Thirty-three days until Mets pitchers and catchers report to Port St. Lucie, Fla. Enough said. On to the questions:
Why is general manager Sandy Alderson so against signing Stephen Drew to a two- or three-year contract? The Mets don't have anyone on the brink of being Major League-ready anytime soon. With all the hype about the Mets spending money to bring in great talent, they really haven't done much. Curtis Granderson is a slight upgrade to the outfield and Bartolo Colon will help the rotation, but I don't see either of them being the big-impact players that the Mets have talked about.
-- Tim K., Cohoes, N.Y.
The only explanation I can give you is one I've heard multiple times this winter: the Mets simply don't love Drew as a player.
Maybe some part of that is posturing, but I suspect there's more than a morsel of truth to it. Drew is going to be 31 on Opening Day, he hasn't had a full, healthy season in four years and his career on-base percentage is .329. While he's obviously an upgrade over Ruben Tejada if healthy, the Mets don't see him as enough of one to justify the risk or the salary -- he's certainly not one of the "big-impact players" you're referring to.
Now if the Mets are able to finagle a one-year deal or even a cheap two-year pact for Drew, that would reduce the risk enough to make it plausible. And I don't necessarily blame fans who want him regardless -- from a marketing perspective, it's a relatively small move that would generate a heck of a lot of excitement and optimism about the team.
But I do understand the Mets' hesitancy with Drew, even if they're not necessarily excited about starting the year with Tejada at shortstop.
I know Alderson said an upgrade at shortstop would be more likely through a trade than free agency. But what about bringing back Ronny Cedeno? He could be the utility infielder while competing with Tejada for the shortstop job in Spring Training.
-- Jeremy C., Scotia, N.Y.
This question came in before the Phillies announced that they signed Cedeno to a Minor League deal. But it's still relevant given how thin even the backup shortstop market has become.
The Mets won't ink a backup until (unless?) they decide not to sign Drew, which could present a problem if the decision lingers. With Cesar Izturis reportedly agreeing to terms with the Astros on Monday and Cedeno heading to Philadelphia, the list of big league free-agent shortstops is down to a handful.
As long as Omar Quintanilla -- a well-liked veteran with stronger ties to the organization than Cedeno ever had -- remains on the open market, I'd give him the edge over anyone else. If the Mets run out of options, they could default the job to 31-year-old Minor League veteran Anthony Seratelli, who will be in camp on a Minor League deal. But Seratelli has played more outfield and corner infield innings than anything in recent years, making him a less-than-ideal solution.
If the Mets are unable to sign Drew, would it be better if they traded Ike Davis for a shortstop instead of continuing their push to acquire a pitching prospect?
-- Jared A., East Lyme, Conn.
Sure, if you mapped out a dream scenario for the Mets, that would be it. But Davis' trade value is simply not as high as that of a productive everyday big league shortstop. The Mets either would have to package him with someone else, or acquire a pitching prospect for Davis before completing a separate deal for a shortstop. So far this offseason, accomplishing any of that has proven difficult.
When is the best-case scenario for Gavin Cecchini as to when he makes the big leagues?
-- Robert T., Lake Hopatcong, N.J.
One more shortstop question, then we'll move on. Considering Cecchini's youth (he just turned 20) and struggles last year (a .633 OPS at short-season Class A Brooklyn), it's hard to see him advancing beyond Class A Savannah this summer. So even if all goes well, budget a full year for him at high Class A St. Lucie in 2015 and another at Double-A Binghamton in 2016. Again, if all goes well you might catch your first glimpse of Cecchini in September 2016, but a 2017 debut -- he'd still only be 23 at that time -- seems more realistic.
What is the latest on Johan Santana? Is he coming back? Could he be a good fit in the bullpen or a six-man rotation?
-- John D., Brick Township, N.J.
