By: Clayton Collier
Q: Now that the Phillies have acquired Cliff Lee and the Braves got Uggla, what are the 2011 Mets chances at competing in the NL East? The Wild Card? (We received multiple questions like this)
A: The Mets very little to no chance at competing in the NL East this season. Ruben Amaro Jr. has assembled one of the best teams baseball has seen in a long time. The stacked lineup, even though weakened by the departure of Werth, would make any pitcher quiver. The Phillies currently have a dynasty caliber team on their hands going into 2011. With four ace-quality pitchers on their staff in that of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels, the Phillies would have to have an season of injuries equivalent to the 2009 Mets for the Amazin's to have a shot at the division title.
As for the wild card, if the Mets have a lot go right for them, it could be a possibility. First off, Bay and Beltran would have to have bounce back years. Second, Davis, Thole, and Niese need to avoid sophomore slumps. The bullpen needs to hold its own, as does the back end of the Mets rotation. Finally, Santana needs to return at a reasonable time, fully healthy and pitch like the elite pitcher he has been throughout his career. If the Mets can click on all cylinders, they could contend with the Braves among other National League hopefuls.
Q: What is the situation with Jose Reyes? His option for 2011 was picked up but now Alderson is talking about the possibility of trading him during the season before the July 31st deadline. What Gives?
A: Jose Reyes and the Mets will without a doubt discuss an extension. Unless an extension is reached, Reyes will become a free agent at the end of the 2011 season. If the two sides can not come to terms on a deal, Reyes will most likely be traded by the July 31st deadline. The Mets do have a high asking price for Reyes though. It is said that the Mets want three or four players in return for the Dominican native. Reyes has stated he wants to retire a Met and I think the Mets would be happy do comply for the right price.
Q: How do you think Beltran will bounce back in 2011? Will he play Right field or Center? What is his status as far as his future after 2011 with the Mets?
A: Beltran in 2011 is basically a toss up. He could hit 40 home runs or 4, he could bat .230 or .290, we just do not know what to expect from Beltran. One can realistically expect Beltran will have some success in 2011, but not the Beltran of 2006. Beltran will still have to wear that knee brace that he had in 2010 after returning from knee surgery. With this in mind, Pagan seems the best candidate to play center field. That brace impedes movement, which results in slower outfield defense and limited ability as a left handed batter. The brace doesn't allow him to accelerate like he used to, it also prevents Beltran from turning on his knee as a left handed batter, crippling his talent at the plate. But, based on how he went on a tear in September, it isn't out of the question to expect Beltran to finish around a .280 average with 20 homers and 75-85 RBIs.
This season will probably mark the last year that Beltran wears a Met uniform. Beltran, who turns 34 in April, is in the final year of his massive 7-year $119 million contract. He will receive $18.5 million in 2011 after which he will become a free agent. Given the fact that GM Sandy Alderson is not a big spender and that Beltran's agent is none other than the infamous Scott Boras, the odds of Beltran returning does not look good.
Q: Who do you think the Mets will go after in the offseason after the 2011 season since they'll have like $50 million in payroll being freed up?
A: Next year's offseason is nearly impossible to determine for sure. Based on the fact that many core players such as Reyes, Beltran and K-Rod could be traded or be lost to free agency, it will all depend on the direction Sandy Alderson wants to go.
Although the Mets have a huge sum of money coming off the books after the final pitch of 2011 is thrown, that doesn't mean that they are going to be big spenders. Alderson stated that he will spend only about $15-$20 million of the roughly $60 million in payroll he has to spend. He wants to do this in order to have at least $10 million to spend every offseason instead of one lump sum every 3-4 offseasons.
We can't say exactly who the Mets will target in the 2011-2012 offseason. But what we can take a look at is who would make sense for the Mets that could be a free agent next offseason.
Ronny Paulino only signed a one-year deal with the Mets so the backup catching job will be in question next winter. Ivan Rodriguez would be a great idea for the Mets. Rodriguez would be an excellent mentor for Josh Thole and be able to help shape the Mets relatively young pitching staff. The 20-season veteran could serve as a clutch bat off the bench and unbelievable defense at the backstop.
Second Base will finally be vacated by Luis Castillo after 2011. Unless Daniel Murphy thrives at 2nd base, the Mets will be in the market for a man to fill the position. The internal options would likely not be major league ready for 2012. Maybe a Kelly Johnson, Omar Infante or a Rickie Weeks could be a possibility for the Mets.
Beltran will probably be lost to free agency next offseason so the Mets will also be in need of an outfielder. The only internal options could include Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and maybe Fernando Martinez if he gets himself together. Some possible outfield fits for the Mets could include Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel or Josh Willingham.
As far as pitching, K-Rod and Oliver Perez are the only major pitchers coming off the books after 2011. Mark Buehrle would fit nicely for the Mets as a starter. K-Rod has an option for 2012, but it is not a done deal they would pick up his option.
The Mets have a lot to answer next offseason, but these questions can't be answered for certain until the end of the 2011 season.