New York Mets: 5 Most Critical Developments for the Club's Postseason Chances
New York Mets fans have endured five straight losing seasons. Once Sandy Alderson took over as general manager prior to the 2011 season, he pointed toward 2014 as being the light at the end of the tunnel.
It allowed the front office time to re-build the farm system. It would also allow New York the time necessary to rid themselves of ineffective long-term contracts.
While it's only been three years of waiting, it has felt like an eternity for Mets fans. The year the front office has constantly been pointing to has finally arrived. The farm system has improved, and the long-term deals given to Jason Bay and Johan Santana have officially come off the books.
Alderson has been frank when talking about his plans for the Mets this winter. Matthew Cerrone of MetsBlog reported back in June that New York may have as much as $40 million to spend this winter.
The number has not changed moving into the offseason. However, the organization needs to prove their willing to spend. Scott Boras summed it up nicely this week at the GM Meetings:
"Well, I think the ability to spend and actually spending are two different things."
A run at the 2014 postseason for the New York Mets will be a tough one. What needs to happen next season to see playoff baseball in Flushing for the first time since 2006?
Acquire Productive Offensive Players
Despite playing in just 112 games in 2013, David Wright hit .307/.390/.514 with 18 home runs and 58 RBIs. Outside of him and Daniel Murphy, there weren't many consistently productive offensive players once Marlon Byrd was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Ike Davis and Lucas Duda were supposed to be the main sources of power in Terry Collins' lineup. New York's 130 team home runs were tied for 25th best in the major leagues. Their 593 RBIs as a squad ranked 23rd, while their .366 team slugging percentage was only better than the Miami Marlins (.355).
Without a true leadoff hitter, Collins was depending on Ruben Tejada to set the tone. After hitting .289/.333/.351 as the starting shortstop in 2012, he struggled to a .202/.259/.260 line in 2013. That contributed to their .306 team on-base percentage, ranking 25th in the league.
The Mets need to find hitters to put in their lineup to protect David Wright. Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reported Collins saying that getting protection for their third baseman is the team's top priority this winter.
Looking at their roster, New York conceivably has holes at both corner outfield positions, shortstop and first base. To give the "Amazins" any chance of competing in 2014, Alderson needs to bring in some proven hitters.
Curtis Granderson, Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta and Carlos Beltran are all options via free agency. There are even more opportunities to explore through trades. Either way, something has to happen to give Wright the protection he needs.
Find a Replacement for Matt Harvey
I know, easier said than done. Matt Harvey's partial UCL tear and subsequent Tommy John surgery did put a damper on New York's plans to compete in 2014. Although he was shut down with a month to go in 2013, he placed fourth in NL Cy Young award voting.
The young right-hander went 9-5 with a 2.27 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 191 strikeouts in 178.1 innings pitched. His stellar first half earned him the honor of starting the All-Star game at Citi Field.
Harvey provided the tough attitude every manager loves to have at the top of a rotation. It will be impossible to find another pitcher like Harvey, let alone be able to afford him. However, the Mets need someone to eat up those innings and fill the void.
Again, there are plenty of options via free agency. Phil Hughes, Bronson Arroyo, Chris Capuano and Scott Baker are a handful of names from a long list that could be a fit for New York.
Thanks to their minor league development, young hurlers like Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom will likely be competing for the fifth rotation spot during spring training.
Plus, if all goes according to plan, top prospect Noah Syndergaard will be making his big league debut sometime next summer.
Terry Collins has depended on the health of Daniel Murphy over the last two seasons. Out of a possible 324 games, Murph appeared in 317. That's durability.
Unfortunately, most of the other Mets players haven't been able to stay away from the disabled list since the 2009 season.
In the first five years of his big league career, David Wright didn't spend one day on the DL. Since 2009, he's been on the DL three separate times. Ike Davis missed most of 2011 with a mysterious ankle injury, then was hampered at the start of 2012 by Valley Fever.
Johan Santana missed two full seasons thanks to two different surgeries on his throwing shoulder. Jason Bay had a hard time staying healthy with a multitude of injuries. Ruben Tejada's right quad has landed him on the DL multiple times. He also finished 2013 on the shelf with a broken leg.
You think this is bad? I'm just naming a few injuries off the top of my head.
In order for any team to reach the postseason, there are numerous things that need to go in their favor. One of the most crucial things is for the team to stay healthy. A manager can have all the depth in the world, but it's hard to compete when multiple major contributors go down with injuries.
Unlike recent years, the Mets will need to stay healthy as a unit if they want to make a run at October.
Have a Deeper Bench
Having a deep bench is important for a successful manager. It allows him to use his reserve players at big spots in a game as pinch hitters, but it also helps when starters get hurt.
Since these incredible amounts of injuries have been piling up in Flushing each year, New York's lack of depth has been exposed.
A prime example is the shortstop position. Ruben Tejada was tabbed as the starter heading into 2013. Outside of him, Justin Turner was the only real option on the big league squad to play that position.
As Tejada continued to underwhelm the organization and the fans, there was little the coaching staff could do. Threats of sending him to the minors appeared, but who would replace him? Turner is seen solely as a bench player, so it wouldn't be him.
The eventual answer was Omar Quintanilla. He was called up from Triple-A Las Vegas to take Tejada's spot when he injured his squad at the end of May in Yankee Stadium.
Q provided solid defense, but his .222/.306/.283 line meant his spot in the lineup was basically a black hole.
The same can be said about the lack of outfield depth. Juan Lagares and Eric Young, Jr. emerged as surprisingly productive. Once Marlon Byrd was traded away, there was virtually no threat of any Met outfielder hitting home runs consistently.
Regain the Trust of the Fans
New York Mets fans are some of the most loyal fans there are. I should know, since I am one of them.
They've suffered through all the injuries, Bernie Madoff and always playing second fiddle to their crosstown buddy, the New York Yankees.
After three years of waiting, the organization needs to show the fans they're serious about putting a quality product on the field.
They showed that to a degree last winter by locking up David Wright to an eight-year/$138 million extension. Now, it's time to start putting a team around him. Fans have watched Alderson and his front office tear down this team at the big league level, which wasn't a glamorous process in a big market like New York.
It's been great to hear Alderson talk about having financial flexibility and being active via free agency and trade this winter. However, as Scott Boras said earlier, it's one thing to say that, but another to actually follow through and do it.
Just from reading comments on other blogs and social media, there are a lot of Mets fans that don't believe New York will actually spend money this winter. What's even worse is that they're feeling the heat!
If Alderson follows through by acquiring some productive players and actually spends some money, maybe some fans start coming back to games at Citi Field. A full house means a better atmosphere to play in, and maybe even elevated play from those on the field.
Honorable Mention: The Wilpons Sell the Team
The Wilpon Family has been a part of the Mets organization for a long time. They've owned at least a piece of the team since 1980.
After all the financial hardship they went through with the Bernie Madoff scandal, there is question as to whether the Mets will ever be big spenders again with the Wilpons controlling it all.
With that in mind, common knowledge would be that the Wilpons would have to sell the team in order for the "Amazins" to once again be successful on the field.
What do you think has to happen to give the Mets a chance at making the postseason in 2014?