Nov 20

Mets Trying To Light A Fire Under Smith

Dominic Smith is done with the Mets if they are able to sign – and each one of these guys will get at least three years – Carlos Santana, Jay Bruce, Logan Morrison or Adam Lind, then where does that leave Smith?

Certainly not on the fast track to Flushing.

SMITH: Mets trying to motivate Smith. (Getty)

SMITH: Mets trying to motivate Smith. (Getty)

Smith did not distinguish himself last summer – but did hit nine homers in 183 plate appearances – and GM Sandy Alderson indicated as much, saying he “didn’t win [the job] in September.’’

Smith was the Mets’ second-ranked prospect at the time of his promotion, but despite the surprise in his power, he was a disappointment in his plate discipline and on-base percentage, and defense, which was supposed to be his strong suit. In addition, Alderson was upset, and rightfully so, about Smith’s conditioning.

“Dominic’s going to have to be careful about his conditioning, certainly in the next few years, if not throughout his career,’’ Alderson said at the GM Meetings last week. “He was in excellent shape coming into Spring Training. … As happens with any long season, fitness dissipates and he’s put on some weight.’’

If the Mets surprise us all and sign a free-agent, Smith will undoubtedly open the season at Triple-A Las Vegas. That’s fine for 2018, but what about the following two years?

Barring an injury, that would leave Smith stuck in the minor or a reserve, because for the money the Mets would pay a free-agent, he’d have to be above Smith. And considering his play last season, Smith would have to tear it up in the minor leagues in 2018 to build up his trade value.

Smith hit .198 with a .262 on-base percentage and struck out 49 times [with only 14 walks] in 49 games. Those are lousy numbers that don’t merit coming into spring training with a job waiting for him.

So, what are the Mets’ first base options?

There’s signing a free-agent, of course, which seems a long shot because the Mets don’t want to spend the money. They could go into next season with a platoon of Smith and Wilmer Flores, which probably is how they’ll go, or they could stick with Smith.

I think the free-agent talk, coupled with the criticism about his weight, is designed to light a fire under Smith.

Nov 17

Is It A Coincidence Mets Tix Go On Sale After A Week Of Positive Storylines?

There were at least a half-a-dozen storylines that came out of the General Managers Meetings this week that if played out in the positive would change the perception of the Mets heading into the player acquisition phase of the offseason.

Among the storylines GM Sandy Alderson admitted:

ALDERSON: How positive is he really?  (AP)

ALDERSON: How positive is he really? (AP)

* Interest in relievers Joe Smith and Bryan Shaw, which would substantially increase the depth and quality of the bullpen. Alderson, however, wouldn’t disclose his budget.

* A willingness to discuss an extension for Jacob deGrom, which would fall under the classification of progressive thinking. Also falling in that category were promises to overhaul the medical staff.

* Not discounting partial interest in Japanese slugger Shohei Ohtnai. In fairness, Alderson said the Mets were open but did not say they were hot of the outfielder who also wants to pitch. Nobody expects the Mets will jump into the deep end of the Asian pool, but at least Alderson didn’t shoot it down entirely.

* Being open to trading some of their pitching depth, mentioning Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo and Rafael Montero. In the small print under the headlines is the limited trade value of the above starters, who will be needed if injury problems with Matt Harvey, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler continue.

* Positive news in Michael Conforto’s recovery from shoulder surgery to repair a torn posterior capsule. Also found in the small print was that possibly being able to swing the bat in late January doesn’t guarantee to be ready by Opening Day.

If all these storylines played out in the positive for the Mets, there would be a lot more to look forward to in 2018. It was a busy week in Orlando, and I mention these potentially positive storylines because today the Mets put single-game tickets on sale. Coincidence? You decide.

 

Nov 15

Mets’ Pitching Plan Has Questions

On the surface, the plan the Mets are currently mulling about preventing their starters from going through the order a third time makes a lot of sense. All the numbers point to a starter losing effectiveness the longer he stays in the game. They all can’t be Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber or Jacob deGrom.

DE GROM: It all begins with him. (AP)

DE GROM: It all begins with him. (AP)

It is common practice during the postseason, but at that time a manager has more off days in which to rest relievers and can replace the fifth starter with a long reliever in which to plug in.

“We will not allow our guys to struggle the third time through the lineup if we can avoid it,’’ Mets manager Mikey Callaway said at the General Managers Meetings. “We want them to be the best versions of themselves and have success. There are so many factors that will come into play you just can’t simply say that you are going to leave guys in until a certain point or take them out in a certain point.’’

For that plan to work during the regular season a team needs a solid rotation, a flexible bridge to work the middle innings, and a strong back end of the bullpen.

Of the three, the Mets only have the last one.

It begins with a strong starting rotation, one which means all five starters have to consistently go at least five innings, but preferably six. The Mets have deGrom and lots of issues from two through five:

Noah Syndergaard is coming off a partially torn lat muscle and only got in a couple of innings in late summer. While he is optimistic, we simply don’t know what to expect from him. Sure, it would be nice to pencil in 30 starts and 200 innings, but …

Matt Harvey did not respond well to thoracic surgery. He was rushed back and sustained a stress injury. The best thing the Mets can hope for is a strong first half to draw trade interest at the deadline. There’s no more talk about winning 20 games, winning the Cy Young or being signed to a long-term contract.

Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler are both coming off surgery and nobody knows what to expect, let alone them averaging five innings over 30 starts.

Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Rafael Montero and Chris Flexen all made starts, but none have defined roles entering spring training. If the projected rotation performs, then any of them can be slotted in to work multiple innings several times a week, but we don’t know if they can do it in back-to-back games.

These four can also be inserted into the rotation if any of the projected five starters struggle, but if not they could work out of the pen. The questions in the middle of the game and possibility of the anticipated starters breaking down is why GM Sandy Alderson traded for relievers last July.

Granted Alderson added quantity and is open to reacquiring Joe Smith and signing Bryan Shaw. But, how much is he willing to spend? Mets’ history dictates he won’t do it; four relievers making $7 million or more is just not in their DNA.

For this plan to work the Mets need all three facets of their pitching staff to perform, but there are too many questions and issues working against them.

Nov 13

Alderson Takes Long List To GM Meetings

Mets GM Sandy Alderson is in Florida for the General Managers Meetings, which is pretty much batting practice the Winter Meetings. Alderson will kick the tires with agents on potential free-agents and on his colleagues on possible trades.

Here are the holes Alderson wants to fill:

Rotation: The Mets have one proven arm in Jacob deGrom, and another they hope is back in Noah Syndergaard. Everybody else is a significant question: Matt Harvey, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler are all coming off injuries; Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman and Rafael Montero are coming off so-so seasons, and can start or relieve.

The Mets are seeking a veteran arm that hopefully can give the Mets at least 180 innings. Jason Vargas and Lance Lynn have been mentioned as possibilities.

Bullpen: Despite the trades Alderson made last summer, none of those relievers established themselves to the point where they are the proven arm to fit in behind Jeurys Familia, AJ Ramos and Jerry Blevins. They could always bring back Addison Reed or go with Cleveland Bryan Shaw. Both will command over $7 million, but after picking up Blevins’ option, and going through arbitration with Familia and Ramos, they already have three relievers making over $7 million.

Position players: They already committed to Asdrubal Cabrera, but will he play third or second? Let’s face it, they aren’t going to spend the money or have the prospects to acquire Todd Frazier, Dee Gordon, Jason Kipnis, Logan Morrison or Jay Bruce.

If the Mets had Bruce in the outfield, with Frazier at third, Gordon or Kipnis at second and Morrison at first, they could have a pretty formidable offense, but if their rotation isn’t sound it would be irrelevant.

 

Nov 10

Mets Should Go With Smith At First

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the Mets’ need for a first baseman and where Dominic Smith fits into their plans. By any numerical system – conventional statistics or analytics – Smith did not have a good debut with the Mets last summer.

SMITH: Give him a real chance. (AP)

SMITH: Give him a real chance. (AP)

Smith, the 11th overall pick in the 2013 draft, exceeded his rookie status in 49 games and 167 at-bats last season. He hit .198 with a .262 on-base percentage and .658 OPS. However, those are just numbers, just like his 49 strikeouts (matching the number of games played) and only 14 walks. However, of his 33 hits, nine were homers.

All this has led to columns about the Mets going after Eric Hosmer or reuniting with Jay Bruce – cue singer: “To dream, the impossible dream.’’ – or maybe Carlos Santana, Logan Morrison or Adam Lind.

Smith will earn the major league minimum of $507,500.

Of all the names mentioned, Washington’s Lind, who earned $500,000 last season, is the one most likely to fit into GM Sandy Alderson’s budget. However, Lind has a lifetime .272 average with 200 homers, including 14 last year, so the Mets shouldn’t be so eager to celebrate – or write any checks.

At 34, Lind is probably looking at his last contract. That he also played in 25 games in the outfield last year could work to the Mets’ advantage. His age means he’ll be more likely to accept a one-year deal.

At 31, Santana, who hit 23 homers with 79 RBI for Cleveland, earned $12 million last year. He’ll be looking for at least a three-year deal. He’s too expensive.

At 30, Morrison, would be a great addition. He hit 38 homers with 85 RBI, but would want significantly more than the $2.5 million he made last year with Tampa Bay. Morrison is reported to be interested in Kansas City as the Royals will lose Hosmer.

As for Bruce, it is reported he wants $90 million over five years, but has a lower estimated landing price of $40 million over three years.

Either way, that’s too rich for Alderson’s blood.

All the names linked to the Mets are predicated on them being as competitive as Alderson believes. If they really are – and I’ve heard of nobody other than Alderson who thinks that way – then go for it.

The Mets won 70 games last year and one NL Scout thinks they’ll be lucky to win 80 in 2017, which won’t do it.

“They have too many holes,’’ the scout said. “Even if all their pitching issues work out for them, they just don’t have enough to contend. They need a second baseman and third baseman, and who knows how Amed Rosario will pan out over a full year? There’s also questions at catcher and first base, plus there are concerns about the health of Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto.’’

With a reported $30 million Alderson has to spend, and a large part of that will go in arbitration cases (Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Travis d’Arnaud and Wilmer Flores.

So, where does that leave us with Smith?

I don’t think the Mets will be as good as Alderson thinks, but you already knew that, being the negative SOB that I am. If the Mets were a player away and money wasn’t an issue, I’d say go for it.

But, they aren’t.

The Mets will be lucky to finish .500, so why not go with Smith and Flores? Let’s give Smith at least to the All-Star break to see what he has, or platoon him with Flores.

In what figures to be another losing season, let’s see if they can find a nugget in Smith. It’s a better option than throwing a lot of money at a player who won’t turn things around and will be gone in a couple of years.