Dec 07

Mets Need Breakout Years From Davis, Duda, Niese And Others

DAVIS: Mets need breakout year from him. (Getty)

Let’s assume for a moment – and this isn’t much of a reach – the Mets don’t do anything for the remainder of the winter. How then, can the Mets be competitive if another assumption that R.A. Dickey won’t be back?

A lot of things must happen, beginning with David Wright regaining his power stroke. If he does, and Johan Santana has a good year, that’s only the beginning. So much else has to happen in terms of their young players having breakout seasons. It could happen. It has before.

JOSH THOLE: I won’t be going out on a limb if I said Thole would again be the starting catcher. As much as there’s talk of the Mets needing a catcher, they have more pressing needs, such as the bullpen and outfield. Those areas must be addressed first. Thole made a good first impression hitting .321 in 2009 with his bat control, ability to work a count and go to the opposite field. Maybe he was corrupted by watching others with no plate presence, but his average has declined every year since and he provides no power. Even worse, has been his defense. If the Mets are to open their wallets after 2013 – that’s what they tell us so it must be true – they will address catching so this is Thole’s last chance.

IKE DAVIS: Davis was a beast in the second half and finished with 32 homers. He must learn to put two halves together, and it begins by being more selective at the plate. His power production could soar if he cuts his strikeouts and increases his walks. Davis can be dangerous, but has too many holes in his swing and goes into long stretches where he tries to pull everything. Since the Mets are void of power, any trade talk involving Davis is ridiculous.

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Nov 19

What Should The Years Limit Be For David Wright?

I like David Wright and want the Mets to sign him to an extension.

However, the question is: For how long?

The other day I wrote the Mets should get going and sign him and R.A. Dickey. What I should have said is they should put their best offer on the table, and if nothing else, be creative. My thoughts were the longer this drags on – especially after saying they wanted to get something done quickly – the more their price rises, as does the chances of losing them.

WRIGHT: How much? How long?

Contracts over five years are in vogue for superstars, Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Alex Rodriguez all received them based on past and future performance. However, most of these teams have, or will, regret the decision. The Yankees certainly do with Rodriguez. Pujols likely gave his best to the Cardinals.

These deals are precarious, as evidenced by the contract Johan Santana signed with the Mets. Then again, the Mets regretted four with Jason Bay. Injuries are always a risk, but seldom do players produce as they did in the seasons leading up to the payday.

The Mets didn’t want to give a long-term deal to Jose Reyes because they feared him breaking down physically. The Mets had plenty of signs about Reyes’ durability, and are now getting the same indicators with Wright.

From 2005-2008, when the Mets played in Shea Stadium – and for the most part he was surrounded in the line-up with sluggers Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado – Wright was an offensive force, never hitting below .300 and never having an on-base percentage less than .388. He never hit fewer than 26 homers, drive in less than 100 runs, or have a .912 OPS.

Those numbers would have been worthy of a $100-million plus deal.

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Nov 17

Memo To Mets: Stop Screwing Around And Sign Dickey And Wright

The press release came via email as it always does and my first reaction was: How insignificant is Brian Bixler?

He means something to his family, but hit .193 with two homers and seven RBI last season for Colorado and Washington. Yup, that will have them breaking down the doors at Citi Field.

Another meaningless signing by the Mets, who continue to insult their dwindling fan base. Those are Jason Bay numbers and you know what happened to him.

Bixler is a utility player, of course. Bay? He’s home collecting his fortune, and as we all expect is about to sign with another team where he’ll suddenly be transformed into the slugger who once posted impressive numbers in Pittsburgh and Boston.

The only signings I am interested in now are that of R.A. Dickey and David Wright. The Mets showed signs of life in the first half last season and the primary reasons were Dickey and Wright. I know they were 14 games under .500 with them and could be 14 under with them.

That’s not the point. They can’t get any better, can’t appease their fans, and can’t generate any more excitement without them.

Not only the 2013 Mets, but for years to come, they would be sending the message of irrelevance to their public, to future free agents and Major League Baseball if they don’t keep their two best players.

When Wright hit the skids in the second half, arguably the only reason worth watching the Mets was Dickey. In fact, they juggled the rotation to give him extra starts at Citi Field. Dickey wanted the chance to pitch, and say thank you, to those that cheered him. The Mets wanted a few more fannies in the seats to buy hot dogs and beer.

I railed at the Miami Marlins yesterday for the trade that gutted their franchise and the same feelings apply to the Mets, only worse.

At least the Marlins made a decision – as bad as it was – and acted on it. The Mets? The perception is they are doing nothing. Talks are stagnant. If they let Dickey and Wright leave without pursuing them as they did Jose Reyes, that’s being passive-aggressive and it is worse.

Things could get better if they build around Dickey, Wright, Ike Davis, Jon Niese and Matt Harvey. That’s been the promise anyway. If they get better that’s when they will see a relief in their finances.

You have to spend money to make money, now do it and don’t bother us with any more Brian Bixler type signings.

