Nov 22

Melancon My First Choice For Mets

With Edwin Encarnacion reportedly already rejecting an $80 million offer from Toronto and seeking five years, my first FA choice for the Mets is off the boards. And, with reports Yoenis Cespedes wants nearly $120 million over five years, he’ll be too expensive.

MELANCON: Go get him. (AP)

MELANCON: Go get him. (AP)

We know they aren’t going to get Aroldis Chapman or Kenley Jansen, so my next choice for the Mets to go after is closer Mark Melancon. At 31 and coming off a 47-save season (after saving 51 in 2015), he offers consistency, durability (at least 70 appearances in five of the last six seasons), and figures to be young enough to keep on going for several more years.

Plus, he’s done most of his heavy lifting in the National League, so you know he understands the lay of the land. Speaking of which, you’d be taking him away from the Nationals.

Melancon made $9.6 million last year with Washington and Pittsburgh and is due for a big pay bump, but if what I’ve been hearing is true, he won’t come close to what Chapman and Jansen are seeking. Both are also hallucinating at five years (only an idiot would give a closer that long a deal) and might be had for three plus an option.

The production is there, the age is right, he’s been healthy and the finances seem to be in order.

What about Jeurys Familia, you ask. Figuring a suspension of at least 30 games, we don’t know what he’ll be like when he returns. And, when he does, he can either go back to the end of the line (middle innings) or possibly be traded.

Of all their questions, pitching is paramount for the Mets. We don’t know how their four surgically-repaired starters will be and can assume they’ll be on a short leash. That means more innings for the bullpen, which increases Melancon’s value.

Hitting is always easier to obtain than quality pitching. They can let Cespedes go and use the money elsewhere and hope for a good year from Jay Bruce.

That’s why Melancon is now my first choice.

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Nov 10

Familia Pleads Not Guilty; MLB Treading Water On Punishment

Mets closer Jeurys Familia pleaded not guilty this morning on the charge of simple assault in Fort Lee, New Jersey, this morning, but by no means is this case over and the team would be foolish if it proceeded with that belief.

FAMILIA: Pleads not guilty. (AP)

FAMILIA: Pleads not guilty. (AP)

The judge agreed to the couple’s request to have a “no contact” ruling, which means they’ll stay together and the odds of the victim cooperating with police will be small. Although the case can proceed without cooperation from the victim, it makes it all the more difficult to prove.

The next hearing is Dec. 15, which is after the Winter Meetings in Washington, DC.

By that time the Mets could and should have, contacted other relievers in the market.

One of them is their own Fernando Salas and another is Washington’s Mark Melancon, formerly of the Pirates. High-profile Aroldis Chapman (Cubs) and Kenley Jansen (Dodgers) are also on the market, but expected to be out of the Mets’ price range.

There is also the option of making set-up reliever Addison Reed the closer.

The Winter Meetings are a month away, so there’s a sense of urgency for the Mets to develop a plan in the expectations Familia is suspended. However, MLB isn’t expected to make a ruling until the justice system has its say.

“I think it is usually difficult for us to complete our investigation before the criminal process has run its course,” Commissioner Rob Manfred said. “We have the luxury of not being on the field right now, and we’re going to take advantage of that.”

Even so, the Mets must proceed in anticipation of the worst, meaning a lengthy suspension. That means planning without Familia.

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Oct 19

Mets’ First Priority Should Be Reed

Of all their possible free agents, the most important one for the Mets to bring back is set-up reliever Addison Reed.

But wait, what about Yoenis Cespedes you say? Or scream?

REED:  Should be first. (AP)

REED: Should be first. (AP)

Cespedes hit 31 homers and drove in 86 runs, which, of course, is important. But, it can be replaced as the Mets have Jay Bruce – a combined 33 homers and 99 RBI with Cincinnati and New York – plus the untapped potential of Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo to compensate for that loss.

If they don’t bring back Cespedes, they can use the projected $100 million earmarked for him to keep Reed, bring back Bruce and plug elsewhere.

However, there’s no telling where the Mets would have been had they not had Reed’s 40 holds. The eighth-inning set-up role is one of the most difficult to do and Reed was exceptional.

The Mets weren’t in the playoffs without him.

While the Mets have options without Cespedes, they don’t have that luxury should they lose Reed. Who do you want to give his near 80 innings to? Hansel Robles? Jim Henderson? Fernando Salas?

Without Reed, there’s stress throughout the bullpen. Bullpen stress is a season killer. I’ve seen too many Mets’ summers disintegrate because of a lousy bullpen. Anybody remember the great collapse of 2007? Or, how about the one in 2008?

The bullpen is critical to the Mets’ success in 2017 as there are health concerns with all their starters, four of whom are coming off surgery. Realistically, one can’t expect to get seven innings – at least early in the season – from the rotation, which puts pressure on the bullpen. You’ll be surprised with how the innings accumulate.

Then, after two rough Octobers, many have questions about Jeurys Familia. I’m not in that camp, but just suppose those questions are valid. If nothing else, the Mets have the flexibility of using Reed in that role. Reed has also shown the ability to get more than three outs.

As these playoffs have shown, pitching always trumps hitting. A strong staff needs a steady bullpen, and Reed is a critical asset for the Mets. Many of you didn’t like how manager Terry Collins juggled his pen. Imagine how you’d feel if they didn’t have Reed.

I don’t have much faith the Mets will dive deeply into the free-agent pool. I don’t know how much money GM Sandy Alderson will spend, but his first check should go to Reed.

