NEW YORK -- Kevin Long is switching boroughs, but remaining in New York City.
"Kevin's experience, success and wealth of knowledge make him the perfect fit as our hitting instructor," general manager Sandy Alderson said in a statement on Thursday. "This is a very positive step for the Mets. We welcome Kevin and his wife Marcey to the Mets family."
Said Long: "I'm excited to get the opportunity to work with a team that I think is on the rise. I had a great meeting with Sandy and [manager] Terry [Collins] yesterday and I can't wait to get started and help in any way I can."
Long, 47, had served as Yankees hitting coach for eight seasons.
He succeeds Lamar Johnson, who will return to a role in the minor leagues. Johnson had been promoted in May with the firing of hitting coach Dave Hudgens.
Hudgens since has been hired by the Houston Astros as hitting coach.
The Mets also announced the promotion of Dustin Clarke from Triple-A Las Vegas to serve as strength and conditioning coach.
Winners will be announced Nov. 4 at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
As many as seven personnel per team may vote for the award, but voters are prohibited from selecting someone from their own team.
Lagares is the lone Mets finalist at his position.
Only two Mets outfielders have won a Gold Glove Award in franchise history: Tommie Agee (1970) and Carlos Beltran (2006-08).
The Mets are searching for a successor to Lamar Johnson, who completed the season after the firing of Dave Hudgens.
The Mets reportedly have expressed interest in Dave Magadan, as well.
The Yankees are due to visit Port St. Lucie on March 22. The Mets will play in Tampa on March 25.
After 16 years without playing in spring training, the New York teams met in spring training on April 3-4, 2012. The matchup then again went dormant.
The Yankees released their spring-training schedule on Monday. The Mets have yet to release their schedule.
Hudgens was fired by the Mets on May 26, during his fourth season on Terry Collins' staff.
The Astros hired Gary Pettis, another former Mets coach, as third base coach for new manager A.J. Hinch.
Lamar Johnson, who finished the season as Mets hitting coach, will be reassigned to the minors. The Mets reportedly have expressed interest in Dave Magadan and Kevin Long.
Who are the Mets' most likely trade partners this winter? Here’s our best guess:
Cubs: There is almost certainly a match here given that the Cubs have three young shortstops in Starlin Castro, Javier Baez and Addison Russell and are in need of young starting pitchers, having traded away Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel.
We’re guessing the first name on Theo Epstein's mind when he reaches out to Sandy Alderson will be Jacob deGrom. If Alderson rebuffed that (and we’re presuming he would unless Jorge Soler was also put on the table), the next logical targets would be Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard.
There could be some variant of a Wheeler or Syndergaard for a shortstop deal on the table for both parties to ponder.
Diamondbacks: The new Diamondbacks front office of Tony La Russa and Dave Stewart is familiar with Alderson, as the three were all integral parts of the Oakland Athletics in the late 1980s/early 1990s. New Diamondbacks manager Chip Hale was a third base coach for the Mets under Alderson as well.
Presuming those folks are on good terms, there could be a match here if the Mets have interest in shortstop Didi Gregorius (who isn’t much of an upgrade over Ruben Tejada), Nick Ahmed (who hit .200 in a brief stint with the Diamondbacks) or Chris Owings (who had shoulder surgery after a promising rookie season).
Red Sox: There is speculation that the Red Sox will look to trade outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, who has only one year remaining on his contract before hitting free agency. The Mets know Cespedes is comfortable in Citi Field from his Home Run Derby performance two years ago. He fits the Mets' needs to a T, though the contract situation would make us think he wouldn’t be pursued unless he was viewed as the difference between making the playoffs and not.
Even if the Mets don’t land Cespedes, there are other intriguing options. Joel Sherman of the Post got the Mets blogging community talking about the idea of trading Bartolo Colon for Shane Victorino.
The Mets could also aim younger and target Jackie Bradley Jr. or Mookie Betts, which would almost certainly require giving up young pitching.
Reds: We mentioned in Thursday's post that Jay Bruce is a potential target. Bruce’s numbers (.217 with 18 home runs) were similar to Curtis Granderson's in 2014, so the Mets would be buying low on someone who has two years (with an option) and more than $25 million left on his contract. It would also be interesting to see if the Mets were interested in Gold Glove-caliber shortstop Zack Cozart, though Cozart was arguably the least productive hitter in the majors last season.
