Jan 30

Very Curious About Matz

Of all the Mets’ young pitchers, the one I’m most curious in seeing this spring is Steven Matz. The seemingly perpetual injured left-hander made only 22 starts last season before going on the disabled list to undergo elbow surgery.

Drafted in 2009, Matz has only thrown 168 career innings, but he needs to throw at least 200 be considered an ace. He has a biting slider, but it puts excessive stress on his arm, and before he was lost he started throwing his curveball and change-up more.

He’s left-handed, which enhances his value, but he’s of little use if he can’t stay in the rotation. Matt Harvey has been lost twice to off-season surgery since 2013, but he’s as strong as a bull. Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom have also shown signs of being able to go long into games. But, Matz, much like Zack Wheeler, remains an unknown.

He’s the guy I expect to see manager Terry Collins attach an innings limit on before the others.

 

 

 

Jan 16

Let’s Hedge Raves About Mets’ Rotation

Many of the baseball preview magazines are already on the newsstands, with more than a few suggesting the Mets have one of the sports’ top rotations. However, they omit one word in the description, that being “potentially.”

The Cubs, Giants, Boston, Cleveland are all right there. So are the Nationals. The Mets? Well, if healthy, their group can throw as hard as anybody, but throwing hard isn’t the issue. Four potential starters will be coming off surgery, with a fifth, Noah Syndergaard, gutting through the second half of the season with bone spurs in his elbow.

Matt Harvey (shoulder) had seasons cut short by the knife in 2013 and 2016 and missed all of 2014; Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz each had elbow surgery; Zack Wheeler hasn’t pitched in two years; and, they did not bring back Bartolo Colon. The Mets clearly have health issues, which is why they aren’t listening to calls for Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman, knowing they might need them this summer, either as a starter or in a relief role.

Harvey, deGrom and Matz each have had surgery twice, and Wheeler’s surgery hasn’t worked out. We can’t assume the four recovering from surgery will pitch without incident in 2017, nor are there any guarantees all four will bounce back. That’s banking on a lot of things working out positively, including nothing happening with Syndergaard.

Even if they did, you can’t forget none of the Mets’ young studs have won more that 15 games, much less 20, or pitched more than 200 regular-season innings. The Mets’ young arms are immensely talented with loads of potential, but championships are won on proven production and not potential.

If everything breaks to the positive, it could be a sweet season reminiscent of 2015, but there are no guarantees.

 

Jan 13

Mets Cruise Through Arbitration; No Drama For Harvey, Familia

Too bad the Mets don’t cruise through the regular season the way they do their arbitration schedule. The Mets traditionally blitz through the arbitration process and this winter seems no different as they came to terms with nine of their ten arbitration-eligible players, with only Wilmer Flores heading to a hearing.

HARVEY: Signs right away. (AP)

HARVEY: Signs right away. (AP)

However, there’s plenty time for a resolution before a hearing this spring. Count on that getting done, because after all, what the gap between Flores and the Mets has to be slim considering he made only $526,000 last summer. What I gather from this is Flores is tired of being pushed around by Alderson, who frequently made him the versatile infielder a butt of his jokes after the proposed deal to Milwaukee fell through two years ago.

If only for the hope of getting a few extra bucks out of Alderson, it’s probably worth it for Flores to make the GM’s life difficult for only a few minutes.

I was happy to see Matt Harvey ($5.125 million), Jacob deGrom ($4.05 million) and Jeurys Familia ($7.425 million) come to terms quickly considering their baggage.

Harvey is 29-28 lifetime and has yet to give the Mets a full season; deGrom, like Harvey, is coming off surgery; and Familia is facing at least a 30-game suspension to start the season. For Harvey and Familia, especially, they rightly figured nobody wanted to hear their drama.

The Mets came to terms with Lucas Duda ($7.25 million) and Zack Wheeler ($800,000) earlier in the week and with Travis d’Arnaud ($1.875 million), Addison Reed ($7.75 million) and reliever Josh Edgin.

Jan 10

Arbitration-Eligible Mets

The Mets traditionally settle with their arbitration-eligible players and that trend is expected to be the same this winter. The deadline for the parties to file figures is Friday.

The following Mets are arbitration-eligible (with their 2016 salaries in parenthesis): Lucas Duda ($6.725 million); Addison Reed ($5.3 million); Matt Harvey ($4,325 million); Jeurys Familia ($4.1 million); Zack Wheeler ($546,000); Josh Edgin ($625,000); Travis d’Arnaud ($542,000); Wilmer Flores ($526,000) and Jacob deGrom ($607,000).

Of course, everybody gets raises, because that’s how arbitration works, even for players coming off injuries – Duda, Harvey, Wheeler and deGrom – or facing a suspension like Familia.

 

Dec 07

Wheeler To The Pen Has To Be For Right Reasons

The first thing I thought of after hearing the Mets were considering using Zack Wheeler out of the bullpen was “don’t let this turn out to be another Jenrry Mejia.”

You’ll recall the Mets bounced Mejia from the rotation to the bullpen, without leaving him long enough to grasp either role. Consequently, Mejia’s trade value deteriorated and he eventually injured his arm. He appeared to get it together as a closer until he screwed up his career by violating MLB’s PED policy.

WHEELER: A new role? (Getty)

WHEELER: A new role? (Getty)

Wheeler in the pen is an intriguing idea, but it has to be done for the right reasons. If it is because they are apparently deep with young starters and woefully thin in the pen, made more so with the anticipated suspension of closer Jeurys Familia, then I can see that logic. If it is because Wheeler only has two really good pitches, then that’s a justifiable reason, also.

However, if the reasoning is what manager Terry Collins said at the Winter Meetings, which is to shave innings off Wheeler’s total before he moves into the rotation later in the year, then that’s not good enough. It’s not good at all.

Wheeler said all the right things today at Citi Field during a coat drive.

“I’ve started my whole life, and obviously, I’d like to do that,” Wheeler told reporters. “But they’re looking out for me, innings-wise and stuff like that. I’ve been out for two years, so … whatever’s best for my health is what’s fine with me and the plan going forward.”

The Mets wouldn’t be looking after Wheeler if they bounced him around. If they are serious about the bullpen, they have to go all in. That means use him there in spring training and stay with it the entire season.

GM Sandy Alderson said this is currently in the bounce-it-off-the-wall phase.

“There’s no reason for us to say, `Well, he’s got to be a starter,’ ” Alderson told reporters. “Now, he may feel that way himself. But, it may be that coming back after two years you have to be careful. You might not be able to pitch him back-to-back [days]. It might have to be two innings at a time. But, I don’t see any reason to just eliminate that possibility.”

Wheeler hasn’t pitched in two seasons, so the Mets don’t know what to make of him physically. As a starter, he’ll have a more consistent schedule and workload, so that’s a plus.

There are too many variables that tax a pitcher’s arm coming out of the pen, especially if that’s a new role for him. That makes it risky.

Pitchers have made the transition from starter to reliever and been successful. I’m not saying the Mets would be making a mistake. The mistake would come if they waffled and changed course, especially without knowing his condition.