Jan 18

Santana Wants To Pitch In WBC

I understand Johan Santana’s desire to represent his native Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic, but that doesn’t make it a good idea. And, not because I’m not crazy about the whole WBC concept.

The Mets have been burned by players being injured in the WBC before – Oliver Perez – and who is to say the fragile Santana won’t come up lame?

Santana is currently on the WBC’s injury-disqualified list because he ended last year on the disabled list, not having pitched after Aug. 17 because of lower back problems. Even so, he wants to push this through.

Santana made his full complement of starts, 34, in 2008, his first season with the Mets, but hasn’t done so since. He didn’t pitch in 2011 following shoulder surgery and made only 21 starts (117 innings) last year.

For this, he has been paid over $100 million and will make $31 million this season (including a $5.5 million buyout for 2014).  For this, he won just 46 games for the Mets and only once game them at least 200 innings.

For Santana to be declared eligible the WBC must clear him physically and then be insured so the Mets aren’t stuck with the entire bill if he does get injured. Privately, Santana getting hurt in the WBC and the Mets not being stuck with his entire salary would be a plus.

SANTANA: Should stay away from WBC this spring.

I realize in today’s world this is an outdated thought, but considering all he has made and stands to make from the Mets, and considering a healthy Santana could make going to Citi Field a good thing this summer – if not for the remote trade possibility – I would have hoped Santana would show the Mets some loyalty.

They made Santana rich beyond his wildest dreams, but never pitched one playoff game for them.

Santana is a smart guy and knows the Mets won’t pick up his option for 2014, but one would hope he’d be smart enough not to risk anything in the WBC. Since he won’t be thinking he owes the Mets to be at his physical peak, if nothing else he should be thinking about staying healthy for somebody else in 2014.

After all, this is all about him.

Dec 19

Mets’ Pitching Is Precarious

Sandy Alderson did it again, speaking on WFAN he said he thought the Mets could compete in 2013. What he didn’t say was how he thought they’d be able to, much less define compete the term.

He asked for patience and hoped some of the Mets’ young pitching talent would surface this coming season. Again, hope is not a strong building plan. Without saying so, he indicated this summer will be another long one.

There were no definitive answers as to the make-up of the back end of the Mets’ rotation. Assuming Dickey’s 2012 wasn’t a fluke, the Mets’ top three priorities were building a bullpen, coming up with an outfield, and to acquire catching help.

Now, the top priority must be finding another starter. It always begins with pitching and the Mets have some holes in addition to those elsewhere in the field.

“First of all, you think about how to replace the 240 innings. That’s where it’s got to start,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “Somebody’s got to step up, certainly.’’

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Nov 13

Will Trading Dickey Really Help The Mets?

The latest speculation has the Mets shopping R.A. Dickey for a power hitter, but I wonder if it would really improve them, both in 2013 and/or the future.

I don’t know what the Mets could actually get for Dickey, because there are some red flags for a team interested. Let’s face it, he’s a knuckleballer and there’s still a stigma that it’s a gimmick pitch hard to control. And, last year was his best at age 38, and want to bet some teams believe that to be a fluke?

DICKEY: Would the Mets really benefit by trading him? (AP)

It’s not fair, but such thinking does exist.

Another factor is that Dickey is not signed beyond 2013. Any team that deals for him would have to be given an opportunity to negotiate with him, and if he’s determined to be a free agent that won’t be a breeze. I also don’t see many teams trading a young slugger for a 38-year-old pitcher, who, before last season was a journeyman.

If Dickey is dealt – and last year wasn’t a fluke – then the Mets’ rotation would be considerably weaker. Johan Santana broke down at the end of last year and I’m not counting on him pitching to the worth of $25 million. Jon Niese is a No. 3 starter until he proves otherwise and if Santana falters he would move to No. 1. Dillion Gee is coming off surgery and Matt Harvey has a limited resume.

The rotation, save a healthy Santana, is far more potential than proof.

