’

Hefner is one of the most quietly, unassuming players on the Mets, if not in all of baseball. He’s quick to assume responsibility and point the finger at himself rather than rip his teammates.

It was thought Hefner would be bounced from the rotation in the wake of Zack Wheeler’s promotion, but the Mets would be thrilled if the rookie matched Hefner’s performance.

It has also been speculated the Mets might attempt to deal Hefner at the trade deadline, but with Jon Niese injured, and he pitching better than Shaun Marcum and Dillon Gee having some health issues, the Mets could regret losing him.

Here’s tonight’s lineup behind Hefner:

Eric Young, 2B: Daniel Murphy rests against LHP Patrick Corbin, so Young moves into the infield.

Juan Lagares, CF: Glad to see his speed was moved to the top of the order.

David Wright, 3B: Leads Giants Pablo Sandoval by almost 900,000 votes for All-Star start.

Marlon Byrd, RF: Nobody could have guessed 12 homers and 40 at the end of the season, let alone in the first week of July.

Josh Satin, 1B: Has consecutive three-hit games to take advantage of Ike Davis not being here.

Andrew Brown, LF: Drove in tying and winning runs last night in the 13th inning.

Anthony Recker, C: They can’t help but start him after John Buck caught 13 innings last night.

Omar Quintanilla, SS: Had three hits last night and is making all the plays in the field. Has played better than Ruben Tejada at any time this year.

Jeremy Hefner, RHP: Has ten quality starts, second behind Matt Harvey’s 14.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jun 27

Time Is Right For Mets To Deal Shaun Marcum

With each scoreless inning Shaun Marcum threw Wednesday night in Chicago, I couldn’t help but think: What could the New York Mets get for this guy?

Marcum was stellar in shutting down the White Sox, 3-0, giving up four hits and two walks, and several times showed the guile needed to escape trouble. The eight innings was a terrific sign for a contender needing rotation depth.

MARCUM: Trade value could be high now. (Getty)

MARCUM: Trade value could be high now. (Getty)

The concept of dealing Marcum has been raised here several times, but the question was always raised of what the Mets could get for him.

They certainly won’t get a blue-chip prospect, but somebody in the lower levels. That’s not a lot, but for a rebuilding team the stockpiling of minor leaguers or draft picks are essential.

There’s roughly $2 million remaining on Marcum’s contract for this season, which is highly palatable these days. Plus, the Mets are highly unlikely to bring him back next season.

Marcum won for the first time last night, but strange as it sounds, he’s pitched better than his 1-9 record. He’s given the Mets innings and pitched both as a stater and reliever. He’s 31 and the injury issues in the spring are behind him. After last night, his value will never be higher.

The Mets are short in the rotation with Jon Niese on the disabled list and Collin McHugh traded, but this is an opportunity to take a look at somebody in their minor league system.

WEATHER FORECAST: The expected high today in Denver will be 94 degrees, 65 degrees warmer from when the Mets were here in April.

In the absurdity of the major league schedule, the Mets were scheduled for back-to-back April series in Minnesota and Denver, where the weather is traditionally raw that time of year.

Yes, somebody has to play in those cities, but it shouldn’t be an interleague or non-division team, which makes it difficult to reschedule. If Major League Baseball is adamant about interleague play and the unbalanced schedule, at least schedule within the division for the first three weeks.

Doing so makes it easier to reschedule rained-out games with day-night doubleheaders later in the season.

HEFNER GOES TODAY: Jeremy Hefner (2-6, 3.89 ERA) goes against Tyler Chatwood (4-1, 2.22) today at Coors Field.

Today’s game marks the return of Eric Young to Denver, where he played five seasons. The acquisition of Young provided a spark and apparently resolved the Mets’ leadoff issues. Young is the tenth player they’ve used at the top of the order and he has responded, hitting .414 in his first 29 at-bats with the Mets.

Young told reporters last night in Chicago: “It’s going to be my first time being on the visiting side when it comes to playing against the Rockies. … I’m sure a lot of emotion is going to be involved.’’

