Your 2009 New York Mets Starting Lineup

Harris DeckerSenior Analyst IJune 24, 2008

I really hope that this does not send the 2008 New York Mets into a tailspin, but hey, it's only an article. I sure hope these professional baseball players can pull things together.

As this season continues to look blander and blander, I couldn't stop myself from taking a look at some of the big changes that will take place in the offseason this year. I believe that what happens the rest of this season will only affect one person on the team, but we'll get to that later.

We'll take a trip around the horn and see who will still be in Flushing when Citi Field opens.

Obviously, the left side of the infield will remain unchanged, with David Wright and Jose Reyes anchoring this team well into the opening of the new stadium.

Unfortunately, only half of the right side of the infield will turnover. Omar Minaya, in one of his not-so-good moves as GM, signed Luis Castillo to a four-year, $25 million contract.

Lucky for every New York Mets fan in the country, we will finally have a new first baseman. Carlos Delgado's contract will expire after this year when Omar Minaya does not exercise his 2009 club option. Also in the good fortunes for the Mets, they have a player at AA Binghamton that is ready and willing to take over at first base.

Mike Carp will most likely be called up during September call ups, and then play next year at first. He will bring a touch of youth and energy to a position that has been occupied by Delgado since 2005.

Obviously there is one other option at first. That option lurks in free agency, currently sitting on the roster of their biggest rival. I am talking about Mark Texiera. He is one of the best up-and-coming power hitters, and he would fit perfectly into the Mets' lineup. He could hit behind Beltran in the fifth hole.

The problem here is whether the Wilpons will allow Omar to spend the type of money that Mark will be fetching on the free-agency market. Given this, Omar will not spend the money and they will solve the problem internally.

So the infield is set up. The catching position will be filled once again by Brian Schneider, with Ramon Castro as a platoon. I am ok with Brian Schneider; he calls a good game and is a great defender.

Now, moving into the outfield at Citi Field. I would hope that Ryan Church will be re-signed to play right field. He has been a solid hitter and a surprisingly good defender. He will probably fetch a four-year contract for about $5 million a year. I would be very willing to take Church for the next four years.

In center field, we will continue to have the best National League, defensive center fielder. Carlos Beltran is a great baseball player, with one of the smoothest swings I've seen. His only flaw is that he takes too many strike threes. He is signed with the club through 2011.

Left field again will be the most interesting. I would assume that Omar will not re-sign Alou to another contract (although given Minaya's record with veterans, who knows). That will leave left field wide open.

The best solution (if he's ready) is to promote the young star, Fernando Martinez to play left field. He is a speedy runner, with plenty of power, who has a chance to bat second, behind Reyes, in the future. I would bat him very low in the lineup right now, if he is even able to make the team. He is only 20-years old right now.

There are a few other options. Although he is most likely going to miss the rest of the season, Angel Pagan is a solid outfielder who can hit for average. He is a great complement to Jose Reyes, batting either eighth or second. If he can come back and hit well, he could play left field.

The only other option without going into free agency is to move the most valuable fourth outfielder in baseball into a starting role in left. Endy Chavez has become one of the greatest utility players in all of baseball. His move into the starting roster could give them more speed in the lineup, and he adds another Gold-Glove outfielder to the Citi outfield.

Moving onto the pitchers. Of course the first pitch at Citi Field will be thrown by ace, Johan Santana. He is here to stay, and he will be on the mound there until at least 2013. John Maine should return to the New York Mets, and if Omar Minaya wants to instill some confidence, Maine will be locked up in the offseason to a long-term contract (his contract runs out after 2009).

Mike Pelfrey will finally pitch a full season this year, and next year should flourish at Citi Field. He has turned into a solid 6'7" pitcher with an amazing fastball. Unfortunately, Pedro Martinez will most likely retire, but if he does wish to play another season, then Omar will sign him at a low cost. If not, there are free agents out there to be had.

All of this being said, Oliver Perez is the wild card in the rotation. He is currently only signed through the end of this year, and then he will become a free agent. As I have written before, I think Perez is valuable trade-bait.

If this does not happen, then I think that he will sign with a different team. The reason Omar will not sign him is because he is a Scott Boras client. Even after a less-than-average year, he will most likely get a huge, long-term contract. I don't know if the Mets are ready to commit to him like that.

If he were to be let go, the Mets will need to fill that gap. I would look for Omar to go out and sign a pitcher. Omar will want to sign a younger pitcher, to keep with the "youth theme." Among the pitchers he could look into would be free agents: AJ Burnett, Jason Jennings, Julian Taveras, or Ben Sheets. Any of these would be a solid replacement for Perez.

On the other hand, if for some reason Perez wants to be reasonable, Omar will be quick to sign him, but not for the type of money that Boras usually asks for.

The bullpen is relatively simple. Billy Wagner is signed through 2009 (club option for 2010). Scott Schoeneweis is signed through 2009, so he will be back. The rest of the bullpen will be a matter of, who to re-sign and who to let go.

Duaner Sanchez, Aaron Heilman, Pedro Feliciano, and Matt Wise are all in the final year of their contracts. Omar will keep Pedro and Duaner. The other two will most likely be let go. Joe Smith will be there, and finally the Mets' 2007 first-round pick should be in the bullpen. Eddie Kunz will also be in the bullpen, and he should provide some more youth.

The Mets should be exciting as they make the move into Citi Field, and I am looking forward to it, as most Mets fans are.