Mar 01

Arguments For John Lannan Being Fifth Starter

Current conventional wisdom has the inside track for the fifth spot in the New York Mets’ rotation belonging to Daisuke Matsuzaka, based primarily on how he finished last season in Flushing.

His competition is John Lannan and Jenrry Mejia, the latter who is coming off elbow surgery. There is sentiment for Mejia to win the job if healthy, but several arguments can be made in favor of Lannan:

* Lannan is left-handed, which would give the Mets two in their rotation. The other is Jonathon Niese, but his balky shoulder could give the Mets pause when it comes to cutting loose Lannan. If Niese isn’t ready, they will need a lefty in their rotation.

* Another consideration is age. At 29, Lannan is four years younger than Matsuzaka. Mejia is 24, but there’s still time for him to crack the rotation. In addition, Mejia has experience as a reliever, and the Mets have questions in their bullpen.

* He has a 45-58 record pitching for some pretty poor Washington teams during his seven-year career, but with a decent 4.12 ERA. Nine of those victories have been against Atlanta, but admittedly a weak 3-13 record against Philadelphia.

* In three out of four years from 2008-2011, Lannan started over 30 games and worked at least 180 innings. By contrast, Matsuzaka has only once started as many as 30 games and worked more than 170 innings during his career.

* Matsuzaka has a career 53-40 record, and seemed to correct his mechanical flaws in his final three starts in 2013 with the Mets. If Matsuzaka has indeed found his rhythm, the Mets could have a valuable trade chip while at the same time keep Lannan.

Lannan will get two innings or 30 pitches today against the Marlins.

The fifth spot remains up for grabs, but Lannan could fill the role while giving Mejia time to recover and work in the bullpen, and provide them a trade asset in Matsuzaka.

That’s a lot to consider.

Feb 26

Wrapping Up The Day: Niese Gets MRI; Starting Rotation Announced; Shortstop Unsettled

Jonathon Niese, designated to be the New York Mets’ Opening Day starter, was sent to New York for a MRI on his sore shoulder.

Niese suffered a rotator cuff injury last year, but the team said this pain was in a different area of the shoulder.

Niese’s first exhibition start was to be March 4 against Houston, but that’s not going to happen. The Mets won’t have any word on Niese’s return until after the MRI is read.

In addition:

* Niese is scheduled to the Opening Day starter against Washington, March 31. Of course, that’s contingent on how much time he will miss. He’s to be followed by Bartolo Colon and Dillon Gee (also against Washington) and Zack Wheeler and the fifth starter (Daisuke Matsuzaka, John Lannan or Jenrry Mejia (against Cincinnati). The Mets’ first two series are at home.

* Colon (tightness in his calf) and outfielder Eric Young (tightness in his side) were held out of practice today.

* General manger Sandy Alderson acknowledges Stephen Drew being a “fit’’ for the Mets at shortstop, but said he’s asking too much,

* Terry Collins said Wilmer Flores will get time at shortstop, but as of now the job belongs to Ruben Tejada.

* Outfielder Matt den Dekker is slowed by a stomach ailment.

* Mejia will oppose Gee in Thursday’s intrasquad game.

Feb 26

Mets’ Tentative Pitching Rotation Pending Niese’s MRI

The New York Mets have their tentative pitching rotation for the first series of the season against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field, pending Jonathon Niese‘s health.

Manager Terry Collins, as he’s said all along, will go with Niese on Opening Day, March 31. After a day off, the Mets will start Game 2 with Bartolo Colon and Dillon Gee in Game 3.

Of course, this is predicated on health. Niese, who had rotator cuff issues last season, returned to New York today for a MRI on his sore left shoulder. Reports out of Port St. Lucie say Niese has a dead arm and the discomfort is in a different part of the shoulder.

Until the results are in, there’s no way of knowing how much time Niese will miss. Presumably, if he opens the season on the disabled list, everybody in the rotation would be moved up a day with another pitcher added.

That leaves Zack Wheeler as the fourth starter, going against Cincinnati, also at Citi Field, and the fifth starter in the season’s fifth game.

The competition for the fifth starter role appears boiled down to Daisuke MatsuzakaJohn Lannan and Jenrry Mejia. Matsuzaka, based on his performance in September for the Mets, and Mejia recovering from surgery, is the front-runner. Lannan could get the nod if neither Niese nor Mejia are available.

If he goes, this would mark the second straight season Niese was the Opening Day starter. Last season, he held San Diego to two runs on four hits in 6.2 innings in a game won, 11-2, by the Mets.

Colon, an 18-game winner last season with Oakland, figured to be the No. 2 starter. Collins also wanted to make sure Gee started in the series as he was 4-2 last season against the Nationals.

There has clamoring from fans on Internet message boards and websites endorsing Wheeler for the start, but there was no way Collins would lead frog established veterans for a young pitcher with limited experience. Also, this keeps Wheeler from the pressures of a high profile start.

Washington is expected to go with Stephen Strasburg in the opener, followed by Jordan Zimmerman and Gio Gonzalez.

Feb 24

Looking At Mets’ Position Battles

The New York Mets begin their exhibition season this week, and with it will come the renewed focus on the club’s position battles and roster issues.

LANNAN: To compete for No. 5 starter role.

LANNAN: To compete for No. 5 starter role.

Let’s take a quick look:

FIFTH STARTER: John Lannan, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Jenrry Mejia are in line. Matsuzaka is considered the front-runner because of his performance at the end of last year and the desire not to rush Mejia, who is coming off elbow surgery. An argument in Lannan’s favor is it would give the Mets two left-handers in the rotation.

THE BULLPEN: The configuration of the bullpen is contingent on Bobby Parnell’s recovery from neck surgery. The Mets figure to carry seven relievers, including Vic Black, Jose Valverde, Kyle Farnsworth and Scott Rice. That leaves Carlos Torres, Josh Edgin, Gonzalez Germen, Jeurys Familia, Jeff Walters and Ryan Reid competing for two spots. This will provide the most competition. If Parnell isn’t ready, Black will close and the Mets will take another reliever.

FIRST BASE: Ike Davis or Lucas Duda? The Mets were unable to deal Davis, who reportedly concealed an oblique injury, and Sunday sparred with reporters about the story’s accuracy. None of this makes Davis look good. Both could stick on the Opening Day roster because the Mets have an April series at Anaheim and Duda could be the DH.

OUTFIELD: Does Juan Lagares stick or not? Defensively, he should start in center, but his offense is poor. Will they give him his at-bats in the minor leagues – which would also resolve the question at leadoff – or force-feed him in the majors?

 

Feb 18

Mets Putting Themselves In Good Financial Shape For Future

Over the past five seasons – all below .500 – the New York Mets were bogged down by cumbersome contracts to unproductive players. It was economic certainty, but in a bad way.

This should be the third consecutive year the Mets will have a payroll of less than $100 million. They have long pointed to 2015 as when they will put themselves in a competitive position, and are currently set up to do so with payroll flexibility through 2019.

Heading into 2015, the Mets have $54.05 million earmarked to four players: David Wright ($20 million), Curtis Granderson ($16 million), Bartolo Colon ($11 million) and Jonathon Niese ($7.05 million).

Where teams usually get bit in their payroll is during the arbitration process and the Mets will have eight players eligible: Daniel Murphy, Bobby Parnell, Dillon Gee, Ike Davis, Eric Young, Lucas Duda, Jenrry Mejia and Ruben Tejada.

Of the eight, it is possible four – Davis, Young, Duda and Tejada – could be gone, with some before the end of this season.

Only one player is scheduled to be a free agent after this year and that’s Chris Young, who nobody expects to be back.

In 2016, the Mets have $45.05 million designated for three players: Wright ($20 million), Granderson ($16 million) and Niese $9.050 million).

Their arbitration eligible list that off-season expands to 14 to leave open the possibility for a significant payroll spike. The list includes: Gee, Davis, Eric Young, Duda, Tejada, Scott Rice, Matt Harvey, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Mejia, Josh Edgin, Jeurys Familia, Anthony Recker, Andrew Brown and Carlos Torres.

By this time, there’s no telling who will still be in the organization. Harvey and possibly Gee could be given multi-year deals by then. Everybody else is up the air. It’s also questionable if Nieuwenhuis and Brown will still be around, as neither one has made serious strides in sticking around.

Their 2016 free agents will be Colon, Murphy and Parnell.

In 2017, the Mets have $35.5 million earmarked for Wright ($20 million), Granderson ($15 million) and a half-million buyout for Niese.

Their arbitration eligible players will be Duda, Tejada, Rice, Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Nieuwenhuis, Mejia, Edgin, Torres. Familia, Recker and Brown, with their free agents Gee, Davis and Eric Young.

Wright ($20 million) is the only player under contract for 2018. The arbitration eligible Mets will be Rice, Harvey, Nieuwenhuis, Torres. Mejia, Edgin, Familia, Recker, Wheeler and Brown. That year Granderson, Duda and Tejada will be free agents.

In 2019 they’ll owe Wright $15 million, with Torres and Wheeler the only Mets who are arbitration eligible. Potential free agents will be Rice, Harvey, Nieuwenhuis, Mejia, Edgin, Familia, Recker and Brown.

The Mets have long talked about cutting payroll costs to put themselves in position to seriously enter the free-agent market. It now appears they might actually be able to do it.