February 28, 2014

David Wright Is Officially The Face Of MLB

As anyone on Twitter noticed, there was a Face of MLB contest running for the past week or so to determine, essentially, who the most popular player in baseball was. This morning, David Wright was officially named the winner of the contest.

Here are some of the better fan reactions to the news.


February 27, 2014

Niese Will Resume Throwing

In a case of the injury that really wasn't, Mets fans can hold their panic off just a little bit longer. Jonathon Niese, sidelined yesterday with what was alternately described as dead-arm, triceps soreness, and shoulder fatigue, will resume throwing.

From ESPNNY's blog:

An MRI of New York Mets left-hander Jonathon Niese's pitching shoulder has come back "clean," and the southpaw will resume throwing within a couple of days, manager Terry Collins said.
Niese had been dispatched to the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan on Wednesday after complaining of shoulder discomfort. He told ESPNNewYork.com before departing that the exam primarily was for peace of mind considering he missed two months last season with a partially torn rotator cuff.
Rubin went on to note that Niese was still penciled in to start on Opening Day.

So, we can all take a deep breath and relax. The catastrophic turn for the worse that is almost assuredly coming has not happened yet.

Syndergaard Makes Mets Debut

Alright, let's talk about something exciting regarding these effing Mets. Noah Syndergaard AKA "Thor" made his first appearance in spring training wearing the orange and blue.

In two innings pitched he had 5K's, 3 hits, and 1 unearned run. Those 5 strikeouts came from his first 7 batters. People at the game tweeting called him a bad bad man, filthy, sick, and many other things in regards to how mean his stuff looks. Radar gun had his fastball in the 96-97 range with his curve ball around 81 and spectators say his fastball movement was down down down.

Its nice to see a good start out of him much the way Zack Wheeler did last season. It will be fun and much anticipation for his call up sometime after the all star break. I know a lot of Mets fans are clamoring for him now but as things sit now the Mets have decent depth in the rotation to start the season even if Jon Niese is sidelined for a period of time. If Thor does pan out as projected, Wheeler progresses, and Matt Harvey returns healthy that rotation is going to be down right scary. Looking forward to seeing a lot more of this.
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MRI Results Are Positive For Niese


Some rare good news for the Mets, as it appears that potential Opening Day starter Jon Niese got good news from the doctors in New York. Niese had been sent north for examination yesterday after complaining of pain in his shoulder. Mets fans fears of a significant shoulder injuries can be put to rest for the time being as Mike Puma of the New York Post reports that Niese is expected to resume throwing upon his return to camp.

Mets Don't Have What The Diamondbacks Want

Seattle's Nick Franklin isn't the only shortstop who could find his way onto the trade market before Opening Day, the Arizona Diamondbacks also have a pair of young shortstops, Chris Owings and Didi Gregorius.  Before the seasons starts, its likely that one of them will find their way to Triple-A.  The other option, which Arizona General Manager Kevin Towers didn't complete dismiss, is that one will be traded.

Towers told Nick Piecoro of AZCentral that a trade is a possibility, but "it would have to be the right deal."  Towers went on to outline that Arizona's biggest need in its minor league system is catching.  As a result, a "top-notch catching prospect" would be their ideal take in any trade for either Owings or Gregorius.  That's a problem for the Mets, as they won't be trading Travis d'Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki is yet to reach even Double-A.  This could leave the Mets on the outside looking in, if another team were to come calling that has the goods.

Towers also went onto say that a front-end starter, who could slot into their rotation at either Double-A or Triple-A could be an option.  So too could be an outfield prospect, although that is less likely.  These are the areas where the Mets might be able to make a run, as the system is deep with starting pitching.  However, with Noah Syndergaard understandably untouchable, the Mets aren't inclined to trade Rafael Montero.  That to may limit their possibilities with Arizona.

Its also worth noting that the Mets and Diamondback did talk during the Winter Meetings, but were unable to gain any traction in trade talks.  This is just another situation worth monitoring as Spring Training moves along.  My guess is Nick Franklin is more likely, but things have a way of changing in baseball.

Niese's MRI Results Could Come As Early As Today

Its foolish to say that the Mets season already hangs in the balance today, because it doesn't. However, losing Jon Niese to a shoulder injury would be a brutal start to the 2014 campaign.  Niese was penciled in to be the team's opening day starter again this season, as he remained the team's most tenured starter.  He also remains their only southpaw.  He was also expected to act as a leader amongst his peers.  That all now hangs in the balance.

Per Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal, Jon Niese's MRI results could be released as early as today.  Mets fans should keep their fingers crossed for so many reasons.  When it comes to major arm injuries, shoulder injuries have a much higher risk than elbow injuries do at this point.  You'll recall what it did to former team ace, Johan Santana, who has never been able to regain his form since injuring his shoulder the first time.

Niese's injury would eat into what is likely the team's greatest strength, their starting pitching depth.  It may also impact how the Mets approach the trade market, as pitching appears to be the request of choice for the Seattle Mariners.  Those issues, and possibly even Niese's career could hang in the balance if the results are negative.  For now though, we wait.

Mets' Brass Expects 90 Wins In 2014

John Harper of the New York Daily News reported this morning that team general manager, Sandy Alderson, told staffers this week that "the Mets can, and should win 90 games this year."  That statement was then echoed by team owner, Fred Wilpon, who stated: "We better win 90."

What?

We've often had discussions about how out of touch with reality the team's front office is when it comes to things like trade discussions and contract talks, but this is the first time they've overshot the landing on any one particular issue this badly.  Ninety wins is by far the largest total we've seen today, and is actually a full 16 game better than Vegas predicts.  For what its worth, Vegas is usually pretty close.

When asked for comment about the report, Alderson told Harper:

“All I’ll say is we have higher expectations than we’ve had in the past, because I think it
 has to be a mind-set. Part of creating a winning environment is setting ambitious goals
 and working toward them. But it has to be systematic and it can’t be totally unrealistic. 
I don’t think it is in this case.”

This is quite a departure from seasons past when the team handed out "Underdog" shirts and discussed getting the most out of its roster.  Ninety wins would put the Mets in the thick of the wild card discussion and would bring meaningful baseball to Citi Field for the first time in five years.  Goals are great, but realistic ones are better.  It will be interesting to see how firmly Alderson holds to this statement, because it could take the luster off whatever progress is made in 2014 if the team comes up short.

--------------------------------------------------------------

So uh, yea.  I've had quite a few discussions with what I consider to be knowledgeable fans who do consider the team to be better than years past.  However, even the most optimistic of the group sees a .500 record as the ceiling for this particular collection of Mets.  Alderson always has a motive.  I suspect this statement wasn't made so the team would make headlines.  He wants the team to know that more is expected of them this season and that he believes they can be playoff contenders.  I just think he's one of only a few who think that.  This Mets team has more potential than in years past.  The players have more talent, but questions still remain.  I personally only see the Mets as likely to put up an additional four or five since this season.  Reallocating the money that came off the books hasn't resulted in a vastly changed landscape.  These are basically the same Mets we saw last year, so its fair to say 90 wins seems like a bit of a reach.

February 26, 2014

Could A Serious Injury To Niese Impact Mets Pursuit Of Franklin?

It's one of the worst kept secrets in Queens, but we'll reiterate it on the off chance someone isn't in the know.  The Mets will do just about anything to avoid trading from the cache of young starting pitchers they've spent the last few years stock piling.  That already could have stood as a potential hurdle in any deal for Seattle's Nick Franklin, but if Jon Niese has a serious shoulder injury you can expect the Mets brass to hold onto their chips.

