Feb 21

All About Cespedes Today

There’s been nothing but good signs for the Mets in the opening days of spring training, and Sunday was no exception with the early arrival of Yoenis Cespedes three days ahead of schedule for position players. There were many who doubted Cespedes would even play for the Mets again, much less report three days early.

CESPEDES: Reporting early is great sign.  (Getty)

CESPEDES: Reporting early is great sign. (Getty)

Cespedes signed a three-year, $75-million contract with the Mets several weeks ago. The deal contains an opt-out after 2016, in which he’ll get $27.5 million. Naturally, the opt-out led to speculation Cespedes “settled” for a return to the Mets and didn’t want to really come back to Queens.

Today refuted that notion, said manager Terry Collins. And yes, that’s a good sign. How can it not be looked at any other way?

“Certainly with all of the conversations and all the contracts we saw out there, we weren’t sure he was going to return,” Collins told reporters in Port St. Lucie. “I really, really salute him. He’s one of the few guys that went to where he wanted to go to. It wasn’t just the money that lured him. He wanted to play in New York. He loves New York. He loves the fans. I salute him for coming back.

“And now he shows up early. I told him today, ‘That’s the sign of a real pro and a guy who wants to be huge in our clubhouse.’ I just think it’s a great step for him.”

The Mets wouldn’t have reached the World Series if not for Cespedes, who came over from Detroit at the end of July and hit .287 with 17 homers and 44 RBI in 230 at-bats for the Mets. That stretch earned him the big bucks. It can turn out to be even bigger bucks with the opt-out, but Cespedes insists that’s not on his radar.

“I know I can be a free agent next year, but that has never passed through my mind,” Cespedes told reporters. “I came here to play my three years with the Mets, and I hope God will give me the opportunity for them to re-sign after that.

“I had several offers, but sincerely, I just wanted to come back to the Mets. … I just want to be with this team. Hopefully, at the end of my three years I will have performed very well and they will give me an extension. I love it here.”

 

Feb 19

Suggesting A Plan For Wright

Some time next week, David Wright will meet with Mets manager Terry Collins to devise a plan on how much their former All-Star third baseman will play this summer. It’s this year’s version of Matt Harvey‘s innings limit.

WRIGHT: What's the plan? (Getty)

WRIGHT: What’s the plan? (Getty)

How many games will Wright play this summer?

Of course, it comes down to his health and how strong he feels, but for now there’s no definitive number or plan. Wright played in only 38 games last summer, and earlier this spring GM Sandy Alderson suggested 130, but that’s only a hope.

“I have to be smart about it,” Wright told reporters Friday. “One thing I need to mature and need to become better at is being honest with how I feel on a daily basis — being able to communicate a little better than I have in the past. I’ve been very stubborn when it comes to giving an honest assessment of injuries or how I feel.”

That’s always been an issue with Wright, who has always tried to play through pain and injuries. You’ll recall several years ago when he played nearly a month with a small fracture in his back. One can only wonder the connection with that injury to his current back problems.

“If I feel good and I’m producing and it’s not hurting my back or hurting the team, then I’m going to be out there,” Wright said.

“We just have to be wise enough to know that every so often you’re going to get a day off,” Collins said. “We’ve got to do a better job of monitoring some off days. How many? How? When? Right now I can’t answer that.”

There are a multitude of things Wright and the Mets can do to keep him fresh. Among them:

* It has to begin in spring training. Part of the plan has to be limiting his innings during spring training. It could include playing mostly home games and staying away from the bus rides.

* Undoubtedly, Collins will sandwich the games he gives Wright off around off days in the schedule, which would amount to consecutive days off.

* Who is to say when Wright plays it has to be for all nine innings? If up or down by three or four runs in the seventh or later, then it should be time to give Wilmer Flores some time. Given that, I wonder if Collins will replace Wright for late-inning defense. Of course, there might be times when it backfires, but when that happens Collins can’t abandon his plan.

* Tough pitching match-ups could be avoided. I know Wright wants to be out there, but if he has a low career average against a pitcher, why send him out there for three or four fruitless at-bats?

* Be aware of the weather. Wet grounds and cold weather should be avoided whenever possible.

Wright said he needs to be more honest with himself and Collins needs to hold him to that promise. Wright is 33 years-old and is obviously not the same player. But, that doesn’t mean he can’t still be a viable and productive asset. Both he and the Mets have to be smart about things.

 

 

 

Feb 17

Mets’ Top Ten Spring Training Questions

Mets pitchers and catchers officially report today, something we’ve waited for since the final out of the World Series. Of course, most Mets – including position players – have already been in Port St. Lucie for several days, if not weeks, now.

Numerous questions will surface between now and Opening Day, but until then I’ve come up with a list of what I consider the ten most pertinent questions heading into spring training:

Q: What did the Mets learn from the playoffs?

A: There’s some validity to having been there. The Royals benefitted from playing the Giants in the 2014 World Series. Much of it is a team learning how to pace itself down the stretch and dealing with pressure in the postseason. Both players and managers learn about themselves, and the acquired knowledge can only help.

WRIGHT: How healthy is he? (AP)

WRIGHT: How healthy is he? (AP)

Q: Who is healthy and who isn’t?

A: David Wright’s back, of course, is the most important health question. Will Terry Collins have a concrete plan for Wright regarding playing time and rest? Lefty relievers Jerry Blevins and Josh Edgin are on the mend. The target date for Zack Wheeler to come off the disabled list is late June.

Q: Will the starters have innings limitations?

A: Matt Harvey doesn’t want to hear anything about restrictions, which comes as no surprise. Harvey threw 216 innings last season – including the playoffs – and around the same number is what the Mets are hoping. There shouldn’t be any limits on Jacob deGrom, either, but the same probably won’t apply to Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz. Presumably, Bartolo Colon will be the fifth starter until Wheeler is ready.

Q: What is the composition of the bullpen?

A: This is the position area of most concern. Jeurys Familia is the closer and Addison Reed gets the set-up role. If Blevins and Edgin are healthy, and Antonio Bastardo pitches to expectations, the lefty question that hindered them most of last season should be alleviated. Hansel Robles must mature as does Rafael Montero. Everybody else is a question mark. Getting back to the World Series is far from a given, but it will be more likely will a productive bullpen.

Q: Will the big bat feel any contract-related pressure?A: Hopefully, Yoenis Cespedes won’t be thinking about his opt-out clause after one year and instead will play free and easy as he did last August. Wouldn’t that be something?

Q: Will the double-play combination mesh?

A: Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera are considered to be an upgrade over Daniel Murphy and Wilmer Flores/Ruben Tejada. Pennant winners must be strong up the middle. The Mets were lucky regarding this last year. It will take some time.

Q: Who is trying to steal center field?

A: That’s the way it appeared when Travis d’Arnaud came off the disabled list last summer. Defense up the middle includes behind the plate and d’Arnaud’s ability to combat the running game. When a runner knows he can take liberties on a catcher, it goes beyond stealing bases, which puts him into scoring position. Those are potential runs.

Q: Will the lefty power show some consistency?

A: Lucas Duda can hit eight homers in two weeks, then not go deep for a month. Curtis Granderson excelled in the leadoff slot last year and with the absence of a prototypical No. 1 hitter, he’ll need to duplicate that performance. There’s also the matter of Michael Conforto not having a falloff from last year’s strong first impression.

Q: How strong is the bench?

A: GM Sandy Alderson finally promoted Conforto and traded for Cespedes after his limited bench showed the overall weakness of the Mets’ offense. The Mets’ bench enters spring training substantially better than the 2015 version. Juan Lagares provides Gold Glove caliber late inning defense coming off the bench. Flores will sub for Wright so he should get a lot of reps at third base. He’ll also need time at first base. Alejandro De Aza gives them a left-handed bat and the ability to play all three outfield positions.

Q: Will the Mets make a deal during spring training?

A: There’s always the possibility of adding a reliever. Most likely, it would be a free-agent signing of another team’s castoff at the end as the start of the season draws closer. Barring an injury, I don’t anticipate them making any significant moves as there are no position battles.

Feb 01

Mets’ Bullpen Still Needs Work

With pitchers-and-catchers two weeks away, the Mets still have work to do with their bullpen. Signing left-hander Antonio Bastardo to a two-year deal. As it is now, the Mets’ bullpen is constructed with closer Jeurys Familia, set-up man Addison Reed, lefties Bastardo, Jerry Blevins and Sean Gilmartin, and right-handers Erik Goeddel, Logan Verrett and Hansel Robles.

CLIPPARD: Still a possibility. (AP)

CLIPPARD: Still a possibility. (AP)

Perhaps the Mets’ biggest pen question outside of depth is Familia. He came out of nowhere when Jenrry Mejia was suspended and developed into a dominant closer. However, he didn’t have a great postseason which begs the question: Did the workload catch up with him?

The Mets haven’t given up on re-signing Tyler Clippard, who appeared in 32 games for them and was 4-1 with a 3.06 ERA. He struck out 26 and walked 10 in 32 innings before running out of gas and losing the set-up role to Reed. Somebody will have to go if Clippard is signed, and the guess here is could be Goeddel.

I’m all for brining back Clippard, but not for two years. I would give him one year plus an option which would kick in based on the number of appearances. If he hadn’t lost steam at the end I would consider it, but not given with what we saw last year.

Bartolo Colon will likely re-join the bullpen when Zack Wheeler comes off the disabled list. Mejia will start the season on the suspended list. It is also possible Rafael Montero could open the season in the bullpen. Should Montero open the year in the minor leagues, the hope here is it won’t be in the rotation but in the

For all the potential of the Mets’ starting rotation, a thin bullpen makes it vulnerable.

 

Jan 28

Collins Gives First Thoughts On Lineup

Terry Collins gave his first inkling as to the Mets’ 2016 lineup. Collins gave it to Mike Puma of the NY Post. But, it’s not as if it is etched in stone because, after all, it is the Mets’ lineup and he had over 150 of them last year.

1. Curtis Granderson, RF: I still prefer a traditional leadoff hitter, but Granderson’s on-base percentage last year was stellar. So, give the options of forcing a square peg into a round hole, Granderson is the best available choice.

2. David Wright, 3B: In his prime, Wright was the ideal No. 3 hitter. But, that was a long time ago. He’s no longer prime time. Would be nice to see him return to that form.

3. Yoenis Cespedes, CF: A classic No. 3 hitter is the best combination of power and average and Cespedes is the best the Mets considering Wright’s current situation.

4. Lucas Duda, 1B: Has averaged over 27 homers the last few years despite periods of extreme streakiness.

5. Neil Walker, 2B: Where Daniel Murphy would have fit in.

6. Michael Conforto, LF: The first impression was a good one. Let’s hope he lives up to expectations.

7. Travis d’Arnaud, C: No surprises here, but it does say Collins has his mind made up as to his starting catcher.

8. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS: Obviously, he goes here.

9. Pitcher: Let’s hope Collins doesn’t fool around and move up his pitcher to No. 8.

I don’t have any problem with what Collins has laid out as his lineup. Considering his players and options this really is the best-case scenario. But, it will change. It always does.