Feb 07

Mets Matters: Johan Santana, Michael Bourn And Notebook

Santana13

JOHAN SANTANA PENCILED IN FOR OPENING DAY

Manager Terry Collins told reporters today in Port St. Lucie he expects Johan Santana to be ready for the start of the season and penciled him in to be the Opening Day starter, April 1, against San Diego at Citi Field. A healthy Santana is a no-brainer.

The Mets deny overworking Santana in his 134-pitch no-hitter, June 1, but there can be no denying his 8.27 ERA in his following ten starts, which included a career-high six-game losing streak.

He was shut down with lower-back inflammation in August. Collins attributed that to fatigue. Whether it was or not, it was another physical ailment for Santana, who is in his walk year. Santana will make $25 million this year and not expected to be brought back in 2014.

There’s little doubt if Santana is able he would be the ball. If not, look for Jon Niese, a 13-game winner last  year, to get the honor. Incidentally, Toronto already named R.A. Dickey as its Opening Day starter.

Nothing new with Bourn: MLB is not yielding on its position the CBA is clear the first 10 picks are protected and not the 10 worst records. The Mets were leapfrogged by Pittsburgh because the Pirates were unable to sign their 2012 pick.

The dispute is expected to go to arbitration to be resolved before the Mets make an offer to Bourn. The Mets’ stance is they shouldn’t be penalized because the Pirates failed in signing their pick, which is a plausible argument.

As of now, the Mets seem poised to using a largely inexperienced outfield, with Kirk Nieuwenhuis in center, flanked by Lucas Duda and Mike Baxter.

Mets Notes: The Mets are close to completing a deal for reliever Brandon Lyon, pending a physical. … The Mets’ spring training home is back to being called Tradition Field after being referred to as the non-catchy Digital Domain Park the last three years. That company is having financial troubles and is no longer able to sponsor the stadium. … Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report Monday, but ESPN reports there’s already a full house. Early arrivals include: David Wright – who always shows ahead of schedule – Duda, Dillon Gee, Zack Wheeler, Matt Harvey, Travis d’Arnaud, John Buck, Baxter, Bobby Parnell and Nieuwenhuis. Ruben Tejada, who drew Collins’ wrath last spring when he didn’t show early is due in Saturday. That, of course, depends on the storm expected to slam the East Coast starting tomorrow morning and continuing until Saturday.

Feb 07

Mets Must Resist Temptation With Zack Wheeler

It’s no secret the Mets have concerns in their rotation, but that doesn’t mean they should rush Zack Wheeler, regardless of how good a spring training he has.

The Mets tooker a somewhat patient approach with Matt Harvey, waited to bring him up last summer and gave him ten starts in which he showed his potential. The Mets need to do the same with Wheeler.

I still maintain the Mets rushed former first-round pick Mike Pelfrey out of necessity when he clearly wasn’t emotionally or mentally ready. Pelfrey had the physical tools, but had trouble keeping his poise and concentration, struggled with pitch selection, and couldn’t put away hitters or innings.

Harvey doesn’t have those problems and is ahead of where Pelfrey was at a similar stage of his career. Pelfrey is trying to hook on with Minnesota, while Harvey has a place in the Mets’ rotation.

Wheeler is expected to open the season in the minor leagues and pitch with the Mets later in the season. How late, depends on the health of the rotation, but remember, the Mets had injury issues last year and utilized several options before turning to Harvey.

The Mets say they are building for the future with their young pitching, but when you look at the composition of the roster – notably the outfield and bullpen – it is obvious they won’t contend this season. So, the wise thing is to go slow with Wheeler until he’s ready.

The young arm I am most interested in seeing his Jenrry Mejia, but I probably said that last spring, too. Mejia is a prime example of force-feeding a prospect to the major leagues before he was ready. Blame Jerry Manuel for that one.

Entering his last year as Mets’ manager, Manuel knew his job was hanging thin, and with a weak bullpen lobbied hard with then GM Omar Minaya to put Mejia in the bullpen when he should have been in the minors as a starter.

