Mar 17

Things To Like About Mets So Far

With a little over two weeks remaining in spring training, there’s a lot to like about how the Mets are playing, with several bright spots surfacing in today’s rout of the Cardinals.

CESPEDES: Has MVP aspirations. (AP)

CESPEDES: Has MVP aspirations. (AP)

STARTING PITCHING: If numbers were to determine the Opening Day starter, you would have to go with Jacob deGrom, who has a 0.90 ERA and 0.60 WHIP in three starts, with 13 strikeouts in 10 innings.

Noah Syndergaard, however, has a 3.52 ERA and 1.43 WHIP. And, four walks in 7.2 won’t get it done most games. Syndergaard bulked up in the offseason with the intent of getting stronger as to work deeper into games. It’s not that he’s not strong enough, but his command is off. What haunted him last year is resurfacing this spring with higher pitch counts.

Steven Matz threw 3.2 innings today, and if you add an inning in his likely two remaining starts, that won’t get him out of the fifth in his first regular season start. He’s throwing well, by so far isn’t stretched out like the Mets want him to be.

Sure, these are exhibition numbers, but also an early measure of performance. So far, none of their starters are stretched out for them to go longer than six. That becomes an issue if the bullpen is shaky, which so far is far from fine-tuned.

In the competition for the fifth starter, Zack Wheeler – who will likely stay back – his throwing hard and pain-free. The projection is roughly 110 innings, which makes him better suited to coming up in late May or June. I don’t like the idea of using him in relief now.

As for Seth Lugo, he’s pitching in the World Baseball Classic and has done well. It will be either him or Robert Gsellman who goes north in the rotation. However, with numerous off days in April, the fifth starter won’t often be used, so one could go in the bullpen.

HOT BATS: Yoenis Cespedes said he wants to be MVP and if that happens a lot of good things will happen this summer. He’s hitting .419 with five homers, but the key numbers are only two strikeouts in 31 at-bats. That kind of ratio would go a long way towards making an MVP possible.

Also hitting well are Michael Conforto (.359), Neil Walker (.313), Curtis Granderson (.323), but most importantly Travis d’Arnaud (.333) and Lucas Duda (.292 with five doubles). The pressure is on d’Arnaud to have a make-or-break season and Duda, who missed much of last year with a stress fracture in his lower back and recently received a couple on injections.

Jay Bruce and Wilmer Flores finally pushed their averages over .200, and the latter drove in six runs Friday with a grand slam and double. Flores is not going away and the Mets need to find a way of getting him regular playing time to stay ready.

Feb 26

Mets’ Shouldn’t Be Eager To Deal Bruce

It’s one thing for the Mets to force-feed first base to Jay Bruce. It’s another when the players wants to play the position. Bruce is a smart guy. He knows when Lucas Duda back barks that is an opportunity for him to get in the lineup.

BRUCE: Has value. (AP)

BRUCE: Has value. (AP)

Both Bruce and Neil Walker took grounders at first base prior to today’s 5-2 victory over Detroit, but there are no immediate plans to get him in a game. There should be because the Mets shouldn’t want to be forced to play Bruce at first with him not getting time there.

“I am going to work at it,” Bruce told reporters. “I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t to do it, so I am going to work at it.”

The Mets have a fluid situation in their outfield and at first base. Yoenis Cespedes ($27.5 million), Curtis Granderson ($15.1 million) and Bruce ($13 million). Their salaries will give them most of the playing time, but Michael Conforto is also pushing for playing time.

But, if Conforto plays, that would leave Bruce needing to play first when Duda’s back acts up. A stress fracture kept him out for most of last season and his health will always be an issue. And, for all that has been reported of GM Sandy Alderson’s intent to deal Bruce, he shouldn’t act too hastily because of Duda’s fragility.

Trading Bruce and then losing Duda to injury could be disastrous, especially with the health issues with David Wright and Walker. Duda’s back places a premium on Bruce’s value. The Mets are fortunate to have the resources if Duda misses significant time.

