Nov 23

Jon Niese One Of Few Untouchable Mets

When I look at the current Mets’ 40-man roster there are few players where it would take a lot to pry away from the team. Matt Harvey is one of them, in fact, there’s a thought of re-doing his contract as to buy out his arbitration years.

I keep Harvey, of course. And, prospect Zach Wheeler.

NIESE: An untouchable Met.

Also on the list is Jonathan Niese, who signed a long-term deal that will carry him through 2016, with option years for 2017 and 2018, going as high as $11 million in the last year. A hard-throwing left hander with a positive history and contract controllable for four more years is a bargain.

Considering Niese’s production, contract and being a lefty, it’s small wonder he is the name most often brought up when Mets GM Sandy Alderson is contacted. That’s also the reason the Mets would be foolish to part with him.

As Niese continues to develop, and dare I say it, approach 20 wins and becomes an All-Star, I can see the Mets picking up those options and extending the contract.

Niese is a rare commodity in today’s economics. Harvey could see a long-term offer is he proves the real deal in 2013.

Signing Niese when they did was a smart move and akin to the long-term deal David Wright is on. That’s why they won’t deal him. He and Harvey are on a short list, one that doesn’t include Wright and R.A. Dickey.

The Mets want to keep both but admit they could be dealt. They are currently talking to more teams about Dickey than Wright, presumably because the knuckleballer is on a $5 million contract for 2013 while Wright is more than triple that amount.

Trading Dickey and/or Wright in the offseason would be have the obstacle on them being free-agents after next season and would likely be contingent on the other team getting the opportunity to negotiate its own contract extension, similar to what the Mets did when they traded with Minnesota for Johan Santana.

That other team would be stuck with the task of negotiating with Dickey for roughly $50 million and Wright for perhaps as high as $120 million. Few teams want to assume that burden, which is why Jeff Wilpon said last week he’d rather let them walk and take the draft picks.

From the player’s perspective, the concept of free-agency is deciding where you go and for how much. Chances are both players, unless they are blown away with an offer, would walk after being traded.

The Mets won’t have any such dilemma with NIese, which is why he’ll be in Flushing for a long time.

 

 

Nov 09

Sandy Alderson: Talks Slow With R.A. Dickey And David Wright

Speaking at the GM meetings in California, Mets GM Sandy Alderson said it was conceivable R.A. Dickey could win the Cy Young Award next week and then be traded. It’s another way of saying, “these are the Mets, anything is possible.”

“It would be a little unusual to trade a Cy Young winner,” Alderson said. “ … We’d love to retain him. We’re trying to.”

Alderson said talks with Dickey and Wright are on-going, but currently slow. He hoped picking up their 2013 options ($16 million for Wright; $5 million for Dickey) would jump-start talks, but that hasn’t happened.

“Maybe it was a little bit unrealistic on my part to think that we’d get something done,” said Alderson. “But I think it was important for me to emphasize that we were going to get going early, in order to avoid any speculation about a Jose Reyes-type approach to this. So in that sense it was probably a good idea to emphasize speed but unrealistic to expect that this was all going to be concluded quickly.”

That’s fair enough.

Alderson said the Mets’ position of strength is their starting pitching, and although we doesn’t want to trade Dickey, Jonathan Niese or Dillon Gee, “it’s logical for us to consider that.”

That’s also fair, but in doing so it could weaken the staff if Matt Harvey doesn’t progress as planned.

I have no problem, right now, with Alderson’s approach. The dialogue is there with Wright and Dickey, and unlike Reyes, both know they are wanted. How much they are wanted, is shown by the dollars.

LATER TODAY: Concluding the Mets Player Review series with a look at the bench.

 

Oct 17

2012 Mets Player Review: Jonathan Niese, LHP

JONATHAN NIESE, LHP

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: Jonathan Niese was another Mets pitcher who went into spring training coming off an injury. He pulled a right rib cage muscle in Sept. 2011, while pitching against the Phillies and was shut down. Two years earlier, Niese’s season ended with a severely pulled hamstring. While the Mets weren’t worried about his arm, two muscle pulls had them wonder if he was susceptible to such injuries. Foolishly, Niese felt discomfort in his previous start, but continued to pitch against the Phillies. In 2010 and 2011, Niese won nine and 11 games, respectively, and displayed composure and an ability to work out of trouble. Niese doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but throws a plus cutter and fall-off-the-table curveball. When he’s able to command those pitches, it increases the effectiveness of his fastball. Assuming his health, the Mets expected him to continue to develop and hopefully win as many as 15 games as a No. 3 starter.

2012 SEASON REVIEW: Although Niese fell short of 15 victories, he continued to make strides to become one of the Mets’ most reliable pitchers. Satisfied he was healthy, the Mets signed Niese to a $25.5 million contract extension with team options for 2017 and 2018. Largely unproven, the Mets were banking on Niese’s potential and at the time GM Sandy Alderson said he was the type of player the club could build around. The contract enables the Mets to avoid arbitration and Niese’s first shot at free agency, which is paramount in cost control. Niese tied his career high of 30 starts and logged 190.1 innings. Niese, like most Mets’ starters save R.A. Dickey, suffered from a lack of run support and bullpen collapses. Niese responded from a combined 4-5 in July and August to win this final three starts to finish at 13-9 with a 3.40 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. Niese had an impressive 155-49 strikeouts-to-walks ratio and worked into the seventh inning or longer in 17 appearances. He only had two starts in which he did not work at least five innings. Niese did miss a start after he was pulled for a June 3 game with a rapid heartbeat.

