Jul 13

Today in Mets’ History: Fire sale begins with K-Rod. Vote in poll.

There were always assumptions made of this season, and early today one became reality in a positive stroke for the Mets.

The Mets traded reliever Francisco Rodriguez and $5 million in cash to the Milwaukee Brewers for two players to be named later. Never mind the two players, the Mets won because they got out from under Rodriguez’s daunting $17.5 million vesting option.

RODRIGUEZ: We don't hate to see you go.

The Mets’ press release was timed at 12:25 a.m., so on this date in club history the fire sale began. And, make no mistake, there will be a sale regardless of how well the team has played, but we knew that all along.

Carlos Beltran, who said at the All-Star Game he would accept a deal, is on deck.

“This trade allows us to develop and more fully utilize other members of our 2011 bullpen and offers some payroll relief as well,’’ GM Sandy Alderson said of shedding Rodriguez.

Rodriguez’s option kicks in if he finishes 55 games, which would have been a certainty at the rate he was going. That’s something the financially struggling Mets desperately needed to avoid as they deliberate what to do with Jose Reyes.

Let’s face it, as well as the Mets played in the first half, they face too steep a hill to reach the playoffs as a wild card, much less win the division. They trail Philly by 11 games and wild-card leader Atlanta by 7.5, but have four teams to leapfrog to reach the Braves.

Of all the players the Mets reportedly were seeking to deal, Rodriguez was the priority because of his option. That priority became more acute after Rodriguez dumped his agent and hired Scott Boras.

Rodriguez was to be paid $11.5 million this season, and considering the $5 million they are kicking in, the Mets will pay all but $750,000 due him.

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Jul 06

Saying no to K-Rod.

Francisco Rodriguez, knowing how the game is played from the business side, is willing to accept a trade to a contender and work as a set-up reliever. He would waive the $17.5 million option that is to kick in after finishing 55 games this year for a contract extension.

Evidently, the same offer would apply to the Mets if they were to extend him by say, three years.

Of course, the Mets will need a closer after this season and there’s no guarantee Bobby Parnell will take to the role. Even so, as good as Rodriguez has been this year, I’m not willing to gamble with him, even at 29,

He’s pitching well, but to me too much of that is pitching for a new contract – or the option. He’s been a model citizen after last year, but three years is excessive. He still has the volatile motion that could make him vulnerable to injury and losing something off his fastball.

Yes, he’s pitching well, but if the Mets are lucky enough to escape his contract at the trade deadline, they’d be foolish to hang on to him. If they can run away from this, they should.

Feb 17

Fred declares innocence; K-Rod wants fresh start.

Yesterday it was Jeff Wilpon’s spin on the Mets’ legal issues. Today it was father Fred Wilpon.

WILPONS: Telling their side.

The message was basically the same:  They were duped, insists Fred Wilpon. The father said he invested millions with Bernie Madoff shortly before the Ponzi scheme unraveled. His argument does make sense: Why would he throw good money after bad if he knew Madoff was scamming him?

It’s a reasonable defense, but only the legal process will decide if it holds water. Both Wilpons said the payroll will be around $140 million, which is what it was last season. They also stressed GM Sandy Alderson wants more payroll flexibility, which is to say there will be no big signings or trades at the All-Star break. Contracts might go, but they won’t come.

With all that’s swirling around the Mets these days, it was good to see the Wilpons show up and not go into hiding. There’s nothing that screams guilt like hiding.

As for Francisco Rodriguez. He said all the right things about anger management, wanting to apologize to his teammates, and needing to turn his life and career around. For his part, manager Terry Collins said Rodriguez’s appearances to finish 55 games aren’t an issue and haven’t been discussed.

I know Rodriguez has to say those things, but who really knows what’s in his heart? Ditto for Collins.

The Mets can’t come out and say they will limit Rodriguez’s contract as it would raise ire with the Players Association and send a clear signal to the fans the team doesn’t want to compete.

