Nov 07

Encarnacion Best Bet For Mets

The free-agent shopping list is long, but who is the best fit for the Mets? With Yoenis Cespedes destined to land elsewhere – he could wait to opt out – I’m thinking Toronto’s Edwin Encarnacion.

Here’s why Encarnacion makes the most sense and would work out better than bringing back Cespedes:

ENCARNACION: Best bet to replace Cespedes. (FOX)

ENCARNACION: Best bet to replace Cespedes. (FOX)

COST: Encarnacion made $10 million in each of the last two seasons and $51.7 over his career, so he’s looking for his biggest payday, but at 33, he probably could get had for three years and an option.

I’m thinking $17 million a season, but even if you make it $20 million, that’s still far less than Cespedes, who reportedly is seeking a five-year package north of $100 million.

The money saved by not keeping Cespedes could be used on Encarnacion; spent on their young pitching; keeping Neil Walker; shopping for a closer to replace Jeurys Familia; or on a myriad of other things.

In the end, Encarnacion would cost the Mets’ money, while a trade to fill the right-handed hitting void created by Cespedes will cost money and prospects.

VERSATILITY: Encarnacion can play both first and third base. When platooned with Lucas Duda, the Mets can rest David Wright – if he’s able to play – or Jose Reyes at third.

This would enable Reyes to play more shortstop, which would preserve Asdrubal Cabrera, who showed breakdown signs at the end of last season.

Conversely, Cespedes was initially brought back to play center, but that didn’t work as planned. However, Cespedes balked at center, and his refusal to play there complicated the Mets’ already over-stocked outfield. Not having Cespedes enables the Mets to play Michael Conforto.

RIGHT-HANDED POWER: Cespedes hit 30 homers in each of the last two seasons, but Encarnacion has 310 career homers, hitting 42, 39, 34, 36 and 42 over the past five years. In that span he drove in over 100 runs in four years, and 98 in the fifth year.

Encarnacion is 33 and has played at least 142 games in four of the past five years and 128 in the other. Meanwhile, Cespedes at 31 had trouble staying healthy, playing in 132 games while Encarnacion played in 160.

INTANGIBLES: Encarnacion does not have a reputation as being high-maintenance like Cespedes. … As a veteran with playoff experience, he would be a steady presence for some of the Mets’ younger players. … It’s possible I might have undervalued Encarnacion’s value, especially if Boston becomes a player to replace David Ortiz. However, I haven’t underestimated the cost of Cespedes. He’ll cost plenty, and the Mets have other areas of need.

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Nov 05

Cespedes To Opt Out Today

By midnight today, Yoenis Cespedes will tell the Mets he is opting out of his contract to pursue the riches of free agency.

The Mets have expected him to leave since they gave him the opt-out clause after one season of a three-year, $75-million contract. In reality, they never him to come back after he was close to signing a five-year, $110-million deal with Washington.

CESPEDES: Where is he running to? (AP)

    CESPEDES: Where is he running to? (AP)

Somehow, Cespedes eschewed that contract for the Mets. Perhaps he was overwhelmed by the World Series experience.

I’ve written several times how the Mets would be better off letting Cespedes go and spend the money elsewhere. I know that it is an unpopular position because we’re supposed to be enamored with Cespedes’ power, but frankly, he’s too high-maintenance for the money.

I’m annoyed he hustles when the mood strikes; that he played golf when he should have been rehabbing his quad; and he couldn’t play centerfield, which pretty much ended Michael Conforto’s play in left field.

If he comes back and has to play left, it stunts Conforto’s development. I certainly don’t want the Mets to fool around with Conforto at first base just to placate Cespedes.

The Mets will make a qualifying offer, which Cespedes will reject to accept a $100-million package with somebody else.

There are a handful of teams Cespedes where could land, but remember the Nationals were the only team to make an offer last year.

The Nationals could go after Cespedes again, which would entail Bryce Harper moving to center and Jayson Werth going to right. An outfield of Cespedes, Harper and Werth could be imposing.

San Francisco, which needs offense and with left fielder Angel Pagan to become a free agent, could be a player. Another possibility is Toronto, which might lose Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Michael Saunders, will certainly have the money.

Another option could be the Yankees. They have long-term outfield commitments to Jacoby Ellsbury and Bret Gardner, but with Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez gone, they have a designated-hitter opening.

