The GM's Office: New York Mets

A large slate of games Monday offered glimpses of what could be an exciting 2014 season. There were unexpected performances (Alejandro De Aza's two home runs) and disappointing ones (Cliff Lee’s eight earned runs in five innings), too, as well as a walk-off win in Pittsburgh.

There’s still a long way to go for any of my bold predictions to play out, but here are my five best takeaways from Opening Day 2014.

1. So far, so good for Sizemore and Sox

Grady Sizemore was the best and biggest story of spring training, and he kept it going Opening Day with a single in his first at-bat and a long home run in his second.

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Mets need to sign Stephen Drew 

February, 21, 2014
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Stephen Drew Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty ImagesStill searching for a home this spring, Stephen Drew would fit perfectly with the Mets.
Over the past few years, the New York Mets have made great strides in improving the franchise. Under the leadership of general manager Sandy Alderson, they’ve had a productive offseason and are cultivating a healthy crop of young pitching in their farm system.

However, despite all the moves Alderson has made this offseason, the Mets’ one glaring weakness remains at shortstop. The Mets have left no stone unturned in searching outside the organization for an upgrade at the position. Indeed, there was little available on both the free agent or trade markets -- just ask the St. Louis Cardinals, who had to turn to free agency, finally overpaying shortstop Jhonny Peralta with a four-year deal worth $53 million.

That said, one player who matches up perfectly with the Mets’ needs is free agent Stephen Drew. Unlike Peralta, Drew received a qualifying offer, which has crushed the demand for his services because he will cost the team that signs him a draft pick.

However, circumstances have aligned perfectly for the Mets, who should step up and sign Drew, offering a contract in the neighborhood of two years at $22 million (with no limited no-trade clause or opt-out clause). Alderson and Drew’s agent, Scott Boras, should put their egos aside and get this deal done. Let’s take a look at why.

Drew versus Tejada

Right now, the Mets’ starting shortstop (by default) is light-hitting Ruben Tejada. At the plate, he’s done little to prove he’s the Mets’ long-term solution, and his numbers bear that out, posting a weak 2013 slash line of .202/.259/.260.

Conversely, Drew finally is completely healthy and as such, his projected production is in.265/.330/.440 range, with 12-15 homers.

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Some players use spring training to get into playing shape, get their timing down, work on a new pitch or tweak their mechanics. Other players, however, know that time is running out, and if they have a poor spring, they could be out of a job.

Nothing is guaranteed during spring training, and that includes jobs. Here are seven players who are at risk of losing their jobs this spring.

1. Dan Uggla | 2B | Atlanta Braves

Uggla, 33, was a consistent performer from 2007 to '11, belting 30 home runs a season and playing a solid second base. He’s a three-time All-Star who signed a five-year, $62 million deal back in 2011.

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Will MiddlebrooksRon Chenoy/USA TODAY SportsWill Middlebrooks will get a lot more at-bats if Stephen Drew isn't around.
General managers use the offseason to improve their team at various positions via free agency, trades and waiver claims. Some of these moves are significant upgrades, others are slight improvements.

Yet some general managers simply aren’t able to improve a position because they don’t match up well enough to get a trade done with the other clubs, or they don’t have enough money in their budget to persuade free agents to sign with them.

When this happens, a number of players get second chances or an opportunity to win the job in spring training. Here are five players who might benefit this season because their teams didn’t make a move:


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The missing link for every NL team 

January, 14, 2014
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Clayton KershawAP Photo/Jeff RobersonThe Dodgers likely will cease chasing Masahiro Tanaka after Clayton Kershaw gets his extension.
For the vast majority of major league teams, pitchers and catchers will report to spring training exactly a month from now. Usually teams are simply fine-tuning their rosters, whether it's that last utility bench guy or an additional bullpen arm.

But with teams from both leagues waiting on the fate of free-agent pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, many teams still have significant moves they must make to shape their team into a championship club. What is the missing link for each team? On Tuesday I will focus on the National League teams and Wednesday I’ll present the American League.

NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST

Arizona Diamondbacks

Missing link: Top-of-the-rotation starter
Solution: Sign RHP Masahiro Tanaka or Ervin Santana or Matt Garza
Both general manager Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson’s option years for 2015 were not picked up, leading Towers to admit that both are on the hot seat to win this year. Every move they’ve made this offseason has involved trading future assets for win-now results. With this type of pressure on him, Towers knows the best way to keep his job is to add an elite starter.

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Offseason grades thus far: NL 

December, 15, 2013
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Curtis Granderson AP Photo/Phelan M. EbenhackCurtis Granderson went across town and helps the Mets' outfield substantially.
On Saturday, I graded every American League team based on the moves they have made thus far this season, and today we move to the NL.

