As the 2012 regular season comes to an end, the Mets and general manager Sandy Alderson will have many decisions to make for the 2013 season. The Mets played surprisingly well in the first half of this season, but were a completely different team and played very poorly throughout the second half. As a result, the Mets will finish with a losing record for the fourth consecutive year.
The Mets have had plenty of players underachieve or simply not do well at all. Jason Bay, Andres Torres, Josh Thole, Mike Nickeas, Manny Acosta, Ramon Ramirez and Frank Francisco, among others, have all had poor seasons.
On the other hand, there have been some notable bright spots. R.A. Dickey is a very strong favorite for the NL Cy Young Award and has 20 wins going into his final start. Jon Niese has had a breakout season with 13 wins of his own. Johan Santana had an uneven season but threw the first no-hitter in Mets history. Rookie Matt Harvey has shown just as much potential as anyone with a 2.73 ERA in 10 starts as he looks to become a future co-ace in the years to come.
Offensively, David Wright was one of the best hitters in baseball during the first half, but has not hit as well since the All-Star break. Ike Davis rebounded from a horrendous start to his season with a resurgent second half that includes 31 home runs for the year. Fellow infielders Daniel Murphy and Ruben Tejada have both had solid seasons as well. Off the bench, Justin Turner, Mike Baxter and Jordany Valdespin have all been reliable pinch-hitters.
Again, the Mets will have a lot of decisions to make this offseason. They are very unlikely to spend much money on outside free agents due to their continued budget limitations. Thus, most of the moves the Mets will make will be internal or through trades. Some of the current players will stay, but a good number of others will be on their way out. Here is a blueprint of what the upcoming offseason should look like within the organization itself.
Current Mets That Are Most Likely to Stay
Under Alderson, the Mets still seem to be moving in the right direction as their minor league system has been somewhat rebuilt, at least on the pitching end. The first two impending decisions will be the options for Wright and Dickey. Both are almost certain to be picked up, but the big question is whether both will be getting their much deserved extensions before the 2013 season begins.
Adam Rubin of ESPN New York has reported that the Mets will do everything they can to make sure Wright remains a Met for the rest of his career. They will need to get a long-term extension done this winter because if not, Wright will likely test free agency in the 2013-2014 offseason.
Rubin also stated that Dickey getting a contract extension this offseason is not as likely due to his age. Dickey will be 38 at the end of October and could possibly bring back a good amount of talent if traded. More likely than not though, he will still get re-signed for another two or three seasons, but he is not as sure of a bet as Wright.
Once the Mets address the contracts of Wright and Dickey, they will need to decide which other current Mets that will become free agents should get re-signed.
Scott Hairston is one player that the Mets will very likely try to bring back. He has hit well against left-handed pitching all season and could possibly become a starting corner outfielder with the Mets' outfield as a whole being as weak as it is. The Mets could fall short though if another team offers Hairston a multi-year contract and possibly a starting role.
The same could be said for backup infielder Ronny Cedeno, but he isn't as much of a need to the Mets as Hairston, especially because the Mets lack right-handed power outside of Wright.
First baseman Ike Davis should remain a Met in 2013, despite all the talk of him getting traded. He has been the Mets' best power hitter by far, despite his slow start. The only way a trade of Davis could work for the Mets is if they get a young and established first baseman or outfielder in return at the very least. His value to the Mets completely outweighs his value on the open market and finding similar power production to replace him would not be easy.
Assuming Davis remains a Met, there will then be a decision to make on the future of Lucas Duda. The Mets though are not as likely to trade Duda because similarly to Davis, his potential and value to the Mets is greater than his value on other teams. Duda will almost certainly be the Mets' left fielder in 2013. He is not as much of a proven hitter at this point, and still has a lot of work to do defensively, but the Mets are confident that he will have a breakout season in 2013.
With Ruben Tejada now being the shortstop of the future and Daniel Murphy quite likely to return at second base, the offensive focus will be on the outfield and behind the plate. Kirk Nieuwenhuis has a very good chance to become the Mets' center fielder next year, particularly because the Mets will not be spending money on making any free agent upgrades there.
Nieuwenhuis had a great start to his season this year, but struggled in July before being sent down to the minor leagues. He can play center field very well and has some power, but will need to cut down on the strikeouts in order to be an everyday player.
If the Mets bring back Hairston, this would leave Mike Baxter and Jordany Valdespin to have their same backup roles next year. Baxter would be a top pinch-hitter and a fourth outfielder, while Valdespin would be the Mets' ultimate utility man, due to his ability to play second base, shortstop and all three outfield positions. Valdespin though will have to improve on his outfield defense going forward.
