Feb 13

Outfield? What Outfield?

Here are some quotes from Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Mike Baxter who now know they have their work cut out for them this season.

But before that, here’s what the architect of the New York Mets outfield, Sandy Alderson, had to say. ”I’m excited to see what we have. I’m excited to see what those outfielders can provide us.”

lucas duda

Left Field – Lucas Duda

2012: .239/.329/.389, -1.4 WAR

“You want me to go yell at Sandy? That’s how it is. He’s right. There is no outfield.”

“It’s time to help the team anyway I can. That’s what I’m here for. I’ve been in the big leagues for a little bit now so I know what to expect and I think experience is a big factor. I think I’ll build on that. People can say what they want about our outfield. We’re just going to continue to work hard.

kirk nieuwenhuis

Center Field – Kirk Nieuwenhuis

2012: .252/.315/.376, 0.0 WAR

“I’ve spent this offseason dwelling mentally on what I can do better as a player and how, as an outfielder, we can become better. The way last season ended was frustrating.”

“We know what we’re capable of doing and we’re excited for the season. All that stuff that people talk about, all that stuff is just completely out of our control. For us to dwell on that and think about that would be completely detrimental to our play on the field.”

mike-baxter-mets

Right Field – Mike Baxter

2012: .263/.365/.413, 0.3 WAR

“I’d like to do a lot more with my career than just make a catch. We’ve just got a good, scrappy, hungry group of guys. Baseball’s a game you really can’t count anybody out. Knowing the group we have here, it’s just a really resilient and hungry group that is going to go out and not be too fazed by what’s going on publicly.”

“We might not have the biggest names in the outfield, but we have hungry guys out there who are excited and prepared for this opportunity.”

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Duda, Nieuwenhuis and Baxter will get the lion’s share of playing time for the Mets in 2013. Righthanded bench options include Collin Cowgill (.269/.336/.317, 0.3 WAR) and Andrew Brown (.232/.302/.429, -.01 WAR) who both will play mostly when a southpaw is on the mound and to spell Nieuwenhuis and Baxter.

If one of them should someone pull up lame or prove ineffective, the Mets could turn to Jordany Valdespin or possibly promote Matt Den Dekker. But let’s be honest here, this situation is obviously less than ideal. Not one of these players has ever had a full major league season in their career. If this was the plan all along, it wasn’t a very good one.

I’m not buying the excuse that the appeal to protect the pick would have taken as long as three weeks. If they were genuinely interested in signing a Type-A free agent, why didn’t they file the appeal three months ago, or two months ago, or one month ago? Why didn’t they raise a fuss the second they knew their pick would be unprotected?

Let’s call this what it is, a big-time fail.

It’s too bad, because I actually have great expectations for the starting pitching, the bullpen and the catching this year as readers of this site know. It sucks that we couldn’t bring in one capable everyday outfielder to compliment that. It would have been nice.

It also sucks for the rest of the team. This will put more pressure on everyone to ramp up their performances to compensate for the deficiency in the outfield and that’s totally unfair to all of them.

I know these guys will bust their behinds out there this season and give the team their best efforts. They are a terrific bunch of likable guys with great character and a burning desire to succeed. But the thing of it is, they had those same qualities last year too.

I’ll get over this by the end of the day, and you should too. We still have a lot of bright spots on the team and despite the losses of R.A. Dickey and Scott Hairston, there’s still a lot to be excited about, and it should be a fun season to watch.

Nov 07

So Much More To Do Now Than Two Years Ago

What frightens me most about this coming offseason as compared to the last 3-4 is the enormity of moves that will be required to fill the vastness of areas that need correcting if we are to make a dent in the standings in 2013 to 2015.

Whereas in off-seasons past where each year had 2-3 items on our list of immediate priorities, we now find perplexing questions, major problems, and deep concerns at almost every position on the team. In a baseball sense, the Mets organization now resembles a scene from a post apocalyptic movie.

So let me start dealing out the cards, at least the way I see it, and don’t worry, I won’t be dealing from under the deck.

