The Mets will start out the 2014 season again at somewhat tightened purse strings compared to earlier seasons like 2011 when they exceeded the $140 million mark. Even with assurances to MLB from Wilpon that his family’s financial status has improved, there is no reason to believe that he is ready to spend, spend, and spend.
I for one look for them to stay within about the same budget restraints they had last year leveling out around the $90-$95 million mark.
With that said, they start their offseason with basically two players on the payroll salary for 2014, David Wright’s $20 million and Jonathan Niese’s $5 million. They have to face the arbitration eligible crew of 11 players in Ike Davis, Daniel Murphy, Dillon Gee and Bobby Parnell highlighting the list.
But before we get too deep in the financial issues, I want to step back here and preview the Mets in format with the way we approached the Braves and Nationals; and that of course going by positions.
CATCHER: Like the Braves and Nationals, let’s begin with behind the plate. John Buck sat behind the dish for most of the 2013 season for the Mets before departing to Pittsburgh. He was to turn FA at the end of the season anyway. His departure cleared a $6 million salary from their books but it also left a gaping hole at the Catcher position. Buck was not exactly tearing up the ball on the offensive side of the plate but he was more than a serviceable backstop when it came to veteran knowledge and calling a game.
His departure leaves the Mets with Travis d’Arnaud and Anthony Recker. In four seasons Recker has been in 77 big league games and has only 201 ABs and carries a .194 BA for those appearances. 2013 was d’Arnaud’s rookie season and he only put up a .202 BA and a .286 OBP. IMO the Mets should take the absence of Buck’s $6 million, add an additional $3 to $4 million and go after one of the Catchers in the FA market. Texas was quick to sign Soto who I thought would have been a good choice. As of now the Mets are saying that d’Arnaud is their backstop of the future. I take it the future is not 2014.
POSSIBLES: Free Agents that might be available to the Mets could include Kurt Suzuki, Carlos Ruiz or maybe even bring back Paulino.
DOUBTFUL: I doubt they rehire Buck. I doubt the Mets will get into the McCann bidding.
Ike Davis is coming off of a disappointing year and coupled with a disappointing 2012 campaign I don’t see the Mets having to shell out more than the average arbitration adjustments. Last season that average was down to about 89% which would be about a $2.4 million increase for Davis netting him somewhere around the $5.5 million range for the upcoming season. By the end of the season Josh Satin looked to be the best player at the position and this might also make Davis a trade commodity for the upcoming season.
2nd BASE: Daniel Murphy is a legitimate player that looks to improve on his $2.9 Million salary through arbitration this offseason. He will earn more than the average 89% from last season and will probably be one of those few that earn a 100% increase. I look for him to draw $6 million next year if not more if the Mets decide to lock him up on a contract for a few years. Ruben Tejada can fill in at second to give Murphy a break but the Mets would rather keep Tejada at SS. Outside of Murphy and Tejada, the Mets have Justin Turner that can play the position; that is IF Wright is not hurt and he then will have to play 3RD .
SS: As I mentioned earlier, the Mets would rather Tejada stay at his normal SS position and win the job back at Short. After the injury plagued 2013 season and given the fact that his replacement Omar Quintinilla did an okay job filling in for him, the Mets are eager for Tejada to return as their starting Shortstop and hopefully back to the .280+ BA from the previous two seasons. He is looking at arbitration this year as well and will probably earn the normal rate which should put him making over $1 million for the first time. Quintanilla is a journeyman that is with his 6th team in 10 years. The Mets signed him to a minor league contract in October and he will probably conduct fill in duty as the season runs its course. He was invited to spring training but his career .221 BA and .288 OBP will probably not see him making the initial big league roster come 1 April.
3RD BASE: David Wright. Do I need to say more? Okay, while Wright did miss about 50 games last year, he still proved to be a very potent offensive threat when he is healthy and in the game. He has missed 50+ games two of the last three seasons so durability has become a factor of late. He will turn 31 in December and most players of his caliber are still a big time threat at the plate at that age and I don’t look for any less from Wright this coming season, IF HE stays healthy. As for his backups of Justin Turner and Zach Lutz, the two combined cannot produce the way Wright does. However, in all fairness Turner did an admirable job filling in last season. Turner proved to be quite the utility player for the Mets last season. He does not carry the power clout of a David Wright but he does hit for a decent average. Turner will go through the arbitration process this offseason for the first time and he should earn a decent upgrade of pay. He will probably earn somewhere around $1.5 million next season. Turner will continue to be the backup for Wright as well.
