Nov 03

Mets Take Step Away From Cespedes; Pick Up Bruce’s Option

The Mets took their first step in moving away from Yoenis Cespedes when they picked up Jay Bruce’s $13-million option Thursday afternoon. Cespedes has until midnight Saturday to inform the Mets he will opt out of his contract to become a free agent.

CESPEDES: Will opt out. (AP)

    CESPEDES: Will opt out. (AP)

The Mets fully expect Cespedes to opt out and have thought that for months. Reportedly their plan is to wait out the process, much like they did with him last winter and Johan Santana years ago.

They took their time last year and Cespedes was on the verge of signing a five-year, $110-million package with Washington before changing his mind and going back to the Mets. Based on such history, figure that’s where the bidding will start, but considering his 31 homers in 2016, it could be higher.

The Mets have been enamored with Cespedes since he powered them to the 2015 World Series. Although he had a flat Series against the Royals, the Mets were hot to bring him back. Cespedes was an electric hitter for the Mets this year, but there were also long dry stretches, injuries, and his high maintenance persona.

They traded for Bruce when Cespedes as hurting and struggling with the hope he would ignite their offense. He did not and clearly disappointed Mets’ fans until the last two weeks of the season.

When the Mets acquired Cespedes from Cincinnati, they said at the time their control over Bruce’s contract was a crucial variable as it was their hedge on Cespedes leaving. That means they’ve been counting on Cespedes – who is at least two years older than Bruce by the way – leaving. Hell, I thought he would opt out when I first learned of his contract.

Reportedly the Mets will offer Cespedes a qualifying offer of roughly $17 million as to acquire a compensatory draft pick. That’s just good business. Cespedes, of course, is expected to decline, which is good business on his part.

Is Cespedes worth $110 million over five years? I don’t think so, but then again it’s not my money.

There are a lot of things $110 can buy, including:

* Adding a closer, an unforeseen need with Jeurys Familia expected to be suspended for at least 30 games after being arrested on domestic abuse charges.

* Signing one or more of their young pitchers to a long-term deal. That is if they are physically able.

* Bringing back Neil Walkers, who filed for free agency today

* Bringing back set-up reliever Addison Reed, who’ll cost them at least $11 million a season.

* Picking up a variety of pieces around the Mets, including patching the bullpen; Lucas Duda; improving their catching; bringing back Curtis Granderson for another year if they desire; and a myriad of other possibilities.

They can do all that, plus extend Bruce, if they move on from Cespedes.

Oct 13

Others Counting On Cespedes

There are a multitude of pros and cons on whether the Mets should extend outfielder Yoenis Cespedes should he opt out of his contract, which he is expected to do.

CESPEDES: Others waiting on him. (AP)

CESPEDES: Others waiting on him. (AP)

In weighing their options, the Mets must remember Cespedes is the lead domino in determining decisions on four positions, which is half their lineup.

LEFT FIELD

Cespedes insisted on playing left field after he strained his right quad after misplaying a ball in center. If Cespedes has to play left again, that leaves Michael Conforto on the outs.

CENTER FIELD

The Mets banked on Cespedes to play center, but he balked after the injury. They wanted Cespedes in center so Conforto could play in left. With Cespedes in left, Curtis Granderson (who has one more year left on his contract) would share center with Juan Lagares, whom the Mets really want at the position because of his defense. At one time, the Mets toyed with Conforto in center, but that never materialized. They also need to find a way to work Brandon Nimmo in the mix.

RIGHT FIELD

The Mets have to pick up Jay Bruce’s option as a hedge on Cespedes leaving. Signing Bruce necessitated moving Granderson. If they keep Bruce, he could be traded should Cespedes choose to stay. If last winter was any indication, Cespedes will drag this out.

FIRST BASE

In an effort to play Conforto, they’ll try him at first base. If that works out, that means there’s so place for Lucas Duda or James Loney.

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Oct 12

Mets Arbitration Eligibles

The following Mets are arbitration eligible. The Mets traditionally settle with their players to avoid the process.

The website MLB Trade Rumors lists what it projects will be the settle figure.

PITCHERS

Josh Edgin ($500,000): MLBTR projects $800,000. Considering that’s hardly much of a raise, if the Mets want him back this should be easy.

Jeurys Familia ($4.1 million): Projected settle figure is $8.8 million, which is a huge raise. The Mets will low-ball him, but his production is worthy of settling because he’ll win.

