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Matthew Cerrone

In December 2011, the Mets traded cash and Angel Pagan to the Giants for OF Andres Torres and reliever Ramon Ramirez.

Torres hit just .230 with 24 extra base hits in 132 games, while Pagan hit .288 with 61 extra base hits in 154 games on route to a trip to the NLCS.

Peter B in New York sent in an e-mail asking:?"Can you refresh my memory as to why the Mets traded Pagan? Sandy Alderson has to take the hit for a terrible trade. He's a switch hitting CF with gap power (perfect for Citi Field) in his prime. Boy, we could have used him in the leadoff spot this year. They gave up on him way too fast."

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Gabe C in New York: "I know it's early, and we don't really have a full picture of the payroll situation going into next season. But, I'm hoping next season we could have an Oakland-like turnaround. When I look at their team, one of the things that stands out is how their entire lineup is has 2-3 positive WAR players.

[sny-box color="fff"]Wins Above Replacement, commonly known as WAR, is often used to show how many more wins a player would give a team as opposed to a "replacement level", or minor league/bench player at that position.[/sny-box]

I know as a stat, WAR isn't the end all, be all, but I think it's a pretty decent indicator. In contrast, if you go to the Mets, we have what seems like David Wright surrounded with a lineup of marginal players.

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Adam J in VA sent in this e-mail: "I've heard a lot of talk about the Mets being a possible trade partner for Justin Upton this offseason. As a former high school opponent of his, I'd LOVE to see Upton in orange and blue. Is Niese a necessary component to get him? Or, would a package of Colin McHugh, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and a Cory Mazzoni get it done? What are your thoughts?"

That will not be enough to get Upton.?The way I understand it, the D-Backs want a big-league, affordable, reliable, front-end starting pitcher for OF Justin Upton, who is due roughly $35 million over the next three years. They are not interested in a group of mediocre prospects who may or may not pan out. Plus, if they did, I assume other teams could put together better packages than that...

Niese is due $24 million over the next four years, after which he makes significantly more in 2017 and 2018, but each of those two seasons have a $500,000 buyout. It?s a good deal. I was told last summer that a deal for Upton would need start with Niese. I have no idea if these two teams will discuss a deal like this in a month or two. If they do, I?m not yet sure I?d even pull the trigger. But, as I've said before, the Mets know they're in desperate need of real, proven talent in their outfield, with not much available to them in their own farm system. There are solid free agents available after next season, such as Adam Jones, but there is no?guarantee?they get to the open market. At the same time, as good as Niese has been, the Mets have Matt Harvey and a promising crop of young starting pitchers knocking on Citi Field?s door. If the Mets sign Dickey to an extension, they need to least consider something like swapping Niese for a new, legitimate bat for the outfield, because I don?t know how else they get one.

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In April, just before the season started,?I wrote this about the 2012 Mets:

The way I see it, if Johan wins a Cy Young and Bay, Lucas Duda, David Wright and Ike Davis all hit 30 home runs each, I think the Mets could win 85 games or so and challenge for the second Wild Card, all of which I think is a long shot. Of course, I hope it happens and, because it?s my nature to give the benefit of the doubt until I see otherwise, I?ll imagine it can happen? because that would be downright awesome. But, more realistically, I?m simply hoping for progress. That?s all. In November, when writing this blog later this year, all I hope is that we ? as fans ? are excited and feeling good about the direction the franchise is headed. ... The point is, given how things have gone the last five years, though I?d love a World Series victory, I?ll gladly settle for progress and a better unity among fans.
The Mets won 74 games, one short of 75. It's what was probably expected at the start of the season, but - after a strong first half, expectations were raised. So, today, 74 feels like a massive let down as opposed to being par for the course. I think most reasonable people knew the first-half, two-out hit parade was unsustainable, and to get half your wins from just two starting pitchers (one 37 and the other coming off shoulder surgery) was never a recipe for long-term succes. Nevertheless, at 46-40 and tied for the last Wild Card spot, perception became reality and - even though I knew a bucket of cold water might get dumped on us in the second half - I still let myself hope and believe again in miracles... which is why today, I feel?disappointed in just 74 wins.

That said, though Lucas Duda didn't answer questions about his potential, for the most part, I think we learned some things about where this train is headed...

