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 24

Drew Could Sit Out Until June

DREW: Should pass.

In the latest chapter of the Stephen Drew Chronicles, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, contends that the free agent shortstop could sit out until after the First Year Player Draft in June. He further adds that fellow free agents Ervin Santana and Kendrys Morales could also sit out as well.

Such a move could strike a blow against major league baseball in that their former teams will no longer receive any draft pick compensation according to the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Additionally, the new teams will not be able to tender either of the players a qualifying offer next offseason because they were not with their team for a full season. It’s a loop hole and a strategy that has already been discussed between the players and their agents.

“A road map for this strategy has been figured out,” said Scott Boras who represents both Drew and Morales.

The draft pick compensation system has drawn a lot of criticism recently, including from Drew, but changes are unlikely to be made until after the current CBA expires after the 2016 season.

Boras and the agent for Santana both believe that they can spark change when it’s time to negotiate a new CBA because neither the Royals, Red Sox or Mariners will be very happy that they each lost the picks they expected back for their free agents who simply walk away without any compensation for their former teams.

On the flip side, players may become more open to accepting qualifying offers in the future rather than risk getting into a situation like Nelson Cruz who is the first player to sign a deal for less than the amount of the qualifying offer since the new CBA kicked in two years ago.

Where the Mets are concerned, if Drew were to sit out until June, would it behoove them to continue to pursue him or simply just wait four more months when a better class of free agents becomes available? Would it be wiser to then see how Ruben Tejada continues to perform while also keeping a close eye on how some of their top shortstop prospects develop?

It’s quite an interesting scenario either way you look at it. But I wonder if this is just a false threat by Boras to try and force an immediate resolution and get a new deal for his clients within the next week or so?

It’s weird right?

Feb 17

Jeff Wilpon Defends Mets’ Financial Plan

Jeff Wilpon, New York Mets chief operating officer, addressed several financial issues with MLB.com as the club opened spring training.

The Mets’ projected payroll for this season is to be shy of $95 million, but Wilpon said it isn’t necessary to have a Yankees-like payroll to compete.

WILPON: Defending plan.

WILPON: Defending plan.

“I would point to the fact that you don’t have to have that kind of payroll to win,’’ Wilpon said of the $140-million plus payrolls the Mets had prior to bringing in Sandy Alderson as general manager.

Alderson’s first objective was to clear the books of the unproductive salaries of Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo, Francisco Rodriguez, Jason Bay and Johan Santana, all brought in under former general manager Omar Minaya. Alderson also traded Carlos Beltran for Zack Wheeler.

The Mets’ payrolls the past five seasons, all of which they finished below .500 were: $149.4 million (2009); $126.5 million (2010); $143 million (2011); $96 million (2012); and $94 million (2013). The Mets currently have $75 million earmarked for 12 players this season. Barring a surprise signing, they won’t break $100 million. That’s a reflection of Alderson.

“I think he’s put the plan in place, and we’re ready to see the fruits of that labor now,’’ Wilpon said.

The Mets were more active this winter than the past two, and at best are expected to challenge to be a .500 team. Even had they signed shortstop Stephen Drew as most Mets fans want the organization to do, it’s questionable how much better he’d make them.

Another free-agent the Mets passed on was outfielder Nelson Cruz. Alderson wasn’t interested in either, despite a need in those areas.

“If those one or two things were there, we would have expanded the budget for them,’’ Wilpon said. “Just to get a guy because the fans think that’s the right thing to do, that’s not part of the plan.

“Sandy’s not going to overspend for something he doesn’t see value in. The value that we see in those guys versus what their agents were asking for does not meet.’’

The Mets aren’t the only ones thinking that way as both Drew and Cruz remain unsigned.

The Mets are stockpiling young pitching, but have little position-player chips. Wilpon believes that’s their biggest weakness.

“I don’t think we have enough position-player prospects that are ready to compete for jobs at the major-league level right now,’’ Wilpon said. “We’d like to have more, like we have with the pitchers. We’d like to have that same stable of young guys competing for position-player jobs. The guys we have are a couple years away.’’

While Wilpon said it isn’t necessary to have a monster payroll to win, the Mets haven’t won with their $90 million payrolls the past two seasons, either.

The Mets did spend more this year, bringing in Curtis Granderson, Bartolo Colon and Chris Young, but counter those additions with the loss of Matt Harvey and several questions in other areas and what defines a successful season remains unknown.

One thing for certain, it isn’t anything less than a winning record.

ON DECK:  Matt Harvey faces frustrating summer.

Feb 16

Good Sign; Ruben Tejada Reports Early

One of the New York Mets on the hot seat is shortstop Ruben Tejada, who got into manager Terry Collins’ doghouse for not reporting early two years ago, his first replacing Jose Reyes.

He appears to have gotten the message, with proof being showing up to spring training Sunday, almost a week ahead of schedule.

TEJADA: In camp early.

TEJADA: In camp early.

Technically, he reported on time two years ago, but Collins’ way of thinking was in Tejada’s first year as starter he should have shown initiative and reported early.

Tejada redeemed himself by hitting .289 in 2012, but didn’t report in peak shape last spring and his work ethic was brought into question. Tejada got off to a miserable start both at the plate and in the field, was injured and optioned.

He struggled when he returned and ended the season with a fractured leg and seemingly out of the Mets’ plans.

However, when the shortstop market – Jhonny Peralta and Stephen Drew – became too pricey, the Mets thought they’d give Tejada another chance.

Other than the market, what moved the Mets toward a Tejada encore was his commitment in an off-season fitness camp in Michigan.

Tejada’s presence in Ann Arbor, and reporting early is a good sign.

Feb 11

Mets Should Quit Charade And Just Say No To Stephen Drew

Sandy Alderson said this afternoon the New York Mets have the money to sign shortstop Stephen Drew “under the right circumstances.’’

An opt-out after one year is not one of those circumstances. Neither is Drew’s reported asking price of $15 million for a career .264 hitter. I don’t care how good his glove he flashes.

DREW: Not a good choice.

DREW: Not a good choice.

In addition to his contractual demands, there are other reasons why Alderson shouldn’t feed the speculation.

Just say, “No, we don’t have an interest in Drew.’’ He can always change his mind if something happens to Ruben Tejada.

Alderson said he’s happy with Tejada’s off-season commitment to getting in shape by attending a fitness camp in Michigan.

Two years ago Tejada had a good season in the first year without Jose Reyes. Now, Tejada might never equal Reyes’ offensive potential, but his .289 average and .333 on-base percentage in 2012, certainly is good enough to believe there’s a chance for more.

The Mets soured on Tejada because of his attitude and performance last year, which ended with him fracturing his leg. Alderson said upgrading shortstop was an off-season priority, but the prices for Drew and Jhonny Peralta excessive.

Although Alderson said Drew was affordable, it doesn’t make him a wise purchase, especially for a team on the build. Teams not expected to win don’t invest that kind of money on an average hitting shortstop. They do if he’s the missing piece, but the Mets need more than a few pieces.

The Mets are pointing to 2015, and Drew would be gone by then if they give him the opt-out.

If 2014 is simply a transition year, the Mets are better off giving Tejada this season and finding out what they have in him – after all, he’s 24 and Drew is 30.

The Mets can build around Tejada. As their roster is currently comprised, they can’t build around Drew.

Save the money for something else, perhaps for a missing piece at the trade deadline if this season exceeds all expectations.