I Would Find Some Relief in Seeing Montero in the Mets Bullpen

Jon Niese elbowWhen news hit that Jon Niese was heading back to New York with elbow discomfort, it was reported that one consequence of that could be that Rafael Montero would make the major league staff. The reports included a quote from Terry Collins indicating the role for Montero would be in the bullpen, not on the starting staff. Personally I was pleased with this news, except for the Niese part, of course. The idea of having Montero on the Opening Day roster in any role would indicate a major change in how the Mets have operated over the last few years.

Since 2010 no true emphasis has been placed on winning games, as winning has been considered to be an unreasonable goal. With many large non-performing contracts on the team’s books, and owners who were looking to simultaneously cut payroll, this was understandable. While waiting out the contracts, the organization attempted to do the only thing left to do: build some foundation for the future. Knowing that winning was far away, the organization did not even attempt to field rosters with our best players. Instead, young players such as Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, and Travis d’Arnaud were kept down in the minors to protect the amount of time they would eventually be bound to the Mets. Painful to live through, but consistent with a team that was also sitting out the free agent market.

But this offseason all of the old obligations were gone, and the Mets spent some money. Less than what many fans would have liked, but much more than in any year since Sandy Alderson became GM. We can argue the merits of the actions, but not the intent. Direction has changed; the building part of the rebuilding process has begun. Part of that direction change needs to be a greater emphasis on bringing young players up to the majors when they are ready to contribute—players like Rafael Montero.

Of course, for this particular discussion, there is the other factor, that Montero might be used in relief. If Niese is injured, that might mean that both Dice-K and John Lannan are in the April star-futures-gamerotation and Rafael is not. This idea does not really upset me all that much either. The Cardinals have been breaking in young starting pitchers in the majors for years, and it has worked out very well for them. With organizations adhering to very strict innings limits for young pitchers today, there is strong logic behind having Montero pitch in relief for now. First of all, in April a strong bullpen might be more important than the back end of a rotation, as starting pitchers rarely go deep in games in the beginning of the year. On the other hand, there tends to be more days off because of bad weather, especially for a team in the Northeast such as the Mets, negating a need for all of your starting pitchers. But the big thing is, whether anyone, including me, likes it or not, Montero’s innings will clearly be limited. Using him as a starter in April almost ensures he won’t be starting by late summer.

There is one more issue, which I will call “Meija paranoia.” It has become legend with Mets fans that Jenrry Meija tore his UCL and needed Tommy John surgery because he was moved from paranoiabeing a starting pitcher to a reliever, and then back to a starter. This legend has led to fear of ever using any of our prospect pitchers as relievers. I don’t really understand this, pitchers’ elbows blow out every day. That is both sad and true. As we all know, Matt Harvey is recovering from Tommy John surgery right now. I must have missed Matt’s stint in the pen. It’s time Mets fans exhaled and got over Meija paranoia. Pitchers are going to get injured, no matter how you use them.

A lot of this seems to hinge on Niese’s health, and the best thing for the Mets would be if Jon is fine. But if he is not, it would be nice to see an organizational reaction that showed an eye on the present as well as the future. With Ruben Tejada still patrolling short and the Ike Davis and Lucas Duda follies still underway, I’m not ready to predict a World Championship in 2014. But an important step in becoming a winning team is to make winning a priority. A sign that this was beginning took place in the winter during the free agency process. Becoming more aggressive and creative in how we use our young players would be another.

 

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21 comments

  1. Eraff says:

    Montero would seem the clear choice as NEXT for the starting rotation….and it’s inconceivable that any team would not need an additional starter or two throughout a season for injury and performance concerns. With that in mind, I’d rather see him pitching as a starter, in Vegas if that’s where his innings are.

    As for any indication that the franchise has turned the page with a focus on winning…. I believe they’re at a different place on the development calendar, but I don’t see a focus on winning. More to indisputable FACT, it’s become clear that the money issues remain and the Mets expect to be low budget for the foreseeable future.

    The idea that they’ve spent more is, I’m sorry, a “Fact Massaging Parse-Speak”—I’m surprised you’re echoing it. This 2014 approach (THIS IS THE YEAR) is clearly very different than the message that has been telegraphed to Fans for the past 3 years. Look at their SS Situation….. The two guys “battling” for the 1st base job—–THAT is their approach.

