Aug 23

Things Falling Into Place For Mets

Maybe there are omens, if you believe in such things, but there is so much to like about what’s happening for the Mets, and it could be personified by Logan Verrett. Not only did the Mets get five innings from Verrett in his start for Matt Harvey, but got eight strong – with eight strikes in today’s series clinching win over the Rockies.

Things don’t often fall into place the way did for the Mets today. After a rocky first inning Verrett settled down to where you thought you were actually seeing Harvey. Funny line from Verrett, telling Harvey, “I don’t know why everybody is freaking out because everybody knows I’m a better pitcher than you.”

Not only did the Mets rest Harvey, but got a victory and their first sweep of the Rockies in Coors Field. For one day at least, Verrett made us believe this innings-saving program with Harvey might just work after all.

Conventional wisdom had the Mets sending down Verrett to Triple-A Las Vegas after the game, but he was so impressive the Mets optioned out left reliever Dario Alvarez instead. Verrett also gives manager Terry Collins a reliable choice should he need to rest Harvey again or Noah Syndergaard. As a manager, you don’t want to do a lot of searching in September.

The Mets’ bullpen – evidenced by the first two games of the Colorado series – has been shaky lately, but Verrett can offer stability.

There were other season-falling-into-place signs for the Mets this week.

All right, I thought they dragged their feet placing Lucas Duda on the disabled list, but they appear to be surviving his absence. Daniel Murphy, who supposedly can’t play defense, started a key double play. Speaking of defense, Wilmer Flores – with tears out of his eyes – is showing he can play shortstop when he has to. He saved a run, today.

And, the more I see him, the more I like Yoenis Cespedes. He made two scintillating plays in center field that undoubtedly saved a few runs. Since the Mets got him their offense has transformed into something to be feared.

I didn’t think GM Sandy Alderson had it in him, but getting Cespedes, Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson and Tyler Clippard jumpstarted this team.

Once struggling for runs, the Mets are scoring at a rate where the pressure was lessened on Michael Conforto, and will be for David Wright when he’s activated from the disabled list Monday in Philadelphia. The Mets need Wright to be Wright, but with the way the Mets are hitting – thanks in large part to Cespedes – they can ease him back. The last thing the Mets want is for Wright to force things, and if the offense keeps producing it makes things easier for Wright.

And, with Uribe, they have a reliable option at third. Uribe, with the Latin pitchers, can be a calming influence. He was today with Hansel Robles.

The Mets are a season-high 11 games over .500 as they go to Philadelphia. However, these Phillies are a different bunch than the team the Mets have beaten up on this year.

The Mets have pitched well all season, recently started to hit and their defense is better. If Verrett can stabilize the bullpen when he’s not pitching eight strong, then the Mets could be doing more than playing meaningful games in September.

They could be playing meaningful games in October, and wouldn’t that be sweet.

 

Aug 10

Cuddyer Back With A Lot To Give

Michael Cuddyer was signed to be a significant offensive piece for the Mets, but as often is the case in the twisting and winding turns of a baseball season, things changed. Cuddyer now finds himself as a role player.

CUDDYER: Back from DL. (Getty)

CUDDYER: Back from DL. (Getty)

A former All-Star and batting champion is hanging on to his career, but still has value. There could be times between now and October when lightning strikes his bat. Times when he’ll make a veteran play that means the difference between a win and loss.

While his playing times will come in drips and drabs, what defines him most – that he’s a good teammate – is what will be on display. He might pull aside a slumping player to give him a tip on that night’s pitcher. Or to calm him down, as was the case on the botched Wilmer Flores trade.

Pennants are won on talent, but what Cuddyer can offer is invaluable. There have been few playoff teams that don’t have a settling, veteran influence. To accept a change of roles with grace and class is something that can’t adequately be measured. It might turn out to be his biggest contribution to the Mets.

