Nov 14

Mets Bracing For Innings Showdown With Harvey

It’s getting close to spring training because the topic of limiting innings for Matt Harvey is again a topic. GM Sandy Alderson indicated as such at the GM meetings this week in Phoenix and manager Terry Collins said so Thursday during a public appearance at a food pantry.

HARVEY: Caution, caution, caution. (AP)

HARVEY: Caution, caution, caution. (AP)

It’s a no-brainer with Harvey coming off Tommy John surgery. With Harvey’s return, the Mets are pointing toward 2015 as when they believe they will be competitive. The one thing they can’t afford is to lose Harvey.

“Certainly we might skip him here and there once in a while, just to save him,’’ Collins told reporters. “That will all be explained to him and there’ll be arguments and he’ll throw a tantrum in the office but it’s all part of the job because he wants to pitch and he wants to win.’’

Yeah, yeah, yeah. That sounds good. Sounds heroic. Sounds inspiring. Sounds like a lot of nonsense.

If Harvey can’t understand the Mets’ reasoning for limiting, then he’s not as bright as he has been portrayed. Then again, pitching smarts and off-the-field smarts are two different things.

Don’t get me wrong, I like what Harvey brings to the table, but he can’t bring anything if he’s hurt. He’s already been a thorn to Alderson and Collins for how he handled his rehab and insistence of wanting to spend more time in New York instead of Florida.

He made a big deal about wanting to be with his teammates, yet went to Yankee Stadium to watch Derek Jeter. Nobody connected with the Mets says anything negative about Harvey for fear of alienating him.

Never mind that, my take is Harvey tweaking the Mets’ brass and Alderson’s often testy relationship with the pitcher’s agent, Scott Boras, says he’s a goner once he becomes a free agent.

Of course, that’s a bridge Alderson has to jump off of later. For now, it’s now to cut the innings.

The best way is to tell Harvey during spring training and making sure he understands this isn’t negotiable.

There are six months in a baseball season, so missing one start a month shouldn’t be hard to figure out. Assuming six innings a start, that’s 36 innings saved. They might also consider missing more time in April when the weather is still cold and there’s a greater chance of hurting his arm. Then, there are shaving innings in blowouts, one way or another. Put a cap on his starts at seven innings.

This shouldn’t be hard to figure out for Alderson and Collins. As for Harvey, he has to realize he’s not in charge. With only 12 major league victories, he’s hardly in position to be calling the shots.

 

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 22

The Differences Between The Giants And Mets

I hope Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins took notes in Game 1, because the Giants have the blueprint the Mets should be following. So, in comparing the wild-card Giants to the Mets, there’s more than just a 3,000-mile difference:

Solid starting pitching: Madison Bumgarner was lights out, pitching quickly, and with command and composure. This is what the Mets expect from Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler. The rap on Mets pitchers is an inability to put away a hitter and keep damage to a minimum. This especially applies to Jon Niese.

BUMGARNER: It always begins with pitching. (Getty)

BUMGARNER: It always begins with pitching. (Getty)

The game’s turning point came in the third inning when the Royals put runners on second and third with no out, but Bumgarner kept it together and got out of the inning with no damage. Bumgarner also helped himself by starting a double play to get out of the second.

I’m not saying Mets pitchers haven’t done the same, but not consistently.

Bumgarner threw 21 first-pitch strikes to the 26 hitters he faced for an incredible 81 percent efficiency. For all the new wave stats, first pitch strikes percentages are missing. In particular, this is something Wheeler – originally in the Giants’ organization – must refine his game.

Who is to say the Giants didn’t know this when they traded him to the Mets for Carlos Beltran?

Relief pitching: The bullpen has long been part of the Giants’ success, with the pitchers and how manager Bruce Bochy manages them. There’s nobody better.

Alderson has tried to build a pen since he came here, and this season is the closest he’s come. Now, it is up to Collins to slot in Bobby Parnell, Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia in the right roles.

Aggressive base running/productive at-bats: The Royals’ speed drew considerable pre-Series attention, but the tone for the game was set in the first inning when the Giants executed what I consider one of the most exciting plays in baseball.

Gregor Blanco singled and tagged up and advanced on Joe Panik’s fly ball, making it a productive out. The dimensions at Citi Field are such that this is something the Mets should be more aware of doing.

So, instead of fooling around with the dimensions and moving in the fences, the Mets would be better off tailoring their offense with speed, aggressive base running and timely hitting to complement their young pitching.

In Game 1, the Giants were 5-for-12 with RISP, a situation in which the Mets are weak. Timely hitting begins with being patient and working the count. Last night, of the 43 hitters the Giants sent to the plate, 20 took a first-pitch ball or put the ball in play.

Management expertise: Bochy is the best manager in baseball. This is the fourth time he’s taken a team to the World Series, and win-or-lose, he’s worthy of the Hall of Fame.

He gives his players defined roles and they buy in. I can’t imagine Bochy fooling around by juggling Wilmer Flores and Ruben Tejada at shortstop, or with the myriad of left fielders.

It is Alderson’s responsibility to bring in the right players. The Giants bettered themselves with Jake Peavy and Hunter Pence; in recent years the Mets brought in Curtis Granderson and Frank Francisco.

Big difference.

Bochy once left Barry Zito off a playoff roster and put Tim Lincecum in the bullpen. There were no waves. Conversely, Matt Harvey, although it was determined he wouldn’t pitch this season, complained about where he would rehab and that he wanted to pitch this summer.

Neither Alderson nor Collins forcefully laid down the law with Harvey, and prior to that Jordany Valdespin. The Mets have had through the years a line of headaches such as Francisco Rodriguez and Ike Davis (complaining about going to the minor leagues and refusing to adjust his hitting approach).

I can’t imagine the Giants putting up with a non-productive player for as long as the Mets did with Davis.

The Mets also didn’t give Angel Pagan a legitimate chance in center field. He’s hurt now, but on a four-year contract with the Giants.

Sabean has been the Giants’ general manager since 1997. Conversely, Alderson is the fourth general manager have had in that span.

Of course, Sabean has been given ownership’s blessing to build the team as he sees fit. Alderson doesn’t have that leeway.

The Mets won 79 games this season, while San Francisco won 88. Nine more wins over six months doesn’t seem like much.

Let’s see if the Mets can close that gap.

Oct 10

Neither Niese Nor Gee Will Bring A Bat; Not Even Together

I read several articles, both on blogs and in the mainstream media, debating whether the Mets should trade either Jon Niese or Dillon Gee in an attempt to add a power bat, preferably to play left field.

There’s a flaw here, namely in the belief either pitcher could bring a bat in return. That won’t happen as neither has a track record that would have another team salivating. Even if you packaged them both it wouldn’t be enough to get them a masher.

To get a slugger, the Mets would have to add considerably to the package and include one of their young arms. Niese’s trade value is limited and Gee’s isn’t any better. Getting a slugger would entail giving up much more, and even then there’s the matter of extending the contract of the hitter.

The Mets currently aren’t inclined to give up their young pitching and not willing to sign a hitter, whether it be a free agent or one included in a trade, to a long-term, contract in the $100 million range. That’s not their mindset, so subsequently don’t be surprised if next year’s team resembles the 2014 model.

The Mets’ current thinking is hoping for Matt Harvey’s return, Zack Wheeler’s development and a bounce-back year from David Wright.