Everybody else: There are matches here and there with a bunch of teams. Perhaps there is one with the White Sox (whom we expect to be heavy spenders) for shortstop Alexei Ramirez, though Ramirez has only one year left on his contract. There is probably one with the Twins for an outfielder like Oswaldo Arcia, who is only 23 and might come cheaper than other high-end talent. But the Mets probably have more players the Twins want than the other way around. The Mets and Blue Jays have also made deals in the past, and though Jose Bautista might be too much to ask for, the Mets have the resources to give it their best shot.
Regardless, it figures to be a busy offseason. Now it's up to the action to match the talk.
Greer, a former Wake Forest coach, has been credited with helping several Mets players, including Travis d'Arnaud during this past season.
Greer is expected to oversee a hitting program for the Cardinals system.
Knowing the competition is an important part of decision-making, so we’ve culled out-of-town media reports and surveyed a few of our colleagues on who looms as the Mets' top competitors.
Here’s a quick look at those teams most likely to pursue the two areas of greatest need for the Mets:
New York Yankees
You may have heard the New York Yankees need to replace Derek Jeter. They could do so internally with Brendan Ryan if they wish. But more likely, they’ll go outside the organization.
ESPN New York's Andrew Marchand is guessing that the Yankees will go for a buy-low deal on Stephen Drew (perhaps saving their money to bid for Jon Lester or Max Scherzer). So that’s good news for the Mets if they want to be in the hunt for Hanley Ramirez, Asdrubal Cabrera or Jed Lowrie.
The Mets would have an edge over the Yankees in the trade market, as their farm system ranks in ESPN Insider Keith Law’s top four at last check. The Yankees have few young players to trade, unless they decide to put Dellin Betances into a trade (we’d be surprised).
The Oakland Athletics traded their top prospect, shortstop Addison Russell, to get Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, knowing that their current shortstop, Lowrie, is a free agent.
Athletics general manager Billy Beane tends to like creative, low-cost solutions, so we’d anticipate him pursuing many of the same options that the Mets do.
Los Angeles Dodgers
With new management in place, it will be interesting to see what the Dodgers do at shortstop, given that Hanley Ramirez is a free agent. Buster Olney listed shortstop first among the player-personnel items on the to-do list for Andrew Friedman, the team's new president of baseball operations.
There is talk that the Dodgers' payroll will come down a bit and that Friedman will be careful in his spending, but the Dodgers certainly have the capability to outbid the Mets on anyone they wish.
The Seattle Mariners could be a problem for the Mets this offseason. Manager Lloyd McClendon has already said the team needs a No. 4 hitter to pair with second baseman Robinson Cano and third baseman Kyle Seager. That could be filled with an outfielder under certain circumstances (Mariners outfielders are currently Dustin Ackley, Michael Saunders.
The Mariners have both the money and the young talent (pitchers Taijuan Walker and James Paxton make for good trade bait) to get the players they want.
Early speculation from local media is that the Mariners will make a big push for the best hitter in free agency, Victor Martinez, who doesn’t figure to be in the Mets' plans. But if they fail to land him, an educated guess at other pursuits could match those of the Mets.
When I surveyed my colleagues on this subject, the Cincinnati Reds came up on everyone’s list after what was a frustrating 2014.
The good news from a Mets perspective is that they can probably be competitive in bidding against the Reds. Cincinnati has $48 million for 2015 committed to two players coming off major injuries (Joey Votto and Homer Bailey) and two others coming off down offensive seasons (Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce). All four are signed through at least 2016.
The Reds may be a more intriguing trade partner than a competitor for the Mets if they’re willing to part with Bruce, as it might allow them the money to try to sign pitcher Johnny Cueto, who could be a free agent after the 2015 season.
The Detroit Tigers had a payroll upward of $160 million in 2014 and one-quarter of that comes off the books with the pending free agency of Scherzer, Martinez and Torii Hunter (the latter of whom is contemplating retirement, for anyone thinking he’d be on the Mets' wish list).
