Inbox: Do the Mets need an overhaul?
Beat reporter Marty Noble answers fans' questions
Let's cut to the chase. Is it time for a complete overhaul? The Mets can't hit at all -- 12 home runs for their home run leader. Their defense is OK, the pitching is dreadful and the bench lacks spark. The only bright spot for the team was Luis Castillo. It is a shame he will probably be overlooked for any awards for his effort this year. I think it is time for a major overhaul.
-- Graf D., Gloversville, N.Y.
I suspect that all that needs to be done to repair the Mets would constitute an overhaul whether or not it is identified as that. To return to contender status, the club needs to acquire at least one starting pitcher and add power hitting in the outfield whether it plans to retain Daniel Murphy at first base or bring back Carlos Delgado. The latter appears less likely. Acquisition of a left-handed-hitting catcher is essential if the club doesn't return Brian Schneider. And that appears unlikely too. Adding a set-up reliever, one manager Jerry Manuel will use against left-handed and right-handed hitters, is essential. A reserve shortstop who isn't Anderson Hernandez would be an asset, whether it is Alex Cora or Wilson Valdez.
The team needs more energy, more personality and some grit as well.
Addressing all those needs at a time when the Minor League system is widely regarded as shallow and the free-agent market is relatively unappealing creates a predicament for general manager Omar Minaya -- one that may require more than six months to solve. Trading, magic or the overnight improvement by players on the current roster is what's left for Minaya.
A year ago, the Mets had one glaring weakness -- late-inning relief. And the free-agent market and that three-way trade with the Mariners and Indians provided an almost immediate solution. The fix won't be so readily accomplished this time around.
Almost any trade that would import significant talent almost certainly would create another hole. If, say, the Mets were to find a club that wanted Castillo's low-octane offense and could make do with his diminished range and would deal a starter, who would play second base for them next season? If, for some reason, the White Sox were to make Carlos Quentin available for Murphy and Angel Pagan, who would be the Mets' first baseman?
If Mike Pelfrey were packaged with Fernando Martinez and a genuine power hitter were obtained, how would the Mets create a rotation?
Remember, every player on the roster, with the exceptions of Johan Santana and Francisco Rodriguez, has been tainted by the team's poor performance in 2009. A team collapse as the Mets endured -- no team in the big leagues equaled the 19-victory decline they suffered -- usually produces an invisible surcharge in the trading market. That tax often can be covered by including a prospect in the exchange. What prospects do the Mets have that other clubs covet? The many mistakes made at the big league level in 2009 by Pagan, Murphy, Martinez, Hernandez and Carlos Gomez, each of whom spent time in the Mets' organization, taint all the club's prospects.
The Mets can't deal Jon Niese. He's damaged. What has Martinez done to justify his Mets-assessed value? Josh Thole made some positive impressions during his big league tour. But his receiving skills have been exposed.
And so many other Mets have recent injury issues that reduce their value.
Signing Matt Holliday would address the power issue. But whether the dimensions of Citi Field legitimately offset the Mets' home swings or merely spooked the home team, Citi's size will make free-agent sluggers think twice about a Mets offer. What if Holliday consults with Chipper Jones and hears how Jones felt cheated by the ballpark on three swings in May?
All of that will conspire against Minaya when he tries to repair -- read: overhaul -- the team.
Jeff Wilpon's prediction that the repair will not be accomplished nearly so quickly as it was a year ago sounds prescient. Chances are the repair won't happen to the degree necessary by April 5 when Citi reopens.
Who do you think the Mets could acquire in a trade for Carlos Beltran? It seems the Mets need to trade somebody to shake up their roster -- Beltran, David Wright, Jose Reyes and Santana appear to be the only players with good trade value. Much is made of Beltran's ability to block a trade. But the Mets are such a mess, I'm sure he'd approve a trade to a team with a better chance of contending in 2010. Could the Yankees, Dodgers or Red Sox use his services? If a Beltran trade could bring a decent young starting pitcher and a decent young power-hitting left fielder, it would help. And his departure would free up a lot of money that could be applied to free-agent acquisitions. Do you agree? Do you think any other team would agree to such a package?
-- Andy S., Sunnyside, N.Y.
I'm not sure the Mets would agree to a deal for "decent" young players in exchange for Beltran. And how many clubs are looking to assume a $37 million obligation for two years? Moreover, who plays center field for the Mets? Beyond that, are other clubs sure about his physical condition?
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This is what I meant in my response to the first question. The Mets are boxed in.
In all I peruse, I keep seeing mandates for the Mets to acquire a power-hitting outfielder and/or first baseman. My response to those posts is, "Why would you expect a power hitter to come to Citi Field?" A younger power hitter like Prince Fielder, whose power seems to be to right-center, wouldn't willingly come to Citi to play. His home run numbers would plummet by at least 30 percent. I say only an older power hitter, signing his last contract, would come to the Mets for the money, and if his power numbers go down, so be it.
If the Wilpons won't move the fences in to make the Mets more competitive with the league norms, then what sense does it make to look for a power hitter whose numbers would certainly be diminished at Citi?
Murphy is also a favorite of mine. Most people seem very willing to unceremoniously toss him out of New York because, as one poster remarked, "Murphy will be a good guy to have coming off the bench for a good team, but that's all he'll ever be." Do you believe that? The guy just finished his first full season on a Major League team with 38 doubles and more than 60 RBIs, not playing full-time. And they want him gone? I see Murphy as another chance at a Jeff Kent-type player. If the Mets give him away, he'll be putting up numbers for a dozen years for another team.
-- Steve G., Baltimore
Interesting comparison to Kent. A few parallels do exist. But Kent had more power and speed and made himself into a competent second baseman. Mostly, they are joined at the demeanor.
First of all, Prince is not eligible for free agency. I question the 30 percent you cite. And the Mets do need power regardless of the dimensions of Citi. Visiting players weren't so affected by the park as the Mets were, so it may be more in their heads than in their swings. And they do play 81 games elsewhere.
Murphy played in 155 games and had 556 plate appearance. He hit 38 doubles and 12 home runs and drove in 63 runs. I would expect improvement in power and run production were he afforded comparable opportunity next season. But improvement doesn't mean 35 home runs and 120 RBIs. And that's what a genuine bopper provides. Moreover, his work at first base doesn't suggest he is playing for defensive reasons.
Murphy made adjustments late in the season, and I don't necessarily dismiss September production as I once did, because Wild Card contenders play with purpose. But I'm not convinced 25 home runs are within his range. If the Mets bring in some right-handed power to share first base with him -- there has been a suggestion that Troy Glaus could be signed to a conditional contract -- and get more power from left field, Murphy would be a better fit.
What are your thoughts on signing Holliday or Jason Bay? Personally I think that their below-average defense wouldn't serve the Mets well in Citi Field. I feel the Mets have the talent to trade for Nelson Cruz. They could sign Delgado for a year to add some more power to the middle of the lineup. The money they save on Cruz could be used to sign John Lackey and Randy Wolf, along with a veteran catcher.
-- Guy D., Bristol, Pa.
Why would the Rangers deal a player with power and no arbitration rights for players from an organization with a reputation of developing players who lack a grasp of the game -- see Pagan, Martinez, Murphy and Gomez?
Again, does Holliday or Bay want to bring his career to a team that was in steep decline last year and play in a park with a pitcher-friendly rep? Lackey would be a good addition. The Mets should have signed Wolf rather than Oliver Perez in January. A club that had Wolf start its first postseason game isn't going to turn its back too quickly on him, and Wolf prefers the coast.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.