Nov 04

Barry Zito Could Plug A Hole In Mets’ Rotation

There are already over 150 players who filed for free agency, but one who could be an interesting fit for the New York Mets might be Barry Zito.

If given the choice of trying to fill a back-of-the-rotation hole between Johan Santana and Zito, I would make a run at Zito, even though he had a miserable 5-11 record and 5.74 ERA in 2013 for the simple reason he is healty.

ZITO: Worth thinking about.

ZITO: Worth thinking about.

Zito, at 35, obviously has seen better days, but he is one year removed from going 15-8 with a 4.15 ERA while making 32 starts in 2012. He made 25 starts last season.

Instead of picking up an $18 million option for 2014, the San Francisco Giants will give him a $7.7 million buyout. To get Zito, the Mets wouldn’t have to spend close to either figure.

Zito didn’t live up to the expectations of his seven-year, $126-million contract with the Giants, but he did do this: for the most part remained healthy; made at least 25 starts in all but one season; and worked at least 180 innings in all but two.

He only went 63-80 with a 4.62 ERA, but was always a team player who willingly worked out of the bullpen when the Giants opted to go with their younger options. He always took the ball, which is what the Mets need with the holes left by the Matt Harvey and Jenrry Mejia injuries.

General manager Sandy Alderson has a familiarity with Zito from his time in Oakland, and the veteran left-hander fills a definite need for the Mets, who lack two starters in the back end of their rotation until Rafael Montero or Jacob deGrom are ready to be promoted.

Citi Field’s vast outfield would accommodate the fly ball pitcher, and more importantly, he will be able to eat innings and be a positive influence to the Mets’ younger pitchers.

No, the Mets wouldn’t have to go overboard on a contract, instead, give him one loaded with incentives such as games started and innings pitched. In 14 seasons, he has averaged 34 starts and 206 innings pitched, while going 13-11 with a 4.02 ERA. His career WHIP is 1.334. The Mets would have killed for that stat line last season.

Alderson stated the Mets will prepare to not have Harvey, and doing so requires they plug the back end of their rotation with an innings eater. Is Zito somebody the Mets can build around? No. But, he is a pitcher who can fill an obvious void and likely won’t be a liability in doing so.

Plus, his unselfishness can enable the Mets to use him in long relief or a spot starter until their minor league options are ready.

The Mets say they won’t spend lavishly in the market and aren’t interested in an injury reclamation project. Zito can fill their void with a one-year deal plus an option. It’s a no-lose situation for the Mets, who weren’t going to go after a big name. Remember, in filling this hole, don’t look at the attractive names the Mets wouldn’t get anyway, but who is available they can sign to immediately help them.

LATER TODAY:  Free agent options within the NL East the Mets might consider.

Nov 02

Mets Gambled And Lost On Johan Santana; End Era By Buying Out Contract

The New York Mets took care of business and officially parted ways with often-injured Johan Santana when they paid a $5.5-million buyout Friday, and the classy left-hander, who always wanted to do more – sometimes to his detriment – did the same and thanked the franchise and its fans for their support.

In a statement, Santana said: “I want to thank the Mets organization, my teammates, and, of course, a big thank you to Mets fans, who have been behind me from day one and stood by me through all the good and bad.’’

SANTANA: Era ends.

SANTANA: Era ends.

It was a noble gesture from Santana, something he didn’t have to do after completion of the six-year, $137.5-million contract that made him the highest-paid Mets’ pitcher.

The Mets have not ruled out bringing back Santana at a low-cost deal – which would be on top of the buyout – and toward that end, the left-hander lobbied on his behalf.

“I am not sure what the future holds, as this is all new to me,’’ Santana continued, “but I have every intention of pitching in 2014 and beyond and I am certainly keeping all my options open.’’

After losing in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS and kicking away a seven-game lead with 17 games remaining in 2007, and in dire need of pitching, the Mets gambled big on Santana. They sent four prospects to Minnesota – one of them turning out to be All-Star outfielder Carlos Gomez – to acquire the already damaged left-hander. Then they signed him at the time to the richest contract in franchise history.

