Nov 21

Why Not Go With Rafael Montero Now?

I understand the New York Mets’ position on wanting to delay Rafael Montero’s promotion to the major leagues so they can delay the arbitration process by a year.

But, why?

MONTERO: Why not?

MONTERO: Why not?

We’re talking up to six years down the road and who knows what the Mets’ financial landscape will be by then? Who knows what will become of Montero over the next half decade. Maybe he gets traded. Maybe he blows out his arm. Maybe he becomes a big star and the Mets sign him long term.

If Montero has a solid spring training, they shouldn’t they bring him up right away. Why delay if he’s ready?

If Montero is getting batters out during spring training, then let’s see what he can do during the regular season. All indications are he has a plus-fastball and other quality pitches, so let’s see if he can learn how to pitch on the big stage. The Mets should not be thinking of delaying paying him by a year, but by giving him a chance to develop his mental toughness a year earlier.

Pitching in the major leagues – even if it means taking his lumps – would be more beneficial to Montero’s development than breezing in Triple A for two-and-a-half months.

Remember, this is supposed to be a write-off year with Matt Harvey gone, so why not?

If Montero pitches to his expectations, he should give the Mets at least the nine victories Harvey gave them before his injury. And, if he doesn’t, then so what? He would learn from the experience.

Often you hear the argument teams don’t want to rush a player because they fear they’ll destroy his confidence. However, if a player’s confidence is so fragile that it would be ruined in a couple of months, then how mentally tough was he to begin with?

Actually, the Mets’ stance on bringing up Montero in June might hinder their chances of signing a middle-tier free agent, including a guy like Aaron Harang, because the perception is he’d lose his spot in the rotation in two months. If I’m Harang, that has to be part of my thinking on returning to the Mets.

However, if the Mets said everything was wide open, that could mean the difference. I say go with Montero and still sign veteran pitching. If Montero pans out, then they’d have a trip to trade at the deadline.

ON DECK: Here’s a possible answer to the Flores dilemma.

Nov 20

Mets Not Players For Josh Johnson

When you’re the New York Mets and have to think outside the box, it’s stuff like what happened today that drives you crazy.

Josh Johnson wanted to play close to his Las Vegas home and signed today with San Diego for an easily digestible one-year, $8-million contract. Even so, you have to wonder whether the Mets even kicked the tires on this one. Even if they had, don’t you wonder if free agents – even those who are questions – seriously take the Mets.

JOHNSON: Would have been worth the risk.

JOHNSON: Would have been worth the risk.

Once, one of the rising young stud pitchers in the National League with Miami, Johnson made the All-Star team in 2009 and 2010. However, he was taken down with triceps and forearm injuries last year with Toronto that culminated in elbow surgery to remove bone spurs in October.

Johnson was 2-8 with a 6.20 ERA in 16 games last year, but that’s not who Padres general manager Josh Byrnes was thinking about.

“Here’s a guy who led the league in ERA who has been a dominant pitcher,’’ Byrnes told San Diego reporters. “We know there’s risk in any signing but we’re very excited about the upside, what he can bring and now what our rotation can do to deliver us toward our goal.

“We want to be an October team. We really feel like the evolution of our starting pitching and bringing in Josh, we’ve taken a big step in that direction over the last 12 months.’’

At 29, Johnson is young enough to turn it around and regain the form that has earned him a career 58-45 record with a 3.40 ERA.

“I was pretty close last year, just not healthy,’’ Johnson said. “It was tough trying to throw through it and all of a sudden I’m getting these weird pains all the way up my triceps and my forearm’s getting tight because of everything going on with my elbow. Hopefully that took care of everything.’’

If it does, the Padres would have hit the jackpot, something the Mets, who have two rotation spots to fill, must do.

Because of Johnson’s location preference, the Mets weren’t players, but represents the out-of-box thinking they must utilize in the absence of making a substantial trade or major free agent signing.

Nov 14

What We Learned About Mets From GM Meetings

The general managers meetings ended without the New York Mets making a sound just as we knew they would. It was that way for everybody else, too.

The GM meetings are for laying the groundwork for the offseason, and this much we have learned from the Mets:

Despite what I wrote about maybe taking a second look at Ike Davis, it won’t happen. With a half-dozen teams inquiring about him, he’s gone. The Mets are in a delicate situation with Davis. It’s obvious they want to get rid of him and teams know that, so they’ll lowball the Mets. Sandy Alderson knows that, but he also knows Davis’ greatest value is living up to his potential the Mets projected of him and not just give him away.

Jhonny Peralta seems to be the Mets’ objective for shortstop with Stephen Drew out of their price range. Defense up the middle is paramount and Drew will get his money somewhere.

Curtis Granderson is there for the taking in the outfield, where he can play center or a corner position. It’s clear the Yankees don’t want him, and it is also obvious he’ll come a lot cheaper than Shin-Soo Choo, who’ll be overpaid by whomever signs him. Ditto for Jacoby Ellsbury. This much we know about Granderson: 1) he’ll hit for some power, but not as much as he would if he were at Yankee Stadium, 2) he’ll strike out a lot, and 3) he knows how to play in New York.

Bronson Arroyo can be had for a reasonable cost to help fill the back end of the rotation. It appears the Mets have little, or no interest, in Barry Zito or bringing back Mike Pelfrey. Daisuke Matsuzaka and Aaron Harang are still available, but apparently there’s no rush there.