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Jim via e-mail: As a fan, it gets hard this time of year when you know you're team is out of the race for the playoffs. How is Terry Collins managing that in the clubhouse. If no miracles happen this year, can the Mets push to be above the .500 mark at the end of the season, and should they?

As a fellow fan, I understand. It's hard to believe it has been six full years since the Mets last made the playoffs. And, let's be honest, it's not like these last five seasons were just 'bad,' they were also cartoonishly dramatic to a point that when I actually stop and think about it, or say it out loud to a friend, it's?genuinely?hard to believe. I know there are franchises who have been far less successful in sports. But, is the another that has been more bizarre in doing it? On one hand, there is never a dull moment. On the other hand, there is never a dull moment...

Anyway, to your question, Jim... Terry is doing what he should be doing, which is to make these last 40 games about 2013. He's been saying that the measure of a man is how a player competes down the stretch, whether fighting for a playoff spot or not. He says he and the organization will be paying close attention to who does what and how, so to have a better idea about next year's roster. The thing is, every manager says these things. It feels rhetorical at this point, because a) this concept should be implicit with the whole getting-a-paycheck thing, and b) next year's roster will almost certainly have more to do with status, salary, off-season?acquisitions?and spring training performances than anything that happens in September. Nevertheless, it's a good message and he should keep pushing it.

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Eric in Stamford: I hope the Mets learned the lesson and next year they will have more than one left-handed relief pitcher. They basically burned out Tim Byrdak, and they did the same thing to Pedro Feliciano. Do you think they'll have more than one lefty next year?

I don't know, Eric. I really don't. However, it's worth noting that the plan this year was to basically have Ramon Ramirez be able to pitch to both right-handed hitters and lefties, and have Byrdak to pitch to just lefties in key spots. The thing is, Ramirez pitched well to lefties earlier in his career because he was pitching well in general. This year, he was getting rocked by lefties early, and so it was all Byrdak from that point forward. The point is, though the Mets broke camp with just one left-handed reliever, they talked like Ramirez was going to be used in that sort of role as well,?alleviating?some of the load on Byrdak... it just didn't work out that way. In terms of going forward, Josh Edgin is clearly an asset. I'm not sure what his potential is, but he can obviously help this team next year as a situational lefty, if not more.

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Jeff in Las Vegas:?In listening to analysis from the TV crew, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling have some great insight on the performance/development of the young guys, like Matt Harvey. Do they talk to the players in pre- or post-game situations or on road trips or flights?

From what I understand, though I'm sure they interact, there isn't a whole lot of advice or insight being passed back and forth. In the case of Keith, he once told me he is more than happy to help a current player on the team, so long as that player seeks him out. But, (and I assume this is the case for Darling as well) he doesn't just go in the clubhouse and start telling people their business, without an invitation.. and I understand the players and coaches prefer it that way, as well.

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Michael in Bethpage: What do you think so far of Matt Harvey? He looked great in his first start, but has been just so-so since.

That's true, but those are also the only four starts of his big-league career. I think it's totally unfair to cast jugement on what this kid's future will be given that limited resume. What I do know is he can clearly pitch at this level, he belongs here and he will likely be part of this rotation next season. To me, his last start was actually rather encouraging, because he started off rough (throwing 33 pitches and letting up two runs in the first inning) in his first start in Citi Field), yet he settled down and managed to throw five additional innings?without?giving up a run. He was probably a bit jacked up,?understandably, and yet got it together... and that's a really good sign. Basically, he (like all pitchers) needs to learn how to better command his pitches, specifically first pitch strikes, and he must command the inning better... pitch to contact, etc... and he will, in time. He was called up at the right time, and he should get close to 10 starts against major-league hitters this year to learn from in advance of next Spring Training.

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WFAN's Evan Roberts is right when he says on air that the Mets should look for a cash-for-player type trade to bring in an over-paid veteran arm for the bullpen.

Roberts suggested Francisco Rodriguez, who will earn $8 million this year. He will be a free agent at the end of this season, during which the Brewers are six games under .500. He also suggested Huston Street, who is having a terrific season for the Padres, who are 26-47 and in dead last. Street will earn $7.5 million this season. He has a $9 million option for next season, but a team buyout for $500,000.

