Nov 09

Sandy Alderson: Talks Slow With R.A. Dickey And David Wright

Speaking at the GM meetings in California, Mets GM Sandy Alderson said it was conceivable R.A. Dickey could win the Cy Young Award next week and then be traded. It’s another way of saying, “these are the Mets, anything is possible.”

“It would be a little unusual to trade a Cy Young winner,” Alderson said. “ … We’d love to retain him. We’re trying to.”

Alderson said talks with Dickey and Wright are on-going, but currently slow. He hoped picking up their 2013 options ($16 million for Wright; $5 million for Dickey) would jump-start talks, but that hasn’t happened.

“Maybe it was a little bit unrealistic on my part to think that we’d get something done,” said Alderson. “But I think it was important for me to emphasize that we were going to get going early, in order to avoid any speculation about a Jose Reyes-type approach to this. So in that sense it was probably a good idea to emphasize speed but unrealistic to expect that this was all going to be concluded quickly.”

That’s fair enough.

Alderson said the Mets’ position of strength is their starting pitching, and although we doesn’t want to trade Dickey, Jonathan Niese or Dillon Gee, “it’s logical for us to consider that.”

That’s also fair, but in doing so it could weaken the staff if Matt Harvey doesn’t progress as planned.

I have no problem, right now, with Alderson’s approach. The dialogue is there with Wright and Dickey, and unlike Reyes, both know they are wanted. How much they are wanted, is shown by the dollars.

LATER TODAY: Concluding the Mets Player Review series with a look at the bench.

 

Nov 08

2012 Mets Player Review: Outfielders Lucas Duda And Andres Torres

LUCAS DUDA, OF

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: The expectations were in the form of wishful thinking when centerfielder Andres Torres and right fielder Lucas Duda reported to spring training. Unwilling or unable to add quality outfielders in the offseason – take your pick – the Mets opted for the bargain basement route. The Mets sent the underperforming Angel Pagan to the Giants for the non-productive Torres. A change of scenery has worked before and the Mets were hoping it would again. Theoretically, Torres was going to bring speed and a high on-base percentage at the top of the order while patrolling Citi Field’s spacious outfield. The hope for Duda was two-fold: 1) provide power to a line-up void of it, and 2) learn how to play right field.

2012 SEASON REVIEW: Torres’ nightmare season began the first week when he strained his left calf and went on the disabled list. Torres was sluggish upon his return and was hitting .213 by the end of May. Torres hit .230 (11 points below his career average) with a paltry .327 on-base percentage, .664 OPS and just 13 stolen bases. He also struck out 90 times. Yes, the injury set back Torres, but he also played poorly when he was in the line-up. It was a learning process for Duda, first in learning major league pitchers while playing a new position. The Mets became enamored with Duda’s power potential when he hit 10 homers in 100 games in 2011. Things soured for Duda last year to the point where he was sent to the minor leagues to work on his mechanics and approach at the plate, and he wasn’t happy about it. Duda played in only 121 games, with 105 in right field where he committed four errors and showed limited range. Offensively, he hit 15 homers with 57 RBI, both well below what the Mets were hoping. Perhaps Duda’s most significant offensive stat was his 120-51 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. That’s an awful lot of nothing.

LOOKING AT 2013: Torres made $2.7 million last season and is arbitration eligible. As weak as their outfield is, the Mets won’t tender him. Kirk Nieuwenhuis played well when he replaced Torres last year, and barring an unforeseen addition, will get a chance to win the job in spring training. Meanwhile, Pagan will hit the free-agent market and make big bucks. There was a rumor of the Mets dealing Ike Davis and moving Duda to first. I’m not buying. Duda could move to left now that Jason Bay is gone, which is a better position for him. Wherever Duda plays it won’t cost the Mets much. He made $497,318 last season.

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Nov 07

Both Sides Win As Mets Sever Ties With Jason Bay

Usually not much happens at the GM meetings, especially for the Mets. But this afternoon they reached an agreement to terminate Jason Bay’s contract and granting him unconditional free agency. That’s a big deal as it eliminates a black cloud that has been hovering over the Mets the past three years.

The Mets owe Bay $16 million for 2013 with a $3 million buyout for 2014. Terms of the buyout were not disclosed, but assume Bay got something.

In a statement released by the Mets, Bay said: “I still feel I have plenty to give to this game and that I can play baseball at a high level. But after serious consideration, both sides agree that we would benefit from a fresh start. I’m grateful we were able to reach an agreement to allow that to happen.”

