Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Fixing the Mets for 2011 in Three Moves

Welcome to the off season. It's time for every Mets Lifer to take on the honorary role of being an armchair GM. We'll hear a new rumor every week about who the new GM or manager will be. Trade rumors will pick up after the playoffs. And it will generally be a long 6 months before regular baseball activity picks up again.

Whomever the new GM will be, they're going to have their hands full. Lots of decisions to be made, budgets to be balanced, and reputation to be restored. But I honestly believe the 2011 Mets can be fixed in just three moves. They're not easy moves. They may not be achievable. But three moves is all it will take.

Of course there are a few caveats that have to occur in order for these three moves to have their full effect. The assumption is that the Mets keep Carlos Beltran for the final year of his contract, they sign an extension to Reyes so they keep him at shortstop, and finally (save the best for last) K-Rod is able to pitch in 2011...assuming he's not in prison.

If this is the case, here are the three moves the Mets have to make to return to respectablity:

1. Get a #1 pitcher
I've been preaching this point for at least 3 off seasons now. In fact, I'd been shouting about the need for Roy Halladay specifically, but alas my cries have fallen on deaf (and dumb) ears. Johan Santana is still a great pitcher. I think we all know that, but he still needs another solid, reliable arm to support him. I'm not talking about Javier Vazquez either. He'd be a nice addition, but the Mets desperately need the likes of a Cliff Lee, Felix Hernandez or Josh Johnson. Someone to partner with Santana and then allows guys like Pelfrey, Dickey and Niese to take their deserved role as supplements to the staff. Not marquee pitchers as they've been forced to be. This is the toughest achievement of the three moves, but it's the most important. If the Mets start the season with the same rotation as they've had this year, the Mets won't make the improvements they need to be competitive. Why? See #2.

2. Get a reliable 8th inning guy
Bobby Parnell may turn into a solid reliever for years to come, but I highly doubt that it starts next year. He's got heat on his fastball, but his pitches lack movement and he has no supplementary pitches that are effective. If he can develop a Wagner-esque slide to go with his fastball, then he's ready for prime time. Until that occurs, Parnell needs to start the season in the minors. The Mets biggest vacancy in the bullpen was the revolving door that became the 8th inning. Is it Takahashi? Could be. I know it's definitely not Feliciano or Dessens or Green or any other arm that currently resides in the pen. Whether the Mets have to secure someone via trade or free agency or turn Takahashi into that guy, they need to enter 2011 with a firm understanding of who will be pitching in that 8th inning. If the Mets add a #1 starter to partner with Santana, we'll see the bullpen cut down on their innings pitched and be in a better position to help down the stretch should a pennant race occur. Without an 8th inning guy, it won't matter who the closer is because we'll continue to struggle to reach that 9th inning while wearing down arms and psyches trying to figure out who that person should be.

3. Improve at second base or catcher
I doubt the Mets can improve at both, but they have to get some additional production at one of these positions. Josh Thole can hit for average, but his lack of power production leaves you two positions without a home run threat. Let's say the Mets have to keep Castillo or platoon with Tejada at second and Thole is your catcher. Between second base and catcher that's a grand total of maybe 5 home runs for a season. If you have another position player who gets injured (like a Beltran) or under performs (like a Bay) then you've got some gaping holes in your lineup. Maybe Daniel Murphy will return and become the Pete Rose type of player everyone dreams he will be (unlikely). Then you might have your solution at second base. Also it's not like there are a ton of power hitting catchers out there that you can just grab up. You don't want to pick up a Varitek or Pudge who are aging, one year rentals either. So I think your move has to be to get some extra pop at second base. Maybe a Ty Wiggington can return? I'm not sure, but there has to be some additional RBI/HR production from one of these two positions.

If the Mets can make these moves, I honestly think we'll see a significant improvement in 2011. Of course I'm assuming the Mets remain healthy and we don't see players regular production magically disappear (a la Jason Bay).

Here's to a long and interesting off season.