Saturday, January 9, 2010

Offseason Roundup

Ahh, what a glorious break. 3 months without having to think about the Mets was just what this tired old cynic needed. But alas, we must trudge on through the muck and the mud that is the Metropolitans franchise. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but it's probably a train.

Oh well, we've come this far. Here's my take on this offseason so far.

  • Let's start with the biggie, Jason Bay, the Canadian sensation. Rather play in Beirut than Queens, eh? Well apparently Beirut wasn't interested. Bay is stuck with us for the next 4 (more likely 5) years of despair. Typical Mets move right here, overpaying the only available commodity on the market when not a single other team was interested in his services. Will his bat strengthen this lineup? Without a doubt it will. Is that bat worth $17 mil per season? Definitely not. With Bay, Francouer, and a wobbly-kneed Beltran ranging the expanses of Citi Field, fly ball pitchers might be less than happy with their stat lines. Expect to give up a lot of extra base hits.
  • Speaking of Francouer, he's back for another year. Not a bad move, I suppose. He's reasonably paid relative to his expected production, and with very few other options, the Mets were basically forced to take him back. I like Angel Pagan as a 4th OF, but he's very unlikely to repeat his 2009 performance over a full year.
  • The bullpen? Still pretty weak. Hooray for Kelvim Escobar, who according to Omar can be a "dominant setup man." Now what would give you a crazy idea like that? The fact that he's pitched all of one game since 2007, or that he hasn't pitched regularly from the pen since 2002? I'm all for hoping, but give me a break, Kelvim Escobar is not a difference maker. Forget setup men. K-Rod (hereafter referred to as "BB-Rod") will blow plenty of games on his own.
  • The starting rotation remains equally unattractive. Johan will be Johan, but who the hell knows after that? Maine, Perez, Pelfrey, Niese, Nieve... it's like playing Russian Roulette with 4 bullets in the chamber. Pelfrey should improve with the return of Jose Reyes and hopefully the David Wright from every year but 2009, but Maine and Perez are still massive question marks.
  • Joel Pineiro seems to be the most attractive free agent option right now, but I'm not sold. He was a complete mess from 2004-06, came back in '07, sucked again in '08, and then posted a nice line in '09. Call it Mets intuition (mainly pessimism with a dash of precognition), but he reeks of major bust. I'll live with him on a 2 year deal, but anything more is too much. Mike Pelfrey should give him a call and tell him what it's like to be a ground ball pitcher on this team.
  • Ben Sheets would be great too, if we had endless streams of money and time machine to go back to before we signed him when he tears a rotator cuff in May. For the kind of money he's asking (something around $12 mil base with up to $5 mil incentives), I'd rather go to Atlantic City and put it all on black. From what I've read, Omar is seeking a more reliable option.
  • Jon Garland is a very reliable pitcher, albeit reliably mediocre. He's made 32+ starts every year since 2002, never posting an ERA above 5. I think he'd be a great addition to the staff, considering the consistency he will bring to a team in desperate need of some. He's never going to be an ace, but you know what you'll get from him, which I greatly prefer over boom or bust guys like Perez or Sheets.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

2009 is over, expectations lowered

I for one am relieved to be done with this torturous season. I'm sticking my Mets jersey in the back of the closet. Mets blogs? See ya when the winter meetings roll around (oh right... except for this one). This season has been like a bad girlfriend. I'm not really sure why I stayed with it so long, but boy am I glad it's gone, and I'm going to do whatever it takes to forget it ever existed. Sorry liver, but you might have to work overtime a few nights to completely erase that 6-month debacle from my memory. Thankfully I have short hair, or it might have all been ripped out by now.

But of course the offseason is here, and hope springs eternal. My Seahawks are already doing their best impression of the Mets (and themselves from last year). The Rangers are buoying my spirits for the time being, but I'm preparing for another broken heart in April, at which point the Mets will be ready to sweep up whatever is left of my ability to care with a broom made of Carlos Beltran's legs. I'm ever the optimist.

While I'm sure the Mets will pull a Mets and sign some overpriced free agent and get every major media outlet buzzing about them, I'm tempering my expectations indefinitely. Injuries are one thing, but this team will struggle to break .500 as long as Omar and Jerry are piloting this nosediving plane. Omar is king of the 3-man bench. His roster mismanagement is embarrassing. When the morons on Baseball Tonight are questioning your moves, you're in over your head. Jerry needs to be dropped off at the nearest garbage dump (presumably Staten Island). He is completely inept, incompetent, and incapable. I'm sick of Jerry and his "hunches." It's nice to have a gut feeling once in a while, but to completely discount statistics in your decision-making is just plain arrogant. You know what Jerry? I have a hunch that you suck as a manager. I have hunch that you'll be fired in the middle of the season. I have a hunch that you're having an affair with Fernando Tatis. Sometimes I get the gut feeling that you know absolutely nothing about baseball. Ooh, this is easier than it sounds. Someone hire me as a manager!

