Aug 13

Mets’ Bright Spots In Lost Season

There are always a few rubies that can be found in this garbage dump of a Mets season. This year, the shiniest of the gems are Michael Conforto’s emergence of being a star and Jacob deGrom’s recovery from surgery to being an All-Star caliber starter.

The other highlights have been the production of traded Mets Jay Bruce and Addison Reed; the professionalism of Curtis Granderson; and promotions of Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith.

Once a question to even make the Opening Day roster, Conforto began the season in a pinch-hitting role, but his success, coupled with Granderson’s slow start and injuries to Yoenis Cespedes, increased his playing time and subsequently run production to the point where he made his first All-Star team.

CONFORTO: Huge bright spot. (AP)

CONFORTO: Huge bright spot. (AP)

Conforto’s two-run homer gave him his 26th of the season, but more importantly, the Mets a two-run lead in the first inning, one they never relinquished in today’s 6-2 victory over the Phillies.

Conforto hit 12 homers last season, so his home run ceiling was just a hunch. Now, with 26, you would think 35 could be within reach with 47 games remaining.

I’ve long advocated Conforto should hit third in the order, ahead of Cespedes, and hopefully manager Terry Collins will keep him there. I also like that even with the trade of Bruce, Collins is keeping Conforto in center field. If the rest of the season is about laying the foundation for 2018, then hit Conforto third and in center and leave him there – hopefully, for the next dozen years.

Conforto’s last five hits have been homers, and since the All-Star break has 12 homers with 23 RBI.

As for deGrom, he took a line drive off his pitching arm Thursday, but all indications are he’ll make his next start, Tuesday at Yankee Stadium. DeGrom is 13-5 with a 3.21 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. The word “ace,’’ gets thrown around a lot, but it’s clear cut when talking about deGrom, who works fast, and despite an overpowering fastball, more importantly has excellent command of all of his pitches.

With Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey on the disabled list, and Steven Matz struggling and winless in over a month, deGrom has been the rotation’s workhorse

The Mets are clearly in a rebuild, salary dump mode, which is why Bruce, Reed, Lucas Duda and Neil Walker are gone, and Asdrubal Cabrera and Granderson could soon follow. Jose Reyes will stay to be Rosario’s caddy.

Bruce hit 29 homers with 75 RBI to lead the Mets, and has already made an impact with the Indians, going 5-for-12 with three RBI. You can describe Bruce, Reed, Walker and Granderson as consummate professionals.

Rosario booted a play in his debut that cost the Mets a game, but Bruce and Walker were seen in the dugout giving him counsel on what he should have done differently.

As for Granderson, he’s still being shopped, and maybe raised his value with three more hits today, including a two-run homer. He won’t be re-signed for 2018 and it is puzzling why there isn’t more interest. Granderson has four homers and nine RBI over his last ten games.

With Granderson, Bruce and the other veterans with expiring contracts assuredly not going to be here next season, the future belongs to Conforto, Rosario and Smith.

They, along with deGrom, give the Mets something to build on for next year.

 

Aug 12

Walker Is Latest Former Met

The last time the Mets nearly traded an infielder to Milwaukee produced the iconic snapshot of Wilmer Flores crying at his shortstop position. There was no such image tonight with the breaking news the Mets had traded Neil Walker to the Brewers for a player to be named later.

Tonight’s optic was a video of Walker leaving the Mets’ clubhouse in a golf cart, presumably to the team hotel to pack before flying to Milwaukee to join a pennant race.

WALKER: Another good one is gone. (AP)

                               WALKER: Another good one is gone. (AP)

By the time the Mets lost to the Phillies, 3-1, the deal had not yet been announced.

Despite playing with significant injuries – and undergoing back surgery last offseason – Walker was a consummate professional, just as Jay Bruce was, and exceeded his run production expectations since acquiring him after the 2015 season from Pittsburgh.

Walker, acquired when the Mets didn’t re-sign Daniel Murphy after his historic 2015 postseason, hit 23 homers last year in an injury-shortened 2016. After not drawing interest in the free-agent market, Walker signed a $17.2-million qualifying offer last winter.

At one point this season the Mets said they’d consider bringing back Walker, but such talk quickly died on the vine as their season slipped away.

