Nov 09

2012 Mets Player Review: The Bench

KIRK NIEUWENHUIS, OF

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: Our player review series concludes today with a look at the bench, which wasn’t without questions. With Ruben Tejada and Lucas Duda starting, that thinned the bench. Mike Nickeas was behind the plate; Justin Turner a capable reserve in the infield; and Scott Hairston and Mike Baxter were in the outfield. Kirk Nieuwenhuis opened the season in the minor leagues. The Mets liked Jordany Valdespin’s speed and ability to make things happen on the bases. In Nickeas, the Mets had a capable receiver, but not much offense; Turner had success as a pinch-hitter;  and Hairston and Baxter showed occasional power. Of the two, Baxter is the better defensive player.

2012 SEASON REVIEW: Hairston proved capable – perhaps too capable – in the outfield as he ended up starting when Duda was optioned and Jason Bay alternatively struggled and was hurt and hit 20 homers. Baxter saved Johan Santana’s no-hitter with a spectacular catch in left field and also provided some pop. Nieuwenhuis got an early opportunity when Andres Torres pulled up lame (calf) the first week of the season and played very well for about two months before major league pitching caught up with him (you’ll keep getting breaking balls off the plate until you prove you can hit them). Kelly Shoppach was brought in late in the season to back-up Josh Thole and hit for sporadic power. Speaking of power, Valdespin provided a long-ball spark as a pinch-hitter.

LOOKING AT 2013:  Hairston was so good he’ll command a multi-year deal in the free-agent market, something the Mets don’t want to do. Say good-bye, although with what they have returning in the outfield they should think twice. With Bay gone and Torres not expected to be tendered, Nieuwenhuis will get a chance to earn a spot during spring training. He can handle the job defensively, but needs to cut down on his strikeouts and increase his on-base percentage considering he’s not expected to hit for power. Valdespin played some second base in the fall league, which should enhance his value. Valdespin could also benefit by Bay’s departure. Turner could be brought back, and if not, there will be plenty of alternatives on the market. Shoppach had his moments, but the Mets won’t pay over $1 million for a back-up when the starter makes half that amount. GM Sandy Alderson said there won’t be any big-ticket free agents, but inexpensive reserve outfielders and a catcher could be found.

Nov 07

Both Sides Win As Mets Sever Ties With Jason Bay

Usually not much happens at the GM meetings, especially for the Mets. But this afternoon they reached an agreement to terminate Jason Bay’s contract and granting him unconditional free agency. That’s a big deal as it eliminates a black cloud that has been hovering over the Mets the past three years.

The Mets owe Bay $16 million for 2013 with a $3 million buyout for 2014. Terms of the buyout were not disclosed, but assume Bay got something.

In a statement released by the Mets, Bay said: “I still feel I have plenty to give to this game and that I can play baseball at a high level. But after serious consideration, both sides agree that we would benefit from a fresh start. I’m grateful we were able to reach an agreement to allow that to happen.”

Bay’s performance and the need for a fresh start was reminiscent to some degree to the termination of Oliver Perez’s contract. Neither Bay nor Perez were producing, but while Perez rejected a minor league assignment to work on his mechanics and became a clubhouse pariah, Bay remained popular with his teammates and never stopped running.

As I posted earlier today in Bay’s 2012 review profile, the Mets were just biding their time until the end of his contract. Both sides win in this as Bay gets his money and a chance to move on and the Mets free themselves of a production headache, although they’ll still be on the hook for a considerable sum.

The important thing from the Mets’ perception is they can move ahead freely and won’t be mired in the dilemma of how to handle Bay, who ended last year in a platoon role. If the Mets can acquire a right fielder, it could allow them to move Lucas Duda to left field, considered an easier position.

Bolstering the outfield has been designated as a priority. Kirk Nieuwenhuis initially played well, but eventually faltered and was optioned down. Scott Hairston had a good year off the bench, might price himself out of the Mets’ plans if he wants a multi-year deal.

Bay wasn’t a fit from the outset when they signed him as a free-agent from Boston prior to the Mets’ move into Citi Field. At the time, the Mets said they were building their team around pitching, speed and defense, so naturally they signed a right-handed power hitter. Bay played surprisingly good defense and always hustled, but his production was never there.

Maybe the Mets’ first clue about Bay was when the Red Sox didn’t make a serious attempt to re-sign him and rescinded an offer.

Bay hit at least 30 homers in four straight seasons before signing a four-year, $66-million contract, but batted just .234 with 26 homers and 124 RBI in three years with the Mets. It wouldn’t be a reach to say the Mets expected him to average at least 26 homers with 124 RBI a season.

To be fair, Bay was sidelined by a myriad of injuries, including two concussions and a fractured rib, but even when healthy, he looked lost at the plate.

In a statement released by the Mets, GM Sandy Alderson said: “Jason has a tremendous work ethic. There was never any question about it. Unfortunately, the results weren’t there and we are in a results-oriented business. We thank Jason for his efforts and wish him well.”

