Gut Reaction: Mets 5, Phillies 1 (4/22/19)

Steven Matz pitched six strong innings, Pete Alonso drove in two runs and Jeff McNeil hit his first home run of the year to lead the Mets to a 5-1 victory over the Phillies in the first of a three-game set at Citi Field Monday night.

After getting lit up in his last start against these same Phillies, Matz was in control much of the night. He was also helped a bit by some close calls by the home plate ump. Bryce Harper was less than thrilled with the calls that went against him and when he thought his teammate was getting bad calls, too, he let umpire Mark Carlson what he really thought and ended up being ejected for the 12th time in his career.

Matz allowed just three hits in six innings and fanned six. He picked up his first win at home since April 13, 2018, 15 games since his last Citi Field victory.

Alonso had an RBI double in the third inning and plated his second run of the game when he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the seventh. McNeil’s homer came in the fifth inning, right after Jake Arrieta did not get a call on a pitch he believed was a strike.

Mickey Callaway opted to use his three best relievers to close out the game. Seth Lugo, Jeurys Familia and Edwin Diaz each contributed a hitless frame, making the Mets 10-0 this year in games they’ve led after the sixth inning.

Poll: What do you think of the Braves’ pitching additions?

Bartolo Colon (8) and R.A. Dickey (5) have combined to play for 13 teams but as Mets fans we tend to think of them as ours. So, it was a bit curious when the Braves went out and added these guys to their rotation. On top of that connection, both of these pitchers have another thing in common, as they are both members of the 40-plus club, with Colon turning 44 next May and Dickey having just turned 42.

The last team to have two 40-something guys in their rotation for at least 10 starts was the 1990 Texas Rangers, who featured both Charlie Hough and Nolan Ryan. Hough went 12-12 while Ryan went 13-9 for a Rangers club which went 83-79 and finished third in the AL West that season. Knowing that, how do you view Atlanta’s moves?

What do you think about the Braves' pitching additions?

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Stand up guy Terry Collins

“Collins, who is listed generously at 5-foot-9, conducted his press conference standing up after he was told the microphone stand was blocking his face for the TV camera. Collins joked that pitchers Chris Young, who is 6-foot-10, and 6-foot-7 Mike Pelfrey better not hold the ball above their heads and make the manager jump for it when he goes out to make pitching changes.”

Source: Mike Puma in the New York Post

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Can R.A. Dickey repeat his fine season?

Beyond a shadow of a doubt the feel good story of 2010 for the Mets was the emergence of R.A. Dickey. Signed for Triple-A, Dickey instead spent most of the year in New York and became one of the club’s most reliable starters. Counted on to be one of the Mets’ top pitchers in 2011, Dickey just inked a two-year contract.

But what should we expect from Dickey in 2011? As I pointed out back in October, Dickey really benefitted from his home park last year. Here are his home/road splits:

H: 7-3, 1.99 ERA, 3 HR in 81.1 IP
R: 4-6, 3.58 ERA, 10 HR in 93 IP

Certainly, a 3.58 ERA is nothing to sneeze at and fans should be happy if he pitches that well again this season. But it’s still a difference of 1.59 which should not be swept under the rug.

Both Dickey’s FIP (3.65) and xFIP (3.88) show that he pitched better than his peripherals would suggest. But that is not unexpected for a knuckleball pitcher. What Dickey did do last year that was a surprise was display outstanding control. He had a 2.17 BB/9, which tied Jered Weaver for the 12th-best mark in the majors.

By comparison, Tim Wakefield’s career BB/9 is 3.39 while Phil Niekro had a 3.01 lifetime mark. In four of his last five seasons, Niekro’s BB/9 were over 4.00. However, Niekro was 44-years old at the start of that run. Dickey will be 36 during the 2011 season. At a comparable age, Niekro had a 2.35 BB/9.

So, maybe Dickey can repeat his low walk totals from a season ago. And while he did have a big home/road split, he still will be pitching half his games in Citi Field again this season. Maybe there’s reason to be optimistic about Dickey for 2011.

One of the criticisms of the Omar Minaya regime is that he would re-sign veteran players after they turned in an unexpectedly good season. Players like Moises Alou, Luis Castillo, Fernando Tatis and Jose Valentin re-upped with the Mets after a successful initial stint, only to fail to match what got them an additional contract in the first place.

Let’s hope that Dickey, Minaya’s last veteran find, breaks that cycle and pitches well enough for the Mets to pick up his option in 2013.

Why I want K-Rod’s option to vest

Most Mets fans view Francisco Rodriguez’ contract in the same way they think of Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez – bad deals that they just can’t wait to end. My friend Eno Sarris wrote a story recently about how the Mets could utilize Rodriguez in a way to ensure that he did not finish 55 games and that his option for 2012 did not kick in. While I agree with some points of the Sarris piece, I head into 2011 hoping that Rodriguez finishes 55 or more games and is on the Mets next year.

