Keep­ing Ce­s­pedes pri­or­ity for Mets

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Mike Fitz­patrick

NEW YORK >> After grind­ing for months to get back into the play­offs, the New York Mets didn’t last long.

Nine score­less in­nings, to be ex­act. Never pushed a run­ner past sec­ond base.

A post­sea­son matchup against Madi­son Bum­gar­ner spelled their demise, just as it did for other tal­ented teams in re­cent years. And with a 3-0 loss at home to San Fran­cisco in the wild-card game Wed­nes­day night, New York’s drive to re­peat as NL cham­pion ended qui­etly.

Noah Syn­der­gaard fired ze­ros for seven pres­sure-packed in­nings, but the Mets mus­tered only four hits. Three of them, by Rene Rivera, T.J. Rivera and Ty Kelly, came from play­ers who weren’t even on the 40-man ros­ter when the sea­son be­gan.

So it went this year for the banged-up Mets, be­set by one sig­nif­i­cant in­jury after an­other as a string of un­her­alded back­ups filled in ad­mirably. Even after get­ting elim­i­nated, New York (87-75) felt good about reach­ing the play­offs in con­sec­u­tive sea­sons for only the sec­ond time in fran­chise his­tory (1999-2000).

“There’s only a few teams that could have come back un­der the cir­cum­stances we came back on, and I’m re­ally proud of them,” man­ager Terry Collins said. “We over­came a lot of things. So to get here, it took a lot of char­ac­ter. Boy, I tell you. And we’re dis­ap­pointed — but we’ll be able to get healthy and we’ll be back.”

Ev­ery es­tab­lished reg­u­lar be­sides out­fielder Cur­tis Gran­der­son spent time on the dis­abled list, in ad­di­tion to help­ful part­timers Wilmer Flores and Juan La­gares.

Ja­cob deGrom, Matt Har­vey and Steven Matz went down with sea­son-end­ing in­juries and re­quired surgery, dec­i­mat­ing one of base­ball’s best ro­ta­tions. Zack Wheeler hasn’t made it back from Tommy John surgery in March 2015.

In their places, 43-year-old Bar­tolo Colon and sur­pris­ing rook­ies Seth Lugo and Robert

Gsell­man came to the res­cue.

“This or­ga­ni­za­tion did a re­ally good job of pre­par­ing the younger guys that were go­ing to come in and im­pact, start­ing in spring train­ing, so they could feel com­fort­able with the guys up here that opened, and we could feel com­fort­able with them,” Gran­der­son said.

Bet­ter luck next year? Sure, you could put it that way.

Bet­ter health next year, that’s what the Mets are count­ing on as they chase their first World Se­ries cham­pi­onship since 1986. Spring train­ing will feel like the wait­ing room in a crowded doc­tor’s of­fice, ev­ery­one at least a lit­tle ner­vous about each sched­uled checkup.

For now, though, at­ten­tion turns to an im­por­tant off­sea­son with a fa­mil­iar pri­or­ity: Yoe­nis Ce­s­pedes.

Here are some ma­jor is­sues com­ing up for the Mets:

THE BIG BAT

Ce­s­pedes has un­til the third day after the World Se­ries to opt out of his $75 mil­lion, three-year con­tract after one sea­son and be­come a free agent. The star slug­ger hit the open mar­ket last year but re-signed with New York, the deal struc­tured so he could soon choose to shop his ser­vices again. With fewer power hit­ters avail­able this win­ter and com­ing off an­other pro­duc­tive sea­son (31 HRs, 86 RBIs, .884 OPS), Ce­s­pedes would fig­ure to at­tract larger of­fers this

time — cer­tainly for more money than the $47.5 mil­lion re­main­ing on his cur­rent con­tract.

Ce­s­pedes seems com­fort­able in New York but has plenty of lever­age be­cause the Mets’ record with and with­out him the past two sea­sons shows how cru­cial he is to their lineup. So what will it take to keep Ce­s­pedes, and would the Mets pay a hefty price? Gen­eral man­ager Sandy Alder­son ac­quired out­fielder Jay Bruce from Cincin­nati on Aug. 1 partly as in­sur­ance for 2017, but New York needs Ce­s­pedes’ righthanded pop — es­pe­cially in an of­fense so re­liant on home runs. The team set a club record with 218 this sea­son.

SEC­OND THOUGHTS

Switch-hit­ting sec­ond base­man Neil Walker (23 homers) had sea­son-end­ing back surgery and can be­come a free agent. New York traded sec­ond-base prospect Dil­son Her­rera for Bruce, so it’s un­clear who will start there next year.

But the Mets think they’re pretty well cov­ered with Flores and home­town rookie T.J. Rivera, plus a cou­ple of mid­dle-in­field prospects on the way. Jose Reyes or As­drubal Cabr­era could prob­a­bly shift over from the left side if needed.

CATCH 22

The Mets thought they had an emerg­ing young catcher with pop in Travis d’Ar­naud, al­beit one who was in­jury-prone. But he was un­pro­duc­tive at the plate this sea­son and shaky be­hind it, los­ing play­ing time to vet­eran Rene Rivera. What do the Mets do about d’Ar­naud?

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