By Barry Duchan
In my most recent posts to this site, I lamented how the Mets in one season went from a legitimate World Series contender to a distant also-ran in the NL East. I also speculated that financial constraints would restrict the Mets from making those improvements necessary to restore the team to contending status in 2010.
Although I would have liked to have seen the Mets make a legitimate run at the top free agents and trade targets, I felt that it would mostly be a lot of posturing and that the 2010 Mets would be a different Mets' squad, but not necessarily an improved one. But at this point, if the Mets had merely done what I predicted instead of what they have actually done, we would all be extremely grateful. Sure, there are still weeks before the team reports to spring training and a lot can be done in that time. But will it?
My predictions included the Mets making non-competitive token offers to all the prime free agents to show the fans they are trying to do something : Lackey, Holliday, Bay, Marquis and eventually signing Joel Pineiro. Of that group, only Bay got an offer from the Mets, and who knows how seriously they will pursue him? For some strange reason, they made it a point to tell the fans that they had analyzed both players' swings and preferred Bay, which kind of negates their chances of signing Holliday if Bay goes elsewhere. Pineiro will probably also be out of the Mets' price range. I also foresaw the Mets offering a package for Roy Halladay, one that would be turned down flat and countered with an offer that included a couple of the Mets' better established players (Pelfrey and Francoueur) as well as their three best prospects. No deal there. Not even any talk, only a farfetched rumor that Toronto wanted Jose Reyes.
Then, I saw the Mets inquiring on Carl Crawford, only to be offered and enticed by a package of B.J. Upton (who the Mets would build up as their next superstar) and Andy Sonnanstine in exchange for Pelfrey, Fernando Martinez, and 3 other top prospects (Flores, Mejia, and Nieuwenhuis, or similar). I gave this as an example of a BAD over-reaching move that Omar would make, but I'm beginning to think that no one the Mets will actually acquire will excite the fans as much as Upton would, if exciting the fans rather than fielding a winning team is the Mets' off-season goal, which it well may be.
I also saw Melvin Mora and Austin Kearns as 2010 Mets, not exactly difference-makers, but a whole lot better than Chris Coste and Mike Hessman. And Elmer Dessens has been re-signed? He was #1 on my list of players "certain" not to return.
About the only thing the Mets have gotten right this off-season is the hiring of Wally Backman to manage the Cyclones. Unfortunately, since Brooklyn's season doesn't start until June, if the Mets get off to a bad start and Manuel goes, Backman could hardly be considered a candidate to take over when he hasn't even started managing in the organization yet.
Maybe the Mets really will sign Jason Bay. I doubt it, but even if they did, it doesn't exactly make them a contender. Plugging him into leftfield, the Mets still need at least someone to platoon with Murphy at first base (Garko?), a guy for the bench with both defensive versatility and pinch-hitting skills (Mark DeRosa?), two starting pitchers at least one of whom is a legitimate #2, and some bullpen upgrades including one more lefty. The signings of Everts and Igarashi would normally be called under-the-radar moves that could pay off, but to date, they are the biggest moves the Mets have made since the season ended. Unbelievable.
Even Dave Mills' self-described restrained approach implores the Mets to go after players like Gomes, Capps, Escobar, DeRosa, Sheets, Wang, and Chapman. Like that'll happen. There's still plenty of time to make these moves and the players are out there. But will the Mets spend the money or make a shrewd trade? We'll see. I grow more pessimistic daily.