As painful as this is to write, we’re down to 50 games left in the Mets’ season. That’s less than 1/3. While there’s always a certain sadness with the end of the baseball season, this year it feels a little different. It’s different because there’s a new energy in Queens, the kind of energy born from hope. We know what it takes to win championships, pitching. To be more specific, starting pitching. The Mets have a bevy of young starting pitchers, some of whom are cutting their teeth in the big leagues, while others are honing the craft at various levels of the farm system. So maybe it’s time to look ahead. We know the Mets are not yet poised to win a championship. However, we also know that they’re not very far away. This will be a critical off season for Sandy Alderson, as he re-shapes the roster to position the Mets for a playoff run. Here are my priorities for the off-season, realizing that there are limits on the number of holes Alderson can realistically fill.
We have reason to believe that Travis d’Arnaud is the catcher for 2014. Who should be his backup? I say Alderson should make every effort to bring John Buck back in that role. I think the organization wants him back. The question is whether Buck, who will be 33, sees himself in the mentor role (and would accept a salary commensurate with that role). The pitchers clearly like Buck, and his power off the bench could serve the team well.
This certainly is a big question mark on the team. I’m going to go against popular opinion, and suggest bringing Ike Davis back. Yes, he’s maddeningly inconsistent. But he is showing signs of life, and remember the word “priorities”. Looking at the rest of the team, I’d rather prioritize elsewhere, and have some confidence that Ike will continue to develop into a more consistent player.
This position is also a question mark, and here’s why. Daniel Murphy is a competent second baseman. But the question is, will he ever be more than that? And does he have more value as a trading chip, knowing that the Mets can slot Eric Young Junior at second base, his natural position? It’s not about “getting rid of” Murphy. It’s about answering the question of what is best for the team. And that may be moving Young to second, despite his outfield defensive prowess, to allow the Mets to populate the outfield with impact bats while maintaining Young’s presence at the top of the lineup.
This is the biggest challenge facing Alderson, as far as I’m concerned. The Mets could, if they had to, make due with the outfield they have. But they cannot expect to contend with Ruben Tejada or Omar Quintanilla at shortstop. After a fast start in AAA, Tejada has cooled significantly. If I were Sandy Alderson, I’d spend the most money and/or players on an upgrade at shortstop. Ideally, the shortstop coming in would be able to bat second (behind Young) and also have some speed. The name Erick Aybar has been mentioned. I’d be happy to listen on that one.
Suddenly, the outfield does not look so bad. Juan Lagares has earned a shot at the centerfield job. However, I would not count on Marlon Byrd in 2014, and if Young were moved to second base, 2 outfielders would be needed. And I think that’s where the Mets are. I’d be happy to keep Byrd as a fourth outfielder, and at his age, he may accept that role. It would be great to have him back.
As I wrote back in May, the Mets bullpen is not weak. In fact, kudos for Sandy Alderson and the job he did. The Mets have a veteran pen, that did not cost the team a ton of money (nor should a bullpen ever cost a lot of money). There is a flip-side though. The bullpen has age in it, and it’s questionable if LaTroy Hawkins and Scott Atchison will return. The good news is that the Mets have some arms who may be able to step in, such as Jeurys Familia. The hope is that only 1, or perhaps 2, bullpen pieces will need to come from outside the organization.
In terms of priority, I’ve settled on shortstop, 2 outfielders, and a bullpen arm or two. That’s 4-5 players from outside the organization, and may be a reasonable request for one off-season. The starting pitchers should be all internal options. Then, there’s the bench. While it’s very difficult to determine who will be on the bench, it’s safe to say the Mets need more than they have. Alderson has shown a knack for picking up players “on the cheap”, and I think he can again work his magic to add a bench piece or two.
I’d like to get your top-line reaction to this piece. This wasn’t meant to be a deep statistical analysis of who fits where. Rather, it was meant to get the thought process started, to begin the job the we do as fans, play amateur General Manager. Go ahead and take a stab at it in the comments section!