I headed to the new Citi Field Stadium this past Tuesday, where I took in a Mets-Marlins game. (Sorry, no pictures — I somehow managed to lose the camera-computer cord.)
I had to suffer through Tim Redding, but it was an enjoyable game all around with Hanley Ramirez conking a home run and Cameron Maybin depositing a ball in the Home Run Apple. Carlos Beltran almost made a stunning Mets rally happen before his ball was snuffed out on the warning track.
Citi Field reminds me a lot of Shea Stadium in several ways, particularly the dimensions of the field. I also got a Citizen Bank Park (Phillies) vibe, though — I sat up in the nosebleed seats and the view of home plate and the rest of the field was a spitting image of similar nosebleed seats I had at CBP.
As I watched the game meander through, I couldn’t help but think of what the Mets have ahead of them: they’re caught with several superstars and minimal complementary players with what seems to be a poisonous clubhouse. That’s what you get when you bring in Gary Sheffield to run unchecked, folks.
All is not lost: the Mets have a solid core that can compete in 2010. But what should they do? The Mets don’t have a lot of money to play with, despite roughly $30 million to play with. Here’s one man’s guess, position by position. An asterisk denotes the player would be new to the club.
C: Gregg Zaun*, Omir Santos
Zaun, 38: .260/.346/.404 on the year, making $2 million
Varitek, 37: .218/.325/.415, making $5 million
Zaun has a club option for $2 million that I could easily see the Rays picking up and moving forward with Zaun as the starting catcher in 2010. However, I’m assuming he hits the free agent market. If he does, the Mets should snap him up. Zaun has unfairly gotten a rap in recent years as a part-time catcher, but looking at his full body of work shows a rather impressive resume. For the Mets, a low-cost catcher who can hit is vital.
1B: Nick Johnson, Kevin Millar*
The Mets are thinking about bringing Carlos Delgado back on an incentive-laden contract. I’m shying away from this because it’s possible Delgado may be finished and I think Delgado makes more sense as a DH these days. Johnson may be injury-prone, but that dude walks a ton — have you seen his numbers since joining the Marlins? Let me show you: .355/.517/.500. Awesome. Obviously he wouldn’t last 162 games with those numbers, but I think Johnson would go a long way towards shoring up the clubhouse culture and getting on base for the boppers to drive him in.
Millar is here strictly for clubhouse reasons. He’s one of, if not the best, in the game at that. He’s likely finished as a full-time player, but playing in a big media market with the opportunity for a lot of playing time (like I said, Johnson is oft-injured) has to appeal to him. Millar could also fill in the outfield corners.
2B: Luis Castillo, Anderson Hernandez
Yes, the Mets want to move Castillo, but he’s not as much a liability as people think. He won’t win a Gold Glove, but he has an OBP hovering around .400 and can still steal several bases. That’s pretty good. If the club was to move Castillo and his two years with $12 million remaining, it would be for a player with a similar contract. Joel Sherman tossed out Castillo for Detroit’s Nate Robertson or Jeremy Bonderman. I see Castillo having more value, and I see a club looking to pinch pennies blanching at Orlando Hudson’s contract demands.
SS: Jose Reyes
3B: David Wright
CF: Carlos Beltran, Angel Pagan
RF: Jeff Francouer
Not such an obvious decision, but it really seems like the change of scenery has done wonders for Frenchy. With a cannon for an arm and an affable nature to him, Frenchy feels like a fit.
LF: Johnny Damon*
A bit out of left field, I know, but I think the fit is logical. Damon loves the big media market but also is accountable to the media. He helps take the pressure off other players. And come on, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to reunite Damon with Millar. The Yankees want Damon back, but all indications are that they would offer a deal in the $5 million range for one year. If the Mets really want to beat this offer, I wouldn’t hesitate to drop two years on him. It’s an unlikely move, but hey — right now, I’m the one running the ship.
SPs Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey, Oliver Perez, Jon Garland*, Randy Wolf*
I’m bringing in Garland because he’s durable, and after the season the Mets just had, they need someone they know can take the ball every fifth day with no problems. That’s Garland. Randy Wolf has had a fantastic year for the Dodgers and at 33, still has plenty of juice in that arm of his. Both of these players would probably cost less than the combined outlay to John Lackey. I’m not looking for a superstar, I’m looking for good, dependable pitchers the Mets can use. John Maine would head to the bullpen and serve as the top option if/when a starting pitcher is injured.
In relief, I wouldn’t bother bringing in anyone else new. Their bullpen is fine as is. Brian Stokes has busted out, and I like Sean Green and Pat Misch at the backend. K-Rod, of course, is the closer with Pedro Feliciano setting him up. J.J. Putz should be nontendered and (hopefully) resigned to a low base contract with incentives.
All told, I’m bringing in Johnny Damon, Nick Johnson, Jon Garland, Randy Wolf, Kevin Millar and Gregg Zaun. These would all come on one, maybe two-year deals without having to break the bank. At the most, the Mets would match their payroll of 2009, if not see it dip. If there’s too much money being outlaid, I’d scratch Johnny Damon and turn to a cheaper option, perhaps even internally with Pagan or Daniel Murphy.
With this team, I could see them in the mix for the division title until the Phillies pull away mid-summer, then throw themselves right into the Wild Card mix.