2013 New York Mets Preview
After a disappointing 2012 campaign that drew the lowest attendance numbers since the opening of Citi Field, the Mets will try to rebound this season
The New York Mets finished in fourth place again last season, going 74-88 and drawing the lowest attendance numbers in the history of Citi Field. The club made some moves this offseason to try to give them the depth that they were missing last season when key players went down with injuries, but will it be enough to keep the club competitive in a division with the likes of Washington, Philadelphia and Atlanta?
The Mets will once again rely on left-hander and former Cy Young winner Johan Santana to carry their rotation this year. Santana pitched the first no-hitter in Mets history last June, but it was the lone bright spot in an otherwise disappointing season, finishing with a 6-9 record and a 4.81 ERA in 117 innings of work. He spent time on the DL with ankle and back issues, and is in the final year of his current contract in which his is owed $25.5 million. The Mets are unlikely to show much of an interest in bringing him back for 2014 so this is likely to be his last hurrah with the club, and if he has any kind of success in the first half, he could become trade bait at the deadline to make room for Jon Niese to take over at the top of the rotation.
Niese (13-9, 3.40 in 190.1 IP) had a breakout season last year in the first year of his new $25.5 million deal. He is a homegrown prospect for the club so his success in the first half of the season could earn him a promotion to the top of the staff. Following him will be Shaun Marcum (7-4, 3.40 in 124 IP) who will replace knuckleballer R.A. Dickey in the rotation after he left this offseason for Toronto. Marcum settled on a $4 million deal to pitch for the Mets, which is not the kind of money he was looking for as a free agent but he missed a good deal of time last season with tightness in his elbow. That wouldn’t be a huge concern except that he also missed all of the 2009 season thanks to Tommy John surgery. His contract is full of incentives to motivate him to stay healthy and eat up innings for the club, so it remains to be seen how effective he will be in replacing one of the most dominant pitchers in the league last season in Dickey.
Matt Harvey and Dillon Gee will round out the starting five for the Mets and both have the potential to be solid back end guys if they are able to stay healthy and if Harvey continues to adjust to big league hitters. Gee underwent a procedure to address a blood clot in his shoulder and missed the second half of the 2012 campaign, but he put up a 6-7 record and an ERA of 4.10 before he was shut down. Harvey went 3-5 with a 2.73 ERA in 59.1 innings of work last season, and he can hit pretty well too, finishing with a .333 batting average. How the two of them perform this year will do a lot to determine how competitive the Mets are going to be within their division.
The Mets had an ineffective bullpen last season, and as a result they blew it up and are starting over. Last seasons’ closer Frank Francisco will likely start the season on the DL as he is still recovering from elbow surgery this offseason, so the role will probably be given to right hander Bobby Parnell coming out of spring training. Parnell saved 7 games last season and now that the Mets seem to have given up on him being a part of their rotation, they will give him every opportunity he needs to succeed in some capacity out of the bullpen. Once Francisco is able to return, Parnell will probably move into the set-up role, but given the rollercoaster season that Francisco had last year, Parnell will likely be only a blown save away from taking over the role for good this season.
Brandon Lyon will be a factor in late-inning situations as well after joining the club this offseason. He has had success last season with Toronto going 4-2 with a 3.10 ERA in 67 appearances. Greg Burke will be fun to watch this spring to see if he earns a spot in the bullpen after joining the club from the Baltimore Orioles organization. At 30-years old, Burke is a submarine pitcher and rolled through the minors last season posting a 1.53 ERA in 64.2 innings of work. His only big league experience came with the San Diego Padres in 2009 where he went 3-3 with a 4.14 ERA in 48 appearances.
Beyond them, lefties Josh Edgin and Pedro Feliciano and right handers Scott Atchison, LaTroy Hawkins and Jeremy Hefner will all be looking to land rotation spots this spring. As of this writing it is too soon to tell exactly which ones will make the roster, but given manager Terry Collins history of favorite veteran relievers, Feliciano, Atchison and Hawkins are the likely favorites to win any remaining spots come Opening Day.
The Mets averaged just over 4 runs per game last season and that led to the overall downfall of the ball club. If they do that again this season, the chances of them slipping even further into the abyss of the NL East is very high. Their front office did little to add depth to an already thin group of bats, so if the club doesn’t get big seasons out of first baseman Ike Davis and left fielder Lucas Duda, they are going to be in big trouble.
Davis hit just .227 last season largely due to the anemic .170 he put up in the first 50 games of the 2012 campaign. He did rebound to hit 32 homers but he found it difficult to hit against left handed pitching which almost led to his removal from the line-up all together. The Mets love his glove work, but if he cannot produce the numbers at the plate that are required from a first baseman, he is going to have to be moved so that someone else can take his place in the line-up. Duda showed signs of regression last season, his third in the majors and following a mid-season slump the club demoted him to triple-A to work on his swing. He is expected to be in the line-up on Opening Day this year but he’s got to do better than .239 if he is going to stay in the line-up on an everyday basis.
Third baseman David Wright remains the one consistent hitter on the Mets roster and even when the club was playing poorly fans could count on him to at least provide some entertainment at the plate. He finished the 2012 campaign with a .306 average, 21 homers and 93 RBIs. Wright was awarded an eight-year, $138 million contract extension this winter, so he is going to be with the ball club for a long time.
Beyond Wright, the rest of the Mets line-up will provide the club with guys who can hit for average, but offer little flash or speed to go along with that. Shortstop Rubin Tejada is a quality lead-off hitter, but he is not a threat on the bases never grabbing more than 20 bags in his career thus far. Second baseman Daniel Murphy is another guy who will get on base, but it will require Wright or Davis to do something to drive him in as he is not going to blaze any trails on the base paths either. Right fielder Mike Baxter, catcher John Buck and centerfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis round out the line-up. The Mets were in the hunt to land free agent Michael Bourne this offseason to add some speed to their line-up, but he signed with the Cleveland Indians instead and now they are forced to deal with another season of lackluster speed in their line-up.
The Mets shored up their bullpen which should give them a good shot at improving by a couple of games this season, but their lack of attention in addressing their offensive issues will keep them from being a serious player within their division. The Nationals, Phillies and Braves will all spend the summer trading blows and battling for the top spot while New York will likely sit somewhere in the middle, never playing as poorly as Miami to see themselves flirt with last place, but not likely to play well enough to catch anyone for third either. They went 74-88 last season, and it seems pretty likely that they will do the same this season, perhaps adding 4 or 5 wins to the total but still finishing in fourth place. However the future looks good as their ownership has made rumblings that they are willing to raise their payroll in the coming seasons, and with the addition of a big bat or two and the maturation of some of their pitching prospects currently paying their dues in the minors this ball club will return to contention within the next two seasons.
By Robert Gonzalez