The New York Mets are headed for their fourth straight season in which they will have lost at least 83; in fact, they could eclipse the 90-mark for the second time in four years. With the team's continued struggles, spurs questions about its future, from the coaches through the roster. General manager Sandy Alderson on Friday gave the coaching staff a vote of confidence, signifying that manager Terry Collins won't be the culprit for another losing season.
I am not a fan of pointing the blame solely on a manager for a team's struggles. In addition, when you look at the Mets, they're so talent stricken that it wouldn't be fair for Collins to be scapegoat. Making a move to get rid of the manager, again after two years, is misguided and a sign that the front office doesn't fully recognize the flaws in the organization. Alderson has always seemed to have a wide feel of this team and he's an intelligent person so it's not shocking he's going to give Collins a little more time. Ultimately, though, the tell-tale sign would be if the Mets were more equipped and had the horses to truly contend. Some could point to Orioles manager Buck Showalter and say look what he's done. Yes, the O's play in a difficult division. Yes, he's done wonders with a patchwork rotation. But you could make the rotation that Baltimore has more talent than the Mets and Showalter pushed the right buttons and said the right things (with a little luck involved) to push them into contention. I'm not saying Collins isn't to blame, but I think it's an organization-wide thing, and it's not just on the manager.
With all of that being said, it's only fitting to discuss some of the bigger names on the roster and whether they deserve to be in the team's long-term plans. A few caveats apply: The Mets are a team thin on big-league hitters (even those close to the minors) and they seem well-positioned with their pitching. It's also a franchise that isn't about to spend like it used to and the payroll will probably sit between $90-100 million next season. Finally, this team is likely more than one move away from contending and has a few impossible-to-move contracts. New York, as much as fans don't like to hear it, should really be in rebuild mode.
Who should stay:
Let's be honest here, there aren't a lot of candidates for this portion. Nearly every player here is a pitcher. R.A. Dickey should be locked up until his career ends. He's been a total steal for the Mets and won't command a very long contract to keep in New York. Matt Harvey is probably the most untouchable piece on this team right now. He impressed in the minors, but his stuff (velocity and pitch quality) has ticked up a notch since his recall to the majors, and he now has bonafide No. 1 ability. He's someone you build around, and even though he's still got a lot to prove, he's affordable and that's also an important factor on this team. Zack Wheeler hasn't even pitched at the major league level but he's not someone who is going to be moved, and he has ace ceiling. Young guys like Jeurys Familia and Collin McHugh the Mets shouldn't be in a rush to move. Either should 22-year-old Jenrry Mejia; this team needs potential.
A 1-2-3 of R.A. Dickey, Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler in the near future is impressive. In fact, the Mets' rotation -- because Johan Santana won't be moving -- with it including Jon Niese and Dillon Gee is a major asset. I would not move the latter two players unless the Mets could get young hitters back. There are a few factors that play into the idea of moving Niese: he's 25, signed to a manageable contract, continues to improve and he's a lefty. Combine those things and you get someone who could be coveted. Still, without acquiring position-player help, I don't see how moving him helps.
Ruben Tejada is the one slam-dunk keeper for me. Shortstop has a very low offensive threshold and Tejada has shown he has the makings to be one. Solid in the field, he's also grown at the plate. He's still just 22 years old is batting .292/.340/.359. Jordany Valdespin, 24, is raw, but I say you give him a longer look
On the fence:
David Wright has a team option that will likely be picked up this offseason, but then he'll be a free agent. By the time his new contract kicks in -- and it'll be long-term -- he'll almost be 31. He's the face of the franchise, so losing him would be catastrophic. And he's a legitimate MVP candidate this season. WIthout the public relations nightmare that could ensue if he left, I'd say he should be dealt. This team isn't championship-caliber with him, so spinning him off for a few high-end prospects would continue to fertalize a thin prospect pool. He's my favorite Met, but I also see the long-term implications here ... it might end up being in their best interest to send him packing.
Who should go:
This triggers the question: Who is legitimately a major league player you could see on a World Series-winning team? Much of this is a projection question. Daniel Murphy is a good hitter and has been OK at second base, but he's really a utility guy on a good team. He's someone who could be parted with. Ike Davis has had a very poor year average wise, but he has shown very nice power. This is more of a question of, What does his future value hold? I don't think he's a cornerstone first-base type, but a complementary guy on a good team. I'm not saying you do whatever it takes to move him, but if the right package comes along he isn't someone whose a dealbreaker for me. Lucas Duda has plus power but won't ever be a big average guy or monster hitter in an outfield corner. Which also brings up the other problem, he's not much of a fielder at any position ... and more of a DH type. Andres Torres isn't a building block. Kirk Nieuwenhuis was overwhelmed the longer he faced major league pitching and is probably a fourth outfielder. Players like Jason Bay and Santana should be traded immediately, but we have to be realistic: the chances of that is probably in the negatives. Players like Justin Turner, Ronny Cedeno, Josh Thole and even everyone in the bullpen is expendable. The bullpen was a major weakness this season and nobody's job should be safe.
Moral of the story: Ultimately, there are a lot of variables involved with which players should be kept and which should be moved. At this point, though, I think the Mets would benefit from a full rebuild and a continued philosophical shift at building from within. We've seen across the majors that a stocked farm system goes a long way to building a consistent contender.