Looking ahead to 2010 ….

Just a blog note: This is the 800th post since I started this blog. Thanks to you for reading and your responses. You don’t always agree with me, and in fact, a lot of you don’t, but I always appreciate the give-and-take.

This blog carried me in a lot of ways as I job search and I’m always grateful for the input of my readers. For as long as I am in the area and have access to the Mets, I will continue the blog. Thanks.

Brand New World Awaits.

Brand New World Awaits.

That being said, let’s take a quick look at 2010. In projecting the Mets’ line-up, unfortunately there doesn’t appear to be much difference from the group that played so well this summer.

The Mets have promised trades and free-agent signings that could make it all better, but if history is an indication, there will be more smoke than fire.

Here’s what I see:

CATCHER: Brian Schneider is gone. They would like to add a veteran presence, preferably one with some offensive capabilities. That unknown would platoon with Omir Santos, who played well then faded down the stretch after Josh Thole was added. I’m projecting Thole to start the season in the minor leagues, but he’ll play during the year. There’s a lot of promise there, but he’s learning the position and now to hit on this level.

MURPHY: Showed enough to get chance at first.

MURPHY: Showed enough to get chance at first.

FIRST BASE: The Mets haven’t said they won’t re-sign Carlos Delgado, but those odds are long, especially since he never came back from the disabled list and was reinjured during his rehab. Daniel Murphy, who was force-fed the position, showed improvement over the past two months where they should be comfortable with him in the position until Ike Davis is ready – assuming, of course, Davis does get ready. Adam LaRoche and Aubrey Huff are available on the free-agent market, but neither will lift the franchise to the next level. LaRoche likely will stay with Atlanta.

SECOND BASE: Who would have thought Luis Castillo would hit .302 this year. The Mets believe they might find a taker, but they are dreaming. There are still two years and $12 million on his contract, and just because he stayed healthy for one season doesn’t mean he will in the future. Castillo’s offense was surprising, but his defense regressed. If the Mets can deal him they should, but that’s so unlikely.

THIRD BASE: David Wright has three years and $39 million remaining on his contract. He’s the face of the franchise and here for the duration. There were noticeable flaws in Wright’s game this season, notably dramatic drop in home runs and alarming spike in strikeouts despite hitting over .300. Wright will work with hitting coach Howard Johnson in an attempt to regain his power stroke. And, the power drop wasn’t just Citi Field because he didn’t go deep on the road, either. This is a big offseason concern, and the hope of Wright hitting for more power will shape the Mets’ offseason thinking.

WRIGHT: Needs to regain power stroke.

WRIGHT: Needs to regain power stroke.

SHORTSTOP: A hamstring injury that will require surgery limited Jose Reyes to 36 games in 2009. They expect him back, but nobody is making any promises as to what they believe they’ll get. No doubt, a quality back up should be added, and that means Alex Cora. For the Mets not to have a healthy Reyes, or an ineffective one in 2010, wouldn’t be a reach.

LEFT FIELD: The free agents are enticing. Jason Bay, Matt Holliday, Bobby Abreu, and yes, even Manny Ramirez. A quick rundown: Bay will stay in Boston; Abreu likes the Angels; Holliday’s price tag will scare the Mets; and everything about Ramirez should frighten the Mets. There might be a middle-of-the-board option, but isn’t that the same thing as saying Angel Pagan? I’d like Holliday, but my gut tells me the Mets won’t spend.

CENTER FIELD: There are two years and $37 million left on Carlos Beltran’s contract, one with a no-trade clause. Beltran wants an extension, but his injury history should give the Mets pause on that option. A healthy Beltran should help fill the power void.

RIGHT FIELD: Jeff Francoeur will be a free agent in two years, and if the Mets are smart, they’ll lock him up before then. He played with a grit the team has long been accused of lacking.

STARTING ROTATION: If the Mets changed nothing, and that wouldn’t be a shock, they’ll have this rotation: Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey, Oliver Perez, John Maine and either Jon Niese or Bobby Parnell. All of them have issues. Santana, Perez, Maine and Niese have injury issues; Pelfrey took a step back and Parnell’s confidence could be shot. The free-agent market isn’t deep, with the Angels’ John Lackey the premier choice, but he’ll be pricey and has an injury background.

