Thursday, January 17, 2013

Deep Thoughts With Sandy Alderson

Earlier today, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson appeared on WFAN, talking to Mike Francesa on the state of the team.  He regurgitated stuff we already knew (Scott Hairston is Plan B in the outfield), some things we didn't want to know (Brian Wilson left his velocity in San Francisco), and apparently has a fever, and the only prescription is more Cowgill (as in Collin Cowgill).

He also revealed three little nuggets that I'd like to chew on for a moment, if I may.

Like a master chess player, Sandy Alderson is always contemplating his next move.

Zack Wheeler will more than likely start the season at AAA-Las Vegas.  However, if the Mets can't acquire a starting pitcher to join Johan Santana, Jonathon Niese, Dillon Gee and Matt Harvey in the rotation, and if the trio of Jeremy Hefner, Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia fail to impress in spring training, then it wouldn't be out of the question for the team to consider having Wheeler on the Opening Day roster.

Alderson also revealed a very interesting tidbit about catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud. Apparently, prior to trading R.A. Dickey to Toronto, Alderson tried to swing a deal with another unnamed team. The Mets' general manager was asking for two top prospects in return for the Cy Young Award winner, but was turned down. However, after Alderson acquired d'Arnaud from the Blue Jays, the same team that wouldn't send their two prospects to the Mets for Dickey, asked if the Mets would be interested in those same prospects for d'Arnaud, to which Alderson told them "d'Ar-NO!"

Finally, Alderson stated that Matt Harvey would not have an innings limit imposed upon him in 2013. Last year, Harvey was two outs short of pitching 170 innings between AAA-Buffalo and the Mets before he was shut down for the season. Alderson admitted that the reason why Harvey was shut down before season's end in 2012 was because he had advanced so rapidly, moving through the Mets' minor league system in less than two years. Harvey is expected to remain in the Mets' rotation throughout the entire 2013 campaign and as a result, will not need to have his innings scaled back. If he pitches well enough to throw 200 innings, then he will throw 200 innings.

Regarding Zack Wheeler, I would rather he pitch part of the season at the Triple-A level before being called up to New York. Harvey made 20 starts at AAA-Buffalo before making a successful transition to the big leagues.  Wheeler has already made six starts in Triple-A.  That's not a large enough sample for the Mets to say he's ready to face hitters at the major league level. However, since he does have some Triple-A experience, he should receive his first promotion to the majors before the All-Star Break, assuming he continues to progress at Las Vegas.

The Travis d'Arnaud news was impressive. Clearly, the unnamed team (aren't they all unnamed when news like this surfaces?) thought so highly of d'Arnaud that they'd rather have him than the reigning Cy Young Award winner. Alderson must have loved rejecting their offer after they turned their noses up at his.

The one topic that caught my attention more than anything else (other than Francesa's constant interruptions) was the news that Matt Harvey will not be on an innings limit, to which I say "it's about ding-dong time!"

There will be no summer vacation for Matt Harvey this year. Just lots and lots of innings.

Every highly-touted young pitcher coming up to the big leagues seems to have an innings limit these days. Stephen Strasburg was not allowed to pitch more than 160 innings in 2012 and it might have cost the Washington Nationals a chance to play in the NLCS. Granted, Strasburg was coming off Tommy John surgery, but that was in 2010. He made a total of 11 starts in 2011 (six rehab, five at the major league level) and was deemed healthy at the start of 2012. Much closer to home, the Yankees came up with "Joba Rules" for their can't-miss pitching prospect, Joba Chamberlain, during his first few years in the majors.  Chamberlain has rewarded his team with various injuries and a 4.43 ERA in 154 games since 2009.

When Dwight Gooden broke camp with the Mets in 1984, he was just a teenager. But he still managed to throw 218 innings during his Rookie of the Year campaign and followed that up with two seasons of 250+ innings pitched. Injuries didn't contribute to his downfall in 1987. Drugs did. Prior to his first stint in rehab, Gooden was 58-19 with a 2.28 ERA. More importantly, he didn't spend a single day on the disabled list from 1984 to 1986. Although he was still only 21 after he had completed his third major league season in 1986, he had already proven to the team and the rest of the league that he didn't need to have his innings curtailed.

Matt Harvey will be 24 by Opening Day. He has already tossed over 300 innings of professional baseball. He's not in diapers, so the team shouldn't treat him like he is. Harvey is ready to bust out in a major way in 2013, and the Mets are right not to put any restrictions on him.

Rome wasn't built in a day. The powerhouse Mets of the '80s weren't built in a year. The same can be said for the current incarnation of the Mets.

Sandy Alderson has a plan. That plan includes the continued development of Matt Harvey, Travis d'Arnaud and Zack Wheeler. (I haven't forgotten about Noah Syndergaard. Neither has Sandy.)  It takes time to put together a well-crafted machine. And Sandy Alderson is doing his best to put all the pieces together so that they can run smoothly and effectively for many years to come.

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