Will 2012 be David Wright's swan song on the Mets?
Mets fans, I feel your pain.
I really do.
I've been a New York Mets fan since the early 1970's and this is the least optimistic I've been in two decades about the team's fortunes. You remember back to the glory days of Tim Bogar, Bobby Bonilla and Anthony Young.
Are things really that bad? Are the 2012 Mets the baseball version of the Titanic, heading straight for the iceberg? It sure seems that way.
The Amazins' have already started to clean house by not making a competitive offer for National League batting champion and free-agent shortstop Jose Reyes, who signed with the Marlins. They also parted ways with Carlos Beltran last July so the rebuilding process began to take shape some time ago.
Rebuilding in New York. That's very tough to accept. Mets fans hate the thought—not too long ago, they owned one of the highest payrolls in baseball. Now, thanks to the Bernie Madoff scandal, their payroll will dip from $143 million last year to around $95 million this season (estimated). They're a mid-market team in the largest market in the country. That's rough.
The Mets are picking up the pieces from Reyes' departure and seem destined for last place in the NL East. It's tough to go through a rebuilding process, but it must be done. While they rebuild, here are seven things they must do as they clean house and build for a brighter future....
Mike Pelfrey frustrates Mets fans
Big Pelf. The former first-round pick from Wichita State is a microcosm of Mets fans' frustrations.
Pelfrey is an innings eater and currently slated to be New York's No. two starter. That's scary. The 6'7" right-hander has simply not lived up to expectations. He suffered through a miserable 7-13 campaign in 2011 and owns a mediocre 50-54 record in six seasons with the Mets.
You know Pelfrey is good for around 200 innings a season, but at what cost? Batters hit a robust .286 against him last year and his ERA was a dismal 4.74. It's time for a change of scenery. Mets fans are tired of all the hand licking already.
The Mets avoided arbitration by signing Pelfrey to a one-year, $5,687,500 pact, so he is affordable. How about reaching out to the Reds for Homer Bailey, another first-round pick that has disappointed so far? He comes at a cheaper price, which we know will make owner Fred Wilpon happy.
Lucas Duda was a plesant surprise last year
Lucas Duda was one of the few bright spots in a very disappointing 2010 Mets campaign. In just 301 at-bats, the powerful left-handed slugger belted 10 home runs and knocked in 50 runs (including 21 doubles) in cavernous Citi Field.
Finally, after three years, Mets management has come to their senses and decided to move the fences in at CitiField. They'll move in upwards of 17 feet in some spots to make it a more neutral park. That's music to the ears of the 25-year-old Duda, who will start in right field but can also spot Ike Davis at first base if need be.
After the All-Star break, Duda smashed a HR every 20.5 at-bats and finished with a solid .292 batting average. While he is still shaky defensively, Duda made strides during the latter part of the season.
While the Mets rebuild, it only makes sense to give Duda a full season to see if he may fit into their future plans. There appears to be a lot of potential here.
Ruben Tejada has big shoes to fill
Talk about a tough spot.
No player can replace Jose Reyes. When healthy, Reyes is a dynamic, game-changing player. That's why it's not fair to compare him to Tejada, the new Mets everyday shortstop. With that being said, Mets fans will be comparing the two. You know they will. It's human nature.
Not only did Tejada hit .284 last season, but he filled in admirably when Reyes went down for a good portion of the season with one of his many hamstring pulls. Tejada is known as a solid defensive shortstop with good range and a fine arm.
While he won't come close to putting up the numbers Reyes can, the Mets want to see what the Panama-native can bring them over the course of a full season. He may surprise some people.
Matt Harvey has ace stuff
If you're old enough to remember when Dwight Gooden burst onto the scene as a 19-year-old phenom in 1984, you'll remember what an electric presence he was on the mound. I saw him in person twice at Shea Stadium that year and the house was rocking. Hard.
Now I'm not saying that the 22-year-old Harvey can duplicate any of Doctor K's marvelous feats (Rookie of the Year, Cy Young winner in his first two seasons), but he is the best Mets pitching prospect to come along in a long time.
In 133 innings between A and AA ball last year, Harvey struck out 156 batters and had an excellent ground ball to fly ball ratio of 1.32. Scouts say that he has true No. 1 starter stuff. He reaches into the upper 90's with his fastball and owns a dazzling curveball and slider.
I'm not saying that he should start the season with the parent club, but after some seasoning at AAA, don't be surprised if the Mets bring him up to the bigs in June or July. He should be ready.
Can Johan Santana come all the way back?
The two-time Cy Young award winner needs to show everyone that he is healthy and ready to go before the Mets can explore possible trade options. It's been 16 months since his surgery for a torn anterior capsule and he just began throwing on flat ground from 90 feet a short time ago. He hopes to be ready for bullpen sessions when pitchers and catchers report to spring training on Feb 22.
There are plenty of question marks about the ace southpaw's health. The Mets also would have to pick up a large portion of his $21.6 million salary in any trade scenario. That will sting.
However, if Santana can return in May or June and resemble something close to his former dominant self, how many contending teams would be interested at the trade deadline? Quite a few.
The Mets would most likely look to acquire a pair of impressive minor league prospects (perhaps Boston's Matt Barnes, a top-level right-handed pitching prospect, and fellow Red Sox third base prospect Will Middlebrooks) in any deal to bolster their weak but improving farm system.
The Mets don't look like they'll be able to contend for a few years so moving a healthy (keep your fingers crossed) Santana makes all the sense in the world.
David Wright is the face of the franchise...for now
This one will hurt.
David Wright is 29 and despite an injury-plagued season in 2011, is in the prime of his career. General manager Sandy Alderson has stated that he would not trade the former All-Star third baseman, but it would be the correct move to make.
The Mets can still get tremendous value for the right-handed slugger, who has cracked 183 home runs and owns a .300 average during his Mets tenure. Four teams come immediately to mind that need an upgrade at third base — the Angels, Tigers, Indians and Rockies — and New York would be able to land a combination of major leaguers and/or top minor league prospects in return.
A trade with Cleveland, for example, would make perfect sense. The Mets could trade Wright and pick up a portion of his $15 million salary for shortstop Francisco Lindor and right-hander Dillon Howard, the top two prospects in the Tribe's minor league system, according to Baseball America.
The Mets could then slide Daniel Murphy over to third to replace Wright and keep the surprising Justin Turner at second base (for now). Murphy is expected to be ready at the start of spring training.
Remember, the fences have moved in at Citi Field so Wright should see his HR production increase. He will be a hot commodity. Mets fans will have to accept the fact that the best thing to do for the organization in the end is to let their homegrown hero find a new home.
Enough is enough - the Wilpons must sell the team
I have talked to several Mets fans over the last month or so and the No. 1 priority in everyone's hearts is simply this — it's time for the Wilpons to swallow their pride and sell this once proud franchise. Cleaning house starts by getting them out of town.
The Mets have become a laughingstock. Owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon realize that owning the Mets is their identity, their "baby" if you will. They would hate to get out under these embarrassing circumstances, but it's the right thing to do, for the sake of their beleaguered fans everywhere.
We all know the figures by now, the Wilpons lost $70 million last year and their debt is continuing to mount — a $40 million bridge loan, a $25 million loan from major league baseball, payments due on Citi Field, etc. The payroll will shrink at least $50 million this season. The Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme has been devastating. It has rocked the franchise to its core.
Hello Mark Cuban. Hi Donald Trump. What's up Jay-Z? I really don't care who the new owner will be.
As long as it's no longer the Wilpons.