Dec 08

Alderson Still Searching

The Mets left Washington this morning the way they often do after playing the Nationals – empty handed. The Mets’ big off-season move consisted of extending Yoenis Cespedes, which they did before leaving New York, but their other objectives were left unfulfilled.

ALDERSON: Still has work to do. (AP)

ALDERSON: Still has work to do. (AP)

They failed to deal Jay Bruce or Curtis Granderson, bolster their bullpen or find a catcher. However, Alderson said the Winter Meetings shouldn’t be defined by three days of lobby fishing in a swanky Washington resort hotel.

“I think we laid some groundwork, as they say, and I’ve had conversations that will continue when we get back to New York,” Alderson told reporters this morning before leaving. “We were pleased with the face we had some dialogue. We’ll pursue things over the next couple of weeks.”The Mets want to trade Bruce (who’ll make $13 million in 2017) and/or Granderson ($15 million). Alderson said the preference is dealing Bruce – although many teams like Granderson – but if he could swing also swing a deal for Granderson, make no mistake, he’ll jump at the chance to save $28 million.

The Mets want to trade Bruce (who’ll make $13 million in 2017) and/or Granderson ($15 million). Alderson said the preference is dealing Bruce – although many teams like Granderson – but if he could also swing a deal for Granderson, make no mistake, he’ll jump at the chance to save $28 million.

However, Alderson’s phone isn’t ringing for either.

“Outfielders, hitters, there’s still a quite of few of them out there. Clubs are still trying to sort out their priorities,” Alderson said. “I think when there’s that kind of supply, things are going to go a little a slower initially as everybody considers their options.”

It’s slow going for the Mets because most teams would rather sign a free agent than give up prospects or players. This could drag into January and might not get done until spring training it at all.

While Alderson insists his priority is a playing time situation in the outfield, reportedly he won’t entirely spend the savings on the bullpen. There are reports Jerry Blevins wants at least $5.5 million and that the Mets are interested in Texas’ Jeremy Jeffress, 29, who had a 2.33 ERA in 59 games last year and is arbitration eligible.

ESPN reports the Mets’ current payroll to be $146 million.

Dec 07

Wheeler To The Pen Has To Be For Right Reasons

The first thing I thought of after hearing the Mets were considering using Zack Wheeler out of the bullpen was “don’t let this turn out to be another Jenrry Mejia.”

You’ll recall the Mets bounced Mejia from the rotation to the bullpen, without leaving him long enough to grasp either role. Consequently, Mejia’s trade value deteriorated and he eventually injured his arm. He appeared to get it together as a closer until he screwed up his career by violating MLB’s PED policy.

WHEELER: A new role? (Getty)

WHEELER: A new role? (Getty)

Wheeler in the pen is an intriguing idea, but it has to be done for the right reasons. If it is because they are apparently deep with young starters and woefully thin in the pen, made more so with the anticipated suspension of closer Jeurys Familia, then I can see that logic. If it is because Wheeler only has two really good pitches, then that’s a justifiable reason, also.

However, if the reasoning is what manager Terry Collins said at the Winter Meetings, which is to shave innings off Wheeler’s total before he moves into the rotation later in the year, then that’s not good enough. It’s not good at all.

Wheeler said all the right things today at Citi Field during a coat drive.

“I’ve started my whole life, and obviously, I’d like to do that,” Wheeler told reporters. “But they’re looking out for me, innings-wise and stuff like that. I’ve been out for two years, so … whatever’s best for my health is what’s fine with me and the plan going forward.”

The Mets wouldn’t be looking after Wheeler if they bounced him around. If they are serious about the bullpen, they have to go all in. That means use him there in spring training and stay with it the entire season.

GM Sandy Alderson said this is currently in the bounce-it-off-the-wall phase.

“There’s no reason for us to say, `Well, he’s got to be a starter,’ ” Alderson told reporters. “Now, he may feel that way himself. But, it may be that coming back after two years you have to be careful. You might not be able to pitch him back-to-back [days]. It might have to be two innings at a time. But, I don’t see any reason to just eliminate that possibility.”

Wheeler hasn’t pitched in two seasons, so the Mets don’t know what to make of him physically. As a starter, he’ll have a more consistent schedule and workload, so that’s a plus.

There are too many variables that tax a pitcher’s arm coming out of the pen, especially if that’s a new role for him. That makes it risky.

Pitchers have made the transition from starter to reliever and been successful. I’m not saying the Mets would be making a mistake. The mistake would come if they waffled and changed course, especially without knowing his condition.

Dec 04

Heading To DC For Winter Meetings

There’s no football for me today, as I’m heading down to Washington for the Winter Meetings, which don’t figure to be active for the Mets.

After signing Yoenis Cespedes to a four-year, $110-million deal, the Mets accomplished their primary goal, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have issues:

TRADE CHIPS: GM Sandy Alderson’s two biggest trade chips are outfielder’s Curtis Granderson ($15 million) and Jay Bruce ($13 million), both of whom will be free agents after this year. Reportedly, Toronto is a trade partner for either, as it is poised to lose Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista.

