10 Ways New York Mets GM Sandy Alderson Can Regain Fans' Trust This Offseason
At the 2012 All-Star break, the Mets were 46-40 and were trying to stay afloat in postseason contention. The team had certainly overachieved to that point with R.A. Dickey getting off to an amazing start to his season and being the favorite to win the NL Cy Young Award, while David Wright was making a case to be the MVP with the sizzling start he had at the plate.
No one had expected the Mets to contend at all this year, yet they gave themselves and their fans hope that maybe this would be the year they would get back to the postseason for the first time since 2006.
However, it apparently was not to be. Since the All-Star break, the Mets have been 11-26. The Mets' starting pitching, which had carried them throughout the first half had started to get worse, as Dillon Gee was lost for the rest of the season and Johan Santana spent a stint on the disabled list as well.
Dickey has not pitched as well overall in the second half, while Jon Niese has not been particularly consistent all season. Matt Harvey though has been a great addition to the rotation and should be a fixture for years to come. As for the bullpen, it has been a disaster the entire season in just every aspect to say the least.
Offensively, Wright has fallen off in the second half, with his average down to 3.20. Ike Davis, who had gotten off to such a slow start to his season, has started to hit better in the last two months, while Daniel Murphy has been hitting well in what seems to be every other month. Another big surprise has been Ruben Tejada, who is batting .310.
The outfield though has been a different story. Aside from the surprising pinch-hit home runs that Jordany Valdespin has had and the power Scott Hairston has displayed against left-handed pitching, the outfield has been a lost cause all season.
Jason Bay and Andres Torres have both struggled at the plate, while Lucas Duda and Kirk Nieuwenhuis are both currently in the minor leagues. The fact that catcher Josh Thole has not been particularly impressive this year both offensively and defensively doesn't help as well.
With all this being said, general manager Sandy Alderson will have a lot of work to do in the upcoming offseason in order to improve the team for 2013. There will be contracts that will need to get re-signed, free agents to target and current Mets that will be going elsewhere.
Hopefully, Alderson can continue the great work he has done as he continues to build the Mets into perennial contenders.
Here are 10 ways Alderson can assure Mets fans that the team is indeed going in the right direction.
1. Re-Sign David Wright to a Long-Term Contract
By far the biggest task on Alderson's agenda will be to re-sign the Mets' franchise player, David Wright, to what will likely end up as a six- or seven-year contract worth probably between $120 million-$140 million.
Re-signing Wright is a must for the Mets because he is by far the team's biggest superstar and has spent his entire career thus far with the Mets. He is as much of a fan favorite as anyone in Mets history and the entire fanbase would be heartbroken if he ever gets traded.
Wright has never been the problem for the Mets. The problem has been the fact that the Mets have not found solid role players to support him in the lineup, ever since former teammates Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado were all around.
The Mets will need to find another solid group of hitters to support Wright in order to for them to start winning more. The plan right now seems to be for Ike Davis, Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda, among others to help the Mets become a contending team.
The Mets cannot afford to have a second coming of the 1977 Midnight Massacre, in which Tom Seaver and Dave Kingman were both traded on the same day, which led to Mets fans giving up on the team and the Mets having losing records for the following six years.
Hopefully, the Wilpons will do what's right and give Wright all the money he deserves.
2. Re-Sign R.A. Dickey as Well
Not only will the Mets need to re-sign Wright, they will also need to get a new contract for R.A. Dickey, especially after seeing the Cy Young-caliber season he has been having.
Dickey has been one of the brightest spots of the team this year and has been very solid and reliable ever since he got called up from the minor leagues in 2010. He is no longer a journeyman pitcher because he has become a genuine ace this year.
He leads all of baseball in strikeouts and is in the top five in virtually every pitching category among National League pitchers. He also has a chance to become the first Mets pitcher since Frank Viola in 1990 to win 20 games in a season. Hopefully, that will happen.
Dickey might be 38 years old right now, but because he's a knuckleballer, he will be able to pitch at an older age, being that the pitch does not put as much strain on the throwing arm.
Furthermore, with Matt Harvey already in the rotation and Zack Wheeler coming up next year, the Mets will need a strong veteran presence to offset their youth, which would suit Dickey perfectly.
Dickey is a great part of the Mets' team chemistry and a proven leader not just on the field, but off the field as well. He has never been one to ask for many things, but giving him the money he deserves would definitely mean a lot to him.
