Jun 17

Wright Injury, Lack Of Offense, Could Force Mets To Deal Harvey

I don’t know if we’ll see David Wright will play again for the Mets. I would hope so, but one never knows.

However, what we can be reasonably sure of is we’ll likely never see the Wright who hit at least 26 homers and drove in 100 runs five times in a six-year stretch.

HARVEY: What could he bring in return? (AP)

HARVEY: What could he bring in return? (AP)

The Mets haven’t been hitting for the better part of the last six weeks. Wright and Lucas Duda are on the disabled list. Michael Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes are starting to show breakout signs after being in lengthy slumps.

Don’t forget both Cespedes and Neil Walker can leave after this season. And, we don’t know if the Mets will need to replace Wright, but they will need to add offense. Let’s not limit the offense to power, but the ability to hit with RISP.

Catcher, first base, second base, third base and an outfielder will be on GM Sandy Alderson’s shopping list this winter, and not all of those voids will be filled by free agency.

Given that, it might be time explore dealing one of their young arms. They dealt Zack Wheeler along with Wilmer Flores for Carlos Gomez, but that fell apart.

Once again, this leads to speculation they might be willing to part with Friday’s starter, Matt Harvey, who was so-so against Atlanta after three consecutive strong starts.

Harvey, who worked six innings against the Braves, will be a free agent after the 2018 season. He’s making over $4.3 million this year and is arbitration eligible after the next two seasons, so he has a reasonable contract.

With Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz in the rotation, Wheeler on the disabled list, and the recently drafting pitchers Justin Dunn of Boston College and Anthony Kay of UConn, the Mets seem in good shape with their starting pitching.

And, with the belief his agent, Scott Boras, won’t seek to negotiate early and won’t leave money on the table – the recent deal signed by Steven Strasburg notwithstanding – this might be the time to deal Harvey in need of offense.

That Harvey has pitched well in three of his last four starts _ he gave up four runs in six inning Friday – and has shown he’s healthy after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2013 enhances his value.

Depending how the remainder of the season shakes out, dealing Harvey might be something to explore. Seriously.

 

Jun 12

Things Better Change Quickly For Mets

Last week I asked if there was a reason to be concerned with the Mets, but stopped short of saying they were in trouble. I’m not stopping short any longer. If the season ended today the Mets would make the playoffs as the second wild card, but there are more than a few reasons to believe they aren’t heading in the right direction.

MATZ: Roughed up Sunday. (Getty)

MATZ: Roughed up Sunday. (Getty)

There’s plenty of season left to turn things around, but also enough time has gone by to conclude despite their young pitching – and Bartolo Colon – that if there’s not a reversal soon the playoffs many of us took for granted on Opening Day might not happen.

Following their 15-7 April, including Sunday’s 5-3 loss in Milwaukee the Mets have gone 19-21. They are 4.5 games behind Washington, and one of seven teams lumped under the 4.5-game umbrella of wild-contenders.

Teams will lose, but the Mets didn’t play well during their 5-5 road trip. They weren’t just beaten, they beat themselves. On Sunday, they had breakdowns in all phases: 1) Steven Matz was roughed up in his second straight start; 2) the defense committed three errors and could have had a fourth; and 3) and their hitters struck out ten times and went 2-for-9 with RISP.

April’s storyline was the Mets’ propensity for hitting homers, but more importantly in their 62 games they have scored three or fewer runs in half (31) of them. That’s an alarming number. Overall, they are hitting .214 with RISP; and average around nine strikeouts and close to the same in runners left on base in a game.

Nine strikeouts mean in three innings they did not put the ball in play. For all those who don’t give credence to strikeouts as an important statistic, it is time to get a clue. Not putting the ball in play means no chance for hits; no chance to reach on an error; no sacrifice flies; and no productive outs to put runners in scoring position.

A positive note is Matt Harvey seems to have turned it around, but could that be offset by Matz’s two straight stinkers? And, Jacob deGrom hasn’t won in his last seven starts. The bullpen, so positive in April, is showing cracks. Closer Jeurys Familia is far from a sure thing. Their most reliable reliever is Addison Reed; with everybody else you hold your breath.

Injuries are a concern with David Wright, Lucas Duda and Travis d’Arnaud on the disabled list. They could get d’Arnaud back in a week or so, but he wasn’t hitting or throwing runners out on the bases before he got hurt. Michael Conforto has a sore wrist and is in a dreadful slump; Neil Walker has a tight lower back; and Juan Lagares has an injured left thumb.

The upcoming schedule is brutal as from now until the All-Star break they have three more games with Pittsburgh; two against Kanas City; three with the Marlins; four against the Cubs and seven with the Nationals. Beginning Tuesday, the Mets start a stretch of 26 games in 27 days.

Seriously, there’s a chance the trade deadline could be moot.

The Mets can get on a hot streak, turn things around and maybe add a couple of pieces just as they did last season. However, since the end of April we’ve seen precious few signs of that happening.

There’s reason for concern, and yes, they are in trouble.