Huh?

First, I want to go into the way back machine and look at the Rodriguez contract when it was signed. So many people are complaining about this deal now that I think it is important to note that the overwhelming majority of people were in favor of the deal and most even called it a steal for the Mets. In the New York Daily News story about the signing, there were 103 fan comments about the deal. While many were involved with typical Mets-Yankees bickering, here are comments that mentioned what the Mets paid for him:

Nycak – “at the price this was a great move for the Mets. Wagner may or may not be back and if he does the Mets will have trade or set up options. Excellent move!”

Kev86 – “GM’s around baseball are applauding Omars negotiating skills today. Job well done. They are dubbing it the “The Reverse Boras”. The Mets desperately needed a closer and got one of the games best at a good price. Great job! LETS GO METS!”

Mets4ever – “There are many who believe KRod got shafted on this deal because I think they are accustomed to GM’s (????) throwing bags of money around like confetti. I believe it’s fair market value considering that “closers” were not in demand. Good time to buy and good job by the originization for keeping things sensible.”

jblontherun – “Great signing. You sign a record setting closer in his prime at a young age and one who wants to play for this team….at a bargain price? The market place works out well for the Mets”

Andred10056 – “From K-Rod’s perspective, this was an absolutely horrendous year to hit the market. There were/are many closers available AND virtually all big money teams already have their closer. Couldn’t have been a worse scenario for K-Rod. In fact, in light of the foregoing, the Mets probably paid too much…but I guess you don’t want a bitter closer but a halfways happy one.”

Okay, it’s one thing for fans who write in on message boards to approve the deal – how did more stat-heavy people view the deal? Here’s the take of Dave Cameron of FanGraphs:

“On it’s own, the contract isn’t great, and he’ll be hard to trade if they ever decide they don’t want him anymore. But in the specific circumstances that the Mets are in, needing a closer and having significant financial resources that most teams don’t, this deal makes sense for them. Not many teams are in the position to pay $6 million per win – the Mets are.”

Yes, times change and none of the people quoted above would use the same words to describe the Rodriguez contract today. But in evaluating a deal, you should always keep in mind the way it was viewed at the time, as well as how it is viewed in the present. At the time, with the Mets coming off their second straight meltdown, this one mostly the fault of the bullpen, this signing was viewed as a coup.

Now let’s get back to the present.

I agree completely with Sarris that the Mets should avoid using Rodriguez in the last inning of blowout games just to get some work in. There are going to be times that the Mets need to get him some work – but get that in the eighth inning instead. This change in usage pattern should not raise concern from either Rodriguez and his agent or the MLBPA – two entities that are likely to file a grievance if Rodriguez is not used in typical save situations to avoid the contract vesting.

While I would prefer my best reliever to be used in the most pressure-packed situation of the game, this is a battle to be fought at another time. Given the Mets’ financial situation, people are going to be looking at the Rodriguez case with a magnifying glass. Simply, the Mets are in no situation to monkey with Rodriguez’ saves this season because everyone will accuse them of doing it just to save money.

So, I want the Mets to continue to use Rodriguez in all ninth inning save situations that he can handle. And if he finishes 55 games this way, then it has been a good season for the Mets.

Here are Rodriguez’ games finished totals since he became a full-time closer in 2005:

58, 58, 56, 69, 66, 46

The 69 came in his record-setting year with 62 saves. I would be quite pleased if Rodriguez saved 62 games this year with the Mets. So, let’s look at two other years.

2009 –He had 66 games finished in his first year with the Mets. There were 22 times that he was used to finish the game in a non-save, non win or loss outing. Many of these were times when he was brought in for the last inning with the Mets down one run, which is a fine usage for a closer. But many of these could be eliminated and have him beneath our 55 game threshold.

2006 – He had 58 games finished in his second year as closer, when he saved 47 games. Angels manager Mike Scioscia only used Rodriguez one time when trailing in the game. Still, he used him six times to finish a game in a blowout (non-save). Take away those outings and he does not reach 55 games finished.

So, my Rodriguez plan is to use him as normal in save situations and eliminate the extraneous games finished. An ideal situation would be like 2006 above, where he saves 47 games but gets only 52 games finished and the contract does not vest.

However, if Rodriguez goes 2008 on us and saves 60+ games, I would take that in a heartbeat. Last year the Mets had 79 wins and 36 saves or a save in 46% of their wins. If Rodriguez saves 60 games, the Mets will have a lot more than 79 victories. Last year they had 20 wins by five or more runs, another seven that they won by three or four runs with no save and six complete-game wins.

I want Rodriguez’ option to vest because that means the Mets have likely won at least 90 games.

Finally, I want to point out that Rodriguez has generally pitched very well for the Mets. His final 2009 numbers look bad and all anyone remembers of him from last year was the domestic dispute that ended his season. Both of those things are black marks and should not be forgotten. However, neither should the pitching that he did most of his two seasons with the club.

