Nov 24

Mets’ Shortstop Question Defines Winter

To get an accurate read on how the New York Mets feel about themselves, look no further than their handling of the shortstop position.

It’s an oversimplification to call them cheap for not going after Troy Tulowitzki because the asking price, both in what the Rockies would demand in players and the salary the Mets would have to pay would have been exorbitant.

Everybody, of course, knows the Red Sox are always serious about winning, so signing Hanley Ramirez is something in the Boston’s DNA.

The Mets won’t go that high-end, but there is talk they might go after Stephen Drew, but he’s not the missing piece to their puzzle. He might be a better, more experienced and expensive alternative to Wilmer Flores.

However, is Drew the player the Mets want to build around? He might cost them $4 million, but if he proves himself he would likely walk after 2015 and the Mets – who deem themselves competitive this year – would be searching for a new shortstop next year.

And, teams considering themselves contenders aren’t usually in the market for a shortstop.

Alexei Ramirez or Starlin Castro have been linked to the Mets, but they don’t want to surrender their young pitching.

That brings us full circle to their shortstop at the end of last, which is Flores. He represents their least expensive option. He could also be their future, if they were to give him a full shot at the position.

And, if it didn’t work out, then they could always go get a shortstop next year.

Meet the new winter, just like the old one.

Nov 16

Murphy Staying; Could Be Last Season With Mets

One of the more interesting nuggets coming out of the GM meetings last week was Sandy Alderson’s statement the New York Mets aren’t interested in working on a contract extension with second baseman Daniel Murphy.

Alderson also said the Mets would be reluctant to trade Murphy. While both points are contradictory, they also make sense.

It is estimated Murphy will make $8.1 million this season in his walk year, a relatively high sum for a contact hitter with little power and only an average defender. Just how much is that worth?

Also, the Mets finished below .500 for the sixth straight season with Murphy. They can surely finish below .500 without him.

Alderson’s reasoning in avoiding the extension is unknowns Dilson Herrera and Wilmer Flores.  If either shows capable of playing second, especially Flores if a shortstop can be obtained, then Murphy would be an expensive third wheel and they’ll let him walk after next season.

As far as putting Murphy on the block, the Mets are pointing toward this season as one in which they’ll be competitive so they’ll to keep him, especially if Flores and/or Herrera don’t pan out or there is an injury.

It translates to at least one more season in Flushing for Murphy.

Nov 13

Tea Leaves Say Shortstop Is Flores’ Job To Lose

Without saying so directly, GM Sandy Alderson indicated the 2015 Opening Day shortstop would be Wilmer Flores.

FLORES: It's his job.

FLORES: It’s his job.

Speaking at the GM meetings this week in Phoenix, Alderson said the market isn’t good and Flores is acceptable as a fall back option. For those familiar with the Mets’ vernacular, that means they will probably go with a pat hand.

“I know there are fans out there that don’t want to hear it, but if we had to go into the season with Flores as our shortstop, I’m certainly not in a panic mode at that point,’’ Alderson said. “Wilmer at shortstop is one of those guys that doesn’t pass the eye test. But if you start to look at his metrics a little bit, you realize there’s maybe a little more there than we give him credit. And, offensively, there’s as much potential with him as probably anybody that’s available.’’

That hardly counts as an endorsement, but if I’m Flores I have to believe it’s my job to lose.

Alderson called the market “slim,’’ and the Mets have to be smart enough to not throw good money on “slim.’’ Plus, if they are reluctant to trade, what else can it mean? Also, when was the last time you heard Ruben Tejada’s name mentioned?

So, ladies and gentlemen, introducing your 2015 Mets’ Opening Day shortstop – Wilmer Flores.

 

 

Oct 25

Mets’ Core Up The Middle Has Potential

Championship caliber teams traditionally are built strong up the middle: catcher, pitching, shortstop and second base and centerfield.

The Mets have a decent start in that area with Travis d’Arnaud behind the plate; their young pitching staff and Gold Glove finalist Juan Lagares in centerfield.

What we don’t know about is shortstop and second base, where Wilmer Flores and Daniel Murphy, respectively, are expected to open the season.

The Mets are saying shortstop is open between Flores and Ruben Tejada, but Flores has the definite edge. Tejada has not won the job despite several opportunities. He’s supposed to be a glove man, but hasn’t come close to living up to expectations. Offensively, he’s been below average and teams can no longer carry a weak-hitting shortstop.

Flores has the greater offensive potential, and was surprisingly effective in the field. The rap on him is he lacks range, but he can make up for that with better positioning.

Whether the Mets can live with Flores long term is unknown, but for now he’ll have to do.

Second base has potential with Dilson Herrera, who is fast and quick to give him range, but nobody knows about his long-term offensive potential because he’s had a limited window.

There have long been complaints about Murphy’s defense and range, but he’s getting better all the time. Will he be another Joe Panik? Who knows?

All the talk about trading Murphy for a power hitter is ridiculous unless he’s packaged along with a pitcher. By himself, Murphy won’t get it done.

The catching, rotation and Lagares are all promising, but nothing you can consider as givens. You have to like the potential, but we’ll know more about the future after this season.

Oct 06

Leadoff Hitter Remains A Nagging Question

Of all the Mets’ off-season questions, the matter of their leadoff hitter is one of the most intriguing. That is especially if their intent is to fill it from within.

With no budding Lou Brock or Rickey Henderson in their farm system, their best hope is on their current 40-man roster. I say that because there’s no real answer in the free-agent market and they are reluctant to trade their young pitching.

The primary in-house candidates are Eric Young, Juan Lagares, Ruben Tejada, Daniel Murphy and Kirk Nieuwenhuis. All have something they could bring to the table, but all have issues to the negative.

Young, Lagares and Nieuwenhuis have speed, but also rather low on-base percentages and a penchant for striking out too much.

Of the group, Murphy is the best hitter, but for a relatively weak lineup he’s better suited for a run-producing slot in the middle of the order. Also, Murphy’s on-base percentage, at .332, isn’t as lofty as one might think.

If Murphy is still here – a substantial question – he should be hitting between second and sixth.

As for Young, there’s an excellent chance it will be a moot point and not be brought back.

Last winter, manager Terry Collins toyed with the idea of experimenting with Tejada. The catch here is Tejada needs a position to play and that means starting ahead of Wilmer Flores, which isn’t a given.

Mets’ 11 different leadoff hitters ranked last in the majors with a .235 average and paltry a .308 on-base percentage. If they want to change that, they’ll have to hope for a breakout season from the names suggested or be willing to spend.