Jan 21

Wright Remains Mets’ Most Overriding Issue

Yesterday I examined the top ten issues facing the Mets with spring training five weeks away. It isn’t hard for me to pick out the player shouldering the most pressure.

The bullpen is the positional area of most concern, but individually the player remains David Wright. Somehow, last year the Mets withstood playing without him for over four months, but several things combined to make that possible, notably the ineffective Washington Nationals and acquisition of Yoenis Cespedes.

WRIGHT: We want to see that smile again. (AP)

WRIGHT: We want to see that smile again. (AP)

Will the Mets be as fortunate if Wright goes down this year?

Baseball-reference.com projects Wright to hit .275 in 2016 with nine homers and 37 RBI, which would be terrible news for the Mets. The scary part is based on Wright’s recent injury history I can envision that before I can him returning to 30-homer form.

Wright hasn’t hit 30 homers since 2008 and has only hit at least 20 twice since then. He has a combined 31 in his last three years, and only once since 2013 has he played in as many at 130 games. Including the 2009 season, he’s had as many as 500 at-bats only four times.

You can talk about OPS and WAR all you want, but all statistics are predicated on at-bats and Wright hasn’t had many in recent years. Look, readers of this blog know I am one of Wright’s biggest supporters, but I can’t ignore the facts he hasn’t been healthy lately.

He missed over four months last year with spinal stenosis, and that he even returned late in the season was remarkable. Considering the good feelings about his return, recovery and playing in the playoffs, it would be another devastating blow is he were to go down again.

The Mets did not add a right-handed hitting power bat during the winter, perhaps with the outside hope Wright would come back close to form. As of now, they won’t have Cespedes back and it could be a dangerous gamble if they are thinking they can make another at-the-wire trade.

Let’s face it, as long as Wright is here he’s the face of this franchise, but if he’s hurt again and doesn’t produce, that contract with five years and $87 million remaining will be an albatross.

Imagine how much better things will be if Wright plays in 130 games, hits at least 20 homers and drives in 80 runs. Could make for another fun year, and for me that’s why Wright is the Mets’ most overriding issue.

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Jan 20

Top Ten Mets’ Issues Heading Into Spring Training

With spring training five weeks away, and a major storm due in two days, what better time to examine the top ten issues facing the Mets? Some projections have the Mets breezing back to the World Series, but I don’t see it. Things won’t be that easy for them. They never are. Other projections have them dropping off to 84 victories, which might not be enough for them to reach the playoffs.

I’m pegging them for at least 85, with the added expectation the Washington Nationals will be better.

1. What is the temperature of this team after its World Series run?

A. I recently wrote these guys are professional athletes and shouldn’t need a manager to motivate them. That being said, after 2006 the Mets entered spring training thinking all they needed to do was show up. Consequently, they didn’t do much to plug their holes, of which there were several, mostly pitching related. You, of course, remember the collapse of 2007? What Mets’ follower doesn’t? Actually, that bothered me more than the Carlos Beltran strikeout. The Mets don’t have to look any further than David Wright to know these opportunities are fleeting.

DeGROM: Can he get to 20? (GETTY)

DeGROM: Can he get to 20? (GETTY)

2. How strong is the bullpen?

A: This is the prevailing issue to me. It appears they are banking on the returns of Jerry Blevins and Jennry Mejia, and if Hansel Robles can develop. They’ll have Addison Reed for the full season, and hopefully Jeurys Familia learned something after taking his World Series lumps. We shall see. Bartolo Colon will go to the pen once Zack Wheeler comes off the disabled list. It doesn’t matter what power hitting outfielder they might find in the next five weeks (I’m betting none), if their bullpen is shaky then so are the Mets’ chances.

3. How healthy is Wright?

A: Wright is already in Port St. Lucie. Who wasn’t expecting that? Wright finished the season feeling strong, but that was after two months of playing time. He’s preparing himself for at least six months of playing time. He’ll have a special routine before each game. It will be interesting to see how Terry Collins carves out his playing time.

4. Who’ll be in center field?

A: My pick is Juan Lagares because I don’t see them bringing back Yoenis Cespedes. He’s still in play, but I’m not betting on it. Let Lagares run with the opportunity.

5. Will any of the starters have innings or pitch-count restrictions?

A: Obviously, Wheeler will have some. Perhaps the same goes for Steven Matz, but Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard should be fine. If there are restrictions, hopefully the Mets will have learned from last year with Harvey. They Mets are touting their young pitching, as well they should. But, either Harvey or deGrom must make a leap toward 20 wins. Here’s hoping Harvey pitches with a massive chip on his shoulder.

6. Will the double-play combination mesh?

A: Collins has a new double-play combination of Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker. This involves timing and positioning and things don’t happen over night. Collins still needs to find time for Wilmer Flores, Ruben Tejada and Dilson Herrera. Collins needs to give them all a chance to work together so there will be no surprises. A lot is banking on this.

7. Who’ll be the catcher?

A: The Mets like both Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki, but will have to decide on one and possibly move to trade the other. Among other things, d’Arnaud has to improve his throwing. After all, the base runners are trying to steal second base and not center field. The guess here is d’Arnaud will open the season as the starter, but Collins needs to have a defined platoon in mind.