Terry Collins said David Wright will sit today, but since he’s hot and always hit well in Colorado, don’t be surprised. Wright has proved persuasive in staying in the lineup.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jun 20

It Is Time Niese Prove His Worth

In all this talk about the New York Mets and their bright pitching future, Jon Niese has been overlooked. His upside has not been projected as high as that of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler, but it was lofty enough at one time for the Mets to give him a long-term deal.

The Mets eschewed numerous trade overtures for him, instead opting to keep him as a building block because he’s a hard-throwing left-hander who experienced success and has a controllable contract.

However, he’s overlooked for a reason.

NIESE: Underachiever. (AP)

NIESE: Underachiever. (AP)

The Mets extended Niese’s contract with the expectation he’d lift them in games like tonight in Atlanta, where he’d be the difference between a winning and losing series. There’s not a high degree of confidence in him tonight.

After winning a career-high 13 games last year, Niese has not progressed. Yes, a case can be made to explain his 3-6 record because of a lack of run support, but there’s that sticky matter of a 4.15 ERA.

Niese pitched in consecutive sub-30 degree games in Minnesota and Denver and came away with stiffness in his back. No doubt, that is a contributing factor to his mediocre numbers, but what about his 1.57 WHIP?

In only four of his last ten starts has he gone into the seventh inning or further. The Mets have lost eight of those starts, and Niese has one victory in that span to his ledger.

One could argue Niese’s ERA is attributable in large part to giving up seven and eight runs in consecutive starts, but you could counter that by saying staff anchors must find away to minimize the damage, something Niese has yet to master.

This year Harvey, despite his limited experience, has proven more adept at escaping big innings than Niese. What Wheeler showed three times Tuesday night was something the Mets needed from Niese last weekend against the Cubs.

When the Mets had Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey, Niese was projected as a No. 3 starter. Through attrition, he entered the season No. 1 and pitched like it in his first two starts.

Since then, he has been outpitched by Harvey consistently, and Dillon Gee and Jeremy Hefner over the past month. Currently, based on merit, Niese’s performance is indicative of a fifth starter at best, which is where he would be if the Mets dropped Shaun Marcum from the rotation.

I would still hold onto Niese for the same reasons: being a hard-throwing left-hander with a reasonable contract. There’s reason to believe there’s an upside to Niese, but he must start to outpitch his paltry support and perform to his expectations. He has to pitch better than his team, as all good pitchers must.

The Mets signed Niese to a long-term deal because they believed they could build around him. It is time Niese lives up to that faith.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jun 20

Mets Should Trade Shaun Marcum; Others Also Available

Seriously now, these are the New York Mets. Did anybody really expect the euphoria of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler to include Shaun Marcum?

Marcum is now 0-9 after Wednesday night and it seems ludicrous to keep him in the rotation, especially when Dillon Gee and Jeremy Hefner have pitched well.

MARCUM: After giving up homer last night. (AP)

MARCUM: After giving up homer last night. (AP)

Two strong relief outings suggest he could survive in that role, but is that the best option for the Mets? Marcum is giving the Mets around five innings a start and his strikeout totals have been decent. Most importantly, his neck and back issues seem to be over.

Marcum’s value to the Mets isn’t as a fifth, or sixth, starter, but as a trade chip to a contender. Much of his record can be passed off as from a lack of support, and with a reasonable $4 million salary – to any contender – the time is right to try to move him now.

He has some value in the trade market, but it won’t be any higher than it is now. Maybe they can get a mid-level prospect for him, which is better than the alternative of getting nothing when he leaves after the season.

Perhaps they can get more if they package him in a trade with others. Let’s see, whom else can the Mets trade?

John Buck:  Initially, he could have been had if Travis d’Arnaud hadn’t been injured. Buck has a connection with the young pitchers that is valuable and nobody can say with any certainty when d’Arnaud will be healthy, and how well he could play when he does. KEEP HIM.

Ike Davis: Is having a miserable year, but there’s always a team that believes he can be fixed with a change of scenery. The Mets are paying him over $3 million to strike out. As with Mike Pelfrey, they can opt to non-tender him and he’d walk and they’d get nothing. DEAL HIM.