Santana became available because both the Yankees and Red Sox backed off, so in essence the Mets were bidding against themselves, and arguably could have had him for less. Subsequently, they issued a contract they didn’t have to at that price. Clearly, they mis-read the market. The deal turned out to symbolize then-GM Omar Minaya’s tenure that included a run of lucrative, underachieving contracts.

Outside a 15-7 record with a league-leading 2.53 ERA in 34 starts in 2008, his first season with the Mets, Santana never completed a full year in New York and didn’t pitch at all in 2011 and 2013 because of shoulder injuries. If a full season is considered 34 starts, Santana left 95 starts on the table. That is more glaring than his production of 46-34, a 3.18 ERA and the only no-hitter in franchise history.

That no-hitter came in just his 12th start after rehabbing from shoulder surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule. To this day, manager Terry Collins laments letting him throw 134 pitches.

Ironically, it was a tainted no-hitter because a blown call on what should have been an extra-base hit for Carlos Beltran was ruled a foul ball. If that call is made correctly, then Santana doesn’t throw that many pitches, then, who really knows?

Santana made only 10 more starts for the Mets before he was shut down in August of 2012. In spring training of 2013, in an angered response to GM Sandy Alderson’s comments he didn’t report in shape, Santana went against his prescribed rehab routine and without Collins’ knowledge, threw off the mound and aggravated the injury.

In another dose of irony, the pitcher often fueled by pride was done in by the same. Santana re-tore the capsule and underwent a second surgery.

To this day, Santana never acknowledged his mistake of throwing off the mound, and Anderson never admitted whether his dig at the left-hander’s condition was meant as motivation and backfired.

Either way, at least publicly, both sides are open for a return. But, don’t bet on it.

Oct 18

Mets Wise To Pass On Cuban Abreu

Several people I spoke with and greatly respect said they were disappointed the Mets didn’t make a run at Cuban free-agent first baseman Jose Abreu, who signed a six-year, $68-million contract with the Chicago White Sox.

Considering the success of Oakland’s Yoenis Cespedes and the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig, all of a sudden tapping the Cuban market is the hot thing. Teams get burned touching hot objects.

Abreu, 26, last played on an international stage during the World Baseball Classic this spring and batted .360 with three homers and nine RBI. Prior to that, he batted .453 with 33 home runs and 93 RBI in 63 games in the 2010-11 season, but sustained a shoulder injury. The previous season, he batted .399 with 30 home runs and 76 RBI.

No doubt, impressive numbers, but the obvious question is: How good was the competition. Justin Verlander, Adam Wainwright and Clayton Kershaw don’t pitch in Cuba.

The eye-popping number for Abreu isn’t his power against questionable competition, but the $68 million, which is very real money.

That is a lot of money on a question, albeit an important one for the 2014 Mets. They already have two first basemen in Ike Davis and Lucas Duda, but both have greatly under produced and the Mets aren’t happy with either.

The White Sox traded Jake Peavy and Alex Rios to free up money for Abreu, and now have to deal with their own free-agent in Paul Konerko.

It has been suggested in this corner the Mets might be better if they eschewed big-money free agents and go the route Boston did, with veteran free agents who would command less money and would contribute a winning presence, such as Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino.

The Red Sox will play Game 6 of the ALCS Saturday night.

Yes, Konerko is an older player, but he can’t do any worse than Davis or Duda. If nothing, his work ethic might benefit some of the younger players.

The Mets have been down this road before, but Konerko could add something while Abreu was a passing fancy.

We know very little about Abreu as a player against quality competition, but there are many questions when deciding to go the international route. Mainly, do the Mets want to sink in $68 million in a player they know precious little about?

After freeing themselves under Sandy Alderson of the contracts of Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo, Francisco Rodriguez, Johan Santana and Jason Bay (there’s still some deferred money there), but last thing the Mets want to do is sink money in another long-term deal, especially with the possible results so precarious.

Maybe Abreu will pan out for the White Sox. If so, good for them. But, the last thing the Mets need is another long-term headache.

The Mets were wise to sit this one out.