Conventional wisdom has Cespedes seeking a five-year contract, but last year’s leg problems must concern the Mets, and a DH position has to be appealing to him.

Nov 04

How Mets Compare To Cubs

After 108 years, the Chicago Cubs finally won their World Series. The curses are over, so perhaps they can do the right thing and invite Steve Bartman to throw out the first pitch on Opening Day 2017.

It would be a classy gesture, akin to the Red Sox making up with Bill Buckner – who, by the way – felt the curses of both the Red Sox and Cubs.

REED: A priority. (AP)

                    REED: A priority. (AP)

I doubt it would happen, but I always root for the good story. Meanwhile, our Mets have a title drought of our own – 30 long years.

The Cubs won 103 games this summer and the Mets won 87, but is 16 games the real separation between the two teams? The Mets can’t go back to their four-game sweep of the Cubs in last year’s NLCS or a sweep of them this summer at Citi Field.

The Cubs roared past the Mets, and here’s a position-by-position comparison between the franchises:

FRONT OFFICE: Theo Epstein had a plan when he took over in 2012, and it was only four years before he lead a parade in Chicago. Like was said of the Yankees’ Brian Cashman over the years, he better win that payroll. ($171 million and license to spend).

Meanwhile, Mets GM Sandy Alderson’s mission statement when he was hired in 2010 was to get rid of burdensome contracts – Jason Bay, Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo and Francisco Rodriguez to name a few – and cut payroll, which he did.

The Mets’ payroll was $126 million in Alderson’s first year and jumped to $142 million in 2011 because of existing obligations, but from 2012- 2014 had sub-$100 million payrolls.

It subsequently jumped to $135 million this year for Opening Day.

Unlike Epstein, Alderson does not have free reign to spend because the Mets are still recovering from the Ponzi scandal.

EDGE: Chicago.

MANAGER: Joe Maddon is regarded as one of the game’s best minds, but in all fairness with his moves in Games 6 and 7, it would be accurate to say the Cubs won in spite of him and not because of him.

He abused reliever Aroldis Chapman in the last three games. It was absurd he sent Chapman out for the ninth with a huge lead in Game 6. I was stunned he sent him out for the ninth, but it also showed extreme confidence in Chapman but also underscored an overall lack of faith he had in the rest of the bullpen. That’s something Terry Collins would never have done.

I thought he pulled Kyle Hendricks way too soon, something we’ve seen of Collins frequently.

The bunt call with Javier Baez was foolish. There were other moments, but those stood out the most.

But Maddon caught some breaks. The last two games in Cleveland allowed him to use Kyle Schwarber as the DH. Think about that Cubs fans when you rail against American League baseball.

The Cubs also caught a huge break with the rain delay that gave them a much-needed timeout. It also took steam from the Indians.

Since Collins replaced Jerry Manuel, he was initially hamstrung with a limited payroll and Alderson’s domineering hand of calling the shots.

Collins’ in-game managing can be head scratching, especially the use of his bullpen and bench. He has shown questionable loyalties to his players, notably Matt Harvey, Michael Conforto, Wilmer Flores and Yoenis Cespedes.

He has been let down numerous times, but his players hustle for him.

EDGE: Chicago.

ROTATION: Jake Arrieta won 22 games in 2015 to win the NL Cy Young Award. Either Jon Lester or Hendricks could win it this year. They have one more season with John Lackey and Jason Hammel is the fifth starter.

Most of the pre-season pitching accolades went to the Mets’ young core of Harvey, Jake deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steve Matz. Throw in Zack Wheeler and four of the five are coming off surgery. Bartolo Colon is a free agent, but the Mets want him back.

However, that’s no guarantee he’ll be back. Nothing is assured, including Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman picking up where they left off. They gave the Mets a brief, but an impressive window.

The bottom line is the Mets’ rotation can be terrific, but with the surgeries and relative inexperience, they enter spring training with a myriad of questions.

EDGE: Chicago.

BULLPEN

With Chapman on the free-agent market and Maddon’s obvious lack of faith in his bullpen, the Cubs have serious questions.

Mike Montgomery is 27 and worked a lot in the postseason. They also had Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards and Justin Grimm on the postseason roster. They are under 30, had decent seasons, but Maddon had little faith in them in Games 6 of 7. We’ll never know what Maddon would have done if Game 7 went longer.

