Jan 29

Four Mets Facing Make-Or-Break Seasons

As spring training approaches so might the anxiety level of several New York Mets, all understanding this can be a make-or-break season for at least four of them.

* Let’s first start with the obvious, Ike Davis, whom the Mets had been trying to trade this winter. The Mets’ inability to trade Davis stems from their highly publicized efforts to do so, their high asking price and the glut in the first base market.

Davis struggled through two miserable first halves, and knows his high-propensity for striking out and poor overall hitting approach is wearing thin with GM Sandy Alderson. He knows he can’t produce another .205 average, nine-homer season won’t cut it and the Mets won’t offer arbitration again.

* Ruben Tejada was on the way out as the starting shortstop, but Jhonny Peralta and Stephen Drew wanted too much. Alderson said despite speculation Drew is out of their plans.

Tejada ended the season with a fractured leg, but recovered and worked out twice at a Michigan fitness camp. His effort in Ann Arbor impressed manager Terry Collins, but Tejada needs to show it at the plate and not let his concentration wander in the field.

* Jon Niese as last season’s Opening Day starter. He won his first two starts, but things quickly unraveled following back-to-back sub-32 degree starts in Minneapolis and Denver. Tightness in his back led to shoulder discomfort that forced him on the disabled list.

Niese made only 24 starts and finished 8-8 after winning 13 games in 2012 while pitching while throwing 190.1 innings over 30 starts.

Niese is signed through 2017, and while the Mets have an investment in him, they do get the occasional phone call inquiring.

* Travis d’Arnaud was supposed to get the starting job early last season, but an injury pushed his promotion back. He was one of the key pieces in the R.A. Dickey trade with Toronto.

There are issues with his ability to call a game, block pitches, and above all, his offense.

He had such a small window of opportunity in 2013 that the Mets wouldn’t pull him after a Davis-like start. At least, you wouldn’t think so.

However, if d’Arnaud has a miserable season wire-to-wire, the Mets would listen to proposals, but by that time his value would have dropped.

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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.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jan 19

Mets Sign John Lannan And Omar Quintanilla

The New York Mets made two moves to bolster their rotation and infield depth with the signings of left-hander John Lannan and shortstop Omar Quintanilla.

LANNAN: To compete for No. 5 starter role.

LANNAN: To compete for No. 5 starter role.

Lannan, 3-6 with a 5.33 ERA last season with Philadelphia, was signed to a minor league contract with the intent of competing with Jenrry Mejia, Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom for the fifth-starter slot.

It was important to GM Sandy Alderson to sign a veteran to a minor league contract because of the expectation of Noah Syndergaard joining the rotation by July, similar to what Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey did the previous two seasons.

We’re not talking a stud pitcher in Lannan, but an experienced arm that can provide a bridge to Syndergaard in the first three months of the 2014 season. Lannan previously pitched for the Washington Nationals.

Most veteran pitchers on the market, such as Bronson Arroyo, wanted too much money and too many years, something the Mets wanted to avoid.

In Quintanilla, the Mets know what to expect as he filled in capably when Ruben Tejada went on the disabled list, then was optioned to the minors, for much of the season. Quintanilla hit .222 with a .306 on-base percentage, two homers and 21 RBI last season for the Mets.

Also with Quintanilla, it also eliminates the possibility of the Mets bringing in free agent Stephen Drew.

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Jan 16

Mets Matters: Bobby Parnell In Camp; Ike Davis Settles

What? You expected Bobby Parnell to say otherwise? The New York Mets’ closer, who is already in Port St. Lucie, told reporters he will be ready for the start of the season.

mets-matters logoParnell underwent surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck, Sept. 10, was cleared to resume baseball activities several weeks ago

“I’ve been throwing for several weeks now, taking it nice and easy,’’ Parnell said. “I’m getting into the baseball activities slowly, and with some professional eyes on me.’’

Parnell said part of taking it easy was in reporting early.

DAVIS, TEJADA AVOID ARBITRATION: First baseman Ike Davis and shortstop Ruben Tejada, both of whom are coming off miserable seasons, avoided arbitration by settling with the Mets.

Davis, the subject of trade rumors all winter, hit .205 with nine homers and 33 RBI in 2013, good for a $375 thousand raise up to $3.5 million.

Nice work if you can get it.

Davis had been reportedly linked in trade talks with Milwaukee, but the Brewers today signed Mark Reynolds, who strikes out even more than Davis.

After the season, the Mets said shortstop was a priority, but after Jhonny Peralta signed with St. Louis and Stephen Drew’s asking price too high for GM Sandy Alderson’s liking, said they are inclined to give Tejada another chance.

The Mets weren’t pleased with Tejada’s effort last year, but his performance in attending a voluntary fitness camp changed their mind.

Tejada agreed to a one-year, $1 million deal.

The Mets have five players remaining for arbitration: Parnell, Dillon Gee, Daniel Murphy and Eric Young.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jan 15

Mets’ Top Ten Questions With Spring Training A Month Away

With the New York Mets a month away from spring training in Port St. Lucie, now is a good time to look at the most pressing issues manager Terry Collins and general manager Sandy Alderson must address before Opening Day.

WHO WILL BE THE FIFTH STARTER?

As of now it is Jenrry Mejia, who is coming off surgery. The Mets are looking, but their first hope is Mejia is healthy enough to open the season.