Oct 17

Mets Won’t Go Long Term With Murphy, Gee Or Parnell

Should the New York Mets make any long-term contract offers, expect them to be made to those outside the organization.

The Mets locked up Jonathan Niese to a five-year, $25.5 million deal last season, but reportedly won’t make similar offers to extend those still under team control, a short list that includes Daniel Murphy, Dillon Gee and Bobby Parnell. As of now, the Mets aren’t prepared to dole out to avoid their free-agent seasons.

Murphy and Parnell are signed through 2015 and Gee is signed through 2016. Because of their contractual status, all three are extremely tradable and the Mets will listen to offers.

Gee is arbitration eligible, but isn’t expected to break the bank. Neither would Murphy when it is his turn, and Parnell is currently coming off neck surgery.

Considering their financial structure, the Mets have exactly what they want with these players: low-cost certainty within the next three years.

The Mets announced Thursday outfielder Mike Baxter was claimed off waivers by the Los Angeles Dodgers, and lefty reliever Robert Carson was claimed by the Los Angeles Angels.

Baxter, the local kid from Whitestone who got the chance to play for his childhood team, hit only .189 with four RBI this season. He will always be remembered for making a circus catch to preserve Johan Santana’s 2012 no-hitter.

Baxter was injured on the play, which manager Terry Collins said impacted him this season.

Carson, 24, meanwhile threw hard and made a good first impression in 2012, but served up nine homers in 19.2 innings this year.

The Mets also removed ineffective relievers Greg Burke and Sean Henn from the 40-man roster. Both are expected to become free agents.

Oct 15

What Is Mets’ Interest In Their Own Free Agents?

In looking at the free-agent market, the New York Mets will first consider which of their own eight they might think of bringing back.

It isn’t an impressive list, but there are several the Mets might think of returning. If they don’t bring back they can always find their replacements in the market.

The filing period begins five days after the end of the World Series. Here’s the eight:

David Aardsma: He had some decent moments coming out of the bullpen, but nothing that screams, “we gotta have him back.’’ Aardsma was 2-2 with a 4.31 ERA in 43 appearances. He allowed 53 base runners in 39.2 innings, so we’re not exactly talking about a slam-the-door reliever. Walking 19 and giving up seven homers isn’t good for such a limited time.

Tim Byrdak: He worked 4.2 innings in eight appearances because he was coming off an injury. He pitched in 72 games two years ago, but was injured in 2012. Because of his health issues, he should come relatively cheaply and might be worth offering an incentives-laden deal. If he rejects it, the Mets haven’t lost anything.

Pedro Feliciano: He is far from “Perpetual Pedro’’ but after missing the past two seasons he did find his way into 25 games. It was too small a window to measure his effectiveness. He might be worth a shot, but the Mets must ask themselves, “can we live without him?’’ Chances are they’ll answer in the affirmative.

Frank Francisco: I mention him because he’s on the list, but there’s no way the Mets want him back. Frankly, I thought the only reason they brought him up at the end of the season was in the hope of finding a trading partner.

Aaron Harang: The Mets can pick up his option and since they are two short in the rotation, he’s somebody worth considering. He started four games for the Mets, and worked six innings in three of them. Harang struck out 26 in 23 innings, so there’s some hope there. On the flip side, he also gave up five homers among his nine runs. That he gave the Mets innings is what they should look at considering he’d be a back end of the rotation starter.

LaTroy Hawkins: He’s 40 and still throws in the mid-90s. When Bobby Parnell went down he assumed the closer role and saved 13 games. Parnell is not a certainty coming off neck surgery and constructing the bullpen is a must. Frankly, I’m not sure they would get much better in the free-agent market.

Daisuke Matsuzaka: He started seven games and went 3-3 and worked into the fifth inning is all but one game. He gave the Mets 38.2 innings when they needed it desperately. GM Sandy Alderson said he was pleased with what Matsuzaka gave them. Of the eight free agents, he’s probably the most likely to come back.

Johan Santana: He wants to pitch again and Alderson said he’d keep his mind open. He’s already received a pile of money from the Mets, and unless he accepts a minor league deal, I’d be reluctant considering his health situation.