Catcher: Would Josh Thole be a starting catcher for any other team in the major leagues save the Mets? Thole will be arbitration-eligible for the first time in his career and while your first impulse is to non-tender him, the Mets catching situation is so bad that they will be forced to tender him and keep him. He has zero value to any other team but the Mets and that’s because the rest of the catching corps is even worse. Catching is certainly an area that needs immediate attention, even at backup, but will it get any help?

First base: Will the real Ike Davis stand up. Truth be told I believe we saw the real Ike Davis in the second half and for now he is the Mets’ best power hitter, bar none. But will he remain a Met? Or will he be the one that goes as part of the new and bold changes Alderson warned would be coming? Davis will get an easy $3 million in arbitration this Winter, which will be nice for him and not so nice for the budget conscious Alderson. Follow the money.

Second base: Daniel Murphy may be a liability defensively, but he’s gotten better. He’s become a doubles machine at the plate, and who doesn’t love his intensity?  Ironically, Murphy has more job security with the Mets than either David Wright and Ike Davis right now. Cheap is good in Flushing. I find it all amusing. Justin Turner and Jordany Valdespin might get some airtime if they’re still here when the clock strikes twelve.

Third base: Until David Wright’s contract situation is resolved, we don’t even know if he’ll be here in 2013. Sad, isn’t it? He holds about a dozen different franchise records and at 29 he may already have one foot out the door. If that happens, I’m not even sure the Mets will reinvest his $16 million – they haven’t reinvested a dime from Castillo, Perez, K-Rod, Beltran and Reyes, why would that change now? Top prospect Wilmer Flores is close, but still not ready.

Shortstop: Who would’ve thought that losing Jose Reyes would make the shortstop position the least of our concerns? Ruben Tejada will never be the catalyst that No. 7 was, but he sure can pick’em at short. He is definitely not a leadoff hitter, or a number two hitter for that matter, but he provides steady offense and the occasional timely hit. His backup is a toss-up and with Ronny Cedeno gone they’ll have to do some dumpster-diving to find a replacement.

Outfield: Wow, what a mess. The outfield and the bullpen is what defined Sandy Alderson in 2012. They were both his creations, and that’s indisputable. The plan according to Sandy is a Bay/Duda platoon in LF, Kirk Nieuwenhuis takes over in CF, and I have no idea who’s in RF. If Jordany Valdespin is still here, I’m sure we’ll see him, and the same goes for Mike Baxter. Scott Hairston is long gone. If Hell freezes over and they do add a significant player via trade or free agency, you can bet he’ll be an outfielder. That’s the plan. Hey, I didn’t say it was a good plan, but give the man credit, he has a plan.

Rotation: Pitching was a strength for the Mets last season. Minaya holdovers Santana, Dickey, Niese, Harvey and Gee all combined to give the Mets a solid rotation that included a Cy Young caliber season, a couple of breakthrough players, and even the franchise’s first no-hitter. Now as we enter the offseason, rumors abound that Dickey could be traded and even Niese. Santana and Gee will both be coming back from season ending injuries, and Harvey will be shouldering a bigger load. This might be the one area that Alderson should leave untouched, but nobody believes that will happen. It will be revamped and the Mets could lose an ace and their only southpaw. If that happens the Mets could be in store for a historic 100 loss season.

Bullpen: Whose up for another bullpen revamping? Do I have any takers? Like it or not, here it comes and I can’t wait to see what underachievers will be joining the pen for Season 3 of Bullpen Wars. For now, the only holdovers are the atrocious Frank Francisco who will get $6.5 million for his services, and fireballer Bobby Parnell who will get a huge raise in arbitration. They’ll be the highest paid and neither is a safe bet to close out games. Josh Edgin should easily beat out Robert Carson for the LOOGY role. Then it’s take your pick between Mejia, Familia, Hefner, Schwinden, and McHugh. That’s quite the assortment of question marks and not a sure thing among them. Buy hey, at least Carrasco is gone.

Can you believe that we have only one safe zone – shortstop? Everything else is up in the air right now…

Progress?

Dec 08

Would Mets really gain by dealing Beltran to Sox?

There are a myriad of issues surrounding Carlos Beltran that make him logically impossible to deal, but there reports out of Boston the Mets and Red Sox are talking.

