Dillon Gee has turned the corner. He has been fantastic over his last three starts against some very good ball clubs. No one will forget his performance against the Yanks on May 30th when he stifled the Bronx Bombers offense, squandering only a run over four hits and striking out a career high 12. He then followed that up with another strong 7 inning, 1 earned run outing against the Nats. He was spectacular once again Wednesday night against the powerful St. Louis Cardinals. The Cards scattered six hits over the 6 and 2/3 innings they faced Gee, but were only able to get one run across the plate. Gee struck out 7. In his last 21 innings pitched, he has only surrendered 3 earned runs and has struck out 26. He is 3 -0 over that stretch improving to 5-6 for the year and has lowered his ERA to 4.84. It looks like he is comfortable again on the bump. After battling back from the potentially life threatening blood clot issue he faced last year, Dillon seems to be morphing back into the rookie that provided lightning in a bottle to the 2011 Mets team. He finished that season 13-6 with an ERA a tad over 4 and 114 strikeouts in 160 innings. Days removed from Alderson’s scathing but truthful comments about who and what the Mets future “core” composition entails, he has taken steps to ensure he is part of it.
It’s a war for the core in Flushing right now! I thought I was the King of Cliche? This is getting ridiculous. We get it. New York is The Big Apple. The Mets have a home run apple. Peel it back and you see the core of the Mets franchise. Yay! Enough already. Panic mode has officially set in. Did the Wilpons have a gruff conversation with Sandy and rough him up a bit? Either way, the dam broke when Alderson spoke extremely candidly with Mike Francesa on Monday. The GM and annoying radio host went through the roster bit by bit, position by position with Sandy giving the proverbial thumbs up/thumbs down on whether a player factors into the Mets future plans. When the dust settled every-day players like Ruben Tejada and Lucas Duda learned they were little more than placeholders. Ike Davis, who will be spending more times amongst pit bosses and scantily clad showgirls than major league pitching, found out he is part of this core unit. What a relief? Now he can get back to swinging and missing in peace.
Who else makes the cut? We know DWright is a lifer and Harvey is a no-brainer. d’ARNAUD and Wheeler are Sandy’s pet projects and though we have heard different they are not going anywhere. How about Parnell? Has he done enough this year to prove he is the Mets closer from here on out? I sure hope so. It seemed Murphy finally found a home at the two bag but all of a sudden here we are evaluating Valdespin while Murph fills in for Ike? If Ike is the long-term first baseman and JV1 is getting his tryout than what does that say about how the Mets feel about Murph? This guy has done everything the team has asked for and then some. Sure, he is a mess on the base paths at points, but there is true value here. A lot of teams would kill for a left-handed hitting second baseman that hits .300, drives in 75 runs, and can mash 15 long balls. He ranks 11th overall in hitting at the position but is second with 19 doubles and 7th overall with 29 rib eye steaks. The time has come for the decision. Core or ignore? Remember the old cartoon commercial that asked the question “how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie pop?’ 1, 2, 3…3 according to the owl. That’s about how many bites it would take to get to center of the Mets apple core. 2014 is not looking that promising right about now. Not if we are waiting for a new shortstop, two new corner outfielders, a first baseman to shake out the cobwebs, and a catcher that just took his first boot free steps 2 days ago. How long will Mets fans be asked to wait for a competitive team?
The rebuilding process has to start now if this team is to compete in 2014 or beyond. The Mets will tell you it has. Ike has finally been sent down to Vegas finally unlocking that pesky Minor Leagues to Majors Fousquare badge. Alderson told Francesa that this is the beginning of a revolving door project in which the big league club will routinely swap players between Sin City and New York. It’s like a high school foreign exchange program on steroids (and with even have one in Puello!). Promising rookies like Valdespin and Lagares will get extended looks while journeyman castoffs Cowgill and Andrew Brown will get one more shot to make a splash. Is it just me or is Valdespin’s ceiling not easily visible? At best he is a utility infielder/outfielder who can hit for power off the bench. He is not a starter. His attitude sucks and his work ethic sucks more. His team and coaches don’t like him. He is a sell high or send low candidate in my mind. Captain Kirk has already made his voyage back to Flushing to take another spin. He is hit-less in 8 at bats and has struck out in 4 of those. If his K’s don’t stop, he will once again be leaving on a jet plane and headed back to the desert.
