Feb 18

Wilmer Flores Could Be Viable Shortstop Option

The New York Mets have long touted Wilmer Flores as one of their future stars. To some degree, having Flores and Ruben Tejada made it easier to let Jose Reyes walk.

FLORES: Could get shortstop time.

FLORES: Could get shortstop time.

With Tejada coming off a bad year and striking out in the free-agent shortstop market, the Mets are considering giving Flores another chance at shortstop.

And, it’s a good idea.

The Mets drafted Flores as a shortstop, but moved him to other positions because he lacked the quickness in making the first step.

Even so, manager Terry Collins suggested at the Winter Meetings Flores might get a look at shortstop in spring training. Collins reiterated that intent after Flores’ success at a Michigan fitness camp, where he dramatically improved his quickness and speed.

With his quickness and speed improved, it makes sense to experiment with Flores. Shortstops don’t need speed. Cal Ripken wasn’t fast, but relied on quickness and positioning.

It could be the same for Flores, who suffered with ankle injuries last year.

“We did a lot of ankle exercises,’’ Flores told reporters about his work at the fitness camp. “We worked on things that we needed to work on, like speed, agility and getting stronger. I’d be happy to go again.’’

Flores played shortstop for four years in the minors, and is willing to try again.

“It’s not going to be a new position,’’ Flores said. “I’m sure I can play.’’

That confidence and Collins’ willingness to experiment are no guarantees Flores can play shortstop on the major league level.

Because the Mets are giving Tejada every chance to redeem himself, he’ll get most of the time at shortstop during spring training. The remaining time Flores gets won’t be nearly enough to show he can play the position.

However, Flores has greater offensive potential than Tejada, thereby giving the Mets a dilemma. Because the Mets need offense, it’s possible Flores could make the Opening Day roster as a role player off the bench.

Assuming Flores makes the team, he probably won’t play enough, certainly at shortstop, to make a substantial impact.

What then, is the best option?

The Mets’ options are to carry Flores as a bench player or to send him back to Triple-A. If it is the latter, it must be under the provision he only plays shortstop, and not second, third or first.

Collins suggested as much today.

“I think with what we have on the infield – you know what? – if he’s not going to get a lot of a playing time, he’s got to go play at his age,” Collins said. “Because the ceiling on his bat is too high. He’s got to go get at-bats.”

Flores needs to learn to play shortstop, and that takes repetitions. Lots of them.

Feb 18

Mets Wise To Pass On Nelson Cruz

The New York Mets insist they have no interest in “slugging’’ outfielder Nelson Cruz. Let’s hope they don’t waiver from that position.

Quotes belong around the word slugging because who really knows if he’s a genuine slugger or a chemistry project?

CRUZ: Just say no.

CRUZ: Just say no.

Cruz served a 50-game suspension for his connection in the Biogenesis case so the legitimacy of his numbers must be questioned. After four non-descript seasons totaling 22 homers, Cruz busted out to hit 33 in 2009.

Then 22, 29, 24 and 27. He never had more than 90 RBI in that five-year span. What can you make of those numbers, especially in a line-up as loaded as the Rangers?

Basically, that’s erratic power, but is it real or chemicals? And, when did he start? How long had he been using?

Whatever documents those answers were found in have not, and will not, be released by Major League Baseball. So, if you’re an owner and hear Cruz’s initial demands were as high as five years at $15 million each, you must take pause.

The Mets have been stung by burdensome, long-term, non-productive contracts over the past five years and the last thing they need is to add another to a 33-year-old.

If Cruz had no doubt about his legitimacy, he should ask for a one-year, incentive-laden deal to prove himself, but he didn’t. Why?

That question, plus Cruz’s age, questionable numbers, and contractual demands all combine to make him a risk the Mets should not take.

ON DECK:  What about Wilmer Flores at shortstop?

Feb 15

Mets Week In Review: Davis Surprised; Drew Not Coming

Although Saturday was the official reporting day for the New York Mets pitchers and catchers, most of them – including many position players – have already been in Port St. Lucie much of the week.

And, it has been a pretty eventual five days:

* In arguably the quote of the week, Ike Davis said he was “a little bit shocked,’’ he wasn’t traded. Davis goes into spring training as the starter ahead of Lucas Duda.