    They are 10-20 million dollars short of a full commitment to this team…a SS now and additional piece at the break. Their commitment falls short even of their long standing and “passionate” drive to play Meaningful Games in September.

  2. Eric says:

    So, Montero gets optioned to AAA, 48 hours after Terry said he might go to the bullpen. This is either:

    a) a complete lack of communication between Sandy and Terry

    or

    b) a complete lack of a plan

    or

    c) all of the above

    Frustrating, to say the least. By the way, I am in agreement with this move. I have a severe case of Meijia Paranoia and can’t find my pills.

    • Michael Geus says:

      Yes, Eric, I figured the idea was a long shot, I didn’t know they would act so fast to make it impossible.

      I have to learn how to type faster.

      You might want to find your prescription, though, as Meija himself might still end up in the bullpen.

  3. Michael Geus says:

    The team invested in three free agents for a total of over $30 million. Nothing close to that had been done last offseason. That’s not an opinion of mine, it’s a fact. It is math. You might have wanted them to spend more, I might have, it doesn’t change the fact that they spent.

    From 2010 to 2014 almost no new spending was done, despite Beltran, K-Rod, Reyes, etc., rolling off the books.

    This year money was spent. There is no debate.

  4. Montero is ready for the bigs. So is Mejia. I hope the Mets get straight on some of this stuff.

    Regarding the innings count, I’m not sure I buy into the concept that there’s a magic number — in the case of Syndergaard, I think it’s 150 — that remains firm regardless of how he is used. Rice was burned to the ground last year and threw 75, for example. Not all innings are the same, and the demands of a reliever are very different than those of a starter.

    For the Mets, Mejia is the one where it is tricky. I don’t think he can throw as a starter for an entire season; it may be that working full-time as a reliever would be just as taxing. Possibly moreso. This maximum inning concept only seems to relate to starters. As for Montero, he’s good to go right now, full time. The backlog of work is there. I prefer him as a starter, and think it maximizes his trade value. If the Mets reduce him to, say, a 7th-inning specialist, well, I don’t think that gets you a big prize on the open market. If he’s used as a starter and succeeds, his value doubles, triples. (As an aside — and I’ll deal with this tomorrow — I foresee Terry turning Juan Lagares into a platoon player at age 24, which I think is dumb beyond belief, because again it diminishes the value of a player before he’s even given the opportunity to develop.)

    I like Lannan in the pen — at best. He might not have it anymore. He might just be another 5.50 ERA type guy. I’m not sold yet. The season starts in two weeks and TC has yet to use him out of the pen, which again is foolish, because he has no experience as a reliever. Bring him into a game with runners on base; try him in typical relief situations; let the guy get acclimated to the new role during spring training. D’uh.

    But to your general gist: Absolutely, let’s use our best players this year. Crazy that we even have to float that as an idea.

  5. Reese Kaplan says:

    I’ll believe they’re serious about winning when they release Ruben Tejada and Omar Quintanilla, then make a trade with one of their 10 STARTING PITCHERS FOR 2015 to address the SS problem (since obviously they have no interest in letting Wilmer Flores have the job).

  6. Eraff says:

    Mike…Jim…heck, EVERYONE— I believe we’ve all posited this as we’d like to see it. We’d all badly wish to see the devotion to winning, so we attempt to read every possibility against our own expectation and desire for that attitude and approach. Frankly, it’s not there.

    Mike… NEW Spending?!!! C’mon! I don’t believe “The Fan Base” received a message of “more spending” to mean merely refilling on expired deals….and I don’t believe any of us Here felt that “more spending” meant SAME DOLLARS-NEW PLAYERS…… ONLY.

    It’ll be interesting to see the Season Ticket Commitments and early attendance. One of two things will put a GM “on the clock”— plunging attendance/revenue and Firing the Manager. The 25 million influx of money seems to be a patch-over for the revenue results, short term. I’m not hoping for a Managerial Firing because it will be indicative of great failure.

    I believe this is a 77-83 win team, as is. A Short Stop and lotsa luck moves it to 81-87 wins…. that’s a boarderline contender. I wish they had a commitment to that.

    • And yet you continue to hijack topic after topic by saying the same thing over and over (and over, and over) again in the comments section. You want them to sign Choo and Drew.

      There’s no “we” here. There’s no consensus. Mike and I post what we post and you read it, or not.

      Also, Mike wrote a good, thoughtful, original post. To read your comment, “NEW Spending?!!! C’mon!” is just annoying, frankly. And rude. Getting tired of this. Maybe you need to write your own blog.

