Nov 05

Only One Player Given Qualifying Offer Interests Mets, Who Should Be Wary Of Shin-Soo Choo

Early speculation of whom the New York Mets might consider in the free-agent market could turn out to be pricey as 13 free agents received qualifying offers from their respective teams. Not surprisingly, no Met free agent was given a qualifying offer, but three Yankees – Robinson CanoHiroki Kuroda and Curtis Granderson – were given the $14.1 million offer.

CHOO: Mets Should Be Cautious.

CHOO: Mets Should Be Cautious.

That figure was derived at averaging the top 125 salaries from 2013, and each player offered that amount regardless of his salary last season.

The list includes Carlos Beltran, Cano, Shin-Soo Choo, Nelson Cruz, Stephen Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, Granderson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Kuroda, Brian McCann, Kendrys Morales, Mike Napoli and Ervin Santana.

Numerous media outlets at one time had linked Beltran, Choo, Cruz, Drew, Ellsbury, Granderson and Napoli to the Mets, but only in speculative terms.

The players have until 5 p.m., next Monday to accept the qualifying offer, and if they do will have agreed to a one-year, $14.1 million contract. If the player rejects the offer his former team will be awarded either a first or second-round draft pick as compensation.

The Mets’ first-round pick – tenth overall in the draft – is protected and determined on their 2013 record of 74-88, but general manager Sandy Alderson said losing a second-round pick would not be a deterrent.

You’ll recall the compensation issue is why the Mets did not go after outfielder Michael Bourn last season. Bourn eventually signed with Cleveland and the Mets eventually settled on minor leaguer Juan Lagares in center fielder.

Of the players on the list, the Mets appear to be the most serious about the 31-year-old Choo, but reportedly won’t go beyond four years. The Mets’ needs at shortstop and outfield had them thinking about Drew and Ellsbury, but $14.1 million would be too high for Drew, but palatable for Ellsbury.

However, in many cases with qualifying offers, the team signing them does so as a mechanism to buy negotiating time to work out a multi-year deal.

The Mets are expected to swim in the middle depths of the free-agent pool, which is what Boston did last year in building its championship team with the signings of Drew, Napoli and Shane Victorino.

Choo fits into that category, but he’s not one to build around. He has averaged 20 homers and 81 RBI during his nine-year career with Seattle, Cleveland and Cincinnati. However, those are hitters parks and he was surrounded by better line-ups than what he’d have with the Mets in Citi Field.

Choo hit .285 last year – 24 points below his career-high of .309 in 2009, but drew 112 walks in compiling a .423 on-base percentage, his most important statistic.

If signed, Choo would slot into center leading to a competition in right between Juan Lagares and Matt den Dekker.

Red flags for Choo are 133 strikeouts and only 54 RBI for his 21 homers (conceding he hit at the top of the order). He averages 146 strikeouts a season during his career, something the Mets have had far too much of those. Frankly, his production doesn’t warrant the strikeouts.

Choo made $7.3 million last year from the Reds, and during his career earned a total of $17.5 million, so the qualifying offer represents a huge raise for him. However, the market doesn’t work where the Mets can make a take-it-or-leave it offer. Especially, with his agent being Scott Boras, known to not leave money on the table. It is highly likely the qualifying offer will be rejected and Choo will enter the market.

Considering he has played in 150 games only four times during his career, his career .288 average doesn’t seem like much to warrant giving four years. If I am giving four years on a player with a qualifying offer, I’d overpay for Ellsbury and know I would be getting a star. I would also rather bring back Beltran for a couple of seasons.

The most I’d give Choo is two years for $28.2 million (two years of the qualifying offer) plus an option. Anything more would be excessive considering the Mets’ other needs.

 

Oct 18

Mets Wise To Pass On Cuban Abreu

Several people I spoke with and greatly respect said they were disappointed the Mets didn’t make a run at Cuban free-agent first baseman Jose Abreu, who signed a six-year, $68-million contract with the Chicago White Sox.

Considering the success of Oakland’s Yoenis Cespedes and the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig, all of a sudden tapping the Cuban market is the hot thing. Teams get burned touching hot objects.

Abreu, 26, last played on an international stage during the World Baseball Classic this spring and batted .360 with three homers and nine RBI. Prior to that, he batted .453 with 33 home runs and 93 RBI in 63 games in the 2010-11 season, but sustained a shoulder injury. The previous season, he batted .399 with 30 home runs and 76 RBI.

No doubt, impressive numbers, but the obvious question is: How good was the competition. Justin Verlander, Adam Wainwright and Clayton Kershaw don’t pitch in Cuba.

The eye-popping number for Abreu isn’t his power against questionable competition, but the $68 million, which is very real money.

That is a lot of money on a question, albeit an important one for the 2014 Mets. They already have two first basemen in Ike Davis and Lucas Duda, but both have greatly under produced and the Mets aren’t happy with either.