As teams select their rosters there will undoubtedly be veteran arms that are waived and become available.

Of course, there are several free agents on the market, but Alderson is looking for somebody to sign to a minor league contract, which would preclude Bronson Arroyo. Alderson expressed interest in Daisuke Matsuzaka after the season, but he wants two years.

Freddy Garcia, 37, has been discussed.

WHO IS ON FIRST?

This is a difficult time of year to make a trade as most teams are gearing up for spring training. There are some, like Milwaukee, that need a first baseman, but Alderson said there’s been no movement.

So, it looks as if Ike Davis and Lucas Duda will compete for the first base job. As they are essentially the same type of player, don’t expect them to keep both. If Davis has a hot spring more teams will show interest. Then again, if that happens the Mets might be prone to keeping him.

Should that happen, Duda could be optioned to Triple A if the Mets can’t trade him. Whatever happens, the Mets must be quick to pull the trigger on Davis if he’s not hitting. They can’t afford another year of distractions.

WHO LEADS OFF?

Their best leadoff hitter is Eric Young, but the trouble is if they keep outfielder Juan Lagares, that puts the speedy Young on the bench.

The answer to this question will also determine the composition of the outfield. If it is Lagares, he could play center with Chris Young and Curtis Granderson on the corners.

It would be counterproductive to have Lagares on the bench – he needs at-bats – so if he doesn’t start he season I think he should be sent to the minors. In that case, Eric Young would play left, Granderson center and Chris Young in right.

Young would lead off whenever he plays. If Lagares sticks, don’t expect him to lead off as he strikes out too much.

Collins left open the possibilities of Daniel Murphy or Ruben Tejada leading off.

IS BOBBY PARNELL HEALTHY?

After undergoing neck surgery, Parnell has been given clearance to resume baseball activities. However, this does not mean he will be ready to start the season. If that’s the case, Vic Black would close, but that would mean the Mets must add at least one more reliever. Signing Garcia could give them both starting and bullpen depth.

The Mets currently have four relievers outside of Black and Parnell they are counting on: Scott Rice, Gonzalez Germen, Josh Edgin and Jeurys Familia. Recently signed Ryan Reid could stick and Carlos Torres is also in the mix.

WILL ANY OF THE YOUNG ARMS STICK?

The Mets anticipate seeing Jacob deGrom, Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard this summer, but not before June. That is why Alderson is looking to sign veteran to a minor league contract, which would make that pitcher easily disposable.

DOES WILMER FLORES HAVE A POSITION?

It would be waste of everybody’s time if the Mets concentrate Flores’ time at a position they have no intention of him playing at, such as third base.

Collins said Flores have improved his speed working out at the fitness camp and suggested during the Winter Meetings he might play some shortstop. That would be terrific as his bat is potentially far superior to Tejada’s. Should Flores show promise at shortstop, but doesn’t stick, he should be sent to the minors to concentrate at that position.

HOW GOOD IS TRAVIS d’ARNAUD?

He showed little in his limited window of opportunity last summer, especially at the plate. It is imperative d’Arnaud show something offensively this spring, even though results aren’t often emphasized.

His improvement must also include gaining a familiarity with the staff, although some pitchers, such as Dillon Gee, said they are comfortable working with d’Arnaud.

Collins said he has confidence in Anthony Recker as a back-up, but the Mets signed veteran Taylor Teagarden. The former Oriole, 30, has an out clause in his contract he can exercise if he’s not promoted by June 15.

HAS RUBEN TEJADA LEARNED ANYTHING?

The Mets began the offseason with shortstop a priority, but with the thinness of the market, and cost of the few – see Stephen Drew – they plan to stick with Tejada as they are encouraged by the effort he put in attending a voluntary fitness camp in Michigan.

Last year, Tejada first went on the DL, then options to Triple A Las Vegas, because the Mets weren’t happy with his production and attitude.

Collins said this winter Tejada has to learn a major league job is rare and fleeting. The manager said he’s happy with what he’s heard so far.

WHO IS ON THE BENCH?

I’ve already sent down Flores and Lagares for more work, but that probably won’t happen as the Mets’ bench is very thin. Flores could play some first base, but there is also Josh Satin who would be available.

If the Mets opt to send down Lagares, they would likely keep Matt den Dekker.

The back-up catcher will be either Recker or Teagarden, as I don’t see them keeping both.

While I am hopeful Flores can learn to play shortstop, I’m not overly optimistic and see Wilfredo Tovar sticking as Tejada’s back-up.

CAN COLLINS FIND A SET LINE-UP?

Last season the Mets had almost as many line-ups as they played games. A lot of that was because of injuries and/or a lack of production.

As of now, Collins doesn’t know his order because a decision hasn’t been made on Lagares and it is uncertain Davis will be on the team.

The leadoff position is wide open if Eric Young isn’t a starter. The job could go to Murphy or Tejada. Should Murphy lead off, I’d go with Tejada hitting second because Lagares doesn’t handle the bat will and has a propensity for striking out.

There are several assumptions, such as Murphy, David Wright and Granderson hitting 2-3-4.

Likely Davis or Duda would hit fifth. Collins could go with Chris Young to separate the lefty hitters, thereby dropping Davis or Duda to sixth.

Batting 7-8-9 would be d’Arnaud, Tejada and the pitcher.