Feb 21

Terry Collins Alludes To Outfield Roster Cuts

The New York Mets haven’t played an exhibition game yet and already manager Terry Collins is hinting at several roster cuts.

With a congested outfield, Collins suggested Matt den Dekker – arguably the best defensive outfielder in the organization – Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Andrew Brown and Cesar Puello beginning the year at Triple-A Las Vegas.

It is also conceivable Juan Lagares will open the season in the minor leagues. Collins is very high on den Dekker.

“One of the things we’re very lucky with, when you come into camp and you have the likes of the outfield we have right now, they’re so athletic. They can all run,’’ Collins told reporters today in Port St. Lucie. “Matt is in that [group]. He is still very, very highly thought of – a tremendous defender, as we know.

“One of the things you’ve seen in his career, he gets to a level and he may have a rough time in the beginning. And the next time he goes to that same level he advances. And we’re hoping the same thing occurs now, that he now knows what’s expected at the major-league level, what kind of pitching he’s going to see, what adjustments he has to make.

“I think Matt den Dekker is still a huge prospect here. It gives us an ample amount of insurance.’’

While Collins said den Dekker will need at-bats, the same applies for Lagares. Should Eric Young start over him, where will Lagares get his at-bats?

The Mets currently have three players competing for on outfield position. Curtis Granderson and Chris Young are givens, leaving Eric Young, Lagares and Lucas Duda for the other spot.

Should Lagares be optioned, Duda is not a viable outfield reserve and definitely can’t play center. That might force Collins to re-think Nieuwenhuis or Brown.

Feb 20

Strikeouts Do Matter For Mets

After writing about the high strikeout rates of Ike Davis, Chris Young and Lucas Duda, I received a question asking why my concern over strikeouts, with the reader saying, “there’s no difference between a strikeout and a soft grounder to second.’’

He couldn’t be more wrong.

First, a strikeout is a non-productive out, but much more can happen on a grounder to second, especially with less than two outs.

A grounder to second, or anywhere in the infield, or a fly ball, has the potential to create something positive while nothing can be generated from a strikeout unless the ball gets by the catcher. And, unless R.A. Dickey is pitching, how often does that happen?

A runner can score on a grounder to second. He can’t on a strikeout.

Also, with a soft grounder to second, there’s a chance the ball could get through for a hit or the fielder could muff it for an error. Either way, it leads to a base runner and potential run, or if there’s a runner on second or third, it could generate a run.

See the difference?

In addition, a grounder can advance a runner into scoring position.

When I once asked Davis about his propensity for striking out, he said, “I am a home run hitter. I like to hit home runs. Strikeouts are part of it.’’

Until he changes that attitude, he’ll never be a viable hitter.

I realize times have changed, but to me one of the most incredible statistics in history is that during his 13-year career, Joe DiMaggio hit 361 home runs, but only struck out 369 times.

Arguably, that might be more impressive than his 56-game hitting streak.

Carrying it a step further, last year the Mets struck out 1,384 times, or 8.5 times a game. Translated, they went a third of the game without making contact.

Still wonder why I think it’s a big deal?

Feb 19

Trade Market Still Open For Ike Davis

New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson could be getting a second chance to trade first baseman Ike Davis.

The Mets didn’t want to go into spring training with the Davis-Lucas Duda logjam at first. However, their steep asking price coupled with their openness, if not eagerness, to trade Davis worked against them.

DAVIS: Still on the block.

DAVIS: Still on the block.

They appeared to favor Duda because of his better on-base percentage matched against horrific first-halves by Davis in 2012 and 2013. Davis’ 32 homers in 2012 seemed more and more fluke-like to Alderson.

Consequently, he tap-danced around their failure to trade Davis by saying he didn’t mind the open competition. Davis, from his perspective, said he was “in a bit of shock,’’ to still be with the Mets.

As spring training progresses teams with unsettled situations at first base will likely call the Mets about Davis, who’ll make a reasonable $3.5 million this year.

Reportedly, two of the original teams interested in Davis – Pittsburgh and Baltimore – are monitoring the Mets about Davis.

After losing lefty-hitting Justin Morneau in the off-season, the Pirates are considering a platoon of Davis with right-handed hitter Gaby Sanchez.

The Orioles meanwhile, are considering Nelson Cruz and Kendry Morales; both were made qualifying offers from Texas and Seattle, respectively, and would cost a compensatory draft pick.

The Orioles, who just lost the 17th overall pick in June’s draft for signing pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez from Cleveland, would not have to surrender a pick to the Mets if they signed Davis.

Alderson misjudged the market over the winter. With a second opportunity, he can’t afford a repeat, especially after making it known he wanted to trade Davis.

 MORE LATER TODAY

Feb 19

Chris Young Already Having An Influence On Mets – But Is It Good?

The New York Mets haven’t even seen a pitch this spring, but it’s not too early to notice how outfielder Chris Young has muddled things.

