Offseason decisions: What can the Mets do?

In New York, the Yankees get most of the headlines and most of the buzz, and rightfully so. They have been one of the best teams in baseball for the last three years now and are always looking for ways to stay on top. Overshadowed by this, the Mets look to continue rebuilding in their first full offseason with Sandy Alderson in charge.

The Mets are coming off a 77-85 season, which yielded them fourth place in the National League East. Unfortunately, with a lot of long-term contracts, they aren’t able to do much this winter except strengthen a few small things. The plan should be to sign guys to short contracts who are just placeholders and to decide which homegrown players are going to make an impact down the line when they are ready to contend.

Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler, their two top pitching prospects, will probably start the year in Double-A, so they are about a year-and-a-half to two years away. Until then, they have Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey, Dillon Gee, JJonathon Niese, and R.A. Dickey as their only five major league-ready starters. Then need to acquire some depth, even if it’s on minor league contracts, because no team gets through the season with just five starters.

They already have signed Frank Francisco (3.36 xFIP in 2011) and Jon Rauch (4.56 xFIP in 2011), both of whom are coming off good seasons with the Blue Jays. They also trade outfielder Angel Pagan to the Giants for Andres Torres and Ramon Ramirez (3.47 xFIP in 2011). All of these small moves are good, as it fortifies the back end of their pen without giving up too much.

Probably the most controversial issue surrounding the team was Jose Reyes and whether they were going to be able to retain him. The star shortstop wanted a long-term deal for over $100 million, but with the financial issues that the team is facing, it was just too big of an investment. Although Reyes hit .337/.384/.493 in 2011, there is still plenty of risk in giving him the six-year pact the Marlins wound up forking over.

First of all, he is a speed-first player who uses his legs to steal bases and leg out infield base hits. While this makes him a dynamic player, he has a history of hamstring problems in both legs, which should definitely be a red flag. Despite being 28 and entering what should be the prime of his career, Reyes has only averaged 98 games over the last three seasons. That is way too little time spent on the field for a guy who would be the face of the franchise.

There’s not much they can do to replace Reyes, but they can reinforce some of the areas around him. Ruben Tejada will take his place at shortstop, and he is a good defender who hit .284/.360/.335 in 96 games in 2011. These numbers are very good, but I’m not sure he could keep them up in an everyday role.

In order to avoid over exposure, they should sign a guy like Jack Wilson who can caddy Tejada. Wilson and the Mets have been in contact for much of the winter, but nothing has come of it yet.

As far as replacing Reyes’ production, they will be getting a healthy Ike Davis, Daniel Murphy, and Jason Bay back. Coupling this with the fences being brought in at Citi Field, offensive production should be as good as it has been over the last few years. Also, as I mentioned above, the brass has greatly improved a very weak 2011 bullpen, which should help them close out games they weren’t able to last season.

Going forward, there’s not much the front office can do. There’s no use in trading anyone at the moment because they are either young enough where they can help the team down the line when they are ready to compete, or they have unmovable contracts. One guy who has been the subject of much trade speculation is David Wright.

Wright had something of a down year, playing only 102 games and hitting .254/.345/.427 (.342 wOBA). I’m not saying these are bad numbers, but he has posted a career .383 wOBA. With the fences being moved in at home ballpark and a clean slate of health, Wright should be able to bounce back and re-establish some value. And with one year left on his current contract, a midseason swap for prospects could be in order.

The Mets could very well be done for the winter. They could make a few minor league deals, maybe sign a spare infielder, or another back end starter, but that’s it. Alderson and the Mets are just going to have to wait until some of their top-tier prospects are ready to make an impact and for the big contracts expire. That’s when they will be able to make bigger moves and build the team the right way.

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  1. Lew said...

    The Mets are acting like a small market team but they live in one the richest markets for baseball.
    The Wilpons should be forced to sell the team. The team has a negative net worth as the Wilpons have mortgaged the team to a point that it its constantly borrowing money from MLB to meet cash needs. The GM is doing the best he can with very limited resources.  This team will probably finish with a worst record than last year’s team as Reyes and Beltran were the catalysts for many of the teams wins.  Look at the Mets record after the Beltran trade, it was awful.

  2. Paul E said...

    If they finish .500 it will be nothing short of a miracle; there are only 4 teams in the division better than them. That being said, they were a very exciting team in 2011 when Reyes was healthy and Beltran was still on the roster. Hopefully, Davis is healthy, Bay can remember the player he used to be, Wright …… you get the idea.

    If McCourt could be made to sell the Dodgers despite the Fox deal, Wilpon should have to go as well. Where’s that Bud Selig iron hand when you need it?

  3. Flharfh said...

    Johan Santana’s contract doesn’t look very good in hindsight, does it? The perils of paying a lot to a pitcher, I guess. Besides Johan, Jason Bay, and paying Carlos Delgado a few mil a year for the rest of his life, what other ugly contracts do the Mets have? I can’t think of any. Their problems seem to me to be more a problem of ownership and poor player development than bad contracts.

  4. Pochucker said...

    So many big league gms act like novice fantasy
    players—player has one good year and they pay through the nose for them the next year.

    I though most mlb teams had sabremetric guys on their staffs. Oliver Perez was one of biggest blunders I have ever seen—a blind man could have seen that coming~!

  5. Rick said...

    the wright part makes zero sense, if they deal him in july the 2013 option in his contract is voided so what is another team really going to give up for just 3 months of wright? they should deal him now or after 2012.

  6. George said...

    As a Mets fan, I felt the pitching staff was a significant weakness. Several games were blown in late innings due to the weak bullpen; Bobby Parnell alone blew several saves in September alone. Bad teams are a result of bad pitching. Are there any good pitching options for the team?

  7. Raymo said...

    The team’s bullpen could perform well, and with a break here or there, the offense might surprise.However, starting pitching remains the team’s weak underbelly. Examine the road splits, and you’ll see the pitcher-friendly CitiField disguised just how dreadful the starting rotation is. With Santana a large question mark, it’s probable that the starters will undermine any advancement the offense makes.

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