Feb 25

Mets Still Unsettled At Shortstop; Not Thrilled With Ruben Tejada

It’s not hard to figure out the New York Mets aren’t thrilled with the prospect of entering the season with Ruben Tejada as their shortstop. Despite off-season assertions from GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins they would be happy with Tejada, there are events to the contrary.

TEJADA: Still under fire.

TEJADA: Still under fire.

Despite praise for Tejada’s participation in an off-season fitness camp in Michigan, there have been reports he’s not exactly buff. This can’t please Collins, who has already called out Tejada on his work ethic.

Perhaps, the most damning stories have been the reports from outside camp, beginning with the incessant drum beating to sign Stephen Drew coupled with Alderson’s reluctance to draw the line on the subject.

Either the Mets want Drew or they don’t. “Most unlikely [we will sign him],’’ as Alderson says, leaves open the door. That’s definitely not good news for Tejada and leaves the impression the Mets don’t know what they are doing.

For those scoring at home, Alderson entered the off-season with upgrading shortstop and first base as priorities and did neither. Funny, in the first week of full-squad workouts both are in the spotlight for the wrong reasons.

Next are reports the Mets are interested in Seattle’s Nick Franklin, which tells us Drew’s asking price remains high, and it goes beyond the compensatory draft pick as an obstacle.

Just as they were with Ike Davis, the Mets’ ambivalence in addressing possible Tejada replacements indicate there’s little desire to keep him if there’s an affordable alternative.

As for Drew, his agent Scott Boras, has him working out in a facility he set up outside of Miami. The sticking point is the compensatory draft pick and there have been reports Drew could stay out until after the June amateur draft when that condition is removed.

Hopefully, the Mets will have a shortstop they are happy with by then.

ON DECK:  Have to like what Buck Showalter did.

 

Feb 23

Wrapping Up The Day: Exhibition Starters Announced; Flores To Get Shortstop Time

New York Mets manager Terry Collins announced the starting pitchers for the first cycle of exhibition games, beginning Friday against Washington.

Rafael Montero, John Lannan, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Noah Syndergaard and Jonathon Niese will start the first five games. The relievers weren’t announced.

In addition:

* Collins praised Wilmer Flores’ off-season conditioning and reiterated he will get a look at shortstop. Wilmer took grounders at shortstop and second Sunday.

* Collins also was complimentary of catching prospect Kevin Plawecki, especially with his off-season potential.

* David Wright, Curtis Granderson and Daniel Murphy aren’t expected to play much during the first week of games.

* Zack Wheeler threw batting practice.

Feb 18

Wrapping Up The Day: Sandy Alderson Wants To Stay; Wilmer Flores To Play Some Shortstop

The New York Mets said the club isn’t talking to the agent for free-agent outfielder Nelson Cruz. (Read more of that in earlier post today).

Also today in Port St. Lucie:

* The New York Post reported Sandy Alderson would like to remain in his position for another two to three years.

* Wilmer Flores said he feels good physically and would be anxious to returning to shortstop. Manager Terry Collins said Flores is likely to end up in the minor leagues as to get more at-bats.

* ESPN reported the Pittsburgh Pirates are monitoring Mets camp about Ike Davis.

* Collins said Cory Mazzoni will get a chance to win a spot in the bullpen.

* Collins told outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis he is not lost in the shuffle. With Curtis Granderson, Eric and Chris Young, and Juan Lagares, both Nieuwenhuis and Matt den Dekker have been buried.

* Collins said Eric Young must increase his on-base percentage, and a possible way is to increase his bunting.

* Reliever Buddy Carlyle was signed to a minor league contract. Also signed was lefty Dana Eveland. Neither will be invited to the major league camp.

 

Feb 18

Wilmer Flores Could Be Viable Shortstop Option

The New York Mets have long touted Wilmer Flores as one of their future stars. To some degree, having Flores and Ruben Tejada made it easier to let Jose Reyes walk.

FLORES: Could get shortstop time.

FLORES: Could get shortstop time.

With Tejada coming off a bad year and striking out in the free-agent shortstop market, the Mets are considering giving Flores another chance at shortstop.

And, it’s a good idea.

The Mets drafted Flores as a shortstop, but moved him to other positions because he lacked the quickness in making the first step.

Even so, manager Terry Collins suggested at the Winter Meetings Flores might get a look at shortstop in spring training. Collins reiterated that intent after Flores’ success at a Michigan fitness camp, where he dramatically improved his quickness and speed.