Daniel Murphy: One of the few Mets who is hitting. I have this feeling the Mets believe they could do better. Prospect Wilmer Flores will have to play eventually. Murphy would have value to a contender as a second baseman, DH and first baseman. DEAL HIM.

Omar Quintanilla: Trouble is, if they deal him who would play shortstop with Ruben Tejada injured? Does it matter? They’ll find somebody, and if nothing else, could give time to a younger player. Question: Where does he fit into their future plans? Right. DEAL HIM.

Lucas Duda: Playing first now, where he’s more comfortable than left field. If they can move Davis, Duda could move over for the long haul. Isn’t the real decision here, Duda or Davis? KEEP HIM.

Marlon Byrd: One of the few Mets who is hitting, and is showing power. He’s like Scott Hairston was last year. Mets held onto Hairston and got nothing. Will they give Byrd more than a year this winter? Not likely. They can get something for him. DEAL HIM.

Jordany Valdespin: Didn’t grasp opportunity to be a starter at second base. Mets aren’t crazy about him and hard to envision him in their future. DEAL HIM.

LaTroy Hawkins: Veteran relievers are always in demand by contenders. He’s not coming back. DEAL HIM.

Justin Turner: On DL now but is a versatile infielder that does not give away at-bats. Could fill a need. DEAL HIM.

Some of the above, I’d like to keep, but you have to be realistic. If they can’t be projected to be in the organization beyond this season, why not see what they can get? The Mets aren’t going anywhere, so they might as well start preparing for 2014.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jun 13

The Need To Extend Terry Collins’ Contract

If Terry Collins and his staff aren’t the problem as GM Sandy Alderson suggested, then why not extend their contracts through 2015, or at least, 2014? If they aren’t the issue and considered part of the solution, it would seem a prudent action if for no other reason but send a message to the players the organization has a plan.

The Mets do have a plan, don’t they?

Few things are more fragmenting to a team than a managerial search. It would be great to go into the offseason not having to worry about the manager. And, if the Mets had to search for a new manager, that would set things back.

My first choice is if the Mets believe they are headed in the right direction would be to extend Collins for two basic reasons: 1) the players have not quit on him, which is the classic sign, and 2) management has not given him enough quality players.

One can’t make a fair assessment on Collins based on the talent given him.

If you’re buying into Alderson’s opening hire comments about changing the culture and patience being needed, then Collins can’t go the first time there’s an appearance of having money to spend.

Collins was Alderson’s pick and he’s done everything asked of him. He’s even had the Mets competitive until the lack of talent wore thin.

If Collins isn’t the right guy, then neither is Alderson, who is the architect. The Mets say they are building with young pitching, and in Matt Harvey, Jon Niese and Zack Wheeler, there’s potential. They are even getting good pitching from unexpected sources, such as Dillon Gee and Jeremy Hefner.

They rotation overcame the losses of Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey, and the early hole in the back end to have pitched well. They would have more to show for their efforts if there was a bullpen and hitting. Supposedly, that’s where the freed-up money will be spent next winter, and Collins should get the chance to benefit from that spending.

If the Mets aren’t happy with the job Collins has done, then by extension they can’t be satisfied with Alderson.

There are things I don’t like about what Alderson has done, but admit part of that comes from not knowing all he knows about what’s going on behind closed doors and being impatient about wanting results.

Alderson’s draft picks haven’t produced, but how many picks are playing after three years? That must get better.

It will be interesting to see how Alderson spends this winter because his patch-quilt approach the past three years haven’t gotten it done. I understand why they went in that direction, but if what you’re telling me is true, you should have more to spend.

And, remember it not about the willingness to spend, as the Wilpons have written checks before. It is about writing them wisely. Jason Bay, Frank Francisco, Frankie Rodriguez, Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo and the list goes on, were bad baseball decisions.

Alderson’s reputation is about making smart decisions. Now, let’s see it.

So, if the Mets believe they have the right plan in place, then Alderson needs to extend Collins. And, if not, can we assume they starting over again?

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos