Feb 18

Mets Wise To Pass On Nelson Cruz

The New York Mets insist they have no interest in “slugging’’ outfielder Nelson Cruz. Let’s hope they don’t waiver from that position.

Quotes belong around the word slugging because who really knows if he’s a genuine slugger or a chemistry project?

CRUZ: Just say no.

CRUZ: Just say no.

Cruz served a 50-game suspension for his connection in the Biogenesis case so the legitimacy of his numbers must be questioned. After four non-descript seasons totaling 22 homers, Cruz busted out to hit 33 in 2009.

Then 22, 29, 24 and 27. He never had more than 90 RBI in that five-year span. What can you make of those numbers, especially in a line-up as loaded as the Rangers?

Basically, that’s erratic power, but is it real or chemicals? And, when did he start? How long had he been using?

Whatever documents those answers were found in have not, and will not, be released by Major League Baseball. So, if you’re an owner and hear Cruz’s initial demands were as high as five years at $15 million each, you must take pause.

The Mets have been stung by burdensome, long-term, non-productive contracts over the past five years and the last thing they need is to add another to a 33-year-old.

If Cruz had no doubt about his legitimacy, he should ask for a one-year, incentive-laden deal to prove himself, but he didn’t. Why?

That question, plus Cruz’s age, questionable numbers, and contractual demands all combine to make him a risk the Mets should not take.

ON DECK:  What about Wilmer Flores at shortstop?

Feb 17

Jeff Wilpon Defends Mets’ Financial Plan

Jeff Wilpon, New York Mets chief operating officer, addressed several financial issues with MLB.com as the club opened spring training.

The Mets’ projected payroll for this season is to be shy of $95 million, but Wilpon said it isn’t necessary to have a Yankees-like payroll to compete.

WILPON: Defending plan.

WILPON: Defending plan.

“I would point to the fact that you don’t have to have that kind of payroll to win,’’ Wilpon said of the $140-million plus payrolls the Mets had prior to bringing in Sandy Alderson as general manager.

Alderson’s first objective was to clear the books of the unproductive salaries of Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo, Francisco Rodriguez, Jason Bay and Johan Santana, all brought in under former general manager Omar Minaya. Alderson also traded Carlos Beltran for Zack Wheeler.

The Mets’ payrolls the past five seasons, all of which they finished below .500 were: $149.4 million (2009); $126.5 million (2010); $143 million (2011); $96 million (2012); and $94 million (2013). The Mets currently have $75 million earmarked for 12 players this season. Barring a surprise signing, they won’t break $100 million. That’s a reflection of Alderson.

“I think he’s put the plan in place, and we’re ready to see the fruits of that labor now,’’ Wilpon said.

The Mets were more active this winter than the past two, and at best are expected to challenge to be a .500 team. Even had they signed shortstop Stephen Drew as most Mets fans want the organization to do, it’s questionable how much better he’d make them.

Another free-agent the Mets passed on was outfielder Nelson Cruz. Alderson wasn’t interested in either, despite a need in those areas.

“If those one or two things were there, we would have expanded the budget for them,’’ Wilpon said. “Just to get a guy because the fans think that’s the right thing to do, that’s not part of the plan.

“Sandy’s not going to overspend for something he doesn’t see value in. The value that we see in those guys versus what their agents were asking for does not meet.’’

The Mets aren’t the only ones thinking that way as both Drew and Cruz remain unsigned.

The Mets are stockpiling young pitching, but have little position-player chips. Wilpon believes that’s their biggest weakness.

“I don’t think we have enough position-player prospects that are ready to compete for jobs at the major-league level right now,’’ Wilpon said. “We’d like to have more, like we have with the pitchers. We’d like to have that same stable of young guys competing for position-player jobs. The guys we have are a couple years away.’’

While Wilpon said it isn’t necessary to have a monster payroll to win, the Mets haven’t won with their $90 million payrolls the past two seasons, either.

The Mets did spend more this year, bringing in Curtis Granderson, Bartolo Colon and Chris Young, but counter those additions with the loss of Matt Harvey and several questions in other areas and what defines a successful season remains unknown.

One thing for certain, it isn’t anything less than a winning record.

ON DECK:  Matt Harvey faces frustrating summer.

Dec 04

Jacoby Ellsbury Signing Defines Mets Vs. Yankees; Time Running Out For Granderson

As if the New York Mets and their frustrated fan base needed another reminder of their status in town, they got a punch-in-the-gut this morning with the news Jacoby Ellsbury had agreed to a seven-year, $153-million contract with the Yankees.

Yes, the Yankees, the team that said they wanted to go below a $189 million payroll while Mets GM Sandy Alderson, despite saying he has the resources, isn’t likely to go over $90 million.

ELLSBURY: Would have been nice in Flushing.

ELLSBURY: Would have been nice in Flushing.

Alderson will say the Mets aren’t competing with the Yankees, and he’s right to a four-game, interleague degree, but he’s wrong everywhere else. There’s competition for the back pages, for free-agents, for attention from the on-the-fence New York fan, for TV ratings and time on the radio talk-shows.

Today, the callers will take a break from bashing the Nets and Knicks – and deservedly so – to hailing the Yankees, and yes, ripping the Mets for their inaction. Also, deservedly so.

It’s a great deal for the Yankees as they obtain a dynamic outfielder – which was Alderson’s prime objective this winter – that will more homers in Yankee Stadium hitting from the leadoff position, while at the same time, weakening their rival Red Sox.

This came after giving $85 million to catcher Brian McCann. And, they are hot after Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, which will entail a hefty posting fee to go along with a huge salary.

Then, there’s the matter of Robinson Cano.

