Jan 31

Mets Matters: Five Intriguing Prospects; Ojeda Out; Minaya’s New Job

ESPN ranked the Mets’ farm system as the fourth best in baseball, and with it raised the possibility of which prospects we might see this summer at Citi Field.

This much seems clear, with the Mets vigilantly guarding their minor leaguers’ Super Two status, and barring an injury, the probability is we won’t be seeing these guys prior to June.

Here are five of the more intriguing prospects:

NOAH SYNDERGAARD: He’s the franchises’ top prospect, and with Matt Harvey on an innings watch, we will undoubtedly see him this year, perhaps prior to the All-Star break. Syndergaard averaged just under ten strikeouts per nine innings, but was an unimpressive 9-7.

KEVIN PLAWECKI: The catcher will open the season at Triple-A Las Vegas, but how long he stays there will be dependent on Travis d’Arnaud’s offensive production and if Plawecki can increase his power.

STEVEN MATZ: He split time last season between Single and Double-A, and will likely open the year at Triple-A, meaning Citi Field is possible in September. Being left-handed enhances his chances, especially if the Mets can move Jon Niese.

DILSON HERRERA: He made a positive impression last season and we will see him this year. How soon could depend on how well the Mets do, with a poor first half increasing the possibility of them moving second baseman Daniel Murphy.

BRANDON NIMMO: Because the Mets added Michael Cuddyer this offseason, there’s no rush to elevate Nimmo, their No. 1 pick in 2011. The Mets hoped to have him up by now, and his stock could plummet if he doesn’t show something this season. He hit a combined ten homers last year between St. Lucie and Binghamton, and similar production won’t cut it.

OJEDA OUT AT SNY: Say what you will about the Mets not having enough talent on the field, but they’ve always had top-drawer play-by-play announcers and analysts, both on radio and television. This year they will be short by one with the announcement studio analyst Bobby Ojeda will not return to SNY.

Reportedly, the network is in negotiations with former major league pitcher Nelson Figueroa.

MINAYA TO WORK FOR MLBPA: Former Mets general manager Omar Minaya left his position as a vice president of the San Diego Padres to become a special adviser with the Major League Baseball Players Association.

Minaya’s focus will be on international affairs and game development in the United States.

 

Dec 21

Looking At Some Of Sandy Alderson’s Good Mets’ Moves

When Sandy Alderson was named Mets’ GM, it was to be a financial caretaker of the floundering franchise.

I was critical of the R.A. Dickey trade because I believe their words of wanting to sign him were hollow and the possibility of receiving damaged goods. I still think that, but in fairness, recognize Alderson was not dealing from a position of strength or leverage.

There was a lot of criticism of Alderson the past two weeks, but again, in fairness, one has to look at some of the moves that have panned out for the better:

CARLOS BELTRAN: Sure, Beltran’s power numbers would have looked good in the Mets’ outfield, but in the end they would have spent an additional $18.5 million to still finish fourth. Nobody knows if Zack Wheeler will make it, but there is a chance of the Mets obtaining a quality starter, while there was no chance of retaining Beltran. After the surgery flap, Beltran was out the door. They would not have received draft picks so getting Wheeler was the best they could do.

OLIVER PEREZ and LUIS CASTILLO: Both were disgruntled clubhouse cancers not producing and only taking roster spots. Perez was especially pricey for his nothing performance. When Perez refused to go to the minor leagues to work on his mechanics, the Mets should have cut him and eaten his contract on the spot. It was Alderson who convinced the Wilpons to cut ties with them, something Omar Minaya never attempted. The culture couldn’t have changed had they stayed.

JOSE REYES: Because of his injury history and salary demands, I was not in favor of keeping Reyes. If you think the Mets are on the financial skids now, imagine how bad they’d be if they had Reyes’ $100-million contract as an anchor.

JASON BAY: Let’s face it, the Mets were never going to get anything from Bay. Arguably one of the worst FA signings ever could not be salvaged. Sure, the Mets still have to pay his contract, but they won’t have the distraction of answering questions this spring about Bay taking a roster spot. As with Perez, the Mets could only move forward by getting rid of Bay.

DAVID WRIGHT: The face of the franchise needed to be a part of any rebuilding effort. Perhaps the Mets will regret the end of his contract, but for the immediate health of their franchise they needed Wright as he represents a commitment to the future.

JON NIESE: Niese also represents the future and signing him to a long-term contract will keep the Mets out of arbitration with him. Young hard-throwing lefties with potential are at a premium, especially those who are cost effect. Alderson also has eschewed any thought of trading him.

No GM ever bats 1.000 and I wasn’t expecting it of Alderson, despite his high-profile track record. On the flip side, no GM goes hitless, either, and in fairness Alderson has done some good by the Mets.

