Feb 12

Four Spring Training Questions Facing Mets

Despite the snow, winter ends officially today as the Mets’ pitchers and catchers report to spring training in Port St. Lucie. Once they break out the balls and bats, winter ends, but not necessarily the questions for the Mets.

There are four pertinent questions and issues the Mets must answer in spring training.

HARVEY: One of many health issues. (AP)

HARVEY: One of many health issues. (AP)

Who in the starting rotation is healthy, and will there be innings limits?

A: Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler are all coming off arm surgery. For all the potential of their young arms, the Mets aren’t likely to go four-for-four on the recovery front. Somebody will have a setback. We just don’t know who. But, that’s more for the regular season, but for the next six weeks manager Terry Collins must determine a rotation order following Opening Day starter Noah Syndergaard. Collins must also decide Wheeler’s role; fifth starter or reliever? Collins and GM Sandy Alderson must pick a role and stay with it for at least this season. Jumping from one role to another can’t be good for Wheeler’s arm. It didn’t work out that way for Jenrry Mejia, did it? Unlike in 2015 with Harvey, there must be a definitive innings limits for these guys. They won’t like it, but it is in the best interest in keeping them healthy.

What are the bullpen roles?

A: Pencil in Addison Reed to replace closer Jeurys Familia while he serves a suspension. But after him? Is the set-up man Hansel Robles or Jerry Blevins or Seth Lugo/Robert Gsellman? If either Lugo or Gsellman is the set-up man, will the other be the long man? Or will one be the fifth starter? If Wheeler is in the pen, he needs a set role as to reduce the strain on his arm? How many relievers, six or seven? Will they keep three lefties, with Sean Gilmartin and Josh Edgin joining Blevins?

What is the back situation?

A: Lucas Duda, Neil Walker and David Wright are recovering from back surgery. Wright hasn’t played a combined 100 games in the last two years. Walker took a qualifying offer because he didn’t have any other options and the Mets didn’t like the other first base options if they lost Duda. Wright? Michael Conforto? How about Wilmer Flores full time? None of those options were appealing. The path of least resistance was bringing back Duda and hoping for the best with his back. By the end of spring training, we should have a better idea as to the health of these three. Collins must also create a plan of giving them rest in the hope of keeping them healthy? Collins has a bench for a reason and has more than just keeping Wright fresh to consider. It is Wright plus two.

How does he juggle the outfield?

A: First of all, will Yoenis Cespedes ever move back to center? The Mets brought back Cespedes the first time under the contingent he plays center. They brought him back the second time under the condition he plays in left. The current plan is, from left to right, Cespedes, Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce. Alderson’s plan to deal Bruce hit a snag when brought back Cespedes because teams deemed him desperate and offered little in return. Bruce needs to play to show production and up his trade value. Granderson, at 35, can’t play center full time, so Juan Lagares will be the fourth outfielder because he’s the only true center fielder. That leaves Conforto scrapping for at-bats.

Feb 03

How Will Collins Work In Reyes?

Among Mets manager Terry Collins‘ more interesting decisions this season will be where he’ll play Jose Reyes. Shortstop? Third base? Second base? The outfield?

REYES: Needs to get regular time. (Getty)

REYES: Needs to get regular time. (Getty)

It has been a long time since Reyes played second – remember the Kaz Matsui fiasco? – and the outfield would be forcing the issue considering the Mets have a glut of outfielders.

Satisfied with Asdrubal Cabrera at shortstop, the Mets brought back Reyes to play third when David Wright injured his back. Well, Wright is healthy now – knock on wood and fingers crossed – so where does that leave Reyes?

Because the Mets don’t have a bonafide leadoff hitter outside of Reyes, it’s important Collins devises a rotation with his infielders to keep him fresh and sharp at the plate. But, how many games is enough?

But, how many games is enough?

We can assume Collins will rest Wright at least twice a week, and if he subs him for Walker and Cabrera at least once, that’s four games, which should be enough. However, that’s not written in stone and leads to the question of much time will Wilmer Flores get.

