On the heels of their sixth consecutive disappointing season, the Mets entered this offseason with another set of tempered expectations. Having force fed fans a vision of contention for the 2014 season with the arrival of key pitching prospects, the Mets enter this winter with more questions than answers yet again. Devoid of a quality major league outfielder and without a solid anchor behind the plate, it would appear that the Mets must still renovate half of their starting lineup. That process must begin this winter should the front office hope to stay on plan as their young arms make the journey to Queens this season.
Like many of you have felt, its been disappointing to learn that Sandy Alderson once again finds himself with no more than $10 million (at absolute max) dollars to work with. Having gotten used to rosters of big ticket free agents and payrolls that reached for the stars, this new frugal route still sits sour with most fans. Nonetheless, this is the path the Wilpons have chosen and we’re unfortunately along for the ride. That said, the team is still in position to work towards its ultimate goal of 2014 success.
Having endured more experiments than I care to count since Sandy Alderson took the helm, the Mets still appear set to return Lucas Duda to the outfield next spring. The swing to left field, widely believe to be the easier of the corner outfield spots, provides him the opportunity improve his defense while keeping his bat in the Mets powerless lineup. Centerfield also appears to have been assigned to the strike out happy Kirk Nieuwenhuis already. His inclusion in the 2013 roster provides the Mets with a semi-legit centerfield/lead off option, or at least the best we can hope for on such a restricted budget. Are these early designations the best we could have hoped for? No…but if I had to chose two experiments for the Mets to forge ahead with, this would probably be the two I’d pick.
So that leaves catcher and right field… Luckily for Mets fans, or I suppose unluckily depending on your mindset, the Mets have more assets than the $10 million dollars mentioned above. While the team can almost certainly fit a tenured catching upgrade into that budget, a power hitting right fielder often comes at a premium. Enter thirty-seven year old Cy Young hopeful, RA Dickey, who increasingly looks destined for the trade market this winter. A twenty game winner with no sure future, Dickey may be just enough to fetch the type of outfielder the Mets covet to slot into right field next season.
Is it a sure plan? Certainly not. However, it bridges the gap to next off-season when the team will find itself with more than $40 million dollars in loose change to work with due to the expiration of the Bay and Santana contracts. At that point, the team could find itself to be a major player in the free agent market if the time to abandon the Lucas Duda and/or Kirk Nieuwenhuis experiments has finally arrive. Furthermore, the Mets will have learned more about the likes of Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and much much more. Therefore, should a starting pitcher also become a requirement headed into 2014, the team will have the flexibility to make that move.
So while I’m sure none of this excites you for the 2013 season, we can only hope that the team makes the moves necessary to continue a path towards contention. Making at least half the major changes needed to do so is certainly within the realm of possibility this winter. Doing so may not fill the seats at Citi Field next spring, but it will, at least in my opinion, yield the team’s first successful offseason since Sandy Alderson arrived. Whether that’s his fault or not is another debate for another time, and although the losses have certainly added up in recent years, the New York Mets are not so far off track that this thing can’t be saved. Two years ago the front office laid out a plan and with the right moves this winter, they can still make 2014 the year they find themselves back on the map.
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