Nov 28

Mets’ Top Five Issues Entering Spring Training

I trust you all enjoyed Thanksgiving with your families. With Christmas fast approaching, followed by the Super Bowl, it is time to forget about the Jets, Giants, Knicks and Nets, and focus on hockey and the upcoming baseball season.

The spring training countdown begins at the conclusion of the Super Bowl. With that, I’ll take a look at what I consider the Mets’ top five issues entering the season.

HARVEY: No hiding he's a key. ESPN

HARVEY: No hiding he’s a key. ESPN

If you disagree, and that’s the point of this exercise, I would be interested to hear your issues.

1. DAVID WRIGHT’S HEALTH: I touched on this the other day, and rank it first because it is the lead domino. If Wright returns to All-Star status it alleviates a lot of pressure from the offense. It takes away a potential distraction and goes a long way toward making the Mets whole.

2. MATT HARVEY’S RETURN: If not Wright, then it has to be Harvey’s return from Tommy John surgery. The Mets have to handle him with kid gloves whether he likes it or not. There will be an innings limit, which has yet to be disclosed which figures to become an issue.

3. THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE BULLPEN: For as long as Sandy Alderson has been here, building the bullpen has been a major issue. With Bobby Parnell’s injury, the Mets went with a patchwork bullpen last year that saw the emergence of Jenrry Mejia and Jeurys Familia. Manager Terry Collins said the job is Parnell’s when he returns, but that’s premature. Let Parnell ease into form. As of now, Mejia, Familia, Parnell and Vic Black bring a lot of heat from the sixth through ninth innings. The Mets need another lefty to complement Josh Edgin and there’s a need to bring back Carlos Torres.

4. THE CONTINUED DEVELOPMENT OF JACOB deGROM AND ZACK WHEELER The Mets claim their foundation is young pitching, which means they need an encore year from deGrom and Wheeler to pitch up to expectations. For Wheeler, that means lowering his pitch count and giving the Mets depth. It can’t all be Harvey.

5.  WILMER FLORES’  ABILITY TO TAKE TO SHORTSTOP: Let’s face it, the Mets aren’t going to land a marquee shortstop, either through trade or free agency. It is time to see if Flores can produce. This should he his shot.

 

Oct 07

Handicapping Trade Value Of Mets Pitchers

To get something, you have to give something, but what the New York Mets don’t want to give up is their young pitching. Understandable, but how long can they hold out?

The Mets say they won’t deal Matt Harvey, remember there is no such thing as an untouchable. What if some team, in the words of Don Corleone, give them “an offer they can’t refuse.’’ If the Angels offered Mike Trout straight up for Harvey, that’s something I would seriously consider. Arguably the best position player in the game for a prospect with all of 12 major league victories? Who wouldn’t?

HARVEY: Everybody likes him. (AP)

HARVEY: Everybody likes him. (AP)

Let’s take a look at the Mets’ young arms in relation to their trade ability and the scenario in which they could be dealt:

MATT HARVEY: Everybody wants him and that’s a given. However, coming off Tommy John surgery there might be a twinge of reluctance of making a big offer although the odds of recovery are good. They might get more if Harvey rebounds with a good season, which would undoubtedly spike his value. The Mets delayed Harvey’s arrival to avoid arbitration and later free agency. But, that’s not to say he won’t eventually bolt when given the chance considering his sometimes rocky relationship with management. If he continues to perform well and the Mets don’t sign him to a long term contract, his contract would increase through arbitration. Sometime in that process, if they can’t get a long term deal done, they might seriously think of trading him off before he leaves as a free agent to the Bronx.

ZACK WHEELER: Some scouts say his stuff is better than Harvey’s, but he doesn’t have nearly the poise or knowledge of pitching. Harvey is way ahead in those areas. Wheeler is reminiscent of Nolan Ryan early in his career when he threw hard with no idea where the pitch would go. Wheeler tries too much for the strikeout, which elevates is pitch count and reduces his innings. His potential is so raw that he’s worth waiting for, but conversely it is so attractive there will be takers. Another thing about Wheeler, and this also applies to Harvey and Jacob deGrom, is they are under reasonable contracts. It’s not like a team is picking up Clayton Kershaw’s contract. Also, with all three the Mets don’t want to sign them to such contracts, but other teams could sense that as a sense of urgency.

JACOB deGROM: It would be a crime if he is not the Rookie of the Year. He’s closer to being where Harvey is than Wheeler. He’s got great stuff, an outstanding breaking ball, poise and a sense about what pitching is all about. He’s definitely more a pitcher than a thrower. Like Harvey in his first year, deGrom caught teams by surprise. It might be different in 2015. But, I like this guy and would be more disappointed if he were traded than Harvey or Wheeler.

