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By Ronnie Taveras

For Omar Minaya and the New York Mets, the new decade couldn't have started off any better. After a disappointing injury-plagued regular season followed by a slow start to the off-season, the Mets have finally made a splash this week by signing outfielder Jason Bay. But let's not get carried away because Minaya's job is far from over. The Mets still have several holes to fill but signing Bay was a real good first step for the Mets. Since becoming Mets general manager in the fall of 2004, Minaya has always been very active and aggressive in the off-season until now. Thus far Minaya has shown a great deal of patience in this off-season despite backlash from their fans and the media for his lack of action and maneuvering to this point. The last time Minaya showed this type of patience he ended up acquiring Johan Santana from the Twins before the 2008 season. This time Minaya landed arguably the best position player in the free agent market and a big power bat the Mets lineup lacked in Jason Bay.

After such a disastrous season in which everything that could go wrong did go wrong, the Mets needed to have a great off-season. After a three year hiatus from the playoffs, Minaya needed to show this winter that he is still the man to lead the Mets front office and keep his job beyond this season. Whether ownership will admit or not, both Omar Minaya and manager Jerry Manuel are both entering the 2010 season as lame-ducks. In my opinion, both guys should be given the benefit of the doubt because the 2009 was riddled with so many injuries that it was hard to judge their performance. With that said, the Mets have only made the playoffs once during Minaya's tenure as GM despite having the largest payroll in the National League. So you would think that if the Mets don't make the playoffs that both Minaya and Manuel will be gone right? Well, these are the Mets, and with the Wilpons you just never know. They might be just satisfied with having "meaningful" games in September. But let's assume it's playoffs or get fired. As of today, I don't see the Mets as a playoff team but then again the off-season isn't over yet.

Minaya still has several holes to fill before Spring Training begins next month. The Mets still need a reliable starting pitcher, a starting catcher, and they also need to fill out their bench as well. No one knows for sure just how much money Minaya has left to spend after the Bay signing but I do that it won't matter how much they spend if their players can't stay on the field. People tend to forget that before injuries began to unravel on the team, the Mets were a first place team as late as May 29th of the '09 season. And to me, the Mets had a lot more questions heading into last season than they do now. Jose Reyes is one of the most dynamic players in the game and he missed the majority of last season with a hamstring injury. Just like it was early in his career, durability will be a question mark going into the season but his talent should never be questioned. Carlos Beltran was playing at a MVP-caliber level early last season until injuries caught up to him which caused him to miss 81 games last season. Essentially, the Mets have acquired two new healthy and MVP-caliber players in Reyes and Beltran to a lineup that can challenge the Phillies as the NL's best. But the pitching staff is another story.

The Mets have some real question marks in their pitching staff specifically in their starting rotation. In Johan Santana, the Mets are fortunate to have one of the game's truest aces but even he's a bit of a question mark coming off elbow surgery on his pitching arm. If the season started today, Mike Pelfrey would be penciled in as the number two starter behind Santana. Pelfrey followed up a positive 2008 season with a poor 2009 which saw him lose his focus at times which makes me wonder if he'll be able rebound. Then you have Oliver Perez and John Maine. Two guys who had great seasons in 2007 winning 15 games each with ERAs under 4 but followed that up by winning just 10 games each in 2008 with ERAs over 4. Last season, they both combined to only start in 29 games due to injuries. Last off-season, I was an advocate for resigning Perez than signing Derek Lowe due to Perez' age and potential but Minaya was crazy for signing to a three-year $36 million deal. And Perez repaid Minaya by showing up to Spring Training out of shape but thankfully he's been working hard in Arizona this off-season in a training facility thanks to encouragement from his teammate Beltran and his agent Scott Boras. Maine showed great promise early on last season but then his arm got fatigued and he didn't start again until September. I like Maine a lot because he's such a competitor but he's also a reliever's worst nightmare because he barely pitches into the seventh inning. Due to these question marks, I believe the Mets should sign Jon Garland to fill out the rotation because at least with him you know you'll get a guy who'll stay healthy and eat a lot of innings. Among other free agents, Ben Sheets intrigues me the most because when healthy he's an ace quality pitcher but the problem is he's never healthy. For a guy with a history of being inconsistent, Joel Pinero is asking for a awful lot of money which makes him an easy candidate to become a bust especially without his pitching coach Dave Duncan around. And if I'm Minaya, I'd be finding a way to sign Chien-Ming Wang to a cheap contract because he's a low-risk high reward pitcher who could add some depth and could potentially be a solid number two starter.

As for the bullpen, well, it looks just about set after the signings of Kelvim Escobar and Japanese import Ryota Igarashi. But as we all know, bullpens will always have their question marks. To me, Pedro Feliciano is the surest bet to have success in the bullpen as long as he's healthy and not overused. I say that knowing that the key to the bullpen is closer Francisco Rodriguez but K-Rod worries me a little because he struggled so much in the second half. I would like the Mets to add another lefty to the pen so that they won't overuse Feliciano and just to have a second option considering all the big lefty bats in the NL East but then again Feliciano has shown that a heavy workload doesn't affect him. The bench looks almost set if the Mets decide to bring back Carlos Delgado which is looking more likely which would make Daniel Murphy the backup at first and main pinch hitter off the bench. The Mets are only missing a righty bat off the bench, one who can hopefully play multiple positions. Signing someone like Melvin Mora or maybe even bringing back Fernando Tatis wouldn't be such a bad idea. So if I'm Omar, this is how I would ideally hope the Opening Day roster would look like:

SS Jose Reyes
CF Carlos Beltran
3B David Wright
LF Jason Bay
1B Carlos Delgado
RF Jeff Francouer
C Bengie Molina?
2B Luis Castillo

C Henry Blanco
1B Daniel Murphy
IF Alex Cora
OF Angel Pagan
UT Fernando Tatis?

LHP Johan Santana
RHP Mike Pelfrey
LHP Oliver Perez
RHP John Maine
RHP Jon Garland?

Francisco Rodriguez (Closer)
Pedro Feliciano
Ryota Igarashi
Kelvim Escobar
Sean Green
Brian Stokes
Bobby Parnell

Does that look like a team ready to unseat the Phillies as NL East champions? Probably not. Like I've said before, there are just too many question marks and health concerns on this team. But for some reason I'm very optimistic about this team like I am every year around this time. I just feel that this team has been written off by many people and has a lot to prove. The same can be said about Minaya and Manuel. I don't think it's a bad thing to have a chip on your shoulder and want to go out and prove everybody wrong. Let's not forget about the 2007 season. Jimmy Rollins put a big chip on the Phillies shoulder before the season started by claiming them the team to beat before despite the fact that the Mets had ran away with the division the prior season. And now look at where the Phillies are. The Mets should come to spring training with that the same type of attitude and mentality. Let's also remember that the Mets began the last decade by going to the World Series to face the defending champions, New York Yankees. Sounds familiar? Well, let's remember that anything is possible if you just believe.

You gotta believe!...Yup, that saying never gets old.


  1. Still that's a pretty nice team and if everyone stays health we should make the playoffs with this team. Everyone loves to talk about the Phillies but 07 & 08 we lost the division by one game and last yr don't count because we had a minor league team for at least half of a season, so does everybody still think the Phillies have a better team then us? Please ...

  2. I still think the Mets should make a run at Wang..and as much as i LOVE the Mets i think the times running out on this experiment..weve been built to win NOW for a few years now and it seems we're regressing. If im running the team i go out this year and if we dont do anything this team gets blown up after the season..maybe thats what we need. Great article and LETS GO METS!!!