May 22

Mets’ First Base Options Without Duda

UPDATED TO INCLUDE CONFORTO CORRECTION

Didn’t the Mets learn anything dealing with David Wright‘s back issue? Apparently not, as there still hasn’t been a decision how to deal with Lucas Duda‘s back problems that might be a disk. Despite sweeping the Brewers, the Mets’ offense continues to sputter and I’m guessing they’ll make a DL move before the Washington series.

It is a huge mistake if they don’t.

DUDA: What will they do if they don't have him? (AP)

DUDA: What will they do if they don’t have him? (AP)

Duda did not play the last two games and has been abysmal in May, going 7-for-41 with only one RBI and 11 strikeouts in his last 13 games. With three games against the Nationals, they’ll need every bit of offense they can get.

“It’s pretty concerning,” manager Terry Collins told reporters Sunday. “He tried to go out the last two games and play and it was still bothering him.”

Back problems which Wright can attest to linger and Duda won’t get much better, if at all, before Monday’s game. That’s why I’m thinking they’ll DL him. Assuming that’s the case and this drags on, what are the Mets’ possible first-base options?

STATUS QUO: In the short term they can continue to use Eric Campbell until Wilmer Flores comes off the DL at the end of the week. Campbell has played well in spots replacing Duda and before that, Wright. However, as was the case last year when Wright went down, Campbell’s flaws get exposed over time. The same could apply to Flores, whose playing time is greatly reduced this year and how he’ll take to first base is unknown.

Considering their history this is the path of least resistance and the course I imagine the Mets first taking.

Another bench option could be Alejandro De Aza, but there’s the issue of his experience at the position.

CONFORTO: It is totally outside the box thinking to tinker with Michael Conforto. It’s a risk to take a player unproven at a position and move him during the season. First base is not as easy as people think as Conforto will have to learn to hold runners, field bunts and become proficient with cutoffs and relays. Plus grounders will come at him a lot faster than they do in the outfield.

Mickey Mantle and Carl Yastrzemski moved at the end of their careers, but with the advantage of knowing they’d switch and had a spring training to learn the position. A plus is it could improve the outfield defense by moving Yoenis Cespedes to left – where he won a Gold Glove – and playing Juan Lagares in center, where he also won a Gold Glove.

WRIGHT: Just because he plays one corner infield position doesn’t mean he can play the other. It should be easier for Wright because it is an infield position and he’s used to fielding hard grounders. Even so, he’d still have to learn the same nuances as Conforto.

However, if this turns into a long-term thing with Duda it would be worth exploring because Wright’s back has hindered his defense, in particular when it comes to throwing. There might come a time, and it could occur sooner than later, this move might merit serious consideration.

If Duda’s injury sidelines him the way Wright’s benched him for four months, it would be prudent for the Mets to test Wright at first as to get a handle on their options. And, as is usually the case, economics will factor into the equation.

Duda will make $6.7 million this year and is arbitration eligible after next season and be a free-agent after 2018. The Mets don’t have the financial commitment to Duda that they do with Wright to whom they owe $67 million – not including this year – through 2020.

Wright’s health will always be a question and since his retirement isn’t an imminent issue the more they know about his ability to play – or not play – first base is important.

SMITH: The Mets are counting on Dominic Smith as their long-term answer with the assumption Wright doesn’t emerge as an option. Smith, the Mets’ 2013 first-round pick, is currently at Double-A, where he’s hitting less than .280.

Yes, I know they pushed the envelope with Conforto, who brought up from Double-A, but two months later in the season. Could Smith make the jump? It’s possible, but it’s no slam dunk.

I wouldn’t be adverse to bringing up Smith for a look-see. I’m not worried about his confidence being impacted if he struggles, because if he’s as good as the Mets hope he’ll become, then he should be strong enough mentally to overcome a rough stretch.

THE TRADE MARKET: There are numerous options in the free-agent market this winter who might be available in a trade at the deadline should their teams want to make a deal for a prospect.

An intriguing possibility is to coax Adam LaRoche out of retirement – it would be a package deal with his son – but could necessitate sending something to the White Sox. That’s way outside the box, but it wouldn’t hurt to explore.

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May 20

No Longer Super, But Is Harvey A Supernova?

