Kathy Willens/Associated Press
First Base: Ike Davis vs. Lucas Duda
Alderson has been trying to trade Ike Davis for most of the winter. While he provides more upside with his power potential than Lucas Duda, he could bring more back in any trade. Plus, the organization seems to be more invested in developing Duda moving forward.
Earlier this winter, Davis opened up to Anthony DiComo of MLB.com about how he wants another chance to prove himself in Flushing: "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."
It may seem like the Mets are more invested in Duda, but they’re trying to trade Davis because they know he has more upside. He should have some extra motivation in camp to prove himself. Combine that with Collins’ plan to give him more at-bats than normal in spring training, per Newsday, and this is a battle he won’t lose.
Winner: Ike Davis
Fifth Spot in the rotation: Jenrry Mejia vs. John Lannan and Daisuke Matsuzaka
As mentioned earlier, Mejia is healthy and ready to do battle in Port St. Lucie for the final spot in the starting rotation. Since he's mostly unproven at the major league level and his sample size from 2013 is too small, Alderson brought in Lannan and Matsuzaka as depth signings.
Mejia gives the Mets the biggest upside out of the three, but even if he stays healthy, he likely won't be able to pitch a full season. He's never thrown more than 108.2 innings in a single season as a professional.
With one Tommy John surgery under his belt already, Mejia will probably be limited to about 140 innings pitched. That will lead the way for either of these two veterans or one of the pitching prospects in Triple-A to make an impact come the summer.
Winner: Jenrry Mejia
Center Field: Juan Lagares vs. Chris Young
Juan Lagares is penciled in as New York’s starting center fielder, but he’ll have to earn his spot. Chris Young was promised a look at his natural position before inking a one-year deal.
This battle depends on whether or not Lagares can handle big league pitching. His defense is fantastic—he was among league leaders in many defensive metrics for outfielders. However, he hit .242/.281/.352 in 121 games played last season.
Entering his age-25 season, he is still young and has the potential to be a solid major league hitter. With the Mets trying to contend for a playoff spot this season, he must show drastic improvement in his approach to win a starting job. He did hit .342/.379/.412 in 28 winter league games in advance of this upcoming competition.
The improvement in the team last season once Lagares became the regular center fielder was evident. His glove was a true game-changer. His growth as an offensive player will shine through this spring. All he needs to do is show potential, and the job should be his.
Winner: Juan Lagares
Shortstop: Ruben Tejada vs. Everyone
Alderson started this winter on the hunt for a solution at shortstop. Not only was Tejada not performing well, but his work ethic as a big leaguer came into question.
Once the free-agent and trade markets dried up, the Mets decided they would need to give him another chance. Stephen Drew remains a possibility, but there’s no guarantee New York will acquire a Scott Boras client on his terms.
If Drew doesn’t come aboard, Tejada will likely compete with Wilfredo Tovar and Wilmer Flores. He does have some advantages on these two, as he’s shown signs of productivity in the majors and has more experience than both of them combined.
Tejada used his time this offseason wisely to get in shape and prepare to get back in the good graces of the organization. He can hopefully use the criticism he’s received as motivation to prove others wrong. I’ll be rooting for Flores, but ultimately it’s Tejada’s job to lose if no acquisitions are made.
Winner: Ruben Tejada
2014 Prediction: 85-77
This is an optimistic prediction, but February is the best time to be optimistic about a team’s chances. Winning 85 games may not be enough to qualify for a playoff spot, but it will have this team playing meaningful games at the end of the season.
A performance like this will show visible progress to fans that “the plan” is working and the organization is headed in the right direction.
Matt's Mets opinions have been featured on MLB Trade Rumors, Yahoo! Sports, MetsBlog, Amazin' Avenue and Mets Merized Online. To keep up with Matt, you can follow him on Twitter.