Winter Meetings foreshadow a low-key offseason for Mets

Winter MeetingsThe Winter Meetings this past week in San Diego stimulated a whirlwind of roster activity across MLB, but for the Mets…not so much.  Besides yesterday’s signing of veteran outfielder John Mayberry, nothing transpired from the discussions engaged by GM Sandy Alderson.  He hinted at exploring all possibilities of roster improvement, including the shortstop position and another lefty in the bullpen, but pulled the trigger only for Mayberry.  Reports, rumors, social media banter, etc. has all fueled the discussions from the outside, but how aggressive any forthcoming moves are being sought from the inside is still an unknown.  Pertinent information from the deal makers is relayed with so much calculation; it’s difficult for the media and fans to sift through the words with any certainty. So what, if anything, is on the horizon in respect to roster activity?

Dillon Gee has been at the forefront of most of the reported discussions, with the Giants, Rangers, Royals, Rockies, and Twins being the inquirers. One report, via ESPN’s Marly Rivera that might give an idea of Alderson’s value assessment of Wilmer Flores, is the nixed trade proposal of shortstop Eduardo Escobar for Dillon Gee.  Escobar, in 133 games for the Twins last year, slashed .275/.315/.406 with 6 HR and 37 RBIS. Defensively, in 98 games at shortstop, the 26 year old Venezuelan had five errors to go along with – 6 DRS and a 2.1 UZR.  Alderson clearly didn’t see Escobar as enough of an upgrade to pull a deal for Gee, who appears to be the odd man out of the rotation.  The Rangers and Twins could be taking their names out of any Gee talk after the acquisitions of Ross Detwiler and Ervin Santana respectively.

The shortstop market is a thin one, as Alderson has continuously said and reflective by Asdrubal Cabrera, Stephen Drew, and Jed Lowrie’s continued availability.  The Yankees got their shortstop via a trade for Didi Gregorious to replace Derek Jeter, and the Dodgers landed Jimmy Rollins among others in their flurry of trades and signings to play shortstop. Considering many view Cabrera and Lowrie as second basemen going forward coupled with Drew’s awful 2014 season, the free agent trio may be on the market for a while, especially when you consider only the Oakland Athletics still have a clear need for a starting shortstop. The Mets, who appear comfortable with Flores, have the leverage of low demand if they want to let the market price drop but it appears unlikely.

As for the trade market, the Mets will have to patiently wait for Max Scherzer and James Shields to sign a deal before they can accurately corner the market for Gee or even Jon Niese; there’s little chance the Mets will go into Spring Training with both considering the other options in the rotation. So aside from today’s minor league signing of Scott Rice and yesterday’s Rule 5 drafting of Sean Gilmartin, the 40 man roster should be stable for the near future unless the Mets do decide to sign another veteran lefty for the bullpen.

Teams don’t win championships in the December; the Mets staying low-key at the Winter Meetings may be indicative of a team satisfied with the sum of their parts. Right?

Follow Sean Flattery on Twitter @SeanFlatts

Patience, the Mets shortstop will emerge

ShortstopWith the Hot Stove season well on its way, the Mets front office prepares for a trip to San Diego for the 2014 Winter Meetings.  Today, Arizona, Detroit, and the Yankees agreed on a three way deal involving Shane Greene, Robbie Ray, and Didi Gregorius, the latter going to the Bronx to man a position helmed by Derek Jeter for the past 19 years. Gregorius is one of numerous shortstops to be rumored in trades involving the Mets the past year or so, but now you can officially cross him off the list.

How serious the Mets are in acquiring a shortstop this offseason is yet to be determined or made known; GM Sandy Alderson has hinted in his usual coy fashion at his willingness to upgrade the team’s roster, but to what degree is a mystery.  Currently, it looks as though Wilmer Flores can call himself the starting shortstop, to the dismay of many within the Mets fan base.  A few weeks ago, Alderson was quoted “I know there are fans out there that don’t want to hear it, but if we had to go into the season with Flores as our shortstop, I’m certainly not in a panic mode at that point.” A fair statement considering Flores’ potential and what he’s already shown in extending playing time at shortstop last season. An article written by myself in October made the case for Flores as the starting shortstop, and the logistics of those arguments still are in place today.  The Winter Meetings, however, are a great platform to enter in-person discussions with prospective GMs to entertain ideas about improving the roster.  There’s always room for improvement, and you can bet Sandy Alderson will do some “recon” of the trade market.

The Mets, A’s, Dodgers and Yankees have all been rumored to be the primary suitors for a starting shortstop this offseason, and Gregorius’ acquisition today confirmed a portion of that. If the Mets are serious about acquiring a shortstop, they have the supply to land one if they were so inclined.  The free agents available (Asdrubal Cabrera, Stephen Drew, Jed Lowrie) are not in high demand right now, so the Mets, A’s, and Dodgers should have some time to kick the tires on a few options. The Mets’ depth of quality pitching may give them the leverage for a counter offer, if the Dodgers or A’s go hard early in the process. The reality is: The Mets don’t need to be aggressive until they absolutely have to be, the supply and demand are in their favor, assuming starting pitching is what a given team Is looking for.  So how will this all play out for the Mets?

