John Harper

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

PORT ST. LUCIE -- Jacob deGrom established the terms of engagement with the very first pitch of his afternoon on Field 7 at Mets' spring training complex, an informal setting to be sure. 

Friendly fire with teammates at the plate? To deGrom there's no such thing.

Tags: Dominic Smith, Jacob deGrom, Yoenis Cespedes, John Harper
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Ronny Mauricio (Tom Priddy, Four Seam Images)
Ronny Mauricio (Tom Priddy, Four Seam Images)

PORT ST. LUCIE -- You can't help but notice Ronny Mauricio, the Mets' top-ranked prospect, when he's on the field, as the talent is obvious, especially when he battles Seth Lugo in an eight-pitch at-bat, as he did on Thursday in a simulated game. 

More to the point, Lugo couldn't help notice Mauricio after the young shortstop fouled off some tough pitches against him, including a couple of good curveballs, and finally roped a fastball for a single, pulling it to right field. 

"He put a really good at-bat together," Lugo said afterward. "I made some really good pitches. I was impressed. Very impressed."

Tags: Ronny Mauricio, John Harper
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Mets' Jeurys Familia (Treated Image by SNY)
Mets' Jeurys Familia (Treated Image by SNY)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

PORT ST. LUCIE -- Three days in Mets' camp and I've heard the same tout from three different people on the inside: "Watch Familia. He's back." 

On Thursday when I told Jeurys Familia what I was hearing, he smiled and said, "Believe it. I feel great."

Tags: Jeurys Familia, John Harper
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Mets' Seth Lugo
Mets' Seth Lugo

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

PORT ST. LUCIE -- Seth Lugo says the Mets haven't asked him about potentially being used as an opener, as has been reported as a possibility, but he made it clear he's not favor of the idea -- for him or anybody else. 

"I don't think an opener belongs in baseball," Lugo said Thursday after pitching in a simulated game. "Starters are starters, you know. I mean, I'm old-school. I like the game the way it's meant to be played. 

Tags: Seth Lugo, John Harper
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Mets' Michael Conforto (Treated Image by SNY)
Mets' Michael Conforto (Treated Image by SNY)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

PORT ST. LUCIE _ Upon hearing that Christian Yelich was closing in on a nine-year, $215 million contract extension with the Brewers, as first reported by The Athletic, it was only natural to think a similar deal at a slightly lower cost might make sense for the Mets and Michael Conforto. 

After all, like Yelich, Conforto is two years away from free agency, yet there is no indication that he or the ballclub is thinking in terms of an extension. 

Tags: Michael Conforto, John Harper
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Michael Conforto
Michael Conforto

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

PORT ST. LUCIE - Keith Hernandez has famously swooned at the sight of Michael Conforto's stylish swing since seeing it in 2015, but if you think he was the first person to go ga-ga over it, well, perhaps on TV, yes. 

But the first ever? Conforto was all of eight years old when that happened.

"It was my first Little League tryout," Conforto recalled with a laugh. "Someone who was working the pitching machine. I was miserable because I fouled everything off. But the guy came up to me and said, 'you have the most beautiful swing here. Just keep doing what you're doing."

Tags: Michael Conforto, John Harper
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John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

PORT ST. LUCIE -- Live from first base, it's Pete Alonso

And won't this be entertaining. On a day when ESPN mic'd up Mets' players for its telecast of the Cardinals-Mets game, Alonso announced that he has agreed to let MLB Network put a microphone at first base at Citi Field to capture some of his conversations with opponents. 

Tags: Dominic Smith, Jeff McNeil, Pete Alonso, John Harper
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John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

PORT ST. LUCIE -- There are signs of two potentially important developments so far for Noah Syndergaard this spring:

1) Out of the stretch he's significantly quicker to the plate than in the past, seemingly determined to finally keep base-stealers from running at will on him -- "My Achilles heel," he called it on Tuesday. 

2) He's throwing his slider at 86-88 mph with more downward break than in the past, creating more velocity separation from his fastball. 