With his quickness and speed improved, it makes sense to experiment with Flores. Shortstops don’t need speed. Cal Ripken wasn’t fast, but relied on quickness and positioning.

It could be the same for Flores, who suffered with ankle injuries last year.

“We did a lot of ankle exercises,’’ Flores told reporters about his work at the fitness camp. “We worked on things that we needed to work on, like speed, agility and getting stronger. I’d be happy to go again.’’

Flores played shortstop for four years in the minors, and is willing to try again.

“It’s not going to be a new position,’’ Flores said. “I’m sure I can play.’’

That confidence and Collins’ willingness to experiment are no guarantees Flores can play shortstop on the major league level.

Because the Mets are giving Tejada every chance to redeem himself, he’ll get most of the time at shortstop during spring training. The remaining time Flores gets won’t be nearly enough to show he can play the position.

However, Flores has greater offensive potential than Tejada, thereby giving the Mets a dilemma. Because the Mets need offense, it’s possible Flores could make the Opening Day roster as a role player off the bench.

Assuming Flores makes the team, he probably won’t play enough, certainly at shortstop, to make a substantial impact.

What then, is the best option?

The Mets’ options are to carry Flores as a bench player or to send him back to Triple-A. If it is the latter, it must be under the provision he only plays shortstop, and not second, third or first.

Collins suggested as much today.

“I think with what we have on the infield – you know what? – if he’s not going to get a lot of a playing time, he’s got to go play at his age,” Collins said. “Because the ceiling on his bat is too high. He’s got to go get at-bats.”

Flores needs to learn to play shortstop, and that takes repetitions. Lots of them.

Jan 27

How Mets Answered Off-Season Questions

The New York Mets faced a myriad of questions entering the off-season. Now, with spring training staring us in the face. let’s see how have they answered them.

REBUILDING THE ROTATION

With Matt Harvey lost for the season following Tommy John surgery, the Mets needed to add two starters because they had no assurances of help from their minor league system that includes Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom.

Bartolo Colon was signed to a two-year contract, theoretically to fill the void this season and in 2015 if there was a problem in Harvey’s rehab.

Within the past two weeks they signed John Lannan and Daisuke Matsuzaka, which should give them the promise of at least five innings from the fifth starter.

Colon is an upgrade over Aaron Harang, and if Matsuzaka pitches as he did in his final three starts last season, he will keep things in order until the prospects arrive.

Conclusion: They are better now than after the season, but not good enough to make them better than a .500 team without some help.

BOLSTERING THE BULLPEN

With Bobby Parnell recovering from neck surgery, the Mets’ Plan B is to make Vic Black the closer.

The Mets will bring back most of their 2013 bullpen, but there won’t be enough arms in camp to create widespread competition.

Conclusion: Things would be better if the Mets could depend on Parnell’s status, but the bullpen heading into spring training is no better than last year’s.

SETTLING ON A FIRST BASEMAN

Most Mets fans said the team should have done this last July and cut ties with Ike Davis. Unable to trade him – and initially showing signs of leaning toward Lucas Duda – it appears the Mets are back to square one by giving Davis another chance.

The Mets’ outward efforts to deal Davis only decreased his value. Duda doesn’t have much trade value, either. Neither does Wilmer Flores, who won’t be given a chance to compete for the first base job.

Conclusion: What was a season-long distraction lasted through the winter and will greet us in Port St. Lucie.

ADDRESSING SHORTSTOP

Acquiring a shortstop was a top priority during the winter, but the Mets were never in it for Jhonny Peralta and Stephen Drew is well out of their price range.

Prior to the Winter Meetings, GM Sandy Alderson suggested Ruben Tejada would get another chance. The Mets also brought back Omar Quintanilla as Tejada’s back-up.

Conclusion: Instead of upgrading, the Mets are reduced to hoping for Tejada to play better than he had ever been before.

ADDING POWER TO THE OUTFIELD

Curtis Granderson was signed to a four-year contract and Chris Young was given a one-year deal. Granderson is coming off an injury prone, non-productive year.

Granderson is young enough to give the Mets hope he can bounce back, although nobody expects him to duplicate his Yankee Stadium numbers at Citi Field.

Conversely, Young is several years removed from his best seasons. The Mets are hoping for lightning in a bottle from him.

Conclusion: A productive Granderson will upgrade the offense, improve the outfield and protect David Wright in the batting order. No guarantees, however.

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