Jun 29

Assessing Trade Value Of Jon Niese

With the emergence of Steven Matz, expect the Mets to ratchet up their intent to trade from their pitching depth to bolster their anemic offense. The Mets would dearly like to find a taker or two for Jon Niese and Bartolo Colon on the major league level; Dillon Gee in the minors; and Rafael Montero, who has spent much of the season on the disabled list.

NIESE: What is his value? (AP)

NIESE: What is his value? (AP)

Of course, interested teams inquire about Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Matz, but are turned down. They don’t even both to ask about Matt Harvey, anymore.

Of the the four the Mets most want to trade, Niese has the greatest upside to bring in a bat.

Colon, at 41, won’t attract anything more than a lower level mediocre prospect at best. Gee won’t bring much more. Montero, if included in a package, could bring in the most, but he’s coming off an elbow injury.

Niese, however, at 28, is left-handed, now seemingly healthy, signed to a reasonable contract and has had some degree of success. Niese’s career record is 55-58, but with a respectable 3.89 ERA and average 1.368 WHIP. The ERA is what is most attractive, with the mediocre record attributable to the Mets’ porous bullpen and poor hitting.

Last year, Niese logged 187.2 innings in 30 starts while going 9-11. That’s indicative of a pitcher not afraid to take the ball. That could have value to the Cubs and Dodgers, the teams reportedly interested in Niese.

Assuming Niese remains healthy, a buying team can figure on getting innings, and will undoubtedly have the belief he would benefit from a change of scenery.

Naturally, money will always factor into any deal.

Niese will make $7 million this year, which means roughly a $3.5 million investment for the remainder of this year. Niese will earn $9 million in 2016; $10 million for 2017; and $11 million in 2018. Those are palatable salaries, and making it more attractive is the final two years have team options.

However, what must be remembered in dealing Niese to a potential contender is that if a team is in contention it likely wouldn’t want to deal a major league ready hitter. And, the Mets don’t want prospects as they believe they are capable of winning now.

Consequently, a team wanting Niese likely wouldn’t offer much, which is usually the tact the Mets have when they want to make a trade.

Jun 28

Matz Makes It All Right For One Day

Quality start doesn’t even begin to describe what Steven Matz gave the Mets today at Citi Field in his major league debut. His pitching, power and poise highlighted a 7-2 victory over Cincinnati. He also broke up a double play and started one after fielding a hard comebacker to the mound.

“He was as good as advertised,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “He was ready for this. It was time. … He was ready to show he belonged.’’

MATZ: Shines in debut. (AP)

MATZ: Shines in debut. (AP)

Matz was making his major league debut five years removed from Tommy John surgery; after the Mets toyed with the decision to bring him up; and, after more than a three-hour delay so the Mets could finish a 2-1 victory over the Reds in a completion of suspension game.

“The more time I had, the more the anxiety went away,’’ said Matz, a sign of his composure.

His composure also surfaced when his first pitch of the game was something out of “Bull Durham,’’ a fastball to the backstop. On his fifth pitch, Tony Phillips hit a replay-reviewed homer.

Matz set the Reds down in order in the second and then, using Las Vegas teammate Matt Reynolds’ bat, ripped a two-run double. He would later hit a hit-and-run single and two-run single.

All the while, he toyed with the Reds on the mound, giving up two runs – Todd Frazier also hit a solo homer – on five hits with three walks and six strikeouts in 7.2 innings.

Matz went further in his debut than Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler went in theirs.

While Harvey grew up rooting for the Yankees, Matz’s childhood passion growing up on Long Island was the Mets and spent many nights at Shea Stadium. Of course, the Mets want to play on that emotional attachment and as the team struggled through the past month there was a growing groundswell for his promotion. And, for the Mets, it was to attract more than the 130 family and friend he could sometimes hear from the stands.

There’s speculation the Mets promoted Matz to divert frustrated their fan base from their recent plunge in the NL East standings and a woeful offensive slide. That’s for another day, as this one was to enjoy a glimpse into a promising future.

However, while it was gray at Citi Field, there was a glimmer of sunlight, and he wore No. 32.

Jun 25

Collins Must Manage From His Gut Even If Alderson Doesn’t Like It

All the goodwill the Mets fostered during their 11-game winning streak is gone, vanished like a possible Jacob deGrom victory because of a faulty bullpen and no hitting. It faded along with the Mets’ eight-game lead over the Nationals, which is now a 3.5-game deficit.

Sure, the Mets could regroup but what are their chances, but what are the odds?

COLLINS: Where's that smile now? (Mets)

COLLINS: Where’s that smile now? (Mets)

The way I see it, manager Terry Collins is on his own; a life raft in rough waters. Ownership did nothing over the winter to bring in the offensive talent needed, and he’s received no help from GM Sandy Alderson, whose contribution was Michael Cuddyer.

Collins, because of his contract situation, is a lame duck and managing for his job. Because Alderson – the game’s smartest general manager – ripped him in a book, it is clear he doesn’t have any support.