And, it goes beyond the $7.25 million they’ll pay this year for the player who hit .200 last season with 12 homers and 93 strikeouts. Young’s 162-game averages are .235 with 24 homers and 148 strikeouts, so the Mets aren’t exactly renting a light’s out slugger.

YOUNG: What kind of Impact?

YOUNG: What kind of Impact?

The Mets must play Young because of his contract, but doing so creates several obstacles and dilemmas for manager Terry Collins.

With Young and Curtis Granderson taking up two-thirds of the outfield, that leaves a decision between Eric Young and Juan Lagares for the remaining spot.

If Collins chooses Lagares to play center, it leaves him without a viable leadoff hitter. Lagares has the speed, but strikes out too much to be a top-of-the-order hitter.

Daniel Murphy and Ruben Tejada have been mentioned, but neither is a great choice. Murphy should hit lower in the order because he’s a gap hitter able to drive in runs. Tejada is coming off a bad year and doesn’t have a good on-base percentage.

Chris Young can’t lead off because he strikes out too much. Granderson can’t do it either because he also strikes out and must hit fourth to protect David Wright.

But, if Collins chooses Eric Young to hit leadoff and presumably play center, it regulates Lagares to the bench. Lagares is their best outfield prospect, but it would be better to send him to the minor leagues to get at-bats rather than have him sit on the bench.

So, in essence the Mets are paying $7.25 million for a player that would likely delay the development of Lagares for a season.

The Mets are also contemplating keeping both Ike Davis and Lucas Duda on the Opening Day roster, with the intent of giving the latter time in left field. But, how often will he play if Chris Young is here?

The Mets say they are building for the future, but Chris Young doesn’t contribute to that aim because he’s gone after this season. Either he doesn’t produce and they won’t bring him back, or he’ll hit and go elsewhere because the Mets won’t want to pay what he’s asking.

So, if the Mets’ timetable isn’t to win this year, why pay all that money for a rental?

ON DECK: Judging Sandy Alderson

Feb 10

Mets Who Could Be On The Trading Block In July

Realistically, the New York Mets could be a .500 team if everything breaks right. That’s an improvement of at least one more victory a month, which isn’t unrealistic. However, let’s say it unravels early for them and it becomes apparent they have no shot at a wild card berth much less finishing at .500 or better.

What then?

GEE: Could draw trade interest.

GEE: Could draw trade interest.

Should they opt to scuttle their ship, and go from buyers to sellers, they have numerous assets they might unload. And, none are their young pitchers.

Here’s where they could start:

Dillon Gee: He’s under appreciated, yet consistent and an innings eater. Last season he gave them 199 and overall was their most durable and consistent starter. If the Mets can’t appreciate |that, somebody else will. He’s attractive because of his consistency, willingness to take the ball, and reasonable contract. If he’s healthy and having good season, teams could be lining up for him.

Daisuke Matsuzaka: Should they bring up Noah Syndergaard and he pitches well and there are no injuries in the rotation, Matsuzaka could draw interest from a contender. Especially, if he’s pitching like he did in his final three 2014 starts.

John Lannan: The same applies to Lannan as Matsuzaka. He’s not in their long-term plans so get what they can.

Kyle Farnsworth: If the Mets are cooked by midseason and Farnsworth is pitching well, teams are always looking for a reliable reliever.

Taylor Teagarden: He has a contract clause that allows him to leave if he’s not on the major league roster by June. So, if both Travis d’Arnaud and Anthony Recker show the catching situation is in good hands. It makes sense to showcase him.

Ike Davis: The assumption is if he’s shown anything in the first half. If there’s some run production, somebody might bite. They certainly didn’t during the winter. Davis has to show some measure of progress because teams had no interest over the winter.

Lucas Duda: Pretty much everything that applied to Davis does for Duda. Also, if one is outperforming the other, they can keep the hot bat and deal the other.

Daniel Murphy: He will make $5 million this year, but over half will be eaten by the end of July. That’s a reasonable contract for a consistent hitter. Should Wilmer Flores demonstrate he can play the position, it might push the Mets to deal Murphy.

Eric Young: Another with a doable contract. He came to the Mets because they needed speed and a leadoff hitter. Surely, there might be another contender who would need the same.

Chris Young: I still don’t know why the Mets signed him to a one-year, $7.25 million contract. If he doesn’t play well it is a waste and there will be likely no interest. However, if he performs, the Mets won’t go high in re-signing him and with only a one-year deal teams could show interest.

So, there you have it. Out of a 25-man roster, the Mets have ten chips. Most are average, but the potential to help a contender. They probably won’t bring back much, but in the Mets’ position stockpiling players is a positive.

None of these players are untouchable or seemingly in their long-term plans. You might make a case for Davis if he’s broken out of his funk, but they’ve been saying that for three years.