Dec 08

Mets Wrap: Day One At Winter Meetings

While the Mets remain focused on Ben Zobrist, the Winter Meetings were rocked Monday with the report of a domestic assault against Aroldis Chapman that voided a trade by the Reds to the Dodgers. The trade has been held up as Major League Baseball investigates.

It is the second domestic violence incident this winter, with the first involving Jose Reyes. New Commissioner Rob Manfred has a lot of work to do to avoid the embarrassment NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell felt in the Ray Rice and Greg Hardy cases.

Something disturbing is the Reds were aware of the incident before making the trade.

You can bet this trade won’t go through soon, if at all, which actually is good news for the Mets.

The Mets remain hot for Zobrist and met with his agents. Zobrist is expected to arrive in Nashville today for the Winter Meetings, an indication a deal is imminent. Zobrist met with San Francisco, but told the Giants he wants to play second and not left field. That leaves the field down to the Mets and Washington. If the Mets want him, they’ll have to give the 35-year-old a four-year contract.

Meanwhile, there’s nothing going on with Daniel Murphy, not even a whisper.

Also happening today:

* Mets assistant GM John Ricco confirmed Yoenis Cespedes is out of their price range.

* Left hander Jon Niese is being shopped as the Mets won’t deal from their core of five young starters.

* There’s interest in re-signing lefty reliever Jerry Blevins. The Mets need bullpen help but weren’t players for either Darren O’Day or Ryan Madson.

 

Dec 07

Niese Mets’ Best Trade Chip

While the Mets insist they aren’t actively shopping left hander Jon Niese, you can be certain they make it known to every team they speak with that he’s available.

The Mets made it clear they aren’t going to trade Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler. That leaves Niese as their lone pitching trade chip. And, with them high on Rafael Montero, that leaves Niese as the bait to obtain an outfield bat.

NIESE: Could he soon wave good bye. (AP)

NIESE: Could he soon wave good bye. (AP)

“We haven’t been actively shopping him, but other than the four guys [Harvey, deGrom, Syndergaard and Matz], we’re going to be looking for ways to improve the team,” assistant general manager John Ricco told reporters at the Winter Meetings. “If there’s a deal that involves him and makes us better, I think we would definitely consider it.”

Niese is attactive to other teams because he’s a left, throws hard, isn’t phased about pitching in big games and has a manageable contract. He’s also healthy, having made 29 starts last season. On the downside, he’s been mostly mediocre (9-10 with a 4.13 ERA last year).

He also has an unnerving knack of not being able to slam the door and minimize trouble.

Even so, when teams talk to the Mets about pitching, he’s the first name they bring up.

ON DECK: Wrapping up Mets’ first day at Winter Meetings.

Dec 07

Mets Face Competition For Zobrist

If the Mets really want Ben Zobrist, they might have to give in on that fourth year as there’s a growing line of suitors for the versatile infielder, who, by the way, is an accomplished hitter who can also play the outfielder.

The reported dollars start around $50 million and he’s looking for four years. The Mets want three, and in what should be regarded as bluffing more than anything else, say they could still re-sign Daniel Murphy.

Reports have the Giants having interest, but where he’ll play is the question. They could stick him in left, but their infield is set. I doubt he’ll want to go there just to be a role player, but if Zobrist wants to win the Giants will get his consideration.

The Mets will also get competition from the Washington Nationals, and Zobrist would bring some stability and professionalism to their dysfunctional clubhouse. I also don’t need to remind you the Nationals have deeper pockets than the Mets.

One report recently had the Dodgers showing interest, but they just signed Chase Utley. That signing should also preclude the Dodgers as a potential landing spot for Murphy.

The Yankees continually say they aren’t in the market for Zobrist, but I’ll never discount their propensity for bluffing.

Meanwhile, the Angels, White Sox, Indians and Orioles could all use a second baseman. Of the four, the Angels appear the most willing to write the big check.

ON DECK: Potential landing spots for Murphy.