Tags: Noah Syndergaard, Wilson Ramos, John Harper
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John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

PORT ST. LUCIE -- Dellin Betances is trying to be patient as he works his way back from his partially torn Achilles tendon, but he's clearly getting antsy to get into actual games. 

"I would have hoped to pitch last week," Betances said. "But I've got to trust the plan they have for me."

The Mets have been careful not to push the ex-Yankee reliever so far as he comes back. He threw a simulated game on Tuesday, and it was obvious his velocity wasn't anything close to the high 90s he has thrown during his career. 

Tags: Dellin Betances, John Harper
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Steven Matz
Steven Matz

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

PORT ST. LUCIE - Steven Matz knew the question was coming practically before I could ask it at his locker on Tuesday morning.

"What did you think about the Yankees…"

"Fake news," he said with a smile, cutting me off. "It's not something I'm worried about."

Tags: Steven Matz, John Harper
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Mets shortstop Amed Rosario (Treated Image by SNY)
Mets shortstop Amed Rosario (Treated Image by SNY)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

Amed Rosario's strong second half convinced the Mets to scrap any notion of experimenting with him in center field, but it hasn't quite convinced scouts of his long-term viability at shortstop -- especially with a couple of top prospects in the organization.

As such the 2020 season seems to loom as crucial for Rosario's future in Queens. 

After all, in Andres Gimenez and Ronny Mauricio, the Mets have two young shortstops ranked in the Top 100 prospects lists by MLBPipeline.com, Baseball America, and Keith Law/The Athletic. And Gimenez is getting close, likely to start the season in Triple-A. 

Tags: Amed Rosario, Andres Gimenez, John Harper
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Mets' Seth Lugo (Treated Image by SNY)
Mets' Seth Lugo (Treated Image by SNY)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

All eyes may be on Edwin Diaz in spring training, as a return to dominance by the young closer is widely considered crucial to the Mets' hopes of winning the NL East. But is he really the key to bullpen success in 2020? 

Or is it Seth Lugo?

Tags: Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, Seth Lugo, John Harper
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Mets' Brandon Nimmo (Treated Image by SNY)
Mets' Brandon Nimmo (Treated Image by SNY)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

When the 2019 season began, it appeared pitchers had found an up-and-in hole in Brandon Nimmo's swing about the size of Wyoming, his native state, and they pounded away at it to the tune of 26 strikeouts in his first 61 plate appearances of the season.

At which point he crashed into the fence in Atlanta on April 14th, causing a neck injury that also messed with his swing and eventually forced him to the sidelines for four months. 

Tags: Brandon Nimmo, John Harper
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Mets RHP Noah Syndergaard
Mets RHP Noah Syndergaard

Most anybody and everybody who knows pitching, it seems, still believes Noah Syndergaard can be one of the best pitchers in baseball, based on his talent. But what does he need to do to make it happen after 2019, the worst season of his career? 

Opinions on that varied among the several people I spoke to about the Mets' righthander, most centering around pitch selection and/or mental approach, something Syndergaard copped to himself in Port St. Lucie last week, saying his struggles last season were at least partly a case of "paralysis by analysis; thinking too much." 

However, Bob Ojeda, the former Mets pitcher, who has also worked as a minor-league pitching coach and SNY analyst, delivered a harsher critique that was aimed at Syndergaard's Thor persona, if you will.

Tags: Noah Syndergaard, John Harper
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Jeff McNeil
Jeff McNeil

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

On July 6 last season, Jeff McNeil went 4-for-5 against the Phillies, lining four singles through or over the infield, into left, center, and right. At that point he was hitting .356 for the season, looking like a young Wade Boggs.

Or Tony Gwynn. Or even Pete Rose. Indeed, to scouts of a certain age who cringe at the number of strikeouts in today's game, McNeil was a throwback to an era when hitters prioritized contact over power.

"He was my new favorite hitter," one long-time scout recalled by phone on Monday. "I loved the way he choked up on that bat with the fat handle and hit the ball where it was pitched. Around the All-Star break I remember thinking he was going to hit somewhere between .340 and .350 and win the batting title."