The way the market often works this time of year has most teams looking free agents first before looking to trade.

Working in the Mets’ favor is they have manageable contracts (money and years) which make them easier to deal. Working against them is teams might wait until the trade deadline.

CLOSER: Alderson said he has to consider the possibility of losing closer Jeurys Familia, even though his wife doesn’t plan action and charges could be dropped at his Dec. 15 hearing.

That action won’t preclude MLB of a handing down a suspension, and based on recent history, 30 games appears the starting point.

The Mets won’t get into the bidding for Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jenson or Mark Melancon.

The logical move would be to promote Addison Reed, but then there is the question of finding a set-up reliever. They need to bring back Jerry Blevins. But, after Reed and Blevins, there’s little reliability in the bullpen.

CATCHER: Rene Rivera was brought back and again the Mets figure to go with a Rivera-Travis d’Arnaud platoon, with Kevin Plawecki to open the season in the minors.

There’s nothing eye-popping in the free-agent market and the Mets aren’t poised to make a deal.

Nov 29

Mets Play Cespedes Negotiations Perfectly … Get Their Man

Well, Yoenis Cespedes is coming back, which is what both he and the Mets wanted. Good for them, and Merry Christmas to both. I initially wrote the Mets would be better off spending the money earmarked for Cespedes – $110 million over four years reported today– on other areas and still believe that might be the best long-term decision.

CESPEDES: Coming back to Mets. (Getty)

CESPEDES: Coming back to Mets. (Getty)

However, when Cespedes filed for free agency a week after the World Series, I wrote if the Mets really wanted him they needed to set a deadline to prevent negotiations dragging into January. Apparently, both sides wanted this done by the Winter Meetings, which worked to the Mets’ advantage because reports of him going to Washington, the Dodgers or Yankees never developed traction.

Apparently, both sides wanted this done by the Winter Meetings, which worked to the Mets’ advantage because reports of him going to the Dodgers or Yankees never developed traction.

Perhaps Cespedes panicked when he saw there wasn’t a line at his door and he saw his big payday slipping away. Was that why he sent a text to the Mets before Thanksgiving reiterating his desire to come back? Reportedly, nobody was willing to give him the five years he wanted, but the only team to publicly state their interest was the Mets.

We can conclude Cespedes overestimated his value in the market, while Alderson judged it perfectly and applied enough pressure to make the 31-year-old outfielder blink. Good for Alderson: He had a plan and stuck with it.

After two playoff seasons, the Mets felt enough urgency to bring Cespedes back to keep their nucleus intact as much as possible. They already made moves in that direction by bringing back Lucas Duda, Neil Walker and Jose Reyes.

As far as spending the money given Cespedes elsewhere, that was an option, but in retrospect, the market for their primary needs – catcher and a closer to replace Jeurys Familia – isn’t readily available, or inexpensive.

It must also be remembered the Mets own a trade chip in Jay Bruce, so they have the opportunity to upgrade without spending big.

Sure, I have concerns, which I’ll save for later, but the Mets felt a need and they acted on it. They basically are keeping the team that reached the playoffs together, and that’s important. Instead of dabbling and adding two or three other players, they chose the path of least resistance and there’s a lot to be said for that decision.

 

Nov 10

Familia Pleads Not Guilty; MLB Treading Water On Punishment

Mets closer Jeurys Familia pleaded not guilty this morning on the charge of simple assault in Fort Lee, New Jersey, this morning, but by no means is this case over and the team would be foolish if it proceeded with that belief.

FAMILIA: Pleads not guilty. (AP)

FAMILIA: Pleads not guilty. (AP)

The judge agreed to the couple’s request to have a “no contact” ruling, which means they’ll stay together and the odds of the victim cooperating with police will be small. Although the case can proceed without cooperation from the victim, it makes it all the more difficult to prove.

The next hearing is Dec. 15, which is after the Winter Meetings in Washington, DC.

By that time the Mets could and should have, contacted other relievers in the market.

One of them is their own Fernando Salas and another is Washington’s Mark Melancon, formerly of the Pirates. High-profile Aroldis Chapman (Cubs) and Kenley Jansen (Dodgers) are also on the market, but expected to be out of the Mets’ price range.

There is also the option of making set-up reliever Addison Reed the closer.

The Winter Meetings are a month away, so there’s a sense of urgency for the Mets to develop a plan in the expectations Familia is suspended. However, MLB isn’t expected to make a ruling until the justice system has its say.

“I think it is usually difficult for us to complete our investigation before the criminal process has run its course,” Commissioner Rob Manfred said. “We have the luxury of not being on the field right now, and we’re going to take advantage of that.”

Even so, the Mets must proceed in anticipation of the worst, meaning a lengthy suspension. That means planning without Familia.

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