The New York Mets have been active during the winter months leading up to the 2014 season, and the light is at the end of the tunnel for those waiting patiently for spring training.
Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Port St. Lucie on February 15, followed by position players on February 20. Most of the work that Sandy Alderson set out to accomplish for the roster has been completed, but there still could be a few tweaks on the way.
Through all the free-agent signings and trade rumors that swirled around Flushing over the past few months, there have been a few people who benefited greatly. On the other hand, there were also a few people who were given a big disadvantage with camp nearing.
Let’s take a look at some of the biggest winners and losers of the Mets’ offseason so far.
Over recent years, Curtis Granderson has built a reputation to be an elite power hitter. He had a great run with the Detroit Tigers, but it was his time with the New York Yankees he's most known for when it comes to hitting home runs.
After back-to-back years of slugging 40 or more home runs in 2011 and 2012, Granderson dealt with an injury-plagued 2013. Limited to 61 games played and 214 at-bats, the outfielder hit .229/.317/.407 with seven home runs and 15 RBI.
That's not the way he hoped the last guaranteed year of his contract went before entering free agency for the first time. However, with the huge deals Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo received, Granderson looked to be a solid, yet less expensive option for teams in need of outfield power.
Granderson was in the market for a four-year deal, but there weren't many teams interested in locking him up for that long with him entering his age-33 season. The Mets were included in that, as they were hoping to nail down a deal with the outfielder for three years at approximately $45 million.
Desperate for power, Alderson decided to overpay by offering a four-year, $60 million deal to provide protection in the lineup for David Wright. Finding a cleanup hitter was the biggest task on New York’s to-do list, and Granderson benefited the most with the organization offering that fourth year.
The acquisition of Eric Young Jr. last June was critical to the Mets playing better baseball over their last 100 games. His presence at the top of the lineup gave Terry Collins a leadoff hitter with legitimate speed for the first time since Jose Reyes was in Flushing.
The 2013 season was the first time Young had the opportunity to play every day in the majors. He played in a career-high 148 games last year—91 with New York. Despite hitting just .249/.310/.339 with two home runs and 32 RBI, Young was a Gold Glove finalist in the outfield and led the National League with 46 stolen bases.
At the start of winter, Young was projected to once again be a starter. The acquisitions made in the outfield over recent months has pushed Young into a probable bench role as a fourth outfielder. It's still unofficial whether or not Juan Lagares will play center field with Granderson and Chris Young on either side of him, but it's his job to lose heading into camp.
Young probably won't have an impact as a starter for Collins in 2014, but his speed off the bench could be a valuable weapon, if utilized properly.
Terry Collins' time in Flushing hasn't been easy. When he succeeded Jerry Manuel following 2010, he was aware he'd be enduring a rebuilding process. Through three seasons at the helm, Collins owns a 225-261 record, not winning more than 77 games in a season or placing higher than third in the National League East.
That hasn't been entirely his fault, though. Prior to this winter, the largest free-agent signing the Mets made to help bolster his roster was signing Frank Francisco to a two-year, $12 million contract—we all know how effective that acquisition was.
Fresh off earning himself a two-year contract extension with an option for 2016, Collins has seen the front office add more talent this winter than any of the other ones combined. He has a solid starting rotation fortified with the signing of Bartolo Colon. The additions of Granderson and Young bring more depth to his lineup with proven home run hitters than he’s ever seen at Citi Field.
Collins finally has the opportunity to plug more proven players into his lineup on a nightly basis. There are still holes that need to be addressed, but his biggest wish of the offseason, which he revealed in an interview with the Midland Daily Times, has been granted:
We’ve got to find us somebody who can keep the opposing pitchers from pitching around David [Wright]. That’s one of the things we will be looking for in the offseason.
Thankfully, Alderson acquired a player in Granderson to do just that.
Wilmer Flores got a taste of big league action in 2013, but it doesn't look like he'll get consistent playing time in Flushing this season. After making his MLB debut last August, the infielder hit .211/.248/.295 with one home run and 13 RBI in 27 games played.
Earlier this winter, the Mets were willing to listen on trade offers for Daniel Murphy. If Alderson felt it was worth moving him in a deal, Eric Young Jr. and Flores were expected to get looks this spring at second base. If Ike Davis was moved, Wilmer could have also gotten a look at first base as a potential platoon partner with Lucas Duda.