Last year, Rodriguez had a 10.52 K/9, his highest mark since 2007. He also had a 3.30 BB/9, his lowest mark in any season in which he pitched more than six innings. Rodriguez’ 2.20 ERA was his lowest since 2006. His FIP was his lowest since 2004 and his xFIP his lowest since 2006. On the field, Rodriguez was every bit as good as he was in 2008, when he set the Saves record.

In 2009, it was a tale of two halves for Rodriguez. At the All-Star break he had a 1.90 ERA and in the second half his ERA was 6.75 and he had a 1.421 WHIP. Rodriguez has always walked a tightrope, allowing lots of baserunners but stranding a very high number of those. For his career, Rodriguez has an 80.8 LOB%, while the average is around 70 percent. In 2009, his LOB% was 61.7 in August and 39.7 in September.

Basically, Rodriguez has had two bad months with the Mets, which correspond to when the team was woefully out of the race while it had double-digit number of players on the disabled list. Here’s hoping to a repeat of the production that Rodriguez gave on the field last year here in 2011.

Why Collins may not be the managerial favorite

“It is well known that new Mets vice president of player development Paul DePodesta, as GM of the Los Angeles Dodgers, attempted to hire Collins as manager in 2005 before he himself was fired. That, and DePodesta’s lingering respect for Collins, has led many to assume that DePodesta is strongly advocating for the former Anaheim and Houston manager.

But several executives familiar with the Mets’ process said that that perception has been overstated. One pointed to the fact that, that when DePodesta was an influential member of the Padres front office in 2006, Collins did not even interview for the job that went to Bud Black.”

Andy Martino on why Terry Collins is not necessarily the leading candidate for the job.

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Thinking ahead with Alderson

“But it’s incumbent on us to make sure those issues don’t arise and they’re managed,” Alderson said. “People are going to be disappointed, but it’s important for us to make sure that those who do remain with the organization feel as if they are valued in whatever role they have.”

Sandy Alderson, on the prospect of keeping up to three men in the organization who were just turned down for the club’s open managerial position.

Source: New York Post

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Evaluating Minaya’s Mets farm system

Recently both John Sickels and FanGraphs gave grades/rankings to the Mets farm system. These were met with dismay by Mets fans, who were disappointed that the farm system was not in better shape. The knee-jerk reaction was to blame former GM Omar Minaya, who oversaw the team for the previous six years.

However, missing from these criticisms of both the farm system and Minaya’s stewardship was context. What shape was the farm system in when Minaya took over? Did he have a mandate from ownership to rebuild the farm system over everything else? Did management place any restrictions on building the farm system? Did Minaya use prospects to acquire MLB-ready talent? How did he handle international signings? All of these questions need to be considered.

But perhaps the biggest consideration is: What makes for a successful farm system? How many draft picks should reach the majors? How many of the players that make The Show should we expect to make an impact?

Minaya oversaw six drafts while he was the general manager of the Mets. Clearly, it is too early to rate with any precision how well his drafts turned out, as neither first pick in the past two drafts has yet to throw a professional pitch. Still, we should be able to answer the question of what makes for a successful farm system.

Since Minaya oversaw six drafts, I decided to look at how MLB farm systems did in six seasons. I wanted to pick a time that was close to the era that Minaya worked in, yet far enough in the past that prospects had a chance to reach the majors. So, I focused on the period from 1998-2003, a six-year span before Minaya took office, but one under similar conditions, including one in which 30 teams participated in the draft.

Using Baseball-Reference.com I looked through yearly drafts and totaled the number of picks who signed that went on to reach the majors, without any consideration if it was for one day or 12 years. Also, I counted the players for each farm system who went on to accumulate at least 5.0 bWAR in their career, using that as a proxy for a good draft pick. I do not pretend that this is rigorous analysis, but it does offer a quick and dirty method to identify guys who were strong contributors.

Instead of going through each franchise, I used a sample of six teams to determine what the average club should expect from its draft over the time period which Minaya was in charge. My sample consisted of the four non-Mets teams in the National League East, along with the Angels and Yankees, the first and last team nicknames alphabetically in the majors.

Here are the list of players each draft contributed for the six clubs, with players who accumulated 5.0 bWAR in bold.

