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.

Oct 11

2013 Season Review: Daniel Murphy

MLB: New York Mets at Philadelphia Phillies

DANIEL MURPHY, 2B

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS

As often has been the case with Daniel Murphy, expectations were moderate at best. If given the chance, the Mets would have replaced him, but with more pressing needs they spent their limited resources elsewhere so Murphy remained in the lineup. After several years of searching for a position, Murphy finally settled in at second base and has improved defensively. As a .290 lifetime hitter with limited power, Murphy was expected to get on base and be a table setter as opposed to being a run producer. Murphy’s lifetime 162-game average is .290 with ten homers, 70 RBI and a .333 on-base percentage. However, for his reputation for being a contact hitter, Murphy has averaged 81 strikeouts with just 38 walks, which isn’t a good ratio. One thing the Mets could expect from Murphy is durability, as he played in 156 games with 571 at-bats in 2012.

2013 SEASON REVIEW

Murphy played in 161 games and settled in as the No. 2 hitter with 113 games started batting second. However, he started games batting first through six, plus ninth in the order. With injuries throughout the lineup, Murphy was a consistent presence. Murphy posted career highs in at-bats (658), hits (188), runs scored (92), homers (13), RBI (78), total bases (273) and stolen bases (23). A strong case can be made for him being the Mets’ MVP. However, Murphy also struck out a career-high 95 times while drawing only 32 walks. For his reputation as being a patient hitter, Murphy only had a .319 on-base percentage. Murphy proved reliable in the clutch with a .354 average with runners in scoring position and two outs; .305 with the game tied; and .297 with the Mets within one run.

LOOKING AT 2014

John Delcos Says:

General manager Sandy Alderson, in listing the Mets’ offseason priorities, said he could live with Murphy at second base. With Murphy’s propensity for delivering in the clutch, if the Mets can’t add a power bat, they might go with Juan Lagares hitting second and drop Murphy to the middle of the order where he would be in more RBI situations. Murphy will never be mistaken for Roberto Alomar defensively, but is gradually improving, especially in turning the double play. With Murphy coming off his most productive season, he’ll go into spring training for the first time as an established player, and not fighting for a spot in the lineup. Conventional thinking dictates, as a player gets older and stronger, and more familiar with the pitchers, he should hit for more power. Murphy is a doubles machine – ideal for Citi Field – but it isn’t expected he’ll be a 20-homer hitter.

Joe D. Says:

As Ed Leyro recently wrote, Daniel Murphy had one of the greatest seasons ever recorded by a Mets second baseman in 2013.  He finished the year with a .286 batting average, 38 doubles, 13 homers, 78 RBI, 92 runs scored and 23 stolen bases.  Prior to Murphy, the only second basemen in franchise history to reach double digits in both home runs and RBI in the same season were Gregg Jefferies and Roberto Alomar.  But neither player matched Murphy’s totals in batting average, runs scored, runs batted in and stolen bases.  In fact, the only two players in team history who had better numbers than Murphy in all six offensive categories (batting average, doubles, home runs, RBI, runs scored, stolen bases), regardless of their defensive position, were Howard Johnson in 1989 (.287 average, 41 doubles, 36 HR, 101 RBI, 104 runs scored, 41 SB) and David Wright in 2007 (.325 average, 42 doubles, 30 HR, 107 RBI, 113 runs scored, 34 SB).

In a season that saw the 28-year old finish in the National League’s top ten in base hits, doubles, runs scored and even stolen bases, you would think Murphy’s job security with the Mets would be a slam dunk. However, given the pattern of this front office to sell high on any player who performs above major league replacement level, Murphy’s hold on second base is anything but certain. His name is often brought up as a potential trade chip this offseason by the mother ship, MetsBlog. That scares me.

Can you imagine how much worse this underwhelming offense would be without Murphy? They’ve already got their hands full trying to replace the 37 home runs from Marlon Byrd and John Buck, and if Murphy goes that will be 200+ RBIs the Mets will have to account for. In my opinion, any trade for Murphy will most likely create another gaping hole in the lineup and at best would be a lateral move that could possibly backfire. At some point we have to break this current cycle of shedding quality major leaguers not named David Wright for untested minor leaguers.

Oct 06

Mets Have Little To Offer In Trade Market

The New York Mets say they will spend on free agents this winter, in large part because they have little to offer up in the trade market.

Really, their only chance to immediately improve is to write checks.

What losing Matt Harvey for the 2014 season also does, is it greatly reduces the Mets’ inability to execute trades. In the wake of Harvey’s injury, general manager Sandy Alderson said he would be reluctant to deal Rafael Montero, Noah Syndergaard or any of the Mets’ other young pitching this winter to acquire the power hitter they are seeking.

Alderson said he has three starters heading into spring training – Jon Niese, Dillon Gee and Zack Wheeler – so none of them are available to deal. And, with Jenrry Mejia recovering from elbow surgery, there’s an even greater need to hold onto their pitching.

There’s nothing on the minor league level regarding position players that are major-league ready. If there’s nobody whom the Mets can bring up, that also means there’s nothing they can trade to a team that wants to add to the major league level.

