2011 New York Mets: Younger, Cheaper...Better?

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2011 New York Mets: Younger, Cheaper...Better?
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The Mets inactivity at this season’s trade deadline and refusal to part with any of their young talent to either upgrade the team or gather prospects has sent two messages.

First, the Mets have all but thrown in the towel on the 2010 season. They’re sticking with what they have, and hoping for one final hot streak to push them back into contention for the Wild Card.

While this is not completely outside the realm of possibilities, the inactivity at the trade deadline did not send a positive "let’s win now" message to the team, so I wouldn’t get my hopes up that we’ll see the Mets go on a 10-game winning streak any time soon.

Second, and more importantly, the decision to refrain from making any deadline moves signals the start of a new direction for the Mets, and one that will frustrate some fans, but excite others.

My prediction for the Mets in 2011 is that we are going to see an organization cutting the budget, and filling the roster with younger, less expensive players. It will, for lack of a better term, be a season where the Mets roll the dice on their young talent next season, and see where it takes them.

What will almost surely happen is that Carlos Beltran will be traded for prospects either in the offseason or by next seasons’ trade deadline, if he stays healthy. It’s extremely possible the team we saw when Luis Castillo and Beltran were injured this season, is going to be very similar to next year's starting lineup, except with Thole in as the starting catcher and a replacement for Francoeur in RF.

I see a starting rotation of Santana, Pelfrey, Niese, Mejia, and Dickey as a very real possibility, with K-Rod, Takahashi, Parnell, the forgotten Sean Green, and maybe Feliciano and Igarashi to go along with some new filler to round out the pen.

With Ruben Tejada in at 2B, Castillo on the bench if they can’t move him, and callups ready to be pushed the way they did with Ike Davis, there actually may not be any significant FA acquisitions or trades.

You can throw out any hope you had on the Mets making a push to sign Cliff Lee as a free agent. It’s never going to happen no matter what path the Mets organization takes for 2011. He turns 32 in August, and they’re not going to pay him the five-year $80–$90 million contract he’s going to seek.

While I would say it’s now a sure thing that Jerry Manuel will be fired at the end of the season, I would not be at all surprised if Omar Minaya keeps his job. If his spending is restricted and the team moves forward, relying on their young talent, there will be no reason for the Wilpons’ to replace him before his contract expires.

If the Mets do indeed go in this direction, expect Wally Backman or Ken Oberkfell as the next manager. Both would be low-cost options. Bob Melvin could also be a mid-cost possibility if the Wilpons and Omar Minaya are seeking Major League managerial experience. With Backman, Melvin, and Oberkfell already in the organization, they are the most likely candidates.

Met fans should not hold their breath for Bobby Valentine’s much desired return as manager of the Mets. It would require some reconciliation between him and the Wilpons, and his salary demands would likely be more than they’re interested in paying.

For better or worse, like it or not, this seems to be the most likely direction that the Mets are heading for in 2011. If pitchers like R.A. Dickey or Mejia don’t perform well, you could expect to see Pat Misch and maybe even Brad Holt called up, depending on his progress next year. We might even see Fernando Martinez get one final shot to restore some of his once tremendous, now practically worthless trade value…but don’t bet on it!

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