The Mets have serious bullpen issues with Jeurys Familia facing at least a 30-game suspension and Addison Reed entering free agency. Honestly, they are in a world of hurt in their bullpen.

If you assume Chapman is gone, the same assumption can be made of Reed, left-hander Jerry Blevins and Fernando Salas. They already decided against Jim Henderson. Josh Edgin had a short rebound season from surgery. Hansel Robles is coming off a hot-and-cold season, as did Logan Verrett.

Erik Goeddel and Sean Gilmartin also made appearances, as did Rafael Montero.

EDGE: Even.

CATCHING: Ironically, Maddon’s lack of faith in his bullpen prompted going to Jon Lester, and with him, his personal catcher David Ross. Ross homered to help win Game 7 and retire in style.

The Cubs still list Schwarber as a catcher, but after knee surgery, that won’t happen. Willson Contreras had a good year and enters spring training No. 1.

Travis d’Arnaud was hurt each of the last two seasons and still needs to prove he can hit. Kevin Plawecki and Rene Rivera are back-ups. The Mets need a serious upgrade here.

EDGE: Chicago.

FIRST BASE: It’s Anthony Rizzo (.292/32 HR/109 RBI) for the Cubs against the Mets’ perpetually injured Lucas Duda, and possibly James Loney.

The Mets are also toying with the idea of experimenting with Conforto and David Wright at first. It is a reach.

EDGE: Chicago.

SECOND BASE: When Schwarber was injured, Ben Zobrist played more in left field, and that gave Javier Baez more time at second base.

The versatility of MVP candidate Kris Bryant, who can play the infield and outfield corners, enabled Maddon to keep Zobrist fresh at second.

The Mets were surprised by Neil Walker’s power, but he’s a free-agent coming off back surgery. The most they’ll extend is probably a one-year qualifying. They still have Flores, who they repeatedly showed a lack of faith, and the up-and-coming T.J. Rivera. Kelly Johnson, who filed for free agency. Will they trade for him for a third straight season?

EDGE: Chicago.

SHORTSTOP

The Cubs’ Addison Russell is one of the game’s rising stars, while Asdrubal Cabrera was arguably the Mets’ MVP.

However, Cabrera showed breakdown signs several times last summer. They have him for another year and Collins needs to do a better job of resting him.

EDGE: Chicago.

THIRD BASE

If not Rizzo, Bryant (.292/39/102) could be the NL MVP. He’s 24, terrific in the clutch and can play four positions.

The Mets don’t know if Wright will be back, and if he does, where he’ll play and how much are issues. If he doesn’t, they’ll go with Jose Reyes and Flores.

EDGE: Chicago.

LEFT FIELD

The Cubs have the combination of Zobrist – whom the Mets’ coveted after the 2015 season – and Schwarber. The World Series MVP, Zobrist is also one of baseball’s good guys as he signed autographs outside his Chicago home.

How many remember that Albert Belle chased down trick-or-treaters in his truck?

Zobrist is versatile, has power and hits in the clutch. Small wonder the Mets and Nationals both wanted him. Schwarber, meanwhile, thanks to the DH rule was a factor with awesome power.

The assumption is Cespedes will be gone, leaving left field to Conforto. Curtis Granderson could also get time in left with Jay Bruce brought back to play right field.

EDGE: Chicago.

CENTER FIELD: Dexter Fowler had a terrific season, but is a free agent. He said the Cubs are on his list, but as I did in left field with the Mets and Cespedes, I will assume he’ll be gone.

If the Cubs don’t bring back Fowler, and since there’s no way of knowing who’ll the Cubs will fish for, their internal option is 22-year-old Albert Almora Jr.

Ideally, the Mets wanted Cespedes in center, but he balked. Juan Lagares was injured for a good part of the season, but returned to play well.

Granderson will also get center field time in his last season with the Mets because of Bruce’s presence in right field.

EDGE: Mets.

RIGHT FIELD: The Cubs didn’t get $180 million worth from Jason Heyward. He has a tremendous glove, but his bat went into hibernation this summer.

Bruce struggled after coming over from Cincinnati, but picked it up at the end. Even so, it was a good pick-up, and he’s more economically feasible than either Cespedes or Heyward.