I see this as a major issue for the Mets going into the offseason this year. The guy that had the most ABs for the Mets during the ’13 season was a late season trade to the Pirates.
With the departure of Marlon Byrd,(just signed two deal with the Phillies) the outfield used a total of 10 other players rotating to find a lineup to serve as passable offensive threats. After Byrd’s departure not a single Mets outfielder averaged over .255 last season. Now I know other teams had struggles with position players not living up to certain marks but in a game where your Big Boppers are usually your outfielders, this was totally unexpected and underachieving. Heck, even the Marlins had two to best that mark. And it just wasn’t in BA but also power. The Mets with Byrd’s 21 dingers had a total of 60 homers from its outfield. Take those 21 away and they face the 2014 with a roster looking at power as a missing asset.
However, all is not lost IF they are willing to open the purse strings on the FA Market. There is talent to be had and some of it comes with some POP to their bats. Shin-Soo Choo is on the market and if healthy can produce the missing 20+ HRs per season. He can probably be had around the $8-$10 million per year depending on the contract length and maybe lower per season if the club is willing to do a long term deal. Long time Met Carlos Beltran is back on the FA market this offseason as well and when healthy he has proved there is not many better in the OF or at the plate than Carlos. After sixteen seasons I doubt if any club will be willing to pay Carlos the $19 million a year he drew as a former Met but I bet he would be willing to come back say for a four year $52 million dollar deal to close out his career with the Mets. I just heard however the Yankees might be interested in Beltran. Be interesting to see if the two NY clubs would be willing to get into a bidding war for his services. Nah….won’t happen.
So much for the Christmas Wish list, as it stands now the Mets are looking at an Outfield of Andrew Brown in RF, Eric Young or Duda in LF, and a host of players trying to take over CF; none of which batted over .245 last year or had over a .300 OBP. This does however include the suspended Jordany Valdespin. However, his struggles at the plate will definitely have to improve if the Mets continue to speak of him in terms of their future at the CF position. I think they will look at the trade market for a suitable CF. Who knows, rumor has it the Nationals are willing to listen to offers for Denard Span, maybe he could land in NY.
SP: The Biggest hit the Mets Starting rotation for 2014 came without any moves at all; that being Matt Harvey deciding to go under the knife and have Tommy John surgery. He will miss all of the 2014 season. There is good news and bad news with that. As stated, he will miss the 2014 season being the bad news; the only good news really is he is still young and only drawing a minimum paycheck.
Dillon Gee will probably double last year’s salary and break the $1 million mark for the next year OR the Mets will look to sign him to a multi-year contract somewhere in the neighborhood of $4.5 – $5 million per year.
The first four of the Mets rotation should be Gee, Niese, Hefner and Wheeler. The supporting cast as of now that will be competing for the fifth rotation spot will be Torres and rookie Jenrry Mejia.
The Mets bullpen of relievers is not bad but they are not great. That is about the most I can say about them at this point. The Mets may elect to upgrade their bullpen during the offseason. As a team they only had 58 total save opportunities last year. In comparison, Atlanta’s close Craig Kimbrel had 54 opportunities by himself. While this is due mainly to the lack of offense and not many late inning leads, it was also because of leads lost early in the middle innings. The Mets as a team had a total of 64 “holds” as a team in pitching. While this was not last in the NL; they were 11th out of 15. Dillon Gee was the only starter to win double digits in games last season. That means there were way too many giveaways in the middle to late innings. In comparison, the Mets bullpen accounted for 35% of their team losses whereas the Braves bullpen only accounted for 25% of their team losses.
Bobby Parnell was doing very well as the closer until the injury bug sidelined him for the season. Latest report I saw on his condition stated that he had dropped several pounds and was looking very slim. If there is any question at all to the status of his health this is going to weigh heavily on his arbitration efforts. Many speculate that he will settle for around $1.5-$1.8 million. I don’t look for the Mets to bring back LaTroy Hawkins if Parnell looks ready to answer the bell in spring training OR IF Francisco looks to share duties on the back end of the game along with Parnell.
The Mets will probably shake up their middle relief core to some degree but at this point it is too hard for this old boy to figure. Sorry Mets fans, I just can’t seem to get a read on their business outlook for those guys.
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