The NY Mets are in the midst of another August swoon, having stumbled their way through the summer on pace for another below .500 season.
The two most pressing issues that must be addressed are the futures of David Wright and R.A. Dickey. Arguably the only two reasons to purchase a ticket to a Mets game, Wright and Dickey are about to enter the final year of club-friendly contracts.
If the Mets expect their fans to buy into the elusive “Sandy Alderson has a plan” rhetoric coming from their front office, it starts by paying Wright and Dickey.
Free agent signings are risky. No team has proven that to be true quite like the Mets. They will pay Johan Santana and Jason Bay more than $40 million combined next season, and the reality is that neither is likely to have a full healthy season or contribute to more than 10 wins.
If you assume you’ll need 90 wins to make the playoffs, where will the Mets find the other 80?
Wright and Dickey are the fastest way to guarantee wins, fill seats and convince fans that ownership is aware of the perception that they have become stingy, farsighted and out of touch.
It will likely take approximately $175 million to lock up both players for the next five years. Given age, performance indicators and pure need, this is a smart investment.
For the 2013 season, if both players have similar years to 2012, you can add 25 wins to the tally.
Updated Total Wins: 35.
Jonathon Niese and Matt Harvey seem locks for the 2013 starting rotation. That’s good news for the Mets’ wallet because they are both young, under contract and improving with each start.
Paired with Dickey and Santana, that’s a formidable front four in the rotation. It’s safe to assume that each pitcher can be counted on for 10-15 wins. I’ll split the difference and say 25 more wins total.
Updated Total Wins: 50
Unfortunately for the Mets, this is where the guarantees end. If you look at their roster top to bottom, there is not one other position player or pitcher who you can assume will guarantee any wins in 2013.
The next questions the Mets must assess are what positions are covered with capable players and what positions need total makeovers.
Here are the players likely to remain intact.
First Base: Ike Davis
This is a simple one. Ike has power, which the Mets desperately need. They will cross their fingers that his historically bad first half of 2012 was a fluke and give Davis another full season to prove his value.
Shortstop: Ruben Tejada
A strong 2012 season, hitting for high average and playing excellent defense, has fans forgetting that Jose Reyes was the 2011 NL batting champion before jetting to Miami. Tejada is consistent, young and affordable. He’s not going anywhere.
Outfield or Second Base: Jordany Valdespin
The Mets will only have so much money to spend this offseason. Valdespin has shown speed and power, something the Mets lack. I expect them to decide where he will play based on what free agents they sign or trades they are able to make.
Bullpen: Frank Francisco and Bobby Parnell
Francisco will only be back with the Mets because he signed a two-year contract. I do not expect him to be handed the closer's role. Parnell will continue to have weeks of brilliance and weeks of madness.
As for guarantees, that’s about as far as I am willing to go. I think every other player on this team may be replaced.
Daniel Murphy is a better trade chip than investment. He’s a good clubhouse guy who will hit .290 with the occasional double. He can likely be packaged with a mid-tier minor leaguer for someone Sandy Alderson views as a starter.
Josh Thole should not be on the 2013 roster. He is a passed ball waiting to happen and hits with zero power. The Mets will need to go out of house for his replacement.
Andres Torres was a disappointment (if not bust) in center field. Lucas Duda is a liability in right. Scott Hairston overachieved and hit for a good deal of power. But he is the type of player who cannot be counted on to have back-to-back seasons like this one.
Throw Jason Bay into the mix and you have four outfielders, only one of whom should likely be starting. Your guess is as good as mine.
Relegate one outfielder to the bench and you still have to sign two more.
A fifth starter is a problem for this team. Chris Young and Mike Pelfrey are not the answers. They will need to go out of house to make this signing.
Additionally, since Santana will likely not pitch a full healthy season, the Mets almost need to assume the worst and have six major-league starters on their opening day roster.
A few options exist in the farm system, but none can be counted on to be ready in April.
The Mets revamped their bullpen for 2012 and I expect them to do the same for 2013. Not only can they not be counted on for wins, but they directly contribute to losses. I expect three-to-five fresh arms.
If the above holds true, the 2013 Mets currently look like this:
Starting Pitchers: Dickey, Santana, Niese, Harvey and (1) TBD player
Bullpen: Francisco, Parnell and (5) TBD players
Starting Lineup: David Wright, Ruben Tejada, Ike Davis, Jordany Valdespin and (4) TBD players
Bench: Jason Bay and (4) TBD players
That makes a total of 14 spots up for grabs.
It Sandy Alderson's job to fill them with players capable of bringing 90 wins to Citi Field.
The likelihood of this happening in one or two seasons is slim, making the job security of Alderson and Terry Collins similar to that of their lineup…TBD.