Tags: Jeff McNeil, John Harper
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 (Jim Rassol)
(Jim Rassol)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

Marcus Stroman has always been driven to prove the doubters wrong. It's in his DNA as someone who has defied huge odds by becoming a major league starting pitcher at the height of 5-foot-7, and people who know him say it explains why he talks such a big game. 

In his first comments of spring training, for example, Stroman told reporters in Port St. Lucie, Florida, this week that he has "the best sinker in the league" and that he is "pretty much unstoppable" when he's in a good place mentally, among other things.

Strong stuff for a guy who didn't quite live up to expectations upon arriving in the midst of the Mets' wild-card push last August, via the trade from the Blue Jays, before finishing strong in September.

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Edwin Diaz
Edwin Diaz

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

So much of the Mets' 2020 season already feels as if it's dependent upon Edwin Diaz re-discovering the form that made him arguably baseball's best reliever two years ago in Seattle. 

As one scout this week told me, "They'll win 90-95 games easy if Diaz figures it out again. And they should have a championship bullpen."

Tags: Dellin Betances, Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, John Harper
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John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The temptation is to say things should settle down now that spring training is opening this week and actual baseball takes center stage, but over the years I've learned never to bet against calamities arising at any moment around the Mets -- now more than ever it seems. 

Still, it would have to be a doozy of a spring in Port St. Lucie to top the chaos of an offseason that saw Carlos Beltran hired and fired as manager before ever putting on the full uniform, Yoenis Cespedes stripped of millions of dollars due to a contract violation involving some type of confrontation with a wild boar, and the team being sold and then un-sold in the space of two months. 

We'll see. At least the focus turns toward the field now, with young Luis Rojas overseeing his first spring training as manager of a ballclub that has championship potential -- if all the ifs go their way, starting with the bullpen.

Tags: David Wright, Dellin Betances, Dominic Smith, Edwin Diaz, JD Davis, Jeurys Familia, Justin Wilson, Pete Alonso, Robinson Cano, Seth Lugo, Steven Matz, Yoenis Cespedes, John Harper
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Yankees' Miguel Andujar, Gerrit Cole and Giancarlo Stanton (Treated Image by SNY)
Yankees' Miguel Andujar, Gerrit Cole and Giancarlo Stanton (Treated Image by SNY)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

They won 103 games last season despite an historic number of injuries, then signed the best pitcher in the American League away from their biggest threat, ratcheting up expectations to the height of the Joe Torre years.

And then last week the Yankees announced that James Paxton had back surgery that could cause him to miss at least the first couple of months of the season -- an eerie reminder that nothing is ever guaranteed in sports. 

So welcome to the start of spring training, where the most important goal will be to get through six weeks in Tampa with everyone not named Paxton ready for Opening Day. 

Tags: Clint Frazier, Deivi Garcia, Giancarlo Stanton, James Paxton, Miguel Andujar, John Harper
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Giancarlo Stanton, Gerrit Cole, and Luis Severino
Giancarlo Stanton, Gerrit Cole, and Luis Severino

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The Yankees look like a sure bet to win 100-plus games for a third straight season and, especially as the Red Sox seem to be moving closer to trading Mookie Betts, are likely a shoo-in to win a the AL East for a second straight year as well.

But they didn't spend $324 million on Gerrit Cole to hang a division title banner in the Bronx, now that their championship drought is at 10 years and counting.

Tags: Gary Sanchez, Giancarlo Stanton, Luis Severino, Miguel Andujar, John Harper
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Sep 29, 2019; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard (34) at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports (Wendell Cruz)
Sep 29, 2019; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard (34) at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports (Wendell Cruz)

You can make a case for a dozen or more Mets having plenty to prove going into the 2020 season, from the high of Pete Alonso looking to validate his historic rookie season to the low of Edwin Diaz needing to bounce back from his abysmal first year in New York.

With input from scouts I spoke to on Wednesday, here are the five I consider most interesting -- in part because of their uncertainty -- and potentially most impactful.