Even worse than taking him out of his projected role, was the Mets didn’t know how to use him in the pen. After awhile, they used him in no-pressure situations. Then it was back to the minor leagues and in the rotation, where he subsequently injured his arm.

Previously, Manuel screwed up Bobby Parnell. He was supposed to get a string of starts at the end of the 2009 season. He was rocked in September, but with the Mets going nowhere, Manuel – presumably more concerned about getting a handful of wins then protecting Parnell emotionally – yanked him from the rotation.

Parnell hasn’t started a game for the Mets since, and it hasn’t been a smooth transition for him to the bullpen.

Pelfrey is gone, Parnell is still trying to make it in the pen, and Mejia’s role is still in question. The future is bright for Harvey. Hopefully, it will be for Wheeler, too. If he’s brought along the right way.

Jan 25

Mets Get Shaun Marcum; More Work To Do

Seven down, 13 more to go. That’s the math if you’re thinking signing Shaun Marcum to a one-year deal will replace R. A. Dickey’s production in the rotation.

Marcum was 7-4 with a 3.70 ERA in 21 starts last year with Milwaukee, good enough to be a reliable fifth starter. Dickey, of course, one year wonder or not, was an ace who won the Cy Young Award.

To make up the remaining 13 victories, the Mets need three more each from Johan Santana, Jon Niese and Dillon Gee. Even so, it still puts the Mets 14 games below .500.

Once Marcum passes his physical and the ink dries on the contract, the Mets avoid being the only team not to have signed a free agent this offseason.

Continue reading

Jan 24

Who Will Wright’s Teammates Be In 2015?

WRIGHT: Who will play alongside him in 2015?

WRIGHT: Who will play alongside him in 2015?

 

Let’s take a look at a bulk of the Mets’ 40-man roster and make some projections on what things might look at in 2015, the year cited by many as when the team will be ready for primetime.

Of course, there’s no accounting for injuries, trades or players leaving as free agents.

Johan Santana: Will be gone after this season as there’s no way the Mets can afford keeping him – even if he’s healthy this year – and think they can be a contender. The Mets will attempt to trade him, but even if they absorb much of his contract there will be few takers.

Jon Niese:  He’ll still be under contract and hopefully will have developed into a topflight pitcher. He’s lefthanded, throws hard and under cost control. All reasons teams covet him and why the Mets should keep him.

Matt Harvey: If he lives up to expectations, he’ll be a star. Should he have a big year in 2013, the Mets might consider wrapping him up as they did Niese. That’s the best way to have cost certainty.

Dillon Gee: Unless he steps up his game, he’ll be gone. There’s potential there, but unless he harnesses it, Zack Wheeler could push him out of the rotation.

Jenrry Mejia: Your guess is as good as mine. Starter or reliever? It can’t be both. Mejia has had limited opportunities because of how the Mets waffled with him. His stock has fallen and he could be gone in three years.

Zack Wheeler: He’s highly rated and barring setbacks should be in the rotation by then. How good he’ll be is anybody’s guess.

Bobby Parnell: Closer or bust. Parnell showed something at the end of last season. If he doesn’t win the closer job by 2014, he’ll likely be gone.

The bullpen: Never mind 2015, how about 2013? There’s such a turnover in bullpens in today’s game that it is hard to project. Do the Mets have a bullpen prospect that can be pegged as a potential closer? Nobody outside of Parnell will be ready by then, and even he is iffy.

John Buck:  Assuming he’s healthy, the job belongs to Travis d’Arnaud. Buck is a stopgap already making too much money by Mets’ standards. It is conceivable Buck could be supplanted by d’Arnaud by the second half.

Ike Davis: The Mets already avoided arbitration with him and if Davis hits another 30 homers, they should consider going long term with him. You build teams around 30-homer sluggers.

