Reassessing New York Mets' Offseason Plan and What's Next
On the heels of a 89-loss season, the New York Mets organization entered the offseason with a vast amount of work to do in order to play competitive baseball in 2014 and set the team up for long-term success.
As we take a look back at the offseason in the aftermath of the winter meetings, the Mets emerge as one of the most proactive teams in baseball.
When the 2013 season ended, New York needed to upgrade its outfield, add a top-tier starting pitcher to replace Matt Harvey's lost dominance in 2014 and settle its conundrum at first base. New York needed to find better production from the shortstop position, add veteran arms to the bullpen and lay the groundwork for a major, franchise-altering trade in the future.
If you have ever wanted to switch jobs with Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, re-read that last paragraph.
The road back to contention won't be easy for the Mets, but they are off to a flying start this winter. By inking Chris Young and Curtis Granderson, the outfield now features major league hitters. When Bartolo Colon arrived, the Mets found an ace that can help in both 2014 and beyond, despite his large frame, age and PED issues.
In a vacuum, those three moves alone could push the Mets close to the 81-win plateau, but more is needed to ensure success. Furthermore, for a downtrodden fan base that hasn't seen a winning product since 2008, the final steps must take place to prove that the organization is serious about putting an annual contender on the field.
Here's what should be next for the New York Mets.
Trade a First Baseman
When the offseason began, the Mets looked to have a valuable commodity: a surplus of power-hitting first basemen.
Only 14 players hit 30-plus home runs in 2013. Of that list, five manned first base for their respective teams. With power leaving the game, owning a first baseman that can blast 30-plus home runs is an important advantage.
As the Mets brass chooses which young, inconsistent performer—Ike Davis or Lucas Duda—to move in the right package, teams with first base vacancies are dwindling by the day.
Tampa re-signed James Loney. Colorado inked Justin Morneau. Seattle added both Corey Hart and Logan Morrison. Boston re-upped with Mike Napoli.
At some point, the Mets are going to be left without a dance partner in the first base carousel of the offseason. That's why the next priority must be to bring back the best possible value for either Ike Davis or Lucas Duda.
According to Anthony DiComo of MLB.com, Sandy Alderson isn't in a rush, citing the need to maximize the return in an eventual deal.
"Let me emphasize one thing: We're not in the business of giving players away," Alderson said. "We don't expect to get in that business."
That's fair, but the Mets aren't in a position to bring both players to spring training in 2014. Duda features more plate discipline. Ike has a bigger track record in the majors, hitting 30-plus home runs as recently as 2012.
Still, both are flawed players on non-minimum deals. According to arbitration projections by Matt Swartz of MLB Trade Rumors, Davis ($3.5 million) is on track to almost double Duda ($1.8 million) in salary for 2014. When assessing the trade value for each, that's part of New York's equation.
The decision isn't easy, enhanced by the love/hate relationship Mets fans have with Davis' tantalizing potential and past success, but it must be made soon.
Upgrade at Shortstop
This past season, Mets shortstops combined to post a .561 OPS, per MLB.com. Only the Kansas City Royals had a more pitiful output from the shortstop position.
To say an upgrade is necessary would be an understatement. Regardless of the other moves New York makes this offseason, bringing back the same production from shortstop will drag down the entire offense for Terry Collins' lineup.
When the winter began, one of the two major free-agent shortstops, Jhonny Peralta or Stephen Drew, felt destined to end up in Flushing, Queens. After Peralta's $53 million free-agent contract in St. Louis, the shortstop market turned. Unless Drew's asking price, per MLB.com, falls significantly, don't expect the Mets to truly enter the sweepstakes.
That, however, shouldn't be an excuse for bringing back Ruben Tejada as an everyday shortstop, something Sandy Alderson implied to Jorge Castillo of NJ.com.
If Drew's cost is too high, the trade market must suffice.
Although players like Cleveland's Asdrubal Cabrera, Chicago's Starlin Castro and Philadelphia's Jimmy Rollins all bring red flags, ranging from service time before free agency to inconsistency to age, every rock must be turned over in order to fill this major hole.
The Mets aren't obligated to find the next Jose Reyes or franchise shortstop this winter, but they are in a position where an upgrade is imperative.
Strengthen the Bullpen
If the 2014 season began tomorrow, the following names would comprise the projected Mets bullpen, per MLB Depth Charts: Bobby Parnell, Gonzalez Germen, Scott Rice, Vic Black, Josh Edgin, Jeurys Familia and Carlos Torres.
You don't have to be a baseball historian to know that group won't be overtaking the 1990 Reds group of Nasty Boys as the most fearsome bullpen in a generation.
To be fair, there are some nice arms in that group, led by closer Bobby Parnell. Of course, the Mets won't know if the same Parnell that dominated 2013 (2.16 ERA, 22 saves) will be back in 2014. After neck surgery in September, Parnell isn't healthy enough to be counted on yet, according to his manager.
"I think we've got to wait to see how he shows up (in spring training)," Collins said recently to Adam Rubin of ESPN New York.
If he's not ready, the rest of the group can be exposed. When LaTroy Hawkins, last year's veteran-revelation-turned-closer, left for a free-agent deal with the Colorado Rockies, a gaping hole in the bullpen went with him.
Although Hawkins provided leadership, he was valuable mostly for recording outs. In 70.2 IP in 2013, the veteran righty pitched to a 2.93 ERA.
When Sandy Alderson scours the free-agent market for relievers, he must find someone capable of giving big innings, possibly in a closing role, for the 2014 season.
From Chris Perez to Fernando Rodney to Kevin Gregg, the market is loaded with pitchers that can help in a big way.
Before spring training begins, one or more must have arrived in Queens.
Lay the Groundwork for a Major Trade
When Sandy Alderson took over as Mets general manager after the 2010 season, the franchise needed to be gutted, stripped down of overpaid and under-performing former stars, and enhanced with a deep, productive farm system. With David Wright in tow, a rock would be present for the rebuilding process.
Now, more than three years later, fans want to see the light at the end of the tunnel. After five consecutive losing seasons, patience is wearing thin at Citi Field.
If the Mets follow the rest of this offseason plan, crisis will be averted. Even without Matt Harvey in 2014, the roster assembled with Curtis Granderson, Bartolo Colon, Chris Young, an upgrade at shortstop, the return for Ike Davis and a veteran bullpen arm should be enough to field a decent outfit for the first time in years.
The moves, though, while productive, won't put the Mets back in the postseason or on the road to the championship they've been chasing since 1986.
More work must be done to complement Wright, Granderson, a young and dynamic pitching staff, and the eventual return of the great Matt Harvey.
Few expect the franchise-changing move to be completed this winter, but it doesn't mean the team can't lay the groundwork for it now. Every conversation with teams like Colorado (Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez), Milwaukee (Ryan Braun), Kansas City (Alex Gordon), Miami (Giancarlo Stanton) and Toronto (Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion) are productive for future dialogue.
By gauging the interest in Mets assets, Alderson can piece together what it might take to acquire a true star, if one of those teams implodes and sells off assets during next July's trade deadline.
At some point, the Mets need to add a third musketeer to play with David Wright and Matt Harvey.
Targeting that player now could make the process easier to complete down the line.
What do you think should be the next step for the Mets this offseason?