That says it in spades, as if Alderson’s failure to build a quality bullpen and procure the needed hitting to sustain the young starting pitching wasn’t enough.

It is clear the Mets aren’t playing with fire anymore, and part of that is because Collins isn’t showing any himself. It appears he’s been beaten down and frustrated by a front office and ownership that isn’t supportive.

Collins is a long-time baseball man. He knows the right thing to do. He has no control over injuries, but does have over the talent he sends out every night. He also has control in the dugout after the first pitch. Collins must be aggressive and manage the Mets like this is his last chance, because he’s gone after this year. Deep down he has to know that.

I want to see him go out kicking and not meekly collecting a paycheck. Here’s what he needs to do to give the Mets their best chance of winning:

Goodbye pitch counts: Since it is clear there was no plan to begin with, let’s cut the crap. Matt Harvey has twice been pulled late with a 1-0 lead and went on to lose. That’s happened to deGrom once. Give those horses the extra inning.

Curtis Granderson: He’s finally showing some pop, so drop him in the order. Third, fourth, fifth, I don’t care. He’s being wasted hitting leadoff. I advocated this after seeing the Opening Day lineup. It worked for a while, but is failing now.

The answer? I don’t know. I wanted Juan Lagares, but his on-base percentage is dreadful. There is no real solution, but since he’s in the line-up I’m inclined to go with Ruben Tejada, who has decent speed, but I confess is too streaky.

Speaking of Granderson, the best outfield alignment is him in left field and Cuddyer in right. Why that wasn’t done in the first place is ridiculous.

The infield: Eventually we would get to this, but the best solution defensively is to move Wilmer Flores to third base and Tejada to shortstop. The Mets don’t want to because they are afraid of how Flores might react mentally.

If Flores’ ego is that fragile to where he couldn’t handle a switch then maybe he’s not tough enough to play in the major leagues. When Daniel Murphy returns move him to third and Flores to second.

What about David Wright, you ask? The Mets are foolish if they even think he’ll be back anytime soon, and if he does if he’ll play to any resemblance of his former self. It is more and more looking as if the issue of what to do with Wright will be addressed next spring – with another manager.

These are some of the things Collins can do with the 25 players he currently has on his roster. Since he’s not getting any help, he has to go down showing the same fight he wants from his team.

And, if Alderson doesn’t like it, then tell the game’s smartest general manager to fire him, because what the hell, it will happen soon enough.

Jun 24

Collins Will Be Scapegoat If Mets’ Fall Continues

The Mets’ season hasn’t exactly slipped away, but it seems that way with the fruits from an 11-game winning streak having all but slipped away.

Most likely if this season totally turns to dust, it will be manager Terry Collins who will be the fall guy. Already vultures, those talking heads and those calling in to talk with them, are circling the dying body of another Mets’ season.

COLLINS: Out on limb. (AP)

COLLINS: Out on limb. (AP)

Do I think the Mets can right themselves, turn this summer around and make a run at the playoffs? Yes, I do.

Do I believe they will do so? No, I do not.

I don’t because I can’t see the Mets doing anything of significance in adding a power bat to their line-up. And, I don’t have faith David Wright will come back soon, and in top form if he does. I also don’t see much coming in the second half from Curtis Granderson and Michael Cuddyer.

The Wilpons, despite getting a near $170 windfall in the Madoff case, aren’t about to spend, and I have no confidence GM Sandy Alderson – even with the financial resources – will make a trade.

There are also serious concerns about the bullpen and defense.

The Mets used injuries, and deservedly so, as a reason to extend Collins’ contract. That could work again, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Alderson is already on record saying he doesn’t have faith in Collins and with him getting heat of his own, sacking the manager will protect him.

 

Jun 23

Niese Betrayed By Hitters And Defense

Just when you think you never want to see Jon Niese on the mound again for the Mets, he goes out and pitches a decent game. It was a game he could have won if the Mets had any kind of offense. Then again, Milwaukee had its chances to blow it open, but to his credit Niese kept the Mets in the game.

In six innings Niese gave up two runs on eight hits and three walks. By today’s lax standards it was considered a “quality start.’’ Eleven base runners in six innings are not particularly good. Neither are the 99 pitches he threw.

However, what I took from Niese’s effort in tonight’s 3-2 loss at Milwaukee was how he minimized the damage. It isn’t something we’ve seen often this season.

Something we have seen often is the Mets’ woeful offense. They scored just two runs and had no hits after the third inning. Also, throw in a dozen strikeouts. There was also a costly defensive breakdown in Michael Cuddyer’s run-producing error in the seventh. And, Ruben Tejada misplayed another bunt while playing third base that cost the Mets a run.

The Mets have scored eight runs in their last six games, all losses.

The loss was the Mets’ 17th of the season by a margin of two runs or less and dropped them to .500 at 36-36. Now, all fruits from their 11-game winning streak are gone.

Damn, they are frustrating.