Oct 23

Did Mets Fix Daisuke Matsuzaka Only To Lose Him?

Even knowing that the New York Mets would not have Matt Harvey next season, there was a slight glimmer of optimism they might have enough to piece together a rotation and spend elsewhere.

That glimmer is fading.

MATSUZAKA: Will he walk away?

MATSUZAKA: Will he walk away?

Pitching coach Dan Warthen fixed Daisuke Matsuzaka’s long and cumbersome delivery, complete with a hitch. With a faster delivery, Matsuzaka showed he could be the real deal. After a rocky first two starts, Matsuzaka settled in to become one of the Mets’ most reliable starters in September. Matsuzaka finished at 3-3 with a 4.42 ERA in seven starts with the Mets. His fastball returned with bite as evidenced by his 33-16 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. He averaged just under eight strikeouts per nine innings.

The Mets were interested when Matsuzaka came out of Japan, but didn’t come close to matching Boston with the qualifying negotiating offer to his Japanese team.

Matsuzaka earned $1.5 million this season from the Mets, who picked him up after Cleveland released him at the end of spring training.

The Mets also signed innings-eater Aaron Harang, Sept. 1, after his release from Seattle. Harang, who has also pitched for Cincinnati, San Diego and the Dodgers, is a reliable workhorse. From 2004 through this season, Harang has pitched less than 150 innings only twice, including this year when he worked a combined 143.1 innings with the Mariners and Mets.

Harang gave the Mets six innings in three of his four starts, and five in the other. He was 0-1 with a representative 3.52 ERA, but struck out 26 in 23 innings. However, he did give up five homers.

What Harang and Matsuzaka did was log enough innings to conserve the bullpen and prevent the Mets from unraveling the last month of the season.

What Harang and Matsuzaka also did was impressive to enough scouts to where somebody will make them an offer to pry them away if the Mets go low-ball. The last thing a journeyman pitcher wants to do is not leave an impression in September.

This would not be something new to the Mets, as both Chris Capuano and Chris Young proved enough in their Flushing auditions for another team to take them away.

They aren’t the only ones.

Carlos Torres, who previously pitched in Japan, Colorado and with the Chicago White Sox, was an asset as a spot starter, long reliever and situational reliever this season. In 33 games with the Mets, nine of which were starts, Torres was 4-6 with a 3.44 ERA.

He pitched 86.1 innings, which isn’t bad considering he wasn’t on their radar in spring training. He struck out 75 and walked just 17 with a career-best 1.112 WHIP.

Torres, who made $415,000 this season, will leave if the Mets don’t tender him a contract.

So, that feeling of holding the fort until Rafael Montero is ready, and to a larger extent, until 2015, is giving way to a sense the Mets might have done it again and fixed several pitchers to where somebody else will take them away from them.

 

Oct 22

Mets’ All-Star Matt Harvey Undergoes Tommy John Surgery

The New York Mets announced this afternoon All-Star pitcher Matt Harvey underwent Tommy John surgery, with Dr. James Andrews performing in Gulf Breeze, Fla.

Harvey will miss the entire season.

HARVEY: Has the knife today.

HARVEY: Has the knife today.

Initially, Harvey wanted to attempt rest and rehab as treatment for the partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Harvey was even given Andrews’ blessing to try that first, but couldn’t build up the strength to resume throwing, let alone compete in the Arizona Fall League.

Harvey waffled on surgery for over a month, but in the end did what general manager Sandy Alderson thought he would. Alderson said he was careful not to influence Harvey’s decision, but once the All-Star starter opted for surgery he said it was the right choice.

Alderson admitted Harvey was taking a gamble that he would be healthy for spring training, then re-injure his elbow and miss the remainder of the 2014 season and all of 2015. Alderson described that as the worst possible scenario for the Mets.

All along, Alderson said Harvey’s condition wouldn’t impact the Mets’ offseason approach to their rotation. Alderson said not to expect the Mets to sign a marquee free agent pitcher despite him saying he had the resources. Instead, Alderson said the team would target two innings eaters for the back end of the rotation until Rafael Montero’s Super Two deadline is reached and he would be available by June.

The Mets’ current rotation is Jon Niese, Zack Wheeler and Dillon Gee, all with questions of their own. Niese is coming off a slightly torn rotator cuff; Wheeler was scratched from his last start with a sore shoulder and will be entering his first full season; and Gee, based on victories, is now the de facto No. 1.

The Mets also do not know whether Jenrry Mejia, who underwent elbow surgery to remove bone spurs will be available for the start of the season.

The innings-eaters Alderson is searching for could be Aaron Harang and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Both showed enough – especially Matsuzaka – to warrant being brought to spring training.

Trouble is, they also showed enough to other teams who might pry them away if the Mets lowballed them.

It sure is strange how things tend to turn around. Prior to Harvey’s injury the Mets were thinking about going to a six-man rotation to conserve innings for Harvey and Wheeler.

