Nov 23

Nate McLouth Would Have Been Better Choice Than Chris Young For Mets

The New York Mets might get lucky with Chris Young the same way they did with Marlon Byrd last season. It could happen.

However, are you betting on it?

McLOUTH: A better choice.

McLOUTH: A better choice.

I am not buying for a second they’ll make a play for Nelson Cruz, but there are others I would have liked to see them get over Young.

We know Shin-Soo Choo and Jacoby Ellsbury were out of their price range. Supposedly, they liked Corey Hart. How about Nate McLouth?

McLouth, 32, hit .258 with a .329 on-base percentage – both superior to Young – and drew 53 walks in 593 plate appearances. He also homered 12 times, equal to Young’s production. And, he did it for $2 million. Plus, he stole 30 bases, plays good defense and always hustles.

You can’t convince me for a second Young was a better choice. They got Young, who is two years younger, for $7.25 million. Don’t you think they could have gotten McLouth for two years at $8 million?

There aren’t a lot of great choices out there, but Young was a bad one in that they gave a lot of money for somebody with little production.

Sandy Alderson values on-base percentage, and clearly had a better option in McLouth. Too bad he didn’t make a harder run at him.

Nov 09

Yankees’ Brendan Ryan Could Be Stop Gap Answer At Shortstop

The New York Mets are in the market for a shortstop, but there are red flags with the biggest names on the market.

Stephen Drew, 31, was given the $14.1-million qualifying offer by the Red Sox, which might be too pricey for the Mets’ blood. Reportedly, Drew wants a multi-year deal, but the Mets are reluctant to get bogged down on a long-term deal, considering what they’ve gone through over the past few years.

The Mets will also get competition from the Yankees, who like Drew’s left-handed bat in that bandbox of a stadium. The Yankees also need a shortstop because of the uncertainty surrounding Derek Jeter. There’s also the possibility of Jeter moving to third base if Alex Rodriguez is suspended.

Rafael Furcal, 36, is coming off an injury and a two-year, $14-million contract with the Cardinals.

There’s also 32-year-old Jhonny Peralta, who is coming off a three-year, $16.75 million contract with Detroit. Peralta has an offensive upside, but as with outfielder Nelson Cruz from Texas, there’s the specter of using performance-enhancing drugs. How much of their production is from them or the chemicals? It’s a legitimate concern.

Finally, there’s the Yankees’ Brendan Ryan, who made $3.25 million last year. Ryan would likely come at a reasonable salary and might not ask for the length of contract demanded by Drew or Peralta.

The Mets don’t know if they’ll have Ruben Tejada, who is recovering from a broken leg, and even when he was healthy last season he didn’t produce at the plate or in the field.

 

Oct 22

Would Boston’s Free-Agent Building Approach Benefit Mets?

Yesterday, I suggested what the New York Mets could learn from the St. Louis Cardinals in building their team. Today, let’s examine how the Red Sox were built and what the Mets can take from their approach.

The Cardinals’ philosophy of first building from within followed by judicious trades and free-agent signings has always been the traditional and preferred method.

Throwing millions and millions into the free-agent market is costly and risky. The Mets don’t have the resources of the Yankees or Dodgers to throw good money after bad.

ELLSBURY: Will he be too costly for Mets?

ELLSBURY: Will he be too costly for Mets?

There’s pressure to win in both markets, but there’s a greater intensity in Boston – and New York – while there’s a degree of patience in the Midwest. That explains in part why St. Louis has 17 homegrown players on its roster, while the Red Sox have ten.

There was a venomous culture in Boston last season as the Red Sox, burdened by several cumbersome contracts – similar to what the Mets faced when Sandy Alderson took over – and a few cancerous personalities in the clubhouse.

“Say, could you pass some fried chicken this way?’’

The Red Sox cleared nearly $200 million in salaries when they unloaded Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to the Dodgers midway through last year’s disastrous 69-93 summer under Bobby Valentine. They did so because even in a lost season the Red Sox were thinking about this summer. That’s something the Mets never fully explored when they had Jose Reyes and others to dangle.

The Red Sox were far quicker and more decisive than the Mets have been in ridding themselves of too costly and ineffective players, such as Oliver Perez, Ike Davis, Francisco Rodriguez and Luis Castillo to name a few of close to numerous bad deals since 2006, the last time the Mets saw October.

Rather than sink their savings into different long-term, costly signings, the Red Sox signed a handful of productive, yet cost-effective, players in: Shane Victorino (three years, $39 million); catcher David Ross (two years, $6.2 million); first baseman Mike Napoli (one year, $5 million); shortstop Stephen Drew (one year, $9.5 million); outfielder Jonny Gomes (two years, $10 million); and dynamite closer Koji Uehara (one year, $4.25 million plus option).

