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 15

Will Another $10 Million In Payroll Make Much Difference?

As it usually is this time of year, the issue is money, specifically how much are the Mets willing to spend.

The days of $140 million payrolls for them are long since gone. It was around $83 last season and ESPN’s Adam Rubin said they might go as high as $93 million. I trust Rubin’s reporting. As far as I am concerned, he’s the best reporter on the Mets’ beat.

searchIt’s not how much you spend, but how it is supposed to be spent. Therein lies the problem, in that none of us know what GM Sandy Alderson is capable of doing with a lot of money.

He was hired to cut payroll, not add to it and dip into the free-agent market. Assuming a $10 bump in payroll, most will go to raises and arbitration cases. Another $10 million won’t substantially improve the Mets, who have questions at shortstop, left field and maintenance of their bullpen.

This also doesn’t account for on-the-fly patching, which could not only be at catcher – where Travis d’Arnaud is no sure thing – but any position.

The Mets’ problems have been identified, but another $10 million won’t make much difference. Not if they want to be competitive.

Dec 15

No need to panic

Sandy Alderson said Philadelphia’s stunning signing of Cliff Lee will have no great bearing or impact on his plans for putting together the Mets for 2011. Nor should it.

Alderson says the Mets can be competitive, but there’s room for interpretation on what that means. Will the Mets make a run at the wild card or just play tight, close games they’ll more often than not eventually lose? With the way the roster is compiled and limited spending to them, it is probably the latter.

The Mets talked bravely about the Phillies being better on paper, which is undoubtedly true, but they still have to play the games. That’s the way to slip into cliche mode. Adding Chris Young or Jeff Francis isn’t going to make a world of difference for the Mets. Fact is, with the Yankees losing out on Lee I can see them swooping down on Young to bring into camp. The $4 million he wants is chump change to the Yankees.

Alderson can’t write off 2011 entirely because he still has tickets to sell and he needs to change the culture by improving the remaining product on the field. A panic signing now, with all that payroll coming off the books later, does the team no good.

Just get used to it. This will be a rough year, but it is the needed medicine to cure the ills of the previous regime.

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 07

Immediate forecast for change not looking good.

The Mets are interested in Freddy Garcia, Chris Young and Jeff Francis, but Sandy Alderson said the Mets will only sign one middle-tier starter. That means the fifth starter will either be Dillon Gee, Oliver Perez, Pat Misch or maybe another sterling arm from the system.

Young and Francis, reportedly, are asking for one year, $5-million deals loaded with incentives, which Alderson described as “high.’’ Fact is, as a going rate, that’s a pretty decent price for mediocrity, but it might be too much of a reach since both are coming off shoulder injuries.

The Mets aren’t going to get catcher Russell Martin, which was interesting for a moment. Asking price of $5 million is too high. He’ll end up with Boston or the Yankees. They’ll go really low rent for Josh Thole’s back-up.

At least Alderson hasn’t promised us trades and signings he knows he can’t deliver. Alderson said this is going to take time and all indications are he’s not going to blink and make a panic move that will bite the Mets for years to come.

The only way the Mets can make substantial improvements for 2011 by addition is to eat the Perez and Castillo contracts and add payroll. That won’t happen.