They are now looking for help.

Oct 22

Would Boston’s Free-Agent Building Approach Benefit Mets?

Yesterday, I suggested what the New York Mets could learn from the St. Louis Cardinals in building their team. Today, let’s examine how the Red Sox were built and what the Mets can take from their approach.

The Cardinals’ philosophy of first building from within followed by judicious trades and free-agent signings has always been the traditional and preferred method.

Throwing millions and millions into the free-agent market is costly and risky. The Mets don’t have the resources of the Yankees or Dodgers to throw good money after bad.

ELLSBURY: Will he be too costly for Mets?

ELLSBURY: Will he be too costly for Mets?

There’s pressure to win in both markets, but there’s a greater intensity in Boston – and New York – while there’s a degree of patience in the Midwest. That explains in part why St. Louis has 17 homegrown players on its roster, while the Red Sox have ten.

There was a venomous culture in Boston last season as the Red Sox, burdened by several cumbersome contracts – similar to what the Mets faced when Sandy Alderson took over – and a few cancerous personalities in the clubhouse.

“Say, could you pass some fried chicken this way?’’

The Red Sox cleared nearly $200 million in salaries when they unloaded Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to the Dodgers midway through last year’s disastrous 69-93 summer under Bobby Valentine. They did so because even in a lost season the Red Sox were thinking about this summer. That’s something the Mets never fully explored when they had Jose Reyes and others to dangle.

The Red Sox were far quicker and more decisive than the Mets have been in ridding themselves of too costly and ineffective players, such as Oliver Perez, Ike Davis, Francisco Rodriguez and Luis Castillo to name a few of close to numerous bad deals since 2006, the last time the Mets saw October.

Rather than sink their savings into different long-term, costly signings, the Red Sox signed a handful of productive, yet cost-effective, players in: Shane Victorino (three years, $39 million); catcher David Ross (two years, $6.2 million); first baseman Mike Napoli (one year, $5 million); shortstop Stephen Drew (one year, $9.5 million); outfielder Jonny Gomes (two years, $10 million); and dynamite closer Koji Uehara (one year, $4.25 million plus option).

None bowl you over; collectively, they helped the Red Sox win 97 games.

Boston also extended by two years and $26 million the contract of its own free agent, designated hitter David Ortiz. They also avoided arbitration by offering Jacoby Ellsbury a one-year, $9-million deal. Some signings, such as pitcher Ryan Dempster’s two-year, $26.5 million deal, didn’t pan out. He’s now in middle relief and would be a starter for the Mets.

The Red Sox also hit it with trades, including pitcher Jake Peavy, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and and former Mets first-base prospect, Mike Carp.

Boston’s success in the free-agent and trade markets was overwhelmingly successful. Although Alderson said he could have the leeway to offer a $100-million contract to one player, he would be better off in taking Boston’s approach and attempt to patch several of the Mets’ many holes.

Alderson knows the success the Red Sox enjoyed is rare and shouldn’t be expected, especially since the Mets won’t offer similar deals. However, the idea of pursuing players with playoff success – Napoli and Victorino – is a sound way to augment their present composition of youth and few proven major leaguers.

The Mets are unsettled at first base, but are kidding themselves if they think they could get Napoli by offering a slight raise. Napoli was to get a three-year, $39-million deal, but that fell through when a degenerative hip condition was discovered. He’ll likely get his three years this winter.

As for Victorino, the Mets had their chance to sign him, but now it is too late. They must consider between Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo and Nelson Cruz, what they might each cost, and their various baggage.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Red Sox attempt to retain Ellsbury, but there are already reports the Tigers are interested in either him or Choo, the latter who is reportedly seeking four years.

The Red Sox took a shotgun approach last winter, and still wound up with a $155-million payroll while hitting most of their targets. It worked because their scouts did their homework; they got lucky; and they already had a core to build around. The Red Sox were also forced to be aggressive last winter because of their restless and demanding fan base. Every year it is the same motivation for them and the Yankees.

The Mets’ fan base is already looking at 2015 when Matt Harvey returns. Few are expecting a contender next summer without him. The Mets also don’t have as good a core as Boston had and won’t come anywhere close to what the Red Sox spent, but could go as high as $100 million, maybe a little more.

Everybody in the division save the Miami Marlins will spend more. If the Mets are to emulate the Red Sox, they’ll have to dig deeper and that’s not something they’ll be inclined to do.

Oct 16

2013 Season Review: Dillon Gee

dillon gee

DILLON GEE, RHP

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS

Coming off surgery, the expectations were minimal because the Mets didn’t know what they were getting. The surgery was to repair an artery in his shoulder after experiencing numbness in his hand and fingers. As a “feel’’ pitcher, this type of injury was especially serious because it prevented him from getting a grip on his breaking balls and change-up, which were essential to his success. When healthy the book on Gee was is reliability as he pitched at least five innings in 17 starts in 2012, and 12 of those starts were defined as quality. However, like a lot of Mets’ pitchers there was a problem with run support, as he finished 6-7. His 97-29 strikeouts-to-walks ratio was good. If healthy, the Mets slotted him in as the No. 3 starter behind Matt Harvey and Jon Niese.

