Dec 06

Mets Still Have Work To Do, Beginning With Outfield

Speaking at the Winter Meetings, Mets’ CEO Jeff Wilpon said GM Sandy Alderson would have an increased budget for 2013 and the team “will be competitive.’’

What exactly he meant by that, he wouldn’t specify. Does it mean the Mets will be a playoff contender or at least a .500-caliber team? Just exactly how much will the budget be increased? When Wilpon spoke of payroll flexibility, in the wake of the commitment to David Wright, he didn’t do so in terms of actual dollars.

PAGAN: Rarely ran like that with the Mets.

Alderson said the outfield pool is currently at the deep end with Shane Victorino signing a three-year, $39 million deal with Boston. I thought if the Mets splurged they might have a shot at Victorino, but I wasn’t thinking $39 million. Victorino actually turned down $44 million from Cleveland for a chance to play for a contender, and the Indians aren’t exactly a free-spending team.

Alderson said “we’ll get outfielders,’’ but what he didn’t add on was, “… we have to because the rules say we need to play with three.’’

Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Mike Baxter – left to right – is what the Mets currently have if the season started today.

Duda made a splash two years ago, but struggled badly last season; Nieuwenhuis made a good first impression in 2012 after Andres Torres was injured, but major league pitching caught up with him (those curveballs can be nasty); and Baxter is a role player who gets exposed after long bouts of playing time.

Hopefully, Duda learned something from being shipped off to the minors and he’ll have a breakout year. But, he’s never done it over a full season, so the hopes are mostly wishful thinking.

As far as Nieuwenhuis goes, he made a splash with his ability to work the count, put the ball in play and hustle. It would be asking a lot from him to develop into a fulltime leadoff hitter, assuming manager Terry Collins will place him at the top of the order.

I heard interest in Ryan Ludwick, but he’s not coming here.  Ludwick made $2 million last year while hitting 26 homers and driving in 80 runs for Cincinnati. He’ll command a hefty raise, and I’m betting the Reds will give it to him.

Speaking of hefty raises, Scott Hairston, easily the most productive outfielder the Mets had last season, should get at least two years, or one and an option, for hitting 20 homers last season. Great off the bench, his playing time gradually increased.

The Mets will need a guy like him. Hey, here’s an idea … sign him.

Now that the Mets have committed $140 million to Wright, what about the rest of the roster? Dickey is still out there, and there have been no significant additions to even suggest the Mets’ offices have been open since the end of the season.

 

Nov 03

The market is open.

The free-agent market is open for business and the Mets’ exclusive window for Jose Reyes has slammed shut without an overture from GM Sandy Alderson, which isn’t good business.

Alderson did not meet with Reyes, which is surprising. Why not take the guy and his wife out to dinner and tell him they would like to keep him. If this is a negotiating ploy, I don’t see it.

Reyes’ camp reportedly is not interested in a home team discount, so the interpretation is this will be a cool parting.

The Mets’ have their reservations on Reyes’ health, which is obvious, and do not want to set the market for their shortstop. I maintain they want to see how much the market will shrink to see if Reyes will come back to them as Johan Santana did several years ago.

The Red Sox, Yankees and Cubs won’t be players, leaving San Francisco, the Angels, Philadelphia if it doesn’t sign Jimmy Rollins, and NL East Rivals Washington and Miami.

If I were Alderson, I’d be more concerned about Miami and the Nationals than I would Philadelphia. With or without Rollins, and even without Ryan Howard at the start of the season, the Phillies are better than the Mets. You can throw a blanket over the Mets, Miami and Washington.

One must ascertain from their stance on Reyes that Alderson doesn’t consider the Mets to be as close to contention as their flirtation with .500 would indicate. If he truly believed the Mets were close, even for a wild-card, it would seem they would be more aggressive in retaining Reyes.

According to a variety of sources, the following is the list of the free-agents on the market (ages in parenthesis):

Catchers

Rod Barajas (36) – Type B
Josh Bard (34)
Henry Blanco (40)
Ramon Castro (36)
Ryan Doumit (31) – Type B
Jake Fox (29)
Ramon Hernandez (36) – Type A
Rob Johnson (28)
Jason Kendall (38)
Gerald Laird (32)
Jose Molina (36) – Type B
Dioner Navarro (28)
Ivan Rodriguez (40)
Brian Schneider (35)
Kelly Shoppach (32)
Chris Snyder (31) – Type B
J.R. Towles (28)
Matt Treanor (36)
Jason Varitek (40) – Type B

First basemen
Russell Branyan (36)
Jorge Cantu (30)
Michael Cuddyer (33) – Type A
Prince Fielder (28) – Type A
Ross Gload (36)
Brad Hawpe (33)
Casey Kotchman (29)
Mark Kotsay (36)
Derrek Lee (36) – Type B
Xavier Nady (33)
Lyle Overbay (35)
Carlos Pena (34) – Type B
Albert Pujols (32) – Type A

