Friday, January 8, 2010

Getting Excited Again

I can't help it.

I know that the Mets have a mountain to climb before they can legitimately become a championship-caliber team. The pitching is still in shambles, the bottom of the order is a black hole and the front office hasn't gotten any more intelligent with the dawn of a new decade.

But I'm starting to get excited again.

The Jason Bay signing was a good first step. I think the average annual value was too high, but the Mets can afford to drop $2 million a year extra on a player if that's what it takes to convince him to play in the shadow of the Yankees.

The naysayers will tell you that Bay will age badly, that his defense will be atrocious and that he won't be able to conquer the National League's version of the Green Monster. I do not see it.

I love reading Tim Marchman's work and I respect his opinion, but I think he is dead wrong on Bay. (C'mon, Tim, ZIPS projections cannot be taken seriously - any player over 30 seems to have an automatic "statistical decline" factor embedded in its formula.) Time will tell, but I think that Bay will do fine as a clean-up hitter for the next four-plus years.

Today's analysis of the Mets' farm system from John Sickels was a hopeful sign that things are getting better on that front as well. Now look, no one will ever confuse New York's minor-league stable with that of the Texas Rangers, which boasts several different blue-chippers who can be All-Stars in 2010.

But the Mets have three players - Jenrry Mejia, Wilmer Flores and Fernando Martinez - who Sickels rates as potential stars. Each needs at least one more year of seasoning - don't rush Mejia next season!! - but after several years of lacking suitable minor league options, help may finally be on the way. The depth is still wanting, but it's going to require a philosophical change in the front office before Adam Wogan can develop a farm system as promising as any in baseball.

There is still a lot more to do. The Mets need to sign two starters (one of which should be Ben Sheets or Erik Bedard). They need to sign every minor-league free agent reliever imaginable and throw them into a competition for three or four spots in the 2010 bullpen. Someone needs to catch - and it shouldn't be Josh Thole or Bengie Molina. They need to pawn Luis Castillo off on someone and sign Orlando Hudson to play second base.

As constructed, the New York Mets are no better than an 85-win team in 2010. Frankly, I think that is a kind estimate. But Bay is the first step in the right direction. I absolutely hate the idea of building the rest of this team through free agency, but the Mets are in a unique position to sign two or three quality players without guaranteeing more than two years to any of them.

If they can get Sheets and Hudson ... and if they can resist over-committing to Molina ... and if they don't rush their best prospects ... maybe, just maybe ...

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