Feb 21

Mets Matters: Kirk Nieuwenhuis Gets Leadoff Opportunity

Several days ago I gave you my idea for the Mets’ batting order and it included Kirk Nieuwenhuis as the leadoff hitter, so I was happy to read Adam Rubin’s story he will be given first chance to win that job.

Nieuwenhuis will be the leadoff hitter for Saturday’s exhibition game against Washington.

kirkThe Mets like Nieuwenhuis’ patience – he sees over four pitches an at-bat – and he had moderate success in the role last year hitting .264 with an on-base percentage of .303.

Both numbers need to be improved, but it must be remembered he did this in his first look at major league pitching.

Before their slide Nieuwenhuis played center and hit leadoff and Terry Collins remembered: “ … when we were playing really, really well, that guy was in center field. So he deserves the right to get the first shot.’’

Nieuwenhuis can steal the occasional base, but he’s not known as a steal threat. Steals can sometimes be overrated, but fundamental base running is always in vogue. Going first-to-third, realizing when a ball will go through, and running to avoid a double play are all critical components of good base running.

Continue reading

Feb 13

Mets Shouldn’t Be Surprised At Francisco Injury And Losing Bourn

Two days into camp and the Mets have already taken two shots.

The first was inevitable, that Michael Bourn signed elsewhere. Come to think of it, so was the second when Frank Francisco was shut down with elbow inflammation. The proviso was Francisco would be the closer if healthy and he is clearly not.

How long he’ll be shut down is anybody’s guess, and opening the season on the disabled list is a fair place to start. In the interim Bobby Parnell will close. Again.

I like Parnell over Brandon Lyon or Josh Edgin because he has the greatest upside. Parnell has pitched in several capacities for the Mets, ranging as a starter to a set-up role to closer, and hasn’t excelled in any of them for a variety of reasons.

First, he has been overly reliant on is fastball, which, if it isn’t darting is hittable, regardless of how fast he throws. As a starter, he didn’t develop his secondary pitches. Also, it isn’t unrealistic to think how the Mets bounced him around from role to role didn’t have an accumulating impact on his confidence.

Remember, over the past few years the Mets have not been contenders so there wasn’t really any harm in letting Parnell learn on the job, even if it meant taking his lumps.

The Mets initially wanted Parnell as a starter, but then-manager Jerry Manuel – managing only to save his job – yanked Parnell from the rotation in September.

Parnell never had clear stake to the closer role. Yes, there were times he pitched terrible, but for a team going nowhere it was a chance to learn and turn it around. Don’t think that couldn’t have happened. Parnell closed at the end of last season when Francisco was injured and pitched well holding opponents to a .196 batting average over 17 appearances.

There’s no reason to rush Francisco back other than to attempt to salvage something for his $6.5 million contract (count that as a Sandy Alderson mistake).

So, the Mets will move on for now without Francisco, and also without Bourn, who was a long shot in the first place.

Assuming the Mets could have worked out a deal with agent Scott Boras – the Indians got him for $48 million – there was the matter of Bourn waiting for an arbitration hearing to determine whether they would surrender their draft pick.

If they had to, there would have been no deal. There is no way Bourn would have waited for that outcome and miss another offer. Bourn was never going to happen, and if I were a cynic I’d be thinking going after him was a smokescreen to suggest action.

That would have been a pipe dream, as is thinking Francisco wouldn’t go down again.

 

Feb 12

Players Association Not As Strong As They Think

As much as blaming the Mets is the popular thing to do, I can’t in the case of Michael Bourn signing with Cleveland. The Mets made it clear they coveted their first-round (11th overall) pick rather then surrender it as compensation.

Make no mistake, there is no true free-agency in baseball with compensation picks. A team is giving up something and it does limit a player’s option. In this case, Bourn’s desire to play for the Mets. That’s all part of the collective bargaining agreement. The Players Association used to be exceedingly powerful and undefeated in court, but not any more.

Nonetheless, it has slowly given away things they once refused to cave on. Things such as revenue sharing and the soon-to-be-coming stringent luxury tax which is akin to a salary cap. The revenues have proven to be so large, and Major League Baseball’s willingness to share a greater slice of the pie have proven to make the two real partners.

Both have the common goal as money, and there’s too much of it now to squabble.

