Apr 03

New Season Brings High Expectations For Mets

Talk about your mixed metaphors for this Mets’ season: I woke this morning to the sounds of birds chirping, but when I looked out the window there were still patches of snow on the ground. The sounds of spring and the sites of winter.

So, what will it be for the Mets? Will there be a third straight playoff appearance or will they sputter and stay home in October? I’ve read in several places where they’ll return to the World Series and in many others they’ll be frustrated.

SYNDERGAARD: High expecattions. FOX)

SYNDERGAARD: High expecattions. FOX)

“You have to embrace it,” manager Terry Collins said of the expectations swirling around his team. “The expectations are what they are. We have a room full of guys who have won and who expect to win.”

There are two keys to winning: staying healthy and getting strong starting pitching. If that happens they’ll be right up there and contend with Washington. Are they better than the Nationals? Potentially, they are, but they have a multitude of issues and concerns.

There’s the bullpen that will be without Jeurys Familia for the first 15 games. There’s defense, including Jose Reyes getting a full season at third base. There’s Yoenis Cespedes and whether the security of a four-year contract will help or hinder him. And, perhaps as important as anything is their offense, especially hitting with runners in scoring position.

Above all else, the key is for their starters to stay healthy. Four of them – Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Jacob deGrom and Zack Wheeler are coming off surgery. Matz opens the season on the disabled list and after a sluggish start, Harvey seemed to close spring training on a high note.

Of all the Mets’ pitchers, the highest expectations are that of Opening Day starter Noah Syndergaard, who, if he stays healthy, has the ability and stuff to win 20 games and win the Cy Young Award. He can be that dominant. Syndergaard’s primary issues are: 1) the effectiveness of his change-up, 2) whether the bone spur that bothered him on-and-off last season, and 3) his ability to prevent runners from running wild against him (48 stolen bases when he was on the mound last year).

So many things must happen for a team to reach, and win, a World Series. The Mets have the potential pieces to make that happen.

Thanks, and wishing you all a great season of watching.

 

Mar 29

Familia Gets 15 Games; Case Raises Questions

I would not have thought it, but MLB came down on Jeurys Familia today, and you could say the Mets came away with their first victory of the season. While most – including myself – predicted he’d be suspended for 30 games on a domestic incident. Instead, MLB tagged him for just 15 games.

FAMILIA: Gets 15 games. (AP)

FAMILIA: Gets 15 games. (AP)

Familia was arrested Oct. 31 after his wife, Bianca Rivas, told police he was drunk and violent. The police report said she had signs of injury, however, she would not press charges.

A statement released by MLB read: “The evidence reviewed by my office does not support a determination that Mr. Familia physically assaulted his wife, or threatened her or others with physical force or harm, on October 31, 2016. Nevertheless, I have concluded that Mr. Familia’s overall conduct that night was inappropriate, violated the Policy, and warrants discipline.”

MLB would not say how its investigation differed from that of the police, or what factors it used to reach its decision, but there had to be something because his suspension was the shortest since creating a domestic-violence policy on 2015: Mets infielder Jose Reyes got 52 games for spousal abuse and Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman got 30 games, and his incident involved allegedly choking his girlfriend and shooting a gun.

Familia, who has 99 saves as the Mets’ closer, said in a statement:

“Today, I accepted a 15-game suspension from Major League Baseball resulting from my inappropriate behavior on October 31, 2016. With all that has been written and discussed regarding this matter, it is important that it be known that I never physically touched, harmed or threatened my wife that evening.

“I did, however, act in an unacceptable manner and am terribly disappointed in myself. I am alone to blame for the problems of that evening.

“My wife and I cooperated fully with Major League Baseball’s investigation, and I’ve taken meaningful steps to assure that nothing like this will ever happen again. I have learned from this experience, and have grown as a husband, a father, and a man.

“I apologize to the Mets’ organization, my teammates, and all my fans. I look forward to rejoining the Mets and being part of another World Series run. Out of respect for my teammates and my family, I will have no further comment.”

