New York Mets: 15 Keys to a Successful Rebuild

Shale BriskinContributor IIIDecember 29, 2011

New York Mets: 15 Keys to a Successful Rebuild

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    The New York Mets are currently in a rebuilding mode, whether the team will admit it or not.

    They recently lost one of their cornerstones in shortstop Jose Reyes, who left for the Miami Marlins this offseason. With David Wright and Johan Santana the lone remaining superstars on the team, the Mets look like they are planning for the future. Another reason has to do with the franchise significantly lowering payroll, even though much of the reasoning for this may have to do with owner Fred Wilpon's legal issues relating to the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme.

    During this current offseason, the Mets have not made any major moves, with the biggest headlines occurring when the team traded Angel Pagan to the San Francisco Giants for Ramon Ramirez and Andres Torres, plus the signings of Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch to improve the bullpen. The Mets are not expected to make any other significant moves to improve the team for 2012.

    However, the once-depleted Mets farm system is improving and features four promising pitchers in Jeruys Familia, Matt Harvey, Jenrry Mejia and Zack Wheeler. It is becoming more and more obvious that Mets general manager Sandy Alderson envisions these pitchers as the future of the Mets for years to come.

    Whether these pitchers or anyone else make a significant difference for the Mets and bring more wins is yet to be determined, but with time, anything can happen and the Mets are very hopeful that their rebuilding can bring some more success down the road.

    Here are 15 keys to a successful rebuilding for the Mets.

15. Do Not Feel Like It's Necessary To Contend in 2012

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    This does not mean by any means that the Mets should not try to win at all in 2012. It's just showing that the Mets will likely be overmatched by the much-improved NL East. The Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies are still perennial pennant contenders, while the Miami Marlins and Washington Nationals have both made significant changes and could also contend as well. With this being said, the Mets are widely projected to finish last in the NL East in 2012.

    With this being the reality, the Mets should look to continue developing their talent and putting more and more emphasis towards the future. If the team wins some games, that's always good, but if not, the Mets can still be optimistic that they will eventually become the big contenders in the years to come once their top prospects are fully developed.

14. Limit All Unnecessary Distractions

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    Throughout the team's history, the Mets have always been known for their off-field distractions. The one current distraction for the team is Fred Wilpon's court case regarding the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme he is accused of being involved with. However, within the past few years, the Mets have also had to deal with Tony Bernazard trying to fight minor league players, former equipment manager Charlie Samuels being arrested on stolen property charges and Francisco Rodriguez's fight with his father-in-law, just to name a few.

    With all this being said, the Mets need to do their best as far as staying out of the public eye goes. The lawsuit that the Wilpons have to deal with is bad enough for the team, so if everyone involved with the Mets can make a big effort to stay out of trouble and not do anything silly, that would be great for the team.

    Baseball is supposed to be about baseball and not about unnecessary distractions. The Mets must keep it this way so that everyone can stay focused on building for the future.

13. Can Jason Bay Ever Live Up to His Contract and Hype?

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    Jason Bay has turned into the second coming of George Foster for the Mets (minus the attitude issues). He has come to the Mets and failed to live up to the money and hype that brought him to the Mets in the first place. So far, he has been a waste of four years and $66 million.

    The Mets felt Bay was the ideal hitter to provide support for David Wright in the lineup. However, Bay has rarely ever found a groove offensively for two seasons, and although he has hustled and played well defensively, it still won't be able to make up for the lack of run production he has become known for.

    It will be almost impossible for the Mets to ever find a trade for Bay, so they will likely be stuck with Bay for the rest of his contract. However, will 2012 be the year that Bay finally starts producing more runs, especially with the changes regarding Citi Field's dimensions? Only time will tell whether this comes true.

12. Will Fernando Martinez Ever Become the Hyped Prospect He Once Was?

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    With all the injuries he has been through, plus the limited amount of time he has spent in the major leagues, the Mets really need to decide whether Fernando Martinez can stay healthy and turn into a productive player. He was once a big-time prospect, but due to his injuries, his value has decreased significantly.

    Due to his lowered value, the Mets may now have trouble trading Martinez away, but the team still needs to decide whether to keep believing in Martinez or to send him elsewhere.