CAREER STATS

Screenshot_4

2013 SEASON REVIEW

Gee said he felt good, but it was clear he didn’t have it in the beginning of the season as he was 2-6 with a 5.68 ERA in late May and there talk whether he was lose his job in the rotation when Zack Wheeler was to be promoted to the majors. Then it was as a switch was turned on as he gave up a run in 7.1 innings and struck out 12 in a victory at Yankee Stadium, May 30. All of a sudden, Gee’s change-up was working and Gee went on a roll where he worked into the seventh inning or later in 10 of his next 12 starts. When Harvey went down, Niese had a shoulder issue, and Wheeler was finding his way, Gee emerged as the Mets’ most reliable pitcher. Gee finished at with a 12-11 record with an impressive 3.62 ERA, a 1.21 WHIP, and a 3-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. Most importantly to Gee, he started 32 games and threw a career-high 199 innings.

LOOKING AT 2014

John Delcos Says: Gee thinks, and rightfully so, that he should throw 200 innings every year. With Harvey gone for the season, he and Niese are slotted 1-2 in the rotation, followed by Wheeler and as of now two question marks. Gee said his health issues are behind him, and the numbers substantiate that claim. Gee is not a power pitcher, but his fastball looks better when his change-up and breaking balls are working. Gee has won 13 games (2011) and 12 (last year), so with a little run support and improved bullpen it is conceivable he could be a 15-game winner. If he makes all his starts and throws 200 innings, then the wins should fall into place. Gee enters the 2014 season as a given in the rotation, and with it, higher expectations than he’s ever had.

Joe D. Says: I love the Dillon Gee story… He comes back from a career threatening blood clot that required arterial surgery and delivers a solid campaign in which he led the team in wins while posting a career best 3.64 ERA and 2.1 BB/9. He got off to a rusty start in April, but got progressively better as the season wore on and posted some of the best second half numbers in the National League with a 2.74 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and an opposing .280 on-base percentage.

Gee symbolizes what the Mets have been trying to do over the last several seasons and that is to throw strikes and command the zone. He shows that you don’t necessarily need a 98 mph fastball to succeed as long as you can spot your pitches and change speeds the way he does.

The Matt Harvey injury means his job is safe, although I wouldn’t be shocked to read a plethora of posts suggesting the Mets trade him. Gee is as close to a keeper as one could get, and with all the fireballers expected to pack this rotation by 2015, the Mets are going to need a pitcher like Gee who offers a different look that would only enhance his rotation-mates’ performances and confound opposing teams. Expect an even better season from Gee in 2014 who has lifted himself from number five starter to somewhere in the top three spots.

Oct 14

Mets Have Few Spots Without Questions

Let’s assume for a moment the New York Mets’ health questions – outside from Matt Harvey – are answered in the positive heading into spring training. If that’s the case, then let’s look what issues the Mets’ don’t qualify as pressing.

They don’t have a lot.

As I see it, they are only three deep in their rotation with Dillon Gee, Jon Niese and Zack Wheeler. All have performance questions, but if healthy I’m not overly concerned.

Gee won 12 games last year and 15 should not be out of the question. The same goes for Niese. Who among us doesn’t expect Wheeler to pitch the way Harvey did before he was injured?

Who wouldn’t take that now?

As far as the position players are concerned, the Mets are set in just two spots, and possibly a third. David Wright, of course, and can we please stop trying to replace Daniel Murphy when there are other concerns?

I have no problem with Murphy at second base, and for that matter, I’m also fine with Eric Young in left field, primarily because he surfaced above nine other options to be a productive leadoff hitter. Yes, a high on-base percentage would be good to see, but he made things happen at the top of the order and lead the National League in stolen bases.

And, don’t forget, the Mets only had him for half a season.

The expectations are high for Juan Lagares in center, but he has too many offensive issues. The same goes for Matt den Dekker. Translation: The outfield remains a mess.

There are no answers in the minor leagues and little chips to use to trade. That means they will have to spend, but is there anybody out there that makes you salivate?

I wrote optimistically the other day about the bullpen, but that’s if everything comes together. They appear to have plenty of options to build around, but nothing concrete, especially considering Bobby Parnell’s injury. Should Parnell not come back that’s a source for serious worry.

The back end of the rotation is a concern just as it was last year before Jeremy Hefner and Gee started pitching well. They have options they could bring back and others in the minors, but there’s too much uncertainty.

First base is a black hole and catcher Travis d’Arnaud hasn’t proven he can hit, although the pitchers appear to like him and his defense is promising.

The Mets as we know them today will not be your team come Opening Day. And, that’s a positive.