New York Mets: Top Story Lines at the Start of Spring Training
One of the defining qualities of the New York Mets during Omar Minaya's era was their annual huge free-agent acquisition.
In the first three offseasons with Sandy Alderson at the helm, Frank Francisco's two year, $12 million pact has been the most lucrative.
That is quite the contrast.
The Mets will enter the 2013 season as the fourth best team in the NL East, after finishing under .500 in each of the four seasons since the inception of Citi Field.
They did very little to improve their chances of making a postseason berth this season.
Regardless, what would sports be without debate?
With that being said, here are the top story lines entering the season.
Does the Front Office Already Have a Replacement in Mind for Terry Collins?
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If Terry Collins is concerned about his looming expiring contract, he is doing a commendable job of acting the contrary.
"I don't care about the future," Collins told the media.
Wally Backman, the fiery manager of the Mets' Triple-A affiliate, Las Vegas 51s, seems to be the next in line to manage the team he won a World Series ring with.
He is not about to lobby for the position, though.
"I'm not after Terry's job," Backman told the New York Post.
Obviously their styles contrast one another, which may suit the Mets better once their young players have matured and are ready to compete with the firepower of the NL East.
This will be a topic throughout spring training and if the team gets off to a poor start, but the real intrigue will be after the season.
Could a Strong Spring Training Land D'Arnaud and Wheeler on the Big League Club?
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The Mets could approach this situation two ways.
1) State that neither player will begin the season in the major leagues because they must refine their craft at the Triple-A level.
2) They could succumb to the pressure of the fans and media by allowing the top prospects to begin the season at the big league level in order to sell more tickets.
The second approach would be extremely short sighted.
Both prospects actually have a lot to lose by experiencing growing pains in Flushing, Queens. In the case of d'Arnaud, he must prove he can stay healthy for a full season.
Wheeler, on the other hand, must sharpen his command a bit before making his debut. Wheeler walked 4.4 per nine innings at Triple-A Buffalo last season. That figure would hurt his effectiveness in the big leagues.
With that being the case, the Mets have no reason to call him up before he is ready, which should be between the beginning of May and the end of June.
Will the Team Announce David Wright as Captain?
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In addition to throwing no-hitters and winning MVPs, the Mets franchise also avoids retiring numbers and naming captains to the team.
In the case of David Wright, he has absolutely earned the right to become the first captain since John Franco.
Wright has been a model citizen during his tenure with the Mets, avoiding all controversies while amassing six top-25 MVP finishes.
The title of captain may be held in high regard with the organization, but so is David Wright.
After signing him to an eight-year contract worth $138 million, the front office should show their appreciation for the 30-year-old veteran.
How Much Will They Regret Not Signing Michael Bourn?
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While a surprising amount of Mets fans have declared their opposition of Michael Bourn, it is obvious they would all have been on board had the team lured him away from the Cleveland Indians.
The 30-year-old outfielder would've brought another dimension to the Mets that they do not possess.
He is arguably the best defensive center fielder in the game, and his 51-stolen-bases-per- year-average would be a tremendous boost over anyone that the Mets have at the top of the order.
Bourne does have his weaknesses, obviously, as he has averaged 126 strikeouts and an underwhelming .339 OBP for his career.
The bottom line is that Bourn is a borderline All-Star while Kirk Nieuwenhuis is a borderline major leaguer.
For the contract he received, four years $48 million, I would have liked to see him roaming the spacious Citi Field outfield.
Are They Simply Playing Out the String until 2014?
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It's impossible to tell whether Sandy Alderson is simply avoiding poisonous contracts or he is not given the green light to pursue top-tier players from the front office.
The Wilpons have stated that they are past their financial woes, but it's obvious they are still concerned about their lack of revenue from ticket sales in the past couple years.
The Mets ranked No. 17 in the majors last season by averaging 28,035 fans per game.
2013 figures to be the last of the transitional years from the 2005-2010 clubs that were assembled by Omar Minaya.
Johan Santana and Jason Bay's expiring contracts will help their flexibility entering next offseason.
If I had to bet, Alderson does not believe his team will compete this season. They must start doing so next season or he'll be out of a job.
In New York, fans are not usually patient. During this era, they have been.
Another losing year in 2013 will force 2014 to be a significant season.