On the major league level, the Mets have one star player capable of bringing something in return and that’s David Wright, assuming, of course, they could get anybody to bite on that contract.

There’s Daniel Murphy, but he won’t bring back anything in the way of an impact player or pitcher. Eric Young is a role player, while Juan Lagares and Travis d’Arnaud are major league prospects, but if they are traded that merely creates more holes for the Mets.

What about Ike Davis and/or Lucas Duda? The Mets would like to get something for either, and don’t think for a second they haven’t been trying. Whenever Alderson is on the phone with another general manager, before he hangs up he’ll ask, “Any interest in Davis?  How about Duda?’’

When Alderson talks about the need to increase the Mets’ depth on the minor league level, he means more than just with their pitching prospects. To reach contending status, a team must have a strong farm system to not only bring up players, but also trade them to fill holes.

That’s something the Yankees, Red Sox and Braves have been doing for years. Alderson’s words aren’t ringing hollow. Improving depth in the farm system is essential if the Mets are to reach the next level. Buying players might help on a temporary basis, but it isn’t something they will be able to live on winter after winter.

 

Oct 05

Looking At Mets’ Free Agent Options For Position Players

Supposedly, with money to spend the New York Mets are scouring the free agent market to ascertain options to address their numerous issues and holes.

GM Sandy Alderson said adding to the rotation and bolstering the depth of the bullpen is a priority. Even so, Alderson has a multitude of other issues to address, with only two positions – David Wright at third base and Daniel Murphy at second – seemingly secure.

BELTRAN: An encore?

BELTRAN: An encore?

There’s a question nearly every where else:

CATCHER: Travis d’Arnaud goes into spring training the starter despite a small window of performance. Anthony Recker proved more than a capable back up behind John Buck. However, d’Arnaud and Recker together is a young combination, and a veteran back up is likely to be signed.

Free-agent catching market: The best catcher on the market is Atlanta’s Brian McCann, but that will never happen. The way McCann calls a game and his leadership capabilities would be ideal for a young staff, but that’s a dream. The Braves are built on pitching and would be foolish to let McCann go. … John Buck will be on the market, and I wonder if the Mets will attempt to bring him back. They could do far worse. … Jose Molina, Dioner Navarro, Miguel Olive are available, but neither stands out. … A.J. Pierzynski and Jarrod Saltalamacchia will be on the market, but both will want to start.

FIRST BASE: The Mets haven’t decided between Ike Davis and Lucas Duda, although speculation is they’ll choose the latter and attempt to deal Davis. Duda has shown a better plate presence than Davis when it comes to working the count and having a higher on-base percentage. However, the Mets remain seduced by Davis’ power potential and have not forgotten his 32 homers in 2012. Given they have two options, it’s unlikely they’ll sign a free agent unless they work deals for both.

Free agent first base market: The guy I am most interested in is Justin Morneau. He’s healthy and his line-drive style would be ideal for Citi Field. However, he might cost too much, but if the Mets clear the roster by dealing Davis and Duda, it might be worth it to give him a call. … Mike Napoli would also be expensive. … Mark Reynolds would provide power, but if the Mets are trying to reduce their strikeouts, he’s not the best option. … In looking at the first base market, it is easy to understand Alderson’s comments on a thin selection.

SHORTSTOP: Ruben Tejada will get every chance to regain his position, but he’s recovering from a broken leg, so there’s no telling if he’ll be ready. Omar Quintanilla was more than capable off the bench and should be invited back. … I would have liked to see Wilmer Flores play shortstop. He did some in the minors, but there’s concern about his range.

Free agent shortstop market: Yunel Escobar is out there, but the Rays have an option. … Rafael Furcal and Stephen Drew would be an upgrade over Tejada. … With Derek Jeter rehabbing for the Yankees, the Mets will get competition in the market.

OUTFIELD:  The Mets like Juan Lagares and envision him in their 2014 outfield. They also like Matt den Dekker’s defense, but wonder about his offense. The Mets’ improvement coincided with the acquisition of Eric Young, who resolved their leadoff hole. Young’s speed is an asset, but some scouts don’t have him rated any higher than a fourth outfielder. The Mets say they want power in the corner outfield spots, but if they replace Young their leadoff dilemma will resurface.

Free agent outfield market: The marquee names are Shin-Soo Chin, whom I am cool on. He’ll want a lot and I don’t think he’s worth the dollars. … Jacoby Ellsbury could turn this into a productive offense, but he’ll cost a lot. … Nelson Cruz, who is coming off a PED suspension, could be had for less than expected. … There has been talk in the media about bringing back Carlos Beltran, who should go down as one the Mets’ most productive players. Mets fans never forgave him for taking that third strike against Adam Wainwright in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, but they easily forget what he gave them over the long haul. Two years plus an option might get him back. … Also expensive, but somebody who could give the Mets the power they seek is Curtis Granderson, who made $13 million this season with the Yankees. … Another option who could be pricey, but is the kind of player the Mets should consider is Hunter Pence. … Nate McLouth, whom the Mets considered at one time, will be on the market.

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