Mar 05

Understanding Lack Of Urgency In Signing Pitchers

Mets GM Sandy Alderson said there haven’t been any talks with their young rotation for long-term contracts, but added that doesn’t mean there can’t be negotiations later in spring training. But, if it doesn’t happen this spring there shouldn’t be a cause for great concern.

DeGROM: It's just business (GETTY)

DeGROM: It’s just business (GETTY)

I’ve long liked the idea of the Mets signing their young pitchers to long-term contracts. My thinking is the price will eventually increase so it makes sense to lock them up early for the sake of cost certainty. It makes sense, but I can also understand why Alderson hasn’t been more aggressive in that area.

It starts with a sense of urgency, and frankly there is none. Matt Harvey won’t be a free agent until after the 2018 season. Jacob deGrom won’t be eligible until 2020, which is four years away, and Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz until 2021.

“I think that’s something that everyone needs to keep in mind,” Alderson told reporters. “There seems to be a fixation on some of our players and the brevity or length of their time with the Mets. I all of these cases, they’re going to be with us for a while. From that standpoint, is there urgency? From our standpoint, is there urgency?”

There’s time to do something and yes the price can increase. Conversely, there’s always the possibility of injuries and underperforming. That’s always the chance you take when you sign players to long-term contracts.

On the flip side, the Mets are taking a chance of alienating these pitchers if they continue to do things as they did with deGrom. Until a player becomes arbitration eligible, a team can assign a player his salary, which is what the Mets did when they issued him a $607,000 contract.

The conventional wisdom is the team holds the hammer early in a player’s career, and the athlete puts the screws to the team later on. If a team plays hardball all the time, it could come back to bite them.

For now, deGrom told reporters all is well with the team.

“That’s the business side of the game,” deGrom said. “That’s why I hired my agents. I feel like I have some of the best in the business. It was a business decision that we decided to make. We have great respect for the Mets and the system that they have, and I feel like I have a great relationship with them.

“As I’ve said before, I love playing here. And I want to be in this uniform for a long time. It was just a decision based on the business side of the game.”

It’s also the business side when the player takes it to the team in the arbitration and free-agent process.

Mar 02

Collins: “Time To Get To Work”

So far it has been all fun and giggles for the Mets in the early days of spring training, but with the exhibition schedule to begin Thursday against the Nationals, manager Terry Collins said it’s time to get serious.

His timing was right. It shows he has his fingers on the pulse of his team.

COLLINS: Time to get to work.  (AP)

COLLINS: Time to get to work. (AP)

Six straight days of showing up in camp with a different car by Yoenis Cespedes is one thing. It’s his money and he can do what he wants with it. Then there was Cespedes shelling out $7,000 for a prize pig. Again, it’s his money and if he throws a BBQ for his teammates, well, that’s more team bonding.

The kicker came when Cespedes and Noah Syndergaard rode horses into camp yesterday. That was the kicker for Collins, who thought there might have been too much fooling around, if not a little bit of recklessness because after all, either one of those guys could have fallen off and gotten hurt.

“The fun time is over,” Collins told reporters. “It’s time to finally get ready for baseball.”

As far as Cespedes, Collins doesn’t have a problem with him having fun for now.

“He does his drills,” Collins said. “He works hard. He’s getting ready to play. He’s having a little fun for the time being. But, like I said, it’s time to get ready for baseball now.”

Feb 20

I’m Liking How Mets Are Protecting Pitchers Early

The Mets are starting early this spring in protecting their young rotation. They eliminated any speculation as to what they will do with the announcement they won’t use their starters for the first five exhibition games.

They’ll still get their work in, but they’ll shave off a couple of innings they’ll work in spring training. Traditionally, each starter in the rotation should get 30 innings and work themselves up to 100 pitches by Opening Day.

“We’re addressing it just by what we do this spring,” pitching coach Dan Warthen told reporters in Port St Lucie. “We will probably cut down four or five innings on almost everybody in the spring. … We’ll still try to get to where they’re close to 100 pitches to open the season.”