Hopefully, the Mets will do so and keep Dickey in New York for at least a few more years.
3. Re-Sign Chris Young and Keep Dillon Gee for Additional Pitching Depth
While Chris Young will be a free agent at the end of the season, Dillon Gee is still under the Mets' control through 2017.
However, both pitchers may not necessarily find themselves in the Mets' starting rotation next year thanks to R.A. Dickey, Johan Santana, Jon Niese and Matt Harvey already occupying what will be four of the five rotation spots for 2013.
The fifth could very well be Zack Wheeler if he pitches well enough in spring training next year.
Thus, while at least one of Gee and Young will not make the Opening Day rotation next year, both should remain in the Mets' organization for additional pitching depth. It never hurts to have more veteran pitchers that can fill in if someone gets hurt, instead of having to call up minor league players.
Hopefully, the Mets will be able to sign Young to another one-year contract, although Young may try to seek a multi-year deal in the offseason being that he has been healthy throughout his return thus far.
As for Gee, the Mets should not trade him because he could possibly be used a long reliever if he does not make the Opening Day rotation. On the other hand, if Wheeler is not yet ready for the major leagues by then, Gee could round out the rotation until Wheeler is good to go.
Teams can never have too much pitching, so hopefully, the Mets can find a way to re-sign Young and use Gee in a productive role.
4. Find a Better Starting Catcher Than Josh Thole
In the offseason, Alderson will have to decide what to do at the three most questionable positions on the field. His team has a lot of young homegrown talent with a lot of potential.
However, now that this team has had a few years under its belt, it's time to decide whether to keep these players or to look for long-term upgrades.
The first young player the Mets will have to decide upon is their catcher, Josh Thole. After a brief September call-up in 2009, Thole became the Mets' regular catcher late in 2010 after Rod Barajas was claimed off waivers by the Dodgers.
Since then, he has become the main catcher, even though he rarely has started against left-handed pitching.
After a decent 2011 season, the Mets and their fans were expecting some better numbers from Thole. However, despite having a decent month in April, Thole suffered a concussion in early May and missed a month while recovering.
He returned just in time to catch Johan Santana's no-hitter, but has not done much at the plate ever since. He is batting .251 with one home run and 18 RBI in 85 games. Being a young light-hitting catcher is one thing, but Thole clearly has not taken any steps forward offensively.
Behind the plate, Thole has worked well with many, if not all of the Mets' pitchers and deserves some credit for the Mets' rotation's success earlier in the season.
Unfortunately, Thole's defense has gotten a lot worse since the All-Star break. He has been allowing more passed balls and has made some questionable decisions during base-running situations.
The fact that Thole is getting criticized a lot by Mets fans though isn't exactly fair in a way. For many years, the Mets have had the luxury of having some of the best catchers in the league on the team.
From Jerry Grote in the 1960s through the middle 1970s, John Stearns in the late 1970s and Gary Carter in the 1980s to Todd Hundley in the 1990s and Mike Piazza in the late 1990s through the middle 2000s, the Mets have almost always had stability behind the plate, which has never been particularly common among other teams.
In other words, Mets fans have come to expect a lot from their catchers thanks to the former catchers they have had, and Thole has not come anywhere close to those expectations.
Sure, he may never be the power hitter that Hundley and Piazza were, but at best, he can be a solid role player that can put the ball in play and hit over 20 doubles per season.
Thole is only in his second full season, so it may be time to give up on him just yet, but if Alderson wants to please the fans, an upgrade at catcher would certainly help.
To his credit though, the trade for Kelly Shoppach is definitely a step in the right direction because Rob Johnson and especially Mike Nickeas have both been very unproductive offensively this year.
5. Determine If Daniel Murphy Is Part of the Mets' Future
The second position to address will be second base and whether Daniel Murphy will remain the everyday second baseman for years to come.
The Mets have always liked Murphy's bat, as evidenced by the .320 average he had in 2011. Although he is only batting .288 this year, Murphy has had some hot streaks in which pitchers cannot get him out and the fact that he's a hard-working player that always gives everything he has makes him even more of a likable player.
Defensively, Murphy has improved a lot this year. He got a lot of help from former Met and current third base coach Tim Teufel in spring training and has so far avoided the same knee injury that ended both his 2010 and 2011 seasons.
