Mar 30, 2012, 9:30 PM EDT
Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2012 season. Up next: The New York Mets.
The Big Question: How long will the Mets spend in baseball purgatory?
How much hope can there be for a team who is coming off three straight losing seasons, slashed payroll by a record amount and let their best player, Jose Reyes, sign with a division rival? Not a whole lot. The Marlins and Nationals are on the rise while the Braves are bringing back most of the same players and the Phillies still have “The Big Three.” Realistically, finishing in fourth place would be both a surprise and a significant accomplishment.
Most Mets fans have resigned themselves to this gloomy short-term fate, but this month’s settlement with Irving Picard in the Madoff case has at least changed the tone a little. The Mets’ owners were also able to close sales of 12 minority shares in the team, repaying loans to MLB and Bank of America in the process. The focus is back on the players on the field for the most part. However, this infusion of cash doesn’t mean the Mets will sign Cole Hamels or Matt Cain next winter. The intention was to cover team debt and operating expenses (or losses). And with expectations pretty low, attendance is likely to suffer once again. There’s also the team’s annual interest bond payments on Citi Field. I’ll admit there’s a lot we don’t know about their situation — for instance, what impact will the Dodgers’ sale have on their ability to refinance? — but it doesn’t look like the Mets’ owners are out of the woods yet.
I don’t think that the Mets need a mega payroll to contend again, but Sandy Alderson’s flexibility figures to be limited in the short-term. Johan Santana and Jason Bay are still owed a total of $90 million on their contracts. That’s a tremendous amount of payroll dedicated to just two players, so it’s unlikely they will make any major signings until those players are officially off the books. Of course, doling out massive long-term contracts is what got them into this mess in the first place.
The Mets will probably remain in this weird state of baseball purgatory until around 2014, but this is still a very important period of evaluation for the on-field product. This is the time to find out whether homegrown players like Lucas Duda, Ike Davis, Ruben Tejada, Daniel Murphy, Jon Niese and Josh Thole will play significant roles on the next contending team in Queens. With top prospects like Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Jeurys Familia inching closer to the big leagues, the Mets may actually have a pretty good (and cheap) core for the future.
What else is going on?
- The Mets altered the dimensions and heights of the fences at Citi Field over the winter in an effort to make the park play more neutral. David Wright‘s old sweet spot in right-center field was moved in by 17 feet while Jason Bay will no longer have to put up with the 16-foot high “Great Wall of Flushing” in left field. I’ve heard the argument that Mets’ hitters will get a psychological lift with the changes and I suppose that’s true to a certain degree, but I’m not sure that gives them any real advantage. If the Mets’ pitching is bad and the opposing hitters are better, well, it doesn’t matter where the fences are.
- I wouldn’t have believed this if you had told me even a month ago, but it appears Johan Santana will take the ball on Opening Day. While his velocity was down in his most recent outing, the rehabbing southpaw has a 3.44 ERA and 13/7 K/BB ratio over 18 1/3 inning this spring and hasn’t had any setbacks with his surgically repaired shoulder. He probably isn’t anything more than a six- or seven-inning pitcher right now, but it would be a huge boost if he could make even 20-25 starts.
- You know how Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez were discussed as trade possibilities last year? Now it’s David Wright’s turn. The only difference is that it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to deal him. At least right now. Wright can void his $16 million option for 2013 in the event of a trade while the new CBA stipulates that the acquiring team would not be able to offer him arbitration as a free agent. However, if the Mets pick up the option and trade him next offseason, the acquiring team would be able to offer him arbitration since he would spend the full season with his new club. In other words, don’t look for a trade unless the Mets are blown away by a desperate contender. I still think there’s a chance the Mets will keep him for the long haul, though.
- The bullpen was the only area of the team that was improved over the winter. Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch were added as free agents while Ramon Ramirez was acquired from the Giants in the Angel Pagan deal. Francisco has looked terrible this spring and Rauch is on the decline, but they should be better than a group which was 28th in the majors last year with a 4.33 ERA and was a complete disaster after the All-Star break.
- R.A. Dickey. That’s all.
How are they gonna do?
Oddly, for a team that is projected to finish last by nearly every baseball writer out there, the Mets entered camp with every spot in the lineup and rotation pretty much settled. The big issue, aside from a very shaky defense, is that they have little-to-no depth beyond those projected starters, especially in regard to the rotation. The Mets actually look like a pretty respectable team at the moment, but injuries at key positions could set them back in a big way. And I don’t think they have the reinforcements to compete in an improved division. I’m predicting 70-74 wins and a last-place finish.
