Prospects For The 2012 Mets Looking Increasingly Dim

All Star Game, Books, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, Players, Playoffs, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors

In comparison to last winter when the Mets biggest press conference apart from the introductions of new GM Sandy Alderson and new manager Terry Collins was the gala event celebrating the acquisition of Chin-lung Hu, you’d think the winter of 2011-2012 could hardly get worse.

And you’d be wrong.

With the public posturing by the Marlins that they’re going to be aggressive in free agency; the burgeoning young talent on the Nationals; and the Braves and Phillies all residing in the National League East, where does that leave the financially stagnant Mets?

Jose Reyes is 50-50 to stay or go; if Reyes stays, bet on David Wright to stay; if Reyes goes—especially if he goes to a division rival—the Mets can’t take offers on Wright because the remaining Mets fans willing to pay to see this team play won’t have any reason to go whatsoever apart from there being no line at Shake Shack.

There’s ample money coming off the books and negligible raises to players currently on the roster; if they keep Reyes, they should still have a few bucks to spend; but what they’re looking at is the same situation as last year—few viable options that will: A) help that much; B) want to join the Mets when they have other teams pursuing them.

So where does that leave them?

Trapped in the world of “hope”. Hope that Johan Santana comes back in some semblance of effectiveness and durability; hope that Jason Bay becomes the Jason Bay they thought they were getting; hope that the young players who’ve shown promise like Lucas Duda and Ruben Tejada continue to improve; hope that Ike Davis comes back…

Hope, hope, hope. It’s a planet few ever leave with their desires fulfilled.

At least they agreed to an extension with Tim Byrdak.

That should reduce the sting infinitesimally.

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The Fielder-Byrdak Incident

All Star Game, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, Players, Playoffs, Prospects, Trade Rumors, Umpires

Prince Fielder has a short fuse. I won’t go so far as to say he has anger issues, but he’s temperamental with teammates, opponents, umpires and himself. The brief confrontation he had with Mets pitcher Tim Byrdak after grounding out last night stemmed from a misunderstanding; Fielder’s aforementioned temper; that the Brewers were being overt in their on-base celebrations while they were building their lead; and that Byrdak took exception to Fielder screaming at himself while running to first base on a ground out.

You can see it here.

Fielder is the type who won’t walk away. I understand that. But the Brewers—steamrolling toward the playoffs and with Fielder their key player—can’t be getting into a fight with the Mets in August over a “misunderstanding”. All the Brewers need to do is get someone hurt or suspended in a brawl with a team playing out the string.

And that’s before getting to the fact that Fielder is about to make $150-180 million in free agency this winter. Does he want to risk tearing a shoulder in a fight over nothing?

The Mets aren’t in a position to say anything about another club celebrating on the basepaths with the idiotic “claw” they’re constantly doing. Teams like the Mets, barely over .500 and in need of the Hubble Telescope to see the division and Wild Card leaders, shouldn’t be acting up on the bases to begin with and then have the audacity to get annoyed when other teams do it.

For his part, Byrdak had no business walking off the field after the whole thing started and the benches were emptying with the bullpens running in.

Naturally, most of these “bench clearing incidents” aren’t incidents at all; usually it’s team solidarity and finding a dance partner to appear as if a player is involved when he’s putting forth a pretense of being involved. But one sacrosanct rule is this: if you started the thing, don’t be the guy crawling out of the pile and heading for the exit when the fight gets going.

On another note, when I first watched the video clip on ESPN.com, I was first greeted with a commercial for Levi’s with Kenny Mayne.

Mayne is about as funny as the late WPIX sportscaster Jerry Girard. If you remember Jerry Girard, you know that he was funny until people started telling him he was funny; then he wasn’t funny. Same thing with Mayne.

Smarmy and funny are two separate entities that have been blurred and must be clarified for the greater good of humanity.

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Considering Isringhausen

All Star Game, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, Players, Prospects, Trade Rumors

Should the Mets think about Jason Isringhausen as closer for 2012?

Almost a month ago when they traded Francisco Rodriguez, Isringhausen was considered the veteran stopgap before they decided what they were really going to do. Most of the focus centered around Bobby Parnell, but Pedro Beato, Manny Acosta and Ryota Igarashi have all gotten long looks in innings prior to the ninth. Beato had a chance to close a game but a failed double play necessitated the use of Tim Byrdak to finish.

Would Isringhausen be an inexpensive, veteran option to start the season in 2012?