A closer look at the Mets pitching depth reveals that the team's rotation was expected to be comprised of Niese, Zack Wheeler, Bartolo Colon, and Dillon Gee.  The fifth start would be left to whomever comes out on top between Jenrry Mejia, Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lannon.  And then the Mets still have several pitchers gearing up in the minors.  Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom are all expected to be major league starters, giving the Mets TEN starting pitching options already this season.

Ten may sound like some astronomical number, but in reality it isn't.  In fact, the Mets have used at least 12 starting pitchers in each of the past two seasons.  If fate should fall in a similar way this year, that means even these ten won't be enough.  That's why a serious injury to Jon Niese, who some expect to be the opening day starter, could derail any pursuit of Nick Franklin.

The Mariners are expected to request young starting pitching in exchange for Franklin in any trade.  Some insiders expect it could take someone as prominent as Rafael Montero, while others think it could just be Jacob deGrom.  The result is the same.  It removes another starting pitcher from this list and further complicates the decisions the team has to make going forward.  One of those decisions, at least theoretically, could be Nick Franklin. 

Don't expect the Mets to gut their starting pitching depth in order to upgrade the shortstop position, regardless of how bad their need might be.  Sandy Alderson has spent far too much time acquiring and developing his young pitchers, who he intends to build the franchise around, to jeopardize that depth.  I'm not saying that a major injury to Niese takes the Mets out of the running for Franklin, but I think its naive to think it won't play into the team's thought process.  Time will tell, but I for one will be keeping a close eye on those MRI results.  I think there could certainly be more hanging in the balance than just Jon Niese's season.

Wilmer Flores Will Get His Shot At Short

If you've been pining for Wilmer Flores to get a legitimate shot at the shortstop role in recent years, you're about to get your wish.  This according to a report filed by ESPN's Adam Rubin.  Citing an unnamed team official, Flores will see significant time at the position this spring as the Mets determine whether or not he can hack it.

This may be indirectly related to a possible run at Seattle's Nick Franklin, who grades out similarly to Flores from an offensive standpoint.  The Mets may figure why trade a quality prospect for Franklin, when they could have a similar option already at their disposal.  Like Franklin, who will have to answer questions about his ability to play shortstop at the big league level, Flores will have to prove he's capable to assuming the role.

Flores has long been considered too slow for short, with a sluggish first step that severely impacts his range.  Its for that reason that he was taken off the position in the minors in recent years.  Perhaps now the Mets hope Flores can cash in on his extra offseason work, where he spent two months at fitness camp in Michigan.  If Flores is going to seize the moment, his time is now.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

I'm excited to see Flores get his chance, but I would advise that Mets fans not get their hopes up.  Unless his fitness transformation dramatically impacts his play in the field, Flores does seem likely to have the range to stick at shortstop.  With that said, I'm rooting for him.  Finding an in-house answer to the team's shortstop needs would free the team up to address other needs if they wish.  Flores almost certainly represents an offense upgrade from Tejada, so in in the end the question remains can he cut it defensively.

Niese Heading Back to NYC for an MRI

Just effing great. Terry Collins told reporters that Jon is heading back to New York for an MRI on his left shoulder in what is described by Collins as soreness in his triceps since early in camp while Niese is calling it a dead arm.

So what is it? Pain in triceps, sore shoulder, or a dead arm? All three have completely different meanings. More outstanding communication between management and the player. Can this week go ahead and be over with already? Between the drama with Ike and his injury, Tejada being commented on as being out of shape, Vegas saying we are doomed, and now this? Terry calls it precautionary I call it an all around craptastic start to another long season of Mets baseball.

I know it is very early in spring training and these aches, pains, tightness, and precautionary trips to the MRI clinic are probably very common among other teams but I don't follow them and 2014 was supposed to be the year that things begin to turn around. And already we are dealing with distractions and injury. If this lingers along with Jon I would guess that this puts Zach Wheeler closer to his dream of being opening day starter. Probably not a plan anyone was gunning for except him.
Photo Courtesy: www.deadspin.com
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Vegas Thinks Mets Are 5th Worst Team

Not trying to be downers on here today, but a lot of the optimism of this spring is being wiped away by inactivity and expert predicitons. I know they're not always right, and that surprise teams emerge, but it seems like a lot of bad news is bearing down all at once here in Metsville.

Of course, there are dissenting opinions.


I Really Hope This Team Doesn't Suck

I really hope this team doesn't suck.

You see, I hope they don't, but I really think they might. You see, they sucked last year, and last year Matt Harvey had a 2.27 ERA and he won't be pitching this season. Yes, I know, Bartolo Colon and stuff. He won 18 games last year, but had a higher ERA than Harvey with  a 2.65. Would he have won 18 games with the Mets? No, probably not. Seaver could not have won 18 games with that offense behind him. So Colon is a good addition, but he's not even an adequate replacement for Harvey, so blech, is our pitching better or worse? We don't know who our fifth starter is, but Dice-K is in camp competing for it. Unless he can turn around what's been pretty bad career, that's fairly weak. John Lannan is the other guy, coming off a 3-6 season with a 5.33 ERA, so I don't have to tell you how I think that would go. Jenrry Mejia would be my preference for the job, but it really seems as though they are leaning towards putting him in the bullpen, the latest in his pinballing between starting and relieving.

Curtis Granderson was a solid signing. He'll take over right field, bringing his .230-.250 average with him. He does provide some above average power, however, hitting 43 home runs in his last full season. Last year, however, he only hit 7 home runs in 214 at bats. That would amount to just a little over 20 homers in a full season, and that came while hitting in Yankee Stadium. Mid to low .200 average with home runs in the twenties is a lot less effective. In fact, it's less effective than the man he is replacing, Marlon Byrd, who hit for an impressive .285 last season and slugged 21 home runs, and that's in only 117 games before being traded. So while Granderson is a good player, did we actually get better? It's debatable.

Our other acquisition, Chris Young, is... interesting. There were years where he was a very good player, 20-30 homers, decent average. There were other years where he was a mannequin with a bat, last year among those. .200 batting average, .280 (!) OBP? Woof. I thought we weren't playing Matt den Dekker because he couldn't hit. Sure, I know they're trying to catch him on a bounce back year, but what if he doesn't bounce back? Over $7 million for one year for a bad player. And what if he does, and plays terrific ball? We can't afford to resign him after the season, and he's gone. With any luck we can trade him for some value at the deadline, but that's best case scenario. His numbers have been trending downwards for a few years now.

There's just too much that needs to break just right for this team to prosper. Chris Young has to bounce back in a big way just to be a Major League player; Granderson's power has to translate to Citi Field and not diminish to make his low average and high strikeout rate acceptable; Ike and Tejada have to... not be massive potholes in the lineup. d'Arnaud has to grow, and while this is the one I'll be most patient with, it's still going to ding the lineup. John Buck was just about the only run producer at the beginning of last season, and TdA is not going to give us that. He needs to progress, though.

Yes, I see a road map that leads us to a .500 season. It's there in the roster. It's just such a narrow pathway that I don't think it's feasible. When Granderson was signed, we were all excited. It was the beginning of a new era, but the phrase I kept hearing was, "This is great, so long as it's not the end." But it was the end. First and short went unaddressed, and there are a ton of questions for this team. I don't blame Alderson, really. His hands are pretty firmly tied by ownership in regards to what he can and can't do. There were players and options out there, but it's pretty clear how business is going to be conducted in Queens for the foreseeable future.

I really hope this team doesn't suck. I want to watch the Mets to see them win, not just to see the exciting young players develop on a muddling team. I just don't think this is the year.

When Should We Expect Syndergaard?

