November 2010

Mets announce Spring Training schedule

Tickets are already on sale at Mets.com. Here’s the full schedule (home games in bold):

February
26 Atlanta Braves at Port St. Lucie, 1:10 p.m.
27 University of Michigan at Port St. Lucie, 12:10 p.m. (split squad)
27 Atlanta Braves at Disney, 1:05 p.m. (split squad)
28 Washington Nationals at Port St. Lucie, 1:10 p.m.

March
1 Washington Nationals at Viera, 1:05 p.m.
2 St. Louis Cardinals at Jupiter, 1:05 p.m.
3 St. Louis Cardinals at Port St. Lucie, 1:10 p.m.
4 Florida Marlins at Jupiter, 1:05 p.m.
5 Atlanta Braves at Disney, 1:05 p.m.
6 Boston Red Sox at Port St. Lucie, 1:10 p.m.
7 Detroit Tigers at Port St. Lucie, 1:10 p.m.
8 Washington Nationals at Port St. Lucie, 1:10 p.m. (split squad)

8 Houston Astros at Kissimmee, 1:05 p.m. (split squad)
9 Houston Astros at Port St. Lucie, 1:10 p.m.
10 Florida Marlins at Jupiter, 1:05 p.m. (split squad)
10 Washington Nationals at Viera, 1:05 p.m. (split squad)
11 Florida Marlins at Port St. Lucie, 1:10 p.m.
12 Atlanta Braves at Disney, 1:05 p.m.
13 St. Louis Cardinals at Port St. Lucie, 1:10 p.m.
14 OFF
15 Washington Nationals at Port St. Lucie, 7:10 p.m.
16 Minnesota Twins at Fort Myers, 1:05 p.m.
17 Boston Red Sox at Fort Myers, 1:05 p.m.
18 Atlanta Braves at Port St. Lucie, 1:10 p.m.
19 Washington Nationals at Port St. Lucie, 1:10 p.m. (split squad)
19 Atlanta Braves at Disney, 1:05 p.m. (split squad)
20 Florida Marlins at Jupiter, 1:05 p.m.
21 Atlanta Braves at Port St. Lucie, 1:10 p.m.
22 Detroit Tigers at Lakeland, 1:05 p.m.
23 St. Louis Cardinals at Jupiter, 1:05 p.m.
24 St. Louis Cardinals at Port St. Lucie, 1:10 p.m.
25 Florida Marlins at Jupiter, 1:05 p.m.
26 Atlanta Braves at Port St. Lucie, 1:10 p.m.
27 St. Louis Cardinals at Jupiter, 1:05 p.m.
28 Florida Marlins at Port St. Lucie, 1:10 p.m.
29 Washington Nationals at Viera, 1:05 p.m.
30 Florida Marlins at Port St. Lucie, 12:10 p.m.

—–Follow along on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.

Feliciano declines arbitration offer

Pedro Feliciano officially declined arbitration on Tuesday, meaning it’s unlikely he’ll be back with the Mets next season.

feliciano2.jpgUsually, these situations are not so black-and-white, cause-and-effect. In most cases, when a free agent declines arbitration from his former club, it’s just a formality that won’t prevent the player from re-signing at a later date. But Feliciano declined arbitration to seek a multi-year deal on the market, and the Mets, given their current financial situation, simply won’t be willing or able to offer one.

The Mets have finite dollars to spend on free agency this winter, perhaps as little as $5-10 million. Allotting more than half of that budget on a one-out reliever doesn’t seem prudent.

That’s not to say a return to New York is impossible. Feliciano lives in the city and enjoys it, and wouldn’t uproot his family without good reason. If he can’t find the type of contract he’s looking for elsewhere, the Mets represent a decent backup plan. But if Joaquin Benoit’s three-year, $16.5 million deal with the Tigers was any indication, the market for relief pitching will be strong this winter. Someone will pay Feliciano. And the Mets, as much as they appreciate what Feliciano has done for them over the past nine seasons, simply can’t afford to be that someone.

—–Follow along on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.

Mets closing in on Chris Young?

The Mets are “closing in on a deal” for former Padres pitcher Chris Young, according to ESPN.com. The Padres recently declined Young’s 2011 option after a season in which injuries limited him to only four appearances. After posting three consecutive strong seasons from 2005-07, Young has not made more than 18 starts in any of the past three years.

–Follow along on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.

Feliciano may be back — at a price

Moments after new general manager Sandy Alderson revealed last week that the Mets would offer arbitration to lefty reliever Pedro Feliciano, a reporter asked Alderson if he was willing to stomach the risk that Feliciano might accept.

feliciano.jpg“Apparently,” Alderson said, chuckling.