His arm is duct-taped together and he’s about to turn 39; his numbers are mediocre if you take them at face value; but he’s been a good-humored leader in the clubhouse; has done everything asked of him; has pitched well enough that if age and injury-history weren’t factored in, he’d be an obvious choice to stay and continue in the role. He strikes out a fair amount of hitters and throws strikes; there would be a seamless transition once they move on to someone else.

His stuff isn’t as impressive as K-Rod’s was, but what I call the “aggravation factor” (no, it’s not a stat) is diminished with Isringhausen. You pretty much know what you’re getting—he allows a homer here and there; is going to blow a few games; and doesn’t get in trouble just for the sake of it as K-Rod does—and for the most part, will do his job.

There will be numerous closer-types available next season, but given what the Mets front office believes, they’re not going to overpay for a mediocrity when they could find someone from within who’d do the same job at a lower salary; nor are they going to spend the money and draft picks for a Jonathan Papelbon or Heath Bell; they’re not going to trade the exorbitant player-price demanded for Joakim Soria.

Parnell is too inconsistent to be trusted as a set-up man, so using him as a closer could be disastrous especially to start a season; the others are question marks and the Mets have no young minor league fireballer like the Braves did with Craig Kimbrel.

Would the Mets be better off taking a chance on a Brad Lidge or Fernando Rodney than Isringhausen? By digging through the scrapheap to find another arm the way they did with him and Beato?

If they’re going to do that, they should just keep Izzy.

Such a thought would’ve been seen as ridiculous a few weeks ago, but given what’s out there and the way this Mets team is being rebuilt, it’s not so ridiculous anymore.

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Waiving Arthur Rhodes Is A Mistake For The Rangers

Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, Players, Prospects, Trade Rumors

I trust my veterans in the big games more than I trust younger pitchers and I certainly don’t want to help my competition for the post-season.

With that in mind, it’s a mistake for the Rangers to designate Arthur Rhodes for assignment because if he gets through waivers (he might; he might not) he’s going to end up pitching for a team that the Rangers face in the playoffs/World Series.

Rhodes has a contract kicker in which his 2012 option vests if he appears in 62 games and isn’t on the disabled list at the end of the season. He’s pitched in 32 games this year.

Any contender could use another lefty. The Cardinals, Phillies and Giants have reason to be interested in Rhodes from the National League; the Yankees, Red Sox and Tigers from the American League.

Rhodes hasn’t pitched that well this year, but he’s been good against lefties and another team will pick him up; perhaps the Rangers are going to use Matt Harrison or Derek Holland in the bullpen or figure they’ll be able to get a Tim Byrdak-type (a solid bet); plus aside from Josh Hamilton, they’re righty-heavy in their lineup.

Even with that, I probably wouldn’t have dropped Rhodes. He’s an old-school veteran whose career has been rejuvenated more times than Mickey Rourke’s; he won’t be spooked by the playoffs and everyone can use an extra lefty.

I understand why the Rangers did it, but it might come back to haunt them at a time in which they least need to be haunted.

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Trade Targets For American League Contenders

Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, Management, Media, Players, Trade Rumors

Yesterday I discussed players contending National League teams should pursue at the trading deadline. Now let’s look at the American League.

Boston Red Sox

What they need: Starting pitching.

With Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz on the disabled list and John Lackey an enigma (although he looked good in his last start), the Red Sox are on the lookout for a decent starter.

And the starter only has to be decent; with their offense, competence is all that’s required.

Ryan Dempster is competent and wouldn’t cost much in terms of players; the Red Sox say they don’t have much money to spend, but if they need something they’ll go and get it. The $14 million player option held by Dempster would have to be dealt with; the Red Sox want no part of that.

Cheaper names would include Aaron Cook, Erik Bedard, Brett Myers (I doubt they’ll bring him to the scene of the crime and he hasn’t pitched particularly well this year).

Ricky Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez of the Marlins could be in play and the Red Sox have the prospects to get it done.

There was talk that they’d be after Jose Reyes or Carlos Beltran, but I don’t see why. If they want a shortstop bat, they’d go after Hanley Ramirez first.

New York Yankees

What they need: A solid utility player; an OF/DH bat; bullpen help; a backup catcher; a starting pitcher(?).

I actually think the Yankees starting pitching is serviceable enough contingent on Phil Hughes‘s performance and whether Bartolo Colon continues to pitch well. Dempster is a good option for them and they’ve always liked Ted Lilly.

