Mar 01

How Prepared Are Mets To Absorb Losing Wright?

Assuming the worst, just how prepared are the Mets to absorb losing David Wright, both in the short and long term?

Clearly, after playing a combined 75 games the past two seasons, GM Sandy Alderson had to anticipate the possibility of Wright going down again, as was the case Tuesday with the announcement he had been shut down because of an impingement in his right shoulder. To put it bluntly, he can’t throw the ball across the infield without pain.

WRIGHT: Mets' options without him. (ABC)

WRIGHT: Mets’ options without him. (ABC)

There are several aspects as to how to examine this issue: financially; 2017 only; from the farm system; from outside the market, and his role if he does play.

Let’s take a look:

FINANCIALLY:  The Mets are on the hook to pay Wright $67 million for the balance of his contract. However, insurance would pick up $50.25 million, which makes the payout more palatable. The issue of paying him in full in exchange for a healthy, productive player isn’t an option. Wright has been shut down for at least three weeks. He returned to New York for a second opinion on his shoulder.

Wright retiring or the Mets approaching him to take a buyout will not be an issue unless doctors tell him not to play anymore. Even then, Wright will take the time to digest the recommendation and continue to strengthen himself in the hope of being able to play.

2017 SEASON: There’s no longer the issue of finding enough at-bats for Jose Reyes, at least not in the immediate future. Reyes and Wilmer Flores are ranked one-two on today’s depth chart. The Mets brought back Reyes last year as a plug when Wright went down. For the most part, Reyes played a representative third base, but we must remember the window of opportunity to watch him was relatively small. Ditto for Flores, T.J. Rivera and Ty Kelly are on the radar, but not expected to get significant playing time.

If the Mets are in contention at the trade deadline and Reyes isn’t performing as hoped, there will be the inevitable trade rumors. Presumably, if he hasn’t been dealt at the time, Todd Frazier‘s name will surface. While with Cincinnati, the 31-year-old Frazier was frequently linked to the Mets. Frazier will be a free agent after the season and with the White Sox not expected to bring him back they will undoubtedly be taking calls. Even if Wright is playing, the Mets would be remiss if they didn’t pursue Frazier.

If they get him, Frazier could be the difference in making the playoffs and sitting home. Frazier is scheduled to make $12 million this year, and the Mets should be given a window to negotiate. The While Sox are certain to ask for a lot and the Mets would be foolish to break the bank with prospects for a rental.

FROM THE FARM SYSTEM: Eight of the Mets’ top 30 prospects according to MLB.com, are shortstops, with Amed Rosario ranked first among them. Since a shortstop is theoretically considered the best athlete in the infield, it will be interesting if they contemplate moving one of their other shortstop prospects to third base, that is if they sour on their third base prospects Matt Reynolds, Jhoan Urena, David Thompson – who could have the highest upside in power – and Eudor Garcia.

Only Rosario and Reynolds are expected to see major league playing time this summer. Of the two, Reynolds is more like expected to play at third base, but barring something unforeseen happening with Reyes or Flores.

FROM THE MARKET:  Outside of Frazier, the most intriguing possibility is Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria, who at 31 and with $100 million remaining on a contract that expires after the 2023 season (assuming the club option is picked up.) Just as Wright is the face of the Mets, Longoria is the same for the Rays. However, Tampa Bay has greatly regressed since it appeared in the 2008 World Series and lost manager Joe Maddon following the 2014 season.

The Rays have always been dollar conscious. They clearly aren’t ready to compete, but it would take a lot in terms of prospects to pry him away. Then there would be the added cost in salary. It seems inconceivable they would add Longoria’s salary to that of Yoenis Cespedes‘ and Wright’s (even with the insurance payout), but it is fun to think about.

Outside of Frazier, the only potential free agent third baseman this winter that jumps out at you is Kansas City’s Mike Moustakas (will make $8.7 million this season).

IF WRIGHT STAYS AND PLAYS: The days of Wright being an All-Star presence are gone even if he’s medically cleared to play. With what is remaining on Wright’s contract and his injury history, no team will trade for him, including an American League team needing a designated hitter.

