Jan 15

Jon Niese Could Be Most Indispensable Met

Normally, I might say David Wright when it comes down to who might be the most indispensable Met this season. Wright is, after all, the center of the Mets’ offensive universe and when he’s hitting it elevates the entire team.

However, I’m a pitching guy first and when I posed the question to myself this morning Jon Niese popped up as the answer.

NIESE: Needs breakout year.

With the trade of R.A. Dickey to Toronto and Johan Santana entering his walk year coming off another injury, Niese, despite a career-high 13 wins last year, is the No. 1 starter.

Dillon Gee is a health question and the No. 5 starter is anybody’s guess, so it comes down to the necessity of Niese having to pitch well every fifth day to minimize the losing streaks, which will happen as they do every year. It was Dickey who kept the Mets on an even keel last summer; Niese must now do the same.

The Mets always liked Niese, as evidenced by the long-term contract they gave him and refusal to discuss him in trade talks. When teams call the Mets, they ask for Niese, a hard-throwing lefthander, with major league success and a manageable contract.

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Jan 05

Mets Who Could Be On The Block In July

It’s not even spring training, so what better time to fast forward to July and project what Mets could be dealt at the deadline?

JOHAN SANTANA: Assuming he’s healthy and producing, and the Mets not in the playoff hunt, who can’t see the Mets trying to get out from whatever they can of what is left of his contract? If Santana is on his game, a contender should be interesting.

CHRIS YOUNG: Should the Mets sign him as their fifth starter and the season bogs down, if he shows anything in the first half, some contender is sure to be willing to give up a middle prospect for a veteran who’ll make a half-dozen starts. If the Mets aren’t going anywhere, what’s the point of keeping Young around?

FRANK FRANCISCO: Let’s face it, the Mets aren’t bringing him back for 2014. So, deal him for a prospect and give the closer job to Bobby Parnell. Parnell is too young and has too much upside to deal him how. If the Mets aren’t doing anything this year, I’d be game for trading Francisco now and seeing what Parnell can do.

DANIEL MURPHY: If there’s an AL team that needs a DH or a bat off the bench, then Murphy could be ideal.

It is easy to see why Jon Niese or Ike Davis would be attractive – price and production – but those reasons are why the Mets would want to keep them. David Wright isn’t going anywhere, and players such as Lucas Duda and Kirk Nieuwenhuis haven’t built enough of a resume.








Dec 04

Despite R.A. Dickey And Jon Niese, Mets Still Have Pitching Concerns

Undoubtedly, the outfield is a huge void GM Sandy Alderson will try to fill with scraps. So too, is the bullpen. But, don’t forget the rotation despite the presence of Jon Niese and R.A. Dickey, assuming, of course, there will be a Dickey.

I keep hearing how the Mets’ young pitching is a position of strength, but in reality it is a position of potential, and there is a difference. And, I would be hesitant to say vast potential.

There were many mistakes in the Omar Minaya regime, but one of the biggest – and most understated – was the decision to overestimate the team following the 2006 season. “We just missed the World Series by a strike,’’ was the thinking.

How wrong they were. Even had Carlos Beltran done something with that pitch, there were concerns with the Mets’ pitching and bullpen which came to fruition during the collapses of 2007 and 2008.

Despite the flashes and strong showing in 2012, that’s the story today when you big-picture their staff. If all breaks well, then there is a lot to like about the Mets’ pitching. But, if it doesn’t – and we know it all won’t be good – then we are back again faced looking at a team with huge holes.

JOHAN SANTANA: He is once again coming off an injury, which he has done almost annually since signing with the Mets. Santana had a good start in 2012, but hit a wall and was eventually injured. Nobody can say with authority what the Mets can expect from him other than he’ll cost $25 million. Santana will be gone after this year, so even if he has a good season that’s a hole that must be filled in 2014. That hole would be even bigger if Dickey is traded or leaves as a free agent.

R.A. DICKEY: How can the Mets reasonably anticipate anything from Dickey when they are listening to trade offers? Even should the Mets re-sign Dickey to an extension, there’s still the question if 2012 was a one-shot deal. I like Dickey, but it is undeniable he has a short track record.

JON NIESE: If Dickey leaves, then Niese becomes the de facto ace of the staff. Niese has an upside, but how big we do not know. Last year was his best at 13-9, and it was his only winning season. How can you place all your chips on him when the most he’s ever won was 13 games?

