Jan 02

Mets’ Top Questions Heading Into Spring Training

With the forecast for up to ten inches tonight and temperatures possibly getting down to five degrees, what better time to think about the New York Mets, if for no other reason, to wonder about spring training?

QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS

QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS

Let’s face it, neither one of New York’s basketball teams is worth thinking or talking about. Those seasons are all but over.

But, spring training? The thought of Florida, and the drive from the airport in West Palm to Port St. Lucie gets the juices flowing.

The Mets say they aren’t finished this winter, but it appears they’ve completed their heavy lifting. Here’s what I consider the top half-dozen issues facing the Mets:

1) Who will be the fifth starter?

A: As of now Jenrry Mejia seems to have the inside track after undergoing elbow surgery. Mejia pitched well at times last season, but the organization suggested his ultimate role is to be determined. Despite the presence of Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard in the minor leagues, neither promotion is imminent and the Mets will need a fifth to round out the rotation. If he’s physically ready, Mejia needs the ball. Who knows, he could even prove be a valuable trade chip.

2) Who plays first base?

A: At this rate, Ike Davis will be on the spring training roster. Milwaukee is supposedly their best trading partner, but the Brewers don’t appear in any rush to deal. Perhaps, they are waiting for the Mets’ asking price to fall. Perhaps, they are waiting for the Mets to release him outright. That might not happen as the Mets could be thinking of the July 31 trade deadline. The Mets appear to favor Lucas Duda at first base, and keeping Davis around could prove a distraction. If Davis isn’t going to play, do everybody a favor and let him go.

3) Will Bobby Parnell be the closer?

A: The Mets say they don’t know if Parnell, who is recovering neck surgery, will be ready. If not, Vic Black will get the ball in the ninth inning. Slowly, the Mets have added pieces to their bullpen. There’s always an arm or two that will emerge in spring training. The Mets recently added Ryan Reid, 28, from Pittsburgh. Reid throws in the low 90s and last year was 7-2 with a 2.73 ERA and 1.197 WHIP with Triple A Indianapolis. There could be room for him.

4) What is to become of Travis d’Arnaud?

A: He goes in as the starter, but he didn’t hit enough in his opportunity to warrant the job. Manager Terry Collins said he has faith in Anthony Recker as a reserve, but held back on expressing confidence as a starter. The Mets are more likely to grab a veteran catcher off the waiver wire in spring training rather than make a deal.

5) Who is the leadoff hitter?

A: That remains open, but Eric Young could retain his role if he starts in left field. It is apparent the Mets won’t trade Daniel Murphy and move Young to second base. This could change if Juan Lagares has a strong spring training at leadoff. The Mets have made no promises regarding Lagares, but this much should be obvious: Lagares is better off getting at-bats and playing time in the minor leagues rather than sitting the bench in the majors. To say Lagares has proven all he can in the minors is erroneous thinking. Lagares is far from a being a proven major league hitter, especially considering his propensity for striking out.

6) How much patience will the Mets give Ruben Tejada?

A: There’s nothing imminent in the trade market for shortstop and signing Stephen Drew wouldn’t be a good move. Let’s face it, the Mets aren’t close enough to contender status to warrant signing the veteran the Red Sox didn’t bring back.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Dec 30

Mets Still In It For Stephen Drew, But Why?

The New York Mets reportedly still have interest in free agent shortstop Stephen Drew, which is puzzling. If the Mets are to be consistent with their previous spending policies, they should pass on Drew and move on with Ruben Tejada.

The Mets backed off on outfielder Michael Bourn last winter as to not give up a compensatory draft pick. As it turned out, the Mets made a good decision, one that enabled them to get a look at Juan Lagares.

DREW: Should pass.

DREW: Should pass.

Not only would Mets have to give up a pick for Drew, they’d also have to start the package at $14.1 million. This would be one big E-6.

This for a 30-year-old shortstop who hit .253 with a .333 on-base percentage, 14 homers and 67 RBI last year for Boston. Yes, Drew played a solid shortstop, but for where the Mets are, for what they are attempting to do fiscally, and for their rebuilding blueprint, he does not make sense.

