In only a few short days, a miracle will occur. The snow will begin to melt. The sun shall shine brightly to warm our faces. The birds will belt out their melodious chorus once more. The date that every person who lives and breathes baseball has been waiting for since the fourth of November has arrived. The clouds of winter shall be lifted as pitchers and catchers report to beautiful Spring Training.
It has been a winter of discontent for Mets fans. The organization did little to fix many of the problems of the team. The awful acquisition of the week was the signing of Mike Jacobs, the former heavy hitting prospect originally sent to the Marlins for Carlos Delgado. Jacobs spent last season in Kansas City where his power numbers slumped and awful on-base percentage lead to him being a negative WAR player. Even more interesting about Jacobs is that the last time he played in the National League (2008) he another hit 32 home runs and yet still managed to be a negative WAR player due to his atrocious defense. $900k plus million in incentive money should be going toward depth, not a mediocre reclamation project.
As was the situation in 2009, the Mets will probably go into the regular season very thin on the depth chart. Sure, Jason Bay was a step in the right direction but nothing else was solved. The failure to find a starting pitcher or a short term first base solution will hamper the team's efforts to recovery. Although not their fault, Carlos Beltran's surgery and missed time will clearly cost the team wins. All signs point to another lost season.
However, it is highly unfair to bury a team before a single baseball is thrown during a regular season game. Despite the contradictory statements in the beginning of this article, it's time to be positive about a team I have been critical of for a very, very long time.
Here's some positive things to look forward to:
- David Wright will rebound and rediscover his power swing. Wright has had issues with long term power outages (most notably after the 2006 Home Run Derby which sparked plenty of debate about the damage that event may cause a player). He has stated in interviews that he believes that his issue stemmed from changing his approach due to the larger dimensions of CitiField. If he's recognized this issue and readjusted, then I have full faith that he will return to .900+ OPS land. My personal prediction? I don't think that he'll do better than his fantastic 2007 season (.963 OPS 160 wRC+) but I do believe that his numbers will be somewhere between that and 2008 (.924 OPS 148 wRC+).
- A healthy Johan Santana may be one of the best and most dangerous pitchers in baseball. While the Mets pitching staff has more questions than the Phillies, Braves, or Marlins, Santana has the skills to anchor a rotation. I've seen Santana pitch live a couple times (most recently last season at Citizens Bank Park before they shut him down) and it was pretty obvious that he has been pitching with some discomfort. If his offseason surgery has solved this, then I believe that a huge year from Santana is not an impossibility. His strikeouts have been down every year since 2006 and his FIP hasn't been exceptional in recent years but if it's due to injury and can return to a 9+ K/9 watch out for him. He has the potential to out pitch Roy Halladay.
- Jason Bay will be key to this season. He'll look awful in the field and his UZR will reflect that but hopefully his offense will provide the pop the Mets so desperately need. Upon reviewing his home run distance chart, it appears that the concerns about him losing power at Citi are unfounded. Don't listen to Peter Gammons and all the injury doomsayers who only complained about his shoulder after he turned down the Red Sox's contract offer. Bay is healthy and a .890+ OPS will bridge the gap until Beltran returns.
- Jose Reyes is back! His legs appear to be healed and if he can be the dangerous offensive catalyst like he used to be and steal some bases, his return could equal more wins. Outside of last season, he has been a 5+ WAR player every year since 2006. Another season like his average could silence the naysayers while helping the team create runs.
- I like Angel Pagan in center. He's always had injury concerns and many have (rightfully) pointed out some boneheaded things he's done on the field but he's a decent player. His above average OPS and wRC+ won't replace Beltran but as a short term replacement and eventual 4th outfielder? I'm not entirely sure about his ability to play center field on a daily basis but he has very small UZR samples so it's hard to say how good/bad he really is out there. We'll find out this year.
- Oliver Perez can't do any worse than he did last year, can he? On second thought, don't answer that.
The Mets have plenty of issues but there are some positives to look forward to. This may make me sound like a homer, but I think the Mets will surprise a lot of people if things fall into place. If John Maine can pitch an entire season and Mike Pelfrey figures out the solution to his yips then the pitching will surpass current expectations. If the rest of the team can stay healthy and produce at the level's they're capable of, there's no reason not to believe that at least the Wild Card is within reach.
The Mets may no longer be the team to beat in the NL East, but the Phillies, Braves, and Marlins should all watch their backs. It may take a perfect world for this to happen but anything is possible.