Matt Harvey ($4.3 million): Projected settle figure is $5.2 million, but for what?

Jacob deGrom ($600,000): Projected settle figure is $4.5 million, roughly a 700 percent raise. This should give the Mets an idea of what a long-term contract might cost them.

Addison Reed ($5.2 million): First thing I thought about when the Giants’ closer blew the last two games of their playoff series what they’d better extend him somehow because he’ll be in high demand as a closer. Projected settle figure is $11.1 million.

Jim Henderson ($507,000): Considering all those eligible, the Mets might not even offer arbitration. Projected settle figure is $1.4 million

Zack Wheeler ($546,000): See Harvey. $1 million

CATCHERS/INFIELDERS

Travis d’Arnaud ($540,000): He certainly isn’t worthy of a raise, but there’s no industry with a salary structure like baseball. Looking at their other catching options means he’ll be offered arbitration. Projected settle figure is $1.7 million

Rene Rivera ($443,000): The projected settle figure of $2.2 million is a lot for a backup.

Lucas Duda ($4.2 million): Considering the uncertainly of their other options they will probably end up paying the projected settle figure of $6.7 million.

Wilmer Flores ($520,000): He’s worthy of getting the projected settle figure of $1.9 million

OUTFIELDER

Justin Ruggiano ($180,000): They probably won’t offer arbitration and be stuck paying the projected settle figure of $1.5 million.

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Oct 07

Revisiting Mets’ Top 20 Questions

Every spring I pose 20 questions the Mets must answer to have a successful year and after the season I raise them again.

Here goes:

Q: Will they have a World Series hangover or let down?

A: There were several times this season when the Mets were sluggish and flat. There were numerous injuries that set them back, but didn’t derail them. If they crippled by injuries, they wouldn’t have won 87 games and reached the wild-card game had they been totally derailed. There are several reasons why the Mets aren’t still alive, but an emotional hangover isn’t one of them.

DE GROM: One of many injuries. (AP)

     DE GROM: One of many injuries. (AP)

Q: How will manager Terry Collins respond to being a favorite?

A: Let’s face it, there several things I don’t like about how Collins handles things, beginning with the injuries. A player will be down for a few days, then a week, then on to the disabled list. I didn’t like how he placated Yoenis Cespedes, and it went beyond the golf issue. There were more than a few in-game decisions that could have turned out better, but that’s with every manager. In the end, for the most part his players hustled for him and he kept the clubhouse.

Q: What’s going on with Harvey?

A: Not much. For the second time in three years, his season was cut short by surgery. And, as in 2013, Matt Harvey wasn’t totally forthcoming about his injury and the situation worsened. Harvey got off to a miserable start. He seemed to briefly stabilize, but then had another slide – this time leading him to the disabled list. It has reached the point where Harvey can’t be counted on. If the Mets decide to trade him, that’s fine by me, because I still think he’ll walk in a couple of years.

Q: Will DeGrom and Syndergaard pitch to ace status?

A: Jacob deGrom looked great at times, but there was a long stretch of no support. Three rough starts in a row led to the disabled list. As for Noah Syndergaard, he pitched for much of the season with a bone spur in his elbow. He was superb in the wild-card game with seven scoreless innings. Will he require surgery? That’s to be determined, but if healthy will enter 2017 as the No. 1 starter.

Q: What can we expect from Steven Matz?

A: A great start fizzled into a trip to the disabled list and eventually surgery. Matz’s short career has already been riddled with injuries. Surgery was on the elbow, but there is still the issue of the impingement of his shoulder. He’ll be a question until he proves otherwise in spring training.

Q: How long can the Mets ride Bartolo Colon?

A: Colon was the staff leader with 15 victories and the rotation’s anchor when everybody but Syndergaard went down. Colon was worth every penny of the $7 million he earned, and should be brought back.

Q: How thick is Jeurys Familia’s skin?

A: Thick enough to lead the league with 51 saves. Familia gave up the game-winning homer in the wild-card game. He was totally stand-up after the game, which is the trait of all the great ones. The Mets have more pressing concerns than Familia’s psyche.

Q: How sturdy is the bridge to Familia?

A: Addison Reed led the league in holds and the bridge became stronger with the acquisition of Fernando Salas. A lot was expected of Hansel Robles, but his development stuttered at times. The Mets also expected much from Jim Henderson, but his season was sidetracked because he was misused early in the season. Jerry Blevins had a good season, but Josh Smoker and Josh Edgin remain questions as does Gabriel Ynoa. The Mets have plenty of names, but few givens.

