By Brad Kallet, WFAN.com
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Let’s be clear about one thing: The Mets, right now, are a better baseball team than they were at the end of the 2013 season. They’ve improved their outfield significantly with the signings of Curtis Granderson and Chris Young and have kept the rotation solid by inking Bartolo Colon to a two-year deal.
General manager Sandy Alderson needs to add a couple of relievers to shore up the bullpen and acquire another starter for depth and insurance purposes, but what I’m concerned about most is the offense.
While the Amazin’s should score more runs in 2014 — assuming they stay healthy — than they did in 2013, they still don’t have enough hitters.
If you go around the diamond, it breaks down pretty simply. The outfield is set with Granderson, Young, Juan Lagares and Eric Young, Jr. Nelson Cruz would be a great fit in Queens, but he will cost too much money and there’s no room for him.
David Wright is set at third, Daniel Murphy is established at second — it’s very doubtful that he’ll get traded — and Travis d’Arnaud will begin the season as the starting backstop.
So where does that leave us? Oh, of course: shortstop and first base.
Ruben Tejada was a disaster in 2013, batting .202 with no homers and a .259 on-base percentage in 208 at-bats. Could he revert to his 2012 form, when he batted .289 in 114 games? Possibly, but I wouldn’t count on it.
Stephen Drew would be a significant upgrade over Tejada, but it remains unlikely that the Mets will sign him. Maybe Alderson swoops in toward the end of the offseason if his price drops, but it’s unlikely that it will drop enough for the cash-strapped Mets to be serious players for his services. After spending $87.25 million on three players, the GM doesn’t have much flexibility. And if Boston wants Drew back, which it very well might, you can forget it. Unless the Mets blow Drew away with an offer that the Red Sox won’t match, which will not happen, the 30-year-old will want to stay with the World Series champions.
Drew, by the way, isn’t as appealing as many are making him out to be. The veteran belted 13 homers and drove in 67 runs in 124 games — impressive power numbers for a shortstop — but he only batted .253 in a loaded lineup at Fenway Park. The 29 doubles and the .333 on-base percentage are very nice, but he’s not nearly worth the money that he’ll likely end up receiving.
A more realistic and, frankly, more enticing option? Kendrys Morales. Now in a perfect world, the Mets would sign both Drew and Morales. But since this organization isn’t exactly operating like the free-spending Yankees, that isn’t an option. So give me Morales.
I don’t want to hear the argument that the Mets already have three viable first basemen on the roster. Yes — Ike Davis, Lucas Duda and Josh Satin are all first basemen. The only problem is that none of them are very good. Alderson has been attempting to deal Davis for weeks following his miserable season, and Duda and Satin are nothing more than bench players. Some platoon of the aforementioned trio simply won’t cut it. Not for a team that hopes to finally contend.
Morales could be a perfect fit in Flushing. A market hasn’t really developed for him yet, which means he could potentially be had at a discounted price on a one-year deal. Nabbing the 30-year-old for $10 million would be a steal, especially when you consider that Drew figures to require more years and a larger annual salary.
The Mets desperately need power in their lineup, and the switch-hitter provides just that. In 156 games last season Morales hit 23 homers and drove in 80 runs in the middle of a dreadful Mariners order with no protection. And let’s not forget that Morales hit at spacious Safeco Field, the American League equivalent of Citi Field. The slugger has proven that he can produce when the dimensions are not in his favor.
The Cuban also hit for a higher average (.277) than Drew and posted a better OBP (.336) in 2013. Heck, the M’s thought enough of him to extend a qualifying offer.
No, he’s not going to win a Gold Glove Award. There’s no denying that Morales is better suited for the AL, but he did play 31 games at first base last season. It wouldn’t be an optimal situation — you’d obviously prefer that your first baseman is stellar at his position — but home-run power is at a premium in this market. If Alderson has the opportunity to add 10-15 long balls to his lineup on the cheap, he can’t let the possibility of subpar defense deter him from making the move.
A middle of the order consisting of Murphy, Wright, Granderson, Young and Morales wouldn’t exactly be Murderers’ Row, but it wouldn’t be a picnic for opposing pitchers, either.
That collection of bats — and Morales could be the missing link — could sufficiently support the Mets’ quality crew of starting pitchers and give this club a chance of sniffing October.
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