Jan 02

Answers Mets Hope To Get This Season

The New York Mets have more than a few questions that could be answered after this season. How they are will determine the progress of their rebuilding phase, or if they have to start over again.

If these issues are addressed in the positive, next winter could be especially brutal. Sandy Alderson could survive, but it’s doubtful Terry Collins would be extended again.

Here are the players under the most scrutiny:

Matt Harvey: Any pitcher coming off elbow surgery is a concern, but we’re talking about the club’s marquee arm, one whom they are basing their future. If he proves healthy and has a good season, the Mets could entertain thoughts about signing him to a long-term contract to bypass his arbitration years. If he’s not healthy or is re-injured, how can the Mets go into next off-season assuming he’ll come back strong in 2016? Answer: They can’t.

WHEELER: Facing a big year. (AP)

WHEELER: Facing a big year. (AP)

Zack Wheeler: The Mets resisted trade overtures for him in the belief he’ll blossom into a star. That could happen if he learns to improve his control and reduce his pitch count. That would be the next step in his development. If this is a lackluster season and Noah Syndergaard shows something, they might listen, especially if they don’t fill their offensive holes or still have a question at shortstop.

Jon Niese: Often injured and ineffective, teams no longer clamor for him. If he halfway lives up to expectations perhaps that might enhance his trade value and it will be easier to move him. They might be able to do that at the trade deadline if he has a strong first half. If Niese is a bust this season, the Mets will be looking for another left-hander next winter.

Juan Lagares: He’s the Mets’ centerfielder based on a limited window last year. He needs to improve his on-base percentage if he’s to become their leadoff hitter. If he doesn’t make strides in that direction, the Mets could again be looking at a centerfielder and leadoff hitter. Ideally, they would like to fill both voids with the same player. They have a chance to do that with Lagares.

Curtis Granderson: Twenty homers won’t cut it. Another mediocre season will have the Mets looking again and staring at another non-productive long-term contract. Since the Mets aren’t prone to eat lousy contracts, there could be two more years of heavy strikeouts.

David Wright: He hasn’t hit over 25 homers or driven in at least 100 runs since 2010. For the most part, attribute injuries. If he’s healthy and produces mediocre-to-poor numbers, there will be even more grumbling about his contract. I’ve written Wright is the Mets’ most pressing question, even more than Harvey. A bounce-back season will answer a lot of questions.

Wilmer Flores: He enters spring training with the inside track at shortstop. The Mets eschewed several more expensive options the past two years in the hope Flores would answer this question on the cheap. If he doesn’t pan out this year, they just might be forced to pay in the free-agent market or deal one of their young pitchers.

 

Dec 30

Ten Storylines For Mets In 2014

It was an interesting year for your New York Mets. No playoffs and no .500 record as expected, but for the most part they played aggressive baseball. There was improvement.

The following are ten of the more important Mets’ story lines from the 2014 season:

1. The loss of Matt Harvey: Despite his distracting chirping about wanting to pitch in 2014, and where he wanted to rehab, the Mets held firm and kept him out for the season following elbow surgery. The Mets say his rehab went well and he will be ready for Opening Day. Harvey will work on an innings limit for 2015, and start the home opener.

2. The decline of David Wright: He was named captain and signed to a lucrative contract, but was injured again and only hit eight homers with 63 RBI. Wright last hit 20 homers in 2012 and drove in 100 runs in 2010. He last played in at least 150 games in 2010.

3. The emergence of Jacob deGrom: Nobody saw this coming as most of the preseason attention went to Zack Wheeler, but deGrom went 9-6 and was named NL Rookie of the Year. With Harvey, the three form the nucleus for a potentially solid rotation.

4. Failure to find a leadoff hitter: With Wright struggling, somebody had to be a consistent presence at the plate and it was Daniel Murphy. He was most effective hitting second, but there should have been some consideration to batting him first as for the second straight season the Mets failed to generate a leadoff hitter.

5. The inability to find a shortstop: There was to be a competition between Wilmer Flores and Ruben Tejada, but it never materialized. At the end of the season Flores did most of the playing. There was again the show this winter of searching for a shortstop, but nothing happened. Flores enters spring training as the frontrunner.

6. The emergence of Juan Lagares: Nobody can cover centerfield like Lagares, who even showed signs of becoming a base stealer. Now, if he could only cut his strikeouts and improve his on-base percentage the Mets might finally have a leadoff hitter.

