By Dave Mills
Hot Stove has arrived and speculation runs rampant as usual. As Mets fans, we have little else to think about or cheer.
So, how do Jeff and Omar set forth to right the ship?
Let me throw my two cents worth in the pot...
Firstly, 2009 was an aberration and will not likely ever happen again.
Now to the more practical observations...
I have serious doubts about a few of our pitching mainstays (Perez, Maine and Pelfrey). I see some real nice potential from a handful of young players (Murphy, Pagan, Thole as well as Francoeur and Wright). I worry about nagging injuries (Beltran and Reyes). And what happened to our defense?
There's quite a bit of talk of unloading Luis Castillo's contract for another problem contract. Not a bad idea because he did have a terrific year and stayed healthy. Sell high. Outside of the dropped pop-up in The Bronx, he was very, very good. In fact, other than a loss of some range and a middling arm at 2B, he was the Castillo of old at the dish. That being said, no matter who we replace him with at 2b, it will not be the difference maker. Pray that Omar stays away from Milton Bradley and all his mind games. The proposed three-way where the Mets get Kevin Millwood works for me, but why would the Rangers do it? Right now, at 2B, I like Brandon Phillips (if he can be had) by a slight margin over life-long Mets fan Orlando Hudson.
There continues to be a lot of fannies not too pleased with Daniel Murphy at 1B. These folks need to have their heads examined. Murphy has talent and it is clear to many that 1B may be just the fit. He showed quickness, range and aggressiveness. Give him a couple of seasons and some good instruction and there could even be a fine fielder in the making. Not only that, but he can rake. He led the team in dingers. Yes, by default more than design, but he also hits into the power alleys for an amazing number of two-base hits. With Ike Davis on the horizon (who also hits from the left side), the Mets actually have some prospect depth at the first sack. Nothing wrong with importing a right-handed platoon guy, but Nick Evans might be more than serviceable.
A four-step program to right the Mets ship...
1. LOAD UP ON SOUTHPAWS TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE HUGE CITI FIELD OUTFIELD DIMENSIONS.
No doubt about it, right-handed power hitters struggle in Citi Field. Only those who dead-pull are able to clear the fences. Those with opposite field power (like David Wright and Matt Holiday), just hit catchable fly balls. Even Mike Piazza would struggle at Citi. On the other hand, it seems the better place to hit big flies is to right field from the left side of the dish. So, why not load up on lefthanders? Three or four southpaws in the rotation is an absolute must. And the Phillies would be pretty vulnerable to such a rotation. How about Santana, Wolf, Millwood, Niese and Perez? Sorry, the Mets have to give Oliver a chance to redeem himself (not unlike Castillo) and then move him if things go well. Even if they land Doc Halladay (which would likely mean moving Big Pelf and several others), they can still trot out three or four southpaws. This would also work to the advantage of a heavily right-handed bullpen, which the Mets already feature. Give us the lefty starters and stay clear of the Harangs, Arroyos, Pinieros and Marquis.
2. MOVE JOHN MAINE TO THE 8TH INNING SETUP ROLE
Why not? Maine has the size, strength and velocity. He also runs out of juice in the 5th or 6th as a starter. With a rotation of three to four lefties and Bobby Parnell for the 7th, this could work and is certainly worth a try at no cost.
3. GET A LEFTY SWINGING LF WITH POP, SPEED, YOUTH AND A GOOD GLOVE
Here are the candidates for a trade: Andre Ethier (pretty much the perfect model), Nick Markakis (does it all and is durable), Curtis Granderson (speed and fine "D", but doesn't hit for high average and strikes out too much). Slim pick-ins among the FAs. No way the Mets should pay for sub-par fielders Holliday or Bay, as a lefty swinger is a far better fit with Frenchy in RF and Beltran in CF, especially with Angel Pagan as the perfect switch-hitting 4th OF. Beltran should always be rested on day games after night. Pagan can also spell Frenchy against real tough righthanders and the LF against real tough southpaws, which should capture at least 350 ABs in a balanced OF mix. Granderson appears to be the most obtainable option.
4. IT'S ALL ABOUT SPEED AND DEFENSE IN CITI FIELD.
The Mets need gloves and some crafty baserunners. Murphy will be better at 1B. Hudson or Phillips deliver more speed, range and arm than Castillo. Jose will be better than any of the fill-ins. David Wright has to be better than 2009. Bengie Molina and Santos are a nice defensive pair behind the dish. Granderson/Beltran/Francoeur are as good an OF as any in the game. With Pagan as a 4th OF and a good utility glove in the INF, the Mets will play far better "D" in 2010. Speed will also be improved if several of the players targeted here get to Citi Field.
A lefty swinging LF:
Me thinks Ethier will never happen, but could Markakis be pried away from Baltimore for F-Mart, Parnell, Brad Holt and Shawn Bowman? The Glen Cove native is one of the most underrated players in the game.
Mike Pelfrey, F-Mart, Ruben Tejada, Sean Green and Pat Misch for Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson.
Try this on for size..,
Big time arm:
Pelfrey, Parnell, Holt, Tejada and Jeremy Reed for Roy Halladay
Omar and Jeff will make pitching the centerpiece of the rebuild and sign FAs Molina (a great defensive catcher with some power), Alex Cora, Marco Scutaro, Randy Wolf, and either Darren Oliver or Chad Bradford, and make a deal for Curtis Granderson. Fernando Martinez and Brad Holt will be moved, but Ike Davis and Jon Niese will not. Luis Castillo will still be the Mets second sacker. Adrian Gonzales will go to the Red Sox in a blockbuster deal. Lackey goes to the Brewers.
Mets will have big strikeout numbers among their hitters, but they will hit 130-135 HRs and be in the top-3 NL clubs in hitting. Defense will improve radically and they will be among the top-3 clubs in MLB in steals.
Here is the lineup:
S - Jose Reyes, SS Has to return to form and stay healthy
S - Luis Castillo, 2B Can he repeat 2009 without the dropped pop-up?
R - David Wright, 3B Cut down the strikeouts and up the power
S - Carlos Beltran, CF Stay healthy and everything will take care of itself
R - Jeff Francoeur, RF More plate discipline and the same great attitude
S - Murphy/Evans, 1B Give these boys a chance
R - Molina/Santos, C Upgrade over the past several years
L - Curtis Granderson, LF Speed, glove and some power in the 8th hole
Bench: S - Angel Pagan, OF Could be a key player. Looked good in 2009 L - Alex Cora, INF Valuable in a limited role R - Marco Scutaro, INF/OF Versatile asset in steady role if others go down with injuries
L - Johan Santana
L - Randy Wolf
R - Mike Pelfrey
L - Jon Niese (could start the year at AAA)
L - Oliver Perez
Bullpen (7-8 members):
R - Francisco Rodriguez
R - John Maine
L - Pedro Feliciano
R - Chad Bradford or Sean Green
R - Brian Stokes or Bobby Parnell
L - Darren Oliver or Pat Misch
R - Nelson Figueroa or Francisco Nieve
Nieve or Misch could start the year in the rotation.
Always fun to speculate!