NOAH SYNDERGAARD: Some scouts say he might be the best prospect of all, but we really won’t know what he has until he pitches at the major league level, which won’t be June at the earliest. He’s got a terrific breaking ball, great stuff and by all accounts could be the real thing. We shall see, and I hope we see it in Flushing.

JON NIESE: He’s left-handed, throws hard, 27 and signed to a reasonable contract. That makes him attractive to the Mets and other teams. What’s not to like? Well, there’s his injury history, inconsistency (only one winning season in seven years), and the bad habit of not being able to put away hitters and lets innings unravel. The argument is a change of scenery might help, but unlike the previous four mentioned his value has decreased.

RAFAEL MONTERO: He has loads of potential, but other teams also see that in him. He’s a lot like Jenrry Mejia in that the Mets haven’t found a definitive role for him. Starter or reliever? He could be in the rotation until Syndergaard is ready and Niese were traded. But, on Opening Day I see him either in the bullpen or Triple-A.

DILLON GEE: He’s rated no higher than a fifth starter and could be bumped to the bullpen when Syndergaard is ready. Too bad. Gee doesn’t have great stuff, but is mentally tough – until he gets to Philadelphia – and shows a lot of poise. He’s somebody that could get the Mets something at the deadline as he can also work out of the bullpen in long relief. There’s things a contender could like about him. Question is, will the Mets be such a contender? The Mets could have traded him numerous times, but there were no serious takers. That says something.

BARTOLO COLON: At 41, he threw over 200 innings and won 15 games. Was it all him, or did the move to the National League and spacious Citi Field have something to do with that? Colon will get $10 million in 2015, of which half of that will be gone by the trade deadline. If the Mets are in it, they’d be wise to keep him, but if he’s pitching well he could bring something in return in the right package. He’s being shopped, but nobody will offer anything until they explore the free-agent market.

BOBBY PARNELL: I remember the day he hit triple digits on the radar gun at Fenway Park. Buy, it never happened for him as a starter thanks to Jerry Manuel. He won the closer role in 2013, but missed last season because of an injury. Should Mejia or Jeurys Familia win the closer role and Parnell proves healthy in spring training, he could be attractive and available.

JENRRY MEJIA: When the Mets were bouncing him from the bullpen to the rotation his value declined. Especially when it lead to elbow surgery. Now, it was a sports hernia that cut his breakout season. Mejia showed he has the stuff to be a closer, especially since he’s learning how to pitch rather than just trying to blow heat past a hitter. There’s value here.

JEURYS FAMILIA: Had an outstanding rookie season and drew a lot of attention. Some believe he could be the closer of future, however some teams might think he could be a closer now. This is a tough one considering the fragile nature of constructing a bullpen. Of these three relievers, Parnell could be the most available, but also bring the least in return.

 

Sep 13

Mejia Gesture Not Classy

NOTE: Terry Collins told Jenrry Mejia to tone it down several hours after this post.-JD

 

Count me among those not enamored with the post-game celebration of New York Mets closer Jenrry Mejia, who went over the top with his reel-him-in gesture after striking out Ian Desmond to end last night’s game.

Watching Mejia was watching any NBA player thump his chest and mug for the camera’s after dunking on a defender. It was watching almost any receiver or cornerback in the NFL.

It was a reminder of how class is a fleeting thing in sports. We see self-congratulatory celebrations everywhere, and we see them because that’s what the networks like to direct their cameras. And, don’t think for a moment the athlete doesn’t know where the camera is directed.

And, it’s tiresome.

Also tiring are the weak defenses by managers and coaches.

“You’ve got to have some emotion in the game,’’ Terry Collins said last night. “We see it everywhere. I see other teams doing it. They can get mad, if it gives them more adrenaline. I want these guys to have some fun. I don’t want to corral them and worry about every move they make.’’

I’d like to hear Collins take that view when somebody gestures toward his team.

Fact is, Collins must stick up for his players in large part because of his lame duck status. If the Mets and Collins both knew he’d be back, perhaps he’d be more apt to kick butt.

I confess to being old school, maybe too old, but that’s what I believe. There’s a difference between having fun and mocking your opponent.

Trouble is not too many players see the difference and the line is continually blurred for the fans, also.

Mar 18

Demotion Just The Beginning For Syndergaard

So much for the speculation Jon Niese’s elbow issues would prompt the New York Mets to promote Noah Syndergaard and/or Rafael Montero to the major league roster for Opening Day.

We are aware of the financial reasoning by the Mets, who, despite a more aggressive off-season still are bound by economic handcuffs.

SYNDERGAARD: Just a start. (MLB.com)

SYNDERGAARD: Just a start. (MLB.com)

No worries, because either or both will be at Citi Field soon enough. This is technically a demotion, but in reality a watershed moment in his career.