Warthen said the first game for a projected starter will be March 8 when the Mets play the Braves in Orlando. Warthen indicated the decision to skip the first week is a reaction to the Mets making the World Series, which necessitated the young pitchers to work an extra month. All those young arms reached career highs in innings pitched, some by as many as 60 innings as in the case with Noah Syndergaard.

Then there was Matt Harvey, who started the season projected to throw 180 innings and wound up with 216.

The Mets aren’t expecting anything less this summer.

Feb 15

If Harvey Is Up For Deal, Mets Should Talk

Until today, the most definitive theory about the Mets signing Matt Harvey to a long-term contract extension was the prevailing belief his agent Scott Boras would play the market and hold out for the last dollar. We concluded this based in large part by what Harvey said last year during his innings fiasco when he said he hired Boras to take care of his career.

HARVEY: Willing to talk long-term. (Getty)

HARVEY: Willing to talk long-term. (Getty)

Harvey said today what we already knew, that the Mets hadn’t opened negotiations and don’t even have a timetable of doing so.

Harvey, who is under Mets’ control until after the 2018 season and will make $4.325 million this season, today said he’s not ruling out anything. He said he was open for discussion, but don’t forget spring training hasn’t started yet and Boras is still in the equation.

“I think whatever comes up is going to come up,” Harvey told reporters today in Port St. Luice. “I’ve never shied away from it. I’ve never said I wouldn’t consider it. But I haven’t heard anything considering that.”

Jacob deGrom has been more open about his willingness to sign a long-term extension, which is why I recently wrote he should be the Mets’ first choice, followed by Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz before Harvey. The reason for Harvey being down on the list was the presumption Harvey wasn’t interested because of Boras.

Zack Wheeler will be a free agent after 2019 season, with deGrom eligible after 2020, followed by Syndergaard and Matz after 2021.

Harvey will be arbitration eligible for the next two years, so his salary will continue to spike assuming he remains healthy and pitches to expectations. The 26-year-old Harvey was 13-8 with a 2.71 ERA in 29 starts, and despite the innings issue he logged 216 innings, which included the playoffs.

Traditionally, pitchers recovering from Tommy John surgery – Harvey had his in 2013 and missed all of 2014 – and with no innings limits projected for this season, there’s reason for optimism. Assuming the Mets can sign Harvey to a three-year deal, that would cover two arbitration years and his first season of free-agent eligibility.

There’s risk, of course, but if he stays healthy and produces it is a win-win for the Mets. Considering there’s the rest of the rotation to consider and several high-salaried Mets could be off the books over the next few years, this could be the time to act.

Feb 11

Mets Should Sign DeGrom First

OK, you’ve just been named general manager of the Mets and have the task of signing one of the Mets’ young pitchers to a long term contract. Who’s your choice to sign first? Rank for me your five in the order of which you’d sign him and give me a reason for your reason.

My five are:

Jacob deGrom: He told The New York Post he would be receptive to a long-term contract, which puts him ahead of class. He’s had his health issues, but he’s also had two good years, which puts him at the top for me.

Noah Syndergaard: He’s six years from free agency, but he’s also the hardest throwing of the group and showed in the World Series that he’s not afraid.

Steven Matz: Like Syndergaard, his free agent window is down the road. I like he’s left-handed.

Matt Harvey: Why so low? For the simple reason he will probably cost the most, and by his own admission wants to test the market after the 2018 season. I can’t shake the feeling he wants to leave as he’s never said he wants to remain a Met. He should have no innings limitations this year, and could be primed for a breakout year. If he does what is already a high price will get more expensive.

Zack Wheeler: His rehab from Tommy John has been positive by all accounts and he should be ready to come off the DL in late June or early July. Before his injury there were scouts who had him ranked ahead of Harvey. The main reason why I have him behind Harvey is because he needs to put another full year in to prove he’s healthy. As with Syndergaard and Matz, his free-agent year is enough down the road – plus he has a limited resume – which doesn’t make them immediate priorities.