Oct 22

Mets Should Pick Up Smaller Pieces First

Like most teams, the Mets usually focus on big-ticket items at the start of their offseason shopping. For the Mets, that’s Yoenis Cespedes, but even if they do bring him back, he shouldn’t be their first order of business.

The Mets should start with the smaller pieces and that’s what they appeared to do with the decision of exercising their option on Jose Reyes.

REYES: Bringing him back. (Getty)

REYES: Bringing him back. (Getty)

With the uncertainty of David Wright, plus Colorado responsible for paying Reyes $41 million over the next three years – including $22 million for 2017 – it was a no-brainer. The 33-year-old Reyes hit .267 with eight homers, 24 RBI and nine stolen bases in 60 games. That production is definitely worth the major league minimum $507,500 the Mets will pay him.

It was an obvious decision, as was the one not to pick up Jon Niese’s $10-million option. While it would have been good to have Niese as a fallback considering the health issues of their starting rotation, there’s no way they would have gambled being stuck carrying his $10-million contract.

They haven’t done it yet, but bringing back Bartolo Colon – who made $7.25 million last year – is another no-brainer. Colon, at 43, lead the Mets in games started (33), innings pitched (191.2) and victories (15).

There’s no guarantee how the four Mets starters coming off surgery – Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler – will respond from surgery, so Colon is essential. They should have given him a contract as he was cleaning out his locker.

Another imperative decision is bringing back Addison Reed, who had 40 holds to set up closer Jeurys Familia.

Other lower-profile decisions should be made on utility infielder Kelly Johnson and catcher Rene Rivera.

Cespedes, Jay Bruce and Neil Walker represent more costly choices, but they are just three of 25 players on the team. The Mets will need these other less expensive pieces, so they might as well take care of them now.

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Oct 19

Alderson’s Top Ten Mets’ Questions

Unquestionably, the most important issue confronting the Mets is the health of their young, but battered, rotation. However, since injuries are beyond their control, the following are the top ten questions GM Sandy Alderson must answer this winter:

Should they add a starting pitcher? The Mets can’t control the recovery of their four surgically-repaired pitchers. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t add. Should the Mets rely on Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman continuing their development – and bring back Bartolo Colon – or add a starter from the outside? I’d explore a veteran stop-gap and definitely bring back Colon.

ALDERSON: Faces a lot of questions. (AP)

ALDERSON: Faces a lot of questions. (AP)

Should they bring back Cespedes? This isn’t entirely within the Mets’ control. If Cespedes opts out, which he is certain to do, the bidding reportedly will begin at $100 million over five years. Should they bite the bullet and give Cespedes what he wants in terms of money, years, position preference, and option to hustle, or should they spend the money on the myriad of other issues? I realize how important Cespedes’ bat is, but $100 million can fill a lot of holes, including adding a power bat. I wouldn’t be adverse to pursuing Jose Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion.

Should they bring back Bruce? This might not be first on the Mets’ wish list, but it is essential to guard against Cespedes leaving. He’s a proven hitter, but not as dynamic as Cespedes. Bruce will be cheaper than Cespedes, and they could add an option for 2018, when Curtis Granderson will be gone. They could spend the money earmarked for Cespedes on Bruce with plenty left over to fill holes.

Should they add a first baseman? Moving Michael Conforto from the outfield could be a reach. Should they gamble on Conforto or add from the outside – Encarnacion can play first – extend Lucas Duda or bring back James Loney? Duda and Loney maintains the status quo, which wasn’t productive. I like the idea of Encarnacion, which would fill the first base hole, replace Cespedes’ power, and allow Conforto to play full time in left.

Should they add a catcher? Clearly, Travis d’Arnaud hasn’t lived up to expectations. However, whether by free agency of trade, they can’t afford to go into 2017 with d’Arnaud and Rene Rivera. They must improve here this winter.

Should they examine another closer? After back-to-back flat Octobers by Jeurys Familia, the question has been posed by several. I think bringing back Addison Reed is their top bullpen priority, then building up the middle-innings bridge. I’m not worried about Familia.

Should they extend Collins? Manager Terry Collins isn’t sure if he wants to manage past 2017. I hate the idea of a lame duck manager, so I would make him an offer.

Are they good enough at second base? This begins with bringing back Neil Walker, who is recovering from back surgery. They also have Wilmer Flores, who is recovering from wrist surgery. They also have T.J. Rivera, who could be the future. Going outside for a second baseman isn’t necessary.

What should they do at third?  Their preparation in the event of David Wright being injured again was poor. If Wright is healthy, he has a spot on the roster, but where will he play? He’ll get first crack at third, but could also be tried at first base. However, the problem with trying Wright and/or Conforto at first base is we won’t know until spring training. That means they have to bring back Duda/Loney as a hedge. Either way, they need to bring back Jose Reyes, who also gives them a back-up at shortstop.

