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.

 

Aug 30

Money Is Why Mets Won’t Bring Up Wright And Alonso

David Wright’s stay in Class AAA Las Vegas was a short one as he rejoined the Mets today in San Francisco. However, the move isn’t for our eyes, but the team’s medical staff.

“It’s unrealistic to think he would be activated anytime soon, based on what we have seen to this point,” assistant general manager John Ricco said on a conference call with reporters. “But we really have been taking it step-by-step and giving him every opportunity to get back.”

WRIGHT: Talks limits with Collins. (AP)

WRIGHT: Talks limits with Collins. (AP)

Wright told reporters in Las Vegas: “My goal is to play in the big leagues this year. I think that with the challenge I have physically, I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility that I could play in the big leagues this year.’’

Wright went 1-for-9 in two rehab games with Las Vegas, and in 12 games overall – including ten games with Class A St. Lucie – Wright hit .171.

Clearly, Wright isn’t playing with any consistency to warrant being activated, but another factor is the insurance policy the Mets hold on his contract. Currently, the team is recouping 75 percent of his $20 million salary, but that will end once he comes off the disabled list.

If Wright is activated once the rosters are expanded Sept. 1, it would cost the Mets over $2 million, and, his deductible would automatically reset, costing them even more next season.

Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon has repeatedly said the team considers Wright’s salary part of their payroll regardless.

Working out with the team would not entail playing in games as the minor league schedule will end next week. In all probability, he could be shut down for September.

“Right now, we’re focused on, let’s see how he finishes up here in the last few days and we’ll have some more discussions about the specifics of what the rest of the year looks like,” Ricco said.

Money is also a significant reason why top prospect first baseman Peter Alonso won’t be brought up. Ricco said Alonso needs to improve his defense, but also the Mets need to look at Jay Bruce at first base in preparation for next season.

“To have Pete come up and really just sit didn’t make a lot of sense,” Ricco said.

Alonso told MLB.com: “I’m not going to lie, it’s really disheartening and disappointing because one of the things that people tell you is as long as you are successful, you’re going to be in the big leagues. It’s just one of those things where I understand it’s an organizational decision, and at the end of the day, I have to respect that. But it’s really disheartening because I feel like I’ve performed, and am deserving of a reward.’’

In 125 combined games at Class AA Binghamton and Las Vegas, Alonso hit .277 with a .393 on-base percentage, 33 homers, 26 doubles and 111 RBI.

 

Aug 27

Mets Matters: Syndergaard Struggles Again

Noah Syndergaard might lead the Mets with a 9-3 record, but he still has a lot to work to do after being knocked around Monday night by the Chicago Cubs.

“It’s just been rhythm for me,’’ said Syndergaard, who gave up four runs on nine hits in six innings. “I feel like I’m wasting my ability to throw a baseball.’’

Jerry Blevins took the loss in relief, but that didn’t make Syndergaard feeling any better.

Overall, Syndergaard threw 102 pitches, which is way too many for six innings.mets matters

WRIGHT UPDATE: David Wright’s 20-day window to complete a minor league rehab assignment which expires Friday. Rosters can be expanded the next day, but the Mets haven’t indicated if he will be brought up.

Wright could be sent to Triple-A Las Vegas.

“I think that we’re just really trying to focus on the next day with David,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “It’s been such a long road and I think it would be unfair to everyone to have any kind of expectations other than just knowing we support whatever he is doing just day to day.”

Wright is owed about another $30 million through 2020.

“My goal is to certainly to make it back and if it doesn’t work out … at some point you have got to play,’’ Wright said. “You can’t just continue to sit here and rehab all year. I haven’t thought much about it, but since I have been in the big leagues it’s been over two years, so at some point if physically I can do it, great, and if physically I can’t, that’s a whole different conversation.”

BAUTISTA ON TRADE BLOCK: The Mets are talking to Philadelphia on a trade for Jose Bautista after the Phillies claimed him on waivers. The teams have until Tuesday to work out a deal.