1) Yoenis Cespedes

The intrigue level in spring training alone will be sky-high as Cespedes tries to prove he's not just a punch line for wild boar jokes at this point, attempting at age 34 to come back from double-heel surgery and a broken ankle, while having played in only 38 games the last two seasons.

Tags: Edwin Diaz, Noah Syndergaard, Robinson Cano, Yoenis Cespedes, John Harper
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John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The more you hear about Luis Rojas, the more reason there is to believe he could be a good major-league manager. But is he ready in 2020? Will his inexperience cost the Mets in a win-now season? How will he react to being grilled daily about every significant decision he makes?

So many questions that nobody can answer until the games begin, and it's the great unknown that makes this such a huge gamble for Brodie Van Wagenen, especially with the expectation of a change in ownership that could raise the stakes even higher for the GM this season.

To me, it's the reason it made more sense to go get a proven commodity like a Buck Showalter or a Dusty Baker, especially after the Carlos Beltran hire backfired on the Mets and added a level of chaos that begged for credibility in the manager's office. 

Tags: Carlos Beltran, Pete Alonso, John Harper
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John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

As the undisputed greatest closer in baseball history, Mariano Rivera will always be the perfect player to have achieved the first-ever unanimous Hall of Fame election. Yet it's too bad that Derek Jeter didn't get that same treatment from the voters because he was every bit as deserving. 

It's called the Hall of Fame for a reason, right? 

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Buck Showalter
Buck Showalter

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

So the Josh Donaldson domino finally fell on Tuesday night, and by landing in Minnesota it didn't tilt the balance of power in the NL East, after all. Or my offseason grades, for that matter.

Either the Nationals or the Braves could have separated themselves by signing -- or re-signing -- the power-hitting third baseman. Instead, there's not much to separate the work the four contenders did this offseason, and even the Marlins at least warrant a grade this time for spending a little dough to upgrade their roster.

Last season, the division was the toughest in the majors, producing the 97-win Braves, the World Series-winning Nationals, a Mets team that went 46-26 in the second half (falling just short of a wild-card berth), and the dangerous-but-flawed Phillies who faded down the stretch but at least finished at .500.

Tags: Carlos Beltran, John Harper
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John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

So the Josh Donaldson domino finally fell on Tuesday night, and by landing in Minnesota it didn't tilt the balance of power in the NL East, after all. Or my offseason grades, for that matter.

Either the Nationals or the Braves could have separated themselves by signing -- or re-signing -- the power-hitting third baseman. Instead, there's not much to separate the work the four contenders did this offseason, and even the Marlins at least warrant a grade this time for spending a little dough to upgrade their roster.

Last season, the division was the toughest in the majors, producing the 97-win Braves, the World Series-winning Nationals, a Mets team that went 46-26 in the second half (falling just short of a wild-card berth), and the dangerous-but-flawed Phillies who faded down the stretch but at least finished at .500.

Tags: Dellin Betances, Didi Gregorius, Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, Seth Lugo, Starlin Castro, Travis d'Arnaud, Wilson Ramos, Zack Wheeler, John Harper
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New York Yankees' Andy Pettitte delivers a pitch during the first inning of an interleague baseball game against the New York Mets Friday, June 22, 2012, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II) (Frank Franklin II/AP)
New York Yankees' Andy Pettitte delivers a pitch during the first inning of an interleague baseball game against the New York Mets Friday, June 22, 2012, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II) (Frank Franklin II/AP)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The Yankees have been searching for an ace since CC Sabathia's last truly dominant season, 2011, when he went 19-8 with a 3.00 ERA and pitched 237 innings. Along the way they were foiled by Masahiro Tanaka's elbow ligament tear and then Luis Severino's curious inconsistency/shoulder injury. 

Into that void steps Gerrit Cole, the $324 million man, and if he delivers the greatness expected of him, he not only could get the Yankees over the championship hump, but his presence as the No. 1 starter raises an intriguing question:

How high is the ceiling on the 2020 rotation? 