UPDATED: Reflecting he’ll make next start.

Prior to Matt Harvey‘s start against Stephen Strasburg at Citi Field Thursday night was the obvious question in the wake of the latter’s $175-million contract extension to bypass free agency.

However, after Harvey was ripped last night, 9-1, by Strasburg and the Nationals, red flags continue to fly.

After speculation he might be skipped in the rotation for his next start, manager Terry Collins said Harvey would make his next appearance.

Considering Harvey gave up nine runs in 2.2 innings Thursday against Washington, it’s easy to understand why the question was raised.

HARVEY: What next? (AP)

HARVEY: What next? (AP)

Harvey had no answers other than to say he’s still searching.

The booing Harvey endured might have been the worst he has ever heard. It even prompted the story Bryce Harper felt pity towards him, which is the last thing Harvey would want.

There was a sharp contrast between Harvey and Strasburg last night, and nobody was thinking about the original question.

Both are young pitchers carrying a huge potential check to be cashed; both had Tommy John surgery; and both have Scott Boras as an agent, one with a hard-boiled reputation of exploring the market and not leaving much – if anything – on the table.

If Strasburg got $175 million, what would Harvey earn after the 2018 season?

In anticipating the future market, it wouldn’t be hard to image a figure north of $200 million, perhaps as high as $225 million. Considering that, wouldn’t the prudent thing be to sign Harvey long-term now?

Whatever Harvey might get, it would pay for lots of clubbing, supermodels and Rangers games. However, to get all that, Harvey needs to win lots of games. I advocated for the Mets to lock up their young arms, beginning with Harvey. After he labored against the Rockies, I wrote it was premature to give up on him.

I advocated the Mets lock up their young arms, beginning with Harvey. After he labored against the Rockies, I wrote that was now premature. But, as long as he’s healthy, and he insists he is, Harvey is too valuable to abandon. However, if you’re the Mets you can’t blame them if they don’t do anything currently with Harvey.

Harvey might be healthy, but he could also turn out to be a supernova that has burned as bright and hot as he’ll ever be.

Nobody wants to believe that, but when you’re dealing with $200-million contracts, you must consider all the possibilities.

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May 17

Mets Wrap: Syndergaard Stuffs Nats

SYNERGAARD: All arm and hair. (Getty)

SYNDERGAARD: All arm and hair. (Getty)

Take away two pitches and the Mets and Nationals might still be playing. Home runs by Curtis Granderson – off the first pitch thrown to him – and Michael Conforto off Max Scherzer were all Noah Syndergaard needed to win, 2-0, Tuesday night.

“I think he rises to the challenge,” Mets manager Terry Collins to reporters about Syndergaard in a classic understatement.

Syndergaard struck out ten to break the Mets’ four-game losing streak to pull them within a half-game of the Nationals. Scherzer, who was coming off a 20-strikeout performance in his previous start, also struck out ten.

The game featured the return of long-time Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy to return. Murphy hit six homers in last year’s postseason before he was signed as a free-agent in the offseason.

“Very nice of them,” Murphy said of two standing ovations.

After that, he was booed.

METS GAME WRAP

May 17, 2016

Game: #38      Score: Mets 2, Nationals 0

Record: 22-16      Streak: W 1

Standings: Second, NL East .5 GB Nationals Playoffs Today: First WC vs. Pittsburgh

Runs: 148       Average: 3.89    Times 3 or less: 17

SUMMARY: Sometimes pitching duels don’t live up to their promise. This one did.

KEY MOMENT:  Granderson’s homer in the first.

THUMBS UP:  Syndergaard was brilliant, throwing 102 pitches in seven innings. He gave up five hits and didn’t walk a batter. … Granderson reached base in all four plate appearances. … Addison Reed struck out two of the three Nationals he faced. … Jeurys Familia earned his 13th save in as many opportunities.

THUMBS DOWN:  None.

EXTRA INNINGS:  David Wright was scratched because of sore back and is listed day-to-day. It is the first time this season Wright didn’t play because of his back. I am wondering if his late pinch-hit appearance Sunday after sitting all day might have been a cause. … Lucas Duda didn’t play because of a sore back. He received an injection and the hope is he’ll be able to play Thursday. … Tests showed no ligament damage with Steve Matz. He won’t pitch in this series but could start Friday. I would still save him for next week.

