So the off-season seems to be pretty much over for the New York Mets in terms of acquiring any more major talent. Here is the simple break-down for the Mets off-season:
J.J. Putz, K-Rod, Jeremy Reed, Rob Mackowiak, Sean Green, Bobby Kielty, Alex Cora, Casey Fossum, Tom Martin, Connor Robertson, Rocky Cherry, Darren O’Day, Cory Sullivan
Pedro Martinez, Endy Chavez, Moises Alou, Scott Schoeneweis, Aaron Heilman, Mike Carp, Jason Vargas, Damion Easley, Joe Smith
Overall, a pretty good swap of players. But after two years of terrible Septembers that cost the Mets playoff opportunities, is this enough? Mets fans had to sit idly by and watch as their division rivals not only swept the rug from under them twice, but then went on to win the World Series. After the 2007 season Omar Minaya made a splash by acquiring Johan Santana, arguably the best starting pitcher in baseball. This off-season the Mets not only got arguably the best closer in baseball in Rodriguez but also snagged one of the most impressive closers of the past few years, Putz, to set up games for K-Rod. Again though, was this enough?
The answer, most likely, is yes. While the lack of any addition to the lineup is perplexing (and somewhat frustrating), scoring runs should not be a problem for the Mets in 2009. With Jose Reyes and David Wright progressing towards their prime years, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado driving others in, and the contributions of guys like Daniel Murphy, Ryan Church, and Fernando Tatis, the Mets should have a powerful lineup. Sure, Manny Ramirez or Adam Dunn would make the lineup much better—although Omar and company have their reasons for not pursuing the pair—and they inexplicably let Pat Burrell go to Tampa Bay for peanuts compared to what he is actually worth. Omar and Jerry Manuel seem content with Brian Schneider behind the plate, Luis Castillo at second base, and Ryan Church in right field.
But this is where I have a problem: While the bullpen should be fantastic this year (and a mid-season return from Billy Wagner would probably make it one of the most dominant in the past decade), Omar Minaya did not seem to improve on the margins. Brian Schneider did nothing in 2008 to deserve the starting job in 2009, but he is still here. Luis Castillo apparently gets paid too much not to start, but Daniel Murphy may force Jerry’s hand. And Ryan Church’s 106 OPS+ from right field last year was the worst OPS+ he has had since becoming a regular in the major leagues. One player, such as Bobby Abreu, Pat Burrell, or Adam Dunn, would fix a lot of these problems. The Mets could afford to lose some offense at catcher if they put Burrell in right field, or could afford to watch Luis Castillo slap grounders to shortstop if Adam Dunn was in left field. But the fact that the relatively weak spots in the lineup have been unaltered despite the fact that no other changes were made to the lineup is disappointing to say the least. Maybe someone like Bobby Kielty or Cory Sullivan will have a breakout year, but counting on this is unlikely.
Have the 2009 Mets improve since last year? Yes, drastically. The starting pitching has improved (losing Pedro was only beneficial), the bullpen is much better, and young players are maturing (with even younger stars like Fernando Martinez close to major league-ready). Another factor to consider is the trade deadline. Omar may have decided to save some cash and prospects for the end of July when some upcoming free agents (i.e. Matt Holliday, Rick Ankiel, Brian Giles, Randy Winn) may become available. But there are not many marquee names in the free agent pool of 2010 other than Vlad Guerrero. With the market the way it is, players may start moving around as less and will stick to signing with their teams for less money rather than rest the free agent waters and get spurned. So when Omar Minaya says that the team now will be the team for 2009, he may also be saying you won’t see any more major moves for a long time.