Assuming he plays out the remainder of his contract and is able to throw, he’ll always be a health question entering the season. Perhaps he’ll evolve into a singles-hitting role player.

Much has been made of the possibility of Wright playing first base, but even if that’s the case it won’t be this season and he still won’t provide the power needed at that position.

Nov 04

How Mets Compare To Cubs

After 108 years, the Chicago Cubs finally won their World Series. The curses are over, so perhaps they can do the right thing and invite Steve Bartman to throw out the first pitch on Opening Day 2017.

It would be a classy gesture, akin to the Red Sox making up with Bill Buckner – who, by the way – felt the curses of both the Red Sox and Cubs.

REED: A priority. (AP)

                    REED: A priority. (AP)

I doubt it would happen, but I always root for the good story. Meanwhile, our Mets have a title drought of our own – 30 long years.

The Cubs won 103 games this summer and the Mets won 87, but is 16 games the real separation between the two teams? The Mets can’t go back to their four-game sweep of the Cubs in last year’s NLCS or a sweep of them this summer at Citi Field.

The Cubs roared past the Mets, and here’s a position-by-position comparison between the franchises:

FRONT OFFICE: Theo Epstein had a plan when he took over in 2012, and it was only four years before he lead a parade in Chicago. Like was said of the Yankees’ Brian Cashman over the years, he better win that payroll. ($171 million and license to spend).

Meanwhile, Mets GM Sandy Alderson’s mission statement when he was hired in 2010 was to get rid of burdensome contracts – Jason Bay, Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo and Francisco Rodriguez to name a few – and cut payroll, which he did.

The Mets’ payroll was $126 million in Alderson’s first year and jumped to $142 million in 2011 because of existing obligations, but from 2012- 2014 had sub-$100 million payrolls.

It subsequently jumped to $135 million this year for Opening Day.

Unlike Epstein, Alderson does not have free reign to spend because the Mets are still recovering from the Ponzi scandal.

EDGE: Chicago.

MANAGER: Joe Maddon is regarded as one of the game’s best minds, but in all fairness with his moves in Games 6 and 7, it would be accurate to say the Cubs won in spite of him and not because of him.

He abused reliever Aroldis Chapman in the last three games. It was absurd he sent Chapman out for the ninth with a huge lead in Game 6. I was stunned he sent him out for the ninth, but it also showed extreme confidence in Chapman but also underscored an overall lack of faith he had in the rest of the bullpen. That’s something Terry Collins would never have done.

I thought he pulled Kyle Hendricks way too soon, something we’ve seen of Collins frequently.

The bunt call with Javier Baez was foolish. There were other moments, but those stood out the most.

But Maddon caught some breaks. The last two games in Cleveland allowed him to use Kyle Schwarber as the DH. Think about that Cubs fans when you rail against American League baseball.

The Cubs also caught a huge break with the rain delay that gave them a much-needed timeout. It also took steam from the Indians.

Since Collins replaced Jerry Manuel, he was initially hamstrung with a limited payroll and Alderson’s domineering hand of calling the shots.

Collins’ in-game managing can be head scratching, especially the use of his bullpen and bench. He has shown questionable loyalties to his players, notably Matt Harvey, Michael Conforto, Wilmer Flores and Yoenis Cespedes.

He has been let down numerous times, but his players hustle for him.

EDGE: Chicago.

ROTATION: Jake Arrieta won 22 games in 2015 to win the NL Cy Young Award. Either Jon Lester or Hendricks could win it this year. They have one more season with John Lackey and Jason Hammel is the fifth starter.

Most of the pre-season pitching accolades went to the Mets’ young core of Harvey, Jake deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steve Matz. Throw in Zack Wheeler and four of the five are coming off surgery. Bartolo Colon is a free agent, but the Mets want him back.

However, that’s no guarantee he’ll be back. Nothing is assured, including Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman picking up where they left off. They gave the Mets a brief, but an impressive window.

The bottom line is the Mets’ rotation can be terrific, but with the surgeries and relative inexperience, they enter spring training with a myriad of questions.

EDGE: Chicago.

