Many people surrounding the Mets have been saying for years that 2014 is the season the front office has targeted for success. Based on the team’s performance, the lack of hitters in the minor league pipeline and the inactivity of GM Sandy Alderson, many people, including me, were skeptical. But now I see that the team could indeed be successful next season, but it will take some shrewd moves by Alderson.
Let’s start with the good news — the starting rotation is emerging as a strength for the team. Next season the starting five should be Matt Harvey, Jonathon Niese, Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard and one of Dillon Gee, Rafael Montero or Jacob deGrom. The other two should be packaged in a deal to get a much-needed power-hitting outfielder. The Mets have so much young starting pitching that they are in position in flip one to fill another need on the team. Let’s just hope they trade the right one. But whatever happens, the Mets should have solid starting pitching in 2014.
Out in the pen, Bobby Parnell and Josh Edgin should make it back from injury, and Alderson will find five more guys to fill up the bullpen. Some of them could come from the current crop, including Scott Rice and Scott Atchison (just not Scott Schoeneweis!).
Travis d’Arnaud catches.
Now to the infield, where only David Wright is a certainty. Wilmer Flores should be installed as the first baseman. While he has shown that he can handle major league pitching, it is unknown if he can play first. If the Mets do not think he can play any position other than third, then he should be part of the outfielder trade as well. Then what to do at first? Well, how about non-tendering Ike Davis and trying to bring him back on the cheap for one more chance? Under no circumstances should the Mets tender him a contract and pay him the $4 million he would likely get in arbitration.
As much as I like Daniel Murphy, I would trade him and let Eric Young play second. Murphy is at a point where he will make around $5 million next season. We may be at a point of diminishing returns for Murphy. Young, in his first year of arbitration, likely won’t get more than $2 million. Young’s lack of power means he cannot be a corner outfielder, but he would be perfect as a second baseman and leadoff hitter. Murphy is one of the few Mets with any trade value; if he could be part of the package that brings that big outfielder, the Mets should make the sacrifice.
Shortstop is a mystery. Do the Mets give Ruben Tejada one last shot, or do they cut the cord and find a new one? As long as Tejada can still field the position well, I would give him a chance.
Now to the outfield. Juan Lagares is showing every day that he should be the starting center fielder. His defense is outstanding, and he is not a bad bottom-of-the-order hitter. As far as the corners, this is where Alderson has to get down to work. He should trade some of those players I’ve already mentioned for one outfielder and sign another one as a free agent. Exactly whom they should target is a topic for another day, but if the Mets can get two big bats out there, the lineup could be very solid.
As incredible as Marlon Byrd has been, he should not be re-signed unless he’s willing to be a fourth outfielder. Byrd is at that magical age of 35 when players begin their decline. My guess is that this is Byrd’s last hurrah, and his downfall will be quick. The Mets should not count on a repeat of this season. Oh, and Lucas Duda should be a goner.
Since money is always an issue, the Mets have the advantage of having good, cheap starting pitching. They don’t have to go out and spend $20 million on an ace because in Harvey they have one who will make less than $1 million. Instead, that money can be used in the outfield.
Now, I am not convinced that the Mets will indeed spend money in the off-season. I could see them having a payroll of less than $90 million, using lack of revenue this season as the reason. Even at that level, it would be possible to acquire at least one major hitter.
For any of this to happen, Sandy Alderson has to end his history of doing nothing and get down to the business of building a winner. Those albatross salaries will be gone — no more excuses.