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Oct 19

2012 Mets Player Review: Chris Young

                                                              CHRIS YOUNG, RHP

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: With veteran Chris Young there was first a hope before any expectations. Signed as a stop gap starter to begin with prior to the 2011 season, Young pitched effectively at first before injuring his shoulder. In four starts he was 1-0 with a 1.88 ERA, giving the Mets six innings a start. Although an injury risk, when sound he was a veteran presence who pitched with composure and guile an a sharp curveball. He could pump up his fastball if needed, but wouldn’t overpower hitters for any length of time. Young was coming off a shoulder surgery as severe, if not moreso, than Johan Santana’s. The Mets didn’t when he’d be ready when they signed him to a minor league deal in late March. He was signed as a reward for a good April in 2011, his desire to remain with the organization, and the inevitability there would be breakdowns in the rotation. After all, there always is. If Young could pitch, they were hoping for the same calming presence whenever that time came.

 

2012 SEASON REVIEW: That’s exactly what the Mets got when they purchased his contract in June. As expected, there were health cracks in the rotation when Mike Pelfrey went down early, Santana became ineffective following his 134-pitch no-hitter, and Dillon Gee went down with numbness in his arm. A breakdown from Young never happened and he gave the Mets 20 starts. Some were solid, others not so much, but he did reach an innings incentive in his contract which the club probably didn’t expect. Young finished at 4-9 with a 4.15 ERA and 1.35 WHIP, but he pitched better than his numbers and was often frustrated with a lack of run support and porous bullpen evidenced by seven no-decision. Realistically he could have finished at 7-7, which is acceptable for a No. 5 starter who made 20 starts.

 

LOOKING AT 2013: As of now, there isn’t a clear spot in the rotation for Young, with presumably Santana and Dillon Gee – both coming off injuries – R.A. Dickey, Jon Niese and Matt Harvey ahead of him. Then again, that rotation is a house of cards. What if Santana and Gee aren’t ready? What if the Mets can’t extend Dickey’s contract and they trade him? What if Harvey has a setback? All of those things are possible and would leave the Mets with gaping holes in their rotation. So, if not Young, the Mets would need a veteran like him to fill the emergency void. There’s a sense of familiarity with Young, and last year he earned a reasonable $1.1 million salary. The Mets would be lucky to get 115 innings for that price somewhere else in the market. Young’s starts and innings could induce a contending team with a rotation hole to give him a shot as he proved his durability.

 

NEXT: Mike Pelfrey

Oct 15

2012 Mets Player Review: Johan Santana

JOHAN SANTANA, LHP

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: The only thing the Mets knew for certain about Johan Santana heading into the season is they would pay him $24 million. Coming off shoulder surgery and not having started since Sept. 2, 2010, the most the Mets could hope for was for him to stay healthy and start at least 15 games. Anything above that would be considered a bonus.

2012 SEASON REVIEW: He didn’t stay healthy, and for the fourth straight season the Mets didn’t get 30 starts from their $137.5 million ace as he again ended the season on the disabled list. This time it was with a lower back injury, perhaps exasperated by a twisted ankle sustained trying to cover first. Santana started strong, highlighted by his June 1 no-hitter against St. Louis, helped out by a blown call. Santana threw a career-high 134 pitches that night and immediately struggled, going 3-7 with an 8.37 ERA over his next ten starts. Santana’s season ended with a career-high five-game losing streak in which he went 0-5 with a 15.63 ERA in just 19 innings. In that span he averaged just under four innings a start and gave up eight homers. Hitters batted .448 against him with a .771 slugging percentage and 1.242 OPS. For the season, Santana was 6-9 with a 4.85 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP while working 117 innings in 21 starts. Opponents hit .258 against him with a .750 OPS. Those are all gaudy numbers, emblematic of an aging pitcher beset with injuries.

LOOKING AT 2013: The Mets will pay Santana $25.5 million with a $5.5 million buyout, assuming he doesn’t reach a 215-inning incentive. If that happens, the Mets will be on the hook for another $25 million in 2014. Wouldn’t it be just like it for the Mets to let him work that much? The Mets would love to trade him, but his contract and injury history makes that virtually impossible. The Mets say he’ll be ready for spring training, but who really expects him to go through the season without an injury? The Mets are just counting down until he’s off the books. Their best-case scenario with Santana in 2013 is for him to stay healthy and get off to a good start to where some contender with deep pockets to make a run at him. Oh, to dream the impossible dream.

NEXT: R.A. Dickey, RHP