Feb 19

Suggestions For A Mets’ Batting Order; Nieuwenhuis At The Top

Like every manager in the history of the game, I love to tinker with batting orders. So much can happen between now and Opening Day, but when it is below freezing it is as good a time as any to think of what Terry Collins’ lineup could be this summer.

Collins is on record with Ruben Tejada in the leadoff slot, but I’m suggesting a different direction.

NIEUWENHUIS: Trying him at leadoff.

NIEUWENHUIS: Trying him at leadoff.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis had limited success last season when he first arrived, but pitchers figured him out. I’d like to give Nieuwenhuis the chance to lead off because he demonstrated patience and the ability to slap the ball around and run. If he can become more disciplined he could develop into a good leadoff hitter, and since we’re thinking long-term let’s give it a try because there’s an upside with Nieuwenhuis hitting first.

Tejada would hit second because he has good bat control, knows how to work a pitcher and can bunt. All are ideal for a No. 2 hitter. Tejada can also hit-and-run and steal a base. If Tejada can do all those things, it could get a running game going with Nieuwenhuis. If Nieuwenhuis doesn’t pan out as a leadoff hitter, Tejada would go back to the top. Let’s give it a month.

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Jan 24

Who Will Wright’s Teammates Be In 2015?

WRIGHT: Who will play alongside him in 2015?

WRIGHT: Who will play alongside him in 2015?

 

Let’s take a look at a bulk of the Mets’ 40-man roster and make some projections on what things might look at in 2015, the year cited by many as when the team will be ready for primetime.

Of course, there’s no accounting for injuries, trades or players leaving as free agents.

Johan Santana: Will be gone after this season as there’s no way the Mets can afford keeping him – even if he’s healthy this year – and think they can be a contender. The Mets will attempt to trade him, but even if they absorb much of his contract there will be few takers.

Jon Niese:  He’ll still be under contract and hopefully will have developed into a topflight pitcher. He’s lefthanded, throws hard and under cost control. All reasons teams covet him and why the Mets should keep him.

Matt Harvey: If he lives up to expectations, he’ll be a star. Should he have a big year in 2013, the Mets might consider wrapping him up as they did Niese. That’s the best way to have cost certainty.

Dillon Gee: Unless he steps up his game, he’ll be gone. There’s potential there, but unless he harnesses it, Zack Wheeler could push him out of the rotation.

Jenrry Mejia: Your guess is as good as mine. Starter or reliever? It can’t be both. Mejia has had limited opportunities because of how the Mets waffled with him. His stock has fallen and he could be gone in three years.

Zack Wheeler: He’s highly rated and barring setbacks should be in the rotation by then. How good he’ll be is anybody’s guess.

Bobby Parnell: Closer or bust. Parnell showed something at the end of last season. If he doesn’t win the closer job by 2014, he’ll likely be gone.

The bullpen: Never mind 2015, how about 2013? There’s such a turnover in bullpens in today’s game that it is hard to project. Do the Mets have a bullpen prospect that can be pegged as a potential closer? Nobody outside of Parnell will be ready by then, and even he is iffy.

John Buck:  Assuming he’s healthy, the job belongs to Travis d’Arnaud. Buck is a stopgap already making too much money by Mets’ standards. It is conceivable Buck could be supplanted by d’Arnaud by the second half.

Ike Davis: The Mets already avoided arbitration with him and if Davis hits another 30 homers, they should consider going long term with him. You build teams around 30-homer sluggers.

Daniel Murphy: Somehow, I can’t see Murphy still here. I see him being dealt to the American League where he can play as a DH. By 2015, the Mets will have added a second baseman, perhaps Wilmer Flores.

Ruben Tejada: The Mets have several shortstop prospects, but will they be ready by 2015?  They like Gavin Cecchini, but wonder if he’ll hit enough. Tejada is establishing himself offensively and if he keeps it up, he’ll stay around.

David Wright: His contract ensures he’ll be around, but like Santana will it be one they regret? Wright hasn’t taken advantage of the shortened fences at Citi Field and the Mets wonder if he’ll hit with consistent 30-homer power.

Lucas Duda: He’s a work in progress with time to develop. Perhaps it will happen for him as a left fielder. Duda is better as a first baseman, but what will they do with Davis? Duda is a guy I can see them dealing in the future.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis: He made a good first impression, but struggled with the breaking ball and ended the season injured in the minor leagues. If he becomes the fulltime center fielder, he could still be here. Working in his favor is he comes cheaply. But, if the Mets start spending in a few years they will go for more power in the outfield.

