Pitchers and catchers report today in Port St. Lucie, although dozens of Mets are already in camp, which is the first encouraging sign of spring training.
As with most teams, the Mets have an array of issues and questions they must address over the next six weeks if they have hope of being competitive this season.
It begins with health and pitching, which for the Mets seem intertwined every spring. A competitive season needs a sound Johan Santana and Dillon Gee, with the Mets ideally getting 200 innings from each.
Gee is coming off surgery to remove a blood clot in his arm. He’s shown flashes, but hasn’t been projected any higher than a fourth starter. Then again, Gee has never pitched a complete season where he’s gotten over 30 starts. Obviously, if he can do that and approach 200 innings it would take strain from a makeshift bullpen.
As for Santana, this is his walk year. If he remains healthy and productive, the Mets have a chance to approach .500. However, regardless of how well he pitches the Mets will not pick up his option for 2014. Trading Santana is wishful thinking, but should they get lucky the Mets would have to assume a portion of Santana’s contract.
Complete and healthy seasons from Santana and Gee, plus the continued development of Matt Harvey will only begin to make up for the loss of R.A. Dickey, assuming, of course, he doesn’t fall back to his pre-Cy Young performance. Dickey is not the second coming of Tom Seaver, and last year was his first as a dominant pitcher. Still, it’s 20 fewer wins from the rotation.
Figuring the Mets break camp with their rotation intact, the next issue is their makeshift bullpen.
GM Sandy Alderson backtracked and Frank Francisco is the closer going in, but that’s written in pencil as he’s coming off elbow surgery. This means spring training is for the Mets to determine Francisco’s health or come up with another closer, probably Bobby Parnell or recently-signed Brandon Lyon.
The next six weeks should determine what minor league free agents Scott Atchison and Pedro Feliciano can offer. The Mets burned out Feliciano when they had him, and now they want to see if he has anything left.
The Mets also have Josh Edgin, Robert Carson (both lefties), Jeurys Familia and Elvin Ramirez to choose from. They should break camp with six relievers.
The outfield is as much in a state of flux as the bullpen, and regardless of what occurs over the next six weeks, both are likely to have a revolving door.
As of now, from left to right, the Mets are thinking of Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Mike Baxter. Collin Gowgill is expected to platoon in both center and right field.
Kind of gets your heart racing, doesn’t it?
The Mets, if they receive a favorable ruling from an arbitrator on their compensation pick, could still make a run at free-agent center fielder Michael Bourn.
There are several other questions, such as the durability of catcher Travis d’Arnaud and development of Zack Wheeler. Both are expected to join the team later in the season. Barring an injury, neither will see Citi Field before May.
We also don’t know where Jenrry Mejia fits. He’ll also start the season in the minor leagues. The plan for now is for him to work as a starter.