LOOKING AT 2013: Although Niese did not have a reoccurrence of the rapid heartbeat in the second half, he will undergo surgery at the Cleveland Clinic to alleviate the problem. It is considered minor surgery, but anything involving the heart can’t be thought of as minor. Figuring he will make a full recovery, the Mets expect him to build on 2013. Considering his age and salary, he would be in high demand on the trade market, but a pitcher of Niese’s potential is exactly what the franchise needs. Niese’s overall numbers were good and assuming he receives run support – the Mets failed to score more than three runs in 17 starts – 15 victories and 200-plus innings should be reachable. Niese would enter next year as the No. 3 starter assuming everything works in the positive with Johan Santana and R.A. Dickey.

TOMORROW: Dillon Gee, RHP

Sep 15

Jenrry Mejia Getting His Chance

A mark of a good manager is putting his players in position to succeed. He shouldn’t force a player to do something he’s unfamiliar or uncomfortable with, thereby increasing the chance of failure.

That’s what Jerry Manuel did to Jenrry Mejia in 2010. With his job clearly in jeopardy and no bullpen to speak of, Manuel insisted on putting Jenrry Mejia in a relief role coming out of spring training despite no experience at it and, no definable role with the Mets.

Mejia didn’t work for long stretches and struggled when he did get in games. Eventually, he performed so poorly he was optioned out. Once in the minors, they tried him as a starter again. He was eventually injured.

He starts tonight at Milwaukee, despite his last three appearances at Triple-A Buffalo being in relief, this after a solid stretch as a starter.

You guessed it, the Mets still don’t have an idea where Mejia fits into their 2013 plans.

Mejia had dramatically more success at Triple-A Buffalo this season as a starting pitcher than working in the bullpen. He had a 2.75 ERA in ten starts and a 5.48 ERA in 16 relief outings.

His manager at Buffalo, Wally Backman, has faith in him as a reliever.

“You know what? He had never really relieved before, until he got to the big leagues for the short time [in 2010],’’ Backman said. “They sent him back to Triple-A and he started. And then he got hurt. So this year he started as a starter.

“`And [then] we put him in the bullpen. And, believe it or not, I think it was his last three outings in the bullpen, he was pretty good. Then we all of a sudden started him again. To me, he was figuring it out.’’

Mejia has it figured out in his mind as to what he wants to do and where he’s most comfortable and it is starting.

“That’s what I’m looking forward (to),’’ Mejia said. “I want to show them I want to be a starter. I can do my job like a starter.’’

Mejia said he feels more in control with his pitches starting, perhaps because at the start of the game there’s less pressure and more a margin for error than in the eighth or ninth innings.

On paper the Mets’ rotation seems set for 2013, but it must be remembered Johan Santana and Dillon Gee are coming off injuries; Jonathan Niese has a way to go before reaching his potential and might have regressed this year; and Matt Harvey is unproven over the long haul.

All those variables could open up a spot for Mejia.

Aug 07

Interesting Twists For Mets

With the signing of Jose Reyes, the Miami Marlins were the sexy pick to win the NL East, but their meltdown turned into a fire sale with arguably the best player in franchise history, Hanley Ramirez, being shipped to the Dodgers.

Clearly, Ramirez and Reyes didn’t co-exist the way the Marlins hoped. The Marlins obviously didn’t run the signing through Ramirez the way they should have in order to avoid conflict and soothe the temperamental Ramirez.

Interesting, but the Marlins were listening to offers for Reyes at the trade deadline. Nothing substantial, but they made it known they’d listen. Seems the Mets made the right decision in not to cave and give Reyes over $100 million.

The Mets were gambling on Ruben Tejada when they let Reyes walked and he’s produced at both ends.

While the Mets appeared to right themselves on their last road trip, that hasn’t been the case for David Wright, who hit .184 on the trip and has seen his strikeouts spike as it has the past couple of seasons.

Perhaps Wright was trying to carry a floundering team, but he needs to use the whole field and improve his patience.

An interesting note about tonight is Jason Bay in the order. It makes you wonder if he’ll be reduced to playing against left-handers in a platoon role. The last trip was supposed to be a key stretch for Bay, but he produced just two hits. GM Sandy Alderson said the Mets won’t eat Bay’s contract, but if his time is severely cut, why not?

To me, tonight is about Jonathan Niese, who lately has been pitching late into the game – usually clearing six innings – and whether he’ll close the season on a hot streak. Niese has closed previous seasons injured and the Mets want to see him end this one on a positive note.

Whether that means shutting him down once the Mets officially raise the white flag remains to be seen.