None bowl you over; collectively, they helped the Red Sox win 97 games.

Boston also extended by two years and $26 million the contract of its own free agent, designated hitter David Ortiz. They also avoided arbitration by offering Jacoby Ellsbury a one-year, $9-million deal. Some signings, such as pitcher Ryan Dempster’s two-year, $26.5 million deal, didn’t pan out. He’s now in middle relief and would be a starter for the Mets.

The Red Sox also hit it with trades, including pitcher Jake Peavy, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and and former Mets first-base prospect, Mike Carp.

Boston’s success in the free-agent and trade markets was overwhelmingly successful. Although Alderson said he could have the leeway to offer a $100-million contract to one player, he would be better off in taking Boston’s approach and attempt to patch several of the Mets’ many holes.

Alderson knows the success the Red Sox enjoyed is rare and shouldn’t be expected, especially since the Mets won’t offer similar deals. However, the idea of pursuing players with playoff success – Napoli and Victorino – is a sound way to augment their present composition of youth and few proven major leaguers.

The Mets are unsettled at first base, but are kidding themselves if they think they could get Napoli by offering a slight raise. Napoli was to get a three-year, $39-million deal, but that fell through when a degenerative hip condition was discovered. He’ll likely get his three years this winter.

As for Victorino, the Mets had their chance to sign him, but now it is too late. They must consider between Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo and Nelson Cruz, what they might each cost, and their various baggage.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Red Sox attempt to retain Ellsbury, but there are already reports the Tigers are interested in either him or Choo, the latter who is reportedly seeking four years.

The Red Sox took a shotgun approach last winter, and still wound up with a $155-million payroll while hitting most of their targets. It worked because their scouts did their homework; they got lucky; and they already had a core to build around. The Red Sox were also forced to be aggressive last winter because of their restless and demanding fan base. Every year it is the same motivation for them and the Yankees.

The Mets’ fan base is already looking at 2015 when Matt Harvey returns. Few are expecting a contender next summer without him. The Mets also don’t have as good a core as Boston had and won’t come anywhere close to what the Red Sox spent, but could go as high as $100 million, maybe a little more.

Everybody in the division save the Miami Marlins will spend more. If the Mets are to emulate the Red Sox, they’ll have to dig deeper and that’s not something they’ll be inclined to do.

Oct 21

Mets Would Do Well To Follow Cardinals’ Blueprint

The World Series is upon us in a matter of days and the New York Mets can learn from both the St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox in building their team.

Today, I’ll examine the Cardinals and see where there any familiarities. Tomorrow, I’ll look at the Red Sox.

Mets Could Learn From Cardinals

Mets Could Learn From Cardinals

The Mets say they want to build with young pitching, which has always been the Cardinals’ way. A look at St. Louis’ rotation shows the rotation highlighted Adam Wainwright is entirely homegrown. Wainwright was drafted by Atlanta – another franchise that knows how to grow pitching – but was traded and never pitched an inning for the Braves. Wainwright pitched in the Cardinals’ minor league system before he pitched in the majors for them.. A testament to how deep the Cardinals are is rookie 15-game winner Shelby Miller didn’t even pitch in the NLCS.

The Cardinals have been highly protective of Michael Wacha (the compensatory draft pick received for losing Albert Pujols), whose innings limit began on spring training and lasted through the season to the point of where he is ready for the playoffs without reservation.

St. Louis did this by not starting the innings limit in spring training but by backdating his projected starts from the playoffs. This made it easier because the Cardinals had a clear idea of how many innings Wacha would throw from each start and held firm.

Wainwright, Lance Lynn, Miller, Wacha and Joe Kelly are all homegrown and developed in the same system.

With Matt Harvey out for the year, logically more would be demanded of Jon Niese – coming off a shoulder injury – and Zack Wheeler, who was scratched from his last start because of a stiff shoulder. But, the Mets must be careful as to not have another injury like Harvey’s. That Wheeler complained after his last start is alarming.

The Mets are also looking at prospects Rafael Montero, Jacab deGrom and Noah Syndergaard. Presumably, they will all have innings limitations, which should include restrictions on the minor league level and the major league level after they are promoted following the deadine to protect their Super Two status.

The Mets’ plan emulates the Cardinals. When Harvey returns in 2015, he Wheeler, Niese, Dillon Gee will form the nucleus of the rotation, with either Jenrry Mejia or Montero being the fifth starter.

