Dec 18

Mets Still Have Voids To Fill

We are a week from Christmas and two months away from the start of spring training and the Mets still have two significant concerns to address:

CENTER FIELD: The Mets need a platoon with Juan Lagares, preferably a left-handed bat the equal of Yoenis Cespedes. That’s going to be tough. Making their quest even more difficult is the growing speculation they are going to do this on the cheap.

There does not seem to be sentiment to let Lagares open the season in a full time capacity, similar to what they did with Wilmer Flores.

Dexter Fowler and Denard Span are the names most frequently mentioned, however, they are lower tier options.

While neither are top drawer, they are at the point in their careers where they want the chance to play full time and won’t be anxious to enter into a platoon situation.

By the time the Mets get around talking with them, the market may be depleted, elevating them to the top of what is left – consequently probably making them too expensive to sign.

BULLPEN: Signing Bartolo Colon improves the bullpen, but you must remember that probably doesn’t happen until Zack Wheeler returns in July. Until then, things are thin. Jenrry Mejia was tendered for 2016. They are also bringing back Addison Reed and Jerry Blevins, and Tyler Clippard remains a possibility.

So, for now we really can’t say the Mets are significantly better than they were at the end of the season. And, please don’t underestimate how important this area is to the Mets. There is no return trip to the World Series, and maybe not even the playoffs without a better bullpen.

Dec 13

Mets Can’t Afford To Stand Pat

The 2006 season ended for the Mets with Carlos Beltran frozen by a wicked Adam Wainwright curveball with the bat on his shoulder. The Mets reasoned with another break or two, they could have won the NLCS that year and advanced to the World Series. Perhaps thinking if the breaks went their way in 2007 they might get to the World Series, the Mets did precious little that winter.

METS: Can't stand pat now.

METS: Can’t stand pat now.

Maintaining the status quo didn’t work out then and the Mets can’t afford to duplicate that thinking this winter.

The Mets upgraded their up-the-middle defense with the additions of Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera, but there is more to be done and this isn’t the time for them to be cautious. Attendance at Citi Field will increase this summer as it usually does after a playoff season, but that shouldn’t alleviate the Mets of their responsibility to put a good team on the field and their response should be to be aggressive.

Their situation in the bullpen and in center field isn’t good enough to win with now, and they have several other questions. Will their sterling rotation stay healthy and continue to progress? Will David Wright remain healthy? Will Lucas Duda be consistent? Will Michael Conforto make the next step?

They’ve already done something to back-up Wright, but Michael Cuddyer‘s retirement and not bringing back Daniel Murphy leaves a gap behind Duda? They must remember Conforto won’t take anybody by surprise this year..

That being said, the bullpen and center field are the main weak links and this is no time to stand pat. Especially since Chicago has improved, as has San Francisco and Arizona. You can also count on the Dodgers and Nationals being aggressive the rest of the winter.

I don’t expect Mets to re-sign Yoenis Cespedes, but there are other options and Kirk Nieuwenhuis shouldn’t be among them. And, expecting Hansel Robles to be a bullpen stud is wishful thinking.

This isn’t the time for the Mets to watch the turnstiles click, because if they think repeating is a given that would be mistake.

 

Dec 09

Not Broken Up About Mets Not Getting Zobrist

I like guys like Ben Zobrist, I always have. All championship teams need players like him. The Mets saw first-hand what he was in the World Series and decided they wanted him. That was a good call on their part, but honestly I’m not all that broken up about the Mets losing him.

Let’s be realistic and not go all ballistic and blame the Wilpons for not ponying up the money. This has nothing to do with them being cheap. There’s no reason to buy billboard space outside Citi Field. They were willing to give Zobrist the fourth year and word is they were around $50 million.

MURPHY:  Could we see him again. (Getty)

MURPHY: Could we see him again? (Getty)

For a 34-year-old whose 162-game average is .265, 17 homers and 77 RBI, that’s not chump change.

“I don’t think this was about money,” Mets assistant general manager John Ricco said. “It was about him finding a place that fit. I think he liked a lot about what we were. He has some history with the manager in Chicago. It’s a little closer to home for him. He made that decision, and we’ll move on.”

Zobrist told the Mets of his decision in person at the Winter Meetings in Nashville, which is his off-season home. It’s short hour flight to Chicago, where Zobrist will play under Joe Maddon, his former manager at Tampa Bay.

Zobrist was the Mets’ No. 1 offseason priority. It didn’t work out so they have to adjust. It’s not as if the Mets haven’t been disappointed before.

“It’s disappointing,” Ricco said. “I’m going to be honest. He’s a guy we thought fit very well for us. So I will say that. But we’ve been through many situations where you have to adjust and adapt. That’s why you have a plan that has multiple options and don’t go all in on any one of them. I think we’ll be fine.”

They should be all right for several reasons, not the least of which is the money they’ll save. They could possibly direct some towards re-signing Daniel Murphy. With Zobrist off the boards and the Yankees having traded for the Cubs’ Starlin Castro (to make room for Zobrist), we’ll see how the market for second basemen develops. The Mets now join the Orioles, White Sox, Indians and Angels as teams in need at the position.

Zobrist will be 39 by the time the contract ends, but for me that was too much money considering their other needs, such as a left-handed hitting outfielder, preferably in center; the bullpen; and long-term deals for their core starters. With Wilmer Flores and possibly Dilson Herrera, not to mention Murphy, I didn’t recognize second as a critical need.

ON DECK:  Mets’ second-base options.

Dec 07

Mets Not Players For Cespedes For Multiple Reasons

Let’s face it, the Mets wouldn’t have gotten into the playoffs without Yoenis Cespedes. It is certain now they need to find a way to return without him.

CESPEDES:  Not going to happen. (Getty)

CESPEDES: Not going to happen. (Getty)

ESPN reports Cespedes wants somewhere in the neighborhood of $125 million over six years. That’s clearly the upper East Side, not Flushing. Mets assistant general manager John Ricco said as much at the Winter Meetings in Nashville.

“It’s unlikely right now that he ends up a Met,” Ricco told reporters at the winter meetings. “I think that’s fair to say. I think we will end up meeting with his agent. Right now, I still think he’s looking at a deal that would be north of what we would consider.

“Whether we have a specific meeting to talk about Cespedes, I’m not sure. They have other players. I imagine we’ll meet with them, and as part of that conversation his name will come up. I think right now, in talking with them, and getting feedback from Sandy [Alderson], I would view it as pretty unlikely that we do anything with him. But you never know how the market is going to develop. So I wouldn’t rule it out completely.”

I would and not just because of the money.

After a torrid August, Cespedes’ bat turned silent in the playoffs and he had numerous defensive and fundamental breakdowns. There were also numerous times in which he dogged it running the bases and in the field.

The Mets saw this and must also ask themselves why Cespedes during his brief career has already played with four teams. Three of those teams, the Mets, Detroit and Boston, consider themselves contenders, yet disposed of Cespedes. The fourth, Oakland, didn’t want to spend the money.

If Cespedes’ salary demands were considerably lower and would give the Mets a home team discount, I could see it. But, as with Jose Reyes, he’s not interested in leaving anything on the table.

The Mets’ first outfield priority is a left-handed bat to platoon with Juan Lagares.

ON DECK:  Jon Niese is Mets’ best trade chip

 

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.