This past off season, multiple reports indicated the Mets had interest in Street, despite?his one-time feud Bob Geren, who is Terry Collins's bench coach. The Padres eventually acquired Street from the Rockies last December.

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I made this post last week, but I'm getting this question again today so it seems like it's worth re-posting today...

Yes, the Mets need to sign?RA Dickey?to a contract extension as soon as possible? more so than?David Wright, frankly. However, like Wright, my guess is it waits until the off-season, when they can pick up his option then build it in to a new deal.

The reality is, at this point, Dickey could get a four- or five-year deal on the open market. The guy might be 37 years old, but in knuckleball years that?s like just turning 30. The way he?s throwing, and with how little stress he puts on his arm, and considering his work ethic, plus being as dominant as he is, it looks like he could pitch well in to his 40s (much like Tim Wakefield, Charlie Hough, Phil Niekro and others like them).

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We were all on the same page last night... and it was great.

Payroll arguments, legal debates, conspiracy theories,?nitpicky reporting, it all took a backseat as every fan, every reporter and every skeptic let go of thinking about tomorrow and simply enjoyed the moment... together. That hasn't happened around here in quite some time.

"This felt like more than a no-hitter. It felt more like an exorcism," Randy Media said perfectly on his blog?today. "Johan and company were exorcising the demons of a rough few years."

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Matthew Cerrone:?I will be getting to Port St. Lucie on Feb. 27 (for the team's first official workout) and staying through March 9. Michael Baron will be representing MetsBlog from Feb. 24 to 27.?Vinny Cartiglia will be with me in late February, and Ted Berg will be in town through mid March. It's my favorite time of year. My plan is to basically do what I did last year, which is to hustle from field to field, taking pictures, talking to people, and quickly posting and relaying to you the general look and feel of life on field in St. Lucie. ...?I can't wait to get down there.
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I'm truly happy for my Giants fan friends, who got to see their favorite football team win a Super Bowl last night. I mean that, I'm glad they're happy.

That said, as a Jets fan and a Mets fan, I'm getting real tired of watching the Giants and Yankees celebrate, while I have to duck and cover.

My sports-watching career started in 1985 with the Mets and Jets. In that time, the Mets have won once (when I was 10 years old), while the Jets have won nothing. And, though the Mets have been in the playoffs five times and the Jets have been there 10 times, the Giants have won three Super Bowls (out of 13 playoff appearances) and the Yankees have won the Word Series five times (out of 16 playoff appearances).

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Michael in Hoboken sent in an e-mail, asking:

[jbox color="white"]"Will the Mets do a mini-camp this winter, like they've done in the past? I think for a team this weak, it will be important for them to get in as much pre-season work as possible.[/jbox]

In the past, the Mets held organized, voluntary, three-day mini-camps in mid- to late-January for players to workout and get ready for spring training. They're never considered official, teams rarely know who is attending until players show up, and they're hardly?mandatory. The Mets were one of the few teams to hold them, and I don't think they are doing anything official this year.

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Ryan G from Long Island: Why does Sandy refuse to say, 'Rebuilding'? Everyone knows he's in a Rebuilding Phase, yet he won't say so.

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[avatar name="cerrone"]Matthew Cerrone:?In these cases, I'm a believer in action not words. So, I'm far less concerned with what he calls what he's doing and more interested in what he's actually doing. However, from a public relations stand point, I bet the team could gain more fans than they're turning away by simply calling it what it is...

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Look, at this point, it's fairly obvious that Jose Reyes did not get traded last summer because he and his batting title were the team's only chance of selling tickets in September.?Similarly, there is no way the Mets can deal David Wright now (nor should they). Sure, if they get blown away by an offer from another team, I guess it?could?happen; but obviously no such offer is coming their way. Plus, if Alderson's immediate goal is ticket sales and revenue - as he keeps saying - to help bring in cash for tomorrow - trading Wright for prospects would be counter?productive.