The USA Today ran a nice article about Noah Syndergaard, the super sized right handed pitching prospect that has been turning heads in Port St. Lucie at Mets Spring Training. In it, they noted the fanfare and excitement that has accompanied his throwing sessions...
Fans roam the Mets' training facility in Port St. Lucie, Fla., like so many other spring sites, but they don't get close to the real sideshow.
The mounds pitchers use for the bullpen sessions are well beyond the sight of fans. Isolated but, when the phenom of the year pitches, not deserted.
When Syndergaard threw for the first time this spring there were – besides manager Terry Collins, the usual coaches and dozens of reporters, photographers and camera operators – owner Fred Wilpon, two of his grandchildren plus his son, Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon; general manager Sandy Alderson and assistant GM Paul DePodesta.
Photo by Michael Baron
It went on to detail how he pitched, including a high 90's fastball, improved changeup from last year, and an impressive curveball. With all of this promise and all these expectations, the next question is natural: when will he make his way to Queens?

Daisuke Matsuzaka, John Lannan, and Jenrry Mejia are all in competition for the fifth spot. Mejia has the most upside, the other two would be basically placeholders. So at what point should we expect Syndergaard to get the call?

If history is any indicator, a June/July debut, most likely after the Super Two date has passed and his eligibility for arbitration will be pushed back another year, providing the Mets with another year of extremely cheap team control. If the reports are true, however, it sounds like he'll be worth the wait.

February 25, 2014

Mets Won't Be Alone In Pursuit Of Nick Franklin

It was bound to happen,but the Mets can now be certain they won't be the only ones who come calling if and when the Seattle Mariners choose to trade Nick Franklin.  As mentioned right here earlier this morning, the Mets are expected to reengage the Mariners regarding Franklin later this spring.  Per a report by Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, they won't be alone.

Heyman cites "sources" that the Tampa Bay Rays have entered the discussion for Franklin and even goes as far as saying that the Rays may match up better than the Mets, as a result of previous discussions between the teams that centered around David Price.  Its fair to note that the Rays usually have a formidable farm system, however they were ranked in the middle of the pack (behind the Mets) this past fall by Baseball America.

Adam Rubin also recently reported that the Rays were close to pulling off a trade for Nick Franklin already, tweeting:
This could raise the ante for the Mets, who've publicly been hesitant to deal their better pitching prospects.  It remains to be seen what it will take, because any trade is likely still a few weeks from occurring.  The Mariners won't be inclined to trade Franklin until the season nears.  He currently provides the team depth, that they could need if one ore more members of the roster fall victim to injury.  Until then, we're left the speculate where this is all headed.

Can Ike Davis Still Be Successful In New York?

With a single outburst yesterday, in just the first week of official spring training, Ike Davis took what was an unfortunate story and turned it into one with legs.  Yes, Ike's comments about a nagging oblique injury in 2013 sounded like an excuse when they were printed in the New York Post.  Yes, his unwillingness to admit to the injury when it mattered may have hurt the team.  However, its the outburst, which isn't his first, that may be telling.

Ike Davis' time in Queens hasn't gone smoothly.  Seemingly on a path to superstardom following his freshman campaign, his career has derailed.  Since that time, Ike has experienced season ending injuries and slumps that have lasted months.  Its all one can do to wonder whether or not Davis' rookie season was a fluke.

His struggles have been marred by what appears, at least to the TV viewer, to be an ever present issue with the home plate umpire.  There were reports of an outburst when he wasn't immediately recalled from the minors last season, apparently feeling entitled to the major league first base role.  And now, the mess he created yesterday.

Davis' struggles on the field have drawn him the ire of fans and the warranted criticism of reporters.  He has not lived up to his potential, and would have already been sent packing if the team's front office could have found someone willing to pay the price.  His place with the team is fragile.  Going after members of the media certainly isn't going to help his cause.  His plight is rapidly reaching the point of no return, with a hint of self-sabotage nowadays.

Although he wouldn't be the first, it's come time to question whether or not Ike Davis is cut out to play in the big city.  The Mets may not have a big market payroll, but they remain mired in big market media coverage.  Its one thing for Davis to struggle on the field, and another all together to struggle off of it.  Yesterday's outburst only increases the attention on a player who hasn't had an unpressured at-bat in nearly two years.

The Mets have enough issues in enough places that they simply don't need a media circus before the first spring training game even takes place.  Perhaps all parties involved would benefit from a change in scenery.  If that doesn't happen, its quite clear Ike may be on his last life in Queens.  The former first baseman of the future now figures to be a thing of the past and we're left to wonder if his time here was ever salvageable. 

Mets Signing Drew Makes Even More Sense Now

You probably read earlier reports from the Mets world and at Effing Mets that Ruben Tejada has yet again underwhelmed the Mets Brass. This coming off the heels of him spending two months this winter at a fitness camp in Michigan. This makes two years in a row that he hasn't impressed the organization when he desperately should have. There are also reports indicating that the Mets might re-engage the Mariners to acquire Nick Franklin and the names floated in a deal are that of Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom.

Based on this latest information there is ZERO reason that the Mets shouldn't sign Stephen Drew. And more importantly meet his asking price or darn near close. This is two freaking years in a row that Tejada can't get his act together. Does Sandy and the gang just think some kind of magic is going to happen and we will have the second coming of Jose Reyes? Fat chance and pun intended. Seems like the guy (Tejada) could care less at this point. Signing Drew to a 2-3 year contract allows the Mets to have a solid presence as SS while allowing other minor league prospects to develop and not be rushed. Montero and deGrom can be kept and put to good use or part of a package for someone better than Franklin on down the road.

Get off the pot already Sandy!
Photo Courtesy: gotitletown.blogspot.com
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What Is Vic Black's Role In The Mets Bullpen?

Last night, during the Stache Radio broadcast (the podcast of which can be found here), I posed a question via Twitter to Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal regarding Vic Black. I asked if he had a chance to see him live this spring, and his thoughts in regards to Black in the eighth inning role. Diamond had this to say:
"Vic Black... the Mets did very well in acquiring him. He's a guy that has great stuff, great potential, throws hard. With him, it really comes down to one thing, and that's his command... There is no questioning the stuff.
"He's a guy that you're going to see get an opportunity to be that set-up guy. He's gonna be a guy that the Mets are hoping will pitch in late inning situations, high leverage situations. I think he was a good get for them." 
Diamond went on to say that Black will almost certainly make the team out of Spring Training, although the franchise would like to see him bring his walk rate down and throw for more strikes.

This is largely what I'd hoped to hear about Black. Brought in from the Pirates in the trade that sent them John Buck and Marlon Byrd, Black could prove to be a steal for what amounted to a couple of rental players. I'd like to see him in the pros, if nothing else to be under the eye of pitching coach Dan Warthen, who has done a pretty good job with the rest of the staff. If Black performs, he can help plug a hole in a bullpen that was a considerable weakness for last year's Mets.

As an aside, if you're ever free on a Monday or Wednesday, you should check out the Total Sports Blog Radio and Stache Radio shows. They're call in and Twitter interactive, and it's a good place for insightful sports discussions. With Jared Diamond this week, and Marc Carig of Newsday on next week, they're bringing in some pretty good guests for information and opinion on the Mets.

Tejada Is Still Out Of Shape?

The New York Post is now two for two in generating what will be the story of the day this week, with Kevin Kernan reporting that the Mets are not overly impressed with Ruben Tejada's offseason transformation after spending two months at a Michigan fitness camp.  Kernan cites an anonymous (of course) source, who states that Tejada "looks pretty much the same."

Its a curious article, considering the Mets are yet to play a single game this spring.  Tejada seemingly passed the eye tests upon reporting to camp, definitely looking more slender if not borderline muscular.  That's a distinct departure from the doughy shortstop who struggled last season.  With that said, passing the eye test doesn't mean he'll play better and that's what really matters to the Mets who are still in search of a long term answer at the shortstop position.

