Today is January 17, a full month before the Mets’ pitchers and catchers are to report for Spring Training. It’s still far too early for a season preview, and too soon for a spring training preview – but is it too early for a pre preseason preview view? Probably. But the Mets’ 40-man roster looks set, and barring a trade and a few inevitable minor league signing, the Mets are ready to go for Spring Training. One can even see the beginnings of the Opening Day roster. Here is a very early look at the 2012 Mets:
C – Josh Thole
1B – Ike Davis
2B – Daniel Murphy
SS – Ruben Tejada
3B – David Wright
LF – Jason Bay
CF – Andres Torres
RF – Lucas Duda
– First things first: This whole team costs about $88-92 million dollars to field. That’s not close to the $130 million dollar payroll being discussed this time last year, and it’s not all that close to the $100 million dollar payroll floated in the fall. The Mets will have somewhere between the 10th and 15th highest payroll in baseball this season, and the lowest among the Chicago/LA/New York teams.
– Think about the offense! Think about the offense! Don’t think about what an awful fielding team this is going to be — as part of their regular defensive alignment, the Mets will be running out the worst fielding third basemen in baseball, Jason Bay in left field, and then one-time-first-basemen at first base, second base, right field, and catcher. Tejada, Davis, and Torres can all cover their ground and then some, but it’s hard to imagine those three making up for the rest of the defensive booger-eaters.
– Seriously though, think of the offense. The Mets should be able to score runs. Everyone in the lineup has shown the ability to get on-base in the past, and Davis, Wright, Bay, Torres, and Duda have all flashed some power during their careers. Health from Wright and Davis and improvements across the board – Thole, Davis, Murphy, Tejada, and Duda are all hopefully in the still-improving parts of their young careers — should help close that gap created by the departure of Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran. The floor looks like an average offensive team. When Jason Bay is threatening to be your worst offensive player, you’re probably doing all right. Except for the whole having Jason Bay on your team thing.
– Speaking of: Jason Bay’s contract has been such a disaster that the Mets reconfigured their stadium half-way through the deal in an attempt to compensate for Bay’s diminished power and poor range.
– I know that’s not actually what happened . . . but that’s sort of what happened.
– Spring Training subplot: Who’s going to hit leadoff? With this group, it’s easier to list the candidates who definitely won’t bat leadoff. Ike Davis and Lucas Duda definitely won’t hit leadoff. Johan Santana definitely won’t hit leadoff. Terry Collins seems too convention to do something weird-if-logical like batting his high-OBP catcher or one of his former sluggers in the first spot, which probably eliminates Josh Thole, David Wright, and Jason Bay.
That leaves Ruben Tejada, Andres Torres, and Daniel Murphy. Assuming Collins wants to avoid putting pressure on Tejada to replace Jose Reyes both in the lineup and on the field, we can cross Tejada off for leadoff. That leaves Torres and Murphy. Torres has the traditional leadoff hitter speed (60 career steals), while Murphy has the better career OBP (.343 to .318). I would lean towards Murphy and his OBP, except for fear that this would happen once a week:
Everyone in the stadium except Daniel Murphy: “Man, this would be a really awful time for a poor base stealer to try to steal a base.”
Daniel Murphy (breathing intensely): “I’m so gonna run on this pitch.”
In a SABR-friendly world where the best hitter gets the most at-bats, David Wright would hit leadoff (and Ruben Tejada would hit ninth, or something like that). But I think it’s more likely the Mets will rely on a rotating cast of leadoff hitters throughout the season.
How does this look:
CF – Torres – S
2B – Murphy – L
3B – Wright – R
1B – Davis – L
LF – Bay – R
RF – Duda – L
C – Thole – L
SS – Tejada – R
That’s not awful, right? Right?
SP – R.A. Dickey
SP – Mike Pelfrey
SP – Jon Niese
SP – Dillon Gee
SP – Johan Santana
– How about this from the department of arbitrary comparisons:
R.A. Dickey, 2010-11: 383 innings, 58 starts, 3.08 ERA, .304 OBP against, .372 slugging against, 124 ERA+
Tim Lincecum, 2010-11: 429.1 innings, 66 starts, 3.08 ERA, .306 OBP against, .354 slugging against, 124 ERA+
Over the past two seasons, the biggest difference between R.A. Dickey and Tim Lincecum is that Dickey has eight fewer starts, and only because he missed the beginning of 2010 pitching in the minor leagues. (Second-biggest difference: Dickey throws a silly pitch.) Otherwise, the two have been nearly identical in terms of effectiveness. The anonymous Met who wrote that New York Magazine piece missed that these Mets do have someone to match up with Strasburg, Lee, Hanson and Hudson: R.A. Dickey, the Mets’ best pitcher and player.
– If the Mets can squeeze 550 mediocre innings and 150 not-awful innings out of Jon Niese, Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey and Dillon Gee, they’ll be okay. Is that setting the bar low enough? We can make it lower. The Mets’ rotation was actually just 10th in ERA (out of 16 teams) in the National League last season. If the starters can repeat that performance and the bullpen improves, the Mets could make a run at having an average pitching staff.
– Beards: Pelfrey, Niese, and Dickey
– Goatee: Santana
– Weird Half-Goatee: Dillon Gee
– Spring Training Subplot: What does Johan Santana look like without facial hair? I can’t find any pictures and now I’m curious.
– Chris Schwinden, Jeremy Hefner, and Garrett Olson as the rotation depth in Buffalo, with Miguel Batista as the major league swing-man, aren’t a totally awful bunch. Rotation depth is an underappreciated part of roster construction. Pitchers get hurt so often that a team’s rotation isn’t the first five guys, it’s the first seven or eight guys. These middling Quad-A guys may not seem important, but they matter.
C – Mike Nickeas
IF – Justin Turner
IF – Ronny Cedeno
OF – Scott Hairston
OF – Mike Baxter
– Spring Training Subplot: The fifth bench spot looks up for grabs. I have Mike Baxter penciled in there for now. Unless the Mets bring in another dude, lefthanded hitting outfielder Adam Loewen and righthanded hitting infielder Josh Satin look to be his only serious competition. So that’s an exciting race.
– The bench is a little light on bats, though I have a hunch Justin Turner might prove a good pinch-hitter. Turner went 5-16 with two walks in that role last season. While I suspect his general clutch-ness last season had a lot more to do with Turner’s ability to hit breaking balls than it did with any superior clutch skills, being able to dump tough sliders into right field against pitchers thinking “I have no idea who this guy is, let’s see if he can hit this tough slider” seems like a useful pinch-hitting ability.
– That’s a pretty brutal bench, though. Mike Nickeas and Ronny Cedeno only have value as defensive replacements, while Turner and Baxter are pretty much replacement-level players.
RHP – Frank Francisco
RHP – Jon Rauch
RHP – Ramon Ramirez
RHP – Bobby Parnell
RHP – Manny Acosta
LHP – Tim Byrdak
RHP – Miguel Batista
– Francisco, Rauch, Ramirez and Byrdak are locks, so I see three spots in the back of the bullpen up for grabs. I think Parnell and Acosta get nods, and the third spot goes to Miguel Batista as longman-swingman-hilariously-old-guy depth. The Mets are light on lefty relievers again.
– D.J. Carrasco is still on the 40-man roster. Fernando Martinez is a Houston Astro. I still don’t get this. Josh Stinson, Josh Satin, Zach Lutz, Armando Rodriguez, Jeremy Hefner are all still on the 40-man roster as well. Even if Martinez had just a 5% chance of reaching his potential, he’s still worth more than any of those other players. There must be more to this story than we know, or Sandy Alderson just made an oops.
– Josh Stinson, Pedro Beato and Daniel Ray Herrera will ride the Buffalo Express for all of 2012. I suppose each has a shot at making the Opening Day roster, but they all have options and I can’t see the Mets dropping Manny Acosta to make room for any one of them.
That’s what I’ve got for the Mets’ roster. Back of the envelope — that saying has no meaning to me outside of being another way to say “making an estimation”– this looks like a 77-win team. If a few things go right, .500 is within reach. If a lot of things go right, maybe an 85-win Mets team sneaks in as the second wild card. If a lot of things go wrong, the Mets cut $40 million from their payroll, lose their best player to the Miami Marlins and spend a few years floundering between cost-cutting and rebuilding before MLB finally steps in and puts them out of their misery.