After the Mets failed in their second straight last game of the season play-in opportunity, the consensus is that changes, big changes are in the cards.
So what should those changes be? Here are my votes:
1.) Let Carlos Delgado go. Yes, he was probably one of the top 2-3 players in baseball the second half. So why get rid of him? Because the Mets need to change the atmosphere, get younger, create a more balanced lineup, and change the leadership on this team. That last point is the most important. Delgado has been by default a leader on this team. David Wright, Jose Reyes, and Carlos Beltran have deferred to him, but the Mets need to move on.
2.) Replace Delgado in the lineup with Manny Ramirez. The Mets need that big righty bat to balance out their lineup. Yes, he is a horrid defender, but his bat more than makes up for it. More importantly, he thrives in the spotlight, and in big spots. The Mets can get away with a bad defender in left because Beltran and Church are both plus defenders in the other outfield spots.
3.) Re-sign Ollie Perez. Yes, he is maddeningly inconsistent. But he is 27. He has amazing stuff. He has proven he can pitch in New York, and that he can pitch in big games. Those last two are VERY hard to find. The Mets will have to overpay to keep him, but there really is no choice at this point.
4.) Sign Jon Garland as a free agent. It doesn't have to be Garland, but someone similar - a consistent, back end of the rotation guy that the Mets can count on. This would give Jon Niese some more time in the minors to develop, and be a big upgrade from what Pedro Martinez gave them.
5.) Install Daniel Murphy and Nick Evans as the platoon at first base. They have shown enough signs to be given the opportunity, and 1B is an easy position to fill later on if they struggle.
6.) Trade Aaron Heilman to the Rockies (who love him) for Clint Barmes. Barmes can either work as a top notch utility guy, or in the event that Minaya can find someone to dump Luis Castillo on, take over at 2B.
7.) Sign RP Juan Cruz. He is really the best reliever on the market. In 51 IP, he allowed just 34 hits and struck out 71. His 94 MPH average fastball is just what the Mets need in their pen. Obviously, more work in the pen needs to be done than this, but Minaya is just going to have to be creative here. Heilman, Schoenweiss and Sanchez really need to be moved out, and I think Bobby Parnell and Eddie Kunz need to be given the opportunity to earn a spot. The Mets pen needs an infusion of youth and power fastballs. This year they relied almost completely on changeup guys, with no one available who could come in and dominate, or at least get a big K.
8.) Keep Jerry Manuel. This looks like a done deal, but Jerry did a wonderful job and has to return.
9.) Fix the bench. This really killed the Mets down the stretch. Look at the guys who got the big hits against the Mets that last week - Greg Norton, Wes Helms, and Reed Johnson. Bench guys. The Mets got nothing from their bench. Marlon Anderson hit .210, Damion Easley got hurt down the stretch for the second straight year, Endy Chavez doesn't have enough pop to help late in games. The real turning point for the Mets season may have been the season-ending injury to Fernando Tatis, who was the only bench guy to step and perform when a starter went down. Tatis should be back, but other than that the Mets need to spend some resources on solidifying a bench that didn't seem to get ANY big hits in September, or really all season.
10.) Let Pedro go! The worst thing the Mets could do is re-sign Martinez. The aging, injury prone players the Mets counted on this year ALL went down - Pedro, Moises Alou, El Duque. The Mets wasted almost $30mm on those guys, and got 17 hits and 5 wins total.
Omar Minaya is going to have to earn his new contract $$ this offseason, but thankfully, he'll have plenty of his owner's money to play with. With it, he should be able to put the Mets in a commanding position heading into 2009.