Apr 09

Is Harvey The Best Mets Pitcher Drafted Since Gooden?

matt harveyLast night, at least six times, I heard fans, beat writers and announcers drawing comparisons to Tom Seaver when talking about Matt Harvey. He’s quickly becoming not just a Mets story limited only to the five surrounding boroughs, but a national baseball story as well. A cover on the front of Sports Illustrated or ESPN magazine is not far away.

Harvey, 24, had his second consecutive scintillating start in a row on Monday evening, holding the Phillies to just one run and three hits over seven innings of work. The righthander struck out nine and now has 19 strikeouts in 14 innings.

The seventh overall pick in the 2010 draft is tearing down long-standing records for pitchers who are breaking into the majors and after 12 starts he even had the great Doctor K himself saying, “I am sitting here watching Matt Harvey… this kid is better than advertised … looking forward to watching him every 5th day.”

One thing I found impressive came from former major leaguer turned ESPN analyst Doug Glanville say, “He has four plus pitches – make that plus, plus pitches. And even if he only has three of them working he’s going to pitch a great game. Even if he has just two of the working, he’s going pitch a good game.”

Manager Terry Collins kind of backed that up after the game, “Obviously he wasn’t real sharp, but he was still very good,” Collins said. “The fact that the change-up has helped him. He threw some very good breaking balls today. He just wasn’t as sharp with the command of his fastball…It just tells you what the quality stuff can do and when you make a pitch you have to make, you get people out.”

Can Matt Harvey become the best pitcher the Mets have developed since – well since – Dwight Gooden?

I’m starting to believe that it’s certainly a possibility. He may be the best pitcher a Mets GM has drafted since Frank Cashen took selected Gooden fifth overall in 1981. That was six general managers and 32 years ago.

Is it too early to make such a claim? Maybe. But I’ll stick to my guns and wait ten years to see if I was right.

Dec 14

Mets Won’t Benefit From Hamilton Signing With Angels

The knee-jerk reaction was obvious in the wake of the blockbuster news of Josh Hamilton signing a five-year, $125-million deal with the Angels.

Surely, the Angels could make slugging outfielders Mark Trumbo or Peter Bourjos available to the Mets in exchange for R.A. Dickey.

Ah, the perils of the World of Twitter.

Although the Angels won’t keep Zack Greinke, they do have pitching so where dealing a hot prospect for Dickey isn’t a necessity.

If anything, the Rangers could be a better trading partner for the Mets because they can see their window shutting fast with Hamilton’s departure and their inability to land Greinke.

With the Rangers clearly regressing – Michael Young is gone – the Angels are the clear frontrunners in AL West with Hamilton, Albert Pujols and Mike Trout forming as good a 1-2-3 punch as there is in the sport.

Hamilton made the rounds at the Winter Meetings and was linked to several suitors, including the Rangers, Seattle,Yankees, Boston, Philadelphia and Baltimore.

It was thought with Hamilton’s dependency issues he might stay with the Rangers, the team most familiar with him. However, Hamilton didn’t have an easy going of it at the end of last season and there was the perception Texas management was blaming their slugger for the team’s collapse.

Considering Hamilton’s condition, the high-pressure markets of New York, Boston and Philadelphia were never good fits. Los Angeles has its share of distractions – with the Rangers he traveled with a chaperone and didn’t carry cash – but is a more relaxed setting.

With the Angels not short in any specific area and Torii Hunter gone, Trumbo can easily slot in as the DH. So, why deal him?

METS WON’T GET HAIRSTON: It won’t get easier in the Mets’ pursuit of an outfielder with Scott Hairston getting attention from the Yankees, Phillies, Giants and Cardinals. All are better teams, with the Yankees and Phillies playing in bandboxes.

Hairston made $1.1 million with the Mets last season and aren’t inclined to go much higher. The Mets eschewed trading Hairston last July. As they did in the Dickey trade market, the Mets got greedy in their asking despite having no chance to win and little hope of retaining him.

Continue reading

Oct 22

Should Mets Take A Flyer On Juan Pierre?

Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly looks at which corner outfielders the Phillies are likely to keep or are on their way out.  Among the ones who could be free agents are Juan Pierre, Laynce Nix, and Ty Wigginton.

I have a mild interest in Wigginton, but Pierre may be a better fit for the team and he shouldn’t be too costly. Here is what Salisbury writes:

Juan Pierre

For a guy who lingered on the free-agent market into January and came to camp on a minor-league deal, Pierre made a huge contribution in 2012 and was a bargain at $800,000. He made 98 starts in left field, ranked second on the team in batting average (.307), tied for second in hits (121) and third in on-base percentage at .351. He also led the team with 37 steals and was caught just seven times.

In addition to his contributions on the field, Pierre was one of the most prepared and professional players to come through the Phillies’ clubhouse in years. He never took a play off. If Pierre wants to stay in baseball after his playing days, some organization would be wise to hire him to mentor young players on the art of being a big-leaguer. The guy has a baseball IQ that is off the charts and excellent people skills. Future manager? You heard it here first.

Despite Pierre’s contribution in 2012, the Phillies face a tough decision regarding the 35-year-old’s future. There are indications that the team would like to add more of a power bat in left field. Pierre also hits left-handed on a team that is heavy in left-handed bats. The heart says bring Pierre back, but the head says the Phillies may go in a different direction.

