JASON BAY, LF
PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: Injured and a bust in the first two years of his four-year, $66-million pact with the Mets, the expectations were mild at best. Even with the fences moved in at Citi Field, nobody really expected him to become the slugger he had been with Boston, when he made the Red Sox forget Manny Ramirez. Bay homered 18 times in his first two seasons with 104 RBI. At least, that’s what the Mets anticipated for a single season. Bay’s injuries limited him to 95 games in 2010 and 123 in 2011, the latter was a concussion sustained when he slammed into the wall at Dodger Stadium. If healthy, the Mets hoped Bay would regain his power stroke and start salvaging his contract. Bay did hit 12 homers and drove in 57 runs in 2011, but had a mediocre .329 on-base percentage and .703 OPS. For his part, Bay was a positive clubhouse presence that always hustled and played defense. But, it is difficult to be a leader when you’re not producing.
2012 SEASON REVIEW: Whatever hopes the Mets might have had in rectifying Bay’s career took a serious hit last summer as another concussion limited him to 70 games. That Mets’ fans cheered Bay’s injury is reprehensible, but boiled down it was a sign of their increasing frustration with him. In many ways, Bay personified the Mets’ second-half offensive collapse. Again, Bay hustled, but only goes so far. He reached base just 41 times (32 hits and 19 walks), but he struck out 58 times, batted .165 with a .237 on-base percentage and .536 OPS. In nobody’s world is that a good season. It got to the point where manager Terry Collins said Bay’s two concussions contributed to him being sluggish at the plate. By the end of the season he was a platoon player.
LOOKING AT 2013: When the Mets signed Bay, they did so despite having a greater need for pitching, both starting and relieving. Above all else, this season represents freedom from Bay’s horrendous contract as they’ll have to pay him $16 million plus a $3 million buyout. After ridding themselves of Bay’s contract and Johan Santana’s ($25 million) after this season, the Mets will have more financial flexibility. There’s no way the Mets can escape the bust label for signing Bay; that became official a long time ago. Since he can’t be traded, Bay’s value to the Mets will be if he stays healthy and produces with power and makes them competitive. Maybe then, might somebody take him of their hands for the second half. But, don’t count on it.
NEXT: Andres Torres
DAVID WRIGHT, 3B
PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: Fortunately, one expectation of David Wright did not come true, and that is the Mets would trade him by the deadline. Wright’s situation wasn’t quite like Jose Reyes’ in that Wright has an option for 2013, but the fear of losing him was there, nonetheless. A six-time All-Star who missed 60 games in 2011 because of injury, it was hoped he would return intact and prove his durability by playing a full season. And, if so, he might regain his power stroke. With the fences brought in, it was figured his homer numbers would increase as it was 2008 when he last hit 30. Since then, Wright has frequently been injured – including a horrific beaning in 2009 when he hit 10 homers with just 72 RBI, but struck out 140 times. Prior to that year, Wright’s strikeout high was 118 in 2008. It was hoped by shortening his stroke and being more selective, Wright would cut his strikeouts and increase his homers, vitally important for a team lacking in power.
2012 SEASON REVIEW: Wright proved his durability and the trade deadline passed with the Mets playing surprisingly well and the third baseman sizzling at .351, but with only 11 homers. Even so, Wright had 59 RBI at the break and a dazzling .441 on-base percentage and 1.004 OPS. Translated, he was on base all the time. However, Wright succumbed to the pressure of trying to carry the Mets, and when they sputtered and went into a second-half freefall, so did his numbers. He hit 10 homers with 34 RBI while batting .258 in the second half. His OPS dropped 254 points to .750. Even with the team in a collective second-half drought, Wright’s overall clutch numbers were good, as he hit .349 with two outs and runners in scoring position and .296 after the seventh inning with the game in a one-run balance either way. Above all else, the second half proved the Mets needed complementary bats to Wright’s and how valuable he is to the team.
LOOKING AT 2013: And, by 2013, I mean this winter because Wright will not negotiate during the season. GM Sandy Alderson has repeatedly said the offseason priorities are to sign Wright and R.A. Dickey and not go into their walk years. Reportedly, there is a $100 million package on the table, but talks have been sluggish. It is doubtful anything was discussed last week. It is a very real possibility that if Wright is unsigned by spring training he might be dealt by July. How much of a home team discount Wright gives the Mets is uncertain, but if he hits the free-agent market he will test it, and like Reyes, receive an offer Alderson can’t match.
NEXT: Jason Bay
RUBEN TEJADA, SS
PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: Perhaps no Met endured as much preseason scrutiny as shortstop Ruben Tejada. Although he played well in 2011, hitting .284 in place of the injured Jose Reyes, this year the job was his and he would be judged as a starter. Tejada played a combined 105 games at second base in 2010 and 2011, but would be the fulltime shortstop last summer as the Mets began a new era. The Mets were satisfied with Tejada’s defense, with some in the organization favoring him over Reyes. However, Reyes is an offensive presence and the Mets were pleasantly surprised at Tejada’s average and .360 on-base percentage in 2011, but didn’t know if his numbers were a fluke or a real indicator of what could be expected. A player with no power, Tejada should help himself by being patient, but strikes out too much and draws too few walks.
