Aug 13

Mets’ Bright Spots In Lost Season

There are always a few rubies that can be found in this garbage dump of a Mets season. This year, the shiniest of the gems are Michael Conforto’s emergence of being a star and Jacob deGrom’s recovery from surgery to being an All-Star caliber starter.

The other highlights have been the production of traded Mets Jay Bruce and Addison Reed; the professionalism of Curtis Granderson; and promotions of Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith.

Once a question to even make the Opening Day roster, Conforto began the season in a pinch-hitting role, but his success, coupled with Granderson’s slow start and injuries to Yoenis Cespedes, increased his playing time and subsequently run production to the point where he made his first All-Star team.

CONFORTO: Huge bright spot. (AP)

CONFORTO: Huge bright spot. (AP)

Conforto’s two-run homer gave him his 26th of the season, but more importantly, the Mets a two-run lead in the first inning, one they never relinquished in today’s 6-2 victory over the Phillies.

Conforto hit 12 homers last season, so his home run ceiling was just a hunch. Now, with 26, you would think 35 could be within reach with 47 games remaining.

I’ve long advocated Conforto should hit third in the order, ahead of Cespedes, and hopefully manager Terry Collins will keep him there. I also like that even with the trade of Bruce, Collins is keeping Conforto in center field. If the rest of the season is about laying the foundation for 2018, then hit Conforto third and in center and leave him there – hopefully, for the next dozen years.

Conforto’s last five hits have been homers, and since the All-Star break has 12 homers with 23 RBI.

As for deGrom, he took a line drive off his pitching arm Thursday, but all indications are he’ll make his next start, Tuesday at Yankee Stadium. DeGrom is 13-5 with a 3.21 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. The word “ace,’’ gets thrown around a lot, but it’s clear cut when talking about deGrom, who works fast, and despite an overpowering fastball, more importantly has excellent command of all of his pitches.

With Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey on the disabled list, and Steven Matz struggling and winless in over a month, deGrom has been the rotation’s workhorse

The Mets are clearly in a rebuild, salary dump mode, which is why Bruce, Reed, Lucas Duda and Neil Walker are gone, and Asdrubal Cabrera and Granderson could soon follow. Jose Reyes will stay to be Rosario’s caddy.

Bruce hit 29 homers with 75 RBI to lead the Mets, and has already made an impact with the Indians, going 5-for-12 with three RBI. You can describe Bruce, Reed, Walker and Granderson as consummate professionals.

Rosario booted a play in his debut that cost the Mets a game, but Bruce and Walker were seen in the dugout giving him counsel on what he should have done differently.

As for Granderson, he’s still being shopped, and maybe raised his value with three more hits today, including a two-run homer. He won’t be re-signed for 2018 and it is puzzling why there isn’t more interest. Granderson has four homers and nine RBI over his last ten games.

With Granderson, Bruce and the other veterans with expiring contracts assuredly not going to be here next season, the future belongs to Conforto, Rosario and Smith.

They, along with deGrom, give the Mets something to build on for next year.

 

Aug 10

Alderson Quits On Mets For This Year And Next

By the time Ryder Ryan reaches the major leagues – if he even plays for the Mets – Jay Bruce might be in the final year of his contract with the Indians, or any number of teams. The Mets will not be one of them.

Who knows? Bruce might be retired by the time Ryan pitches at Citi Field. Is that Sandy Alderson’s idea of being competitive in 2018: To trade their best offensive player for a player who isn’t even one of the Indians’ top 30 prospects?

BRUCE: Escapes the lunacy. (AP)

BRUCE: Escapes the lunacy. (AP)

There are so many layers to this deal, including the inevitable conclusion the Mets don’t want to trade with the Yankees, who reportedly offered two prospects, but weren’t given a call back from Alderson, who continually thinks he’s the smartest man in the room, despite a track record that suggests otherwise.

Bruce was prepared for the trade, telling the Mets website: “The long and short of it is I was prepared. I knew something could happen, and happen fast. I really enjoyed my time in New York, but I’m excited to jump right into a pennant race.”

The kicker?

Of course, it is money. The Indians will pick up the balance of Bruce’s 2017 salary, around $4 million, while the Yankees, who traditionally throw money around, reportedly only wanted to assume $1 million of Bruce’s contract.

