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June 26, 2013

Alderson Shouldn't Clean House -- Yet


It's been close to two weeks since Mets GM Sandy Alderson spoke to a large group of season ticket holders. During that talk Alderson spoke of the team's six-month plan and his belief that he would be able to make some significant acquisitions, either by free agency or trade, over the next several months. While these comments may have been comforting to a fan base suffering through another losing season, any trade schemes that Alderson may be planning should be put on hold temporarily.

Starting pitching is the Mets strength at both the major league level and down through the minors. Unfortunately, starter Jon Neise was placed on the 15-day disabled list over the weekend with a partial tear of his rotator cuff. No surgery is planned, as the Mets hope two weeks of physical therapy will properly heal the shoulder.

Meantime, the team clearly needs some big bats to help out a sluggish lineup. But with this recent development, Mets fans hoping the team will unload some of its pitching for a power bat should hope those plans are held up. While the Mets pitching remains deep down through the minor leagues, the front office would be wise to see how Neise's shoulder progresses before pulling the trigger on any kind of mega-deal.

Jon Neise isn't the phenom that Matt Harvey is or that Zack Wheeler may become. But since his Mets debut at age 21 in 2008, Neise has been reliable and consistent. Since he took a full time spot in the rotation in 2010, Neise has thrown at least 26 starts per year, while maintaining an ERA under 4.50. Last season was the best for the lefty with 30 starts, 190 innings pitched, an ERA of 3.40, while allowing less than a hit per inning.

As the Mets young studs continue to develop, and the likes of Rafael Montero and Noah Sydergaard eventually join the rotation, Jon Neise will become the wily veteran, even if he's only in his mid-20's. Additionally, Neise is the only left-hander of the group.

I don't believe waiting for Neise to be fully healthy is an overreaction. The Mets have a recent history of underestimating or misdiagnosing injuries. Any shoulder injury for a pitcher, especially a rotator cuff, is very concerning news. Roy Halladay and Johan Santana are just two recent examples of pitchers who haven't successfully recovered from rotator injury. A study by the Texas Rangers in the 1990's showed that 85 percent of their pitchers with elbow injuries made complete comebacks, compared to fewer than 50 percent from shoulder problems.

It's easy to underestimate the value of a veteran pitcher to a young pitching staff; but as much potential as some of the young prospects show, they are still a crap shoot. John Niese is a proven commodity. As the team looks to Travis D'Arnaud as its catcher of the future, a healthy John Niese would be invaluable to a young staff and a rookie catcher.

The blockbuster trade that many Mets fans want to see is unloading some of their starting pitching for Marlins slugger, Giancarlo Stanton. No question, Stanton would bring the Mets lineup instant power and credibility. But Neise is an incredibly important part of stabilizing the Mets rotation, and until Alderson knows his lefty is 100 percent healthy he should stay away from the telephones.

Maybe a relaxing trip to the Hamptons could do Alderson some good before the trade deadline of July 31. Anyone have a spare room?

Pete is a lifelong Montauk resident and former sports talk host at 88.7FM WEER. He's currently a Sports Anchor at WCBS 880 and WFAN radio in NYC. He can be reached via email at peterfmundo@gmail.com.

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