I'm old enough to remember plenty of Mets off-seasons when the talk was not about which few parts to replace, but which few to keep. A stretch of grueling mediocre seasons in the late '70's and another round in the early '90's come to mind. Those older and wiser than me could point out plenty more examples, but let's agree that while we're blowing up the old ballpark, there's no need to blow up the infield.
Remember folk singer Dick McCormick's anthem to Shea's hot corner, "79 Men on Third for the Mets"? Well, the Ultimate Mets Database says we're up to 138 now (thanks, Fernando Tatis), but that position's pretty much locked down for the immediate future. For all the flack David Wright gets about his A-Rod like performance in pressure situations, he's also been turning in nearly A-Rod like season-long performances for the last three years. Sure, we'd all like better clutch hitting out of him, but as he matures, we'll get that, sooner than you might think.
Don't expect much of an issue out of shortstop any time soon, either. Compared to the third base parade, UMDB tells us that a paltry 102 Mets have played shortstop. Barring injury and the occasional day off, Jose Reyes has it covered there. Yes, he's still maturing. Yes, his potential hasn't been reached yet. That should be viewed as a positive, not a negative. And would someone please tear up the press credentials of the next "sports journalist" who floats the asinine "Mets should trade Reyes or Wright" idea?
Second base is a different animal altogether. Unless the Mets can package Luis Castillo and the three seasons left on his contract together with prospects in a deal for something of value, it'll be Juan Samuel all over again. The only difference is that the '89 Mets had to suffer through Samuel's underachievement for less than a full season. Let's just imagine for a moment that the Mets can pull off a deal like that. Who would they bring in?
The free-agent selections at second base this winter are slim pickings, with an average age of 35 and only a few names that would mildly raise an eyebrow. The Cards' Felipe Lopez is the youngest in the bunch at 29, but his offensive production has been abysmal - fewer than 100 RBI's in nearly 1200 plate appearances in '07 and '08 combined. Mark Loretta of the Astros is an intriguing idea. He's played all four infield positions, and has never hit below .280 in a full season in his career. His age (36) is a minus, though, especially for a Mets team that's way too old as it is. David Eckstein, most recently of the D-Backs, is two years younger than Loretta, and has won World Series with teams in both leagues. But while his career .284 batting average is all right, his RBI production is worse than Lopez', and his long-ball power is virtually non-existent. The Mets will most likely end up passing on a free-agent second baseman, start the season with Castillo until his inevitable prolonged slump, then give a kid like Argenis Reyes another chance to impress.
Many Mets fans are cheering the decision to exercise Carlos Delgado's 2009 option after his amazing tear in July and August. I think it's a mistake - I would have taken a shot at the Teixeira sweepstakes - but what's done is done. As long as a serviceable backup is available for twenty or thirty games, be it Carp, Evans, or Pascucci, it looks like this Carlos will help inaugurate Citi Field in April. Right now, all but one or two teams would trade their starting infield for ours in a heartbeat. Especially if we throw in Castillo's imaginary friend.