It figures to be a rough camp to Tejada between stories such as this and what can only be characterized as an uncertain future.  The team continues to monitor the Stephen Drew situation and has now been tied to trade rumors for young Seattle shortstop, Nick Franklin.  Transformation or not, Tejada may be auditioning for a role off the bench regardless of how well he plays this spring.

Mets And Mariners Expected To Discuss Franklin Later This Spring

Citing a team source with knowledge of the situation, ESPN's Adam Rubin reported yesterday that the Mets have already and are expected to discuss the possibility of acquiring Nick Franklin from the Seattle Mariners later this spring.  This comes just days after Rubin was the first to report on the possibility.

Franklin finished the 2013 season as the Mariners' every day second baseman.  He has since come expendable via the acquisition of Robinson Cano.  Due to a lengthy history at shortstop throughout his minor league development, Franklin could become the the Mets long awaited upgrade at the position.  However, there are mixed reviews about his ability to handle the position with some scouts stating he grades out as average at the position and others questioning both his range and arm strength.  One thing remains certain, Franklin would almost certainly represent a significant offensive upgrade as he is expected to hit for a high average and could provide 15+ home runs over a full season.

When discussions resume, the Mets will have had to determine for themselves if Franklin can field the position.  Only then can they determine what cost they are willing to pay.  The Mariners have been long rumored to seek starting pitching, something the Mets have plenty of.  To date the Mets have been unwilling to part with their better prospects via trade, but it seems unanimous that Franklin will cost a prospect of Jacob deGrom's caliber, if not Rafael Montero.

Franklin would remain under team control through the 2019 season, and isn't eligible for arbitration until 2017.  That should make him an attractive option for the frugal Mets.  Acquiring him would bolster the lineup and also improve the team's bench.  It would also provide them with options going forward.  Although questions remain about his ability to play shortstop, if the Mets were to decide to upgrade later Franklin could potentially shift over the second and replace the increasingly expensive Daniel Murphy.

Whats clear here, is that the potential still exists for the Mets to improve the team prior to opening day..if they're willing the pay the price.  Young, cheap shortstops are hard to come by, assuming the Mets feel he is capable enough to handle the role.  You can expect this story to pick up steam if he does indeed become available, but expect that to be later in the spring when both the Mets and the Mariners know more about their team and their needs going forward.

February 24, 2014

Time for the Mets to Make a Bold Move

The Mets front office has done a great job amassing talent in its minor league system. The Number 6 ranking is a testament to the skill with which Sandy Alderson and the scouting staff have upgraded what was once an empty shelf.  Of course, none of that minor league talent matters if the players don't produce at the Major League level.   The clearest depth the Mets have is their pitching, both at the Major League level and in the minors.  There is simply no way all of the supposed phenoms will be able to pitch for the big league club.  So before they all outgrow their shiny "hot prospect" label, let's put together a trade for the one commodity every team wants and needs and that the Mets in particular sorely lack: power.

Giancarlo Stanton is going to be traded by the Florida Marlins.  They can't pay him the contract he is looking for - reportedly close to the eight year $135M Freddie Freeman just got from the Braves.  They want Major League ready talent, presumably to pitch on the days Jose Fernandez doesn't.  The Mets have that talent and should be willing to part with it to acquire one of the game's premier power hitters.  Noah Syndergaard is out of the question.  Zack Wheeler might not be, depending on what else the Marlins want.  Montero, Mejia, Familia, Leathersich, Mazzoni, Matz, de Grom.  Any one of them, plus Wheeler, and it's a deal.  If they want two of the prospects, then either Gee or Niese, but not Wheeler.  If they want a power prospect in return, Caesar Puello has been tearing it up at AAA, (Biogenesis notwithstanding) and if they insist on him, then we get to pick the second minor league pitcher, whether the deal includes Wheeler or not. If Alderson is true to form, he also plucks a low A ball prospect from the Marlins, who compliments the current depth of the Mets minor league system.

Both sides would benefit:  the Marlins would get two, potentially three Major League pitchers, controllable for at least another four or five years (depending on whom they select) and the Mets would get the power hitter they so desperately need.  The money shouldn't be that big an issue for the Mets - Chris Young's $7.5M comes off the books next year, meaning Stanton would only cost $10M in additional salary.  If Alderson wants fans back in the seats, he has to make the investment in top quality players that will result in winning baseball.

2015 could be a spectacular year for the Mets.  The return of Matt Harvey.  Noah Syndergaard with a solid foundation of Major League experience under his belt.  At least two other young starting pitchers (two of either Gee, Niese and Wheeler) and Bartolo Colon.  A lineup that would have Murphy, Wright, Stanton and Granderson batting 2 through 5.  The ability to upgrade their holes at first and short through free agency.

With the realization that 2014 hasn't even begun yet, it's never too early to start thinking about next year - and least if you're a Mets fan.

Ike Davis Needs To Put His Head Down, Play Ball

Ike Davis, as you have heard by now, has run into a bit of media trouble, and not for the first time. He seems to have developed a little bit of a set of rabbit ears with how he is written and spoken about in the papers and on the radio. Here is audio of Davis' confrontation with Mike Puma, the reporter who wrote the article concerning Ike keeping an oblique strain from team management:



Frankly, coming off of his last few awful seasons, this is the last type of attention that Ike needs.He should be focused on playing ball, improving his swing, and not striking out 200 times. It seems like a story that replays itself over and over again, especially in New York: athletes have nothing to gain from confronting a reporter. They control the message, and the player doesn't. Befriend the media. Frankly, a player with a better rapport with the writers probably never even has this story come out.

Times like this I wonder if Davis just isn't a player who can prosper in New York.

Ike Davis Selfishly Hid Injury In 2013

Late last night, Mike Puma of the New York Post reported that embattled first baseman, Ike Davis, failed to report an oblique injury to team management for the majority of the 2013 season.  In doing so, Davis put himself in front of the team.  Davis explained:

“I thought about saying, ‘Hey, I would like to take a couple of weeks off, because 
I’m not feeling great, but then the timing was bad and it was when I was getting sent 
down. It would have been a great time, but it looks bad and I just can’t say that. It 
makes me look like a baby. It looks like I’m whining about how I [stunk]. I was 
terrible, now it’s over.”

Davis was batting just .161 when he was demoted to Triple-A Las Vegas on June 10th.  At that point, Davis had forced the Mets and their fans to endure more than two months of absolutely awful baseball on his part.  Davis represented a void in the middle of the lineup that helped to contribute to a 23-35 record by the time he was sent down.

Davis continued:

“I probably should have said something earlier, but what are you going to do? I 
wanted to play better, I didn’t want to come out. If I was hitting .380, I probably would 
have been like, ‘Maybe I should let this cool down so I don’t miss [extensive] time,’ but
 when you’re hitting .200, you can’t take weeks off. “It wasn’t to the point I couldn’t 
swing. It would hurt the first couple of swings pretty bad in practice, but if I just got it
 loose it was better. But, yeah, it was just bad timing. “I had an oblique injury for the 
whole season, basically."

Ikes season came to an end on August 31st when the oblique finally let go and there was no hiding it any longer.  His final offensive stat line was a gruesome .205 with 9 home runs and just 33 runs batted in over 317 at-bats.

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There's no two ways about this.  It was an epically selfish move by Davis.  What his year the different between 74 wins and a playoff run? No.  But when a team is struggling so mightily to score runs, Davis simply has to do whats best for the team.  Instead he did what he thought was best for Ike.  that too is probably why this information finally became public.  An oblique injury at least partially explains his lackluster season.  It certainly explains his power struggles last year and, if true, means a rebound season is more likely.

