Jan 29

Four Mets Facing Make-Or-Break Seasons

As spring training approaches so might the anxiety level of several New York Mets, all understanding this can be a make-or-break season for at least four of them.

* Let’s first start with the obvious, Ike Davis, whom the Mets had been trying to trade this winter. The Mets’ inability to trade Davis stems from their highly publicized efforts to do so, their high asking price and the glut in the first base market.

Davis struggled through two miserable first halves, and knows his high-propensity for striking out and poor overall hitting approach is wearing thin with GM Sandy Alderson. He knows he can’t produce another .205 average, nine-homer season won’t cut it and the Mets won’t offer arbitration again.

* Ruben Tejada was on the way out as the starting shortstop, but Jhonny Peralta and Stephen Drew wanted too much. Alderson said despite speculation Drew is out of their plans.

Tejada ended the season with a fractured leg, but recovered and worked out twice at a Michigan fitness camp. His effort in Ann Arbor impressed manager Terry Collins, but Tejada needs to show it at the plate and not let his concentration wander in the field.

* Jon Niese as last season’s Opening Day starter. He won his first two starts, but things quickly unraveled following back-to-back sub-32 degree starts in Minneapolis and Denver. Tightness in his back led to shoulder discomfort that forced him on the disabled list.

Niese made only 24 starts and finished 8-8 after winning 13 games in 2012 while pitching while throwing 190.1 innings over 30 starts.

Niese is signed through 2017, and while the Mets have an investment in him, they do get the occasional phone call inquiring.

* Travis d’Arnaud was supposed to get the starting job early last season, but an injury pushed his promotion back. He was one of the key pieces in the R.A. Dickey trade with Toronto.

There are issues with his ability to call a game, block pitches, and above all, his offense.

He had such a small window of opportunity in 2013 that the Mets wouldn’t pull him after a Davis-like start. At least, you wouldn’t think so.

However, if d’Arnaud has a miserable season wire-to-wire, the Mets would listen to proposals, but by that time his value would have dropped.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jan 09

Mets Need Breakout Year From Jon Niese

If there’s one player the New York Mets urgently, if not desperately need a breakout year from it is left-hander Jon Niese.

Some might say Ike Davis, which might be true if we even knew he’d be on the team. Another could be outfielder Chris Young, but odds are he won’t be back in 2015, so does it matter what kind of year he has? If he’s having a good season he might get dealt at the deadline. If he plays the season out and does well, the Mets would think he’d be too pricey to retain.

NIESE: Mets need big things from him.

NIESE: Mets need big things from him.

Niese, however, is cut from a different cloth.  He’s in a five-year contract, but coming off a disappointing season in 2013 in which he was injured and won only nine games.

“He was hurt and took a step back,’’ said one National League scout. “Two years ago he was on the verge of a breakout season if the Mets had hit for him.’’

The tightness in his neck and shoulder surfaced after consecutive freezing-weather starts in Minneapolis and Denver.

Niese was 13-9 in 2012, and with a little run and bullpen support could have won 17 games. He was the Opening Day starter last season when Johan Santana was injured, but if the appointment were based on solely on merit, he would have been named regardless.

Despite never having pitched a complete season – defined as 34-35 starts – Niese had steadily improved, winning nine, 11 and 13 games, respectively, from 2010-12, until a shoulder limited him to 24 starts, 143 innings and an 8-8 record.

Everybody is looking at Zack Wheeler to take a Matt Harvey-like step in his second year. I could happen, but what must happen is for Niese to start living up to the high expectations.

Wheeler is far from a given and Harvey is out, which leaves Niese, Dillon Gee and Bartolo Colon in the rotation. Of the three, Niese has the highest upside.

It’s time he lives up to it.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Dec 10

Jenrry Mejia Not Close To Being Ready

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Staying healthy has always been an obstacle in Jenrry Mejia’s pursuit of a starting job in the New York Mets’ rotation and it is that way again.

Mejia, who underwent surgery to remove bone spurs from his right elbow, isn’t a given in being ready for spring training.

If he was ready, he’s be the fourth starter slotted in after Zack Wheeler, Dillon Gee and Jon Niese.

MEJIA: When will we see him?

MEJIA: When will we see him?

As of now, general manager Sandy Alderson doesn’t expect him any sooner than May.

“He demonstrated he could pitch effectively as a major-league starter,’’ Alderson said. “It’s a question of can he stay healthy. … He won’t even be able to demonstrate that over the course of spring training or even the first month of the season.’’

The 24-year-old Mejia made five starts with an ERA of 2.30 before needing surgery.

The puzzling thing in how this was handled was the Mets said Mejia needed surgery in the offseason, yet kept pitching him.

It wasn’t the first time the Mets mishandled Mejia.

In 2010, then-manager Jerry Manuel, who going into the season knew his job was in jeopardy, battled the front office to bring up Mejia at the start of the season to work in the bullpen.

The troubling aspect of this decision was Manuel rarely used Mejia, especially when the game was in the balance. Eventually, he was returned to the minors, but as a starter. The strain of changing roles damaged his arm and he underwent Tommy John surgery.

At the time, Mejia was the Mets’ hottest prospect, but by not settling on a defined role for him it hurt his trade value. After all, how could the Mets pitch to other teams his potential value as a starter when he wasn’t even in that role for them?