11. Figure out If Jon Niese Is Part of the Mets' Future

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    If there is one young Mets pitcher that has a lot of potential, it is Jon Niese. Niese has not been the most consistent pitcher at times, but he has certainly had stretches where he has been unstoppable.

    As a result, Jon Heyman says three to four teams have contacted the Mets about Niese, but the Mets need to be "knocked out" to trade him, according to Jerry Crasnick. It looks as if the Mets really consider Niese to be part of the future, but the team should still explore all options before deciding to commit to Niese for the next few seasons and beyond.

10. How Much Longer Can the Knuckleballer Last?

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    Arguably the Mets' best pitcher in 2011, the veteran R.A. Dickey needs to show that he can still pitch well in order to stay in the Mets rotation. He relies heavily on his knuckleball to get outs and with the Mets rotation expected to get very crowded within the next two or three seasons, Dickey needs to prove that he can still pitch despite his age.

    Hopefully, the Mets offense will give him more run support in 2012, but regardless, Dickey should always have a chip on his shoulder in order to motivate himself to always pitch well no matter what. If Dickey can pitch consistently well in 2012, the Mets may actually gain a few more wins than if he is inconsistent.

9. Determine If Josh Thole Can Become a Productive Everyday Catcher

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    With two full seasons under his belt, Josh Thole has become the Mets' regular catcher, at least against right-handed pitching. In order for Thole to get more attention and respect around the league, he will need to learn how to hit left-handed pitching, so that he does not have to be in a platoon every year.

    Thole will most likely never become a power hitter, so he needs to maintain a good eye and continue to put the ball in play. If he can do that, the Mets will be fine at the catching position. Thole has always worked well with the pitching staff and isn't bad defensively either. If he can raise his average and OBP, the Mets could have yet another good catcher for years to come.

8. Figure out Who Could Best Replace Jose Reyes at Shortstop

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    If Ruben Tejada is the answer at shortstop, stick with him and hope that he works out in the offseason and gains some muscle in order to develop more power. He already has the skills to handle himself defensively. All he really needs to do now is show that he can hit major league pitching well enough.

    Wilmer Flores is projected to now be the shortstop of the future, but with him most likely playing in Double-A Binghamton in 2012, Tejada needs to build his stock while he can before Flores is ready to be called up.

    If the Mets prefer someone else at shortstop, then that shortstop will be expected to produce at least decent offensive numbers for a season or two until Flores is called up. All in all, the Mets will need some sort of production at shortstop in the next season or two.

7. Find a Dependable Second Baseman and Stick with Him

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    For the vast majority of their history, the Mets have never really had a regular second baseman that has been the starter at that position for over five consecutive seasons. The players that come closest to this description are Wally Backman and Felix Millan, but the Mets have had many different second basemen within the past decade.

    Ever since Edgardo Alfonzo moved back to third base prior to the 2002 season to accommodate the arrival of Roberto Alomar, the Mets have not had a productive second baseman, with Jose Valentin's surprising 2006 campaign being the lone exception.

    Thus, it would be wise for the Mets to have a durable second baseman that can provide results beyond what Alomar or Luis Castillo ever showed, for example. Daniel Murphy could be the answer, but only as long as he stays healthy and gets more comfortable playing the position. If the Mets feel that he is not adequate enough defensively, another second baseman needs to be brought in to ensure better results on the field.

6. Determine Who Is Best for the Outfield in the Years To Come

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    The Mets also have a lot of questions in the outfield going forward, even though the starting outfield in 2012 is all but set in stone with Jason Bay in left field, Andres Torres in center field and Lucas Duda in right field.

    The Mets have two more seasons of Bay, while Torres is already 33 years old and most likely will not be part of the Mets outfield around three years from now. Duda, though, could stay for a long time to come depending on whether his defensive skills improve in right field. Like Ike Davis, Duda has explosive power and could be a force in the Mets offense for years to come.

    In the minor leagues, the Mets also have a few prospects in the outfield that could be part of the future. One of them is Kirk Nieuwenheis, who could become a solid center fielder in the years to come. Cesar Puello, Cory Vaughn and even Brandon Nimmo, who was drafted in 2011, could all be part of the Mets' future.

