May 29

Loney Was Best Possible Available Option For Mets

James Loney might not have been the best player the Mets could have gotten to replace Lucas Duda at first base for the next two months, but considering how they do things he was the best possible option.

The Mets considered several internal options – including Wilmer Flores – but acted with unusual swiftness for them by getting Loney, 32, from San Diego for cash.

LONEY: Best available choice. (AP)

LONEY: Best available choice. (AP)

I would have preferred Adam LaRoche, but the speculated cost in coaxing him out of retirement from the White Sox would probably have been too high. However, I definitely prefer Loney over a mix-and-match platoon of Eric Campbell and Flores. He’s also a better option than moving Michael Conforto or David Wright to new positions.

“Loney was an immediate, obvious possibility in terms of ease of acquisition and a variety of things,” GM Sandy Alderson told reporters. “We had someone go and look at James a couple of games last week and earlier in the month. We felt this was the right move for us at the moment.

“We felt we needed another left-handed bat. James doesn’t have a lot of power. He hasn’t demonstrated that, but we’ve got that elsewhere in the lineup. He’s someone who hits from the left side, a contact hitter, doesn’t strike out a lot. He could be a nice fit for us.”

Manager Terry Collins, whose roots are in the Dodger system as are Loney’s, has known him for 15 years.

“He’ll add a nice dimension to us,” Collins said. “He’s a very good first baseman. He’s a good offensive player. He’s not necessarily a big power guy. He’s a tremendous guy in the clubhouse.”

Loney was released by the Rays this spring and had been with the Padres’ Triple-A affiliate in El Paso, Texas, where he was hitting .342 with two homers and 28 RBI in 158 at-bats.

Loney was to make $9.6 million this year, but because he was released by the Rays, the Mets are responsible for the pro-rated major league minimum for him.

All in all, it was the best possible deal the Mets could have made.

 

May 22

Mets’ First Base Options Without Duda

UPDATED TO INCLUDE CONFORTO CORRECTION

Didn’t the Mets learn anything dealing with David Wright‘s back issue? Apparently not, as there still hasn’t been a decision how to deal with Lucas Duda‘s back problems that might be a disk. Despite sweeping the Brewers, the Mets’ offense continues to sputter and I’m guessing they’ll make a DL move before the Washington series.

It is a huge mistake if they don’t.

DUDA: What will they do if they don't have him? (AP)

DUDA: What will they do if they don’t have him? (AP)

Duda did not play the last two games and has been abysmal in May, going 7-for-41 with only one RBI and 11 strikeouts in his last 13 games. With three games against the Nationals, they’ll need every bit of offense they can get.

“It’s pretty concerning,” manager Terry Collins told reporters Sunday. “He tried to go out the last two games and play and it was still bothering him.”

Back problems which Wright can attest to linger and Duda won’t get much better, if at all, before Monday’s game. That’s why I’m thinking they’ll DL him. Assuming that’s the case and this drags on, what are the Mets’ possible first-base options?

STATUS QUO: In the short term they can continue to use Eric Campbell until Wilmer Flores comes off the DL at the end of the week. Campbell has played well in spots replacing Duda and before that, Wright. However, as was the case last year when Wright went down, Campbell’s flaws get exposed over time. The same could apply to Flores, whose playing time is greatly reduced this year and how he’ll take to first base is unknown.

Considering their history this is the path of least resistance and the course I imagine the Mets first taking.

Another bench option could be Alejandro De Aza, but there’s the issue of his experience at the position.

CONFORTO: It is totally outside the box thinking to tinker with Michael Conforto. It’s a risk to take a player unproven at a position and move him during the season. First base is not as easy as people think as Conforto will have to learn to hold runners, field bunts and become proficient with cutoffs and relays. Plus grounders will come at him a lot faster than they do in the outfield.

Mickey Mantle and Carl Yastrzemski moved at the end of their careers, but with the advantage of knowing they’d switch and had a spring training to learn the position. A plus is it could improve the outfield defense by moving Yoenis Cespedes to left – where he won a Gold Glove – and playing Juan Lagares in center, where he also won a Gold Glove.

WRIGHT: Just because he plays one corner infield position doesn’t mean he can play the other. It should be easier for Wright because it is an infield position and he’s used to fielding hard grounders. Even so, he’d still have to learn the same nuances as Conforto.

However, if this turns into a long-term thing with Duda it would be worth exploring because Wright’s back has hindered his defense, in particular when it comes to throwing. There might come a time, and it could occur sooner than later, this move might merit serious consideration.

If Duda’s injury sidelines him the way Wright’s benched him for four months, it would be prudent for the Mets to test Wright at first as to get a handle on their options. And, as is usually the case, economics will factor into the equation.

Duda will make $6.7 million this year and is arbitration eligible after next season and be a free-agent after 2018. The Mets don’t have the financial commitment to Duda that they do with Wright to whom they owe $67 million – not including this year – through 2020.

Wright’s health will always be a question and since his retirement isn’t an imminent issue the more they know about his ability to play – or not play – first base is important.

SMITH: The Mets are counting on Dominic Smith as their long-term answer with the assumption Wright doesn’t emerge as an option. Smith, the Mets’ 2013 first-round pick, is currently at Double-A, where he’s hitting less than .280.

Yes, I know they pushed the envelope with Conforto, who brought up from Double-A, but two months later in the season. Could Smith make the jump? It’s possible, but it’s no slam dunk.

I wouldn’t be adverse to bringing up Smith for a look-see. I’m not worried about his confidence being impacted if he struggles, because if he’s as good as the Mets hope he’ll become, then he should be strong enough mentally to overcome a rough stretch.