Instead of "You gotta believe," the Mets might want to consider changing their inspirational slogan to "What the hell were you thinking?"

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Man-crush Alert: Carl Crawford

It's hard for me to describe how much I want Carl Crawford on the Mets next season. It may have crossed the line from liking him as a player to serious man-crush territory. Crawford is everything the Mets need (except for a power-hitting 1B, #2-5 starter, middle relief, manager, GM, competent public relations staff, etc.). The Rays have a $10 mm club option for him in 2010 with a $1.25 mm buyout. It's not secret that the Rays are attempting to move some salary to upgrade some other positions, and with a plethora of young outfielders ready to make the leap to the majors, Crawford seems like the most logical option. They'll likely explore the trade market before buying out his contract, but the Mets should be in the mix either way. It's actually *gasp* possible for him to be a Met next season.

On to the man-crush. Here's a list of reasons why the Mets need him, because lists look important and professional.

  1. Speed. The man can fly around the basepaths and in the outfield. He has amassed 46 or more steals in every full season in his career except last year, an injury riddled campaign that saw him play only 109 games. Prior to this season, he racked up 9 or more triples for 6 straight seasons. Given a modest Citi Field projection, Crawford could hit about 35-40 triples next season in blue and orange. A 1-2 of Reyes and Crawford, followed by RBI machines Wright and Beltran instantly transforms this into one of the most potent offenses in the league. Throw Angel Pagan into right field and the Mets will have to start buying flame-retardant dirt for the infield.
  2. Fielding. The Mets always wanted a team built around speed and defense, but have yet to actually put the product on the field. Though LF is one of the least important positions according to WAR, Crawford would nonetheless be a huge upgrade over Daniel Murphy, Fernando Tatis, Gary Sheffield, Cory Sullivan, and any other (s)crap the Mets have so uncaringly thrown into left field this season. Crawford also has the ability to play CF if Beltran's knees diminish his range significantly at any point, though his sub-par arm is easier to hide in left.
  3. He's exciting to watch. Perhaps this would go under the speed category, but it's still an important consideration. Crawford hitting triple after triple will put butts in the seat. If Jose Reyes ever blossoms into the superstar he sometimes looks like he can be, the Mets will be flashy and energetic. Heck, maybe they can finally have their own identity too, a far departure from the constant need to be like our stuffy, pinstriped cross-town rivals. Anything separating the Mets from the Yankees is a plus in my book, a book entitled "Things That Are Awesome."
  4. He's not Jeff Francouer. Crawford may not be universally known as gritty or hard-nosed or dirty or whatever else you call players with an annoying grin and minimal talent, but he is something that Frenchy is not: GOOD. Why pay $3-5 million (projections) in arbitration for a guy who offers little more than a cool breeze down the first base line as he whiffs at yet another first pitch breaking ball? Spend the extra money (and perhaps prospects, if he needs to be traded for) to get a potential 5-win player.
  5. He's in his prime. Enough with waiting for Fernando Martinez to turn into a stud overnight. Enough with signing guys like Sheffield and Tatis, wishing upon a star that they can return to some shell of their former selves. Enough with trading for "change of scenery" guys like Jeff Francouer, hoping a new team will suddenly make him a player he has never even shown the potential to be. Crawford's time is NOW. No waiting, no hoping, just results. If that isn't the best reason in the world, I don't know what is. If the front office really think the Mets can contend for a title in 2010, this is the kind of move that HAS to be made.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

How Current Mets Fit Into 2010: Relievers

Last day of this segment: the bullpen.

Francisco Rodriguez - K-Rod hasn't really been the same since Luis Castillo single-handedly blew his save against the Yankees. Even so, he has been far from the dominant, reliable closer for whom Omar paid so much. Even worse, if Frankie can reach 2 very easily attainable incentives over the next 2 seasons, his 2012 option for $17.5 million (!) will vest. That's an ungodly amount of money. That's the kind of check you give to an ace pitcher or stud outfielder, not a reliever with spotty control (his 4.99 BB/9 is 6th worst among NL relievers with 50+ IP) and a history of injuries. It will sadly be in the Mets best interest for him to miss an entire season. Frankie will be the Mets closer next year without a doubt, but count me among the fans disgruntled about his ridiculous contract.