Pierre has been incredibly consistent over the last three seasons and has averaged 150 games per season in that span. He would certainly give the team such much needed speed, would be a better leadoff hitter than Andres Torres, and fills a need in the outfield. He’s just a slap-hitting, singles guy with the occasional triple, but he still does a good job of rattling a pitcher’s concentration and can lay down a bunt. He’s a great contact hitter and averages only 38 strikeouts a season in his career. The fact that he knows the game and has great fundamentals won’t hurt either especially if it rubs off on some of the other players.

Oct 17

2012 Mets Player Review: Jonathan Niese, LHP

JONATHAN NIESE, LHP

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: Jonathan Niese was another Mets pitcher who went into spring training coming off an injury. He pulled a right rib cage muscle in Sept. 2011, while pitching against the Phillies and was shut down. Two years earlier, Niese’s season ended with a severely pulled hamstring. While the Mets weren’t worried about his arm, two muscle pulls had them wonder if he was susceptible to such injuries. Foolishly, Niese felt discomfort in his previous start, but continued to pitch against the Phillies. In 2010 and 2011, Niese won nine and 11 games, respectively, and displayed composure and an ability to work out of trouble. Niese doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but throws a plus cutter and fall-off-the-table curveball. When he’s able to command those pitches, it increases the effectiveness of his fastball. Assuming his health, the Mets expected him to continue to develop and hopefully win as many as 15 games as a No. 3 starter.

2012 SEASON REVIEW: Although Niese fell short of 15 victories, he continued to make strides to become one of the Mets’ most reliable pitchers. Satisfied he was healthy, the Mets signed Niese to a $25.5 million contract extension with team options for 2017 and 2018. Largely unproven, the Mets were banking on Niese’s potential and at the time GM Sandy Alderson said he was the type of player the club could build around. The contract enables the Mets to avoid arbitration and Niese’s first shot at free agency, which is paramount in cost control. Niese tied his career high of 30 starts and logged 190.1 innings. Niese, like most Mets’ starters save R.A. Dickey, suffered from a lack of run support and bullpen collapses. Niese responded from a combined 4-5 in July and August to win this final three starts to finish at 13-9 with a 3.40 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. Niese had an impressive 155-49 strikeouts-to-walks ratio and worked into the seventh inning or longer in 17 appearances. He only had two starts in which he did not work at least five innings. Niese did miss a start after he was pulled for a June 3 game with a rapid heartbeat.

LOOKING AT 2013: Although Niese did not have a reoccurrence of the rapid heartbeat in the second half, he will undergo surgery at the Cleveland Clinic to alleviate the problem. It is considered minor surgery, but anything involving the heart can’t be thought of as minor. Figuring he will make a full recovery, the Mets expect him to build on 2013. Considering his age and salary, he would be in high demand on the trade market, but a pitcher of Niese’s potential is exactly what the franchise needs. Niese’s overall numbers were good and assuming he receives run support – the Mets failed to score more than three runs in 17 starts – 15 victories and 200-plus innings should be reachable. Niese would enter next year as the No. 3 starter assuming everything works in the positive with Johan Santana and R.A. Dickey.

TOMORROW: Dillon Gee, RHP

Oct 10

What Is The Market For David Wright And R.A. Dickey?

If the Mets believe they’ll keep David Wright and R.A. Dickey on the cheap they are sadly mistaken. If neither are signed in the next couple of months both are likely to enter the free-agent market, at which point they’ll likely go elsewhere.

I can’t see either coming back to the Mets if they let them enter the market.

There have already been reports the Mets will offer Wright a package for around $100 million and aren’t willing to go more than two years on Dickey.

Sandy Alderson said last week the Mets wanted to move quickly, but your definition and the Mets’ are different, as the club has proven to move at a glacier pace on other key issues.

Wright will make $15 million next season while Dickey is on the books for $5 million. If extensions are reached, they should make considerably more, although it is conceivable they could backload a contract for Wright. Because he’s 38 and this is his last chance for a free-agent market killing, the same can’t be said for Dickey. So, if the Mets don’t go more than three years for him, then he’s a goner.

There are difficulties in trading both, notably that they will be free agents after the 2013 season. No team would be willing to deal for them if they know they’ll leave after the season.

A team trading for Wright must consider his recent production. He had a solid, but not extraordinary season in 2012, hitting .306 with 21 homers and 93 RBI. His last big season was probably 2010 when he hit 29 homers, and he hasn’t hit 30 since 2008. Wright has always been a complementary piece rather than a centerpiece. His best years were when Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran with him and he hit fifth. Wright batting third or fourth hasn’t been as productive.

In explaining Wright’s power decline the past few years, it is part injuries and part hitting unprotected in the line-up. The percentage of each is hard to ascertain.

We must assume the Mets wouldn’t trade Wright to the Phillies or the Braves, both with a reported need for a third baseman. The Red Sox, however, are a different story as they are in the American League and no direct threat to the Mets.

That being said Wright has a greater value to the Mets than he would any other team. That could reduce his trade value to some degree.

Regarding Dickey, he has an extraordinary value to the Mets based on his story and what he did this year. The Mets shouldn’t be worried about his durability, but have to wonder if this season was a fluke. A journeyman throughout his career, Dickey had an ace-type season in 2012 winning 20 games.

Can he do it again?

That’s something everybody is wondering, including those teams that might want him. Do you break the bank for a pitcher who has had only three winning seasons since 2001?

When you factor all the circumstances surrounding Wright and Dickey, both have limitations that might make the return as lucrative as one might think.