Santana's camp continues to iterate his desire to return and his readiness for Opening Day, though I have trouble envisioning him on a big league mound so soon after a second devastating left shoulder surgery. That said, clubs such as the Twins and Yankees have reportedly shown interest, and I imagine he'll be in camp somewhere. Santana still wants to start, so teams view him as a lottery ticket.
As for the Mets, it just doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. The Mets are looking for a starting pitcher to compete for a rotation spot with a host of youngsters, and hold it down only until top prospect Noah Syndergaard arrives midseason. Santana is the opposite -- a starter who may not be ready for the start of the year, but could be more of a force in the second half.
With the acquisitions of Chris Young and Granderson, the number of strikeouts from this lineup should increase markedly. Why, then, would you trade a contact hitter in Daniel Murphy?
-- Donald P., Somers, N.Y.
With the caveat that the Mets remain unlikely to deal Murphy, the organization -- similar to a lot of clubs these days -- simply doesn't care too much about strikeouts. The Braves, Pirates, Red Sox, Indians and Reds all ranked in the Top 10 in MLB in the stat last season, and all made the playoffs. Sox manager John Farrell noted throughout his team's World Series run that strikeouts don't bother him. The way the game has evolved, with power pitchers dominating and sluggers at a premium, there's simply no avoiding whiffs for teams that want to hit the ball over the fence.
The Mets ache to be one of those teams. They moved in Citi Field's fences two years ago and have invested in all-or-nothing sluggers such as Granderson and Young. And while they still value someone with Murphy's skill set, their history of acquisitions suggests that they prefer players with more power potential -- even if the byproduct is more swings and misses.
Last winter I was hearing that Travis d'Arnaud would be the next Mike Piazza, a 30-home run hitter or more. In 2012 at Triple-A, he averaged 39 home runs over a 162-game season. Why am I now hearing that he will hopefully be a 20-home run hitter? What changed over the last year?
-- Boruch K., Queens, N.Y.
You've hit on one of the common misconceptions regarding d'Arnaud, the genesis of which I've never understood. No scout has ever tried to sell me on that sort of power from d'Arnaud. I've never published anything suggesting it on MLB.com, nor have I read it from any of the professional prospect writers (or scouts-turned-writers) at our own site and elsewhere.
d'Arnaud established his top prospect status due to his lack of offensive weaknesses and his ability to stick behind the plate as a catcher. His ceiling has always been that of an above-average contact hitter with good (but not elite) power, a strong throwing arm and excellent receiving skills. That's a rare combination for a catcher, and if d'Arnaud realizes such potential, he could develop into an All-Star-caliber player. (Buster Posey hit 24 homers in his MVP season; last year's MLB leader among catchers, Matt Wieters, hit 22.) d'Arnaud also remains every bit the prospect he was at this time last year; his offensive struggles in the Majors did nothing to affect that. But he will need to prove his ability to stay healthy for a full season if he wants to come close to reaching his ceiling.
Now that Steven Matz is healthy and the team protected him from the Rule 5 Draft, what are you hearing about his upside?
-- Ken H., Mechanic Falls, Maine
One hundred and six innings does not a healthy pitcher make. While the organization remains bullish on Matz's comeback for obvious reasons, I think the upcoming season is every bit as vital as the last one for the former second-round Draft pick. If Matz dominates the pitcher-friendly Florida State League, perhaps even reaching Double-A Binghamton late in the year, he could regain every bit of the prospect status he once had. But he also remains an injury away from falling back into oblivion. Matz's future depends upon a full, healthy, successful season.
Remember, Matz is still just 22 years old. If he makes his big league debut two Septembers from now at age 24, it would be a coup considering all that he and his left arm have been through. Even if Matz becomes nothing more than a successful lefty reliever, that's something the Mets probably would have signed up for two years ago.
And now, for our question of the week:
Why isn't there New York Mets cologne? There are situations where I feel I would need to smell like a Met.
-- Marty E., New York, N.Y.
Seems reasonable. I'll look into it.