Dec 12

Mets Have Options For Fifth Starter

The Mets have numerous options to replace Jon Niese as fifth starter, which is another reason why trading him isn’t such a loss. Since a .500 record is considered the bar for a successful fifth starter, Niese’s 9-10 record shouldn’t be too difficult to make up.

COLON: Want him back. (Getty)

COLON: Want him back. (Getty)

And, the most important thing to remember is the Mets will need a fifth starter until Zack Wheeler comes off the disabled list, probably in July.

Their first choice should be bringing back Bartolo Colon, who won 14 games and worked 194.2 innings at age 42.

Colon proved he could work out of the bullpen during the playoffs, which is what his role would be after Wheeler returns. Colon made $10 million last year, but I doubt it will take that much to bring him back.

There’s been little buzz in the market about Colon, but while he’s said he’s open to returning to the Mets, he also said he still wants to start.

Even if Colon doesn’t come back, the Mets have three other internal options, including Rafael Montero, Sean Gilmartin and Logan Verrett.

Verrett had success last year as a spot starter – remember his start in Los Angeles when he replaced Matt Harvey? – and as a Rule 5 pickup Gilmartin proved he could be effective if they lengthen his workload in spring training. However, being a left hander, and with the Mets still needing lefty help in the bullpen, I’d rather have him work in that role.

The guy the Mets really like, and as a side thought, somebody they might want to showcase for a deal at the deadline, is Montero. He’ll be a major spring training story.

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Dec 11

Wright Welcomes Walker To Mets

This hardly comes as a surprise, but David Wright was the first to welcome Neil Walker to the Mets. In an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the former Pirate said Wright called him, even before the Pirates and Mets.

WALKER: Wright welcomes him. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

WALKER: Wright welcomes him. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Wright called to wish him well and offer advice and support in making the move to New York, which can be slightly more intimidating to live in than Pittsburgh.

“I guess that kind of shows what kind of guy he is,” Walker told the Post-Gazette. “Talking to David, it seems like a very invited and open-arms kind of situation over there. As we’ve seen in Pittsburgh, that carries a lot of weight when you’re talking about team camaraderie and chemistry and all that.”

Walker became a trade target with the Ben Zobrist signing fell through. He’ll replace Daniel Murphy at second and can also back-up Wright at third if necessary. The trade is probably harder for Walker than it would be a younger player because he’s been in the Pittsburgh organization for 12 years. Walker’s first impression is to look at this with an open mind.

“It’ll be exciting,” Walker said. “I’m really looking forward to seeing these guys work and watching these guys and in spring training, getting to know them.

“We all saw how capable they are of competing and reaching their goal. “Seems like they’re probably not done looking for more pieces. … It’s really exciting to see the work that [general manager] Sandy [Alderson] and [manager] Terry [Collins] and the team are doing right now.”

The Mets have a stable of young power arms, and to a lesser degree so do the Pirates. The Mets are on the cusp, just as the Pirates have been for the past three years.

“I guess I can compare it to playing behind Gerrit Cole and playing behind Francisco Liriano,” Walker said when asked about the Mets core of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz.

Unlike Jon Niese, who took a parting shot at the Mets’ defense, Walker had a group text with his former teammates.

“It was sad,” Walker said. “A lot of us were somewhat prepared for this to happen either this year, last year or next year. We kind of saw the writing on the wall, but that certainly doesn’t make it any easier.”

However, winning makes everything better.

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Dec 10

Mets A Winter Meetings Winner

The Mets left Nashville this afternoon a better team that showed up Sunday night, even if they come home with a contract having Ben Zobrist‘s autograph.

CABRERA: Makes Mets better. (Getty)

CABRERA: Makes Mets better. (Getty)

The Mets not only upgraded up the middle defensively with second baseman Neil Walker (trade from Pittsburgh for Jon Niese) and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera (free agent signing from Tampa Bay), and in the process improved their bench and came away with a back-up for David Wright.

And, they did it at a minimal cost, $18.5 million in a two-year contract for Cabrera instead of the estimated $50 million they were going to pay Zobrist. The price of what Walker could make in arbitration and what Niese is to make ($9 million) is a wash.

The Mets were poor defensively with Daniel Murphy and Flores (a combined 26 errors) opposed to a combined 16 from Walker and Cabrera. However, defense is more than just errors, it is also positioning and range. For a team built on pitching, they improved in the field with no loss of production at the plate..

Flores will now fall into the role of right-handed hitting platoon with Walker; back-up shortstop; and fill-in for Wright at third.

