The Mets’ 2012 season is ongoing, but it isn’t too early to draw conclusions regarding who should have a spot on the team entering 2013 – and whose Mets career should end after the last out of the last game of the season is recorded. The following is only taking into account players who have spent the majority of the season on the big league club, which is why Zack Wheeler and other Minor Leaguers aren’t on the list. Consider this a blueprint for 2013:
Who needs to go?
Jason Bay, LF – Clearly no longer a viable Major Leaguer, the Mets will likely play Bay every day during Spring Training next year in a last ditch effort to prevent their $66 million investment from becoming a complete waste . Unless something miraculous happens, he’ll continue to be unable to lay off pitches out of the zone, catch up to fastballs, or make solid contact. At that point, he should be cut.
Chris Young, SP – Young deserves credit for coming back extraordinarily quickly from the same surgery Johan Santana had. His results, though, have been mediocre – a 4.73 ERA and .270 BAA coming into his last start in Cincinnati. Beyond that, he’s a pitcher who has had injury woes throughout his career, and there’s no reason to bring him back for 2013 – not when the likely rotation already includes the fragile Johan Santana.
-Ramon Ramirez, RP - Seen as an above average bullpen piece when he was acquired along with Andres Torres from San Francisco for Angel Pagan, Ramirez has allowed an alarming number of base runners –resulting in his 1.51 WHIP, while failing to display the plus arsenal he had in San Francisco. A free agent after the season, the Mets should let Ramirez walk.
-Andres Torres, OF – Torres has picked up his offense a bit lately to make his overall numbers respectable. However, his defense in Center Field has been only average, and he’s been hurt on and off all year. Arbitration eligible after 2012, and turning 36 this winter, the Mets should decline to offer arbitration to Torres (who made $2.7 million this year) and look elsewhere for an answer in Center Field.
Who are the keepers? Allow me to preface this with the following: The players below are ones I think can help the Mets compete in 2013 and beyond, eventually contributing to their next legitimate contender. However, no player should ever be deemed “untouchable.” For example, if the Mariners call and offer Felix Hernandez to the Mets for R.A. Dickey and prospects, you make the deal (that obviously won’t happen; it’s simply an extreme example). Now, in no particular order, the keepers for 2013 (and why they should stay):
-David Wright, 3B – The Mets’ main focus going into the offseason should be locking Wright up long- term, taking into account his refusal to negotiate in season. Wright will turn 30 in December, but is a piece the Mets should be looking to build around – as an offensive force on the field, a leader in the clubhouse, and the face of the franchise.
-Ruben Tejada, SS – Only 22 years old, Tejada has emerged as more than a capable replacement for Jose Reyes. He’s played tremendous defense at short, while hitting .321 with a .366 OBP. He’s shown patience at the plate, a knack for making contact, and poise beyond his years.
-Daniel Murhpy 2B, 1B, 3B – Seen as a punch-line coming into the year, Murphy has played adequate defense at 2nd base. He’s always been able to hit (batting close to .300 and on pace for 46 doubles this year in just over 400 AB’s). In addition to 2nd base, Murphy can also fill in at 1st base and 3rd base in the event those slots need to be filled either short-term or long-term.
-Ike Davis, 1B – It’s way too early to give up on Ike Davis. After missing close to a year with an ankle injury, and dealing with a valley fever scare during Spring Training this year, Davis has been awful at times this season. Even during an oftentimes atrocious campaign, Davis is still on pace to hit 28 HR’s and drive in 88 runs. Couple that with solid defense at 1st base, and it makes zero sense to cut bait with Ike at this point.
-Jordany Valdespin, 2B/OF – Valdespin is extremely raw, but has shown that he has the tools to be a versatile player. With a flair for the dramatic, the ability to man 2nd base (not shortstop ever again), and play the outfield, Valdespin has earned the right for a longer look in 2013. He could turn into a starting player, a productive utility guy, or a complete bust. But the Mets should keep him around long enough to find out.
-Mike Baxter, OF – Being a hometown kid doesn’t hurt, nor does the fact that Baxter has hit .307 with a .426 OBP in limited duty. At worst, he should be a quality 4th outfielder type/lefty bat off the bench. Or perhaps he continues to blossom and becomes a platoon partner with whoever else mans the outfield at Citi Field in 2013.
-R.A. Dickey, RHP – What Wright is to the offense, Dickey is to the starting rotation. As should be the case with Wright, the Mets should look to extend Dickey long-term this offseason. He’ll be 38 coming into 2013, but knuckleball pitchers are usually effective into their mid-40’s. Granted, Dickey’s harder knuckleball may put a little extra stress on his arm, but there’s no reason to think his productivity will drop dramatically over the next few seasons.
-Jonathon Niese, LHP – Having bought out his arbitration years and locked him up through 2016, keeping Niese is a no-brainer for the Mets. His peripherals and ERA/WHIP seem to be aligning this season, as he currently has a 3.67 ERA and 1.18 WHIP.
-Dillon Gee, RHP – With a 4.10 ERA and 1.25 WHIP at the time it was revealed he had a blood clot that would result in (likely) season ending surgery, Gee showed that he was at the very least a capable back end of the rotation starter. He should be penciled into the rotation to begin 2013. In a perfect World (where every starting pitcher is healthy and Zack Wheeler is promoted), Gee could slide to the bullpen or be packaged in a trade during the season (which would be risky considering the health of Johan Santana and the Mets’ lack of starting pitching depth).
-Matt Harvey, RHP – The starting pitcher with the best arsenal the Mets have drafted, developed, and seen debut for the team since Dwight Gooden (not comparing to Dwight, but it’s a fact), Harvey has displayed electric stuff, mound presence, and poise since arriving in the Majors a few weeks ago.
-Josh Edgin, LHP – After nearly coming out of nowhere to break camp with the Mets, Edgin was called up in July and has struck out 22 in only 14 IP. His recent poor outing against the Braves skewed his ERA, but a young left handed reliever who can reach the mid 90’s with his fastball is someone the Mets need around.
-Bobby Parnell, RHP – He’s shown that he likely doesn’t have the makeup or enough movement on his fastball to be a closer, but with the bullpen needing close to a complete overhaul, Parnell is someone who should be kept around. He hasn’t dominated, but he has a 3.11 ERA, and has struck out a batter per inning. The Mets should be looking for five new arms for the pen, and Parnell isn’t perfect. But he does have an electric arm…and the chances of finding five guys who can do a better job than Parnell are extremely slim.
…To recap, that’s four players who should be shown the door after the season, and 12 players who should be kept. That leaves the potential for 13 new players coming into 2013. However, Johan Santana’s contract is immovable; Frank Francisco will likely be here, Josh Thole will probably stay, and so on. Those aren’t players the Mets should necessarily want to keep going into 2013, but certain circumstances will likely make their presence on the team inevitable.
Aside from R.A. Dickey and David Wright (who turns 30 in December), all of the players I feel the Mets should keep are in their 20’s and have low price tags. Meaning, they should be able to help well beyond 2013, while at the same time allowing the Mets to take on salary either via trade or free agency to fill other holes.
The front office needs to be creative in order to rebuild a bullpen that has been the worst in the Majors this season, and in order to address each starting outfield spot (whether they sign a Cody Ross type, make a trade/series of trades, promote from within, or what have you).
I’m not here to predict who should fill the slots I’ve left open, just that they shouldn’t necessarily be filled by someone who is currently on the active roster. So, Sandy, get to work.