Make no mistake, his two-year, $21-million contract is why he’s still here, otherwise he could have been cast aside. That’s often the case with 36-year-old, non-hitting players with aching knees. He’s hitting .250 with eight homers and a .303 on-base percentage, not good in manager Terry Collins’ “hit or sit,’’ edict. Of course, it should have been that way all along, but for the longest time nobody – major league or minor league levels – was hitting.

Cuddyer’s injury opened the way for Michael Conforto, and he’s not going back down. To make room for Cuddyer, Eric Campbell – no surprise there – was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas.

Conforto represents the Mets’ future, and because of their pitching that has been fast-tracked. Cuddyer is a veteran presence essential for a young, contending team, but his days as a starter are over, and to his credit he readily accepts his role.

“I just want to win,’’ Cuddyer said. “It doesn’t matter what it looks like or what’s in it for me. I want to win baseball games. Whatever the manager feels like is the best lineup to put out there, I’m all for it.’’

Cuddyer started the season in left field, but that position now belongs to Yoenis Cespedes. Cuddyer will give an occasional breather to Curtis Granderson in right field and Lucas Duda at first base.

But, no matter what he does on the field, he won’t get rattled, and as the Mets drive down the stretch, they need to see what Cuddyer still brings to the table.

 

Aug 05

If They Want Him, Mets Must Act Quickly On Cespedes

Conventional wisdom says Yoenis Cespedes is a two-month rental for the Mets, with hopefully an October extension. Nobody expected GM Sandy Alderson to get him, much less keep him long-term.

However, Cespedes said he’d like to stay. Maybe it is gamesmanship on his part, but assuming he means it and he has the warm-and-fuzzies for the Mets, now is the time for the full-court press.

CESPEDES: It's now or never. (AP)

CESPEDES: It’s now or never. (AP)

If the Mets want him, Alderson must strike hard and fast. Signing Cespedes will give the Mets a jumpstart to their Christmas shopping.

“This is something I can’t control,’’ Cespedes told reporters Tuesday in Miami, conveniently overlooking the fact if he’s set on staying he can if they want him. “I don’t know what the front office is thinking about. But with what I see so far, I would love for everything to work out and stay as a Met for a long, long time, because I like the atmosphere.’’

Cespedes has a contract clause stating the Mets must release him before the free-agency period begins if they don’t want to sign him. This means is if he’s released after Aug. 31, he can’t re-sign with them until May 15, 2015. That means they sign him now or kiss him goodbye.

The Mets could fool around and say they want to re-sign him, but renege. They could do with him what they did with Jose Reyes.

That would tick off a lot of people.

Jul 27

Want Bruce For Mets

Of all the Mets’ trade rumors, I like the one involving Jay Bruce best. I am not thrilled with the prospects of trading for Yoenis Cespedes or Yasiel Puig, although I doubt the Dodgers will move the latter.

BRUCE: Want him for Mets. (AP)

BRUCE: Want him for Mets. (AP)

Cespedes is a headache waiting to happen, and Puig is already a man-child. Bruce is having somewhat of a bounce back season, but his numbers won’t approach what they were from 2011-2013, when he hit over 30 homers with 97 RBI in each of those seasons.

As for Troy Tulowitzki, why bother getting excited about something that will never happen? It has gotten to the point of being boring. And, Andrelton Simmons? That would be sweet, but that’s another pipe dream.

Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if GM Sandy Alderson’s team is leaking thoughts about Tulowitzki and Simmons just to keep the Mets’ over-anxious fan base at bay. It has been known to happen before. Both teams and agents have done it if they want to convey a message through the media.

However, Bruce is 28, which means he has plenty of rebound time. He becomes a free agent in 2017, if the team doesn’t exercise its option.

Bruce is currently in a 6-year, $51-million contract, which means he has the right to demand a trade after this season if he’s traded, which makes him a rental. Not crazy about that trade, especially if it is for Zack Wheeler.

If I could get Bruce for Wheeler straight up, and would be assured of keeping Bruce, then I would do it.