* General manager Sandy Alderson said it remains unlikely the Mets would sign shortstop Stephen Drew despite persistent reports to the contrary.

* Bobby Parnell threw ten pitches off the mound on Valentine’s Day, roughly two weeks ahead of schedule.

* Manager Terry Collins said he is leaning toward Jon Niese as the Opening Day starter and stated a preference for Eric Young as the leadoff hitter.

* Collins said Wilmer Flores would get some time at shortstop. He also said the shortstop starter has not been determined.

* Matt Harvey said he hopes to pitch this season, but Collins said he would not rush him.

* Alderson left the door open lefty for Jack Leathersich or Rafael Montero making the Opening Day roster in the bullpen.

* Reliever Kyle Farnsworth, now with his eighth team, said he has no illusions and will accept whatever role the Mets have in mind for him.

* Credit Bartolo Colon for telling the truth, saying he signed with the Mets because no other team would offer a second year. If his body holds up, Colon said he would pitch after his contract expires.

Note: It my intent to post a Mets Week in Review every Saturday.

Feb 05

Mets’ Latest Plan For Ike Davis

Recent news coming out of Port St. Lucie concerning New York Mets giving first baseman Ike Davis at least 90 at-bats is interesting.

The first being the Mets will have a short leash this spring with Davis. They’ll give him every opportunity to start strong to win and keep the job.

DAVIS: Still in Mets' plans.

DAVIS: Still in Mets’ plans.

Theoretically, this should eliminate the slow starts that defined his last two seasons and sent him to the minors last year. This shouldn’t be interpreted as Davis being handed the job as in the two previous years.

He’d better make good use of those 90 at-bats.

“In the past you look to get him 60-70 at-bats,’’ Collins told The New York Post. “Well, he’s going to get at least 90. Yeah, he might get a little tired, but he’s too big a piece. We have to know what we have there.’’

Davis, at 26, has an upside evidenced by 32 homers hit in 2012. They know what they could have. They also know what they have had, meaning a low on-base percentage and batting average, lots of strikeouts and little run production.

Lucas Duda moved ahead of Davis last season when he improved his on-base percentage, but his run production was miniscule. The knock on him is he became too selective and passed on money pitches.

The Mets will also be aware of giving Duda his at-bats during spring training unless Davis doesn’t pan out or can’t deal him.

GM Sandy Alderson has tied to deal Davis since the end of the season, much to the anger of his father, former Yankees pitcher, Ron Davis, who ripped the Mets for being too open about their intentions.

In doing so, their asking price was scoffed at as being too high.

That’s something they can’t go back on, so Davis still won’t bring much. Plus, if he has a hot spring, he won’t be going anywhere, making Duda the more likely one to be traded.

If both Davis and Duda have miserable springs, the Mets have options in moving Daniel Murphy from second base or possibly Wilmer Flores.

Dec 21

Don’t be in a rush to deal Flores

Sorry for the absence. I’ve been ill lately and had to shut it down for a few days. This is the longest I’ve gone without a post since I started doing this and I apologize.

But, we haven’t missed much as the Mets continue to hope the prices will drop on whatever pitching talent is left out there. By most accounts there’s not much more than $4 million remaining in the Mets’ budget, and that won’t be enough to land Brandon Webb, the best remaining arm.

The Mets are looking at Freddy Garcia (but so are the Yankees), Chris Young and Jeff Francis. Young appears to be the most likely. There are other free-agent pitchers, such as Jeremy Bonderman and Kevin Millwood, but they don’t register much on the thrill meter. Nobody outside of Webb raises your pulse.

The name I keep hearing in the trade market is Tampa Bay’s Matt Garza, which would be appealing, but the reported cost would be shortstop prospect Wilmer Flores.

Trading prospects are always risky, but unless the return is great (and Garza doesn’t rank that high), I’d be reluctant to deal Flores because of the uncertainty of what could happen with Jose Reyes. If Reyes gets off to a good start and the Mets are committed to signing him to an extension, then Flores would be expendable.

However, if the Mets opt to shop Reyes at the trade deadline, or he leaves after the season as a free agent, it would be good to have Flores in the fold. But, to deal Flores now and then lose Reyes would leave a hole I don’t think Ruben Tejada would be able to fill.

Flores is still several years away, but his value should only increase. While Garza is coming off a career year at 15-10, he’s still less than a .500 career pitcher.