Mike Baxter:  He’s a role player now, and a projected starter because the Mets aren’t spending any money. No way he’ll keep that job in three years.

Of the 16 names (including the position of bullpen) there are only seven I can say with confidence will be around in 2015. So, assuming if the projections of 2015 are true, that makes 19 spots to be filled.

That’s a lot of work to do.

Jan 03

Wilpons To Refinance; They Aren’t Going Anywhere

As you greet the third day of the new year, Mets fans can digest the reported news (ESPN and The Post for starters) that ownership has refinanced $450 million in loans borrowed from SNY.

How this is structured, I don’t know, but it protects the Wilpons from having to make an overwhelming payment that would prevent them from retaining the team.

Presumably, the money will be used to pay off existing debt – including the structured court-ordered payments from the Ponzi scandal – with little going in the direction of player additions. (Save $25 million owed Johan Santana in his final season with the Mets).

It basically means what you think it means, that things are likely to remain the same in the foreseeable future. Look for nothing substantial in the rest of the free-agent market, and as in previous years for management to sit on their hands at the trade deadline.

GM Sandy Alderson has successfully slashed $50 million from the budget of the team he inherited, which was what he was hired to do.

The Mets were willing to commit up to $20 million to R.A. Dickey before they traded him for prospects, but now without that obligation there’s no word what they will spend that money on. Alderson said the team will have greater flexibility after the 2013 season when Santana is off the books, but he also said not to look for a big splash in the free-agent market.

With FA spending not an option for at least two years, and the Mets refusing to part with their young pitching in trades, and having little else to deal on the major league level, the team’s direction is to wait … and wait … and wait, until their prospects develop. And, of that there are no guarantees.

When you look at the Mets in comparison to the rest of the NL East, Washington has shown a willingness to spend, and Atlanta and Philadelphia proactive adding to a superior core. The Marlins seem in comparably bad shape – if not worse – than the Mets, but at least they are warm down there.

When you look at the rest of the National League, the Dodgers, Giants, Reds and Cardinals are all immediately better, financially more solvent and better run than the Mets. Even Pittsburgh, which hasn’t had a winning season in two decades, is more aggressive.

So, when people ask how long it will be until the Mets are competitive or relevant again, it is difficult to forecast. It might be two, three years before Matt Harvey blossoms and Jon Niese reaches his potential. There’s room for growth with Ike Davis and Ruben Tejada and Bobby Parnell.

But, even if those things happen, we still don’t know who’ll be in the outfield or bullpen. We don’t know who’ll be in the rotation. We don’t know about catcher. We don’t know where David Wright will be in his career.

What we do know is the Mets have a myriad of questions, aggressive teams in their division and no definitive spending timetable.

We do know we have a long wait.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dec 28

Top Ten Mets Stories For 2012: Dickey, Wright, Santana And Others

The clock is winding down on 2013, which, if you’re a Mets fan is a good thing because it was another fruitless season at Citi Field.

Before we kiss the year good-bye, or as Gary Cohen would say, “It’s outta here!’’ let’s go back and look at the top ten Mets stories of this very forgettable season:

1. TRADING R.A. DICKEY: My argument for it being the top Mets story is it defines and underscores what is going on with this franchise.

Dickey had arguably one of the most remarkable seasons for a Mets pitcher in winning 20 games and the Cy Young Award with a knuckleball, and as it would turn out, pitching hurt.

Dickey was a feel-good and inspirational story, and despite roughly a $5 million difference, the Mets dealt him for prospects – the key one coming off an injury – that are two or three years away.

The message sent wasn’t Happy New Year, but this team is still not ready for prime time.

2. RESIGNING DAVID WRIGHT: They were supposed to sign both Wright and Dickey to tell its disgruntled fan base that the Mets were building for the future.

Wright was imperative because he’s the most popular Met and the face of the franchise. We shall see how the Mets will build on extending Wright. The first move was to deal Dickey.

3. DICKEY’S INCREDIBLE SUMMER: Once thought of as a stop-gap fifth starter, Dickey pitched to elite status this summer in winning the Cy Young Award.

However, Dickey was more than a pitcher, but a symbol of persistence who could identify with the common fan. More than any other Met, Dickey is us and showed his guile and grit every fifth day.

4. JOHAN SANTANA’S NO-HITTER: Perhaps in other seasons it would rank higher, but it came with several asterisks.

First, it was tainted, preserved by a blown umpire’s call that ironically robbed former Met Carlos Beltran. Then, there were the 134 pitches as the game was extended by the bad call.

Santana followed the no-hitter with a career-high six straight losses and again ended the season on the disabled list.