Given owner Mike Ilitch’s seemingly bottomless pockets and general manager Dave Dombrowski’s history of spending, we’d expect the Tigers to go after the biggest names and also prioritize re-signing David Price and adding to their bullpen. But if a big bat became available, we’d expect them to pursue it.
Chicago White Sox
The Chicago White Sox have a good chunk of money to spend and are also thought to be looking for an impact bat, given the departures of Adam Dunn, Alejandro De Aza and Paul Konerko.
This is a team that has philosophically not been shy about taking shots at obtaining big names during the regimes of general managers Ken Williams and Rick Hahn, but it’s also one that has a good number of holes.
The White Sox have needs in both their starting rotation and the bullpen (David Robertson would make an interesting target) that could occupy some of their spending. It depends on what that management team chooses to prioritize.
On Wednesday, the Mets began their third alterations to the dimensions of Citi Field since the ballpark opened for the 2009 season, hoping to make it more homer-friendly.
The hope is that the changes to right-center field will benefit David Wright and Curtis Granderson. Of course, it also will help out the opposition, too.
Citi Field actually ranked precisely in the middle -- eighth of 15 NL teams -- in homers allowed in 2014.
D’Arnaud is “still a work in progress” in the words of one major-league scout.
As the chart on the right shows, d’Arnaud was a completely different hitter after his return to the Mets from a couple weeks in Las Vegas.
Much was made of d’Arnaud’s ability to reach the outside pitch as the result of adjustments to his stance and his approach. But those adjustments also allowed him to drive pitches that were over the middle of the plate, without leading to any extra swings and misses.
Here's the numerical data to back that up:
d’Arnaud vs. middle-third/outer-third (or off outside corner) pitches
Pre-demotion: 70 outs, 7 hits, missed on 21 percent of swings
After recall: 112 outs, 50 hits, missed on 21 percent of swings
And here's a visual for those of you who would like to see it more clearly:
“If you look at the hitter who came back after the Vegas demotion, he was much more aggressive,” said a scout who saw d'Arnaud regularly this season. “He put himself in a much stronger hitting position. He eliminated his big leg kick, which improved his timing.”
Though Mets pitchers have said that they are very comfortable pitching to d’Arnaud, his defense has a ways to go.
He ranked a distant last among catchers with -15 Defensive Runs Saved.
• D’Arnaud had 51 wild pitch and passed ball misplays, second-most in the majors, behind only Wilin Rosario's 56. His ratio of blocked pitches in the dirt to wild pitches and passed balls was the worst among everyday catchers.
• He threw out only 9 of 67 basestealers (the last 10 attempts against him were successful). By comparison, Anthony Recker threw out 9 of 26.
• He made nine errors (eight throwing errors), tied for fourth-most in the majors.
• The staff ERA with d’Arnaud catching was 3.68. With Recker, it was 3.10.
D’Arnaud does rate well at one thing -- pitch framing on pitches both inside and outside the strike zone. Combined, he ranked 14th in the majors in terms of extra strikes gotten (based on an evaluation of Pitch F/X pitch locations).
“He can improve his pitch blocking,” the scout said. “He has a tendency to come up a little quick.”
There was an explanation for the throwing struggles ...
D’Arnaud’s latest injury was a bone spur in his elbow, which would explain the poor throws to second base throughout much of the latter part of the season. The offseason surgery should alleviate the issue.
ESPN’s injury expert, Stephania Bell, offered this take:
“When spurs are removed, it usually expands the thrower’s range of motion and alleviates the the impingement [pinching] that was present but the thrower then has to adjust to that “new” range of motion which can take some time. After all, it takes a while for spurs to form and the thrower adapts gradually so while removing the restriction or the pain source can have immediate benefit, it still takes some time to adjust to this new, freer elbow.”
D’Arnaud has the entire winter to get used to his healthier elbow and has all of spring training to work out any kinks.
But add it to a list that includes injuries to his back, knee and foot and three concussions.
The Mets could move d’Arnaud to another position (left field was floated as a possibility) and bring up first-round pick Kevin Plawecki, who flourished in both Double-A and Triple-A. Or they could make Plawecki d’Arnaud’s backup and then play both in interleague games (with d’Arnaud at DH) and against tough lefties (with d’Arnaud spelling either Lucas Duda at first base or Curtis Granderson in what we’re guessing will be left field).
