Mar 07

D’Arnaud’s Start Good Sign

One of the Mets’ spring training concerns is off to a good start. You wouldn’t be wrong saying Travis d’Arnaud is facing a make-or-break season.

The combination of not performing – at the plate or behind it – and not being able to stay on the field has kept d’Arnaud from being the impact player they envision when they acquired him from Toronto in the R.A. Dickey trade. Believe it or not, there were some who rated d’Arnaud higher than Noah Syndergaard in that deal.

D'ARNAUD: Good start. (AP)

D’ARNAUD: Good start. (AP)

It’s been only 20 at-bats, but d’Arnaud is hitting .450 (9-for-20) with two homers and four RBI. His discipline is better, evidenced by a .450 on-base percentage.

It’s rather simple, d’Arnaud explained to reporters: After working with hitting coach Kevin Long this winter, d’Arnaud ditched his former stance in which he wrapped his bat around his head, he’s seeing the ball better.

Translation: Seeing the ball enables him to hit it.

“My results are more swinging at strikes and hitting the ball on the barrel,” d’Arnaud said. “For me, me it’s being able to see the ball longer and not have to cheat to get to some pitches and just keeping everything slow and not try to do too much.

“We made the swing so it’s more direct and I don’t have to overcommit.”

Even a fraction of a second would give d’Arnaud enough time to recognize and turn on a pitch. It’s the difference between driving a pitch and popping it up or missing it entirely.

For d’Arnaud, it could be the difference between a productive year in the major leagues, or not being there at all.

Feb 13

Syndergaard Is Unquestioned Ace

Manager Terry Collins will say it multiple times this spring, that the “Mets don’t have one ace they have four aces.’’ Noah Syndergaard said it this weekend, “I really wouldn’t say I’m the leader of the staff. I think we’re all leaders in our own way.”

Uh, no. Syndergaard is the guy. He’ll be the Mets’ Opening Day starter and he’s unquestionably their staff ace.

SYNDERGAARD: No doubt he's No. 1 (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: No doubt he’s No. 1 (AP)

For one reason, providing the bone spur in his elbow has calmed down, he’s the healthy one in the rotation. Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey and Steven Matz are all coming off surgery, and Zack Wheeler hasn’t pitched in two years.

Secondly, Syndergaard’s 100 mph., heater registered 14 victories and 218 strikeouts, and as last season progressed and deGrom and Matz faded from the scene – Harvey dropped out early – it became apparent he had blossomed into a star.

“From the young pitcher that we acquired from Toronto to the successful major league New York icon that he’s become, it’s just a phenomenal metamorphosis,” GM Sandy Alderson told The New York Post.

Then, there was his ace-defining moment in the Wild Card Game against San Francisco’s ace Madison Bumgarner. Syndergaard took a no-hitter into the sixth and struck out ten Giants. The Mets ultimately lost 3-0.

Syndergaard reported to spring training having added 17 pounds of muscle for the intent of throwing harder.

“I always want to throw harder and make the game easier,” Syndergaard told reporters. “I felt my velocity jumped up last year from my rookie season. I ‘ll try to raise that bar. … Hopefully, it allows me to go deeper into games with more ease, but also focusing on and maintaining my flexibility.”

That’s an ace talking.

Feb 02

Mets’ D’Arnaud Down To Last Chance

One Met I’m hopeful for this season is catcher Travis d’Arnaud, who has to know he might be down to his last chance at becoming a starter. He hasn’t come close to reaching his potential – both at the plate and behind it – since coming over in the trade (along with Noah Syndergaard) that sent R.A. Dickey to Toronto.

D'ARNAUD:  Needs good year. (ESPN)

D’ARNAUD: Needs good year. (ESPN)

He has scary power when he connects – wasn’t he the guy who dented the home run apple? – but has been largely been inconsistent. But, I’m liking what I’m reading in The New York Post from Port St. Lucie.

D’Arnaud, who avoided arbitration by signing a one-year deal for $1.875 million, has been working hard with new coach Glenn Sherlock, and has come away with a new stance. Last year d’Arnaud wrapped the bat around his head which resulted in a longer and slower swing.

