After going through a horrific, injury-plagued 2009 campaign, the New York Mets head in this winter's Hot Stove with many questions and seemingly too few answers.
Everyone's knee-jerk response to solving their issues revolve around signing a couple big ticket free agents and praying for health. It seems like the 2010 version of the Metropolitans will be a playoff contender, but still a cut below a dominant Phillies club.
With over $50 million coming off the books, a top flight free agent or two is a distinct possibility but what are the best ways to address the following holes.
John Lackey is the answer.
He is a legit No. 1 starter who will immediately come in and be a No. 2 behind Johan Santana. His presence should also take the pressure off Mike Pelfrey, who noticeably felt the pressure of having to do more than he was ever asked to do in his young career. The rest of the rotation could be filled out with the return of a healthy John Maine and the enigmatic Oliver Perez.
Ideally, if the Mets could find a taker for Perez, they could slide Jon Niese into this role, but let's get real—no team is dumb enough to do that.
Other possibilities to fill out the rotation from the free agent pool include Ben Sheets, Erik Bedard, and the riskier Rich Harden. Given the way this past season went, the contract demands of Harden would be too much a risk.
A healthy and re-focused J.J. Putz could give the Mets what they thought they were getting when they swung that deal last offseason to bring him aboard.
In an effort to bridge the gap to the eighth inning, there are a few good options on the market. Mike Gonzalez could give you a dominant reliever to lock down the seventh, but the price tag may be too much for a seventh inning guy. Which means this role could go to Bobby Parnell, who should be put back in the bullpen where he was more effective.
The answer for this will more than likely come from within the organization or during the season as teams try to unload their salaries for middling prospects.
It seems everyone is penciling in Matt Holliday or Jason Bay to their Opening Day 2010 rosters like it's a foregone conclusion.
But is it?
Holliday noticeably struggled in the cavernous Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum and his numbers are likely to be similar to those in the pitcher friendly CitiField. It doesn't make sense to give him the deal Scott Boras will be expecting.
Jason Bay has already been rumored to want a deal comparable to Teixeira's deal (eight years/$180 million) so it may not be wise to pay a player that much money when he is such a defensive liability.
If you want to get a big bat, and sacrifice the glove, then why not get Vladimir Guerrero or Jermaine Dye? Guerrero could make sense here considering that you have a nice fourth outfielder in Angel Pagan who could fill in for Vlad whenever necessary. In turn, this would also give the Mets a dangerous pinch hitter late in some crucial games next season.
Of course another option is to focus on team speed and scrap the idea of obtaining a power-hitting outfielder. In that case, getting involved in the Carl Crawford trade sweepstakes would make increase the coverage of the expansive real estate of the new stadium.
This is the time to finally unload Luis Castillo. Replacing Castillo with Chone Figgins could address many of the issues at the top of the batting order. Figgins could also spell Reyes if he isn't ready to come back by spring training at shortstop and at the top of the order. With Reyes at short, they could have a speedy 1-2 punch creating great hitting situations for Wright and Beltran, and this team would be better suited to play in their new ballpark.
Daniel Murphy has been serviceable and barring any deal where he is a key piece in bringing back a marquee name he should remain there. He should benefit from the return of Carlos Beltran and David Wright. Expect a solid season from this potential top ten hitter.
Bengie Molina makes sense as the top catcher for this team and mentor to catching prospect Josh Thole. Molina's bat will be a huge improvement over the offensively deficient Brian Schneider. A two year deal for Molina could serve as a nice way to bridge the gap until Thole is ready to be the top guy.
With Pagan as the fourth outfielder the Mets will be able to give Beltran, Franceour, and the left fielder regularly scheduled rest. Nick Evans and Fernando Tatis could also benefit from not being expected to produce at level usually expected from a starter.
Signing a free agent like Wilson Betemit, Juan Uribe, or Bobby Crosby would give the Mets one of the deepest benches in all of the majors.
Here is a look at a potential 2010 bating order and bench:
- Jose Reyes-SS
- Chone Figgins-2B
- David Wright-3B
- Carlos Beltran-CF
- Vlad Guerrero-LF
- Daniel Murphy-1B
- Jeff Franceour-RF
- Bengie Molina-C
- Bench: Angel Pagan, Fernando Tatis, Nick Evans, (free agent infielder), Josh Thole
Here is a look at the potential pitching 2010 pitching rotation and bullpen:
- Johan Santana
- John Lackey
- Mike Pelfrey
- John Maine
- Oliver Perez
- Middle Relief: Pedro Feliciano, Joe Smith, Bobby Parnell, Tim Redding, Sean Green
- Set-up Man: J.J. Putz
- Closer: Francisco Rodriguez
This team is formidable enough to have CitiField rocking well into October and get fans thinking about a parade down the Canyon of Heroes. That's what happens when you have two starting pitchers that could dominate in the postseason and a lineup that could give opposing pitchers fits.