For those intrigued by minor-league projections, here’s what Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projects for Plawecki next season: a .251/.311/.360 slashline with a home run every 56 at-bats and a double every 20 at-bats.
Among current catchers, he projects similar to John Jaso (who hit .264 with a .767 OPS for the Athletics last season) and Kurt Suzuki (who hit .288 with a .727 IOPS for the Twins).
Another projection system, Steamer, really likes d’Arnaud next season. It forecasts both offensive and defensive improvements, and pegs him to hit .253 with 18 home runs, doubling his Fangraphs WAR from 1.6 to 3.2.
Our guess is the Mets will keep him behind the plate for now and roll the dice that his health holds up. The occasional moves to other positions could work with either Plawecki or Anthony Recker as the other catcher.
Patience is the key. The guy the Mets saw in July and August was the guy they were expecting when they got him in trade.
“That position is very challenging in term of learning pitching staff, getting big league hitters out, and being a big league hitter," said the scout. "There’s a lot going on. He heading in right direction.
“It’s like putting your food in the microwave and complaining why it takes 60 seconds to heat up,” the scout said. “If you saw Yadier Molina his first three seasons, no one would have predicted he’d become the catcher he’s become. You’ve gotta be patient. They don’t get better on our schedule, they get better on theirs.”
What would you do with Travis d'Arnaud? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Rangers hitting coach Dave Magadan has held preliminary discussions with the New York Mets and New York Yankees, according to the New York Post.
“We're just taking it slow," Magadan told NJ Advance Media. "I don't think either one of them is in a huge hurry to make any choices."
The Yankees fired hitting coach Kevin Long last week and the Mets let their hitting coach, Dave Hudgens, go last May. Lamar Johnson, who replaced Hudgens, will not be retained.
The Rangers, who are down to three finalists for the vacant managerial position, would like to fill that spot by the end of October.
Magadan has ties to the New York teams. He began his big league career with the Mets in 1986 and left after the 1992 season in free agency. He's spent the past two seasons as the Rangers' hitting coach. Last season, the Rangers finished tied for ninth with a .256 batting average, but there were several down years for multiple players such as Elvis Andrus, Shin-Soo Choo and Alex Rios.
Magadan serves as hitting coach for the Texas Rangers. The Yankees also reportedly have had preliminary conversations.
The Mets reportedly have reached out to former Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long as well.
Magadan, 52, played for the Mets from 1986 through 1992.
The bottom line: It basically has to rise from this past season's figure, which was about $85 million.
Even with Chris Young's $7.25 million coming off the books (less the prorated portion of the major league minimum the Yankees paid him for September), the Mets' payroll will jump $10 million or more before any action is taken.
Three players get raises through their contracts:
Curtis Granderson: $3 million, to $16 million
Bartolo Colon: $2 million, to $11 million
Jonathon Niese: $2 million, to $7 million
Then there are several players who are eligible for arbitration: Daniel Murphy, Lucas Duda, Jenrry Mejia, Dillon Gee, Bobby Parnell, Eric Young Jr., Ruben Tejada and Anthony Recker.
The substantial raises will go to Murphy, Duda and Mejia.
ESPN in late October again plans to team with law students from Pace University for a thorough analysis of the raises due to the arbitration-eligible players. Suffice it to say, though, salaries almost never go down for arbitration-eligible players. And while it’s conceivable E.Y. Jr. or Tejada gets non-tendered depending upon other activity, neither player’s salary was overly sizable anyway. E.Y. Jr. made $1.85 million in 2014. Tejada made $1.1 million.
Murphy’s salary may go from $5.7 million this past season to $8 million or $9 million in his final season before free agency.
Duda, coming off a 30-homer campaign, should receive a significant spike from the $1.64 million he earned in 2014 as a Super 2. We’ll wait for the Pace analysis, but let’s just use the figure $5 million for now.
Mejia, coming off a season in which he recorded 28 saves, is eligible for arbitration for the first time. He made $509,675 in 2014. What will he make next year? Let’s use $2.5 million until we see the number the Pace team computes.
