May 05

Let’s Knock It Off With Mets And Tulowitzki

One more time: Troy Tulowitzki won’t be coming to the Mets? Not now, and probably not ever. The recent two-game benching of Wilmer Flores brought the predictable “the Mets need to get Tulowitzki” columns and calls on the call-in shows.

They could have gotten Tulowitzki a long time ago if they caved to the Rockies’ demands for either Steven Matz or Noah Syndergaard, and another prospect. There would also be the matter of being willing to pay the $115-plus million remaining on Tulowitzki’s contract. And, on more thing, the Mets would have to be willing to gamble with his recent injury history.

TULOWITZKI: Get off Fantasy Island. (AP)

TULOWITZKI: Get off Fantasy Island. (AP)

We all know the Mets’ thinking on giving up their young pitching; paying huge salaries and trading for players with tainted backgrounds.

With Bartolo Colon, Dillon Gee and possibly Jon Niese probably not coming back next year, and Zack Wheeler not being ready until June if not later, it stands to reason the Mets will need Syndergaard or Matz. They aren’t going anywhere.

Also, the Mets remain out front with their desires to cut salary evidenced by trade speculation surrounding Gee and Daniel Murphy. They certainly aren’t going to take on Tulowitzki’s contract.

The talented columnist Ken Davidoff mentioned Tulowitzki in a column today, but was upfront saying the Mets could get him if they wanted to cave. I’m thinking he mentioned him to citing the obvious as opposed to really believing they should go after him.

He also mentioned several other shortstops they could get, but only after paying a hefty price, including Alexei Ramirez (White Sox), Asdrubal Cabrera (Tampa Bay), Starlin Castro (Cubs) and Jimmy Rollins (Dodgers).

Cabrera and Rollins play for teams that could compete, so you have to wonder why they would want to deal them. Any of those four would be pricey.

My preference is to give Flores the opportunity to prove he can play. His defense has been atrocious and directly responsible for one loss at least, and possibly, two. I’m not convinced he can’t turn it around and hope he gets the chance.

Will he make it?

I honestly don’t know, but neither does anybody else, either, including the Mets.

What I do know is the Mets will regret it if they get fleeced in trades for any of these guys, especially Tulowitzki.

Dec 20

One More Time: Tulowitzki Not Happening

OK, one more time: Troy Tulowitzki is not coming to the Mets.

Yes, yes, yes … there have been reports this week the Mets and Rockies are talking. I am sure they’ve spoken since the Winter Meetings. They could be exchanging holiday greetings, or talking about the weather, or trading fantasy football players, but serious dialogue about Tulowitzki isn’t one of the topics.

TULOWITZKI: Keep on dreaming.

TULOWITZKI: Keep on dreaming.

To understand why it won’t happen one must first ask:  Why do the Rockies want to deal him?

It begins with health, and here there aren’t any guarantees. A healthy Tulowitzki would be great to have, but he’s coming off hip surgery that puts his power potential in question. The Mets don’t have to look any further than across town at Alex Rodriguez to understand how a bum hip makes even great players, well, bums.

Couple his questionable health with the $118 million he is owed over the next six years, and you begin to comprehend why the Rockies want to start over. Sure, they’ll have to assume some of his contract to get another team to take him off their hands, but not nearly enough to make the Mets bite.

Having played at least 140 games only once in the past five years makes him a high-risk gamble. Sandy Alderson has spent his tenure as the Mets’ general manager paring down payroll. That’s why he was brought here.

Say what you want about the Wilpons and their budget, but understand that’s not going to change. It just won’t, and it especially won’t with a high-risk gamble with the cost of one or two of their young stud pitchers, even if one of them isn’t Matt Harvey.

The Rockies are concerned about his injury history, salary and want a talented bunch of prospects in return. Given that, those are the same reasons the Mets should run away.

But you say, look at his numbers at Citi Field. OK, I will. Let’s see, five homers, 11 RBI, a .438 batting average and 1.368 OPS in 58 plate appearances over 14 games. Hmm, well, that is impressive, but it’s not the ballpark as much as it is the Mets’ pitching he’s faced over the years.

Understand, he won’t be facing that pitching if he comes here. If you’re hung up on seeing Tulowitzki play at Citi Field, the Rockies will be in for the start of a four-game series, Aug. 10.

Plenty of tickets are available.

Dec 04

Tulowitzki Is Wishful Thinking

Unquestionably, a healthy Troy Tulowitzki makes the Mets a better team. I read something again today about the Mets dealing for him, but if you are a true fan of the team you know that’s not how they do business.

TULO: Just wishful thinking.

TULO: Just wishful thinking.

The last star the Mets traded for was Johan Santana, but they were closer to winning then than they are now. Plus, it is debatable how that trade worked out.

At 30, Tulowitzki is still in him prime and last year’s numbers of .340, 21 homers, 52 RBI, .432 on-base percentage and 1.035 OPS through 91 games before he was injured make a compelling argument for breaking the bank.

However, if you’re a true Mets fan – and I assume most of you are – then you also know “the bank,’’ is the franchise’s North Star. Tulowitzki is owed $129 million over the next seven seasons and to the Mets’ line of thinking, that number supersedes those at the plate.

And, we haven’t gotten to the part yet about the Rockies’ demands. Sorry, but Daniel Murphy and Dillon Gee – both of whom the Mets would love to trade because of their salaries, which combined are less than $13 million – won’t cut it. This isn’t talk-radio fantasy land when you give up nothing for a star.

At least two of those young arms the team is building around have to be included. There is also the possibility that to make this deal Tulowitzki’s contract would be modified. He has a clause that prohibits him being traded more than once, so, if the Rockies deal him the Mets would not be allowed if they believe the contract is a burden. At least, not without a cost.

