Dec 03

So Far, Harvey Buying Into Mets’ Plans

Since it’s only December, everything must be taken at face value when it comes to Matt Harvey. You want to take him at his word, but I wouldn’t be me if I weren’t skeptical after hearing him say at this afternoon’s press conference he was on board with the Mets’ decision to limit his innings this summer.

HARVEY: It is early.

HARVEY: It is early.

Harvey bucked the Mets before, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if he did again.

GM Sandy Alderson said there’s a soft cap on Harvey, which is to say there’s no definitive plan. I prefer something more concrete. Even Harvey conceded 200 innings won’t happen, nor should it 17 months after surgery.

“You know what? I’m going to be happy to throw an entire year,’’ Harvey told reporters at Citi Field. “Whatever they decide, it’s in the best interests of both the team and me moving forward. I can’t wait to throw every five days and just be healthy for a full season.

“Looking forward, if you were to map out a whole season, you’re going to have to figure out some changes throughout the year in order to get to a certain point. I mean, if you make 33 starts and seven innings a start, obviously doing the math that’s over what I’m probably going to throw.’’

That’s logic talking, not the usual emotions we get from him. Alderson said the plan is to limit Harvey during the season, but have no restrictions should the Mets reach the playoffs. However, if the Mets are eliminated early, bet on Harvey being further cut.

What the Mets pledge to do is not just yank the plug on him the way Washington did Stephen Strasburg in 2012.

Harvey has been throwing on flat ground six days a week at Citi Field and plans to report to spring training Feb. 1 and face hitters right away.

All this is optimistic, but if Harvey buys into the Mets’ plans this should go smoothly.

One can only hope.

Nov 30

Mets’ Trade Options Limited

The Winter Meetings begin a week from today, but the Mets’ time in San Diego figures to be uneventful because they only have one commodity to spend – and saying that is a stretch.

It is fashionable to say the Mets have lot of young pitching and they do, but they aren’t willing to trade Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard. You can appreciate them reluctant to trade any of these foundation building blocks.

GEE: Trying to move him.

GEE: Trying to move him.

But, the Mets are more than willing to trade Dillon Gee, Bartolo Colon and Jon Niese. The common denominators are they are at the back of the Mets’ rotation and make the most money.

Another common thread is none are expected to bring much in return, which means don’t anticipate anything happening. At least, anything of significance.

Two will be the Opening Day rotation because Syndergaard won’t be brought up prior to June to preserve his Super Two status. Bet on it being Niese and Colon, with Gee possibly going to the bullpen in long relief.

However, at $5 million, that’s steep for the bullpen, and more so for the minor leagues.

With other options, both of the trade and free-agent variety available in the market, teams could shy from Niese ($36.5 million over four years if both options are picked up) and Colon ($11 million).

Niese’s contract, injury history and mediocrity make him especially hard to trade.

If the Mets move any of the three, it might be more likely to happen at the trade deadline.

 

Nov 20

Six-Man Rotation Won’t Happen For Mets

With the topic of cutting Matt Harvey’s innings comes the idea of a six-man rotation.

One reader threw it out there and my response was it was too bold for the Mets’ thinking. That’s part of it, but there other variables.

Baseball doesn’t change easily, and there was a time when the five-man rotation was a novelty. Six? It could happen sometime, but I don’t sense the Mets will be the trailblazers.

Here’s why I don’t think it will happen:

* Pitchers are creatures of habit, which are hard to break. They are accustomed to their present workload of starting every fifth day and adding another day would break that routine. Some might not mind, but Harvey, for one, would pitch a fit.

* Teams have made a considerable investment in their pitchers, and going to a six-man rotation would take away as many as seven starts a year. While that would be perfect for this season and Harvey, it won’t translate over the long haul. These guys want to pitch, and missing seven starts is a lot.

* The Mets have a plan for Noah Syndergaard, and it doesn’t include pitching before June and disrupting his Super Two status. Syndergaard will pitch this season, but not at the cost of moving up his arbitration year.

* The Mets are in position where things could break their way with their rotation and the last thing they want to do is make a move which would force all five starters to make an adjustment.

Six starters sounds good, but it won’t happen.

Nov 19

Mets’ Plan For Harvey Not Concrete

The Mets say they plan to handle Matt Harvey with a “soft’’ innings cap, which is another way of saying they have no plan at all.

HARVEY: Searching for a plan. (Getty)

HARVEY: Searching for a plan. (Getty)

GM Sandy Alderson said the Mets won’t handle Harvey the way Washington dealt with Stephen Strasburg, which was to cut him off in mid-September and thereby miss the postseason, but the speculative nature of his plan could lead to that scenario.

“We can probably accomplish all the things we need to by managing his starts in the rotation,’’ Alderson said.

There’s wiggle room in the word “probably.”

Harvey will open the season on the roster, but there’s no plan to limit him in April when the weather is colder as I suggested. Alderson said the Mets will use off days to by-pass Harvey’s turn in the rotation, but left it more as a “play it by ear,’’ thing than to map out things from the start of the season.

There was also nothing mentioned about shaving his innings per game, such as a seven-inning ceiling.

To me, without anything clearly defined there’s too much of a chance the innings would accumulate and the Mets might get caught short late in the season.

Alderson suggested to give him a two-week shutdown around the All-Star break, which makes considerable sense. The Mets did this last season with Jacob deGrom and he was strong in the second half. A positive to this is it will give the Mets an idea where Harvey stands and from there they could lay out a concrete plan for the second half.

What the Mets won’t do is go with a six-man rotation, which would be a cutting edge move. Harvey pitched 178.1 innings in 2013, and I don’t see any way he’ll pitch more than that in 2014. However, what I can see is if the Mets aren’t definitive about Harvey things could get away from them.

And, that would be a shame.

Nov 17

Mets’ Collins Optimistic About 2015

As far as guarantees go, it was rather weak, but considering the boast came from Terry Collins it was bold enough. Not only will the Mets’ string of six losing seasons come to an end, but they should make the playoffs for the first time since 2006.

Pointing to a young core and return of David Wright and Curtis Granderson that should be enough to get them over the hump.

“We should be playing in October,’’ Collins told reporters this week. “Our young guys are starting to grow, with the addition of some offense, and … we’re not done. … I think 2015 is going to be a good year for us.’’

The key, or course, is Matt Harvey’s recovery from elbow surgery; development of Zack Wheeler; and a encore season from Jacob deGrom that comprise the core of a young pitching staff.

If the pitching holds up and Wright and Granderson have bounce back seasons, that should put them into contention for a wild-card berth. The NL East title? Not so much.