 

Dec 06

Mets’ Top Five Winter Meetings Objectives

Despite going to the World Series, the Mets head into the Winter Meetings with several issues. Let’s face it, they wouldn’t be the Mets without questions. GM Sandy Alderson won’t represent the Mets in Nashville, but his lieutenants have the following grocery list of items they hope to address:

ZOBRIST: Lead domino for Mets. (Getty)

ZOBRIST: Lead domino for Mets. (Getty)

Question: Will they get the second baseman they covet?

Answer: That would be Ben Zobrist at the expense of Daniel Murphy. The Mets make no secret Zobrist is the object of their affection, but at the same time appear to be hedging their bets by saying it is possible they could bring back Murphy.

I think they are posturing on that one, but Zobrist’s camp said they would like to wrap things up by the end of the meetings. If they don’t, let’s hope the Mets will not fall into a familiar trap and chase him at the expense of losing out on other options.

Question: Will they restock their bullpen?

Answer: If they do, it won’t be with Darren O’Day, who is expected to re-sign with Baltimore. (Of course, the Mets once had O’Day, but had to cut him loose when Mike Pelfrey refused to miss a start by going on the disabled list). The Mets already tendered contracts to Addison Reed and Jenrry Mejia.

The Mets are not expected to bring back Tyler Clippard, but Yusmeiro Petit, Ryan Mattheus and Steve Cishek are on the market.

Question: Whom can they trade for a bat?

Answer: For the second straight winter they will attempt to deal Jon Niese, who showed some promise during the playoffs working out of the bullpen. At 29, and one year remaining on his contract (with team options for 2017 and 2018) Niese has value both to the Mets and prospective buyers. He’s also left handed, has had some success and still throws hard. There are things to like about him.

However, with the anticipated emergence of Rafael Montero and Zack Wheeler due back in July, there’s no room for him in the rotation.

Question: Can they obtain a center fielder?

Answer: After the 2014 season, the Mets extended Juan Lagares to a five-year, $23-million contract, but now they want to find a platoon for him. He’s clearly fallen out of favor.

The most prominent names are Dexter Fowler, Gerardo Parra and Denard Span, but they might be too expensive and likely not willing to sign for a platoon situation.

Question: Will they make a free-agent splash?

Answer: I wouldn’t count on it, unless you’re counting on Zobrist to be that splash. However, reports are he could be had for something in the $50-million range. Conversely, Murphy could come for less.

One thing we can count on is they won’t re-sign Yoenis Cespedes. His reported price is six years at over $100 million.

Dec 05

Lagares Contract Turning Into Bust

Is it too soon to call Juan Lagares a bust?  As of now, that appears the call on the Mets’ 5-year, $23-million deal given to the flashy center fielder after his 2014 Gold Glove Award winning season. He might get a pass because of a bad elbow allowed base runners to take liberties on him.

However, after a summer in which balls were consistently hit over his head and he lost his starting job after the Yoenis Cespedes trade, the Mets go to the Winter Meetings with the idea of obtaining a center fielder to platoon with Lagares. What does that say?

LAGARES: Falling short. (Getty)

LAGARES: Falling short. (Getty)

We know the Mets won’t re-sign Cespedes or move Curtis Granderson to center. And, we also know Lagares has a lot of room for improvement at the plate and must stop his defensive regression if he’s to remain in the Mets’ plans.

Working in Lagares’ favor is the contract that will pay him $2.5 million in 2016, $4.5 million in 2017, $6.5 million in 2018 and $9 million in 2019. While that might not be a lot of money for a full time player, it could be too much for a platoon player, and definitely a lot for late-inning defense.

The primary free-agent targets to platoon with the .259-hitting Lagares are Denard Span and Dexter Fowler, both of whom will command a large salaries, and most likely would not accept a platoon situation. Gerardo Parra and Colby Rasmus are corner outfielders, but the Mets have MIchael Conforto and Granderson. And, if you go further down to David Murphy and Will Venable, the Mets might as well stick with Kirk Niewenhuis.

Lagares has not played to the level the Mets want, but the limitations of the market could prohibit a chance. But, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been a bust so far.