Dec 07

Niese Mets’ Best Trade Chip

While the Mets insist they aren’t actively shopping left hander Jon Niese, you can be certain they make it known to every team they speak with that he’s available.

The Mets made it clear they aren’t going to trade Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler. That leaves Niese as their lone pitching trade chip. And, with them high on Rafael Montero, that leaves Niese as the bait to obtain an outfield bat.

NIESE: Could he soon wave good bye. (AP)

NIESE: Could he soon wave good bye. (AP)

“We haven’t been actively shopping him, but other than the four guys [Harvey, deGrom, Syndergaard and Matz], we’re going to be looking for ways to improve the team,” assistant general manager John Ricco told reporters at the Winter Meetings. “If there’s a deal that involves him and makes us better, I think we would definitely consider it.”

Niese is attactive to other teams because he’s a left, throws hard, isn’t phased about pitching in big games and has a manageable contract. He’s also healthy, having made 29 starts last season. On the downside, he’s been mostly mediocre (9-10 with a 4.13 ERA last year).

He also has an unnerving knack of not being able to slam the door and minimize trouble.

Even so, when teams talk to the Mets about pitching, he’s the first name they bring up.

ON DECK: Wrapping up Mets’ first day at Winter Meetings.

Dec 07

Former Met Murphy’s Potential Landing Spots

On the first day of the Winter Meetings in Nashville, there’s considerable speculation as to where 2015 playoff slugger Daniel Murphy could land. But, back to the Mets isn’t one of them, despite them saying he’s still on their radar. If he were, they would have given him more than a qualifying offer.

The Mets can’t be a serious contender because of their stated preference for Ben Zobrist and several internal options, among them Wilmer Flores and Dilson Herrera.

MURPHY: Where will he go. (AP)

MURPHY: Where will he go. (AP)

Not surprisingly, many of the potential teams having an interest, or need, for Murphy are in the American League, where he could also get at-bats as a designated hitter.

The Angels are among them, but they could also be players for Zobrist. At one time, it was thought the Dodgers could be interested, but they just signed Chase Utley.

Murphy to the Yankees is always in play, but they are saying no. As I wrote with Zobrist, I take their denials with a grain of salt.

If I were Murphy, I would seriously look at Baltimore as he could develop that October show of power in bandbox Camden Yards. Murphy could play first, second and third for the Orioles.

He could also do the same for the White Sox and Indians.

ON DECK: Mets need power, but not Yoenis Cespedes.

Dec 06

Mets’ Top Five Winter Meetings Objectives

Despite going to the World Series, the Mets head into the Winter Meetings with several issues. Let’s face it, they wouldn’t be the Mets without questions. GM Sandy Alderson won’t represent the Mets in Nashville, but his lieutenants have the following grocery list of items they hope to address:

ZOBRIST: Lead domino for Mets. (Getty)

ZOBRIST: Lead domino for Mets. (Getty)

Question: Will they get the second baseman they covet?

Answer: That would be Ben Zobrist at the expense of Daniel Murphy. The Mets make no secret Zobrist is the object of their affection, but at the same time appear to be hedging their bets by saying it is possible they could bring back Murphy.

I think they are posturing on that one, but Zobrist’s camp said they would like to wrap things up by the end of the meetings. If they don’t, let’s hope the Mets will not fall into a familiar trap and chase him at the expense of losing out on other options.

Question: Will they restock their bullpen?

Answer: If they do, it won’t be with Darren O’Day, who is expected to re-sign with Baltimore. (Of course, the Mets once had O’Day, but had to cut him loose when Mike Pelfrey refused to miss a start by going on the disabled list). The Mets already tendered contracts to Addison Reed and Jenrry Mejia.

The Mets are not expected to bring back Tyler Clippard, but Yusmeiro Petit, Ryan Mattheus and Steve Cishek are on the market.

Question: Whom can they trade for a bat?

Answer: For the second straight winter they will attempt to deal Jon Niese, who showed some promise during the playoffs working out of the bullpen. At 29, and one year remaining on his contract (with team options for 2017 and 2018) Niese has value both to the Mets and prospective buyers. He’s also left handed, has had some success and still throws hard. There are things to like about him.

However, with the anticipated emergence of Rafael Montero and Zack Wheeler due back in July, there’s no room for him in the rotation.

Question: Can they obtain a center fielder?

Answer: After the 2014 season, the Mets extended Juan Lagares to a five-year, $23-million contract, but now they want to find a platoon for him. He’s clearly fallen out of favor.

The most prominent names are Dexter Fowler, Gerardo Parra and Denard Span, but they might be too expensive and likely not willing to sign for a platoon situation.

Question: Will they make a free-agent splash?

Answer: I wouldn’t count on it, unless you’re counting on Zobrist to be that splash. However, reports are he could be had for something in the $50-million range. Conversely, Murphy could come for less.

One thing we can count on is they won’t re-sign Yoenis Cespedes. His reported price is six years at over $100 million.

Dec 04

Alderson Diagnosed With Cancer; Will Not Attend Winter Meetings

The Mets announced Friday GM Sandy Alderson has been diagnosed a treatable form of and will undergo chemotherapy for the next eight to 12 weeks.

The cancer was detected when Alderson underwent a medical procedure three weeks ago.

“Surgery was performed at Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York and as a result of that procedure, the doctors confirmed that Sandy has cancer,’’ Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon said in a statement. “The doctors believe and have told Sandy that the cancer is very treatable and are optimistic about a full recovery.’’

Wilpon said Alderson will not attend next week’s Winter Meetings and will receive treatment at Sloan Kettering.

Assistant general manager John Ricco, and J.P. Ricciardi and Paul DePodesta will go to the meetings with the following priorities: sign infielder Ben Zobrist; obtain a center fielder; and restock the bullpen.

Nov 27

Can Mets Offer Free Agents More Than Yankees?

With Thanksgiving in our rearview mirror and the Winter Meetings in our faces, it’s time to pose a simple question, if you’re a free agent thinking about one of the New York teams, will it be the Mets or Yankees?

Both teams have a lot, and different things, to offer the prospective free agent.

If the priority is winning, both teams reached the playoffs in 2015, but the Mets made it to the World Series.

The foundation for the playoffs is always pitching, and in that regard the Mets have the edge over the Yankees. But, the Yankees have the bullpen edge. Both teams have positional needs, so it depends on the player in the market.

If you’re a hitter, especially with power, I think you’d favor the Yankees because of the stadium dimensions. While Citi Field has more reachable dimensions, Yankee Stadium remains a bandbox.

Mets GM Sandy Alderson expects to exceed last year’s $103 million payroll, but Yankees GM Brian Cashman won’t be talking about salary ceilings with agents at the Winter Meetings.

Therein lies the fundamental difference between the two teams. While the Mets deviated from what had been their recent personality this summer, I’m not ready to call them lavish spenders.

So, when it comes to attracting free agents this winter, both teams have a lot to offer, but as long has been the case, the Yankees have the ability to spend more.

And, in this age, that usually is the overriding factor.