With the acquisition of Chin-lung Hu, let’s take a look at some bench options this year for the Mets. Strong depth is always an important factor for success. Just look at the World Series champion San Francisco Giants.
Usually, National League teams carry 12 pitchers so that leaves 13 spots for position players. Eight of those will be starters, so the Mets have to construct a bench made up of five players.
The first of those five will be back-up catcher Ronny Paulino. Paulino will serve as a right-hand hitting complement to Josh Thole. I don’t think it will be a platoon, but Paulino will certainly get the bulk of his at-bats against lefties.
If Luis Castillo somehow wins the starting second base job, Daniel Murphy should still have a spot on the roster. He has shown he can play a variety of positions, albeit some better than others. He can spell Ike Davis at first and maybe even do some corner outfield duty. He would serve as the primary left-handed pinch hitter off the bench.
Speaking of which, why did Mets not sign Chris Carter? Yes he had his moments of inconsistency, but who didn’t in 2010? He was the perfect power threat off the bench, but kind of like Murphy, he didn’t really have a defensive position. He’s likely gone so the Mets must make due without him.
The next spot should be an open competition for the utility infielder position, the role that Alex Cora used to play. Candidates are Hu, Luis Hernandez, Justin Turner and Brad Emaus. Basically, if these players fail to win the starting second base job, the runner-up will likely stick with the big club. From what I’ve heard, Hu plays solid defense and has above average speed so he may be the best of the bunch. Turner and Hernandez are out of options however, and Emaus would have to be returned to the Blue Jays if he’s not on the roster.
The Mets seem to still be in the market for a fourth outfielder. Reed Johnson is a free agent as well as Scott Podsednik. Podsednik may look for an opportunity to play everyday, but Johnson would accept his role. With a healthy Bay, Beltran and Pagan, there won’t be too many at-bats for the fourth outfielder. That’s why it would be wise to let Lucas Duda play everyday in the minors and wait for an injury, which is bound to happen. Come on, it’s the Mets. Fred Lewis may also be available via trade. Internal candidate Jason Pridie has some major league experience with the Twins and might be the fall back option.
The final spot could go to Nick Evans. He would be the right-handed bench threat. He’s got a little pop and also can play several positions. Unlike Duda, Evans has now had a few cups of coffee in the bigs, and if the Mets see him more as a full-time reserve, this would be a good opportunity for him to show he can stick with the big league roster.
So in review, a bench looking something like the following could be serviceable for the 2011 Mets:
Ronny Paulino, Daniel Murphy, Chin-lung Hu, Reed Johnson and Nick Evans.