This summer could be a whole other story, though. Wright has a team option for $16 million in 2013, and if he returns to even his 2009 or 2010 season (let alone his 2007 or 2008) he will be worth the money. However, if Alderson has a longer-term plan that is focusing on 2014 and beyond, one built on Ike Davis, Lucas Duda and young pitching, and Wright can leave on his own before that, the team will have to explore moving him. I wrote earlier today that the Angels and Cubs have already contacted the Mets to express interest, and multiple reports suggest the Rockies have been eyeing Wright since last summer.

Personally, I'd like to see the Mets sign Wright to an extension sooner than later. I mean, if they want to keep him, why put him or us or the franchise through what Reyes went through this past year? The thing is, I'm not sure he'd sign it just yet...

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Matthew Cerrone: I talked to a player's agent yesterday who ruined my night by saying, 'How much do you want to bet me that the Marlins trade Jose Reyes to the Yankees in two years, when the Yankees can buy out Derek Jeter's contract?" He wasn't basing this on any inside information. It was simply an opinion, and clearly designed to get a rise out of me. It worked, because I hadn't thought about that scenario before. At that point, Reyes would have four years and $75 million left on his deal and Jeter will be 39 and with a $3 million buyout. It's fairly?plausible, which makes it all that much worse.
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No, this is not Jose Reyes. This is not Albert Pujols. But, this was still a good night for the Mets, as they are a better team today than yesterday. In total, Sandy Alderson spent what will likely be $10 million by adding Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch and Ramon Ramirez to his bullpen, while swapping Andres Torres for Angel Pagan in the outfield.

Let's start in the bullpen...

The Mets acquired two guys who can strike people out (in Ramirez and Francisco), which is something they sorely missed last season. In the last year, I have heard from people in baseball who told me Alderson and his staff would always be looking for pitchers with power arms. Well, now they have at least two people who can get swings and misses and that will help out this current bullpen, no question. The Mets put too many runners on base last season with walks and bloop hits. Ramirez and Francisco, and Rauch to a lesser extent, should help keep people off the bases.

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I'm disappointed that I will never get to root for him again. Jose Reyes was my favorite player since Mike Piazza ... and my third favorite player of all time. Also, I freaking hate the Marlins, and so this is that much worse.

According to people aware of the situation, for the Mets, the question always came down to this: Is Reyes the type of player we want to be paying $20 million to when he's 33, 34 years old, at the same time other players (say Ike Davis, maybe Zach Wheeler, maybe Brandon Nimmo, or some

other prospect we don't know about yet) are looking for contract extensions and big-time raises? Obviously, Alderson's answer is, 'No.'

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I knew this day was coming. Didn't you? And, just like I also knew would happen, I'm totally torn on the reality of what might be about to happen. My brain knows it is not wise to give Jose Reyes more than five years. But, emotionally, I am beyond disappointed about this - and actually sad - to know he might not be back next year (and worse, playing for the freaking Marlins).

The Mets are probably doing the right thing here, and it seems their thinking is oddly in line with most fans (at least based on the polls being run on this site). Nevertheless, this isn't going to stop every fan from being pissed, and it will not stop reporters from saying the Mets are broke and framing this as them 'letting him go.'

Personally, I would have given him a six-year deal. I mean, seriously, what's the difference at that point? For starters, those last few years will likely be the next GM's problem anyway. But, most important, this is New York City, there is a level of expectation that must be met to stay relevant, and I think fighting to keep him sends a positive signal to everyone involved.

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The countless number of e-mails in my inbox today can mostly be summed up like this: "What is taking so long? When are the Mets going to do something?"

Yes, things have been quiet. But, it's not just quiet for the Mets, it's quiet for pretty much every team right now (short of a few small deals here and there).

Why? Well, I think teams were taking a wait-and-see approach towards the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The deal got done,?executives?then traveled back from the GM Meetings, after which free-agent?arbitration?offers had to be made, and then came the long Thanksgiving holiday. And so, it seemed like that made for the perfect time for teams to re-group, consider the new CBA, look at the markets and get back at it this week. It's also important to note that several front office executives switched teams these past few weeks, and so that can often mean a reshuffling of approach as well.

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Major League Baseball and the Players Association announced a new, five-year Collective Bargaining Agreement yesterday, which you can read more about here.

The new CBA includes a significant tax for teams that spend 'over slot,' not to mention the added penalty of losing future draft picks depending on the circumstance.