There is so much more left to digest and wonder about Familia’s case.

Only he and Bianca truly know what happened that night and she won’t say or do anything to implicate her husband, so we are only left to speculate and wonder about the future. Hopefully, this will be a wake-up call for Familia. And hopefully, there won’t be a next time for Bianca.

As far as MLB judging players on their off-field behavior and possible incidents that have brushes with the law we have to understand there is a high degree of public relations with professional sports and that will never change. But, to what degree should MLB be involved has long been up for debate. That won’t change, either.

 

 

Mar 01

How Prepared Are Mets To Absorb Losing Wright?

Assuming the worst, just how prepared are the Mets to absorb losing David Wright, both in the short and long term?

Clearly, after playing a combined 75 games the past two seasons, GM Sandy Alderson had to anticipate the possibility of Wright going down again, as was the case Tuesday with the announcement he had been shut down because of an impingement in his right shoulder. To put it bluntly, he can’t throw the ball across the infield without pain.

WRIGHT: Mets' options without him. (ABC)

WRIGHT: Mets’ options without him. (ABC)

There are several aspects as to how to examine this issue: financially; 2017 only; from the farm system; from outside the market, and his role if he does play.

Let’s take a look:

FINANCIALLY:  The Mets are on the hook to pay Wright $67 million for the balance of his contract. However, insurance would pick up $50.25 million, which makes the payout more palatable. The issue of paying him in full in exchange for a healthy, productive player isn’t an option. Wright has been shut down for at least three weeks. He returned to New York for a second opinion on his shoulder.

Wright retiring or the Mets approaching him to take a buyout will not be an issue unless doctors tell him not to play anymore. Even then, Wright will take the time to digest the recommendation and continue to strengthen himself in the hope of being able to play.

2017 SEASON: There’s no longer the issue of finding enough at-bats for Jose Reyes, at least not in the immediate future. Reyes and Wilmer Flores are ranked one-two on today’s depth chart. The Mets brought back Reyes last year as a plug when Wright went down. For the most part, Reyes played a representative third base, but we must remember the window of opportunity to watch him was relatively small. Ditto for Flores, T.J. Rivera and Ty Kelly are on the radar, but not expected to get significant playing time.

If the Mets are in contention at the trade deadline and Reyes isn’t performing as hoped, there will be the inevitable trade rumors. Presumably, if he hasn’t been dealt at the time, Todd Frazier‘s name will surface. While with Cincinnati, the 31-year-old Frazier was frequently linked to the Mets. Frazier will be a free agent after the season and with the White Sox not expected to bring him back they will undoubtedly be taking calls. Even if Wright is playing, the Mets would be remiss if they didn’t pursue Frazier.

If they get him, Frazier could be the difference in making the playoffs and sitting home. Frazier is scheduled to make $12 million this year, and the Mets should be given a window to negotiate. The While Sox are certain to ask for a lot and the Mets would be foolish to break the bank with prospects for a rental.

FROM THE FARM SYSTEM: Eight of the Mets’ top 30 prospects according to MLB.com, are shortstops, with Amed Rosario ranked first among them. Since a shortstop is theoretically considered the best athlete in the infield, it will be interesting if they contemplate moving one of their other shortstop prospects to third base, that is if they sour on their third base prospects Matt Reynolds, Jhoan Urena, David Thompson – who could have the highest upside in power – and Eudor Garcia.

Only Rosario and Reynolds are expected to see major league playing time this summer. Of the two, Reynolds is more like expected to play at third base, but barring something unforeseen happening with Reyes or Flores.

FROM THE MARKET:  Outside of Frazier, the most intriguing possibility is Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria, who at 31 and with $100 million remaining on a contract that expires after the 2023 season (assuming the club option is picked up.) Just as Wright is the face of the Mets, Longoria is the same for the Rays. However, Tampa Bay has greatly regressed since it appeared in the 2008 World Series and lost manager Joe Maddon following the 2014 season.

