Feb 18

Mets’ Full-Squad Workouts Start Today; Collins’ Lame-Duck Status

The Mets will have their first full squad workout this morning, prior to which Terry Collins will address his teams. Like I posted last night, don’t expect rah-rah. And, don’t expect the manager to use his lame-duck status as a motivator. He doesn’t work that way.

It must be an odd feeling for Collins to enter the season as a lame duck manager. Ownership and upper management are looking ahead to 2014, when Johan Santana’s contract will be off the books.

Trouble for Collins is he’s thinking about this year because there’s no guarantee of anything beyond while everybody else is thinking of the future.

Collins knows the score, but to his credit he’s not saying anything about it. Fred Wilpon and Sandy Alderson said they are pleased with the job Collins is doing and I’m wondering when that will translate into an extension.

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Feb 17

Delcos Sunday Column: Wright Being The Mets’ Jeter

As usual, David Wright was attempting to be modest when he downplayed owner Fred Wilpon’s comments this week that he “is the Mets’ Derek Jeter.’’

Statistically, there’s not a comparison, in that Jeter has over 3,000 hits and five World Series rings and is a slam dunk Hall of Famer if he didn’t play another game. Unquestionably, he’s in on the first ballot. There’s no denying is greatness as a player.

As for Wright, he hits for more power, but will have to turn it on for the remainder of his contract if he’s to catch Jeter in a number of statistical categories.

As a clutch player, Jeter has few peers.

Defensively, both are good at their positions. Both can run.

Of course, Jeter has played longer and with a better team, so his numbers would be superior.

However, Wilpon wasn’t talking about statistics. Wilpon was referring to the intangibles both bring to their respective teams. These are qualities that can’t be measured.

Jeter is the Yankees’ captain and I expect Terry Collins to make a similar appointment to Wright, although neither needs an official designation to know they are the leaders of their teams.

When something happens in baseball or with their teams, both are sought after as being the player spokesman. Writers know articles with quotes from Wright and Jeter seem to be more authoritative. When you want the temperature of the Mets, one talks to Wright. When you want it of the Yankees, Jeter is the guy.

Both are players the younger guys look up, and both have no problems calling out somebody who doesn’t hustle or makes a mistake. When a pitcher needs calming down, you’ll see both go to the mound.

Both are the respective faces of their teams. Both are their current identities. Unquestionably, both are the players the fans pay to see.

Both have the intangibles you can see and feel, but there is no statistical measure.

And, you can’t imagine either in another team’s uniform. That’s why free agency never really applied to either. Despite his coy references, you knew Jeter wasn’t going anywhere.

And, despite the Mets’ economic crunch, I never had the feeling Wright would leave on his own. Jeter will retire a Yankee and go to the Hall of Fame. Wright will retire a Met, and if he finishes the second half of his career like the first half, he too, should see Cooperstown.

That’s what Wilpon meant.

Feb 16

Jenrry Mejia’s Role Is Set

Once he arrives in camp – which might take another week – it appears Jenrry Mejia’s spring is already laid out for him.

Barring an injury to somebody rated ahead of him, Mejia will be used as a starting pitcher and expected to open the season at Triple-A Las Vegas. This decision has nothing to do with his visa problems in leaving the Dominican Republic.

Not that they don’t need bullpen help, but this is the best course for the Mets, both in the short and long terms.

The Mets have several rotation questions, and if history is an indicator they will have a need for another starter or two this season. It is that way every summer.

And, for next year and beyond, the Mets will need another starter, as there are no plans to bring back Johan Santana.

The Mets’ projected rotation includes Santana, Jon Niese, Matt Harvey, Shaun Marcum and Dillon Gee. Mejia and Zack Wheeler are next in line.

Santana and Gee are coming off injuries; Niese’s career-high is 13 victories; Harvey has ten career starts; and Marcum was a late FA pick-up. Now, you tell me that is a position of strength.

Clearly, the Mets need more starting pitching depth.

Mejia has been bounced around between the rotation and the pen, and I still maintain Jerry Manuel’s insistence of using him as an untested reliever set back his career. Through it all, Mejia’s greatest success has been as a starter, and it is the team’s obligation to put him in a position where he’s best able to succeed.

After coming off Tommy John surgery last year – and who says there’s not a connection with how he’s been handled? – Mejia’s numbers were far superior as a starter.

Mejia posted a 2.75 ERA and .245 opponents batting average as a starter compared to a 5.48 ERA and .303 opponents batting average out of the bullpen.

