Thursday, March 8, 2012
Mets morning briefing 3.8.12
By Adam Rubin
Today, Johan Santana is expected to throw a between-starts bullpen session, although there is no guarantee. Then Mike Pelfrey is due to take the mound for an afternoon Grapefruit League game against the Miami Marlins in Port St. Lucie. The Players Association also makes its annual visit to converse with Mets players today, so we may find out what union chief Michael Weiner thinks about the Mets' payroll level.
Also, please join me for a 12:30 p.m. online Mets chat. Click this link.
Meanwhile, live near Bellmore JFK High School on Long Island? You can hear alums Steve Levy and Adam Schefter of ESPN speak tonight at 7. I'm an alum of Mepham, one of the other two high schools in the district. Details on tonight's event here.
Thursday's news report:
• Not exactly a shocker, even though it was treated as such: Jose Reyes was looking for the most money as a free agent, just $1 more, Marlins team president David Samson reportedly told Miami businessmen. Reyes is not expected at today's Mets-Marlins game. He played the past two nights in exhibition games at the Marlins' new stadium in Miami against college teams -- the University of Miami and Florida International.
Andy Martino in the Daily News doesn't believe Samson. Writes Martino:
According to sources, Reyes would have strongly considered a somewhat smaller deal from the Mets, both in years and dollars, and was shocked when his longtime team did not make an offer.
My analysis: Reyes would not have defected from the Mets to Miami if the disparity in offers were $1, or probably even $1 million. But my information from reliable sources is that the Mets were willing to go to as much as five years guaranteed, with a vesting option for a sixth year that would have raised the value to $100 million if Reyes stayed healthy.
Don't get caught up in whether the Mets made a formal offer to Reyes. Sandy Alderson conveyed to agent Peter Greenberg the parameters the Mets could reach. And Reyes' side decided that would not be enough and went with the superior Marlins offer.
And, by the way, that's no crime. Players almost always go where the salary is highest. The union obviously encourages that, too. Tom Glavine never wanted to leave Atlanta for New York, for example. But the disparity in money offered was too much.
Furthermore, and I know this because I ended up on a plane with a Mets official after the winter meetings, who was candid: The Mets' strong suspicion is that the Marlins would not have been done bidding until they got Reyes. I don't want to minimize the Mets' economic woes as a factor in their tepid pursuit of Reyes, but the fact of the matter is the Mets likely would have just been increasing what Reyes would ultimately have received from Miami had they actively bid. At some point the Mets would have had to stop anyway because the contract would have reached what is beyond a prudent salary versus injury risk and expected decline in performance as Reyes ages.
• Richard Sandomir in the Times notes that Fred Wilpon and family may be at a disadvantage in front of a jury because a group of average folk is probably not inclined to be sympathetic to multimillionaires. The Wilpons' attorneys unsuccessfully had tried to have the $386 million lawsuit heard by Judge Jed S. Rakoff alone. Writes Sandomir:
Rakoff, regarded as a brilliant but unpredictable jurist, alone will question the jury pool. He is a Yankees fan and a partial season-ticket holder. So his neutrality is assured and seems unlikely to be affected by his rooting interests. Anyway, the role of the opposing lawyers in shaping the makeup of the jury will be somewhat limited. Experts suggest that both sides probably already know the sort of jury makeup they want, and that mock trials have likely yielded juror profiles. But neither side will get all it wants. "The real challenge is to ferret out latent prejudices, so it's extremely important for lawyers to suggest questions to the judge beyond those the judge would use to elicit obvious biases," said Mark Zauderer, a partner at Flemming Zulack Williamson Zauderer in Manhattan. Rakoff need not use their questions. According to several lawyers and a jury consultant, the trustee will want jurors who resent millionaires. But Wilpon and [brother-in-law Saul] Katz’s team, they said, probably want less class-conscious people who might be more inclined to feel the trustee's pursuit of the Mets’ owners was overzealous and unfair.
• Andy McCullough in the Star-Ledger updates the progress of Jenrry Mejia, who is throwing off a mound -- albeit fastballs only. Pitching coach Dan Warthen estimated Mejia is already throwing in the low-90s mph. The Mets are targeting a May return to game action for Mejia, at the one-year anniversary of his Tommy John surgery, which is the standard rehab time. Warthen told McCullough that Mejia's delivery looks somewhat calmer now than pre-elbow injury, which should reduce his susceptibility to future injury. It was Warthen a year ago, going against the prevalent organization philosophy, who said Mejia projected to him as a reliever because of the violence of his delivery. Meanwhile, Mejia sought advice from Edinson Volquez while rehabbing, and has been consoled by friend/fellow prospect Jeurys Familia when dejected because of the long rehab process.
• Jon Niese tossed two scoreless innings and Justin Turner went 3-for-3 with a homer and three RBIs Wednesday as the Mets beat the Marlins, 7-0, in Jupiter.