With a glut of infielders, there was no way the Mets would bring him back, and since players-to-be-named are mostly bottom-tier prospects at best, this was nothing more than a salary dump, even with them picking up a portion of the remaining $4.7 million left on Walker’s contract.

The Mets were close to trading Walker to the Yankees at the July 31 deadline, but the latter backed out reportedly concerned with his medical records. In addition to his back surgery in the winter, Walker missed six weeks this season with a hamstring injury.

A season that began with such optimism continued to unravel for the Mets. A team many thought could return to the World Series, has rid itself of Walker, Bruce, Addison Reed and Lucas Duda, in addition to losing for long periods on the disabled list of David Wright, Yoenis Cespedes, Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud and Jeurys Familia.

Jul 27

Interest In Mets’ Assets As Trade Deadline Nears

Once again, the Mets haven’t been able to trade Jay Bruce, and that could turn out to be a good thing. Bruce’s year suggest he could bring a lot in return, and even he said the “Mets would be crazy,’’ not to trade him. That could help the Mets in the long run if they are able to re-sign him in the offseason.

Reportedly, Colorado had interest in both him and Addison Reed, but they likely won’t move on the latter after acquiring All-Star closer Pat Neshek from the Phillies for three prospects.

BRUCE: Little interest. (AP)

BRUCE: Little interest. (AP)

Perhaps the Rockies won’t be able to meet whatever the Mets are asking for after what they paid in prospects for Neshek. The Mets say they believe they will be able to compete next season, so that means they prefer players who are major league ready. However, the Rockies, who would be in the wild-card if the season ended today, won’t want to weaken their current 25-man roster by trading multiple players for Bruce.

From his perspective, Bruce, who has 25 homers, knows he could be an asset to a team, and recently told Newsday, “I feel like this is the most consistent I’ve been, which is huge. I pride myself on playing every single day, preparing, being ready to go, being the guy you can count on to post, and being a quality piece to a winning team. Individually this year, so far I’ve done that.’’

Bruce, a free agent this offseason, will make $5 million over the balance of this year. That, plus a player, could make for an expensive rental. It also must be remembered that Bruce’s production must be replaced if the Mets are to be competitive in 2018.

Whether the money goes to Bruce or his replacement, it should cost more than the $13 million he is getting this year.

Not surprisingly, Reed has drawn the most interest as closers always generate a premium. The Mets have also received calls about Reed from Milwaukee, the Dodgers and Boston.

Reed will also be a free agent this winter, and with how well he’s replaced Jeurys Familia, will likely command a contract in excess of the $7.75 million he’s making this year. The Mets are hoping Familia, who is making $7.425 million this offseason, will rebound from surgery to remove a blood clot in his shoulder, and won’t want to spend over a combined $15 million for the back end of their bullpen.

Of course, if they expect to contend, they’ll need to replace Reed, and there’s no guarantee Familia will return to his 40-save form.

In addition to Reed, Boston inquired into Asdrubal Cabrera, because they are unsold on 20-year-old prospect Rafael Devers at third base. T.J. Rivera and Wilmer Flores are also on Boston’s radar.

Also, calling the Mets are the Chicago Cubs, who are asking about Seth Lugo and catcher Rene Rivera.

Lugo is 5-2 with a 4.10 ERA in eight starts, with the last three being defined as quality starts [at least three runs in six innings or more]. Lugo came up in the second half last year to help the Mets get into the playoffs.

He entered spring training this season as depth for the Mets’ “young and vaunted rotation,’’ but started the year on the disabled list after being injured in the World Baseball Classic.

However, considering Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler and Robert Gsellman currently on the disabled list, and Steven Matz pitching poorly, the Mets shouldn’t be all that eager to deal Lugo.

The Cubs’ interest in Rivera stems from cutting ties with Miguel Montero in early July.

There has been no reported no to little interest in first baseman Lucas Duda, outfielder Curtis Granderson and infielder Jose Reyes.

The Mets hope things could change between now and Monday.