The decision to sign Cabrera after tendering Ruben Tejada is not overkill because Flores fractured his ankle in winter ball and Tejada is still recovering from breaking his leg in the playoffs. We don’t know if they’ll be ready when spring training opens Feb. 17 (pitchers and catchers) and Feb. 24 (position players).

Assuming both are ready, they can spell Wright at third. Cabrera can do the same.

So, when you add it up, the Mets improved their up-the-middle defense, bench and found a contingency plan for Wright and will save an estimated $30 million.

I’d call it a win-win, leaving them to find a left-handed hitting platoon with Juan Lagares in center and bolstering the bullpen.

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Dec 10

Niese Traded Because He Wasn’t That Good

After being pushed out the door by the Mets, Jon Niese took a jab at his former teammates by praising the Pirates’ defense. That’s fair game to a point as the Mets didn’t always field or hit behind him.

However, he could have been a little more delicate because it is a two-way street. A hard-throwing lefty at 29 and with a manageable contract, Niese is a commodity most clubs want. He wasn’t just traded because of the Mets’ young core. Niese was also traded because since 2008 he’s just 61-61 lifetime with a 1.361 lofty WHIP.  He did give the Mets innings, but many times those were precarious innings.

Niese was traded because he wasn’t that good. Some of that silver hair on Terry Collins’ head was NIese related.

NIESE: Takes unfair jab at teammates. (AP)

NIESE: Takes unfair jab at teammates. (AP)

Niese had his fair share of injuries, but his biggest problem is he wasn’t a winner, and it goes beyond his record. Winning pitchers find a way to minimize damage. In close games they find a way to get out of innings and eventually win the game.

Yes, Niese often played behind a patchwork defense, but even so it is his job to overcome adversity. He has to pick up a fielder, but all too often for him, an error, or a broken-bat hit that fell in, or a bad call was followed by a walk, then a hit, then another. Too often, one run became three and turned into a loss.

Niese has made 177 starts during his career, of which 55 turned into a no-decision. There’s no denying he was willing to take the ball, but there were too many times he didn’t know what to do with it once it was in his hand. Many times his post-game comments boiled down to, “I pitched good, but didn’t get any luck.”

The Mets are interested in re-signing Bartolo Colon primarily because he knows how to get out of trouble, which is something Niese hasn’t learned.

Maybe he will in Pittsburgh.

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Dec 09

Not Broken Up About Mets Not Getting Zobrist

I like guys like Ben Zobrist, I always have. All championship teams need players like him. The Mets saw first-hand what he was in the World Series and decided they wanted him. That was a good call on their part, but honestly I’m not all that broken up about the Mets losing him.

Let’s be realistic and not go all ballistic and blame the Wilpons for not ponying up the money. This has nothing to do with them being cheap. There’s no reason to buy billboard space outside Citi Field. They were willing to give Zobrist the fourth year and word is they were around $50 million.

MURPHY:  Could we see him again. (Getty)

MURPHY: Could we see him again? (Getty)

For a 34-year-old whose 162-game average is .265, 17 homers and 77 RBI, that’s not chump change.

“I don’t think this was about money,” Mets assistant general manager John Ricco said. “It was about him finding a place that fit. I think he liked a lot about what we were. He has some history with the manager in Chicago. It’s a little closer to home for him. He made that decision, and we’ll move on.”

Zobrist told the Mets of his decision in person at the Winter Meetings in Nashville, which is his off-season home. It’s short hour flight to Chicago, where Zobrist will play under Joe Maddon, his former manager at Tampa Bay.

Zobrist was the Mets’ No. 1 offseason priority. It didn’t work out so they have to adjust. It’s not as if the Mets haven’t been disappointed before.

“It’s disappointing,” Ricco said. “I’m going to be honest. He’s a guy we thought fit very well for us. So I will say that. But we’ve been through many situations where you have to adjust and adapt. That’s why you have a plan that has multiple options and don’t go all in on any one of them. I think we’ll be fine.”

They should be all right for several reasons, not the least of which is the money they’ll save. They could possibly direct some towards re-signing Daniel Murphy. With Zobrist off the boards and the Yankees having traded for the Cubs’ Starlin Castro (to make room for Zobrist), we’ll see how the market for second basemen develops. The Mets now join the Orioles, White Sox, Indians and Angels as teams in need at the position.

Zobrist will be 39 by the time the contract ends, but for me that was too much money considering their other needs, such as a left-handed hitting outfielder, preferably in center; the bullpen; and long-term deals for their core starters. With Wilmer Flores and possibly Dilson Herrera, not to mention Murphy, I didn’t recognize second as a critical need.

ON DECK:  Mets’ second-base options.