Braves – 36 Total, 4 Impact
98 – Matt Belisle, Ryan Langerhans, Scott Sobkowiak, John Ennis, Tim Spooneybarger, Nick Green, Brad Voyles
99 – Andrew Brown, Ben Kozlowski, Garrett Jones, John Foster
00 – Adam Wainwright, Scott Thorman, Kelly Johnson, Blaine Boyer, Zach Miner, Chris Waters, Trey Hodges, Charles Thomas, Adam LaRoche
01 – Macay McBride, Adam Stern, Kyle Davies, Willie Collazo, Anthony Lerew
02 – Jeff Francoeur, Dan Meyer, Brian McCann, Charlie Morton, Chuck James
03 – Luis Atilano, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Jo-Jo Reyes, Matt Harrison, Sean White, Brandon Jones

Marlins – 20 Total, 4 Impact
98 – Chip Ambres, Kevin Olsen
99 – Josh Beckett, Josh Wilson, Nate Robertson, Kevin Hooper, Randy Messenger
00 – Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Willingham
01 – Chris Resop, Jeff Fulchino
02 – Jeremy Hermida, Robert Andino, Josh Johnson, Scott Olsen, Eric Reed, Travis Chick, Ross Wolf
03 – Logan Kensing, Jai Miller

Phillies – 23 Total, 9 Impact
98 – Pat Burrell, Eric Valent, Jorge Padilla, Jason Michaels, Ryan Madson, Geoff Geary, Nick Punto
99 – Brett Myers, Marlon Byrd, Frank Brooks
00 – Chase Utley, Taylor Buchholz, Travis Champman
01 – Gavin Floyd, Ryan Howard, Chris Roberson
02 – Cole Hamels, Zack Segovia, Scott Mathieson, Bobby Korecky
03 – Michael Bourn, Kyle Kendrick, Brad Ziegler

Nationals (Expos) – 27 Total, 5 Impact
98 – Brad Wilkerson, Jimmy Serrano
99 – Brandon Phillips, Matt Cepicky, Brandon Watson, Val Pascucci, Matt Watson
00 – Justin Wayne, Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, Shawn Hill, Phil Seibel, Jason Bay, Anthony Ferrari
01 – Mike Hinckley, Josh Labandeira, Chad Bentz, Chris Schroder
02 – Darrell Rasner, Mike O’Connor, Jason Bergmann
03 – Chad Cordero, Jerry Owens, Kory Casto, Josh Whitesell, Daryl Thompson, Luke Montz

Angels – 28 Total, 5 Impact
98 – Seth Etherton
99 – John Lackey, Dusty Bergman, Robb Quinlan, Alfredo Amezaga, Gary Johnson, Tom Gregorio
00 – Chris Bootcheck, Tommy Murphy, Bobby Jenks, Matt Hensley, Mike Napoli
01 – Casey Kotchman, Jeff Mathis, Dallas McPherson, Steve Shell, Jake Woods, Matthew Brown, Ryan Budde, Nick Gorneault, Steve Andrade
02 – Joe Saunders, Kevin Jepsen, Howie Kendrick, Bobby Wilson
03 – Brandon Wood, Sean Rodriguez, Reggie Willits

Yankees – 24 Total, 0 Impact
98 – Randy Keisler, Drew Henson, Brett Jodie, Brandon Claussen
99 – Alex Graman, Andy Phillips, Kevin Thompson
00 – Matt Smith, Mitch Jones, Jason Anderson, Sean Henn
01 – John-Ford Griffin, Bronson Sardinha, Shelley Duncan, Chase Wright, Andy Canizaro, Charlie Manning, Omir Santos
02 – Matt Carson, Brad Halsey, Phil Coke
03 – Tyler Clippard, T.J. Beam, Jeff Karstens

Our six teams signed 158 draft picks reach the majors and 27 of those had a career bWAR of 5.0 or greater by the end of the 2010 season. That averages out to 26.3 players to reach the majors and 4.5 impact players per team. It’s certainly possible that a few more players might reach the majors for a cup of coffee and quite likely that some more will surpass 5.0 bWAR before their career is over. So, we can ballpark it that an average team should send 27 draft picks to the majors in a six-year span and that 6 of those should total 5.0 bWAR before their career is done.

So, how have the Minaya-era picks worked out so far?

Minaya Mets – 13 Total, 0 Impact
05 – Mike Pelfrey, Sal Butera, Jonathon Niese, Bobby Parnell, Josh Thole
06 – Kevin Mulvey, Joe Smith, Daniel Murphy, Tobi Stoner
07 – Eddie Kunz, Lucas Duda, Dillon Gee
08 – Ike Davis
09 – None
10 – None

Pelfrey, Niese, Thole and Davis all have a shot to accumulate 5.0 bWAR before their careers are over. Obviously it is too soon to tell if any of the rest of the 2008-10 picks will be impact players, but there are reasons to be optimistic about several, ranging from top picks Steven Matz and Matt Harvey to others like Brad Holt, Darrell Ceciliani and Cory Vaughn.

The Mets seem a good bet to be close to the average of our sample in both players to reach the majors and impact players, perhaps just shy on both accounts. If nothing else, they should easily beat the draft performance of Brian Cashman in his first six drafts for the Yankees.

And that is before realizing some of the constraints under which Minaya operated. The Mets had no first-round draft pick in three of Minaya’s six seasons (’06, ’07, ’09) and had neither a second or third-round pick in 2005. Of course, this was due to Minaya signing free agents, but still it impacted his ability to land a top player. The two years he did have a first-round pick before 2010, Minaya grabbed Pelfrey and Davis, two players who have reached the majors and at this point look like above-average picks.