The Rays have always been dollar conscious. They clearly aren’t ready to compete, but it would take a lot in terms of prospects to pry him away. Then there would be the added cost in salary. It seems inconceivable they would add Longoria’s salary to that of Yoenis Cespedes‘ and Wright’s (even with the insurance payout), but it is fun to think about.

Outside of Frazier, the only potential free agent third baseman this winter that jumps out at you is Kansas City’s Mike Moustakas (will make $8.7 million this season).

IF WRIGHT STAYS AND PLAYS: The days of Wright being an All-Star presence are gone even if he’s medically cleared to play. With what is remaining on Wright’s contract and his injury history, no team will trade for him, including an American League team needing a designated hitter.

Assuming he plays out the remainder of his contract and is able to throw, he’ll always be a health question entering the season. Perhaps he’ll evolve into a singles-hitting role player.

Much has been made of the possibility of Wright playing first base, but even if that’s the case it won’t be this season and he still won’t provide the power needed at that position.

Feb 28

Wright Shut Down; Future In Doubt

The return of David Wright was always more about hope than reality, and unfortunately the truth nobody wants to concede reared its ugly head today with the news the often-injured third baseman has been shut down indefinitely because of his inability to throw the ball across the infield.

WRIGHT: Staring into dark future. (AP)

WRIGHT: Staring into dark future. (AP)

The specter of Wright not playing this year, or perhaps ever again, can’t be ignored. Manager Terry Collins said Wright’s absence doesn’t greatly impact the Mets’ playoff aspirations. Considering Wright has played less than a combined 100 games the past two season, that’s a logical conclusion.

GM Sandy Alderson, in announcing Wright’s shutdown, said the question of his retirement or the Mets buying him out, hasn’t yet been reached: “I don’t think we’re at the point where that concern is at a more heightened level. This is all part of the process of rehabilitating, and it’s taking longer than I am sure David would have hoped, and we would hope, but that is part of the process.”

For Wright, the process includes him staying in Florida working to strengthen his shoulder. He’ll also work at first base, perhaps not so much for this year, but 2018 when presumably Lucas Duda won’t be brought back. However, the truth remains we don’t know if Wright will be able to play in any role.

Financially, the Mets owe Wright $67 million on the balance of his contract, but insurance will cover $50.25 million. But, insurance can’t hit or field, or offer an element of stability and leadership in the clubhouse.

Although it has been years since Wright produced like an All-Star, but make no mistake he brought in significant stability when he came off the disabled list to join the 2015 pennant race.

Initially, Wright will be replaced by Jose Reyes and Wilmer Flores in the short term, but if they are struggling and the Mets are in contention at the trade deadline, could they make a run at Todd Frazier. Would they make a play for Frazier even if Reyes is playing well?

 

 

 

Feb 25

Not Expecting Wright Or Wheeler For Opening Day

Although it is early, don’t expect either David Wright or Zack Wheeler to be ready by Opening Day. Frankly, there is no reason to be concerned with either starting the season in the minor leagues.

For the next two to three weeks, Wright will play as a designated hitter, because he’s that far from being able to throw. And, Wright isn’t fast enough to run the ball across the infield. This should also limit talk about moving to first base because he has to throw from that position, also.

It’s not alarming now because it is a long spring training and the Mets have depth at third with Jose Reyes, Wilmer Flores and even Neil Walker, if pressed. It is better to have Wright later rather than risk additional injury and be without him longer.

As for Wheeler, he had elbow tenderness but has thrown two strong bullpen sessions since. The Mets currently see him as the fifth starter rather than a bullpen arm, which is fine as long as they stick with that plan.

The Mets also have Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman as fifth starter candidates, so if Wheeler isn’t ready until May or June, so be it.

Spring training is to get ready for a long, grueling season, but there’s written in stone all players must be ready for Opening Day.