These next couple of seasons are going to be pretty rough for the New York Mets, but there are still plenty of reasons to keep hope alive for the franchise.
Management opted to play the long-term game, trading away Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez and losing Jose Reyes to the Miami Marlins. While this was disappointing to fans, it was the right decision to bring in some prospects, given the Wilpon financial situation.
Struggles will be at a premium in 2012, but the future looks bright for the boys in blue and orange. They have a plethora of young arms circulating in the minors, as well as some good hitters at that level.
Mets fans should expect stretches of futility in this upcoming campaign. They should also expect success a couple of seasons from now.
Zack Wheeler was the main piece in the Carlos Beltran trade, meaning that the Mets expect big things from the starting pitcher who was drafted out of high school by the San Francisco Giants.
He'll be 22 in May, meaning that he probably won't be on the major league squad until 2013. He's the top-rated prospect in the Mets system.
Wheeler has a low-to-mid-90s fastball to go with somewhat of a slurve. He changes his arm speed and slot to throw a wide range of breaking balls that all look like a variation of one another.
While playing in St. Lucie, he pitched 27 innings with an ERA of only 2.00.
He needs to work on his command and if he does, the Mets will look back on the Beltran trade thinking they got the best of the deal.
Matt Harvey possesses a high-90s fastball and a power curve that he threw more in college than he does now. He's working on a slider and seldom brings out his changeup.
The 6'4" former UNC Tar Heel is ranked right behind Zack Wheeler on the organization's top prospect list.
Look for the soon to be 24-year-old to be the No. 2 pitcher in the rotation when he and Wheeler make their debuts.
Okay, the above picture doesn't exactly make the Mets' most recent first-round draft pick look too athletic, but Brandon Nimmo has the necessary parts in his game to become a five-tool player.
The first-ever first-round pick from Wyoming has a quick swing that stays in the zone for a long time.
He never played on a high-school team, which can be attributed to the lack of emphasis on baseball in the state. That implies that he would be a raw talent, but he played plenty in AAU leagues.
He's got a great lefty stroke and uses it to spray line drives all over the field. Once he puts some bulk on his frame, he'll be able to hit for power too.
Nimmo will turn just 19 at the end of the month so don't expect to see him until at least the summer of 2014. When he comes around, he'll be a huge bat in the lineup for the Mets.
Jeurys Familia had a better 2009 than he did 2010. He improved on both of those seasons in 2011 and made the Eastern League All-Star team at the AA level.
He relies heavily on his fastball which shows why he has an 8.7 SO/9-innings ratio throughout his minor league career.
The 22-year-old Dominican has a good pitcher's build. He is listed at 6'3", 185 pounds.
In 2011, he pitched in Binghamton and St. Lucie to the tune of a 2.90 ERA and 132 strikeouts in 124 innings.
You have to look at this power pitcher as a ray of hope in the minors as he should be ready within the next two seasons.
A non-drafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic, Cesar Puello has been an impressive, raw talent in the minors.
In 2010 and 2011 at the A and A+ levels, he accumulated a combined 232 hits in 226 games. The 20-year-old prospect swiped 45 bags in 2010, which means he'll be a great top of the order guy.
He's still too young to make the leap to the major league squad in the next two years, but after that, he could be a Jose Reyes-type guy for the team.
He has an absolutely terrible K:BB ratio throughout his career (over 4:1), but should move up in the system's prospect pool if he can demonstrate more discipline.
Who knows what's up with these New York Mets photo day pictures, but this one is pretty amusing.
Johan Santana is a guy who's all business on the mound, but this shot says otherwise.
All that aside, 2012 marks the return of the Mets' ace, and as a fan, what else have you been looking forward to?
For months on end, Mets faithful have been begging for the two-time Cy Young winner's return to the mound. The time has finally come as Terry Collins expects his No. 1 starter to be ready for opening day.
In his second Grapefruit League start, Santana allowed one unearned run in 2-2/3 innings.
He's truly dominant on the rubber and puts hitters down at an amazing clip when his changeup and fastball are working perfectly together.
He'll be the stopper for the Mets in 2012, ending those four-game losing streaks that fans have become accustomed to.
Most people are pretty disappointed with the design of Citi Field. They might not be in the next few years.
This Mets team isn't geared to hit for power, no matter what park they're in.
Citi Field has cavernous outfield gaps, which worked out well for the team last season as they finished tied for first in the National League in doubles. They also finished third in triples, but that was pretty much all because of Jose Reyes.
The park has much more of an effect on the pitching staff than the lineup.
In the next few years, the Mets will have a slew of young arms rising out of the minors. The huge dimensions in their home park will only help them succeed.
In 2011, the Mets had plenty of pitch-to-contact guys in their rotation, which meant more fly balls. These prospects set to join the squad in the future produce more swings and misses.
Fans should be excited to watch the youthful pitchers mow down the competition at home in the coming years.
This may not be of much concession, but throughout Terry Collins' managerial career, his clubs have had winning records in the second year of his tenure.
In a strike-shortened 1995 season, Collins' Houston Astros went 76-68. In 1998, while coaching Anaheim, Collins led the Angels to an 85-77 record. Even in Japan, coaching for the Orix Buffaloes, Collins' team finished 75-68.
These winning records can most likely be attributed to Collins creating relationships with his players to get the best out of them.
The 62-year-old is a passionate, fiery manager, which pairs well with the young group he has in Flushing.
If nothing else, expect Collins to make sure his team exceeds expectations in 2012, even if those expectations are rather low.
The New York Mets are in good hands with Sandy Alderson at the helm.
Alderson is the perfect GM for an organization that needs to get the best results while spending the least amount of money. It's no doubt that the Mets will be playing some Moneyball in the future.
During his tenure with the Oakland Athletics, he helped rebuild the minor league system.
The Athletics' organization had three straight Rookie of the Year winners from 1986 to 1988. Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire and Walt Weiss all came out of the farm system that was repaired by Alderson.
He's a big fan of sabermetrics and it's not hard to tell. Guys like Daniel Murphy, Lucas Duda and Ruben Tejada are all guys who can give you the most bang for your buck.
He's in the second year of a four-year deal, meaning he'll have the time needed to turn the ship around.
Wilpon and Saul Katz, another owner of the team, were recently ordered to pay $83.3 million to trustee, Irving Picard.
It could get worse in the coming weeks, as a trial to determine whether the Mets owners must pay an additional $303 million is set for March 19.
That sounds pretty terrible and gives you a reason to lose hope.
It shouldn't though.
This financial crisis will end eventually, either in the Wilpons' selling the team, or keeping it.
That means things can't be this terrible for all that longer, and even if they are, fans will have some concrete information on the circumstances.
If it hasn't been hit already, rock bottom is real close, meaning that it's all up from here.