The Mets now have some decisions to make.  ESPN's Adam Rubin believes this news makes it more likely Davis is traded. I'm trying to decide if it makes him more or less valuable.  Is Ike more likely to rebound in 2014 assuming he's healthy?  Sure, but how many teams are going to line up to take on a player they may not be able to trust.  Its difficult to see where Ike's motivations lie in this instance.  On some level I'm sure he thinks he's defending himself, but in reality I think he just hurt himself more in the long run.

February 23, 2014

Mets Announce Starting Pitchers For First Six Spring Training Games

The Mets today announced that Rafael Montero will start the team's spring opener this upcoming Friday against the Washington Nationals.  If you're waiting to get a good luck at top prospect, Noah Syndergaard, you'll have to wait until he takes the bump next Tuesday against the Houston Astros.

Slightly surprised we won't see Jenrry Mejia early on, as he figures to be the front runner for the first start in the rotation.  Instead his competition, both John Lannan and Daisuke Matsuzaka will get the first crack at impressing the team's brass.  Regardless, these first outings will be short and nearly useless when it comes to comparing the team's options going forward.

Ruben Tejada, The Unwanted Man

 Marc Carig of Newsday wrote a pretty good article about Ruben Tejada's offseason of coping with a bad year and how he is looking to improve both physically and mentally. Some excerpts from the article:

"The only promise I make is that I'll go every day to the field ready to work hard and play hard, to try to do the best for me, my family, for everybody,'' Tejada said. "That's the only promise I make every time.''
"There was too much thinking about the errors and the bad moments that happened,'' he said as he looked back on his brutal 2013. "That's why I'm trying to separate the days and [approach them] the same way.''"It surprised me because I know this is my job, my profession,'' he said. "I tried to work hard every day to come here in good shape.''
I mean, great that he wants to try harder now. He was 23 years old last year, and while I can't speak for the rest of you, I was pretty dumb and lazy at 23. He's maturing as a person and as a player, in the face of a franchise and a fan base that is pretty open about not really wanting the guy.

That said, I still don't think he's a terribly talented player. I think we're going to find that the year he put up those .280's batting averages were the aberration, not the down years. He looked lost at the plate at times last year. Between a combination of him regressing to his mean and the league adjusting to him a bit better, I just don't think he can return to those numbers.


Why Mets Fans Shouldn't Be Upset About The Nelson Cruz Deal

Yesterday's news that Nelson Cruz signed with the Baltimore Orioles for just one year and only $8 million dollars was met with significant vitrol from a variety of Mets fans who choose to remain ignorant to the reality of the situation.  Chris Young signed with the Mets back on November 26th.  At that time, Nelson Cruz was rumored to be looking for a minimum of a five-year deal.  In early December it was rumored that he turned down a 5-year/$75 million dollar offer from the Seattle Mariners.  Fast forward two plus months, with teams reporting the camp that free agents have to make tough decisions.

If Mets fans think the team could have landed Nelson Cruz for the deal he signed yesterday back before the New Year, I've got a bridge to sell them. The two situations are complete different and any attempt to compare the two is nonsensical.

In reaction to the news of the Cruz deal, Mets GM Sandy Alderson told David Lennon of NewsDay the following:

"It's not just a different time frame, it's a different type of player. I'm not here to 
critique Nelson Cruz, but he's a very different player. He brings power to the table, 
no question about that. Doesn't bring the defense. Doesn't really have our approach, 
necessarily. This is not a 'gee whiz, if we-just waited' moment for us. We're happy
 with Chris Young.''

Fans will view this as a ringing endorsement for Chris Young, but they must both realize and understand that Alderson simply cannot take to the podium and say "we wish we would have signed Cruz."  That's not how you manage personnel.  Alderson was tasked with rebuilding the team's outfield this winter.  Striking early with Chris Young may have been an overpay, but it was also an attempt to get out ahead of the free agent market when things seemed to be spiraling out of control.  Two months later when teams are out of money and free agents are out of appealing options, and yesterday's deal is the result.

Finally, for those who feel the Mets should have signed Cruz despite the fact that they already have a full outfield. If you were a free agent outfielder settling for a one-year deal which you hope to use to elevate your stock for next winter, would you choose to take most of your at-bats in Camden Yards or Citi Field? That answer is easy.

Will Nelson Cruz hit more home runs than Young in 2014?  Will he hit for a higher average?  Would he have solidified the meat of the Mets' lineup better than Chris Young?  Probably.  However, none of that changes the fact that these things don't happen in a vacuum.  Expecting the team's front office to see the future without fail is unrealistic.  Chris Young is a Met.  Nelson Cruz isn't.  Fans need to realize that its very unlikely that was ever going to happen, regardless of when you think Alderson should have sealed the deal.

Stephen Drew Should Sign With the Mets

Okay, I have posted many times regarding this subject and have gone back and forth based on the rumors and sources citing Drew. Now I am completely back peddling. I apologize but this is my right.

Stephen Drew should sign the contract if it is still available and now.

Why? At $9.whatever million it is a good deal for a decent player. Is he the savior? No. Can he do a decent job? Yes and again, at that price is reasonable. Maybe Sandy could even sweeten it with a club option, pick it up or decline it based on production. I don't know if its an option but wonder if they could decline and make him a qualifying offer to recoup the pick lost from this year? Again, don't know the rules on that just wondering.

So then, what about Tejada? I was talking with @GetsThruBuckner and his thought was that Ruben could hit some against lefties. I think it is a great idea and might make him work harder and in the end Drew not playing every day might lessen his chances of his routine trip to the DL.

Your move Stephen but consider this, Nelson Cruz who does suck defensively beat you in almost every offensive category signed today for about $1.5 million less than you have been offered.
Photo Courtesy: buncee.com
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February 22, 2014

Mets Should Never Have Been Suitors For Nelson Cruz


Bingo.

Citi Field is too big for Nelson Cruz to be loping around in at his decelerated pace. I'm sure his offense, even if down without the PED's, would have been an uptick from some of what we saw last year, but he was not that good away from Texas anyway. I happen to think Chris Young will also turn out to be a mistake, but it doesn't mean Nelson Cruz was the way to go. Additionally, when the Mets were in the market for an outfielder, Cruz was requesting an absurd contract.

To his last point, people are up in arms because Cruz was not pursued more aggressively, but waffle back and forth on Stephen Drew. Here's what we know about the Mets right now:

They don't want to commit to anyone long term.

They don't have a ton of money.

Their shortstop is terrible.

There is a free agent out there who can accommodate all of those criteria. And for the crowd that says the addition of Drew doesn't put them over the top or make them a playoff team: of course he doesn't. No one player is going to do that for this team. You build a better team through a series of improvements.

Harvey's First Throwing Session A Success

This is terrible.

No, really, it's great. It's virtually meaningless, but it's good. I'll still be angry if Harvey pitches this season, because I can't see the team having anything to play for come September, but any good news during rehab is just that: good news.

Las Vegas Has The Mets At 73.5 Wins

This week, the Las Vegas Hilton Superbook put out their predictions for the upcoming 2014 MLB season.  It's probably to no one's surprise that they have the Mets coming in with a total of 73.5 wins.  They are also 25-1 odds of being the NL East champions this season, which to me really doesn't seem that high considering the negativity surrounding this team.  I'll give my take on the Mets in a moment, but onto to the rest of the NL East.