That’s the hope of Syndergaard, who said all the right things to reporters this morning. All the right things, much like Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler did in previous springs.

“I kind of knew it was coming,’’ Syndergaard said. “I think no matter how well I threw during spring training, if I struck out everybody, if I didn’t allow any runs whatsoever, I think I still was going to go over to the minor-league side regardless. There’s a business standpoint to it. And I know there’s other things I have to work on.’’

Syndergaard must refine his arsenal of pitches, including a change-up and consistency with his nasty curveball.

Also sent down were pitchers Montero, Cory Mazzoni, Ryan Reid, Joel Carreno, catcher Juan Centeno, and first basemen Brandon Allen and Matt Clark.

It was thought, as a long shot Syndergaard or Montero would be promoted in light of Niese’s elbow problems. Niese could get at least two more starts to prove his worthiness to make the Opening Day roster.

Syndergaard showed he can overpower hitters with his fastball and baffle them with the curveball manager Terry Collins calls a “hook from hell.’’ However, despite his composure, there’s the matter of learning how to set up hitters and slow the game down when he gets into trouble.

What Syndergaard most took from spring training is the knowledge he and his stuff are ready. It will only be a few months; a blip in what the Mets hope will be a long career.

“Just that my stuff can play out on the field. I mean, I can get big-league hitters out,’’ Syndergaard said of what he’ll pack in his duffle bag. “Just playing against guys I watched growing up, just being able to get them out as well.
“There’s a sense of relief just knowing that my repertoire of pitches, my demeanor on the mound, opens eyes up in the big leagues, opens eyes of the big-league hitters. It’s just a lot of confidence going into minor-league camp knowing that I had some pretty great success in big-league camp.’’

Syndergaard and Montero – who was considered for a relief role – will anchor a Triple-A Las Vegas rotation that includes Jacob deGrom, Logan Verrett, and possibly Jenrry Mejia.

The Mets don’t figure to promote Syndergaard until late June or July, delaying his arbitration eligibility by a year.

It’s a money move, plain and simple, but if Syndergaard is all that is advertised, he’ll be making plenty of money.

Mar 17

Little Time, Many Questions For Mets

Spring training is not just to get ready for the season, but for teams to sharpen their cliché skills. The New York Mets have used many this spring, but the prevalent one is: There’s plenty of time left.

Memo to Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins: No, there isn’t.

DAVIS: Still a question. (Getty)

DAVIS: Still a question. (Getty)

With Opening Day two weeks away, the Mets have many decisions left; way too many for a team that could win 90 games. I bet Alderson already regrets that thought.

Here’s what’s left to decide:

FIRST BASE: Ike Davis entered spring training as the frontrunner, but because of leg injuries, neither him nor Lucas Duda has played much.

Neither will get close to 70 at-bats, much less the 90-plus Collins hoped for Davis.

They could, but I don’t see them carrying both.

Speculation is Davis will open the season on the disabled list, with Duda playing. That’s presumably because Duda is further along.

They could run Josh Satin out there, but I believe they wasted this spring to learn more about Wilmer Flores.

Collins suggested using Flores at shortstop, but he’s barely played there. He has a promising bat, but scouts say he is better equipped for second base or the corner infield positions.

Flores won’t get third because of David Wright, and last I checked first base is a corner infield position. Why couldn’t they look at Flores there? Where’s the vision?

SHORTSTOP: Publicly, they support Ruben Tejada, but almost as visible have been their efforts to land Stephen Drew and trade for Seattle’s Nick Franklin.

Neither is imminent, and the Orioles and Rays also have interest in Franklin. If they really wanted him, they should have acted weeks ago.

Shortstop remains a black hole, but I see Tejada winning the job by default because the Mets are skittish about giving Drew the money and surrendering prospects for Franklin. Anticipate Tejada as the Opening Day shortstop, with much criticism to follow.

LEADOFF HITTER: Collins prefers Eric Young, which is the best choice. However, where does that leave Juan Lagares? That’s the rub.

If Young plays, the outfield would include him, Chris Young and Curtis Granderson.

This isn’t softball, so there is no extra outfielder. For the purposes of his development, Lagares should play fulltime, either up here or in the minor leagues.

If it is here, they are wasting Eric Young. They also have no idea if Lagares can hit at this level.

One possibility is to go with Matt den Dekker or Kirk Nieuwenhuis as the extra outfielder – both can play center – and give Lagares his at-bats in Triple-A Las Vegas.

PITCHING; Both the rotation and bullpen are seemingly set, but there’s the Jenrry Mejia question: Rotation or bullpen?

If they aren’t going to use Mejia in the rotation in the majors, they should use him as a starter in Las Vegas.