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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Nov 08

Amazing Alderson Still Needs Clarity On Cespedes

I do not accept the term “undecided,” whether it be at the voting booth today or Mets GM Sandy Alderson’s stance on whether to bring back Yoenis Cespedes.

After all this time, you can’t honestly say you flipped a coin at the voting booth. Just the same, I don’t buy for a second Alderson needs more clarity on whether the Mets should bring back the high maintenance Cespedes.

ALDERSON: Needs to take control of Cespedes talks. (AP)

ALDERSON: Needs to take control of Cespedes talks. (AP)

The Mets didn’t reach an agreement with Cespedes last year until Jan. 26, and that resolution meant giving him an opt-out after one season.

Here’s what Alderson told reporters at the start of the general manager’s meetings in Arizona: “I think realistically, from our standpoint this year, things will probably have to resolve themselves a lot sooner than they did last year.

“But it’s hard to predict where things will go. Things could go quickly. Things could linger. But certainly, from our standpoint, between now and the winter meetings, and through the end of the winter meetings, would be the right time to get some of these issues resolved. But that doesn’t mean it will happen.”

What Alderson is saying is so far all the leverage in these negotiations belongs to Cespedes. These meetings will linger if Alderson doesn’t take control of the negotiations.

Alderson admitted he long thought Cespedes would opt out of the contract and test the market. Hell, he should have figured it when he signed him in January. Alderson is a smart guy. If he knew Cespedes was leaving, then he could also forecast the financial market for him and what teams might be interested. Above all, he should know by now whether the Mets can live with Cespedes’ antics and if they can afford him.

Alderson should already know the answers to the following questions:

* One, do the Mets want Cespedes back?

* Two, are they willing to put up with the negatives Cespedes brings to the table, which includes stunting the opportunity for Michael Conforto?

* Three, how much money are they willing to throw at him at the expense of their other issues?

If Alderson doesn’t know the answers by now, he’s not doing a good job. It’s not all that hard to figure out.

Alderson met with Cespedes’ representatives last week, but said salary was not discussed. Why the hell not? Alderson said the meeting was to inform Cespedes’ agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, of the Mets’ interest.

Reportedly, the Mets are concerned about giving a contract of more than four seasons because, 1) they aren’t sure Cespedes will give maximum effort after getting the security blanket, and 2) Cespedes’ injury history last year (only 132 games played).

If they are worried about injury and effort, they why are they going through this? Those are serious red flags.

If the Mets really want Cespedes back they have to assume control of the negotiations. They have to play hardball. The $17.2 million qualifying offer given Cespedes and Neil Walker was to assure receiving a compensatory draft pick. That’s the first step and it was to protect themselves.

The key to is for Alderson to get Cespedes’ demands now and not wait for the market to develop. Don’t dance with this guy. Alderson needs to set a deadline, tell the Cespedes camp what his best offer is, and other issues, such as playing center field, receiving rehab and golfing.

The Mets have a myriad of issues to address this winter and dancing with Cespedes into the new year will hamper those efforts. Fixing their bullpen which they must assume will not include Jeurys Familia for at least the season’s first 30 games; upgrading their catching; and ascertaining the health of their young rotation are all more important issues than Cespedes. They can always get a cheaper right-handed bat in the market and figure a refreshed Jay Bruce will fill the offensive void left by Cespedes leaving. That void can also be further filled with Conforto playing more.

Frankly, Alderson’s most important offseason decision is to decide just how good are the Mets. Was the World Series in 2015 a fluke or are they an 87-win team, capable of contending but not going much further than the wild card?

If you think the Mets can’t win without Cespedes, think again.

Cespedes was hot in August of 2015 and surely the Mets wouldn’t have reached the playoffs without him. However, it was Daniel Murphy and solid pitching that took them to the World Series.

Cespedes disappeared that posteason, much as he did for much of this September when he hit .214 with a .297 on-base percentage, four homers and 18 RBI. Unquestionably Cespedes had glittering moments, but it must be remembered in the second half of the season, with every game important, he hit .246 with ten homers and 34 RBI.

If you believe the Mets can’t win without Cespedes, ask yourself what have they really won with him? Is getting to the World Series and losing that big of a deal?

So, if Cespedes still is a Met priority, Alderson has to set the financial parameters early, making sure the numbers – both money and years – is in the form of a take-it-or-leave-it format. And, when the deadline date is reached – perhaps at the end of the Winter Meetings – walk away.

Like I said, the Mets have a lot of work to do and they can’t afford to let Cespedes impede what must be done.

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Dec 19

Clippard Likely Too Expensive For Mets

Personally, I’d like for the Mets to bring back set-up reliever Tyler Clippard, but not for two years for an estimated $15 million total package. Reports are he wants two years to come back to the Mets, who do have a bullpen need.

Clippard started hot, but cooled at the end and was replaced by Addison Reed for the set-up role to Jeurys Familia. He appeared in 32 games for the Mets and went 3-0 with a 3.06 ERA and 1.052 WHIP. His ERA ballooned to 6.75 in eight playoff games.

The Clippard we saw in August was top drawer and would be worth two years, but things spiraled downwards in September and October and that makes him quite risky. I’d give him one year and an option and if he doesn’t take it then I’d say good-bye.