Pedro Feliciano - Pedro continues to be one of the best lefty specialists in the league, with a career .215 BAA versus lefties. He has been hurt by homers this year, but he will almost certainly be a valuable asset in the NL East as long as his exposure to righty hitters is limited. He is also incredibly reliable, pitching 78 games in 2007, 84 in 2008, and currently 74 in 2009. Pedro is arbitration eligible this year but should still command a very reasonable salary. The Mets would be foolish to let him go.

Sean Green - Inconsistent garbage who will be 31 next season. He came in as the replacement for Aaron Heilman, so in that respect he has done an excellent job. I don't know which way the Mets will go with Green, but I can't think of a reason to keep him. Middling relievers with career 4.51 ERAs are a dime a dozen, and this one reminds me too much of Heilman for me to not boo when he enters the game. When I'm watching at home. On my computer. The box score, not the live game.

Brian Stokes - Looked like he could turn the corner after a stellar July, but he's been average or worse in every other month. 2008 looks like an aberration for Stokes, as his 2009 numbers are more in line with his career stats. He possesses a plus fastball and a decent breaking ball, but he doesnt miss enough bats for a guy who walks 4.9 per 9 (see: Carlos Marmol, who walks an astounding 8.07 per 9, but also K's 11.13 per 9 and has given up just 1 homer). Stokes turned 30 a few days ago, and it's unlikely he'll be more than an average reliever. Bring him back, but lower your expectations.

J.J. Putz - There really isn't much to go on to make this decision. His $8.6 million club option for 2010 is entirely too much for a setup man, and he clearly will not be closing in New York. The Mets could pick up the option and attempt to trade him to a team in need of a closer, but that's a very risky move, as most teams are not stupid enough to give relievers that much money. My best guess is that Putz will be allowed to walk, and I can't say I'll shed a tear for him.

Elmer Dessens - Here's a short list of MLB pitchers who could approximate Elmer Dessens' skill set: all of them. Don't waste time and money on a 38 year old mop-up guy.

Lance Broadway - Hopefully he'll be back in AAA next year where he belongs. The Castro trade looks like a bigger ripoff every day.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

How Current Mets Fit Into 2010: Starting Pitchers

Day 3 of this segment will look at the many members of this year's Mets starting rotation.

Johan Santana -
Despite what I perceive to be a gradual decline, Santana is still the Mets' ace and one of the best pitchers in the game. I do not think he will be shopped in the offseason even though a prospect package and salary relief would be tremendously beneficial to them. He may not be untradeable anymore, but with the Mets front office perpetually believing they're one piece away from a championship, he'll most likely be our 2010 opening day starter.

Mike Pelfrey - Next season will assuredly be career-defining for Big Pelf. The tall, powerful sinkerballer has been incredibly inconsistent from start to start, and even from inning to inning. For all his obvious talents on the mound, Pelfrey has obvious mental issues. He fidgets constantly, leading to a ridiculous number of balks. He appears detached at times, and other times he will get into a jawing match with a batter for seemingly no reason. If Pelfrey doesn't put it all together next season, it will likely be his last in New York, or at least his last in the rotation.

John Maine - Maine is expected to pitch the last couple of weeks this season, possibly from the bullpen. From there we should know what to expect next season. The Mets still control him in 2010, but whether he can be counted on to fill a rotation spot with his injury history remains to be seen. I like John Maine as a pitcher. He has an aggressive, bulldog mentality on the mound, which I think would be great in a relief role should it come to that. I expect he'll be in the rotation in 2010, but there's a fair chance he'll be sent to the 'pen.

Oliver Perez - What can I say about Perez that hasnt been said every day for the last 4 months? Ollie is a terrible pitcher who will continue to be sent out every fifth day because of his joke of a contract. He makes $12 million each of the next 2 years. I will gladly eat a plate of crow if he puts together a magical season next year, but don't hold your breath. Thinking about Perez in a Met uniform for 2 more years makes me want to throw large fruit off a tall building so I'll leave it at that.

Bobby Parnell - As Parnell himself has so graciously demonstrated, he does not belong in a major league starting rotation. He'll return to a middle relief role next year unless he discovers a treasure chest this winter containing fastball command and off-speed pitches. He'll be an average or maybe above-average reliever with the heat he throws, but he's not rotation-ready quite yet.

