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.

 

Oct 30

Van Wagenen And Wilpon Gloss Over Conflict Of Interest Issue

Both former-agent and new general manager Brodie Van Wagenen and Mets Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon glossed over the conflict-of-interest issue at today’s Citi Field press conference.

As a player agent for Creative Artists Agency, Van Wageman’s responsibility was to negotiate the most lucrative contract for his clients. As the 13th general manager in Mets’ history, his responsibility is to build a team, which isn’t always in the best interests of the players he’s worked for over the past 18 years.

It was one of the first questions asked this afternoon, and before Van Wagenen could answer, Wilpon interrupted and claimed he spoke with the Commissioner’s Office and Major League Players Association chief Tony Clark and said, ”we have provisions in Brodie’s contract to deal with any conflicts of interest.”

What those provisions are, neither Wilpon nor Van Wagenen would say. Van Wagenen, who, as expected, appeared polished and highly professional, said: ”The goals between players and management are more in line than people think.”

How so, Van Wagenen wouldn’t elaborate, leading to speculation there’s still believed to be a cobra-mongoose relationship between the two sides.

This summer, Van Wagenen said the Mets should sign his top client Jacob deGrom to a long-term extension and reiterated that today: “I believe Jacob deGrom is an incredible talent and I hope to keep him for a long time.”

As deGrom’s agent, the pitcher undoubtedly shared highly confidential information with his agent, such as how long he plans to say; what he would sign for; his problems with management and manager Mickey Callaway; issues with his teammates; and issues with playing in New York, all which the player wouldn’t want Mets management and ownership to know.

However, Van Wagenen is now part of Mets’ management, and since he can’t un-hear something, what will he do now?

Jun 08

More Injuries Sack Mets Prior To Subway Series

The Mets received a triple dose of bad news prior to first pitch of their interleague series against the Yankees. Noah Syndergaard won’t start; Jeurys Familia went on the DL; and Yoenis Cespedes probably won’t play.

Syndergaard was scratched from Sunday’s start with swelling in his right index finger and will be replaced by Seth Lugo. Syndergaard last pitched May 25 at Milwaukee

Familia went on the DL with a sore right shoulder retroactive to June 7. Familia has 14 saves in 18 opportunities with a 2.48 ERA, but has been hit hard lately, giving up four runs in the past seven innings.

Jacob Rhame took Familia’s spot on the roster.

The news hits the Mets hard as it removes Lugo and Familia from the bullpen before they face a team that is raking, having won eight of its last ten games.

Assuming the Mets have a save opportunity, Robert Gsellman seems the likely candidate to replace Familia. Then, if the Mets need a couple of innings from a reliever, where will manager Mickey Callaway go without having Lugo available?

Presumably, Anthony Swarzak could take Lugo’s spot if the Mets need a couple of innings.

As far Cespedes is concerned, I didn’t expect him to be ready this weekend.

He’ll go a minor league rehab assignment tonight. He could rest Saturday and possibly play in another rehab game Sunday.

Jun 01

Mets Lose Another; Callaway Calls Team Meeting

Mets manager Mickey Callaway said he didn’t believe in team meetings, but called one after Friday’s sloppy 7-4 loss to the Chicago Cubs to fall under .500 for the first time this season.

The headline was the bullpen that gave up five runs and allowed two inherited runners to score, but Callaway said the Mets haven’t been giving themselves a chance to win.

“We’re not snake bitten,’’ an excited Callaway said. “We’re not playing the game the right way. It’s a big snowball effect when you’re not playing the game the right way.’’

It was long overdue. Callaway has been even-keel, and his message was short and sweet.

“He said, `Keep your head up and come in here and do the right thing,’’ said Jay Bruce. “No one cares if you have injuries, you have to play the game the right way, do the little things and expect to come in here and win.’’

Callaway mentioned outfielders Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo overthrowing the cut-off man; failure to taking the extra base and advance runners, and pitchers issuing leadoff walks.

