On paper the Mets are very close to being contenders. Of course, games are not played on paper so things can easily turn the other way. Here is my plan to make sure that does not happen.
Lucas Duda had a breakout season in 2014 with 30 home runs. But can he do it again, or is he Ike Davis 2.0? We will find out, but one thing is for sure; he just cannot hit left-handed pitching. He hit .180 with two home runs in 111 at bats against lefties last season. That’s even worse than his .212 career average against them. The Mets need a right-handed batter to platoon with Duda, and I suggest Mike Morse. I advocated signing him last year and I am doing it again. It is unlikely because after a decent year with the World Champion Giants (16 homers in 438 at bats) he will probably get a job as a starter, with commensurate salary. But I am making the suggestion anyway. Morse could always be the left fielder but he is apparently a very poor defender.
I am very comfortable giving Dilson Herrera the starting job. He looked really good in September and could be a diamond in the rough. Daniel Murphy is a dependable hitter but his defense is getting worse, and at an expected $8-9 million salary, he is getting too expensive for the Mets (more on his destination in a moment).
Over at shortstop, let’s just give the job to Wilmer Flores already. It looks like he will be able to deliver the 15 homers that an expensive free agent option like Asdrubal Cabrera could provide, and at a fraction of the cost. And Flores looks okay on defense as well.
David Wright will bounce back, right?
Travis d’Arnaud made great strides in the second half of 2014. Let’s hope he can continue. If not, Kevin Plawecki is waiting in the wings.
Curtis Granderson will bounce back, right?
Juan Lagares is developing into the leadoff hitter the Mets have lacked since Jose Reyes.
Now to left field, which has been a black hole for the Mets ever since the Cliff Floyd era ended after the 2006 season. Obviously the Mets need to get a big-time hitter here; this could make or break the lineup. One name being bandied about is Yoenis Cespedes, if the Red Sox make him available. The Red Sox are in a win-now made, so they probably would not want only prospects for him. Would a package of Jonathon Niese or Dillon Gee, Daniel Murphy (who would play third) and Rafael Montero get the job done? It would give Boston one and possibly two starters and a hitter to replace some of Cespedes’s production. Another prospect might be necessary.
I have another name — Matt Kemp. Like the Red Sox, and the Dodgers are in win-now mode and have a surplus of outfielders. Kemp would be a bigger risk because he is due $107 million over the next five years (which probably would end the talks right there for the Wilpons) and he has a history of injury. But if Kemp can stay healthy he is a superstar who could carry the Mets to the post season. He would have to be okay with playing left, though; last season he was reportedly unhappy being moved from center field. As far as a package of players, it would be the same three players and maybe Plawecki or another high-end prospect. The Dodgers would also have to take Bartolo Colon’s salary so the Mets could absorb Kemp’s $21 million.
The rotation is set, with Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler, Niese or Gee and Noah Syndergaard. The bullpen also is pretty much in place.
Could the Mets make this work with their salary restrictions? Perhaps. Wright, Granderson, Kemp, Duda, Niese or Gee and Bobby Parnell would take up around $70 million. The rest of the team will each make near minimum wage ($500,000) for another $10 million. If the Mets could get Morse for around $8 million, that’s still less than a $90 million payroll.
This is all probably wishful thinking on my part. In addition to spending money the Mets do not have, it would probably take more to get these players, what with power at such a premium. But the Mets are close. They need one bold move that could put them over the top. Do it, Sandy Alderson.