Alderson doesn’t know when Mejia will be ready, and how he’ll perform when he’s available. As of now, it is back to Square One for Mejia.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Nov 16

Sandy Alderson Said Mets Will Spend; No Promises Made

How much the New York Mets will spend on free agents this winter is undetermined, but what we can ascertain is it will not be enough to satisfy everybody. This much we know is general manager Sandy Alderson will not just throw money at a player to placate the grumbling fan base.

There’s an old saying if a baseball manager or general manager acted solely to please the fans in the stands he’ll soon be sitting with them, and Alderson will not act out of emotion.

“No fan is probably ever going to be satisfied with what his or her team is spending on players. It’s kind of too bad that the measure of commitment, the measure of loyalty to the fan base, is measured in dollar signs,’’ Alderson told ESPN today.

“That be as it may, we’re going to spend more money this year than we’ve spent in recent years, just in terms of what we have to spend. You know, last year we only spent about $5 million on free agents. So this is going to be a new day. We have it to spend. We have to spend it wisely. That’s what we’re trying to do.’’

We’ve heard that before from Alderson, which puts us in an “I’ll believe it when I see it,’’ position.

Alderson promised nothing this afternoon in his ESPN interview. Essentially, the said they’ll do more than last winter, which was basically Shaun Marcum.

We all want the Mets to not only compete, but win. Barring a miracle it won’t happen. You might point to the “Miracle Mets’’ of 1969, but remember that team had a core of a solid pitching staff highlighted by Hall of Famer Tom Seaver. Plus, it was a different game back then.

Even if the Mets were to start writing checks there’s no guarantee they’ll win. Look how much the Yankees have spent recently and look where it got them.

What has it gotten the Dodgers the past two years? The Nationals? The Tigers? The Phillies? The Angels?

The bottom line is there’s not one free agent out there – not Jacoby Ellsbury, not Shin-Soo Choo – or trading for David Price – that will guarantee the Mets the World Series.

Hell, even if the Mets do it traditionally right through their farm system there are no assurances. Hell, Matt Harvey’s elbow injury should have taught us that lesson.

However, gradual building, which the Mets tell us they are doing, does provide the Mets odds.

I believe the Mets will make some moves this winter, and the recent inactivity doesn’t mean they won’t do anything.

The Mets won 74 games last year, and if they get two innings eaters in the back end of their rotation, improve at shortstop, build depth in their bullpen and add an outfield bat – in that order – they should have a better team.

Those additions, while low key, along with a full season from David Wright, and improvement from Jon Niese and Zack Wheeler, the Mets should improve enough to win at least one more game a month, which would put them at .500.

And, this is regardless of whether they trade Ike Davis, Lucas Duda or both.

If that happens and Harvey comes back healthy in 2015, plus a few more holes are patched, then they can make a run at the postseason.

Hell, even if that does occur, there’s no givens. There never is in baseball.

Oct 29

Mets’ Matt Harvey Reports Progress After Surgery

While watching those hot young arms the St. Louis Cardinals are showcasing to the nation during the World Series, no doubt you might be wondering about the Mets’ Matt Harvey.

Six days after undergoing Tommy John surgery, while attending Monday night’s Rangers’ home opener at Madison Square Garden, Harvey told the Daily News he was ahead of schedule.

HARVEY: Reports progress.

HARVEY: Reports progress.

Before getting too excited you must remember Harvey – who did not study medicine at the University of North Carolina – also announced surgery wasn’t necessary before he realized it might be the only way he misses one season instead of two.

“I am just doing range of motion stuff now, but today was the first day I could take the bandages off and I was at Hospital for Special Surgery working and everybody thinks I am ahead of schedule,’’ Harvey said. “We were able to straighten it today and I think they were surprised I could do that, already. So the rehab is ahead of schedule.’’

Yes, it would be great if Harvey could come back next September and pitch the Mets into the playoffs, but try not to get carried away.

Sure, Jenrry Mejia returned ten months after surgery, but he’s had a second surgery to remove bone spurs in his elbow.

All humans are different. They have different thresholds of pain; they recover differently and not always at the same rate. When it comes to pitchers and Tommy John surgery, it seems all pitchers get it and the recovery rate has been especially high. However, it isn’t a given Harvey’s recovery and rehab will fall into that category, especially considering his propensity for pushing himself. He did not report back discomfort this season and made several starts with soreness in his forearm before an MRI revealed a tear.

We can only hope for the best in that regard, and that the Mets aren’t seduced by encouraging news and attempt to push him. There could be setbacks and the best thing is to go on planning without him and hope for the best in 2015.

If nothing else, the World Series has demonstrated how much pitching outweighs hitting as far as being a team priority.

For all the talk about David Ortiz, remember the Red Sox took Games 4 and 5 on the strength of production from the non-descript Jonny Gomes and David Ross, and the pitching of a deep bullpen in Game 4 and Jon Lester in Game 5.

And, quite simply, the Cardinals are here based on their young arms. When enticed by teams to part with the likes of Zack Wheeler, Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard, general manager Sandy Alderson should note what the Cardinals have done with their pitching and what the Red Sox have done in patching their lineup with veteran, and relatively inexpensive, bats.

The Mets won 74 games this season, but before writing off 2014, remember only nine of those wins were by Harvey. He had 12 no-decisions. If the Mets can pick up a veteran arm in free-agency to compensate for those nine wins, and if Wheeler takes the next step and Jon Niese and Dillon Gee continue to improve, a .500 season, if not a winning year, is possible without diving into the deep end of the free-agent market and get stuck with a contract they’ll soon regret.