If the Mets want to sign one of the free agents, (which seems unlikely), they’ll probably wait until the market goes down.  A bidding war doesn’t seem imminent, and if recent trends continue, the Dodgers would have no issue overpaying if pressed. If a trade is going to happen, Alderson can proceed with due diligence and use Flores’ as leverage until the other team blinks.  In his mind, he has a starting shortstop, a team lacking starting pitchers, may not be able to use that “bluff”, if it even is one.

The Chicago Sox have been reported to be interested in acquiring a starting pitcher, and after signing Adam LaRoche to a 2 year/$25 million dollar deal, it’s safe to say they’re eager to contend in 2015.  All-Star shortstop Alexei Ramirez is signed for another year with a team option for 2016, if the Mets were to offer two Major League ready starting pitchers, could a trade be sealed? Mets fans will just have to wait.

Jon Lester, Max Scherzer, James Shields, and Ervin Santana are still being wooed, and many teams are dangling their own aces to see who is biting. There is no pressure on the Mets to make a trade, ironically, that could be exactly what gets one done.

 

Follow Sean Flattery on Twitter @SeanFlatts

Non-tender deadline looms for Eric Young Jr. and Ruben Tejada

Tejada Eric YoungThe next probable and tangible moves made by GM Sandy Alderson and the front office will be decisions on Ruben Tejada and Eric Young Jr.  The Mets have until Tuesday night at 11:59 pm to tender contracts to the two arbitration eligible players before they retroactively become unrestricted free agents.  After Alderson inevitably decides on these players, the fans will have a clearer outlook on the Mets’ Opening Day Roster.

Let’s first visit Tejada’s situation. The 25-year old shortstop’s development has not gone according to plan.  After a promising 2012 season, Tejada has slowly fallen out of favor with the organization while struggling to find the offensive groove that made him a promising prospect.  With Wilmer Flores in line for some extended playing time next season and the club’s ongoing scan of the shortstop market, it appears that Tejada is a candidate to be non-tendered.  On the off-chance he is tendered, a contract in the range of $1.5 to $2.2 million dollars is likely destined for the first year arbitration eligible shortstop.  The Mets, already staffed with comparable and cheaper options within the pipeline, could easily cut ties with Tejada thus ending his days in orange and blue.

Young’s fate with the team is still up in the air.  The Mets have yet to hint at their plans for the speedy lead-off hitter, but his clear utility as a bench player may ironically be his saving grace.  The signing of Michael Cuddyer has solidified the landscape, at least on paper, for the 2015 Mets outfield, a claim they couldn’t boast last season.  Last season, even after signing Chris Young, the playing time amongst the outfielders was seen as a four headed monster between Curtis Granderson, Juan Lagares, and the two Youngs.  Now with Cuddyer’s presence, Lagares’ resurgence, and perspective on Young Jr.’s down year (.219/.299/.311), there is little doubt what trio will get the bulk of the playing time this season.  The outfield will still need at least two reserve players, especially when you consider the injury history of the projected starters.  Despite his relegation as a bench player, Terry Collins, who appears to be one of his biggest fans, could tout EY’s utility value as a detainment factor.

Collins has consistently raved about EY’s spark at the top of the lineup which has given the team an energy or spark that was lacking.  Last season, Young stole 30 bases and scored 48 runs in limited action while playing exceptional defense (20.1 DZR and 5 DRS).  Now in his second year eligible for arbitration, Young appears to be headed for a salary in the $3 to $3.5 million dollar range.   Like Tejada, cheaper options in Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Matt den Dekker could nudge Alderson in the direction of non-tendering Young, however, the unique skillset or trade value could propel an offer in the coming days.

The answers to these minor roster questions will be confirmed very soon.  Tejada and Young have their place in Mets lore; the only question is whether they have their chance to enhance it.

 

Follow Sean Flattery on Twitter @SeanFlatts

Mets could be on the lookout for more LOOGYs

LOOGYWhile the Mets were quick out of the gate this offseason by signing Michael Cuddyer, there shouldn’t be too many high profile free agents being acquired any time soon.  A trade for a shortstop will continue to be the hot bed of discussion around the Mets and GM Sandy Alderson, but any ensuing action will probably occur later than sooner.  Power plays and leverage schemes will continue throughout the “Hot Stove” season from each team looking to make a significant trade, but in the meantime Alderson should have his attention on his bullpen.

Last season the Mets, like many other teams do, sifted through numerous pitchers before their collective relief pitching arsenal revealed itself as a constant.  Fans suffered through the struggles of Kyle Farnsworth, Jose Valverde, Scott Rice, and John Lannan while still bearing the after effects of Bobby Parnell’s opening day injury (and blown save).  By the end of the season, the Mets bullpen fine-tuned their performance which is reflected by their 3.18 ERA, good for eighth in MLB.  Jenrry Mejia, Jeurys Familia, Vic Black, Josh Edgin,  Carlos Torres, Buddy Carlyle, and Dana Eveland all provided a much needed boost to a relief corps that has been shoddy since 2006. In 2015, all the aforementioned players will be back along with a reconstructed Parnell after his Tommy John rehab and possibly Rafael Montero as a long man. So…the bullpen is locked in and ready to go right?