BELTRAN: Would deal to Sox help Mets?

Undoubtedly, it is Boston’s cobra-mongoose struggle with the Yankees that has the Red Sox thinking about adding Beltran.

The Red Sox have a hole in the outfield and the designated hitter to slot in on an occasional basis (don’t forget David Ortiz will get most of those at-bats after the trade for Adrian Gonzalez).

Clearly, the Red Sox would be gambling to catch lightning in a bottle with Beltran in his walk year as worth taking the risk on the outfielder’s balky knees and $18.5 million salary.

Reportedly, the Red Sox are willing to part with Daisuke Matsuzaka, who will make $10 million in each of the next years. So essentially, the Mets would be trading a bad one-year contract for a bad two-year contract.

And, if the Mets have to eat about $8.5 million of Beltran’s contract to make the trade work, then what’s the benefit? They wouldn’t open up any payroll room because they’d still be on the hook for Beltran’s balance and Matsuzaka’s salary plus the latter’s salary for 2012.

The Mets would be trading the hope of Beltran bouncing back to hoping Matsuzaka will rebound. Yes, the Mets need pitching, but would Matsuzaka really help them?

That Boston is so eager to get rid of Matsuzaka should tell you something about what the Red Sox think of his ability to turn it around.

The one thing certain about the Mets and Beltran is this will be their last season together. Clearly, the Mets want to clear the books and think ahead to 2012. Beltran is not enamored with the organization for how it handled his knee problems and is seeking one more payday.

The Mets would like to trade Beltran, but their best hope for a good return will be if he gets off to a good start and stays healthy and they are able to swing something at the deadline.

Hope. That’s the best word to describe the Mets’ immediate prospects for 2011.

Dec 03

Letting Carter go explains a lot.

The decision to let Chris Carter go explains a lot about both the past and present regimes of the Mets.

Just to save a few dollars, the Mets traded Billy Wagner to Boston for Carter late in the 2009 season. The option would have been to pay out the balance of the contract, offer him arbitration and collect the compensatory draft choices when he declined.

Those draft picks would look good now for a team with a myriad of holes.

Then GM Omar Minaya didn’t want to take that gamble because of the fear Wagner might accept and saddle the Mets with a bad contract, albeit for one season. That fear was instilled in large part from pressure from the Wilpons to save money.

What Minaya didn’t realize, and therefore couldn’t relay to the Wilpons, was Wagner understood the Mets were a sinking ship and wouldn’t have wanted to come back anyway. In hindsight, the prudent decision would have been to pay out Wagner for 2009 and gamble on arbitration.

Tbat brings us to Sandy Alderson and the decision to cut ties with Carter.

There’s still pressure to save money where ever possible as the 2011 contract for Carter would be at least $200,000 (60 percent of last year’s contract) plus the minor league contract. Alderson can bring Carter back at a reduced rate in a new split contract.

The pressure is on Carter to accept because with Fernando Martinez (assuming he’s healthy) and Lucas Duda, the Mets already have left-handed bats off the bench.

Carter was productive as a pinch-hitter, but he’s strictly a one-dimensional player in that his defense and throwing are weak.

Alderson knows Carter doesn’t bring much to the table, at least not more than Martinez or Duda, so why pay the extra money that’s needed for a franchise that wants to pinch pennies?

Sep 01

Feeling good for Frenchy

I can’t help but feel good for Jeff Francoeur to escape this asylum for a winning place. I liked Francoeur’s attitude, his hustle and the life he brought to the clubhouse. I do believe Jerry Manuel underestimated Francoeur’s importance and should have done better by him when Carlos Beltran returned. He basically turned his back on him, which didn’t go over well in that fragile clubhouse.

It was obvious Francoeur wasn’t in the Mets’ plans for 2011 and beyond, even though their outfield situation with Beltran isn’t as settled as it could be. So, to cut him loose now and send him to a team with a chance to win is doing him a solid.

It would be good if he flourished in a winning situation rather than go down with a sinking ship. I’ll bet there are more than a few Mets who’d like to be going with him.