Jul 28, 2014, 8:28 PM EDT
Mark Teixeira is out of the Yankees’ starting lineup for the eighth straight game tonight due to a lower lat strain, but he’s aiming to make his return tomorrow.
Jul 28, 2014, 7:29 PM EDT
It’s not a big deal, but the Blue Jays and Royals have pulled off a trade this evening which will send infielder Danny Valencia to Toronto and catcher Erik Kratz and right-hander Liam Hendriks to Kansas City.
Jul 28, 2014, 6:51 PM EDT
We heard yesterday that the Dodgers have been in touch with the Red Sox about a deal for left-hander Jon Lester, but they figure to have plenty of competition leading up to Thursday’s non-waiver trade deadline.
Jul 28, 2014, 6:17 PM EDT
An impending free agent, Justin Masterson owns a disappointing 5.51 ERA over 18 starts this season and is currently on the disabled list with right knee inflammation.
Jul 28, 2014, 5:34 PM EDT
Looks like he picked the wrong week to not stop doing amphetamines.
Jul 28, 2014, 5:17 PM EDT
A’s outfielder Craig Gentry began the season on the disabled list with a back injury and now, after hitting just .264 with zero homers and a .625 OPS in 80 games, he’s going on the shelf again with a broken hand.
Jul 28, 2014, 5:03 PM EDT
Do the right thing and good things happen. Not always, but here, yes.
Jul 28, 2014, 4:46 PM EDT
Two weeks ago the Yankees acquired Jeff Francis from the A’s as a roster reinforcement, but now they’ve designated the journeyman left-hander for assignment.
Jul 28, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT
After a couple months worth of reports that Cole Hamels is not on the market . . . maybe he’s on the market.
Jul 28, 2014, 3:45 PM EDT
Bedard was demoted from the rotation to the bullpen three weeks ago, but has barely pitched since then and at age 35 could be nearing the end of the line.
Jul 28, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT
At this point I’m almost convinced that the ground balls are purposely doing strange things just to test the limits of what Simmons is capable of.
Jul 28, 2014, 3:04 PM EDT
Life begins at 37.
Jul 28, 2014, 2:44 PM EDT
Last week the Cubs designated infielder Darwin Barney for assignment and now Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports that they’re close to trading him to the Dodgers.
Jul 28, 2014, 1:51 PM EDT
Twins outfielder Oswaldo Arcia was unhappy about striking out yesterday against the White Sox, so he snapped his bat over his knee, Bo Jackson-style.
Jul 28, 2014, 1:39 PM EDT
The NFL weighed in on domestic violence and concluded “eh, no big deal.” MLB has tended to avoid the matter altogether.
Jul 28, 2014, 1:18 PM EDT
Braves right fielder Jason Heyward left this afternoon’s game what the team is calling lower back soreness.
Jul 28, 2014, 12:46 PM EDT
Gwynn had a brief run as a regular for the Padres and Dodgers, but he profiles strictly as a backup outfielder at this point and at age 31 will likely have to prove himself at Triple-A for a while after hitting just .163 in 67 games for the Phillies.
“If The Boss Was Still Alive” Watch: George Steinbrenner was absent from Joe Torre’s Hall of Fame speech
Jul 28, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
Soon we’ll be praying to Steinbrenner before every meal and thanking him for all that He has bestowed upon us.
Jul 28, 2014, 11:50 AM EDT
During his 13-year MLB career Dmitri Young was one of the largest players in baseball, often struggling with his weight while being listed at 6-foot-2, 295 pounds.
Jul 28, 2014, 11:35 AM EDT
Because of course he did.
- Ray Rice is awful, but let’s not pretend baseball has a great record on domestic violence 58
- And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights 49
- Mariners’ interest in Matt Kemp is “very real” 29
- Astros players upset over Mark Appel’s promotion to Double-A, bullpen session in Houston 43
- Four theories about the Hall of Fame voting changes 24
- Troy Tulowitzki is visiting a sports hernia surgeon 10
- Settling the Score: Saturday’s results 29
- Giants acquire Jake Peavy from Red Sox 55
- Expert’s Corner: How to troll fans of all 30 teams (201)
- Verducci: baseball should think about an “illegal defense” rule to combat shifts (165)
- Yankees acquire Chase Headley from Padres (108)
- David Ortiz passes Carl Yastrzemski on the all-time home run list — is he a Hall of Famer? (92)
- Ten years ago today the Alex Rodriguez-Jason Varitek brawl changed the narrative of the Sox-Yankees rivalry (88)