There was talk of Francisco Rodriguez and the Mets would give him away—he wouldn’t be closing for the Yankees and K-Rod’s new agent Scott Boras is posturing about where he’d let his client go via trade.

It’s pure posturing because they have little leverage. K-Rod’s contract has 10 teams he can reject trades to—their identities are unknown.

Heath Bell is getting traded eventually.

For set-up help Rafael Betancourt of the Rockies and Grant Balfour of the Athletics are targets.

They could use a lefty reliever like Tim Byrdak or take a chance on Brian Fuentes.

Naturally with Alex Rodriguez out for a month after knee surgery, there will be Yankees fans who want them to go and trade for a star third baseman like Aramis Ramirez—you can’t go through a series of games without a star player at every position I suppose, even in the short-term.

If Casey Blake is healthy, he can play third, first and the outfield.

I have a feeling Hideki Matsui is going to end up back with the Yankees. He proved during the A’s tour of the National League that he can still play the outfield and I’m not quite sure what it is that Andruw Jones does that keeps him on the roster.

Any backup catcher would be better than Francisco Cervelli. I’d probably be better than Francisco Cervelli. If the White Sox fade, Ramon Castro is a good backup with pop.

Tampa Bay Rays

What they need: A bat. Any bat.

Beltran would be a very nice addition. Presumably he’d okay a trade to the contending Rays.

Jim Thome would bash as the DH.

Here’s a thought: Hanley Ramirez. The Rays have the prospects and while his attitude is somewhere along the lines of B.J. Upton, there’s no denying his talent. Whether Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria would allow his favorite son to: A) be traded; and B) be sent across the state, is a question.

Detroit Tigers

What they need: A bat; a back-end starter; bullpen help.

If Blake is healthy, he’s better than Brandon Inge. Beltran and K-Rod are dangling from the Mets. I’ve always liked Josh Willingham of the Athletics.

If the Marlins discuss Hanley Ramirez, the Tigers probably don’t have the prospects to get him; Aramis Ramirez would fit in nicely.

The Tigers have the money to take Lilly’s contract. Then there are the usual suspects mentioned earlier like Dempster or Cook.

Cleveland Indians

What they need: A bat; a competent veteran starting pitcher.

With Shin-Soo Choo out until September with a broken thumb, Beltran is a great idea for the Indians. Then there are Matsui, Willingham and David DeJesus from the Athletics. The Cubs could move Aramis Ramirez and Kosuke Fukudome.

Cook of the Rockies and Bedard are short-term, inexpensive and worthwhile gambles.

The White Sox and Twins have to decide what they are and where they’re headed. In the past, both have shown a hesitancy to sell and they’re close enough to contention in a rotten division to justify going either way.

Texas Rangers

What they need: Starting pitching.

The Rangers have been aggressive in recent years, so they’ll be in on the expensive names and pending free agents. They were looking at Scott Kazmir, but that’s a dead-end.

Lilly has an attitude that Nolan Ryan likes. Dempster would fit with the Rangers; Wandy Rodriguez is signed and highly underrated. Jeremy Guthrie of the Orioles has pitched better than his 3-12 record.

How about making a bid for Mike Pelfrey of the Mets? They’ll move him in the right deal and the Rangers have prospects to trade.

Los Angeles Angels

What they need: A bat; bullpen help.

Surprisingly, the Angels don’t need much of anything if their current players perform. They could use a bat at shortstop like Hanley Ramirez and have some young players to exchange, but that’s farfetched.

There was talk recently that Angels owner Arte Moreno had told GM Tony Reagins that they couldn’t add money, but that was before their hot streak put them near first place. That division is wide open for them. If they make the playoffs, they have the pitching to do damage.

Would the Angels like to rent K-Rod for the rest of the season as a set-up man? He performed brilliantly in that role when they won the World Series in 2002, manager Mike Scioscia knows how to handle him and he’s familiar with the Angels clubhouse.

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Precision Strikes 6.30.2011

Games, Management, Media, Players

Yankees reacquire Sergio Mitre setting off a storm of hilarity.

Because Sergio Mitre is seen as manager Joe Girardi‘s pet, there’s a neverending wellspring of jokes at the righty’s expense.

But as far as middle-relievers who can pitch multiple innings, spot start and pitch in a blowout, is it that funny? No. Mitre’s not that bad.

