It’s holiday time. We are also very close to the chronological mid-point of the Mets’ offseason (which ended on September 28 and begins again on April 6). So, here are some mid-winter thoughts on the state of the New York Mets…
August 19, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; New York Mets manager Terry Collins (10) stands in the dugout before the game against the Oakland Athletics at O.co Coliseum. The Athletics defeated the Mets 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
The Mets seem to be the most confident 79-83 team in the history of baseball:
Many key people in the organization are pointing to 2015 as a playoff year, and there are some valid reasons for this. The pitching staff is young, and very talented. With Matt Harvey set to return, the top three of Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Zack Wheeler can match the front of any rotation in baseball. The bullpen has also rounded into form, and should get even deeper when Bobby Parnell joins Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia for the late innings. The addition of Michael Cuddyer, if he is able to stay healthy, should help the Mets against left-handed pitching and add some power to the lineup.
Even with the positives above, the Mets still have question marks. Most importantly, it appears that they may begin the season with Wilmer Flores at shortstop. Yes, he’s young and has potential. But there’s no getting around the fact that he isn’t a shortstop, and was removed from the position while in the minor leagues. The defense up the middle, with Flores and Daniel Murphy, is concerning.
Then there’s the possibility of regression from any of the young starting pitchers. Can the Mets contend in 2015? Sure they can. But is their passive approach to making moves so far this off-season the right course of action (or inaction)? Remember, these aren’t the Kansas City Royals who had the tying run on third base with two outs in game seven of last year’s World Series.
There’s a lot of talk about Troy Tulowitzki:
It’s fun to speculate about bringing in a force like Tulowitzki. Over nine seasons, he’s averaged 30 home runs and 102 RBI per year, along with an .891 OPS. Then the cold water begins to splash. Tulowitzki is owed $20 million per year over the next five years. The Mets don’t spend that kind of money in the Alderson regime (with the exception of David Wright’s contract). For Colorado to pick up half of that contract, the Mets would have to part with significant talent, something they don’t seem inclined to do. Tulowitzki likely isn’t coming to Queens.
The Mets tendered a contract to Ruben Tejada:
According to the team, it’s so Tejada can be a backup infielder. Well, not according to everyone. Terry Collins seems to think that Tejada can compete for the starting job, but that possibility was basically thrown out the window when Sandy Alderson audibly laughed at it. Why is this an issue? Ruben Tejada should not be starting on a major league team, much less one that hopes to contend. Among shortstops with 250 plate appearances, Tejada was 21st of 40 in wRC+ (89). 36th in slugging percentage (.310), 28th in home runs (5), and 32nd in batting average (.237). He does not run well, which impacts both his offense and defense. In addition, it’s simply time for the Mets to move on from Tejada.
I just don’t see the point of having the former starter on the bench while a young player (Flores) tries to establish himself. Collins’ affinity for Tejada may mean that a bad week for Flores means he’s riding the pine, and Tejada is back as the starter. This back and forth happened in 2014, and is neither productive nor healthy. The Mets could find another backup infielder (a veteran who accepts the role).
Sandy Alderson has a very unique style:
The GM is very patient. Some say that’s a good thing, while others say that he’s missing opportunities to move on players who are being traded to other organizations. Some fans believe Alderson “has got this,” and has a well-construed plan that will vault the Mets into October. If that’s the case, it would be nice, after four seasons, to see that plan come together. How much longer can he hold his trade chips? Alderson likes to publicly talk for the consumption of other GMs (such as the confidence he says he has in Flores). In the mid 1980s, when information was not as readily available, maybe this tactic worked to drive prices down. But does it work now? It almost seems a little contrived, since teams are keenly aware of strengths and weaknesses of their competition.
How much longer will the Mets operate like a mid-market team?
It’s an old story. The Mets have the payroll of a mid-market team. Teams can win with a low payroll. However, as a fan of New York team, it’s frustrating to hear that almost every decision has a financial basis. If the Mets are going to win, they’re going to do so with a team of players who are generally under short-term, fairly low-value contracts. If the Mets do win, neither I nor any other fan will care how high or low the payroll is. Until then, it’s hard to not think about it, since it’s as much a part of the story as a player’s value on the field.
When does spring training start?
No matter how much we may agree or disagree with moves or lack of moves, it’s nice to know that we’re just about entering the second half of the off-season. Spring training starts in less than two months. Baseball will be back. And for me, that thought makes this a happy holiday season.