Dec 06

Wondering Why Mets Opted For Cuddyer Over Morse

I don’t know if the Mets signed Michael Cuddyer just to appease David Wright. I suppose there’s some truth to that thought, but to what percentage?

Was Cuddyer the only right-handed option for the Mets? Was he their best option?

Yes, Cuddyer won the NL batting title two years ago, but for a team needing power, how much consideration did they give Michael Morse?

Morse, at 32, is three years younger. He averages 23 homers a season with a career .808 OPS and made $6 million last year. Cuddyer averages 21 homers with a career OPS and will be paid $8.5 million by the Mets in 2015.

Both can platoon with Lucas Duda at first base.

There’s not much difference in production, but for the cost conscious Mets you figure age and salary would be important.

There’s a lot that goes into signing a player. I wonder why they went in this direction.

Nov 25

Wright’s Comeback Is Mets’ Most Critical Question

Among the myriad of questions facing the New York Mets this question, I believe the most important is the status of David Wright.

A recent ESPN poll listed baseball’s top ten third basemen and Wright, based on his recent injury history and performance, wasn’t on the list and shouldn’t have been. Therein, is why he’s my most critical Mets’ question heading into the 2015.

WRIGHT: He needs to smile again. (AP)

WRIGHT: He needs to smile again. (AP)

The key focus on Wright is health. Only once on the past four years did he play in as many as 150 games. Last year, a bum left shoulder limited him to 134 games and hurt his performance in the field and at the plate.

As the face of the franchise, Wright was rewarded with an eight-year, $138-million contract that has the Mets committed to him through the 2020 season. He was signed with the hope he’d regain his All-Star form.

This isn’t about whether the Mets should have signed Wright, or whether they should have taken Jose Reyes instead. It is about the immediate situation, which is Wright’s status. He’s here and not going anywhere.

It must be understood Wright has been a star, but his most productive seasons when he was younger and healthier, but also when he was surrounded by supporting talent, notably Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado. Wright has always been an important element to the Mets’ success, but never the centerpiece bat.

This year will be more of the same. The main source of power will come from Lucas Duda followed by Curtis Granderson. If they meet expectations, a lot of pressure could come off Wright.

A seven-time All-Star, Wright figures to bat third and could be prevented with solid RBI opportunities if there’s a productive leadoff hitter and strong season from Daniel Murphy.

It can’t be underestimated how the upheaval at the top of the order, plus the lack of support behind him, coupled with his injuries and propensity for carrying the weight of the team on his shoulders contributed to him not driving in over 100 runs since 2010 or scoring over 100 runs since 2008.

Then again, every time Wright struggles resurfaces the questions stemming from the 2009 beaning by Matt Cain.

This is a critical year for Wright, who at 31, is at the crossroads of his career. Does his slide continue or can he recapture the stroke that made him an elite talent?

Wright as Wright can carry the Mets to the next level to potential playoff contending status. If not, and he struggles again, there will be the lingering questions about his contract, especially if he’s healthy and doesn’t produce.

There are six more years on that contract and could become an albatross.

Nov 12

Dissecting The Cuddyer Signing

Michael Cuddyer said all the right things about coming to the New York Mets. He spoke of how the Mets were a team on the cusp; about playing with longtime friend David Wright; and the excitement of playing in New York.

For good measure, he mentioned how he imagined how a packed Citi Field could be when he referenced the 2013 All-Star Game.

Got you going, didn’t it?

Then he ruined the illusion by saying “it always isn’t about the money.’’

But, I’ve been covering this sport a long time, and you’ve been following the Mets a long time. What we both know, is that when it comes to the Mets, money is right there at the top. Money is always the key factor.

The Cuddyer signing tells us a lot about the Mets and their financial situation. It also raises a lot of questions, which I’ll attempt to answer:

Q: Why wouldn’t Cuddyer accept the Rockies’ $15.3 million qualifying offer and go the free-agent route again?

A: That’s his risk. He wanted two and the Rockies were offering one. There was no guarantee Cuddyer would get a second year from anyone. When he gave the Mets a deadline to give him two years or he’d take the qualifying offer, “it gave us pause,’’ said GM Sandy Alderson.

The Mets had things to consider, such as other free-agent outfield options, which would have cost more. Or, trade options, but they had few chips to play and are unwilling to include their young pitching. Or, going from within, which they didn’t have the confidence in doing. And, there was the matter of losing the draft pick, which they didn’t want to do.

The most palatable option was giving Cuddyer two years.

Q: The breakdown is the first year for $8.5 million and the second year for $12.5 million. What does that mean?

A: In giving up their first-round pick – the 15th overall selection – the Mets also save themselves $2.5 million. Given that, the Mets will have filled their outfield hole for $6 million this year, which is $1.25 less than they blew on Chris Young last year. They don’t get their pick, but that player is at least three years down the road anyway. A lot can change in that time. With the $2.5 million they save by not having the draft pick gives them a little more flexibility.

