The Mets have as many issues as a year of Sports Illustrated. They also have a general manager, Omar Minaya, poised for another four years to answer them. Here’s what I see as the most pertinent issues facing the Mets.
1. JERRY MANUEL: Will Minaya bring back the manager who took over a floundering team and guided them into contention until the final day? And with him, his coaching staff? The Mets were fading under Willie Randolph when Manuel replaced him in June. With pretty much the same talent, the Mets turned it around. MY OPINION: Manuel should be brought back. This team worked hard for him and hustled. Talent issues beyond his control is why they failed.
2. CARLOS DELGADO: The struggling first baseman transformed into the slugging first baseman shortly after Manuel took over. Coincidence? Delgado says no and is annoyed with the suggestion. But, his numbers were impressive enough to merit MVP consideration. The Mets could pick up his option for $16 million or offer a $4 million buyout. Was Delgado’s second half a fluke? That’s a tough one. MY OPINION: If the Mets believe they are a contender and make some early moves to fix the pen, then Delgado should be brought back. It would be one less hassle. Should they go this route, there should not be an extension. Make him earn it. HOWEVER, if the Mets remain stagnant and believe they are in a rebuilding mode, then give him the buyout and go young. In this case, I would send Daniel Murphy to the Arizona Fall League for instruction at first. Nick Evans, too.
3. SECOND BASE: Ramon Martinez was a spark the final week of the season, but in the end, he’s still a retread player. Damion Easley is a role player I want back. Luis Castillo is not the answer. MY OPINION: Castillo can’t play here. I would try to trade him with the understanding of eating most of his salary. If they can’t do that then dump him and eat the whole thing. If this is a platoon position next year, so be it.
4. LEFT FIELD: Moises Alou can’t go in a time machine. The Mets finished the season platooning Daniel Murphy, Nick Evans and Fernando Tatis, with Endy Chavez coming in late for defense. I can see them doing that again, but acquiring a full time outfielder would be better. MY OPINION: Whatever they do, it should not be Manny Ramirez. I think they should look for a full time outfielder, but don’t overpay because they have more pressing issues.
5. STARTING PITCHING: They have two spots that are in question, Pedro Martinez and Oliver Perez. Martinez was never completely healthy and was lost with the death of this father. His fastball faded and he proved to be a five-inning guy. Half of Perez’s 34 starts were no-decisions and he finished at 10-8, the numbers for a fifth starter. MY OPINION: Perez won’t come at a fifth starter’s salary. With agent Scott Boras, he’ll demand a lot. If the Mets want him, they should make their best offer during their negotiating window and sign him before CC Sabathia sets the market. If Boras says no, then fine and move on. I don’t see Perez ever becoming a No. 1. As far as Martinez, he wants to pitch and I’d bring him back as a fifth starter.
6. BULLPEN: With the exception of Joe Smith, I can see a complete housecleaning. Aaron Heilman and Scott Schoeneweis are under contract, but so what? Twenty-nine blown saves should mean everybody is vulnerable. MY OPINION: Minaya won’t bring back seven new arms. I’d look at Brian Fuentes before Francisco Rodriguez as the closer because of economics (they are already paying Billy Wagner $11 million not to close next year). The bridge is essential. I’d give Eddie Kunz and Bobby Parnell a shot in spring training to close. Winter ball might not be a bad idea, either. Brian Stokes, Smith, Luis Ayala and Pedro Feliciano I can see coming back. They’ve listened to trade offers for Heilman before. Now is the time to do it, because he’s gone once he’s a free agent. It’s one thing to think overhaul, but it’s another to actually do it. They have to realistic in that the entire pen can’t be replaced.
This will be the offseason Minaya earns his money.