According to Abbott and Costello, “Who’s on first, What’s on second, and I Don’t Know’s on third.”
However, for the 2011 New York Mets, the question will be the following: who (not what) is on second?
Let’s be honest. Even before his recent injury, Met fans were not getting excited about the prospects of having Luis Hernandez man second base for us next year.
If you look right now at the Mets’ 2011 roster, the starting nine appear all but certain, barring any major changes (which we no doubt may see).
Davis at first, Reyes at short, Wright at third, Thole behind the dish, Bay (if healthy) in left, and some combination of Beltran and Pagan in center and right. That leaves only second base.
I’m guessing that Luis Castillo already has his luggage packed for the inevitable call that informs him that he is no longer a Met. Luis had a terrific career as a Marlin (two-time World Series champion and a 35-game hitting streak). But his time as a Met was marred by injury, lack of production, and of course this.
(On second thought, I apologize for including that, but sadly when we think back on Luis Castillo’s Mets career, that play sums it up.)
So who will play second base for the Mets in 2011? Here are some options.
In his time with the big club, Ruben Tejada has shown that he is a magician with the glove. His up-the-middle defense (whether at second or short) has undoubtedly saved the Mets a few losses this season. He struggled at the plate but showed immense improvement over the few games before his recent injury.
The question with Tejada will be can he hold his own offensively so that the Mets can benefit from his defense. He’s like Rey Ordonez (but maybe not as much range as Rey-O). He would bat eighth in the order and would not be considered a run-producer. However, if the Mets continue their offensive struggles into next season, Tejada may find that he doesn’t have many chances to drive in runs and must be clutch in those situations. If he’s not, he may wind up back in the minors.
Daniel Murphy at second brings up an interesting argument. Sadly, his season was cut short on a dirty slide by an opposing player while Murph was trying to turn two as a second baseman. It’s definitely a work in progress.
We know one thing: Murphy can hit. He led the Mets in home runs last year, albeit with only 12 (thanks for that Citi Field). However, he was misused in the Mets lineup. He is not a #4 hitter which is where Jerry Manuel often hit him due to the lack of offensive weapons. He would be a great six or seven hitter for this team.
If the Mets are willing to sacrifice defense for offense, Murphy was have a shot. It seems though that the Mets envision Murph as a super-utility guy who can play anywhere and spell anyone of any given day.
If the Mets really want to sacrifice defense for offense, they’ll make a trade for Dan Uggla of the Marlins. Uggla will always be remembered for committing three errors in the 2008 All-Star Game.
However, what people should be remembering about Uggla is that he recently Became the first second baseman in the history of the game the record four straight 30-HR seasons. That is an impressive feat.
Uggla would provide some much needed pop on a team that has suffered from a dearth of home runs that past two seasons. The cavernous gaps of Citi Field still would be no match for Uggla’s power. But once again, defense is key.
The one man available who would solve the problems with no strings attached would be Orlando Hudson. And how convenient, he is a free agent at the end of this season.
Hudson is a four-time Gold Glover and has a respectable .281 career batting average. He’s had a rough go of it this season in Minnesota, and a change of scenery may benefit him.
That being said, he made $5 million this season. He may not command as much after his year but still would be looking for something in the $3-4 million dollar range. That should be within the Mets price range.
Hudson seems to be the most obvious choice, but then again he will be 33 next year so he may be on the decline. If this year is any indication, he is already on the decline.
Those four appear to be the most viable choices at this point. The Mets may further explore both the trade and free agent market but most likely due to financial constraints will be limited in what they can do.
If Tejada can provide some consistent offense, he would be my choice to start at second. His defense is so valuable, and for a pitching staff that doesn’t overpower hitters, defense wins games.
I’m not saying Tejada has to all of a sudden turn into Jeff Kent (not only did the Mets trade David Cone to acquire Kent, but they then traded away Kent, the all-time leader in HR among second basemen, for Carlos Baerga; great job front office!).
But if he can hit in the neighborhood of .240-.260 with a few homers and drive in some clutch runs, he will see the field often and be a vital part of the Mets’ success in 2011.