May 14

Mets Must Explore Bullpen Options Outside Frank Francisco

As I said yesterday, a team is only as strong as its bullpen. The Mets have exceeded most expectations save one: The bullpen remains a concern. It is the Mets’ weakest link.
Frank Francisco blew his second save in three games, meaning in a perfect world they would have swept the Marlins this weekend and gone 6-0 on their road trip.. However, baseball, as we know, is an imperfect sport and the Mets certainly are an imperfect team.
In the long term Francisco will remain the closer simply because of that ridiculous two-year, $12-million contract. If a player’s own team has no interest in him, then why do the Mets give multi-year deals? Wasn’t anything learned from the Omar Minaya era?
Manager Terry Collins needs to address this sooner than later, because nothing can kill the good vibrations the Mets have emitted this spring than a leaky bullpen. Jon Rauch? Tim Brydak? Back to Bobby Parnell? Perhaps a committee?
Collins knows his personnel better than anybody, but clearly everybody can tell right now Francisco is not the answer.
“He’s the boss,” Francisco told reporters. “He can do whatever he wants. I’m here to help the team; I guess I’m not doing that. Whatever decision he makes, it’s fine with me. But I’m here to fight. Whenever I can, I’m going to try to do my best out there every time I go out.”
So far, Francisco’s best is an 8.56 ERA, with 20 hits and seven walks in 13 2/3 innings. Those numbers are positively Oliver Perez-like.
ON DECK: Mets week ahead.
Feb 04

Mets did not win Santana trade.

I read a blog posting this morning that claimed the Mets won the Johan Santana trade, based on the talent given up, but lost the contract extension. This couldn’t be any less accurate or more naive.

SANTANA: On the hook for three more years.

While it is true the players surrendered didn’t amount to much on the major league level and Santana did have several productive years, one cannot separate the trade from the contract because they are linked. The trade was made because Santana waived his no-trade clause and agreed to a six-year extension.

Translated: There would have been no trade without the contract.

I wrote at the time the Mets overpaid for Santana both in terms of players – not that it matters now – and in money. That has proven to be correct.

The market for Santana was Boston and the Yankees, and the Mets only became involved only after both those backed off because of the Twins’ demands. When the deal was made Omar Minaya admitted Santana came back to them.

In essence, the Mets were bidding against themselves, something Minaya also did in the contracts for Francisco Rodriguez, Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo and several others.

The contract of $137.5 million over six years was excessive for Santana because of the accumulated innings on his arm and he had a previous arm injury. Six years is a gamble for any pitcher at any time because of the fragility of the arm, shoulder and elbow. Too many things can go wrong and the team ends up paying from damaged goods.

I believe, as I did then, the Mets misjudged the market and overpaid for Santana. While he did win for the Mets, he was injured at the end of every season and required surgery. The Mets already paid for one season and received nothing, and it is possible they could be on the hook for three more years.

Any trade is a gamble, but this one the Mets lost. That is, unless Santana makes a full recovery and pitches – and wins – for a pain-free three more years.

Anybody want to take that bet?

Sep 01

Losing Einhorn not the end of the world.

Much like their bullpen, the Mets’ deal with minority investor David Einhorn collapsed, and with it the $200 million infusion the financially strapped franchise was banking on to help them maintain as the Wilpons fight for their team in the fallout of the Ponzi scandal.

Naturally, there’s a difference of opinion of why the deal unraveled, with Einhorn claiming the Wilpons kept changing terms of the original agreement.

Reportedly, Einhorn was concerned about the language in the contract that would have allowed him to eventually assume ownership of the Mets in three to five years if the Wilpons didn’t repay the $200 million. Einhorn wanted a clear path to ownership and bypass the approval of baseball’s other owners.

Einhorn taking shots at the Wilpons won’t help him should he pursue ownership of another baseball franchise. This is a tight fraternity, and as unhappy as many fans are with the Wilpons, they have allies in Commissioner Bud Selig and other owners.

Fans might clamor for new ownership, but it isn’t happening any time soon.

The Mets, meanwhile, insist they aren’t in dire financial distress despite the lingering Ponzi scandal. In a statement released by the team, the Mets said they have the resources to cover the remainder of the 2011 season and to continue business.

It must be remembered it was the Wilpons who walked away from this deal, a signal they don’t believe they are desperate.

However, the Mets did not say whether business would include re-signing Jose Reyes or how active they might be in the free-agent market.

Reportedly, the Mets are still seeking investors, but will explore the piecemeal route rather than try to hook somebody for another $200 million. This might prove to be a quicker way to raise funds.

This is not good news for the Mets, but not the devastating news made out to be on talk radio. For years, the Mets’ problem has not been an inability or refusal to spend, but to spend wisely. All we have to look at is the Omar Minaya era, and it wasn’t much better before him.

It ultimately lies with the Wilpons, and they seemingly put a management plan in place with the hiring of general manager Sandy Alderson. It takes time for these things to develop, but there have been encouraging signs this season, including how the team is playing and chasing .500.

After the last two years, who would have projected that progress?

We were told this would be a rebuilding, learning year, and that is what has happened. There’s been some miserable baseball, but there’s been some sound play, including the Mets’ current streak.

I know Mets’ fans don’t want to hear about patience, but that’s the way it must be. For too long the Mets have gone for the quick fix that invariably put them in this current hole.

But, I don’t believe this hole is an abyss.