Not so fast.  The group returning next season, while promising and talented, are fairly young and could be prone to inconsistency, much like many bullpens.  Mejia, Familia, and Black all ended the season with injuries, and Torres’ arm seems to be defying new depths of durability.  Yesterday, Adam Rubin of ESPN.com reported that the Mets were interested in bringing back Carlyle and Eveland to sure up the back of the bullpen, the latter is also recovering from a season ending elbow injury.  The left-handed, Eveland revived his career last season by posting a 3.21 ERA in 27 IP, while opponents batted only .229. He allowed 6 of 23 inherited runners to score (26%) and showed to be affective against righties too (.216 OBA).

Like his counterparts, Eveland’s track record of success on the major league level is absent of any sustainment.  Alderson will have to consider all the facts when deciding to acquire a veteran lefty arm via trade or free agency.  Jack Leathersich and Dario Alvarez are minor league options ready for the call, and Eveland is still available.  If the Mets are going to contend next year behind their strong starting rotation, the bullpen will have to be reliable.  If the postseason has taught us anything this season, it’s that strong relief pitching can do wonders for a team’s title hopes.  Edgin’s bounce back year was encouraging, and he looks to be Terry Collins go-to LOOGY at the present, but who else is available right now?

It’s doubtful Alderson will shell out big money for a relief pitcher, so that immediately rules out Andrew Miller who should command a hefty contract. Joe Thatcher is an interesting option, but after Zach Duke’s 3 year/$15 million deal signed by the White Sox, it’s likely a similar payday is forthcoming.

Some cheaper options could be Joe Beimel or Neil Cotts.  Beimel, 38, is coming of a solid season with Seattle where left-handed batters hit only .188 against him. Cotts, 34, while not as effective as Beimel, logged 66.2 innings last season with Texas while compiling 63 SOs and yielding only 6 HR.  Both pitchers are reasonable purchases for a spot and bring experience and insurance to a young, upstart group.  Many fans might scoff at the names as “bargain basement,” but Eveland’s performance last season reflected the value in compiling capable arms.  If the Mets choose to steer clear of new additions, Eveland may become a part of the equation once again.

Remember, the manager loves his LOOGYs, so if the Mets decide to take two of them north for Opening Day, it’s worth monitoring who they are courting.

 

Follow Sean Flattery on Twitter @SeanFlatts

Whose bluff will Sandy Alderson call this year?

call my bluffThe “Hot Stove” season is off and running and all teams looking to upgrade their rosters have begun to put out feelers gauging interest.  Several media reports will emerge daily from here on in, reflecting genuine or flimsy interest teams may or may not have on certain players. While speculation will no doubt be the meat in these reports, the devil is in the details as they say.  The media gets their information from many different sources, whether it is agents, general managers, or just a team employee looking to kick the tires a little bit.  Let’s just say if a team has interest in a player and calls that team about him, I’d bet the team who answered the phone put out the report.  It’s all about parlaying a return or sparking interest.  Small exchanges between teams become long conversations, and before long a trade is made.

Let’s not deal in conjecture though, but instead on what we already know.  Since current GM Sandy Alderson joined this organization back in 2010, the Mets have made a few significant trades involving some prominent Mets players.  The returns for most of these trades were young, talented prospects coveted by the partnering organization.  Now the Mets are starting to see the fruits of these deals, and they have their GM’s shrewd negotiating tactics to thank for it.

When the Mets were getting calls on Carlos Beltran back in 2011, they were being courted by a handful of teams, namely Philadelphia, Texas, and his eventual destination San Francisco.  The Rangers were offering multiple players, but none of which peaked the interest of Alderson. The Phillies were interested but would not part with top prospects Jon Singleton or Domonic Brown. The Giants while very interested seemed bent on a package with Jonathan Sanchez and perhaps top OF prospect, Gary Brown.  Their elite prospect, Zack Wheeler, was the player Alderson was holding out for.  Ken Rosenthal tweeted at the time, most likely on the Giants’ word, that the Mets “would not” get Wheeler and “we’ll see” on Brown.  Well, Alderson waited the Giants out, and the Mets got Wheeler. Brown is still in the minor leagues and doesn’t seem destined for major league stardom anytime soon.

The same cat and mouse game played out in late 2012 during the R.A. Dickey trade talks.  The Mets had no pressing need to trade Dickey, but listened to offers from the Blue Jays and a few other teams as they negotiated a possible extension for the knuckleballer.  As Alderson denied offers including Anthony Gose and J.P. Arencibia from the Jays, the Mets assessed Dickey’s value seemingly knowing they “had the cards.”  Eventually, Alderson landed Toronto’s two top prospects in Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard in a seven player deal.

These deals were all about power and leverage.  The Giants back in 2011 needed a bat to make another run at title, and the July 31st trade deadline was looming and pressing.  Alderson used that leverage to his advantage, much like he did flipping Marlon Byrd and John Buck into Vic Black and Dilson Herrera at the deadline in 2013. These tactics were beneficial in Alderson’s vision for sustained success, a plan many Mets fans thought they would begin to play out this past season.  Wheeler, d’Arnaud, and Black all look like legit parts of future success while Syndergaard and Herrera have shined in the minors while developing. So what next on the trade front?