Neither one of those rumored trades happened, leaving Flores on the outside looking in with regard to a major league roster spot for 2014. Murphy and Davis are still with the organization, while Wright has third base locked down for the rest of the decade.
There is still a chance he could make the big league squad as part of a platoon at first base. However, there is a greater chance he will either be a bench player, or find himself back in Triple-A with the Las Vegas 51s.
Mets ownership and front office have been pointing to this winter as the time the organization will truly be able to start moving forward. There was a promise that the money coming off the books from the expiring contracts of Jason Bay and Johan Santana would be reinvested into the big league roster.
There is no doubt the Mets have signed players they expect to have a significant impact in the major leagues this season. Granderson, Young and Colon will collectively be earning $29.25 million in 2014.
Fred Wilpon can point to these signings (and the multiyear agreements with Granderson and Colon) and say the money saved from Bay and Santana has been reinvested, but that's not entirely the case.
Bay and Santana accounted for $49 million of last year's payroll, meaning he's still pocketing $19.75 million heading into this season. The Mets will likely begin 2014 with a reduced payroll for the third consecutive season.
Ownership hasn't spent money like this in quite some time, but the Wilpons are still finding ways to consistently pinch pennies. The days of the Mets having one of the largest payrolls in the league are long gone.
The ability of the owners to spend, yet still save nearly half of the money that came off the books from last season makes them a winner this winter, but it should still enrage fans.
Four of the five starting rotation spots are set for the Mets. They will be filled by Jonathon Niese, Colon, Zack Wheeler and Dillon Gee. The fifth spot is up for grabs, with plenty of hurlers ready to compete in Port St. Lucie next month.
Jenrry Mejia is the leading candidate to grab this job after posting a 2.30 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in 27.1 innings pitched in 2013. Prospects Jacob deGrom and Rafael Montero are expected to get plenty of opportunities to show what they're capable of, as well.
Montero is the more polished prospect than deGrom—in three minor league seasons and 348.1 innings of work (from the Dominican Summer League to Triple-A), Montero owns a 2.51 ERA and 1.02 WHIP. He also impressed in big league camp last year, pitching to a 2.08 ERA and 1.27 WHIP in 8.2 innings.
If the Mets didn't bring in another free-agent pitcher, Montero would have had an outside chance to make the rotation out of spring training. Now that John Lannan has been added on a minor league deal with an invite to big league camp, seeing Montero head north with the team once spring training is over is even less likely.
Ike Davis has been the subject of trade rumors virtually all winter. Alderson had been engaged in talks with the Milwaukee Brewers, Pittsburgh Pirates and Baltimore Orioles about Ike, but his asking price was too steep to strike a deal.
Less than a month away from the start of spring training, Davis will probably be reporting to Port St. Lucie with an eye toward grabbing the starting first base job. It will be an open competition between him and Duda.
The trade rumors surrounding Ike apparently hasn't bothered him this winter, and a report from Anthony DiComo of MLB.com shows he doesn’t want to get traded:
I just want a chance to play. Honestly, I’ve loved my time with the Mets. I’m still a Met right now and I don’t want to get traded. But that part of the game is not up to us. You want to stay, but you don’t have any say in it.
The potential for Davis to be successful is there—that's why Alderson asked for top pitching prospects in trade talks. It's just a matter of him putting it all together on the field for the duration of an entire season.
The acquisitions of Granderson and Young will allow Ike to move down in the order and not be counted on as the major source of production in the lineup. The Mets are hoping that will bring a return to his 2012 power numbers (32 home runs, 90 RBI).
Even though Davis has more potential at first base, Alderson attempted to trade him away because the organization believes more in Duda's ability to develop into the type of player it wants.
Duda struggled to a .223/.352/.415 line with 15 home runs and 33 RBI in 100 games played last year. Experimenting with him in the outfield was done upon his return to the lineup late in 2013, and he received the bulk of playing time at first base after Davis went on the disabled list with an oblique injury.
In 78 career appearances at first base, Duda has been at his best compared to other positions, posting a .269/.375/.478 line with seven home runs and 30 RBI. Now that first base won’t be handed to him on a silver platter, he’ll have to endure a dogfight with Davis in order to earn the majority of playing time.
One would assume Davis will be coming to camp incredibly motivated to show he belongs. If that’s the case, then this open competition will not be won by Duda. At the start of winter, it seemed as if he would be a major contributor in 2014. Now that the winter is nearly complete, the chances of that have evaporated, and he could be relegated to a role on the bench.
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