2012 SEASON REVIEW: With so much going on with the 2012 Mets, they were fortunate not be saddled with a shortstop hole. It would be foolish to say Tejada completely replaced Reyes, but considering the void left the Mets got more than they could have expected. Tejada committed only 12 errors with a .974 fielding percentage. Tejada has good range, which is especially important considering he needed to shade towards second to compensate for second baseman Daniel Murphy. Tejada hit .289 after hitting over .300 for much of the season. However, his on-base percentage fell 27 points to .333 and his OPS dropped 11 points to .685. Tejada provided little run production (one homer and 25 RBI) and struck out 73 times compared to 27 walks. Tejada hit mostly first or second in the batting order, and was equally effective, hitting .293 and .292, respectively. Like most Mets, Tejada had a dramatic drop-off in the second half. Tejada hit .325 with 30 strikeouts in the first half, but fell to .269 with 43 strikeouts after the break.
LOOKING AT 2013: Tejada gave the Mets enough this summer to where they don’t need to concern themselves with shortstop in 2013. The Mets realize Tejada’s offensive limitations as far as run production. Andres Torres did not show anything as a leadoff hitter and likely won’t be brought back, so expect Tejada to get a shot at that responsibility. Hitting .289 again would be welcomed, but Tejada must increase his on-base percentage by cutting his strikeouts and walking more. Tejada should also attempt to be more aggressive on the bases. Considering the type of player Tejada is, he must also cut down on his frequency of fly balls, which is almost equal to that of balls hit on the ground.
NEXT: David Wright
DANIEL MURPHY, 2B
PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: It was more a matter of hope than it was solid expectations for second baseman Daniel Murphy. After all, this is a player who has had trouble staying healthy, and was frequently in danger of hurting himself in the field. At the plate, the Mets expected little power production, but a high batting average and decent on-base percentage. Defensively, an original third baseman, Murphy failed to make it in left field, has been erratic at second and was moved off of first by Ike Davis. Murphy has been the subject of trade rumors to American League teams where he could have most of his at-bats as a designated hitter. That concept never gained any speed because of his limited power output of only 26 career homers in 469 career games.
2012 SEASON REVIEW: Murphy gave the Mets a career-high 156 games and 612 at-bats, but only hit six homers and had 49 extra-base hits. He also had a dropoff of 29 points in batting average (.320 in 2011 to .291 last year) and drops in on-base percentage (.362 to .332), slugging percentage (.448 to .403) and OPS (.809 to .735). These drops happened despite playing in 45 more games and 41 more hits. Murphy hit throughout the batting order, but when he started at least ten games at a position, had more success hitting second (.309 in 73 games) than anywhere else. Overall, Murphy did not hit to his expectations, but showed a dramatic improvement in the field. Make no mistake, he still has work to do, but Murphy was far from a butcher in the field. Murphy will never have great range, but he made most of the plays and was better at making the double-play pivot.
LOOKING AT 2013: Murphy’s improvement would preclude the need for shopping for a new second baseman. The Mets are trying Jordany Valdespin at second in winter ball, and if he makes it would add speed. There’s always the trade market, but expectations are Murphy will keep his position next season. Because the Mets have so many holes in the bullpen, the outfield and perhaps the back end of the rotation, they will stick with someone who, if he stays healthy, should give them a decent average, but not a lot of run production. It was hoped with the more he plays and gets to know the pitchers he would hit with more power. As he plays more he should become more adept defensively.
NEXT: Ruben Tejada
IKE DAVIS, 1B
PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: After sitting out most of 2011 with what can best be described as a bizarre ankle injury, Ike Davis reported to spring training optimistic, only to be slowed by a virus that sapped his energy and strength. The Mets had always loved Davis’ power potential when he slugged 19 in his first season and finished seventh in the Rookie of the Year voting. He got off to a fast start last season and was on a 30-homer pace when he had seven by the time he was injured in an infield collision with David Wright in Colorado. When Davis first came up, he quickly impressed with his patience and ability to go to the opposite field. But, by the end of that season they were semi-concerned about his strikeouts (138) but more enamored with his potential.
2012 SEASON REVIEW: The 2008 first-round pick was anxious to put his injuries behind him, but got off to a miserable start, going hitless in his first five games and finishing April batting .185 with three homers and seven RBI. Davis was chasing everything out of the strikezone and barely sniffed a walk. The more he struggled the more he tried to pull and pitchers toyed with him. Davis didn’t reach .200 until June 27, and didn’t stay over it for good until July 4. Davis began to find his power groove after the All-Star break, ironically, at a time when the overall Mets’ offense went into a tailspin. Davis finished the season hitting .227 with a .308 on-base percentage and .771 OPS, 32 homers and 90 RBI. One has to wonder had he hit just .250 what that might translate into additional run production. Strikeouts were again a problem with 141 and only 61 walks.
LOOKING AT 2013: Last season ended with Davis the topic of trade rumors, particularly to Boston. The Mets deny it, but Davis, 25, made only $506,690 last season. He’s affordable, young and still loaded with potential, making him one of the few marketable Mets. However, those reasons make him exactly the type of player the Mets should build around, so I don’t see him going anywhere, especially with Lucas Duda – his potential replacement at first – so unproven. There remain a lot of holes in Davis’ offensive game. He’s largely undisciplined and should add at least 50 points to his on-base percentage. By being more selective, he would invariably add to his power numbers. With Davis and Wright hitting back-to-back, the Mets have decent power in the middle of their line-up.
NEXT: Daniel Murphy