With less than two weeks until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training, its time to look at the state of the New York Mets.
From injuries to the seemingly annual collapse of the bullpen, New York is left with quite a few lingering doubts from 2008. Were the offseason moves enough to fill the holes or will the Mets once again be on the outside, looking in on October baseball?
The major issue that has plagued New York for two seasons has been the ineptitude of the bullpen. Will the additions of Francisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz help solve the woes?
If nothing else, with Putz as set-up man and K-Rod as the closer, it should mean that the rest of the bullpen should have very little to do each game, if the rotation does their job. Having these two in their pocket should mean that New York is shortening games to seven innings for their opponents.
With Billy Wagner injured, and the majority of last season's bullpen—Aaron Heilman, Scott Schoenweis and Joe Smith—having been traded away, these new players will get plenty of opportunities to prove their worth.
Returning bullpen pitchers Pedro Feliciano and Duaner Sanchez will be watched closely.
Both Luis Castillo and Ryan Church will need to prove that they are fit enough to be everyday players in this lineup.
Last season, everyone thought Castillo would be the full-time second baseman. However, lingering injuries and lack of fitness meant that Mets fans saw a lot more of Damion Easley and Argenis Reyes, both on the bags and at the plate, than they would have liked.
And if Castillo is not able to play second on a regular basis, who can be his permanent, competent replacement?
Church has had lingering concussion-related symptoms that have left Mets fans wondering whether he can be counted on to be the everyday right-fielder. He was impressive in the games he played early in 2008, but can he be that player again for a full season in 2009?
Many fans are excited for the return of the World Baseball Classic this summer, but with the Mets' four core players—Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, Jose Reyes, and David Wright—all playing for their respective countries, the Mets infield will be seeing considerably less Spring Training time than normal.
While playing in a tournament of that caliber could be considered a better tune-up for the players's skills, the risk of injury and their lack of time with the team are factors to consider.
Lastly,who do the Mets plan on playing left field this season? Are we looking at a platoon or is there any truth to the Manny Ramirez rumors?
Much has been said about the potential of Ramirez becoming a Met, but I do not believe this will happen, and I am not sure if another deal for a full-time left-fielder is in the works.
It seems likely that a platoon of Fernando Tatis and either Daniel Murphy or Angel Pagan will be taking care of left field duties.
Marlon Anderson and Nick Evans are also possibilities, but they are all essential reserve and bench players. Damion Easley was a valuable utility player, but his overuse last year and injury problems the last two years have lessened his value, and he is a free agent.
Between now and Opening Day, the Mets will be looking for answers to these questions that will define their 2009 season.