    With this being said, the Mets need to decide which outfielders fit the best with the direction the team is trying to go in and then build around those outfielders.

5. What Will David Wright's Future Look Like?

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    Thanks to the Mets' recent struggles, plus the departure of longtime teammate Jose Reyes, many people are now speculating whether third baseman David Wright will be the next superstar to leave the Mets, whether it be during the trade deadline in late July or in either of the next two offseasons.

    Wright has already become one of the greatest position players to ever wear a Mets uniform. He will almost certainly break even more Mets career records within the next season or two, as long as he is still a Met. However, with the Mets not expected to contend in 2012 and possibly 2013 as well, there has been a lot of talk regarding Wright either getting traded or signing with another team once his contract is up. By then, he will certainly be seeking a big raise in salary, and at least as much as Reyes got from the Miami Marlins, if not more.

    Wright may be the Mets' current face of the franchise, but the Mets must determine sooner or later whether he will remain the face of the franchise for the next phase of his career.

4. Decide Whether Mike Pelfrey Is Part of the Future or Not

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    Through the first five full seasons in his career, Mike Pelfrey has been very inconsistent. In one season, he looks like a potential stud, and in another season, he looks like an unwanted commodity instead. In fact, Pelfrey has managed to pitch well in even-numbered years (2008, 2010) and pitch not as well during odd-numbered years (2007, 2009, 2011). 

    Being that the 2012 season is around the corner, does this mean that Pelfrey will be back to having a promising season like he did when he won 15 games in 2010? Or will he continue to be inconsistent like he was in 2011? The Mets will need to evaluate Pelfrey in 2012 and determined whether they really want him as part of the long-term future. He was supposed to be the "ace" in 2011, but he failed miserably.

    It will be interesting to see whether he can bounce back this coming season.

3. Build the Offense Around Ike Davis

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    Despite missing the vast majority of the 2011 season, Ike Davis is still the most important part of the Mets offense at the moment. With David Wright not guaranteed at this point to be a Met for his entire career, the Mets should lean towards having Davis eventually becoming the new face of the franchise.

    Davis is the lone Mets position player aside from Wright that has the potential to be a real superstar in baseball. He has explosive power and will be a Gold Glove contender at first base for years to come.

    Wright could potentially get traded at the trade deadline in late July or could leave the team after the 2013 season once his current contract is up. With the Mets' future in limbo, Wright could opt out of remaining a Met for his whole career if he feels he has a better chance to win a World Series elsewhere.

    Thus, it would be wise for the Mets to begin building the team's offense around Ike Davis, who could easily become the face of the franchise within the next three seasons.

2. The Wilpons Need To Solve Their Legal Issues

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    Thanks to owner Fred Wilpon's former friendship with Bernie Madoff, the Mets have now been under financial troubles for the past few years and they still have yet to repay all their loans.

    There is no clear-cut answer to solve this, but the Wilpons need to fix this immediately for the sake of their franchise. If they cannot do this, new ownership needs to be found that will deliver the Mets a good team that they deserve to have.

    The Wilpons are not projected to lose a significant amount of money (over $200 million) from the lawsuit that was filed by Irving Picard, who represents the victims of Madoff's Ponzi scheme. Nonetheless, this distraction needs to become extinct for the Mets to go forward in a positive direction.

1. Pray That a Repeat of 'Generation K' Does Not Occur Again

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    The No. 1 key to the Mets' success in the years to come is whether starting pitchers Jeruys Familia, Matt Harvey, Jenrry Mejia and Zack Wheeler can all stay healthy and provide productive results for the Mets once they are all in the major leagues.

    With the exception of Mejia missing the vast majority of the 2011 season with elbow surgery, these pitchers have stayed healthy for the most part. However, this was the case back in the mid-1990s with the once-promising threesome of Jason Isringhausen, Bill Pulsipher and Paul Wilson, all of whom suffered various injuries and none ever panned out as a successful pitcher for the Mets at the time.

    Furthermore, these pitchers still need to actually pitch well on a consistent basis once they are in the major leagues for good. Thus, it will be a while until this is determined to be successful or not.