Mar 11

Mets’ Depth Will Come To Play Early

Depth was to be a Mets’ strong point this year, and it will come into play a lot earlier than anticipated with shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera expected to miss the start of the season with a strained patella tendon in his left knee. Ruben Tejada, who lost his job after Cabrera was acquired and recently has been the subject of trade rumors to St. Louis, is starting again.

TEJADA: Back in line up. (AP)

TEJADA: Back in line up. (AP)

“[Cabrera] may not be ready for opening day, and that’s one of the reasons we have the depth on our roster that we have now,” Mets GM Sandy Alderson told reporters Friday. “If he’s ready in three or four weeks, it’s essentially the first week of the season and we’ll be in pretty good shape.”

Cabrera was in New York Friday at the Hospital of Special Surgery to receive a platelet-rich plasma injection. He was injured Thursday when he was running the bases and didn’t slide.

“I was running – with the fly ball  to second, and thinking slide,” Cabrera said. “I saw the bad throw, so I tried to stay up. I felt something in my knee. It’s sore right now.”

With Cabrera in the first season of a two-year, 8.5-million contract, the Mets hoped to unload Tejada – who will make $3 million in 2016 – for a prospect before losing him to free-agency next winter.

Timing is everything, and right now it isn’t good for Cabrera. It’s better for Tejada, and it could be good in the long run for the Mets. When Cabrera returns – and there are no setbacks – and if Tejada plays well and proves his leg is sound, it could enhance his trade value.

 

 

Mar 06

Why Utley’s Suspension Was Dropped

Mets’ fans won’t be pleased with this, but Chase Utley‘s two-game suspension was dropped by Major League Baseball. Utley was suspended for his aggressive take-out slide in Game 2 of the NLDS that broke Ruben Tejada‘s right leg.

Baseball’s policeman, Joe Torre, called the slide illegal for being a “rolling block” occurring away from the base. The suspension resulted from an outcry by Mets’ fans and New York media, and I believe was issued to avoid an ugly scene when the NLDS moved to Citi Field.

Utley appealed – as was his right – and didn’t play in the games in New York.

TEJADA: Suspension dropped. (AP)

TEJADA: Suspension dropped. (AP)

Here’s why I think the suspension was dropped:

* The umpire’s have discretion to eject a player if they deem it to be a dirty play and they did not.

* There was a take-out rule already in place dictating the runner must be able to reach the bag with his foot or hand and apparently the umpires believed this to be the case with Utley. (watch video)

* Replays showed Wilmer Flores‘ throw put Tejada in an awkward position, one in which he turned into Utley’s slide. This was not the runner’s fault.

* That Utley did not play in the two New York games could be viewed as a de facto suspension.

* Reaction among those in MLB is mixed between dirty and just aggressive. There was hardly a consensus in either position.

* MLB adopted a new rule on break-up slides.

When asked about the suspension Sunday, Tejada told reporters: “I don’t care really. I don’t care. I care about me. I’m healthy here. I’m happy here. So I don’t care about what’s going to happen there or what’s the decision they take there.”

Said Mets GM Sandy Alderson: “The most important thing is that the rule was changed.”

 

 

Feb 19

Suggesting A Plan For Wright

Some time next week, David Wright will meet with Mets manager Terry Collins to devise a plan on how much their former All-Star third baseman will play this summer. It’s this year’s version of Matt Harvey‘s innings limit.

WRIGHT: What's the plan? (Getty)

WRIGHT: What’s the plan? (Getty)

How many games will Wright play this summer?

Of course, it comes down to his health and how strong he feels, but for now there’s no definitive number or plan. Wright played in only 38 games last summer, and earlier this spring GM Sandy Alderson suggested 130, but that’s only a hope.

“I have to be smart about it,” Wright told reporters Friday. “One thing I need to mature and need to become better at is being honest with how I feel on a daily basis — being able to communicate a little better than I have in the past. I’ve been very stubborn when it comes to giving an honest assessment of injuries or how I feel.”

That’s always been an issue with Wright, who has always tried to play through pain and injuries. You’ll recall several years ago when he played nearly a month with a small fracture in his back. One can only wonder the connection with that injury to his current back problems.

“If I feel good and I’m producing and it’s not hurting my back or hurting the team, then I’m going to be out there,” Wright said.

“We just have to be wise enough to know that every so often you’re going to get a day off,” Collins said. “We’ve got to do a better job of monitoring some off days. How many? How? When? Right now I can’t answer that.”

There are a multitude of things Wright and the Mets can do to keep him fresh. Among them:

* It has to begin in spring training. Part of the plan has to be limiting his innings during spring training. It could include playing mostly home games and staying away from the bus rides.

* Undoubtedly, Collins will sandwich the games he gives Wright off around off days in the schedule, which would amount to consecutive days off.

* Who is to say when Wright plays it has to be for all nine innings? If up or down by three or four runs in the seventh or later, then it should be time to give Wilmer Flores some time. Given that, I wonder if Collins will replace Wright for late-inning defense. Of course, there might be times when it backfires, but when that happens Collins can’t abandon his plan.

* Tough pitching match-ups could be avoided. I know Wright wants to be out there, but if he has a low career average against a pitcher, why send him out there for three or four fruitless at-bats?

* Be aware of the weather. Wet grounds and cold weather should be avoided whenever possible.

Wright said he needs to be more honest with himself and Collins needs to hold him to that promise. Wright is 33 years-old and is obviously not the same player. But, that doesn’t mean he can’t still be a viable and productive asset. Both he and the Mets have to be smart about things.

 

 

 

Feb 17

Mets’ Top Ten Spring Training Questions

Mets pitchers and catchers officially report today, something we’ve waited for since the final out of the World Series. Of course, most Mets – including position players – have already been in Port St. Lucie for several days, if not weeks, now.