Jun 09

Meet The New Mets: Never Bad Idea To Take Pitching

There are no guarantees in the baseball draft, but selecting power arms is generally a good idea, which was the Mets’ thinking when they used their first two picks to take junior pitchers Justin Dunn of Boston College with the 19th overall selection, and left-hander Anthony Kay of Connecticut 12 picks later.

You might wonder why a team struggling offensively and pitching rich would go after more pitching. Quite simply, we’re talking about Dunn and Kay not being ready for up to three more years, and a lot can happen in that span.

(05/31/2016 Chestnut Hill, MA) Boston College pitcher Justin Dunn throws in the bullpen as the BC baseball team prepares for the NCAA tournament  at  practice at Shea Field on Tuesday, May 31, 2016. Photo by Matt West.

(05/31/2016 Chestnut Hill, MA) Boston College pitcher Justin Dunn throws in the bullpen as the BC baseball team prepares for the NCAA tournament at practice at Shea Field on Tuesday, May 31, 2016. Photo by Matt West.

From the Mets’ current staff, there are injuries and trades, not to mention free agency. Of course, the way things have been going for him, you could exclude from that mix Bartolo Colon, who gave up one run in seven innings Thursday in Milwaukee.

Also, as the Mets proved with Yoenis Cespedes last year, hitting is generally more easily obtainable.

The 6-2, 184-pound Dunn started the college season in the bullpen, but his 90-mph., plus fastball and power curveball were moved into the rotation in April and went 3-1 with a 1.34 ERA in eight starts.

However, what the Mets should really love is he struck out 49 and walked just 13 in 47 innings.

“I try to pitch in the range of 90-92,” Dunn told The Boston Globe. “That’s where mentally I’d like to think I’m pitching. If it comes out harder than that, it comes out harder than that. Lately, it has been, which is a blessing. I feel pretty confident in all four pitches. That’s what makes it so hard for hitters. A hitter in a 1-and-2 count can’t eliminate one.”

Dunn throws a two- and four-seam fastball, curveball, slider and changeup. Dunn, who is from Long Island, will be pitching this weekend to send the Eagles into the College World Series.

Kay is also from Long Island and from the same high school that produced Steven Matz.

KAY: Following Matz to Queens. (UCONN)

KAY: Following Matz to Queens. (UCONN)

Kay throws in the low 90s and throws a fastball, changeup and curve.

UConn coach Jim Penders says Kay has a Long Island swagger, and you know what he means by that when you watch Matz.

“`It has kind of grown since I left Long Island,” Kay told The Hartford Courant. “It means you don’t care what anybody thinks about you – you just go out and do your job and get it done the best you can.”

Kay was 5-2 with a 2.48 ERA and 84 strikeouts in 83.1 innings.

The Mets drafted Kay in 2013 and made him a six-figure offer, but he opted for college. They got a second chance Thursday.

 

 

 

Jun 06

Figuring A Busy And Critical Offseason For Mets

Whatever happens with David Wright this summer, we know the Mets must make a decision on his future and formulate a plan for 2017 should something sideline him for a third straight year.

Wright won’t be their only decision and GM Sandy Alderson figures to be busy:

CESPEDES: Can see him opting out. (AP)

CESPEDES: Can see him opting out. (AP)

CATCHER: Rene Rivera is their best defensive option, but neither he nor Kevin Plawecki has produced with the bat. For that matter, neither has Travis d’Arnaud. That is when he’s able to play.

FIRST BASE: If the Mets decide first base is Wright’s eventual landing spot, what becomes of Lucas Duda? He’s still at least a month away from coming off the disabled list with a stress fracture in his lower back and assuming he returns nobody knows what they’ll get from him. He’s arbitration eligible so the Mets might not make an offer as it is doubtful they’ll want him as a backup.

SECOND BASE: Base on how he’s performed, it should be a no-brainer to bring back Neil Walker. But, will they look at him the way they did Daniel Murphy? How much are they willing to pay and for how long? The extra year is always an obstacle. If Walker hits 30 homers, don’t count on the Mets matching his price and he could make a killing this winter.

THIRD BASE: There is nobody among us who doesn’t want to see Wright return to his All-Star form. His on-base percentage and homers were reasonable when he was playing, but his strikeouts and RBI were telling negative stats and he wasn’t good defensively. We shall see if Wilmer Flores is the answer, but it has only been three games. If he fizzles this position must be addressed.

If Fores does well, that will increase the pressure to do something with Wright, who is clearly having problems fielding the position. They can’t trade him, but they could move him to a different position. Or, and this is delicate, they could talk about buying him out.

Everything has to be on the table with him.

OUTFIELD: Despite his slump, I’m not worried about Michael Conforto, but is left his best position? Their ideal defensive outfield has Yoenis Cespedes in left and Juan Lagares in center, so could Conforto play right? If not this year, then perhaps they could test him there in the Arizona Fall League or send him to play winter ball. Curtis Granderson isn’t having a good year and is under contract for one more season.

Considering how he’s playing, Cespedes is sure to opt out after this year to test the market. Why wouldn’t he? If Cespedes bolted that would solve the problem of moving Conforto and they might extend Granderson if he finishes strong.

