Jan 02

Mets’ Top Questions Heading Into Spring Training

With the forecast for up to ten inches tonight and temperatures possibly getting down to five degrees, what better time to think about the New York Mets, if for no other reason, to wonder about spring training?

QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS

QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS

Let’s face it, neither one of New York’s basketball teams is worth thinking or talking about. Those seasons are all but over.

But, spring training? The thought of Florida, and the drive from the airport in West Palm to Port St. Lucie gets the juices flowing.

The Mets say they aren’t finished this winter, but it appears they’ve completed their heavy lifting. Here’s what I consider the top half-dozen issues facing the Mets:

1) Who will be the fifth starter?

A: As of now Jenrry Mejia seems to have the inside track after undergoing elbow surgery. Mejia pitched well at times last season, but the organization suggested his ultimate role is to be determined. Despite the presence of Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard in the minor leagues, neither promotion is imminent and the Mets will need a fifth to round out the rotation. If he’s physically ready, Mejia needs the ball. Who knows, he could even prove be a valuable trade chip.

2) Who plays first base?

A: At this rate, Ike Davis will be on the spring training roster. Milwaukee is supposedly their best trading partner, but the Brewers don’t appear in any rush to deal. Perhaps, they are waiting for the Mets’ asking price to fall. Perhaps, they are waiting for the Mets to release him outright. That might not happen as the Mets could be thinking of the July 31 trade deadline. The Mets appear to favor Lucas Duda at first base, and keeping Davis around could prove a distraction. If Davis isn’t going to play, do everybody a favor and let him go.

3) Will Bobby Parnell be the closer?

A: The Mets say they don’t know if Parnell, who is recovering neck surgery, will be ready. If not, Vic Black will get the ball in the ninth inning. Slowly, the Mets have added pieces to their bullpen. There’s always an arm or two that will emerge in spring training. The Mets recently added Ryan Reid, 28, from Pittsburgh. Reid throws in the low 90s and last year was 7-2 with a 2.73 ERA and 1.197 WHIP with Triple A Indianapolis. There could be room for him.

4) What is to become of Travis d’Arnaud?

A: He goes in as the starter, but he didn’t hit enough in his opportunity to warrant the job. Manager Terry Collins said he has faith in Anthony Recker as a reserve, but held back on expressing confidence as a starter. The Mets are more likely to grab a veteran catcher off the waiver wire in spring training rather than make a deal.

5) Who is the leadoff hitter?

A: That remains open, but Eric Young could retain his role if he starts in left field. It is apparent the Mets won’t trade Daniel Murphy and move Young to second base. This could change if Juan Lagares has a strong spring training at leadoff. The Mets have made no promises regarding Lagares, but this much should be obvious: Lagares is better off getting at-bats and playing time in the minor leagues rather than sitting the bench in the majors. To say Lagares has proven all he can in the minors is erroneous thinking. Lagares is far from a being a proven major league hitter, especially considering his propensity for striking out.

6) How much patience will the Mets give Ruben Tejada?

A: There’s nothing imminent in the trade market for shortstop and signing Stephen Drew wouldn’t be a good move. Let’s face it, the Mets aren’t close enough to contender status to warrant signing the veteran the Red Sox didn’t bring back.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Dec 30

Mets Still In It For Stephen Drew, But Why?

The New York Mets reportedly still have interest in free agent shortstop Stephen Drew, which is puzzling. If the Mets are to be consistent with their previous spending policies, they should pass on Drew and move on with Ruben Tejada.

The Mets backed off on outfielder Michael Bourn last winter as to not give up a compensatory draft pick. As it turned out, the Mets made a good decision, one that enabled them to get a look at Juan Lagares.

DREW: Should pass.

DREW: Should pass.

Not only would Mets have to give up a pick for Drew, they’d also have to start the package at $14.1 million. This would be one big E-6.

This for a 30-year-old shortstop who hit .253 with a .333 on-base percentage, 14 homers and 67 RBI last year for Boston. Yes, Drew played a solid shortstop, but for where the Mets are, for what they are attempting to do fiscally, and for their rebuilding blueprint, he does not make sense.

None.

Nobody knows what the Mets will get from Tejada, but he’s worth another look, especially for a team whose timetable to compete remains a year down the road.

Giving Tejada another year is a better, less-taxing option than to get hooked into Drew for at least three-years, which is what agent Scott Boras most assuredly will be seeking.

There are no guarantees with or without Tejada, or Drew, as to their performance, but from a building prospect, the Mets still have needs, some of them pressing and likely costly, that will be better addressed than adding Drew.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Dec 13

Mets Have Hole At Top Of Order; Juan Lagares No Sure Thing To Stick

The way things currently stand, the New York Mets don’t have a leadoff hitter. The tried nine last season before settling on Eric Young.

The signing of Curtis Granderson sends Young to the bench, that is, unless the Mets trade Daniel Murphy and move Young to second base. However, the Mets are asking a lot for Murphy, so there’s nothing imminent there.

 

LAGARES: Needs to hit to stay.

LAGARES: Needs to hit to stay.

Chris Young has the speed, but strikes out too much to be a consistent leadoff hitter. Juan Lagares also has speed, but also strikes out too much with a 96-20 strikeouts-to-walks ratio in 392 plate appearances. The Mets would want somebody with better than a .281 on-base percentage at the top of the order.