Meanwhile, the Mets’ biggest splash this winter, if you don’t include Chris Young, is having dinner with Jay Z, Cano’s flamboyant agent.

That meeting garnered attention for one day, but these signings by the Yankees to go along with their courtship of Cano, have them in the headlines nearly every day this offseason.

The free-agent outfield market had four premium names: Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo, Nelson Cruz and Curtis Granderson. Ellsbury’s deal set the bar, meaning if history is an indicator, the prices for the others should increase.

This means if the Mets are serious about Granderson they had better act quickly because the meter is running. Who knows? It might already have clicked past Alderson’s price range.

The Mets weren’t going to overpay for Ellsbury or Choo, but they might have to for Granderson for nothing else, to save some face this winter.

But, Granderson would fit the Mets for several reasons:

* He would give them left-handed power. Yes, his numbers were elevated in Yankee Stadium, but of his 43 homers hit in 2012, 26 were at home and 17 on the road. Granderson hit 41 in 20111, with 21 at home and 20 on the road.

* He could play anywhere in the outfield, and has the speed to play center.

* All indications are he’s a good clubhouse presence, plus, he knows what it takes to play in New York.

While the Ellsbury signing screams the Yankees are back, it doesn’t mean the Mets have to limp away. There’s still time for them to do something, but it is running out.

Dec 03

Are The Mets And Curtis Granderson A Fit?

The New York Mets talked with outfielder Curtis Granderson. The meeting reportedly took place in San Diego. Although the Mets would not confirm a meeting, it was reported by several media outlets.

Granderson turned down a $14.1 million qualifying offer from the Yankees, so that gives you an idea of where he’s coming from. He wants a pay-day. The Mets already signed free agent Chris Young to a one-year, $7.25 million contract, so if the Mets landed Granderson it would probably send Eric Young to the bench, re-opening the hole he filled last season.

GRANDERSON: On Mets' radar/

GRANDERSON: On Mets’ radar/

Granderson, 33 in March, would provide left-handed power, but is ranked behind Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo, Carlos Beltran and Nelson Cruz in the free-agent market, so getting him wouldn’t be as costly. Granderson reportedly wants four years, but the Mets could approach him with three plus an option. I don’t believe a flat three would get him to Flushing.

Because of injuries – a broken forearm in spring training and later a broken pinkie finger – Granderson is coming off a terrible season in which he played in just 61 games and hit .229 with seven homers and 15 RBI.

The Yankees wanted to bring back Granderson – hence the qualifying offer – but their pursuit of Beltran sings a different tune.

While Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said he didn’t want an injury reclamation project, Granderson’s injuries were freakish in nature – hit by a pitch – and he will likely look at the 84 combined homers in 2011 and 2012.

That’s a lot of production, but Anderson must consider the Yankee Stadium bandbox and realize Granderson won’t hit like that in Citi Field. Alderson would have to take that approach with any power hitter on the market. Ellsbury is the line-drive, speed outfielder who would be perfect, but the Mets won’t give him the six years or $100-million-plus package he’s seeking.

So, if you’re a glass-half-empty kind of person, there’s the salary Granderson would want; his recent injury history and age; and the questionable nature of his numbers.

If you’re the glass-half-full kind, there’s the potential power he could provide; that he fills a need and despite his negatives is a step up.

There are players I’d rather the Mets get over Granderson, but they won’t pay that kind of money. Assuming $51 million over three years ($17 million a season), Granderson would be a relatively economical upgrade in the outfield.

He would fall under the category of being the best the Mets could get.

LATER TODAY:  What non-tendered players the Mets could bring back.

Nov 26

Here’s A Marketing Strategy – Just Win!

sad mets bench

Tiffany asks…

It’s almost the end of November and the Mets offseason is two months old with two months to go. I thought this was going to be the offseason when the team would be able to add better players to the team. I’m so frustrated. What have we waited three years for?

Joe D. replies…

I feel your frustration. Our expectations were that this offseason was going to be the one that would allow Sandy to put the Mets back on the map, followed by the first of many winning seasons beginning in 2014. So far, it doesn’t feel that way. I believe we all expected to see a greater sense of urgency in attacking this offseason and addressing the team’s needs.

According to most reports, Sandy has about $23 million left to spend in his budget after signing free-agent Chris Young to a one-year deal. But there’s still a lot of work to be done and I’m not sure that we have enough resources to fix it all in one offseason.

A team source said that the Mets are not done shopping and are still targeting a power bat for the outfield. I would love to see them add a Curtis Granderson or Nelson Cruz who are both still available. But a trade seems more likely and Sandy is now a buyer and not a seller and unfortunately for him, this isn’t Fantasy Baseball.

Sandy needs to get past his sticker shock and realize that the most talented players are going to be costly in any free agent market. I wish he had held off on Young until he addressed the cleanup hitter need first. That should have been the top priority.

Before this Hot Stove season heated up, Sandy answered “absolutely” when asked if he was finally going to upgrade his underwhelming lineup for 2014 and give the fans a team to be proud of.

“I gotta watch those games, too, you know,” he quipped with a laugh.

Last night, the Mets had a conference call which I unfortunately missed, but I was covered by our “infamous” Ed Marcus.

Newly hired Chief Revenue Officer Lou DePaoli, discussed his plans for marketing the Mets. He said there are currently 5 million Met fans in our area and described some cool new strategies to get those fans watching, listening, and going to the ballpark again.

But I think the best way to boost fan interest and energize an apathetic fan base lies more in Sandy Alderson’s hands.

Sandy needs to get this team winning again. Winning is historically the best marketing strategy – with a proven 100% success rate in Flushing.

Sandy needs to construct a winner and if he builds it they will come. All five million of us.