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.

Oct 05

How Mets Answered Preseason Questions

Like all teams, the Mets had questions entering spring training. The Mets, of course, had more than most. At that time I listed the top ten questions facing the 2012 Mets. Let’s take a look back at how the season answered those questions. Some were in the positive, others not.

1) QUESTION: To what degree will the Wilpon’s financial problems impact the Mets?  

ANSWER: Did you see any new faces of consequence added at the trade deadline? Nope, I didn’t think so. Despite a strong first half, the Mets had issues – notably the bullpen – which they did not address at the end of July. Failing to improve the team, the Mets spiraled down in the second half. While the Mets received a favorable verdict in the Madoff case – they have two more years before they have to pay off – it will not induce GM Sandy Alderson to significantly enter the free agent market. The Mets spent $100 million this year on player salaries and don’t expect them to pay much more than that in 2013.

2) QUESTION: What will we get from Johan Santana?

ANSWER: Actually more than anticipated, including the first no-hitter in franchise history. There remains speculation throwing 134 pitches in that game might have derailed him. Even though there were no arm issues, Santana did lose his command and struggled in the second half before being shut down with an injury. The Mets are on the hook for $31 million more to Santana next year, including a buyout.

3) QUESTION: How long will David Wright remain a Met?

ANSWER: Well, he’s still here and Alderson said retaining him will be an offseason priority. Because of a good first half Wright’s name didn’t come up at the trade deadline as Jose Reyes’ did the year before. Wright proved to the Mets his durability this season and had a good season, hitting .306 with 21 homers and 93 RBI. How much better could it have been had he not slumped trying to carry the team in the second half?

4) QUESTION: Which Mike Pelfrey will we see?

ANSWER: He was good while he lasted, but was shutdown early with an injury and underwent surgery to his elbow. Pelfrey might not be ready until May or June, making it highly unlikely for the Mets to tender him a contract despite Terry Collins’ urging. After a seemingly breakthrough 2010 season, Pelfrey regressed dramatically last year. Overall, Pelfrey has not lived up to expectations. The only way I see him staying with the Mets if he were to re-sign with them at a discount, but with Scott Boras his agent, don’t count on it.

5) QUESTION: What is the configuration of the bullpen?

ANSWER: That was supposed to be Alderson’s priority last winter, but it wasn’t to be as the pen factored greatly in the second-half swoon. Frank Francisco was the primary closer, but finished the season with tendinitis. Bobby Parnell pitched considerably better later in the season and will likely enter spring training in a set-up role if Francisco is healthy. The Mets received promising production from lefties Josh Edgin and Robert Carson. Look for Jon Rauch to be a part of the housecleaning.

6) QUESTION: Is Ruben Tejada the answer as Jose Reyes’ replacement?

ANSWER: That’s still up in the air over the long haul, but for now Tejada is the right fit. Tejada has a great glove, and his .289 average was better than one could have expected. With other pressing needs, Tejada showed enough to where the Mets don’t have to shop for a shortstop this winter.

7) QUESTION: Can Daniel Murphy make it at second base?

I don’t think we’ll see the second coming of Wally Backman, let alone Ryne Sandberg or Roberto Alomar. Murphy’s range could be better, but he showed promise this summer that the position isn’t a lost cause for him. He was less awkward around the bag and made most of the plays. His footwork on the double-play needs to get better. Overall, he showed enough to where the Mets don’t need to sign a second baseman in the offseason.

8) QUESTION: How healthy is Ike Davis?

ANSWER: There was speculation the virus was a contributor to a poor first half, but he refutes that notion. Not wanting to shatter his confidence, and probably moreso that there weren’t other alternatives, the Mets didn’t send him down when he hovered under .200. Davis responded with a strong second half and finished with over 30 homers.

9) QUESTION: What’s the make up of the rotation?

ANSWER: It changed considerably, beginning with Pelfrey’s injury. Dillon Gee and Santana also went down. Chris Young was brought in and gave them over 100 innings. The positive developments were Jon Niese taking another step and the emergence of Matt Harvey. Most positive of all was R.A. Dickey, who won 20 games to become a Cy Young Award candidate. Dickey has gone from journeyman to an offseason priority to be re-signed. 

10) QUESTION: Will it ever happen for Jason Bay with the Mets?

ANSWER: The newest theory is Bsy’s concussion last year caused him to be sluggish at the plate. It’s only speculation. A greater speculation is it won’t happen for Bay, who has given the Mets nothing for the $66 million they’ll pay him. Not even moving in the fences helped Bay. The Mets are just counting the days until he’s off the books.

Oct 01

Mets’ Collapse In 2007 More Than Lost Season

Little did anybody know it at the time, but the Mets’ historic and stunning collapse at the end of the 2007 season, blowing a seven-game lead with 17 to play was more than just a horrific finish.

After all, they went on to blow a late-season lead in 2008, also.

The collapses began a spiral effect of costly decisions that brought to light the Mets’ financial crisis. The Ponzi scandal, no doubt, had a huge impact regardless of the club’s comments that the baseball operations weren’t also severely influenced.

One bad decision lead to another costly mistake and we find ourselves with another losing season, another lost summer, and the very real prospect of them losing both David Wright and R.A. Dickey.

