Feb 09

Niese Faces Pivotal Season

Every spring there is that singular player whose career might hang in the balance as is Jonathon Niese’s with the New York Mets.

NIESE: Will it ever happen for him?

NIESE: Will it ever happen for him?

It was in 2012 when the Mets signed him to a long-term contract through 2016. They signed him for all the right reasons. He threw hard; is left-handed; the contract provided cost certainty; he had some degree of major league success; and at the time was relatively healthy.

In the three years since, he’s won just 30 games, hadn’t pitched 200 innings in any season, and sustained one form of injury or another every year.

With Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard and left-hander Steven Matz waiting in the wings – and let’s not forget Bartolo Colon and Dillon Gee remain on the 40-man roster – it doesn’t take much to figure Niese’s value to the Mets is rapidly diminishing, especially since they put him on the block over the winter.

All the reasons why the Mets signed Niese, and why he was coveted by other teams in trade talks, aren’t as prevalent. If 2015 is anything like the last three seasons, next year at this time we might not even be talking about him in the rotation as Matz could supplant him.

Of all the Mets who need a big and healthy season, Niese ranks at the top of my list.

 

Feb 06

Assessing The Real Value Of Harvey

This is the year the Mets pointed to with the return of Matt Harvey to their rotation. With Harvey, they hope, they could be a legitimate wild-card contender. Despite their holes, with Harvey the Mets have a good chance of winning every fifth day. He makes them a representative team, one worth watching, one that gives cause for optimism.

HARVEY: Has more than mound value. (Getty)

HARVEY: Has more than mound value. (Getty)

The Mets regard Harvey, who has 12 career victories in 36 starts in parts of two seasons, as their pitching rock, but he’s much more.

If Harvey turns out to become all he’s cracked up to be, and the Mets answer their other questions – including the continued development of Zack Wheeler and Jacob deGrom – their rebuilding program could turn out to be the real thing and not Sandy Alderson’s wishful thinking.

However, Harvey’s value to the Mets transcends the numbers he posts on the mound. He’s not only the future, but gives them flexibility and other assurances.

A healthy and productive Harvey could give the Mets confidence he’s worthy of a long-term deal, which translates into financial certainty. That’s invaluable to a franchise having economic problems.

In addition, if Harvey is sound it could give the Mets the freedom to deal one of their other pitchers to address other needs. A healthy Harvey also takes away the urgency to rush Noah Syndergaard to the majors.

However, it isn’t hard to imagine the Mets’ position if the reverse is true. There could be the urgency to force Syndergaard to Flushing or overspend next year in the free-agent market.

Yes, the Mets are counting on a lot of things this season from Harvey, most importantly, to be the future they envision.

Feb 04

Mets Should Consider These Contract Extensions

History has shown us the best way, and most economical, is to build from within and complement your core with free-agent signings and trades.

The Mets have a young, but largely unproven core of talent outside of David Wright.

HARVEY: Mets should consider long-term if he's healthy.

HARVEY: Mets should consider long-term if he’s healthy.

I wrote the other day how the Mets should consider extending Lucas Duda if he duplicates last season’s production. He’s not the only one the Mets should go long-term on to avoid the arbitration years.

If these Mets prove to be healthy and have strong seasons, I would call the agents for Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler. We’ve seen glimpses of their potential and their value will only increase.

I might even include Jacob deGrom and Jenrry Mejia in that category.

I don’t think we’ve seen enough from Travis d’Arnaud, Juan Lagares or Wilmer Flores to make that call. As for Jon Niese, the Mets already went long-term with him and he failed to produce so he goes to the back of the line. That is, unless the Mets don’t trade him first.

I can’t even think to put Noah Syndergaard in this grouping until he at least pitches on this level.

This much we know, the Mets are not, and will not be a free-spending team any time soon. Signing any player to a multi-year contract entails some risk, but those named are the best young prospects the organization has to offer.

To be financially solvent it is important for all businesses, including sports franchises, to have cost certainty and that comes in the form of structured salaries.

These would be good gambles.

Jan 27

Mets Rotation: A Difference Between Depth And Potential

There’s a distinct difference between depth and potential when it comes to the Mets’ rotation. There’s a lot to like about their potential, but you should be careful not to equate the names with depth.

Matt Harvey, Bartolo Colon, Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom, Dillon Gee, Jon Niese, Rafael Montero, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz give you nine names, but also nine questions.

Harvey: How will he respond from elbow surgery?

Colon: He’s 41 and the Mets are trying to trade him. If they do, will anybody give them the 200 innings he gave the Mets last year?

Wheeler: Will he improve his command and thereby increase his innings?

deGrom: Can he encore his Rookie of the Year season?

Gee: Will he be gone by Opening Day?

Niese: Will he live up to his expectations and stay healthy?

Montero: Can he improve what has been keeping him back, which is his control?

Syndergaard: Can you count on anybody who hasn’t pitched in the major leagues?

Matz: Can you count on anybody who hasn’t pitched in the major leagues?

Sure, the best-case scenario is to have all these answered in the positive, but that rarely happens. Hopefully, these issues can be resolved and the Mets can count on these guys to be moved in the depth category.

I asked nine questions about potential Mets’ starters for 2015. Let me ask one more: Who among you haven’t wondered the same?

Jan 12

Mets Right For Balking On Syndergaard-Desmond Trade

Word is the Mets had a shot at Washington shortstop Ian Desmond, but balked at the trade because it would have cost them Noah Syndergaard.

SYNDERGAARD: Just a start. (MLB.com)

SYNDERGAARD: Don’t deal him. (MLB.com)

Good move on their part. Eventually, the Mets might trade Syndergaard, but now isn’t the time.

Before trading Syndergaard for Desmond, or anybody else for that matter, the Mets must ask themselves this question: Would they be better off?

Desmond does not put the Mets over the top. I’m not saying Wilmer Flores does either, but he deserves the chance to show what he can do with a legitimate opportunity, something he has not been given.

There’s another reason to hold onto Syndergaard, and that’s the current make-up of the rotation. Bartolo Colon is gone after this season. Matt Harvey is coming back from surgery and we don’t know about his status until he gets back on the mound. Zack Wheeler and Jacob deGrom are still in their developmental stages and are largely unproven, despite a high potential upside.

The potential for Syndergaard is also high and I want to see what he really is. If Syndergaard pitches to he projections, he has far more value than Desmond, or Ben Zobrist for that matter.

Sandy Alderson gets ripped here, and elsewhere, for moves he doesn’t make. This isn’t one of them.