Bay said he wants to keep playing and has no intention of quitting. He expressed no regrets other than his performance, offered no excuses and wished the fans and his former teammates well.

 

Nov 05

Cody Ross To The Mets? Don’t Bet On It.

According to Mike Puma of the New York Post, The Mets could target free agent OF Cody Ross this winter.

“The Mets have a glaring need for outfield help”, Puma points out, and “multiple baseball officials yesterday pointed to Cody Ross as a possible free-agent target for the team.”

The righthanded hitting Ross batted .267/.326/.481 with 22 home runs and 81 RBI in 476 at-bats for the Red Sox this season. He was particularly effective against lefthanded pitching against whom he batted .295/.373/.636/1.010.

Ross, 32, signed a one-year deal with Boston last season for $3 million dollars.

While the Mets had shown interest in Ross last season, when he was coming off a poor .240 campaign with the San Francisco Giants. I simply can’t see that level of interest now when he will be much more costly and is lobbying for a 3-year deal, although I’m betting he won’t get more than two years guaranteed. Click to view odds. If Ross does get a third year it most likely will come in the form of a vesting or team option.

They way things stand now, the New York Mets can’t even afford to bring back Scott Hairston who proved to be the only productive player in their outfield. It’s a shame that a team that plays its game in the sports mecca of the world, New York City, are not only going to let an outfielder like Scott Hairston walk, but that they are still grappling with extending their face of the franchise David Wright and their ace R.A. Dickey as we speak.  How palling and frustrating is that?

Anyway, getting back to Cody Ross, I just don’t see how he can fit into the team’s budget unless a significant player was traded to make room for him on the payroll.

It’s common knowledge that the Mets have only about $10 million or less to spend this offseason which makes it difficult to see how they can net someone like Ross who will cost in upwards of $5-6 million per season and that he’s looking for a multi year deal.

Then there’s the other question of whether Ross would even choose to play for the Mets over the 6-7 other teams who are said to be very interested in him including the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves.

I think this is a great rumor to entertain Mets fans, Ross would certainly fit in very nicely. But unfortunately it’s a rumor that has no legs.

Sep 10

Home Not So Sweet For Mets

There are a myriad of statistics to explain what has happened to the Mets this season, but there’s one that stands out like neon. The Mets are 4-18 at home since the All-Star break. They have scored three or fewer runs in 17 of those games, including their last ten straight.

 

Overall, they are an unacceptable 30-38 at home as they begin a three-game series tonight against the Washington.

 

They haven’t had a futility stretch in scoring like their last ten since 1988. The franchise record is 11 straight, achieved – is that the proper word? – in 1979 and at the end of the 1966 season and start of 1967.

 

They are facing Gio Gonzalez tonight before what should be a small smattering of people with nothing else better to do. The Mets drew less than a combined 75,000 for the three-game series against Atlanta. The Jets drew over 79,000 yesterday.

 

Traditionally, contenders aim to win at home and be .500 on the road and the Mets have failed in both accounts.

 

With the Mets not expected to substantially increase their payroll next season, I wouldn’t expect there to be dramatically different team than the current edition. We’ll have to wait until they clear $50 million in salary for Johan Santana and Jason Bay after next year to see what they put on the field for 2014.

 

The Mets, 4-11 this season against the Nationals, will start this line-up tonight:

Ruben Tejada, ss

Ronny Cedeno, 2b

David Wright, 3b

Scott Hairston, rf

Ike Davis, 1b

Kelly Shoppach, c

Jason Bay, lf

Andres Torres, cf

Collin McHugh, rhp

Aug 29

A Message To Josh Thole

If not a breakout season, 2012 was supposed to be a season where catcher Josh Thole would take it to another level, both defensively and as a hitter. That hasn’t been the case, and one hopes Thole will receive the message manager Terry Collins is sending him tonight.

THOLE: Sitting tonight vs. righty.

Originally, right-handed hitting Kelly Shoppach – who homered last night – was to start against left Cole Hamels. However, when Hamels was scratched this afternoon because of a stomach ailment and replaced by right-handed call-up Tyler Cloyd, Collins stuck with Shoppach instead of going to Thole.

Maybe Collins is simply rewarding Shoppach, but somewhere in there must be a message the Mets aren’t satisfied with what Thole is giving them. Production from behind the plate is needed, but it isn’t to the dire point where the Mets will move away from Thole, so he should report to spring training as the starter, but the patience in him is getting shorter.

Here’s tonight’s line-up:

Ruben Tejada, ss

Daniel Murphy, 2b

David Wright, 3b

Ike Davis, 1b

Lucas Duda, lf

Scott Hairston, cf

Mike Baxter, rf

Kelly Shoppach, c

Matt Harvey, rhp

INTERESTING NOTE: Scott Hairston has already cleared waivers so there are contenders seeking an outfield bat who are scouting the Mets. Hairston is is center tonight, which makes me wonder if the Mets are showcasing his versatility.

Hairston, by the way, has been productive off the bench and is somebody the Mets should bring back.