Feb 16

Jenrry Mejia’s Role Is Set

Once he arrives in camp – which might take another week – it appears Jenrry Mejia’s spring is already laid out for him.

Barring an injury to somebody rated ahead of him, Mejia will be used as a starting pitcher and expected to open the season at Triple-A Las Vegas. This decision has nothing to do with his visa problems in leaving the Dominican Republic.

Not that they don’t need bullpen help, but this is the best course for the Mets, both in the short and long terms.

The Mets have several rotation questions, and if history is an indicator they will have a need for another starter or two this season. It is that way every summer.

And, for next year and beyond, the Mets will need another starter, as there are no plans to bring back Johan Santana.

The Mets’ projected rotation includes Santana, Jon Niese, Matt Harvey, Shaun Marcum and Dillon Gee. Mejia and Zack Wheeler are next in line.

Santana and Gee are coming off injuries; Niese’s career-high is 13 victories; Harvey has ten career starts; and Marcum was a late FA pick-up. Now, you tell me that is a position of strength.

Clearly, the Mets need more starting pitching depth.

Mejia has been bounced around between the rotation and the pen, and I still maintain Jerry Manuel’s insistence of using him as an untested reliever set back his career. Through it all, Mejia’s greatest success has been as a starter, and it is the team’s obligation to put him in a position where he’s best able to succeed.

After coming off Tommy John surgery last year – and who says there’s not a connection with how he’s been handled? – Mejia’s numbers were far superior as a starter.

Mejia posted a 2.75 ERA and .245 opponents batting average as a starter compared to a 5.48 ERA and .303 opponents batting average out of the bullpen.

While it isn’t the largest sampling, it is enough to determine his comfort zone and the best place to start.

Starting pitching is expensive, and despite Fred Wilpon’s proclamation his finances are in order and the Mets will spend in the future, that’s no guarantee. What is assured, however, is the Mets don’t have the chips to deal for a starter and anybody of substance in the free-agent market will be costly. That’s another reason why grooming Mejia in this role is the prudent option because of his reasonable salary.

Mejia needs this year to fully come back from his injury and build up the strength to pitch seven plus innings every fifth day. This is the best course for both Mejia and the Mets.

Meanwhile, Mejia is working out at the Mets’ complex in the Dominican Republic and manager Terry Collins thinks it could be another week before he gets to Florida.

Feb 01

Report: Mets Considering Valverde As Closer

Maybe Sandy Alderson believes the Mets might be ready to compete this year.

That was my first impression – perhaps wishful thinking – after reading an ESPN report they are considering signing former Detroit closer Jose Valverde to replace Frank Francisco. No problems there. Actually, I have no problem with anybody replacing Francisco, who was a bad signing.

Valverde saved 35 games last year for the Tigers before unraveling and was replaced in the postseason by a committee pen. Valverde’s agent is Scott Boras, but the Mets say they need this on their terms, with a reported $4 million base plus incentives. Valverde earned $9 million last year, but with how he finished nobody will bite on that figure.

With spring training less than two weeks away – my, where did the winter go? – Valverde falls under the category of beggars can’t be choosers. If he’s signed and does well, he can try the market again. There are always a multitude of relievers every winter.

Reportedly, the Mets thought of asking Roy Oswalt to convert to closer like John Smoltz, but he was cool to the idea. He might have second thoughts if he doesn’t get any offers. Actually, if the Mets are in a spending mode, why not invite Oswalt and give him a minor league contract to start? They signed Shaun Marcum to a one-year deal as the fifth starter, but does anybody believe the Mets will make it through the season with only five starters? Not happening.

As Alderson attempts to build a bullpen at the last minute, he should not consider bringing back Francisco Rodriguez, who punched his girlfriend’s father at Citi Field, hurt himself and was traded to Milwaukee. The Mets don’t need that headache.

Evidently, this does not bode well for Bobby Parnell’s future with the Mets. He’s had several chances but spit the bit. It was thought he could get another chance if Francisco – who was injured at the end of last season – faltered again.

Parnell pitched well in place of Francisco, but there was admittedly no pressure on him. If Alderson thought the Mets could not be competitive this year, it would have been the perfect opportunity to force-feed the role to Parnell. If I’m Parnell, I’d be wanting to leave town.

By adding Valverde, Alderson believes the Mets could make something of the summer, but even with an improved bullpen there remains an enormous hole in the outfield, a thin bench and several questions in the rotation.

Jan 26

ESPN Reports Mets Have Interest In Oswalt

Despite their recent $4-million signing of Shaun Marcum, ESPN reported the Mets have interest in free-agent Roy Oswalt.

Oswalt, 35, has missed considerable time the past two seasons with lower back problems. He was 4-3 with a 5.80 ERA in 17 appearances last year with Texas. He worked solely in relief last September.

Operating under the theory you can never have enough pitching, even if it is older and broken down, the Mets don’t have anything to lose if they sign him to a minor league contract.

Let’s face it, they aren’t going to pay big money for a free agent (and most of them are already gone). If they can catch lightning in a bottle, then it is worth the signing. If not, then they are out only a minimal amount.

I’m not saying Oswalt is who I want. I’m just saying beggars can’t be choosers.

Jan 25

Mets Get Shaun Marcum; More Work To Do

Seven down, 13 more to go. That’s the math if you’re thinking signing Shaun Marcum to a one-year deal will replace R. A. Dickey’s production in the rotation.

Marcum was 7-4 with a 3.70 ERA in 21 starts last year with Milwaukee, good enough to be a reliable fifth starter. Dickey, of course, one year wonder or not, was an ace who won the Cy Young Award.

To make up the remaining 13 victories, the Mets need three more each from Johan Santana, Jon Niese and Dillon Gee. Even so, it still puts the Mets 14 games below .500.

Once Marcum passes his physical and the ink dries on the contract, the Mets avoid being the only team not to have signed a free agent this offseason.

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Jan 06

Free Agent Market Came And Went For Mets

There were several free agents, if the Mets had the willingness and/or ability to pay, that could have improved them to the point where it could be a competitive summer.

And, I’m not talking about big-ticket players Josh Hamilton, Nick Swisher, B.J. Upton, Zack Greinke, Anibal Sanchez, Edwin Jackson and Rafael Soriano. The Mets were never going to be players for them, anyhow.

The Mets were beaten out by some notorious small market or small spending teams such as Pittsburgh (Jason Grilli, Russell Martin and Francisco Liriano), Tampa Bay (James Loney and Joel Peralta), Minnesota (Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey), Cleveland (Swisher and Mark Reynolds), Baltimore (McLouth), Arizona (Brandon McCarthy and Cody Ross), Kansas City (Jeremy Guthrie).

I’d include Oakland, but Bartolo Colon? Really?

However, Michael Bourn, Matt Capps, Jonny Gomes, Dan Haren, Nate Schierholtz, Nate McLouth and John Lannan could have given life to the Mets. And, none from this latter group who were signed received a package of greater than $13 million.

Perhaps, two or three – a pitcher and outfielder – could have impacted the dynamics and attitude of the roster and given the Mets something to build on during spring training.

Much of who is left are broken down (Grady Sizemore), older (Kevin Millwood), potentially too expensive (Carl Pavano or ex-Mets (Xavier Nady, Francisco Rodriguez, Ronny Cedeno, Jon Rauch, Endy Chavez and Kelly Shoppach).

Others, such as Brad Penny, Shaun Marcum or Derek Lowe won’t make enough of a difference.

There’s always next winter for extravagant spending.