The Mets are 20-23, scuffling a bit, but nearly through one of their tougher stretches of the season: a 10-game stretch against the Yankees, Nationals and Dodgers. This week should be compelling with both Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom making their second career starts at Citi Field. In the meantime, some questions and answers:
Given the fact that Eric Young Jr. is batting .221, Chris Young is batting .211 and Curtis Granderson is batting .192, what good reason is there for Juan Lagares not to play?
-- Jeffrey L., Whitestone, N.Y.
Depends on what you consider "good." The Mets owe Granderson $60 million over four years. Regardless of whether you feel that was a worthwhile investment, abandoning him after seven bad weeks would make no sense.
Eric Young, for all his flaws, has been performing well enough that if you drew up a starting outfield based on merit alone, he would be in it. I suspect manager Terry Collins also feels pressure to play Young because without him, there is no obvious candidate to lead off. The Mets love Daniel Murphy in the two-hole, and Lagares, for all his potential, remains as flawed a hitter against right-handed pitching as Young is. Collins knows that, and he tends to be traditional in terms of lineup construction to begin with.
The argument for Chris Young is more difficult to make. He has struggled as much as Granderson and is only on a one-year contract. That deal is for $7.25 million, however, and the Mets made Young verbal assurances of playing time while recruiting him. That does not mean they have to hold true to those promises all season long, but you begin to understand why the Mets are giving him a rather long leash. Even if they fall completely out of contention by the All-Star break, a productive Young would make a valuable trade chip.
So those are the arguments. I don't necessarily agree with all of them, and if I were the manager, I'd be playing Lagares every day -- he simply has too much potential for the Mets to head into next season not knowing exactly what they have. But it may ease your mind to know that when making out his lineups, Collins is not just blindly throwing darts against a wall.
With recent the callups of Montero and deGrom, who gets bumped from the rotation when Dillon Gee returns from the disabled list?
-- Michael M., Rockville Centre, N.Y.
It will be either Montero or deGrom, likely whichever one performs worse this week. And the loser of that competition could well head to the bullpen.
As a side note, to those of you calling for Zack Wheeler's head after a poor run of starts, I'm not sure what to tell you. This guy is one year removed from being one of the most exciting, dynamic, highest-ceiling prospects in the Minors -- a greater-impact prospect than Montero or deGrom is now. Wheeler has nothing left to prove at Triple-A and needs to learn to pitch in the big leagues. Maybe he never will, but that's unlikely. Either way, now is the time to find out.
I think it is time to bring Noah Syndergaard and additional help in the bullpen. Why are the Mets waiting? They paid $20 million to Bartolo Colon but can't afford the Super Two contracts? Bring the young pitching up. Take a chance.
-- Jesus G., Fredericksburg, Va.
The cynicism regarding the Mets and Super Twos -- and believe me, I understand it -- is a little overblown in this case. Syndergaard has pitched great over his last four starts at Triple-A Las Vegas, but before that, he had been middling. That's not unusual for a 21-year-old receiving his first taste of the Minors' highest level, and the Mets rightfully wanted him to take his lumps at Vegas. Matt Harvey went through the same process at Triple-A two years ago, struggling a bit before coming into his own.
Syndergaard is beginning to turn that corner, but we're getting into late May and the Mets already have six starting pitchers for five big league spots. Considering all it would take at this point is another three or four weeks to ensure that Syndergaard does not become a Super Two, there seems -- outside of saying "Told ya so" to a doubting segment of their fan base -- little reason for the Mets to promote him now.
Clearly Ruben Tejada is not in the Mets' future plans at shortstop. If defense is the concern with playing Wilmer Flores at short, and Stephen Drew doesn't come down from his asking price, is it crazy to suggest the Mets try moving David Wright to shortstop and play Flores at third?
-- Luke R., Bolton, Conn.
I'll indulge this question because it's been popping up pretty frequently on my Twitter account (@AnthonyDiComo) lately. The answer is yes, it would be crazy.
The reasons are plentiful. For starters, Wright is 31 years old, entering a stage of his career when even some of the greatest shortstops of all time have shifted away from the position -- certainly not the other way around. His range is only going to diminish as he grows older.
That range, by the way, has never been Wright's strength on defense anyway. Yes, he played shortstop in high school, but that was a decade and a half ago. There's nothing in Wright's current defensive profile to suggest he would be any good at it in the Majors. There's a pretty decent chance he'd actually be worse than Flores.
Finally, Flores has yet to prove he can hit consistently in the big leagues, so writing him in ink as the starting third baseman comes with drawbacks as well. I personally think he can -- I'm in favor of the Flores-to-shortstop experiment that has yet to gain traction -- but that doesn't mean he will.
Any Mets you think could become trade bait in June or July?
-- Jeff W., Wilmington, Del.
Veterans on one-year contracts, such as Chris Young, are always candidates -- though Young would have to start playing much better for any team to assume even a portion of his salary. Jose Valverde and Bobby Abreu also fit into that category, though it's hard to imagine the Mets getting much in return for either of them.
Thinking outside the box, the Mets have flirted with the idea of trading Murphy for years. It's conceivable with Flores big league ready and Murphy's salary heading through the roof, that the Mets might finally pull the trigger. (It's also conceivable they will look in the opposite direction, attempting to buy out Murphy's first year or two of free agency with a contract extension.)
Colon is a long-shot trade candidate, but the type that could fetch a nice return. The Mets would have to fall well out of contention to consider such a deal.
Any chance the Mets fire Collins at some point this year if they continue to lose, and guys like Tejada and Eric Young keep playing? Is Sandy Alderson 100 percent in Collins' corner, no matter what?
-- Tommy E., Sayreville, N.J.
It's fair to criticize Collins' on-field maneuverings, particularly this season. I think it's also fair to say the Mets have overachieved more often than not under Collins' watch. Recall that they were supposed to flirt with 100 losses last season, with one of the worst on-paper rosters in baseball. They didn't come close.
My point is, Collins is far from the Mets' biggest problem, and any other manager who would replace him would certainly come with his own set of foibles. You can criticize Collins for playing Tejada, but he would not be doing so if the Mets had Drew. You can criticize him for playing Eric Young, but that wouldn't be happening if the Mets had Shin-Soo Choo.
Collins has made the best out of a bad situation. I still don't think it's fair to blame him.