Second basemen
Clint Barmes (33) – Type B
Willie Bloomquist (34)
Orlando Cabrera (37)
Jamey Carroll (37)
Alex Cora (36)
Craig Counsell (41)
Mark Ellis (35) – Type B
Jerry Hairston Jr. (36)
Bill Hall (32)
Aaron Hill (30) – Type B
Kelly Johnson (30) – Type A
Adam Kennedy (36)
Felipe Lopez (32)
Jose Lopez (28)
Aaron Miles (35)
Nick Punto (34)
Drew Sutton (29)

Shortstops
Clint Barmes (33) – Type B
Yuniesky Betancourt (30) – Type B
Orlando Cabrera (37)
Jamey Carroll (37)
Ronny Cedeno (29)
Craig Counsell (41)
Rafael Furcal (34) – Type B
Alex Gonzalez (34) – Type B
Jerry Hairston Jr. (36)
Cesar Izturis (32)
Nick Punto (34)
Edgar Renteria (35)
Jose Reyes (29) – Type A
Luis Rodriguez (32)
Jimmy Rollins (33) – Type A
Ramon Santiago (32)
Jack Wilson (34)

Third basemen
Wilson Betemit (30) – Type B
Casey Blake (38)
Jorge Cantu (30)
Eric Chavez (34)
Craig Counsell (41)
Mark DeRosa (37)
Greg Dobbs (33)
Jerry Hairston Jr. (36)
Kevin Kouzmanoff (30)
Andy LaRoche (28)
Felipe Lopez (32)
Jose Lopez (28)
Nick Punto (34)
Aramis Ramirez (34) – Type B
Omar Vizquel (45)

Left fielders
Travis Buck (28)
Pat Burrell (35) – Type B
Johnny Damon (37)
Mark DeRosa (37)
Jake Fox (29)
Jay Gibbons (35)
Jonny Gomes (31)
Carlos Guillen (36)
Scott Hairston (32)
Bill Hall (32)
Willie Harris (34)
Raul Ibanez (40) – Type B
Conor Jackson (30)
Reed Johnson (35)
Fred Lewis (31)
Ryan Ludwick (33) – Type B
Jason Michaels (36)
Laynce Nix (31)
Wily Mo Pena (30)
Felix Pie (27)
Juan Pierre (34) – Type B
Marcus Thames (35)
Josh Willingham (33) – Type A

Center fielders
Rick Ankiel (32)
Willie Bloomquist (34)
Mike Cameron (39)
Endy Chavez (34)
Coco Crisp (32)
David DeJesus (32) – Type B
Scott Hairston (32)
Andruw Jones (35)
Nate McLouth (30)
Corey Patterson (32)
Cody Ross (31) – Type B
Grady Sizemore (29)
Dewayne Wise (34)

Right fielders
Carlos Beltran (35) – Type A, cannot be offered arbitration
Willie Bloomquist (34)
Milton Bradley (34)
Michael Cuddyer (33) – Type A
David DeJesus (32) – Type B
J.D. Drew (36)
Kosuke Fukudome (35)
Willie Harris (34)
Brad Hawpe (33)
Jason Kubel (29) – Type B
Ryan Ludwick (33) – Type B
Xavier Nady (33)
Magglio Ordonez (38) – Type B
Cody Ross (31) – Type B
Josh Willingham (33) – Type A

Designated hitters
Milton Bradley (34)
Johnny Damon (37)
Vladimir Guerrero (37) – Type B
Carlos Guillen (36)
David Ortiz (36) – Type A
Jason Kubel (29) – Type B
Hideki Matsui (38)
Wily Mo Pena (30)
Jorge Posada (40)
Jim Thome (41)

Starting pitchers
Erik Bedard (33)
Mark Buehrle (33) – Type B
Chris Capuano (33)
Bruce Chen (35) – Type B
Bartolo Colon (39)
Aaron Cook (33)
Kyle Davies (28)
Doug Davis (36)
Zach Duke (29)
Jeff Francis (30)
Armando Galarraga (30)
Freddy Garcia (36) – Type B
Jon Garland (32)
Aaron Harang (34) – Type B
Rich Harden (30)
Livan Hernandez (37)
Hisashi Iwakuma (31)
Edwin Jackson (28) – Type B
Hiroki Kuroda (37) – Type B
Rodrigo Lopez (36)
Paul Maholm (30)
Jason Marquis (33)
Kevin Millwood (37)
Sergio Mitre (31)
Roy Oswalt (34) – Type A
Brad Penny (34)
Joel Pineiro (33)
Mitch Talbot (28)
Javier Vazquez (35)
Tsuyoshi Wada (31)
Tim Wakefield (45)
Chien-Ming Wang (32)
Brandon Webb (33)
Dontrelle Willis (30)
C.J. Wilson (31) – Type A
Chris Young (33)

