Tag: mike nickeas

Should Mets Sign Pudge Rodriguez?

According to Mike Puma:

A Mets official spoke with Ivan Rodriguez as recently as 10 days ago, and the team hasn’t ruled out the possibility of signing Rodriguez as a backup to Josh Thole. But before the Mets spend the roughly $2 million they have remaining in the budget, their priority is to ensure Johan Santana is healthy. Otherwise, the remaining money would be allocated toward another starting pitcher. The Mets official told Rodriguez to “stay in shape,” because anything can still happen.

I feel like there is a Pudge-to-Mets rumor right after the end of every season and right before the beginning of every season; it’s like a bookend. Could it really happen this time?

In past seasons, signing Ivan Rodriguez would have made plenty of sense, because the Mets could have used his veteran experience and leadership behind the plate in years when they were gunning for the postseason. Now, I’m not so sure why the Mets would add him.

Perhaps Pudge fits in as a mentor, both to Josh Thole and to the youngsters on the Mets’ pitching staff. The Thole idea holds water, but as for the latter, the Mets’ Opening Day roster doesn’t project to have many “young” pitchers. Jonathon Niese, Dillon Gee, and Pedro Beato are all the youngest, at 25 years old (and Beato may start the year in AAA), so I’m not sure the “teaching the youngsters” thing flies.

On the other hand, I wonder if the Mets bring in Pudge because they don’t have confidence in Thole to properly handle a pitching staff. If that’s the case, well, hmm … if Thole isn’t going to be given the chance to learn this year, then he likely never will.

One more possibility: the Mets believe that there’s still enough left in Pudge to make him a worthwhile chip at the trading deadline. Who knows? If he goes on a hot streak in June, and a contender’s starting catcher goes down with injury, Pudge could command interest.

My best guess is that the Mets would bring in Ivan Rodriguez to both teach Thole and take some of the load off of him. Mike Nickeas appears to be a solid defensive catcher who pitchers like to work with, but Nickeas doesn’t have the same aura or experience that Pudge does — and therefore isn’t as valuable as Pudge in terms of mentoring Josh Thole.

What do you think? Should the Mets bring in Pudge? Why or why not? Answer in the comments.

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I’ve Got 23…

Like moths to a flame, bloggers, boarders and callers are all stirred up over a tweet from Anthony DiComo who has “heard” that the Mets are done tweaking the 40-man roster. DiComo hears it, Cerrone posts and comments on it and bang, instant “story.” Maybe we should wait for a team source to confirm it? It’s unwelcome news for sure, if it is indeed true. What it does do however, is give a clearer idea of what the Opening Day roster might look like and another excuse for me to pad my article count total on Mets Today.

As of January 12, 2012 (the 44th anniversary of the Jet win in SB III) here is the projected Opening Day roster for the New York Mets:

Eight Starters: Torres-cf, Murphy-2b, Wright-3b, Davis-1b, Bay-lf, Duda-rf, Tejada-ss, Thole-c

Five in the Rotation: Santana, Dickey, Niese, Pelfrey and Gee.

Four on the Bench: Cedeno-ss, Turner-2b, Hairston-OF and Nickeas-c

Six in the Pen: Francisco-cl, Rauch-8th, Ramirez-7th, Byrdak-LOOGY, Parnell-ROOGY and Acosta

That’s 23. First off, I don’t know if we should be happy or sad that a team coming off three consecutive losing seasons while staring at a fourth has nearly its entire opening day roster set more than a month before spring training starts. Is this a new-found stability or just more evidence that the team is so badly hamstrung by their finances that they can’t do anything?

Of the players mentioned, I think that Johan Santana has the best (worst?) chance to start the season on the DL. Looking into my crystal ball, I expect about 20-25 starts from Johan this year, with him maybe joining the team in Miami in May and perhaps being passed over a few times in late July and then a September shut down. I also think Bobby Parnell is being wasted as a ROOGY and would like to see him close in Buffalo. As for that bench, well it’s just awful right now.
But I digress. With 23 Opening Day spots seemingly nailed down, there are two left to be filled. If there are no major moves being made between now and then we have to assume that spots #24 and #25 will go either to someone already connected to the organization or who will take a cheap, non-guaranteed offer. So here are a few possibilities:

A down-sized roster: Hey it’s all the rage elsewhere; maybe the Wilpons figure that fewer workers can handle the load and go with 23 players to do the work of 25. Don’t laugh; we older fans might recall the 1980’s when teams used a 24-man roster.