Manager Terry Collins liked Bruce’s workout: “It looks like he’s got the athleticism. He’s got the hands. He’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”

Bruce appears up for the move and he’s hopeful of redeeming himself for last season. The Mets shouldn’t be too eager to let him get away.

Feb 25

Not Expecting Wright Or Wheeler For Opening Day

Although it is early, don’t expect either David Wright or Zack Wheeler to be ready by Opening Day. Frankly, there is no reason to be concerned with either starting the season in the minor leagues.

For the next two to three weeks, Wright will play as a designated hitter, because he’s that far from being able to throw. And, Wright isn’t fast enough to run the ball across the infield. This should also limit talk about moving to first base because he has to throw from that position, also.

It’s not alarming now because it is a long spring training and the Mets have depth at third with Jose Reyes, Wilmer Flores and even Neil Walker, if pressed. It is better to have Wright later rather than risk additional injury and be without him longer.

As for Wheeler, he had elbow tenderness but has thrown two strong bullpen sessions since. The Mets currently see him as the fifth starter rather than a bullpen arm, which is fine as long as they stick with that plan.

The Mets also have Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman as fifth starter candidates, so if Wheeler isn’t ready until May or June, so be it.

Spring training is to get ready for a long, grueling season, but there’s written in stone all players must be ready for Opening Day.

 

Feb 04

Mets Agree To Terms With Blevins; Finish Offseason Shopping

Apparently, the Mets got tired of stringing along Jerry Blevins and according to several reports agreed to terms with the situational left-hander and Fernando Salas Friday evening before GM Sandy Alderson headed out for his Super Bowl parties.

Blevins will get $6 million for one year, plus an option. Salas will get a year. With the two agreements, the Mets finished work on their bullpen and concluded their offseason shopping.

Before kudos are sent out to Alderson for his patience, remember Blevins, 33, made $4 million last season while going 4-2 with a 2.79 ERA. So, realistically, how much money did he really save the Mets? A million? Not much more than that, really.

Considering Toronto was also after Blevins, and the Mets are still awaiting word on a suspension of Jeurys Familia, what’s the purpose of Alderson dragging his feet? It tells me the Mets are seriously aware of their spending, which can’t be encouraging if they must make a move at the break.

So, in a thumbnail wrap of the Mets’ offseason moves:

* They picked up the $13-million option on outfielder Jay Bruce as a hedge to possibly losing Yoenis Cespedes.

* They signed Cespedes to a four-year, $110-milliion contract.

* They signed Neil Walker to a $17.2-million qualifying offer.

Everything the Mets did was expected, although the dual signings of Bruce and Cespedes – they might have overpaid for the latter – created a logjam in their outfield.

Feb 03

How Will Collins Work In Reyes?

Among Mets manager Terry Collins‘ more interesting decisions this season will be where he’ll play Jose Reyes. Shortstop? Third base? Second base? The outfield?

REYES: Needs to get regular time. (Getty)

REYES: Needs to get regular time. (Getty)

It has been a long time since Reyes played second – remember the Kaz Matsui fiasco? – and the outfield would be forcing the issue considering the Mets have a glut of outfielders.

Satisfied with Asdrubal Cabrera at shortstop, the Mets brought back Reyes to play third when David Wright injured his back. Well, Wright is healthy now – knock on wood and fingers crossed – so where does that leave Reyes?

Because the Mets don’t have a bonafide leadoff hitter outside of Reyes, it’s important Collins devises a rotation with his infielders to keep him fresh and sharp at the plate. But, how many games is enough?

But, how many games is enough?

We can assume Collins will rest Wright at least twice a week, and if he subs him for Walker and Cabrera at least once, that’s four games, which should be enough. However, that’s not written in stone and leads to the question of much time will Wilmer Flores get.

It won’t be easy for Collins, but a rotation has to be made to juggle the priorities of giving Wright, Neil Walker and Cabrera regular rest and keep Reyes sharp at the top of the order.

Because the Mets have older and fragile players in their infield – of which Reyes is one – Collins should have enough opportunities to juggle this properly.