Tags: CC Sabathia, Domingo German, J.A. Happ, James Paxton, Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, John Harper
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Josh Donaldson (Treated Image by SNY)
Josh Donaldson (Treated Image by SNY)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

With the balance of power in the NL East potentially hinging on where Josh Donaldson signs, the Nationals' spending spree on lesser free agents in recent days could be an indication they believe he's likely to sign elsewhere. 

The Mets better hope so, anyway. 

In truth, there's probably no good outcome for the Mets here, especially with reports out of Minnesota that the Twins are ready to move on, pessimistic about their chances of signing the last big-splash free agent still on the market. 

Tags: Dellin Betances, Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, John Harper
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John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

At the Dellin Betances press conference on Thursday, Brodie Van Wagenen said the Mets could have "one of the best bullpens in baseball" next season, and while it may have sounded like more of the Brodie-Bravado for which he has become known, in this case he's not wrong. 

He just a long way from being right. 

As a long-time scout said on Friday, "The Mets could have a scary-good bullpen if all goes right but that could be asking a lot. I don't think anybody in baseball has as much of a gap between ceiling and floor as they do in the bullpen, coming off their problems last year.

Tags: Dellin Betances, Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, Seth Lugo, John Harper
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CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and Brett Gardner (Treated Image by SNY)
CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and Brett Gardner (Treated Image by SNY)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

Perhaps the 2010s can be explained simply as the law of averages catching up with the Yankees, a reminder of just how remarkable it was to navigate the postseason so flawlessly while winning four championships in five years two decades ago. 

More likely the teams of this decade simply weren't quite as clutch or complete as those Joe Torre ballclubs that remain the last dynasty we've seen in baseball.

Either way, this decade will be remembered dubiously in the Bronx as the first one in 100 years in which the Yankees didn't make at least one World Series appearance. 

Tags: Aaron Judge, Brett Gardner, CC Sabathia, Didi Gregorius, Gio Urshela, Greg Bird, Luis Severino, Luke Voit, Mark Teixeira, Miguel Andujar, John Harper
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David Wright, Daniel Murphy and Jacob deGrom (Treated Image by SNY)
David Wright, Daniel Murphy and Jacob deGrom (Treated Image by SNY)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

In a Mets decade that produced two Rookies of the Year, three Cy Young Awards in addition to an All-Star Game starting pitcher, a batting champ, a major-league home run leader and a record-setting post-season home run hitter, you'd think the team in Queens would have more highs to look back on than lows.

Yet it's not even close.

Tags: Curtis Granderson, Daniel Murphy, David Wright, Jacob deGrom, Jeurys Familia, Jose Reyes, Lucas Duda, Matt Harvey, Michael Conforto, Noah Syndergaard, Travis d'Arnaud, Yoenis Cespedes, John Harper
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New York Yankees relief pitcher Mariano Rivera waves to the fans after the game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium. (John Munson/The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports)
New York Yankees relief pitcher Mariano Rivera waves to the fans after the game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium. (John Munson/The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

For a franchise that brands itself as championship or bust, the Yankees' failure to reach the World Series over an entire decade for the first time in 100 years made the 2010s hugely disappointing, despite seven postseason appearances.

Still, it had its moments, linking the nostalgia of its Core Four-past with the promise of its Baby Bombers-future. 

Tags: Aaron Judge, Alex Rodriguez, Aroldis Chapman, DJ LeMahieu, Giancarlo Stanton, John Harper
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Sep 29, 2018; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets third baseman David Wright (5) waves to the crowd after a game against the Miami Marlins at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Sep 29, 2018; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets third baseman David Wright (5) waves to the crowd after a game against the Miami Marlins at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

This decade won't be remembered fondly by Mets' faithful, even if it did include the fifth World Series appearance in franchise history. But it did have its moments.

Here are my Top 10 best/most memorable moments of the 2010s, along with five of the worst. 