Speaking of outfielders, according to Andy McCullough of the Star Ledger, Justin Turner will be learning the outfield as well in spring training. Turner has filled in admirably at every infield position and will look to do the same in the outfield in order to increase his value to the team. He has been a successful pinch-hitter as well.
As bad as he has been for three years, Jason Bay will return for a fourth and final season with the Mets. He will be a platoon player at the most, but is more likely to be a pinch-hitter at this point. The Mets will not release him this winter and will definitely not find another team willing to take on his contract. However, a release during spring training is possible, but not as likely as it was in 2011 for Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez.
Moving onto catchers, Kelly Shoppach has been a bright spot for the Mets' offense since being traded from the Red Sox in August. The Mets may not view Shoppach as an everyday catcher, but he can be a very valuable backup and will likely be brought back in that role unless another team outbids the Mets and offers Shoppach a starting job. The Mets do not have much else going for them among all their catchers in the entire organization, so re-signing Shoppach would be a step in the right direction.
On the pitching end, Dickey will lead a rotation that will almost certainly include incumbents Jon Niese, Matt Harvey, Johan Santana and Dillon Gee. Santana and Gee will be returning from injuries and Santana in particular is not a sure bet to pitch for an entire season. Furthermore, top prospect Zack Wheeler is very likely to get called up by midseason and could easily take Santana's spot if he gets hurt.
The Mets will also try to re-sign Chris Young to increase their pitching depth further. Young has stayed healthy since he returned from shoulder surgery in June and has given the Mets another veteran presence within their young rotation. Due to his numbers and the fact that he has struggled to pitch beyond seven innings in any start throughout the year, Young could very well be back with the Mets for a third season.
In the bullpen, Frank Francisco will be back, simply because he has another year left on his contract and will be difficult, if not impossible to trade thanks to his poor season this year. It's not certain whether he will close in 2013 for sure, but the Mets will be stuck with him regardless.
Bobby Parnell is likely to remain a Met as well and could possibly replace Francisco as the Mets' closer. He has been the Mets' most consistent reliever all season and has been a solid set-up man for the past few seasons. Other Mets' relievers that will be on the team next year include Josh Edgin, Robert Carson, Jeurys Familia and Jeremy Hefner as the long reliever.
Familia for one has been a starter his entire minor league career, but during his September call-up this year, he has been an effective reliever. As long as he limits his walks, he could be a productive late inning reliever.
Current Mets Who Will Not Be Brought Back
Obviously, a good number of changes need to be made this offseason and will be made.
Rubin also reported that center fielder Andres Torres and relievers Jon Rauch and Ramon Ramirez will all not be brought back next season. Torres is an aging center fielder that has not contributed much at all to the Mets this year, while Ramirez has simply been a big disappointment and has not pitched the same way he once did for the Giants. Rauch has improved from a poor first two months of the season, but just might not fit into the Mets' future plans. Rauch and Ramirez will both be free agents, while Torres is eligible for arbitration, but will not get a new contract from the Mets.
Another Met that will likely go through the same path as Torres is Mike Pelfrey. Coming off a poor 2011 season, Pelfrey opened this year as the Mets' fourth starter and pitched reasonably well for three starts before having to undergo Tommy John surgery, which ended his season. Due to the Mets' solid rotation for the future, Pelfrey would not be a part of it. As a result, the Mets will not guarantee a major league spot for Pelfrey and will let him become a free agent.
However, if Pelfrey does not get a contract for another team, the Mets could easily re-sign him to a minor league contract. He could continue to rehabilitate with the familiar Mets training staff and be ready to pitch in case one of the Mets' starters gets hurt. The Mets would have nothing to lose by signing Pelfrey to a minor league deal, but as far as a guaranteed major league contract is concerned, that will not be happening for him.
The only other notable Met that is not certain to return is catcher Josh Thole. Thole's offensive production has been poor all season, and his defense got worse as well. In fact, after Kelly Shoppach was acquired as a right-handed hitting backup, the Mets gave him more playing time simply because Thole was struggling so much at the plate.
Thole is under Mets control through 2017 and will be eligible for arbitration in 2014. But with the Mets desperately in need of more offensive from their catchers, Thole's job as the Mets' starter is not all too certain. The Mets might try to deal Thole in the offseason or could simply release him, but it's getting more obvious that the team needs an upgrade behind the plate. If Thole does remain a Met, it will hopefully be as a backup.
One thing that should be noted though is that no one in the Mets is untouchable for sure. Matt Harvey might be at least close to untouchable, but everyone else will be fair game for trades if favorable offers are presented. Thus, while many members of the current team will likely return for at least another season, expect the unexpected this winter.
Hopefully, the right moves will be made and the Mets will be able to really contend in 2013. But it will take quite some time and a lot of decision making before we all know for sure what direction the Mets end up going in.