7. They finally got a power hitter: Lucas Duda assumed the first base job full time after Ike Davis was traded to Pittsburgh and responded with 30 homers and 92 RBI. Amazingly, Duda took some heat for being too patient.

8. Jon Niese continued to struggle: A young, hard-throwing lefthander with a manageable contract made him alluring to other teams. Unfortunately, an injury history and string of mediocre seasons – only two double-digit victory years in his seven-year career – took away his appeal.

9. They filled an outfield hole: Michael Cuddyer was signed to a two-year contract to presumably play left field. The projection is he’ll bat fifth behind Duda.

10. They spent some money, but maybe not wisely: Curtis Granderson was signed to a four-year deal last winter, but coming off an injury in 2013, hit only 20 homers with 66 RBI, paltry production for $13 million. He had some success leading off and might get another shot if Lagares spits the bit.

Dec 18

A Case For Not Trading Gee

There’s been a lot of talk about the Mets wanting to trade Dillon Gee. I understand their reasoning and on the surface it all makes sense.

However, I wouldn’t be the contrarian I am if I didn’t examine the other side.

Sure, the rotation looks crowded with the return of Matt Harvey. But, what if his return from elbow surgery isn’t smooth? What if Jon Niese continues to falter? What if Zack Wheeler and Jacob deGrom regress? What if Noah Syndergaard isn’t ready?

Few things go as seamlessly as hoped, especially if you’re the Mets. You should know that by now if you’ve been following them for any length on time.

The fact remains, the Mets have potential pitching issues, and with the trade market stagnant, there’s no reason to force a trade just to free up space.

Just wait, they could use another pitcher before the season is over.

 

Dec 01

Plenty Of Names Out There, But All Signs Lead To Flores

The more GM Sandy Alderson talks about it, the more I am inclined to believe he will not acquire a shortstop this winter and the Mets will head into spring training with Wilmer Flores as their shortstop.

This much we know: The Mets aren’t willing to trade any of their young arms and they have few trade chips among their position players on the major league level and virtually none in the minor leagues.

FLORES: Best shortstop option.

FLORES: Best shortstop option.

As long as Alderson holds that position, it means Starlin Castro will stay with the Cubs and Xander Bogaerts with the Red Sox.

Both are young with a promising upside and Castro is the most proven. Both would cost a lot, and history tells us the Mets will balk.

Asdrubal Cabrera is out there, but I can’t see the Mets giving him the years – and money – he would want.

Arizona’s Didi Gregorius has been linked to the Mets, but do they really want to add somebody who hit .226 with a .290 on-base percentage? No need to trade for those numbers when Ruben Tejada is right here.

Jed Lowrie and Stephen Drew could be had, but if the Mets didn’t want them before there’s no reason to believe their interest would have increased based on their numbers from last season. Both would want multi-year deals and more money than the Mets are willing to spend.

Alexei Ramirez of the White Sox is available and a known commodity. Also known is his declining defensive performance and two years at $10 million each the Mets would pick up. Quite frankly, he’s a player on the downward slide, costly, and a player not worth one of their young arms.

While some are more proven than Flores, they all come with risks attached and definitely not worth a Noah Syndergaard or Zack Wheeler.

Given this, and knowing the Mets’ history, Flores remains the best option. And, if he doesn’t pan out, the Mets can always deal later. The Mets are in position where they should stick with Flores and see what he’s all about.

 

Nov 17

Mets’ Collins Optimistic About 2015

As far as guarantees go, it was rather weak, but considering the boast came from Terry Collins it was bold enough. Not only will the Mets’ string of six losing seasons come to an end, but they should make the playoffs for the first time since 2006.

Pointing to a young core and return of David Wright and Curtis Granderson that should be enough to get them over the hump.

“We should be playing in October,’’ Collins told reporters this week. “Our young guys are starting to grow, with the addition of some offense, and … we’re not done. … I think 2015 is going to be a good year for us.’’

The key, or course, is Matt Harvey’s recovery from elbow surgery; development of Zack Wheeler; and a encore season from Jacob deGrom that comprise the core of a young pitching staff.

If the pitching holds up and Wright and Granderson have bounce back seasons, that should put them into contention for a wild-card berth. The NL East title? Not so much.