Feb 27

The Mets’ Ambivalence Towards Ruben Tejada Opens Door For Flores

Of all the young New York Mets, the one I am most interested in seeing is Wilmer Flores, especially at shortstop. While Ruben Tejada is the starter by default, Flores has a legitimate shot with a strong spring to grab a job.

FLORES: Has opportunity to earn job (Getty)

FLORES: Has opportunity to earn job (Getty)

As the Mets monitor Stephen Drew’s interest and Seattle for Nick Franklin’s availability, it is clear they aren’t sold on Tejada. That makes it no better time than now for Flores to surface.

As team officials continue to portray Tejada as the most likely starter on Opening Day, they acknowledge those two other possibilities and are showing a declining enthusiasm for the incumbent.

A hot spring from Flores could make things interesting if the Mets don’t make an acquisition, especially if he shows something defensively.

The rap on Flores is he doesn’t have the first-step quickness in moving laterally. He also doesn’t have a lot of speed, but shortstops don’t have to be fast. Flores attended the same Michigan fitness camp as Tejada and reports are he improved his straight-ahead speed and lateral quickness.

However, for the offensively-challenged Mets, Flores’ upside is greater than Tejada’s. Flores drove in 13 runs in 27 games last season, which projected over a 162-game schedule is 78 RBI. In contrast, Tejada’s 162-game average is a mere 40.

In addition, as a spray hitter, Tejada’s career on-base percentage is only .323 and his 162-game average is 87 strikeouts.

Flores played shortstop in the minors until 2011, but because of the range issue, the Mets started playing him at third, second and first. All this begs the question: With all the ways prospects are measured, couldn’t they have figured out his range limitations?

Flores’ value to the Mets would be to show something at shortstop, because he is a man without a position and despite his supposed offensive abilities, never hit more than 18 homers (2012) in the minors.

His best season was at Triple-A Las Vegas in 2013 when he hit .321 with a .357 on-base percentage, 15 homers and 86 RBI.

As the Mets consider Drew and Franklin – neither is imminent – this is the perfect time for Flores to make a statement.

Although Flores has experienced every position in the infield, shortstop is the one with the most potential for a breakthrough. Barring injuries, he won’t supplant David Wright at third or Daniel Murphy at second this year.

Who knows what could happen at first base? I floated the idea last year they might cut loose both Ike Davis and Lucas Duda and go with Flores at first base.

That’s not imminent, either.

 

Nov 20

Mets Not Players For Josh Johnson

When you’re the New York Mets and have to think outside the box, it’s stuff like what happened today that drives you crazy.

Josh Johnson wanted to play close to his Las Vegas home and signed today with San Diego for an easily digestible one-year, $8-million contract. Even so, you have to wonder whether the Mets even kicked the tires on this one. Even if they had, don’t you wonder if free agents – even those who are questions – seriously take the Mets.

JOHNSON: Would have been worth the risk.

JOHNSON: Would have been worth the risk.

Once, one of the rising young stud pitchers in the National League with Miami, Johnson made the All-Star team in 2009 and 2010. However, he was taken down with triceps and forearm injuries last year with Toronto that culminated in elbow surgery to remove bone spurs in October.

Johnson was 2-8 with a 6.20 ERA in 16 games last year, but that’s not who Padres general manager Josh Byrnes was thinking about.

“Here’s a guy who led the league in ERA who has been a dominant pitcher,’’ Byrnes told San Diego reporters. “We know there’s risk in any signing but we’re very excited about the upside, what he can bring and now what our rotation can do to deliver us toward our goal.

“We want to be an October team. We really feel like the evolution of our starting pitching and bringing in Josh, we’ve taken a big step in that direction over the last 12 months.’’

At 29, Johnson is young enough to turn it around and regain the form that has earned him a career 58-45 record with a 3.40 ERA.

“I was pretty close last year, just not healthy,’’ Johnson said. “It was tough trying to throw through it and all of a sudden I’m getting these weird pains all the way up my triceps and my forearm’s getting tight because of everything going on with my elbow. Hopefully that took care of everything.’’

