Oct 31

Four Items On Van Wagenen’s Plate

New general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said there are 11 parts to his plans to remaking the Mets. He wouldn’t elaborate what they were, but it is believed he touched on one when he said he wanted Mickey Callaway to return as manager.

I’m speculating the following four are on his list:

Increase the Payroll: They should come in no higher than $160 million. Given the money they’ll save with David Wright’s retirement ($15 million for this summer) and what insurance will pick up with Yoenis Cespedes not likely to return before July, offset by raises earmarked for Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Michael Conforto, and Brandon Nimmo and what the Mets might do in upgrading their bullpen, don’t expect them to splurge on free agents Manny Machado or Bryce Harper.

The Mets are expected to bring back second baseman Jeff McNeil to a raise and need to bring in a center fielder, a catcher and perhaps a first baseman, not to mention a significant reliever. Whether that reliever is top shelf or middle tier, it will cost.

Keep the Rotation Intact: The Mets entertained trading all of their starters last season, and are expected to keep them all this winter. DeGrom and Syndergaard will get hefty raises. Since they aren’t anticipated to do a bullpen game for the fifth slot, they’ll need a fifth starter. Is it Seth Lugo, Jason Vargas or Robert Gsellman, or somebody from the minors?

Van Wagenen will confer with Callaway, John Ricco, Omar Minaya and J.P. Ricciardi this week to get a handle on the rotation. The rotation is potentially the team’s strength and the first four must be kept, but it will increase payroll.

Improving the Lineup: Don’t expect the Mets to dive deep into the free-agent or trade markets despite the optimism Van Wagenen and COO Jeff Wilpon portrayed. The Mets must upgrade at catcher and I don’t see them tendering a contract to Travis d’Arnaud. First base is a concern and decisions must be made on Peter Alonso or Dominic Smith, or will Van Wagenen fool around with Jay Bruce, Wilmer Flores or Todd Frazier? If the Mets are serious about winning now they must improve catcher and first base. They could have traded for Paul Goldschmidt from Arizona, but that boat sailed when they picked up his option yesterday. The radio call-in shows in New York were filled with callers chiming for Machado, but that would be a horrible mistake.

I was against signing Cespedes because the money would have been better spent on filling the numerous holes the Mets have and still do. Considering Machado is reportedly due twice as much as Cespedes, think of all the improvements the Mets could make.

Upgrade the Bullpen: Craig Kimbrel, Zach Britton, Brad Brach and Joe Kelly are the most enticing names in the market. Of course, all will want long-term, expensive contracts. Former GM Sandy Alderson failed to build a bullpen and consistently used the scrap-heap approach. Van Wagenen has to sign a name reliever, and that discounts the possibility of a reunion with Jeurys Familia. Rookies Tyler Bashlor and Drew Smith, and Lugo or Gsellman all pitched well last season at times.

They need to sign one of the four because they desperately need a closer. Bringing back Familia would be a step back. The Mets have plenty of inexperienced hard-throwing relievers, who didn’t distinguish themselves last summer. They have a half-dozen hard-throwers but need at least two or three to show something during spring training.

These four items say the Mets aren’t ready to win now. And, there are at least seven more issues to go.

 

Oct 16

Mets’ GM Search Hitting On No Cyclinders

Fred and Jeff Wilpon have promised autonomy in the past to GM candidates in the past, but it never materialized. They are saying they are offering it this time, but aren’t close to making a decision on a new hire and their dismal season ended just under three weeks ago.

Several reported candidates have even refused interviews because they don’t believe the hype coming out of Queens.

The whole process is dysfunctional. How so? The trio who shared the GM position last year after Sandy Alderson left – John Ricco, Omar Minaya and J.P. Ricciardi – aren’t candidates, but are in the interview process.

I still haven’t figured out how that works.

Jeff Wilpon gummed up the process even further by saying he wants to retain manager Mickey Callaway. Would any candidate who really wants the job be willing to go against his new boss?

Not likely.

Ricciardi and Minaya are suggesting candidates to the Wilpons, but would they really endorse somebody who will want to get rid of them?

Not likely, on that one, too.

The gap between two candidates, 35-year-old Tampa Bay senior VP of baseball operations Chaim Bloom and Milwaukee’s 66-year-old advisor Doug Melvin, is wider than the 31 years that separate them.

What candidates are going to be attracted by the Mets saying they don’t want to spend in the free-agent market, have no pieces to trade, and are seemingly ambivalent in analytics?

Not many, to be sure.

It was a long summer and figures to be a long winter.

Aug 25

How The Mets Should Play Out Their Schedule

The Mets just released their batting order for today’s game and it has Wilmer Flores playing first base and Jay Bruce in right field.

Why?

Although they have not been mathematically eliminated, we all know their season has been over for months. Right now, the Mets are operating in limbo with their three-headed general manager, which puts Mickey Callaway’s job for 2019 on shaky ground.

BRUCE: Needs to play first. (AP)

BRUCE: Needs to play first. (AP)

There has been no mention in the media as of yet whether the Mets have begun their general manager’s search other than compiling names. If any of the candidates are their assistant general managers, the Mets don’t have to wait until the season is over. If Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon’s choice is John Ricco, J.P. Ricciardi or Omar Minaya, he can make the announcement now.

I’m concerned the Mets are dragging their feet to where they will miss out on their first choice. That being said, the Mets can still plan for 2019, and that begins with telling Callaway whom he should be playing and why.

If the Mets are sold on Flores as their first baseman of the future, then so be it, but we know that’s not true. We also know they have soured on Dominic Smith, who we also know can’t play the outfield.

Here’s what the Mets should do:

1)  From now until the end of the season, first base has to be Bruce’s position. As it is configured now, the outfield doesn’t have a place for Bruce with Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo playing the corners and Austin Jackson and Juan Lagares in center.