Wright told ESPN’s Adam Rubin over the weekend he could see it ending with him and the Mets. When Rubin asked Wright following the Chipper Jones’ ceremony if he could see himself playing his entire career with the same team.

Wright knew it was possible when the Mets didn’t retain Jose Reyes. For years we heard the All-Star left side of their infield, and although there’s a plausible explanation for the shortstop’s departure, it was a thanks-I-needed-that slap in the face for Wright.

“I always thought Jose would be back, that it was just a lot to do about nothing,” Wright said. “We’ve known each other since 2001. You’re talking about playing around or with each other for 11 years. Yeah, of course it opens your eyes. It makes you realize in a lot of ways there is an ugly business side to this — whether it’s from the player’s perspective or the team’s perspective.”

Wright is arguably the premier position player in club history, but there are no assurances, especially considering the past.

The following are some of the most critical decisions that put the Mets in position where they had to cut $50 million in payroll this season to make them a mid-level franchise in the country’s biggest market.

1) JOHAN SANTANA: Yes, he threw the franchise’s first no-hitter this year and has had other special moments, but the fact remains they were bidding against themselves in dealing with the Twins. Minnesota’s asking price was steep, which forced Boston and the Yankees to pull out. I don’t care about the handful of prospects as they’ve amounted to little, but the trade was contingent on signing Santana to an extension and the Mets drastically overpaid to the point where they’ve received precious little the last few years and are put in a weak position for this offseason. Santana has been frequently injured during his tenure with the Mets and there’s no guarantee about next year.

In addition, the for the amount of money Santana is getting, the Mets could have filled numerous holes, including the rotation and bullpen.

2) FRANCISCO RODRIGUEZ: When Rodriguez’s own team, the Angels, want him back that should have been a red flag. Rodriguez saved his fair share of games, but paid him an extraordinary amount considering there were no other bidders. They should have taken a harder line approach in their negotiations.

3) JASON BAY: Next year is it for Bay, whose contract, injury history and lack of production make him non-tradable. What’s worse, is the Mets were moving into a new ballpark at the time and stated they were building their team around pitching and defense.  At the time, pitching was the overriding need. Again, a red flag should have been when the Red Sox were so willing to let him go. The Mets have received virtually nothing for the $66 million they’ll pay Bay.

4) OLIVER PEREZ: Speaking of red flags, shouldn’t it have been a tip off when nobody else seriously flirted with him in his free agent season? Instead, the Mets signed him long term and by the end he had lost his fastball and became a clubhouse pariah when he refused a demotion to work on his mechanics.

5) LUIS CASTILLO: I could see bringing him back, but for four years? Seriously, what was Omar Minaya thinking? Castillo was already on a downhill slide, which was only accelerated by injuries. His contract, along with Perez’s, symbolized the Minaya regime.

There were more, of course, multi-year deals to Moises Alou, Orlando Hernandez, Julio Franco and Guillermo Mota, but those five, for the magnitude of dollars and not properly evaluating the market did serious damage to this franchise which might not be over.

After 2006 and 2007, the Mets didn’t properly evaluate their team. They thought they were better than they really were.

 

 

 

Sep 30

Mets’ Chris Young Ends On A High Note

It was thought Chris Young might not even pitch this season coming off serious shoulder surgery. Instead, he collected $350,000 in bonuses last night for reaching the 20 starts-110 innings milestone.

YOUNG: Where will he go? (AP)

That’s a lot of money for a supposedly cheap team out of contention to shell out the final week of the season. Other teams in similar situations have pulled the player so they wouldn’t have to pay the bonus.

Young, a free-agent this winter, logged 115 innings, his most since 2007, and there will be some contender in need of another arm that will be interested. There’s no shortage of teams that could use a reliable arm such as Young’s.

“All in all, there were some really good things,” Young said of his season last night after giving up two run in six innings in a very quality start. “It was a great year, to bounce back. … When I decided to have the surgery and rehab, I knew it would be a long process. I knew there would be some bumps in the road.

 

Aug 22

Mets Shut Down Santana

It wasn’t a shoulder, an elbow or his ankle. Instead, inflammation in his lower back landed Johan Santana on the disabled list, retroactive to Aug. 18, but indications are he’ll be shut down for the season.

Surgery is not required.

Santana has given up at least six runs in each of his past five starts, so it was obvious something was wrong.

“I’m very confident he’ll be back next season ready to go, hopefully in a stronger position coming into this season,” GM Sandy Alderson said. “If you look back at this season and what we reasonably could’ve expected at the beginning of the year, he’s accomplished quite a lot.”

Alderson is right and this was the best move. And keeping him off when he’s eligible to be activated is a must. It must be remembered Santana has been working hard at his rehab since December, so he’s already pitched the equivalent of a full season.

“My mindset was to start tomorrow, but the doctors are thinking different now, so we’ll go with everything they’re saying,” said Santana. “I want to keep pitching. I felt that I could pitch, but at the same time, I’m listening to them.”

Collin McHugh will be brought up to start in Santana’s place Thursday. He was 2-4 with a 3.39 ERA for Triple-A Buffalo.