What Alderson and his underlings have in store this offseason is a mystery.  As recently as yesterday, an ESPN column by Buster Olney stated the Mets “will be aggressive with at least one free agent signing and one trade this offseason.” Again, the source and motive of this information can only be speculated, but you can bet Alderson will not be tipping his hand all too soon.  The Mets have many young pitching assets that other teams may covet and that will surely play a part in any significant upgrade Alderson looks to acquire via trade.  We’ve heard rumblings about the Mets’ queries regarding the Cubs middle infield surplus, the Rockies’ star power, and yesterday White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez‘s name emerged.  All good fodder for the fans, but if history has taught us anything, we won’t know what Sandy is dealing with until he lays it on the table.  Hopefully, he waited out another pot the fans will benefit from.

 

Follow Sean Flattery on Twitter @SeanFlatts

Dillon Gee appears to be the Mets’ odd man out

Dillon GeeMets fans are already anticipating the return of Matt Harvey on Opening Day 2015.  The rising star pitcher is through his rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery and set to lead the pitching rotation into the next great era of Mets baseball next year.  Unfortunately, someone will have to relinquish their slot on the starting staff to enable this upgrade.  It’s still early in the offseason, but at the moment, Dillon Gee appears to be the odd man out.

Gee is certainly worthy of being a staple in the rotation because he’s proved annually his capability of being a reliable and productive starter. The 28 year old Texan has fared well in his short Mets career, exceeding expectations while thriving in long stretches.  Gee’s unfortunate dilemma just so happens to be as a direct result of the Mets’ strong organization depth in young, talented starting pitching, a label he never really embodied.

Currently, the Mets rotation looks to be filled by Bartolo Colon, Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Jon Niese, and Zack Wheeler; the same rotation at the end of last season, with the exception of Harvey.  This could all change obviously with the Mets looking to upgrade their lineup by utilizing the surplus of young arms ready in the minor leagues.  Once you consider the progress of Rafael Montero, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz have made, Gee’s future in blue and orange seems less plausible.  There is the possibility a veteran like Colon or Niese is included in a trade, but without one, it’s hard to foresee a scenario, outside of an injury, where Gee inherits his spot in the rotation; a far out thought considering he was the Opening Day starter this past season.

Gee is entering his first year of arbitration and will probably get a salary bump up into the five to seven million dollar range, a reasonable price for a pitcher who has averaged over 150 IP the past four seasons while compiling 40 wins and a 3.91 ERA over his short career.  The market value on Gee has dropped a little due to a perhaps a step back season, albeit injury plagued.  Despite his moderate price tag, the Mets cannot afford to pay a player of Gee’s salary to be a long man out of the bullpen.  Colon is set to make $11 million next season and Niese is signed through 2016. The value of a viable lefthander in a rotation is usually a consideration when constructing a rotation going forward, another edge Niese has over Gee.

The trade market will dictate who the Mets will move this offseason.  Projecting a trade that puts multiple starters in a package to land offensive weapons is foreseeable for GM Sandy Alderson, whether it is accepted is a whole different story.  However, even if the Mets are able to trade a Colon or Niese, Syndergaard, Montero, and even Matz look to be major league ready very soon.  It becomes a numbers game, and it’s very possible Gee gets traded for a mid-level prospect just to clear his salary.  We saw a similar dynamic last year play out with Ike Davis losing out to the more desired option in Lucas Duda.  As Harvey, deGrom, and Wheeler look to lead the Mets into the Promised Land, don’t expect Gee to be along for the ride.

 

Follow Sean Flattery on Twitter @SeanFlatts

Wilmer Flores should be the starting shortstop in 2015

Wilmer FloresThe Mets offseason should be an interesting one.  There still is plenty of assessment needed to be made this offseason regarding the current roster with many variables to consider.  Sandy Alderson’s continuous evaluation process of the shortstop position will need to be fine-tuned into a definitive answer eventually. There will be many decisions to make regarding another outfielder and the starting pitching but strategy in solidifying the middle infield situation should be a top priority.  After all is said and done, don’t be surprised if Wilmer Flores is announced as the opening day starting shortstop on Opening Day.

Since Sandy Alderson arrived in 2011, the shortstop position has been an annual conundrum, or at least that’s how it seems from the outside.  In year one of his regime, Jose Reyes’ contract situation became one of the GM’s main inherited tasks regarding the future of the franchise.  After declining to make a serious offer to Reyes, the wheels were set in motion for a new shortstop to take the helm into the next era of Mets baseball; unfortunately those wheels are still spinning.  Fans and media have criticized the front office for never truly replacing Reyes, but it’s still unclear if all or any criticism is justified.

There are a few avenues Alderson can go in regards to the middle infield including the status quo.  As the roster stands right now, Daniel Murphy would be the second baseman and Flores the shortstop respectively.  This would be the optimal offensive duo, but the defensive range would be lacking despite both surprisingly handling their positions fairly well.  Last year, Flores started 50 games at shortstop compiling four errors while establishing a UZR of 4.0, (5.0 is considered above average, while 0.0 is average).   He showed limited range, but made the routine plays while displaying a solid arm.  Sound familiar?  Much of the same could be said about Murphy ,who after switching positions from third to second in 2011, has shown similarly limited athletic ability up the middle as Flores,  yet still exceeds expectations; a dynamic that could prompt a change despite their offensive ceilings.  Prototypical is just not a word Flores and Murphy will ever hear regarding their defensive prowess, but GMs feel safer when they have one under that umbrella.