How good is the bench? Both Riveras, Juan Lagares and Kelly Johnson made positive impacts. Previously, Alderson built the bench last, but if you have proven performers, then why not address that right away? If nothing else, it will prevent them from trading for Johnson a third time.

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Oct 08

Mets’ Top Ten Internal Decisions

GM Sandy Alderson was brought here clean out deadwood (Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo, etc.) and trim payroll while the Wilpons tried to withstand the howling financial winds of the Ponzi Scandal.

BRUCE: First domino. (AP)

BRUCE: First domino. (AP)

It took several years, but the Mets are heading in the right direction – their Opening Day payroll was $135 million – but they can’t be accused of being spenders.

I see Alderson having to deal with ten players this winter:

OUTFIELD

Jay Bruce: Contractual control in 2017 was a key factor in making the trade in the first place. The want Bruce as a hedge for losing Cespedes, which means they must sign him first. The worst-case scenario is to screw around with Cespedes and delay with Bruce – which could cost them both. They must pick up Bruce’s $13 million option, and if Cespedes leaves, fine, so be it. Bruce is the lead domino.

Yoenis Cespedes: The ball is totally in the player’s court, which is not a good position for the Mets. Last year Cespedes dragged this out and there are no indications that won’t change this year. Early reports are Cespedes will want at least $100 million. Secretly, I’ll bet Alderson wants Cespedes to opt out and sign elsewhere.

INFIELD

Lucas Duda: He is arbitration eligible, but injury prone and coming off a back problem that is always scary. How much Duda will make is uncertain (he made $6.7 million this year and I’ve heard numbers as high $9 million). If not Duda, the Mets could go with a Loney-Flores platoon.

James Loney: I’m probably in the minority of those who wouldn’t mind seeing Loney return. However, they have other options, including seeing what Wright and Michael Conforto could do at first.

Neil Walker: Back surgery will reduce Walker’s bargaining power, so I don’t see people lining up to give him a two- or three-year deal. If they are set on Cespedes, they won’t go long term with both. With Wilmer Flores – assuming his wrist heals – and T.J. Rivera, it isn’t as if second base is a must. As they did with Daniel Murphy, they’ll probably extend a qualifying offer.

Jose Reyes: The Mets hold a team option on Reyes for 2017. The Mets got more than they expected from Reyes, and with David Wright’s return a question, there’s little doubt they won’t bring him back.

Kelly Johnson: They’ve already traded for him twice, and each time he produced. He’s versatile and produced as a pinch-hitter. This should be a no-brainer.

PITCHERS

Bartolo Colon: The biggest mistake Alderson could make is to assume all their surgically-repaired pitchers – there are four of them so far – will return healthy. The $7.25 million they paid for 15 victories was well spent. They need to bring him back.

Jerry Blevins: Stayed healthy, pitched well and wants to return. This shouldn’t be a problem. Not knowing what the Mets could get from Josh Smoker and Josh Edgin should help Blevins.

Jon Niese: Not happening.

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Oct 06

Mets’ Playoff Ouster Has Us Thinking About April

After last year, there was one goal for the Mets and it was winning the World Series. Since it won’t happen, by definition, 2016 was a failure. However, the image of the Big Picture depends on angle in which it was viewed. Straight on it was a bust, but “Mets 2016” was a puzzle with many missing pieces.

If we take away one thing from this season is we discovered the Mets’ farm system isn’t as barren as once perceived and they have more depth than we thought.

COLLINS: Reason to be hopeful. (AP)

COLLINS: Reason to be hopeful. (AP)

All teams sustain injuries and the Mets were no exception. The Mets had more than most, beginning with losing Matt Harvey to surgery, then Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz, and we never saw Zack Wheeler.

“The job our guys did to get to this point to be in this game is unbelievable,” manager Terry Collins said. “When you lose three-fifths, obviously, of one of the best rotations in the game – you lose two guys or three guys out of the middle of your lineup for a long period of time – to sit here where we are today, I’m tremendously proud.”

Under the rubble of their rotation were found some gems. Noah Syndergaard, even before seven magnificent innings Wednesday, continues to emerge as an ace. Syndergaard pitched hurt, and still throws too many innings, but he’s already one of the best.

Without those injuries Bartolo Colon wouldn’t have stayed in the rotation and led the staff with 15 victories. Also, we wouldn’t have found out about Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman.

The Mets have questions about the health of their starting pitchers, but unlike most teams they have the depth to get to sustain.

