“I want to play this game for as long as I can and I can’t do that with having the kind of year I had last year,” Pelfrey said. “Going into the offseason, it kind of hits you like, ‘Man, what happened?’ So you go through it, you learn from it and you try to get better. I’m more determined not to let that happen again. Obviously, I need to have a good year or . . . I might not be back.”
* Quote of the Day: “I’m to the point now where I have to be developed and I have to be ready to play on a daily basis. That’s the biggest thing for me is not to use that as a crutch.”
That was Josh Thole talking about this being a make-or-break year for him. It’s true. Hard to believe, but this is Thole’s third year on the major league level and he needs improvement behind the plate and at-bat. Thole came up with a reputation for patience at the plate, but deviated from that last season. His game calling also became suspect last year, as was his defense (eventually, he’ll have to learn to catch R.A. Dickey).
* Jenrry Mejia isn’t ready to throw yet. There’s no way he’ll be ready in early part of the season. The Mets still don’t know what role they are planning for Mejia, but what seems to be apparent is it isn’t a stretch to assume his arm problems might be linked to how the Mets have bounced him around from role to role.
* Word is the Mets aren’t giving out No. 7, the number worn by Jose Reyes. Why? Are they keeping the light on for him? The sooner they give out No. 7, the sooner they are moving on without him. He’s gone. Get used to it.
First of all, I’d like to apologize for my spotty attendance lately. I’ve had several personal issues I’ve needed to attend to, and lately my health hasn’t been good. I was in the hospital yesterday and just haven’t felt up to it.
I have tried to maintain a consistent presence over the years, but have not been good so far in 2012. I apologize to you and promise to do better. I also appreciate your continued support.
This past few days have given me time to think, and, or course, attention drifts to the upcoming baseball season. Usually, this time of year has the optimism of spring training. With the Yankees making moves to improve their pitching, the Mets have done little.
The Mets’ projected payroll for 2012 is $90 million, which is a long separation to that of the Yankees, Phillies and most any other team expected to contend for the playoffs.
There have been examples of teams with small payrolls contending and even reaching the playoffs as Tampa Bay, Milwaukee and Minnesota proving over the years.
Winning can be done with limited financial resources, but a common denominator has been building with homegrown talent, having it develop and locking in the key pieces. Evan Longoria, Ryan Braun and Joe Mauer are prime examples. At one time, that’s what I thought the Mets were doing with David Wright and Jose Reyes.
Wright is entering the prime years of his career, but he is doing so with a string of nagging injuries the past few seasons and a lack of complementary support. The Mets aren’t in a hurry to trade him, but the fact they are contemplating it is all the proof you need to know where this franchise is headed.
Teams can compete – to a point – with a $90 million payroll, but doing so requires a strong foundation, and that’s also lacking. Ike Davis, Jon Niese, Ruben Tejada, Josh Thole, Lucas Duda and Daniel Murphy are young pieces, but I would be hesitant to label them a core for the future. We’ve only seen a smattering of promise from them, but also flaws and in some cases an injury history.
None possess the potential Wright and Reyes had when the Mets signed them to long-term contracts early in their career when the winning window was wide open.
Yes, 2006 seems like a long time ago.
If Niese and Davis, Duda and Tejada can play well, others stay healthy, and veterans such as Wright, Jason Bay and Mike Pelfrey play to their potential, the Mets could make some noise.
But, that’s a lot of things that have to break right for a franchise that’s been on a negative slide, and not going away is the potential $400 million hit from the Ponzi scandal.
I can’t say things won’t break for the Mets, but it is January, time for positive hoping if you’re a baseball fan.
We began our review of the 2011 Mets by examining their free agents and players the team will consider tending contracts to. We started evaluating the rest of the roster, beginning with infielder Ruben Tejada and continue today with catcher Josh Thole. Tomorrow: Ike Davis.
JOSH THOLE – C
THE SKINNY: Thole turned heads in 2010 with his bat control and ability to work the count. The Mets had a young hitter who could draw a walk and take an outside pitch to left field. Who knew? Defensively, he was new at the position, but the pitchers liked how he handled a game and gave them a consistent low target.
PRE-SEASON EXPECTATIONS: If Thole could make a good impression over 227 at-bats, imagine what he could do over a full season. And, as he developed physically and filled out he might be able to hit for more power. Also, his continued work with the pitching staff should make him even more comfortable behind the plate.
HOW THE SEASON PLAYED OUT: Not according to plan. Thole had 386 at-bats in 114 games, but a fulltime catcher should get more work than that. Ronny Paulino played more as a back-up than expected and that was a reflection on Thole. His defense regressed as he led the National League with 16 passed balls and he threw out just 17 attempted base stealers (21 percent). Offensively, his batting average (.268) and on-base percentages (.345 from .357) dropped. He hit three homers in both years despite having 160 more at-bats. In a word: disappointing.
JOHN’S TAKE: Thole might have benefited by more time in the minor leagues, but that wasn’t the hand he was dealt. He took a step back after a good first impression, but that was to be expected as the league found him out. Since his learning environment has been the major leagues it doesn’t make much sense to change that now. He would benefit from having a veteran back-up, and I don’t know if Paulino is that guy. The Mets will stick with Thole for the simple facts they have confidence he’ll develop and they want to spend their limited resources elsewhere. A tip: Have somebody else catch R.A. Dickey.