Offensively, the 23 year old Flores got off to a slow start while playing sporadically after his call-up in June.  Once Terry Collins tasked him with regular playing time in July, Flores’ bat came to life and showed glimpses of the productivity the Mets had originally projected` for him.  In 78 games, including 17 games at second base, Flores had a slash line of .251/.286/.378 in 259 AB.  He also compiled 6 HR and 29 RBIs while striking out only 31 times.  Without getting too involved in the statistics, if you were to simply double his numbers to reflect a full season it would tally to 12 HR and 58 RBIs.  Now, if you acknowledge Flores’ MLB minimum salary plus a minimal raise for next season, can you conclude there is a better option outside of the organization?

Well, it all pretty much depends on how value is coveted or applied.  Sure, a trade for Troy Tulowitzki would undoubtedly be an upgrade, but is that a realistic option? Of course the Cubs have a surplus of middle infielders, but what kind of package would it take to land of them? And is it worth it?  Again, these are the questions that will hover around the conference room tables in Citi Field this offseason as the Mets’ brass figure out what the best plan is. Despite Flores’ youth and potential, they may look to free agency if they feel the payroll has the room.

So who’s available? Here are the top shortstops eligible when free agency begins, their 2014 statistics, and 2015 age and estimated market value range:

 

Player Age AB BA OPS HR RBI UZR(SS) 2015 Salary Range
Hanley Ramirez 31 449 .283 .817 13 71 -10.3 15-19 Mil per yr.
Asdrubal Cabrera 29 553 .241 .694 14 61 -6.6 12-16 Mil per yr.
Jed Lowrie 31 502 .249 .676 6 59   0.6 9-13   Mil per yr.
Stephen Drew 32 271 .162 .536 7 26   3.0 4-9     Mil per yr.
Wilmer Flores 23 259 .251 .664 6 28   4.0 500-550K per yr.

 

When you lay out the options matched with all the variables, it really seems like a no-brainer.  Flores is young and still developing and has comparable or better numbers then players at the peak of their careers.

As for internal options, Ruben Tejada just has not developed like we all thought he would, and Triple-A shortstop Matthew Reynolds is no match to Flores’ offensive potential.

It’s an interesting scenario to monitor the next few months.  The fan base seems lukewarm on Flores and desire that proven commodity manning the middle of the diamond like Reyes did for years.  Free agency is always a gamble once big money begins being thrown around.  There are many teams who have been burned the past few years with contracts that have proven to be overvalued; Stephen Drew being “Exhibit A.”  After considering all the options, the risk of Flores’ as an everyday player just doesn’t appear to be high.  Whether he passed the eye test of the general manager is a different story; the final decision on “starting shortstop” will obviously reflect the level of faith in Flores.

 

Follow Sean Flattery on Twitter @SeanFlatts

 

Blame the Wilpons, not the fans

Mets logoIf you were unfortunate enough to open up the pages of the Daily News this morning, you were subsequently subjected to one of the more ridiculous narratives to come out of the publication in years. That’s saying something considering in the last calendar year their sports writers have called for Rex Ryan’s job for visiting his son at college and made a federal case over credit breaking the Carmelo Anthony signing.  Journalistic integrity is not something they are known for, they are a tabloid headline paper, but when they unjustifiably go after some of their prospective readers, that’s when a line is crossed. Here’s an excerpt from today’s column written by Andy Martino:

“The rest of us could spend fruitless years trying to understand the psychology of a Mets fan, at least the ones who speak loudest on social media. It goes something like this: We hate the team, we hate the front office, we hate the owners, we hate the manager. Wait, we won a few this week? We’re so excited, oh my god, we’re going to the playoffs, don’t you dare say anything bad about our Metsies.”

Let’s delve in. First of all, anyone spending fruitless years on the psychology of a Met fan has deeper issues than the failures of a baseball team. No one is doing that, and the notion makes no sense, so…good one Andy.  As for the ones “who speak loudest on social media,” if that’s even possible, he’s most likely making a reference to passionate Mets’ faithful.  Fans are pleased with success, and perturbed or disappointed at failure, is this really something new to the landscape of sports? Or to put it in his terms: Is this breaking news? Fans do have a tendency to vent that enthusiasm online via many outlets thus capturing the more impulsive reactions, but isn’t that the point of social media, to interact.  Twitter, which I’m assuming the outlet this “journalist” is referring to, though seemingly off the record, is the fans version of “on the record.”  Passion and impulse affect everything in life and skew rationale sometimes, even to extreme degrees. As long as fans are not going after a player’s character or distastefully attacking with derision, there’s nothing wrong with documenting the roller coaster feelings one experiences during a game…again, that’s one of social media’s most popular utilities. I mean what’s next, critiquing emojis?

A Mets fans inner turmoil is a complex dynamic these days. The majority of the fans are not pleased with ownership and management and they want a better product on the field.  The players, however, are for the most part liked by the fan base.  The character of this team is high, and while their struggles are well documented this year, any scorn or disdain a fan may feel, the majority of it is not directed towards the players.  The Daily News doesn’t see it that way. We, the fans, are the problem. Here’s his next paragraph:

“At least this is emotion, and we’re not criticizing it. Just know that the mood at your team’s ballpark is unworthy of your passion. Here, it is dead, so dead that your eyes water, and lids droop, and you can’t imagine how anything better could materialize.”

