Jan 25

Mets Signed Daisuke Matsuzaka To Compete For Fifth Starter

After several months of speculation, the New York Mets finally did the obvious and re-sign free-agent pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka to compete for the fifth spot.

He’ll go against Jenrry Mejia, recently signed left-hander John Lannan and prospects Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom.

MATSUZAKA: Competing for 5th starter role.

MATSUZAKA: Competing for 5th starter role.

Matsuzaka was signed to a minor league contract, which is what GM Sandy Alderson wanted from the outset with a veteran presence.

Once Matsuzaka, 33, straightened out his mechanics by speeding up his delivery, he closed on an upswing and finished at 3-3 with a 4.42 ERA in seven starts with the Mets.

Matsuzaka had a 10.95 ERA over 12.1 innings over his first three starts with the Mets, but after working with pitching coach Dan Warthen, he had a 1.37 ERA over his final four starts.

Speculation has Matsuzaka and Lannan moving to the lead because of their experience, and to give Mejia more time in his recovery from elbow surgery and Montero and deGrom in their development.

An advantage of going with Matsuzaka out of the gate is if gets off to a strong start – and the same applies to Lannan – it enhances their ability to make a trade at the July 31 deadline.

Did the Mets improve their rotation with a substantial name such as David Price, or solid starters such as Matt Garza or Bronson Arroyo?

No, but they improved more than their cynics thought they might. They signed three starters to fill the back end of their rotation in Bartolo Colon as their fourth starter, and Lannan and Matsuzaka to compete for the fifth starter role.

Do they have a playoff rotation? Not likely, but they have a rotation that could be solid enough to make .500 possible.

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Jan 18

Jenrry Mejia Reports To Camp

Jenrry Mejia, who represents one of the more important questions for the Mets entering spring training, reported to Port St. Lucie.

Mejia is recovering from surgery to remove a bone spur in his elbow and assuming he’s sound is expected to be the fifth starter entering the season.

Mejia was 1-2 with a 2.30 ERA in five starts, but with a 27-to-4 strikeouts to walks ratio. Control had normally been Mejia’s weakness, but those numbers indicated improvement to the degree where manager Terry Collins could have confidence in him.

Mejia, 24, will compete with Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom. However, regardless of who wins the job, it could go to Noah Syndergaard after he’s promoted sometime in July after the Super 2 deadline.

DUDA FILES: First base candidate Lucas Duda and the Mets exchanged arbitration figures with the two sides a little more than a half-million apart.

Duda requested $1.9 million for hitting .223 with 15 homers and 33 RBI, while the Mets offered $1.35 million.

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Jan 14

Mets Not Aggressive In Pursuing Fifth Starter

The New York Mets are in the market for another starter. Despite there being several high-profile pitchers available, don’t expect Sandy Alderson to make a bid unless they remain unsigned right before spring training.

By then, the asking prices should have dropped. Then again, the shelves could be empty.

The Mets’ approach in the current free-agent pitching market underscores the belief they aren’t serious about making a wild-card run this season, but instead are waiting for Matt Harvey’s return in 2015.

The list includes Bronson Arroyo, Ubaldo Jimenez, Matt Garza and Ervin Santana. Any of them would represent an immediate upgrade, but at a substantial cost.

There are also a handful of familiar faces: Johan Santana, Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang and Daisuke Matsuzaka.

None from either list are expected to get a sniff from the Mets because they are too pricey or want a multi-year deal. Alderson also wants to avoid signing a pitcher who would become an obstacle to bringing up a prospect.

The Mets made their pitching splash with Bartolo Colon, and Alderson’s plan is to wait for the young arms to develop and Harvey to return from Tommy John surgery. Read that to mean 2015. In that regard, Colon’s contract is perfect because he fills a need for this season and would be around for insurance and stability in 2015.

Most of the pitchers available are middle of the rotation arms – such as John Lannan – but Alderson wants an inexpensive fifth starter, somebody they can easily replace with Jenrry Mejia, and prospects Rafael Montero, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard.

Assuming they don’t sign anybody, Mejia – who underwent elbow surgery – goes in as the fifth starter. The timetable for the prospects is not before June.

If the Mets sign a free-agent pitcher, they would want to give him a minor-league contract, which immediately eliminates about 75 percent of the field. Nobody wants to sign with a team knowing they could be phased out before the All-Star break.

Reportedly, the Mets are considering Freddy Garcia, 37, who went 4-7 with Baltimore and Atlanta last season. Garcia also worked out of the bullpen.

So, you can see the bar is set quite low.

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Jan 02

Mets’ Top Questions Heading Into Spring Training

With the forecast for up to ten inches tonight and temperatures possibly getting down to five degrees, what better time to think about the New York Mets, if for no other reason, to wonder about spring training?

QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS

QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS

Let’s face it, neither one of New York’s basketball teams is worth thinking or talking about. Those seasons are all but over.