It was a nervous chuckle, because it’s a legitimate risk. If Feliciano, a Type B free agent, opts to accept arbitration — something his agent told Newsday he is considering doing — then the Mets would be forced to offer him a one-year contract at a raise from the $2.9 million he made last season. Spending close to $4 million on a lefty reliever is a luxury that some winning teams may be able to stomach, but for a rebuilding team such as the Mets, it’s simply bad business. The Mets have a finite budget this winter, with reportedly as little as $5 to $10 million to spend on the open market. Allotting more than half of it to an aging, overworked specialist may set things back a bit.

The Mets would most likely be better served if Feliciano rejected arbitration and signed elsewhere, thus netting his old team a second-round Draft pick. But Feliciano lives in New York, loves New York and wants to stay here. Doing so for guaranteed millions may sound like a pretty good deal to him. Such was the risk of offering arbitration.

Then again, lefty relievers are often in high demand come midsummer. So if Feliciano does accept arbitration, the Mets could bank on him starting out strong and building enough trade value that, if they’re lucky, could net them something more than a second-round pick. But given Feliciano’s age, salary and history of usage, that is most certainly a risk.

Feliciano’s deadline to accept or reject arbitration is this Tuesday, Nov. 30.

—–Follow along on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.

Mets giving back to the community

In case you missed it, here’s our annual Thanksgiving story on the Mets’ charitable efforts, which this year included a Teammates in the Community Week in conjunction with the National Conference on Volunteering and Service. I thought it earned another mention here because, frankly, word doesn’t get out often enough about the many initiatives the Mets do throughout the year.

Thumbnail image for applerepack.JPGUnlike many clubs and organizations that broadcast their charity work, the Mets do theirs largely out of sight of the public eye. But they do plenty. You can see a more complete rundown of the organization’s charitable endeavors here, though even that list doesn’t count the independent foundation work of players such as David Wright and Carlos Beltran.

I’d urge anyone who is able to take part in this year’s annual Coat Drive and Blood Drive, both of which will take place at Citi Field in the coming months. In years past, donors at each event have received complimentary tickets to games at Citi Field, all for a most worthy cause.

—–Follow along on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.

Mets retain Warthen, Hale on staff

Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen and third-base coach Chip Hale have survived the organizational purge that has already seen the Mets shed a general manager, a manager and a scouting director, among others. A team source said Monday that Warthen and Hale will retain their jobs from last season.

warthenphone.jpgThere were rumblings Sunday evening that the appointment of Terry Collins as manager may have worked against Warthen, whose pitching staff performed above expectations in 2010 despite an overall losing season. But Mets ownership remains enamored with Warthen for those reasons, and so he was spared.

Hale, too, has always been a lock for a role on the coaching staff, a sentiment only furthered by the fact that he was among four finalists for the role of manager. Well-liked within the clubhouse, Hale will almost certainly become a big league manager at some point in the near future, though he may need to leave the organization to do so.

The rest of the big league staff remains uncertain. Though last year’s hitting coach Howard Johnson and bullpen coach Randy Niemann both will have job offers waiting for them at some level of the organization, it is unlikely either will return to his same role. First-base coach Razor Shines is already out — early reports peg Mookie Wilson as a possible replacement — and Collins will likely be allowed to choose Dave Jauss’s successor as bench coach.

As for the other two managerial finalists, Bob Melvin and Wally Backman, each is likely to have a job offer in a similar capacity as last season — Melvin as a scout, Backman as a Minor League manager. But nothing is official for that pair yet.

—–Follow along on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.

One final look at the managerial candidates

The Mets should announce their new manager within the next 24 hours, perhaps as soon as tonight. So let’s handicap the race and take one final look at the four finalists:

terrycollins.jpgTerry Collins
Resume highlights: Astros manager (1994-96), Angels manager (1997-1999), Mets Minor League field coordinator (2010).
Strengths: Experience; fiery personality.
Weaknesses: Little sustained success as a big league manager; controversial end in Anaheim; off-field issues (DUI).
Odds: 3/2

Bob Melvin
Resume highlights: Mariners manager (2003-04), D-backs manager (2005-09), Mets scout (2010).
Strengths: Most MLB experience of any candidate; calm personality; lives in NYC.
Weaknesses: Not a “fiery” personality; little sustained success as a big league manager
Odds: 2/1

Wally Backman
Resume highlights: Four years managing in Minor Leagues (including manager of Class A Brooklyn in 2010), three years in independent leagues; hired as D-backs manager (2004) but did not serve in that position.
Strengths: Fan favorite due to 1986 ties, fiery personality
Weaknesses: Off-field concerns (financial, legal troubles); no big league managing experience
Odds: 7/1

Chip Hale
Resume highlights: Extensive Minor League managing and big league coaching experience; Mets third-base coach (2010).
Strengths: Familiarity with Mets players; well-liked in clubhouse; preparedness.
Weaknesses: Lack of big league managing experience.
Odds: 9/1

—–Follow along on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.