Murphy will probably never be a second baseman who will win a Gold Glove Award, but if he can provide reliable defense to go along with the great hitting he has shown, the Mets will certainly be satisfied with that.
On the other hand, despite Murphy's successful season, his name keeps getting mentioned on the trading block. Teams had wanted to swap Murphy for relievers, but the Mets rejected those offers. Sure, the Mets would want a more natural second baseman that also hits well, but again, if the Mets get consistent hitting and at least average defense from Murphy, they can definitely accept that.
Today, there aren't too many elite second basemen and just about all of them are not only locked up in big contracts, but also would cost more than the Mets could afford.
Thus, it would be smart to keep Daniel Murphy at second base unless an amazing trade offer happens to come their way, but the likelihood for that would not be too great.
6. Determine If Lucas Duda Is Part of the Mets' Future
A third position Alderson will need to address is within the outfield and seeing whether Lucas Duda can become a good left fielder, or what to do with him if he does not meet expectations.
A natural first baseman, Duda was forced to learn the outfield in the minor leagues thanks to the presence of Ike Davis. Thus, Duda has played mostly right field as a Met, although he did spend some time at first base in 2011 after Davis' season-ending injury.
Nonetheless, Duda has played exclusively in right field this year and despite displaying a great throwing arm, has had some adventures in Citi Field's vast right-field gap.
Offensively, Duda got off to a good start and was leading the Mets in home runs for the first few months before slumping in late June and early July. But on July 22, Duda and teammate Kirk Nieuwenhuis were both sent to the minor leagues.
Despite his slump at the time, the main reason Duda was demoted was for him to try playing in left field to see if he would become a better fit there. The Mets' goal right now looks like it will include Duda getting the majority of playing time in left field next year.
At this point in his career, Duda has become to look more and more like a left-handed hitting version of what Butch Huskey was for the Mets from 1996-1998. Like Duda, Huskey was a natural infielder who was placed in right field due to the presence of better first basemen.
Also, Huskey was a big guy with a lot of power, yet he never exactly put it all together throughout his career. Duda has basically done the same.
Huskey, of course, had a solid rookie season in 1996 before having a surprisingly good career season in 1997. His .287 average, 24 home runs and 81 RBI that year were not eye-popping numbers, but they were definitely solid for a second-year player.
Unfortunately, Huskey was asked to carry the Mets' offense through much of the 1998 season and he failed miserably in that role. He battled injuries and only had 13 home runs and 59 RBI before the Mets gave up on him and traded him away. Hopefully, Duda's career will turn out a lot better than Huskey's did.
If the Mets cannot find a place for Duda to play, they should trade him to a team that needs an upgrade at first base.
7. Trade or Release Jason Bay
Ever since he signed a four-year contract before the 2010 season, Jason Bay has done basically nothing for the Mets. He has worked hard at all times to his credit, but he simply has not done any kind of good hitting at the plate for years and has suffered multiple concussions, plus a rib injury in less than three full seasons.
The Mets will obviously be trying to contend in 2013 and if that is the plan, Bay cannot be a part of it. He is a symbol of the Omar Minaya era and he is now nothing more than dead weight on the bench.
The mental issues of playing in New York apparently got to his head, as did the Citi Field dimensions. There is simply no other way to explain why he has hit so poorly since he became a Met.
For now, it looks like Bay will only start against southpaws, but the Mets already have a player that can hit very well against left-handed pitchers. That guy is Scott Hairston, who should be playing left field in those games instead of Bay.
Alderson has eaten contracts before, as evidenced by him releasing Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo in spring training of 2011. He should not be afraid to do this to Bay, even though Bay is making more money.
8. Find an Everyday Role for Jordany Valdespin
In his rookie season, Jordany Valdespin has already impressed the Mets with the five pinch-hitting home runs he has hit, which set a new Mets' single-season record.
However, he is a natural infielder, but due to the presence of the Mets' current infield, he has been forced to learn the outfield, which has not been particularly easy for him.
Valdespin has had some adventures in the outfield so far, but has certainly made up for it with his dramatic breath-taking home runs in clutch situations. He has the talent to be a great major league hitter, but the big question is whether he will really blossom as a Met, and if so, at what position.
Right now Valdespin is getting the majority of playing time in left field thanks to Jason Bay's endless struggles. But whether Valdespin will be a starting outfielder for the Mets in 2013 has yet to be determined.
Ideally, the Mets would have Valdespin on the bench as a super utility player. However, the Mets do not have enough talent for him to be in that role and are better off having him in the everyday lineup.
On the other hand, Valdespin could be used in the offseason as a valuable trade chip if the right scenario comes up. As long as the Mets keep Daniel Murphy at second base, Valdespin will not be able to play in the infield regularly as a Met.
Hopefully, a more definitive role is established for him and he improves in all aspects of the game going forward.
9. Sign a Free Agent Outfielder
Speaking of Duda, Bay and Valdespin, the Mets' outfield has simply been a disaster this year.
Most of the outfielders have underachieved offensively, and at least a few of them have not handled their positions particularly well. It's obvious now that the Mets will need to upgrade their outfield significantly in order to improve next year.
None of the outfield spots are set in stone for 2013. The outfielders in the organization that are most likely to start in the future include Duda, Valdespin, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and prospect Matt Den Dekker.
Mike Baxter is under team control and will likely factor in as well, as would Scott Hairston if he gets re-signed. As for Bay, he should start getting used to sitting on the bench.
If Den Dekker is ready for the major leagues, he will be the Mets' center fielder. But if he still needs more time to develop, Nieuwenhuis will most likely start there, with Duda in left field and most likely Valdespin in right field.
The Mets already have a lineup full of left-handed hitters. Plus, with Bay becoming more useless by the day and Hairston not guaranteed to return, the Mets have to sign a proven right-handed hitting outfielder to at least platoon if not start every day.
David Wright and Ruben Tejada are the only everyday right-handed hitters that the Mets currently have and in order for a lineup to be considered very good, it needs a good balance of both left-handed and right-handed hitters.
One upcoming free agent that comes to mind is the switch-hitting Nick Swisher of the Yankees. However, Swisher will likely ask for more money than the Mets can afford, but he is still someone they should pay attention to.
A few other soon-to-be free agent right-handed hitting outfielders include B.J. Upton (who will also likely be beyond the Mets' financial limitations), Delmon Young, Andruw Jones, Melky Cabrera and Shane Victorino, among others. Michael Bourn could also be a good addition at the right price, due to both his veteran status and his speed.
The signing does not have to be particularly major, but the Mets definitely need to upgrade their outfield depth in the offseason in order to keep moving in the right direction.
10. Completely Fix the Bullpen and Sign a New Closer
If anything has been bad for the Mets all season long, it has been their bullpen, which is one of the worst in all of baseball.
In the past offseason, the Mets tried to improve the bullpen by signing Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch, as well as trading for Ramon Ramirez. Unfortunately, none of these moves have turned out particularly well for the team throughout the season.
Francisco has been a disaster for the most part with a 6.06 ERA, not to mention the numerous anger issues he has displayed as a result of his struggles. The Mets are unfortunately stuck with him for another year, unless they find a way to eat his contract and trade him away.
Rauch got off to a terrible start, but has pitched better in the last two months. As for Ramirez, he has not pitched well all season and looks as if he is always giving up big home runs in crucial spots. His 4.09 ERA makes his season right now look slightly better than it actually is.
Tim Byrdak was one of the bright spots of this unit, but his season is over now thanks to shoulder surgery, which may end his career as well. Unfortunately, he was overused for much of the season and that definitely contributed to the injury.
Bobby Parnell has been the other bright spot at times. He did a solid job closing while Francisco was on the disabled list, but he has recently struggled to pitch well as he continues to work on his control and secondary pitches.
Ever since Byrdak's injury, Josh Edgin has become the main left-handed reliever and has done well so far.
The rest of the bullpen, which has included Miguel Batista, Jeremy Hefner, Manny Acosta and Elvin Ramirez, among others, has simply been unproductive. As if the main relievers struggles were bad enough, the rest of the bullpen has been just as bad, or worse.
Alderson needs to decide whether Parnell will become the closer of the future and whether prospects Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia will fit into the bullpen picture next year. In addition, he needs to decide what to do with Francisco and bring in another closer that hopefully knows what he is doing.
A veteran closer that can mentor Parnell, Familia and Mejia would be great for the Mets, as long as that player does his job next season.
The bullpen has been a never-ending project for the Mets since the end of 2006. Hopefully, 2013 will feature a more solid and dependable Mets' bullpen for the first time in years.