While it isn’t the largest sampling, it is enough to determine his comfort zone and the best place to start.

Starting pitching is expensive, and despite Fred Wilpon’s proclamation his finances are in order and the Mets will spend in the future, that’s no guarantee. What is assured, however, is the Mets don’t have the chips to deal for a starter and anybody of substance in the free-agent market will be costly. That’s another reason why grooming Mejia in this role is the prudent option because of his reasonable salary.

Mejia needs this year to fully come back from his injury and build up the strength to pitch seven plus innings every fifth day. This is the best course for both Mejia and the Mets.

Meanwhile, Mejia is working out at the Mets’ complex in the Dominican Republic and manager Terry Collins thinks it could be another week before he gets to Florida.

Feb 15

Monitoring Santana And Keeping Him Away From The WBC

I realize the matter of national pride and his desire to represent Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic, but Johan Santana is set to get $31 million from the Mets this year (including a $5.5 million buyout) and that’s where his responsibility lies and the team has told him so.

Once ardent supporters of the WBC, the team has told Santana it doesn’t want him to pitch in the international event.

There’s no disputing Santana pitches hard and has been a workhorse when healthy, but the problem is staying healthy. Only in 2008, his first year with the Mets, did Santana make his entire allotment of 34 starts.

Santana10The Mets have paid Santana a considerable amount of money, including a full season (2011) when he gave them nothing. This is his last year with the Mets and the club is within their rights to insist he not risk injury in the World Baseball Classic.

The magic number for Santana this year is 215, as in the number of innings he must pitch for his $25 million option to kick in. Considering his recent history, that likely won’t be a problem, but if he’s healthy it will be an interesting scenario.

You can bet the Players Association would get involved if Santana was close and had to skip a start or two. If it involves a player getting less money, they will be all over it.

Actually, if the Mets can’t, or won’t trade him, they would be wise to periodically skip him to keep him strong.

Teams have monitored pitcher’s pitch counts for years, but only recently has the trend turned to limiting pitcher’s innings in a season. Innings clauses in contracts are designed for teams to get the most for their money, but that backfires in the case of injury or if a player reached the level to have his option kick in and pitch poorly the next year.

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Feb 15

Mets Need Frank Francisco Healthy To Trade

The Mets should simply resign themselves to opening the season with Frank Francisco on the DL with the idea of using his roster spot for somebody else. The Mets’ thinking should be not to have Francisco healthy enough to be their closer, but healthy enough to trade.

That would enable Bobby Parnell to have the entire spring training to close. Having this time is better than training him as a closer only to have it pulled from him at the last minute.

FRANCISCO: Others could have interest.

FRANCISCO: Others could have interest.

And, if Parnell doesn’t cut it, then there’s time to work in Brandon Lyon and have Terry Collins configure his bullpen.

Reportedly, Francisco will be shut down for two weeks. What comes next is a period of long toss, followed by throwing on flat ground, then off the mound. Then there’s batting practice and perhaps a split-squad or minor league game before getting into a spring training game. That could be another two weeks, leaving Francisco just two weeks of games to get sharp, which is only asking for trouble.

There’s always the chance of a setback, so it makes sense to avoid rushing him and bring him along cautiously so he could be healthy to trade at the

July 31 deadline. If the Mets have a bad first half, teams will inquire about Francisco. They won’t call if his elbow is ailing.

As they rebuild, the Mets must keep thinking of pieces they can deal to stockpile prospects and draft choices.

Several other Mets fit that description:

Fifth starter Shaun Marcum: If Zack Wheeler is ready and nobody injured that makes Marcum expendable because he doesn’t fit into their long-term plans.

Most anybody in their outfield and bullpen: They don’t want to dangle Parnell and Lucas Duda, but if they could get something, what’s the harm?

John Buck: If Travis d’Arnaud is playing on the major league roster, then Buck could be attractive to a contender with a catching void.

Johan Santana: This is a long shot, but something the club would love to do, even if means picking up much of his remaining contract. If Santana is healthy and pitching well, somebody will be interested and the Mets will listen.

Daniel Murphy: If prospect Wilmer Flores has an impressive spring, he will fit into the Mets’ long-term plans which could make Murphy available to an AL team as a designated hitter.

Jenrry Mejia: Sooner or later he needs to prove he can pitch. The Mets have to be thinking it might not be with them. If that’s their eventual conclusion it is better to make a trade too early rather than too late.

There’s no telling how the season will play out, but expectations are low so looking to divest players not in their 2014 plans must be considered.

NOTE: I’ll have another post around noon.