Being a lifelong fan of the New York Mets, I have endured many highs and lows this franchise has provided over the years. I can go on about the majority of continued disappointments but there is nothing to be gained by rehashing old wounds.
Today, I choose to look at the positive regarding the N.Y. Met’s present and future.
1.) The present product.
Many fans are upset with the product Sandy Alderson has rolled out on the field to start this 2013 baseball season. There is no question, this team has many holes. There are minor league teams with a stronger starting outfield than presently patrolling the ‘pitcher friendly’ ballpark at Citi Field. The N.Y. Mets have potentially solid defenders in Jaun Legares, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Mike Baxter and further down the road Matt den Dekker and Brandon Nimmo. Of the first three names, only Baxter, has shown signs of being able to get on base. They have retreads in Marlon Byrd and Rick Ankiel, why Ankiel? I haven’t a clue! Their only potential slugger in the mix is transplanted first baseman Lucas Duda, who is a below average defender in left field. Duda, thus far in his career, has not produced efficiently enough, defensively or offensively to warrant an entire season as their starter.
During this ‘transitional’ season, the expectations need to be tempered. The chances are extremely high that the outfielders that made the 2013 opening day roster, will not be on the 40 man roster come next spring. With no one close to jumping from the farm system to man the outfield, Sandy Alderson will need to address the outfield needs via free agency and the trade route.
Their position of strength is minor league pitching. There are solid pitching prospects in all levels of their farm system that can help in acquiring outfield help. I believe Zach Wheeler will join Matt Harvey this season, live up to his hype and become the number one and two starters their potential leads us to believe. Harvey has already proven his call up at the end of last season was no fluke with his dominant start to the season. Wheeler is on the same projected path as Harvey with the same potential to succeed. After a rough start to his Triple A season in Las Vegas, Wheeler has shown the ability to work through adversity, something of a necessity for a New York athlete. While some fans are calling for Wheeler’s promotion now, I feel the combination of his need for further seasoning and the super two cutoff will coincide with his call up.
Colin McHugh, in my opinion, should be swapped out with the mostly ineffective Jeremy Hefner…now. With Hefner, Jon Niese, Dillon Gee and Shawn Marcum all off to terrible starts so far, Jeremy is on the shortest leash. Niese has proven to be a dependable starter throughout his young career and is not physically 100% . He has the faith of the team and it’s fan base to work his way into the number three or four spot in the ‘future’ rotation. At worst, when Niese is on, he could be a potential trade candidate as he has proven value throughout the league.
Rafael Montero, Noah Syndergaard, Mark Cahoon, Cory Mazzoni, Hansel Robles, Steven Matz, Josh Edgin, Jenrry Mejia and Jeurys Familia all have perceived value both inside and outside the organization. Some or all could be on the ‘future’ staff or used as trade bait.
As far as position players, this is a weakness throughout the system. Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plaweicki can be the catching tandem as they further develop. Wilmer Flores can hit but has no sure spot in the field. The aforementioned den Dekker and Nimmo are atop the prospect list but are not close to helping the big club. As of now, there are no impact players on the rise.
Concerning management, I believe Terry Collins is the right man for this transitional team with Wally Backman taking over sometime next season. With Wally, not only do you have roots to our last championship, his play on the field is exactly the type of effort he will demand on a day in/day out basis. It only helps that he is teaching our future for the last few years. It creates familiarity amongst our rising stars and Wally’s ascension as the future manager will only be strengthened by this.
Where do we start? We have already discussed the outfield. There is no long term solution for SS, 2B or the bullpen(other than Bobby Parnell). Some or none of the pitching prospects mentioned above may wind up as a solution to the annually disappointing bullpen.
Ruben Tejada is not the long term answer at SS, he may be better at 2B. His defense would be above average there while his bat should be productive enough to keep his position.
Daniel Murphy has become a solid defender over the last two seasons, he seems to be a contact hitter with a knack for doubles. He will be involved in a trade, mainly because he has proven to consistently hit, with a career average of .290. Tejada should fit seamlessly into that spot.
The bullpen is a jigsaw puzzle, missing the last five pieces. The Mets have gone every route possible to correct this recurring problem with only Parnell showing any promise. Trades have failed…the prospects cannot seem to hang…free agency is never a sure thing and neither is the waiver wire, otherwise, why would they be waived in the first place?
There is no denying the Bernie Madoff debacle has hurt the team. Though the Mets have spent money in the past, they have been burned when they did. Jason Bay, Johan Santana, Fransisco Rodriguez and Frank Francisco to name a few, have all not earned their paychecks wearing the orange and blue. Only Johan has fared well…when healthy. Santana gets an exception because recording the Met’s first franchise no-hitter will keep him in our hearts forever
After shedding this season’s dead weighted contracts at seasons end, we will then see if Alderson’s hands are tied. It will also expose the general manager’s plans for the immediate future, the 2014 and 2015 seasons. While Collins cannot be blamed for the hand he has been dealt, Alderson is the dealer. Of course this is with the understanding that Fred Wilpon opens his wallet and opens it more wisely this time around.
5.) The future.
The New York Mets have a golden opportunity at their disposal. With payroll coming off, prospects on the way, both near and far, the emergence of Harvey and the leadership of David Wright, the future is bright. Though Ike Davis needs to figure out how to be consistent for a whole season, I would definitely keep him over Duda because he is the superior defender and has proven he can hit consistent power when on.
This off-season will be the one under the microscope. If Wilpon has the budget Sandy needs to become competitive, the few core players we have may soon have some real help. With either Collins or Backman at the helm,the N.Y. Mets will become relevant once again. I just think Backman is ready to change the culture in New York…Collins has always been a placeholder.