It has been very encouraging to see the Mets ending the 2011 season as the second best hitting team in the National League with a .264 team batting average. Only the St. Louis Cardinals batted higher than the Mets did this season. The Mets not only batted well, but were more patient at the plate, resulting in the second best on-base percentage in the league as well. While the Mets have had trouble hitting homers, they do rank second in the National League and fifth in the majors with 307 doubles.
You would think that such a fine hitting team, who performed this feat in an extreme pitchers park, would finish higher in the standings than fourth place, but you can blame the team’s pitching for that.
If the rumors are true, the offense will get an even greater boost next season with a trimmed down Citi Field along with healthy and full seasons from Ike Davis, Lucas Duda, Daniel Murphy and David Wright. Of course I’m assuming Jose Reyes will be back too.
So what is the front office going to do to improve the rotation and compliment one of the better offenses in the National League?
Maybe Sandy Alderson can tell us on Thursday when he will hold a press briefing at 1:00 PM to recap the season and I hope discuss some goals for the offseason. We’ll see…
We’ve all heard the excuses ranging from the Mets have no money, all the good pitchers want too much, we should just wait for the kids to develop, and of course the always fashionable – the free agent market stinks. The latter worked wonders last offseason and may prove useful again this offseason for those looking for an excuse to stand pat.
I’ve never seen a fan base as preoccupied with preserving their owners profits and safeguarding their financial interests as the Mets fan base. We should get some sort of an award for that. Maybe one day, Mets fans can help the country run the economy better than the last two administrations have…
I hate losing and I hate wallowing in the mud of mediocrity just as much. I would rather try to win and fail than do nothing and succeed. But that’s just me and I don’t expect everyone to be as gung-ho about winning as I am.
I have three ideas on how the Mets can improve the rotation and help avoid making 2012 yet another throwaway season. If you’re one of those who would rather wait for Zack Wheeler in 2014 (hopefully) or don’t think the Wilpons should pay another dime to improve the rotation, you might want to stop reading this post now.
1. Sign C.J. Wilson
In his second full season as a starting pitcher, C.J. Wilson established himself as one of the top starters in the American league. The 30-year old southpaw is exactly what the doctor ordered for a Mets rotation shrouded with questions and lacking a true ace. After a solid season in 2010 in which Wilson posted a 3.35 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 33 starts, the California native was even better this season finishing with a 2.94 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 223 innings pitched. He also racked up 206 strikeouts while walking 74 batters. What I found most impressive about his 2011 season was that in his last ten starts he allowed two or fewer runs nine times. Talk about a strong finish…
The Mets first round pick is protected this season, so unlike some of the other teams contending teams that will be bidding on Wilson, the Mets won’t have to worry about losing their top draft pick.
The only thing that can keep Wilson from being a Met is money which has suddenly become more important than winning around Flushing in the last twelve months. So while the Yankees, Red Sox, and even the Nationals set their sites on Wilson this offseason, the best solution to the Mets rotation problems probably won’t even be a consideration, even though it won’t cost the Mets any prospects or a top draft pick – only money. For a team that just shaved $65 million dollars in future this season and plays in the largest baseball market in the world, that’s kind of sad… and pathetic.
2. Sign Yu Darvish
Who is Yu Darvish you ask? Only the number one pitching prospect in the world, that’s who. The Japanese right-hander has electrifying stuff and nobody doubts he will make a dramatic impact for the MLB team lucky enough to win his services this offseason.
The Yankees, Nationals, Braves, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Orioles, Rays and Rangers have all expressed interest and will make significant eforts to land the 25-year old phenom who was called by one scout the best international pitcher of all time.
Darvish currently has a 1.54 ERA with an off the charts 10.6 K/9 ratio. In his last four phenominal seasons he has a1.81 ERA, and In seven seasons in the NPB, he is 90-35 with a 2.05 ERA and has won 15 or more games in four of the last five seasons. His repertoire includes several plus offerings including a two-seam fastball, cutter, curveball, splitter, and a changeup. At the 2009 WBC his fastball was clocked between 97-100 mph.
Jon Morosi of FOX Sports believes Rangers GM Jon Daniels will be very aggressive in trying to land the Japanese phenom, Daniels has been scouting him ever since they lost Cliff Lee to the Phillies. Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos just returned from Japan and told reporters he wanted to see Darvish pitch for himself and that he wouldn’t have flown there if he wasn’t seriously considering posting for him.
All told, when you include the posting fee and contract, experts believe that acquiring Darvish could cost as much $85-120 million dollars. Can you imagine someone this young and this exciting and oozing with so much star-power being the ace of the Mets for the next 6-8 years? Stop drooling and get those dirty little thoughts out of your head, the Mets are not interested, have not scouted him, and are flat broke remember?
3. Trade For James Shields
Last month, Ken Rosenthal reported that the Tampa Bay Rays might be willing to trade right-handed pitcher James Shields to try and add some more offense this offseason.
Another reason I believe Shileds could swap teams this season is because in terms of trade value no other Rays pitcher is probably worth more right now, and for a team that has big payroll issues Shields’ salary goes up to $7 million next year. Currently, Shields is earning $4.25 million which is 10% of the Rays $42 million dollar payroll. I just don’t see them willing to devote almost 20% of their payroll to one player and it’s no secret they are in the market for more offense.
Oh and one more thing, the Rays also have Matt Moore in their system who is nearly major league ready and some believe is the best pitching prospect in baseball.
So now that I somewhat established a few reasons why Shields may be available, now lets take a closer look and see why I believe he could be the Mets ace for the next two seasons.
This guy is the antithesis to Mike Pelfrey – a warrior in every sense of the word. In a must win game he beat the Yankees last night holding them two runs on six hits in 8 2/3 innings, and leading the Rays to a 5-2 win. Shields will finish the season two outs shy of 250 innings and leading the majors with 11 complete games this season.
He ends the regular season with 16 wins, four of them shutouts, and a pristine 2.82 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. He also finishes the season with 225 strikeouts and a 3.64 K/BB rate.
The 29-year old has a 3.96 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in six seasons with the Rays and is under team control for 2012 and 2013. He’s another pitcher that would look great pitching at the front of the Mets rotation, but unlike the first two options that required big-time cash, Shields would cost the Mets players and prospects. The Rays are desperate for a shortstop, a corner outfileder, a DH and they will need a first baseman as Casey Kotchman becomes a free agent. I see plenty of possibilities here. Daniel Murphy, Ruben Tejada or Lucas Duda might all sound tempting to the Rays. Maybe a combination of one or two of them plus a prospect… Maybe David Wright… Maybe Jason Bay and a boatload of money to sweeten the pot… Who knows… I think it’s worth exploring.
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I initially intended to post five offseason options for the Mets to add an ace to the rotation; the final two being trading for Matt Cain from the offense starved Giants, and Zack Grienke from the Brewers who may not have the resources to sign and keep all of their stars heading for free agency this year and next.
While I believe all of these options are viable ones for the Mets, and that one or even two of them would compliment an emerging offensive force and solidify the Mets chances for post season finishes for the next few years, I’m of the opinion that such thoughts have become unimportant in these parts.
The current plan as I understand it, will be to run a constant pipeline of farmhands to the majors with the hope that we strike gold with one or two of them. As you all know the odds of that happening are very long as most prospects never even make it to the majors and only about 25% of them have MLB careers of five years or longer. Not to mention that we could be in for a very long wait.
Win now or hope you can win five years from now with no guarantee – that’s the choice it seems.