Assessing 2009: The Plan Going Forward

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Assessing 2009: The Plan Going Forward
(Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

This article is the conclusion of my series, Assessing 2009. To view recaps of sections of the season, click here.

Thanks mostly in part to Metsblog.com and its crack staff of bloggers (including the legendary Matt Cerrone), I have digested an enormous amount of rumor information pertaining to the Mets, the offseason, and free agent and trade possibilities going into the offseason. Combined with what I’ve seen in 2009, and in the years prior, I’m going to address this team’s needs, who it should go forward with from this squad, who doesn’t belong, and then I’ll completely wrap it up into my grand scheme for 2010.

The first part has already been addressed by the Mets, and that is the coaching staff. They go forward with Jerry Manuel managing, and with pitching coach Dan Warthen and hitting coach Howard Johnson.

Despite the team’s struggles with control and power this year, I feel both HoJo and Warthen of are deserving of their positions in 2009. There’s only so much a coach can do to help a pitcher or a batter do what they are supposed to do.

In terms of development, Warthen certainly did a good job with Pelfrey in 2008, and straightened out Oliver Perez in ’08. Coming into the 2009 season, Pelf and Ollie had the tools and the previous year to build on, but just couldn’t keep it together mentally. There is a certain point where that is no longer the coach’s problem. Finally, Johan Santana has a good relationship with Warthen, and I see no reason to blame the coach for EVERYTHING.

Hojo coached the Mets to the highest batting average, and highest average with runners in scoring position this year. He’s a Met at heart, and knows a thing or two about “scrapping” as a key cog from the ’86 Mets. He can be blamed for David Wright’s setbacks this year (somewhat-the change in approach is David’s responsibility), but at the same time he deserves credit for his work with Francoeur and Murphy.

Manuel is the type of manager that looks like a genius when it’s going good, and terrible when it’s going bad. He’s a player’s manager, and tends to go on “feel” rather than by stats. I think his bullpen management was better this year, but he seems to be very thick and cryptic when addressing the media which can be very frustrating for a fan. I can tolerate him for one more year, I just think he might do well to be more aggressive.

Now I’m going to talk about who from the Mets’ 09 squad should be part of the ’10 team. Santana is the ace, and I think Maine will be solid going forward as he continues towards full health. Pelfrey is a back-end starter right now, but still needs some grooming, and faith needs to be instilled in him for his development. The Mets don’t have much choice but to go forward with Oliver Perez, unless the right opportunity to move him opens up (I will address this later).

In the bullpen, the Mets have a top-tier closer at the back (K-Rod), the best lefty specialist in baseball (in Feliciano), a live arm who can work long and could also be a future setup man (in Parnell). There are multiple other long options in Figueroa or Redding, one of whom (I'd go with Figueroa) would get the call. Pat Misch, despite his improvement, may be the odd man out.

Assuming the Mets will carry 12 pitchers, this leaves three spots open in the bullpen. I think one could go to Sean Green, who, when he’s right, gets all ground balls. He doesn’t have to be heavily relied upon if the Mets fill one of the two remaining spots with a viable setup man. I don’t think Putz or Brian Stokes should be one of the remaining two. Putz is damaged goods, and Stokes isn’t that good.

In the lineup, the Mets have third, short, center, right, and second locked down (I’ll talk more about second later). That leaves left field, catcher, and first base unsolved. Several players from the 2009 squad could come back as bench players or starters.

The first two are Angel Pagan and Daniel Murphy. With the right supporting cast, it would be acceptable for ONE of these two guys to occupy a starting position for the Mets in 2010. Omir Santos should be brought back as a backstop option. I also love Fernando Tatis as a utility player who plays good defense in the outfield, at the corners, and can even play some middle infield, with a good bat.

This leaves four spots open to fill out the position-player roster. Two should be outfielders. The choices are: Fernando Martinez, Jeremy Reed, Corey Sullivan, Chris Carter (from the Wagner trade), or a new pickup (a bench guy or a starting LF).

One spot needs to go to an infielder, and the other a backup (or starting) catcher. I don’t like Wilson Valdez, Anderson Hernandez, and Nick Evans (who knows with this guy) to fill that infield spot, but I think the Mets could do well to bring Alex Cora back.

The backup backstop could be Thole or a free agent.

So, we have the following open spots:

No. 2 starter

Setup man, other bullpen guy

Four spots on the bench/in the lineup, made up of AT LEAST a high-profile pickup at 1B or LF 

 

Now to the good stuff. I’ll start with a No. 2 starter. There are definitely high-profile options available, the most exciting of which come from the trade market. Roy Halladay, Carlos Zambrano, and Felix Hernandez all might be available, and the hot word is that Jair Jurrjens, one of my favorite young pitchers, could be as well (He would demand a big bat, though). There are also free agent possibilities, John Lackey far and away the only top-rate pitcher on the market.

If the Mets pick up a TRUE No. 2 starter (via trade or free agent market), they can go forward with the current remaining rotation (Santana, Maine, Pelfrey, Perez). I truly feel that this guy has to be John Lackey. Lackey's price may be high (think Burnett/Lowe dollars), but he is a true front-end starter, and I’d be most worried about the Mets shelling out two-starter money for a guy who had a good 2009, but doesn’t deserve that money or spot in the rotation (Jason Marquis, Joel Piniero). Randy Wolf might be a potential option, but I’m not sure he’s a second starter. The Mets also must avoid injury risks like Ben Sheets, Erik Bedard, and their ilk.

I don’t feel the Mets have the prospects for a Halladay or a Jurrjens, but the Cubs may want to get rid of Big Z. I hesitate towards his attitude, but he fits the bill as a second starter. I think John Lackey is the best fit and the guy the Mets should get.

There should be a good supply of cheap options to fill out the bullpen. I think the Mets could do well to get another lefty, and Joe Beimel, John Grabow, and Will Ohman fit the bill as solid and cost-effective.

As far as a setup man goes, the guy I’d like to get is Rafael Betancourt. However, the Rockies might exercise his $5.4 million option, so he might be too expensive, or unavailable. Mike Gonzalez and Fernando Rodney are also viable setup options, but may demand a lot of money or an opportunity to close. In a perfect world, I would have the Mets sign Grabow and Betancourt.

Moving on to what you've been looking forward to, position players. I'll start with the less significant categories before I get into the juicy 1B/LF debate.

As a fourth outfielder, I’d bring back Endy Chavez, a former fan favorite who can play defense, control the bat well, and pinch-run. He did suffer a torn ACL this year, but I think it's a low-level risk to go after a guy who you won't rely too heavily on.

There are not a lot of good backup backstop options, which may lead to Josh Thole’s institution as backup. But if I had to have one guy, it would be Yorvit Torrealba, or Miguel Olivo. Both have club options. Hopefully one (preference to Torrealba) is available. I pray, though, that the Mets avoid Bengie Molina. As a backup infielder, I've already expressed that I want Cora back.

Now, what you've been waiting for-my thoughts on first base and left field.

My feeling on Daniel Murphy is that his bat will improve with experience (it already did in August and September), and his defense, which is already good, will continue to improve with experience. He posted a UZR (ultimate zone rating, a sabermetric measurement of a player’s defense) that was good for second-best of all National League first baseman. He will also become a more heady baseball player with time. 

The trade market for first baseman such as Derrek Lee, Prince Fielder, Carlos Pena, and Adrian Gonzalez may be enticing. But I think if the Mets do pick up a first baseman, it will be free agent Adam LaRoche, a lower-profile free agent that would demand less in terms of money than Lee, Fielder, Pena, or Gonzalez. And while Carlos Delgado might be healthy (Players like A-Rod and Chase Utley have recovered from surgery on their hips before), I think the Mets need to resist resigning him because he represents flaws that the organization has to move on from.

In left field, Matt Holliday is the obvious free agent choice (over Jason Bay), and Carl Crawford, and B.J. Upton may be available on the trade market (Crawford might also become a free agent if his option is not exercised).

This is where it gets dicey. The Mets need to spend money to fill their big needs. I think Matt Holliday is a pretty obvious fit, personally. But if Holliday is signed, I’m not sure the money would be there to sign Lackey.

I’m also not sold on the Mets’ ability to make a trade for anyone. They have prospects people would want in Fernando Martinez, Ike Davis, Wilmer Flores, Brad Holt, Jeurys Familia, and Jenrry Mejia, but the latter four are not near major-league ready, and Martinez’s value is low due to a slow debut and health concerns.

Before I wrap it up by presenting you MY 2010 Mets roster, let’s recap our concrete decisions.

Setup man, other relief pitcher: R. Betancourt/M. Gonzalez, J. Grabow

Bench dudes: Y. Torrealba/M. Olivo, E. Chavez, A. Cora

 

This leaves just the first base/left field/second starter conundrum. It all comes down to money and prospects: Do the Mets have enough to shell out for TWO big free agents, or ONE and a high-profile trade? Something’s got to give.

I think there are two guys that have to be looked at in this scenario—B.J. Upton and Adam LaRoche. Both will be respectively cheap, whether it’s Upton in terms of prospects, or LaRoche in terms of money. These guys equate to the two scenarios I’ll give you:

 

One: The Mets can sign John Lackey and trade for B.J. Upton or sign Adam LaRoche. If it’s Upton, the Mets can start him in left, and eventually move him to center when Carlos Beltran a) leaves or b) loses a step and should be moved. If it’s LaRoche, he plays first, and Murph goes to the bench.

Two: The Mets sign Matt Holliday for about five years, $80 million (what SI's Jon Heyman projects he will get), and either trade for a starting pitcher, or sign Randy Wolf as a cheap rotation option. He’s not John Lackey, but he is a capable pitcher. It’s still a possibility that one of the current Mets steps up.

 

Ultimately, if the Mets can get Holliday AND Lackey, great for them. It just doesn’t seem likely though, given that they will need to spend some money on supporting cast, and will probably get one big free agent.

 

So, here’s MY take on the Mets 2009 roster, with explanations added.

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Starting Rotation

SP Johan Santana L

SP John Lackey R*

SP John Maine R

SP Oliver Perez L+

SP Mike Pelfrey R

 

Bullpen

CL Francisco Rodriguez R

SU Pedro Feliciano L

SU Rafael Betancourt R*

MR John Grabow L*

MR Sean Green R

MR Bobby Parnell R

LR Nelson Figueroa R

 

And now, your 2010, New York Mets Starting Lineup!

  1. SS Jose Reyes
  2. LF B.J. Upton*
  3. 3B David Wright
  4. CF Carlos Beltran
  5. RF Jeff Francoeur
  6. 1B Daniel Murphy
  7. C Yorvit Torrealba*
  8. 2B Luis Castillo+
  9. P

 

Bench

OF Angel Pagan

UT Fernando Tatis

IF Alex Cora

OF Endy Chavez*

C Omir Santos

 

I think B.J. Upton is a guy the Mets would do well to buy low on. Although he’s a flyball hitter, he played well in Citi Field in his three games there (putting one into the second deck), and he is fast, and plays good defense. Jerry Manuel has expressed his desire to emphasize speed, pitching, and defense, and Upton fits this bill. Getting Upton would free up the money to sign John Lackey, and despite that I get the inkling that the Mets are going to be HEAVILY associated with Matt Holliday this offseason, I think they truly want a starting pitcher.

I’m not sure exactly what the Mets might have to give up for B.J. Upton, but my feeling is that it would be two of their second-tier prospects (one pitcher, one hitter, or two hitters)

There’s one more issue to discuss. Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo, while both have upsides, are the type of guys I feel like you just don’t want on your team. Both are of the lazy sort, but I’m not sure how the Mets could move them. BUT, if they do, it would open up space to POSSIBLY upgrade second base by MAYBE signing Chone Figgins, and adding another starter-a Jason Marquis or Joel Piniero Type.

If this could happen, that would be great. It would also represent a near-complete cultural change in the type of player the Mets center around-rather than the Carlos Delgado/Luis Castillo/Oliver Perez type, more of a hungry, scrappy player type.

So…there you have it. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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