Feb 15

Top Ten Mets’ Questions Entering Spring Training

The New York Mets open spring training this week with ten key questions that must be answered in the positive to justify the optimism surrounding this team.

Of course, several questions are pitching oriented, beginning with the obvious:

Q: How healthy is Matt Harvey?

A: This is the most important question of the season. The Mets still don’t know how they’ll break down Harvey’s innings, but we should have a good sense by the time they break camp. Harvey claims to be healthy, but there is still the matter of throwing to hitters.

LAGARES: Pegged for leadoff. (AP)

LAGARES: Pegged for leadoff. (AP)

Q: Who breaks camp as the leadoff hitter?

A: Juan Lagares has the speed, but lacks the on-base percentage. Curtis Granderson was used there last season, but has more value hitting in the middle of the order.

Q: How healthy is David Wright?

A: A bum shoulder sapped Wright of his power last season. A healthy Wright answers a lot of questions. The expectations of the Mets are dependent on their young pitching and a boost from their offense, and that’s about Wright.

Q: What will be the rotation order?

A: With Harvey reportedly not starting until the seventh game of the season, I’m thinking Bartolo Colon will be the Opening Day starter followed by Zack Wheeler, then Jon Niese and Jacob deGrom. With an off day thrown in that should leave Harvey to start the April 13 home opener against Philadelphia.

Q: Will Dillon Gee be traded?

A: They’ve been trying to trade him all winter, but probably wanted too much. That’s usually the way it is with the Mets. Gee is the sixth starter, but they won’t go with a six-man rotation. They could use him in long relief or send him to the minors.

Q: How good is Wilmer Flores?

A: The one thing I don’t want to see is Flores losing his job with an off spring. He needs a legitimate opportunity, and that includes sticking with him even if he has a poor spring training. Manager Terry Collins has to convey confidence in his shortstop.

Q: What is the make-up of the bullpen?

A: That depends on the health of Bobby Parnell. As it is, he’s not expected back until a month into the season. That means Jenrry Mejia should be the closer coming out of spring training with Jeurys Familia the likely set-up reliever. The Mets will probably carry seven relievers, but how many will be left-handed?

Q: Will there be any additions?

A: The Mets’ biggest off-season acquisition was outfielder Michael Cuddyer, who’ll start in right field, with Granderson playing left. They also picked up John Mayberry for their bench. If everybody stays healthy, there is no reason to add anybody. Of course, at the end of spring training there is always a flood of available players who have been released.

Q: Who makes an impression?

A: Does Rafael Montero steal a spot? Will Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard leave a mark for later in the summer? Will Eric Campbell win a spot on the bench? For a team with six straight losing seasons, the Mets don’t have many issues with their starting position players. The main issues are with the bench and batting order.

Q: Any injuries?

A: This is always the wild card. Something could always happen, and if it does will the Mets have the depth to overcome? What must happen is for the Mets not to push the envelope with Harvey and Wright. It’s a long season.

Feb 10

Mets Have No Significant Position Battles

For a team that hasn’t had a winning season since 2008, the New York Mets are in a unique situation of not having any position battles. There will be roster decisions, but every position has a body that barring injury, won’t change from now and Opening Day.

Currently the rotation is six deep, with the lone questions being whether Matt Harvey will be ready for the start of the season, and all indications are he will.

That leaves Dillon Gee. The Mets have been trying to trade him all winter, and most recently said they would take a minor leaguer. Gee could be in the rotation if Harvey isn’t ready, and barring a trade could possibly be optioned or used in long relief. Whatever happens, there is value to Gee.

For the first time in GM Sandy Alderson’s tenure, the bullpen isn’t a mess. Manager Terry Collins said Bobby Parnell is the closer, but he’s coming off elbow surgery and could miss the first month of the season. That means last year’s closer, Jenrry Mejia, will have the job again to start the season.

However, don’t expect anybody that wasn’t in the pen last year top to bully his way into the pen.

There is no position battle behind the plate with Travis d’Arnaud starting. The infield, from third to first, is set with David Wright, Wilmer Flores, Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda. So is the outfield, from left to right, of Curtis Granderson, Juan Lagares and Michael Cuddyer.

Sure, there will be decisions regarding the bench, although the likely candidates are already on the 40-man roster. There will also decisions regarding the batting order, notably the leadoff slot.

Sure, the Mets have questions as spring training approaches, but for the first time in a long time the eight position players have already been determined, as is the rotation and bullpen.

That gives them a sense of stability they haven’t always had and that’s a positive.

Feb 04

Mets Should Consider These Contract Extensions

History has shown us the best way, and most economical, is to build from within and complement your core with free-agent signings and trades.

The Mets have a young, but largely unproven core of talent outside of David Wright.

