Springtime Storylines: Are the Mets going to be able to get anyone out?

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Between now and Opening Day, HBT will take a look at each of the 30
teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally
breaking down their chances for the 2010 season.  Next up: The Mets. Truthers, please queue up on the right; Self-hating Mets fans please queue up on the left.


The
big question: Are the Mets going to be able to get anyone out?

Johan Santana got pounded yesterday, but he’s Johan Santana so you know he’ll be OK.  Ollie Perez, John Maine and Mike Pelfrey have been pounded all spring and they don’t have any Johan Santananess about them to inspire similar optimism.  Make no bones about it: Mets fans should be worried about their rotation. The upside of their non-Santana starters is decidedly “meh” and there hasn’t been a lot of reason to bank on upside this spring. Maine is a health concern and his strikeout rates have gone down for three straight years. Perez was simply abused yesterday and has an 8.66 ERA this spring.

But it didn’t have to be this way. The Mets knew they had rotation problems that they needed to address way back in October, but they spent the winter doing just about nothing to improve matters.  Randy Wolf, Joel Pinero and any number of other available starters got nothing more than a sniff from Omar Minaya. We can talk about team health and PR and all of that, but the Mets’ biggest problem entering the season is borne of the front office’s utter failure to address the team’s biggest need: starting pitching.

But before anyone accuses me of simply being a hater, I’ll say that I like Jon Niese and think that he could be a perfectly decent major league starter this year. Perez, Pelfrey and Maine scare the bejesus out of me.

So what
else is
going on?

  • I think the offense will rebound this year. David Wright is too good to have another punchless season. The Mets “babying” him not withstanding, Jose Reyes will play games for the Mets very soon and will provide a nice upgrade over all of the non-Reyes shortstop options. Same goes for Carlos Beltran. Sure, the Mets only scored 671 runs last season, but that really wasn’t the Mets.
  • The injury story has been beaten to death, but the beatings have focused mostly on the issue of whether they were a function of horrible bad luck, organizational incompetence or some combination of both. What’s been less noted is just how poor Omar Minaya was at finding fill-ins for the injured players last season. Alex Cora is bad even for a backup, and bringing in guys like Mike Jacobs and Gary Matthews don’t inspire a lot of confidence. If the injury bug bites this team again it will be an ugly summer in Queens.

  • I don’t like the idea of Jenrry Mejia in the bullpen to start the season. This is Joba part deux. He won’t get any chance to work on his secondary pitches in that role, and given the sorry state of the Mets starting pitching I have no idea why they would go out of their way to prevent the develop one that could be pretty spectacular.
  • If the Mets don’t contend — and I don’t think they will — I think it’s highly likely that both Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel will be canned, the Wilpons will talk about starting fresh and the Mets’ chances of competing in the near term will disappear.

So how
are they gonna do?

Contrary to the sheer amount of ink spent criticizing the Mets, they are not a horrible team (a horrible organization, maybe, which is a different thing). If they stay healthy they can be perfectly respectable. But I really can’t stress how little I like this rotation, and I think it will ultimately sink them.

Prediction: Fourth place in the NL East, though if things break just so they could easily pass the Marlins for third. I think there’s about zero chance that they’ll compete with the Braves and Phillies, though.

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Diamondbacks working on a deal with Tyler Clippard

at Citi Field on July 28, 2015 in Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.
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Last week Diamondbacks general manager Dave Stewart revealed that he was interested in signing free agent reliever Tyler Clippard and now Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports that the two sides have “made progress toward a deal.”

Piecoro notes that by trading Aaron Hill and his remaining contract to the Brewers the Diamondbacks created a bit of payroll flexibility that they could use to sign Clippard.

Clippard has a long history of excellent work as both a setup man and closer, but his raw stuff and secondary numbers have declined even though his ERA remained very good at 2.92 last season for the A’s and Mets. His strikeout rate dipped to a career-low 8.1 per nine innings, which is drop of about 25 percent from 2009-2014.

Two elite Cuban players defect

cuba hat
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Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com just reported that Yulieski Gurriel & Lourdes Gurriel Jr., who are brothers, reportedly defected and will be seeking MLB deals. There aren’t any details yet, but Sanchez will be updating with a full story that we’ll link here when he has it. UPDATE: Here it is.

Yulieski is a 31-year old third baseman and, according to Baseball America’s Ben Badler he was the No. 1 player remaining in Cuba. He was one of the Cuban players who was permitted to play in Japan recently, and he just put up a .305/.349/.536 season with 11 homers in 62 games for the Yokohama Bay Stars and has continued to rake in Cuba. He is likely major league ready right this instant. He’d be an unrestricted free agent given his age and team’s signing him would not be subject to international bonus pool limits.

Lourdes is only 22 years old. He’s hit .269/.355/.414 in 1036 Serie Nacional plate appearances and Badler thinks he has 20-homer potential in the majors one day. He’s currently a shortstop, but is probably destined for a corner. He is young enough to where he would be subject to bonus pool limits. Several teams have already exceeded those limits for the current signing period, limiting the number of teams who could sign him. If, however, it takes MLB a long time to clear him as a free agent — and with immigration issues and the like, that’s very possible — he may not be eligible to be signed until next year, which could bring some other teams into the fold.

 

Indians close to signing ex-Nationals reliever Craig Stammen

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Right-hander Craig Stammen, who spent the first seven seasons of his career with the Nationals, is expected to sign with the Indians.

Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that the Indians “hope to finalize a deal” with Stammen today, adding veteran depth to the bullpen. It’ll likely be a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Stammen missed nearly all of last season following elbow surgery and the Nationals non-tendered him, but he’s scheduled to be ready for spring training. After struggling as a starter early in his career he’s posted a 3.02 ERA in 280 innings out of the bullpen, so if healthy it’d be a nice addition for Cleveland.

A Mexican team wins the Caribbean Series for the third time in four years

Mexican players celebrate their victory in the Caribbean Series baseball final against Aragua Tigres of Venezuela, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016. Designated hitter Jorge Vazquez hit a game-winning home run leading off the bottom of the ninth inning Sunday, lifting Mexico's Venados de Mazatlan to a 5-4 come-from-behind victory and the championship of the Caribbean Series. (AP Photo/Roberto Guzman)
Associated Press
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For those who aren’t familiar, Serie del Caribe, or the Caribbean Series, is the highest club level baseball tournament in Latin America, pitting the champions of the winter leagues in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela against one another in a bacchanalia of baseball that, if there was justice in the world, we’d all be watching instead of football.

This year’s installment ended last night with Mexico’s Mazatlan Venados beating Venezuela’s Aragua Tigres 5-4 in the final game at Estadio Quisqueya in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Jorge Vazquez — who Yankees fans may remember from a few years back — provided the winning margin when he hit a home run to lead off the bottom of the ninth inning.

This is the third Serie del Caribe title for a Mexican club in the past four years, with Naranjeros de Hermosillo winning in 2014 and Yaquis de Obregón winning in 2013. Pinar del Río from Cuba won it last winter. This is the first time the Venados have won it.

As we noted yesterday, this was longtime MLB starter Freddy Garcia‘s last game. He gave up four hits and allowed two earned runs over five and a third innings for the Tigres, getting a no-decision.