Closers
Heath Bell (34) – Type A
Jonathan Broxton (28)
Matt Capps (28) – Type A
Francisco Cordero (37) – Type A
Frank Francisco (32) – Type B
Ryan Madson (31) – Type A
Joe Nathan (37)
Jonathan Papelbon (31) – Type A
Jon Rauch (33) – Type B
Francisco Rodriguez (30) – Type A

Right-handed relievers
David Aardsma (29)
Jeremy Accardo (30)
Luis Ayala (34)
Danys Baez (34)
Miguel Batista (41)
Shawn Camp (36) – Type B
Todd Coffey (31)
Juan Cruz (31)
Octavio Dotel (38) – Type A
Chad Durbin (34)
Jeff Fulchino (32)
Juan Gutierrez (28)
LaTroy Hawkins (37)
Aaron Heilman (33)
Ryota Igarashi (33)
Jason Isringhausen (39)
Brad Lidge (35) – Type B
Scott Linebrink (35)
Mike MacDougal (35)
Guillermo Mota (38)
Pat Neshek (31)
Ramon Ortiz (39)
Vicente Padilla (34)
Tony Pena (30)
Chad Qualls (33)
Jon Rauch (33) – Type B
Fernando Rodney (35)
Takashi Saito (42) – Type A
Dan Wheeler (34) – Type B
Kerry Wood (35) – Type B
Jamey Wright (37)
Michael Wuertz (33)
Joel Zumaya (27)

Left-handed relievers
Mike Gonzalez (34)
John Grabow (33)
Damaso Marte (37)
Trever Miller (39)
Darren Oliver (41) – Type A
Arthur Rhodes (41) – Type B
J.C. Romero (36)
George Sherrill (35)
Brian Tallet (34)

 

Oct 03

Immediate Mets’ issues

There’s a sentiment the Mets over achieved this year, but that is more a case of lessened expectations. While their desired off-season budget will preclude much activity toward improvement, that doesn’t mean there aren’t issues needing to be addressed:

DECIDE ON JOSE REYES: Actually, they already have, but aren’t ready to reveal the numbers. For public relations purposes, the Mets don’t want to appear to be pushing Reyes out the door, but it is clear he is the first domino and every thing they do revolves around him. What the Mets can’t afford to do is get strung out dealing with Reyes ultimately to have him go elsewhere and have their other options get snapped up. From the direction they take on Reyes you’ll ascertain where the Mets are immediately headed. Should they determine they can live without Reyes – or need to live without him – they will be saying there’s considerably more rebuilding to be done. Bringing him back says they believe they are ready to compete, but it makes no sense to do so if they aren’t willing to spend in other areas.

THE COACHING STAFF: With manager Terry Collins’ contract extended, there’s the matter of his staff. Once again, pitching coach Dan Warthen’s future is suspect. Last year, Mike Pelfrey lobbied hard to retain Warthen, but considering his anemic performance, he won’t carry much weight this time around.

ADD TO THE ROTATION: Pelfrey regressed and surprise Dillon Gee was the only starter with a record over .500; four of the five had ERA’s of 4.40 or higher; and the staff had a composite 1.378 WHIP.  Jonathan Niese and Johan Santana have injury issues, and since there are no assurances, the Mets have little alternative but to bring back Pelfrey and Chris Capuano. There are some good names on the free agent market, notably C.J. Wilson, Rich Harden and Mark Buehrle, but they aren’t going to spend much, especially if they bring back Reyes. The Mets will likely fish from the pool where guys like Joel Pineiro, Jason Marquis and Freddy Garcia swim.

FIX THE BULLPEN: The Mets used 16 arms this summer and enter the offseason with a zero reliability factor in the pen. They’d like to see Bobby Parnell win the closer job, but he allowed 89 base runners in 59.1 innings pitched. That he strikes out over one batter an inning means he has the stuff, but his command of it is erratic.

ANGEL PAGAN: Pagan took a step back, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Mets don’t tender him a contract.  There are decent stopgap options in the outfield, such as Rick Ankiel, Nate McLouth and Ryan Ludwick, but again, I don’t see the Mets going in that direction. It would be good if they could plug in Fernando Martinez, but his injury history makes him unreliable.

SECOND BASE: Cincinnati’s Brandon Phillips is the best available, but wants a lot and the Mets won’t  go there, especially if they bring back Reyes, because what would they do with Ruben Tejada? If Reyes goes, they could go with Tejada and Justin Turner as their double play combination.

If you’re getting the impression most of the Mets off-season tinkering will come from within and be of the middle-tier cost variety, you’re right. Sandy Alderson is already on record saying he sees a budget of around $110 million, which is $30 million less than this summer.

Figure with much of that $30 million differential was in the person of Oliver Perez, Carlos Beltran and Luis Castillo, then it isn’t hard to reason next summer won’t be much different than this one.