A red flag is Tulowitzki’s injury history, which has prevented him from playing more than 140 games only once since 2009.

If the Mets were really on the cusp, then go for it. However, there are too many variables that scream this is not the right player at the right time. The Mets finally rid themselves of burdensome contracts and are making themselves competitive again.

This is too much of a gamble.

Nov 12

Dissecting The Cuddyer Signing

Michael Cuddyer said all the right things about coming to the New York Mets. He spoke of how the Mets were a team on the cusp; about playing with longtime friend David Wright; and the excitement of playing in New York.

For good measure, he mentioned how he imagined how a packed Citi Field could be when he referenced the 2013 All-Star Game.

Got you going, didn’t it?

Then he ruined the illusion by saying “it always isn’t about the money.’’

But, I’ve been covering this sport a long time, and you’ve been following the Mets a long time. What we both know, is that when it comes to the Mets, money is right there at the top. Money is always the key factor.

The Cuddyer signing tells us a lot about the Mets and their financial situation. It also raises a lot of questions, which I’ll attempt to answer:

Q: Why wouldn’t Cuddyer accept the Rockies’ $15.3 million qualifying offer and go the free-agent route again?

A: That’s his risk. He wanted two and the Rockies were offering one. There was no guarantee Cuddyer would get a second year from anyone. When he gave the Mets a deadline to give him two years or he’d take the qualifying offer, “it gave us pause,’’ said GM Sandy Alderson.

The Mets had things to consider, such as other free-agent outfield options, which would have cost more. Or, trade options, but they had few chips to play and are unwilling to include their young pitching. Or, going from within, which they didn’t have the confidence in doing. And, there was the matter of losing the draft pick, which they didn’t want to do.

The most palatable option was giving Cuddyer two years.

Q: The breakdown is the first year for $8.5 million and the second year for $12.5 million. What does that mean?

A: In giving up their first-round pick – the 15th overall selection – the Mets also save themselves $2.5 million. Given that, the Mets will have filled their outfield hole for $6 million this year, which is $1.25 less than they blew on Chris Young last year. They don’t get their pick, but that player is at least three years down the road anyway. A lot can change in that time. With the $2.5 million they save by not having the draft pick gives them a little more flexibility.

Q: Won’t the Mets feel a pinch in 2016 for the $12.5 million they’d pay Cuddyer?

A: They could, but not if they make the strides they expect. Their gamble is they’ll improve enough in 2015 and experience an attendance spike. That will pay in part for Cuddyer. Of course, that means they’ll have to win this year, or at least “play meaningful games in September.’’ But, if none of this happens by July 2016 and Cuddyer is productive, he shouldn’t be hard to trade.

Q: Was this done to appease Wright?

A: That probably factored into it, but I wouldn’t say that was their first priority.

Q: What does signing Cuddyer say about their bench and minor league system?

A: For one, is tells me they likely won’t bring back Eric Young. It also speaks to their diminishing confidence in Matt den Dekker and Kirk Nieuwenhuis as a fulltime player. The Mets stunted their development last year and that figures to be the same this year.

Q: The Mets kept saying they wanted power, but Cuddyer has hit only 80 homers over the past five years (16 average) and only ten in an injury shortened 2014. Does this fill that need?

A: No. Cuddyer isn’t strictly a pull hitter, which is just as well because the fences aren’t coming in next year. Presumably, he uses the whole field, which is the best way. Cuddyer has only one 30-homer season despite playing his career in the Coors Field and the Metrodome. He’s only had one 100-RBI season as well.

Q: Were there other options?

A: Sure, but nobody screamed out as a “must have’’ talent. Michael Morse, Ryan Ludwick, Nate Schierholtz, Nick Markakis and Josh Willingham were all available this fall, but would have either been too expensive; would stay with their original teams; or not graded as high as Cuddyer.

Q: Where will Cuddyer play?

A: Probably right field, with Curtis Granderson moving over to left field.

Q: Bottom line this for me: Does Cuddyer put the Mets over the top?

A: By no stretch of the imagination. The Mets have questions concerning shortstop; the offensive returns of Wright and Granderson; whether Lucas Duda can do it again; the development of Zack Wheeler and return from surgery by Matt Harvey. If all that happens and Cuddyer can return to his 2013 form when he won the NL batting title.

 

Nov 04

Cuddyer Not Happening For Mets

An early surprise at the start of the free-agent Hot Stove season is the Colorado Rockies’ decision to give 35-year old outfielder Michael Cuddyer a $15.3 qualifying offer.

CUDDYER: Not happening.

CUDDYER: Not happening.

That’s bad news for the Mets, who were reported to be interested in Cuddyer. There’s no way the Mets will go that high, especially for a player who missed two months because of hamstring issues.

Sure, he won the NL batting title in 2013, but that was two years ago. He only hit 10 homers last season, and only hit as many as 20 twice since 2009. For an average defender, that’s not a lot of right-handed power.

Even more discouraging is his average of playing in only 93 games in each of the past three years. I can’t see the Mets paying over $15.3 million for a part time player with declining production.

By keeping Cuddyer, the Rockies could be shopping Carlos Gonzalez, but he’s no bargain either. Injuries limited him to only 70 games last season.

Gonzalez will make $16 million, $17 million and $20 million in the next three years. In 2010, Gonzalez, 29, hit 34 homers with 117 RBI and a .376 on-base percentage and .974 OPS, by far his best season.

But that was four years ago and he had protection in the order from Troy Tulowitzki.

There’s been speculation for years the Mets would mine the Rockies for Tulowitzki and/or Gonzalez, but they were too pricey. Then it was Cuddyer, but they won’t afford him, either.

Time to look elsewhere.