The Hilton has the NL East as follows:

Wins
Atlanta - 87.5
Washington - 87.5
Philly - 76
METS - 73.5
Miami - 69.5

Division Odds
Atlanta - even money
Washington - even money
Philly - 12-1
METS - 25-1
Miami - 30-1

I think for the most part, there are no shocking totals here.  The division could and probably should come down to Atlanta and Washington.  This is pretty much on line with how the season finished last season.  All of the teams, including the two at the top, have some question marks, but I think this is fair.

The Mets finished with 74 wins last year, which means Vegas is essentially saying that they haven't improved or gotten worse.  I'm going to pick the over.  I don't care if I get ridiculed for it, I don't think it's a bad bet.  I also don't think its a sure thing.  But I expect this team to be better for a few reasons.

First off, I really don't think that the play from our first basemen and short stop can get any worse than it did last year.  Last year was probably rock bottom for both Ike and Duda, as well as Tejada.  In the past, these guys have all shown they can handle big league pitching, and for whatever excuse they each had, they were all just awful in 2013.  Tejada and Duda both went to the performance camp this winter, and I expect that gains were made from it.  So it's not unreasonable to see improvements from the two black holes we had last season.

Secondly, I expect Travis d'Arnaud to be better in 2014.  He did not impress in his call up last season.  Let's not forget though, prior to his promotion, he played only 99 baseball games in 23 months since the end of the 2012 minor league season.  I'm not making excuses for him, but I consider last year a wash. He was working his way back into shape and had all sorts of pressure on him. This year he comes back to camp, hopefully in shape and healthy.  He has shown he can hit in his minor league career.  Although I am not expecting him to be Mike Piazza, I think he still can be one of the better catchers in the game  After April last year, we got zero production from behind the plate.  Black hole number three should be filled.

My next point is that I think the addition of Curtis Granderson will help David Wright more than people think.  Even thought he has his faults, Granderson is a bona fide power hitter and a good clubhouse presence.  I think having him in the line-up will take a lot of pressure off Wright.  I know people are saying that Granderson only replaces Marlon Byrd, but let's look at it from start to finish.  Byrd wasn't even playing every day in April and May.  And in those months, he was hitting .240 with 6 home runs.  He didn't get hot until June.  So at the beginning of the season, what did Marlon Byrd do for David Wright?  Not much of anything.  Having a guy like Granderson in the line-up on opening day is good for every one's psyche, especially Wright's.

Moving on, even without Harvey, the Mets still have solid pitching.  The rotation is deeper this year.  Harvey is being replaced by another all-star pitcher.  Ok, am I really comparing Colon to Harvey?  No.  But as long as he is healthy, how much worse is Colon going to be, in a pitchers park against the NL? He is going to be fine.  I'd like to think Wheeler will improve, although I'm not expecting a Harvey like rise to stardom in year two.  Either way, the guy can chuck it.  Dillon Gee really took a big leap last year.  And don't forget, he started off terribly in 2013.  But he was coming off the surgery to remove the blood clot from his pitching arm.  When he finally got his arm strength back, he was as reliable as anyone in the rotation. Although I am not expecting him to match his Post May-2013, I think he will be steady and give the team a chance. Niese is Niese. You know what you're getting. As for the fifth spot, I'm really hoping Mejia gets it.  If he does, then I think top to bottom the Mets rotation is as deep and competitive as almost any team in the National League.  This rotation is much improved over last years opening day rotation of Neise, Harvey, Marcum, Gee and Hefner.

The X-factor for this team is going to be Chris Young.  I'm not expecting much.  However I hold on to hope that the former all-star spent this offseason trying to rediscover himself in search of a multiyear deal after 2014.  You've seen it before.  Guys all of a sudden turn on a light when it's time to get paid.  I'm not banking on it, but it'll be big for this team if he somehow can have a Byrd like resurgance.

A lot of what I just said was obviously just assumption.  Like I've said in the past, I'm not an expert, and I won't pretend to be.  The oddsmakers in Vegas are very good at what they do, and I'm sure they have their legitimate reasons why they think the Mets are a 73-74 win team. For the hell of it though, I'm going to give my over/under. As the roster stands right now, my over under is 78.5 wins. If they wind up signing Drew, I'll make that 81.5. I'm obviously banking on a lot of things to go right for this team.  But I expect players who spent their offseason trying hard to become better ball players to actually be better ball players. I don't think that's all that crazy a notion. And if they are better ball players, then they're a better baseball team. I'll also could just be unusually optimistic this morning.  Who knows?  If I wrote this exactly when I woke up today, I might have been singing a different tune. Either way, call me a homer or a shill or whatever you want.  I don't think What I wrote is all that outlandish.

I know most will disagree with me.  Give me the business on Twitter @GetsThruBuckner.

Parnell Expected To Throw Bullpen Today

ESPN's Adam Rubin reported this morning that Mets' closer Bobby Parnell will throw his first bullpen session since Tuesday.

Parnell was originally scheduled to throw a bullpen on Thursday, but instead requested an extra day of rest from Dan Warthen, which he was granted.  Despite not throwing that day, he did run infield drills during which he slightly injured his quad.  That injury prevented him from throwing his rescheduled bullpen session yesterday.

If he does indeed throw today, something he will need to be cleared by doctors to do, it will ensure that the quad injury was minimal, as indicated.  Parnell has been slated by the Mets to make his first in-game appearance on March 9th and to make a total of nine spring appearances before camp breaks.  It remains unclear if this delay alters that timeline.

Its Matt Harvey Day..Sorta

Today, for the first time in four months Matt Harvey will be allowed to pick up a baseball and throw it. Unfortunately, he won't be throwing it for strikes in the high-90s with little to no run support. Instead he will be throwing lightly, about twenty times from a distance of 60 feet.

This marks the next step in Harvey's road to recovery from the Tommy John surgery to repair a torn UCL in his throwing arm, that ultimately ended his 2013 season. The good news is that Harvey is on time, if not a little early in his rehab. The bad news is he is still probably 13+ months away from throwing in a meaningful game when he returns to the Mets to open the 2015 season, barring any serious setbacks.

For now though, we should take what we get. It appears that media will be in our ear all season long as Harvey rehabs. To be quite honest, I'm not sure Harvey would have it any other way.

Heyman: Mets Offered Drew 1 year/$9.5M

According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the Mets have made an offer to free-agent Stephen Drew, however that offer amounted just one-year and $9.5 million dollars.  Specifically, Heyman said:

"The Mets suggested a salary close to the range of the $9.5 million Drew made last 
year, an unusual no-raise try that had little chance. It's no wonder then that GM Sandy 
Alderson has termed a Drew signing “unlikely,” but the Mets would appear to have
 about the greatest need."

Heyman may be correct that the Mets still have the greatest need.  He may also be correct that a salary offer identical to what Drew made in 2013 had little chance, however I'm not so sure it was a low ball offer by the Mets front office.

The Mets and Red Sox remain the only two teams directly linked to Drew this winter.  The Mets don't appear set to break the bank, and the Red Sox have grown increasingly non-committal when discussing the free agent shortstop..because they don't need him.  If $9.5 million is the richest offer he's received to date, it is certainly possible for another team (maybe one of the two mystery teams Boras suggests) to sweep in and sign Drew now that Spring Training has begun.  With that said, I'll be surprised if Drew gets the 3 year deal worth $14 million annually that he supposedly covets.

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I'll be honest.  I'm not longer enamored with Stephen Drew.  With the exception of 10-12 home runs, I'm not sure he offers much of an upgrade over Ruben Tejada.  However, with that said I don't really care if the Mets offer him $5, $10 or $20 million, as long as its a one year deal.  Ideally, I'd like to see the Mets make the trade for Nick Franklin, which was rumored yesterday.  Although Drew is better defensively, Franklin would likely provide similar offensive production, is much younger and would remain much cheaper for years to come.