The Mets were also hurt during the Minaya era by ownership’s reluctance to go above the recommended slot bonus of MLB. Some high school players announce that they are going to college before they are drafted. Teams will select these players, who would go early in the draft otherwise, on later rounds and try to convince them to go pro with large signing bonuses. It is a way to make up for losing your first-round pick or to further exercise your financial advantage. While clubs like the Yankees and Tigers were aggressive doing this, the Mets instead toed the line on bonuses, further hurting the team’s chances to add talent.

And while the Mets went cheap in the draft, they did sink some money into international free agents. Jenrry Mejia and Ruben Tejada are two international guys who have already played in the majors. Top prospects Fernando Martinez, Wilmer Flores and Aderlin Rodriguez are other examples.

Minaya inherited a major league club which went 71-91 and a farm system without a ton of prospects. Here is John Sickels’ Top 20 list for the Mets prior to the 2005 season:

Yusmeiro Petit, RHP, B+
Phil Humber, RHP, B+
Lastings Milledge, OF, B
Gaby Hernandez, RHP, B
Victor Diaz, OF, B-
Alay Soler, RHP, B-
Aarom Baldiris, 2B-3B, B-
Ambiorix Concepcion, OF, C+
Matt Durkin, RHP, C+
Brian Bannister, RHP, C+
Jeff Keppinger, 2B, C+
Jamar Hill, OF, C
Jesus Flores, C, C
Shawn Bowman, 3B, C
Blake McGinley, LHP, C
Angel Pagan, OF, C
Evan MacLane, LHP, C
Brett Harper, 1B, C
Wayne Lydon, OF, C
Vincent Cordova, RHP, C

There were no “A” level prospects and only seven rated a “B” grade, including three at “B-“. Only Bannister and Pagan have gone on to any significant major league success and neither one of those had reached a bWAR of 5.0 following the 2010 season. Minaya ended up selling high on Petit, Humber and Hernandez, which helped bring in Carlos Delgado, Johan Santana and Paul Lo Duca.

Minaya’s moves helped transform a club that finished 20 games below .500 into one that averaged 91 wins per season from 2006-2008, before injuries hit the past two years. Minaya’s first focus was the major league club. But he also improved international signings. And the farm system was better than the one he inherited, too.

This year, Sickels has the Mets with no “A” prospects and seven with a “B” grade, including three that rank at “B-“. While that does not seem like an improvement, we have to remember that the farm system graduated five players last year to the majors, including three players – Davis, Mejia and Tejada – that few this time last year would have expected to lose their rookie eligibility in 2010. Mejia likely would have been an “A” while there is a decent shot that Davis would have been, too.

Additionally, there are several intriguing “C” ranked players, including Reese Havens, Jeurys Familia, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Lucas Duda, as well as currently non-graded players like Matz and Holt who all have a chance to contribute in the majors.

I wish the Mets had a better farm system. I wish they went over-slot in the draft much more often. I wish they were even more aggressive with international free agents. I wish they consistently placed players at more age-appropriate levels during the previous administration.

But it is too soon to deliver a verdict on Minaya’s stewardship of the farm system. However, I believe we can say he left it in better shape than he inherited it in.

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Conveniently, Steve Phillips oversaw six drafts for the Mets, just like Minaya did. Here are his year-by-year results in the format for our six-team sample above:

98 – Jason Tyner, Pat Strange, Craig Brazell, Gil Velazquez, Ty Wigginton, Jaime Cerda, Earl Snyder
99 – Neal Musser, Jeremy Griffiths, Angel Pagan, Prentice Redman, Mike Jacobs
00 – Billy Traber, Bobby Keppel, Chris Basak, Jeff Duncan
01 – Aaron Heilman, David Wright, Lenny DiNardo, Daniel Garcia, Joe Hietpas
02 – Scott Kazmir, Matt Lindstrom
03 – Lastings Milledge, Brian Bannister, Carlos Muniz

That works out to 26 players to reach the majors and two who have made an impact. Pagan will likely make that three impact players. Even so, that is half of what our sample predicts as average and one-third of what the Phillies did in the same time period.

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For an update on this piece, click here.

The Mets’ new LOOGY?

“But keep in mind that Pedro Feliciano and Hisanori Takahashi are both free agents, and that leaves the Mets badly in need of lefty relief. This is not what you imagined Perez would be doing for $12 million in 2011, but the Mets are spending the $12 million already. Perez did hold lefties to a .214 average last year. Of course, being Perez, three of the nine hits he allowed to lefties were homers and he walked more (11) than he struck out (10).

Still, I don’t think it would be outrageous to bring Perez to camp and hope that being in a contract year and being able to focus just on relief gets the Mets some quality innings out of the pen. If it doesn’t, no harm, no foul, just release him then.”

