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.

 

Nov 06

2012 Mets Player Review: David Wright

DAVID WRIGHT, 3B

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: Fortunately, one expectation of David Wright did not come true, and that is the Mets would trade him by the deadline. Wright’s situation wasn’t quite like Jose Reyes’ in that Wright has an option for 2013, but the fear of losing him was there, nonetheless. A six-time All-Star who missed 60 games in 2011 because of injury, it was hoped he would return intact and prove his durability by playing a full season. And, if so, he might regain his power stroke. With the fences brought in, it was figured his homer numbers would increase as it was 2008 when he last hit 30.  Since then, Wright has frequently been injured – including a horrific beaning in 2009 when he hit 10 homers with just 72 RBI, but struck out 140 times. Prior to that year, Wright’s strikeout high was 118 in 2008. It was hoped by shortening his stroke and being more selective, Wright would cut his strikeouts and increase his homers, vitally important for a team lacking in power.

2012 SEASON REVIEW: Wright proved his durability and the trade deadline passed with the Mets playing surprisingly well and the third baseman sizzling at .351, but with only 11 homers. Even so, Wright had 59 RBI at the break and a dazzling .441 on-base percentage and 1.004 OPS. Translated, he was on base all the time. However, Wright succumbed to the pressure of trying to carry the Mets, and when they sputtered and went into a second-half freefall, so did his numbers. He hit 10 homers with 34 RBI while batting .258 in the second half. His OPS dropped 254 points to .750. Even with the team in a collective second-half drought, Wright’s overall clutch numbers were good, as he hit .349 with two outs and runners in scoring position and .296 after the seventh inning with the game in a one-run balance either way. Above all else, the second half proved the Mets needed complementary bats to Wright’s and how valuable he is to the team.

LOOKING AT 2013: And, by 2013, I mean this winter because Wright will not negotiate during the season. GM Sandy Alderson has repeatedly said the offseason priorities are to sign Wright and R.A. Dickey and not go into their walk years. Reportedly, there is a $100 million package on the table, but talks have been sluggish. It is doubtful anything was discussed last week. It is a very real possibility that if Wright is unsigned by spring training he might be dealt by July. How much of a home team discount Wright gives the Mets is uncertain, but if he hits the free-agent market he will test it, and like Reyes, receive an offer Alderson can’t match.

NEXT: Jason Bay

Nov 05

2012 Mets Player Review: Ruben Tejada

RUBEN TEJADA, SS

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: Perhaps no Met endured as much preseason scrutiny as shortstop Ruben Tejada. Although he played well in 2011, hitting .284 in place of the injured Jose Reyes, this year the job was his and he would be judged as a starter. Tejada played a combined 105 games at second base in 2010 and 2011, but would be the fulltime shortstop last summer as the Mets began a new era. The Mets were satisfied with Tejada’s defense, with some in the organization favoring him over Reyes. However, Reyes is an offensive presence and the Mets were pleasantly surprised at Tejada’s average and .360 on-base percentage in 2011, but didn’t know if his numbers were a fluke or a real indicator of what could be expected. A player with no power, Tejada should help himself by being patient, but strikes out too much and draws too few walks.

2012 SEASON REVIEW: With so much going on with the 2012 Mets, they were fortunate not be saddled with a shortstop hole. It would be foolish to say Tejada completely replaced Reyes, but considering the void left the Mets got more than they could have expected. Tejada committed only 12 errors with a .974 fielding percentage. Tejada has good range, which is especially important considering he needed to shade towards second to compensate for second baseman Daniel Murphy. Tejada hit .289 after hitting over .300 for much of the season. However, his on-base percentage fell 27 points to .333 and his OPS dropped 11 points to .685. Tejada provided little run production (one homer and 25 RBI) and struck out 73 times compared to 27 walks. Tejada hit mostly first or second in the batting order, and was equally effective, hitting .293 and .292, respectively. Like most Mets, Tejada had a dramatic drop-off in the second half. Tejada hit .325 with 30 strikeouts in the first half, but fell to .269 with 43 strikeouts after the break.

LOOKING AT 2013: Tejada gave the Mets enough this summer to where they don’t need to concern themselves with shortstop in 2013. The Mets realize Tejada’s offensive limitations as far as run production. Andres Torres did not show anything as a leadoff hitter and likely won’t be brought back, so expect Tejada to get a shot at that responsibility. Hitting .289 again would be welcomed, but Tejada must increase his on-base percentage by cutting his strikeouts and walking more. Tejada should also attempt to be more aggressive on the bases. Considering the type of player Tejada is, he must also cut down on his frequency of fly balls, which is almost equal to that of balls hit on the ground.

NEXT: David Wright