Oct 31

Four Items On Van Wagenen’s Plate

New general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said there are 11 parts to his plans to remaking the Mets. He wouldn’t elaborate what they were, but it is believed he touched on one when he said he wanted Mickey Callaway to return as manager.

I’m speculating the following four are on his list:

Increase the Payroll: They should come in no higher than $160 million. Given the money they’ll save with David Wright’s retirement ($15 million for this summer) and what insurance will pick up with Yoenis Cespedes not likely to return before July, offset by raises earmarked for Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Michael Conforto, and Brandon Nimmo and what the Mets might do in upgrading their bullpen, don’t expect them to splurge on free agents Manny Machado or Bryce Harper.

The Mets are expected to bring back second baseman Jeff McNeil to a raise and need to bring in a center fielder, a catcher and perhaps a first baseman, not to mention a significant reliever. Whether that reliever is top shelf or middle tier, it will cost.

Keep the Rotation Intact: The Mets entertained trading all of their starters last season, and are expected to keep them all this winter. DeGrom and Syndergaard will get hefty raises. Since they aren’t anticipated to do a bullpen game for the fifth slot, they’ll need a fifth starter. Is it Seth Lugo, Jason Vargas or Robert Gsellman, or somebody from the minors?

Van Wagenen will confer with Callaway, John Ricco, Omar Minaya and J.P. Ricciardi this week to get a handle on the rotation. The rotation is potentially the team’s strength and the first four must be kept, but it will increase payroll.

Improving the Lineup: Don’t expect the Mets to dive deep into the free-agent or trade markets despite the optimism Van Wagenen and COO Jeff Wilpon portrayed. The Mets must upgrade at catcher and I don’t see them tendering a contract to Travis d’Arnaud. First base is a concern and decisions must be made on Peter Alonso or Dominic Smith, or will Van Wagenen fool around with Jay Bruce, Wilmer Flores or Todd Frazier? If the Mets are serious about winning now they must improve catcher and first base. They could have traded for Paul Goldschmidt from Arizona, but that boat sailed when they picked up his option yesterday. The radio call-in shows in New York were filled with callers chiming for Machado, but that would be a horrible mistake.

I was against signing Cespedes because the money would have been better spent on filling the numerous holes the Mets have and still do. Considering Machado is reportedly due twice as much as Cespedes, think of all the improvements the Mets could make.

Upgrade the Bullpen: Craig Kimbrel, Zach Britton, Brad Brach and Joe Kelly are the most enticing names in the market. Of course, all will want long-term, expensive contracts. Former GM Sandy Alderson failed to build a bullpen and consistently used the scrap-heap approach. Van Wagenen has to sign a name reliever, and that discounts the possibility of a reunion with Jeurys Familia. Rookies Tyler Bashlor and Drew Smith, and Lugo or Gsellman all pitched well last season at times.

They need to sign one of the four because they desperately need a closer. Bringing back Familia would be a step back. The Mets have plenty of inexperienced hard-throwing relievers, who didn’t distinguish themselves last summer. They have a half-dozen hard-throwers but need at least two or three to show something during spring training.

These four items say the Mets aren’t ready to win now. And, there are at least seven more issues to go.

 

Oct 30

Van Wagenen And Wilpon Gloss Over Conflict Of Interest Issue

Both former-agent and new general manager Brodie Van Wagenen and Mets Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon glossed over the conflict-of-interest issue at today’s Citi Field press conference.

As a player agent for Creative Artists Agency, Van Wageman’s responsibility was to negotiate the most lucrative contract for his clients. As the 13th general manager in Mets’ history, his responsibility is to build a team, which isn’t always in the best interests of the players he’s worked for over the past 18 years.

It was one of the first questions asked this afternoon, and before Van Wagenen could answer, Wilpon interrupted and claimed he spoke with the Commissioner’s Office and Major League Players Association chief Tony Clark and said, ”we have provisions in Brodie’s contract to deal with any conflicts of interest.”

What those provisions are, neither Wilpon nor Van Wagenen would say. Van Wagenen, who, as expected, appeared polished and highly professional, said: ”The goals between players and management are more in line than people think.”

How so, Van Wagenen wouldn’t elaborate, leading to speculation there’s still believed to be a cobra-mongoose relationship between the two sides.

This summer, Van Wagenen said the Mets should sign his top client Jacob deGrom to a long-term extension and reiterated that today: “I believe Jacob deGrom is an incredible talent and I hope to keep him for a long time.”

