Ten Offseason Questions For the New York Mets
Well, that’s it. After 162 games, the Mets finish with a record 77-85, thanks to a complete game shutout by Miguel Batista and a two run homer from Mike Baxter. While eight teams will now prepare for the postseason, the Amazins will officially start planning for 2012. Despite the unlikelihood of making a big splash in free agency, there figure to be some changes before the first pitch of 2012 is thrown. Many of these issues will be examined in separate articles by Rising Apple throughout the offseason, but here are ten questions the Mets will seek to answer this offseason.
1. Will the Mets re-sign Jose Reyes?
The answer to this question will probably impact every other decision Sandy Alderson and company will make this offseason. The National League batting champion hit .337/.384/.493 with seven homers and 39 steals this season and was the hottest player in baseball during the first half of the year. Then his fragility came into question following two stints on the disabled list. In an ideal world, the Mets would probably keep their star shortstop for something like five years and $100 million guaranteed with options for later years, but whether that’s enough to keep Reyes has yet to be determined. It could become very cold very quickly in Queens if Reyes signs elsewhere.
2. What to do with arbitration eligible players?
According to MLB Trade Rumors, the Mets have five arbitration eligible players next season. Mike Pelfrey and Angel Pagan represent the two largest cases, with Pelfrey figuring to earn somewhere between $5-6 million and Pagan somewhere in the $4-5 million range. According to Adam Rubin, it seems like the Mets will hold onto Pelfrey and give Pagan the boot, either through a trade or simply non-tendering him. Really, the situation should be reversed, since Pelfrey can’t seem to find any consistency and Pagan played below his talent level this year. With minor leaguer Kirk Nieuwenhuis rehabbing from shoulder surgery, there isn’t a real internal option to play center, so Alderson will likely look for a cheap free agent to fill the void. Ronny Paulino and Manny Acosta will both probably stick around, given they are inexpensive, with Taylor Buccholz, who missed most of the season battling depression and a shoulder injury, could be a wild card (if he is fit to play, it makes sense to keep him since he was solid out of the pen).
3. Is this the Jason Bay we are stuck with?
Since coming to the Mets, Jason Bay has not produced. Over his 910 plate appearances, Bay is hitting just .251/.337/.386 with 18 homers (he hit 12 this year, but his OBP was lower than in 2010). He started off the year strong from a defensive standpoint, but wound up with a UZR of -5.6 and -1 defensive run saved. To this point, he’s been a bust, and frustrated fans by seeming to hit every once in awhile. He’s owed a lot of money and will stick around next year, but another poor performance in 2012 could lead to his release.
4. Is it time to think about extending Jon Niese?
This question will probably never cross the mind of the front office this offseason, but it’s something I am thinking about. Niese’s season ended early due to injury, but his numbers were solid. In 157.1 innings, the southpaw pitched to a 4.40 ERA (3.28 xFIP, 3.27 SIERA), 1.411 WHIP, 7.9 K/9 and 3.14 K/BB. Young, talented lefties are always a great thing to have, especially in a Mets rotation that looks to be dominated by righties in the future (Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia are all right-handed). Niese will be 25 entering next season and arbitration eligible next offseason, so not extending him makes sense. However, given his level of success at a young age and his improvement from 2010 to 2011, maybe the Mets should try to lock him up for cheap and take a risk?
5. Who is going to close?
Apparently, the answer to this question is not someone who is on the roster. After K-Rod left, nobody seemed to want to step up and take control of the ninth inning. Bobby Parnell might still have a shot if his knuckle curve develops and he has a great spring training, but the Mets will probably look outside the organization for someone not too pricey (my guess is a one year deal worth in the neighborhood of $5 million).
6. Should the Mets re-sign Chris Capuano?
The Mets initially inked Capuano to a one year, incentive-laden contract, and many of those incentives were realized, earning the southpaw just under $4 million. In his first full season since 2007, Capuano made 31 starts with two relief appearances, going 11-12 with a 4.55 ERA (3.67 xFIP, 3.45 SIERA), 1.349 WHIP, 8.1 K/9 and 3.17 K/BB. His peripherals indicate Capuano was better than his win-loss record and ERA, but at the age of 33, he could be looking for a two or three year deal, and his problems pitching past the fifth inning were well documented. If Alderson hands out a multi-year contract, Capuano could always start next year and then transition into a relief role when pitching prospects join the big league club.
7. Who will play second base, redux?
The Mets had this question last offseason as well, and then essentially throughout the season due to injuries. Justin Turner is more of a bench player, leaving the competition between Daniel Murphy and Ruben Tejada. Murph provides better offense, but needs more work defensively, while Tejada is solid with the glove but lacks power (although he started hitting more following his August recall). Of course, if Reyes leaves, Tejada will be short and Murphy will likely be handed the second base job. Prospect Reese Havens, one of my favorites despite his injuries, is also looming and could begin the year at triple-A.
8. What is the catching situation?
There wasn’t a lot of production from the catcher position this season, and in general, there isn’t a lot of depth at that position in the farm system. Josh Thole hit .268/.345/.344 with three homers in 386 plate appearances, which isn’t terrible for a catcher, but his defense was not up to snuff. Besides leading the league in passed balls (yes, he caught R.A. Dickey a lot, but he still allowed others), he threw out just 17 of 65 base-stealers while having difficulty blocking balls in the dirt. His counterpart, Paulino, hit .268/.312/.351 with two homers in 248 plate appearances while throwing out just 12 of 47 base-stealers. Thole offers more upside should be the Opening Day catcher next season, and while the Mets can afford Paulino, it wouldn’t surprise me if they let him walk and go with Mike Nickeas as a backup, or search for a cheap, veteran backup.
9. What is David Wright‘s future?
A few years ago, it seemed unfathomable that anyone would be asking about Wright’s future, but after his injury this season and his lack of “superstar” performances as of late, his name has been bandied about in trade rumors. The third baseman had a rough year overall and missed time due to the injury, but hit .272/.349/.440 with eight long balls after returning from the disabled list. With no real long-term option at third base internally (Murphy doesn’t count), the Mets would need to get a significant return for Wright in order to consider dealing him. Changing the dimensions at Citi Field should help Wright’s power (I can think of at least five doubles that would be homers in other ballparks), and he’s just a year removed from a very solid 2010 season, in which he hit .283/.354/.503 with 29 dingers.
10. Who will show up to the park next year?
This season, the Mets drew a total of 2,378,549 fans, with an average of 30,108, according to ESPN. That is down from the 2,559,738 with an average of 32,401 that the Amazins drew in 2010. More wins means more fans will turn out, but there are other factors that could contribute to the a higher attendance. Keeping Reyes is one of them, and bringing in the walls might be another. The other is the arrival of top prospects on the scene, something that could happen for the Mets next year. Since it’s inception, there hasn’t been the same buzz at Citi Field that there was at Shea due to the fact that the Mets have struggled and the off the field problems. Changing the culture of the team involves in some part getting more people to the park, and it will be interesting to see in what numbers Mets fan turn out next season.