JOE’S TAKE: Call it a hunch, but I don’t think Thole is long for this team. The only reason he is still hanging onto his job is because quite simply the Mets positional depth at catcher is in complete shambles, and it has been that way for most of the team’s 50 year history.
On most teams, Thole is a backup catcher – maybe. On the Mets he’s the best they got, which says more about the state of the Mets than it does about Thole who was a good soldier when he was asked to ditch his first base glove and put on what Tim McCarver refers to as the “tools of ignorance.”
Thole has already had a few pitchers jaw about his pitch calling and you don’t need binoculars to see how miscast he looks behind the plate. His instincts are lacking and his offensive game leaves much to be desired. On a team that will have too many dead outs in their lineup in 2012, Thole is the worst one because he can’t field his position at a satisfactory level. When an opposing batter makes it to first base, they start drooling when Thole is behind the plate – even those who run as slow as John Olerud. Thole is a huge problem for the rotation, and for a team that is going to find themselves struggling to score runs and protect leads next season.
There are three ways for a team to build: free agency, drafting and trading.
With a stated budget of just over $100 million, Sandy Alderson’s free-agent options are limited, especially if he dives into the deep end of the Jose Reyes pool. He’ll be looking to plug holes in the bullpen and rotation with middle-tier talent. Cheap bench players are always available.
There is potential in the minor league system, but it is the lower minors, which the Mets want to avoid delving into. Solid drafting is the best way to lay the foundation and the Mets are making progress in that direction and figure to keep their young talent.
That leads us to trading, and things aren’t rosy in that department, either.
David Wright, who has been in decline the past two seasons, has the biggest upside and a manageable contract. He’s a cornerstone, especially if Reyes leaves, and the player who intrigues other teams, believing a change of scenery would benefit him. A Wright trade would mean serious re-building for the Mets, but he’s the player who would bring the most in return.
Trading him is a franchise-defining decision.
Other than Wright, what is the market value for some of the others?
Josh Thole: Young, inexpensive with more potential than production. Thole did not perform to expectations and wouldn’t draw attention from a team wanting a starting catcher. Teams needing a catcher have more experienced options in the free-agent market. It’s hard to believe anybody would trade for him to be a starter.
Ike Davis: Could be attractive, but after missing much of the season with an ankle injury he represents a risk. Young, inexpensive and loaded with potential – if healthy – he’s the ideal piece for the Mets to keep and build around.
Ruben Tejada: Impressed a lot of scouts and would draw interest, but the Mets will need him at shortstop if Reyes goes or at second if he stays. He’s not going anywhere.
Jason Bay: You must be joking. People are saying all the time that the Mets should trade Bay. What planet are they on? Bay has not played well since signing as a Met; he’s been injured and has a hefty contract. Can you see the line forming now? The Mets have two hopes for him: 1) he stays healthy and meets expectations to salvage the final two years, or 2) if that doesn’t happen, then he doesn’t get the necessary at-bats and games for his option to kick in. Two more years.
Angel Pagan: Regressed this year to the point where the Mets might not tender him. He’d sign somewhere as a bench player, but nobody will trade for him.
Lucas Duda: Scouts love his power potential and he played decent defense in right field. He would be part of a larger package, but wouldn’t be someone teams would want to trade for to build around. Besides, the Mets’ outfield forecasts as weak, so he’s getting the full time shot in right.
Fernando Martinez: Had been sought after in previous years, but is a fragile, injury risk whose value has declined. Too bad they can’t turn back the clock two years. If the Mets can swing something with him, they should do it, but his real value to them would be to stay healthy and reach his potential, which is becoming less and less likely.
Johan Santana: Nobody knows how healthy he is, which means he’s staying put for now. Should Santana come back and be solid and healthy in the first half, you could see the Mets trying to deal him if they aren’t in contention. Even if they were, they might pull the trigger on a trade to free up salary. This bears watching, but not until June and July.
Mike Pelfrey: Has a manageable contract and is young. He regressed this season, but there’s still potential for the right pitching coach. But, if they trade him, he would thin out an already spotty rotation. The Mets will keep him and hope he improves. If not, then it might be time to cut him loose. There could be takers at the trade deadline.
Jon Niese: Coming off an injury and who knows if he’d pass the physical? Mets love his potential, so he’s not going anywhere.
R.A. Dickey: Teams don’t trade for journeyman knuckleball pitchers in the off-season. They wait for the trade deadline. He’s been arguably the Mets most consistent starter, but he’s a No. 4 according to most scouts, maybe a No. 5. He’s somebody a contender might covet in July, but he’s not going to bring back a lot of talent.
Dillon Gee: Surprised a lot of people this season. But, the pitching deficient Mets won’t move him. After a great start, Gee had a rocky second half, which makes him a question to the Mets, not to mention any team with interest.
Bobby Parnell: Young and a power arm is always attractive. Not so much is his command and thought process on the mound. There are no assurances the Mets will make him their closer as there are numerous reports saying that is their greatest need. If Parnell can’t convince the Mets he’s closer worthy, then what must other teams be thinking? Right, he’s a bullpen piece who needs a lot of work. Not a long line here.
So, if you look at the Mets’ trade options, dealing Wright would net the most, but you have to wonder what considering he’s several years removed from his best season. There are limited other options to deal and they are most suited for moving at the trading deadline.