Mets' clouds have some silver linings

SARASOTA, Fla. -- New York Mets officials envision a day when a dominant young rotation is anchored by Zack Wheeler, Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard along with veteran lefty Jonathon Niese.

Until then, general manager Sandy Alderson suggests, the Mets are not punting. The collection headed north might suggest otherwise.

The Mets will arrive in New York late Saturday, work out at noon Sunday at Citi Field, then face the San Diego Padres in Monday's season opener, with Niese opposing right-hander Edinson Volquez.

Harvey faces left-hander Clayton Richard on Wednesday in Game 2, followed by Dillon Gee facing left-hander Eric Stults in Thursday's series finale.

That's three credible starters. Plenty of other question marks exist.
Alderson essentially mocked his outfield all winter -- asking "What outfield?" in November, then joking he got a hot tip on the Internet about a player out of Stanford in January, during the height of the Manti Te'o saga. Yet as Grapefruit League play ended, manager Terry Collins said he still was unsure whom to use in center field.

The good news?

Scouts do believe in the core of young starting pitching candidates the Mets possess. And if you have the rotation of young phenoms, it is doable to pluck a few bats via free agency to provide run support.

The Mets have dollars to spend next offseason, although the free-agent pools these days are not as bountiful as they once were. Teams are now regularly locking up their stars long term, including Justin Verlander with the Detroit Tigers and Buster Posey with the San Francisco Giants this week alone.

Johan Santana, owed $31 million this season with a 2014 buyout, comes off the books after this season. Jason Bay is done as well. He is owed $21 million this year, although $15 million of the sum was deferred up to two years. Frank Francisco, in the longest rehab from an elbow cleanout known to mankind, is off the books after collecting $6.5 million this season. John Buck's $6 million contract is cleared, too.

And it wasn't exactly as if the payroll was awfully high this year anyway. A reasonable estimate is $95 million, and that's if you include the $52 million in dead weight of Santana and Bay.

So what is there to look forward to this season?

Wheeler, as well as catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud, who was acquired along with Syndergaard in the R.A. Dickey trade, should debut this summer.
David Wright is now captain and here long term.

Bobby Parnell may prove to be a legit closer.

Ike Davis might build on the 32 homers he produced last season, since he is no longer hindered by the fatigue and ankle irritation that troubled him last spring training and during the first half.

And Jordany Valdespin and Collin Cowgill should provide some energy, even if Valdespin might cause a few more of Collins' hairs to whiten in the process.

"You can't predict anything, but I really like a lot of these guys," Wright said. "I think we have some really, really good baseball players. Now it's just a matter if we can kind of mesh that together and fit those pieces to the puzzle.

"I really like a lot of these guys. We've got guys who know how to play the game. I've probably said it a million times: You look up and down our roster, there's probably not a lot of household names. But we've got some guys who know how to play the game and play with energy. That translates into wins sometimes."