Inbox: Are Mets content with Flores at shortstop?
Beat reporter Anthony DiComo answers questions from fans
With the holidays behind us, Spring Training suddenly looms just six short weeks away. No reason to waste more ink here. Let's get right to your New Year's questions:
Why haven't the Mets been able to come up with a trade for Troy Tulowitzki? Is it money? Couldn't we package two or three off our young pitchers with Wilmer Flores for Colorado?
-- Bill V., Galloway, N.J.
At this point, why not Stephen Drew for one year?
-- Bill F., Bronx, N.Y.
Do you see the Mets making any more moves this winter, or are they set with this team?
-- Chris C., Port Monmouth, N.J.
Let's get all this rumor mill stuff out of the way first. Despite plenty of Tulowitzki trade speculation over the holidays, landing the Rockies shortstop has never been a likely scenario. Would the Mets love to have Tulowitzki? Of course. Will they try to get him? They've already discussed it, and will surely continue to do so. But trading for a $157 million player is difficult for the richest of teams, with many moving parts involved. For a club such as the Mets, with a $100 million payroll, it's extraordinarily difficult.
Can it happen? Sure. But I cannot stress enough how unlikely it is.
As for Drew, the lone noteworthy free-agent shortstop still on the board, Bill's is far from the only email I received about him. I'm not sure I quite understand the fascination. Drew will be 32 on Opening Day, coming off a season in which he hit .150 with a .491 OPS. Over the past four seasons, he has slashed .228/.305/.382. Drew is certainly a better defender than Flores, but with that sort of offensive return, why not test Flores' potential at a fraction of the price? It would seem almost irresponsible not to.
So no, the Mets are not likely to make a move at shortstop. Elsewhere on the roster, they could still fill out their bullpen with another left-handed reliever, and they are still looking to trade one of their excess starting pitchers. But barring a price drop on Tulowitzki, a hard look at Ben Zobrist or some other unexpected deal, the big roster pieces are all but set heading into January.
Forgive me for this broad question, but what are the Mets' plans with Dilson Herrera? He is extremely young and appears to have a very high ceiling. Is he trade bait, Daniel Murphy's future replacement or something else?
-- John L., Huntington, N.Y.
I'm not sure the Mets entirely know at this point, because so much depends upon how this year unfolds. What's clear is that Herrera will begin the season at Triple-A Las Vegas as the starting second baseman. If he succeeds, he could put himself in position to take over for Murphy once the latter hits free agency next winter.
Just don't expect Herrera to break camp with the team this spring. The Mets love his potential and makeup, but don't view him as big league-ready just yet. Herrera's cup of coffee last September was simply to get him some experience.
I know it will require the Wilpons to open up their wallets, but wouldn't it be wiser for them to focus on Cuban shortstop Yoan Moncada? The scouts rave over Moncada and feel he will be a very productive Major Leaguer.
-- Scott R., Staten Island, N.Y.
When general manager Sandy Alderson said last month that he believes the Mets will soon be players in the international market, my mind immediately went to Moncada. Some questions still linger over when the Cuban shortstop will actually be eligible to sign, but you're right that scouts across the board are drooling over this guy.
The problem is that whenever Moncada does become available, he will be subject to MLB's international signing bonus pools, resulting in some exorbitant penalties. The Mets under Alderson have not taken many financial risks, so it's hard to see them doing so with such an unknown commodity. But at some point, if they want to compete long term, the Mets will need to take a stand and start competing for these types of players. Why not start with Moncada? He's one to keep an eye on as the weeks progress.
I would prefer that the Mets place Dillon Gee in the bullpen as a long man initially, and when one of the young arms need a blow or must be placed on the DL, reinsert him. Save Carlos Torres for late-inning relief and don't wear him out. Use Gee is your swing man. I feel this is good insurance for the Mets.
-- Ted S., Jacksonville, Fla.
It's great insurance, no doubt. And I hate to keep going back to money, but it's difficult for a team with a $100 million payroll to justify committing five percent of that to a long reliever. Until the payroll increases relative to the rest of the league, these are the types of decisions the Mets are going to need to make on an annual basis.
I have always wondered something concerning pitchers coming back from Tommy John surgery. In Stephen Strasburg's case, when the Nationals shut him down before the playoffs in 2012, why didn't they hold him out for the first month of the season? If they needed the pitcher to make the playoffs but shut him down before the playoffs, wouldn't it make sense to take the chance of holding him back from five starts or so at the beginning of the year?
-- Dustin S., Highland Park, N.J.
I don't disagree with you, and yet there are reasons why it makes sense to have Matt Harvey -- I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume you're asking this because of Harvey -- start the year on the active roster.
Most importantly, shooting for an Opening Day return allows Harvey to remain in the rotation and on schedule throughout Spring Training -- no small thing with an organization's worth of coaches and trainers helping him stay on track. It also allows Harvey to remain with the team all summer, which was a point of contention for him during his rehab.
But that strategy also puts the onus on the Mets to take a stand around the All-Star break, when they will need to shut Harvey down for a considerable amount of time. It's going to be difficult to do so if they find themselves on a seven-game losing streak in the middle of a pennant race -- far more difficult than it would have been in April. But this is what Harvey wants and this is what the Mets want, so they will need to stick to their plan without wavering.
Who are the options the Mets are considering to battle for the second lefty spot in the bullpen?
-- Corne H., Assen, The Netherlands
As things currently stand, Scott Rice and Rule 5 pick Sean Gilmartin are set to compete for that spot, with rookies Dario Alvarez and Jack Leathersich on the periphery of the competition. The Mets are still looking to import more left-handed depth, though there is a dearth of arms available on the free-agent market. Keep an eye on Gilmartin, who could be an interesting pitcher to watch this spring.