After a lackluster 85-loss season and a fourth place finish in the NL East, the New York Mets shed their payroll dramatically in the offseason by allowing batting champ and base stealing aficionado, Jose Reyes to walk in free agency. Not only did the loss of Reyes slash the Mets payroll but it also lowered expectations for the 2012 season.
To expect the Mets to surpass the Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves isn’t a logical expectation. Assuming Jason Heyward rebounds from his injury-plagued sophomore slump and Freddie Freeman progresses as a power hitter, the Braves will once again be competing for a division title.
The best scenario for Mets fans would be for the Braves to continue carring around the disappointment of last September's epic collapse, Heyward to continue slumping and for Freeman to regress as a hitter. Meanwhile, the Phillies home run machine, Ryan Howard is still recuperating from a torn achilles tendon suffered on the final play of the the Phillies 2011 season and may have suffered a setback today that could keep his bat out of the lineup even longer.
The Nationals will be welcoming Stephen Strasburg back to the pitching rotation and should have 19-year old phenom Bryce Harper in their lineup at some point in the season. However, with so many variables, their season could go either way. Earning the NL’s Wild Card berth would be a surprise for the 2012 Mets, but not an impossibility.
Reyes’ shortstop job now falls to Ruben Tejada. Nobody expects Tejada to match Reyes’ productivity, however, a number of Mets hitters can step up in Reyes' absence. Second baseman David Murphy has the potential to be one of the best hitters in the Mets lineup and hit for .362 last season but questions remain about his durability. Jason Baywas acquired in 2010 for his power hitting but he has struggled mightily during his first two years with New York. During Bay’s final season with Boston, he hit 36 homers but has only belted 18 as a Met. Bay’s home run total will also get a boost from the Citi Field fences being moved in during the offseason.
Bay hasn’t been the only former All-Star Met that has seen his production dip since 2010. After establishing himself as a .300 hitter between 2004 and 2009, third baseman David Wright hit .283 in 2010 and regressed to a .254 hitter in 2011. Third baseman David Wright was once the Mets poster boy and a fan favorite, however, the team will have to evaluate Wright’s play and determine whether or not they will exercise their $16 million option for the 2013 season. If Wright can rediscover the hitting ability that made him a five-time All-Star, it would be a huge boost for the Mets lineup.
After crushing 19 home runs in his rookie year, Davis suffered an ankle injury that forced him to miss over 120 games. Before his injury, Davis was hitting for .302 at the plate and belted seven home runs in 36 games. If he stays healthy Davis has the potential to hit 30, 35 home runs and drive in 120 RBI’s As part of his development, Davis also has to improve his plate discipline as he has struck out 169 times in 183 career games.
Most importantly, at some point this season, the Mets will welcome back two-time Cy Young-winning ace, Johan Santana. After missing the entire 2011 season after undergoing rotator cuff surgery on Sept. 14, 2010, Santana is currently working to get back in the rotation by Opening Day.
Not much has gone right for the Mets in the last 12 months but If the chips fall into place for the, they have the potential to remain in the NL's Wild Card race into September.