By John Otano
In 2009, the New York Mets were the worst baseball organization in the country, compiling the worst combined win-loss record from the minors all the way up to the bigs. As if things couldn’t get worse after the monumental collapses of 2007 and 2008, the Mets need, for the sake of their fans, to restock an organization that is in flux. The Mets’ 2009 season was chronically plagued with injury after injury to major components of the lineup. Players that are coming off injuries last year need to remain healthy in 2010 in order for the Mets to have some sort of success on the field. SS Jose Reyes (torn hamstring, surgery in October 2009), LHP Johan Santana (left elbow surgery in September 2009), LHP Oliver Perez (right knee surgery in September 2009), LHP Jon Niese (right hamstring surgery in August 2009), RF Jeff Francoeur (left thumb surgery in November 2009) and OF Fernando Martinez (right knee surgery in July 2009) are all players returning under contract or are arbitration illegible for 2010. Getting back these players is only half the battle, however, as GM Omar Minaya has a lot of work to do in what is considered a shallow field of free agents.
There’s a misconception out there that the Mets won’t be major players in this market. Every year Minaya has been in office, he’s addressed the team’s greatest need and had no qualms in paying for these players. Last year, the Mets needed a closer and went out and signed the top closer on the market, Francisco Rodriguez. The year before that, the Mets traded for superstar Johan Santana and payed him $137.5 million to stay in Flushing. The Mets have needs this offseason and you can expect them to pay whatever it takes to get those needs addressed.
Expect the Mets to come out and compete for some of the higher-level free agents. The crown jewel of the offseason, outfielder Matt Holliday, will command the most attention and will most likely net the biggest salary as he is represented by penny-squeezing agent Scott Boras. Holliday and Jason Bay are viable options for the Mets, and don’t be surprised if the Mets are serious contenders for either of these players. Outside of those two outfielders, the only two type-A free agent outfielders available are Johnny Damon, who may re-sign with the champion Yankees, and Jermaine Dye. If the Mets are serious in their agendas this offseason, an addition of either Holliday or Bay would make it clear that they want to win now. Citi Field doesn’t ideally fit either player but their presence in the line-up alone, adding protection for David Wright and Carlos Beltran, would help bring some power back into the lineup.
Slowly, the Mets window of opportunity to win is closing. Making a splash in this offseason will be important to the success in 2010.
1B Carlos Delgado filed for free agency this week and traveled to his native Puerto Rico to play during the winter to prove his health. It’s unclear whether the Mets will bring the veteran back as they had Daniel Murphy play 1B when Delgado had season ending hip surgery in May. Delgado, 37, does offer a power upgrade over the younger Murphy but his mobility and ability to stay healthy is a major concern of the Mets when thinking of re-signing Delgado.
C Brian Schneider is free-agent eligible and will not return to the Mets in 2010 as the starting catcher. The two best available options at that position come in the form of Bengie Molina and Rod Barajas. Molina, 35, could offer the Mets a reliable bat with some pop as he batted .265 with 20 homers while driving in 80 runs for the Giants. The only concern here is that Molina comes with a very, ahem, thick frame. Barajas is a younger catcher that has some power but is not particularly a consistent hitter.
Outside of Santana, the Mets could use some help in the rotation. Finding another lefty to help out work horse Pedro Feliciano in the bullpen is a priority too. While exploring options such as Joel Pineiro and Jason Marquis seem like nice ideas for the Mets, there’s something bigger out there worth their attention.
Here’s a radical idea that the Mets should at least explore: Roy Halladay. Is this stretching it a bit? Yes. Is it a possibility? Maybe. The whole Roy Halladay situation in Toronto is eerily similar to when the Minnesota Twins tried to trade Johan Santana in 2008. The Twins waited too long, declining offers from the Red Sox and Yankees before settling on the Mets’ offer of Carlos Gomez, who was incidentally just traded from the Twins to the Brewers for SS J.J. Hardy, and a package of prospects. If the Blue Jays wait too long and ask for something other teams aren’t willing to pay, then why not go for the fences and trade for Halladay? The Mets farm system is depleted and may not offer enough for the Blue Jays to give up Halladay, but if the Mets were somehow able to package something with top prospect Fernando Martinez, Halladay could be a possibility. Although this seems unlikely, imagine the rotation with Santana and Halladay leading the way for the Mets. If the Mets were able to somehow pull this off and make the playoffs, teams would tremble at the thought of facing Santana and Halladay in games 1 and 2. Hey, we can all dream, can’t we?