Bay’s performance and the need for a fresh start was reminiscent to some degree to the termination of Oliver Perez’s contract. Neither Bay nor Perez were producing, but while Perez rejected a minor league assignment to work on his mechanics and became a clubhouse pariah, Bay remained popular with his teammates and never stopped running.

As I posted earlier today in Bay’s 2012 review profile, the Mets were just biding their time until the end of his contract. Both sides win in this as Bay gets his money and a chance to move on and the Mets free themselves of a production headache, although they’ll still be on the hook for a considerable sum.

The important thing from the Mets’ perception is they can move ahead freely and won’t be mired in the dilemma of how to handle Bay, who ended last year in a platoon role. If the Mets can acquire a right fielder, it could allow them to move Lucas Duda to left field, considered an easier position.

Bolstering the outfield has been designated as a priority. Kirk Nieuwenhuis initially played well, but eventually faltered and was optioned down. Scott Hairston had a good year off the bench, might price himself out of the Mets’ plans if he wants a multi-year deal.

Bay wasn’t a fit from the outset when they signed him as a free-agent from Boston prior to the Mets’ move into Citi Field. At the time, the Mets said they were building their team around pitching, speed and defense, so naturally they signed a right-handed power hitter. Bay played surprisingly good defense and always hustled, but his production was never there.

Maybe the Mets’ first clue about Bay was when the Red Sox didn’t make a serious attempt to re-sign him and rescinded an offer.

Bay hit at least 30 homers in four straight seasons before signing a four-year, $66-million contract, but batted just .234 with 26 homers and 124 RBI in three years with the Mets. It wouldn’t be a reach to say the Mets expected him to average at least 26 homers with 124 RBI a season.

To be fair, Bay was sidelined by a myriad of injuries, including two concussions and a fractured rib, but even when healthy, he looked lost at the plate.

In a statement released by the Mets, GM Sandy Alderson said: “Jason has a tremendous work ethic. There was never any question about it. Unfortunately, the results weren’t there and we are in a results-oriented business. We thank Jason for his efforts and wish him well.”

Bay said he wants to keep playing and has no intention of quitting. He expressed no regrets other than his performance, offered no excuses and wished the fans and his former teammates well.

 

Nov 07

So Much More To Do Now Than Two Years Ago

What frightens me most about this coming offseason as compared to the last 3-4 is the enormity of moves that will be required to fill the vastness of areas that need correcting if we are to make a dent in the standings in 2013 to 2015.

Whereas in off-seasons past where each year had 2-3 items on our list of immediate priorities, we now find perplexing questions, major problems, and deep concerns at almost every position on the team. In a baseball sense, the Mets organization now resembles a scene from a post apocalyptic movie.

So let me start dealing out the cards, at least the way I see it, and don’t worry, I won’t be dealing from under the deck.

Catcher: Would Josh Thole be a starting catcher for any other team in the major leagues save the Mets? Thole will be arbitration-eligible for the first time in his career and while your first impulse is to non-tender him, the Mets catching situation is so bad that they will be forced to tender him and keep him. He has zero value to any other team but the Mets and that’s because the rest of the catching corps is even worse. Catching is certainly an area that needs immediate attention, even at backup, but will it get any help?

First base: Will the real Ike Davis stand up. Truth be told I believe we saw the real Ike Davis in the second half and for now he is the Mets’ best power hitter, bar none. But will he remain a Met? Or will he be the one that goes as part of the new and bold changes Alderson warned would be coming? Davis will get an easy $3 million in arbitration this Winter, which will be nice for him and not so nice for the budget conscious Alderson. Follow the money.

Second base: Daniel Murphy may be a liability defensively, but he’s gotten better. He’s become a doubles machine at the plate, and who doesn’t love his intensity?  Ironically, Murphy has more job security with the Mets than either David Wright and Ike Davis right now. Cheap is good in Flushing. I find it all amusing. Justin Turner and Jordany Valdespin might get some airtime if they’re still here when the clock strikes twelve.

Third base: Until David Wright’s contract situation is resolved, we don’t even know if he’ll be here in 2013. Sad, isn’t it? He holds about a dozen different franchise records and at 29 he may already have one foot out the door. If that happens, I’m not even sure the Mets will reinvest his $16 million – they haven’t reinvested a dime from Castillo, Perez, K-Rod, Beltran and Reyes, why would that change now? Top prospect Wilmer Flores is close, but still not ready.

