Dec 16

Second base situation a good sign

It’s a good sign when Terry Collins said the Mets’ second base job is wide open on several fronts, perhaps most importantly because it signals a willingness to cut ties with Luis Castillo if he doesn’t carry his own weight.

If the Mets aren’t able to swing a deal – and who really expects that to happen? – then a willingness to eat the $6 million contract is a positive development.

As of now, Daniel Murphy, Rule 5 pickup from Toronto Brad Emaus, Castillo, and Justin Turner will be in the mix. Minus will be Ruben Tejada, who showed he could do the job with his glove but not the bat.

Murphy probably has the most potential obviously, but is learning the position. Emaus must remain on the 25-man roster or be returned to the Blue Jays, but the Mets have so many holes that carrying a utility infielder might be a reach.

That could mean Turner could slot in as a sleeper.

The encouraging thing to me is that if Castillo doesn’t earn the job outright, that the Mets are now willing to cut their losses. They’ll still pay the money, but would rid themselves of a non-productive player.

And, hopefully, that will follow through with Oliver Perez. Keep a good thought.

Dec 14

Phillies land Lee in stunning turnaround

On a day Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said Johan Santana won’t  be available until July at the earliest and Oliver Perez had a chance of going to spring training with a chance to compete for a job, the Philadelphia

LEE: Back in Philly

Phillies stunned the sport by bringing back Cliff Lee.

Ouch.

Lee left money and years on the table to return to Philadelphia, the place where he was most comfortable, now even more cozy because he’s joining  a rotation that includes Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt. The Phillies’ team he left is better now than when he was there, and now arguably is the best in baseball.

Never mind that the Yankees were spurned. No tears for them as they’ll sign Andy Pettitte as a stop gap and add somebody at the All-Star break. I feel a little for the Texas Rangers, but they probably made off better in the long run by not being saddled with a huge contract. With Lee, they might have become the Mets in four years.

The Mets and Phillies are close in payroll, but there’s such a disparity in talent. So much so, that adding Lee wouldn’t have put them over the top. Adding Santana didn’t put them over the top, either.

You can try to convince yourself  Halladay and Lee are 32, that Oswalt is showing breakdown signs, that Lee had a bad back, and Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins, that Jayson Werth is gone so there is a closing window in Philadelphia. Maybe so, but before it slams shut the Phillies will have played a lot of October baseball games. Maybe even spilled some champagne.

For the past four years the Phillies have been more aggressive and smarter than the Mets, and eclipsed them in the standings despite similar resources. The Mets have spent money since 2006, but not wisely. The Mets, in essence are starting over with a plan to make up for the poor choices of the past. The Phillies’ choices in that span have worked and they continue to feed the monster.

Maybe, when it is done eating, the Mets will be in position to do something. But, it won’t be anytime soon.

Nov 17

Mets showed proper restraint in Uggla

Don’t be too harsh on the Mets for not going after Dan Uggla despite their need for a second baseman.

UGGLA: Did right thing in passing.

Surely, the Mets could have matched the Braves in the talent sent to Florida, but it is apparent they are looking ahead to after the 2011 season when the books are cleared to dive into the free-agent market. By that time their interest figures to be pitching, not throwing over $50 million at a defensive liability at second base, regardless of his power potential.

The Braves made the deal figuring on Uggla being a one-year rental for $7.8 million, a luxury the Mets could not afford.

Sandy Alderson is already on record saying the Mets wouldn’t be big players in the free-agent market because of the $36.5 million earmarked for Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo and Carlos Beltran, plus $21 million due Johan Santana, who might not be available following surgery.

The Mets need a starter, bullpen help after losing Hisanori Takahashi and likely Pedro Feliciano, a second baseman and back-up catcher.  Even if the Mets were to rent Uggla, the money would be better spent on those areas.

Omar Minaya hamstrung the Mets with bloated contracts. The last thing they need is another one in Uggla, either in the long or short term.

Nov 04

Time for Reyes to put up.

As expected, the Mets picked up the $11 million option for Jose Reyes for 2011 and left open the possibility of a long term extension.

REYES: Time to put up.

Those talks won’t happen soon.

When the Mets signed Reyes to a multi-year deal in 2006, he was on the verge of stardom and being a special player. The injuries that plagued him early in career were seemingly behind him, he was an All-Star and regarded as one of the top leadoff hitters in the game. There seemed to be no ceiling to his potential and the Mets rewarded him for they thought he might provide.

But, he hasn’t lived up to those expectations. He hasn’t provided.

Reyes missed most of the 2009 season with hamstring injuries, and was sidelined this spring with a thyroid issue causing justifiable concerns about his durability. For several weeks this past summer Reyes was at the top of his game, but then came the oblique problems and the season faded away for both the Mets and their shortstop.

Now it’s time to talk money.

Based on what he gave the Mets the past two seasons, would you sign Reyes to a long-term deal now?

Alderson’s thinking is to keep Reyes for 2011 to see where he is in his career, then make a decision for the future beginning for 2012 when he has more money. Reyes must prove  he’s healthy and the player the Mets have long envisioned. He needs to improve his on-base percentage, start being a threat on the bases again – where is the guy who stole over 60 bases? – and sharpen a focus that still wanders.

All that talk about Reyes becoming a gamebreaker, a force, an elite player … well, Alderson is waiting for it to happen this summer. Reyes must prove to the Mets he finally is that player if he’s to get the extension he wants.

If he doesn’t, then this time next year the Mets could be letting him walk.

Oct 15

Upgrading the minor league system

Whomever is the next Mets’ general manager, I hope he puts a premium on upgrading the minor league system. Although not as bare as in previous seasons, the minor league talent is a concern, especially when placed in comparison to the final four teams in the League Championship Series.

While each had added talent through trades and free agency, a thread of the four finalists is having a strong core in the minor leagues. They wouldn’t be here without the talent that rose through the system. Here’s hoping the new GM wants to upgrade the scouting and development, as those or the keys for long term success.

The Mets benefitted from their minor league system this year with Jon Niese, Ike Davis and Josh Thole, and have young talent looming below like Jenrry Mejia.

In the case with the Mets, with so much payroll earmarked to veterans tied to bulky and expensive payroll, its a sense of relief to have guys like Davis and Thole, productive players on the cheap.

The game today is still heavy with free agency, but the long term successful franchises build with a homegrown core, and the Mets should be no exception. With 2011 perhaps a write-off season as they clear money off the books, it should provide an opportunity for future growth from the minor league system.