• Niese is trying to improve his changeup, notes Mike Puma in the Post.
• Bobby Parnell -- who dined with his family at a Port St. Lucie pizza joint last night, according to an eyewitness -- had a perfect inning in Wednesday's Grapefruit League game, bouncing back from a woeful intrasquad appearance Sunday. He is the subject of a feature in the Daily News.
There are five bullpen locks -- Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch, Ramon Ramirez, Tim Byrdak and Manny Acosta -- and Parnell is not one of them. He does have a minor league option remaining, but continued outings like Wednesday's should get him onto the major league staff, even if it's not the late-inning role he struggled with last season.
The Mets have not written off Parnell. They were credibly approached at the winter meetings by a team interested in acquiring him and were rebuffed. The Mets were leery of trading a pitcher who throws 100 mph and is under their control for four more seasons and not even eligible for arbitration until next winter in all likelihood. Parnell has only two years, 132 days of major league service time and would essentially need to spend the year in the minors not to qualify for arbitration next offseason for the first of three times.
If Parnell is on the Opening Day roster -- again, no given as of now -- that leaves one more spot. D.J. Carrasco has an existing $1.2 million deal, giving him a leg up, but one team insider said to watch Miguel Batista for one of those final two spots. Relievers facing a more uphill battle to sneak onto the Opening Day roster include younger pitchers Pedro Beato and Josh Stinson as well as left-handers Chuck James, Garrett Olson and Daniel Herrera.
• David Wright (left rib-cage discomfort) does not sound like he will be back for at least a week. Terry Collins said Thursday that Wright should start taking grounders this weekend, but not throw. And Wright may or may not start swinging a bat this weekend. Meanwhile, Beato was scheduled to undergo an MRI on Wednesday afternoon, a day after being pulled from a Grapefruit League appearance with right shoulder difficulty.
• Columnist Joel Sherman in the Post uses ESPN's fantasy baseball rankings to note the declining state of third-base play in New York. Writes Sherman:
ESPN was displaying its top 12 fantasy third basemen, and I noticed Alex Rodriguez was ranked ninth and David Wright was not even among the 12 names shown. Now I do not want to confuse ESPN’s fantasy rankings with, say, The Dead Sea Scrolls for relevance. But it does provide a snapshot of third base right now in New York, which is to say the most uncertain since 2004. That was Rodriguez’s first season at his new position and Wright’s debut as a Met. Both are coming off injuries and their worst full years, so suddenly 2012 has a mandate-like feeling for the duo.
Wright told Sherman: "As far as I'm concerned it is a big motivator, not the doubt, but the fear of failure. I just don't like failing. But there is no doubt in me. I am very, very confident in what I am doing and what I need to do."
As for Wright's future with the club, Alderson said: "He is not trade bait. Is he part of the future? I hope the answer is yes. Let's see how he bounces back this season."
• Does Alderson have the autonomy -- there's that word again -- to guide the Mets properly? Columnist Bob Klaspich in the Record wonders if the GM will stand up to the Wilpons. Writes Klapisch:
Alderson has a track record to back up his promises. Then again, he’s never worked in an environment as toxic as this or for owners who are this unpopular. Fans are angry, they want the Wilpons out, many are vowing to stay away from Citi Field until regime change is complete. Alderson knows he’s about two years away from turning into a marked man, himself. It didn’t help matters last week when Fred Wilpon threw Alderson under the bus in explaining why Reyes signed with the Marlins. The owner had the audacity to say it was a "baseball decision" hatched entirely by Alderson. Don't blame me, blame him, is what Fred was saying. It was an outright lie and Alderson knows it. So does every discerning Mets fan who figured out long ago the Wilpons didn't have the resources to write a $100 million check.
• David Lennon in Newsday profiles Ruben Tejada. Writes Lennon:
Just as Reyes did in his early years with the Mets, Tejada is still getting a better feel for English, which makes him come across as a bit shy on camera. "He's a different person from what you see on TV as opposed to what you get behind closed doors," Wright said. "During interviews and stuff, he's very introverted, but he's very outgoing when he's around us. He's got a dry sense of humor."
Read more on Tejada succeeding Reyes at shortstop with the Mets from Andrew Keh in the Times.
• Santana is on track to start Sunday against the Marlins in Port St. Lucie, according to Collins. Read more in the Star-Ledger, Newsday, Times, Daily News and Post.
TRIVIA: Who played shortstop for the Mets the game before Reyes' major league debut?
(Wednesday's answer: The game before Wright made his major league debut with the Mets on July 21, 2004, Ty Wigginton started at third base for the Mets. Wigginton moved to first base for Wright's debut and was traded eight days after that to the Pittsburgh Pirates with now-slugger Jose Bautista and Matt Peterson for Kris Benson and Jeff Keppinger.)