Reportedly, Alderson didn’t even extend Yankees GM Brian Cashman the courtesy of a “give me your final offer,’’ phone call. It’s even more baffling considering the Mets agreed to the two Yankees prospects.

Ryder, by the way, has a 4.79 ERA in 33 relief appearances in Single-A.

So, in exchange for Bruce, Lucas Duda and Addison Reed, the Mets received five relief prospects, none of whom can be labeled “can’t miss blue chippers.’’ They also acquired the unimpressive AJ Ramos in a separate deal with the Marlins.

It must also be pointed out the Mets save around $11 million, which only reinforces the notion this was merely a salary dump and they are trying to build on the cheap. In the interim, the Mets are still trying to dump Asdrubal Cabrera, Neil Walker and Curtis Granderson. Apparently, all offers will be considered.

Apparently, all offers will be considered.

I loved the Bruce trade last summer and never bought into the notion he couldn’t play in New York, which is really an overrated mind thing. Often the issue is raised by self-important media commentators.

If you play hard, don’t whine, are stand-up in the clubhouse, and produce without making excuses, anybody can play in New York. The fans, media and team executives simply want players to be productive at their jobs. Bruce was that in his last two weeks last summer and he’s been a rock this year, leading the team in homers (29) and RBI (75), playing right field and first base.

He did everything manager Terry Collins wanted, and his value to the Mets was underscored when after Amed Rosario botched a play that cost them a win he was counseling the rookie after the final out.

No excuses. A solid professional. And a proven, lefty power hitter. Don’t you think the Mets might need those qualities next season if they are as close to contending that they claim?

Bruce, Reed or Duda might play deep into October, possibly at the expense of the Yankees. Does skunking the Yankees qualify as a successful season for Alderson and the Mets? It sure seems so. Then again, they save around  $11 million, which is really what this is all about.

So, what have the Mets accomplished toward next season? After all, they say this is tinkering and not a rebuild.

In trading Reed they lost their capable – and underpaid in relation to the position – closer in the hope Jeurys Familia will recover from surgery to get his job back, this despite monumental postseason collapses in each of the past two seasons.

Trading Bruce probably enables them to bring up first base prospect Dominic Smith, but that should have been done weeks ago.

Trading Bruce also enables them to move Michael Conforto to right field, but that leaves a hole in center. The Mets aren’t sold on Juan Lagares, whom they signed to a four-year contract, yet won’t let play. It dosn’t help he’s been injured in each of the last two years. Another great Alderson decision.

Perhaps that leaves an opportunity for Brandon Nimmo. But, do you think Nimmo or Smith – perhaps combined – will give the Mets the production Bruce did? Both are unknowns.

If nothing else, extending Bruce a one-year qualifying offer, would net them a compensatory draft pick which will be higher rated than Ryder. I don’t know if Bruce would have accepted the offer or would have been willing to sign a long-term deal. If I were him, and seeing how Alderson was so foolishly open in trying to trade him, I wouldn’t trust him.

But, did Alderson even try?

Bruce is 30 years and has proven he can produce in New York, offers protection to Yoenis Cespedes and has five good years left, barring injury. How much would it cost to keep Bruce? Perhaps $80 million over four years is my guess. But, if Alderson thinks he can get a comparable bat and clubhouse presence for less, he’s mistaken.

So, instead of having a lefty power hitter in the fold, add that to Alderson’s offseason wish list.

Of course, Alderson says it will be better when all those young arms – which are another year older – return from the disabled list.

We’re still waiting on Matt Harvey to repeat his 2013 form. Noah Syndergaards lat injury is a concern. He admits he’s willing to adjust his offseason conditioning program, which is a plus but guarantees nothing.  Zack Wheeler showed some promise after sitting out two years. He’s back on the disabled list. Like Harvey and Syndergaard, the Mets are hoping he can make a few starts in September.

Once again, the Mets are hoping for the injured to bounce back. Speaking of hope, they are still wondering about Steven Matz, but have little left for Rafael Montero.

Overall, this vaunted rotation has yet to complete a five-game cycle together, and none of those arms has won 15 games. But there’s hope, isn’t there? Hope is the card Alderson wants to play, probably on orders from above.

The 2017 Mets entered the season as World Series favorites in some circles and will finish as a dumpster fire. The 2018 Mets, assuming no significant acquisitions are made, have numerous significant questions with few answers in sight.

Thanks Sandy. Thanks Fred. Thanks Jeff.