In the end, the Mets get to keep their pick and are saved from paying nearly $50 million for a .270 hitter. The Mets are building for the future and have made strides, but they are still not where they need to be. And, Bourn wasn’t going to take them there.

Nobody knows who will be that 11th pick, so we can’t justify claiming the Mets blew it. As far as Bourn goes, maybe he preferred the Mets, but with $48 million, he can visit New York any time he wants.

Feb 06

Mets Players Campaigning For Bourn

David Wright reached out to Michael Bourn and plugged the Mets. Last night, Ike Davis said he’d also like the Mets to bring Bourn to Flushing.

The Mets have done nothing this winter to improve their outfield, and while Bourn would not make them an elite team, he could make them competitive. At least moreso than an inexperienced Kirk Nieuwenhuis  and a possible platoon in center.

DAVIS: Wants Bourn

                          DAVIS: Wants Bourn

Bourn is a good defensive center fielder and a contact hitter. He won’t hit for power, but he will get on base for Wright and Davis. The latter said as much last night when speaking at the Thurman Munson Awards Dinner in Manhattan.

“As a guy that likes to drive in runners, I would love Bourn to be on the bases when I’m hitting just because how he changes the game,” Davis said. “We’re going to see more fastballs if he’s on the team, he’s definitely going to help out the second hole hitter, Davis and me, in every aspect of the game. Yeah, it would be great. He’s also an amazingly good defender out in center field.”

The biggest splash the Mets have made this winter was extending Wright’s contract and trading R.A. Dickey. GM Sandy Alderson has tweaked the bullpen, but the outfield lays barren. Bourn could at least give the impression the organization is interested in more than just a casino around Citi Field. Their current plan seems to be hoping for everybody to getting better.

Hoping is not a good strategy.

The Mets do not want to part with the 11th overall draft pick as compensation and that’s understandable.  The players don’t care about the pick because by the time that player reaches Citi Field they might be gone from the Mets.

By record, the Mets would have a higher pick, but Pittsburgh leapfrogged them because the Pirates were unable to sign their pick. It hardly seems fair the Mets should be penalized because the Pirates failed. That’s a decision that should be overturned.

If the draft pick weren’t such an issue, Bourn would be an improvement, but he’s certainly not worth a $100-million package as has been suggested. Two, three years at the most plus an option. Anything longer is just putting the Mets in the position of taking on another bad contract. Long-term burdensome contracts have held back the Mets and the last thing they need is another.

Davis believes the Mets are heading in the right direction, but you didn’t expect him to say anything else, did you?

“I think the signing of David means the Mets are getting more aggressive. Just shows that we’re not too far away and we are in the year, or the next year or two, are trying to put winning baseball on the field,” Davis said. “I’m excited David’s going to be here for a long time, hopefully I can join him, and hopefully we can change the culture around here a little bit.”

Davis is thinking two years down the road and that’s about right, that is if the Mets are willing to spend. They have no significant trade pieces and are trying to hold onto their prospects. That leaves the free-agent market as the immediate source for building.

So far, the Mets have gone on the cheap in free-agency in recent years. That must change.

 

Jan 28

Mets Not In It For Bourn; Will Look At Wilson Again

Not surprisingly, it is looking as if the Mets will enter spring training with their current outfield and pitching staff composition or sign a free agent not worthy of draft pick compensation.

The Mets had been thinking of Michael Bourn and Kyle Lohse, but do not want to lose the 11th pick. The ten worst records have their pick protected, but Pittsburgh displaced the Mets from the top ten because the Pirates did not sign their 2012 first-round pick.

The Mets’ argument is they shouldn’t be penalized for something the Pirates did not do.

“Obviously, we want to have some sense of which way that interpretation would go before we made any final decision,’’ GM Sandy Alderson said. “At this point, it’s all speculation.’’

Either way, with Scott Boras his agent, Bourn would not come cheaply.

Alderson admitted the free-agent market has greatly thinned and the trade market is slow because teams are preparing for spring training. If somebody doesn’t step up from within, the Mets will shop the free-agent market again when teams make their roster cuts.

Also thin is the bullpen pool, where Alderson will again take a look at former Giant Brian Wilson. Alderson watched Wilson, Jan. 12, in Los Angeles, but came away unimpressed with his velocity.