Q: Paging Travis d’Arnaud?

A: The Mets are still looking for him. Between his injuries and lack of production, the Mets enter the offseason with a huge concern at catcher. Rene Rivera was a positive addition, but the Mets can’t rely on him offensively.

Q: Will Lucas Duda be more consistent?

A: Well, he was injured again. Isn’t that consistency? Duda spent much of the season on the disabled list with a back injury. Duda was activated in September. It was good to see him, but not all his health concerns were answered. James Loney was a solid replacement, but I’m doubtful the Mets will bring him back. If not Duda, don’t be surprised to see Michael Conforto get reps in spring training.

Q: Will Walker make people forget Murphy?

A: Not a chance, especially how Daniel Murphy torched them all season. Neil Walker carried the Mets early before he was lost with a back injury. Walker has an option for 2017. Back surgery doesn’t help his bargaining position, but don’t be surprised if the Mets extend a qualifying offer.

Q: Is Cabrera an upgrade over Flores?

A: I’ve always been a Wilmer Flores supporter and don’t believe he’s gotten a fair shake. Even so, Asdrubal Cabrera exceeded all expectations and you can make an argument he’s the Mets’ MVP, and that includes over Cespedes.

Q: What can we expect from Wright?

A: For those who expected another injury it happened. This time, it was spinal stenosis that necessitated season-ending surgery. Wright wasn’t hitting when he went on the disabled list. Losing Wright enabled the Mets to bring back Jose Reyes. Wright should be ready by spring training, but there are no assurances as to how he’ll be. The Mets must protect themselves in case Wright can’t play, which means they’ll probably bring back Reyes.

Q: One and done for Cespedes?

A: Only the most naïve don’t think Cespedes will opt out. I have no problems with that, but the Mets must be wary of bringing him back. For all the lip service Cespedes gives about wanting him to return to the Mets, his priority is getting the big bucks, which is more than the $50 million remaining on his deal over the next two seasons. Early reports have Cespedes seeking $100 million over five years. There’s no denying Cespedes can hit, but he’s high maintenance, injury prone and hustles when the mood strikes. Oh yeah. One more thing … if you play in New York and want over $100 million, then you talk after a playoff loss. I think the Mets baby this guy too much and the money would be better spent elsewhere.

Q: A breakout year for Conforto?

A: Nope. He sizzled in April, hurt his wrist and eventually rode the Vegas-New York shuttle. In April, Collins moved Conforto to third in the order, but then yanked him around. When he finally came back from Triple-A in September we barely saw him. With the Mets expected to pick up the option on Jay Bruce and another year with Curtis Granderson, there’s little room for Conforto if Cespedes comes back.

Q: Will we get another 90 walks from Granderson?

A: Nope. Granderson’s patience at the leadoff spot last year was key to the Mets getting to the World Series in 2015. However, Granderson’s 30-59 homer-RBI ratio was almost historically poor. The acquisition of Reyes enabled Collins to move Granderson behind Cespedes in the order. Granderson had a strong September and will be on the last season of his contract next year.

Q: How deep is the bench?

A: One thing we learned about the season is the Mets had better depth than we expected. There was Conforto, Brandon Nimmo and T.J. Rivera from the system, plus Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman for the rotation. GM Sandy Alderson did a good job this year plugging holes with Reyes, Loney, Bruce and Rivera.

Q: Who gets injured?

A: Just about everybody. When a team loses three-fifths of its rotation, plus Wright, Walker, Duda, d’Arnaud and Flores from its offense, it will be in trouble. Considering all that happened, the Mets were fortunate to win 87 games and reach the playoffs. It was a rough year and the prognosis for the pitchers is uncertainty. Part of the Mets’ offseason analysis must be of its medical staff.

Q: What’s going on with the Nationals?

A: The Nationals, especially Murphy, owned the Mets this year and won the NL East going away. And, they did so with their own list of injuries, including Stephen Strasburg going on the DL twice. They’re playing Los Angeles in the NLDS and lost Game 1 at home.

Q: Can the Mets get off to another fast start?

A: They did, but it didn’t matter. The Mets were hot in April and hot in September. Between them, the Mets were a sub .500 team.

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Sep 23

Mets Magic? To Be Determined

Greetings on the day after the latest Mets’ miracle. There have been times in my coverage of the Mets – which began in 2006 (and since 1998 overall of New York baseball) – where I have been called a curmudgeon, which is not entirely untrue.

I try to take more of a down-the-middle approach in my emotional perspective of the team. I don’t get too high or too low, and believe I’ve fulfilled my responsibility if there’s a balance between those who like my stuff and those who hate me.

COLLINS: Will he be smiling in a week? (AP)

COLLINS: Will he be smiling in a week? (AP)

There are times, I admit, when I take the hatred as a compliment.

Either way, after the Asdrubal Cabrera’s game-winner last night, the bottom line is the Mets remain tied with San Francisco and hold a slim lead over the Cardinals for the wild-card. Cabrera’s moment in Mets’ history is contingent on how this all plays out.

Will it be a Super Nova or a star that forever burns bright, like the ball that got by Bill Buckner?

It’s just stardust if the Mets fade and don’t make it; it’s special if they go on to win the World Series. The moment loses luster if they don’t run the table.

Can we agree this business of the Mets’ schedule giving them an advantage is nonsense if they don’t capitalize? Let’s face it, without Cabrera last night, and what Jose Reyes did shortly before, they would have lost four straight home games to sub-.500 teams.

The remaining schedule is largely irrelevant because: 1) those teams would love nothing more than to put it to these uppity New Yorkers; 2) those players are competing for 2017 jobs; 3) September call-ups add an unknown element to the stew; and, 4) after this weekend the last six games are on the road.

For those who insist the schedule means something, if the beginning of this week didn’t convince you, try this, if the Mets don’t make the playoffs, the biggest statistic working against them is that 26 of their 72 losses (36 percent) have been against sub-.500 Atlanta (10), Colorado (6), Philadelphia (5) and Arizona (5).

They lost another six to Miami, whom they play three games next week on the road.

Perhaps the Mets were due to win last night. Sometimes the odds work in their favor. But, was it magic? I wouldn’t go that far.

After all, there have been several times this season when it would have been easy to conclude they turned it around.

After a sluggish start, they closed April by winning 11 of 12 games, but limped through May with seven losses against cupcakes Atlanta, San Diego and Colorado.

They lost five games in June to the Braves and were swept in a three-game series in Washington to finish that month only four games over .500. The Mets appeared to turn it around with a four-game sweep of the Cubs in July, but gave up that momentum by losing three of four at home to the Nationals heading into the break.

You’ll recall manager Terry Collins saying it was “essential we play well,” in the stretch entering the break and coming out for the second half. They entered the break six games over .500 but ended July only four games over.

The Mets nose-dived to two games under in mid-August before Bartolo Colon stopped the hemorrhaging by beating the Giants in San Francisco. They went 9-2 to close August to give their season alive.

Unquestionably, the Mets have been snakebit with injuries to their young, vaunted rotation. Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler are all gone. But, for all their bad luck, they’ve been kept afloat by Colon, Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman and tonight’s spot starter Gabriel Ynoa, and the bullpen duo of Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia. Today we learned Saturday’s starter, Noah Syndergaard, will be scratched in favor of Sean Gilmartin because of a strep throat.

No doubt, the baseball Gods are toying with Collins.

Bad luck offset by good? Perhaps. But, Lugo has been brought down a peg and Reed and Familia have taken their lumps.

Wilmer Flores helped carry the team for a while, but hasn’t played in over a week because of a bad wrist (Collins took the hit for that by saying he should have used a pinch-runner). The Jay Bruce trade did not work out, but was offset by the resurgence of power from Curtis Granderson.

Cabrera and Yoenis Cespedes spent time on the disabled list, but came off smoking. Cespedes is now mired in a slump, although he came through with a big hit last night.

Matt Reynolds, James Loney, Brandon Nimmo, Rene Rivera, Reyes and T.J. Rivera have either come up from the minors or were rescued off the scrap team to produce big moments. However, Michael Conforto was sent down and this season has been a bust for him.

A lot has gone wrong for the Mets – I didn’t even get to the injuries of David Wright, Neil Walker and Lucas Duda – but the flip side is a lot went right to put them where they are today.

Was last night magic? I don’t think so. It was a magical moment but means nothing if not sustainable.

For every reason why I could write them off, there are reasons I can give why they are still alive. Through it all, like they were last season, resiliency is their greatest attribute.

They are alive with nine games remaining, and considering all that has gone, maybe that’s their magic for this year.

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