The White Sox traded Jake Peavy and Alex Rios to free up money for Abreu, and now have to deal with their own free-agent in Paul Konerko.

It has been suggested in this corner the Mets might be better if they eschewed big-money free agents and go the route Boston did, with veteran free agents who would command less money and would contribute a winning presence, such as Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino.

The Red Sox will play Game 6 of the ALCS Saturday night.

Yes, Konerko is an older player, but he can’t do any worse than Davis or Duda. If nothing, his work ethic might benefit some of the younger players.

The Mets have been down this road before, but Konerko could add something while Abreu was a passing fancy.

We know very little about Abreu as a player against quality competition, but there are many questions when deciding to go the international route. Mainly, do the Mets want to sink in $68 million in a player they know precious little about?

After freeing themselves under Sandy Alderson of the contracts of Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo, Francisco Rodriguez, Johan Santana and Jason Bay (there’s still some deferred money there), but last thing the Mets want to do is sink money in another long-term deal, especially with the possible results so precarious.

Maybe Abreu will pan out for the White Sox. If so, good for them. But, the last thing the Mets need is another long-term headache.

The Mets were wise to sit this one out.

Jul 03

Fake Rivalry With Phillies Renews Tonight

The Mets and Phillies have had a fake rivalry, and it has been rare when both teams were good at the same time. That’s when the competitive edge of the rivalry comes into play. They are division rivals and geographic rivals, but there’s little tenseness.

An element of hate was removed when Jose Reyes left in the offseason. The Phillies despised him and his style of play and gloated whenever they could. Reyes is gone and took that spice with him.

This year the Mets are playing well and chasing Washington for the NL East. Meanwhile, the Phillies are down and have made it known they will listen to offers for Shane Victorino and Cole Hamels. Both would look nice in Mets pinstripes, but forget it.

The Phillies have been in the playoffs since 2007. This year they’ve been beset with injuries and sluggish play. This is the time for the Mets to put them away, to put three games worth of distance between them before the All-Star break.

If the Mets are as good as they claim to be, they need to continue their momentum from the Dodgers series – including overcoming the disappointment of not getting a sweep – and laying the wood on a wounded opponent.

In that sense, there’s an element to the rivalry that has been missing.

Oct 28

World Series Keys ….

I suppose it was going to come down to this all along, the Phillies against the Yankees in the World Series.

The Yankees, with the home field advantage because of the ridiculous All-Star Game gimmick, are considered the favorites. Would they be if the Phillies had the home field? I’m not so sure.

Looking at the match-ups, both teams are riding a hot ace and scorching bat, with the Phillies’ Cliff Lee and Ryan Howard against the Yankees’ CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez.

KEYS TO THE WORLD SERIES

KEYS TO THE WORLD SERIES


In looking at the match-ups, I’ll give the edge to the Yankees at catcher (only when Jorge Posada plays), shortstop (Derek Jeter lives for these moments and third base (Rodriguez seems to have shaken the October blues).

I’ll give the edge to the Phillies at first (I recognize the year Mark Teixeira had, but Howard is a monster), second (Chase Utley, for my money is one of the best players in the game), and all three outfield positions.

The starting rotations and bullpens are relatively even. Mariano Rivera is better than Brad Lidge, but Rivera can be negated because the bridge to him is tenuous. The Phillies’ offense is superior to that of Minnesota and the Angels, and once in the Yankees’ bullpen there’s no guarantee we’ll see Rivera.

Here are some of the more notable keys to this World Series:

1. KEY: Is Brad Lidge back from the dark side?
BREAKDOWN: Lidge blew 11 save opportunities this summer, but has been perfect in the postseason. If he’s regained his touch this is a huge factor to the Phillies.

2. KEY: Which superstar will have the bigger series?
BREAKDOWN: Both Ryan Howard and Alex Rodriguez tied Lou Gehrig’s record with RBI in eight straight postseason games. Rodriguez appears to have shaken his October blues, but there is one more round. Both have the ability to carry a team.

3. KEY: Will the Phillies be able to run on the Yankees’ catching?
BREAKDOWN: Philadelphia led the majors with an 81 percent success rate in stole bases. Once Chase Utley gets on, if he wants second it is his (23-for-23). The Phillies also like to run with Shane Victorino and Jimmy Rollins. Surprisingly, the Yankees were second. The Phillies can run on anybody, but they haven’t seen a move as good as Andy Pettitte’s.

4. KEY: Will the Phillies limit Mariano Rivera’s appearances?
BREAKDOWN: If Rivera gets four save opportunities, it’s a good bet the Yankees will win their 27th World Series title. However, Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes, the bridge to Rivera, has been rickety. Therefore, it is essential the Yankees will get innings from their starters to limit the bullpen exposure.