None.

Nobody knows what the Mets will get from Tejada, but he’s worth another look, especially for a team whose timetable to compete remains a year down the road.

Giving Tejada another year is a better, less-taxing option than to get hooked into Drew for at least three-years, which is what agent Scott Boras most assuredly will be seeking.

There are no guarantees with or without Tejada, or Drew, as to their performance, but from a building prospect, the Mets still have needs, some of them pressing and likely costly, that will be better addressed than adding Drew.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Dec 16

Issues Terry Collins Will Address In Spring Training

New York Mets manager Terry Collins has a lot on his plate these days in preparation for spring training. There are still pieces to add, but that’s GM Sandy Alderson’s job, not Collins.

COLLINS: Issues to address.

COLLINS: Issues to address.

Collins doesn’t appear to be a manager who flies by the seat of his pants. He’s likely to have a plan of players and issues he will need to address, assuming the roster doesn’t change between now and the middle of February.

Ike Davis: With Davis’ name in the news constantly regarding a possible trade, what if it doesn’t happen? If Davis is still on the roster, Collins will have to work out a plan on how to use him and how to keep him in the clubhouse circles. It will be difficult for Collins to juggle the responsibilities of managing a team and handling personalities.

Daniel Murphy: Like Davis, Murphy’s name has also been mentioned in trade talks. Usually managers won’t discuss an impending trade, but if the trade doesn’t materialize he has to keep motivating that player. Also, he needs to know how to answer the inevitable question: Will I be traded?

Ruben Tejada: Collins said at the Winter Meetings he still has faith in Tejada as his shortstop. How will he convey that, especially after the Mets made a run at Jhonny Peralta and reportedly are still in the market?

Eric Young: After going through nine leadoff hitters last season, Young won the job. Now, it appears he has lost it. Collins must formulate a plan on how he will deal with Young and keep him motivated and interested.

Wilmer Flores: This is a man without a position. If Flores makes the team, Collins must define to him a role and where he fits in.

Juan Lagares: This is a guy who needs to hit if he’s to play, and he’ll have to play to stay. Lagares strikes out way to much for his limited playing time, and Collins must impress on him the importance of pitch selection and plate patience for his development. This means potentially sacrificing results in spring training in favor of improving his plate approach.

Chris Young: Collins said he’s the Met he believes the most poised to be a surprise. What is expected of him? There can be no guessing of roles.

Travis d’Arnaud: Collins said d’Arnaud’s plate approach must improve. He’s simply not a major league hitter. If there’s a chance d’Arnaud will be sent down, it must be impressed on him it isn’t permanent and he still fits into the Mets’ plans. The last thing Collins wants to do is destroy his confidence.

Zack Wheeler: Collins said if there’s to be an innings limit on Wheeler, it will be something that would happen during the season and he won’t go into the year on the limit. Collins also knows everybody is different and the leap Matt Harvey made last year might not happen for Wheeler. Everybody’s definition of progress is also different and Collins will need to tell Wheeler what is expected.

Accountability: Last year left the impression there wasn’t accountability among some players, notably Jordany Valdespin and the length of time to send Davis to the majors. If the Mets are to make the next step the players must know they are accountable.

Plate approach: Collectively, the Mets struck out too many times and didn’t walk enough. The Mets’ offensive “gameplan’’ has to be addressed of what is acceptable and what is not. Lucas Duda took way too much heat for working the count and not driving in runs. The run production will eventually come. For any player who waits out the pitcher, he must be told it isn’t a crime.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Dec 13

Mets Have Hole At Top Of Order; Juan Lagares No Sure Thing To Stick

The way things currently stand, the New York Mets don’t have a leadoff hitter. The tried nine last season before settling on Eric Young.

The signing of Curtis Granderson sends Young to the bench, that is, unless the Mets trade Daniel Murphy and move Young to second base. However, the Mets are asking a lot for Murphy, so there’s nothing imminent there.

 

LAGARES: Needs to hit to stay.

LAGARES: Needs to hit to stay.

