Aug 12

Walker Is Latest Former Met

The last time the Mets nearly traded an infielder to Milwaukee produced the iconic snapshot of Wilmer Flores crying at his shortstop position. There was no such image tonight with the breaking news the Mets had traded Neil Walker to the Brewers for a player to be named later.

Tonight’s optic was a video of Walker leaving the Mets’ clubhouse in a golf cart, presumably to the team hotel to pack before flying to Milwaukee to join a pennant race.

WALKER: Another good one is gone. (AP)

                               WALKER: Another good one is gone. (AP)

By the time the Mets lost to the Phillies, 3-1, the deal had not yet been announced.

Despite playing with significant injuries – and undergoing back surgery last offseason – Walker was a consummate professional, just as Jay Bruce was, and exceeded his run production expectations since acquiring him after the 2015 season from Pittsburgh.

Walker, acquired when the Mets didn’t re-sign Daniel Murphy after his historic 2015 postseason, hit 23 homers last year in an injury-shortened 2016. After not drawing interest in the free-agent market, Walker signed a $17.2-million qualifying offer last winter.

At one point this season the Mets said they’d consider bringing back Walker, but such talk quickly died on the vine as their season slipped away.

With a glut of infielders, there was no way the Mets would bring him back, and since players-to-be-named are mostly bottom-tier prospects at best, this was nothing more than a salary dump, even with them picking up a portion of the remaining $4.7 million left on Walker’s contract.

The Mets were close to trading Walker to the Yankees at the July 31 deadline, but the latter backed out reportedly concerned with his medical records. In addition to his back surgery in the winter, Walker missed six weeks this season with a hamstring injury.

A season that began with such optimism continued to unravel for the Mets. A team many thought could return to the World Series, has rid itself of Walker, Bruce, Addison Reed and Lucas Duda, in addition to losing for long periods on the disabled list of David Wright, Yoenis Cespedes, Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud and Jeurys Familia.

Aug 10

Alderson Quits On Mets For This Year And Next

By the time Ryder Ryan reaches the major leagues – if he even plays for the Mets – Jay Bruce might be in the final year of his contract with the Indians, or any number of teams. The Mets will not be one of them.

Who knows? Bruce might be retired by the time Ryan pitches at Citi Field. Is that Sandy Alderson’s idea of being competitive in 2018: To trade their best offensive player for a player who isn’t even one of the Indians’ top 30 prospects?

BRUCE: Escapes the lunacy. (AP)

BRUCE: Escapes the lunacy. (AP)

There are so many layers to this deal, including the inevitable conclusion the Mets don’t want to trade with the Yankees, who reportedly offered two prospects, but weren’t given a call back from Alderson, who continually thinks he’s the smartest man in the room, despite a track record that suggests otherwise.

Bruce was prepared for the trade, telling the Mets website: “The long and short of it is I was prepared. I knew something could happen, and happen fast. I really enjoyed my time in New York, but I’m excited to jump right into a pennant race.”

The kicker?

Of course, it is money. The Indians will pick up the balance of Bruce’s 2017 salary, around $4 million, while the Yankees, who traditionally throw money around, reportedly only wanted to assume $1 million of Bruce’s contract.

Reportedly, Alderson didn’t even extend Yankees GM Brian Cashman the courtesy of a “give me your final offer,’’ phone call. It’s even more baffling considering the Mets agreed to the two Yankees prospects.

Ryder, by the way, has a 4.79 ERA in 33 relief appearances in Single-A.

So, in exchange for Bruce, Lucas Duda and Addison Reed, the Mets received five relief prospects, none of whom can be labeled “can’t miss blue chippers.’’ They also acquired the unimpressive AJ Ramos in a separate deal with the Marlins.

It must also be pointed out the Mets save around $11 million, which only reinforces the notion this was merely a salary dump and they are trying to build on the cheap. In the interim, the Mets are still trying to dump Asdrubal Cabrera, Neil Walker and Curtis Granderson. Apparently, all offers will be considered.

Apparently, all offers will be considered.

I loved the Bruce trade last summer and never bought into the notion he couldn’t play in New York, which is really an overrated mind thing. Often the issue is raised by self-important media commentators.

If you play hard, don’t whine, are stand-up in the clubhouse, and produce without making excuses, anybody can play in New York. The fans, media and team executives simply want players to be productive at their jobs. Bruce was that in his last two weeks last summer and he’s been a rock this year, leading the team in homers (29) and RBI (75), playing right field and first base.

He did everything manager Terry Collins wanted, and his value to the Mets was underscored when after Amed Rosario botched a play that cost them a win he was counseling the rookie after the final out.

No excuses. A solid professional. And a proven, lefty power hitter. Don’t you think the Mets might need those qualities next season if they are as close to contending that they claim?