So, very roughly, those three players alone may receive combined raises of $9 million. With modest raises due the other players, let’s say the payroll jumps $10 million before anything is done this winter.
The Mets, seemingly unlike many other teams, appear to give their GM a floating payroll figure rather than a precise number. For instance, last offseason, the Mets privately insisted they offered Grant Balfour a number comparable to the two-year, $12 million deal that enticed him to sign with the Tampa Bay Rays. That unspent salary never was reinvested elsewhere by the Mets.
Of course, the Mets have far fewer holes this season than in the past. Nothing really needs to be done on the pitching side.
In fact, it’s conceivable the Mets address only two positions this offseason -- bringing in a corner outfielder and a shortstop. Let's say the shortstop is not yet eligible for arbitration and the corner outfielder is a Michael Cuddyer-type free agent. That would push the payroll just north of $100 million.
The more likely scenario, though, is the Mets offset acquisitions by trading Murphy and an established starting pitcher. So the payroll may reside in the mid- to upper-90s in 2015.
A team official insisted there was upward mobility in the payroll, while noting the organization is not prepared to return to the days of $130 million-plus payrolls just yet.
David Wright $20M
Curtis Granderson $16M
Bartolo Colon $11M
Jonathon Niese $7M
Arbitration-eligible players (rough estimates, including potential Super 2s)
Daniel Murphy $8.5M ($5.7M)
Lucas Duda $5M ($1.6375M)
Dillon Gee $4.5M ($3.625M)
Bobby Parnell $3.7M ($3.7M)
Jenrry Mejia $2.5M ($590,675)
Eric Young Jr. $1.95M ($1.85M)
Ruben Tejada $1.5M ($1.1M)
Anthony Recker $900k ($505,340)
That’s a total of 12 players making roughly $82.55 million.
There are 13 other players required to fill out a 25-man roster. Let’s say they all make close to the major league minimum in 2015, which will be adjusted upward modestly from this year’s $500,000 figure based on a cost of living calculation. That’s a total of at least $6.5 million.
Then, Mets officials previously have said another $4.5 million or so is always added into payroll estimates to account for things such as more than 25 players on the payroll at any given time (because of DL, etc.).
So let’s add $11 million to the $82.55 million.
So without any winter modifications other than letting expiring contracts lapse (like Chris Young's) means the Mets payroll would be about $93.55 million in 2015.
AP Photo/John MinchilloThis is the kind of swing the Mets like to see from Juan Lagares.
Lagares’ progression as a hitter was a product of two things: increasing his line-drive rate from 19 percent to 22 percent and spraying the ball across the whole field, as noted in the chart on the right. His batting average on balls in play spiked a bit -- mostly on fly balls -- so a .281 average might be a little higher than he deserved, but it was still an improvement from his rookie season, when he hit .242.
Lagares also stole 13 bases, nine of which came in his last 18 games of the season. (The Mets were 9-1 when he recorded at least one steal.) This is important to remember when looking at Lagares moving forward. He can definitely expand his offensive value by running more.
The big area of improvement the Mets will be looking for from Lagares will be in his strike-zone judgment.
In each of his two seasons, Lagares has chased pitches at a rate well above the major league average. The bottom line: He swings at one-third of pitches out of the strike zone.
You could make the case that Lagares is the most impactful outfielder in the game.
Lagares had 28 Defensive Runs Saved in each of his first two seasons, handling most balls hit to the deepest parts of the ballpark without any issue and using his throwing arm to deter baserunners.
Lagares has garnered such a good reputation that opponents are now afraid to challenge him. Even Ben Revere, one of the fastest players in the majors, declined to try to score from second base on a base hit to deep center.
Lagares fielded 85 hits with a runner on base. The runner only took an extra base 33 times. The average center fielder would have allowed the runner to take the base 46 times.
“For anyone who underestimates the value of his defense, just ask his starting pitchers what they think,” said one major league scout. "Anyone who doesn’t think he’s terrific isn’t paying attention.”
So how good was his 2014?
Lagares became part of a debate about the validity of the Wins Above Replacement stat, since he had a better Wins Above Replacement total than Andrew McCutchen for most of the season.