It will be interesting to see what will happen if the Mets amazingly are competitive this season and are in the race deep into September. If there is a slight chance of making the playoffs, how can they limit Rodriguez.

Even so, smart money says the Mets will closely monitor Rodriguez to close save siutations. There will hold him back whenever they can to avoid the $17.5 million option from kicking in. This option is in his contract and makes him nearly impossible to trade, so don’t expect him leaving in July.

I know Carlos Beltran is going and the team doesn’t want to bring back Rodriguez. The Mets will do everything they can to unload Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo. None of that is surprising and shows their financial concerns.

To me, the one issue that dictates financial fear is Jose Reyes. If Reyes has a good year and they don’t bring him back it will raise the red flag. However, if Reyes has a poor season, it would be his third straight down year and they can’t be faulted for being conservative.

Jan 04

Mets’ individual goals for 2011

The beginning of the new year is always fresh with optimism and goal setting. Yesterdays don’t matter anymore and the focus is on today and tomorrow.

As an organization the Mets’ 2011 goals are to get through the season as competitively as possible, shed itself of its suffocating contracts and lay a foundation for 2012. The free-agent signings of Chris Capuano and Taylor Buchholz are low-risk, with the potential for high-rewards moves. The possibility of improving the bullpen and possibly the rotation at minimal cost are the type of decisions we’ve come to expect from Sandy Alderson. If they acquire Jeff Francis or Chris Young, it would be more of the same. These moves won’t push the Mets over the top, but they can make for an interesting summer — if the following goals are also reached.

The following Mets should have these resolutions and goals.

JOHAN SANTANA: Don’t push your return from shoulder surgery and accept the marquee days of your career could be over. Santana’s injury is serious and there’s no reasonable expectation he’ll return prior to the All-Star break. The competitor in him wants to pitch and there’s the danger of him pushing it. Santana has pitched with injury before, but he must be especially careful now, even if it means setting out the entire season. To re-injure his shoulder could mean the end of his career. And, with 2011 all but a write-off season, there should be no urgency on the part of the Mets, either.

MIKE PELFREY: Pelfrey made tremendous strides last year, but regressed in June. Hopefully, he has learned from it. During that swoon Pelfrey reverted to bad habits and lost his focus on the mound. Pelfrey went away from trusting his stuff and started aiming the ball. When all else fails, Pelfrey must realize if he keeps it low he has the stuff to overpower hitters. Above all, without Santana, I don’t want Pelfrey to put too much of a burden on himself with the expectations. Pelfrey is what he is, which is a good, developing pitcher. He’s not a No. 1 yet, so his goal should be not to put that pressure on himself.

RA DICKEY: Dickey’s goal should to duplicate 2010 as much as possible. It was a career year for him so a regression shouldn’t be a surprise. Dickey can no longer sneak up on teams, so how he responds with expectations will be interesting to see.

JON NIESE: Niese had a good start but growing pains eventually caught up with him and he slid from 6-2 to 9-10. Niese, obviously, isn’t a given and his goal needs to trust his stuff and try to make gradual improvement. There are expectations on Niese he’s never had before, made even heavier by the questions swirling around the rotation. Niese must learn to keep things simple and not over extend himself.

BOBBY PARNELL: Quite simply, his goal must be to harness his near 100 mph. fastball to where he can capture the set-up role, which is his for the taking. How well Parnell does in this role will go a long way toward moving him into the closer’s role for 2012 should Francisco Rodriguez fail to finish 55 games.

FRANCISCO RODRIGUEZ: K-Rod has to keep his temper and get off to a fast start. If he’s hot early and the Mets are in contention, he’ll get more save opportunities to increase his chances of that $17.5 million option kicking in. The Mets would prefer he fail short and instead go with the buyout. One of the most interesting storylines of the summer will be Rodriguez. If he’s good, so will be the Mets. If he’s not, the team will likely be sluggish, but facing a financial windfall for next winter.