HARVEY: Mets should consider long-term if he's healthy.

HARVEY: Mets should consider long-term if he’s healthy.

I wrote the other day how the Mets should consider extending Lucas Duda if he duplicates last season’s production. He’s not the only one the Mets should go long-term on to avoid the arbitration years.

If these Mets prove to be healthy and have strong seasons, I would call the agents for Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler. We’ve seen glimpses of their potential and their value will only increase.

I might even include Jacob deGrom and Jenrry Mejia in that category.

I don’t think we’ve seen enough from Travis d’Arnaud, Juan Lagares or Wilmer Flores to make that call. As for Jon Niese, the Mets already went long-term with him and he failed to produce so he goes to the back of the line. That is, unless the Mets don’t trade him first.

I can’t even think to put Noah Syndergaard in this grouping until he at least pitches on this level.

This much we know, the Mets are not, and will not be a free-spending team any time soon. Signing any player to a multi-year contract entails some risk, but those named are the best young prospects the organization has to offer.

To be financially solvent it is important for all businesses, including sports franchises, to have cost certainty and that comes in the form of structured salaries.

These would be good gambles.

Jan 03

Safety Nets Could Be Gone For Collins In 2015

When the New York Mets extended Terry Collins the past few years, they did so with the reasoning of injuries and the inability of the front office to provide him with quality talent.

Collins shouldn’t expect those safety nets if the Mets sputter again this year.

Despite still having general manager Sandy Alderson having an aversion to spending, the Mets have been pointing to this summer because of the return of Matt Harvey.

The thinking in Flushing is a healthy Harvey will push the Mets over .500 for the first time since 2008 when they finished 89-73. Since then, ten teams qualified for the playoffs with at least that record.

In addition to Harvey’s return from elbow surgery, the Mets have issues with Curtis Granderson’s return into a potent offensive force, David Wright coming back from injuries, and their concerns with Juan Lagares and Wilmer Flores becoming full-time players.

There are also questions in the rotation and bullpen, and behind the plate. Those are all important questions, but the Mets don’t seem inclined to throw money at them.

That squarely puts the onus on Collins.

Jan 02

Answers Mets Hope To Get This Season

The New York Mets have more than a few questions that could be answered after this season. How they are will determine the progress of their rebuilding phase, or if they have to start over again.

If these issues are addressed in the positive, next winter could be especially brutal. Sandy Alderson could survive, but it’s doubtful Terry Collins would be extended again.

Here are the players under the most scrutiny:

Matt Harvey: Any pitcher coming off elbow surgery is a concern, but we’re talking about the club’s marquee arm, one whom they are basing their future. If he proves healthy and has a good season, the Mets could entertain thoughts about signing him to a long-term contract to bypass his arbitration years. If he’s not healthy or is re-injured, how can the Mets go into next off-season assuming he’ll come back strong in 2016? Answer: They can’t.

WHEELER: Facing a big year. (AP)

WHEELER: Facing a big year. (AP)

Zack Wheeler: The Mets resisted trade overtures for him in the belief he’ll blossom into a star. That could happen if he learns to improve his control and reduce his pitch count. That would be the next step in his development. If this is a lackluster season and Noah Syndergaard shows something, they might listen, especially if they don’t fill their offensive holes or still have a question at shortstop.

Jon Niese: Often injured and ineffective, teams no longer clamor for him. If he halfway lives up to expectations perhaps that might enhance his trade value and it will be easier to move him. They might be able to do that at the trade deadline if he has a strong first half. If Niese is a bust this season, the Mets will be looking for another left-hander next winter.

Juan Lagares: He’s the Mets’ centerfielder based on a limited window last year. He needs to improve his on-base percentage if he’s to become their leadoff hitter. If he doesn’t make strides in that direction, the Mets could again be looking at a centerfielder and leadoff hitter. Ideally, they would like to fill both voids with the same player. They have a chance to do that with Lagares.

Curtis Granderson: Twenty homers won’t cut it. Another mediocre season will have the Mets looking again and staring at another non-productive long-term contract. Since the Mets aren’t prone to eat lousy contracts, there could be two more years of heavy strikeouts.

David Wright: He hasn’t hit over 25 homers or driven in at least 100 runs since 2010. For the most part, attribute injuries. If he’s healthy and produces mediocre-to-poor numbers, there will be even more grumbling about his contract. I’ve written Wright is the Mets’ most pressing question, even more than Harvey. A bounce-back season will answer a lot of questions.

Wilmer Flores: He enters spring training with the inside track at shortstop. The Mets eschewed several more expensive options the past two years in the hope Flores would answer this question on the cheap. If he doesn’t pan out this year, they just might be forced to pay in the free-agent market or deal one of their young pitchers.