The 10 To Remember: 

Tags: Bartolo Colon, Carlos Beltran, David Wright, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Pete Alonso, Wilmer Flores, Yoenis Cespedes, John Harper
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New York Yankees RHP Dellin Betances (Brad Penner/USA Today Sports Images)
New York Yankees RHP Dellin Betances (Brad Penner/USA Today Sports Images)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

If all goes well for Dellin Betances, meaning that neither last season's shoulder impingement nor Achilles tear is an issue in 2020, the Mets now have the wild card they need to have a real shot at winning the killer division that is the NL East. 

As such, the signing of Betances this week was both a necessary gamble and a desperately needed way for Brodie Van Wagenen to energize a highly skeptical fan base in an otherwise uneventful winter. 

The GM simply didn't have any credibility in trying to sell the notion that the Mets could bank on bounce-backs from Jeurys Familia and Edwin Diaz as the cure for the bullpen that wrecked their season. 

Tags: Carlos Beltran, Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, Robert Gsellman, Yoenis Cespedes, John Harper
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May 4, 2018; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets left fielder Yoenis Cespedes (52) at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports (Wendell Cruz)
May 4, 2018; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets left fielder Yoenis Cespedes (52) at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports (Wendell Cruz)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

On Thursday, Eduardo Perez told the world, via MLB Radio, that Yoenis Cespedes predicted he'll hit 40 home runs next season, or maybe even 52 to match the number on his back. And while Mets fans are bound to be skeptical, to say the least, Perez later told me he believes it. 

"My personal feeling is that he'll go out and do it," Perez said by phone Thursday afternoon. "I understand the skepticism, but I go way back with Yoenis, to when he was playing on Team Cuba, and I could hear it in his voice, how hungry he is to go out there and produce again.

"It all depends on his health, I've said that all along. But he's driven to play again, and if he proves in spring training that he's healthy, I don't see anything that crazy in him hitting 52, especially the way the balls were jumping this year."

Tags: Yoenis Cespedes, John Harper
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 (Treated Image by SNY)
(Treated Image by SNY)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The Winter Meetings will never be what they once were, when GMs exchanged trade proposals on cocktail napkins at the bar and even occasionally agreed to a late-night deal without a spreadsheet in sight. 

That said, however, baseball's annual gathering of executives and media this week in San Diego at least came to life again for the first time in a few years, delivering the action everyone wanted to see in the form of mega-million dollar free-agent signings. 

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 (Treated Image by SNY)
(Treated Image by SNY)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The Winter Meetings will never be what they once were, when GMs exchanged trade proposals on cocktail napkins at the bar and even occasionally agreed to a late-night deal without a spreadsheet in sight. 

That said, however, baseball's annual gathering of executives and media this week in San Diego at least came to life again for the first time in a few years, delivering the action everyone wanted to see in the form of mega-million dollar free-agent signings. 

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Comments

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

Countering launch-angle hitting with high fastballs has become all but mandatory for pitchers in the big leagues these days, as dictated by analytics departments and pitching coaches. But it doesn't work for everyone. 

It most certainly didn't work for Rick Porcello in 2019 when he posted a 5.52 ERA, by far the highest in his career, at least partly because he threw the most four-seam fastballs of any season in his career. 

Can he get back to being more of the sinkerballer who has been a solid-to-above-average starter for much of his 11-year career? 

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John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

Is there a chance the Mets could pull off a trade with the Astros for shortstop Carlos Correa?

They'd have to get awfully creative, put it that way.

At the Winter Meetings in San Diego, SNY's Andy Martino reported Wednesday that the teams have had "dialogue" about such a possibility, which comes on the heels of The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal reporting Tuesday that the Astros have entertained the possibility of trading Correa as a way of dealing with their current -- and future -- payroll crunch.

Tags: Amed Rosario, John Harper
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Masahiro Tanaka and Noah Syndergaard
Masahiro Tanaka and Noah Syndergaard

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The long-awaited scientific findings on the 2019 baseball were released on Wednesday, and the conclusions likely aren't going to satisfy pitchers throughout the majors who were convinced MLB intentionally juiced the ball to fly farther and produce more home runs.

Yet at least there is reason to believe Noah Syndergaard wasn't crazy when he kept complaining that he couldn't throw his slider as effectively in the past -- due to a decrease in the height of the seams on some of the balls that apparently contributed to the record-breaking number of home runs.