In the past, the idea of paying draft picks based on slot (or where they were drafted) was essentially based on the honor system - it was more political than a hard rule. Obviously, the MLBPA didn't want a hard slotting system like in other sports, i.e., first round picks get this, second round picks get that, etc., so they agreed on a penalty route.?And so, they have gone to these rules, as explained by Grantland:

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Bud Selig announced yesterday that there will be a second Wild Card team in each league in 2013.

The two teams in each league will play in a one-game playoff.

Selig said there is a chance this could go in to effect next season based on additional research, though that has yet to be determined.

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Yesterday, at Citi Field,?the Mets made a series of announcements about how they will honor their 50th Anniversary during the 2012 season.

During the Q&A portion of the event, Dave Howard said the Mets will not be bringing back Old Timer's Day.

The way I understand it, the team has to pay for former players to fly out and be part of any event. In the case of more prominent players, they may require an?appearance?fee... and this goes for former?franchise?players as well.

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[avatar name="mail"]Peter G sent in an e-mail asking: "For the same money (as it would cost the Mets to sign Jose Reyes) they could potentially sign Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell.? Also there is a good chance they could sign them to three-year deals.?As much as everyone loves Reyes, the Mets aren't going anywhere until they get some better pitching. In the short and potentially long run, isn't this a smarter move regarding allocating resources?

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[avatar name="cerrone"]Matthew Cerrone: As I said a few days ago, the day Sandy Alderson gives a long-term deal to a free-agent starting pitcher over the age of 30 will be the day the Mets have a mostly complete rotation and are one pitcher away from winning a World Series. I don't think that is this winter. Instead, my bet is the Mets keep drafting and harvesting and accumulating young, starting pitchers for the farm system in hopes that a staff emerges from within, all while signing high-reward, low-risk guys like Chris Young to fill in between now and then ? at which point, when on the verge of something special, they?ll sign or trade for a guy like Buehrle to complete the picture.

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Steven DiMartino, in a series of posts on Twitter, earlier today said:
"Look, all I'm looking for (from Sandy Alderson) is direction. ... This team has a HUGE public relations problem here. ...?You have to tell me, the guy buying season tickets, where are you going with this team. ...?If you say, "Look, we have young pitchers and we want to rebuild and reset to support them," then fine. ...?What I hear, though, is 'payroll,' 'reduction,' and no indication of reinvestment. ...?And I guess I'm upset because (in his interview with you on MetsBlog) Sandy Alderson is saying that he can't invest more until we come out to the park. ...?But, why should I invest in the team if they won't even tell me what they plan to do. They ruined that trust relationship."
People in sports will tell you a team is a private company and it's none of our business what and how they do what they do. Technically, they're correct. But, it's also your business and my business how we spend our money. In addition, like you said, there is an element of trust that goes in to being a sports fan and I think teams sometimes take that for granted.

In New York City, this relationship is a more intense animal, where (like I mentioned the other day) a team like the Mets must compete for entertainment dollars?against seven other sports organizations, not to mention college teams, Broadway, world-class restaurants, museums, and so on. To assume we will keep caring enough to spend on their product is a gamble, especially as the cost of living and entertainment goes up and the economy remains stale.

So, instead of just stating the team's financial reality, which Sandy Alderson articulates quite well, I think Steve is right: it might help the organization to be even more honest than that with regards to how they see our future together (even if they feel it is technically none of our business). I talk to hundreds of Mets fans every week, be it on e-mail, here or on social platforms, and I believe most fans would be understanding and they'd?genuinely?support a 'rebuilding?program,' so long as we knew what to expect. Instead, those fans feel like they're in the dark and so (given how things played out the last few years) they're skeptical of everything the team says. Again, I am certain the team will scoff at this?because?it would reveal too much. But, that's the point. In this city, with so much competition for eyeballs, and with a fanbase that is very fragile, beaten down and bordering on apathetic, including us in the process might rebuild some of that trust and help to unify everyone around a common goal ... even if it will take a few years to get there.

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Here is a series of statements that were sent to me on Twitter:

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To watch SNY.tv's new web show, New York Baseball Today, which features a rotating panel of analysts and previews the night's local baseball action, click play below:

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