With the New York Mets a month away from spring training in Port St. Lucie, now is a good time to look at the most pressing issues manager Terry Collins and general manager Sandy Alderson must address before Opening Day.
WHO WILL BE THE FIFTH STARTER?
As of now it is Jenrry Mejia, who is coming off surgery. The Mets are looking, but their first hope is Mejia is healthy enough to open the season.
As teams select their rosters there will undoubtedly be veteran arms that are waived and become available.
Of course, there are several free agents on the market, but Alderson is looking for somebody to sign to a minor league contract, which would preclude Bronson Arroyo. Alderson expressed interest in Daisuke Matsuzaka after the season, but he wants two years.
Freddy Garcia, 37, has been discussed.
WHO IS ON FIRST?
This is a difficult time of year to make a trade as most teams are gearing up for spring training. There are some, like Milwaukee, that need a first baseman, but Alderson said there’s been no movement.
So, it looks as if Ike Davis and Lucas Duda will compete for the first base job. As they are essentially the same type of player, don’t expect them to keep both. If Davis has a hot spring more teams will show interest. Then again, if that happens the Mets might be prone to keeping him.
Should that happen, Duda could be optioned to Triple A if the Mets can’t trade him. Whatever happens, the Mets must be quick to pull the trigger on Davis if he’s not hitting. They can’t afford another year of distractions.
WHO LEADS OFF?
Their best leadoff hitter is Eric Young, but the trouble is if they keep outfielder Juan Lagares, that puts the speedy Young on the bench.
The answer to this question will also determine the composition of the outfield. If it is Lagares, he could play center with Chris Young and Curtis Granderson on the corners.
It would be counterproductive to have Lagares on the bench – he needs at-bats – so if he doesn’t start he season I think he should be sent to the minors. In that case, Eric Young would play left, Granderson center and Chris Young in right.
Young would lead off whenever he plays. If Lagares sticks, don’t expect him to lead off as he strikes out too much.
Collins left open the possibilities of Daniel Murphy or Ruben Tejada leading off.
IS BOBBY PARNELL HEALTHY?
After undergoing neck surgery, Parnell has been given clearance to resume baseball activities. However, this does not mean he will be ready to start the season. If that’s the case, Vic Black would close, but that would mean the Mets must add at least one more reliever. Signing Garcia could give them both starting and bullpen depth.
The Mets currently have four relievers outside of Black and Parnell they are counting on: Scott Rice, Gonzalez Germen, Josh Edgin and Jeurys Familia. Recently signed Ryan Reid could stick and Carlos Torres is also in the mix.
WILL ANY OF THE YOUNG ARMS STICK?
The Mets anticipate seeing Jacob deGrom, Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard this summer, but not before June. That is why Alderson is looking to sign veteran to a minor league contract, which would make that pitcher easily disposable.
DOES WILMER FLORES HAVE A POSITION?
It would be waste of everybody’s time if the Mets concentrate Flores’ time at a position they have no intention of him playing at, such as third base.
Collins said Flores have improved his speed working out at the fitness camp and suggested during the Winter Meetings he might play some shortstop. That would be terrific as his bat is potentially far superior to Tejada’s. Should Flores show promise at shortstop, but doesn’t stick, he should be sent to the minors to concentrate at that position.
HOW GOOD IS TRAVIS d’ARNAUD?
He showed little in his limited window of opportunity last summer, especially at the plate. It is imperative d’Arnaud show something offensively this spring, even though results aren’t often emphasized.
His improvement must also include gaining a familiarity with the staff, although some pitchers, such as Dillon Gee, said they are comfortable working with d’Arnaud.
Collins said he has confidence in Anthony Recker as a back-up, but the Mets signed veteran Taylor Teagarden. The former Oriole, 30, has an out clause in his contract he can exercise if he’s not promoted by June 15.
HAS RUBEN TEJADA LEARNED ANYTHING?
The Mets began the offseason with shortstop a priority, but with the thinness of the market, and cost of the few – see Stephen Drew – they plan to stick with Tejada as they are encouraged by the effort he put in attending a voluntary fitness camp in Michigan.
Last year, Tejada first went on the DL, then options to Triple A Las Vegas, because the Mets weren’t happy with his production and attitude.
Collins said this winter Tejada has to learn a major league job is rare and fleeting. The manager said he’s happy with what he’s heard so far.
WHO IS ON THE BENCH?
I’ve already sent down Flores and Lagares for more work, but that probably won’t happen as the Mets’ bench is very thin. Flores could play some first base, but there is also Josh Satin who would be available.
If the Mets opt to send down Lagares, they would likely keep Matt den Dekker.
The back-up catcher will be either Recker or Teagarden, as I don’t see them keeping both.
While I am hopeful Flores can learn to play shortstop, I’m not overly optimistic and see Wilfredo Tovar sticking as Tejada’s back-up.
CAN COLLINS FIND A SET LINE-UP?
Last season the Mets had almost as many line-ups as they played games. A lot of that was because of injuries and/or a lack of production.
As of now, Collins doesn’t know his order because a decision hasn’t been made on Lagares and it is uncertain Davis will be on the team.
The leadoff position is wide open if Eric Young isn’t a starter. The job could go to Murphy or Tejada. Should Murphy lead off, I’d go with Tejada hitting second because Lagares doesn’t handle the bat will and has a propensity for striking out.
There are several assumptions, such as Murphy, David Wright and Granderson hitting 2-3-4.
Likely Davis or Duda would hit fifth. Collins could go with Chris Young to separate the lefty hitters, thereby dropping Davis or Duda to sixth.
Batting 7-8-9 would be d’Arnaud, Tejada and the pitcher.