As deGrom’s agent, the pitcher undoubtedly shared highly confidential information with his agent, such as how long he plans to say; what he would sign for; his problems with management and manager Mickey Callaway; issues with his teammates; and issues with playing in New York, all which the player wouldn’t want Mets management and ownership to know.

However, Van Wagenen is now part of Mets’ management, and since he can’t un-hear something, what will he do now?

Jul 08

Even If De Grom Stays, Mets Have Plenty Of Issues

Lifeless. That’s pretty much the only way to describe what’s going on with the Mets, now 16 games below .500.  The count is now 14 consecutive series the Mets haven’t won after today’s 9-0 drubbing at the hands of Tampa Bay.

That’s eight times they’ve been shutout this lost season.

And yet, the Mets – who will be sellers at the trade deadline – insist if they keep Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard they will be competitive next season. Of course, that’s contingent on Yoenis Cespedes and Jay Bruce returning healthy and productive.

NIMMO:  A bright spot in lost season.  (Getty)

NIMMO: A bright spot in a  lost season. (Getty)

Let’s assume that happens, and they also keep Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz, who continue to develop, they still have monumental holes, especially if they deal Jeurys Familia and Asdrubal Cabrera.

Here’s how they’ll starting nine will look like:

CATCHER: Devin Mesaroco has been one of the few positives this season since coming over from Cincinnati in the Matt Harvey trade. Kevin Plawecki has played well as a reserve, but he’s never going to be a full-time starter. Ditto for Travis d’Arnaud, who is again on the disabled list.

FIRST BASE: What does it say about Dominic Smith that he started today in left field? Since Adrian Gonzalez left, Wilmer Flores has been getting more playing time, but this is an opportunity that has come too late.

SECOND BASE: They are trying to move Cabrera, who should have value to a contender. If they are successful, they can play Flores at second. Of course, they are also looking to move Flores, which shouldn’t result in Tear Gate II.

SHORTSTOP: Do you remember all the angst when they didn’t bring up Amed Rosario? Of course, you do. He’s playing, but for all his defensive prowess he hasn’t shown much. And, many of the mistakes are mental which no team should tolerate. Rosario is getting time, but isn’t making the most of it, either in the field or at the plate. Here’s a guy with incredible speed, but you rarely see his draw walks and attempt to steal. For a team that lacks offense, that’s a huge mistake. Rosario needs to improve his plate discipline and learn to hit the ball on the ground. He’s shown nothing that leads me to believe he’s a long-time answer.

THIRD BASE: Todd Frazier was a good idea for a contender, but the Mets are far from that label. He’s been hurt and having a miserable season. What’s worse, is he’s signed for next year, too. Maybe they can get something for Frazier, if not they can always try again in 2019.

LEFT FIELD: Currently, the Mets have no idea when Cespedes will come off the disabled list. He’s starting to run in Florida, but we’ve been down that road before. There are times when I start to think the Mets might see David Wright again before Cespedes. There’s no telling how Cespedes will respond physically once he comes back. But, he has two more years after this year, and that’s not encouraging. Smith started in left today, but that’s no answer. Michael Conforto can play left, but started in right to give Jose Bautista got the day off.

CENTER FIELD: Brandon Nimmo won the job after Cespedes was injured and has been one of the Mets most pleasant surprises. Next season will be interesting if Cespedes and Bruce are back healthy, and Conforto and Nimmo are also there. Somebody will have to go, and it won’t be Cespedes.

RIGHT FIELD: Bruce is on the disabled list with a strained hip flexor, and has two more years on his contract. The Mets could try to trade him again, but will Bruce show anything in the next three weeks? It’s doubtful. Bautista has played well enough to open the eyes of a contender, but that doesn’t do anything to help next year’s logjam.

ROTATION: DeGrom and Syndergaard aren’t going anywhere any time soon. But, if the Mets are in similar straits next year, perhaps we’ll hear trade talks again. Then, maybe the Mets will not resist. The problem is the Mets are under the illusion they can compete next year. The sooner they get a realistic appraisal of their team the better off they’ll be. The last thing they need is to hold on to deGrom and Syndergaard for the next three years and don’t get any better. If that happens, all their chips will be gone.

BULLPEN: Jeurys Familia could be the first to be traded, which puts the Mets in the position to look for a closer in 2019. The obvious first choice would be AJ Ramos, who is on the disabled list for the remainder of the season. The next option could be to convert Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo or Wheeler into that role. Any of the other relievers you can have.

MANAGER: By rights, Mickey Callaway should come back. Callaway has a lot to learn, but it’s not fair to fire a manager after one year. The problems the Mets are having has little to do with Callaway’s in-game decisions. It’s because former GM Sandy Alderson did not give him enough talent, and he, along with John Ricco, J.P. Ricciardi and Omar Minaya over-estimated how good their team is. It will be interesting how much leeway Jeff Wilpon gives the trio in making trades. If Wilpon goes outside the organization for a general manager it stands to reason he’ll want to hire his own manager.

Jun 13

Mets Can’t Apologize Enough To DeGrom

I suppose things could get worse for the New York Mets, but that would really be frightening, now wouldn’t it? But, it is pretty bad when the players start apologizing to the starting pitcher, as Todd Frazier did to Jacob deGrom this afternoon.

The Mets lost for the tenth time in 11 games, 2-0 to Atlanta, and are now 2-8 in deGrom’s last ten starts despite him having a 0.87 ERA in that span.

DE GROM: Wasting his starts. (AP)

DE GROM: Wasting his starts. (AP)

“I told [deGrom] after the game: ‘Dude, I am sorry,’ ” Todd Frazier said. “I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know why we’re not producing for him.”

In those 11 games, the Mets have scored two or fewer times nine times. Today, as deGrom cruised through the Braves, so did Atlanta pitcher Mike Soroka, who didn’t give up a hit until the seventh inning. The Mets’ second hit came in the ninth, Brandon Nimmo’s double with two outs in the ninth.

Then, with runners on second and third, Jay Bruce popped out swinging on the first pitch.

“We talk about trying too hard,” Frazier said. “Maybe we try too hard when he’s pitching, but a guy throws like that, he works fast, he was just dominant. Of course, he is going to give up one run and everybody is human so, for us not to put up any runs for him again, I told him, ‘I’m sorry.’ I didn’t know what else to tell him.”

DeGrom, as he usually does, said all the right things and wouldn’t point the finger at his offense.

“Nobody is happy that we’re losing,” deGrom said. “You have got to score runs to win and we haven’t been doing that, so nobody is happy with what’s going on.”

DeGrom threw only 86 pitches, and although he said he could have pitched longer, didn’t second-guess manager Mickey Callaway’s decision to pull him.

“I think it was just being smart and not trying to do too much,’’ said deGrom.

Meanwhile, the offense isn’t doing anything.

“We’ve wasted his starts,”  Bruce said.

Jun 05

Injury Updates On Syndergaard And Cespedes

The Mets received encouraging news today regarding Noah Syndergaard, and are hopeful about Yoenis Cespedes. Mets pitching coach Dave Eiland said barring a setback Syndergaard should be in line to start Sunday night’s game against the Yankees.

Syndergaard went on the disabled list with a strained ligament in his right index finger after a May 25 start in Milwaukee.

“As long as it doesn’t flare up in the next 24 hours, he should be fine,” Eiland said.

As far as Cespedes goes, he continues to thumb his nose at manager Mickey Callaway’s notion of accountability as he again refused to talk to the media after taking batting against Syndergaard.

The often-injured Cespedes, who missed 81 games last season, went on the disabled list May 16 with a mild strain of his right hip flexor.

Callaway said the Mets hope to have Cespedes run the bases and shag flies in the outfield prior to Wednesday afternoon’s game, “then we’ll go from there.”

Callaway wouldn’t say when Cespedes could return.

I was against Cespedes getting a four-year, $110-million contract for a myriad of reasons, including his injury history; failure to hustle at times; his moodiness [blowing off the media falls into this category]; and penchant for doing things his way.

As far as I’m concerned, the money would have been better spent elsewhere and the Mets don’t need his attitude.

Credit WOR’s Howie Rose for calling Cespedes’ refusal to talk as “silly,’’ and SNY’s Keith Hernandez for saying it was wrong and “that doesn’t wash with me.’’

On a positive note, Todd Frazier was activated from the disabled list after missing 24 games with a strained left hamstring and reliever Anthony Swarzak after missing two months with a strained left oblique.

“I guess I needed that time off,’’ said Frazier. “I’ve played through pain. This was one of those areas (hamstring) where you really can’t do that.’’

To make room on the roster, the Mets optioned pitcher Gerson Bautista to Triple-A Las Vegas and designated left-hander Buddy Baumann for assignment.