DILLON GEE: Gee is coming off an injury, and like Niese has a small track record. Gee hasn’t been projected higher than a No. 4 or No. 5 starter in the first place, so to consider him a stalwart would be a misnomer. Gee is still missing from his resume a full season. Give him that and we’ll have a guess at his ceiling.

MATT HARVEY:  While good things are projected of Harvey, not a career do ten games make. The projections for Harvey are higher than they ever were with Mike Pelfrey and Niese. Harvey made an undeniably strong first impression last year. Now he must build on it. There are a lot of teams that haven’t seen Harvey yet, and those that had will have a book on him.

THE BULLPEN:  As the saying goes, a chain is as strong as its weakest link, then a pitching staff is as strong as its bullpen and we know the Mets’ pen is weak. It was a hole Alderson couldn’t patch together with nickel pieces last winter. Wonder if he’ll do better with dime pieces.


Nov 13

Will Trading Dickey Really Help The Mets?

The latest speculation has the Mets shopping R.A. Dickey for a power hitter, but I wonder if it would really improve them, both in 2013 and/or the future.

I don’t know what the Mets could actually get for Dickey, because there are some red flags for a team interested. Let’s face it, he’s a knuckleballer and there’s still a stigma that it’s a gimmick pitch hard to control. And, last year was his best at age 38, and want to bet some teams believe that to be a fluke?

DICKEY: Would the Mets really benefit by trading him? (AP)

It’s not fair, but such thinking does exist.

Another factor is that Dickey is not signed beyond 2013. Any team that deals for him would have to be given an opportunity to negotiate with him, and if he’s determined to be a free agent that won’t be a breeze. I also don’t see many teams trading a young slugger for a 38-year-old pitcher, who, before last season was a journeyman.

If Dickey is dealt – and last year wasn’t a fluke – then the Mets’ rotation would be considerably weaker. Johan Santana broke down at the end of last year and I’m not counting on him pitching to the worth of $25 million. Jon Niese is a No. 3 starter until he proves otherwise and if Santana falters he would move to No. 1. Dillion Gee is coming off surgery and Matt Harvey has a limited resume.

The rotation, save a healthy Santana, is far more potential than proof.

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Nov 02

2012 Mets Player Review: Josh Thole



PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: For the second straight year, the Mets had high expectations for Josh Thole. When Thole broke in with the Mets in 2010, they liked his patience at the plate, ability to go to the opposite field and how he handled the staff. So somebody that inexperienced at the position he did remarkably well. Perhaps they overrated him as he was one of the few bright spots in a dismal season. However, he regressed in 2011, both offensively and defensively. Considering his small major league window, the Mets were counting on him to regain his plate presence, both in working the count and going the opposite way. As he developed physically, there was also the hope of him hitting for more power. Defensively, his familiarity with the staff created the hope he’d improve in calling a game. Other weaknesses included throwing out base stealers and blocking balls in the dirt.

2012 SEASON REVIEW: Thole regressed this summer as he did in 2011. There were too many wasted at-bats, a lack of patience and little production. Thole hit .234 with one homer, 21 RBI, and a low .294 on-base percentage and a miniscule .584 OPS. In 104 games he had only 75 hits. He should have produced more simply by accident. He also struck out 50 times to only 27 walks. In comparison back-up catcher Kelly Shoppach homered three times with 10 RBI in 28 games with the Mets. Defensively, GM Sandy Alderson pointed to R.A. Dickey and Jon Niese as an endorsement of Thole’s game-calling, but he conveniently omitted his 18 passed balls (mostly with Dickey) and that he threw out only 17 base stealers in 74 attempts while weakness in throwing out potential base stealers for a paltry 23 percent.

LOOKING AT 2013: The Mets have a myriad of holes and catching is one of them. Shoppach contributed a little, but not to where he’s high on the Mets’ bring-back list. Because the Mets have little on the minor league level and more pressing needs, there’s not a high priority to replace Thole, who made $498,000 in 2012 and is eligible for salary arbitration. Even if Thole wins in arbitration, he won’t break the penny-conscious Mets. Perhaps more than any other Met, Thole has the most to prove. He’s been at this level for four seasons and should have shown considerably more by now. His career numbers are a .261 average, with seven homers and 87 RBI. By now he should do better than that in a single season.

NEXT: Ike Davis