Chris Young has the speed, but strikes out too much to be a consistent leadoff hitter. Juan Lagares also has speed, but also strikes out too much with a 96-20 strikeouts-to-walks ratio in 392 plate appearances. The Mets would want somebody with better than a .281 on-base percentage at the top of the order.

We talked last year about Murph maybe leading off, but I haven’t gone there,’’ manager Terry Collins said.  “I know Chris Young led off some in Arizona.  But until, again, I see what the pieces are in the clubhouse, I don’t have to write a lineup until the end of February.’’

An intriguing possibility is Ruben Tejada, that is, if he plays the way he did two seasons ago.

“If Rueben Tejada does what we know he can do, he could be that guy because he gets on base,’’ Collins said.  “He gives you great at?bats and gets on base.’’

If not Tejada, Eric Young could resurface if Lagares doesn’t pan out, which is a distinct possibility. Lagares was impressive in center field, but his offense is lacking. There has been some thought of him in a platoon role, which would be a mistake.

If Lagares is on the 25-man roster leaving spring training, he needs to play. Playing off the bench is counterproductive to his development. But, if he plays, he needs to hit. What he gave the Mets last season at the plate won’t cut it.

“I don’t know what it will be.  I don’t know that you can put a number to it,’’ Collins said of Lagares’ offensive potential.  “He’s a guy defensively.  But in order for us to have the success we want, everybody’s got to hit.’’

Quite simply, the Mets aren’t good enough offensively to carry Lagares. He hits, he plays. If not, he should open the season in the minor leagues.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Dec 10

David Wright Likes Curtis Granderson Signing On Many Levels

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Where Curtis Granderson will fit in with the New York Mets outfield is still to be determined, David Wright has no doubt he does fit with his team.

Granderson is penciled in to hit fourth behind Wright, giving him the protection he hasn’t had since Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado were here. Manager Terry Collins doesn’t know which of the three outfield positions Granderson will play, but Wright said wherever he plays, he provides an immediate upgrade.

WRIGHT: Likes Granderson signing on many levels.

WRIGHT: Likes Granderson signing on many levels.

“Curtis instantly makes us a better team both offensively and defensively,’’ Wright said in an email.

Offensively, Granderson hit 40 homers with the Yankees, but even with Citi Field’s spacious dimensions, he should be good for at least 25.

Defensively, he’s a natural centerfielder. Collins hasn’t decided his outfield rotation, but speculation is it will be – from left to right – Granderson, Juan Lagares and Chris Young.

Collins said Granderson should also take pressure off Wright in the batting order.

“I think, number one, they’ve got Curtis hitting behind him now, they’ve got to make a decision,’’ Collins said of opposing pitcher’s plans against the Mets.

“David’s patient enough to take the base on balls, especially if he knows the guy can bat behind him,” Collins said. “He’ll get better pitches to hit each at-bat.  And if David gets pitches to hit, he does damage.’’

Granderson is GM Sandy Alderson’s highest-profile free agent signing, but if things work out as hoped, Wright said it would not be his last. If the Mets get better, other players will notice.

“I think it paves the way for other elite players to want to play for us,’’ wrote Wright, whom Granderson said was influential in him signing with the Mets.

From his perspective, Granderson said one of the reasons he wanted four years was to be around when the Mets’ building plan reached fruition, and that includes signing future free agents.

While Granderson provides Wright protection in the order, he’ll also give him a respite in the clubhouse. Even prior to his appointment to team captain last season, Wright was the clubhouse voice, commenting on an array of issues, ranging from Willie Randolph’s firing in 2008 to the Wilpon’s financial situation to Ike Davis’ plate troubles to Jordany Valdespin’s emotional meltdowns.

Quite simply, he has been the go-to guy for all issues on the Mets.

By all accounts, Granderson will be a positive presence, and Wright echoed what Alderson said earlier today.

“He’s a true professional and great guy to have in the clubhouse,’’ wrote Wright. “He has a confidence about him that I think will rub off on other players.’’

ON DECK: Wrapping up day two of the Winter Meetings.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos