Mar 17

Things To Like About Mets So Far

With a little over two weeks remaining in spring training, there’s a lot to like about how the Mets are playing, with several bright spots surfacing in today’s rout of the Cardinals.

CESPEDES: Has MVP aspirations. (AP)

CESPEDES: Has MVP aspirations. (AP)

STARTING PITCHING: If numbers were to determine the Opening Day starter, you would have to go with Jacob deGrom, who has a 0.90 ERA and 0.60 WHIP in three starts, with 13 strikeouts in 10 innings.

Noah Syndergaard, however, has a 3.52 ERA and 1.43 WHIP. And, four walks in 7.2 won’t get it done most games. Syndergaard bulked up in the offseason with the intent of getting stronger as to work deeper into games. It’s not that he’s not strong enough, but his command is off. What haunted him last year is resurfacing this spring with higher pitch counts.

Steven Matz threw 3.2 innings today, and if you add an inning in his likely two remaining starts, that won’t get him out of the fifth in his first regular season start. He’s throwing well, by so far isn’t stretched out like the Mets want him to be.

Sure, these are exhibition numbers, but also an early measure of performance. So far, none of their starters are stretched out for them to go longer than six. That becomes an issue if the bullpen is shaky, which so far is far from fine-tuned.

In the competition for the fifth starter, Zack Wheeler – who will likely stay back – his throwing hard and pain-free. The projection is roughly 110 innings, which makes him better suited to coming up in late May or June. I don’t like the idea of using him in relief now.

As for Seth Lugo, he’s pitching in the World Baseball Classic and has done well. It will be either him or Robert Gsellman who goes north in the rotation. However, with numerous off days in April, the fifth starter won’t often be used, so one could go in the bullpen.

HOT BATS: Yoenis Cespedes said he wants to be MVP and if that happens a lot of good things will happen this summer. He’s hitting .419 with five homers, but the key numbers are only two strikeouts in 31 at-bats. That kind of ratio would go a long way towards making an MVP possible.

Also hitting well are Michael Conforto (.359), Neil Walker (.313), Curtis Granderson (.323), but most importantly Travis d’Arnaud (.333) and Lucas Duda (.292 with five doubles). The pressure is on d’Arnaud to have a make-or-break season and Duda, who missed much of last year with a stress fracture in his lower back and recently received a couple on injections.

Jay Bruce and Wilmer Flores finally pushed their averages over .200, and the latter drove in six runs Friday with a grand slam and double. Flores is not going away and the Mets need to find a way of getting him regular playing time to stay ready.

Feb 16

What’s The Hurry In Signing Walker?

What’s the hurry? That was the first impression after hearing the Mets and second baseman Neil Walker had preliminary discussions on a possible multi-year contract.

WALKER: No hurry? (AP)

WALKER: No hurry? (AP)

I hope those discussions entail waiting to see how Walker copes coming off surgery to repair a herniated disk in his back. After with what the Mets have gone through with David Wright, and his persistent pain and lack of playing time, why would they hurry into another long-term contract with a player coming off back surgery?

“We’ve had some discussions and nothing has come to fruition,” Walker told reporters in Port St. Lucie. “But for me, looking at this, there is no place I would want to be, and looking down the road at what is here and what the next [few] years look like, this is an exciting place to be as a big league ballplayer. I feel confident in my health, and they do, too.”

That’s all good, but there’s a difference between a one-year, $17.2 million qualifying offer and a reported three-year, $40-million contract.

Despite consecutive playoff appearances, the Mets remain a penny-pinching bunch. In addition to Wright’s deal, they are tied to a four-year, $110-million anchor with Yoenis Cespedes.

The Cespedes deal has been an obstacle in dealing either Jay Bruce ($13 million) or Curtis Granderson ($15 million), although both will be off the books after this season. They are also in the middle of a long-term contract with Juan Lagares, but he’s not even starting.

They are apparently in no rush to sign any of their pitchers to long-term contracts, which is just as well since four of them are coming off surgery. Even so, in two years they’ll have to deal with Matt Harvey’s free-agency. Then come the rest.

Make no mistake, Walker had a terrific year, batting .282 with 23 homers and 55 RBI, but he only played in 113 games, but said he was in persistent pain.

“I’d probably wake up every single morning and as soon as I’d throw my feet over the side of bed, I could tell whether it was going to be a good or bad day,’’ Walker said.

Even that, one would think the Mets would operate with some hesitancy in this case.

Feb 12

Four Spring Training Questions Facing Mets

Despite the snow, winter ends officially today as the Mets’ pitchers and catchers report to spring training in Port St. Lucie. Once they break out the balls and bats, winter ends, but not necessarily the questions for the Mets.

There are four pertinent questions and issues the Mets must answer in spring training.

HARVEY: One of many health issues. (AP)

HARVEY: One of many health issues. (AP)

Who in the starting rotation is healthy, and will there be innings limits?

A: Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler are all coming off arm surgery. For all the potential of their young arms, the Mets aren’t likely to go four-for-four on the recovery front. Somebody will have a setback. We just don’t know who. But, that’s more for the regular season, but for the next six weeks manager Terry Collins must determine a rotation order following Opening Day starter Noah Syndergaard. Collins must also decide Wheeler’s role; fifth starter or reliever? Collins and GM Sandy Alderson must pick a role and stay with it for at least this season. Jumping from one role to another can’t be good for Wheeler’s arm. It didn’t work out that way for Jenrry Mejia, did it? Unlike in 2015 with Harvey, there must be a definitive innings limits for these guys. They won’t like it, but it is in the best interest in keeping them healthy.

What are the bullpen roles?

A: Pencil in Addison Reed to replace closer Jeurys Familia while he serves a suspension. But after him? Is the set-up man Hansel Robles or Jerry Blevins or Seth Lugo/Robert Gsellman? If either Lugo or Gsellman is the set-up man, will the other be the long man? Or will one be the fifth starter? If Wheeler is in the pen, he needs a set role as to reduce the strain on his arm? How many relievers, six or seven? Will they keep three lefties, with Sean Gilmartin and Josh Edgin joining Blevins?

What is the back situation?

A: Lucas Duda, Neil Walker and David Wright are recovering from back surgery. Wright hasn’t played a combined 100 games in the last two years. Walker took a qualifying offer because he didn’t have any other options and the Mets didn’t like the other first base options if they lost Duda. Wright? Michael Conforto? How about Wilmer Flores full time? None of those options were appealing. The path of least resistance was bringing back Duda and hoping for the best with his back. By the end of spring training, we should have a better idea as to the health of these three. Collins must also create a plan of giving them rest in the hope of keeping them healthy? Collins has a bench for a reason and has more than just keeping Wright fresh to consider. It is Wright plus two.

How does he juggle the outfield?

A: First of all, will Yoenis Cespedes ever move back to center? The Mets brought back Cespedes the first time under the contingent he plays center. They brought him back the second time under the condition he plays in left. The current plan is, from left to right, Cespedes, Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce. Alderson’s plan to deal Bruce hit a snag when brought back Cespedes because teams deemed him desperate and offered little in return. Bruce needs to play to show production and up his trade value. Granderson, at 35, can’t play center full time, so Juan Lagares will be the fourth outfielder because he’s the only true center fielder. That leaves Conforto scrapping for at-bats.

Feb 09

Three Compelling Mets This Summer

We’re four days from Mets pitchers and catchers reporting in Port St. Lucie. Considering there’s a foot of snow on the ground, the wind is howling and temps are in the 20s, that’s a comforting thought. What’s not so comforting, however, is the potential future of these three Mets after this season.

WRIGHT: Facing pivotal year. (ABC)

WRIGHT: Facing pivotal year. (ABC)

David Wright: Reports are positive, but we’ll never know until the season begins. And, we don’t even have to get deep into the season before knowing some answers. Wright hasn’t played in a combined 100 games over the past two years because of back issues. Hopefully, Wright will bounce back. If he does, what’s to become of Jose Reyes. And, if Wright does play and Reyes’ time is reduced, what becomes of the leadoff hitter? However, if injuries sideline Wright again, there will be whispers – likely loud ones – of whether he should retire.

Matt Harvey: Twice since 2013 Harvey had a season cut short with an arm injury that required surgery. He’s been throwing and said he’s ready. That doesn’t mean he’s ready for 30 starts and 200-plus innings, which is the benchmark for a healthy starter. Harvey has a lifetime 29-28 record and will be a free-agent after the 2018 season. If he wants the big money as he suggested late in the 2015 season, he’d better start living up to his potential. If Harvey is healthy and has a strong year, his market value will undoubtedly increase, and with it possible trade rumors. With the Mets having a myriad of issues and assuming the rest of their rotation is healthy, it would be easier to trade Harvey,

Michael Conforto: Manager Terry Collins projected him to be the Mets’ No.3 hitter for the next ten years, but sputtered after a hot start and rode the Vegas shuttle. When Jay Bruce‘s option was picked up and Yoenis Cespedes re-signed, Conforto is without a spot. Bruce, Conforto and Curtis Granderson gives the Mets three left-handed hitters. Maybe that might work one night against Max Scherzer, but let’s face it, Cespedes will play most every night. And, with Juan Lagares the only true center fielder, Conforto is fifth on the outfield depth chart. With at-bats figuring to be scarce, could Conforto be ticketed for the minor leagues, or even possibly dangled as trade bait?

 

 

 

 

 

Feb 04

Mets Agree To Terms With Blevins; Finish Offseason Shopping

Apparently, the Mets got tired of stringing along Jerry Blevins and according to several reports agreed to terms with the situational left-hander and Fernando Salas Friday evening before GM Sandy Alderson headed out for his Super Bowl parties.

Blevins will get $6 million for one year, plus an option. Salas will get a year. With the two agreements, the Mets finished work on their bullpen and concluded their offseason shopping.

Before kudos are sent out to Alderson for his patience, remember Blevins, 33, made $4 million last season while going 4-2 with a 2.79 ERA. So, realistically, how much money did he really save the Mets? A million? Not much more than that, really.

Considering Toronto was also after Blevins, and the Mets are still awaiting word on a suspension of Jeurys Familia, what’s the purpose of Alderson dragging his feet? It tells me the Mets are seriously aware of their spending, which can’t be encouraging if they must make a move at the break.

So, in a thumbnail wrap of the Mets’ offseason moves:

* They picked up the $13-million option on outfielder Jay Bruce as a hedge to possibly losing Yoenis Cespedes.

* They signed Cespedes to a four-year, $110-milliion contract.

* They signed Neil Walker to a $17.2-million qualifying offer.

Everything the Mets did was expected, although the dual signings of Bruce and Cespedes – they might have overpaid for the latter – created a logjam in their outfield.