New Mets general manager Sandy Alderson made it pretty clear when he took the job: don't look forward to big free agent signings this offseason or any huge trades unless they're perfect. That means that this current Mets roster will be virtually the same come Opening Day in Miami.
Actually, it won't be the same for a negative reason. Ace starting pitcher Johan Santana will miss some time recovering from shoulder surgery and it's not clear when he'll be ready to pitch in 2011.
So, if this were the offseason heading into 2012, the Mets would've went after Cliff Lee to fill the void. Next offseason, the Mets may be the biggest spenders in baseball as some big contracts will come off the books. Notably the ones of Carlos Beltran, Luis Castillo, Oliver Perez, and if the Mets elect, Francisco Rodriguez. Jose Reyes will also be a free agent.
It isn't next offseason, though, and therefore the Mets will start the season with Mike Pelfrey as the "ace."
In 2010, the Mets went through a major youth movement. The season didn't start out like that and the plan was to compete. But as the season went along into the summer, Ike Davis was called up from the minors, Josh Thole eventually became the starting catcher, and Ruben Tejada got a lot of time at second base. There were a bunch of other youngsters contributing like Jon Niese and in September, Lucas Duda.
At the end of the season, after a bunch of games featuring seven rookies in the starting lineup, the team won 79 games. That was with Pelfrey winning 15 games and with Santana pitching dominant baseball at times and with the team putting together two eight-game winning streaks.
The team was too young and too inconsistent with a lot of dead weight on the roster. As of today, just days before Thanksgiving, Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez are still on the roster. It looks like the exact team that produced 79 wins in 2010, will return for 2011.
So, where does that leave the Mets? You can't really expect an increase in victories and should really expect a decrease with the loss of Santana and his 11 wins and 2.98 ERA.
The lineup will be the same with rookies on the right side of the infield and Wright and Reyes on the left side. The outfield has potential but Jason Bay was a bust up until his season-ending concussion in his first season with the Mets. Carlos Beltran hasn't played a full season since 2008 and Angel Pagan has to play like he did last season.
The starting rotation is a complete mess made worse by Santana's injury. There are three guys that can be relied on with Pelfrey, R.A. Dickey and Jon Niese but the latter two are question marks.
Can Dickey's knuckler be as effective to the tune of 11-14 wins? Can Niese rebound from late-season struggles? Even if all three mainstays perform up to their best capability, who's pitching the other two games?
Hisanori Takahashi was not re-signed and Pat Misch isn't a viable option. The Mets could perhaps sign a second-tier free agent starter such as Jorge De La Rosa, Carl Pavano, or Javier Vazquez but they can't sign two of them.
Pavano and Vazquez were both busts as members of the other New York team and haven't proven to be effective in big games.
So, the rotation is a mess and the bullpen is awful as of now. It could get better but two key pieces are missing. As mentioned, Hisanori Takahashi was not brought back as he could've been a setup man to Rodriguez.
And the even bigger loss if he isn't brought back would be Pedro Feliciano. He's been the best left-handed specialist in baseball over the last five seasons and if he's gone, the bullpen is officially terrible.
Nothing concerning the current or even possible Opening Day Mets roster gives you much hope for 2011. It's going to be another grind and it's almost like what the Knicks went through over the past two seasons. Not expecting much until some money is cleared to work with, which it will be.
This Mets team looks like a 75-79 win team at the highest and there's not much to improve that right now.
Can you wait for 2012? You're going to have to have patience in order to witness this team play meaningful games in October again.
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