Tim Redding - GAG! That's all I have to say. Next please.

Nelson Figueroa -
Figgy has good stuff and has been a decent fill in for a decimated rotation, but he's 35 years old and has never really had an extended period of success in his career. The Mets will probably let him walk. He seems to like New York though, so he could be willing to accept another minor league contract if he can't find a big league gig somewhere else.

Fernando Nieve -
Nieve pitched extremely well in limited action before (surprise) getting hurt. From what I heard, he was pitching with a lot more confidence than he did in Houston, and was more willing to use his off-speed stuff in fastball counts. I think he'll be a good candidate for a long relief role, and he could even sneak into the rotation with a great spring.

Jonathan Niese - Like Nieve, Niese pitched well in his few starts before getting injured. The true shame of it is that this was his chance to prove what he could do in the bigs. A good performance could have cemented him a starting job next season. Don't kid yourself, a hamstring tear is a serious injury. Even if Niese is ready to pitch come spring training, it might take a while to fully recover from that injury, perhaps even a full season. When it's all said and done, I think he'll end up starting for AAA Buffalo in 2010, but like his similarly-named counterpart Nieve, could grab the 4th or 5th rotation spot with a good showing next spring.

Monday, August 31, 2009

How Current Mets Fit Into 2010: Outfielders

Here is day 2 of the segment in which I talk about the future of the players currently on the Mets roster. Subject: Outfielders.

Carlos Beltran - I die a little inside every time the Mets announce that Beltran is still planning to come back this season. With his long history of knee problems, and the Mets 13 games under .500, there is no reason for Beltran not to rest and focus on getting healthy for spring training. He is not in a contract year and has nothing to prove. I hope someone finally gets the clue before it's too late. There is a lot of speculation that his bad knees will preclude a move to the corner outfield, but I believe Beltran will still be ranging the expanses of Citi next spring.

Gary Sheffield - Sheff has been a great comeback story this year, but I see no reason why he would be back in 2010. His power is diminishing and his outfield play is horrendous. I also get the sense that Sheff is not too happy with Jerry Manuel. I hope to see him finish his career on a high note, playing 4th OF and DH for an AL team.

Angel Pagan - Pagan has been nothing short of fantastic. His gap power and speed play perfectly in Citi field, as evidenced by his 7 triples. His fielding ability is average in CF, but he is a plus fielder in the corners (4.5 UZR/150 for his career combining all 3 positions). However, Pagan continues to have injury problems with 2 more DL trips this year. It's easy to see his talent, but he is not a very good baseball player. He makes some very questionable decisions on the basepaths. Pagan is an excellent 4th outfielder, and hopefully he will not be asked to be something more.

Fernando Martinez - F-Mart has some of the best tools of any young player in the league, but has yet to translate that to game situations. He definitely made some impressive plays in the field, but like a lot of young players who are rushed to the majors, he struggles with fundamentals. He also looked absolutely overmatched by major league pitching, and displayed little to none of the power he wows fans and coaches with in batting practice. If this was any team but the Mets, Martinez would start the year in AAA, and maybe even stay there for the duration. But of course this is the Mets we're talking about. I wouldn't be surprised to see him starting in RF next year.

Cory Sullivan - Sully is horrible. If he takes a roster spot away from Nick Evans next year, I just might scream. He'll probably sign a minor league contract somewhere, be it with the Mets or another organization.

Nick Evans - Speaking of Evans, he should definitely stick around. He actually should have been with the Mets for all or most of this season. As one of the few players in this system with power, he would make a nice platoon partner for a lefty 1B (Daniel Murphy?) and 5th OF. He mashes lefties. I'm not sure Evans will ever evolve into a starting caliber player, but he could be great in that role.

Jeremy Reed - I'm not sure if Reed is arbitration eligible this season, and to be honest, I'm still a little hazy on that whole process. From a purely statistical standpoint, Reed should hit the highway. He's a poor man's Endy Chavez. The Mets should have outfielders to make him pretty expendable.

Jeff Francouer - Saving the best for last. I'm not sure there has ever been a more controversial player since Sabermetrics became popular. His numbers look decent on the surface, and he is known for having one of the best outfield arms in baseball. He hustles, looks like he's having fun playing, and is a good locker room influence. But here's the catch: Francouer sucks. He has zero plate discipline and poor range in right field. His wOBA is a woeful .301. His career UZR/150 of 6.5 is entirely because of his arm. Unless he can magically rediscover the power he had in 2006 when he clubbed 29 homers (*cough* steroids), he is nearly worthless as a baseball player. With some speculating he could get $3-5 million in arbitration, there is not a single reason for the Mets to keep him. That said, I fully expect Frenchy to be starting in RF in 2010. Hooray for lowered expectations!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

How Current Roster Fits Into 2010: Infielders

Here's day one of a multi-part segment I'll be doing outlining how each current Mets fits into the plans for next year. First up: infielders.