Joel Sherman, speculating on how Oliver Perez could fit in on the 2011 Mets.

Source: New York Post

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Ollie for Daisuke – who says no?

Let’s say Sandy Alderson and Theo Epstein are having a drink together during the Winter Meetings and I walk over and say: Fellas, you know what you should do? You should trade Oliver Perez for Daisuke Matsuzaka! Which GM would say no first? Would they both say no? Would they both start a bidding war for my services? Regardless, let’s try to look at this potential deal for both teams.

Why the Mets would do it

They would get rid of Perez. Wait, you want more? Okay, they would save $2 million this season. With Johan Santana out for an unspecified amount of time at the beginning of the year, the Mets’ projected starting rotation right now has Mike Pelfrey, Jonathon Niese, R.A. Dickey and I suppose Dillon Gee. In other words, they really need some SP.

Matsuzaka is two years removed from an 18-win season and last year put up a respectable 4.05 FIP while playing half his games in Fenway Park and while having to face great hitting teams like the Yankees (3 times), Rays (3 times) and Blue Jays (4 times). While he would now have to face the Phillies, he should find the Braves, Marlins and Nationals much more to his liking. A flyball pitcher, Matsuzaka should thrive playing his home games in Citi Field.

Why the Red Sox would do it

While Perez costs $2 million more this season, that’s not an obstacle for Boston. Plus, Perez’ contract is up following the 2011 season, while Matsuzaka is signed through the 2012 season. Even a team flush with cash like the Red Sox wouldn’t mind having an extra $10 million to play with for 2012. And Perez is 5-1 with a 2.59 ERA lifetime versus the Yankees

With a starting rotation that already includes Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey and Jon Lester, Perez would be the team’s fifth starter and would be in a position to succeed. And if he falls on his face Tim Wakefield is ready to step in and take the innings.

Why the Mets would decline

The Mets are already in a sense punting 2011 and having Matsuzaka on the team limits the payroll flexibility they will enjoy in the offseason heading into 2012. Plus, since winning 18 games in 2008, Matsuzaka has made just 37 starts in two seasons. The Mets need innings, not a $20 million question mark. And even when he was healthy, Matsuzaka was not very productive, with a 4.99 ERA over the past two years.

Because he always puts runners on base, last year’s 4.33 BB/9 and 1.37 WHIP virtually matching his career numbers, Matsuzaka is a threat to tax the bullpen each time out. Last year he failed to complete six innings in 10 of his 25 starts. The Mets need reliability and durability from the rotation and neither of those are strong suits for Matsuzaka.

Why the Red Sox would decline

They would get Perez. Wait, you want more? Okay, while the Red Sox appear to have a solid rotation even without Matsuzaka, it’s not nearly as good in reality as it appears on paper. Beckett has been great for two years in Boston and considerably less than that in the other three years. Lackey was hardly the top of the rotation guy they thought they were getting when they handed him a five-year deal last offseason. And Tim Wakefield is coming off a 5.34 ERA last year and will turn 45 next August.

While Matsuzaka has been unimpressive the past two seasons, he has made strides in improving his control, as his BB/9 have dropped the past two seasons. Last year he was victimized by a low strand rate, one over 7 percent lower than his career average. With a few less walks and a more typical Matuszaka season in LOB%, he could easily be a league-average or better starter. The Bill James projection pegs him with a 3.85 ERA in 27 starts in 2011.

The verdict

The Red Sox would say no first. But that does not mean this trade has no shot of happening. Instead it means the Mets would have to sweeten the offer. In the comments section, chime in with what you would be comfortable adding to the pot to get Boston to take Perez off the Mets’ hands.

Should the Mets break up their core?

Each year that the Mets fail to reach the playoffs, critics say the solution is to break up the core of the team. If the Mets cannot advance to the post-season with Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, Johan Santana and David Wright, the belief goes, then the team should trade one or more of them to shake things up and improve the future of the club.

This idea received more exposure yesterday, with the news that Carlos Beltran would be potentially open to waiving his no-trade clause. Of course, the thrust of Beltran’s statement was that he wanted to retire as a member of the Mets, but the portion that drew the most attention was when he said:

“I know that I have the no-trade clause, but if the team is searching or looking to trade a guy, I have to listen.”

So, Beltran did not say he wanted to be traded. He did not say he would be willing to move to certain teams. All he said was that if he was approached, he would listen. Seems pretty reasonable to me.

However, I do not want to spend this column parsing each individual word of Beltran’s comments. Instead, I want to focus on the idea of trading one of the stars of the Mets to make the club better in the long run. Is it a good idea for any of the four players mentioned above? How likely is it that will happen? What kind of return would the Mets be likely to receive?