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Oct 15

Bullpen Bridge Key For Mets

The Mets will have no shortage of offseason issues, and we’ll discuss them all. Let’s put Yoenis Cespedes on the back burner for now in terms of importance and go directly to the bullpen. Conor Gillespie’s fly ball hadn’t even cleared the wall and there was the question as to whether Jeurys Familia was a problem. Could this guy pitch in October?

MLB: New York Mets at Milwaukee BrewersI’m not worried about Familia. I think he’ll be fine. He saved 51 games this year with that nasty pitch of his that moves into lefty hitters and away from right-handers. His slider/cutter/sinker is one of the game’s hardest pitches to hit. About his psyche? Well, he was stand-up after the wild-card game, admitted he threw a bad pitch location-wise and said it was time to learn and move on.

As many of you know, I covered the Yankees for eight years before moving to the Mets and had many conversations with Mariano Rivera. He said giving up the game-winning homer to Cleveland’s Sandy Alomar was one of the best things that happened to him ibecause it taught him how to forget and move on; to develop a thick skin.

I’m positive the same will happen with Familia.

My bullpen concern is the bridge leading up to Familia. The Mets have four pitchers coming off surgery and we don’t know yet about Noah Syndergaard‘s bone spur, although indications are he’ll be fine. Ideally, the Mets want seven innings from their starters, but realistically can’t expect that on a nightly basis. Early on, at least, they’ll be happy to get six.

That leaves at least three innings to cover.

Bringing back Addison Reed is essential, and I might argue, on a par with Cespedes. They’ll need to make sure they are covered in the sixth and seventh innings. They liked Fernando Salas, and he pitched well. Hansel Robles was good until he was not. He’s still a question, but one with great stuff.

The Mets have three situational lefties to choose between Josh Smoker, Jerry Blevins and Josh Edgin.

We don’t know what we’ll get from the injured starters, which makes building the pen a paramount issue.

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Sep 28

Lugo Puts Mets On Cusp

The Mets aren’t closing in on a wild-card berth for a lot of reasons, not the least of which has been emergency starter Seth Lugo.

An after thought in spring training, Lugo figures to be the Mets’ third starter in the NL Division Series should they advance that far.

LUGO: Puts Mets on verge. (AP)

LUGO: Puts Mets on verge. (AP)

The victory, coupled with the Cardinals losing at home to the Reds, reduced the Mets’ magic number to two over St. Louis. The Mets are off Thursday then have three games over the weekend in Philadelphia, while the Cardinals have four games remaining.

Lugo is as much an unsung contributor as anybody to have the Mets in this position.

“This kid has come here and done nothing but save us,’’ manager Terry Collins said of Lugo, who hasn’t given up more than three runs in any start.

In beating the Marlins, 5-2, Wednesday night, Lugo won his fifth game, and the Mets are undefeated in his last seven starts, impressive numbers as he helped fill the voids created by injuries to Matt Harvey, Steven Matz and Jacob deGrom.

Couple what Lugo did with three wins by Robert Gsellman – Friday’s starter in Philadelphia – and the Mets wouldn’t even be sniffing October.

Credit Lugo’s five victories in large part to his batting-average allowed with RISP to .149.

COLLINS SHOWED CLASS: The Mets and Marlins exchanged embraces prior to Monday’s tribute game to Jose Fernandez.

But, after the game Collins walked towards the Miami dugout to exchange hugs with Marlins manager Don Mattingly, hitting coach Barry Bonds, second baseman Dee Gordon, outfielders Christian Yelich and Jeff Francoeur, and later club president David Samson.

During the series, numerous Marlins – notably Gordon – had high praise for the Mets, who signed the Fernandez jersey that hung in their dugout presented it to the Miami front office.

“We have a special group of guys they are respectful of the game and respectful to people,’’ said Collins, who lead the way.

BRUCE, GRANDERSON STILL SMOKING: Jay Bruce’s miserable slump is behind him as he homered for the third time in four games.

After being benched and on the verge of being written out of the Mets’ postseason plans, Bruce regained his spot in the lineup.

Bruce has 32 homers overall and seven with the Mets.

“He’s locked in for me,’’ Collins said. “It couldn’t come at a better time.’’

Bruce said his timing is a lot better and spoke with a feeling of relief.

“Ever since the day I got here I wanted to play good baseball and be a contributor to the team,’’ Bruce said. “This is a good team and I’m having a lot of fun being here.’’

Also having a lot of fun is Granderson, who went 4-for-4 and reached base five times, and eight straight overall.

Once mired below .180, Granderson is up to .233 with a .331 on-base percentage.

Granderson’s surge coincides with Yoenis Cespedes’ return from the disabled list, which enabled him to settle in at the clean-up spot.

“He’s been a different animal since he moved to fourth,’’ Collins said. “He’s been getting walks and hitting home runs.’’

EXTRA INNINGS: If the Mets have a playoff berth wrapped up by Sunday, they are likely to skip Noah Syndergaard’s start to have him ready for a start Wednesday. If the Mets need to win Sunday to secure the home field for the wild-card game, they are still likely to skip him. … Lucas Duda, who had two hits Tuesday, was scratched with soreness in his lower back. James Loney was back in the lineup and homered (eighth). … Addison Reed registered his 39th hold and Jeurys Familia his 50th save. … Tim Tebow homered on the first pitch he saw in an Instructional League game.

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