If it does, the Padres would have hit the jackpot, something the Mets, who have two rotation spots to fill, must do.

Because of Johnson’s location preference, the Mets weren’t players, but represents the out-of-box thinking they must utilize in the absence of making a substantial trade or major free agent signing.

Oct 09

Backman Is “Sweet Lou” With Baggage

wally backman

John Erardi of the Cincinnati Enquirer had some glowing remarks about former Met and current Las Vegas 51s manager Wally Backman as he wonders if he could be the right man to manage the Reds going forward. Much as I like the idea of Reds pitching coach Bryan Price being elevated to manage the Reds, he writes, I’d also think about going in search of a young version of Lou Piniella.

I have no idea of who, almost a quarter of a century later, is the modern-day ‘‘Sweet Lou,’’ that is, somebody with attitude and confidence (even swagger), most notably with something to prove. he opines before answering his own question by saying he’d consider interviewing a Wally Backman-type, or better yet, Wally Backman himself. What are the odds of that happening? Click here to view MLB odds.

If the Reds are looking for a fiery manager, I think Backman fits that mold. Of course, this is all speculation by Erardi and there’s no rumors out there that the Reds have any interest in interviewing Wally for the job, but maybe the Cincinnati front office should take heed here.

Lord knows, Backman’s got something to prove, he says. “It’s obvious his former team — he was the second baseman for the 1986 World Champion New York Mets, for whom he’s managed and rehabilitated his way through the minors, and is slated to return to Triple-A affiliate Las Vegas next year — isn’t going to elevate him anytime soon.”

I love how he refers to Backman as ‘‘Sweet Lou with baggage’’ in his article. It’s perfect.

“There are worse things one could be called. If I were the Reds, I’d give him a call. Even if Backman isn’t envisioned to be a young Sweet Lou by the Reds’ brass, I’m willing to bet he would have some very interesting things to say about what he would do to light a fire underneath the players.”

I feel bad for Wally, and as I’ve said many times before, the Mets front office would never put their team in his hands. They hardly even view him as a coach on the major league level, let alone manager. Sadly, managing the Mets Triple-A affiliate will be the apex of Backman’s managerial exploits for the Mets organization.

Aug 02

Mets Languish Behind Small Market Royals And Pirates

It wasn’t that long ago when New York Mets’ fans and media criticized the team’s lack of aggressiveness in the free-agent market with the smug comment: “This is New York, we’re not the Kansas City Royals or Pittsburgh Pirates.’’

The Pirates are in first place in the NL Central and might be the season’s best story, while the Royals take a nine-game hitting streak into this oddly-time interleague series – Kansas City’s first trip to Queens since 2002. If the Mets and Royals were in the same division, they would be 6.5 games better than the Mets. Meanwhile, the Pirates would have a 10.5-game lead on the Mets.

The Royals are doing it with great defense, timely hitting sprinkled in amongst a few stars.

Also interesting is left fielder Alex Gordon, who switched from third base and has won a couple of Gold Gloves. My first through was if Gordon can switch position and become solid player, if not a star, then what about Wilmer Flores?

Flores’ roots are at shortstop, a position requiring athletic ability. I don’t know where he fits in, but he hits too much to languish in the minor leagues. Omar Quintanilla has cooled and the organization is far from enamored with Ruben Tejada, so, what’s the harm in trying?

When a player switches positions, it is always easier to move from infield to outfield, than the other way around.

OFFENSE STAGNANT: The Mets limp home from their 3-5 trip no doubt aggravated it could have been 7-1 with some timely hitting – or any hitting at all, for that matter.

The Mets scored 11 against the Nationals in the first game of the trip, but only 15 over the next seven games. Four times they scored only one run or were shutout.

“We don’t drive runs in. There’s no secret,’’ Terry Collins said as the Mets packed up to return home. “If I knew what it was, we’d fix it. Guys don’t drive them in. We’re not driving them in. That’s pretty much the basic line.’’