Lagares finished third among center fielders -- behind Mike Trout and McCutchen in the version of the stat espoused by Baseball-Reference (5.5 WAR) and tied with Denard Span for seventh in the version provided by Fangraphs (3.8 WAR).
I got into a spirited discussion on his ranking with two researchers at ESPN -- Jeff Gold from ESPN The Magazine and Paul Hembekides from Stats and Information. It concluded with me asking them to rank his season.
Jeff Gold: "Lagares is one of the most unique players in baseball. He doesn't hit for power, doesn't walk, doesn't steal that many bases (13), and yet he's one of the best players in the game. His defense is a game-changer.
"Lagares' WAR numbers are phenomenal, but the sample size of outstanding play (only 2014) is small, and he relies tremendously on defense, where evaluation is somewhat murky.
"After Trout and McCutchen, I'd go Carlos Gomez, Adam Jones, Yasiel Puig, Jacoby Ellsbury, and then Lagares. Not bad for $500,000."
Paul Hembekides: “Where does Juan Lagares rank among center fielders? Not in the top five [so not an All-Star], but still in the second tier of players above [or well above] league average.
"And in terms of all position players? I could name 50 I'd rather have than Juan Lagares, but I couldn't name 100.
"Lagares may be the best defensive player in baseball this season -- just don’t tell me he’s better than my boppers.”
The important point to remember from their analysis is that while the stat may have overrated Lagares a bit, the discussion is about whether Lagares rated outstanding or very good. There is no disputing he is a quality player right now.
And how good can he be?
The good thing for the Mets is there seems to be plenty of upside for Lagares, who will turn 26 this coming spring. We asked our scout to give us his take on Lagares’ outlook.
“He still has a ways to go. He continues to learn plate discipline. I think there’s more power there. He’s already a good baserunner. In the NL East, I like him over Denard Span, B.J. Upton, Ben Revere and Marcell Ozuna. He’s at the top of the division.
“I just hope he stays healthy long enough for us to see [the finished product].”
Two years later, will there be a sequel on Opening Day at Nationals Park, when the Mets face the Washington Nationals?
How the Mets will treat Harvey in 2015 remains somewhat of an open question after the ace missed an entire season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.
The last thing fans -- and you would think the Mets -- would want to see is Harvey shut down on the brink of the postseason because of an innings cap.
That means the Mets, assuming Harvey rivals the success he had before Tommy John surgery, will have to shave his innings at some point.
Does that mean starting the season a few weeks late, which could be particularly doable if the Mets do not trade Jonathon Niese, Dillon Gee or Bartolo Colon this offseason?
Does that mean strategically skipping starts during the season when team off-days allow, as well as an extended All-Star break? (Think when the Mets put Jacob deGrom on the DL and he missed two turns, rejuvenating him for the home stretch.)
Does that mean pulling Harvey early from starts in which he is thriving to conserve innings?
Or does that mean a shutdown, which Washington did with Strasburg in 2012, forcing him to miss the Nats’ postseason?
Strasburg, a client of Scott Boras like Harvey, had Tommy John surgery on Sept. 3, 2010. He was allowed to make five regular-season starts in 2011, then was capped at 159 1/3 regular-season innings and prevented from pitching in the playoffs in 2012.
Strasburg logged 123 1/3 innings between the majors and minors the year he underwent surgery -- 55 fewer innings than Harvey. But he did pitch in the five September games the year after his surgery, unlike Harvey.
Sandy Alderson did not precisely answer whether Harvey pitching in the postseason is a priority for the Mets, although you would think a late-season shutdown would be the least desirable for the organization, which aspires to play in October.
“We are still in the process of formulating a plan for Matt for 2015,” Alderson told ESPNNewYork.com on Thursday. “Some of the issues you mention -- limiting innings, delaying or skipping starts, ensuring Matt is available for the postseason -- are ones we are still discussing. Once we have a plan, we would, of course, discuss it with Matt before moving forward. In the meantime, we expect that Matt will be ready for spring training and will prepare for the season in Port St. Lucie on a more or less normal basis.”
Should the Mets let Matt Harvey have an unlimited innings count in 2015? Or, what should they do to limit his innings?