May 22

Mets’ First Base Options Without Duda

UPDATED TO INCLUDE CONFORTO CORRECTION

Didn’t the Mets learn anything dealing with David Wright‘s back issue? Apparently not, as there still hasn’t been a decision how to deal with Lucas Duda‘s back problems that might be a disk. Despite sweeping the Brewers, the Mets’ offense continues to sputter and I’m guessing they’ll make a DL move before the Washington series.

It is a huge mistake if they don’t.

DUDA: What will they do if they don't have him? (AP)

DUDA: What will they do if they don’t have him? (AP)

Duda did not play the last two games and has been abysmal in May, going 7-for-41 with only one RBI and 11 strikeouts in his last 13 games. With three games against the Nationals, they’ll need every bit of offense they can get.

“It’s pretty concerning,” manager Terry Collins told reporters Sunday. “He tried to go out the last two games and play and it was still bothering him.”

Back problems which Wright can attest to linger and Duda won’t get much better, if at all, before Monday’s game. That’s why I’m thinking they’ll DL him. Assuming that’s the case and this drags on, what are the Mets’ possible first-base options?

STATUS QUO: In the short term they can continue to use Eric Campbell until Wilmer Flores comes off the DL at the end of the week. Campbell has played well in spots replacing Duda and before that, Wright. However, as was the case last year when Wright went down, Campbell’s flaws get exposed over time. The same could apply to Flores, whose playing time is greatly reduced this year and how he’ll take to first base is unknown.

Considering their history this is the path of least resistance and the course I imagine the Mets first taking.

Another bench option could be Alejandro De Aza, but there’s the issue of his experience at the position.

CONFORTO: It is totally outside the box thinking to tinker with Michael Conforto. It’s a risk to take a player unproven at a position and move him during the season. First base is not as easy as people think as Conforto will have to learn to hold runners, field bunts and become proficient with cutoffs and relays. Plus grounders will come at him a lot faster than they do in the outfield.

Mickey Mantle and Carl Yastrzemski moved at the end of their careers, but with the advantage of knowing they’d switch and had a spring training to learn the position. A plus is it could improve the outfield defense by moving Yoenis Cespedes to left – where he won a Gold Glove – and playing Juan Lagares in center, where he also won a Gold Glove.

WRIGHT: Just because he plays one corner infield position doesn’t mean he can play the other. It should be easier for Wright because it is an infield position and he’s used to fielding hard grounders. Even so, he’d still have to learn the same nuances as Conforto.

However, if this turns into a long-term thing with Duda it would be worth exploring because Wright’s back has hindered his defense, in particular when it comes to throwing. There might come a time, and it could occur sooner than later, this move might merit serious consideration.

If Duda’s injury sidelines him the way Wright’s benched him for four months, it would be prudent for the Mets to test Wright at first as to get a handle on their options. And, as is usually the case, economics will factor into the equation.

Duda will make $6.7 million this year and is arbitration eligible after next season and be a free-agent after 2018. The Mets don’t have the financial commitment to Duda that they do with Wright to whom they owe $67 million – not including this year – through 2020.

Wright’s health will always be a question and since his retirement isn’t an imminent issue the more they know about his ability to play – or not play – first base is important.

SMITH: The Mets are counting on Dominic Smith as their long-term answer with the assumption Wright doesn’t emerge as an option. Smith, the Mets’ 2013 first-round pick, is currently at Double-A, where he’s hitting less than .280.

Yes, I know they pushed the envelope with Conforto, who brought up from Double-A, but two months later in the season. Could Smith make the jump? It’s possible, but it’s no slam dunk.

I wouldn’t be adverse to bringing up Smith for a look-see. I’m not worried about his confidence being impacted if he struggles, because if he’s as good as the Mets hope he’ll become, then he should be strong enough mentally to overcome a rough stretch.

THE TRADE MARKET: There are numerous options in the free-agent market this winter who might be available in a trade at the deadline should their teams want to make a deal for a prospect.

An intriguing possibility is to coax Adam LaRoche out of retirement – it would be a package deal with his son – but could necessitate sending something to the White Sox. That’s way outside the box, but it wouldn’t hurt to explore.

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Jan 21

Wright Remains Mets’ Most Overriding Issue

Yesterday I examined the top ten issues facing the Mets with spring training five weeks away. It isn’t hard for me to pick out the player shouldering the most pressure.

The bullpen is the positional area of most concern, but individually the player remains David Wright. Somehow, last year the Mets withstood playing without him for over four months, but several things combined to make that possible, notably the ineffective Washington Nationals and acquisition of Yoenis Cespedes.

WRIGHT: We want to see that smile again. (AP)

WRIGHT: We want to see that smile again. (AP)

Will the Mets be as fortunate if Wright goes down this year?

Baseball-reference.com projects Wright to hit .275 in 2016 with nine homers and 37 RBI, which would be terrible news for the Mets. The scary part is based on Wright’s recent injury history I can envision that before I can him returning to 30-homer form.

