Jan 29

Four Mets Facing Make-Or-Break Seasons

As spring training approaches so might the anxiety level of several New York Mets, all understanding this can be a make-or-break season for at least four of them.

* Let’s first start with the obvious, Ike Davis, whom the Mets had been trying to trade this winter. The Mets’ inability to trade Davis stems from their highly publicized efforts to do so, their high asking price and the glut in the first base market.

Davis struggled through two miserable first halves, and knows his high-propensity for striking out and poor overall hitting approach is wearing thin with GM Sandy Alderson. He knows he can’t produce another .205 average, nine-homer season won’t cut it and the Mets won’t offer arbitration again.

* Ruben Tejada was on the way out as the starting shortstop, but Jhonny Peralta and Stephen Drew wanted too much. Alderson said despite speculation Drew is out of their plans.

Tejada ended the season with a fractured leg, but recovered and worked out twice at a Michigan fitness camp. His effort in Ann Arbor impressed manager Terry Collins, but Tejada needs to show it at the plate and not let his concentration wander in the field.

* Jon Niese as last season’s Opening Day starter. He won his first two starts, but things quickly unraveled following back-to-back sub-32 degree starts in Minneapolis and Denver. Tightness in his back led to shoulder discomfort that forced him on the disabled list.

Niese made only 24 starts and finished 8-8 after winning 13 games in 2012 while pitching while throwing 190.1 innings over 30 starts.

Niese is signed through 2017, and while the Mets have an investment in him, they do get the occasional phone call inquiring.

* Travis d’Arnaud was supposed to get the starting job early last season, but an injury pushed his promotion back. He was one of the key pieces in the R.A. Dickey trade with Toronto.

There are issues with his ability to call a game, block pitches, and above all, his offense.

He had such a small window of opportunity in 2013 that the Mets wouldn’t pull him after a Davis-like start. At least, you wouldn’t think so.

However, if d’Arnaud has a miserable season wire-to-wire, the Mets would listen to proposals, but by that time his value would have dropped.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jan 09

Mets Need Breakout Year From Jon Niese

If there’s one player the New York Mets urgently, if not desperately need a breakout year from it is left-hander Jon Niese.

Some might say Ike Davis, which might be true if we even knew he’d be on the team. Another could be outfielder Chris Young, but odds are he won’t be back in 2015, so does it matter what kind of year he has? If he’s having a good season he might get dealt at the deadline. If he plays the season out and does well, the Mets would think he’d be too pricey to retain.

NIESE: Mets need big things from him.

NIESE: Mets need big things from him.

Niese, however, is cut from a different cloth.  He’s in a five-year contract, but coming off a disappointing season in 2013 in which he was injured and won only nine games.

“He was hurt and took a step back,’’ said one National League scout. “Two years ago he was on the verge of a breakout season if the Mets had hit for him.’’

The tightness in his neck and shoulder surfaced after consecutive freezing-weather starts in Minneapolis and Denver.

Niese was 13-9 in 2012, and with a little run and bullpen support could have won 17 games. He was the Opening Day starter last season when Johan Santana was injured, but if the appointment were based on solely on merit, he would have been named regardless.

Despite never having pitched a complete season – defined as 34-35 starts – Niese had steadily improved, winning nine, 11 and 13 games, respectively, from 2010-12, until a shoulder limited him to 24 starts, 143 innings and an 8-8 record.

Everybody is looking at Zack Wheeler to take a Matt Harvey-like step in his second year. I could happen, but what must happen is for Niese to start living up to the high expectations.

Wheeler is far from a given and Harvey is out, which leaves Niese, Dillon Gee and Bartolo Colon in the rotation. Of the three, Niese has the highest upside.

It’s time he lives up to it.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Dec 11

Mets Add Bartolo Colon

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Who knew? The New York Mets were straight with us when they said they weren’t finished as they announced the signing of Bartolo Colon today to a two-year, $20-million contract.

Just like that, the Mets addressed a massive hole in their rotation. Should the 40-year-old Colon pitch anything like he did last year with Oakland, the Mets all of a sudden must be elevated to at least wild-card contender status.

COLON: Important signing.

COLON: Important signing.

Seriously, they’ve added enough, and if their existing talent improves, the Mets can realistically be expected to be better. They didn’t add young, vibrant expensive names, but added enough talent to where they should be taken seriously.

They aren’t on a par with Washington and Atlanta for the NL East Division lead, but the additions of Curtis Granderson and Colon should be worth at least seven more victories this season, and perhaps more when Matt Harvey returns in 2015.

The Mets won 74 games last year, and reaching .500 would take at least one more victory a month, which is entirely doable. With two wild card slots, .500 or slightly better will make October possible.

Colon’s age is somewhat of a gamble, because, after all, how long can he go? Even so, he’s been an innings-eater, which is exactly what the Mets need. Colon was second in the AL in ERA at 2.65 and finished sixth in the Cy Young balloting.

The Mets’ rotation now consists of Colon, Jon Niese, Zack Wheeler and Dillon Gee. Each comes with questions:

* Colon: He can’t last forever, but has showed no signs of breaking down.

* Niese: He’s coming off shoulder surgery and has an injury history in his short career.

* Wheeler: Manager Terry Collins said Wheeler could be capable of 200 innings. That’s a little ambitious considering the leash Harvey was on last year, but if he develops as hoped the Mets will have something special.

* Gee: Pitched 199 innings last year. Can he do it again? Gee is underrated, but a valuable commodity.

Colon brings a lot to the table, including a calming, veteran presence that can only benefit Wheeler and Harvey next season.