Frankly, I was surprised to see what the Mets gave Cespedes, but the opt-out clause could make that chump change. Do you see the Mets re-working his contract to give him extra years and money that could surpass $100 million? Not me.

There are a lot of dominos in the outfield.

BULLPEN: Their least agita-inducing reliever is Addison Reed. They might need to make a decision on either him or Jeurys Familia as the closer. Either way, is there really a reliable arm in that bullpen? It was superb in April, but there have been visible cracks since. I’m not yet willing to make the comparison of Familia to Armando Benitez, but my confidence level is being tested.

I would have loved a 7-8-9 bullpen like the Yankees, but the Mets don’t have the reliable arms, largely because they can’t depend on Hansel Robles.

ROTATION: I know many of you won’t like this, but after Sunday’s game in Miami – and if he really has turned the corner – perhaps they should seriously consider trading Matt Harvey this winter. His salary is reasonable and if healthy he should bring something back in a trade. I still think he will walk after the 2018 season and leave the Mets with only a draft pick.

Trading Harvey, coupled with the monetary savings if Cespedes left, could fill several voids.

If they went long-term on a pitcher, I would go after Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz ahead of Harvey. I believe they’ll cost less in the long run and won’t create as many headaches. Can they keep all three? Who knows, but if they signed them it would be for less than if they waited for their free-agent years. Pay more now to avoid arbitration and use the savings to plug holes.

Health is always a risk in signing a pitcher long-term, but if they continue to pitch to expectations, there is no question they will cost a lot more when they become free agents. Pay more now to avoid arbitration and use the savings to plug holes.

As much as people like to say, Bartolo Colon can’t pitch forever. What happens with him is largely contingent on Zack Wheeler, and there’s no guarantee what they get from him when he returns – if he returns – after the All-Star break. The longer Wheeler stays down, the less chance they have to move Colon at the deadline.

If you realistically scanned their 25-man roster, you can make a case for only Asdrubal Cabrera, Conforto, Granderson, Syndergaard, deGrom, Matz and Familia returning for 2017. Who can’t see them low-balling Walker, Cespedes, Reed or Duda?

There were high hopes for the Mets entering the season and they will make the playoffs if they began today. However, injuries are starting to cripple them and their depth is thin. They have little to trade in their minor league system outside of Wheeler – whose health raised a red flag for prospective buyers – and with the combination of health, salary and poor production, they have nothing to trade from the major league roster.

It’s a beautiful day today and I don’t want to rain on your picnic, but even with their young core of arms, the Mets’ window of winning could be rapidly closing. If you thought Alderson did magic last year at the trade deadline, he’ll have to do even more this July.

ON DECK: Pirates Series Borders On Critical

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Jun 05

Mets Wrap: Harvey Says It Is Only One More Step

HARVEY: Another step. (AP)

HARVEY: Another step. (AP)

It is hard to say Matt Harvey turned the corner for the simple reason the Mets’ pitcher himself won’t acknowledge the possibility.

Harvey encored the seven shutout innings he threw in his last start against the White Sox with seven more strong innings in Sunday’s 1-0 loss to the Miami Marlins. He sure looked good, but …

“It’s still two starts,” Harvey told reporters. “Obviously, there were massive struggles that happened before. The only thing you want to think of is not letting that creep back in. Today was, I guess you could say, a second step from the last start. But obviously going deep into the game and feeling pretty good, it’s definitely a positive.”

Harvey struck out only three hitters, but that’s a positive because the Marlins put the ball in play to keep his pitch down to 104.

METS GAME WRAP

June 5, 2016, @ Miami

Game: #55          Score:  Marlins 1, Mets 0

Record: 31-24     Streak: L 1

Standings: Second, NL East, two games behind Washington.  Playoffs: First WC, 1.5 games ahead of Pittsburgh.

Runs: 54    Average:  3.8   Times 3 or less: 27

SUMMARY: Harvey was superb, but Miami starter Jose Fernandez was basically untouchable.

KEY MOMENT:  Wilmer Flores struck out to end the seventh with two runners on to end the Mets’ best scoring opportunity.

THUMBS UP:  Yoenis Cespedes did not start, but was able to bat as a pinch-hitter. He should be able to play Monday in Pittsburgh. … Michael Conforto continued his breakout signs with another hit. … Another hit by James Loney.

THUMBS DOWN:  Only four hits and 15 strikeouts by the offense. … Three strikeouts each by Curtis Granderson and Neil Walker.

EXTRA INNINGS:  Juan Lagares did not play because of a sprained left thumb. He’ll return to New York Monday to be examined by team doctors.

QUOTEBOOK: ““It was one of those game where you have a great pitching match-up head to head, and that’s exactly what you would expect — a 1-0 game,” Mets manager Terry Collins said.

BY THE NUMBERS:  2: Number of Mets to reach scoring position.

NEXT FOR METS: Steven Matz (7-1, 2.60) vs. former Met Jonathon Niese (5-2, 4.36) at Pittsburgh on Monday.

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