8. How strong is the bench?

A: As of now, Plawecki, Flores, Tejada and Alejandro De Aza are the main figures coming off the bench. I prefer Lagares gets a chance to win the center field job outright, but if there is a platoon I hope it is something definitive. Flores is expected to relieve Wright at third, and I wonder what Collins’ thoughts are on that?

9. Are hot starts in order for left-handed power?

A: If Lucas Duda and Curtis Granderson don’t hit coming out of the gate there will be rumblings about the big-popper the Mets didn’t sign. We can probably expect that anyway, hot starts by Duda and Granderson will alleviate pressure from the rest of the offense, especially if Wright doesn’t hit for power early on.

10. Who’ll be the big surprises?

A: A lot is expected from Michael Conforto. Hopefully, he’ll live up to the billing even if he doesn’t become Ted Williams right away. But, what about Brandon Nimmo? Isn’t it time for him to make a statement, even if it is, “I’ll see you this summer.” On the mound, the Mets are high on Rafael Montero. Can he become a viable bullpen presence coming out of spring training?

 

 

Jan 19

Mets Playing Cespedes Game Correctly

Greetings all.

Sorry for not being around the past few days, but this recovery business is taking longer and more grueling than I thought.

CESPEDES: Mets playing this the right way. (Getty)

CESPEDES: Mets playing this the right way. (Getty)

Spring training is a month away and hopefully I’ll be closer to being on my game by then. I can’t begin to express how much I want to be there. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

With that in mind, I’d like to weigh in on Yoenis Cespedes – again.

I recently wrote I believed the Mets still had a shot at re-signing Cespedes if they practiced patience and let the market come back to them. The Cespedes market shrunk by two teams this week when Baltimore brought back Chris Davis and Detroit signed Justin Upton.

The Angels were reportedly interested, but the luxury tax is putting them off. That in itself should dispel the notion there’s such a thing as free agency. (That’s another column for another day.)

However, that doesn’t mean the Cespedes market has completely dried up. Houston, the White Sox, Atlanta and the Mets are reportedly still in play.

Neither the Mets nor the White Sox want to go longer than three years, and both would prefer less. If the Mets continue to play the waiting game, Cespedes might fall back into their laps.

However, there are reasons why Cespedes remains on the market: he has a career .319 on-base percentage, which should concern Mets GM Sandy Alderson; at 30, he’s already played with four teams; there’s questions about his persona; his reported opening salary demands of seven years and $150 million scared teams out of the box; what he did for the Mets is considered a fluke by some; and finally, there’s always the possibility he might lose his incentive with a long-term deal.

Clearly, the Mets are aware of those flaws, which should put them off. But, if they really want Cespedes, they need to keep waiting.

And, hold to their guns of not giving more than three years. And, be willing to accept they could get burned.

Jan 15

Time To Give Lagares A Full Chance

It is clear Juan Lagares is currently out of favor with the Mets, but I don’t believe the situation is permanent. As the Mets currently express limited interest in bringing back Yoenis Cespedes on a short-term deal – some reports have it as short as one season – I keep thinking perhaps the best option is to go with the guy already on a multi-year deal.

LAGARES: Needs a chance. (AP)

LAGARES: Needs a chance. (AP)

The Mets gave Lagares a five-year deal because they liked his speed and glove, and were optimistic about his offensive potential. While Lagares regressed in 2015 in all areas, I wonder how much was his elbow; was hitting the sophomore slump; or maybe the Mets misjudged him.

Perhaps it is a combination of all three. Perhaps it was just a bad year.

Whatever the reasons, the Mets remain on the hook for the remaining four years. I’ve written several times the deal was currently a bust. I still think that way at times, but my overriding thought is what if Lagares eventually lives up to what the Mets envisioned for him?

If that is the case, it would be best if they find out about him sooner than later. I’m not holding out any hope they’ll rope in Cespedes for one or even four years. The Mets gave Wilmer Flores a chance last season, and did the same with Michael Conforto, as well as young pitchers Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz.

So, why not the same with Lagares?

If he outperforms the competition during spring training, then let him play full time. Give him up to two months, or possibly until the All-Star break. If the Mets are in the race at the trade deadline, perhaps they can swing a deal.

But, what if Lagares has a breakout year? It’s worth a chance to find out.

Jan 14

Mets Matters: Hernandez Returns To SNY

Sometimes the status quo is a good thing, such as the news Keith Hernandez will return to the SNY broadcast booth with Gary Cohen and Ron Darling. There are a lot of outstanding broadcasting teams, and SNY’s is one of the best.

The trio are insightful, humorous and above all, are objective. They are different in that although they have deep ties to the Mets, they aren’t afraid to call them out when they deserve it.

You can’t ask for more.

ARBITRATION METS: The Mets traditionally sign their arbitration-eligible players to bypass the hearings, which will be in early February in Florida. The eligible Mets are: Neil Walker, Matt Harvey, Lucas Duda, Jeurys Familia, Addison Reed, Jenrry Famila, Ruben Tejada, Carlos Torres and Josh Edgin.

METS LOOK AT CRICKET PLAYER: Both the Mets and Yankees are looking at West Indies cricket player Kieran Powell, who is not lacking of confidence. He said: “My goal is to get signed. Any team that gives me an opportunity will be rewarded 100 times over.”

TICKETS GO ON SALE: Spring training tickets go on sale Saturday.