5. KEY: Will Cole Hamels return to prominence?
BREAKDOWN: Hamels, last year’s World Series MVP, had a miserable season. He’s pitched well in spots, but too often is vulnerable to the big inning.

6. KEY: Does Pedro Martinez have an encore in him?
BREAKDOWN: Assume for a moment CC Sabathia continues his roll in Game 1 and beats Cliff Lee. The Phillies would then need Martinez big time in Game 2 as falling down by two games would make defending their title difficult.

7. KEY: Will CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee continue to roll?
BREAKDOWN: Both have been virtually untouchable in the postseason and rightfully assume their roles as a No. 1. The Series could turn on who stumbles first.

8. KEY: Is there a rebound series for Mark Teixeira?
BREAKDOWN: Teixeira carried the Yankees for much of the season and had a hot ALDS against Minnesota. The Angels handcuffed him, but gave away that edge with their faulty defense. A hot Teixeira gives the Yankees another superstar bat.

9. KEY: Whose second level stars perform best?
BREAKDOWN: Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez vs. Johnny Damon, Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher. Both teams are loaded and both have the marquee names, but those on the undercard are also vitally important.

10. KEY: What happens in the AJ Burnett and Joe Blanton games?
BREAKDOWN: Both starters have the capacity to pitch big and small. To win a series, a team needs a solid start from its No. 3 and No. 4 starters.

Oct 26

Mets’ nightmare comes true ….

The worst case scenario for Mets’ fans of a World Series between their two greatest rivals – the Yankees and Phillies – has reached fruition.

The Mets were left eating the dust of both, and they don’t appear to be in position to challenge either any time soon.

New York City, which some have argued is a National League town, belongs totally to the Yankees, who are in their 40th World Series seeking their 27th championship. Four World Series; two titles for the Mets.

YANKEES: Always the Mets' yardstick.

YANKEES: Always the Mets' yardstick.


The National League, for the second straight season, is owned by Philadelphia, seeking to become the first repeat champion since the Yankees, 1998-2000.

Many fans I speak to say they won’t watch, saying they don’t know whom to hate more. Selfishly, that’s not good news for me and the blog. Hopefully, the “baseball fan” in them will tune in.

However, the Mets and their fans, instead of lamenting their closed window, which slammed shut after a second straight September collapse in 2008, should step back and learn from their two tormentors.

The Mets, and probably nobody else, will match the October success the Yankees built over the last century. So what? What’s important is now.

Both teams opened new stadiums this summer, but the Yankees brought with them a revamped and retooled team. The Yankees took care of multiple needs last winter and added power in Mark Teixeira and pitching in CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett. The Mets, also having multiple needs, but addressed only the bullpen with the belief things will get better with a veteran closer.

Rarely does it work that way, as building one area of a team doesn’t address the other voids. Watch, win or lose over the next week, the Yankees will address their team aggressively in the offseason. They know they don’t have enough starting pitching; they know there are bullpen questions; the outfield is an issue with the possible departures of Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon.

The difference between the Yankees and Mets is that the team in the Bronx has a mission statement every season of WINNING the World Series. Getting there is not enough. And, please, let’s not hear about the Yankees’ unlimited resources. The Mets’ payroll is also formidable, but their approach is not nearly as aggressive.

PHILLIES: The team to beat.

PHILLIES: The team to beat.


As for the Phillies, they’ve also been more aggressive in filling holes than the Mets. The Phillies have a home grown core (Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins) as do the Mets (David Wright and Jose Reyes), but Philadelphia has been superior in filling its holes (Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth, Raul Ibanez and Cliff Lee).

The Phillies will not stand still, even should they repeat. Unlike the Mets, the Phillies have the minor league resources to package should they decide to pursue Roy Halladay. The Yankees, of course, have always been known to be willing to part with minor league talent to win immediately.

Compounding the Mets’ dilemma with the Phillies, is that they aren’t their only competition in the National League East. Both Florida and Atlanta improved this season to overtake the Mets.

Both the Phillies and Mets, from the front office to the dugout, have a mindset beyond that of the Mets’ thinking, which gives the appearance of settling to become competitive.

The Mets had a good year at the gate, drawing 3.1 million (averaging 38,000), which was seventh in the majors (the Yankees and Phillies finished 2-3). However, rave reviews for Citi Field aren’t what’s important in the big picture. To keep drawing, and even increasing attendance is dependent on the quality of the product on the field.

Eventually, Citi Field will stop becoming a fan magnet, which is what happened in Baltimore and Cleveland when the Orioles and Indians hit the skids. Citi Field is too expensive, and New York City offers so many other diversions, for fans to keep coming out of curiosity.

Right now, Mets’ fans should only be curious about one thing: What is their team going to do to close the gap on the Phillies and Yankees?