Print and Go Back ESPN.com: SweetSpot [Print without images]

Saturday, February 16, 2013
Offseason report card: Mets

By David Schoenfield

2012 in review
Record: 74-88 (74-88 Pythagorean)
650 runs scored (12th in NL)
709 runs allowed (10th in NL)

Big Offseason Moves
Signed David Wright to eight-year, $138 million contract extension. Traded R.A. Dickey, Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas to Toronto for Travis d'Arnaud, John Buck, Noah Syndergaard and Wuilmer Becerra. Signed free agent Shaun Marcum. Acquired Collin Cowgill from Oakland. Released Jason Bay. Lost free agents Scott Hairston, Mike Pelfrey, Andres Torres and Chris Young. Did not sign Michael Bourn.

Aside from signing Wright, The Mets' offseason featured one big move -- trading away the NL Cy Young winner -- and one move not made, signing a center fielder to plug the big hole there.

In the Dickey trade, the Mets acquired d'Arnaud, No. 14 on Keith Law's top-100 prospects list, and Syndergaard, No. 97. D'Arnaud has been included in packages for Roy Halladay and Dickey, so expectations are that he'll grow into a power-hitting catcher with good defense. He hit .333/.380/.595 at Triple-A Las Vegas, a nice line, for sure, but remember that Vegas is a hitters' paradise. Current Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia posted similar numbers there, and he can't break a .300 OBP in the majors. D'Arnaud doesn't walk much and has had some injuries, so he could start the season in Triple-A to help refine his approach at the plate.

As for not signing Bourn, in the end, the Mets determined they didn't want to lose the 11th pick in the draft. You can debate the merits of that decision, but wouldn't Bourn and Nick Swisher look better in the Mets' outfield than Lucas Duda and Kirk Nieuwenhuis?

The Mets also didn't do much to bolster a bad bullpen, but throwing away money on veteran relievers is the last thing the small-market Mets should be doing.

Position Players

Five random thoughts on the Mets' offense:

1. The outfield might not be as horrible as everyone thinks. Mike Baxter doesn't have the power you want from a right fielder, but if he can post a .365 OBP, as he did last year (in part-time duty), he'll at least be useful. Considering his lack of range, Duda has to hit better than .239/.329/.389 to keep a starting job. I think he will. Nieuwenhuis is probably a fourth outfielder; he's not without some skills, but he has to cut down on his strikeouts (98 in 314 PAs). Plus ... not having Jason Bay soaking up 215 PAs with a .237 OBP is addition by subtraction.

2. Will we see first-half or second-half David Wright? He was .351/.441/.563 versus .258/.334/.416. The second half is cause for concern, if only because his strikeout/walk rate deteriorated from 47/50 to 65/31.

3. Ike Davis could have a big season. He quietly hit 32 home runs last year, but a .227 average held down his overall productivity. There was some bad luck here -- a .246 average on balls in play that was second-lowest among qualified regulars -- and he did hit .255/.346/.542 in the second half. Don't be surprised if his 2013 line resembles that 2012 second half.

4. The Mets draw walks. They were fifth in the NL in 2012 and first in 2011.

5. They'll get more from catcher. Mets catchers hit .218 with five home runs and an NL-worst .567 OPS. They created about 41 runs. This could easily be a 25-run upgrade with d'Arnaud.

So there you go. I can see the Mets scoring 50 more runs even with their bad outfield.

Pitching Staff

Quick, who has the better ERA over the past three seasons, $147 million man Zack Greinke or $4 million man Shaun Marcum?

Yep ... it's Marcum, with a 3.62 ERA compared with Greinke's 3.83 mark. OK, I'm not saying Marcum is the better pitcher. He's not as durable and is coming off a 124-inning season with the Brewers, but he could be a bargain at $4 million plus incentives.

Johan Santana is the No. 1 name on this staff, but Matt Harvey is the best pitcher. He exploded onto the scene in his 10 starts as a rookie, posting a 2.73 ERA with 70 strikeouts in 59 1/3 innings. He's the real deal. Behind him are underrated Jonathon Niese (155/49 SO/BB ratio), Dillon Gee (who was pitching well until sidelined by a blood clot) and then Zack Wheeler in the minors.

Marcum and Santana are obviously huge injury risks, but if the Mets can get 50 starts from them, if Gee is healthy and if Wheeler isn't held back too long in Triple-A, this group could improve upon the 3.83 rotation ERA that ranked eighth in the NL in 2012.

And then there's the bullpen. Shall we move on?

I'd give the rotation a B and the bullpen a D. The Mets had the second-worst bullpen ERA last season, and signing Brandon Lyon isn't going to help much.

Heat Map to Watch

What happened to Wright in the second half? For starters, he simply swung and missed more often -- 16 percent in the first half, 20 percent in the second. Before the break, he punished anything over the middle zones of the plate, hitting .465. In the second half, just .279 in those zones.

David Wright Heat map
After an MVP-caliber first half, Wright fell off in the second half.
Overall Grade

By my report card, I'm giving the Mets a decent chance to be a .500 club. The keys are Santana and Marcum staying healthy, two of three projected starting outfielders playing well, and the bullpen not self-destructing like a year ago.

It almost makes you think the Mets should have given up the first-round pick and signed Bourn to give the team the leadoff hitter and center fielder it needs.

Instead, the Mets will be looking up at the Nationals, the Braves and maybe the Phillies and punting on a chance to go after the wild card.