New York Mets: 7 Moves to Become a Playoff Contender by 2012

Jim MancariCorrespondent IApril 21, 2011

New York Mets: 7 Moves to Become a Playoff Contender by 2012

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    Not that I’m losing hope already, but the Mets haven’t looked so hot to start the season.

    Some analysts believed that the Mets were destined for a fourth or fifth-place finish, while others thought the team could play surprisingly well.

    The Mets haven’t shown many signs of life thus far, and if this trend continues, the team’s new brass may look to salvage this season by preparing for 2012.

    More than personnel changes, the Mets will need plenty of luck. The number “7” is thought of as a lucky number, so here are seven moves the Mets need to make to become a playoff contender by 2012.

7. Strengthen the Bullpen

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    So far this season, the bullpen has pitched exactly as expected: not well.

    The relievers have walked way too many batters late in games, which has played a role in blowing leads.

    The problem with relievers is that they are so hit-and-miss from year to year. For example, current Mets reliever Taylor Buchholz was a solid option for the 2007 National League champion Colorado Rockies bullpen. However, Buchholz has been nothing special this year.

    A possible solution could be to convert some starting pitching prospects to relievers. We saw that this method did not work last season with Jenrry Mejia, but if the Mets stand by their decision, it could pay off.

    Prospects Jeuyrs Familia, Juan Urbina and Brad Holt are all hard-throwing right-handers who could benefit in a late-inning role.

    Jason Isringhausen has been a nice story, but he’s not the long-term solution. Bobby Parnell has the stuff to be a shut-down reliever, but he hasn’t quite put it together yet.

    Since the Mets offense won’t score that many runs per game, a strong bullpen will be vital in protecting close leads.

6. Trade Carlos Beltran...Now

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    Carlos Beltran has shown decent power this season and surprisingly good mobility in the outfield.

    If the Mets continue to slip, they could look to trade Beltran soon, as in before June. He could fill an outfield void of a team for the entire summer rather than the final two months of the season.

    Let’s face it: Beltran won’t be a Met after this season, so why should the Mets prolong the inevitable?

    The question is whether another team is willing to give up prospects for an aging Beltran.

    The Mets should look to acquire some young pitching prospects in exchange for Beltran. It won’t be easy, but there just might be a team in desperate need of outfield depth willing to pull the trigger.

5. Consistency in the Starting Rotation

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    The Mets need consistency in their starting rotation. So far, their only consistent starter—Chris Young—is on the disabled list.

    Mike Pelfrey, R.A. Dickey, Jon Niese, Chris Capuano and Dillon Gee will hopefully be able to string together a few decent starts in a row.

    Even if Johan Santana returns when expected, will he be the same pitcher?

    The Mets need pitchers who will consistently give them quality starts of six innings and three or less runs. Once again, the Mets offense struggles to score runs, so giving the offense a chance to manufacture runs starts with the pitchers limiting the number of runs opposing teams score.

    Mark Buehrle is a free agent after this season, and could be an intriguing target for the Mets. He’s 32, and has started at least 30 games for each of the past 10 years. What’s more is that he has double-digit wins in each of those years as well.

    That’s the sort of consistency the Mets need in their rotation.

4. Give Jenrry Mejia a Chance

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    Mets' top prospect Jenrry Mejia is off to a great start at Triple-A Buffalo.

    If the starting pitching continues to struggle, the Mets may consider bringing up Mejia sooner rather than later.

    The best way for Mejia to grow will be for him to face major league hitters on a consistent basis. He has electric stuff and could be a stalwart in the Mets' rotation for years to come.

    If the team is out of contention, we’ll likely see Mejia very soon. The experience he gains this year will allow for a quicker adjustment period next year if he earns a spot in the rotation.

3. Figure Out Second Base

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    Brad Emaus proved quickly that he wasn’t the answer at second base.

    Daniel Murphy has played surprisingly well defensively and has swung the bat like we know he can.

    Still though, Murphy might be best suited as a pinch hitter/utility player.

    The Mets need a durable player at second base that Terry Collins can pencil in every day.

    Toronto Blue Jays second baseman Aaron Hill may be available. He has two $8 million options the next two seasons. However, he has struggled offensively since his breakout year in 2009, which raises some red flags about how productive he can be.

    Kelly Johnson will be a free agent at year’s end. The Mets should have signed him two years ago when they had the chance, rather than ride out Luis Castillo.

    Johnson has good range at second and a little pop in his bat. He could be a good fit for the Mets.

2. Acquire Big-Time Power Bat

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    When healthy, the Mets' lineup has a nice combination of speed and contact hitters.

    Though some of their players strikeout too much, the team has the pieces to be able to score runs.

    However, the team lacks a bona fide power threat like an Albert Pujols, Adam Dunn or Ryan Howard-type player.

    Inserting a big-time power bat into the Mets' order would create more balance. It would take some of the pressure off David Wright and Ike Davis to try to hit home runs. Davis has a chance to develop big-time power at some point in his career, but that time is not now.

    There are two problems in trying to add a slugger. First, there aren’t many left in the game, since dominant pitching has become the norm. Second, most power hitters play one of the corner infield positions. Unless the Mets plan on dealing Wright or Davis, they will have to search for a power hitter elsewhere.

    Pujols and Prince Fielder will be free agents after the season, but the Mets likely won’t have the finances to lock either of them up long-term.

    Citi Field isn’t a hitter’s park, so the Mets should search for a player whose power is no match for the dimensions and angles of the new ballpark in Flushing.

1. Re-Sign Jose Reyes Long-Term

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    Though Mets GM Sandy Alderson has been rumored to not want to give Jose Reyes a $100 million deal, it’s the right move, plain and simple.

    I know many fans are ready to move on from Reyes, but he is showing this year how talented he is.

    While he could just be playing for a contract, Reyes is proving that he is a dynamic athlete that deserves to finish his career in New York.

    With significant payroll coming off the books next season, the Mets should have the finances to lock up Reyes.

    He is a run-creator and defensive wizard that will hopefully lead the Mets to a World Series title within the next few years.