Wright hasn’t hit 30 homers since 2008 and has only hit at least 20 twice since then. He has a combined 31 in his last three years, and only once since 2013 has he played in as many at 130 games. Including the 2009 season, he’s had as many as 500 at-bats only four times.

You can talk about OPS and WAR all you want, but all statistics are predicated on at-bats and Wright hasn’t had many in recent years. Look, readers of this blog know I am one of Wright’s biggest supporters, but I can’t ignore the facts he hasn’t been healthy lately.

He missed over four months last year with spinal stenosis, and that he even returned late in the season was remarkable. Considering the good feelings about his return, recovery and playing in the playoffs, it would be another devastating blow is he were to go down again.

The Mets did not add a right-handed hitting power bat during the winter, perhaps with the outside hope Wright would come back close to form. As of now, they won’t have Cespedes back and it could be a dangerous gamble if they are thinking they can make another at-the-wire trade.

Let’s face it, as long as Wright is here he’s the face of this franchise, but if he’s hurt again and doesn’t produce, that contract with five years and $87 million remaining will be an albatross.

Imagine how much better things will be if Wright plays in 130 games, hits at least 20 homers and drives in 80 runs. Could make for another fun year, and for me that’s why Wright is the Mets’ most overriding issue.

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Dec 19

Clippard Likely Too Expensive For Mets

Personally, I’d like for the Mets to bring back set-up reliever Tyler Clippard, but not for two years for an estimated $15 million total package. Reports are he wants two years to come back to the Mets, who do have a bullpen need.

Clippard started hot, but cooled at the end and was replaced by Addison Reed for the set-up role to Jeurys Familia. He appeared in 32 games for the Mets and went 3-0 with a 3.06 ERA and 1.052 WHIP. His ERA ballooned to 6.75 in eight playoff games.

The Clippard we saw in August was top drawer and would be worth two years, but things spiraled downwards in September and October and that makes him quite risky. I’d give him one year and an option and if he doesn’t take it then I’d say good-bye.

 

 

Oct 07

Sandy Says He Missed On Turner

justin turner

On December 2nd, 2013 the New York Mets decided to non-tender then-utility infielder Justin Turner. Essentially, the Mets front office decided to release Turner because he was due a raise in arbitration that would have paid him $750 thousand dollars.

However, after a tide of shock and dismay by Mets fans on social media, two days later the team leaked rumors that the real reason they cut Turner was because he was “lazy” and “didn’t hustle.” Fans didn’t buy it.

“That caught me off guard. It was something I wasn’t expecting. I’ll tell you what, that was probably the worst offseason I’ve had – not knowing where or if I was going to be playing the next year. That was hard.”

On Monday, Mets GM Sandy Alderson spoke about that decision with Bill Shakin of the Los Angeles Times,

“He was always sort of a marginal 40-man roster guy,” Alderson said. “We gave him more of an opportunity than he had elsewhere, and he did a nice job for us. But you’d have to say we missed on him.”

 

In 36 at-bats against the Mets, Turner has tagged them for five doubles, two home runs, five runs, five RBIs, a .583 slugging percentage and .938 OPS.

Since leaving the Mets Turner has emerged as one of the Dodgers’ top hitters slashing at .314/.384/.492 with 47 doubles, 23 home runs to go with a 145 OPS+ and 8.4 fWAR over 675 at-bats. With runners in scoring position this season, Turner is batting .322/.404/.556.

“He brings that college mentality of ‘do anything’ to a big league clubhouse,” said Mets third baseman David Wright on Monday. “He’s an excellent defender, can play a number of positions, give you a great at-bat, great situational hitter, good in the clubhouse.”

“I’m happy for him,” Wright said. “I’m not going to be happy if he plays well against us in the playoffs. But he’s one of those guys you genuinely root for.”

Terry Collins also weighed in saying, “He’s gotten his opportunity. A lot of times, guys who get the opportunity to be an everyday guy don’t run with it. He has. I salute him. He’s one of my favorite guys.”

nl east champions footer

Dec 06

Wondering Why Mets Opted For Cuddyer Over Morse

I don’t know if the Mets signed Michael Cuddyer just to appease David Wright. I suppose there’s some truth to that thought, but to what percentage?

Was Cuddyer the only right-handed option for the Mets? Was he their best option?

Yes, Cuddyer won the NL batting title two years ago, but for a team needing power, how much consideration did they give Michael Morse?

Morse, at 32, is three years younger. He averages 23 homers a season with a career .808 OPS and made $6 million last year. Cuddyer averages 21 homers with a career OPS and will be paid $8.5 million by the Mets in 2015.

Both can platoon with Lucas Duda at first base.

There’s not much difference in production, but for the cost conscious Mets you figure age and salary would be important.

There’s a lot that goes into signing a player. I wonder why they went in this direction.