Dan's Dugout: Mets Make Most of Pitching Surplus • Latino Sports

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Dan’s Dugout: Mets Make Most of Pitching Surplus

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NASHVILLE  — Goodbye, Daniel Murphy.

The surprise slugger whose home run streak helped the Mets win the National League pennant has been replaced at second base.

Neil Walker is the newest Met Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Neil Walker is the newest Met
Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Oddly, the replacement is Neil Walker, a Murphy clone known as a contact hitter with occasional pop but a less than desirable glove.

After making a pair of critical errors during the World Series against the Royals, Murphy watched his stock fall — even though his asking price on the free-agent market remains high.

Pittsburgh, suddenly in need of a new second baseman, can’t afford him. Someone like Howie Kendrick or Kelly Johnson, a pair of more inexpensive free-agent fixes, is more likely.

But the Pirates were thrilled Wednesday to bolster their rotation with Jonathan Niese, a reliable lefthanded starter who spent most of the 2015 postseason in the New York bullpen.

Jon Niese has joined the Pirates Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Jon Niese has joined the Pirates
Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

In swapping Niese, the Mets were dealing from depth: the pending return of Zack Wheeler, coming off Tommy John surgery, gives them a solid rotation that also includes Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, and Wheeler.

Exactly where that leaves Bartolo Colon, the oldest man in the majors last year, is uncertain. He still throws strikes at age 43 and is coming off a 14-win campaign.

If he’s willing to work as a spot starter, handling relief assignments between starts, the Mets may opt to keep him.

He’s certainly more affordable than Yoenis Cespedes, who finished the year in New York after a July 31 trade from Detroit. The powerful Cuban outfielder, whose home run tear preceded Murphy’s, has already been ruled out by the Detroit Tigers, who had him before.

Before landing Walker, the Mets had been a finalist in the Ben

Ben Zobrist had better offers elsewhere

Ben Zobrist had better offers elsewhere

Zobrist sweepstakes. Emerging from a flock of suitors, he jumped from the Royals to the Cubs even though both the Giants and Nationals offered more money. The chance to reunite with charismatic manager Joe Maddon, who previously had Zobrist in Tampa Bay, proved too powerful.

The Cubs were one of the more active clubs as the 2015 meetings neared the final curtain. A day after dealing second baseman Starlin Castro to the Yankees for Adam Warren and Brendan Ryan, Chicago was courting Jason Heyward, a high-priced rightfielder most recently with the Cardinals, and the less expensive Denard Span, who played center field for the Nats.

In addition, the Cubs remained interested in an even-up swap that would have sent outfielder Jorge Soler, a young slugger, to the Braves for pitcher Julio Teheran.

Is Julio Teheran the next man out of Atlanta?

Is Julio Teheran the next man out of Atlanta?

Atlanta’s willingness to move Teheran plunged, however, after the team sent Shelby Miller, another young starter, to Arizona for three young players. That threesome included outfielder Ender Inciarte plus the club’s top two prospects: shortstop Danbys Swanson and pitcher Aaron Blair.

Baseball executives at the Opryland Hotel were stunned that the Braves were able to wrest Swanson, the nation’s top draft choice in 2015, and Blair, a pitcher likely to replace Miller in next year’s Atlanta rotation.

Elsewhere in baseball:

Unable to complete an Aroldis Chapman trade in the wake of a

Todd Frazier could be the next slugger to switch teams

Todd Frazier could be the next slugger to switch teams

domestic violence investigation, the rebuilding Reds are dangling slugging third baseman Todd Frazier, a New Jersey product who hammered 35 homers last year . . .

Another slugger likely to change teams soon is Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez, a lefthanded hitter coveted by the Baltimore Orioles and several other clubs . . .

Buck Showalter’s team also hopes to retain first baseman Chris Davis, its cleanup man, but has given up hope of keeping starting pitcher Wei-Yin Chen . . .

Philadelphia expects to extract a huge haul of young talent from the Astros for highly-regarded closer Ken Giles . . .

Washington is hot to trot for Mike Leake, formerly with the Giants, since Jordan Zimmermann has signed with Detroit and Doug Fister is about to follow him out the door . . .

Johnny Cueto could join the Cardinal rotation

Johnny Cueto could join the Cardinal rotation

St. Louis could be the eventual landing spot of Johnny Cueto, whose two-hitter against the Mets was the first complete game by an American League pitcher since Jack Morris in 1991. Cueto’s best friend in baseball is Brayan Pena, a catcher who just signed a two-year deal to serve as Yadier Molina’s understudy.

 

 

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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