Around the NL East: Checking in on the Mets

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We haven’t talked much about the New York Mets this offseason. The team has been largely quiet thus far, so there really hasn’t been much to talk about. Some of this was expected, considering the team’s still uncertain financial future given the Wilpons (the team’s owners) involvement in the Bernie Madoff scandal. But, let’s see what we do know about the Nationals’ NL East opponent.

To date, the only additions the team has made have been entirely internal. The Mets added seven players to their 40-man roster prior to the MLB-wide roster deadline two weeks ago. The list includes right-handed pitcher Jeurys Familia, left-handed pitcher Robert Carson, outfielders Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Cesar Puello, and Juan Lagares, and infielders Reese Havens and Wilmer Flores. Nieuwenhuis is likely to see time in New York this coming season, particularly after coming off of a strong 2011 campaign in which he batted .298/.403/.505 with 6 HR and 17 doubles in 221 plate appearances for the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate.

Familia (#4), Puello (#5), Nieuwenhuis (#7), Havens (#9), and Flores (#10) all were recently named to Baseball America’s Top 10 Prospects list for the Mets. While this is a good indication of the team’s minor league system, it’s worth noting that other than Nieuwenhuis and Havens, none of these players have spent any significant amount of time at Double-A or higher so these aren’t necessarily quick fixes.

There still is no resolution to the Jose Reyes situation – again, no surprise here. I think there was a segment of the Mets fanbase that really believed that Reyes would end up resigning with the Mets but those chances are starting to seem slimmer and slimmer as time goes on. The shortstop reportedly has an offer on the table already from the Miami Marlins, though there is no word as to whether the offer has an expiration date attached. There have been no indications that the Mets have approached the subject of a new contract with Reyes’ agents, so it remains to be seen just how much of an effort the organization will make to keep their star player.

Speaking of keeping their star players, there continues to be speculation as to whether or not the team will entertain trading third baseman David Wright. I see the general point that is often made – that the team isn’t close to contending, prospects acquired in such a deal could help expedite the rebuilding process, and Wright may leave via free agency before the team is ready to win – but I can’t get behind the idea. Should Reyes leave this winter, the only remaining homegrown star on this team will be Wright. This team isn’t prepared to remove the only remaining face of the franchise. If nothing else, it would incite the fanbase into a collective outcry against the team’s front office and perhaps even ownership. The Wilpons have enough poor publicity surrounding them, they don’t need the Mets loyals to turn on them (anymore than they already have) too.

In addition, it would make sense to keep Wright around for as long as possible. Any team that truly hopes to rebuild, especially in a market such as New York, needs some sort of veteran presence to help lead the younger players. Wright is also one of the game’s top third baseman, despite coming off of an off season, during a time when the number of quality players at the position is highly limited. If it weren’t for the presence of Ryan Zimmerman already entrenched in Washington, Wright would be the type of player I’d hope the Nationals would have interest in acquiring.

Reportedly the team is going to tender contracts to both Angel Pagan and Mike Pelfrey, despite speculation that both could be in jeopardy of losing their spots on the roster in the coming weeks. I’d guess that the team would be willing to trade either player given an interested suitor, but I wouldn’t expect anyone to express serious interest until after the non-tender deadline passes*. Why give up something now when the player might be available on the open market in a couple of weeks?

* For what it’s worth, the possibility (despite public statements otherwise) that B.J. Upton could be non-tendered in the coming weeks could be playing into the fact that we have yet to hear much discussion regarding the Nationals’ interest in filling their center field void. The organization may simply be waiting to see if they can merely sign him, rather than having to give up prospects in order to acquire him from Tampa Bay. 

The winter isn’t over for the Mets, though one could argue it hasn’t really begun yet. The team still needs to address their outfield, bench, and bullpen this winter. It might be a smart idea to bring aboard at least one more starting pitcher as well, considering the fact that we still don’t know just how healthy Johan Santana will be in the Spring (though I’ve heard nothing to suggest he isn’t healthy) or, more importantly, just how effective he will be after having not pitched since September 2010. Don’t expect the team to make any significant signings as they just don’t seem to have the financial freedom to be able to make such a move at this point in time. If a big deal does materialize, don’t be surprised if it’s a trade instead of a signing.

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Tags: New York Mets Washington Nationals

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