Mar 30, 2012, 9:30 PM EST
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.
Jan 26, 2015, 10:15 AM EST
“I don’t know if my metabolism is slowing down from getting older or what, but I feel good.”
Jan 26, 2015, 9:31 AM EST
Hey guys, if things break just right we may get another A-Rod lawsuit!
Jan 26, 2015, 9:00 AM EST
Short version: The man knows how to budget. Mets fans can’t dispute that.
Jan 26, 2015, 8:30 AM EST
A solution in search of a problem. Or, at the very least, a solution that would be worse than the problem.
Jan 26, 2015, 6:46 AM EST
We are approaching the day when a Hall of Famer with over 3,000 hits and a career .328 batting average will be best known for knocking back cold ones.
Jan 25, 2015, 11:15 PM EST
Corey Kluber won the AL Cy Young Award for his great 2014 season and now the Indians will have to consider whether or not they want to sign him to a contract extension.
Jan 25, 2015, 10:35 PM EST
With Yovani Gallardo out of the picture, Brewers GM Doug Melvin said he’s not looking to add a notable starting pitcher.
Jan 25, 2015, 9:30 PM EST
Twins prospect Alex Meyer is open to contributing out of the bullpen if he doesn’t win a rotation spot in spring training.
Jan 25, 2015, 8:20 PM EST
The Mariners added some outfield depth, signing Endy Chavez to a minor league deal. They’re reportedly close to signing Franklin Gutierrez as well.
Jan 25, 2015, 7:10 PM EST
With Jonathan Papelbon likely staying in Philadelphia, the Brewers are turning their attention back to Francisco Rodriguez.
Jan 25, 2015, 6:05 PM EST
Rob Manfred’s suggestion to ban defensive shifting isn’t the best way to address some of the problems facing Major League Baseball.
Jan 25, 2015, 4:41 PM EST
MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez wrote earlier this month that it’s unlikely Josh Hamilton will finish out his five-year, $125 million contract as a member of the Angels and that a trade may even be coming this season — in the third year of the five-year deal. But we can probably rule out a reunion with the Rangers.
Jan 25, 2015, 3:17 PM EST
Sean McAdam of CSNNewEngland.com shares the gory details about the painful facial surgery that Mike Napoli had earlier this offseason to help end his long battle with sleep apnea …
Jan 25, 2015, 2:58 PM EST
A nice gesture here from Max Scherzer, who signed a $210 million deal Monday with the Nationals …
Jan 25, 2015, 1:33 PM EST
Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca reports that the Blue Jays have ended their pursuit of Orioles executive Dan Duquette because Baltimore asked for 2014 first-round pick Jeff Hoffman and two other prospects in return.
Jan 25, 2015, 12:05 PM EST
Rob Manfred has officially been reigned in as the new commissioner of Major League Baseball and he said something controversial in a sit-down interview this weekend with ESPN’s Karl Ravech …
Jan 25, 2015, 11:02 AM EST
Another New York Daily News source added that A-Rod is looking “noticeably thinner and massless,” so you get the sense these bits of information — however truthful — definitely aren’t coming from his camp.
Jan 25, 2015, 9:39 AM EST
MLB Network looks back on the career of Ernie Banks, who died Friday at the age of 83 …
Jan 24, 2015, 10:40 PM EST
Tommy Milone underwent neck surgery in December to remove a benign tumor, but he was able to resume throwing just over two weeks later.
Jan 24, 2015, 9:35 PM EST
Top prospect Byron Buxton could be wearing a Twins uniform in the major leagues at some point this season according to GM Terry Ryan.
- The Yankees are going to try to get out of paying A-Rod his contract incentives 6
- How Commissioner Rob Manfred Can Make Baseball More Appealing 51
- Blue Jays cut off talks for Orioles executive Dan Duquette 41
- Rob Manfred, new Major League Baseball commissioner, suggests ban on defensive shifts 117
- Yankees reject A-Rod’s apology attempt 47
- Joe Posnanski: Remembering ‘Mr. Cub,’ Ernie Banks 17
- What they’re saying about the passing of Cubs legend Ernie Banks 7
- Alex Rodriguez recently met with incoming MLB commissioner Rob Manfred 15
- Bud Selig: The Greatest Commissioner in the History of Baseball (144)
- Max Scherzer’s seven-year deal with Nationals worth $210 million (119)
- Rob Manfred, new Major League Baseball commissioner, suggests ban on defensive shifts (118)
- Comments of the Day: some of you guys aren’t big Bud Selig fans (77)
- The 2015 Braves have “gravitas” and “veteran leadership” and will have dirty uniforms. Just kill me now. (76)