Nov 08

2012 Mets Player Review: Outfielders Lucas Duda And Andres Torres

LUCAS DUDA, OF

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: The expectations were in the form of wishful thinking when centerfielder Andres Torres and right fielder Lucas Duda reported to spring training. Unwilling or unable to add quality outfielders in the offseason – take your pick – the Mets opted for the bargain basement route. The Mets sent the underperforming Angel Pagan to the Giants for the non-productive Torres. A change of scenery has worked before and the Mets were hoping it would again. Theoretically, Torres was going to bring speed and a high on-base percentage at the top of the order while patrolling Citi Field’s spacious outfield. The hope for Duda was two-fold: 1) provide power to a line-up void of it, and 2) learn how to play right field.

2012 SEASON REVIEW: Torres’ nightmare season began the first week when he strained his left calf and went on the disabled list. Torres was sluggish upon his return and was hitting .213 by the end of May. Torres hit .230 (11 points below his career average) with a paltry .327 on-base percentage, .664 OPS and just 13 stolen bases. He also struck out 90 times. Yes, the injury set back Torres, but he also played poorly when he was in the line-up. It was a learning process for Duda, first in learning major league pitchers while playing a new position. The Mets became enamored with Duda’s power potential when he hit 10 homers in 100 games in 2011. Things soured for Duda last year to the point where he was sent to the minor leagues to work on his mechanics and approach at the plate, and he wasn’t happy about it. Duda played in only 121 games, with 105 in right field where he committed four errors and showed limited range. Offensively, he hit 15 homers with 57 RBI, both well below what the Mets were hoping. Perhaps Duda’s most significant offensive stat was his 120-51 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. That’s an awful lot of nothing.

LOOKING AT 2013: Torres made $2.7 million last season and is arbitration eligible. As weak as their outfield is, the Mets won’t tender him. Kirk Nieuwenhuis played well when he replaced Torres last year, and barring an unforeseen addition, will get a chance to win the job in spring training. Meanwhile, Pagan will hit the free-agent market and make big bucks. There was a rumor of the Mets dealing Ike Davis and moving Duda to first. I’m not buying. Duda could move to left now that Jason Bay is gone, which is a better position for him. Wherever Duda plays it won’t cost the Mets much. He made $497,318 last season.

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Nov 07

Both Sides Win As Mets Sever Ties With Jason Bay

Usually not much happens at the GM meetings, especially for the Mets. But this afternoon they reached an agreement to terminate Jason Bay’s contract and granting him unconditional free agency. That’s a big deal as it eliminates a black cloud that has been hovering over the Mets the past three years.

The Mets owe Bay $16 million for 2013 with a $3 million buyout for 2014. Terms of the buyout were not disclosed, but assume Bay got something.

In a statement released by the Mets, Bay said: “I still feel I have plenty to give to this game and that I can play baseball at a high level. But after serious consideration, both sides agree that we would benefit from a fresh start. I’m grateful we were able to reach an agreement to allow that to happen.”

Bay’s performance and the need for a fresh start was reminiscent to some degree to the termination of Oliver Perez’s contract. Neither Bay nor Perez were producing, but while Perez rejected a minor league assignment to work on his mechanics and became a clubhouse pariah, Bay remained popular with his teammates and never stopped running.

As I posted earlier today in Bay’s 2012 review profile, the Mets were just biding their time until the end of his contract. Both sides win in this as Bay gets his money and a chance to move on and the Mets free themselves of a production headache, although they’ll still be on the hook for a considerable sum.

The important thing from the Mets’ perception is they can move ahead freely and won’t be mired in the dilemma of how to handle Bay, who ended last year in a platoon role. If the Mets can acquire a right fielder, it could allow them to move Lucas Duda to left field, considered an easier position.

Bolstering the outfield has been designated as a priority. Kirk Nieuwenhuis initially played well, but eventually faltered and was optioned down. Scott Hairston had a good year off the bench, might price himself out of the Mets’ plans if he wants a multi-year deal.

Bay wasn’t a fit from the outset when they signed him as a free-agent from Boston prior to the Mets’ move into Citi Field. At the time, the Mets said they were building their team around pitching, speed and defense, so naturally they signed a right-handed power hitter. Bay played surprisingly good defense and always hustled, but his production was never there.

Maybe the Mets’ first clue about Bay was when the Red Sox didn’t make a serious attempt to re-sign him and rescinded an offer.

Bay hit at least 30 homers in four straight seasons before signing a four-year, $66-million contract, but batted just .234 with 26 homers and 124 RBI in three years with the Mets. It wouldn’t be a reach to say the Mets expected him to average at least 26 homers with 124 RBI a season.

To be fair, Bay was sidelined by a myriad of injuries, including two concussions and a fractured rib, but even when healthy, he looked lost at the plate.

In a statement released by the Mets, GM Sandy Alderson said: “Jason has a tremendous work ethic. There was never any question about it. Unfortunately, the results weren’t there and we are in a results-oriented business. We thank Jason for his efforts and wish him well.”

Bay said he wants to keep playing and has no intention of quitting. He expressed no regrets other than his performance, offered no excuses and wished the fans and his former teammates well.