While the free-agent class wasn't as exciting in years past, we've seen some bold trades that should change the baseball landscape in 2014 and beyond. (Teams are listed in order of their grade, by division.)

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One deal for every NL team 

November, 18, 2013
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The hot stove league is already fired up, as the Philadelphia Phillies struck first by signing outfielder Marlon Byrd last week. With such a weak free-agent class this offseason, teams will look heavily in the trade market.

Below you will find a proposed trade or free-agent signing that could help each National League team. On Tuesday I'll address the American League.

NL East

Atlanta Braves

The move: Trade top pitching prospect Lucas Sims, shortstop Jose Peraza and Alex Wood to the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for left-handed pitcher and former Cy Young Award winner David Price and outfield prospect Drew Vettleson.

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10 managers in limbo 

September, 5, 2013
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GirardiKim Klement/USA TODAY SportsJoe Girardi is in the last year of his contract, but his return is very likely.

Baseball is a results-oriented business. It can be brutal and sobering, especially those charged with managing a team. Injuries aren't their fault, and most of the time, neither are players who don't perform up to expectations or can't execute properly. So when a manager makes it to the last year of his contract without some sort of preemptive extension, it's a quasi referendum on his team's performance, but it's usually his head that's on the line.

The following are 10 managers who sit in varying degrees of that limbo, all of whom are in the final year of their contract. It's fair to say that some are more secure than others, while some are with near 100-percent certainty, done.




Joe Girardi | Tenure: 7th season | New York Yankees

Girardi must be considered for American League Manager of the Year for dealing with a plethora of issues ranging from major injuries, suspensions, limited help from the farm system and at times a no-name lineup made up of free agents and waiver claims.

I would argue he has done an even a better job this season than in 2009, when he led the Yankees to a World Series title. His preference is to stay with the Yankees, but if for some reason the Steinbrenner family decides not to pay him what he deserves, Girardi should have an option with the Washington Nationals, who to this day regret not offering Girardi what he was seeking when they had the chance to hire him shortly before he landed the Yankees’ job.

A return to the Chicago Cubs would be a longshot but a perfect fit.

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Mets can recover from Harvey injury 

August, 26, 2013
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The New York Mets received some extremely unfortunate news Monday afternoon when it was revealed that Matt Harvey has a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. He'll be shut down for the season and Tommy John surgery -- which would cost him most or all of the 2014 season -- is a real possibility.

There is no sugarcoating this: It's nothing short of a disaster for the Mets, who have built up a nice young stable of pitching led by Harvey himself. But once the dust settles and general manager Sandy Alderson and the Mets have some time to think about where they go from here, they'll realize that not all hope is lost and their championship timetable hasn't changed.

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Baseball's best bargains of 2013 

August, 23, 2013
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Francisco LirianoJustin K. Aller/Getty ImagesPittsburgh lefty Francisco Liriano has been one of baseball's best free-agent bargains in 2013.
Let's be honest, the top two position players in last year’s free-agent class were complete disasters.

Outfielder B.J. Upton has reciprocated his five-year, $72.5 million deal with the Atlanta Braves by posting a .183 AVG/.265 OBP/.294 OPS slash line (through Aug. 22). The meager production at least makes him a candidate for NL Comeback Player of the Year in 2014. The Braves certainly hope he will step it up over the next six weeks as they approach the postseason, particularly in the wake of Jason Heyward’s injury (fractured jaw) Wednesday.

Then there's Josh Hamilton, who signed a five-year, $133 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels. He, too, fell flat on his face this season, posting a .229/.286/.418 slash line. Unlike Upton’s Braves, the Angels won’t sniff the postseason, but their season -- and Hamilton’s -- will come to a merciful end.

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Grading the GMs at the deadline 

July, 31, 2013
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While many people are going to say this year's trade deadline was a bit of a dud, there were still plenty of deals made. Here's the way I would grade how every GM did leading up to the deadline, but please keep in mind that sometimes standing pat is the best course of action, and some GMs who did very little still received good grades.

So here are the grades for every GM, with the teams listed in alphabetical order.

Kevin Towers, Arizona Diamondbacks

This was a team that I thought should stand pat, but they did make one notable move, shipping Ian Kennedy to San Diego for Joe Thatcher, pitching prospect Matt Stites and a competitive balance draft pick. Kennedy once looked like a potential No. 2 starter, but he's had a terrible year and would have been the odd man out in Arizona's deep rotation next year. Thatcher is one of the best situational lefties in the game, and he will come in handy against Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier in September, when the D-backs face the Dodgers seven times.