THE TRADE MARKET: There are numerous options in the free-agent market this winter who might be available in a trade at the deadline should their teams want to make a deal for a prospect.

An intriguing possibility is to coax Adam LaRoche out of retirement – it would be a package deal with his son – but could necessitate sending something to the White Sox. That’s way outside the box, but it wouldn’t hurt to explore.

Please follow me on Twitter

Apr 27

Mets Must Understand Manufacturing Runs Still Important

Terry Collins likes to say the Mets are a “home run hitting team built on power.’’ It makes me uneasy when I hear that because history is full of teams built on power that didn’t win.

Sure, it’s great the Mets can come back with one swing as they did with Yoenis Cespedes Tuesday night. One pitch, one swing and BAM, the game was tied.

HARVEY: Goes tonight. (Getty)

HARVEY: Goes tonight. (Getty)

It was the first time this year the Mets came from behind to win.

Power is a great weapon in any team’s overall arsenal, but it is not the most important. History tells us most champions are built on pitching, defense and timely hitting.

People like to counter with the Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle Yankees. However, those teams also had solid pitching and balanced lineups.

It’s also been that way with baseball’s recent champions: Kansas City, San Francisco, St. Louis and Boston. The Red Sox had power, but they wouldn’t have won without pitching.

When the Mets moved into Citi Field, they promised to build their teams on pitching, speed and defense. So far, it has been their young pitching and power.

The Mets have little speed and their defense has been better than expected. This season they surged because of pitching and power, but remember they hammered the suspect rotations of Philadelphia, Atlanta and Cincinnati. They also spent three games each in the bandboxes in Cleveland, Philly and Atlanta.

How long will this surge continue?

Will it go away against the Giants this weekend? Or will it fade against the Dodgers, Nationals and White Sox in May? Hot pitching always trumps hitting.

Sorry stat geeks, it has been that way from the beginning and will remain that way. That’s was the foundation of the Mets’ championship teams in 1969 and 1986.

Why do you think the Mets relish talking about Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Wednesday night’s starter, Matt Harvey?

They do so because they realize pitching is more important. The Mets are third in the majors with 29 homers hit, but more importantly rank first in homers allowed, giving up just seven.

Collins likes to say his team doesn’t have a lot of speed and doesn’t bunt. It’s another way of saying the Mets are poor in situational hitting and can’t manufacture runs.

Power is not sustainable. It fades. The ability to manufacture runs over time is far more important.

Don’t think so? In the 19 games the Mets have played, they:

* Are 4-4 in one-run games.

* Have struck out 174 times, and average of 9.2 a game. That’s the equivalent of going three innings without putting the ball in play.

* They have stranded 140 runners, or an average of 7.4 a game. That’s a little less than a run an inning.

Sooner or later, their inability to manufacture runs and put the ball in play will catch up to them.

History says it will regardless of the new wave numbers.

 

Apr 10

Today In Mets’ History: Agee Hits Monster Homer

The Mets aren’t noted for the home run in their history, but one of the franchise’s signature long ball moments happened on this day in 1969 when center fielder Tommie Agee went into the left field upper deck in Shea Stadium against Montreal’s Larry Jaster in a 4-2 victory.

timmie-agee-home-run-spot-400x306The Mets commemorated the drive by painting a disc on the concourse where the ball hit. It really is a long way from the plate.

Agee went 2-for-4 for two RBI hitting in the leadoff spot. He finished that season with a .271 average and 26 homers and 76 RBI, but what Mets fans most remember from Agee that year was Game 3 of the World Series against Baltimore when he homered and made two magnificent game-saving catches. VIDEO

Agee hit 82 of his 130 career homers during his five years with the Mets. Agee also played for Cleveland, the White Sox, Houston and St. Louis. The Mets traded him to the Astros for Rich Chiles and Buddy Harris after the 1972 season.

Please follow me on Twitter.

Jan 19

Mets Playing Cespedes Game Correctly

Greetings all.

Sorry for not being around the past few days, but this recovery business is taking longer and more grueling than I thought.

CESPEDES: Mets playing this the right way. (Getty)

CESPEDES: Mets playing this the right way. (Getty)

Spring training is a month away and hopefully I’ll be closer to being on my game by then. I can’t begin to express how much I want to be there. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

With that in mind, I’d like to weigh in on Yoenis Cespedes – again.

I recently wrote I believed the Mets still had a shot at re-signing Cespedes if they practiced patience and let the market come back to them. The Cespedes market shrunk by two teams this week when Baltimore brought back Chris Davis and Detroit signed Justin Upton.

The Angels were reportedly interested, but the luxury tax is putting them off. That in itself should dispel the notion there’s such a thing as free agency. (That’s another column for another day.)

However, that doesn’t mean the Cespedes market has completely dried up. Houston, the White Sox, Atlanta and the Mets are reportedly still in play.

Neither the Mets nor the White Sox want to go longer than three years, and both would prefer less. If the Mets continue to play the waiting game, Cespedes might fall back into their laps.

However, there are reasons why Cespedes remains on the market: he has a career .319 on-base percentage, which should concern Mets GM Sandy Alderson; at 30, he’s already played with four teams; there’s questions about his persona; his reported opening salary demands of seven years and $150 million scared teams out of the box; what he did for the Mets is considered a fluke by some; and finally, there’s always the possibility he might lose his incentive with a long-term deal.

Clearly, the Mets are aware of those flaws, which should put them off. But, if they really want Cespedes, they need to keep waiting.

And, hold to their guns of not giving more than three years. And, be willing to accept they could get burned.