The Mets considered dealing Bautista at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline but didn’t like the offers. Bautista is 37 and not in the Mets’ plans. The Phillies know they don’t have to offer much, so the Mets better not be holding out for much.

If the Mets want to trade Bautista, they are pretty much obligated to take what the Phillies offer. Callaway said Brandon Nimmo will come off the disabled list tomorrow, which almost assures there will be a deal.

 TOP PROSPECT MIGHT NOT COME UP: The Mets haven’t had much to cheer for this summer, but unbelievably are dragging their feet and haven’t said if they will bring up first base prospect Peter Alonso when rosters can be expanded.

Even more head-scratching is Callaway saying they are concerned with Alonso’s defense. And yet, they are willing to play outfielder Jay Bruce at first base.

“It’s not just about swinging the bat here,” the first-year manager said. “It’s about defense as well. We want to make sure he’s in a good spot in his overall game and the things we’re going to value in this organization moving forward.”

Yeah, go fiigure.

Jul 19

Mets Top Five Second Half Questions

We know this is a lost season for the Mets, but that doesn’t mean they don’t face four significant questions in the second half. How they answer them could determine whether they will be competitive next year or five seasons from now:

SYNDERGAARD: Not going anywhere.  (SNY)

SYNDERGAARD: Not going anywhere. (SNY)

1. QUESTION: Who will run the show?

ANSWER: In the wake of GM Sandy Alderson’s absence, the trio of assistants John Ricco, Omar Minaya and J.P. Ricciardi will do the daily lifting, but the major decisions will be made by COO Jeff Wilpon. It’s up to you to determine if that’s good or bad. If the Mets are to make an exhaustive GM search in the offseason, it would likely preclude any major trades between now and July 31. One assumption we can make is if the Mets go outside for a general manager it would stand to reason the new hire will want to name his own manager and Mickey Callaway will be let go.

2. QUESTION: What becomes of the Mets aces?

ANSWER: It’s not likely neither Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard will be traded by the current GM trio. Those decisions aren’t made by out-going general managers. There’s been some talk of Zack Wheeler and/or Steven Matz being traded, but I don’t think that will happen, either. The Mets take their time building up to making major decisions, and if I’m Wilpon and know I’m going to name a new GM, then I want that hire to assess where the club is positioned in the short term. Personally, if the Mets get, and stay, healthy, I can see them improving in 2019, but I can’t see them competing. That’s just too big of a leap to make.

3. QUESTION: Who will be gone by the end of the month?

ANSWER: The two biggest reported names on the block are Jeurys Familia and Asdrubal Cabrera. Closers are especially at a premium, so Familia might be the best move to make. Cabrera is having a solid season, and there are several teams needing a second/third baseman. With Dustin Pedroia injured, the Red Sox can use a second baseman. Wilmer Flores is being showcased, but tears alone won’t keep him in Queens this time. They could always trade Jay Bruce again, but he’s injured. I can also see they taking calls about Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman. If they aren’t going to play him, then Dominic Smith has to either be traded or sent to the minors. Yoenis Cespedes has a no-trade clause, so he’s not going anywhere. Lefty reliever Jerry Blevins could also be dealt.

4. QUESTION: What’s going on with Cespedes?

ANSWER: He played nine innings at first base in a rehab game yesterday. First base is an intriguing because of his legs. Cespedes, 32, has been on the DL with a strained right hip flexor since May 16. He’s expected to be activated from the DL on Friday, but with Cespedes, you never know. With this being a lost season, the Mets might as well see what he can do at first base. Cespedes has been a dismal signing, and this is his chance to salvage his career in New York. The Mets are an organization void of young talent, but if Cespedes plays first for the rest of this season and next year, it could stunt the development of the franchise’s second-ranked prospect, Peter Alonso. Chances are we’ll see Alonso as a late-season call-up. Either way, it seems like the end of the line for Smith.

5. QUESTION: Will we see The Captain this year?

ANSWER: For a while, there was thought we might see David Wright before Cespedes. Wright has been throwing and taking batting practice, and there’s speculation he might return this season. Still, there’s no timetable for his return. If not, there’s always next spring training.