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

Oct 08

Forecasting What Mets Have To Spend Next Year

The Mets might have received a favorable ruling in the Madoff case, but that doesn’t the economic climate around Citi Field is that much better.

Hardly, in fact, with a sub-par showing at the gate, caused largely in part by the club’s failure to improve their bullpen and outfield at mid-season, which led to a second-half collapse.

With a team going 15 straight home games without scoring more than three runs, who is going to come out?

The burgers aren’t that good.

The Mets’ payroll was $100 million this year and is forecast to be much the same in 2013. It is possible to reach the playoffs with a sub-$100 million payroll as Cincinnati, Washington, Baltimore and Oakland are still standing. The Athletics’ payroll is nearly half that of the Mets, and they also play in a two-team market, so it can be done. The Nationals, of course, finished 24 games ahead of the Mets in the NL East.

It takes superior scouting and farm system, prudent trades and free-agent signings, and a patience to let your young talent develop. The Mets have done precious little in those areas and since 2005 have relied on veteran free agents that were either too old on the down side of their careers, or became injured and non-productive.

Pedro Martinez and Tom Glavine gave the Mets some good moments. Both had physical issues and the team couldn’t build around them.

Frankie Rodriguez, Jason Bay, Johan Santana, Billy Wagner, Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo were all too pricey and failed in their expectations. The Mets are saying they really won’t be able to do anything in the free-agent market until after the 2013 season when Santana and Bay are off the books.

Other signings, such as Guillermo Mota, Julio Franco, JJ Putz and Scott Schoeneweis – that’s a name I almost forgot about – were simply bad as the Mets overpaid in dollars and years.

Outside of Jon Niese and possibly Matt Harvey, what has come out of the farm system? David Wright, Ike Davis and Ruben Tejada are the only homegrown position players who had substantial seasons. Lucas Duda and Josh Thole are to be determined, Mike Pelfrey has been hit or miss, is now injured and likely won’t be tendered a contract.

Do you remember that star-studded outfield of prospects Lastings Milledge, Carlos Gomez and Fernando Martinez? Gomez was in the Santana trade, but other than that, the Mets got noting from the trio that was supposed to patrol their outfield for a decade.

While four teams in the playoffs have payrolls less than the Mets, none are as expensive market as New York. The Mets face the problem of working extensions for Wright and R.A. Dickey within that $100-million parameter, but not much higher.

Since Wright is already on the books for $15 million for next year and Dickey for $5 million, that’s $20 million of their extensions already accounted for in 2013. The Mets could backload their contracts to ease some of the strain, but they still have $79.5 million of the $100 million already earmarked for six players.

In addition to Wright and Dickey, the Mets are committed next year to Santana ($25.5 million plus a $5.5 million buyout); Bay ($16 million plus a $3 million buyout); Frank Francisco ($6.5 million) and Jon Niese ($3 million).

That means they must spread $20.5 million among 19 players to complete their 25-man roster. Of that, figure in a raise to maybe $3.5 million for Davis, who is arbitration eligible.

There’s not a lot of wiggle room, and definitely not enough to sign a big-ticket free-agent. They will have to rely on minor league promotions and free agents signing for no more than $1 million.

Good luck with that.