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.

 

Feb 01

It’s Truck Day

The equipment truck left for Port St. Lucie this afternoon with the bats and balls, and of course, the hopes of Mets’ fans everywhere. Spring training is the best time of year because it is when dreams are born.

GM Sandy Alderson was there to say goodbye and address the smattering of fans, many of them who consider the truck a seasonal rite of passage.

“It’s been a slow offseason,’’ Alderson told the small group of fans. “But I want to put that in context because that has been true across all of baseball. In fact, the Mets have really been as active as anybody.’’

Jay Bruce and Jose Reyes are returning to a team that finished 22 games below .500, and along with them Anthony Swarzak and an over-the-hill Adrian Gonzalez.

Unless the Mets’ young and battered pitching staff return healthy and live up to expectations, it’s hard to fathom those four additions lifting Mickey Callaway’s team to contending status. That likely won’t happen even if they add Todd Frazier or Eduardo Nunez or even a reunion with Neil Walker.

The Mets’ payroll is currently $137 million with little wiggle room.

Even if the Mets were to sign Mike Moustakas – which Alderson dismissed – that’s not nearly enough to put them over the top.

A big-ticket free-agent would cost the Mets draft-choice compensation and the loss of international pool money, something Alderson said is essential in “improving what is now a less-than-robust farm system.’’

Building from within is the most reliable and cost-effective way of building a team. The Mets tried that with their young pitching but have been derailed because of injuries.

The other ways of building are through trades and free-agency and Alderson has already said the latter is out. Quite frankly, the Mets have very few tradable assets other than their young – and most injured – pitching.

Are they willing to go there?

Jan 12

Thanks Mark Phelan For The Kick In The Ass

Sometimes I need a kick in the ass and I got one today from reader Mark Phelan, who wrote my “obsession” for David Wright contributing to the Mets “screws up” my ability to recognize how troubled this lineup really is. Well, Mark, I don’t agree with you on the word “obsession,” but I am hoping Wright can go out on his own terms, which is rare for an athlete.

“Hoping,” after all is a right for any Mets fan.

WRIGHT: Staring into dark future. (AP)

WRIGHT: Staring into dark future. (AP)

If the Mets sign Todd Frazier that tells me they are convinced Wright is done. If they sign Jose Reyes it tells me they also are holding out hope.

Nonetheless, let’s take a look at their troubled lineup:

CATCHER: They are trying it again with Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki. There’s nothing inspiring about that prospect. Talk about beating a dead horse.

FIRST BASE: The fact they are considering a reunion with Lucas Duda says they aren’t thrilled with Dominic Smith. That they brought back Jay Bruce to play some first base also says they aren’t happy with Smith. That they won’t play Wilmer Flores there tells me they want him off the bench, which is stupid.

I would also like to revisit what I wrote during the World Series that they passed on Cody Bellinger in the draft.

SECOND BASE: Asdrubal Cabrera? That tells me they don’t want to spend the money on Jason Kipnis. Cabrera is injury prone and we’ll see Flores there soon enough. Cabrera also says they won’t give T.J. Rivera a chance. Two words: Daniel Murphy.

SHORTSTOP: Amed Rosario is there to stay, but he has problems throwing as he continues to pump his glove, which takes time. He has a lot to learn about playing the position. Offensively, he has a lot of speed but poor plate discipline and strikes out too much. Ideally, he has the speed to be a leadoff hitter but has too many holes in the offensive part of the game.

THIRD BASE: Frazier or Reyes or Cabrera? Of the three, I’d take Frazier. That means the Wright Era would officially be over unless he moves to first. At that stage of his career, it would be difficult. Back to Rivera for a second. Because he’s being ignored it says the Mets aren’t sure of him physically. The black hole at third has long been a Mets’ tradition. This time it underscores GM Sandy Alderson’s terrible decision to get rid of Justin Turner.

LEFT FIELD: Yoenis Cespedes had six great weeks in 2015, which seduced Alderson into bringing him back, completely overlooking his absence during the World Series. Cespedes did hit homers in 2016, but not enough to warrant his injuries, lack of hustle, and drama. The Mets represent Cespedes’ fourth team before the age of 30 says a lot, but something Alderson ignored. As imposing as he can be when healthy, Cespedes has too many leg injuries. He was brought back to play center but now refuses, in large part because of his pulled muscles. Cespedes hustles when he feels like it, which pisses me off no end. The worst part of the Cespedes’ $110 million contract is it screws up the Mets’ budget. Will Cespedes be ready for Opening Day? Who knows?

CENTER FIELD: It’s Michael Conforto if healthy. If not Juan Lagares will start. The Mets gave Lagares a multi-year contract but have no place to put him. He has the speed to hit leadoff, but like Rosario doesn’t have the plate discipline. He’ll likely be the Opening Day starter because Conforto might not be ready.

RIGHT FIELD: Hello again, Mr. Bruce. Did the Mets panic or did Bruce because of the slow market? They should never have traded him. As of now, he could be their lone power hitter in the lineup.

BULLPEN: Alderson traded Bruce, Curtis Granderson, Duda and Addison Reed for relief help but none of the five relievers brought in turned any heads last year or threaten to make the roster now. Reed remains unsigned. Closer Jeurys Familia is recovering from surgery; AJ Ramos was spotty in his window of opportunity and Jerry Blevins is the overworked situational lefty. Hansel Robles is a nightmare and the rest are all questions. Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo could find their way into the bullpen if they don’t end up in the rotation.

STARTERS: It’s Jacob deGrom and a bunch of questions. … Can Noah Syndergaard recover from a torn lat muscle caused because he foolishly thought lifting weights would help him get stronger so he could last longer in games? The problem with Syndergaard’s high pitch count is because his command is inconsistent. Just throw the damn ball, stay off Twitter and don’t think so much. … Matt Harvey never became the ace we all hoped. Harvey needs a big year because he’ll be a free agent next winter. Odds are he’ll leave to give us the memories of one fine moment in 2013, followed by hiding an injury leading to surgery and subsequently landing on the disabled list and bitching about where he’ll rehab.There’s also the stories about him dating the Supermodel of the Day. However, his lasting image will be shouting down Terry Collins in the dugout in the ninth inning of Game 5 to stay in the game, which he subsequently blew. … Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler are coming off injuries. You can substitute Gsellman, Lugo or Rafael Montero at any time. … This rotation has yet to pitch a complete full cycle.

BENCH: Flores is still searching for a place to play and a backup outfielder is needed if it isn’t Lagares. … There’s no power threat for the late innings.

MANAGER: Mickey Callaway is unproven but comes with Terry Francona’s endorsement. Nobody knows what he can do under pressure. Let’s hope his ideas about keeping the rotation healthy pan out.

So Mark, there you have it. This is my take on the Mets’ lineup which doesn’t include Wright. When you look at the rest of the lineup please indulge me the thought of hoping arguably one of the three best position players in Mets history can come back despite it being a long shot. When you look at the Mets, the only proven position is Bruce in right.

So, thank you, Mark, for reading, your comments and being my inspiration today. Personally, I think Wright is done and I nailed it with the lineup.

Jan 11

Bruce The First Step

I’m glad the Mets will bring back Jay Bruce, but not satisfied. There are those applauding GM Sandy Alderson’s patience today for letting the market come back to him and there’s a degree of truth to that line of thinking.

BRUCE: That's the first step. (AP)

BRUCE: That’s the first step. (AP)

However, I’m not ready to jump on the Alderson bandwagon because Bruce isn’t nearly enough:

  • The Mets, because of David Wright’s uncertainty, need a third baseman. The market is ignoring Todd Frazier, so that’s a possibility, but how much will he cost? He’ll want at least three years at close to what Bruce is making.
  • They have the potential to have a solid bullpen, but another reliable late-inning arm would be helpful. As long as the Mets are in a reunion mode, Addison Reed is still available.
  • Hoping has always been a Mets’ strategy, and this time it is for the healthy returns of Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard. They won’t be perfect here, so another veteran arm will be needed.
  • Even if they fill all those voids, there’s still the matter of Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto coming back from their injuries.