QUOTEBOOK:  “Played good because we pitched good.’’ – Collins in as succinct an analysis as possible.

BY THE NUMBERS:  6-0: Mets’ record this year after an off day.

NEXT FOR METS:  Bartolo Colon Wednesday against Gio Gonzalez.

May 17

Murphy Didn’t Leave; He Was Pushed Away

Regardless of what happens this week, you should cheer Washington’s Daniel Murphy every chance you get, just the way he was honored tonight. Make no mistake, although the Mets honored Murphy before the game with this video tribute, he is Washington’s now because he was pushed away. (NOTE:  You must scroll down to load the video).

MURPHY: Gets cheered in return. (Getty)

MURPHY: Gets cheered in return. (Getty)

The Mets made Murphy a $15.8-million qualifying offer which he crushed much like all those home runs during last year’s playoffs. Murphy was a lifelong Met and wanted to stay here, but the Mets made it clear they didn’t want him. That’s why he’ll be coming out of the third base dugout.

A qualifying offer is much like getting a sympathy kiss on a date. Hell, if your heart isn’t in it, then why bother? The Mets extended that offer just to cover all their bases.

While their open flirtation with Ben Zobrist after the playoffs was obvious they wanted to move on, the Mets also made clear their intentions when they shopped him the previous winter. They also made it clear they preferred another when they squawked about his defense in left field and when he first started playing second, and that he didn’t have the power to play first.

The Mets stuck with Murphy simply because they didn’t want to spend the money in the free-agent market. Not insignificantly, money might have played a part in the Mets letting him walk away because it enabled them to re-sign Yoenis Cespedes. But, it is an oversimplification to say it was Murphy or Cespedes because the latter was close to signing with the Nationals.

Frankly, the Mets were lucky they were able to trade for Neil Walker. They were further lucky in that it only cost Jon Niese.

Murphy wasn’t great on defense – especially in the outfield – but worked hard and made himself into a decent second baseman. Yes, he had his lapses in the field and on the bases, although his first-to-third sprint in the playoffs was as heads-up a play the Mets have had in years. And, yes, he’s not a power hitter in the classical sense.

However, I liked watching him play because he always hustled and played hard. I liked watching him because unlike a lot of players who passed through Flushing, he loved being a Met and he wanted to be here.

Murphy was unfairly criticized in the press for how he played and even his political views, but he loved playing for you folks.

If nothing else, no matter if he rakes or not this week, he deserves your cheers and appreciation. The crowd got it right tonight.

 

May 17

May 17, Mets-Nats Lineups (Updated)

NOTE: Tonight’s Mets’ lineup has been updated to reflect David Wright being scratched. He was originally scheduled to bat second.

Well, it’s here. What we’ve all been waiting for this spring is a few hours away at Citi Field when the Mets host the Nationals. It is the first of 19 games between the teams, which figure to battle for NL East supremacy this summer unless the Phillies prove to be no fluke.

Tonight we’ll see a classic pitching duel between the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard and Washington’s Max Scherzer, the latter who is coming off a 20-strikeout performance in his last start. Of course, Syndergaard has the stuff to reach that plateau some day.

The game will also feature the return of Mets’ 2015 postseason hero Daniel Murphy back to New York and the inevitable question of whether New York will pitch to Nationals’ MVP outfielder Bryce Harper.

Lucas Duda is not playing for the Mets because of a sore lower back.

Here are the lineups for both teams:

Mets

Curtis Granderson, RF

Asdrubal Cabrera, SS

Michael Conforto, LF

Yoenis Cespedes, CF

Neil Walker, 2B

Asdrubal Cabrera, SS

Kevin Plawecki, C

Eric Campbell, 1B

Syndergaard, RP

Matt Reynolds, 3B

Nationals

Ben Revere,  CF

Jayson Werth, LF

Harper, RF

Murphy, 2B

Ryan Zimmerman, 1B

Anthony Rendon, 3B

Wilson Ramos, C

Danny Espinosa, SS

Scherzer, RP

ON DECK: Murphy deserves your cheers this week.