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When the Los Angeles Dodgers gave Andre Ethier a five-year, $85 million contract 13 months ago, it seemed like a decent enough idea at the time. Ethier had strung together a series of decent seasons punctuated by one career year, and it seemed like he would age gracefully enough to make the deal worthwhile.

But Ethier’s production has declined. Combined with the emergence of super-rookie Yasiel Puig, Ethier has become the odd man out, and his contract looks like an albatross.

As a result, the Dodgers are quietly hoping they can find a taker for Ethier, although realistically they’ll have to eat approximately $5 million per season to make any deal work. The Dodgers might have to wait to the offseason to make the Ethier deal, which will make for an awkward situation once Carl Crawford returns from the disabled list next week. Paying Ethier $18 million as a fourth outfielder is not what the Dodgers had in mind when they signed him. He has become expendable.

Likewise, several other teams are in similar situations and will soon be forced to trade expendable players in what might end up being "buyer" for "buyer"-type deals at this year’s trade deadline. Here are five situations where arrivals of top prospects could create expendable players:

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20 hitters who could be traded 

June, 26, 2013
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Parity has really put a damper on baseball’s trade market.

Several contending teams are looking to add bats, but the problem is that there are so many buyers and so few sellers. The law of supply and demand is skewed. In my opinion there are just eight teams in baseball that should be sellers at the trade deadline, and two of those eight still are within 10 games of the playoffs.

For example, the Minnesota Twins are just seven games out of the AL Central lead and six games out of a wild-card berth. Likewise, the Seattle Mariners are just 9 1/2 back in the wild-card standings.

Thus, the market for quality bats will be limited. Non-contenders such as the Miami Marlins, Houston Astros and New York Mets, who could be trade partners, have very little proven offense to exchange. Several of these contenders might have to try and solve their offensive issues through the farm system, including the Texas Rangers, Kansas City Royals, New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays, Washington Nationals, Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants.

Regardless, based on the current standings there still are a number of good hitters who could be moved from non-contending teams by the July 31 trade deadline. Here are 20 of them, broken down by position.

First basemen

Paul Konerko | 1B | Age: 37
Contract status: $13.5M per year through 2013


Konerko is a free agent at the end of the year and general manager Rick Hahn already is talking about moving Dayan Viciedo to first base. He’d like to get to the postseason one more time and going to another team gives him the best chance of accomplishing that. The Baltimore Orioles or Rays could use him as a DH, while the Pittsburgh Pirates could use him at first base.
Chance traded: 60 percent


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How to fix the L.A. teams 

May, 8, 2013
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No, it isn’t a very happy time in Southern California.

SoCal fans just watched as the Lakers and Clippers got bounced out of the NBA playoffs in the first round, while the Dodgers and Angels have looked like they might not even make the playoffs.

Coming into 2013, both Los Angeles baseball teams boasted the largest payrolls in their respective divisions, hoping big offseason spending meant getting to the postseason. And on paper, their rosters are good enough to make the playoffs. However, both teams have been beset by injury and ineffectiveness, and as a result, postseason appearances are hardly assured. However, it’s not too late for the L.A. teams to save their seasons, although both clubs will have to make some major adjustments between now and the July 31 trade deadline.

Here’s why both the Angels and Dodgers are struggling and how they can turn their seasons around:


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Paul MaholmBrad Mills/USA TODAY SportsAcquiring Paul Maholm from the Cubs in 2012 has worked out extremely well for Atlanta.
During spring training, it's not easy to recognize which performances and numbers are legit and which are merely mirages. Spring numbers are never a truly accurate barometer of what to expect from a player during the season. Likewise, early-season numbers are almost as deceiving.

The following five players have enjoyed success early in 2013, but what are we to make of it? Could their terrific play in the first three weeks of the season foreshadow a breakout campaign? Whether resulting from more playing time or new skills acquired in the offseason, this group is performing at a high level right now. The only question is, can they keep it up?

1. Paul Maholm | LHP | Atlanta Braves
Last July, the Braves attempted to acquire Ryan Dempster from the Cubs, but Dempster exercised his no-trade clause. So the Braves instead traded prospects for another Cubs starter in Paul Maholm. It was fortuitous for the Braves as they later used the prospects offered in the Dempster trade to acquire Justin Upton from the Diamondbacks. More important, Maholm has simply been more successful than Dempster since the trade.

Maholm is 3-0 this year with a 0.00 ERA, yielding just 11 hits in 20 1/3 innings pitched while striking out 20 and walking just five. As Senior VP and GM Frank Wren described him to me this week, Maholm “has become a top-flight command-and-control left-handed starter.”

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