It could be this way in midway through 2014 when or if Montero joins the rotation and possibly deGrom. Wainwright didn’t become a starter until his third season, and was a reliever when he threw that dynamic curveball past Carlos Beltran. This might be something for the Mets to consider with Montero.

The Mets tried Mejia as both a starter and reliever. He underwent elbow surgery this year, but should be ready for spring training.

Whatever the Mets do with him, they should pick one role and stick with it, something they failed to do under Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel.

The Cardinals believe strongly in building up the middle, which is why they chose to keep Yadier Molina and say goodbye to Pujols. One might have though Pujols would stay after the Cardinals won the World Series after the 2011 season.

The Mets are attempting to do the same with Travis d’Arnaud, who is a long way of becoming another Molina – any of them.

St. Louis has a reputation of being a small market team, but it has a big market swagger in that it has won more World Series than any franchise other than the Yankees.

The Cardinals signed slugger Matt Holliday, which was a gesture to Pujols of their intent to keep him and protect him in the lineup.

The Cardinals built with prospects – a reflection of a strong scouting system and minor league system – with first baseman Allen Craig, who could be activated for the World Series; second baseman Matt Carpenter; third baseman David Freese; and outfielder Jon Jay.

This enabled them to add what they needed from the outside, notably right fielder Beltran and shortstop Rafael Furcal.

The difference between the Mets and Cardinals isn’t so much in philosophy as it is in talent. The Mets are hoping Ike Davis or Lucas Duda could be as productive as Craig. Life would be simpler for the Mets if that occurred.

Offensively, the Mets don’t have a Holliday, and there are no similar players currently in the projected free-agent market.

Boston’s Jacoby Ellsbury is a proven outfielder, and could thrive in spacious Citi Field. Red flags are his health, potential salary and the reputation of production of Red Sox players after they leave Fenway Park. He also doesn’t have Holliday’s power.

Potential free-agent outfielders include Beltran, Shin-Soo Choo, Nelson Cruz, Curtis Granderson and Nate McLouth.

McLouth could come the cheapest; Granderson strikes out a lot and his power numbers must be carefully examined because of Yankee Stadium and the protection (outside of last year) he had in the lineup; Choo could be a one-year wonder and is a risk for a multi-year deal; and Cruz has the PED flag,

None, outside of Beltran, offer the stability of Holliday. If Beltran doesn’t stay in St. Louis, the Mets would have to consider his age and salary demands (he’ll want at least two years).

The Cardinals are an ideal blue print for any franchise and the Mets would do themselves good if they build that way.

 

Oct 02

Mets’ Alderson Has The Resources, But How Will He Use Them?

New York Mets COO Jeff Wilpon said the 2014 budget has already been discussed, and Sandy Alderson said he could have enough resources at his disposal to offer a $100-million contract, which seemed unthinkable last year at this time.

Alderson also said it is conceivable the Mets’ payroll could be even smaller next year. Their payroll this season – excluding what they owed Jason Bay – was $88 million. The Mets will have roughly $40 million coming off the books, which leaves them financial flexibility should they choose to use it.

What Players Will Alderson Give Collins?

What Players Will Alderson Give Collins?

“Would it be the right player?’’ Alderson said. “And, would it be prudent to do it, even for the right player? Factor in what’s left to do the kind of things we want to do. But is it out of the question? It’s not out of the question.

“Will we do it? That’s more of a strategic question than a resource question. At this point, it’s not a matter of resources.’’

No, it is not. It is a matter of using those resources wisely, which they did not do with Oliver Perez, Frank Francisco and Luis Castillo to name a few.

The outfield must be upgraded from an offensive standpoint, and the elite options are Shin-Soo Choo, Jacoby Ellsbury and Nelson Cruz.

However, are any of them worth $100-million? Are any of them truly elite? Will any of them be a difference maker? Probably not.

In addition to the outfield, the Mets are looking to upgrade their bullpen, shortstop, first base and with Matt Harvey probably out, there’s a need to add one or two starters.

“We could go after the perfect player, at the perfect price and for the perfect number of years,’’ Alderson said. “And, we won’t sign anybody.’’

Alderson said the Mets could spend, but won’t spend just to make a splash. The Mets have not been active in the free-agent market in Alderson’s first three years – they only spent $5 million this season – and this year’s spending depends on the market.

“The bottom line is yes, it’s conceivable we won’t sign a player,’’ Alderson said. “But look, we have to be realistic about the marketplace, so I’m hopeful we’ll get some things done.

“It’s great to say, well, we have financial flexibility, and then blow it on players’ deals that don’t work out and put yourself right back in the same situation you were in before. At the same time, at some point, you’ve got to go for it. Having flexibility is great, but at some point, you’ve got to put yourself on the line.’’

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