The New York Mets have been in the news all year. They have big names leaving. They have debt higher than Mount Everest. They have more holes in their lineup and in their defense than Swiss cheese. They are trying to trade off talent to fill those holes for the future. The headlines for the entire season have been dominated by injury and impending free agency.
All the rumors this week focusing around Carlos Beltran's impending trade has taken the focus off of the players that have kept the Mets' season afloat so far. Those players are the present and the future. When evaluating that future, there are several questions that immediately pop up.
First is the outfield. When Beltran is gone, who replaces him? The Mets farm system does not have anyone nearly ready to take the everyday reins of right field by next season. Angel Pagan is not the player they anticipated after last season. Jason Bay is not the bat they hoped they bought almost two years ago.
The next question is pitching. Whether it's starters or relievers, the pitching staff has been decent but not exceptional. They are not among the league leaders in team ERA, strikeouts or wins, but even without Johan Santana who is still rehabbing from last year's surgery, they are keeping the team around .500. Who stays and who goes next season? They have a few pitchers who are waiting in the minors that could make some noise as early as 2012 spring training.
Then we come to the infield. Injuries have dominated this section of the team. Whether it has been Jose Reyes on the DL for a few weeks, David Wright out since mid-May or Ike Davis seemingly not coming back at all this year, the Mets have had a hard time being productive at these positions. They have filled the many voids with a handful of players.
Among those players is Daniel Murphy. Murphy missed all of last season due to injury but the primary concern this year was not his injury or his offense (.308 AVG with six home runs). It was his defense. He has answered that well, however. He has made nine errors total this season while playing four different positions.
Meanwhile at second base, the position he came into spring training preparing for, he has made two errors in 93 chances during 23 games.
Justin Turner (an increasing fan favorite) has twice the playing time (39 games) at second base and twice as many errors (four) in twice as many chances (179). The man everyone looks to for his glove, Ruben Tejada, has more games (35) at that position with fewer errors (one) and more chances (152), but his bat (.250 AVG) has not shown up as anticipated.
Turner's bat has been sufficient in the everyday lineup with a .277 AVG, but not as good or as consistent as Murphy's. Tejada has played two different positions and has struggled both at the plate and in the field when not at second (five errors in 17 games at shortstop). Murphy has a glove that is comparable to that of others that were supposed to better than his.
When one factors in the several positions Murphy has played (with a total of nine errors between all three) and the consistency of his offense, it is easy to see that he is obviously the answer on a long-term basis for the Mets at second base. Turner will serve well as a spot starter and pinch hitter for the next several years. He could even fit into the mold of a Lenny Harris (well received by the fans and team) if he accepts that role.
Tejada is not the answer at either middle infield position. It is obvious the Mets will have to resign Reyes for short stop and hope they don't have to resort to Tejada full time in either spot. His defense will keep him in the league. At this point though, he needs to stay as a backup to Reyes only. Otherwise, he looks less like a Rey Ordonez type and more like an infield version of the Todd Hundley Outfield Project.
When a healthy Ike Davis, a settled David Wright and a newly resigned Jose Reyes (hopefully) return to form to kick off next season, it should be and will be Daniel Murphy that is combining on the 6-4-3. Then, the infield will not have any questions surrounding them. They could combine to be the core of this team for the next several years. It all starts with the under-the-radar Daniel Murphy.
He has been an unsung hero this year for the Mets. He has played multiple positions well. He has bat in the clean-up role mostly all year and he has led by example. He is truly one of the faces that are emerging in this upcoming New York youth movement.