BULLPEN: Closer Francisco Rodriguez had breakdown signs this year with most every save opportunity an adventure. Nothing was ever easy for him. J.J. Putz can forget about having his $8.6 million option picked up. Parnell could get the set-up role, and if he does he should be left alone. Count on lefty Pedro Feliciano returning. After that, it’s back to square one in rebuilding the pen.

25 thoughts on “Looking ahead to 2010 ….

  1. I am reluctant to lock up Francoeur now. He played very well after we acquired him. But he has three years of underachieving before that.
    I’d go after Abreu to play left field. He has to be the free agent bargain of 2009. He has weak moments in the outfield but is a solid .300 20 hr 90 walks player. He may like Anaheim but he handled New York well when he was a Highlander.

  2. Again, I think the Mets will be much better off shooting for 2011. Keeping that in mind, I would do the following:

    C: Sign Gregg Zaun as another option to platoon with Santos. IMO, Thole is not ready at all to take over and needs a full year of AAA seasoning

    1b: Sign LaRoche to a 2 year deal. If Davis proves to be ready by mid next year, Davis can play the OF for a year or LaRoche can be traded. (Assuming the Mets don’t overpay for him)

    2b: As much as i’d love to see Castillo go, 2b is not too broken that it needs to be fixed this year. Hopefully Castillo will get on base next year like he did this year

    SS: Who knows what you’ll get with Reyes. Let’s hope that he is ok. Cora is NOT the answer as a backup. He was awful offensively, mediocre as a defensive backup, and might cost too much. Anderson Hernandez can do the same job, much cheaper.

    3b: If Wright doesn’t bounce back next year, the franchises foreseeable future is in serious dobut.

    LF: Sign Holliday. He’ll be a cornerstone for the next five years and lets you trade F-Mart (if he still has value)

    CF and RF: Stick with Beltran and Francouer unless you can parlay Frenchy’s nice second half into something better

    SP: Sign Harden to an incentive laden contract based on health. IF healthy, he is conceivably the best starter on the market. Better than Lackey who will command #1 $$$ even though he is a #2 starter. Hope and pray for bounce back years from Ollie and Pelfrey and hope that Maine’s performance at the end of the year is a good sign.

    Pen: See what minor league FA there are, bullpens are a crapshoot anyway. I think with Feliciano, Stokes, K-Rod, and Parnell the pen isn’t really in bad shape. They were the least of the problems this year.

  3. Thanks for the uplifting rundown.

    I am afraid you are right.

    This is the plan of our vaunted GM.

  4. Dan (1): Abreu likes the Angels, making me believe he’ll stay there. Especially if they get to the next round. He’ll won’t be as pricey as Holliday, but he won’t be cheap, either.-JD

  5. Steve (2): You’re right about Holliday. Signing him makes F-Mart expendable, which might not be a bad thing. … Two years in a power funk for Wright would be a setback. … I’m not putting all my eggs in the Castillo basket.-JD

  6. (5) JD: I don’t have any eggs in the Castillo basket. He is one grounder away from getting injured. But, for a team with so many needs, he is way on the bottom of what needs to be fixed.

  7. I agree with Steve, this franchise cannot afford to wait on the next great hope. Get a good player if available and if FMart shows up you have a good problem on your hands for a change.

    I like the Harden deal. Harden can be good and the FA pitcher selection is not good. Waiting and hoping on all our rejects to be better is a bad strategy tho.

    I am not sold on Andy. I liked what Cora did. No one cares what Andy is doing now because the team was battling the Nats for last place. They did give him to us for free after all.

    We need a better bench. The minors will be no help as they are all too far away.

  8. (7) Dave: what did Cora actually do well? His OPS was horrendous and his defense was poor. Not too much value and I don’t count the so called “intagibles,” he has as value.

  9. John – So this is the 800th blog post – Congratulations! It seems like only yesterday……..

  10. 2 Steve
    All good stuff.
    Just need to be careful on LaRoche.
    He has always been a 2nd half player, would Mets fans cut him slack if he got off to his normal slow start.