The first line is priceless. It’s like calling someone ugly, than saying “just kidding.”  The second line doesn’t quite make sense.  The mood at the stadium is not the fan’s fault, but it’s the expected result of a team playing under .500 ball til mid-September. So maybe we’re all not as delusional as you think Andy, I mean you just contradicted yourself in the next paragraph.  But wait, it gets better:

“The Yankees aren’t good, and they won’t make the playoffs, but they are trying to seize a moment. They acquired players at the trade deadline, and have continued to tinker with the roster. They even made Young a September callup, and rode him to a walkoff shocker on Thursday.”

Weren’t the Yankees seizing the moment when they shelled out over $500 million dollars on contracts before the season? Desperation or panic set in for the Yankees, there was no seizing being done. They had no talent in the organization to turn to so they pinned their hopes on players who once showed talent in previous years and were unwanted by losing teams. Stephen Drew, Chris Young, and Chase Headley are shells of their former selves; the Yankees were the only team that would’ve taken them.

This is a flimsy article made to antagonize Mets fans who have gotten under the writer’s skin for whatever reason.  The Mets fans have showed impatience and frustration in many forms this year and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.  To criticize a fan base for having passion, albeit impulsive sometimes, is a despicable exercise. There will always be those nasty fans that displace anger, but you’ll find a percentage of those people in all walks of life, just an unfortunate fact.

The strangest component of this article is to call a fan “unworthy” in a time where the ownership has shown to be the most disloyal character in Citi Field.  Maybe Mr.Wilpon isn’t worthy of our money, but the players will still get our attention and enthusiasm, good or bad.  That’s how it should be and what encapsulates a fan in New York.

 

Follow Sean Flattery on Twitter @SeanFlatts

 

The Mets should steer clear of Tulowitzki and CarGo

Troy TulowitzkiWith hopes of any postseason chances dwindling as the season rolls down, Mets fans justifiably start to think of improvements for next season.  While it’s unlikely the Mets will do anything before the non-waiver deadline this season, there is a very good chance a trade will be made to upgrade the roster in the offseason. The availability of quality free agent position players will be scarce, so a trade is the most viable route for the Mets front office if they want to maximize the potential of an upgrade.  The names that have been popping up lately throughout the halls of Mets Nation have been Rockies’ stars Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez.  Ideally, talents like that should be unavailable or unattainable, but the Rockies desperation for quality starting pitching and their continued presence at the bottom of the standings has started rumblings from Denver to New York.  Well, after recent occurrences, the Mets should muffle any rumblings quick.

Within a span of 48 hours this past week, the Rockies announced that both Tulowitzki and Gonzalez will miss the remainder of the season due to injuries.  Tulowitzki will undergo hip surgery today, and Gonzalez will shut it down completely as a result of knee tendonitis which has worsened as the season progressed.  Undoubtedly a blow to Rockies on the field, but also damaging to their most prized possessions’ trade value.  Of course, injuries are nothing new to these two young stars.

Tulowitzki in his nine year career has only had three seasons in which he’s reached the 130 games played plateau.  For a star of his caliber, you would like to see him play in at least 150 games per year, but his durability has been an issue. This year in 91 games, he has a slash line of .340/.432/.603, all stats that lead the NL. Defensively, he’s only made four errors and consistently shows off his range and strong arm on a daily basis.  He is truly one of the best in the game, but the injuries are a concern, especially this last one.

Gonzalez is not what you would call an “Ironman” either. The young, gold glove caliber outfielder has missed considerable time the past few seasons with wrist and finger injuries and now with his knee. The Rockies trainer said they will consider options regarding the injury including platelet-rich plasma therapy, stem-cell therapy and surgery.  He’s already missed 70 games earlier in the season due to an inflamed index finger which involved a tumor being removed.  So despite having one of the best swings in baseball, his body continues to lack the durability to keep him on the field.

So do the Mets trade for one of these stars despite their injury history?  If it means giving up 4 or 5 talented players, than they should pass.  Obviously, recovery from these injuries make any trade moot until the Mets can assess they are capable of actually performing.  Outside of the immediate injury concerns, their history for DL stints is not something this team needs to get involved in.

A trade for Tulowitzki, would most likely need to include a combination of Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler, Jon Niese, and Dillon Gee as the first two components.  The next tier of the trade would probably consist of two players from this group:   Brandon Nimmo, Dominic Smith, Steven Matz, Matt den Dekker, Daniel Murphy, and Wilmer Flores.  Now as much as the Mets need a quality bat in that lineup, would the risk of having that player on the disabled list a third of the season consistently be something you could take on; especially considering what needs to be coughed up. Therein lies the rub:  the risk factor.

Tulowitzki would instantly become the Mets best player and elevate their win total, but also be a twinge or pull away from missing considerable time, if his injury trend continues.  Usually, aging is not a supporting factor for a change in durability, but that’s what needs to be considered.  Ohh… and he’s also owed $114 million dollars for the next six years. The contract may have been a deterrent if he was healthy every season.

Gonzalez, on the other hand, would demand a lesser package to obtain his services.  The return would probably involve a few of the aforementioned prospects or current Mets players, but with less demand, in the other sense of the word.   While his talent is unquestionable, the Rockies frustration with his frequent number of DL stints would seemingly cut ties with him with less arm twisting.