The Mets have talked about playing Bruce at first base, so if they don’t trade him – again – before the August 31 deadline, they should make the move permanent, because next season I want Conforto and Nimmo playing the corners. Including today’s game against the Nationals, the Mets have 34 games remaining, which is roughly a full spring training’s worth, to find out what can Bruce do at first base.

Should the Mets deal Bruce, then Smith should get the majority of the reps at first base. There is no reason why Flores should play first over Bruce and Smith.

Assuming Flores comes back next season it should be coming off the bench and play a rotation of a game at third, one at second and one at first. That accomplishes two things: 1) it gives Flores enough playing time to keep him sharp in the field and at the plate, and 2) it enables next year’s manager to rest Todd Frazier, Amed Rosario and Bruce once a week.

2) Jeff McNeil should get the reps at second base. This would also be an appropriate time to see if he can fill in at third and shortstop in a pinch.

The Mets should go into the offseason with second base a minor concern. It should be McNeil’s job to lose going into the offsason.. He had two morre hits today.

3) If the Mets are serious about a six-man rotation, which I doubt they are, then go for it. There are enough games remaining to go through a six-man rotation five times. That would be Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, Steven Matz, Jason Vargas and Seth Lugo.

Giving deGrom a chance to win a Cy Young Award is fine, but let’s face it, the most games he could possibly win are 13, which shouldn’t be enough to catch Max Scherzer, who is 16-6, and Aaron Nola, who is at 15-3.

It has been a lost season for Vargas, but he’s come off the disabled list and has pitched three strong games in a row.

I would like to see Lugo get some starts as to enhance his trade value. If anything, I would consider shutting down Matz for the final month. He’s been horrid lately and has a sore arm. Running Matz out there five more times can only hurt him. If he shows no progress in his next start tomorrow, then out he goes.

4) Figure Robert Gsellman as next year’s closer. With Jeurys Familia gone and AJ Ramos on the disabled list, this could give them a heads-up on their winter shopping.

If the Mets do these things, it won’t solve all their problems, but could settle one or two issues, or at least give their incoming general manager something to work with.

 

 

Jul 31

Matz, Mets Routed; Can’t Avoid Worst Loss In Club History

As expected, the Mets didn’t trade any of their starting pitchers. Today’s trade deadline passed with only Asdrubal Cabrera and Jeurys Familia becoming ex-Mets.

They never were going to trade Jacob deGrom or Noah Syndergaard, but as today’s 4 p.m., deadline neared, it became apparent that even Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz wouldn’t be moved.

“We know the talent that we have, specifically on the pitching side,” assistant general manager John Ricco said. “We were not going to move those players unless it involved considerable talent coming back in our direction. While we had many offers and a lot of dialogue, we ended up not making a deal at this point through the Deadline.”

That means Wilmer Flores, Jose Bautista and Devin Mesoraco can all be traded if they pass through waivers prior to the August 31 deadline.

Ricco said the market was poor and that the Mets intend to compete next year. Then Matz went out and gave up seven runs in the first inning and the Mets had given up 13 runs through the third inning. They were down 19-0 in the fourth.

Jeff McNeil‘s first major league homer avoided the Mets from being handed the worst shutout in team history. After Jose Reyes gave up six runs in the bottom of the eighth, the Mets scored three times to lose 25-4 for the worst loss in franchise history.

This gives the Mets two months to figure out if they figure out what kind of team they can develop into a contender or should go into a complete rebuild.

“All that happened today is we did not make a trade by the Trade Deadline,” Ricco said. “I don’t think that necessarily means we’ve committed to one direction or another. What it does is it gives us another two months to evaluate not only the players themselves, but our club in general. It allows us to make a more informed decision this offseason with regards to the direction moving forward.”

If the Mets think competing was possible in 2019, they’ll have to do with pitching as they have little – other than pitchers – to offer in a trade and we know there’s precious little in the farm system.

As far as the Mets not dealing because of their trio of general managers in Ricco, J.P. Ricciardi and Omar Minaya, I’m not buying it. It’s not that I don’t think they are capable of making a trade, it’s just that there’s no reason to trade Wheeler or Matz now.

 

 

Jun 28

Mets Place Fire Sale Sign Out In Flushing

The Mets are on record saying they will be sellers at the deadline for the second straight summer. For a team 14 games below .500, two games from the NL East basement and this comes as no surprise.

And, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if the same thing happens next season.

“Obviously, the trade deadline is coming up [July 31]. And, that’s a big pressure point in which to better your club,’’ said John Ricco, who, along with Omar Minaya and J.P. Ricciardi, are teaming to take over for Sandy Alderson. “Certainly, we’re going to take advantage of that and look to be active.’’

Ricco said he’ll listen to calls about everybody, including Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard. Personally, I’m open for the Mets trading anybody right now except deGrom, Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto. Anybody else, they can do want they want.

I would keep those three because the Mets do have to field a team next year.

First on the block should be Jeurys Familia, who as a closer should bring something in return. Plenty of teams can use a closer. Next would be Asdrubal Cabrera. The Boston Red Sox, with Dustin Pedroia ailing and in a tight race with the Yankees, need a second baseman. Brandon Phillips might not be enough.

Third would be veterans such as Jose Bautista, who is playing well; Jose Reyes, Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier. They probably wouldn’t get much for any of the four, but lower-ranked prospects aren’t out of the question, especially if put in a package.

I wouldn’t be against dealing Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz. Those three would likely bring back the most in terms of prospects or young major-league ready talent.

The Mets don’t have much talent in the minor leagues but do have major league prospects Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith, both I wouldn’t mind see dealt.