The 2013 season is not going well, as we know. The Mets are 10 games below .500 before Memorial Day, and the fan base is getting antsy. The problem isn’t the record as much as it is the quality of play. Outside of Matt Harvey, the starting pitching has been spotty. The bullpen has been equally inconsistent, and the offense has been largely non-existent. The new mantra is that better times are coming. When speaking with Mike Francesa, Sandy Alderson proclaims that “we’re not that far away.” Today with Boomer and Carton, when asked if it was tough being around the team day in and day out, Josh Lewin said, “it’s not there now (good baseball), but it’s coming.” Is it?
I really want to believe that in the next year or two, the Mets will be competitive. I’d like to believe that they’ll get there on the strength of a rotation of Matt Harvey, Jonathon Niese, Zack Wheeler, Rafael Montero, and Noah Syndergaard. The staff will be led by young Travis d’Arnaud, and David Wright will finally enjoy the success he deserves. But just how realistic is this vision?
The Mets have many needs to fill before they’re competitive. The list of needs seems to be growing, not shrinking. During the broadcast on May 21st, Sandy Alderson noted that members of what he had hoped would be the “core” are regressing. One would have to assume that he’s referring to Ike Davis, Ruben Tejada, Lucas Duda, and perhaps Niese. Let’s assume that the Mets are set at catcher (d’Arnaud/Buck), second base (Murphy), third base (Wright), the rotation as described above, and closer (Parnell). Assuming 2 other internal bullpen members are part of the future (perhaps Familia/Edgin) as is one member of the bench (perhaps Baxter), that leaves 11 open roster spots. How could these be filled?
Internal options may be limited. Matt den Dekker, Cory Vaughn, Juan Lagares, and Cesar Puello represent outfield candidates. Wilmer Flores may be an infield prospect. If two of these fill two of the roster spots, that leaves nine spots. Three of the six bullpen spots may be filled internally. To address the remaining needs, Sandy Alderson could turn to the free agent market. Current estimates are that Alderson may have about $40 million to spend over this winter, and he’ll likely look to fill outfield spots via free agency. To secure the services of two quality, not super star outfielders, Alderson may have to spend at least half of the $40 million. That’s predicated on the availability of quality outfielders on the market. The name of Shin-Soo Choo has been thrown around as a candidate. But will the Reds let him walk? Will they make a qualifying offer to Choo, costing the Mets a draft pick if they sign him? Would the Mets be willing to do that? Choo, and Jacoby Ellsbury, are Scott Boras clients, and that’s definitely a factor. Other options include Carlos Beltran, though it’s doubtful Alderson would consider bringing Beltran back, and Curtis Granderson, who may be out of the Mets’ budget (if he’s even available).
Another way to improve the roster is through trades. The Mets’ most desirable asset is their pitching. However, while the Mets have some potential star pitching (that they’re counting on), there may not be much left to trade once their own needs are filled (maybe Dillon Gee or Jeremy Hefner). This given, it’s doubtful that they could land quality position players for the type of talent that they may have to trade. So, with a relatively small amount of money (if half is spent on outfielders), and a finite number of trading chips, Sandy Alderson may have to fill upward of 7 roster spots. That’s not going to be easy.
The point is that the new narrative is that once we’re through the “transition year” (what is that exactly?), things will improve. I think it’s fair for us to ask “how”. This team is not one, three, or five players away from contention. The number is likely in double digits. The organization has a plan, so we’re told. They’re going to need one, because they’re not tweaking the roster, they’re closer to starting over.