Jan 18

What can $90 million get you?

First of all, I’d like to apologize for my spotty attendance lately. I’ve had several personal issues I’ve needed to attend to, and lately my health hasn’t been good. I was in the hospital yesterday and just haven’t felt up to it.

I have tried to maintain a consistent presence over the years, but have not been good so far in 2012. I apologize to you and promise to do better. I also appreciate your continued support.

Thank you.

This past few days have given me time to think, and, or course, attention drifts to the upcoming baseball season. Usually, this time of year has the optimism of spring training. With the Yankees making moves to improve their pitching, the Mets have done little.

The Mets’ projected payroll for 2012 is $90 million, which is a long separation to that of the Yankees, Phillies and most any other team expected to contend for the playoffs.

There have been examples of teams with small payrolls contending and even reaching the playoffs as Tampa Bay, Milwaukee and Minnesota proving over the years.

Winning can be done with limited financial resources, but a common denominator has been building with homegrown talent, having it develop and locking in the key pieces. Evan Longoria, Ryan Braun and Joe Mauer are prime examples. At one time, that’s what I thought the Mets were doing with David Wright and Jose Reyes.

Wright is entering the prime years of his career, but he is doing so with a string of nagging injuries the past few seasons and a lack of complementary support. The Mets aren’t in a hurry to trade him, but the fact they are contemplating it is all the proof you need to know where this franchise is headed.

Teams can compete – to a point – with a $90 million payroll, but doing so requires a strong foundation, and that’s also lacking. Ike Davis, Jon Niese, Ruben Tejada, Josh Thole, Lucas Duda and Daniel Murphy are young pieces, but I would be hesitant to label them a core for the future. We’ve only seen a smattering of promise from them, but also flaws and in some cases an injury history.

None possess the potential Wright and Reyes had when the Mets signed them to long-term contracts early in their career when the winning window was wide open.

Yes, 2006 seems like a long time ago.

If Niese and Davis, Duda and Tejada can play well, others stay healthy, and veterans such as Wright, Jason Bay and Mike Pelfrey play to their potential, the Mets could make some noise.

But, that’s a lot of things that have to break right for a franchise that’s been on a negative slide, and not going away is the potential $400 million hit from the Ponzi scandal.

I can’t say things won’t break for the Mets, but it is January, time for positive hoping if you’re a baseball fan.

Dec 09

Reflections on a wild Winter Meetings.

* I understand the fans’ dismay over the Mets losing Jose Reyes, but I believe it has more to do with the disarray the team is in more than losing the player itself. Reyes’ departure is emblematic to the degree of how far the Mets fell since the 2006 playoffs.

The fact is Reyes makes his living with his legs but hasn’t been completely healthy in three seasons, including two stints on the disabled list last year. The Mets’ financial situation made it cost prohibitive to bring him back at that price and it wasn’t worth the risk. Realistically evaluating things, bringing back Reyes was the wrong play.

If you’re frustrated and angry, it should be at the Mets’ overall condition and not that a brittle player took the money and ran.

* It is premature to give the Angels a pass into the playoffs. Their rotation might be stronger than Texas with the addition of CJ Wilson, but the Rangers’ lineup remains superior and there’s always the chance they might add Prince Fielder.

Do you remember when the Yankees added Alex Rodriguez and Randy Johnson? They were supposed to win multiple World Series, but didn’t win anything until 2009, and by that time Johnson retired. The Phillies were favorites the past two years. How did that work out? Also, how did it work out for the Miami Heat last year and the Philadelphia Eagles this season? Rarely, do things work out smoothly for Dream Teams.

* Don’t you think the Yankees regret the Rodriguez contract? I bet they do. I’d also be willing to bet eventually the Angels and Marlins might regret their wild spending, which never guarantees anything.

* I wouldn’t be surprised if St. Louis made a run at Fielder to take the sting out of losing Albeert Pujols. Even so, the money might be better spent on maintaining because the Cardinals are still a good team and don’t need an overhaul.

* Regarding Fielder, I found it laughable to read the Cubs don’t have the money to spend on Fielder. The Cubs have the resources, but are they willing?

* The Mets believe they bolstered their bullpen, with Sandy Alderson saying they have the seventh through ninth accounted for. Then again, they took from the Toronto Blue Jays, a team with over 20 blown saves last season.

 

Dec 07

Mets talking Niese.

It isn’t as if the Mets want to trade Jon Niese, but he’s one of the few valuable chips they have to deal. Left-handed starters are always a premium and the Mets are hoping to bring back a starter, catcher and infielder. Niese ended the season on the disabled list, so his health is a concern making it doubtful they’ll get that much.

And, if they don’t, what’s the point considering pitching is their biggest need.

Reportedly, the Yankees, Boston, Toronto, San Diego and Colorado inquired. If this is the fire sale it seems to be, I don’t see them dealing with the Yankees unless they overpay.

Dec 07

On trading David Wright.

I wrote it also, losing Jose Reyes could make it easier for the Mets to eventually trade David Wright if they go in full rebuilding mode. However, it is not imminent and regardless of what you read, it won’t be to the Yankees.

WRIGHT: He's not going anywhere.

Despite his power dropoff in two of the past three seasons, Wright is the only marketable player the Mets have remaining. Ike Davis and Lucas Duda are a promise. Nobody else generates more than a yawn.

Wright will not be dealt while the Mets are trying to sell season tickets and advertising for SNY and Citi Field.  And based on his production in two of the past three years, his value is at its lowest. If the Mets are bent on trading Wright, they’ll need to see him healthy and hitting for power. That’s what will get Sandy Alderson’s phone ringing. Dealing Wright now would be trading him when the market is low.

Just not a smart thing to do.

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Nov 04

Reyes’ departure could deter future FA signings for Mets.

It is easy to recognize what losing Jose Reyes might mean to the Mets on the field: they would be without an impact leadoff hitter, steal threat and solid defensive shortstop.

I’m on record as saying the Mets won’t be able to retain him and shouldn’t get reeled in on a long-term deal. In signing Reyes long-term, the Mets are subject to the very real chance he’ll break down physically and won’t be able to duplicate last season’s walk-year production.

I still feel that way, but there is another way to interpret the potential of losing Reyes, and that is in future free-agent markets. It is something the Mets should strongly consider.

If the Mets let one of their cornerstones depart, how would free-agents in the 2012 markets and beyond interpret that decision? If the Mets cant’s hold on to one of their own, how would they treat a newcomer? And, considering the Mets’ recent history of handling injured players (Ryan Church and Carlos Beltran), what could they be thinking about Reyes the past three years, especially since it is well known Jerry Manuel rushed him back two years ago?

Players talk, believe me, and the Mets don’t have a stellar reputation among the MLB Players Association. Sure, there will be players toward the end of their careers and who have been injured that would be willing to take the Mets’ money, but any impact players will undoubtedly have second thoughts. As it is, if Reyes leaves, David Wright could be next out the door. He has more than hinted as such.

Let’s face it, the Mets can never compete with the Yankees in dollars for free agents, and they can not in terms of tradition or a winning reputation. The last prime time player they signed of significance was Beltran, and even at the end agent Scott Boras tried a last attempt with the Yankees. There is a belief Beltran chose the Mets because they are less in the limelight than the Yankees.

Citi Field isn’t the magnet for free-agents the team might have hoped, but we have to believe that is more to do with the Wilpon’s financial situation than anything else, including the stadium’s cavernous dimensions.

Alderson said the team wouldn’t “punt” in 2012, but it doesn’t forecast to a busy winter. And, the team is at least two years from being a legitimate contender. It could be even longer if their financial situation persists, if prospects Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler don’t pan out. and Wright leaves. The Wilpons have gotten better news on that front, but are not in the clear. And, there are never any guarantees when it comes to prospects.

The Mets flirted with .500 this season when Reyes was healthy, and there’s reason to believe they could take a step if their pitching improved. There’s also no reason to believe the Mets will spend in that direction.

I don’t know where the Mets are going to be should Reyes leave, or where they would be if he stays and their pitching doesn’t get better. But, if he leaves and the Mets don’t throw significant money in improving that staff, the future doesn’t look good and there will be fewer mercenaries willing to help.