One thing that seems apparent to me is that things get better for the Mets when the GM acts. He traded Ike Davis and first base got better. He got rid of Kyle Farnsworth, John Lannan, Scott Rice and Jose Valverde and the bullpen got better. And perhaps now our long outfield nightmare can improve with Bobby Abreu and Chris Young being recently shown the door.
With the possible exception of righty relievers, no one has ever accused Sandy Alderson of moving quickly to address a problem. But if the Mets are going to be legitimate playoff contenders next year, there are still things Alderson needs to do. Here are 10 things that Alderson should think long and hard about and then act upon before the conclusion of the 2014 calendar year.
1. Regardless of how he does the remainder of this year – trade Wilmer Flores
Last year’s not supposed to count because of the ankle injury and this year’s not supposed to count because of the sporadic playing time. So, here’s hoping he goes on a crazy hot streak the rest of the season to pump up his trade value. People are overvaluing Flores based on his long-time prospect status and his inflated stats at Las Vegas. My belief is that in the long run he’s not going to hit enough to be worthwhile and if the Mets trade Daniel Murphy, it should be to open a spot for Dilson Herrera and not Flores.
2. If Matt den Dekker continues with his strikeout rate, consider him a starting outfielder
As the only person to include den Dekker in his Top 10 prospect list before the season, it was great news for me to hear that the Mets called him up, presumably to be the starting left fielder the rest of the way. He came up with a great defensive reputation and in the little we’ve seen him in the majors, that’s been confirmed with the eye test. But can he hit? He’s got a 32.1 K% in the majors and he can’t succeed with that rate. But since being sent to the minors, he has a 13.5 K% in 192 PA. If den Dekker can keep a strikeout rate under 15 percent in the majors, he’ll be a star. A more realistic goal might be a 20.0 K% from now until the end of the year.
3. Recognize that Jenrry Mejia is not a long-term answer at closer
Confidence is a tricky thing so the Mets cannot just demote Mejia from the role the rest of the season. But any excuse to give Jeurys Familia a few chances in the ninth inning the rest of the way should be utilized. Friday night was just the latest example of Mejia walking the tightrope and it seems odd to me to prefer him over either Familia or Parnell (if healthy) as a closer going forward. And while he should not actively shop Mejia in the offseason, Alderson should be open to including him in a deal for a big bat.
4. Make Jon Niese prove he’s not injured
My firm belief is that a healthy Niese is a low-end SP#2 and it’s surprising and painful to see him pitch the way he has in his last four starts. Order him to undergo a full battery of tests and if he passes let him go to the mound for his next start. But if he gets knocked around again, shut him down and give Rafael Montero his spot in the rotation. It’s more valuable to see Montero get a half a dozen starts against MLB hitters than to see Niese throw up meatballs in the middle of the plate the remainder of the season.
5. Decide what kind of hitter you want Juan Lagares to be
Since returning from the DL, Lagares has a .588 OPS in 137 PA, despite a .330 BABIP. Neither the highs nor lows have been as extreme as 2013, but Lagares has essentially been the same hitter as last year. In both seasons, he had one BABIP-fueled hot streak propping up his overall numbers. In his first 31 games in 2014, Lagares had an .842 OPS thanks to a .393 BABIP. Since then, he’s posted a .586 OPS with little power and fewer walks. If you think Lagares can be a 25-HR hitter, have him sell out and swing for the fences each time up. If you don’t think he can do that, have him try to never strike out swinging, look for walks and hit the ball the other way. His defense is so good, that if he could just put up a .700 OPS he would be a star. But his current approach of no power and no walks and depending upon the BABIP gods isn’t going to get it done.
6. If a team claims Curtis Granderson on waivers, let him go for free
It hurts to write this because Granderson seems like a good guy. But whenever you sign a veteran free agent to a long-term contract, the assumption is you get the value in the front and pay for it at the back end. Here in the first year of his four-year deal, Granderson sits with a 1.6 fWAR and is projected by ZiPS to finish the season with a 2.1 mark. If he shows no decline and finishes each year of his deal with that level of production, he would return 8.4 fWAR for $65 million. Everyone complains about the money owed Bartolo Colon but the money owed Granderson has less chance of being recouped in on-field production.
7. In trade discussions with the Cubs, ask if Jorge Soler is available
Everyone imagines that the Mets and Cubs match up well because the Mets have pitchers and the Cubs have shortstops. That’s true enough. But perhaps the value for the Mets is in Cuban outfielder Soler. He’s had injury problems both years in the U.S. (along with some attitude concerns last year) but the guy can rake. In 22 games in Double-A, he had a 1.355 OPS. In 16 games in Triple-A, he has a 1.181 OPS. For the year, his slash line is .377/.473/.783 in 167 PA.
8. Do not let Kevin Plawecki hold up any deal for an impact player
Everyone wants catching and with a young starter in the majors establishing himself, the Mets have one to deal in Plawecki. He crushed the ball in Double-A but has had some trouble in Las Vegas. Still, he’s showing up everywhere in mid-season top prospect lists. Look to sell high on Plawecki, partly due to an overvaluation of his MLB chances but mostly due to the presence of a potential star already in the majors at his position.
9. Accept the injury risk of Troy Tulowitzki
It’s got to be hard for Alderson to give up a ton for a guy who seems guaranteed to miss a month of the season. But Tulowitzki is so good when he’s healthy that he should pull the trigger. There’s always the (slight) chance he gets passed it in a new environment and even if he doesn’t, the Mets have an acceptable backup option in Ruben Tejada.
10. Fire Terry Collins
Niese glares at him when he comes to the mound. David Wright jogs like an old man on balls hit in the infield. Carlos Torres’ arm looks like it might fall off any day now. Eric Campbell can’t find any playing time. Josh Edgin is used in the least-productive way possible. Players go to the minors and come back better thanks to real coaching. His lineup choices and pinch-hitting decisions leave a lot to be desired. His record is horrible. A recent MetsBlog poll showed that 69% of the respondents disapprove of his job performance. If Frank Cashen was running things, the first thing he’d do would be to find a new manager. Collins is so bad that even M. Donald Grant would authorize money to be spent to find a replacement. Put us all out of our misery and get us a manager who doesn’t make things harder than they have to be.