Yes he gives up homers and when he gets hit, he gets hit hard; but he was pretty good for the Yankees in 2010; and he’s pitched well enough for the Brewers this season functioning with a horrible defense behind him. That won’t be a problem with the Yankees.

He is what he is and what that is isn’t worthy of the ridicule heaped upon him for being Sergio Mitre.

Managerials.

The Mets-Tigers game from last night will be shown in managerial courses everywhere.

No such thing as “managerial courses” you say? Maybe I’ll start one.

It’ll be shown for glaring examples of what not to do.

The two most bizarre/egregious gaffes came when Mets manager Terry Collins called for lefty reliever Tim Byrdak to pitch to Tigers pinch hitter Andy Dirks.

Sound strategy except for the fact that Byrdak wasn’t aware he was supposed to be warming up. He’d warmed up the prior inning and wasn’t ready.

It looked like a Benny Hill skit as Byrdak grabbed his glove and came running out of the bullpen. Dirks hit a floating curveball—that I think I could’ve hit—out of the park; a livid Byrdak slammed the resin bag onto the mound and was yanked right after that bit of satire.

As far as the blame game for that goes, hey, these things happen. Managers and coaches are human beings and human beings make mistakes. The Mets won. No harm, no foul. Don’t let it happen again.

On the other side, Tigers manager Jim Leyland brought utilityman Don Kelly in to record the final out of the Mets half of the 9th inning.

Why?

I dunno.

Maybe he wanted to loosen up his tight and struggling club; maybe he was telling his relievers they were so terrible that he was bringing in a position player to pitch.

I didn’t understand it even though Kelly retired Scott Hairston on a fly out.

If the Tigers win today maybe Leyland will be credited for being the grizzled, veteran manager who had his fingers on the pulse of his team and sensed they needed a laugh; in reality, if the Tigers win today, it’ll be because Justin Verlander is pitching.

But whatever works!

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Redemptive Realization

Hot Stove
  • The Mets know where they’re at:

More importantly, so do the fans.

I also think the media and the critics who take cheap shots at the Mets as a matter of course to compensate for a lack of ingenuity and wit are aware of it as well.

As new GM Sandy Alderson and his staff sift through the dysfunctional mess that was left behind after years of disorganization and infighting, they’re making maneuvers designed to limit expenses, maximize reward (as much as it can be maximized) and bide their time until their hands are free to be aggressive and drastically improve the club.

For some impatient fans and the media who make a living on attacking the Mets, this acceptance appears to have hit home. Because Alderson is so respected, he’s getting the benefit of the doubt on his lack of movement. At the very least there’s a plan. Whether it’s going to work or not is a different matter, but there’s a plan.

Right now, the plan is to wait out the expiring contracts of Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo (who are unlikely to be on the roster for opening day); see what happens with Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes; and sign players who elicit yawns and eye rolls to inexpensive, incentive-laden deals.

No one who’s looked at Chris Young over the past few years can reasonably think the Mets are going to get anything of substance from him. So hungry for something to attach themselves to, fans were repeatedly mentioning Chris Young‘s name as if he was a consolation prize for the club not jumping in on Cliff Lee.

He’s not.

He’s a fine pitcher if he’s healthy, but he hasn’t been healthy for 2 1/2 years and when he was, he had a tendency to tire out at the end of the season after quick starts.

That’s not to say he can’t have value if that’s what they’re getting. A key to building a successful franchise isn’t collecting stars, but maximizing the abilities of what you have. Earl Weaver was a master at that. John Lowenstein and Gary Roenicke were two players who—examined alone—were mediocre and not suited to playing every day; combined, they were a match for the best left fielders in baseball. Pat Kelly used to hit well in April and May, so Weaver would play him a lot in the early part of the season, then reduce his playing time as the season wore on.

It was cold-blooded and rational and it worked because Weaver had a plan and didn’t let sentiment or outside influences affect his decisions.

And the players? Weaver couldn’t care less what the players thought.

The Mets signings of Young, Scott Hairston, Tim Byrdak, Taylor Buchholz, Taylor Tankersley; Ronny Paulino; Willie Harris—all might seem negligible in the now-now-now sense that permeates today’s culture; but they’re a means to an end in eliminating the instability that played a large part in the team failures between 2007-2010.