And maybe there is now even more reason to believe the Mets should gamble on signing free-agent reliever Blake Treinen, whose fall from dominance with the A's last season was due largely to the ineffectiveness of his sinker -- thought to be at least partly related to lower seams on the ball.

Tags: Edwin Diaz, Masahiro Tanaka, Noah Syndergaard, John Harper
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Masahiro Tanaka and Noah Syndergaard
Masahiro Tanaka and Noah Syndergaard

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The long-awaited scientific findings on the 2019 baseball were released on Wednesday, and the conclusions likely aren't going to satisfy pitchers throughout the majors who were convinced MLB intentionally juiced the ball to fly farther and produce more home runs.

Yet at least there is reason to believe Noah Syndergaard wasn't crazy when he kept complaining that he couldn't throw his slider as effectively in the past -- due to a decrease in the height of the seams on some of the balls that apparently contributed to the record-breaking number of home runs.

And maybe there is now even more reason to believe the Mets should gamble on signing free-agent reliever Blake Treinen, whose fall from dominance with the A's last season was due largely to the ineffectiveness of his sinker -- thought to be at least partly related to lower seams on the ball.

Tags: Edwin Diaz, Masahiro Tanaka, Noah Syndergaard, John Harper
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Gerrit Cole (Treated Image by SNY)
Gerrit Cole (Treated Image by SNY)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

In the end, the Yankees wanted to leave no doubt. Though they've operated with an unusual level of fiscal restraint in recent years, their addition of Gerrit Cole late Tuesday night was a reminder that when they want a free agent, nobody else really stands a chance.

The Angels and Dodgers both wanted Cole badly as well, yet the Yankees blew them away with their financial might, locking up the superstar pitcher to a nine-year, $324 million contract, which was miles ahead of the other offers. 

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Dom Smith
Dom Smith

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

Unless the Mets are pulling a heck of a misdirection play, all indications are they don't plan to spend significantly for the pitching help that they figure to need if they're serious about winning the NL East next season.

So how do they get creative, to use the strategy that Brodie Van Wagenen has referenced in speaking of this offseason?

Their most obvious trade chip is Dom Smith, mostly because he's blocked at first base by Pete Alonso and would be a liability in left field. Smith has value after proving last season that he can do damage with the bat, but the Mets almost certainly see J.D. Davis as a better fit, since he can play third base and left field. 

Tags: Dominic Smith, Jeurys Familia, John Harper
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Oct 2, 2019; New York, NY, USA; New York Yankees general manger Brian Cashman gestures while on the phone during a workout day before game 1 of the ALDS at Yankees Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Oct 2, 2019; New York, NY, USA; New York Yankees general manger Brian Cashman gestures while on the phone during a workout day before game 1 of the ALDS at Yankees Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The Winter Meetings have been a snooze-fest in recent years, as teams have become more cautious about long-term free-agent signings and less inclined to give up prospects in trades, producing offseason stalemates that last into February.

But there's hope it might be different this time, as a combination of factors offers the possibility for significant action in San Diego the next few days. 

Most notably, large-market teams such as the Yankees, Dodgers, and Angels are big-game hunters this offseason, which hasn't been the case in recent years. 

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Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen
Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The Winter Meetings have been a snooze-fest in recent years, as teams have become more cautious about long-term free-agent signings and less inclined to give up prospects in trades, producing offseason stalemates that last into February.

But there's hope it might be different this time, as a combination of factors offers the possibility for significant action in San Diego the next few days. 

Most notably, large-market teams such as the Yankees, Dodgers, and Angels are big-game hunters this offseason, which hasn't been the case in recent years. 

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Seth Lugo
Seth Lugo

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The Phillies are buying into the same obvious potential in Zack Wheeler that convinced me last winter he'd turned a corner in 2018 and blossomed into an elite starter, so I can understand why they gave him $118 million to upgrade their starting rotation. 

