Joel Sherman of the NY Post takes a look at what the Mets need to do to get back on the right track in a post to his blog. Besides highlighting some players he thinks can help, he does a nice job of encapsulating the current state of the Mets and the dilemma they find themselves in.
So let’s recap: You must build a contender next year. You must do it with a reduction in payroll. You cannot trade pieces of your prospect base to do it.
It’s very difficult to see how the Mets can regroup and put a competitive team on the field in 2010 given those parameters. They play in a division that will feature an even stronger Phillies team with Happ and Lee in the rotation for an entire season. The Marlins have already shown they have the makings of a solid rotation and their youngsters will only get better. The Braves are always in the mix and always looking to improve the team.
While injuries have played a major role in undermining this “win now” team, the 2010 season brings a new set of problems. Here are just a few of them.
1. Brian Schneider becomes a free agent and Josh Thole is still two seasons away, leaving Omir Santos as the only catcher right now. I thought the Mets missed a huge opportunity by passing on Victor Martinez. Now they must decide if Omir Santos can make the jump from solid backup to number one catcher. Another roll of the dice by a team who keeps rolling snake eyes.
2. Carlos Delgado may have been the team’s one true power hitter and now that he’ll move on, the team must decide what to do with the .248 hitting Daniel Murphy who was shoved into the first base job after failing as the everyday leftfielder. Murphy has improved defensively, but now the big concern is can he hit for enough power to fill the void at cleanup. Manuel shared those concerns during a couple of his post game interviews last week. Manuel said he wasn’t worried about Murphy’s fielding, but whether he can give the Mets the power they need from that position. Excellent point Jerry!
3. In one of the weakest free agent classes in decades, the Mets will find little help at first base and catcher. The best available players are mostly middle infielders, a position that is blocked by Luis Castillo and Jose Reyes. The Mets had an opportunity to see if they could move Castillo who still has two years remaining on his contract. Unfortunately, they gambled and lost again believing they were buyers instead of sellers, and now they can only hope that Castillo gives them a repeat performance in 2010 and more importantly, stays off the DL. At shortstop, the Mets are still dilly-dallying with getting Reyes back on the field, but as the season comes to an end, Reyes still can’t run the bases and is still in pain.
4. Carlos Beltran is going against his doctor’s orders and will attempt to comeback this month. His bone bruise has not decreased in size despite a month of rest and therapy. The cloud of micro-fracture surgery hangs over him, and at 32-years old and only two seasons left on his seven-year mega deal, the future is murky. His replacement, Angel Pagan, is a fourth outfielder masquerading as an everyday player and is a significant downgrade in all aspects of play. However, the a large part of the Mets fanbase has a unique capacity for wrapping a single magical moment around a player and believing it’s the norm. Pagan’s grand slam may have locked him in as an everyday player with those fans, and the Wilpons will jump on that opportunity.
5. Leftfield continues to be a black hole for the Mets, and that will be the case again this off season. I suspect that Minaya will probably announce that Fernando Martinez, who can’t seem to stay healthy and has lost his top prospect status, will be the everyday leftfielder in 2010. He hatched the same plan last off season with someone who was less talented and never played the position when he crowned Murphy as his man. When you have no money to spend and you are unwilling to trade prospects, than you do what the Pirates and Royals do and plug holes with ill-prepared players who are not major league ready. I should add that if Carlos Beltran proves to be ready by opening day, Pagan will also figure into the mix at leftfield and keep F-Mart at bay perhaps until mid-season.
6. Imagine if you were a GM building a contender that plays in the best pitchers park in the majors. Would your plan be to grab one top tier pitcher and surround him with number 4 and 5 types, or build a rotation that featured three top pitchers that would make you invincible at home? It’s hard to believe that the Mets went out and got Johan Santana and the master plan was to surround him with unproven bottom of the rotation junk. Even after a failed 2008 season, they still opted to bring in Freddy Garcia and Tim Redding for open tryouts, knowing full well that Mike Pelfrey was not #2 starting pitcher material, nor was Oliver Perez. Now they are faced with not offering John Maine arbitration and potentially losing him. Their options are limited and they have the makings of a young rotation like the Marlins only no way near as talented. Johan followed by a combination of Parnell, Pelfrey, Perez and Niese. The rest of the NL East is licking their chops. Ironically, three of those pitchers the Mets consider untouchable, and one of them no team in their right mind would touch.
7. What a disaster the J.J. Putz turned out to be. Not only did we give up a great deal of prospects and major league players to get him here, but now he’ll go to free agency with nothing left to show for him except a number five outfielder in Jeremy Reed and a back of the bullpen guy in Sean Green who seems ill-equipped for playing in the media spotlight of New York. The craziest part of this sad tale is that Minaya knew Putz had a bone spur and that he was coming off his worst season as a major leaguer. So why did we pay full price? Now we must decide who becomes the setup man next season? There is no way the cost cutting Wilpons will pick up the options on either Putz or Wagner. They won’t offer arbitration either because MLBPA rules state you can’t offer an arbitration figure that is lower than 80% of the previous years salary. That would still be too much dough for a setup man. Of course, no arbitration also means no draft picks. Bye bye guys.
In the next two weeks, I’ll try and tackle each of these seven areas that I’ve highlighted. I’ll analyze each problem one by one, and see what our options are and throw out some possible solutions too.