What he also does is buy time until Noah Syndergaard is ready. The Mets still need a fifth starter, which could be Jenrry Mejia if he’s healthy, or they could force-feed Rafael Montero.

In another development, Seattle signed Corey Hart away from Milwaukee, which leaves the Brewers needing a first baseman. Yes, the Brewers have been linked to Ike Davis, but word is they want to make a run at Tampa Bay first baseman James Loney.

Tampa Bay, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh and Baltimore are all in the market for first basemen.

I don’t expect the Mets to deal Davis by the end of the week, but then again, nobody anticipated them landing a name starter this week.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Dec 10

Jenrry Mejia Not Close To Being Ready

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Staying healthy has always been an obstacle in Jenrry Mejia’s pursuit of a starting job in the New York Mets’ rotation and it is that way again.

Mejia, who underwent surgery to remove bone spurs from his right elbow, isn’t a given in being ready for spring training.

If he was ready, he’s be the fourth starter slotted in after Zack Wheeler, Dillon Gee and Jon Niese.

MEJIA: When will we see him?

MEJIA: When will we see him?

As of now, general manager Sandy Alderson doesn’t expect him any sooner than May.

“He demonstrated he could pitch effectively as a major-league starter,’’ Alderson said. “It’s a question of can he stay healthy. … He won’t even be able to demonstrate that over the course of spring training or even the first month of the season.’’

The 24-year-old Mejia made five starts with an ERA of 2.30 before needing surgery.

The puzzling thing in how this was handled was the Mets said Mejia needed surgery in the offseason, yet kept pitching him.

It wasn’t the first time the Mets mishandled Mejia.

In 2010, then-manager Jerry Manuel, who going into the season knew his job was in jeopardy, battled the front office to bring up Mejia at the start of the season to work in the bullpen.

The troubling aspect of this decision was Manuel rarely used Mejia, especially when the game was in the balance. Eventually, he was returned to the minors, but as a starter. The strain of changing roles damaged his arm and he underwent Tommy John surgery.

At the time, Mejia was the Mets’ hottest prospect, but by not settling on a defined role for him it hurt his trade value. After all, how could the Mets pitch to other teams his potential value as a starter when he wasn’t even in that role for them?

Alderson doesn’t know when Mejia will be ready, and how he’ll perform when he’s available. As of now, it is back to Square One for Mejia.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Oct 16

2013 Season Review: Dillon Gee

dillon gee

DILLON GEE, RHP

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS

Coming off surgery, the expectations were minimal because the Mets didn’t know what they were getting. The surgery was to repair an artery in his shoulder after experiencing numbness in his hand and fingers. As a “feel’’ pitcher, this type of injury was especially serious because it prevented him from getting a grip on his breaking balls and change-up, which were essential to his success. When healthy the book on Gee was is reliability as he pitched at least five innings in 17 starts in 2012, and 12 of those starts were defined as quality. However, like a lot of Mets’ pitchers there was a problem with run support, as he finished 6-7. His 97-29 strikeouts-to-walks ratio was good. If healthy, the Mets slotted him in as the No. 3 starter behind Matt Harvey and Jon Niese.

CAREER STATS

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2013 SEASON REVIEW

Gee said he felt good, but it was clear he didn’t have it in the beginning of the season as he was 2-6 with a 5.68 ERA in late May and there talk whether he was lose his job in the rotation when Zack Wheeler was to be promoted to the majors. Then it was as a switch was turned on as he gave up a run in 7.1 innings and struck out 12 in a victory at Yankee Stadium, May 30. All of a sudden, Gee’s change-up was working and Gee went on a roll where he worked into the seventh inning or later in 10 of his next 12 starts. When Harvey went down, Niese had a shoulder issue, and Wheeler was finding his way, Gee emerged as the Mets’ most reliable pitcher. Gee finished at with a 12-11 record with an impressive 3.62 ERA, a 1.21 WHIP, and a 3-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. Most importantly to Gee, he started 32 games and threw a career-high 199 innings.

LOOKING AT 2014

John Delcos Says: Gee thinks, and rightfully so, that he should throw 200 innings every year. With Harvey gone for the season, he and Niese are slotted 1-2 in the rotation, followed by Wheeler and as of now two question marks. Gee said his health issues are behind him, and the numbers substantiate that claim. Gee is not a power pitcher, but his fastball looks better when his change-up and breaking balls are working. Gee has won 13 games (2011) and 12 (last year), so with a little run support and improved bullpen it is conceivable he could be a 15-game winner. If he makes all his starts and throws 200 innings, then the wins should fall into place. Gee enters the 2014 season as a given in the rotation, and with it, higher expectations than he’s ever had.

Joe D. Says: I love the Dillon Gee story… He comes back from a career threatening blood clot that required arterial surgery and delivers a solid campaign in which he led the team in wins while posting a career best 3.64 ERA and 2.1 BB/9. He got off to a rusty start in April, but got progressively better as the season wore on and posted some of the best second half numbers in the National League with a 2.74 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and an opposing .280 on-base percentage.

Gee symbolizes what the Mets have been trying to do over the last several seasons and that is to throw strikes and command the zone. He shows that you don’t necessarily need a 98 mph fastball to succeed as long as you can spot your pitches and change speeds the way he does.

The Matt Harvey injury means his job is safe, although I wouldn’t be shocked to read a plethora of posts suggesting the Mets trade him. Gee is as close to a keeper as one could get, and with all the fireballers expected to pack this rotation by 2015, the Mets are going to need a pitcher like Gee who offers a different look that would only enhance his rotation-mates’ performances and confound opposing teams. Expect an even better season from Gee in 2014 who has lifted himself from number five starter to somewhere in the top three spots.