We talked last year about Murph maybe leading off, but I haven’t gone there,’’ manager Terry Collins said.  “I know Chris Young led off some in Arizona.  But until, again, I see what the pieces are in the clubhouse, I don’t have to write a lineup until the end of February.’’

An intriguing possibility is Ruben Tejada, that is, if he plays the way he did two seasons ago.

“If Rueben Tejada does what we know he can do, he could be that guy because he gets on base,’’ Collins said.  “He gives you great at?bats and gets on base.’’

If not Tejada, Eric Young could resurface if Lagares doesn’t pan out, which is a distinct possibility. Lagares was impressive in center field, but his offense is lacking. There has been some thought of him in a platoon role, which would be a mistake.

If Lagares is on the 25-man roster leaving spring training, he needs to play. Playing off the bench is counterproductive to his development. But, if he plays, he needs to hit. What he gave the Mets last season at the plate won’t cut it.

“I don’t know what it will be.  I don’t know that you can put a number to it,’’ Collins said of Lagares’ offensive potential.  “He’s a guy defensively.  But in order for us to have the success we want, everybody’s got to hit.’’

Quite simply, the Mets aren’t good enough offensively to carry Lagares. He hits, he plays. If not, he should open the season in the minor leagues.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Dec 11

Wilpon Says Alderson Doesn’t Have Financial Shackles

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – As the Winter Meetings draw to a close, if Sandy Alderson wants to make a move, New York Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon said resources aren’t stopping him.

That includes pitcher Bronson Arroyo and shortstop Stephen Drew, both of whom have been linked to the Mets since the free agent period began.

The Mets are in desperate need of a starter, but Arroyo is close to signing with Minnesota. They also began the offseason saying upgrading shortstop was a priority, but yesterday Terry Collins said Ruben Tejada is his shortstop.

Speaking specifically to Drew, Wilpon said: “Right now it’s a baseball decision, because Sandy hasn’t come to say, ‘Gee, we have to go sign Stephen Drew,’ or anybody else for that matter.

“I haven’t heard him say that that’s the best thing to do with our resources. He hasn’t come to me and said, ‘Gee, if we had X, we would go take somebody like that.’ So there’s still discussion on who we’re looking at in a trade scenario and what else might be out there.’’

Boston gave Drew a $14.1 million qualifying offer for arbitration, and now wants to retain him. Boston’s plan appears to wait out the market before intensifying talks with Drew. Given that scenario, the Mets aren’t going to get in a bidding war for Drew, regardless of how much Wilpon said Alderson can spend.

The Mets do not want to trade any of their young pitching, and their current trade chips on the major league level continue to be first baseman Ike Davis and second baseman Daniel Murphy.

Davis is hard to deal because teams in need of a first baseman are considering free-agent options before looking to trade.

Reportedly, the Orioles have an interest in both Davis and Murphy, but nothing is close with either.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Dec 08

Granderson Signing Doesn’t Answer All Mets Concerns

We can no longer say the Mets won’t doing anything in the Hot Stove League. While I have been cool on Chris Young, landing Curtis Granderson gives the Mets’ offseason a warmer sense of legitimacy and that more could be coming.

General manager Sandy Alderson projects a payroll in the low-$90 million level, and even with the Granderson and Young signings, the Mets will have more to spend to reach that plateau.

There could be more flexibility if they are able to trade Ike Davis and Daniel Murphy, which would be roughly a combined $8 million they could take on.

Last month Alderson said there were a half-dozen teams interested in Davis, and even Lucas Duda fielded some inquiries, but nothing has come of that since.

The Mets’ priority remains starting pitching. Ricky Nolasco and/or Phil Hughes would have looked good in the back end of the Mets’ rotation, but both signed long-term deals totaling $73 million by the small-market Minnesota Twins. Jason Vargas got $32 million over four years from the small-market Kansas City Royals. All this could have the Mets looking harder at Bronson Arroyo, who earlier had been talking to the Twins.

With Matt Harvey gone for the season and two holes in the rotation there are a couple of certainties: 1) Jon Niese will not be traded as some had speculated, and 2) prospect Rafael Montero will not be traded, unless a major league ready starter comes in return.

The Mets also need to increase depth in their bullpen, especially considering Bobby Parnell is coming off surgery. If he’s fine, he’ll resume the closer role. If not, Vic Black will get the first shot in spring training.

The Mets also like Jeurys Familia, Gonzalez Germen and lefty Scott Rice. That’s five, meaning they’ll need to pick up one or two more arms.

Shortstop was a significant question after the season, but considering how the market developed it appears as if Ruben Tejada will have the first opportunity to reclaim his job. The Mets were hot for Jhonny Peralta, and also kicked the tires on Rafael Furcal, but they signed elsewhere. Stephen Drew is still available, but he’s priced himself out of consideration.

There is also a need for a veteran reserve catcher. Immediately coming to mind is to bring back John Buck, who was not brought back by the Pirates.

The Mets won 74 games last year, just seven games below .500. If they had Harvey, I would say they could be a .500 team with the addition of Granderson. But, he’s not here and what remains in a hole in the rotation.

No Shaun Marcum this time. Alderson needs to land quality starters if this will be a quality summer.

LATER TODAY: Would a Daniel Murphy-Brett Gardner trade make sense?

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos