5 Early-Season Questions the New York Mets Will Have to Answer
Yes, it's early on in the 2014 regular season. And, yes, there's still lots of baseball to play—a whole summer, in fact.
But in a big market like New York, team officials are always being looked at through a microscope and every step, every movement, is watched with great intensity. It's just the nature of the beast that is the Big Apple.
For general manager Sandy Alderson and his New York Mets, there are already a number of questions being thrown around in regards to the Mets' potential in the National League and what will become of some of their players.
Here are five tough questions for Alderson and Co. that may or may not be answered any time soon. Nevertheless, they are worth pondering as the season rolls along.
Who's on 1st?
The competition between Ike Davis and Lucas Duda for the starting first base gig has been well-documented since before spring training started. Still, more than a week into the season, there doesn't seem to be a solid resolution.
As reported by the New York Daily News, both men went through camp battling trade rumors as well as injuries. However, both men broke camp with the big club and each has seen substantial action with the Mets so far in 2014.
Last week, manager Terry Collins indicated to MLB.com that Duda was being named the everyday first baseman for the Mets. That same day, he went off and hit two two-run home runs against the Reds. Just a couple of days later, Davis came up big with a pinch-hit, walk-off grand slam.
In the small sample size so far, Davis seems to be producing at a better clip than Duda, though Duda has almost twice the amount of at-bats early on.
It will be an intriguing story to watch all season. Will one of these sluggers get traded during the season or can the Mets handle splitting time between two left-handed first basemen?
It all leads us back to the age-old question: Who's on first?
Can We Rely on Ruben?
In just over 200 at-bats last year, Tejada hit just above .200 and was terrible in the field, committing eight errors among his 257 chances.
However, Tejada represented the best in-house option the Mets had for the shortstop position coming into the 2014 season.
Stephen Drew, a Scott Boras client, was—and still is—a free agent who is coming off a very fine season with the Boston Red Sox in 2013. Since he declined a qualifying offer from the Sox at he end of last season, he had been tied to draft-pick compensation and the Mets ultimately felt he wasn't a fit for their club.
With no other alternatives, the Mets handed Tejada the keys to their starting shortstop gig to begin 2014, and so far there looks to be slight improvement over last year.
His numbers still aren't spectacular, and they may never be. However, his attitude seems to heading in the right direction. If he can stay healthy, the Mets may look to keep him as their everyday shortstop.
But one has to wonder, theoretically, what if the Mets are in a playoff chase come July? Do they keep with a light-hitting and shaky-fielding shortstop in Tejada or do they look to make a move to better that position?
After all, over the course of his career, Tejada has never stood out as a truly capable everyday player, with a lifetime .324 on-base percentage.
Bobby Parnell Is Out: What Do We Do Now?
Well, another season, another long-term injury for the New York Mets. This time, it's closer Bobby Parnell, who underwent Tommy John Surgery to repair a torn MCL in his right elbow.
He will join Matt Harvey (another TJS recipient) on the shelf until 2015.
So without Parnell to close out games, the closer's job appears to belong to Jose Valverde for the moment. Valverde, discarded by the Detroit Tigers last year, was brought in on a minor league deal this past winter.
While he has had a history of success as a closer—he had 286 saves entering the 2014 season—Papa Grande struggled in 2013 with an ugly 5.59 ERA.
Valverde has looked good in his five appearances thus far in 2014, not having allowed an earned run all season. But at age 36, it's not exactly known how well he will hold up.
The rest of the internal bullpen options are not all that appealing.
Fellow free-agent pickup Kyle Farnsworth would be next in line. However, the 16-year veteran has a career high of 25 saves, which came in 2011 with Tampa Bay. Not to mention, he's 38 years old and has had several consecutive years of ineffectiveness.
The free-agent list has a couple of intriguing names, including Joel Hanrahan and Ryan Madson, but each has his own deficiencies.
In the end, the Mets have to be hoping that Valverde can carry the closer's load through the season until the team can regroup for 2015.
When Will We See Syndergaard?
After seeing some big-time free-agent starting pitchers come through the organization just to flop, Mets fans are anxiously awaiting to see a rotation that is comprised of young and—mostly—home-grown talent.
We've already seen the debuts of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler, and now we wait for the highly anticipated debut of young right-hander Noah Syndergaard.
Syndergaard was acquired by New York from the Toronto Blue Jays prior to the 2013 season in the deal that sent R.A Dickey to Toronto. The 21-year-old was a first-round draft pick out of high school in 2010 and has excelled at every minor league level so far.
With Harvey on the shelf for the 2014 season, the Mets are not expected to compete for a playoff spot this year and therefore could be in a position to give Syndergaard a chance to make his major league debut later on this summer.
Fans could get a glimpse of a future rotation that should include Harvey, Wheeler, Syndergaard and Rafael Montero—another up-and-coming young talent who could make his debut later this year.
Does Terry Stay or Go?
Terry Collins was hired to be the next manager of the Mets prior to the 2011 season. In his three full seasons as Mets' skipper, Collins owns a 225-261 record and the team hasn't finished higher than third in the NL East.
Of course, one could—and probably should—argue that Collins hasn't exactly been handed a team that even the likes of Tony La Russa or Joe Torre could win with.
Unfortunately for him, however, he finds himself on the proverbial hot seat simply because of the market he plays in and the old adage that "You can't fire the players."
The 64-year-old was given a two-year contract extension prior to the 2014 season. However, we have to wonder whether or not Collins will be around to finish out that deal before he gets replaced.
So far, the Mets are off to a 4-5 start. The Mets may need to have a very solid summer in order to keep Collins in that manager's chair.
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