That’s gone now and the bat is on his shoulder pointing straight behind him instead of pointing at the pitcher. Sherlock is also working with d’Arnaud on quickening his throws to second base. Both are essential improvements for d’Arnaud, who hit only four homers with 15 RBI and threw out only 22 percent of potential baserunners.

“He was a huge help,” d’Arnaud told The New York Post about Sherlock. “For the team to bring him in shows they have my back and they want me to get better. So, it’s cool that he’s here.”

General manager Sandy Alderson said in addition to a shoulder injury, d’Arnaud’s confidence at the plate as impacted by his defensive problems:  “I just think there was a general loss of confidence that was reflected in his offense. It was reflected in his defense. I think that’s something that can be restored.”

Most importantly, d’Arnaud says he feels strong, which is important since injuries have limited to 250 games over the past three years. The Mets always believed keeping d’Arnaud on the field has always been the key to his production.

While the early reports have been encouraging, it’s still only February and d’Arnaud’s new stance and revised throwing mechanics haven’t been tested in a game.

The Mets have so many issues and questions going into spring training and d’Arnaud is certainly one of the most important. The Mets still have confidence in d’Arnaud – at least they have more in him than Kevin Plawecki – but after three years of little production, both parties have to realize this might be d’Arnaud’s last chance.

Dec 05

Toronto Cooling On Bruce, Granderson

What does it tell you when you hear that GM Sandy Alderson is willing to take a prospect rather than a major-league ready player for either Jay Bruce or Curtis Granderson?

Can you say “salary dump?”

GRANDERSON: Not going to Toronto. (AP)

GRANDERSON: Not going to Toronto. (AP)

Shedding $13 million for Bruce or $15 million for Granderson tells you of the Mets’ thinking these days. Saving payroll is when Alderson was hired in the first place, so that’s not new.

Reportedly, Alderson is willing to trade both, which means Michael Conforto must be the real deal and nothing better happen to Yoenis Cespedes or the Mets will be sunk.

You can surmise the Mets overachieved the last two years and are financially regressing. That’s not hard to understand, but what is are the reports they are interested in dealing Conforto. They couldn’t have possibly given up on him already.

A source I have in Toronto tells me the Blue Jays are interested in Conforto, but cooled considerably on either Bruce or Granderson. Could it be because the Mets want 25-year-old fireballer Marcus Stroman?

The Blue Jays don’t expect to bring back either Jose Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion, but the acquisitions of Kendrys Morales and Steve Pearce will ease that sting.

 

Dec 04

Heading To DC For Winter Meetings

There’s no football for me today, as I’m heading down to Washington for the Winter Meetings, which don’t figure to be active for the Mets.

After signing Yoenis Cespedes to a four-year, $110-million deal, the Mets accomplished their primary goal, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have issues:

TRADE CHIPS: GM Sandy Alderson’s two biggest trade chips are outfielder’s Curtis Granderson ($15 million) and Jay Bruce ($13 million), both of whom will be free agents after this year. Reportedly, Toronto is a trade partner for either, as it is poised to lose Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista.

The way the market often works this time of year has most teams looking free agents first before looking to trade.

Working in the Mets’ favor is they have manageable contracts (money and years) which make them easier to deal. Working against them is teams might wait until the trade deadline.

CLOSER: Alderson said he has to consider the possibility of losing closer Jeurys Familia, even though his wife doesn’t plan action and charges could be dropped at his Dec. 15 hearing.

That action won’t preclude MLB of a handing down a suspension, and based on recent history, 30 games appears the starting point.

The Mets won’t get into the bidding for Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jenson or Mark Melancon.

The logical move would be to promote Addison Reed, but then there is the question of finding a set-up reliever. They need to bring back Jerry Blevins. But, after Reed and Blevins, there’s little reliability in the bullpen.

CATCHER: Rene Rivera was brought back and again the Mets figure to go with a Rivera-Travis d’Arnaud platoon, with Kevin Plawecki to open the season in the minors.

There’s nothing eye-popping in the free-agent market and the Mets aren’t poised to make a deal.