The bullpen was a significant issue entering the season, but Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia gave them perhaps the game’s best eighth-ninth inning combination, which could be even stronger if they retain Fernando Salas and Hansel Robles harnesses his emotions, the back end could be even better.

Injuries also ravaged the infield, where the Mets lost David Wright and Neil Walker for the season. They also were without Wilmer Flores and Lucas Duda for extended periods. The reports are encouraging about Wright’s return, but they must be cognizant about replacing him. In that regard, Flores will have surgery on his right wrist. Walker can be a free agent, but his back surgery will lower his asking price. That will be a tough decision.

The Mets will now be forced to make choices on bringing back Kelly Johnson, James Loney and catcher Rene Rivera. They also let us find out T.J. Rivera can play. Perhaps most importantly, they found out Jose Reyes still has the spark, if not the talent.

Injuries also factored in the outfield as they played lengthy segments without Juan Lagares and Yoenis Cespedes. They also survived long production droughts from Michael Conforto, Jay Bruce, Alejandro De Aza and Curtis Granderson.

However, Granderson and Bruce came on strong at the end and have reputations of production. They have another year with Granderson under contract and an option on Bruce, so there’s flexibility. If Cespedes opts out as he’s expected to do, the Mets have options with Conforto and Brandon Nimmo.

Collins said of his team: “They’re hurting, but there’s no reason to be. They were written off so many times this summer and they kept fighting back.”

The Mets didn’t win, but I can’t say it was a lost season. The Mets found out a lot about many players who weren’t on their radar in April.

In many ways, if their rotation recovers from the knife, the Mets could be in better position to win next year than they were this April. Many Octobers have left the Mets with the feeling of relief the season was finally over.

This year, October has us thinking about April.

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Sep 23

Three Mets’ Storylines: Is Conforto In Mix Again?

Not only was there a Michael Conforto sighting tonight, but he carried the Mets with a three-run homer and double. He did what the Mets have hoped since May. With how they are ignoring Jay Bruce, you have to wonder if Terry Collins plans to use Conforto for the remainder of the season to groom him for the postseason.

A double and homer is a great way to stay in the lineup.

CONFORTO: He does exist. (AP)

CONFORTO: He does exist. (AP)

“It changes it a lot,” Collins said about his plans for Conforto. “What we saw tonight is what we’ve used to seeing. We’ll give him another shot and see how he responds [Saturday].”

Should Conforto hit again tomorrow, it’s pretty hard to imagine Bruce getting another start soon, and a likely bit-player for the postseason.

Conforto had a hot April – Collins projected him as the Mets’ No. 3 hitter of the future – but after going into a slump in mid-May, spent a lot of time on the Vegas shuttle, but despite playing well in the minors, he’s played sparingly since coming back.

“I’ve been sticking with my drills and staying locked in mentally,” said Conforto on how he’s tried to stay sharp despite seemingly needing a GPS to find the plate.

Conforto laid off a couple of tempting pitches, then went the other way to break open the game with a three-run homer in the fifth to power the Mets to a 10-5 victory over Philadelphia.

So, in answer to the question whether Thursday’s dramatic victory had a magical carry-over effect, let’s say, tonight was a decent encore.

Conforto was the easy main storyline, with the others being the patchwork pitching and Asdrubal Cabrera’s leg injury.

BULLPEN CARRIES BIG LOAD: Spot starter Gabriel Ynoa gave the Mets two innings (43 pitches), which could make him available for Saturday with Noah Syndergaard not available because of a strep throat.

With Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia not available, Collins got significant contributions from Logan Verrett (two innings), Josh Smoker (one), Erik Goeddel (1.1), Josh Edgin (two pitches) and Hansel Robles (2.2 innings for the save).

The game’s turning point came with the bases loaded and one out in the seventh and the Mets up by two, but Robles got pinch-hitter Tommy Joseph to ground into an inning-ending double play, with Jose Reyes making a nifty pick-up and throw.

The patchwork bullpen enabled the Mets to also rest Fernando Salas.

“It was a good night,’’ Collins said of his bullpen. “Hansel stepped up and got us through it.’’

For the most part, Robles has had a rough second half, but if tonight was any indication, this is a good sign for the playoffs.

CABRERA BRUISES KNEE: Not so fast, was how Cabrera responded to Collins’ post-game thoughts of resting the shortstop tomorrow because of bruise to his right knee.

Cabrera, who is playing with a sore left knee, fouled a ball off his leg in the fifth.

“I don’t think that’s going to happen,’’ Cabrera said. “I will be there tomorrow.”

Collins said his initial plans for to play Reyes at shortstop and play Kelly Johnson (who drove in the tying run in the fifth) at third.

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