It won’t be easy for Collins, but a rotation has to be made to juggle the priorities of giving Wright, Neil Walker and Cabrera regular rest and keep Reyes sharp at the top of the order.

Because the Mets have older and fragile players in their infield – of which Reyes is one – Collins should have enough opportunities to juggle this properly.

 

 

Jan 13

Mets Cruise Through Arbitration; No Drama For Harvey, Familia

Too bad the Mets don’t cruise through the regular season the way they do their arbitration schedule. The Mets traditionally blitz through the arbitration process and this winter seems no different as they came to terms with nine of their ten arbitration-eligible players, with only Wilmer Flores heading to a hearing.

HARVEY: Signs right away. (AP)

HARVEY: Signs right away. (AP)

However, there’s plenty time for a resolution before a hearing this spring. Count on that getting done, because after all, what the gap between Flores and the Mets has to be slim considering he made only $526,000 last summer. What I gather from this is Flores is tired of being pushed around by Alderson, who frequently made him the versatile infielder a butt of his jokes after the proposed deal to Milwaukee fell through two years ago.

If only for the hope of getting a few extra bucks out of Alderson, it’s probably worth it for Flores to make the GM’s life difficult for only a few minutes.

I was happy to see Matt Harvey ($5.125 million), Jacob deGrom ($4.05 million) and Jeurys Familia ($7.425 million) come to terms quickly considering their baggage.

Harvey is 29-28 lifetime and has yet to give the Mets a full season; deGrom, like Harvey, is coming off surgery; and Familia is facing at least a 30-game suspension to start the season. For Harvey and Familia, especially, they rightly figured nobody wanted to hear their drama.

The Mets came to terms with Lucas Duda ($7.25 million) and Zack Wheeler ($800,000) earlier in the week and with Travis d’Arnaud ($1.875 million), Addison Reed ($7.75 million) and reliever Josh Edgin.

Jan 10

Arbitration-Eligible Mets

The Mets traditionally settle with their arbitration-eligible players and that trend is expected to be the same this winter. The deadline for the parties to file figures is Friday.

The following Mets are arbitration-eligible (with their 2016 salaries in parenthesis): Lucas Duda ($6.725 million); Addison Reed ($5.3 million); Matt Harvey ($4,325 million); Jeurys Familia ($4.1 million); Zack Wheeler ($546,000); Josh Edgin ($625,000); Travis d’Arnaud ($542,000); Wilmer Flores ($526,000) and Jacob deGrom ($607,000).

Of course, everybody gets raises, because that’s how arbitration works, even for players coming off injuries – Duda, Harvey, Wheeler and deGrom – or facing a suspension like Familia.

 

Jan 04

Wondering How Mets Will Use Flores

One Met I am curious to see how manager Terry Collins uses this year is Wilmer Flores. Collins has always run hot-and-cold with his usage of Flores, which probably stems from GM Sandy Alderson’s public knocks of the player he unsuccessfully tried to trade in 2015.

FLORES: Needs to play. (AP)

FLORES: Needs to play. (AP)

Frankly, Flores has never gotten an opportunity to play full time, and it won’t come this year. However, there is a way to get at least 500 at-bats and not greatly infringe on the playing time of Lucas Duda, Neil Walker, Asdrubal Cabrera and David Wright/Jose Reyes.

The solution is simple and stems from Flores’ best attribute – other than hitting against left-handed pitching – and that’s his versatility.

He would play first one day, second the next, shortstop the third game and third base the fourth.

Doing this requires discipline on Collins’ part, a trait he has not exhibited. If Collins were to pull this off it will accomplish the following: 1) give Flores more and consistent at-bats, and 2) provide rest for the Mets’ older and injury-prone infield.

It will be well worth it to give Walker and Wright regimented rest, and it wouldn’t hurt for Cabrera and Duda, either.

The bottom line is the projected 2017 Mets’ infield could be gone after this season and they must find out what Flores can do.