Oct 31

Four Items On Van Wagenen’s Plate

New general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said there are 11 parts to his plans to remaking the Mets. He wouldn’t elaborate what they were, but it is believed he touched on one when he said he wanted Mickey Callaway to return as manager.

I’m speculating the following four are on his list:

Increase the Payroll: They should come in no higher than $160 million. Given the money they’ll save with David Wright’s retirement ($15 million for this summer) and what insurance will pick up with Yoenis Cespedes not likely to return before July, offset by raises earmarked for Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Michael Conforto, and Brandon Nimmo and what the Mets might do in upgrading their bullpen, don’t expect them to splurge on free agents Manny Machado or Bryce Harper.

The Mets are expected to bring back second baseman Jeff McNeil to a raise and need to bring in a center fielder, a catcher and perhaps a first baseman, not to mention a significant reliever. Whether that reliever is top shelf or middle tier, it will cost.

Keep the Rotation Intact: The Mets entertained trading all of their starters last season, and are expected to keep them all this winter. DeGrom and Syndergaard will get hefty raises. Since they aren’t anticipated to do a bullpen game for the fifth slot, they’ll need a fifth starter. Is it Seth Lugo, Jason Vargas or Robert Gsellman, or somebody from the minors?

Van Wagenen will confer with Callaway, John Ricco, Omar Minaya and J.P. Ricciardi this week to get a handle on the rotation. The rotation is potentially the team’s strength and the first four must be kept, but it will increase payroll.

Improving the Lineup: Don’t expect the Mets to dive deep into the free-agent or trade markets despite the optimism Van Wagenen and COO Jeff Wilpon portrayed. The Mets must upgrade at catcher and I don’t see them tendering a contract to Travis d’Arnaud. First base is a concern and decisions must be made on Peter Alonso or Dominic Smith, or will Van Wagenen fool around with Jay Bruce, Wilmer Flores or Todd Frazier? If the Mets are serious about winning now they must improve catcher and first base. They could have traded for Paul Goldschmidt from Arizona, but that boat sailed when they picked up his option yesterday. The radio call-in shows in New York were filled with callers chiming for Machado, but that would be a horrible mistake.

I was against signing Cespedes because the money would have been better spent on filling the numerous holes the Mets have and still do. Considering Machado is reportedly due twice as much as Cespedes, think of all the improvements the Mets could make.

Upgrade the Bullpen: Craig Kimbrel, Zach Britton, Brad Brach and Joe Kelly are the most enticing names in the market. Of course, all will want long-term, expensive contracts. Former GM Sandy Alderson failed to build a bullpen and consistently used the scrap-heap approach. Van Wagenen has to sign a name reliever, and that discounts the possibility of a reunion with Jeurys Familia. Rookies Tyler Bashlor and Drew Smith, and Lugo or Gsellman all pitched well last season at times.

They need to sign one of the four because they desperately need a closer. Bringing back Familia would be a step back. The Mets have plenty of inexperienced hard-throwing relievers, who didn’t distinguish themselves last summer. They have a half-dozen hard-throwers but need at least two or three to show something during spring training.

These four items say the Mets aren’t ready to win now. And, there are at least seven more issues to go.

 

Oct 16

Mets’ GM Search Hitting On No Cyclinders

Fred and Jeff Wilpon have promised autonomy in the past to GM candidates in the past, but it never materialized. They are saying they are offering it this time, but aren’t close to making a decision on a new hire and their dismal season ended just under three weeks ago.

Several reported candidates have even refused interviews because they don’t believe the hype coming out of Queens.

The whole process is dysfunctional. How so? The trio who shared the GM position last year after Sandy Alderson left – John Ricco, Omar Minaya and J.P. Ricciardi – aren’t candidates, but are in the interview process.

I still haven’t figured out how that works.

Jeff Wilpon gummed up the process even further by saying he wants to retain manager Mickey Callaway. Would any candidate who really wants the job be willing to go against his new boss?

Not likely.

Ricciardi and Minaya are suggesting candidates to the Wilpons, but would they really endorse somebody who will want to get rid of them?

Not likely, on that one, too.

The gap between two candidates, 35-year-old Tampa Bay senior VP of baseball operations Chaim Bloom and Milwaukee’s 66-year-old advisor Doug Melvin, is wider than the 31 years that separate them.

What candidates are going to be attracted by the Mets saying they don’t want to spend in the free-agent market, have no pieces to trade, and are seemingly ambivalent in analytics?

Not many, to be sure.

It was a long summer and figures to be a long winter.

