May 17

Murphy Didn’t Leave; He Was Pushed Away

Regardless of what happens this week, you should cheer Washington’s Daniel Murphy every chance you get, just the way he was honored tonight. Make no mistake, although the Mets honored Murphy before the game with this video tribute, he is Washington’s now because he was pushed away. (NOTE:  You must scroll down to load the video).

MURPHY: Gets cheered in return. (Getty)

MURPHY: Gets cheered in return. (Getty)

The Mets made Murphy a $15.8-million qualifying offer which he crushed much like all those home runs during last year’s playoffs. Murphy was a lifelong Met and wanted to stay here, but the Mets made it clear they didn’t want him. That’s why he’ll be coming out of the third base dugout.

A qualifying offer is much like getting a sympathy kiss on a date. Hell, if your heart isn’t in it, then why bother? The Mets extended that offer just to cover all their bases.

While their open flirtation with Ben Zobrist after the playoffs was obvious they wanted to move on, the Mets also made clear their intentions when they shopped him the previous winter. They also made it clear they preferred another when they squawked about his defense in left field and when he first started playing second, and that he didn’t have the power to play first.

The Mets stuck with Murphy simply because they didn’t want to spend the money in the free-agent market. Not insignificantly, money might have played a part in the Mets letting him walk away because it enabled them to re-sign Yoenis Cespedes. But, it is an oversimplification to say it was Murphy or Cespedes because the latter was close to signing with the Nationals.

Frankly, the Mets were lucky they were able to trade for Neil Walker. They were further lucky in that it only cost Jon Niese.

Murphy wasn’t great on defense – especially in the outfield – but worked hard and made himself into a decent second baseman. Yes, he had his lapses in the field and on the bases, although his first-to-third sprint in the playoffs was as heads-up a play the Mets have had in years. And, yes, he’s not a power hitter in the classical sense.

However, I liked watching him play because he always hustled and played hard. I liked watching him because unlike a lot of players who passed through Flushing, he loved being a Met and he wanted to be here.

Murphy was unfairly criticized in the press for how he played and even his political views, but he loved playing for you folks.

If nothing else, no matter if he rakes or not this week, he deserves your cheers and appreciation. The crowd got it right tonight.

 

Dec 17

Bringing Back Colon No-Brainer For Mets

The Mets had a handful of decisions to make this off-season, and bringing back Bartolo Colon was no-brainer. Sure, he’s 42, but he also won 14 games, made 31 starts and pitched strong in the playoffs. He won’t make 30 starts in 2016, but even so it is worth it to give him $7.25 million for next year.

The money is worth it for a lot of reasons:

COLON: Worth it. (AP)

COLON: Worth it. (AP)

* He’ll be a reliable stop-gap as the fifth starter to replace Jon Niese until Zack Wheeler is brought up in late June or July. And, if for some reason Wheeler’s return is delayed Colon can always go back into the relation.

* Colon’s work in the bullpen in the playoffs proved valuable and gives the Mets a reliable option as a long reliever.

* Colon is an invaluable asset of information to the Mets’ young core of starters. Even Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, Noah Syndergaard and even Matt Harvey can learn from him.

* And finally, if he does well until Wheeler comes back, he might be attractive to a contender at the trade deadline. You never know.

The $7.25 million the Mets will give him will be a bargain if he gives him a year they are hoping for.

 

Dec 12

Mets Have Options For Fifth Starter

The Mets have numerous options to replace Jon Niese as fifth starter, which is another reason why trading him isn’t such a loss. Since a .500 record is considered the bar for a successful fifth starter, Niese’s 9-10 record shouldn’t be too difficult to make up.

COLON: Want him back. (Getty)

COLON: Want him back. (Getty)

And, the most important thing to remember is the Mets will need a fifth starter until Zack Wheeler comes off the disabled list, probably in July.

Their first choice should be bringing back Bartolo Colon, who won 14 games and worked 194.2 innings at age 42.

Colon proved he could work out of the bullpen during the playoffs, which is what his role would be after Wheeler returns. Colon made $10 million last year, but I doubt it will take that much to bring him back.

