Today at Citi Field, as Mets employees packed the team’s truck for the ride down to spring training in Port St. Lucie, Sandy Alderson addressed the media. There were no shocking revelations, but plenty of interesting tidbits provided by the General Manager. Below are the highlights, with Alderson’s comments in bold and Rising Apple’s opinion underneath:
◊ Alderson opined that the Mets are “not that far away,” and he feels the team is “at the point where [it] can make significant improvements in a hurry.”
…While the seemingly popular narrative is to paint the Mets as a franchise in disarray, what Alderson said appears to be fairly accurate. Most view the potential of the Mets challenging for a playoff spot in 2013 to be remote. However, that doesn’t mean that the team lacks talent and is destined for failure. As far as the starting rotation and the infield are concerned, the Mets are pretty well set. The bullpen is always a crap-shoot (that’ll be addressed later), and the outfield issues are well known. Still, with potential impact prospects Travis d’Arnaud and Zack Wheeler close to contributing, there’s a legitimate reason for optimism.
April 4, 2012; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Mets third baseman David Wright (not pictured) glove, hat and sunglasses lay in the dugout during the spring training game against the New York Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
On Alderson’s claim that the team can “make improvements in a hurry:” With the Bernard Madoff situation in the past, only $33.5 million committed to player salaries for 2014, and a farm system that was ranked 14th by Keith Law of ESPN, it’s clear that the team has room to maneuver. Whether Alderson was referring to players who are already on board stepping up, or potential external acquisitions helping to strengthen the club is immaterial. The club is still entertaining the idea of signing Michael Bourn, so even if money is still somewhat of an issue, it’s clear that the club’s financial woes are fading. In addition, with so little committed to payroll for 2014, the Mets should be free to take on contracts via trade mid-season if they’re in contention, and/or add marquee free agents after the season. Furthermore, with the farm system improving, the team should be able to put together a suitable package for an impact player if the right one becomes available.
◊ On the bullpen, Alderson said that it “can’t be worse,” and has the potential to be “a lot better” than it was in 2012.
As bad as the bullpen was in 2012, no one can say with certainty that the 2013 edition “can’t be worse.” Things can always get worse. With the group Alderson has assembled, though, the likelihood is that his assertion (that the bullpen has the potential to be a lot better) will be correct. The projected bullpen should consist of Bobby Parnell, Frank Francisco, Brandon Lyon, Josh Edgin, LaTroy Hawkins, Scott Atchison, and Pedro Feliciano. There are question marks surrounding Hawkins (age), Atchison (health), and Feliciano (health/inactivity). If any or all of them falter, it’ll be easy for the Mets to replace them due to the fact that they were all signed to minor league deals (making any reluctance to cut them almost non-existent).
The Mets should have a host of intriguing bullpen options in the minor leagues, including Jeurys Familia, Jacob deGrom, Adam Kolarek, and Jack Leathersich (who Paul DePodesta feels can be a quick mover).
◊ If the Mets complete their deal with Brandon Lyon, they’re likely done adding to the bullpen.
This is fine. It’s unclear whether Alderson went to watch Brian Wilson pitch a second time (as was rumored to be a possibility). I’ve made this known a few times, but I’ll again note that if his 2013 demands are in line with what the Mets are willing to offer, the Mets should try to reel in Wilson with a contract that contains a club option for 2014. Even though the Mets’ bullpen should be improved, it still lacks a true closer. Alderson spent the majority of the winter noting to anyone with a microphone that he’d like to find a replacement for Frank Francisco. If/when the Brandon Lyon deal is complete, he won’t be competing to be the closer (nor should he be). Bobby Parnell has had his chances at closing, with mixed results, and it’s unrealistic to expect Jeurys Familia to ascend to the role of closer this season (though he may be able to if he harnesses his stuff). All of the above makes a potential Wilson signing a worthy risk.
◊ Alderson is still actively negotiating with Scott Boras, the agent for free agent center fielder Michael Bourn. Alderson discussed the draft pick issue as it relates to Bourn, and had the following to say regarding whether or not the Mets would be able to retain their top pick (11th overall) if they were to sign Bourn: “From my point of view, the spirit of the rule is, yeah, the 10 worst records.”
The Bourn/draft pick issue has been dissected every which way. As was discussed here on Friday, Peter Gammons feels that the Mets are likely to win their argument with the league if they were to sign Bourn, thus retaining the 11th overall pick while forfeiting a 2nd round pick instead. Alderson discussed “the spirit of the rule,” and this looks like an argument the Mets should win. The Mets are the only team who (as it stands) finished in the bottom 10 record wise, but who would lose their pick if they signed Bourn. That simply isn’t fair, nor was it the intention of the rule. The language of the rule is flawed, and if it’s changed now, there would be no precedent set (as many are claiming). The rule would be fixed, the 10 teams who finished with the worst records would have their picks protected both this year and in the future, and this nonsense wouldn’t occur again.
As far as Bourn the player is concerned, there’s a debate to be had there as well. If the Mets are able to snag him for three years guaranteed, it’s something they should do. Yes, Bourn relies on his legs and that’s a concern, but the Mets would only be on the hook for his age 30, 31, and 32 seasons. Bourn would bring elite defense to center field, while pushing the likely Kirk Nieuwenhuis/Collin Cowgill platoon to right field. He’d slide into the leadoff spot, allowing Ruben Tejada to hit lower in the lineup, and his addition would fill one of the Mets’ outfield voids not only for this year but for 2014 and 2015 as well.
◊ Jenrry Mejia will start during spring training, while Jeurys Familia works out of the bullpen.
I wanted the Mets to give Mejia the opportunity to start until he proved he couldn’t, so I’m glad this is the route they’re going down. Mejia was still working his way back into shape last year after surgery, and his command & feel should likely improve as he heads into 2013. Mejia remaining in a starting role will also bolster the amount of arms the Mets have at AAA if any of the members of the major league starting rotation need to be replaced. In addition to Mejia, the Mets will likely have Zack Wheeler, Collin McHugh, and Jeremy Hefner as guys to pluck from AAA if a need were to arise.
Familia struggled in his starting role in the minors last year, and has long been projected as a likely late inning reliever. He has incredible stuff, and showed flashes late last season while working out of the major league bullpen. Still, he’ll have to drastically improve his command if he has any chance of reaching his potential.