Bruce, Reed or Duda might play deep into October, possibly at the expense of the Yankees. Does skunking the Yankees qualify as a successful season for Alderson and the Mets? It sure seems so. Then again, they save around  $11 million, which is really what this is all about.

So, what have the Mets accomplished toward next season? After all, they say this is tinkering and not a rebuild.

In trading Reed they lost their capable – and underpaid in relation to the position – closer in the hope Jeurys Familia will recover from surgery to get his job back, this despite monumental postseason collapses in each of the past two seasons.

Trading Bruce probably enables them to bring up first base prospect Dominic Smith, but that should have been done weeks ago.

Trading Bruce also enables them to move Michael Conforto to right field, but that leaves a hole in center. The Mets aren’t sold on Juan Lagares, whom they signed to a four-year contract, yet won’t let play. It dosn’t help he’s been injured in each of the last two years. Another great Alderson decision.

Perhaps that leaves an opportunity for Brandon Nimmo. But, do you think Nimmo or Smith – perhaps combined – will give the Mets the production Bruce did? Both are unknowns.

If nothing else, extending Bruce a one-year qualifying offer, would net them a compensatory draft pick which will be higher rated than Ryder. I don’t know if Bruce would have accepted the offer or would have been willing to sign a long-term deal. If I were him, and seeing how Alderson was so foolishly open in trying to trade him, I wouldn’t trust him.

But, did Alderson even try?

Bruce is 30 years and has proven he can produce in New York, offers protection to Yoenis Cespedes and has five good years left, barring injury. How much would it cost to keep Bruce? Perhaps $80 million over four years is my guess. But, if Alderson thinks he can get a comparable bat and clubhouse presence for less, he’s mistaken.

So, instead of having a lefty power hitter in the fold, add that to Alderson’s offseason wish list.

Of course, Alderson says it will be better when all those young arms – which are another year older – return from the disabled list.

We’re still waiting on Matt Harvey to repeat his 2013 form. Noah Syndergaards lat injury is a concern. He admits he’s willing to adjust his offseason conditioning program, which is a plus but guarantees nothing.  Zack Wheeler showed some promise after sitting out two years. He’s back on the disabled list. Like Harvey and Syndergaard, the Mets are hoping he can make a few starts in September.

Once again, the Mets are hoping for the injured to bounce back. Speaking of hope, they are still wondering about Steven Matz, but have little left for Rafael Montero.

Overall, this vaunted rotation has yet to complete a five-game cycle together, and none of those arms has won 15 games. But there’s hope, isn’t there? Hope is the card Alderson wants to play, probably on orders from above.

The 2017 Mets entered the season as World Series favorites in some circles and will finish as a dumpster fire. The 2018 Mets, assuming no significant acquisitions are made, have numerous significant questions with few answers in sight.

Thanks Sandy. Thanks Fred. Thanks Jeff.

 

Aug 01

It’s Rosario’s Time

Well folks, you got your wish as Amed Rosario will be in the Mets’ lineup tonight in Denver. The player GM Sandy Alderson refused to bring up until the white flag was officially raised on this season is supposed to represent the rebuilding of the team many thought could be heading to the World Series.

How good is Rosario?

ROSARIO: It's time. (AP)

ROSARIO: It’s time. (AP)

His .328 batting average tells us he can hit Triple-A pitching. Limited glimpses of him during spring training says he has the potential to become an elite defender. Minor league instructor Tim Teufel told The Post a lot when he said, “he’s not a finished product, yet,’’ yet admitted he might have become a little bored in the minors.

Getting bored and his Tweet literally screaming at the Mets to bring him up aren’t positive signs, but at 21 he gets a pass. Not every young player becomes a David Wright or Derek Jeter in that they always say the right things.

I called for the Mets to bring up Rosario nearly a month ago, but I appreciate part of Alderson’s reluctance. His inability to deal Asdrubal Cabrera, Neil Walker and Jose Reyes creates a logjam in the infield, but that’s manager Terry Collins’ problem. However, limited playing opportunities for Cabrera might make it more difficult to trade him, unless the Mets are willing to nearly give him away.

Alderson’s problem in making trades is he continually holds out; his priority is to “win’’ the trade, which turns off other general managers. At least, that’s his reputation. It is the primary reason he couldn’t – thankfully – move Jay Bruce last winter.

The timing of the promotion is good with the Mets are on the road, which should give Rosario three games to get rid of the butterflies. Opening up at home, against the high-flying Dodgers, would have put undue pressure on him. It’s also a good time because it is August, and the competition will be sharper than in September when opposing rosters are littered with call-ups. That’s also why first baseman Dominic Smith’s promotion soon is important.

“We want to see what we have, so going into next season or going into the offseason we will have a better sense of what we need,’’ Alderson said yesterday on a conference call. “I think it’s important for guys like Rosario and Smith to get more than just playing time in September. To make it meaningful, it has to be a little bit longer than that, and against more regular-season competition as opposed to expanded rosters.’’

I suppose it is possible if Rosario is a bust for the next two months it might change the Mets’ thinking on Cabrera and Reyes. But, Rosario won’t play every day, said Alderson, because “he’s never played that many games in a year.’’

Huh? He’s 21. He’s not a pitcher. Sure, he should get a day off this weekend, just to clear his head from the call-up, but I want to see this guy play. I want to see what the Mets have.  I would play Rosario more in August when the competition is better and let him rest more in September.

What I also want to see is patience with him if he struggles at first. Give him a chance to experience and learn how to get out of slumps. Above all, the Mets – and the fans and media – should give him a little breathing room and acknowledge he’s one piece to the puzzle, he’s not a savior.

Look back within the past ten years at some of the prospects the Mets used, and burned out, with too high expectations: Lastings Milledge, Mike Pelfrey, Carlos Gomez, Jenrry Mejia, Kaz Matsui and Ike Davis. You can even make cases to a lesser extent for Michael Conforto, Juan Lagares and even Matt Harvey.

The expectations on all of these guys created a burden that was too heavy for them to carry. Let’s enjoy Rosario’s skills, but realize he alone won’t lift the Mets to the next level.

ON DECK:  Can Steven Matz snap out of his funk?

Jun 12

Cubs-Mets Is Opening Day II

Call Cubs-Mets Opening Day II.  The World Champion Cubs – something I never thought I’d write – are in tonight for a three-game series. After them, the Mets play the Nationals, Dodgers and Giants over a two-week stretch that will define their season.

The Mets are feeling good about themselves these days after winning three-of-four in Atlanta, and the returns of Steven Matz and Seth Lugo – who each worked seven strong in their starts – and Yoenis Cespedes, who ripped a pinch-hit grand slam.

CESPEDES: Mets need his bat. (AP)

CESPEDES: Mets need his bat. (AP)

“This is fun, you’re playing the world champs, you are playing arguably the best team in our division,” Collins said. “We’re a little healthier and having Ces back is big, but we’ve got to go pitch. It’s going to be a fun week. I just hope we go out and play well.”

In their last five games, Mets’ starters have given up three runs over 32.2 innings. However, none of those games include Jacob deGrom, tonight’s starter. DeGrom has given up 15 runs in his last two starts. We’re used to seeing deGrom give up 15 runs in a month of starts, and if he doesn’t get back to that form the Mets can forget about sniffing the playoffs this year.

The big series, of course, is the four-game set against the Nationals. If they sweep that, then the Mets trail by only six games. That’s entirely doable.

However, for that series to mean anything they have to take care of business against Chicago as they can’t afford to fall any further behind. The Mets are fortunate in that they are playing a listless Cubs’ team that is only .500 at 31-31.

“We went through that last year,” Collins said of the Cubs. “Going to the World Series really beats up your pitching and as a team, it takes a while to get that energy back.”

The Mets seemed energized against the Braves, and they can’t afford any letdowns the rest of the way. These next two weeks will determine what they do at the trade deadline and whether there will be a summer worth watching.

ON DECK: What’s Wrong With DeGrom?

 

Jun 06

What Is Special About Mets?

Somebody asked me the other day if I thought the Mets were done for the year. As a follower of pennant races, I don’t like giving up on a season this early. I mean, it is only June. We’ve seen teams come from farther behind and later in the season to reach the World Series, so it could happen.

CESPEDES: He won't be enough. (AP)

CESPEDES: He won’t be enough. (AP)

However, before we can give up on the 2017 Mets, we must ask ourselves is there anything special about this team that makes one wonder if it has the capability becoming a historical icon.

Even when Yoenis Cespedes returns, he’s not enough to turn around the Mets, not with their multitude of pitching problems. Pitching was supposed to carry the Mets, but none of their vaunted young power arms have more than five victories. How can that be?

Seth Lugo and Steven Matz are due off the disabled list this weekend, with the side benefit of transferring Robert Gsellman to the bullpen. There is nothing guaranteed about either development. There’s also the unknown about Matt Harvey recovery from thoracic surgery and now Jacob deGrom is having issues.

And, no, we can’t expect Noah Syndergaard and/or Jeurys Familia to return this year.

Among the hitters, Asdrubal Cabrera, Curtis Granderson, Travis d’Arnaud and Jose Reyes are all having off years with no signs of turning things around.

There are too many Mets battling injuries and struggling through off years to believe they can all come together to salvage this summer.