There’s been little buzz in the market about Colon, but while he’s said he’s open to returning to the Mets, he also said he still wants to start.

Even if Colon doesn’t come back, the Mets have three other internal options, including Rafael Montero, Sean Gilmartin and Logan Verrett.

Verrett had success last year as a spot starter – remember his start in Los Angeles when he replaced Matt Harvey? – and as a Rule 5 pickup Gilmartin proved he could be effective if they lengthen his workload in spring training. However, being a left hander, and with the Mets still needing lefty help in the bullpen, I’d rather have him work in that role.

The guy the Mets really like, and as a side thought, somebody they might want to showcase for a deal at the deadline, is Montero. He’ll be a major spring training story.

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Dec 10

Mets A Winter Meetings Winner

The Mets left Nashville this afternoon a better team that showed up Sunday night, even if they come home with a contract having Ben Zobrist‘s autograph.

CABRERA: Makes Mets better. (Getty)

CABRERA: Makes Mets better. (Getty)

The Mets not only upgraded up the middle defensively with second baseman Neil Walker (trade from Pittsburgh for Jon Niese) and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera (free agent signing from Tampa Bay), and in the process improved their bench and came away with a back-up for David Wright.

And, they did it at a minimal cost, $18.5 million in a two-year contract for Cabrera instead of the estimated $50 million they were going to pay Zobrist. The price of what Walker could make in arbitration and what Niese is to make ($9 million) is a wash.

The Mets were poor defensively with Daniel Murphy and Flores (a combined 26 errors) opposed to a combined 16 from Walker and Cabrera. However, defense is more than just errors, it is also positioning and range. For a team built on pitching, they improved in the field with no loss of production at the plate..

Flores will now fall into the role of right-handed hitting platoon with Walker; back-up shortstop; and fill-in for Wright at third.

The decision to sign Cabrera after tendering Ruben Tejada is not overkill because Flores fractured his ankle in winter ball and Tejada is still recovering from breaking his leg in the playoffs. We don’t know if they’ll be ready when spring training opens Feb. 17 (pitchers and catchers) and Feb. 24 (position players).

Assuming both are ready, they can spell Wright at third. Cabrera can do the same.

So, when you add it up, the Mets improved their up-the-middle defense, bench and found a contingency plan for Wright and will save an estimated $30 million.

I’d call it a win-win, leaving them to find a left-handed hitting platoon with Juan Lagares in center and bolstering the bullpen.

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Dec 10

Niese Traded Because He Wasn’t That Good

After being pushed out the door by the Mets, Jon Niese took a jab at his former teammates by praising the Pirates’ defense. That’s fair game to a point as the Mets didn’t always field or hit behind him.

However, he could have been a little more delicate because it is a two-way street. A hard-throwing lefty at 29 and with a manageable contract, Niese is a commodity most clubs want. He wasn’t just traded because of the Mets’ young core. Niese was also traded because since 2008 he’s just 61-61 lifetime with a 1.361 lofty WHIP.  He did give the Mets innings, but many times those were precarious innings.

Niese was traded because he wasn’t that good. Some of that silver hair on Terry Collins’ head was NIese related.

NIESE: Takes unfair jab at teammates. (AP)

NIESE: Takes unfair jab at teammates. (AP)

Niese had his fair share of injuries, but his biggest problem is he wasn’t a winner, and it goes beyond his record. Winning pitchers find a way to minimize damage. In close games they find a way to get out of innings and eventually win the game.

Yes, Niese often played behind a patchwork defense, but even so it is his job to overcome adversity. He has to pick up a fielder, but all too often for him, an error, or a broken-bat hit that fell in, or a bad call was followed by a walk, then a hit, then another. Too often, one run became three and turned into a loss.

Niese has made 177 starts during his career, of which 55 turned into a no-decision. There’s no denying he was willing to take the ball, but there were too many times he didn’t know what to do with it once it was in his hand. Many times his post-game comments boiled down to, “I pitched good, but didn’t get any luck.”

The Mets are interested in re-signing Bartolo Colon primarily because he knows how to get out of trouble, which is something Niese hasn’t learned.

Maybe he will in Pittsburgh.

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