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.

Continue reading

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.

Jan 22

From Santana To Wright To Davis,Things We’d Like To See Happen For The Mets

There are a lot of things I want to see happen for the 2013 Mets, such as making the playoffs. However, in the hope of being realistic, let’s talk about some of the things that would be good to see happen.

Perhaps if several of these happen, there might be some fun at Citi Field.

TRADING JOHAN SANTANA: Don’t get me wrong, I like Santana. I really do. I’d like nothing more than for him to remain healthy and regain his status as an elite pitcher and guide the Mets into October. But, let’s face it, even if Santana were to have a strong season the Mets don’t have enough pieces and will buy him out after this season. Given that, I’d settle on him being healthy and productive in the first half and the Mets being able to deal him to a contender. They’ll have to pick up some of the contract, but if they could swing a trade getting something is better than having him walk after the year with a $5.5 million buyout.

NIESE: Pitch like a No. 1

JON NIESE TAKING THE NEXT STEP:  Niese is the Mets’ ace despite a career-high 13 victories. There’s a lot to like about his future, but even more to like if he wins north of 15 games and gets to the next level.

DILLON GEE PITCHES LIKE A NO. 3: Gee enters spring training recovering from an aneurism. The doctors say he’s ready to go, but can anybody say how he’ll do? Gee has been impressive in spots, but no more than a No. 5 starter. He needs to step up his game.

MATT HARVEY LIVES THE HYPE:  He’s had ten starts, not enough to pencil him in for the Cy Young Award. Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain pitched dominating baseball early in their careers, can Harvey do the same?

BOBBY PARNELL BECOMES A PITCHER: There’s no doubting Parnell’s stuff, but he needs to improve his command, secondary pitches and learn how to challenge hitters with that fastball. The Mets can’t count on Frank Francisco to stay healthy and be a reliable closer. If not him, it has to be Parnell.

Continue reading

Nov 14

Dickey Leads Cy Young Race; Verlander In AL

CAN DICKEY’S INCREDIBLE SEASON CONTINUE?

Baseball’s annual postseason awards continue this evening with the announcement of the Cy Young winners, a moment that could thrust the Mets into proud, yet potentially embarrassing moment.

Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey could be in position of winning the award and then being traded if a contract extension isn’t reached.

Only the Mets.

NATIONAL LEAGUE: The Mets’ feel good story this summer that was Dickey has a chance to get better in a few hours if he’s able to join Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden as franchise winners of the Cy Young Award.

The man who scaled a mountain last winter climbed another this season when he literally carried the team on his shoulders to go 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA, and he did it with an abdominal tear that required surgery.

Dickey’s competition for the award, Washington’s Gio Gonzalez and Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw, pitching for winning teams. Dickey’s Mets were 14 games under .500 with a winning percentage of .457. Dickey’s winning percentage was an amazing .769.

There aren’t enough ways to say how incredible that is.

The Mets didn’t hit for the second half and their bullpen kicked away leads all year. There were nights when he did it all by himself.

“To win 20 on a club with struggles is pretty big,’’ Mets manager Terry Collins said.  “Especially during the times we weren’t hitting, he was still winning games.’’

Dickey’s ERA was second to Kershaw’s 2.53; his 20 wins were second to Gonzalez’s 21; but, he was first in strikeouts (230), innings (233.2), complete games (five), shutouts (three) and quality starts (27).

Other than a knuckleball bias, I can’t see Dickey not winning.

AMERICAN LEAGUE: Things might be more up in the air in the American League between Detroit’s Justin Verlander, Tampa Bay’s David Price and the Angels’ Jered Weaver.

Both Price and Weaver had the type of seasons worth of a Cy Young, with perhaps loftier numbers, but Verlander is the best pitcher in the sport and could become the first repeater since Pedro Martinez  (1999-2000).

Price and Weaver were 20-game winners, but Verlander dominated again and took his team into the playoffs.

My thinking is Verlander is the incumbent who pitched well enough to win again. Until somebody blows away the field, he should get it, because repeating excellence might be the single most difficult thing in sports.