February 21, 2014

Matt Harvey Will Throw Tomorrow

Per Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News, Matt Harvey will take his rehab to the next phase. It'll be exactly four months since the date of his Tommy John Surgery and according to Matt Cerrone of MetsBlog, he will throw about twenty pitchers from about twenty feet.

Its becoming quite easy to see why the Mets want Harvey to rehab in Florida, as opposed to remaining with the team for the duration of the 2014 season.  Spring training is only a few days old and Harvey has dominated headlines, even seeking out the media.  The Mets were apparently upset that he took it upon himself to break the news that he had been cleared  to begin throwing.  A season full of constant coverage of his rehab and personal life could easily become a distraction to a team that should have its hands full simply remaining competitive in the NL East.

Mets Catchers Will Not Block The Plate, Sadly

This is, to me, a little stupid. Of course, I'm a little biased, because I think the very idea of blocking the plate being against the rules is silliness. I know these players are investments, and I know fans pay big money to see the starters play, but this was a part of the game that led to some awesome moments and terrific highlights. This is not football; these players are not suffering from PTSD. Buster Posey missed time after a collision at home, and now that part of the game is probably going to be banned.

Sandy Alderson, along with the catchers and management, making the decision beforehand not to block the plate is even worse. What happened to laying it all on the line for your teammates? Is this not permission for all of the players to not play their hardest if they feel as though it may lead to injury? I hope the catchers fought this tooth and nail, and I hope, if the rules don't change, in the moment of truth they block the plate. It's a part of the game.

Mets Injury Report

Adam Rubin is at spring training and had this to say regarding prospect Chasen Bradford.

And then not too long after I see this on Twitter as well.
Well, that didn't take long now did it? Bradford doesn't bother me too much as he wasn't expected to contribute at the major league level but Bobby does. A quad injury can linger on without proper rest and rest equals not throwing. He is coming back after neck surgery and any kind of set back isn't going to help him or the Mets. I suppose this kind of thing can be expected since he hasn't done any kind of baseball movements for so long but man, it would be nice if for once things could just go as planned.

Mets Offseason Grade

Now that the boys have made their way to spring training, we can for the first time truly try to assess what was and what wasn't accomplished this winter.  The Mets exited 2013 in a state of disrepair.  The club's lone redeeming qualities were that their franchise player was under contract, that the young starting pitching prospects have started to arrive and more than $50 million was set to come off the payroll.

The primary tasks at hand, in no particular order, would be to renovate an almost nonexistent outfield, replace ailing ace Matt Harvey, upgrade the shortstop position, and finally to determine the fate of Ike Davis.  Some other areas of concern would be a backup catcher and the normal addressing of the team's questionable bullpen.

Fast forward about five months and Sandy Alderson made what you could consider three major acquisitions.  The first was a one year-$7.25 million dollar deal to Chris Young.  The second, a four year-$60 million dollar deal to Curtis Granderson.  And finally, the two year-$20 million dollar deal to Bartolo Colon.  Of that group, Young's deal was met with the most scrutiny as questions remain as to whether or not he can rebound as an every day player.  There were also some lower cost veteran acquisitions who would complete for both spots in the rotation (Lannan & Matsuzaka) and the bullpen (Valverde & Farnsworth).

Areas that weren't addressed included both the shortstop and Ike Davis situations, despite what amount to very long draw out almost soap operaish attempts to complete each. In reality, each may still work themselves out between now and opening day, but today they remain unaddressed and a hindrance to the 2014 season.  Finally Alderson chose not to upgrade the backup catcher, leaving Anthony Recker as the lone option to the oft-injured Travis d'Arnaud.  A major problem?  Not currently, but if d'Arnaud does fall to injury the Mets could have a crisis on their hands.

If you're trying to grade a winter such as this, it really come down to whether or not the Mets are poised to field a better team.  On the surface, I think the 2014 Mets have a lot more upside.  I think players like Granderson and Young have the potential to outperform their predecessors.  I also think the Mets rotation can be plenty formidable.  However, the team still lacks answers at both shortstop and first base.  They're still far from a playoff contender and by most projections are only slated to win a few more games than last year.  That's really where I come up with a grade of C+ because the team does stand to be better, but with fifty million dollars to spend, not as much better as we'd all like.

Should Alderson find a way to upgrade the shortstop position and finally resolve the Ike Davis dilemma, all the while improving upon the current roster, I'm not against bumping my grade.  However until then, this was only a slightly above average offseason.  New faces in new places, but ultimately I expect similar results.

Could Mets and Mariners be Trade Partners?

In a dinner time post to ESPN New Yorks Mets Blog, Adam Rubin discussed the Mariners as a potential trade partner if the Mets would still like to upgrade the shortstop position prior to opening day.  Rubin specifically focuses in on Nick Franklin, who finished the 2013 season as the Mariners' every day second baseman.  With the winter acquisition of Robinson Cano, Franklin has become expendable and is likely to be traded prior to opening day.

Franklin was a first round pick of the Mariners in 2009.  Despite playing about two thirds of his minor league games at shortstop, which Franklin describes as his natural position, his defense is described as being "limited..offering only modest range and an arm that earns below-average to fringe-average grades" according to Baseball Prospectus.  His redeeming quality is undoubtedly his bat, despite hitting only .225 last season with an alarming 31% strike out percentage.  BP believes Franklin projects to hit for a high average, which he has done at every level of the minors, with the potential to hit 15-18 home runs.

If your trying to come up with a comparison, I would say Nick Franklin is Daniel Murphy with a little more pop and slightly better defense.  That begs the question, can the Mets afford to have two somewhat questionable defenders up the middle behind their young rotation?  Franklin would probably provide the caliber offensive upgrade that the long rumored Stephen Drew provides, however his defense doesn't compare.

Finally, its important to discuss cost.  Nick Franklin will be just 23 years old when the 2014 season starts.  The biggest cost he represents is the talent the Mets will have to send to Seattle to acquire him.  That caliber of talent is still unknown. MetsBlog's Matt Cerrone hypothesizes that the Mariners could be looking for someone like Vic Black.  I tend to disagree, because I can't envision the Mets parting with someone with Daniel Murphy's potential for a high upside reliever.  My guess would be it will take one of the Mets more formidable starting pitching prospects.  Rafael Montero comes to mind...

Ultimately, I would usually only give up Montero for someone who fills a need in the long term.  However in this case, the Mets would upgrade their offense and theoretically do so without paying $10-$12 million to Stephen Drew.  Furthermore, I'm not sure Montero has a place on the Mets in the long run.  I get the impression that its not if he is eventually traded, but when.  Franklin isn't eligible for arbitration until the 2017 season, meaning the Mets could allocate money elsewhere to fill the holes that remain.  That mean's this deal could be a win for years to come.

The Mets have spent years cultivating their farm system in order to have the chips to upgrade the franchise.  This is one of those times.  Making a move for someone of Franklin's caliber upgrades the team's lineup, bolsters their bench and addresses one of the front office's primary concerns when the offseason began.  I don't know if the Mets will ultimately land Franklin, but they should certainly try.

February 20, 2014

When Should We Be Worried About Bobby Parnell?

Bobby Parnell chose to push back his scheduled bullpen session today in Port Saint Lucie.  This according to a report by ESPN's Adam Rubin.  Parnell was two days removed from a 35 pitch bullpen session, his lengthiest since surgery, and decided another day of rest would benefit him.

The cancelled session didn't alarm team pitching coach, Dan Warthen, who told Rubin that Parnell's velocity "is probably at 80 percent right now, but the delivery is sound."  I suppose that's reassuring, and in reality it is too early to be overly worried, but if this becomes a pattern there could be come warranted concern that Parnell is not recuperating on time.

