Granted, no one says all actions must take place at this venue, but the frustration among the loyal fan base is palpable when players such as Ben Revere, Denard Span, Ryan Ludwick, Koji Uehara, Shane Victorino, Angel Pagan, Reed Johnson, Jeff Keppinger, Ryan Madson, Nate McLouth and Russell Martin all changed teams.
The daily R.A. Dickey chronicles – “they’re trading him to Toronto”, “he’s headed to Boston”, “Rangers are in play for Dickey” – as well as the protracted contract negotiations led to no satisfactory conclusion. Consequently many Mets fans are getting a jump start on their paper bags for their heads as 2013’s roster looks pretty much the same as did 2012’s minus Scott Hairston, Jason Bay and Manny Acosta. (Pelfrey is gone, too, but he was gone after about 3 starts last year anyway).
So, is it possible for the spin doctors to find light at the end of this very dreary tunnel? I think so.
First of all, you still have the flexibility of the R.A. Dickey situation. What’s the worst case scenario – that he pitches for the team in 2013 as the reigning Cy Young Award winner? Wow, that’s certainly not a bad thing. Or, after Greinke signs and Shields or another Rays pitcher is off the table, all of the sudden other teams may increase their offers for Mr. Dickey. That’s not a bad thing either.
You also have a plethora of strong but unproven arms in the minors who have yet to establish themselves at the big league level, including Jenrry Mejia, Jeurys Familia, Robert Carson, Darin Gorski and Germano Gonzalez. These pieces could provide fodder for similar talent in other organizations who have a glut of outfielders or whose catchers are blocked at the major league level.
Then you have the two crown jewels of the minor league system – Wilmer Flores and Zack Wheeler. What will become of them?
Let’s take Flores first. He has a sweet swing, no foot speed whatsoever and seems best suited to 3B where he’s blocked by David Wright or 1B where he’s blocked by Ike Davis. You also have other teams where they have prospects blocked at their positions such as the Rangers with Elvis Andrus blocking Jurickson Profar, the Red Sox with Mike Napoli, Jarod Saltalamacchia and David Ross blocking Ryan Lavarnway, the Blue Jays with J.P. Arencibia blocking Travis D'Arnaud and the Rangers again with Andre Beltre blocking Mike Olt. If you search around baseball there are similar situations on many rosters. Why not trade top prospect for top prospect?
In Zack Wheeler the Mets have a pitcher that many feel can be a top of the rotation starter, better than Matt Harvey. Consequently many of the conversations about R.A. Dickey led to discussions about Wheeler (and Jonathon Niese, too). If a team came knocking at your door with a top prospect such as Wil Myers and demanded Niese or Wheeler rather than Dickey, you would certainly have to listen. Just as the S.F. Giants said he was untouchable in trade then wound up trading him for 2 months of Carlos Beltran, the Mets can’t necessarily slap an untouchable label on Wheeler and mean it. Everyone is touchable for the right price (except for Mr. Wright since he received a full no-trade clause in his expensive contract).
What about the value of the rest of the roster? Ummm…there isn’t much there. Duda can’t be moved until he’s shown that he’s recovered from his wrist surgery. Nieuwenhuis imploded last year. Baxter has limited value and best serves a role off the bench or as a complement to a guy like Hairston – good in small doses against one kind of pitching. There are no ready replacements for shortstop or second base, though both Ruben Tejada and Daniel Murphy could have some value. Unfortunately the people in the minors behind them are either not ready or frankly not that good. Ike Davis is someone another team might covet but for the very same reasons the Mets should be loathe to trade him – good glove and 30 HR power. Josh Thole might actually have some value as a throw-in for a Dickey trade so that he could serve as his personal catcher, but that kind of move could only happen if the Mets find a starter backstop first. Dillon Gee probably has little value until he shows he’s healthy again. Niese is the most appealing of the pitchers to trade given his age and team-friendly contract, but with Santana being the only other lefty in the rotation the Mets would have to be overwhelmed to consider moving him.
So to reiterate, the Mets’ best chances of improving the current roster would come at the expense of Dickey OR Niese OR Wheeler, Wilmer Flores and the plethora of young pitchers without roles. Assuming you received an outfielder or catcher back in return for the starting pitcher, another outfielder for Flores and some of the group of Mejia, Familia et al bringing back that catcher or outfielder you’re lacking, the cash saved in the Bay and Wright deferrals could then be used to sign some veteran bullpen arms to one year deals.
While it appears rather bleak, the Mets DO still have the opportunity to address all of their outstanding needs. Of course, patience is a double edged sword. FAs get signed and trades are made while you play your waiting game. However, you also have situations that evolve such as the A-Rod injury where gaps open up that previously didn’t exist and teams need to overpay to address them. Here’s hoping Alderson’s gamble is a successful one.