  11. Steve (6): Castillo is probably a moot point because he’s untradeable and will be here for two more years. You’re right, he’s also fragile. I can see the DL in his future. Hell, it almost happened walking down the dugout steps.-JD

  12. dave (7): They’ll overpay if they want Harden, but hell, they’ll have to overpay for just about any pitcher. … Wishing and hoping never won for anybody. You have to be aggressive.-JD

  13. (10) Scott: Yes, I know about LaRoche’s 2nd half prowess, but i’m looking at him as more of a stopgap measure…hoping that Ike is the real deal (homer in 1st AB of the Arizona Fall League b.t.w. :-) ) I’m sure considering the defense he plays at first, the fans should cut him slack. It can’t be any worse than what we had at first this year. It also let’s Murphy do what he does the best, be a good utility player.

  14. Steve(8)

    All I know is when Cora was hurt we trotted out 3 horrendous players who could not hit or field.

    Cora added stability. He is a backup. This year he stabalized our infield.

    Without him we were a mess.

    I am not wedded to him, but he played hurt and came to play. He made the routine play and you didn’t have to worry about him.

    Why go look for something better when he has shown he can do the job and we have nothing else to worry about in the offseason?

  15. I dont like Harden. He is a 5 inning pitcher even when healthy. Speaking about injury prone pitchers What about Ben Sheets?

  16. (15) We must have watched two different Alex Cora’s then. .657 OBP and poor defense at $2 mil per year does not a wise investment make. The team hardly fell apart because of Hernandez or Valdez, imo.

    (16) Regarding Harden, the contract would have to take in account his injuries. When he is healthy and on, he is one of the best pitchers in baseball and gives the Mets a great 1-2 punch with Santana. 181 K’s in 148 IP in 08 and 171 Ks in 141 IP in 09 gives the Mets a dimension they really don’t have from anyone else but Johan which is a swing and miss guy. He would be a risk, but if the $$$ is right, a very good risk IMO.

  17. Steve(18)

    I think we only traded for Andy after Cora hung it up. Yes, we traded for a player we threw away. Don’t remember when Valdez happened, but they brought up 3 stiffs after Cora was hurt and no one could play.

    They threw balls away, muffed double plays, couldn’t pick the routine play. Oh yeah, they couldn’t hit either.

    When he came back you didn’t have to worry about his position. I am not saying he is a great stick, but he did his 250 or whatever his ba is.

    He is a backup, not a star; but he plays and can play 2b or ss.

    And he did all this with a thumb that needed surgery.

  18. “…but if history is an indication, there will be more smoke than fire.”

    I don’t know John, they’ve signed a number of high profile free agents going back to Pedro and Glavine, through to Francisco Rodriguez last offseason. I’m expecting the same this year.

    Also, I think spending money on free agents makes financial sense for the Mets this off-season. To be completely realistic this year’s plague of injuries is unlikely to reoccur and if most of the guys who were injured this year are healthy next year the Mets will be in contention for a playoff spot. Making the playoffs is worth a lot of money and the Mets figure to be on the cusp even without any significant free agent additions so for them spending some money on a free agent or two makes sound financial sense to me. I just hope that if they do sign free agents one of them is a top line starting pitcher.

  19. No not at all. Being totally realistic the Mets aren’t likely to lead the majors in man-games lost and especially to their best players. Really, truly, its not likely to happen again. I know being cynical can protect against disappointment but the truth is the Mets figure to contend next year.

  20. TMS,

    Well we are 20 games under 500, injuries and all.

    Let us say everyone is healthy – not to say effective, just healthy – is that good for a 20 game swing which makes us maybe a playoff team?

    We have one useful pitcher ( who went under the knife for the second consecutive year ), we have a reliever who was less than what we thought, we have a power shortage and a defense shortage and no bench to speak of.

    Our bench is Pagan\Tatis\Sullivan\Santos\Andy H.

    not really much there. Pagan is nice as he can play multiple OF and can hit some. Sullivan seems to play good D. Tatis plays OF/3b/1b, but for some reason he does not excite me.

    If we had a solid lineup perhaps this bench would be ok.

    But we are chronically injured and so that puts the spotlight on the bench and no one really excites me here.

    My greater point is that we have seen the old add one or two impact players and we are in the hunt for october line for the past 3 years. Each year has been worse than the previous one.

    I am from Missouri and have been burned 3 times by that line of reasoning.

    No more.

  21. 23 tms I agree with you. This season was abnormality. There is reason to hope. I was elated to see John Maine come back and show what he can do. I dont think we realized how much he was missed. If he is healthy, he is a solid #2 pitcher. Ollie I dont expect much from, but I am sure he not be as bad next year. Just a normal year from those 2 will make up 20 games by itself imo.