Yes, there is still a month to go in the 2014 season but for all intents and purposes the Mets organization and their fans are looking ahead to next year. I will put on my turban and shine up my crystal ball as I attempt to be a clairvoyant.
The first order of business for Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson is to decide whether to retain Terry Collins as the team’s manager next year.
Based on results, it would seem that firing Collins should be a no-brainer. Barring a minor miracle, this will be the fourth straight season that the Mets have had a losing record with him at the helm. His in-game decisions have frequently left many scratching their heads, particularly with respect to when to employ the bunt and the utilization of late-inning double switches. Retaining Terry would seem to indicate that ownership is content with lackluster results.
Collins’ supporters rightfully point out that even Hall of Fame managers would not have produced better won-loss records with the players that he has had to work with over the last four years. Even his fiercest critics would concede that Mets players never dog it in the field and always play hard no matter what the score is or where the team is in the standings. And most of the media likes him because he is candid in his press conferences, is generally approachable and has worked hard to learn the names of reporters.
It’s common when a manager is about to get the ax to hear whispers that he has lost the clubhouse. That is certainly not happening here. If anything, Terry reinforced his good standing with the players when he voiced his frustrations with last year’s ace pitcher Matt Harvey’s actions off the field as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. The operation forced Harvey to miss all of this season, and the Mets organization wants him to be conservative with his exercise regimen so that he doesn’t reinjure himself.
Two weeks ago, however, Harvey conducted a radio interview from the Mets’ Port St. Lucie, Fla. base in which he bragged about throwing many pitches at 95 mph and reiterated his goal of pitching for the Mets before 2015. When a reporter asked Collins about Harvey’s statements, he quickly replied in frustration, “I feel like putting my head through the wall!”
It’s Harvey’s narcissism that not surprisingly has annoyed many of his teammates. A Mets executive summed it up best when he spoke with a couple of reporters in the Mets dugout earlier this month. “Matt likes to see his name in the newspapers. If he’s not ready to pitch in April, he won’t see his name as often as he’d like there.”
The exec did not have to add that he’ll have a harder time dating supermodels if he suffers a setback.
My guess is that if the Mets finish up in the neighborhood of their usual 75 wins Collins will be back.
The Chicago Cubs, who are loaded with terrific shortstops in their farm system, were at Citi Field during the last homestand before this week’s visit from the Atlanta Braves. The Mets, who are anemic offensively and have been suffering at shortstop ever since Jose Reyes was allowed to leave as a free agent at the end of the 2011, seemingly have a surplus of talented young pitching. Not surprisingly, fans and many in the media fanned talk that the Cubs should trade their star shortstop, Starlin Castro, to the Mets in exchange for one of their prized pitchers, such as Zack Wheeler or Noah Syndergaard.
They can forget that idea. Fidel Castro is more likely to be throwing out the ceremonial pitch on Opening Day 2015 at Citi Field than Mets fans are to seeing Starlin Castro’s name penciled in the Mets’ lineup that day.
Alderson is very risk averse when it comes to high-stakes trades. In fairness to him, the old adage that you can never have enough pitching has never proven truer in baseball.
For years the Mets scouting department has played up Wilmer Flores’ ability to hit even if his defense is adequate at best — and that’s being kind. So far Wilmer has been yet another dime-a-dozen singles hitter and not that much of an upgrade over Ruben Tejada, who seems to have a permanent place in Mets management’s doghouse. Nevertheless, I expect both of these guys to be back next year.
There was speculation that second baseman Daniel Murphy was on the trade block prior to this year’s July 31 deadline, and that if he weren’t moved then, he would be during the off-season. Don’t expect Alderson to trade the Mets’ lone representative to the 2014 All-Star Game in light of the fact that they don’t have a suitable replacement for him in the minor leagues.
Another reason why Murphy will probably stay is the decline in third baseman David Wright’s production this year, which is one reason why the Mets offense has been punier than usual. Wright has been the face of the Mets for nearly a decade and is in the beginning of a long-term contract that pays him $20 million annually.
The outfield remains an area that needs serious upgrade. Alderson, who is usually parsimonious when it comes to contracts (the Wright deal was done at the insistence of Mets CEO Fred Wilpon as a reward for his loyal service, and most fans were in agreement that it was the right thing to do at the time), lavished a $60 million, four-year contract on Curtis Granderson, and inexplicably signed journeyman Chris Young to a one-year, $7.5 million deal.
Granderson’s batting average has been subpar but he has shown power and a great glove. He has also been a great role model for younger players in the clubhouse in how to comport yourself.
Young was released by the Mets earlier this month in a rare admission of failure on Alderson’s part. The funny thing is Young wasn’t as unproductive as many fans and sportswriters made him out to be. He did have some big hits but just not enough to live up to his generous contract.
The Mets would not have had to sign Young last season if Alderson did not try to nickel and dime outfielder Scott Hairston, who hit 20 homers for the Mets in 2012, on a new contract after that fine season. Hairston left as a free agent because he wanted $2 million while Sandy was holding the line at $1.5 million.
This wasn’t the only case of Alderson being penny wise and pound foolish. He played the same contractual game with relief pitcher LaTroy Hawkins, who was brilliant in 2013 and served as a de facto pitching coach in the locker room. LaTroy was signed by the Colorado Rockies and Alderson tried to compensate for his loss by signing retreads Jose Valverde and Kyle Farnsworth, who both stunk out Citi Field earlier this season and were released.
Fortunately the Mets bullpen has been fairly respectable, thanks to the good work of Vic Black, Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia. Closer Bobby Parnell is expected to return next year after recovering from Tommy John surgery, so the Mets may surprisingly have some trade chips in their relief corps.
Ever since Bernie Madoff became a household name six years ago, the Mets have not been major players in free agent signings. This year the Wilpons and Alderson can breathe a sigh of relief because it appears that the Class of 2015 free agents is far from-star-studded. There aren’t any potential Hall of Famers a la Robinson Cano. Ironically, one of the potential free agents is the aforementioned Hairston. The Mets would be smart to chat with him in November when free agency commences.
Alderson doesn’t have to worry about seeking a first baseman as it appears that he made the right choice in keeping Lucas Duda over Ike Davis. Duda has hit for power and for a better average than what most expected. He has also shown that he is not a defensive liability.
The Mets seem to have a catcher for the future in Travis d’Arnaud, who got off to a horrible start and was demoted to their Las Vegas AAA team. Ever since he returned, d’Arnaud has been tearing the cover off the baseball.
Perhaps it’s coincidental but d’Arnaud has worn a T-shirt that says “Queens” in script under his uniform the last two months. My suggestion is that should become a requirement for all Mets players in 2015.