Beltran
Good idea – No
Likely to happen – less than 25%
Return – Mostly salary relief, at best a “B” level prospect

Beltran has one year and $18.5 million left on his contract, although $5.5 million of that is deferred, according to Cot’s. Additionally, there is a clause that the club agrees not to offer arbitration following the 2011 season. So, any interested trading partner has to re-sign Beltran or they will lose him without receiving any compensation draft picks.

That contract clause, the amount of money due Beltran and the injuries that have slowed him the past two seasons make trading him a tall order. It’s extremely unlikely that any club will deal for Beltran before the start of the season, with uncertainty over how his knee holds up trumping whatever value he may have on the field.

The most likely scenario for a Beltran deal would be at the trading deadline, after he has had several months to prove healthy. Additionally, the new team would not be on the hook for nearly as much salary this way. Still, the Mets would likely have to pick up a large chunk of salary. And without the possibility of draft pick compensation, teams are not likely to give back much of a prospect haul for a three-month rental.

The Mets are likely to open the season with Beltran on the roster and the best scenario is that he returns to his 2008-level of performance, when he posted a 7.1 fWAR and was a down ballot MVP candidate. If that’s the case, he either is leading the Mets back into contention or perhaps even sparks a mini bidding war for his services at the trade deadline.


Reyes
Good idea – Possibly
Likely to happen – less than 40%
Return – “A” level prospect, salary relief

The Mets picked up their option on Reyes for 2011 and will be paying him $11 million. Like Beltran, Reyes has missed significant time the past two seasons due to injury, although he played in 133 games last year.

It took Reyes about three weeks to shake off the rust from missing most of the 2009 season. But in his last 112 games of the year, Reyes posted a .295/.330/.453 line, which fit in well with the .816 OPS he posted during his 2006-2008 peak. While Reyes was down about 25 points of OBP, his AVG and SLG were right in line with what he did previously when he was considered one of the top shortstops in the game.

One of the key components of Reyes’ game is getting on base and causing havoc by stealing. But new general manager Sandy Alderson may not encourage the SB as an offensive weapon, potentially reducing the impact that Reyes can have for the Mets.

While Reyes, both younger and cheaper than Beltran, is likely to bring a greater haul, he is more difficult to replace, which may be the biggest mark against trading him. Ruben Tejada showed potential in September with the bat, but it is still very much in question if he will hit enough to be an asset in the majors. Few believe that top prospect Wilmer Flores will remain at SS as he advances up the ladder.

The best case scenario is that Reyes returns to being an impact leadoff hitter. While Alderson is not a fan of the SB, he will likely make an exception for Reyes, who has been successful on 80 percent of his lifetime attempts. While another 78-steal season like 2007 is virtually out of the question, no one should be surprised if Reyes racks up 40 SB this year.

Santana
Good idea – No
Likely to happen – Less than 5%
Return – Some salary relief, perhaps some “C” level prospects

Very few teams could afford the $77.5 million (which includes $5.5 million buyout of the $25 million club option for 2014) due Santana for the next three seasons. And those teams are no doubt turned off by the fact that Santana has undergone surgery the past three years.

A lot of people view Santana’s tenure with the Mets as a disappointment, which seems insane. In three seasons with the Mets, Santana has a 40-25 record with a 2.85 ERA. That’s a .615 winning percentage, which is the exact same mark posted by Tom Seaver in his career with the Mets. His ERA is third-best in the history of the team.

Santana is no longer in the discussion for best pitcher in baseball, and yes, he is a disappointment compared to his salary. But Santana has given the Mets a pitcher to match up against the best in the league and he nearly single-handedly pitched the Mets to the playoffs in 2008.

Health concerns ensure that Santana will be in the Mets organization at the start of the season, likely on the disabled list. It’s possible that he comes back in time to have some trade value at the deadline if the Mets pick up the majority of his salary. It’s hard to imagine why they would trade a healthy Santana, but I suppose the possibility exists.

Wright
Good idea – Probably not
Likely to happen – Less than 33%
Return – “A” level prospect plus other considerations, salary relief

It is a testament to how good Wright is that he has posted back-to-back seasons of .368 and .364 wOBA and is considered to have had sub-par years.

A 46-point drop in OBP is a big concern for Wright, much bigger than the strikeout rate which everyone focuses on instead. Last year Wright allayed concerns about his power, as he nearly tripled his HR output from 2009. Hopefully he can do the same this year with concerns about his walk rate.

Wright is the face of the franchise, which makes trading him difficult. But the flip side of that is that he would bring back the greatest haul, and is likely the easiest member of the core to replace. Forgotten man Daniel Murphy is a third baseman and the hot corner is likely where Flores will wind up eventually.

Still, does Alderson want to be known as the man who traded Wright? At the ripe old age of 28, Wright already holds the club record for doubles (258) and runs created (763), and is well represented in the top 10 leaderboard for most other offensive categories for the Mets.

*****

Alderson would not be doing his job if he did not both listen and actively solicit offers for the four players listed above. He is not likely to receive anything that would make trading either Beltran or Santana a winning proposition for the Mets.