Q: Won’t the Mets feel a pinch in 2016 for the $12.5 million they’d pay Cuddyer?

A: They could, but not if they make the strides they expect. Their gamble is they’ll improve enough in 2015 and experience an attendance spike. That will pay in part for Cuddyer. Of course, that means they’ll have to win this year, or at least “play meaningful games in September.’’ But, if none of this happens by July 2016 and Cuddyer is productive, he shouldn’t be hard to trade.

Q: Was this done to appease Wright?

A: That probably factored into it, but I wouldn’t say that was their first priority.

Q: What does signing Cuddyer say about their bench and minor league system?

A: For one, is tells me they likely won’t bring back Eric Young. It also speaks to their diminishing confidence in Matt den Dekker and Kirk Nieuwenhuis as a fulltime player. The Mets stunted their development last year and that figures to be the same this year.

Q: The Mets kept saying they wanted power, but Cuddyer has hit only 80 homers over the past five years (16 average) and only ten in an injury shortened 2014. Does this fill that need?

A: No. Cuddyer isn’t strictly a pull hitter, which is just as well because the fences aren’t coming in next year. Presumably, he uses the whole field, which is the best way. Cuddyer has only one 30-homer season despite playing his career in the Coors Field and the Metrodome. He’s only had one 100-RBI season as well.

Q: Were there other options?

A: Sure, but nobody screamed out as a “must have’’ talent. Michael Morse, Ryan Ludwick, Nate Schierholtz, Nick Markakis and Josh Willingham were all available this fall, but would have either been too expensive; would stay with their original teams; or not graded as high as Cuddyer.

Q: Where will Cuddyer play?

A: Probably right field, with Curtis Granderson moving over to left field.

Q: Bottom line this for me: Does Cuddyer put the Mets over the top?

A: By no stretch of the imagination. The Mets have questions concerning shortstop; the offensive returns of Wright and Granderson; whether Lucas Duda can do it again; the development of Zack Wheeler and return from surgery by Matt Harvey. If all that happens and Cuddyer can return to his 2013 form when he won the NL batting title.

 

Oct 27

Mets Should Be Wary Of Cespedes

Just because Yoenis Cespedes is available doesn’t mean the New York Mets should trade for him. The Red Sox want to deal the temperamental outfielder, who recently dumped his agent to sign with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation agency. Naturally, speculation links him to the Mets.

Roc Nation is getting a Scott Boras-like reputation in it wants to get top dollar, which means the Mets will lover pay. The Mets are tied into long contracts with David Wright and Curtis Granderson, but will soon have to deal with extensions for Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Lucas Duda.

Reportedly, Cespedes has an open contempt for the city of Boston and disregards the Red Sox’s coaching staff. He was a headache in Boston and there’s no guarantee he won’t be the same in New York, no matter how much they move in the fences.

The Red Sox gave up Jon Lester for Cespedes, and will want young, quality pitching in return. As of now, I wouldn’t trade anybody for him on a one-year rental because he hits the market after the 2015 season.

Cespedes is entering the final year of a four-year, $36-million contract, and even is he has glowing reports on his character, I wouldn’t make the deal unless he was locked up to a multi-year extension, similar to what the Mets did with Johan Santana.

There’s no disputing the Mets need outfield help, but just because Cespedes won a home-run derby at Citi Field doesn’t mean they should dip deep into their system considering his baggage.

With Cespedes, it is “buyer beware,’’ and they should be reluctant to add somebody who could poison their clubhouse.

NOTE: Sorry for not posting Sunday, but my site was down.

Oct 14

Hitting Coach Update; Hope It Includes Approach

The New York Mets’ search for a hitting coach is apparently down to Dave Magadan and Kevin Long, both of whom preach patience and using the entire field. Both also are experienced on the major league level; Magadan with Texas and Long with the Yankees.

Regardless of theirs, or anybody else’s hitting philosophy, it comes down to the hitters buying into what they are saying and how well they execute.

For the most part, the Mets don’t have a lot of hitters with the discipline to take a pitch and go to the opposite field – exactly what Kansas City and San Francisco are doing in the playoffs.

As the Mets build toward 2015, this is the approach they must take. They still don’t have a leadoff hitter, but that could be Juan Lagares if he walks more and strikes out less.

We saw what happened this season when Lucas Duda became more selective. It was what the deposed Dave Hudgens wanted them to take. His message was good, but perhaps it was how it was delivered that was at fault.

Patience and plate presence is a more direct path to team success than power. History is loaded with power laden teams that fizzled in October because they couldn’t do a simple thing as advance a runner and hit a fly ball with a runner at third. When you look at this year’s playoff field, consider Baltimore, Detroit and Los Angeles.

This is the message the Mets should be teaching all their players on all levels. It should be an organizational approach and it is not.