JOSH THOLE: Thole will enter spring training as the No. 1 catcher, but can’t assume he’s got it made. He has good bat control, but needs to pick up that part of his game. His offensive goal should be to continue to be patient at the plate and take the ball where it is pitched. Thole will get stronger as he gets older, but shouldn’t be thinking about changing his offensive approach.

IKE DAVIS: Already strong, the home runs will continue to come for Davis, but he needs to be more disciplined at the plate for that to happen. Davis was frequently beaten on breaking ball low off the plate. That was his offensive Achilles Heel that threatens to curb his progress. Davis knows he’s good and has the potential, but he can’t take it for granted that it will automatically come for him.

JOSE REYES: Reyes lets things get to him and that presents the danger of pressing in his walk year. With the Mets acutely aware of their budget, a decision on Reyes could come as soon as the All-Star break. Reyes hasn’t been himself in two years because of injury and the fear is he’ll try to force things. With Reyes, that includes losing focus at the plate and giving away too many at-bats. Reyes’ best production came in the years immediately following his contract when he’s healthy. Considering the past two years there’s a concern about his health. Reyes’ primary goal outside of staying healthy is playing within himself.

DAVID WRIGHT: With the clubhouse chemistry in a state of flux in a transition year, Wright’s goal should be to assert himself more as a leader. This is his team and he needs to act like it. With a lot of young kids, and what could be going on in Reyes’ head, Wright needs to be more of a vocal, kick-butt presence. With a new management and manager, now is the time. A leader, however, needs to follow by example and there were way too many instances where Wright gave away too many at-bats and also lost focus in the field. Wright struck out 161 times last year, a number that should be reduced by at least 25 percent. Too often Wright was a rally killer and that has to stop, especially with the need for more offense considering the pitching questions.

CARLOS BELTRAN: So far, Beltran has said all the right things to impress the new regime. His goal should be to mean them. If Beltran stays healthy and produces he knows that could parlay into another rich contract. Only Beltran knows it won’t happen with the Mets. The Mets could have an interesting dilemma at the All-Star break. If Beltran is having a good year and has the Mets within wild-card contention, they might try to ride him during the second half. But, if he’s playing well and what’s offered is potentially better than compensatory draft picks, they’ll pull the trigger on a deal. Either way, it is safe to assume this is Beltran’s last year with the Mets. It’s up to him to make the most of it.

JASON BAY: Rarely are there do-overs, but this is as close as it comes. Bay hit only six homers and missed most of the second half with a concussion in what was a lost season. The Mets are stuck with his contract and Bay’s objective is to prove his worth.

Dec 03

K-Rod pleads guilty; what of his Mets’ future?

Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez pleaded guilty this morning of assault, a move that spared him jail time but will bring him an additional 52 weeks of anger management classes.

RODRIGUEZ: Pleads guilty; at least one more year

His plea also bought him an additional season with the Mets for $11.5 million. It was the best case scenario for the closer who not only lost his temper but is losing his fastball.

For one more year at least, the Mets will have a closer. He Rodriguez finishes 55 games in 2011, he could stand to make an additional $17.5 million for 2012.

If Rodriguez does not finish 55 games and he fails a physical after the 2011 season, the Mets will have a $3.5 million buyout.

That, along with the books cleared of Oliver Perez and Carlos Beltran, would open up the Mets’ wallet to be big players in the 2011 free-agent market.

Rodriguez is young enough at 28 where he could regain his form, but there are concerns that with his motion and delivery the downhill slide might not be reversible.

All this is very interesting. Will the Mets limit his appearances to stay away from the option kicking in? If they have a competitive team all summer I doubt it, especially if Bobby Parnell doesn’t perform and show he’s capable of assuming the closer role.

Of course, if the Mets don’t shore up their rotation and the bridge to Rodriguez, he won’t have that many save opportunities to begin with.