I truly believe that Alderson has learned his lesson from his decried tenure as president of the Padres in which he cultivated an atmosphere of mistrust among the different factions and their beliefs. It’s a dictatorial strategy to have everyone looking behind them and wondering who’s holding the knife; it keeps all power in the hands of the person in charge and it’s not a viable way to win over the long term; nor is it a positive reputation to have as one who encourages such behaviors.

Everyone with the Mets—including the fans—are on the same page now. You rarely see people screaming about the club refusing to indulge in an overpriced free agent crop that would do little to help the Mets now as they’re finding their way; they certainly wouldn’t help in the years ahead when the team is ready to make a move into contention.

Apart from generating headlines, Lee, Jayson Werth, Carl Crawford, Rafael Soriano—none of these players would do much to alter the Mets fortunes for 2012; in fact, pursuing and spending the money to get one of these players would’ve done more harm than good.

The Mets are building their bullpen the right way with available names on the cheap. That’s the way you build a competent bullpen—having a good closer and pitchers who will accept their roles looking for the big payday, and that payday will undoubtedly have to be achieved elsewhere.

Will the fans be silent as the Phillies are running off with the division and the Braves are right behind them? As the Marlins are ahead of the Mets in the standings? As the Nationals have made flashy (and stupid) acquisitions to garner attention while simultaneously doing little to improve their fortunes for 2012?

Some won’t. But most have accepted the need to do what Alderson is doing. 2011 will be dedicated to weeding out the players who aren’t going to be part of the solution. One will definitely be Beltran who—if he’s at all competent at playing the position—will win the center field job based on nothing other than the fact that it increases his trade value at mid-season. If Beltran’s hitting, they’ll be able to extract valuable pieces for him.

Reyes is a different matter. While hoping he is reasonable with a contract extension, the Mets are going to keep and open mind in dealing him. And if he loves the Mets so much, perhaps he’d be willing to accept a second half trade to another club and the Mets could pursue him as a free agent.

I’d let it be known—as I’m sure Alderson has—that the club will be open to anything and everything as the season moves along.

The Mets are being smart rather than desperate to placate critics. This is the first step in turning things around in the short and long term. The short term may not be clearly indicated in the standings, but the Rays began turning around the organization when they stopped tolerating bad behavior from the likes of Elijah Dukes, Josh Hamilton and Delmon Young. Many people didn’t notice, but it was the first step in getting them to where they are now.

The Mets can and are doing the same thing.

There are no contractually mandated scholarships for playing time anymore.

  • Viewer Mail 1.21.2011:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Brian Cashman and Carl Pavano:

I agree that it would have been lunacy to bring Pavano back. Cashman really revealed his desperation on that one.

I’d be frightened that it wasn’t desperation; I’d be concerned that he genuinely thought it was a good idea. Desperation would be a more acceptable reason.

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE Cashman:

Forget the idiocy of Pavano talks, how ’bout Cashman’s candid “this isn’t my decision” speech during the Soriano press conference. Um… can you say… awkward? I imagine if Mozeliak did that to DeWitt, Mozeliak’s ass would be gone. Why does Cashman get a pass?


Gabriel also writes RE Cashman:

What Jeff mentions is what shocked me the most. As an employee, how do you react to your boss saying that he didn’t want to hire you? Terrible PR.

I don’t get it either. Is Cashman so concerned about his image that he doesn’t want to be seen as having “lied” or misled the media when he stated he was not going to give up the draft pick for Rafael Soriano?

He’s a baseball GM—it’s his job to mislead; given Cashman’s known skills at speaking for an extended period while saying nothing at all, where was the nuance?

I’m not a fan of this, “don’t blame me” stuff as if it’s a protective cloak if something doesn’t work. He’s the Yankees GM—an underling—and it’s part of his job to take the bullets if something fails.

I’m not going to go so far to suggest that Cashman is exhibiting an “I don’t care anymore” pretense, but these outward showings of inner-organizational debates are in the same ballpark.

The smart thing to say would’ve been, “After discussing it as an organization, we felt that since all other avenues of improving the club have been exhausted, Soriano was the correct decision for us at this time. I didn’t want to lose that draft pick because of the value I place on them, but this improves the team’s chance to win now.” Then when asked if he would’ve done the deal, he could’ve parsed as he usually does without confirming or denying.

I’m wondering if Cashman’s gotten too immersed in his numbers and “plan” to realize he might be willingly placing his head in the hangman’s noose. Honesty is one thing. Flinging the bosses under the bus is another, but they must’ve been okay with him doing it.

Whether they were or not, I don’t think it’s good.