That’s a lot of things that need to happen for the Mets to become competitive again, but for now, I’ll just say cheers to Bruce.

Even the longest journies begin with a single step and Bruce is the first.

 

Jun 21

What Do You Think, Should The Mets Go After Reyes?

Losing has a way of changing one’s perception. For the Mets in means dramatically softening their “you gotta be kidding me,” stance on bringing back Jose Reyes to `let’s think about it.” Losing third baseman David Wright and a team-wide offensive drought gave GM Sandy Alderson second thoughts.

He’s kicking the tires on the idea of a reunion.

Reyes has been on the radar of Mets’ fans almost from the moment he bolted for the Miami Marlins. It wasn’t long before he was traded to Toronto, and Colorado, before he was designated for assignment. The Rockies have until Saturday to trade him, or put him on release waivers where he’d become a free agent and they would have to eat his salary.

REYES: Reunion would be a good idea now. (AP)

REYES: Reunion would be a good idea now. (AP)

Compared to the $106 million Reyes got when he signed with Miami, the Mets would be on the hook for a prorated portion of the major-league minimum. That’s chump change for a temporary fix to their offensive problems.

We’re still four to five weeks from the trade deadline, but teams like the White Sox, who have Todd Frazier, and the Rays, who have Evan Longoria, will decide whether or not they want to trade. When you look at the standings, there are about ten teams you would be pretty confident saying won’t make the playoffs. Minnesota, the Angels and Oakland in the American League; the Phillies, Braves, Brewers, Rockies, Arizona, San Diego and Reds in the National League.

However, with the wild card, playoff scenarios can be fluid. That means Reyes could be a Band-Aid until the Mets can trade for a tourniquet.

Manager Terry Collins didn’t seem to object to the idea when he spoke to reporters: “When we lost Jose, I thought, ‘Boy, this is a major piece gone.’  His energy to play the game, his love to play the game, his love to play the game in New York City, it’s hard to find. It’s hard to find those guys. We missed him. I don’t know what’s going to happen down the road. Certainly, I always root for him.”

Even so, bringing back Reyes doesn’t come without baggage and issues:

* Most recently, there was a domestic-violence incident last Oct. 31 in Hawaii. He was arrested, but charges were dropped when his wife would not cooperate with authorities. The State of Hawaii couldn’t come up with a case and he served his suspension from Major League Baseball. In the eyes of the law, Reyes paid his debt and merits a second chance.

Today on talk-radio, a point was raised that Mets’ fans, if unhappy about Reyes based on the domestic issue, can influence the team’s decision. Don’t bet on that, because the thinking is if Reyes can help he’ll be signed. By now, I hope you realize the Mets will ignore the media – I’m used to that – and fans when it comes to building their team.

Word is Reyes wants to return, but it will be as a third baseman. If |the Mets want him to make public appearances against domestic violence, that’s part of the plan. Reyes would not push Asdrubal Cabrera off shortstop.

* It must also be noted the 2016 version of Reyes is greatly different than the player who beat out a bunt and walked off the field to preserve his batting title. I never liked that about Reyes and neither did the Mets. Apparently, their dire offensive situation gave them pause to move on.

I was against keeping Reyes at first, then bringing him back, because he’s a speed player who didn’t run his last year with the team and had two stints on the disabled list with hamstring pulls. If you’re thinking Reyes will come here and steal 30 bases for the Mets, well, can I interest you in some ocean front property in Arizona?

If Reyes returns he’ll still have the same issues of a mediocre on-base percentage and a lot of strikeouts. But, he would hit leadoff which would enable the Mets to drop Curtis Granderson to the middle of the order where he and Yoenis Cespedes would be back-to-back.

The way the Mets are presently constructed, having a healthy Reyes back, even though his skills might be diminished, would be an improvement.

Go for it.