The Mets are closer to being a contending team than you may think. The incoming GM could make these simple and, perhaps more importantly, cheap changes to have them competing next year and for years to come.
Jettison Bad Karma: On paper, the Mets have been a competitive team for the past three years. In reality, however, their high paid “stars” have underachieved, they have suffered an unlucky proportion of injuries and their fan base has grown impatient and cynical (I left out angry and borderline hostile).
Now, the booing and empty seats at the otherwise charming Citi Field have become both a symptom and a cause of the general malaise of the team. Not to go too new age on you, but the energy surrounding the team is negative, they have developed a culture of losing, perhaps traceable to their epic late season collapses in ‘07 and ‘08.
Luis Castillo, Oliver Perez and John Maine are the three major players that have come to symbolize this. Castillo can be unloaded, the Mets could pay for half his six million dollar price-tag and sell him off as an ideal veteran bench piece, a one day per week starter, pinch runner, and situational pinch hitter.
Perez’s value is minimal at best, but the Mets could sell him as a situational lefty vs. lefty match-up guy. In fact, lefties have hit 50 points lower vs. him over the course of his career. They should even go so far as to pay 20 of his remaining 25 million if necessary, in a clear case of addition by subtraction. John Maine is an easy fix, they should not tender his option and part ways cleanly.
Get Stronger up the Middle: With Reyes at SS and either Beltran or Pagan in CF, to get stronger they must shore up 2B and C. With strong catching options sparse in the bigs, the Mets should groom Josh Thole to fulfill his potential as an above average major league catcher.
Then they need to sign a veteran caddie such as John Buck from Toronto and they will be covered at the catcher position. At second base it is finally time to sign Orlando Hudson, the grizzled, slick fielding, switch hitting veteran who has long wanted to play for the Mets.
The Mets should pay him nine million for three years. He can play some still, and can teach Tejada about being a major leaguer, all while giving Tejada time to develop until it is the youngster’s time to shine.
Another option here is Ricky Weeks of the Brewers who is set to be a FA after the 2011 season. The Brewers are worried about signing Prince Fielder and would likely make Weeks available for a reasonable price.
Get rid of Jason Bay/Get Faster in the Outfield: Jason Bay is a bad fit for this team. Although very talented, he is also a slow prodding runner/fielder whose right-handed power stroke is not complemented by the dimensions of Citi Field.
The Mets would have been epically better off waiting for Carl Crawford this year but since they don’t have a time machine, they should wait till midseason when Bay’s value is back up and deal him and his contract away. His replacement should be a centerfielder type player with good tools, decent pop and the speed to make the Mets outfield defense a team strength.
Sign their arms: Because of Johan’s uncertain injury status, there is an added urgency for the Mets to retain Pelfrey and Dickey. Both are arbitration eligible, both should be signed to long term deals and both could be had at a reasonable price.
The Mets need to do this. Jonathan Niece is their fourth starter, but could easily wind up being their second best per inning starter behind only a healthy Johan. The last spots in the rotation would be up for competition, with guys like Dillon Gee (bad stuff, good command) and Henry Mejia (good stuff, bad command) competing for innings.
Signing additional arms should be a priority as well, with a preference toward unheralded fly-ball pitchers to take advantage of the cavernous Citi Field dimensions at a relatively low price.
Hire Bobby Valentine: He is a polarizing figure, a baseball genius, has had success managing the Mets, brings competitive energy and an alpha dog to boot. The Mets need an infusion of life and a spark to get the attention of the fans and the respect of the league.
Bobby Valentine, for better or worse, elicits such an emotional response. After the hyper mellow (almost comatose really) managing style of Jerry Manuel, the young core of the Mets needs to be awoken from their slumber of mediocrity. Bobby Valentine is credible and authoritative enough to get them to change their bad habits and is the manager the Mets Alderson should sign.