But, spring training? The thought of Florida, and the drive from the airport in West Palm to Port St. Lucie gets the juices flowing.

The Mets say they aren’t finished this winter, but it appears they’ve completed their heavy lifting. Here’s what I consider the top half-dozen issues facing the Mets:

1) Who will be the fifth starter?

A: As of now Jenrry Mejia seems to have the inside track after undergoing elbow surgery. Mejia pitched well at times last season, but the organization suggested his ultimate role is to be determined. Despite the presence of Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard in the minor leagues, neither promotion is imminent and the Mets will need a fifth to round out the rotation. If he’s physically ready, Mejia needs the ball. Who knows, he could even prove be a valuable trade chip.

2) Who plays first base?

A: At this rate, Ike Davis will be on the spring training roster. Milwaukee is supposedly their best trading partner, but the Brewers don’t appear in any rush to deal. Perhaps, they are waiting for the Mets’ asking price to fall. Perhaps, they are waiting for the Mets to release him outright. That might not happen as the Mets could be thinking of the July 31 trade deadline. The Mets appear to favor Lucas Duda at first base, and keeping Davis around could prove a distraction. If Davis isn’t going to play, do everybody a favor and let him go.

3) Will Bobby Parnell be the closer?

A: The Mets say they don’t know if Parnell, who is recovering neck surgery, will be ready. If not, Vic Black will get the ball in the ninth inning. Slowly, the Mets have added pieces to their bullpen. There’s always an arm or two that will emerge in spring training. The Mets recently added Ryan Reid, 28, from Pittsburgh. Reid throws in the low 90s and last year was 7-2 with a 2.73 ERA and 1.197 WHIP with Triple A Indianapolis. There could be room for him.

4) What is to become of Travis d’Arnaud?

A: He goes in as the starter, but he didn’t hit enough in his opportunity to warrant the job. Manager Terry Collins said he has faith in Anthony Recker as a reserve, but held back on expressing confidence as a starter. The Mets are more likely to grab a veteran catcher off the waiver wire in spring training rather than make a deal.

5) Who is the leadoff hitter?

A: That remains open, but Eric Young could retain his role if he starts in left field. It is apparent the Mets won’t trade Daniel Murphy and move Young to second base. This could change if Juan Lagares has a strong spring training at leadoff. The Mets have made no promises regarding Lagares, but this much should be obvious: Lagares is better off getting at-bats and playing time in the minor leagues rather than sitting the bench in the majors. To say Lagares has proven all he can in the minors is erroneous thinking. Lagares is far from a being a proven major league hitter, especially considering his propensity for striking out.

6) How much patience will the Mets give Ruben Tejada?

A: There’s nothing imminent in the trade market for shortstop and signing Stephen Drew wouldn’t be a good move. Let’s face it, the Mets aren’t close enough to contender status to warrant signing the veteran the Red Sox didn’t bring back.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Dec 17

Can Cory Mazzoni Earn A Spot In Mets’ Bullpen?

One area the New York Mets are still working on is their bullpen, but manager Terry Collins said at the Winter Meetings one option could come from within in Cory Mazzoni.

Collins said Mazzoni, who was limited to 64 innings in 12 starts because of hamstring and elbow injuries at Class AA Binghamton, could be converted to the bullpen in spring training.

Several things could determine if a switch is made will be dependent on: 1) whether the Mets are able to sign a reliever, 2) whether they obtain a reliever in a trade involving Ike Davis, 3) Bobby Parnell’s status, and 4) how seriously they believe they could contend this season.

If one of the first two variables is reached, converting Mazzoni won’t be necessary, at least not immediately. If they don’t obtain anybody and Parnell isn’t ready, then they’ll need to add somebody.

Finally, if the Mets believe they can make a run in 2014, they might not want to entrust a bullpen slot in a rookie.

Whatever they decide, they should develop Mazzoni as a reliever in spring training because they’ll eventually need another arm out of the pen this summer.

Whether this is a permanent conversion depends on how he responds if his role is changed. Working in Mazzoni’s favor is he’s a power pitcher, with 74 strikeouts in those 64 innings. He also has good command with only 19 walks.

Assuming Parnell’s readiness following neck surgery, the Mets have six pieces in their bullpen, including Vic Black (the closer if Parnell can’t go), Scott Rice, Gonzalez Germen, Josh Edgin and Jeurys Familia.

Another possibility could be Jenrry Mejia should the Mets another starter.

I would avoid that option if possible as Mejia has pitched better as a starter and is more comfortable in that role. Plus, Mejia’s development has been hindered by injuries and by bouncing around from starting and relieving roles. I’d like to see him in the area he’s best at – which is starting – and see if he can develop there.

Yes, the Mets have young pitchers in their system, but Mejia is one of them. And, the more they can develop, the better trade options they’ll have in the future.

ON DECK: You can meet Zack Wheeler and Daniel Murphy tomorrow.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos