Apr 12

Mets Must Be Careful If They Trade Wheeler And D’Arnaud

 

MLB: Spring Training-Washington Nationals at New York MetsIt is fun to speculate Andre Ethier and Carlos Gonzalez in the Mets’ outfield. I would also take Josh Willingham, but pass on Carl Crawford and Alfonso Soriano. It would take a lot in terms of prospects and cash down the line to make a run at Giancarlo Stanton.

These names have been suggested as outfield possibilities for the Mets, but of all of them, only Willingham in terms of salary and talent they would surrender, makes the most immediate sense.

The Mets claim to have the resources, but we’ve heard that refrain before. Don’t tell us who is out there; tell us when you sign somebody. Until then, it is all just running in place. I want the bird in hand.

Either and Gonzalez represent an exorbitant cost in terms of salary and prospects if they trade, or just salary if they wait for the free-agent market.

They would have to wait several years for Stanton to become available on the free-agent market, and quite frankly they would be diving into the deep end of the pool if they went after him now. But, that might be their only chance because in an open market, the Mets won’t be able to compete.

However, I don’t think the Mets would be willing – or daring enough – to go in that direction.

Crawford and Soriano would just cost too much money for little production. If they went in that direction, they might as well have kept Jason Bay.

Every time I read these names, also mentioned are Zack Wheeler and Travis d’Arnaud. But, the Mets aren’t dealing them, although there is no guarantee of their stardom.

For the past few years the Mets sold us on the belief of the future with those prospects and Matt Harvey. They preached the future to the point where they let Jose Reyes walk and traded R.A. Dickey.

I might be willing to deal d’Arnaud because they have Kevin Plawecki, who is 22, in the minors. He’s in Single-A and still a few years away, but having John Buck means they could take the risk with d’Arnaud if it’s the right deal.

As far as Wheeler goes, he’s wild in Triple-A and not close to being ready. The Mets have seen wildness in Mike Pelfrey and Oliver Perez, so they don’t need another scatter arm. Wheeler also has blister issues, so it would be premature to give up on him now, because that might be the cause of his problems.

It would likely take both Wheeler and d’Arnaud for Stanton. The Marlins might be willing to trade in the division, but are the Mets willing to face Wheeler and d’Arnaud 18 times a year?

I’m inclined to guess not, so the path with them would be to see what develops.

The Mets are making an investment in the future, so it’s ridiculous to change course and go back to the days when they chased the big names.

They chased Mo Vaughn and Roberto Alomar when they were in the twilight of their careers. They chased Carlos Beltran, Tom Glavine, Pedro Martinez and Carlos Delgado, but didn’t have the complimentary pieces. They were unlucky with Bay and Johan Santana. They were lucky not to get Alex Rodriguez.

In all cases, the timing wasn’t there. I don’t think it is there with Stanton. The Mets have hit the bottom and are now showing signs of growth. There’s still a lot of work to do, but there will be even more if they reverse course now and guess wrong.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Apr 12

Mets Matters: Is Ike Davis The Answer At First?

"<strongYou can Google Ike Davis with dozens of different questions, but here’s one you won’t find an answer to: Why isn’t he as good as advertised?

It was May of 2011 when Davis was hitting .302 with a .383 on-base percentage and resembling the slugger the Mets had trumpeted he could be when he ran into David Wright and hurt his left ankle and missed the rest of the season.

Then came last year, the virus and a miserable first half where he was almost sent back to the minors. He salvaged 2012 with a strong second half and 32 homers appeared to give him a pass going into this season, but he’s flailing again. How long before this season-opening slump becomes a first-half swoon?

Davis gave me an answer indicating what could be his problem this spring when I asked him about striking out, and whether he should concentrate on going to the opposite field and being more patient.

“I like to hit home runs,’’ Davis said in much the same tone a kid would say he likes to eat candy. Then, in what could be defined as defiance, added, “I’m a home run hitter; I’m going to strike out.’’

All that was missing was him sticking his tongue out and muttering, “so there.’’

Statistics can be interpreted any way you want, but Davis’ – both this year and his career – scream he might not be as good as he’s cracked up to be, and despite his manageable contract, is currently an offensive liability.

What else can you take out of a .129 batting average, .229 on-base percentage, .226 slugging percentage, one homer, two RBI and 11 strikeouts compared to four hits and four walks? Whether you are a traditionalist and believe in the basic stats, or are into the new math of baseball, it still adds up to a big hole in the middle of the order.

Go ahead, convince me those are good numbers.

Go ahead, convince me a 162-game average of .249 with 150 strikeouts to 72 walks, is somebody you build a team around.

General manager Sandy Alderson said strikeouts are acceptable if there’s a reasonable expectation of run production in return. He has driven in two this season.

These numbers, as is his .214 average against left-handers, are the result of poor plate habits. He lacks patience or pitch recognition; he either refuses or can’t shorten a swing that begins with a terrible hitch that gives him a long loop; and he doesn’t use the entire field. Either he doesn’t listen to the hitting coach or the hitting coach isn’t reaching him.

Davis can’t handle the low-and-away breaking pitches to the point where it is a mystery why pitchers would ever throw him a fastball. A manager should fine his pitchers if they threw Davis anything other than breaking stuff away. They should keep throwing him curveballs low-and-away until he proves capable of handling them.

Davis is rapidly becoming an all-or-nothing slugger in the mold of Dave Kingman, Rob Deer, Mark Reynolds and Adam Dunn. These are guys who are thrilling when they connect, but usually don’t.

If Davis continues on his current course, it will get to the point whether he changes his style and approach, or the Mets should change their first baseman.

It’s not difficult.

Apr 12

Mets Need To Weather The Storm In Minny

target-field-snowOf all the tweets in all the world of Twitter, the one with Target Field blanketed in snow is the most telling.

There is five inches of snow with more forecast in Minneapolis where the Mets play tonight. The high for the series is forecast at a blustery 43 degrees. It will be colder with the wind.

I would love to see Twins owner Jim Pohlad sit with Commissioner Bud Selig in short sleeves tonight in a vain attempt to convince us the weather is fine. But, it isn’t and probably won’t be much better next week in Denver, where it also snows any time.

It is true scheduling isn’t about one team but all 30 and you can’t predict the weather. However, it is also true MLB created this issue, and first did so with the increase to 30 teams from 20 when the Mets were born in 1962.

The insistence of a 162-game schedule stretched the season from the first week of April into October. Factor increased playoff rounds with the last two – including World Series – lasting up to seven games and we’re brushing against November.

There’s too much money to be made over 162 games and the playoffs – the vehicle for the networks to shill for their programming – so they won’t think to cut there.

Nonetheless, Major League Baseball made things more difficult for itself with interleague play, and now, interleague play every day of the season.

With interleague play comes the unbalanced schedule, which means not every team runs the same race in a season. By definition, that means the schedule has no integrity to it, thereby making it unfair.

Unfortunately, Selig loves interleague play, so that won’t change, either. Interleague play has become part of Selig’s legacy, and I don’t think in a good way.

I don’t believe MLB’s economic growth is directly attributable to interleague play as it is to the steroid era which brought on the great power numbers; the construction of new stadiums in both leagues; almost 15 years of the Yankees and Red Sox on top which increases everybody’s attendance and TV ratings; better television deals because of cable; and to Selig’s credit, the international marketing of the sport and continued labor peace.

The great influx of money made MLB, its teams and the Players Association willing to accept the playing in horrible conditions, where injuries and pitcher’s arms are at risk. Instead of improved conditions, the players union settled for more money. Seriously, don’t worry about ending a career because you’ve got enough money to retire for life at age 32.

Things happen and weather is unpredictable, but MLB can still do things to put the odds in its favor while keeping most everything it has going for it now, things that came with the cost of tradition.

First, what genius approved an open-air stadium in Minneapolis? There’s inclement weather this time of year in the Northeast and Midwest, but Minnesota is a different animal. It can snow there for another week or so and almost any time in mid-October.

If they weren’t smart enough to build a dome where it snows seven months in the year, then play the Royals or Indians or White Sox in April, teams that are easier to reschedule later.

Yesterday, the Yankees were out of their division and had a rainout in Cleveland for a second straight day. They now will have a doubleheader on an off-day and play 17 games in 16 days. That makes for tired players and poor pitching, but who cares about putting the best product on the field?

“I don’t think you can go to cold weather cities in April if you’re only going to go there once,’’ Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “I know the schedule’s not easy to make, but if you could just stay in your division longer or go to some warmer weather cities you might be able to get by a lot of this.’’

From a business standpoint, the Indians can’t like playing the Yankees in April, when the crowds are down. They’d rather play them later when there’s a chance for a sellout.

It’s pounding a square peg into a round hole to play interleague and non-divisional play in April. The first two weeks of the season should be within the division so make-ups are easier to reschedule.

I’ve suggested this several times, even talked with players and club officials who believe it is a good idea, and that is the scheduling of day-night doubleheaders.

In this case, MLB can make the unbalanced schedule work to its advantage. Because you’re playing 18 games within the division, have several day-nighters each month. Not only does this give the owners the gates they want, but provides more off-days to make rescheduling easier.

Nobody likes to play in horrible weather conditions, and nobody likes to sit in them, either. However, this is an issue because MLB lacks the willingness or foresight to change something within its control.

Apr 11

Mets Matters: What Went Wrong In Philly?

jeremy hefner

The Mets aren’t quite a Lindsay Lohan train wreck, but today in snowy and cold Minneapolis perhaps they can reflect on what went wrong in Philadelphia and some of these very visible cracks:

STARTING PITCHING: At 5-4, the Mets are better than expected and received strong starts in six games, but Matt Harvey and Jon Niese followed by three days of rain isn’t going to happen.

In three of their last four games the back end of the rotation has been exposed. Dillon Gee says he’s fine, but there was something wrong Tuesday night. The Mets might be better off leaving Jeremy Hefner home when they go to Philadelphia. Aaron Laffey is starting until Shaun Marcum is ready, but nobody knows what to expect when he returns.

BULLPEN: There have been some stinkers, that’s to be expected. But, nine games in and Terry Collins is already worried about overworking his relievers. That comes when there’s no back end of the rotation.

The pen is working close to three innings a game, and at this rate will be fried by July. If you recall, the porous bullpen precipitated last year’s second-half collapse.

NO POWER: Yes, they’ve homered in every game, but that’s misleading as most of that is John Buck and Daniel Murphy, with a little Lucas Duda on the side.

Nobody expects Buck to keep his pace (five homers in nine games), but if he did you can bet they’ll be shopping him in July if they aren’t winning. Ike Davis is in a dreadful slump and David Wright is joining him.

Of Wright’s 32 at-bats, 15 have come with runners on base, but he only has four RBI. Wright’s slugging percentage is way down with only two doubles and his batting average is at .250. He could use the day off.

Meanwhile, Davis has more than twice as many strikeouts as he has hits and he’s well on his way of duplicating last year’s slow first half.

Duda has been a plus, especially with his patience and ability to take the walk. He’s among the league leaders in walks. This patience will translate into home runs.

NO LEADOFF HITTER: This was a problem going into spring training and it is a problem now. CollinCowgill has the most opportunities, but hasn’t produced. Neither has Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who might be on his way to the minors as the Mets need a utility infielder.

Mike Baxter had the best game of the leadoff hitters, but Collins is reluctant to give him an extended chance. The same applies to Jordany Valdespin, who always seems to make things happen, good and bad, because of his speed.

OUTFIELD: The only constant is Duda, has Collins has gone to a platoon in the center and right, something he said he wouldn’t do. Marlon Byrd had a good start, but he’s not an everyday player.

CONCLUSION: Rocky times could be ahead. The Mets took advantage of solid starting pitching to get off to a 5-2 start, but that hasn’t continued outside of Harvey and Niese. The Mets need more from the back end of their rotation as to cut the bullpen’s innings.

The offense scored 19 runs in the first two games, but only 30 in the following seven. Buck is not going to keep this up all season. Eventually, Wright and Davis must produce or it will be a long summer.

Apr 10

Mets Have Rotation Concerns; Wheeler Not Answer

The night Dillon Gee had in Philadelphia happens to all pitchers. It happened to Stephen Strasburg the other day. It will happen to Matt Harvey. It is premature to worry about Gee two starts into the season. It was not a game worthy of capital punishment.

It was a file-and-forget game.

GEE: Spent week in Philly last night. (AP)

GEE: Spent week in Philly last night. (AP)

“There’s not a whole lot to say. A terrible night,’’ Gee told reporters. “But you’ve got to move past it.’’

He’s right, so let’s move on to something worthy of concern.

With Gee’s short outing and Aaron Laffey not getting through five innings Sunday, the Mets’ bullpen has worked 4.2 and five innings in two of the last three games. That’s over the equivalent of an entire game.

The accumulation of innings by the bullpen is already a concern for manager Terry Collins as it indicates a three-fold problem: 1) the Mets have a problem with the back end of their rotation, 2) they lack a quality long man, somebody who can give them three or more innings when a game gets away early, and 3) this will eventually add up to a bullpen meltdown.

That is why Collins took Lucas Duda out of the game in a double-switch in the fourth inning. He explained the need to get two innings out of Greg Burke, and the No. 9 spot in the order was due up second the next inning.

It makes total sense.

Last night was the 51st start of Gee’s career, and he’s gone at least five innings in 47 of them, so let’s not get crazy with him. However, he’s also a No. 3 starter and the Mets need him to get out of the sixth on a consistent basis.

The difference between five and six innings over a full season – considered 34 starts – is 34 innings, or roughly four games. It adds up and if Collins is already thinking of these things, it isn’t an indication of comfort.

That’s why the Mets’ refusal to consider Aaron Harang is puzzling. Since 2005, he’s worked at least 180 innings in all but two years. Three times he’s gone over 200 innings. That’s acceptable for a No. 4 and No. 5 starter. Unless Harang has an injury we don’t know about, if he becomes a free-agent in a week (he was recently designated for assignment) the Mets should be calling him.

The Mets were fortunate to have Harvey to slot in between Gee and Laffey – caused by the off day last week – but that won’t always be the case. If Collins can maneuver it, he should separate Gee and Laffey whenever possible to avoid consecutive short days by the starters.

However, he is limited because there’s also Jeremy Hefner, who is not a proven long haul starter. With the exception of last night and Laffey, the Mets have received strong starts in every game, but that won’t last all season.

Naturally, when the topic is the Mets needing a quality starter the talk turns to Zack Wheeler. Let’s say it one more time about Wheeler: He is not ready.

Wheeler was rocky again last night as he gave up four runs on eight hits and three walks in 5.1 innings and 92 pitches. For Wheeler’s stuff, 92 pitches should translate into eight or nine innings, not one out into the sixth. It doesn’t matter that three of the runs were unearned. The unearned runs indicates Wheeler strained to get out of trouble.

So, unless Wheeler proves he can get himself out of trouble, he won’t be able to get the Mets out of trouble.

ON DECK:  A look at Jeremy Hefner.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos