Feb 27

Wheeler Must Remember He’s Not Harvey

The longest journey begins with a single step and the Mets’ Zack Wheeler took his first today with ten throws off the front of the mound. It was his first time throwing off an incline since he underwent Tommy John surgery, last March 25.

“As small as it was, it’s a big milestone,” Wheeler told reporters. “Even if it was like seven throws off the front of the mound, it’s still feet on the dirt, getting back off the slope a little bit. It might be small, but it’s big for me.”

WHEELER: Takes important step. (Getty)

WHEELER: Takes important step. (Getty)

The most important words from that thought are, “for me.”

The target date for Wheeler’s return is July 1, which is roughly 15 months, the same as it was for Matt Harvey. While the Mets’ plan for Wheeler is the duplicate of Harvey’s, Wheeler must remember he’s not Harvey.

What worked for Harvey might not work for Wheeler. Harvey had a longer than normal rehab, but Wheeler’s could be even longer. He has a different body type than Harvey. Although they had the same surgery, perhaps their injuries weren’t identical.

Everybody’s body is different and the recovery process is unique. Fortunately, Wheeler appears to have grasped that concept: “Well, everybody is different in their comebacks. I know Steven Matz had some problems coming back. And Harv and Jacob deGrom, they did pretty well coming back. So it’s a process. It’s different with everybody. Everybody reacts differently to the surgery.”

He says that now, but let’s hope he remembers it in June if his recovery has a setback or two. And, if he’s not back by early July, well, that’s fine, also. The most important thing is Wheeler eventually pitches again without pain.

Whenever that is.

Feb 25

Harvey: “I Want To Be Part Of The Mets.”

Speaking to ESPN today, Matt Harvey said what Mets’ fans have wanted to hear for a long time. Several issues were glossed over in the interview, but the essential nugget was Harvey saying he wants to stay with the Mets. He didn’t say anything about home-team discounts or what it would take, but just saying that is cause for hope.

HARVEY: Walking away after World Series collapse. (AP)

HARVEY: Walking away after World Series collapse. (AP)

Harvey addressed the innings controversy ignited by agent Scott Boras by very diplomatically, saying, “as a young player, you want to play this game for a long time. I want to be part of the Mets and help this organization get to where we want to be.”

As for Boras, last year Harvey defiantly supported him by saying he hired the fire-balling agent to maximize his career, so naturally, speculation was – which I admit was voiced here – he’d take the last dollar and bolt for his childhood team, the Yankees. Harvey said the main issue Boras focused on was, “is helping this team getting as far as we can and not only getting there for one year but getting there multiple times.”

For that to happen, serious precautions needed to be taken to protect his arm, which generated a conflict between Harvey and his agent, his doctor and Mets GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins.

“As a young guy you want to have a long career,” Harvey said. “ A doctor is telling you one thing, but as a competitor you want to be out there.”

When Boras leaked the innings story, Harvey, who was coming off Tommy John surgery, was to be shut down at 180 innings. Instead, and not without some tension, he threw 216. Unfortunately for him and the Mets, he didn’t reach 217, which would have been the ninth inning of Game 5.

Of course, as we all remember, manager Collins went against his better judgment and acquiesced to Harvey’s demand to remain in the game. He expended a lot of energy arguing with Collins and sprinting to the mound to start the ninth. Perhaps that’s when he ran of juice.

After reflecting on that night, Harvey admitting “some heartbreak and some sadness” and said: “Nobody wants to lose. Nobody is trying to lose. It’s one of those things. Once you sit back and realize what we did and what we’re capable of for years to come, and with who we have, and getting [Yoenis] Cespedes back, and getting a healthy David Wright, followed by the starting staff we have. It was a great experience for us. Something we can learn from, but not dwell on, but really pick up from where we left off and finish what we started.”

It’s spring training, a time for new beginnings, and with that comes the hope Harvey really wants to stay here and possibly the Mets can keep the band together.

Would be nice.

 

Feb 15

If Harvey Is Up For Deal, Mets Should Talk

Until today, the most definitive theory about the Mets signing Matt Harvey to a long-term contract extension was the prevailing belief his agent Scott Boras would play the market and hold out for the last dollar. We concluded this based in large part by what Harvey said last year during his innings fiasco when he said he hired Boras to take care of his career.

HARVEY: Willing to talk long-term. (Getty)

HARVEY: Willing to talk long-term. (Getty)

Harvey said today what we already knew, that the Mets hadn’t opened negotiations and don’t even have a timetable of doing so.

Harvey, who is under Mets’ control until after the 2018 season and will make $4.325 million this season, today said he’s not ruling out anything. He said he was open for discussion, but don’t forget spring training hasn’t started yet and Boras is still in the equation.

“I think whatever comes up is going to come up,” Harvey told reporters today in Port St. Luice. “I’ve never shied away from it. I’ve never said I wouldn’t consider it. But I haven’t heard anything considering that.”

Jacob deGrom has been more open about his willingness to sign a long-term extension, which is why I recently wrote he should be the Mets’ first choice, followed by Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz before Harvey. The reason for Harvey being down on the list was the presumption Harvey wasn’t interested because of Boras.

Zack Wheeler will be a free agent after 2019 season, with deGrom eligible after 2020, followed by Syndergaard and Matz after 2021.

Harvey will be arbitration eligible for the next two years, so his salary will continue to spike assuming he remains healthy and pitches to expectations. The 26-year-old Harvey was 13-8 with a 2.71 ERA in 29 starts, and despite the innings issue he logged 216 innings, which included the playoffs.

Traditionally, pitchers recovering from Tommy John surgery – Harvey had his in 2013 and missed all of 2014 – and with no innings limits projected for this season, there’s reason for optimism. Assuming the Mets can sign Harvey to a three-year deal, that would cover two arbitration years and his first season of free-agent eligibility.

There’s risk, of course, but if he stays healthy and produces it is a win-win for the Mets. Considering there’s the rest of the rotation to consider and several high-salaried Mets could be off the books over the next few years, this could be the time to act.

Feb 11

Mets Should Sign DeGrom First

OK, you’ve just been named general manager of the Mets and have the task of signing one of the Mets’ young pitchers to a long term contract. Who’s your choice to sign first? Rank for me your five in the order of which you’d sign him and give me a reason for your reason.

My five are:

Jacob deGrom: He told The New York Post he would be receptive to a long-term contract, which puts him ahead of class. He’s had his health issues, but he’s also had two good years, which puts him at the top for me.

Noah Syndergaard: He’s six years from free agency, but he’s also the hardest throwing of the group and showed in the World Series that he’s not afraid.

Steven Matz: Like Syndergaard, his free agent window is down the road. I like he’s left-handed.

Matt Harvey: Why so low? For the simple reason he will probably cost the most, and by his own admission wants to test the market after the 2018 season. I can’t shake the feeling he wants to leave as he’s never said he wants to remain a Met. He should have no innings limitations this year, and could be primed for a breakout year. If he does what is already a high price will get more expensive.

Zack Wheeler: His rehab from Tommy John has been positive by all accounts and he should be ready to come off the DL in late June or early July. Before his injury there were scouts who had him ranked ahead of Harvey. The main reason why I have him behind Harvey is because he needs to put another full year in to prove he’s healthy. As with Syndergaard and Matz, his free-agent year is enough down the road – plus he has a limited resume – which doesn’t make them immediate priorities.

 

 

Jan 24

With Cespedes Back, What Happens With Lagares?

With Yoenis Cespedes returning to the Mets, what’s the plan now for Juan Lagares?

As with most decisions, it all depends on health? Runners clearly took their liberties last summer on Lagares’ arm, and if he’s still ailing, now might be the time to explore Tommy John surgery.

LAGARES: Minor league bound? (AP)

LAGARES: Minor league bound? (AP)

However, what are their options if Lagares is healthy?

Of course, they might want to consider trading him, but with Cespedes able to opt out after the season that might be premature. If he does the Mets will be searching for a new center fielder next winter.

Considering Lagares was injured and regressed – both with the bat and glove – regardless of how friendly his contract is, his trade value regressed.

However, with De Aza on the roster, the most prudent option could be for Lagares to open the season in the minor leagues, where he’ll play full time and get the necessary at-bats for his development. Another advantage is it would free up an additional roster spot, perhaps for another reliever.

With Cespedes and De Aza, I’m wondering how much playing time Lagares would receive.