Reyes and Wright both have more trade value and therefore are much more likely to be dealt if Alderson thinks the team needs a shift in direction. While Wright has more trade value, I believe Reyes is more likely to be dealt because his speed is likely worth less to Alderson than other GMs. Still, I think it is more likely than not that each of the core members of the team stays with the Mets for the duration of the 2011 season.

Speculation on the Mets' new manager

Without a single game being played, or even a free agent signing or trade being made, Mets fans are happy with Sandy Alderson as the team’s new general manager. There are many reasons for this. The easiest thing to do is point to his record, as he was responsible for building the late 1980s Oakland A’s clubs that went to three straight World Series.

We can also point to his belief in numbers and advanced statistical measurements. It is comforting knowing that we are going from a GM who said, “Give me talent and I’ll give you on-base percentage,” to one who knows why OBP is actually important and that there are things to pay attention to besides Wins and RBIs.

But to me, the biggest thing is the feeling that an adult is now in charge. With Alderson the prevailing belief is that things are going to be done because they are the right things to do. Decisions won’t be made because they are easy or popular or have a one in a million shot of working out.

And that is why I am not worried about who the next manager of the Mets is going to be.

The easy and popular thing to do would be to hire Wally Backman. Most fans clamor for Backman to get the job and the former second baseman even has ownership on his side. Alderson interviewed Backman and was impressed enough to advance him to the next round.

With another GM, the concern might be that Backman is advancing due to popularity. But with Alderson, the man with Harvard Law smarts and Marine toughness, the impression is that Backman has advanced solely on merit.

I have no idea if Backman would be a good manager for the 2011 Mets. Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla played under Backman in the minors and has nothing but good things to say about him. Backman impressed the Diamondbacks enough for them to make him their manager, before details of non-baseball matters derailed his career. And this year in the low minors, Backman went 51-24.

Those are all things in support of Backman’s candidacy. But do any of them really matter? The main question is: Who is the best manager for the 2011 Mets? Who is the guy who can move the team forward, back over .500 and towards contention for the playoffs?

Can Backman motivate his players?
Can he handle the media?
Can he tell established veterans that their role has changed?
Can he find five capable starting pitchers?
Can he run a bullpen?
Can he construct a productive bench?
Can he take orders from Alderson yet retain control of the clubhouse?

It seems to me that these, and a 100 other questions, are more pertinent to Backman’s candidacy than if he lights up a room or has a fiery personality or is a link to the club’s 1986 World Series team.

You hear a lot about Backman’s fiery personality and how it would be a benefit to the current Mets. After sitting through Jerry Manuel, Willie Randolph and Art Howe, it’s easy to understand why fans and the mainstream media want someone with a fiery personality. After three straight guys who could be described as “bland,” fiery might be a move in the right direction.

But labels like that do not concern me. Like with the general manager in Alderson, I want the manager to be an adult. I want the manager to be someone who does what’s right for the franchise, not for himself.

Actually, I think I would prefer the manager to be more of the strong silent type. I would prefer a manger from the Walter Alston mold, rather than the Billy Martin one. Yes, Martin was brilliant in his own, flawed way. But his success was never sustained. Alston managed 23 years, each on a one-year contract.

Alston did not say much, but there was never a doubt who was in charge. My favorite Alston story was one day the players were riding on an old bus and complaining about the poor mode of transportation. Alston told the players to shut up. He added that if anyone wanted to complain, they could step off the bus and the two of them could settle it man-to-man.

Now, this is not Martin picking a fight with a non-aggressive player. This is Alston, showing everyone who was in control of the situation. Nobody took him up on the offer.

Some liken Joe Torre to Alston and perhaps, ego aside, there is some truth to that comparison. But ideally the next manager lasts the entire tenure (and more) of Alderson’s four-year contract. Is Torre, at age 70, a long-range answer? Probably not.

Actually, I do not have a favorite for the Mets’ next manager. But I have faith that Alderson will make the right choice. I expect the adult to make an adult choice, one that’s in the best interest of the New York Mets.

And if that ends up being Wally Backman, that’s great.

Ultimately, I am happy to let the process work itself through, convinced that the Mets will have a competent manager. Because with adults in charge, I am convinced that the next manager won’t carry a bench comprised of catchers and second basemen, nor will he think that Gary Matthews Jr. is a better option than Angel Pagan or that a player who was 0-5 with a 4.47 ERA in Double-A needed to be a major league reliever or helm a team that’s among the leaders in sacrifice hits.

Much like the pitchman in the Viagra commercials, the Mets have entered the age of knowing how to get things done. We saw this with the hiring of Alderson, followed by hiring of well-respected assistants in J.P. Ricciardi and Paul DePodesta. I expect the manager to be a similar good hire.

Cue Howlin’ Wolf and “Smokestack Lightning” and get ready to go upstairs to the room with the light on.