Omar heading to the desert?

The Wall St. Journal reported Friday that the D-backs have offered
former Mets general manager Omar Minaya a job as a special assistant to
new GM Kevin Towers, though Minaya is “in no rush to decide” whether or
not to accept the offer.

The Mets dismissed Minaya last month and still owe him more than $1 million next season.

—–Follow along on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.

Mets prospects wrap up AFL season

Dropping a 3-1 game to Peo Saguaros yesterday afternoon, the Mesa Solar Sox — and the eight Mets on the roster — wrapped up their Arizona Fall League schedule. Here’s a look at how the bunch performed:

valdespinAFL.jpgJordany Valdespin, SS: Finishing seventh in the league with a .355 average, Valdespin (right) missed the final week of the season with a forearm strain. Still, he impressed with the bat, knocking in 19 runs and stealing seven bases in 19 games.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis, OF: After a Minor League season that saw him perhaps supplant Fernando Martinez’s as the organization’s top overall outfield prospect, Nieuwenhuis struggled a bit in the Fall League, batting .256 with one homer and 12 RBI in 26 games. Compare that to Niewenhuis’s 94 games this year with Double-A Binghamton, which saw him hit .289 with 16 homers and 60 RBI.

Joshua Satin, 2B: More of a contributor after Valdespin’s injury, the 25-year-old Satin hit .390 with one home run in 12 games with the Solar Sox. Had he accumulated enough at-bats to be eligible, Satin would have ranked third in the AFL in hitting. And perhaps that’s no surprise. Though not a top prospect, Satin is a career .300 hitter over three years in the Minors.

Kai Gronaeuer, C: The native of Germany hit .222 without a home run in 13 games behind the plate. The Mets signed him as an international free agent prior to the 2008 season.

Brad Holt, RHP: Injury interrupted what had been a strong AFL season for Holt, who managed a 2-1 record and 2.92 ERA in five games, after posting some miserable numbers for both Binghamton and Class A St.Lucie this year. A sandwich-round pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, Holt will look to build upon his AFL successes next season.

Robert Carson, LHP:
Not exactly the autumn that Carson had envisioned. After a relatively successful stint at St. Lucie this summer, Carson stumbled with a 7.71 ERA in six Fall League starts, allowing 27 hits in 18 2/3 innings.

Nick Carr, RHP:
Carr didn’t exactly light it up, either, going 0-1 with a 5.06 ERA in 10 relief outings, and walking more batters (12) than he struck out (10).

Eric Niesen, LHP: In 11 relief appearances, Niesen posted a 5.40 ERA with eight strikeouts and four walks in 11 2/3 innings.

—–Follow along on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.

Beltran decision should (and will) wait until spring

Don’t expect a resolution anytime soon regarding Carlos Beltran and a potential move to right field. Though Angel Pagan proved to be a significantly better fielder last season than the 33-year-old Beltran, the Mets owe it to their three-time Gold Glover — and to themselves — to make the center field job an open competition this spring.

beltranfielding.jpgSo that’s what they intend to do.

New general manager Sandy Alderson said Tuesday in Orlando that he doesn’t anticipate making any rash decisions regarding Beltran, whom he met last weekend at a charity event in Puerto Rico. The two spoke, but not about center field. There is a time and a place for that. November in Puerto Rico was not it.

“The purpose of my trip to Puerto Rico was not to accomplish a position change,” Alderson said. “My goal was simply to meet Carlos and several other players, which I was able to do — Angel Pagan was there, Jose Reyes — and establish a relationship. It was a great event. I met everyone, had a chance to talk to Carlos — not at length, because I didn’t want to get in the way of what was clearly an important event for him. But I was pleased with the fact that I was able to be there and was able to make contact and shake hands.”

Despite Beltran’s struggles in the field last season — he had a -3.4 Ultimate Zone Rating according to Fangraphs.com, compared to 15.1 for Pagan — he remains one of the premier center fielders of his generation. The Mets owe it to themselves to see if his knee, now supposedly 100-percent healthy, will allow him to rediscover his old excellence.

They can do that this spring in Port St. Lucie, Fla. They can’t do it now, in a conference room in Orlando.

“I think that’s really the only fair thing,” Alderson said. It’s not necessarily that that subject is only broached after spring training begins, but I think it’s only fair to think about that and deal with it in the context of real information as opposed to opinion. So we’ll see.”

—–Follow along on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.

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