But here's the thing: Wheeler didn't turn that corner, as it turned out, and while brilliant at times in 2019, he was plagued by inconsistent command and mistake-pitch home runs that negated his dominant stuff too often, especially early as he pitched to a 4.96 ERA over the first 15 starts of the season.

Tags: Edwin Diaz, Seth Lugo, Zack Wheeler, John Harper
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May 27, 2019; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics relief pitcher Blake Treinen (39) throws a pitch during the ninth inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Oakland Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports (Darren Yamashita)
May 27, 2019; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics relief pitcher Blake Treinen (39) throws a pitch during the ninth inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Oakland Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports (Darren Yamashita)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The Mets are already banking on a big bounce-back season from Edwin Diaz, arguably baseball's best closer in 2018. Why not double down on that approach for 2020, now that Blake Treinen is a free agent?

That way they only need to go 1-for-2 on the reliever volatility theory to fix their bullpen in spectacular fashion.

Treinen, every bit as dominant for the A's in 2018 as Diaz was for the Mariners, and nearly as dreadful in 2019, was set free on Monday night when Oakland chose to non-tender him a contract rather than pay him some $8 million next season via arbitration.

Tags: Edwin Diaz, Robinson Cano, John Harper
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Asdrubal Cabrera, Cameron Maybin and Howie Kendrick. (Treated Image by SNY)
Asdrubal Cabrera, Cameron Maybin and Howie Kendrick. (Treated Image by SNY)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

In honor of Black Friday, where the lure of bargains convinces otherwise rational people to navigate the madness of overcrowded shopping, here's a list of free agents on which you won't find Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, or Anthony Rendon.
 
No, this isn't the big-ticket aisle but more of a discount store for players who could provide the best bang for the buck. 

In some cases that means gambling on bounce-back seasons for players who were dealing with injuries, in others it means settling for an under-the-radar level of performance and certainty.

Tags: Asdrubal Cabrera, Cameron Maybin, Dellin Betances, Didi Gregorius, John Harper
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Asdrubal Cabrera, Cameron Maybin and Howie Kendrick. (Treated Image by SNY)
Asdrubal Cabrera, Cameron Maybin and Howie Kendrick. (Treated Image by SNY)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

In honor of Black Friday, where the lure of bargains convinces otherwise rational people to navigate the madness of overcrowded shopping, here's a list of free agents on which you won't find Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, or Anthony Rendon.
 
No, this isn't the big-ticket aisle but more of a discount store for players who could provide the best bang for the buck. 

In some cases that means gambling on bounce-back seasons for players who were dealing with injuries, in others it means settling for an under-the-radar level of performance and certainty.

Tags: Asdrubal Cabrera, Cameron Maybin, Dellin Betances, Didi Gregorius, John Harper
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Starling Marte (Treated Image by SNY)
Starling Marte (Treated Image by SNY)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

Most everyone agrees that Starling Marte would be a nice get for the Mets, giving them the everyday center fielder they've been looking for since, well, since their new manager, Carlos Beltran, was playing the position a decade ago.

But what would it take for them to acquire him in a trade with the Pirates?

The consensus, based on conversations I had with scouts, executives, and minor-league evaluators on Monday, is that Pittsburgh's new GM, Ben Cherington, probably would have to like the idea of taking a major leaguer such as J.D. Davis, Brandon Nimmo, or Dom Smith in return for Marte. 

Tags: Amed Rosario, Brandon Nimmo, Carlos Beltran, Dominic Smith, JD Davis, John Harper
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 (Treated Image by SNY)
(Treated Image by SNY)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The Nationals may have won the World Series but the Braves were the best team in the NL East over 162 games last season, totaling 97 wins, and they could be better in 2020 considering: 

They have the best core of age 25-and-under players in the division, as well as a Top Five farm system, and they've moved quickly this off-season to load up in the bullpen, signing Will Smith, the top reliever on the free agent market, and re-signing Chris Martin.  

All of which sets an awfully high bar for the Mets next season if they're going to deliver on the win-now expectations that have defined Brodie Van Wagenen's actions as GM.

Tags: Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Wilson Ramos, Zack Wheeler, John Harper
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