Of course, this is all conjecture. There are no reports of trade talks or deals on the table, just scouts scouting, writers writing, and fans rumbling. The Mets may be moving in the right direction, and they need a few more pieces to enable them to have sustainable success.  The moves they’ve made the past few years have been calculated and thought out and the fans have begun to see the fruits of those transactions.  Before they land their next talent to punch into their roster, it would serve them well if there isn’t a little red cross next to their name.

 

Follow Sean Flattery on Twitter @SeanFlatts

Wright and Granderson have failed to lead the charge

Curtis GrandersonAfter a disappointing stretch by the Mets in which they’ve lost five out of seven games to the contending Giants and Nationals, the fan base is ready to put a fork in the season and call it “a wrap.”  Though still mathematically alive with 47 games to play, the Mets chances of making a legitimate run has waned, and there’s plenty of blame to go around. Despite the presence of experienced and reliable offensive depth in the lineup, the two players with the lengthy resumes are the main culprits of the team’s latest failures.

It’s fair to say David Wright and Curtis Granderson are the leaders of this team.  Wright, of course, is the branded captain, but Granderson has taken upon himself a prominent leadership role since signing with the team in the offseason. The 33 year old veteran is a terrific clubhouse presence and his personality, work ethic, and success translate well as the vocal leader meshed with Wright’s steady bravado which is cemented within the fibers of the team. The problem with leadership, however, is it fails to exude properly when the wielders are not holding up their end of the bargain on the baseball diamond.

Wright has been an enigma all season.  Despite getting off to a fairly good start, his streakiness at the plate the past few months has been noticeable due to the inconsistency of the offense as a whole.  The captain was supposed to be the rock in the middle of the lineup, along with Daniel Murphy and Granderson, tasked to get on base and drive in runs consistently with the hope that the supporting cast would excel on a lower scale… but that just hasn’t happened. Wright is currently batting .269 with only eight HR and 54 RBIs through 108 games.  He’s also experiencing career lows in OBP (.326) and SLG (.384); alarming numbers considering the caliber of player Mets fans are used to seeing.  Of course, there is the factor with Wright’s shoulder which has been bothering him the past two months as a result of a head first slide.  To his credit, he’s played through pain and discomfort, but his swing is just not providing any consistent spans of line drives.  The third spot in the lineup has not been this barren in years.

As for Granderson, his season has been pretty much three-fold:An awful start, followed by a ten week on-base barrage before finally hitting the skids culminating with this post All-Star break funk.  In the 20 games since the break, Granderson has batted .162 with only one HR and two RBIs. While it’s understoodleading off isn’t your typical RBI position in the lineup, a meretwo RBIs in a 20 game span is a staggering display of futility.  Couple those RBIs (no pun intended) with Wright’s six post break RBIs and you can see how the two bestowed leaders should take the brunt of the blame for the team’s latest tailspin.

The pitching has been solid for the most part, especially the resurgent bullpen, but the team just hasn’t scored runs despite going 9-11 through this stretch. So far in the second half, theMets have averaged only 2.9 runs per game while batting only .208 with ten HR.  Murphy and Lucas Duda have been thefueling bats that have enabled the team to persevere through close, low scoring ball games initially, but this last week has seen the lineup fall flat.

There are still some chances of the Mets regaining their mojo, especially Wright and Granderson.  They play eight of the next 11 games against the lowly Phillies and Cubs, including three games at home against the NL East Nationals.  If there is still life in this group, the leaders of this team need to do exactly that and start driving the ball with authority the way they have in the past.  Wright and Granderson have the majority support of thefan base; perhaps they charge “once more unto the breach” and lead this team to greater heights before this season is lost for good.

For now, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas

Syndergaard_headshotIt’s difficult to decipher much of the intel coming from the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate Las Vegas. The hitters are mashing and the pitchers are… well, crashing in the run-happy Pacific Coast League.  Of course, the most watchful eyes are focused on the Mets’ number one prospect Noah Syndergaard, who is having a less than stellar year.  In 17 starts and 84.2 IP, the big right-hander has a 5.74 ERA and 1.56 WHIP, alarmingly high numbers for any pitcher at any level.  How much could actually be attributed to the thin air of Las Vegas?

As always, that’s an anomaly. Take the offense for example. The 56-43 division leading ‘51s are batting .285 as a team while averaging a league high 6.37 runs a game. Matt den Dekker, who struggled mightily with the bat during his brief stint with the Mets this season, is batting .316 with a .892 OPS in 71 games.  He’s batted .411 since returning to minors in June. Wilmer Flores, who has also struggled with the big club, has been equally as hot since being demoted. For the season, in 191 ABs, Flores is batting .325 with 12 HR and 53 RBIs, statistics that scream for an everyday spot at the major leagues.  Flores batted .225 in his major league stint, den Dekker .156, and both, many times, looked lost at the plate.

Obviously, major league pitching has much to blame for lack of production, but much can be attributed to sporadic playing time. Flores has said that his timing has improved since he’s been back to playing every day as well as his defense. Yet how much can we still attribute to his talent as opposed to the advantageous conditions of the PCL? As promising a prospect he is, his statistics rival that of a superstar, yet no call-up appears imminent by GM Sandy Alderson.  Syndergaard, despite his struggles, could be re-called in September for a few starts depending on the health and presence of the current starters on the roster.  There have not been alarming reports of diminished velocity from Vegas, but he’s been a disappointment regardless.

