Feb 18

Mets Putting Themselves In Good Financial Shape For Future

Over the past five seasons – all below .500 – the New York Mets were bogged down by cumbersome contracts to unproductive players. It was economic certainty, but in a bad way.

This should be the third consecutive year the Mets will have a payroll of less than $100 million. They have long pointed to 2015 as when they will put themselves in a competitive position, and are currently set up to do so with payroll flexibility through 2019.

Heading into 2015, the Mets have $54.05 million earmarked to four players: David Wright ($20 million), Curtis Granderson ($16 million), Bartolo Colon ($11 million) and Jonathon Niese ($7.05 million).

Where teams usually get bit in their payroll is during the arbitration process and the Mets will have eight players eligible: Daniel Murphy, Bobby Parnell, Dillon Gee, Ike Davis, Eric Young, Lucas Duda, Jenrry Mejia and Ruben Tejada.

Of the eight, it is possible four – Davis, Young, Duda and Tejada – could be gone, with some before the end of this season.

Only one player is scheduled to be a free agent after this year and that’s Chris Young, who nobody expects to be back.

In 2016, the Mets have $45.05 million designated for three players: Wright ($20 million), Granderson ($16 million) and Niese $9.050 million).

Their arbitration eligible list that off-season expands to 14 to leave open the possibility for a significant payroll spike. The list includes: Gee, Davis, Eric Young, Duda, Tejada, Scott Rice, Matt Harvey, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Mejia, Josh Edgin, Jeurys Familia, Anthony Recker, Andrew Brown and Carlos Torres.

By this time, there’s no telling who will still be in the organization. Harvey and possibly Gee could be given multi-year deals by then. Everybody else is up the air. It’s also questionable if Nieuwenhuis and Brown will still be around, as neither one has made serious strides in sticking around.

Their 2016 free agents will be Colon, Murphy and Parnell.

In 2017, the Mets have $35.5 million earmarked for Wright ($20 million), Granderson ($15 million) and a half-million buyout for Niese.

Their arbitration eligible players will be Duda, Tejada, Rice, Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Nieuwenhuis, Mejia, Edgin, Torres. Familia, Recker and Brown, with their free agents Gee, Davis and Eric Young.

Wright ($20 million) is the only player under contract for 2018. The arbitration eligible Mets will be Rice, Harvey, Nieuwenhuis, Torres. Mejia, Edgin, Familia, Recker, Wheeler and Brown. That year Granderson, Duda and Tejada will be free agents.

In 2019 they’ll owe Wright $15 million, with Torres and Wheeler the only Mets who are arbitration eligible. Potential free agents will be Rice, Harvey, Nieuwenhuis, Mejia, Edgin, Familia, Recker and Brown.

The Mets have long talked about cutting payroll costs to put themselves in position to seriously enter the free-agent market. It now appears they might actually be able to do it.

Feb 17

Wrapping Up The Day: Wilpon On Finances; Tejada And Syndergaard Impress

It was a busy day Monday for the Mets, who concluded their first official workout. Here’s what’s going on:

* Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon said if GM Sandy Alderson thought there was a fit for free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew the Mets would have made the resources available.

* Matt Harvey has conceded missing the season.

* The Mets will wear a patch on their uniform honoring Ralph Kiner.

* Ruben Tejada reported early and manager Terry Collins was impressed by how he looked, saying: “You can tell he’s really worked hard and trimmed down. I asked him how much faster he was. He said, ‘I’ll show you.’ And I said, ‘OK, good.’ He’ll have the chance.’’

* Collins said it’s possible Jenrry Mejia could wind up in the bullpen.

* Prospect Noah Syndergaard threw 97 in his bullpen session. Said Syndergaard: “It’s kind of hard to settle down. I tried to take it easy, but I still was going pretty hard at it.’’

* Jeremy Hefner threw for the first time since having Tommy John surgery last August.

* Chris Young said he doesn’t care where he plays in the outfield, but admitted a preference to center field.

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 16

Five Mets On The Hot Seat

We’re still a long way from Jonathon Niese’s first pitch of the 2014 season against Washington, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t already some New York Mets on the hot seat, broiling under the glare of expectations.

Every spring in every camp there are several players on a short-patience rope and the Mets are no exception. In my mind, there are five facing a make-or-break season, beginning with Niese:

GRANDERSON: Has pressure.

GRANDERSON: Has pressure.

Jonathon Niese: Will it ever happen for him? He was signed to a multi-year extension because he was young, left-handed and could throw hard. However, he’s never won more than 13 games in a season and has sustained a myriad of injuries, including shoulder problems last season. At 29, there’s still time, but could one of the young prospects prompt the Mets to shop him?

Ike Davis: No Mets “question list,’’ doesn’t have his name. It is last-chance time for the former hot prospect. After 32 homers in 2012, that’s the plateau the club is seeking. The Mets would take less, say 25, if his RBI production and on-base percentage were high and his strikeouts substantially cut. He either hits this year or he’s gone.

Ruben Tejada: The Mets toyed with signing Stephen Drew, but were sold on the potential of the younger and cheaper Tejada after his commitment at a Michigan fitness camp. The Mets are pointing to 2015 and Matt Harvey’s return to when they can realistically contend, and they won’t be able to do that with a hole at shortstop.

Curtis Granderson: Signed a four-year deal for big money in the hope of providing power in the outfield. I have two words: Jason Bay. Fans are smart enough to realize he won’t hit for the power he did at Yankee Stadium, but they won’t accept Bay-like numbers. Granderson represents the Mets’ promise  to improve and needs to live up to those expectations.

Chris Young: He’s probably gone after this season, but he’ll start the year with a bulls-eye on his back. With his recent numbers it is incomprehensible for him to get a $7.25 million contract. He must produce for his own peace of mind in shutting up the boos.

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.