Daniel Murphy: Somehow, I can’t see Murphy still here. I see him being dealt to the American League where he can play as a DH. By 2015, the Mets will have added a second baseman, perhaps Wilmer Flores.

Ruben Tejada: The Mets have several shortstop prospects, but will they be ready by 2015?  They like Gavin Cecchini, but wonder if he’ll hit enough. Tejada is establishing himself offensively and if he keeps it up, he’ll stay around.

David Wright: His contract ensures he’ll be around, but like Santana will it be one they regret? Wright hasn’t taken advantage of the shortened fences at Citi Field and the Mets wonder if he’ll hit with consistent 30-homer power.

Lucas Duda: He’s a work in progress with time to develop. Perhaps it will happen for him as a left fielder. Duda is better as a first baseman, but what will they do with Davis? Duda is a guy I can see them dealing in the future.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis: He made a good first impression, but struggled with the breaking ball and ended the season injured in the minor leagues. If he becomes the fulltime center fielder, he could still be here. Working in his favor is he comes cheaply. But, if the Mets start spending in a few years they will go for more power in the outfield.

Mike Baxter:  He’s a role player now, and a projected starter because the Mets aren’t spending any money. No way he’ll keep that job in three years.

Of the 16 names (including the position of bullpen) there are only seven I can say with confidence will be around in 2015. So, assuming if the projections of 2015 are true, that makes 19 spots to be filled.

That’s a lot of work to do.

Dec 21

Looking At Some Of Sandy Alderson’s Good Mets’ Moves

When Sandy Alderson was named Mets’ GM, it was to be a financial caretaker of the floundering franchise.

I was critical of the R.A. Dickey trade because I believe their words of wanting to sign him were hollow and the possibility of receiving damaged goods. I still think that, but in fairness, recognize Alderson was not dealing from a position of strength or leverage.

There was a lot of criticism of Alderson the past two weeks, but again, in fairness, one has to look at some of the moves that have panned out for the better:

CARLOS BELTRAN: Sure, Beltran’s power numbers would have looked good in the Mets’ outfield, but in the end they would have spent an additional $18.5 million to still finish fourth. Nobody knows if Zack Wheeler will make it, but there is a chance of the Mets obtaining a quality starter, while there was no chance of retaining Beltran. After the surgery flap, Beltran was out the door. They would not have received draft picks so getting Wheeler was the best they could do.

OLIVER PEREZ and LUIS CASTILLO: Both were disgruntled clubhouse cancers not producing and only taking roster spots. Perez was especially pricey for his nothing performance. When Perez refused to go to the minor leagues to work on his mechanics, the Mets should have cut him and eaten his contract on the spot. It was Alderson who convinced the Wilpons to cut ties with them, something Omar Minaya never attempted. The culture couldn’t have changed had they stayed.

JOSE REYES: Because of his injury history and salary demands, I was not in favor of keeping Reyes. If you think the Mets are on the financial skids now, imagine how bad they’d be if they had Reyes’ $100-million contract as an anchor.

JASON BAY: Let’s face it, the Mets were never going to get anything from Bay. Arguably one of the worst FA signings ever could not be salvaged. Sure, the Mets still have to pay his contract, but they won’t have the distraction of answering questions this spring about Bay taking a roster spot. As with Perez, the Mets could only move forward by getting rid of Bay.

DAVID WRIGHT: The face of the franchise needed to be a part of any rebuilding effort. Perhaps the Mets will regret the end of his contract, but for the immediate health of their franchise they needed Wright as he represents a commitment to the future.

JON NIESE: Niese also represents the future and signing him to a long-term contract will keep the Mets out of arbitration with him. Young hard-throwing lefties with potential are at a premium, especially those who are cost effect. Alderson also has eschewed any thought of trading him.

No GM ever bats 1.000 and I wasn’t expecting it of Alderson, despite his high-profile track record. On the flip side, no GM goes hitless, either, and in fairness Alderson has done some good by the Mets.