Jan 27

Smooth sailing not guaranteed for 2012

The conventional thinking is this is a throwaway season with the Mets not being able to compete until 2012 after the team clears its books of Oliver Perez, Carlos Beltran, Luis Castillo and possibly Francisco Rodriguez.

However, that’s not a given.

While the Mets should have more financial flexibility next winter, they’ll have a wide range of holes to fill including an outfielder to replace Beltran, at least two starting pitchers and possibly a closer if they don’t bring back Rodriguez.

There’s also the possibility of needing a second baseman and maybe a catcher if Josh Thole doesn’t pan out.

Take away those four contracts and the Mets will have $54 million to play with, but that’s only for one year. That’s probably enough to fill four spots, but will the Mets make four long-term signings?

That doesn’t appear to be Sandy Alderson’s way of doing things.

Another potential hole could be shortstop if Jose Reyes walks after the season.

The bottom line is the Mets could still have a lot of work to do after this season, and possibly next year as well.

Dec 07

Immediate forecast for change not looking good.

The Mets are interested in Freddy Garcia, Chris Young and Jeff Francis, but Sandy Alderson said the Mets will only sign one middle-tier starter. That means the fifth starter will either be Dillon Gee, Oliver Perez, Pat Misch or maybe another sterling arm from the system.

Young and Francis, reportedly, are asking for one year, $5-million deals loaded with incentives, which Alderson described as “high.’’ Fact is, as a going rate, that’s a pretty decent price for mediocrity, but it might be too much of a reach since both are coming off shoulder injuries.

The Mets aren’t going to get catcher Russell Martin, which was interesting for a moment. Asking price of $5 million is too high. He’ll end up with Boston or the Yankees. They’ll go really low rent for Josh Thole’s back-up.

At least Alderson hasn’t promised us trades and signings he knows he can’t deliver. Alderson said this is going to take time and all indications are he’s not going to blink and make a panic move that will bite the Mets for years to come.

The only way the Mets can make substantial improvements for 2011 by addition is to eat the Perez and Castillo contracts and add payroll. That won’t happen.

Nov 01

What exactly is Sandy Alderson’s definition of competitive?

Sandy Alderson expects the Mets to be competitive next season, but did not define that to mean they’ll be in the playoff hunt. He also said he doesn’t foresee the Mets being big players in the free-agent market.

There’s nothing down below that is major league ready to drastically improve the team, and it’s highly unlikely they’ll deal any of their three biggest major league commodities – David Wright, Jose Reyes or Mike Pelfrey.

Translated: Alderson believes the Mets can be competitive with pretty much the same team they had this season if their injured players can return productive and sound, which is what Omar Minaya said last winter. The Mets won 79 games this year, two below .500, which is merely average. They would figure to improve with full and healthy seasons from Jason Bay, Carlos Beltran and Reyes, but there are no guarantees.

But, how much better? Ten games? That would be 89, but the NL wild card team, Atlanta, won 91 games. So, winning ten more falls short, and that’s even before considering their other issues.

The first, and most important, is the expected absence of Johan Santana. Some projections have him missing most, if not all of the season. Assuming no Santana, the Mets will need two other starters to fill out their rotation.

If the Mets go the same route as they did last winter and not add an arm in the free agent market, we’ll be looking at a front end of the the rotation with Pelfrey, Jon Niese and RA Dickey, with Dillon Gee and Pat Misch among those competing in the back end.

Other issues will be hoping for the continued development of Ike Davis, Josh Thole and Angel Pagan.

Alderson has already told us he won’t have a lot of payroll flexibility this winter, but even if he were to shed the Mets of Oliver Perez or Luis Castillo, that doesn’t mean he’ll find an extra $18 million to play with for 2011.

So far, the first impression has been a good one of Alderson, and part of that has been him being forthcoming about the obstacles.

We’re all assuming the Mets will make major moves for the 2012 season. That doesn’t mean they can’t take a step up next season. How big remains to be seen.

Oct 15

Upgrading the minor league system

Whomever is the next Mets’ general manager, I hope he puts a premium on upgrading the minor league system. Although not as bare as in previous seasons, the minor league talent is a concern, especially when placed in comparison to the final four teams in the League Championship Series.

While each had added talent through trades and free agency, a thread of the four finalists is having a strong core in the minor leagues. They wouldn’t be here without the talent that rose through the system. Here’s hoping the new GM wants to upgrade the scouting and development, as those or the keys for long term success.

The Mets benefitted from their minor league system this year with Jon Niese, Ike Davis and Josh Thole, and have young talent looming below like Jenrry Mejia.

In the case with the Mets, with so much payroll earmarked to veterans tied to bulky and expensive payroll, its a sense of relief to have guys like Davis and Thole, productive players on the cheap.

The game today is still heavy with free agency, but the long term successful franchises build with a homegrown core, and the Mets should be no exception. With 2011 perhaps a write-off season as they clear money off the books, it should provide an opportunity for future growth from the minor league system.

Oct 03

Mets season ends with disappointment, hope for future

Game #162 vs. Nationals

We’re now done to the final innings, the final pitches of a disappointing season, yet one that ends with some glimmer of hope.

Jerry Manuel spoke of regrets this morning in his final pre-game press conference. He’s been around, he hears the whispers that have become shouts. There will be changes, and therein lies the hope. Maybe the changes will be for the better.

Manuel’s regrets are forcing Jose Reyes in the third slot and rushing players, notably Reyes and Carlos Beltran from injury. I am sure there are other thoughts that will creep into his consciousness in the black of the night this winter.

It’s always that way in every baseball season for every team but one. This year the Mets haven’t been the one as they haven’t been since 1986. There was trepidation for the Mets coming out of spring training, concerns, worries and holes, but during the season there was a turnaround and a flash of hope.

But, the worries and holes resurfaced, along with injuries and poor play and the season faded and then spun out of control and the dreams died.

The Mets will stay home this fall, watching and wondering what might have been. There also will be a time this winter when the thoughts turn to David Wright staring down that pitcher yesterday and saying “enough is enough,” with the high-and-tight fastballs. There will also be thoughts of Mike Pelfrey taking a step forward, of Angel Pagan, or Josh Thole, or RA Dickey and of Ike Davis.

There were things down the stretch that said the situation is not hopeless, that there is reason for hope and perhaps soon a season won’t end in regret.

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