1B: Daniel Murphy - For all the talk about Murphy's struggles in the plate, it's actually his bat that should draw the most questions this offseason. Murph has settled in nicely at first. His UZR/150 games is 2.0, while it was a dreadful -6.3 in left field. With the bat, however, Murphy has been been awful. Unless he shows dramatic improvement at the plate, he should start learning how to field other positions, because his bat more closely resembles that of a utility player, not a first baseman.

2B: Luis Castillo - Castillo has been good with the bat, but his range has become non-existent at second. With Omar Minaya regrettably getting a vote of confidence from the Wilpons, Castillo seems like a lock to be around next year. He is a perfect #2 hitter, with great bat control and solid bunting ability. The offense will benefit from his return, but ground ball pitchers like Mike Pelfrey should prepare for another year of embarrassingly bad infield play at second.

3B: David Wright - Wright is the face of the franchise. He'll be back next season and hopefully back to his old ways with the bat.

SS: Jose Reyes - There have been rumblings suggesting Reyes be moved, but that seems incredibly unlikely. Jose's trade value is at an all time low, with questions about his health and desire popping up. He's going to the Mets starting shortstop in 2010. I stake my reputation on it.

C: Brian Schneider - Schneid is a decent fielder with good plate discipline, but he might just be the worst hitter in the Mets lineup, and that is really saying something this year. His future with the team could depend upon Josh Thole's performance, assuming he is called up when rosters expand in September. Worst case scenario, I see him back for 1 year at a greatly reduced salary.

1B: Carlos Delgado - Delgado's longstanding injury has made it difficult to predict his future with the team. In any case, the Mets will buy out his 2010 option (if they pick up his $16mm option, this will be a Colorado Rockies blog next year). I believe they'll offer him arbitration, but who really knows. Delgado is still a type-A free agent, so the Mets will receive 2 draft picks if they offer arbitration and he signs elsewhere. Delgado could also accept the one year offer and make a pretty formidable platoon with the right-handed Nick Evans, but then Omar's dream of having Daniel Murphy magically transform into John Olerud would be dashed. I have a hunch Delgado will be finding a new team this offseason, most likely an AL team where he can DH and rest his aging joints. Then again, the current front office regime has been prone to severe lapses in judgment. Call it a 50-50 shot.

Utility: Fernando Tatis - Fernando "6-4-3" Tatis has faceplanted this year after a delightfully surprising resurgence last year. The Mets were hoping he could platoon with Murphy in LF, but as we can see now, that plan was just a little flawed. That said, Tatis is still a decent hitter and can play every infield position and corner outfield (he's about average at first, and mediocre or bad everywhere else), and he could benefit from lowered expectations. I wouldn't be sad to see him go, but he's still a fairly valuable utility guy who I would welcome back at the right price.

SS / 2B: Anderson Hernandez - A-Hern is a bad hitter and an average fielder with so-so speed and plate discipline. He's a jack of 2 trades, master of none. If he's on the Mets opening day roster in 2010, something went horribly wrong.

SS / 2B: Alex Cora - Despite his struggles, I like Alex Cora. He's a good contact hitter with a short stroke and a good eye. He's a good bunter, a renowned clubhouse presence, and aside from his ridiculously bad range, a halfway decent fielder. When you thrust a guy like Cora into the starting lineup every day and expect him to replace Jose Reyes, trouble is sure to follow. As a backup, however, he's as good as they get. I think he'll be back in Flushing next year at a modestly reduced salary.

SS: Wilson Valdez -
Adequate glove, but Valdez is 31 and couldn't hit a beach ball with a cricket bat. I've seen better hitters in the Little League World Series. Valdez is so bad I think he dreams of being Angel Berroa. Under no circumstances should Wilson Valdez be a New York Met next year.

C: Omir Santos - A gritty guy who has come up clutch a few times this year, Omir has become somewhat of a fan favorite. Not a fan favorite like Mike Piazza or David Wright, but more of a lovable loser kind of fan favorite, like Todd Pratt or Tsuyoshi Shinjo. I expect he'll be back next year, and I pray to the heavens every night that it's as a backup.