Shortstop: Who would’ve thought that losing Jose Reyes would make the shortstop position the least of our concerns? Ruben Tejada will never be the catalyst that No. 7 was, but he sure can pick’em at short. He is definitely not a leadoff hitter, or a number two hitter for that matter, but he provides steady offense and the occasional timely hit. His backup is a toss-up and with Ronny Cedeno gone they’ll have to do some dumpster-diving to find a replacement.

Outfield: Wow, what a mess. The outfield and the bullpen is what defined Sandy Alderson in 2012. They were both his creations, and that’s indisputable. The plan according to Sandy is a Bay/Duda platoon in LF, Kirk Nieuwenhuis takes over in CF, and I have no idea who’s in RF. If Jordany Valdespin is still here, I’m sure we’ll see him, and the same goes for Mike Baxter. Scott Hairston is long gone. If Hell freezes over and they do add a significant player via trade or free agency, you can bet he’ll be an outfielder. That’s the plan. Hey, I didn’t say it was a good plan, but give the man credit, he has a plan.

Rotation: Pitching was a strength for the Mets last season. Minaya holdovers Santana, Dickey, Niese, Harvey and Gee all combined to give the Mets a solid rotation that included a Cy Young caliber season, a couple of breakthrough players, and even the franchise’s first no-hitter. Now as we enter the offseason, rumors abound that Dickey could be traded and even Niese. Santana and Gee will both be coming back from season ending injuries, and Harvey will be shouldering a bigger load. This might be the one area that Alderson should leave untouched, but nobody believes that will happen. It will be revamped and the Mets could lose an ace and their only southpaw. If that happens the Mets could be in store for a historic 100 loss season.

Bullpen: Whose up for another bullpen revamping? Do I have any takers? Like it or not, here it comes and I can’t wait to see what underachievers will be joining the pen for Season 3 of Bullpen Wars. For now, the only holdovers are the atrocious Frank Francisco who will get $6.5 million for his services, and fireballer Bobby Parnell who will get a huge raise in arbitration. They’ll be the highest paid and neither is a safe bet to close out games. Josh Edgin should easily beat out Robert Carson for the LOOGY role. Then it’s take your pick between Mejia, Familia, Hefner, Schwinden, and McHugh. That’s quite the assortment of question marks and not a sure thing among them. Buy hey, at least Carrasco is gone.

Can you believe that we have only one safe zone – shortstop? Everything else is up in the air right now…

Progress?

Nov 07

2012 Mets Player Review: Jason Bay

JASON BAY, LF

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: Injured and a bust in the first two years of his four-year, $66-million pact with the Mets, the expectations were mild at best. Even with the fences moved in at Citi Field, nobody really expected him to become the slugger he had been with Boston, when he made the Red Sox forget Manny Ramirez. Bay homered 18 times in his first two seasons with 104 RBI. At least, that’s what the Mets anticipated for a single season. Bay’s injuries limited him to 95 games in 2010 and 123 in 2011, the latter was a concussion sustained when he slammed into the wall at Dodger Stadium. If healthy, the Mets hoped Bay would regain his power stroke and start salvaging his contract. Bay did hit 12 homers and drove in 57 runs in 2011, but had a mediocre .329 on-base percentage and .703 OPS. For his part, Bay was a positive clubhouse presence that always hustled and played defense. But, it is difficult to be a leader when you’re not producing.

2012 SEASON REVIEW: Whatever hopes the Mets might have had in rectifying Bay’s career took a serious hit last summer as another concussion limited him to 70 games. That Mets’ fans cheered Bay’s injury is reprehensible, but boiled down it was a sign of their increasing frustration with him. In many ways, Bay personified the Mets’ second-half offensive collapse. Again, Bay hustled, but only goes so far. He reached base just 41 times (32 hits and 19 walks), but he struck out 58 times, batted .165 with a .237 on-base percentage and .536 OPS. In nobody’s world is that a good season. It got to the point where manager Terry Collins said Bay’s two concussions contributed to him being sluggish at the plate. By the end of the season he was a platoon player.

LOOKING AT 2013: When the Mets signed Bay, they did so despite having a greater need for pitching, both starting and relieving. Above all else, this season represents freedom from Bay’s horrendous contract as they’ll have to pay him $16 million plus a $3 million buyout. After ridding themselves of Bay’s contract and Johan Santana’s ($25 million) after this season, the Mets will have more financial flexibility. There’s no way the Mets can escape the bust label for signing Bay; that became official a long time ago. Since he can’t be traded, Bay’s value to the Mets will be if he stays healthy and produces with power and makes them competitive. Maybe then, might somebody take him of their hands for the second half. But, don’t count on it.

NEXT: Andres Torres