BULLPEN

With Chapman on the free-agent market and Maddon’s obvious lack of faith in his bullpen, the Cubs have serious questions.

Mike Montgomery is 27 and worked a lot in the postseason. They also had Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards and Justin Grimm on the postseason roster. They are under 30, had decent seasons, but Maddon had little faith in them in Games 6 of 7. We’ll never know what Maddon would have done if Game 7 went longer.

The Mets have serious bullpen issues with Jeurys Familia facing at least a 30-game suspension and Addison Reed entering free agency. Honestly, they are in a world of hurt in their bullpen.

If you assume Chapman is gone, the same assumption can be made of Reed, left-hander Jerry Blevins and Fernando Salas. They already decided against Jim Henderson. Josh Edgin had a short rebound season from surgery. Hansel Robles is coming off a hot-and-cold season, as did Logan Verrett.

Erik Goeddel and Sean Gilmartin also made appearances, as did Rafael Montero.

EDGE: Even.

CATCHING: Ironically, Maddon’s lack of faith in his bullpen prompted going to Jon Lester, and with him, his personal catcher David Ross. Ross homered to help win Game 7 and retire in style.

The Cubs still list Schwarber as a catcher, but after knee surgery, that won’t happen. Willson Contreras had a good year and enters spring training No. 1.

Travis d’Arnaud was hurt each of the last two seasons and still needs to prove he can hit. Kevin Plawecki and Rene Rivera are back-ups. The Mets need a serious upgrade here.

EDGE: Chicago.

FIRST BASE: It’s Anthony Rizzo (.292/32 HR/109 RBI) for the Cubs against the Mets’ perpetually injured Lucas Duda, and possibly James Loney.

The Mets are also toying with the idea of experimenting with Conforto and David Wright at first. It is a reach.

EDGE: Chicago.

SECOND BASE: When Schwarber was injured, Ben Zobrist played more in left field, and that gave Javier Baez more time at second base.

The versatility of MVP candidate Kris Bryant, who can play the infield and outfield corners, enabled Maddon to keep Zobrist fresh at second.

The Mets were surprised by Neil Walker’s power, but he’s a free-agent coming off back surgery. The most they’ll extend is probably a one-year qualifying. They still have Flores, who they repeatedly showed a lack of faith, and the up-and-coming T.J. Rivera. Kelly Johnson, who filed for free agency. Will they trade for him for a third straight season?

EDGE: Chicago.

SHORTSTOP

The Cubs’ Addison Russell is one of the game’s rising stars, while Asdrubal Cabrera was arguably the Mets’ MVP.

However, Cabrera showed breakdown signs several times last summer. They have him for another year and Collins needs to do a better job of resting him.

EDGE: Chicago.

THIRD BASE

If not Rizzo, Bryant (.292/39/102) could be the NL MVP. He’s 24, terrific in the clutch and can play four positions.

The Mets don’t know if Wright will be back, and if he does, where he’ll play and how much are issues. If he doesn’t, they’ll go with Jose Reyes and Flores.

EDGE: Chicago.

LEFT FIELD

The Cubs have the combination of Zobrist – whom the Mets’ coveted after the 2015 season – and Schwarber. The World Series MVP, Zobrist is also one of baseball’s good guys as he signed autographs outside his Chicago home.

How many remember that Albert Belle chased down trick-or-treaters in his truck?

Zobrist is versatile, has power and hits in the clutch. Small wonder the Mets and Nationals both wanted him. Schwarber, meanwhile, thanks to the DH rule was a factor with awesome power.

The assumption is Cespedes will be gone, leaving left field to Conforto. Curtis Granderson could also get time in left with Jay Bruce brought back to play right field.

EDGE: Chicago.

CENTER FIELD: Dexter Fowler had a terrific season, but is a free agent. He said the Cubs are on his list, but as I did in left field with the Mets and Cespedes, I will assume he’ll be gone.

If the Cubs don’t bring back Fowler, and since there’s no way of knowing who’ll the Cubs will fish for, their internal option is 22-year-old Albert Almora Jr.

Ideally, the Mets wanted Cespedes in center, but he balked. Juan Lagares was injured for a good part of the season, but returned to play well.

Granderson will also get center field time in his last season with the Mets because of Bruce’s presence in right field.

EDGE: Mets.

RIGHT FIELD: The Cubs didn’t get $180 million worth from Jason Heyward. He has a tremendous glove, but his bat went into hibernation this summer.

Bruce struggled after coming over from Cincinnati, but picked it up at the end. Even so, it was a good pick-up, and he’s more economically feasible than either Cespedes or Heyward.

When Bruce isn’t playing, they can turn to Granderson.

EDGE: Mets.

 

Oct 31

Here’s Hoping Terry Collins Is Watching Series

One thing we know about sports is everybody is a copycat, and here’s hoping Mets manager Terry Collins is taking notes. Something Indians manager Terry Francona has known for a long time – and putting to use this postseason – and what Collins seems to ignore is a game’s critical moment doesn’t always occur in the ninth inning.

MILLER: Somebody Mets should emulate. (CBS)

MILLER: Somebody Mets should emulate. (CBS)

Sometimes, it is in the sixth, seventh or eighth inning. Often during these critical situations, Collins will turn to Hansel Robles, or Jerry Blevins, or any number of other forgettable names. For Francona, this postseason – and down the stretch for the Indians – he gave the ball to Andrew Miller.

Yes, it is the postseason, so don’t remind me of the obvious. And, yes, the postseason has built-in off days, but the point is clear, he has a stud and isn’t afraid to use him. Collins does not have Miller but does have Addison Reed, who led the National League with 40 holds.

Reed has been stretched out, so he can handle up to six outs. If anybody can do what Miller does it is Reed. Here’s another thing to consider, Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman proved they have the mettle and can be used for more than three outs if they aren’t in the rotation.

I’d rather concentrate on using these three guys for multiple innings, than load up on mediocrity in the middle innings. In doing so, perhaps they can carry one less reliever and add a bench player. More than a few times last summer the Mets got caught with a short bench.

It has been a compelling World Series, and what Francona, and to a degree, Joe Maddon showed last night with his use of Aroldis Chapman, is there is another way to manage a bullpen. For the most part, the back end of the Mets’ bullpen has been good, but it can be better.

Francona is counting on his starters for five or six innings before turning the game over to Miller and the rest of the Indians’ bullpen. With the uncertainty of the ability of the Mets’ starters to go past the sixth, Collins and pitching coach Dan Warthen has some thinking to do this winter.

Let’s hope they are taking notes during the World Series.

Nov 08

Maddon To Mets Had No Chance

MADDON: Wouldn't have become a Met.

MADDON: Wouldn’t have become a Met.

There are a lot of crazy things floating around this time of year. I heard this today and it made me laugh because there’s no chance it could have happened.

One report said the Mets could have gotten Joe Maddon as their manager after his decision to bolt the Tampa Bay Rays.

Maddon is a tremendous managerial talent, one of the best, and he would look great in the Mets dugout, but several variables combined to make that impossible.

First, they already have a manager in Terry Collins. Now, managers and coaches have been fired before while under contract, but the Mets hate the idea of paying a manager’s salary to two people at the same time.

More importantly, even had Maddon been available to them, as they wouldn’t have acted as quickly, or decisively, as the Cubs. Reportedly, Maddon was given a five-year, $25 million package, which would have been well out of their price range.

Maddon left the Rays because of their austerity program, evidenced by the departures of James Shields – who’ll likely leave Kansas City – and David Price. The Cubs’ payroll last year was $92 million, which isn’t in the stratosphere, but far more than the Rays’ $76 million.

The Cubs have shown a willingness to pursue free agents, something neither the Rays nor Mets are inclined to do.

The Mets have made steady progress over the past few years, and Collins deserves some credit. The expectations are high with the return of Matt Harvey, bounce-back seasons from David Wright and Curtis Granderson, and the continued development of Zack Wheeler and Jacob deGrom.

Given that, do they really want to start over with a new regime?

Maddon as a Met is a fun idea, but there are a lot of fun ideas this time of year. But, this one had no chance.