Santana has pitched well in spots, but it will always be remembered that for the $134 million contract he never pitched in a playoff game for the Mets and frequently was injured.

The last three years was a matter of merely counting down to the end of his contract.

5. JASON BAY BOMBS OUT: Santana’s contract might be arguably the worst FA deal doled out by the Mets. If not him, then definitely Bay, who between injuries gave the Mets no production.

The Mets were eventually able to buy out Bay on a differed basis, which considering what he gave the team, really doesn’t leave them in a hole for 2013.

As with Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo, it was best to move on.

6. ALDERSON SITS AT THE BREAK: After letting Jose Reyes leave without an offer, GM Sandy Alderson vowed the team would have the resources to add pieces at the trade deadline if it were competitive.

Before the break the Mets once were eight games over .500 and 46-40 at the break. However, cracks in the bullpen were forming and Alderson did nothing. By the time he was inclined to make a trade, the second half-collapse had begun and it was too late.

7. SECOND-HALF COLLAPSE: At one point the Mets went 15 games at home in which it scored three or fewer runs. Hard to fathom, but true.

Dickey and Ike Davis’ strong second half is what the Mets needed to struggle to finish 14 games under .500.

The second-half collapse included Santana’s six-game losing streak, Dillon Gee’s season-ending injury and the bullpen’s implosion.

8. IKE DAVIS HITS 32 HOMERS: It was frequently written Davis has 30-homer potential. Now, it is true and he’s the singular most power threat in the line-up as Wright’s homer production has dropped and Lucas Duda is still a question.

There were trade rumors of Boston having interest, but with the Mets basically void of power, Davis isn’t going anywhere.

9. METS SURVIVE REYES’ DEPARTURE: One of the more overriding issues with the Mets entering the season was how it would adjust to losing Jose Reyes.

Ruben Tejada more than ably filled the role as the Mets proved they could lose with or without Reyes. Tejada won’t become an offensive match to Reyes, but he was more than adequate and definitely was on a par defensively.

10. TEAM DOES NOTHING AT WINTER MEETINGS: The Mets didn’t counter losing Dickey with anything productive.

In fact, the Mets end 2012 in worse shape than it started the season. In addition to the normal injury-related questions to their pitching, the Mets now need to add a starter to replace Dickey.

The Mets aren’t likely to bring back Scott Hairston, who was a role player for them in the first place and have three questions in the outfield. There’s also concerns in the bullpen and at catcher.

So, the biggest story for the 2012 Mets is they’ve gotten worse.

Nov 29

Wright Should Take Offer, But What Happens Next For Mets?

If the latest numbers are to be believed, then the Mets have done their due diligence and David Wright should have the deal that could enable him to finish his career in Flushing. If he plays in the 2013 All-Star Game at Citi Field wearing another uniform, then that’s his decision.

The reported seven-year, $125-million contract would give him the longevity he craves while making him the highest-paid, fulltime third baseman in the sport. Afterall, Alex Rodriguez does split his time as a DH and on the disabled list. Nobody will ever get a contract like Rodriguez’s again.

Wright has been adamant about wanting to be like future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones, and a player he grew up idolizing – Cal Ripken – in wanting to play his career with the same team.

Wright is one of the few players I believe in when he says things such as that. Jose Reyes, I always thought, would take the last dollar possible. Wright never struck me as such.

There is a question about deferred money, but I don’t think of that as anything more than a retirement plan. That shouldn’t that insurmountable an obstacle.

I understand the need to retain Wright and have long been on board with it. However, it stands to reason that keeping him – and hopefully, R.A. Dickey – means absolutely nothing it the Mets remain the same.

Based on his numbers the past three seasons, that’s an extremely generous offer from the Mets. Yes, they would be overpaying, but they would be purchasing more than just a third baseman. Wright is the face of the franchise and should represent a commitment toward winning.

Keeping Wright and doing nothing else to build the team accomplishes nothing. The Mets’ current plan appears to be keeping Wright, perhaps Dickey, and a lot of hoping, such as:

* Johan Santana remaining healthy and productive in his final season as a Met.

* Breakout seasons from Jon Niese and Dillon Gee.

* A strong full first season from Matt Harvey.

* Josh Thole learns how to hit, hopefully with some power.

* Ike Davis adds to last year’s 32 homers.

* Ruben Tejada at least duplicates last year.

* Wright, for all that money, returns to becoming a power hitter.

* The outfield trio – if the season started today – of Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Mike Baxter can play as starters instead of role players. And, if not, somebody falls into their laps.

* They somehow, some way, piece together a bullpen.