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.

 

Nov 12

Dissecting The Cuddyer Signing

Michael Cuddyer said all the right things about coming to the New York Mets. He spoke of how the Mets were a team on the cusp; about playing with longtime friend David Wright; and the excitement of playing in New York.

For good measure, he mentioned how he imagined how a packed Citi Field could be when he referenced the 2013 All-Star Game.

Got you going, didn’t it?

Then he ruined the illusion by saying “it always isn’t about the money.’’

But, I’ve been covering this sport a long time, and you’ve been following the Mets a long time. What we both know, is that when it comes to the Mets, money is right there at the top. Money is always the key factor.

The Cuddyer signing tells us a lot about the Mets and their financial situation. It also raises a lot of questions, which I’ll attempt to answer:

Q: Why wouldn’t Cuddyer accept the Rockies’ $15.3 million qualifying offer and go the free-agent route again?

A: That’s his risk. He wanted two and the Rockies were offering one. There was no guarantee Cuddyer would get a second year from anyone. When he gave the Mets a deadline to give him two years or he’d take the qualifying offer, “it gave us pause,’’ said GM Sandy Alderson.

The Mets had things to consider, such as other free-agent outfield options, which would have cost more. Or, trade options, but they had few chips to play and are unwilling to include their young pitching. Or, going from within, which they didn’t have the confidence in doing. And, there was the matter of losing the draft pick, which they didn’t want to do.

The most palatable option was giving Cuddyer two years.

Q: The breakdown is the first year for $8.5 million and the second year for $12.5 million. What does that mean?

A: In giving up their first-round pick – the 15th overall selection – the Mets also save themselves $2.5 million. Given that, the Mets will have filled their outfield hole for $6 million this year, which is $1.25 less than they blew on Chris Young last year. They don’t get their pick, but that player is at least three years down the road anyway. A lot can change in that time. With the $2.5 million they save by not having the draft pick gives them a little more flexibility.

Q: Won’t the Mets feel a pinch in 2016 for the $12.5 million they’d pay Cuddyer?

A: They could, but not if they make the strides they expect. Their gamble is they’ll improve enough in 2015 and experience an attendance spike. That will pay in part for Cuddyer. Of course, that means they’ll have to win this year, or at least “play meaningful games in September.’’ But, if none of this happens by July 2016 and Cuddyer is productive, he shouldn’t be hard to trade.

Q: Was this done to appease Wright?

A: That probably factored into it, but I wouldn’t say that was their first priority.

Q: What does signing Cuddyer say about their bench and minor league system?

A: For one, is tells me they likely won’t bring back Eric Young. It also speaks to their diminishing confidence in Matt den Dekker and Kirk Nieuwenhuis as a fulltime player. The Mets stunted their development last year and that figures to be the same this year.

Q: The Mets kept saying they wanted power, but Cuddyer has hit only 80 homers over the past five years (16 average) and only ten in an injury shortened 2014. Does this fill that need?

A: No. Cuddyer isn’t strictly a pull hitter, which is just as well because the fences aren’t coming in next year. Presumably, he uses the whole field, which is the best way. Cuddyer has only one 30-homer season despite playing his career in the Coors Field and the Metrodome. He’s only had one 100-RBI season as well.

Q: Were there other options?

A: Sure, but nobody screamed out as a “must have’’ talent. Michael Morse, Ryan Ludwick, Nate Schierholtz, Nick Markakis and Josh Willingham were all available this fall, but would have either been too expensive; would stay with their original teams; or not graded as high as Cuddyer.

Q: Where will Cuddyer play?

A: Probably right field, with Curtis Granderson moving over to left field.

Q: Bottom line this for me: Does Cuddyer put the Mets over the top?

A: By no stretch of the imagination. The Mets have questions concerning shortstop; the offensive returns of Wright and Granderson; whether Lucas Duda can do it again; the development of Zack Wheeler and return from surgery by Matt Harvey. If all that happens and Cuddyer can return to his 2013 form when he won the NL batting title.