 

Jul 02

Mets Lose, But Montero Gives Encouraging Effort

C’mon, you really didn’t think Rafael Montero would be solid four games in a row, did you? Probably the Mets didn’t think he would, either. However, it wasn’t a total loss for Montero despite the Mets losing, 7-1, today to the Phillies.

MONTERO: Helps save bullpen. (AP)

MONTERO: Helps save bullpen. (AP)

The Phillies got to Montero for four runs in the second, but he hung around and took the Mets into the seventh. In the big picture, Montero’s 6.1 innings – coming on the heels of Zack Wheeler’s cameo appearance yesterday – helped save the bullpen with the Nationals series coming up.

“That was it,’’ manager Terry Collins said of the second. “He had a bad inning. After that, he kept attacking the zone. He kept us right there. … I trust him because he’s throwing strikes.’’

Montero gave the Mets a chance to win, which is all you can expect from a relatively inexperienced pitcher.

Command has always been a problem from Montero, but he only walked two hitters – consecutive batters in the sixth – which enabled him to work into the seventh. Montero gave up four runs on eight hits with six strikeouts.

In previous games, Montero’s problems would escalate, but today he regrouped after the second to give the Mets more than they could have expected.

“It would have been easy for him to throw up his hands and feel sorry for himself,’’ Collins said. “But, he bore down and kept us in the game.’’

However, the Mets managed one hit against rookie Nick Pivetta.

GRANDERSON SITS: The red-hot Curtis Granderson didn’t play because of tightness in his left hip. Granderson was originally in the starting lineup but was scratched after complaining of a tight hip.

“He tried to hit, but couldn’t,’’ Collins said, leading to speculation he might not be available to face Stephan Strasburg Monday in Washington.

CESPEDES COLD: If Granderson hadn’t come up lame, today would have been a good day to rest Yoenis Cespedes, who is on a 3-for-21 slide.

Cespedes has looked overmatched – if not tired – at the plate and has been chasing pitches low-and-away.

“He’s human,’’ Collins said of Cespedes’ struggles. “Everybody who has ever played this game is going to have [bad days]. Yoenis Cespedes will turn it around. He’s too good a player.’’

NATIONALS NEXT: This is probably as good a time as any to face the Nationals. Trea Turner is out indefinitely with a broken wrist and their bullpen has blown 13 save opportunities. The Mets also catch a break in not facing Max Scherzer and Gio Gonzalez.

Jul 01

Wheeler Needs To Step It Up

It’s now three early exits in a row for the Mets’ Zack Wheeler. Because today’s came in his first start coming off the disabled list, he’ll get a pass along with a no-decision in the Mets’ 7-6 victory over the Phillies.

Wheeler lasted 3.2 innings – two runs on two hits and two walks – but in that time threw 82 pitches, of which 47 were strikes. The two walks came after his own error.

WHEELER:  No pain in return from DL. (AP)

WHEELER: No pain in return from DL. (AP)

“Physically felt fine,’’ Wheeler told reporters in answering the most important question. “I struggled a little bit, of course, but I feel like I’m on the right track. I feel a little better mechanically and stuff like that.’’

Manager Terry Collins said Wheeler’s ceiling was for 90 pitches, which should be good enough for seven innings. Collins said 3.2 innings won’t cut it.

“We’ve got to get him through those [innings],’’ Collins said. “We’ve got to get him over that hump, where something like that [error] happens, we’ve got to get out of that inning right now.

“Obviously, due to the fact he hadn’t pitched for a while, he might have been a tad fatigued.’’

With the victory, the Mets have won seven of their last eight games to move to four games under .500. With the Nationals losing to St. Louis, the Mets are 8.5 games behind.  If the Mets win Sunday, they’ll be three games under .500 when they go to Washington for the start of a three-game series.

If the Mets do what they hope in Washington, they’ll officially be in a pennant race, and they’ll need Wheeler to pitch the way he did prior to his two disastrous starts – 15 runs and 3.2 total innings – before going on the disabled list with biceps tendinitis.

He knows what’s at stake.

“I wasn’t sharp before [the DL],’’ Wheeler said. “It’s three bad starts in a row and I have to pick it up. Like I said, I think I’m on the right direction right now. It really didn’t show today, but personally, I feel like I’m in the right direction. Hopefully next start I can turn it around.’’