Hot! Don’t Buy Into the Hype

It’s funny how much fan opinion can sway in just over a month. Following a dramatic fiscal offseason for the New York Mets in light of the Bernie Madoff scandal, Mets fans could feel nothing but pessimism heading into the 2012 season. All Star SS Jose Reyes signed with the Miami Marlins without receiving a legitimate offer from the Mets and the highest profile additions were RP Frank Francisco, RP Jon Rauch and OF Andres Torres. To make matters worse, every other team in the National League East improved in some capacity leaving the Mets the favorites to finish in last place.

Yet with the calendar now reading May 17th, the Mets are 20-17 and just 3 games behind the first place Atlanta Braves. The wins haven’t come easy as the Mets have actually been outscored by 26 runs to date, but manager Terry Collins has the team playing hard and veterans leaders such as 3B David Wright and SP Johan Santana have the team — and its fans — feeling relevant.

Wright has been on an absolute tear batting .402 and leading the team with 21 RBI on the young season while Santana has looked as healthy as ever posting an ERA of 2.89 with 46 strike outs in 43.2 innings pitched.

Wright and Santana may be performing well, but the Mets are far from being a contender.

The issue with the Mets is that besides Wright and Santana, the team lacks established and reliable talent. IF Daniel Murphy hits for a high average but is a defensive liability and cannot hit for power. OF Kirk Nieuwenhuis has been a pleasant surprise filling in for the injured Jason Bay (let’s not get started with him) but he is still very raw and far from being consider an imposing threat. 1B Ike Davis has been a major disappointment coming back from and injury shortened 2011 as he is batting under .200. SP Mike Pelfrey is lost for the year due to Tommy John surgery while SP Dillon Gee has been inconsistent. SP Jonathan Niese appears to be panning out as a long term option but overall, the Mets rotation is unintimidating. The bullpen has been atrocious. RP Frank Francisco has an ERA pf 8.59 and WHIP of 2.05 as the Mets closer while RP’s Manny Accosta, DJ Carrasco, Miguel Batista and Ramon Ramirez have all posted poor statistics.

Despite the problems, the Mets have the talent to finish the year near .500 if all goes well, but this team is nowhere near a World Series contender. I believe that when a team isn’t a contender in the present then all personnel decisions should be aimed at the future.

The Mets, who didn’t lose anywhere near the projected $1 billion in the Madoff scandal, are in better financial shape to become a big spending team in the near future. Because of this I believe the Mets should consider trade offers for some of their better players soon while their value is at their highest and then look forward to being a future contender in coming seasons once the roster is overhauled.

Take Johan Santana for instance, who is owed a prorated portion of $24 million this year, a full $24 million next year with a team option for $25 million in 2014. Unless the Mets plan on winning a World Series in the next 2 seasons, why pay Johan this money? His contract at one point was immovable, but now that he is proving effective the Mets can agree to absorb a portion of the contract in a trade for long term prospects at their many positions of need. Teams such as the Tigers, White Sox, Dodgers and Cardinals may be willing to work out a good deal for the right price.

David Wright is still in his prime and warrants a long term future with any team willing to pay him. He is owed a prorated portion of $15 million this season and the Mets hold a $16 million option for him next season. GM Sandy Alderson should start negotiating a long term extension with Wright now to gauge what Wright is seeking. It’s clear, however, that since the Mets lost Reyes last offseason, Wright holds great leverage in negotiations. The fact is that the Mets cannot possibly justify to their fans the lose of Reyes and Wright. But if the team does not like what he is asking for, it may be wise to trade him soon.

A key factor in Wright’s contract is that he can void the team option if he is traded, but any team that trades for Wright is unlikely to do so without negotiating an extension anyway so that shouldn’t be a big issue. Plenty of contending teams can use a third baseman and while I don’t feel the Mets should simply give Wright away, the plethora of high level and major league ready young talent he can net the Mets is absolutely worth considering.

Meanwhile, a player like Daniel Murphy can be marketed as a big time bat due to his high batting average. He is a fan favorite but his trade value for a non-contender like the Mets probably outweighs the value he currently provides as a one-dimensional player. A team like the Tampa Bay Rays, which functions on a low budget yet has plenty of prospects to spare, could offer a good price for a player like Murphy. The Rays love players that can play multiple positions and can use the poor fielding Murphy as a full time DH.

With Terry Collins at the helm, the Mets will continue to battle and make every effort possible to perform as a winning team should with whoever is on their roster. It’s for this reason that Mets fans should continue to support their team, not the false pretense that this team is a 2012 contender.

Author

Nicholas Kostopoulos

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