Collins then went on to say something totally confusing, saying: “There’s nothing wrong with the approach. We’re just not taking good swings on the pitches we can hit.’’

Here’s a bulletin for Collins: They are missing those pitches because the approach is off, whether it be mechanical or mental. Something is not clicking.

It isn’t for Ike Davis, who only had five hits on the trip and stranded six runners Thursday. He’s hitting better than he was prior to going down to Las Vegas, but largely remains unproductive.

WRIGHT HAS TIGHT HAMMY: David Wright has been playing with tightness in his right hamstring. Collins said Wright understands himself better than anybody, but Collins needs to understand him, too.

Wright would try to play if he had an arrow shot through his thigh. This is a man who played nearly a month with a fracture in his lower back.

Wright said he can play, invoking the standard player cliché, that if this were the playoffs it wouldn’t be an issue. But, these aren’t the playoffs.

To risk losing Wright for several weeks or longer if he blows out his hamstring is just plan stupid. Sit him for a couple of games to be sure.

SIX-MAN ROTATION IN JEOPARDY: You knew the Mets weren’t going to go long with a six-man rotation cycle.

Jonathan Niese threw four shutout innings Thursday and said he needs on more start. When he’s ready they certainly won’t go to seven.

Carlos Torres is likely to move to the bullpen.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jul 30

Mets Standing Pat As Deadline Nears And That’s Not Bad

Unless the New York Mets are completely blown away, they will hold on to Marlon Byrd and Bobby Parnell, and this is a positive development.

The Mets have been talking about changing their culture since bringing in GM Sandy Alderson and trading either or both would be counterproductive.

BYRD: Has made positive impact with Mets and fans.

BYRD: Has made positive impact with Mets and fans.

After several seasons of struggles, Parnell finally appears to found his niche as a closer. Trading a player who has worked hard to reach a positive level sends a poor signal throughout the organization. There should be some reward for success after hard work, and trading Parnell is not that reward.

Plus, and this is most important, if the Mets are to reach contender status next season as is their timetable – because they’ll have almost $50 million off the books – they will need a closer. Trading somebody who is effective and on a reasonable contract is taking a step back.

As for Byrd, he paid the price for his suspension and has been productive, picking up part of the power slack created by poor seasons from Ike Davis and Lucas Duda.

Byrd plays hard, hustles, and by all accounts is a positive presence in the clubhouse. He’ll probably want two years, but the Mets should counter with one and an option.

If the Mets are to make a run at .500, which is possible, they’ll need Byrd. I don’t believe the Mets will extend Byrd now, but doing so would send a powerful message.

Considering Byrd is 35 and has some baggage, they probably won’t receive much for him. His value could be greater as an example to some of the younger players.

I don’t know if he tried to work with Jordany Valdespin, but then again who knows if anybody can reach him? Valdespin, who was named Player of the Week for Triple-A Las Vegas, was also recently ejected from a game, a sign his control issues are still there.

Another thing about Byrd is the Mets have to know what direction they are heading as far as next year. They already have in mind a contract offer, including the number of years.

The Mets are trying to win with what they have now and probably won’t do anything.

Outside of Byrd and Parnell, there are other Mets who could be attractive to a contender, notably John Buck – whose time is being reduced and with the probably promotion of Travis d’Arnaud. Buck, however, has a connection with Matt Harvey, so that appears a long shot.

Detroit needs a shortstop, and if Omar Quintanilla isn’t in their plans, why not move him and bring up Wilmer Flores when he’s physically ready? Eventually, the Mets will need to see what Flores can do. I wouldn’t even be adverse to trading Ruben Tejada.

Relievers LaTroy Hawkins could also help a contender, as could Jeremy Hefner or Carlos Torres if the Mets are convinced of Jon Niese’s return.

Finally, there is Ike Davis, who is playing considerably better since returning from Las Vegas. If the Mets already made up their mind in the negative as far as bringing back Davis, they why are they holding on to him?

There must be a team out there needing a power left-handed bat and believes a change of scenery would help Davis.