    • Michael Geus says:

      If you do not think there was any new spending you have already failed math. Now comes this:

      “The $25 million of influx of new money seems to be a patch-over for the revenue results, short term.”

      From Merriam Webster: Influx, the arrival or inward flow of a large amount of something (such as money.)

      Money was spent. I think the overall payroll is too low and the owners are idiots and have been clear about that. That does not change the fact that the team spent cash this offseason, a large amount (your words this time.)

      Sorry to be rude, but calling me out for pointing out the obvious didn’t leave me much choice this morning.

  7. Eraff says:

    Ah… we disagree! What a great foundation for a baseball discussion!!!!!!!!!!! I believe I’ve been thoughtful about it. I can assure you, I’ve been Sincere about it.

    As for wanting to sign Drew… hey, he’s still out there and there’s still a need….and it remains a better idea (to me) versus suggestions that have been floated here and elsewhere. It’s a Live Topic! ( I did believe that they should sign Choo…and I certainly have not commented on recently—further, I understand their choice of Grandy Instead of Choo.)

  8. IB says:

    It’s frustrating to say the least. I often find myself paraphrasing 2 Guys when you said something to the effect, “disappointing the fans is mgmt policy”. This is the 1st winter in a long time where my expectations are pretty low. Yes, I’m usually “up” at this time of year. “Low Expectations”. Good name for a novel.

    Last winter I commented here asking whether anyone had noticed what a dreadful ST Tejada was having. This winter it’s spreading to other starters. Worrisome.
    Seeing the pain down the road.

    • Michael Geus says:

      I remember that comment, as it ended up so prescient. I wish I didn’t, I wish it had been a dud.

      Maybe we need you to be the one to predict 90 wins.

    • I was just thinking along similar lines, IB, just so down on this team right now. I want to get back to that thing I love, but I’m just not feeling it. Now I read that they are looking to play Flores at SS full-time in Las Vegas. Because somehow 8 weeks in exercise in Michigan gave him the range and agility to play the position that they moved him off of in 2011. What the hell???? I mean, it’s just dumb. Mejia pitches 2 innings until his start the other day. Two innings! So of course he is rusty and, for whatever reason, never given a real chance to succeed. And on and on. Such a mess. This is the team, the Mets, that I’ve always loved. Now I’m just discouraged and confused. Sigh.

      • Eric says:

        Guys, I know it has been a long, dark period for this squad, and it is hard to be optimistic. Just remember that in order to be pleasantly surprised, you have to not be expecting much to begin with.

        I understand the discouragement, because I feel it too. But I feel the need to try to push past it, because I/we deserve, at some point to have that little bit of joy back in our lives from this team.

        And wouldn’t a pleasant surprise this year do the trick?

        “Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.”
        ― Victor Hugo

        LGM!

      • Raff says:

        And you keep “hijacking” every blog you post with negativity- BOTH about the condition of the Mets and the positions and opinions of loyal followers who read and respond to the blogs you post. For weeks, you have been negative. Negative about the Mets- which is totally understandable, and negative toward the posts and posters that you disagree with- the people who follow you and support you on this board. I understand that you and Mike Lead the conversation- but why the “hard-line”? Hey- It’s Spring Training. Maybe you’ve just got to rally yourself into regular season form.

  9. IB says:

    James.Yeah, you said it. Yeah. The Flores thing is a perfect example. Instead of actually doing something real to fill a gaping hole they turn to desparation measures. And what do the fans get from this? A desparate hope that something will work that makes no sense.

  10. Eraff says:

    Terry Talk aside, I believe they’re hoping to establish his ability to play all of the infield positions. That would make hiom the “new Justin Turner”—it’s 300 ab’s or more.

    Amazing that they “discover” new problems with relatively advanced young players—Ike’s Hitch…. d’Arnaud’s “Wrist Wrap” of the bat…. Flores’ lack of mobility and speed…. Tejada and Duda’s Conditioning problems—Incredible!!!

    I hope they’re watching some of their 18-22 year-olds, because they’ve done a lousy job with the 23-27 year old group!

    • Michael Geus says:

      On that hope I would dust off the slogan IB started us off with.

      Lower your expectations.

      Oh, one more, remember that nobody had any idea Zack Wheeler was tipping his pitches.

      If these are the smartest guys in the room it is a very dumb room.

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