Numerous questions will surface between now and Opening Day, but until then I’ve come up with a list of what I consider the ten most pertinent questions heading into spring training:

Q: What did the Mets learn from the playoffs?

A: There’s some validity to having been there. The Royals benefitted from playing the Giants in the 2014 World Series. Much of it is a team learning how to pace itself down the stretch and dealing with pressure in the postseason. Both players and managers learn about themselves, and the acquired knowledge can only help.

WRIGHT: How healthy is he? (AP)

WRIGHT: How healthy is he? (AP)

Q: Who is healthy and who isn’t?

A: David Wright’s back, of course, is the most important health question. Will Terry Collins have a concrete plan for Wright regarding playing time and rest? Lefty relievers Jerry Blevins and Josh Edgin are on the mend. The target date for Zack Wheeler to come off the disabled list is late June.

Q: Will the starters have innings limitations?

A: Matt Harvey doesn’t want to hear anything about restrictions, which comes as no surprise. Harvey threw 216 innings last season – including the playoffs – and around the same number is what the Mets are hoping. There shouldn’t be any limits on Jacob deGrom, either, but the same probably won’t apply to Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz. Presumably, Bartolo Colon will be the fifth starter until Wheeler is ready.

Q: What is the composition of the bullpen?

A: This is the position area of most concern. Jeurys Familia is the closer and Addison Reed gets the set-up role. If Blevins and Edgin are healthy, and Antonio Bastardo pitches to expectations, the lefty question that hindered them most of last season should be alleviated. Hansel Robles must mature as does Rafael Montero. Everybody else is a question mark. Getting back to the World Series is far from a given, but it will be more likely will a productive bullpen.

Q: Will the big bat feel any contract-related pressure?A: Hopefully, Yoenis Cespedes won’t be thinking about his opt-out clause after one year and instead will play free and easy as he did last August. Wouldn’t that be something?

Q: Will the double-play combination mesh?

A: Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera are considered to be an upgrade over Daniel Murphy and Wilmer Flores/Ruben Tejada. Pennant winners must be strong up the middle. The Mets were lucky regarding this last year. It will take some time.

Q: Who is trying to steal center field?

A: That’s the way it appeared when Travis d’Arnaud came off the disabled list last summer. Defense up the middle includes behind the plate and d’Arnaud’s ability to combat the running game. When a runner knows he can take liberties on a catcher, it goes beyond stealing bases, which puts him into scoring position. Those are potential runs.

Q: Will the lefty power show some consistency?

A: Lucas Duda can hit eight homers in two weeks, then not go deep for a month. Curtis Granderson excelled in the leadoff slot last year and with the absence of a prototypical No. 1 hitter, he’ll need to duplicate that performance. There’s also the matter of Michael Conforto not having a falloff from last year’s strong first impression.

Q: How strong is the bench?

A: GM Sandy Alderson finally promoted Conforto and traded for Cespedes after his limited bench showed the overall weakness of the Mets’ offense. The Mets’ bench enters spring training substantially better than the 2015 version. Juan Lagares provides Gold Glove caliber late inning defense coming off the bench. Flores will sub for Wright so he should get a lot of reps at third base. He’ll also need time at first base. Alejandro De Aza gives them a left-handed bat and the ability to play all three outfield positions.

Q: Will the Mets make a deal during spring training?

A: There’s always the possibility of adding a reliever. Most likely, it would be a free-agent signing of another team’s castoff at the end as the start of the season draws closer. Barring an injury, I don’t anticipate them making any significant moves as there are no position battles.

Jan 26

Mets Matters: Big Boy Payroll

The Mets’ deal with Yoenis Cespedes ($27.5 million in 2016) will put their payroll at a reported $138.8 million for this summer. It’s the organization’s highest since the days of Omar Minaya’s days as general manager.

mets-matters logoThe Mets still have unsettled arbitration cases with second baseman Neil Walker and closer Jeurys Familia.

As for Cespedes, his contract should become official after his physical today.

The following are the Mets’ contracts for 2016 (per ESPN):

Cespedes, $27.5 M.

David Wright, $20 M.

Walker, $10.6 M (midpoint of arbitration figures).

Asdrubal Cabrera, $8.25 M.

Bartolo Colon, $7.25 M.

Lucas Duda, $6.725 M.

Alejandro De Aza, $5.75 M.

Antonio Bastardo, $5.375 M.

Addison Reed, $5.3 M.

Matt Harvey, $4.325 M.

Familia, $4.05 M (midpoint of arbitration figures).

Jerry Blevins, $4 M.

Ruben Tejada, $3 M.

Juan Lagares, $2.5 M.

Jenrry Mejia, $960.556 K.

Josh Edgin, $625 K.

Travis d’Arnaud, $600 K.

Kevin Plawecki, $600 K.

Wilmer Flores, $600 K.

Michael Conforto, $600 K.

Jacob deGrom, $600 K.

Noah Syndergaard, $600 K.

Steven Matz, $600 K.

Zack Wheeler, $600 K.

Erik Goeddel, $600 K.

Hansel Robles, $600 K.

Sean Gilmartin, $600 K.

FLORES HAS ANOTHER ROLE:  In addition to backing up Wright at third, Walker at second and Asdrubal at shortstop, he’ll also do the same for Duda at first base although he has never played the position before on the major league level.

Michael Cuddyer had the role last year. Plawecki has limited experience at first in the minors.

ROBLES HEARING NOT SET:  Robles’ appeal for a three-game suspension levied for a quick pitch thrown at the head of Philadelphia’s Cameron Rupp, Sept. 30, is expected to be heard during spring training.

In addition, Chase Utley‘s two-game suspension for his late slide that broke Tejada’s right leg, has also not been heard.