Monday, October 10, 2011
Twelve steps to a Mets makeover
By Adam Rubin
Sandy Alderson and other Major League Baseball general managers will assemble in Milwaukee on Nov. 15 for the annual GM meetings. Three weeks later, the winter meetings take place in Dallas.
So the time for serious work is nearing.
Alderson has suggested on multiple occasions the payroll likely will fall in the $100 million to $110 million range, limiting the New York Mets' opportunity to be active for top-tier free agents. Still, there is no shortage of work to be done before Mets pitchers and catchers arrive in Port St. Lucie in mid-February.
There is little chance Reyes re-signs with the Mets before open bidding begins five days after the World Series. After all, Reyes elected not to negotiate in-season in order to have the right to solicit bids from 30 teams. So what good would it be to sign now? That is, unless the Mets are willing to offer a mega-deal from the get-go, which hardly seems a likely scenario.
The day after the regular season, Alderson suggested he cannot foresee a quick resolution to where Reyes will sign. Still, the GM noted he should be able to gauge the likelihood of Reyes coming back relatively early based on the direction of negotiations.
The bet is that Reyes, gimpy hamstrings or not, gets a big deal somewhere. If that occurs, Ruben Tejada becomes the Mets' shortstop and Daniel Murphy the primary second baseman.
Alderson, by the way, offered no indication Reyes departing would mean pursuing another big-ticket free agent. It would, though, free up some money to shore up other areas in need.
2. Round out staff
Pitching coach Dan Warthen and hitting coach Dave Hudgens remain from Terry Collins' 2011 staff, but that's all.
Chip Hale left to serve as Oakland Athletics bench coach on a two-year deal, and Tim Teufel was named as Hale's successor as third-base coach. Former Triple-A Buffalo pitching coach Ricky Bones will succeed Jon Debus as bullpen coach.
Ousted bench coach Ken Oberkfell and first-base coach Mookie Wilson's positions have not yet been filled.
An organization source told ESPNNewYork.com that among the candidates being eyed for the bench-coach position are former major league managers Larry Bowa, Bob Geren, John McLaren and Jim Riggleman.
3. Shop Wright?
Particularly if Reyes signs elsewhere, there is no real financial motivation to trade David Wright. And given what he means to the organization, it is hard to envision the Mets actually pulling the trigger on a deal.
Still, Alderson owes it to have no player off limits this winter. So the GM might as well see what Wright commands when he sits down with his counterparts from other organizations. Troy Renck of the Denver Post has reported on multiple occasions that the Colorado Rockies will at least ask about Wright.
Wright is signed for 2012 at $15 million, with a team option for the following season at $16 million. The team option does not carry over if Wright is dealt, meaning he would only be under an acquiring team's control for next season.
For the record: A team official offered no indication Wright would be traded.
4. Cut day
At some point, players' price tags exceed their value. The Mets appear to have reached that point with Angel Pagan and, to a lesser extent, Ronny Paulino. Both players are currently under the Mets' control for next season, but are arbitration-eligible, which generally means they would be due raises from their 2011 salaries.
Pagan earned $3.5 million in 2011. With a raise, that prices him out of being a backup if the Mets want to upgrade in center field. So the organization is likely to non-tender Pagan at the Dec. 12 deadline if they cannot trade him earlier.
Paulino's salary will remain relatively modest since he made just $1.35 million this past season. Still, team officials were discouraged by Paulino's disregard for Warthen's pitching game plans and it is unlikely Paulino returns.
If Reyes signs elsewhere, money might be available for a righty-hitting catcher to pair with Josh Thole. But the expectation is Mike Nickeas may just emerge as Thole's counterpart behind the plate.
5. Tear down that wall
The Mets have not formally announced new dimensions for Citi Field, but team officials widely acknowledge a new eight-foot wall will be erected closer in left field and the "Mo's Zone" nook in right field also will be a thing of the past. The 415-foot gap in right-center that has tormented Wright for three seasons also will be reduced.
6. Cross fingers
Johan Santana completed his 2011 work with Mets minor leaguers in the instructional league in Fort Myers, Fla., last week and is now taking a winter break. He pitched as many as four innings in an outing in a minor league setting, but the southpaw never returned from Sept. 14, 2010, shoulder surgery to face major league competition. So uncertainty clearly will exist in spring training about his ability to rise to his previous level and maintain his health for a full season.
Meanwhile, Ike Davis never did undergo surgery to address cartilage damage in his left ankle. Before taking a month off from workouts, Davis tested the ankle running and did not experience notable pain. The Mets will collectively hold their breath in spring training that any discomfort remains manageable and surgery does not need to be performed in 2012.
7. Re-sign Capuano
If all goes well, Santana returns to anchoring a rotation that also includes R.A. Dickey, Mike Pelfrey, Jon Niese and Dillon Gee. But the Mets clearly need to bring more starting options to spring training, just in case there is a problem with Santana or some other issue arises.
The Mets appear interested in re-signing Chris Capuano, who would compete for a rotation spot with Gee in spring training. The loser could go to the bullpen for long-relief/spot-starter duty. Capuano wants to start, and perhaps that assurance is available elsewhere.
Lucas Duda got a head start on his likely 2012 assignment by manning right field for 42 games, until concussion symptoms ended his season early. The organization already had determined Duda would not play winter ball, believing there would be enough spring-training workload -- especially if Duda arrived early to camp -- to further get him up to speed with the unfamiliar position. The expected changes to Citi Field should ease Duda's transition to right field, too.
Similarly, Murphy will need further education at second base. Murphy should get plenty of action at that position if Reyes departs and Tejada slides full time to shortstop. If Reyes remains, Tejada should get more at-bats than Murphy at second base, which means Murphy will need further experience at other positions, as well
including, perhaps, a reintroduction to the outfield.
9. Revamp the bullpen
Bobby Parnell's audition struggles prompted team brass to conclude the 2012 closer must come from outside the organization. Francisco Rodriguez has expressed openness to returning, but he hired Scott Boras to max out on his next contract, and the Mets are not in spending mode, even if they wanted to revisit K-Rod in Flushing.
The Mets figure they can find a capable, bargain-priced closer for two reasons: Since K-Rod signed that three-year, $37 million deal with the Mets during the 2008-09 offseason, prices for closers have gone down. And while there are top-tier closers on the market such as Heath Bell, Jonathan Papelbon and K-Rod, there also are a glut of other pitchers with closing experience, so inventory may exceed demand, driving down price.
10. Center attention
If the Mets do let Pagan go, they will need to go outside the organization for their 2012 center fielder since no one from the system is ready to take over. Free agents with at least some center field on their résumé include Rick Ankiel, Mike Cameron, David DeJesus and Cody Ross.
11. Court reporter
Fred Wilpon and family scored a major victory last month when District Court Judge Jed S. Rakoff ruled the trustee trying to recover funds for victims of Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme is only entitled to the profits from the two years before the swindler was caught, not six years back. If that stands, that could limit the amount the Wilpons must forfeit in profits to $81 million, rather than potentially $300 million.
The judge also set a high bar if trustee Irving Picard wants to recover principal invested by the Wilpons. Based on the judge's ruling, the trustee would virtually have to prove the Wilpons knew it was a Ponzi scheme
which the judge suggested even Picard likely does not believe is true.
Of course, all of this is subject to appeal to a higher court. An adverse appellate ruling could send the ownership situation back into disarray.
12. Catch and release
Assuming Paulino is out and the Mets try for an upgrade from Nickeas, just who is out there? Four ex-Mets are among the free-agent catchers: Rod Barajas, Henry Blanco, Ramon Castro and Brian Schneider.