Future Shock: It would be a developmental disaster, IMHO, to push any of the prospects before their time, but perhaps Kirk Nieuwenhuis goes north as the 5th outfielder and someone like Robert Carson or Josh Edgin get the last bullpen spot. The Mets most likely plan to market the Harveys, Wheelers, etc. heavily in the coming months and it might be tempting to use one or more of these guys as teasers for the steady stream of good young players that they hope will soon follow. I don’t think that either Terry Collins or Sandy Alderson are in danger of losing their jobs, so they don’t have to promote any of these guys early to save their skins, a la Omar and Jerry with Jenrry Mejia. While I am intrigued by some of the Mets prospects, I really don’t want to see any of here until this September at the earliest.

Quad-A Blue Plate Specials: Sadly for us, I think this is the most likely scenario. Look to the bench for precedent. I am sure that Mike Nickeas is a wonderful person and has worked hard to get here, but there is nothing in his body of minor league work to suggest that he belongs on a major league roster. His main asset it appears is that he costs the major league minimum. So brace yourselves for the Home Opener tip of the cap from Chris Schwinden, or Jose Bautista, or Pedro Beato (still holding out hope for him), or Mike Baxter or Val Pascucci or Adam Loewen.

Will Work For Food: OK that isn’t funny, but perhaps a combination of investor money and some too-go-to pass-on players results in the late February minor league contract/spring training invite to some intriguing names. Imagine for example, Ivan Rodriquez coming to the Mets and pursuing his 3,000th hit. That might be the most interesting on-field development for the Mets in 2012. Even at .218 he out-hit Nickeas last year. Instead of Bautista, how about Brad Penny or Joel Pinero for the last pitcher’s spot? Not expecting great shakes, but I think I would rather see either of them start in place of Santana than I would Bautista. For the 5th outfielder, who about Rick Ankiel? I really like Lucas Duda but am concerned about a season-long force feed in right field. Ankiel’s arm makes him the perfect late-inning replacement. Too late now, perhaps, but I really wanted a grinder like Ryan Theriot at second. I just cringe every time I think of Murphy at second (and I am a Murphy fan).

So what do you think might happen between now and Spring Training?

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2011 Evaluation: Mike Nickeas

It took Mike Nickeas a long time to reach MLB, but when he finally did, he proved capable if unspectacular.

The Canadian-born catcher spent seven years in the minors before grabbing a cup of coffee with the Mets in September 2010. Thanks to visa problems, injuries, and the end of a drug suspension for Ronny Paulino, Nickeas was able to parlay that coffee klatch into a spot on the Opening Day 25-man roster in 2011.

But it wasn’t all because of Paulino’s problems that Nickeas made the big club; the career minor leaguer proved to be a reliable and solid “catch and throw guy” who seemed to have a strong rapport with the Mets pitching staff.

Nickeas was sent to AAA after Paulino finally joined the Mets, and didn’t return until August. While serving as a backup in both Buffalo and Flushing, Nickeas showed very little offensively, but definitely established himself as a fine handler of pitchers and displayed above-average defensive skills. From the perspective of a professional catching instructor, I don’t love his technique, but he gets the job done better than most and he appears to be the catcher that every Mets pitcher wants to throw to — a factor difficult to quantify, but trust me, is a huge asset. Nickeas was no Charlie O’Brien back there, but he was a huge upgrade over Josh Thole and a few ticks better than Paulino. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough defense to overcome his meager offense; his dramatic homer in game 19 was the highlight and peak of his season.