Sep 26

DeGrom Makes His Final Cy Young Case

As he has been all summer, Jacob deGrom was simply brilliant tonight in his final start of what could be a Cy Young Award-winning season. Despite an alarming lack of run support, deGrom overcame frequent criticism for a lack of wins and said he coveted winning the annual pitching award.

“I don’t think it has set in yet,’’ deGrom said of his season which included beating the Braves tonight, 3-0, giving up only two hits and struck out ten to give him 1,000 so far in his young career.

In 32 starts, deGrom, 10-9, with a 1.70 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 269 strikeouts. Perhaps, most impressive was that hitters batted .142 with RISP and he finished the season with 29 straight starts of giving up three runs or fewer. He gave up one or no runs in 18 starts.

“I try not to look at the numbers,’’ deGrom said. “I try to put this team in position to win. I am very happy with how the night went.’’

One pitch at a time is a standard cliché for pitchers, but deGrom said was his secret.

“In the past where I got in trouble it was because I thought too much,’’ deGrom said. “I’m not letting things get to me. I learned to not worry about things I can’t control. I wish I had more wins, but it is what it is.’’

HARVEY SHOWS TRUE COLORS … AGAIN: The Mets have moved on from Matt Harvey, but the team remains in the mind of the temperamental former starter.

Traded to Cincinnati earlier this season, Harvey will be a free agent after this season, and without mentioning “Mets,’’ when asked about this winter, said: “There’s only one team out there I would not sign with, that’s about it.”

He didn’t have to say what team.

Injuries and his late-night partying sabotaged Harvey’s tenure with the Mets. He didn’t help himself any when he feuded with management about injury rehab and was suspended last year for blowing off a game without permission.

Harvey further alienated himself with the Mets when he refused a minor league rehab assignment to work on his mechanics.

Harvey could draw some interest this winter, but he needn’t worry, the Mets have no thought of bringing him back.

WRIGHT WON’T PLAY AGAINST BRAVES: Third baseman David Wright has been activated but assistant general manager John Ricco said it is unlikely he will play against the Braves because they are trying to earn home-field advantage in the Division Series.

However, Ricco left open the possibility he could pinch-hit in a blowout game. He is expected in pinch-hit Friday against the Marlins.

“I hope to go out there and do something that doesn’t embarrass me, but it’s going to be difficult, not having an at-bat for a while,” Wright said.

Manager Mickey Callaway said Jose Reyes will start alongside Wright at shortstop Saturday.

“When I’m hurt, I never put my uniform on. I wear a hoodie or something like that,” he said. “So, to put that thing on again means the world to me, and is something that you tend to take for granted.

“I’m really nervous, I’ll tell you that. I’m really excited. Got the butterflies going. It’s going to be a weird, yet fulfilling feeling,” he said. “I want to put on as good a show as I possibly can — and at the same time soak it all in.”

Wright hasn’t played in the majors since May 27, 2016, due to the neck, back and shoulder injuries that required surgery. Last month, Wright batted .171 (7 for 41) with a double and two RBIs in 10 rehab games for Class A St. Lucie and two with Triple-A Las Vegas.

CALLAWAY COMING BACK: Ricco said he won’t be a candidate for the GM position next year, but indicated Callaway was likely to return next season as manager.

“I think what’s impressed me the most is for a rookie manager in New York, he’s got the team playing hard all the way down to the end,” Ricco said. “He’s really got a lot of guys trending in the right direction. The young guys are playing hard and winning games, and our pitching, we’ve seen guys take big steps forward.”

 

Aug 30

Money Is Why Mets Won’t Bring Up Wright And Alonso

David Wright’s stay in Class AAA Las Vegas was a short one as he rejoined the Mets today in San Francisco. However, the move isn’t for our eyes, but the team’s medical staff.

“It’s unrealistic to think he would be activated anytime soon, based on what we have seen to this point,” assistant general manager John Ricco said on a conference call with reporters. “But we really have been taking it step-by-step and giving him every opportunity to get back.”

WRIGHT: Talks limits with Collins. (AP)

WRIGHT: Talks limits with Collins. (AP)

Wright told reporters in Las Vegas: “My goal is to play in the big leagues this year. I think that with the challenge I have physically, I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility that I could play in the big leagues this year.’’

Wright went 1-for-9 in two rehab games with Las Vegas, and in 12 games overall – including ten games with Class A St. Lucie – Wright hit .171.

Clearly, Wright isn’t playing with any consistency to warrant being activated, but another factor is the insurance policy the Mets hold on his contract. Currently, the team is recouping 75 percent of his $20 million salary, but that will end once he comes off the disabled list.

If Wright is activated once the rosters are expanded Sept. 1, it would cost the Mets over $2 million, and, his deductible would automatically reset, costing them even more next season.

Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon has repeatedly said the team considers Wright’s salary part of their payroll regardless.

Working out with the team would not entail playing in games as the minor league schedule will end next week. In all probability, he could be shut down for September.

“Right now, we’re focused on, let’s see how he finishes up here in the last few days and we’ll have some more discussions about the specifics of what the rest of the year looks like,” Ricco said.

Money is also a significant reason why top prospect first baseman Peter Alonso won’t be brought up. Ricco said Alonso needs to improve his defense, but also the Mets need to look at Jay Bruce at first base in preparation for next season.

“To have Pete come up and really just sit didn’t make a lot of sense,” Ricco said.

Alonso told MLB.com: “I’m not going to lie, it’s really disheartening and disappointing because one of the things that people tell you is as long as you are successful, you’re going to be in the big leagues. It’s just one of those things where I understand it’s an organizational decision, and at the end of the day, I have to respect that. But it’s really disheartening because I feel like I’ve performed, and am deserving of a reward.’’

In 125 combined games at Class AA Binghamton and Las Vegas, Alonso hit .277 with a .393 on-base percentage, 33 homers, 26 doubles and 111 RBI.

 

Aug 25

How The Mets Should Play Out Their Schedule

The Mets just released their batting order for today’s game and it has Wilmer Flores playing first base and Jay Bruce in right field.

Why?

Although they have not been mathematically eliminated, we all know their season has been over for months. Right now, the Mets are operating in limbo with their three-headed general manager, which puts Mickey Callaway’s job for 2019 on shaky ground.

BRUCE: Needs to play first. (AP)

BRUCE: Needs to play first. (AP)

There has been no mention in the media as of yet whether the Mets have begun their general manager’s search other than compiling names. If any of the candidates are their assistant general managers, the Mets don’t have to wait until the season is over. If Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon’s choice is John Ricco, J.P. Ricciardi or Omar Minaya, he can make the announcement now.

I’m concerned the Mets are dragging their feet to where they will miss out on their first choice. That being said, the Mets can still plan for 2019, and that begins with telling Callaway whom he should be playing and why.

If the Mets are sold on Flores as their first baseman of the future, then so be it, but we know that’s not true. We also know they have soured on Dominic Smith, who we also know can’t play the outfield.

Here’s what the Mets should do:

1)  From now until the end of the season, first base has to be Bruce’s position. As it is configured now, the outfield doesn’t have a place for Bruce with Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo playing the corners and Austin Jackson and Juan Lagares in center.

The Mets have talked about playing Bruce at first base, so if they don’t trade him – again – before the August 31 deadline, they should make the move permanent, because next season I want Conforto and Nimmo playing the corners. Including today’s game against the Nationals, the Mets have 34 games remaining, which is roughly a full spring training’s worth, to find out what can Bruce do at first base.

Should the Mets deal Bruce, then Smith should get the majority of the reps at first base. There is no reason why Flores should play first over Bruce and Smith.

Assuming Flores comes back next season it should be coming off the bench and play a rotation of a game at third, one at second and one at first. That accomplishes two things: 1) it gives Flores enough playing time to keep him sharp in the field and at the plate, and 2) it enables next year’s manager to rest Todd Frazier, Amed Rosario and Bruce once a week.

2) Jeff McNeil should get the reps at second base. This would also be an appropriate time to see if he can fill in at third and shortstop in a pinch.

The Mets should go into the offseason with second base a minor concern. It should be McNeil’s job to lose going into the offsason.. He had two morre hits today.

3) If the Mets are serious about a six-man rotation, which I doubt they are, then go for it. There are enough games remaining to go through a six-man rotation five times. That would be Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, Steven Matz, Jason Vargas and Seth Lugo.

Giving deGrom a chance to win a Cy Young Award is fine, but let’s face it, the most games he could possibly win are 13, which shouldn’t be enough to catch Max Scherzer, who is 16-6, and Aaron Nola, who is at 15-3.

It has been a lost season for Vargas, but he’s come off the disabled list and has pitched three strong games in a row.

I would like to see Lugo get some starts as to enhance his trade value. If anything, I would consider shutting down Matz for the final month. He’s been horrid lately and has a sore arm. Running Matz out there five more times can only hurt him. If he shows no progress in his next start tomorrow, then out he goes.

4) Figure Robert Gsellman as next year’s closer. With Jeurys Familia gone and AJ Ramos on the disabled list, this could give them a heads-up on their winter shopping.

If the Mets do these things, it won’t solve all their problems, but could settle one or two issues, or at least give their incoming general manager something to work with.