According to Rubin, the team has selected March 10th as the day Parnell will see his first in-game action.  They would also like to see him pitch in consecutive games prior to the break of camp.  Such a schedule would see Bobby make nine spring appearances.  At the very least, this gives us a bit of a timetable to minor for the next month or so.  If Parnell is really behind, we'll know by the second week of March.

Cory Vaughn Overcomes Diabetes Every Day

Via @mets
This tweet was shared by the Mets this morning, and linked to an interesting and inspiring article about Vaughn's journey to overcome juvenile diabetes, and to compete for a spot in the Major Leagues.

Vaughn, coming off of a solid season in AA-Binghamton for the Mets and after playing in the Arizona league this winter, is attending the Mets Spring Training in Port St. Lucie, Florida.

A couple of excerpts from the article:

Vaughn, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 11, wears an insulin pump in his back, left pocket to regulate his blood sugar, even while playing. He always slides on his right side because a needle with a catheter wrapped around it enters his body by his right glute...
As for the original symptoms that suggested he needed medical help, Vaughn said: “I was urinating a lot. I was always thirsty. I had no energy. I’d feel fine one second and then five minutes later I was like I was about to curl up in a ball. My eyes would get real dry. It’s a hard thing to describe...” 
Vaughn replaces the catheter every three days, but the insulin pump regulates his blood levels without him needing to inject himself.  
We joke around a lot on here and other places. In reality, this is a great thing and helps young kids diagnosed with this disease realize there are no barriers holding them back, and no goal too high to set. Vaughn uses his status as an athlete to be a role model for children diagnosed with the same condition, admirably, and hopefully will continue to do so in the future.

The Mets And an Open Wallet...

So, going into the off season the Mets had needs for more production and defense in the outfield and shortstop as well as filling the void left by Matt Harvey after season ending Tommy John surgery. This was done by adding Chris Young, Curtis Granderson, and Bartolo Colon. Now mind you these transactions were all made with a certain degree of financial restrictions be it from the banks or whatever the Wilpons have going on in the back ground. Nothing at shortstop has come to fruition and probably won't.

The Grandy and Colon deals I think were good. Both have star power, Colon was one of these best pitchers in the league last year at age 39 and if Granderson can stay healthy should be productive while being a presence in the clubhouse and community.

Now let's pretend for a moment that money isn't an issue. Say we didn't sign Young or let the Ike/Duda saga play out the way it did all winter and sign Nelson Cruz and Kendrys Morales. Are the Mets now contenders?

Suspension aside, Cruz hit .266/.327/.526 along with 27 homers and 76 batted in. Young on the other hand hit .202/.280/.379 with 12HR and 40RBI. So essentially Nelson had double the production playing in the same division. Offensively there isn't much comparison based on last years results but defense there is no question Young is better. I supposed the thinking is that Young has a bounce back year at the plate and comes close to that?

Morales hit .277/.366/.449 with 23 bombs and 80 knocked in. And between Ike and Duda they hit more home runs, were close in RBI's but not close in average or slugging. Defense comes into play on this one as well especially with Ike. Once again, they are more than likely hoping for Davis to regain his form and if he does comes as a much cheaper option but remember we aren't worried about dollars in this post.

Clearly, signing both of these FA's would be more sexy than what we have now and would satisfy the fan base but it becomes a question of which is more important. Defense and the hopes for better offense or just plain offense and take our lumps here and there in the field. What say you Mets faithful(un)?
Photo Courtesy: mets360.com
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Could Tejada and Duda Face Fatigue Issues This Season?

With the arrival of players this week in Port St. Lucie, fans got their first look at the likes of Ruben Tejada and Lucas Duda, who arrived in noticeably better shape with a full-time role on the line in 2014.  Both players, amongst others, spent much of their winter training at a fitness camp in Michigan.  The results are obvious, which each player appearing leaner and stronger.

How that translate on the diamond remains to be seen, but there is something else worth keeping an eye on.  These guys deviated from their normal offseason workout routine.  Its fair to assume that each put in significantly more effort this winter in years past.  How will that impact then as the year drags on?

The Major League Baseball season remains a six month long grind that sees players put their bodies through quite a bit.  There is little rest as the season progresses.  Its possible that Tejada and Duda, neither of whom enter camp on their normal rest, could struggle to keep their energy up in spite of being in better shape.  Could that result in injuries and/or poor play as spring drags into summer?  What impact could that have on the rest of the team if they can't contribute as expected?

This isn't to say that their offseason efforts were unwarranted.  Both players appeared slow and out of shape last season.  A regimented workout routine will likely serve them well over the remainder of their careers, but that doesn't mean it won't impact this season in a negative fashion.  I expect better play from each as the spring gets under way, but I still wonder what happens in the long run.

Mets Can't Force Harvey to Stay In Florida For Rehab

Something to keep an eye on as the season draws closer will be the rehab of Mets ace, Matt Harvey.  Since injuring his arm late last year, Harvey has strayed from the script multiple times when discussing the injury, the surgery to follow and now, the rehab.

You'll recall soon after the injury that Harvey felt he could rehab the injury and that he would be prepared to pitch this April, despite team reports that surgery would ultimately be required.  He later stated it took a bit of time for him to grasp the reality of the situation and opted for surgery that would rule him out for the entire 2014 season.  The Mets couldn't force Harvey to have that surgery.  As it turns out, they can tell him where to rehab from it either.

In a decent piece of digging by the NY Post's Ken Davidoff, it appears that Harvey can return to New York and stay with the team if that's what he decides to do.  Davidoff quotes the following excerpt from the collective bargaining agreement:

“A Club may direct a Player to perform prescribed rehabilitation work for an injury
 during the championship season at a rehabilitation facility at one of the following three
 sites: (a) in the Club’s home city; (b) on the road with the Club; or (c) at the Club’s 
spring training facility; provided, however, that a Club may not direct that a Player 
perform prescribed rehabilitation work for an injury at its spring training facility for a 
period of more than 20 days without the Player’s written consent.”

This isn't an issue to date, but Harvey hasn't been shy about his desire to remain with the team.  If he does so, it would be a deviation from standard operating procedure for the Mets, who usually have their walking wounded rehab in Florida.  Its a bit more important in Harvey's case, as his high profile night life and position with the team could serve as a distraction if he doesn't become more tactful with the media.  That however remains to be seen, but it remains clear that Harvey has the leverage in this instance and will ultimately decide where he rehabs from his season ending Tommy John Surgery.

Mets Position Players Officially Report Today!

Photo Courtesy Of @Lets86It
Mets position players will officially report to spring training today, despite the fact that nearly everyone has already done so.  In fact, the only two players who are yet to arrive are Omar Quintanilla and Wilfredo Tovar.  They are likely to draw the ire of Mets skipper, Terry Collins, who prefers everyone to be in camp early.  Nonetheless, for the first time in 2014 we can officially say: Lets Go Mets!!

February 19, 2014

Mets: Drew Isn't Worth The Money

Just this morning I wrote that the Mets aren't really in the running for Stephen Drew and this evening comes word that the Mets aren't interested as things stand right now. Its been rumored that Drew still seeks $14 million annually and that's a number the Mets simply aren't willing to meet.

Anthony Dicomo of MLB.com cited a anonymous source stating that the Mets don't think Drew is worth the money.  They're probably right.  As I said today, the Mets will continue to monitor the situation.  Should Drew's asking price fall closer to  $10 million, expect the Mets to reengage.  Until then, try to make piece with Ruben Tejada as your every day shortstop.