Nov 19

Mets In Tenuous Building Position

With the New York Mets’ timetable for being competitive 2015 because of Matt Harvey, just how much should that impact the contract length of any free agent they might sign?

Will they look at that player being here well beyond 2015, or should they simply go two or three years, as has been suggested with somebody like Curtis Granderson?

What’s the point of having Granderson for just one season with Harvey?

Reportedly, the Mets currently are balking at anything longer than three years, which along with the dollar amount is why they aren’t in it for Shin-Soo Choo.

Choo has a decent production track record, but nothing that warrants four years and over $100 million. From any team.

Frankly, there aren’t many players if any that a team could build around. Arguably, the players with the greatest probability of being productive in four-plus years is Jacoby Ellsbury and Robinson Cano, neither whom the Mets will consider because of price.

On a side note, it is laughable to hear Cano is still parked at $310 million over ten years. He’s worth half that, both in years and money, but that’s something that won’t concern the Mets.

The best way to acquire a young talent to build around is through the trade market, which is what teams are attempting to do with the Mets regarding their young pitching.

Who knows how Zack Wheeler, Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard will develop? But, unless the Mets can get back several highly touted position players in return, there’s no point in dealing. Trading them for a present-day position player not considered a top prospect is foolish.

Conversely, the Mets have little in their farm system outside of pitching that would pique the interest of a team. Whom they are peddling now – Ike Davis, Lucas Duda and possibly Daniel Murphy – are more suited to go in a package rather than be a trade centerpiece. Ditto for Ruben Tejada and Eric Young.

Mets’ throw-ins because of their dwindling value are Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Wilmer Flores. Both have shown nothing that would prompt they are building blocks. The position players that are the most attractive are the ones the Mets want to keep, namely Travis d’Arnaud and Juan Lagares.

The Mets aren’t willing to shop in the expensive aisle; they have precious little trade pieces on both the minor and major league levels; and they aren’t willing to deal their best young talent.

Honestly, I don’t believe 2015 will be the magic winter because not much is likely to change by then.

LATER TODAY:  Moving Eric Young to second base not a good idea.

Nov 05

Only One Player Given Qualifying Offer Interests Mets, Who Should Be Wary Of Shin-Soo Choo

Early speculation of whom the New York Mets might consider in the free-agent market could turn out to be pricey as 13 free agents received qualifying offers from their respective teams. Not surprisingly, no Met free agent was given a qualifying offer, but three Yankees – Robinson CanoHiroki Kuroda and Curtis Granderson – were given the $14.1 million offer.

CHOO: Mets Should Be Cautious.

CHOO: Mets Should Be Cautious.

That figure was derived at averaging the top 125 salaries from 2013, and each player offered that amount regardless of his salary last season.

The list includes Carlos Beltran, Cano, Shin-Soo Choo, Nelson Cruz, Stephen Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, Granderson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Kuroda, Brian McCann, Kendrys Morales, Mike Napoli and Ervin Santana.

Numerous media outlets at one time had linked Beltran, Choo, Cruz, Drew, Ellsbury, Granderson and Napoli to the Mets, but only in speculative terms.

The players have until 5 p.m., next Monday to accept the qualifying offer, and if they do will have agreed to a one-year, $14.1 million contract. If the player rejects the offer his former team will be awarded either a first or second-round draft pick as compensation.

The Mets’ first-round pick – tenth overall in the draft – is protected and determined on their 2013 record of 74-88, but general manager Sandy Alderson said losing a second-round pick would not be a deterrent.

You’ll recall the compensation issue is why the Mets did not go after outfielder Michael Bourn last season. Bourn eventually signed with Cleveland and the Mets eventually settled on minor leaguer Juan Lagares in center fielder.

Of the players on the list, the Mets appear to be the most serious about the 31-year-old Choo, but reportedly won’t go beyond four years. The Mets’ needs at shortstop and outfield had them thinking about Drew and Ellsbury, but $14.1 million would be too high for Drew, but palatable for Ellsbury.

However, in many cases with qualifying offers, the team signing them does so as a mechanism to buy negotiating time to work out a multi-year deal.

The Mets are expected to swim in the middle depths of the free-agent pool, which is what Boston did last year in building its championship team with the signings of Drew, Napoli and Shane Victorino.

