Since Sandy Alderson took over as general manager after the 2010 season, the Mets have attempted to compete in the short-term while always keeping an eye on 2013 and beyond. That future is now upon them, but questions still remain — particularly these 10, which should form the outline of another intriguing season according to Anthony DiComo of MLB.com.
Among his ten questions, I found these to be the most compelling:
How will the starting rotation fare without Dickey?
One of the top rotations in the game absorbed a significant blow in December, when the Mets traded away the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner in a seven-player deal. Though the deal stocked the organization with talent for the future, it left the Mets without an obvious ace.
The hope is that Matt Harvey, who thrived down the stretch last season, continues developing into a top-of-the-rotation arm. But as good as Harvey was in 2012, even he is sure to absorb a few growing pains during his first full season in the big leagues. Jon Niese is an established innings-eater coming off his best year as a professional, and the rotation’s only sure thing. Behind him are two question marks in Johan Santana and Dillon Gee, both of whom dealt with health issues in 2012. Further down the depth chart is top prospect Zack Wheeler, who will almost certainly start the season in Triple-A.
Will the Mets really start adding payroll?
Alderson said in November that the team plans to have more financial wiggle room in years past, though he clarified a month later that they might not use all of it — at least not right away. That David Wright and Jason Bay both agreed to defer guaranteed money can only help the Mets, who have shown a reluctance to delve into the free agent market in recent years. But until the Mets start spending, fans will remain skeptical.
The assumption is that when Santana and his sizable contract come off the books after this season, the Mets will finally begin spending. But Alderson also said last summer that the Mets were looking to add payroll prior to the non-tender Trade Deadline, before their rapid fall from contention changed plans. It will be interesting to see where they go from here — not only this winter but also at the deadline. Claiming financial flexibility is one thing. Exercising it is quite another.
Will David Wright’s play justify his new contract?
Alderson is the first to admit that in general, long-term contracts for players in their primes tend to be bad deals. But Wright presented a unique situation, negotiating his eight-year, $138-million pact as the face of the franchise. He wanted to be a Met for life, and the Mets wanted to make him one.
It’s a warm, fuzzy story, which hides the fact that the Mets desperately need Wright to produce on the field. He may never hit 30 home runs again, now that he has reached his 30th birthday and settled in as more of a mid-20s homer threat. But Wright displayed markedly improved defense last season and was no slouch with the bat. The real question will come later, when he reaches the latter years of his contract and his production begins to slow.
Alderson posed this tongue-in-cheek question himself back in November, wondering who might populate his outfield come spring. Despite moving in the fences at Citi Field, the Mets received virtually no thump from their outfielders in 2012, and will continue to struggle on offense without significant improvement in that area.
Even with new pawns in place, this figures to be a problem area for the Mets, who are relatively strong in their rotation and infield. Without rapid improvement in right, center and left, it will be difficult for the Mets to reach their goals in 2013.
We also have questions about the bullpen, which Ike Davis will show up to start the 2013 season, or which Johan Santana for that matter? Can Zack Wheeler be the ace everyone is expecting him to be and when does he join the rotation? What about Lucas Duda and Kirk Nieuwenhuis? Are they everyday players?
The questions are many and probably more of them now than we had in the first two years under Sandy. The answers will start trickling through beginning in April.