The statistics do not seem to be a deciding factor regarding promotions. The eyes of manager Wally Backman seem to be a useful tool for Alderson for assessment; Travis d’Arnaud being the most recent example.

After his demotion, d’Arnaud immediately tore up Triple-A pitching.  In 15 games with Las Vegas, d’Arnaud hit .436 with six homers and 16 RBIs. Much like Flores, it was as if the major league struggles never occurred, at least in respect to his mental approach. After the first week of torrid hitting and productive results, Terry Collins relayed the organization’s handling of d’Arnaud citing the results will be monitored secondarily, and the quality of at-bats and swings would be the determining factor of a promotion.

As a fan, the best angle to take in regards to any of the 51s’ success, might be to just trust the front office and use any statistics as rationally as possible.  The Las Vegas team ERA is 4.73 and that still only ranks them 11th out of 16 teams. In fact, Nashville and Iowa are the only teams with sub-four ERAs and it’s fair to say they reside outside anything that can be called Pacific.  We cannot use this as an excuse for the pitchers, but the attention should be focused on the scouting and words from actual people, than any statistics.  Syndergaard will probably not make it to the majors with a 5.71 ERA, but if he were to string together a few quality starts without dominating, a recall this year should not be that surprising.

This goes for the hitters too.  Don’t expect to see Flores, den Dekker, or the rest of the plus .300 hitters in Vegas in the major leagues anytime soon.  The Mets are hitting their stride lately and do not appear to be looking within the organization for any re-enforcements just yet.  For now, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

Follow Sean Flattery on Twitter @SeanFlatts

Ruben Tejada is doing his job just fine

Ruben TejadaThe Mets kickoff their final series before the All-Star break with a three game set against Miami.  This current home stand has been encouraging in all aspects specifically this past series when the team took three of four from the rival Atlanta Braves.  The lineup has picked up its run production too with the help of a resurgent Travis d’Arnaud and a red hot Curtis Granderson. The Mets are now 42-50 and eight games out of first place, still a long way from contention, but trending upward. If the lineup continues to show depth and productivity like it has in recent weeks, the onus on light hitting Ruben Tejada eases considerably.  Despite his shortcomings, Tejada has still held up his end of the bargain… so to speak.

Tejada has been a lightning rod for criticism the past two years; some of the jeers are justified, but much is debatable.  Despite the rumblings from outside the diamond, Tejada has put together a solid season. Solid could be deemed the right term providing a reasonable standard is set within the expectations for him. Currently, Tejada has a slash line of .241/.353/.300 with two HR and 19 RBIs. While the numbers do not reflect an offensive splurge, they do show that of a competent eighth place hitter.  To be fair, a .353 OBP is more than adequate despite only having ten extra-base hits on the season. Tejada, still only 24, has played a better than average shortstop too amongst a limited ranged supporting cast within the infield.  He’s made only five errors in 74 games and has a career best fielding percentage of .985.  This of course an improvement over an abysmal 2013 campaign, when he misplayed numerous routine groundballs and hit a career low .202 before his season ended with an injury.

It’s nice to see from a fan’s perspective.  It wasn’t too far back when everyone was imploring the Mets’ brass to upgrade the position via trade or free agency.  Tejada was a huge disappointment last season, and the idea of signing Stephen Drew or Jhonny Peralta seemed plausible.  Suddenly, through 92 games, Tejada seems like a better option. Drew has been awful since signing with Boston back in June for $10.1 million dollars. He’s currently batting .128 (11-for-86) with 2 HR, 5 RBIs, and a whopping 29 SOs in 26 games. That’s right 29 SOs in 86 ABs. This was the guy who was supposed to solidify the Mets shortstop position for the next three to four seasons. Sometimes buyer beware is the best tactic.

Of course, Peralta’s four year/$53 million contract was not an attractive signing for GM Sandy Alderson either, considering he was coming off a 50 game suspension and priced way over market value.  Sure, it would’ve been an upgrade, but with J.J. Hardy, Jed Lowrie, and Asdrubal Cabrera all impending free agents after this season, the decision to passed on Peralta and his lofty price tag seems to have been a wise decision.

Tejada may not be the future for Mets at shortstop, but for the time being he deserves the support of the fan base for a nice turnaround season.  It’s indeed remarkable that he is on pace to walk over 75 times and ranks second in the NL with eight intentional walks.  Maybe it’s a testament to his batting approach, which even the harshest critics should admire.  Tejada’s knowledge of the strike zone and ability to make contact has provided the lineup with numerous lengthy at-bats that have frustrated pitchers over the years.

Tejada is a hard guy to figure out. He’s quiet, well-mannered, yet sometimes looks detached or oblivious. Management has had their issues with him in past seasons for his fitness and work ethic for whatever reasons.  He’s still only 24, and if his season continues as it has, it’s fair to say Tejada has done his job well.  It would be nice for the young shortstop to exceed our expectations, but considering the temperature around him last season, the status quo may be sufficient for the 2014 Mets.

 

Follow Sean Flattery on Twitter @SeanFlatts