Choo fits into that category, but he’s not one to build around. He has averaged 20 homers and 81 RBI during his nine-year career with Seattle, Cleveland and Cincinnati. However, those are hitters parks and he was surrounded by better line-ups than what he’d have with the Mets in Citi Field.

Choo hit .285 last year – 24 points below his career-high of .309 in 2009, but drew 112 walks in compiling a .423 on-base percentage, his most important statistic.

If signed, Choo would slot into center leading to a competition in right between Juan Lagares and Matt den Dekker.

Red flags for Choo are 133 strikeouts and only 54 RBI for his 21 homers (conceding he hit at the top of the order). He averages 146 strikeouts a season during his career, something the Mets have had far too much of those. Frankly, his production doesn’t warrant the strikeouts.

Choo made $7.3 million last year from the Reds, and during his career earned a total of $17.5 million, so the qualifying offer represents a huge raise for him. However, the market doesn’t work where the Mets can make a take-it-or-leave it offer. Especially, with his agent being Scott Boras, known to not leave money on the table. It is highly likely the qualifying offer will be rejected and Choo will enter the market.

Considering he has played in 150 games only four times during his career, his career .288 average doesn’t seem like much to warrant giving four years. If I am giving four years on a player with a qualifying offer, I’d overpay for Ellsbury and know I would be getting a star. I would also rather bring back Beltran for a couple of seasons.

The most I’d give Choo is two years for $28.2 million (two years of the qualifying offer) plus an option. Anything more would be excessive considering the Mets’ other needs.

 

Nov 03

Wilpon’s Comments About Core Reveals Mets Have Little To Trade

New York Mets COO Jeff Wilpon has subsequently modified his statement about his team having only four core players, later adding Daniel Murphy, Travis d’Arnaud and Bobby Parnell.

It’s not a substantial increase, but highly revealing in two main aspects.

First, it highlights the areas where the Mets are weak and need building. That would be two starters, bullpen depth, first base, shortstop and the outfield. By my count, that’s 18 players.

WILPON: Revealing comments.

WILPON: Revealing comments.

Of course, the Mets won’t be able to turn over their roster by that much, but there will undoubtedly be significant changes.

Realistically, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Aaron Harang will be gone, and with a reluctance to tap into their minor league system for starters until at least June and Jenrry Mejia not certain to be ready, that’s a high priority for Sandy Alderson.

Parnell isn’t a given for spring training, leaving the entire bullpen to reconstruct. Vic Black could move into the closer role, but most everything else is to be defined. Jeurys Familia, Gonzalez Germen, Carlos Torres and Scott Rice should be a part of things, but there are injury and experience considerations. If all are counted, that still leaves at least two spots.

Eric Young and Juan Lagares could be two of the three outfielders, but that leaves right field open and numerous questions are circulating about the production the Mets could get from them.

Thoughts of moving Young to second base and possibly Murphy to first are premature, because the Mets envision more power at first than Murphy could provide. Young definitely won’t supplant Murphy and send the latter to the bench as it would delete the Mets’ overall most productive hitter from the line-up.

And, please, Murphy is not a centerpiece to a trade, he is a complementary part.

That gives us the second revealing aspect of Wilpon’s comments about the Mets’ core. If there’s little there, and whether you’re talking the original four players or the updated seven, it’s not significant. That means there’s also little to trade, so if you’re thinking the Mets will go into the general manager meetings and later the winter meetings with a lot of chips, you’re sadly mistaken.

What the Mets have, they want to keep. Outside their core, all they have are pieces of a package. With the injuries to Matt Harvey and Mejia, the Mets want to hold onto their young pitching prospects – defined as Rafael Montero, Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom – because they’ll likely need them later.

So, whatever improvements the Mets make this winter will be cash deals.

 

Oct 14

Mets Have Few Spots Without Questions

Let’s assume for a moment the New York Mets’ health questions – outside from Matt Harvey – are answered in the positive heading into spring training. If that’s the case, then let’s look what issues the Mets’ don’t qualify as pressing.

They don’t have a lot.

As I see it, they are only three deep in their rotation with Dillon Gee, Jon Niese and Zack Wheeler. All have performance questions, but if healthy I’m not overly concerned.

Gee won 12 games last year and 15 should not be out of the question. The same goes for Niese. Who among us doesn’t expect Wheeler to pitch the way Harvey did before he was injured?

Who wouldn’t take that now?

As far as the position players are concerned, the Mets are set in just two spots, and possibly a third. David Wright, of course, and can we please stop trying to replace Daniel Murphy when there are other concerns?

I have no problem with Murphy at second base, and for that matter, I’m also fine with Eric Young in left field, primarily because he surfaced above nine other options to be a productive leadoff hitter. Yes, a high on-base percentage would be good to see, but he made things happen at the top of the order and lead the National League in stolen bases.

And, don’t forget, the Mets only had him for half a season.

The expectations are high for Juan Lagares in center, but he has too many offensive issues. The same goes for Matt den Dekker. Translation: The outfield remains a mess.

There are no answers in the minor leagues and little chips to use to trade. That means they will have to spend, but is there anybody out there that makes you salivate?

I wrote optimistically the other day about the bullpen, but that’s if everything comes together. They appear to have plenty of options to build around, but nothing concrete, especially considering Bobby Parnell’s injury. Should Parnell not come back that’s a source for serious worry.

The back end of the rotation is a concern just as it was last year before Jeremy Hefner and Gee started pitching well. They have options they could bring back and others in the minors, but there’s too much uncertainty.

First base is a black hole and catcher Travis d’Arnaud hasn’t proven he can hit, although the pitchers appear to like him and his defense is promising.

The Mets as we know them today will not be your team come Opening Day. And, that’s a positive.

Oct 12

Appreciating Carlos Beltran; Wondering About Return To The Mets

There are a lot of people who tell me if the New York Mets aren’t in the playoffs, and if there’s no arch enemy such as the Yankees to root against, they don’t bother watching the playoffs.

Too bad, because they missed a classic Friday night, and another example of Carlos Beltran’s post-season excellence to marvel over.

BELTRAN: I would take him back. (AP)

BELTRAN: I would take him back. (AP)

Beltran will be a free agent this winter, and because the man can still play and one must wonder if the Mets will make a run at him.

You do remember, that rather than pick up his $18.5-million option, the at-the-time rebuilding Mets chose to trade him to the Giants for Zack Wheeler.

I understood what the Mets were doing at the time, but even so I always appreciated Beltran, who is arguably one of the top five position players in franchise history.

I don’t know if Beltran is a Hall of Famer, but he’s a very good regular season player and an off-the-charts October performer.

Beltran drove in all three Cardinals’ runs and threw out a runner at the plate in a scintillating 3-2 victory over the Dodgers.

Add them up now and Beltran is hitting .345 with 16 home runs, 12 doubles and 34 RBI in 40 career postseason games. He also has 42 runs scored and 11 stolen bases. He’s played in October with the Astros, Mets and Cardinals, but has never played in the World Series. He is, however, an eight-tim All-Star.

“It’s just fun to watch him do his thing,’’ Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said last night.

A lot of Mets’ fans don’t want to hear that as they are instead they are caught up on one pitch Beltran took for a called third strike to end Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS.

Hopefully, Mets’ COO Jeff Wilpon was able to convey that to Beltran, along with the organization’s apologies for how his tenure in Flushing ended. You’ll remember, with the competitive part of the 2009 season over, instead of Beltran having knee surgery they opted to bring him back to play in 19 meaningless September games and was eventually shut down.

Then, in the offseason there was a snit between him and the organization – when Omar Minaya was still general manager – over knee surgery and Beltran had it on his own.

Beltran, as the team player he is, had no problem moving to right field for first year manager Terry Collins. Then came the trade for Wheeler and again the remembrances of the called third strike he took from Adam Wainwright.

That was a monster pitch that froze Beltran. It would have frozen Ted Williams. It would have frozen Babe Ruth. It was that good a pitch.

Instead of appreciating what Beltran gave the Mets during his tenure. Instead of acknowledging how he played hurt for the Mets, including with a broken face after his horrific collision with Mike Cameron, a great many Mets’ fans failed to recognize what they had.

Beltran, a free agent this winter, said he’d be open to a return to the Mets. I’d love for him to finish out his career here, where he’d take the pressure off David Wright and would be a tremendous influence to the Mets’ young outfielders in Juan Lagares and Matt den Dekker.

Then, when 2015 rolls around with Matt Harvey’s expected return, we might enjoy seeing Beltran in another Mets’ October.