I had this debate with my friend the other day—a knowledgeable and devoted Mets' fan—and his response was an unequivocal, "No!"
Fellow fans of the Metropolitans, do you agree?
Well, before you answer, please allow me to plead my case.
While I don't believe the Mets would be a juggernaut if the 2010 season started right this very moment, I do believe they would be in National League playoff contention if they stayed healthy, and I guess that's a big "if" at this point.
In the midst of the debate with my friend, the first example that came to mind was the '09 San Francisco Giants. They were a team that seriously underwhelmed me, and yet they finished 88-74, second in the wild-card race and only four games back of a postseason position.
His immediate response was, "They had Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain!"
And yes, that's true. I granted him that as an obvious strength. However, the Giants were also the worst offensive team in the league.
He had no rebuttal for that.
If the season started tomorrow, the Mets' lineup would look as follows: 1B—Daniel Murphy, 2B—Luis Castillo, 3B—David Wright, C—Omir Santos, SS—Jose Reyes, LF—Angel Pagan, CF—Carlos Beltran, and RF—Jeff Francoeur.
Now is that an offense, like the Phillies, that you look at and say, "Wow"?
No, of course not. But it is an offense that boasts three stars at their respective positions: Wright, Reyes, and Beltran.
Reyes is coming off an alarming injury, but the latest reports from the New York Daily News and Rotoworld.com quote his agent Chris Leible as saying: "He’s not 100 percent, obviously, at this point, but he looks great."
Reyes underwent surgery to repair a torn right hamstring tendon in October. Barring any unforeseeable setbacks, the 26-year-old shortstop is expected to be fully recovered in time for the start of the spring training."
Well that certainly isn't bad news. Even if they're wrong and Reyes is at 80 percent when the season rolls along, Reyes at 80 percent is better than 80 percent of the current starting shortstops in the major leagues.
Beltran is arguably the best centerfielder in the game, and Wright—though coming off a down year—is still one of the elite two-way players at third base.
In the supporting roles, to put it simply: No one is terrible.
Murphy caught a ton of slack for his defensive deficiencies in left field, but he looked much better after moving to first base, a more natural position for him.
While he's far from a Gold Glover and won't bring an overwhelming amount of power, Murphy remains very young and has a strong IQ for the craft of hitting. He's far from a stud, but he could certainly be serviceable (if the organization declines to re-sign Carlos Delgado).
Castillo was the team MVP in '09 (minus the one drop against the Yanks), Santos was a pleasant offensive surprise at the catcher position, and the combination of Pagan and Francoeur provided timely hitting and some refreshing zest for success.
Are they a collection of All-Stars?
No, obviously not. But they all bring something positive to the table, and I don't have to stretch too far to point out their strengths.
Now, let me make one thing clear: This is not the team I want out there. I want a legitimate starting left fielder and a true starting catcher if possible.
Still, if the '09 Giants were a legitimate player contender, and the Rockies were a playoff team, and the '06 Cardinals won the World Series, well, anything can happen in the NL as long as you have a reasonable amount of talent.
And the Mets have that.
Moving on to pitching, there's no question that the Mets need a strong No. 2 starter. Johan Santana gets you half way to the Lincecum/Cain combination, but there's no one to pair with him.
The boys from Flushing are stuck with Oliver Perez in one rotation spot (because of his contract), and we can be pretty sure that the big fella Mike Pelfrey will get another opportunity to prove himself.
That leaves John Maine, Jon Niese, and Nelson Figueroa for two spots. Clearly this is before any potential free agent signings or trades (i.e. Joel Pineiro, Jon Garland, Randy Wolf, etc.), but for now that's what we're workin' with.
It's not great; there's no doubt.
But I expect the surgery to enhance Santana's performance (look at the results for Brett Favre), and at the very least, Maine and Pelfrey have some potential. I've never been their biggest fan, but they do boast a reasonable amount of physical ability.
In the bullpen, things are lookin' pretty good. Francisco Rodriguez, better known as "K-Rod," struggled in the second half but thrived when the Mets were actually in contention.
Brian Stokes, Bobby Parnell, Pedro Feliciano, and Sean Green are all useful in different capacities, and you can expect the front office to snatch a couple stragglers for the mop-up roles (if not Elmer Dessens, eww).
In the end, this is no Dream Team at the moment—but could this be a competitive squad?
I don't see why not. The National League simply isn't that strong.
(John Frascella is the author of "Theo-logy: How a Boy Wonder Led the Red Sox to the Promised Land," the first and only book centered on Boston's popular GM Theo Epstein. Follow John on Twitter @RedSoxAuthor.)