The New York Mets finally have a new general manager. Sandy Alderson was announced on Thursday as the replacement for Omar Minaya.
It appears Mets fans may be able to breath a sigh of relief and have reason to believe again in their orange and blue squad.
But in case Alderson—who has a history of building championship teams—needs a hand, I have come up with some ways to help improve the Mets, both short-term and for the long haul.
First of all, what is this I hear about how the Mets should explore trading the likes of David Wright, Jose Reyes and/or Johan Santana? There are so many things wrong with that philosophy that I don't even know where to begin.
Wright is the Mets' version of Derek Jeter or Tony Gwynn. He's the face of the franchise and should be for at least the next 10 years. Trading him away would only drive fans AWAY from Citi Field, not into it.
Reyes brings so much to the Mets team that trading him would be a detriment. On the field, he's one of the most feared leadoff hitters in today's game. When he gets on base, the opposing pitcher and defense is automatically put into panic mode. What he can do with his bat and his legs (and his arm at shortstop) is hard to replace.
However, what may be even more difficult to replace is the spark and energy he provides the team. Even in times when he is hurt or not in the lineup, he is a real factor in that clubhouse.
Santana is a future Hall of Famer. Although his win-loss record hasn't been pretty since joining the Queens crew, you can hardly blame it on the left-hander. Since being traded to the Mets prior to the 2008 season, Santana has a mark of 40-25, and his ERA is a crisp 2.85. But in 2010, the Mets scored two or fewer runs for him in 14 out of 29 starts. In those games, Santana went 1-7 with a 2.91 ERA.
So we have covered what Alderson should NOT do as new GM. But what moves should he make that will help this ball club get back to a level of respectability?
First, it's time to take out the trash. Luis Castillo, Oliver Perez and John Maine should no longer be with the team come 2011. They are producing far too little for what they are getting paid. In particular, Castillo's and Perez's contracts should never have even been signed.
Should these contracts somehow come off the books earlier than scheduled, the Mets would need a second baseman and two pitchers replace them.
For second base, the Mets have some options. They could go the cheap route and give Ruben Tejada the everyday job at second base should they feel he is ready.
However, looking at the free agent market, one would have to expect the Mets to make yet another push for Orlando Hudson. Though Hudson is slightly older now than Castillo was when the Mets signed him, they have been after O-Dog's services for years now, and giving him a one-year contract seems to make some sense.
The rest of the starting eight needs no altering in my opinion. Ike Davis is going to be the next Keith Hernandez. Josh Thole seems ready to take on full-time catching duties. One would have to expect Jason Bay to return to normal form. Angel Pagan is coming off a breakout season.
As far as the pitching staff, I feel the Mets should avoid going after Cliff Lee, who will for sure be the most sought-after arm on the market. He will demand far too much money, causing the Mets to do what they did last year with Bay—land one big-name free agent, sacrificing the rest of the budget in the process.
In contrast, the Mets can stick to what they have (Santana, Mike Pelfrey, Jon Niese, R.A. Dickey and perhaps Jenrry Mejia or Dillon Gee), which on paper doesn't look all too bad. Or they could go after one or two middle-of-the-road pitchers who are dependable, consistent and more cost-efficient, someone like a Jake Westbrook or Vicente Padilla.
Then there is the bullpen. Somehow, Francisco Rodriguez remains the Mets closer for 2011, which means they won't need to shop for a stopper in the offseason. But Pedro Feliciano is a free agent, and he's been the Mets' workhorse out of the 'pen for the last three years (he led all of baseball in appearances each season since 2008). Should they be unable to re-sign him, they will be without a dominating left-handed specialist.
Aside from Feliciano, the Mets could check in on Jeremy Affeldt, J.C. Romero or Joe Beimel to fill that role. This becomes even more pressing if they aren't able to keep Hisanori Takahashi as well.
Aside from that, the Mets' bullpen seems to be in order. It was one aspect of the team that was actually fairly solid in 2010. Bobby Parnell and company should be strong enough to bridge the starters to K-Rod.
The last piece to address would be the bench. One flaw that I noticed last year was the Mets' one-dimensionality. They had very few players that could play more than one position.
If they go after someone like Willie Bloomquist or Jerry Hairston Jr., their roster would be much more flexible. Guys that can play all over the diamond are vital to a team's success, I believe, and both of those guys can play in the outfield as well as the infield.
Of course, Alderson also has the simple task of finding a manager to actually lead this ball club. Current rumored candidates include Wally Backman, Bobby Valentine, Bob Melvin, Don Wakamatsu and Chip Hale among others. Clearly, playing in New York, the Mets need someone who is able to work under a microscope and handle the Big Apple media and lifestyle.
Backman played for the Mets for nine seasons and was a winner with them. Valentine was the last man to get the Mets to the World Series and has a history of being a player-friendly manager. To me, either one would be a sufficient replacement for the dismissed Jerry Manuel.
Mr. Alderson, you have a team to save and plenty of options at your disposal. It's up to you now to make the right decisions for this ball club and to get the Mets back to the playoffs for the first time since 2006. Good luck!