In previous seasons the Mets used to let the market come to them, but this winter it might be prudent for them to hustle for their first choices.

Better overpay early then come away empty later.

Nov 02

Mets Gambled And Lost On Johan Santana; End Era By Buying Out Contract

The New York Mets took care of business and officially parted ways with often-injured Johan Santana when they paid a $5.5-million buyout Friday, and the classy left-hander, who always wanted to do more – sometimes to his detriment – did the same and thanked the franchise and its fans for their support.

In a statement, Santana said: “I want to thank the Mets organization, my teammates, and, of course, a big thank you to Mets fans, who have been behind me from day one and stood by me through all the good and bad.’’

SANTANA: Era ends.

SANTANA: Era ends.

It was a noble gesture from Santana, something he didn’t have to do after completion of the six-year, $137.5-million contract that made him the highest-paid Mets’ pitcher.

The Mets have not ruled out bringing back Santana at a low-cost deal – which would be on top of the buyout – and toward that end, the left-hander lobbied on his behalf.

“I am not sure what the future holds, as this is all new to me,’’ Santana continued, “but I have every intention of pitching in 2014 and beyond and I am certainly keeping all my options open.’’

After losing in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS and kicking away a seven-game lead with 17 games remaining in 2007, and in dire need of pitching, the Mets gambled big on Santana. They sent four prospects to Minnesota – one of them turning out to be All-Star outfielder Carlos Gomez – to acquire the already damaged left-hander. Then they signed him at the time to the richest contract in franchise history.

Santana became available because both the Yankees and Red Sox backed off, so in essence the Mets were bidding against themselves, and arguably could have had him for less. Subsequently, they issued a contract they didn’t have to at that price. Clearly, they mis-read the market. The deal turned out to symbolize then-GM Omar Minaya’s tenure that included a run of lucrative, underachieving contracts.

Outside a 15-7 record with a league-leading 2.53 ERA in 34 starts in 2008, his first season with the Mets, Santana never completed a full year in New York and didn’t pitch at all in 2011 and 2013 because of shoulder injuries. If a full season is considered 34 starts, Santana left 95 starts on the table. That is more glaring than his production of 46-34, a 3.18 ERA and the only no-hitter in franchise history.

That no-hitter came in just his 12th start after rehabbing from shoulder surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule. To this day, manager Terry Collins laments letting him throw 134 pitches.

Ironically, it was a tainted no-hitter because a blown call on what should have been an extra-base hit for Carlos Beltran was ruled a foul ball. If that call is made correctly, then Santana doesn’t throw that many pitches, then, who really knows?

Santana made only 10 more starts for the Mets before he was shut down in August of 2012. In spring training of 2013, in an angered response to GM Sandy Alderson’s comments he didn’t report in shape, Santana went against his prescribed rehab routine and without Collins’ knowledge, threw off the mound and aggravated the injury.

In another dose of irony, the pitcher often fueled by pride was done in by the same. Santana re-tore the capsule and underwent a second surgery.

To this day, Santana never acknowledged his mistake of throwing off the mound, and Anderson never admitted whether his dig at the left-hander’s condition was meant as motivation and backfired.

Either way, at least publicly, both sides are open for a return. But, don’t bet on it.

Oct 23

Minaya Hopes To See Beltran Get That Ring

Carlos = Beltran

Omar Minaya is rooting hard for Carlos Beltran to get that World Series Ring, Reports Bob Klapisch of The Record.

“I feel great for Carlos, because I still think he was the best center fielder of his time,” Minaya said by telephone Tuesday. “I’ve known him since high school in Puerto Rico and he’s always been that same person: not just a great ballplayer, but a great human being. When people like that get to the World Series, it makes you feel proud.”

Minaya has no hard feeling towards the Wilpons, whom he said had little choice but to fire him and Jerry Manuel after the collapse in Flushing was beyond repair.

“We did have a great thing going, but in New York, you have to win. I get that,” Minaya said. “We had a great season in ’06, but to lose the way we did in ’07 and ’08 at the very end … when you go out like that two years in a row, changes have to be made.”

I’m amazed at how many Met fans still define Beltran’s career by that one at-bat, seemingly ignoring the fact he carried the Mets to that Game 7 of the NLCS with a tremendous regular season and post season performance.

As Klapisch points out, Beltran was in the wrong place at the wrong time, expecting a fastball with a 3-2 count in the bottom of the ninth.

So to any Mets fan who still feels Beltran hasn’t fully paid his debts for 2006, consider the journey. He knows about pain, although there’s never been a hint of his suffering. Beltran is baseball’s equivalent of Mr. Spock – neutral and unruffled are in his genetic coding. He told The New York Times recently, “For me, being able to get so close and never being able to get to the World Series, all that has done is give me motivation to come every year, work hard, prepare myself and try to get there.”

Clearly, the commitment has paid a monster dividend: In two seasons with the Cardinals, Beltran has hit .282 with 56 home runs, and, just as importantly, hasn’t spent any time on the disabled list. His trade to the Giants in 2011 also netted the Mets right-hander Zack Wheeler, which means, in all fairness, the account is paid in full.

As for what’s next as Beltran heads into the offseason, it’s becoming painfully clear that future Hall of Famer could be heading to the Bronx according to what baseball people are telling Klapisch.

It would suck to see him come to New York and play for the other team.