2012 Projection

As much as I like Mike Nickeas, I was completely stunned that the Mets included him on the offseason 40-man roster; did they really think that another team would jump at the chance to pick a 29-year-old, .180-hitting, third-string catcher in the Rule 5 Draft? Seems to me to be a waste of a roster spot, since there are at least two dozen catchers exactly like him throughout AAA. That’s not to say I’m upset; in fact, I’m pleased to know that Nickeas is likely to be in Port St. Lucie come February, and presumably part of the organization’s catching depth in 2012. My guess is he’ll be exactly what he was in ’11: a defensive-minded, backup backstop who can be shuffled between AAA and the bigs as necessary. And within the next 3-5 years, we may see Nickeas move into a minor-league managing post — perhaps in preparation toward a more successful MLB career.

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Mets Game 132: Win Over Marlins

Mets 5 Marlins 1

The Mets pull off a doubleheader sweep, as Bobby Parnell saves two games in one day. Did anyone notice amphibians falling from the sky or horses running through the outfield? Hey, we’ve also experienced an earthquake and a hurricane so I’m not taking anything for granted …

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Ronny Paulino Up, Mike Nickeas Down

According to the Mets PR Department, Ronny Paulino has been promoted from AAA Buffalo and activated from the disabled list. Paulino is available to play in tonight’s ballgame against the Phillies. He will wear uniform #9.

To make room on the roster for Paulino, catcher Mike Nickeas has been demoted to Buffalo.

I’m kind of sad to see Nickeas go down. I know Joe didn’t love his form behind the plate but he seemed to do a great job of working with the pitchers and calling games. One has to wonder, for example, if Chris Capuano might have pitched better last night if Nickeas was catching instead of Josh Thole.

Toward that same end, it’s going to take Paulino a while to build a rapport with the Mets pitching staff. I’m sure Joe will comment on that in more detail in a future post. Otherwise, I’m anxious to see what Paulino can do with the bat against lefties.

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What If Pelfrey Pitches Well Tonight?

After seeing him struggle mightily in his first four starts of the season, we as Mets fans naturally would like to see Mike Pelfrey pitch well for a change.

However, if he does pitch well, there could be a drama brewing behind the scenes.

Because tonight, Mike Nickeas gets another start behind the plate. It could be argued that he’s in the lineup because Arizona starter Joe Saunders is a lefty, and Josh Thole struggles against lefties. Fair point.

Additionally, Nickeas hit his first MLB homer last night, and seems to be swinging the bat well. Again, fair point.

Also, there is the idea that the Mets just won for the first time in a week, so why mess with success? Trot out that same lineup again if you can.

All good points, I’m sure you agree. But, there’s another less-obvious reason why Nickeas should be getting the start, and might be getting another start five days from now: his ability to communicate.

Those who watched last night’s win no doubt noticed that Chris Capuano pitched well, and rarely shook off Nickeas — the two had a good rapport, and Capuano was apparently pleased with Nickeas’ game calling. In contrast, Thole and Pelfrey have had some trouble being “on the same page” — to the point where Pelfrey all but criticized Thole’s pitch selections. One must wonder: if there was a righthander on the mound for Arizona tonight, and Nickeas hadn’t hit his first big-league homer, would Nickeas still be getting the start? More importantly, if Pelfrey goes out and pitches six or seven strong innings, and Nickeas gains his trust, what does that mean for Josh Thole?

Nickeas caught Pelfrey in his last start against Atlanta, and the end result wasn’t anything to write home about — 5 innings, 11 hits, one walk, 4 earned runs. Despite the high hit total, I saw a mild improvement in the consistency of his mechanics and in turn, his command — might that have been because he was less concerned with the fingers thrown down by Nickeas and therefore able to focus on repeating his delivery? I could be reaching, but it’s a possibility.

Considering how important Pelfrey is to the Mets’ rotation, it will be interesting to see what transpires tonight. If Pelfrey struggles again, I would think that the Mets consider sending him to the bullpen — or the minors — to work on things when Chris Young comes off the DL. If Big Pelf has a strong outing, Mike Nickeas may find himself with another start behind the plate in five days — regardless of who pitches for the opposition. In turn, Ronny Paulino may be held back in rehab for another day or so.

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