“He’s right,” Conforto said. “It’s something I’ve been working on. I just didn’t do it. This is something I can control. … This is a wake-up call that we needed. … It’s not about bad luck. It’s about playing better baseball.”

After starting the season at 11-1, the Mets are now 27-28, and losers of seven of their last ten games. They are 12-15 at Citi Field, and lucky to be one game under .500 considering they have a minus-23 run differential overall.

BRUCE HURTING:: Another day, another Met is hurting. Bruce left tonight’s game with tightness in his lower back. Bruce is also slowed with plantar fasciitis, and you have to wonder whether that brought on the sore back.

Bruce said he felt something prior to the game, but was unable to play through it.

The Mets already have outfielders Yoenis Cespedes and Juan Lagares on the disabled list, so it would hurt to lose Bruce, but if he’s hurting he’s not doing them any good and should go on the DL. Bruce is hitting .228 with three homers and 15 RBI.

Callaway said Bruce should be available for Saturday.

The Mets added Jose Bautista, who has played well, and Nimmo is making the most of his opportunity. His OPS is over 1.000, and he hit a two-run homer in tonight’s 7-4 loss.

ROTATION WOES: Noah Syndergaard remains on the DL with a strained ligament in his right index finger and his not expected to be activated prior to next weekend’s series against the Yankees.

Zack Wheeler started tonight and pitched well, giving up just two runs [inherited runners that the bullpen allowed to score].

Jacob deGrom will start Saturday and Steven Matz Sunday.

Either Seth Lugo or Jason Vargas will start Tuesday against Baltimore. Whoever doesn’t start Tuesday – or Wheeler – could start Wednesday.

GSELLMAN SITS: Once again the Mets bullpen imploded, and surprisingly Robert Gsellman wasn’t used considering he didn’t pitch Thursday. Callaway said Gsellman, who had been pitching a lot lately, was scheduled to be off.

EXTRA INNINGS: Kevin Plawecki will start at first base Saturday. … Callaway is hoping for Todd Frazier and/or Cespedes to come off the disabled list for the Yankees series. … Jose Lobaton was recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas, giving the Mets three catchers. That’s not a lot of flexibility for an already weak and thin bench. … Reliever Anthony Swarzak is expected to be recalled Tuesday.

Apr 12

It Will Take Pitching To Continue This Ride

There has been a lot to like about the Mets’ start, specifically their 10-1 record. I never expected this. Nobody did. But, it is early in the season. There are a lot of games left to be played.

As much as many of you would like to, it’s too early to bury the Yankees. It’s also too early to be thinking about anything past this weekend’s series against the Brewers.

SYNDERGAARD: Needs to go longer. (SNY)

SYNDERGAARD: Needs to go longer. (SNY)

A lot can happen between now and October, and it all won’t go as smoothly as they have over the past two weeks. There are slumps, and injuries, and the Washington Nationals taking off.

All that stuff will take place, or it might not. It is possible all that went right will continue to go right.

The Mets will go as far as their pitching takes them and so far it has been good, but only Zack Wheeler on Wednesday, is the only one to pitch seven full innings. That needs to change to save the bullpen. All of their starters have run into that one terrible inning when they throw between 20 and 30 pitches, and that includes Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard.

Syndergaard went overboard lifting weights because he wanted to be strong to last longer in games. It took a partially-torn lat muscle to convince Syndergaard that was the wrong approach. The ability to last longer in games stems from improved command. Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland have done a terrific job as evidenced by 117 strikeouts and only 36 walks, and a 1.10 staff WHIP. If that trend continues the Mets should be in good shape.

As for Syndergaard, he has thrown 267 pitches in his three starts, that’s 89 pitches per start, which is way too many if he is to last more than six innings.

DeGrom has worked six innings twice, but Matt Harvey and Steven Matz have not worked past the fifth.

The bullpen,  notably Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman, have picked up the slack. The rest of the bullpen, including Hansel Robles, has been exceptional.

However, the innings can accumulate, and it is up to the starters, to work the sixth and into the seventh.

That is how this ride will to continue.