A little farther down the road guys like Eric Campbell and Cesar Puello will have their day(s) in the sun. Campbell is the least talked about of all Met farmhands. The 26 year old spent 3 seasons with Binghamton having his best in 2012 when he batted .297, drove in 50, and tagged 25 doubles. He is having a decent season (by Vegas standards) in AAA at .292 with 6 dingers and 29 driven in. He has shown consistency at each level but profiles as an average major league player. Don’t we have enough of those guys already? The problem is that unlike the well-known stash of young, hard throwing pitching talent(s) existing within the farm system, we do not have the same luxury with position players. In order to rebuild across the diamond we are going to need to package whatever valuable non-core entities we have with a stud pitcher to a team looking to unload expensive talent or bolster their playoff chances.
It’s time to let the Byrd out of the cage. Marlon Byrd has had a resurgence in 2013. The Mets took a long shot signing the veteran based on his stellar performance in Mexican winter ball. He had been suspended for PEDs the previous year and was hanging by a thread to stay in professional ball. The gamble paid off (one of the only ones). He has managed to swat 10 homers (including a solo one yesterday) and drive in 31 RBIs for the offensively challenged club. He has played solid outfield and is a viable candidate for a team looking for a right handed bat off the bench. Look for the last place Chicago White Sox to start testing the market. Alex Rios is owed 12.5 million in 2014 and comes with a minimal 1 million dollar buyout clause. This makes him a low risk/high reward option for teams looking for outfield help. Bueller, Bueller? Any teams come to mind? He is batting .293 with 11 home runs and 33 RBIs and his output matches the potential of most 2014 free agents outfielders who will be represented by mega agent Boras and demand much more.
Lucas Duda is apparently also for sale if you take Sandy by his word. Why not? Duda has managed to hit 11 fly balls that have left the yard while managing to only drive in 22 runs. He should go on America’s Got Talent with that shit. It is incredible that he is keeping up this pace. Elias Sports is going to have to double-check my facts but I can’t think of anyone who had exactly half as many RBIs as home runs this late in the season. It is horrendous. Hit a freaking ball out of the park with someone on base. Of his 11 home runs, only one has come with a runner on and none have been hit with a runner in scoring position. Useless. Who cares if he hits 30 at this pace? His less than average outfield play make him a perfect DH candidate for an American League team looking to add some pop with no sizzle. Maybe the AL Central? Minnesota will have their eyes and ears open for teams inquiring about Josh Willingham. He is not exactly tearing the cover off the baseball but the power numbers are still there. He is one year removed from a 35/110 season in 2012. He signed a 3 year/21 million dollar contract in 2012 but with the Twins cellar dwelling, they may be looking for a bailout come July. Morneau will likely be on their gift list as well but coming off injury and with his slugging numbers in decline he may not be worth pursuing.
John Buck set the world on fire in the first month of baseball. He put up MVP type numbers. He hit so well in fact that his overall numbers mask how ineffective he has been at the plate in the last 2 months. He still comes in at 11th overall in the NL with 11 home runs. His 35 runs driven in leave him just outside the top 20. He has trade value. There are many teams in need of a veteran catcher who hits for power but also has the ability to manage a rotation for a championship run. While the Phillies aren’t exactly in the throes of the pennant chase, they have been playing well as of late. Carlos Ruiz has been out since early May and their backup Eric Kratz is slated for season ending knee surgery as well. They are down to their third and fourth catchers. Making a trade even within the same division can’t be far from their minds in Philly. They have a combination of young pitching and expensive veteran contracts to unload. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard may be names that surface in July.
The war for the core is in full swing in Citi. There will definitely be new faces and names in the lineup in the coming weeks as this gets flushed out. Wheeler will be here soon. If he is half as good as advertised, he may carve out his own Harvey-day like buzz around home starts. July is right around the corner and the Wilpons appear to be ready to write some checks. The Mets should be both buyers and sellers at the deadline. If the organization is serious about turning things around both have to occur. Since the Wilpon family seem to be cut from the same mold of greed as Gordon Gecko maybe it’s time they take a page from his book and start following his marching orders.
“What’s worth doing is worth doing for money.”
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