When Bruce isn’t playing, they can turn to Granderson.

EDGE: Mets.

 

Nov 03

Mets Take Step Away From Cespedes; Pick Up Bruce’s Option

The Mets took their first step in moving away from Yoenis Cespedes when they picked up Jay Bruce’s $13-million option Thursday afternoon. Cespedes has until midnight Saturday to inform the Mets he will opt out of his contract to become a free agent.

CESPEDES: Will opt out. (AP)

    CESPEDES: Will opt out. (AP)

The Mets fully expect Cespedes to opt out and have thought that for months. Reportedly their plan is to wait out the process, much like they did with him last winter and Johan Santana years ago.

They took their time last year and Cespedes was on the verge of signing a five-year, $110-million package with Washington before changing his mind and going back to the Mets. Based on such history, figure that’s where the bidding will start, but considering his 31 homers in 2016, it could be higher.

The Mets have been enamored with Cespedes since he powered them to the 2015 World Series. Although he had a flat Series against the Royals, the Mets were hot to bring him back. Cespedes was an electric hitter for the Mets this year, but there were also long dry stretches, injuries, and his high maintenance persona.

They traded for Bruce when Cespedes as hurting and struggling with the hope he would ignite their offense. He did not and clearly disappointed Mets’ fans until the last two weeks of the season.

When the Mets acquired Cespedes from Cincinnati, they said at the time their control over Bruce’s contract was a crucial variable as it was their hedge on Cespedes leaving. That means they’ve been counting on Cespedes – who is at least two years older than Bruce by the way – leaving. Hell, I thought he would opt out when I first learned of his contract.

Reportedly the Mets will offer Cespedes a qualifying offer of roughly $17 million as to acquire a compensatory draft pick. That’s just good business. Cespedes, of course, is expected to decline, which is good business on his part.

Is Cespedes worth $110 million over five years? I don’t think so, but then again it’s not my money.

There are a lot of things $110 can buy, including:

* Adding a closer, an unforeseen need with Jeurys Familia expected to be suspended for at least 30 games after being arrested on domestic abuse charges.

* Signing one or more of their young pitchers to a long-term deal. That is if they are physically able.

* Bringing back Neil Walkers, who filed for free agency today

* Bringing back set-up reliever Addison Reed, who’ll cost them at least $11 million a season.

* Picking up a variety of pieces around the Mets, including patching the bullpen; Lucas Duda; improving their catching; bringing back Curtis Granderson for another year if they desire; and a myriad of other possibilities.

They can do all that, plus extend Bruce, if they move on from Cespedes.

Nov 01

Mets’ Familia Arrested On Domestic Violence Charge; One Option Explored

The Mets now have a bullpen problem, but Jeurys Familia’s troubles are just beginning. The Mets’ closer was arrested Monday in Fort Lee, N.J., on a domestic violence charge.

The Bergen Record reported Familia was charged on simple assault after a fight with his girlfriend. Familia and his fiancée, Bianca Rivas, welcomed their first child in June. The accuser’s name was not in the official police complaint.

FAMILIA: Arrested. (AP)

FAMILIA: Arrested. (AP)

The arrest was made as 2:22 a.m., Monday. Bail was set at $1,500 and he was released. The Mets issued the following statement: “The matter was brought to our attention and we are monitoring the situation.”

Major League Baseball is cracking down on domestic abusers. Jose Reyes was suspended for 52 games at the start of this season; the Cubs’ Aroldis Chapman was suspended for 30 games at the start of this season; also this season, Atlanta’s Hector Olivera was suspended for 82 games.

Without knowing all the details, it is hard to speculate as to the length of Familia’s suspension, but he will miss time. There could also be pressure on the Mets to release him, just as there was heat to not bring back Reyes.

Familia’s situation could also influence the Mets to hasten their attempt to bring back Addison Reed, who had 40 holds.

The Mets could move Reed into the closer role and perhaps use Seth Lugo or Robert Gsellman in the set-up spot. If not them, then the Mets will need to find a set-up reliever. Hansel Robles will probably get the first opportunity, but he hasn’t impressed.

The Mets seemed secure with Reed in the eighth inning and Familia in the ninth. I don’t know what will happen with Familia, but what I do know is the Mets’ idyllic closer situation isn’t so ideal anymore.