By Rich Coutinho
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Clearly, Sandy Alderson has a bunch of things he will need to consider as the Mets soon begin their offseason. 2013 will be a big year for him, as the public perception of the Madoff cloud is in the team’s rearview mirror. He needs to act swiftly in order to restore confidence in the eyes of the team’s fan base. With that in mind, here is what I think are the top five offseason issues he needs to address prior to the 2013 season.
1. R.A Dickey and David Wright — These two players will both have contract issues, even though both are going into option years in which the Mets have control of the wheel. It would be disastrous to let either of these guys get to Spring Training entering a walk year. In Wright’s case, the issue is more complex, simply because it will take more years and dollars to lock him up as opposed to RA Dickey, even though the knuckleballing right-hander is breathing hard on the Cy Young Award. Simply put, the Mets need to offer both players contracts — I’d say five years for Wright and three years for Dickey– and they need to do it in short order because if these issues drag through the winter, it could be a public relations nightmare for Alderson.
2. A Sluggish Offense– There are really only two bats that the Mets can rely on going into 2013 — Wright and Ike Davis. Both players are core offensive bats, and despite the low batting average, Davis’ power numbers are hard to ignore. But this lineup needs one or possibly two reliable RBI bats to protect these two hitters, and they must be proven bats.
The problem is that the free-agent outfield market is thin at best. Josh Hamilton is the best of the group, but he’s certainly financially unreachable. Guys like Nick Swisher and B.J. Upton could be had, but the price tag will be exorbitant because of the diminished OF market. Trading for a Justin Upton could be a possibility, but it will cost Major Leaguers and a prospect or two not named Zack Wheeler or Matt Harvey. My sense is that the Mets will spend for one bat via a trade, and the other OF spot might end up in the hands of a Scott Hairston/Lucas Duda platoon if Duda is not traded — and provided that the Mets can sign Hairston.
3. The Bullpen — In July, I thought this would be the biggest thing that Alderson had to address in the offseason, but the offense has become a bigger concern. That does not mean that you should discount the importance of a new and improved bullpen in 2013.
I do think, however, that some of the pieces are in place because of the success of guys like Josh Edgin, Robert Carson and Jon Rauch. I’d bring Rauch back and use Carson/Edgin as my left-handed duo in the bullpen with Frank Francisco returning as the closer. I am not blown away by Francisco, but his contract dictates that he will be back, and he was OK in the role. Not great and not awful — just OK.
I do think the team needs more depth out there, and Alderson needs to finally decide what he has in Bobby Parnell. The hard-throwing right-hander has been given ample opportunity to snare a role, but this may be the year the Mets deal him to address another need, like a bat. It is hard to believe that Manny Acosta or Ramon Ramirez will be back, and Alderson will need to find replacements for those two pitchers — hopefully arms that will help ease the workload off Rauch and Francisco.
4. Overall Team Speed — The Mets offense was short circuited this year because of their lack of power, but a lack of overall team speed hurt them at the plate as well as in the field. When you think about it, the Mets were not a base -stealing threat, but it went far beyond that.
Their lack of speed made them a station-to-station offensive team. And lets remember, they weren’t exactly hitting homers like the ’61 Yankees. They also never had a bona-fide leadoff hitter who could get on base and move himself along the base paths. Michael Bourn would help them in a multitude of ways, but I honestly believe he will be asking for far more money than the Mets would be willing to offer, and so I think it is possible that the Mets might look into a guy like Shane Victorino. He is the type of player that might ignite the Mets on those nights they need a boost. Just A thought.
5. Overall Team Depth — I firmly believe that the Mets’ lack of overall team depth did them in after the All-Star break. Baseball is a 162-game marathon, and you just can’t count on health without a backup plan. What ends up happening is you rely on Minor Leaguers who are not quite ready. And in the long run, that stunts their growth as players.
You need those AAAA players who can step in and hold down the fort. One example is a guy like Chris Young, who stepped in and performed well as a fall-back option for the rotation. But the Mets had very few of those type of players, and that really hurt them when players began slumping or breaking down in August. This area is one in which I think Alderson could excel if given the resources to take on some low-risk, high-reward gambles. Both Hairston and Dickey came to the Mets in this fashion and have performed very well for the team.
If you were Sandy Alderson, what would your (realistic) plan be for the upcoming offseason? Sound off with your thoughts and comments below…