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Grading The New York Mets Offseason

Major League Baseball is right around the corner. The beginning of the season is collectively the best time of the year for fans. It's the time that all can be optimistic, and everyone can turn the page on the (possibly disappointing) year that was.

New York Mets pitchers and catchers report Feb. 20, and the team's first full workout will be held a week later. The first game action will be March 5.

If one thing is certain this year, the Mets famous "You gotta believe!" catchphrase will be used in full force. Experts around the league already have the Amazin's pegged to finish at the bottom of the barrel; they give them no shot, especially in a rapidly improving National League East.

OFFSEASON GOALS
Let's not sugarcoat anything here. The Mets had possibly their most boring offseason in recent memory, and it was all because they started to work like the Minnesota Twins. General manager Sandy Alderson entered the offseason with only $20-25 million to spend. In this day and age, that doesn't get you much. You're certainly not going to reign in a marquee free agent -- and have that one signing highlight the offseason, particularly with the amount of holes that clearly needed patching up on this team. The best part of the offseason was that Alderson was pretty forthcoming about what he had to work with. He really left no question as to whether New York would be a huge player during the winter. Of course, Alderson kind of tugged at the hearts of Mets fans with their best player, Jose Reyes. He didn't move him at last year's deadline, allowed him to win the batting title and then made no real offer to the shortstop during the offseason ... because in actuality, his price was too steep for the collapsing budget and the injury risk made him even more risky. Yet, Alderson put on the facade like the franchise had a chance to keep him in New York.

Beyond that, the Mets' cheap options were to bring in a few arms, improve the bullpen, add an outfield bat and possibly a catcher. With the financial constraints, none would be expensive ... and therefore, none would really be all that exciting.

OFFSEASON REALITY
The Mets' worst nightmare -- no matter how prepared they were for it -- was realized Dec. 6 when Reyes signed with the Miami Marlins for six years, $106 million. The electric leadoff man, who played a premium position, was close to the Mets' most irreplaceable player. Not only did he finish the year with a .337/.384/.493 line, he also finished with a 6.2 wins above replacement, 15th-best in the league. He finished with 5.8 or more four times in his career. Granted, he was extremely injury prone and a long-term contract for a guy who relies on his legs only worsens when a player is on the shelf. Now, the Mets will rely on the 21-year-old Ruben Tejada, who has a decent glove, but is pretty much a singles hitter.

The Mets' payroll decreased from about $143 million at the start of the year to $91 million now, according to ESPN's Adam Rubin.

Most Exciting Move:
The biggest maneuver the Mets made was a move that sent Angel Pagan to the San Francisco Giants for outfielder Andres Torres and reliever Ramon Ramirez. Those who read the tea leaves during the season knew that the Mets' brass wasn't a fan of Pagan, and this move essentially brings in a very similar player. The differences between the two players is minimal (it's a essentially a lateral move) -- Torres is three years older and plays a better defense in center field. He's slated to lead off, but he won't be doing so batting .221 with a .312 on-base percentage like he had last year. New York hopes he can come close to his breakout year when he hit .268 with 16 home runs two years ago.

Ramirez is a hard-throwing reliever with strikeout ability who likely profiles as a seventh-inning guy because ...

Area of Focus:
The theme of the Mets' offseason became addressing the bullpen. The Mets signed Frank Francisco to a two-year, $12 million deal and inked Jon Rauch for $3.5 million. The three relief additions also all came on the same day. Alderson undoubtedly recognized that adding bodies to the rotation would be too costly, so he did the only logical thing and that was improve a bullpen that fell apart toward the end of last season. Adding more capable arms to the bullpen means it's less important that the starters go as deep into games, and that's important with a rotation still stocked with middle-of-the-rotation guys at best. The only loss was Chris Capuano, whom the Los Angeles Dodgers signed for two years, $10 million.

Other Additions:
There's not much of note here as to any new players. They signed shortstop/second basemen Ronny Cedeno as some insurance behind Tejada and Daniel Murphy Outfielder Scott Hairston was brought back, but it's clear that the Mets will hope their own "in-house" additions make up for their lack of an offseason. Ike Davis will likely have the most affect on the offense; he didn't play after May 10 after an ankle injury. His success performance will say aa lot about the lineup's run-producing ability. Murphy will get another shot at second base after an injury ended his season in early August. We know he can hit, but can he be anything but a roller coaster ride in the field? Finally, Johan Santana returns, but everything surrounding him is a question mark. At the least, he gives the rotation depth; at the most, he pitches like a No. 2; and at the worst, he can't get back onto the field.

New York did not add another catcher, letting Ronny Paulino go and allowing Mike Nickeas to be the 1B catcher.

SPRING TRAINING PLAN
My guess is that their will be a few new faces (most likely starters) with the team (whether it's minors or majors) come opening day. Alderson and Co. will monitor who gets cut on other teams as spring training progresses and likely add a few guys on the cheap. Other than that, the Mets will rely on who they've got, hope guys are healthy and go into battle with a squad that lost Reyes, has a stronger bullpen, and hopes a few players are healthy. This is a team that finished with 77 wins last year -- with one of the game's most exciting players in the lineup for the most part -- but now will have to compete in one of the most competitive divisions in baseball.