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Three Pressing Issues Facing the Mets Going Forward - Part II

By Kevin Casey

Well, here we are. A few weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting, and the Mets are in the midst of a uninspiring, tumultuous offseason. Since the last time I posted, the Mets have missed out on 3 big targets that could have improved their chances to compete with the Phillies and Braves this season. First, they missed out on Bengie Molina, who resigned with the Giants for a 1-year deal. Then days later they missed out on Joel Piniero, who signed with the Angels. Finally, they missed out on Ben Sheets, the best available pitcher with the largest upside on the market, to the A's for 1-year $10 million. I don't disagree with the Mets not giving into Molina's demand for a second year. He's 36, and his numbers are bound to decline. Additionally, there is a good chance that Joe Mauer will be available next season and the if the Mets gave into Molina, they would have an overweight obstacle standing in the way of Mauer being the Mets Catcher for the 2011 season. On the other hand, I feel that Omar & Co. dropped the ball with regards to Pineiro and Sheets. The Mets are not a team that needed a minor tweak, or one player in order to return to prominence in the 2010 season. The Mets had multiple issues to address, namely starting pitching, left field, first base, and catcher, and they were only able to address left field by landing Jason Bay. Where do they go from here? I do not know anymore. Unless they can pull off a magical trade to land a number 2 starter (Carlos Zambrano?), 2010 is going to be a long season which will end sometime in August and there will be many people in the organization looking for new jobs this time next year. This article will address the next area I feel the Mets need to address: First Base.

First Base:
Projected - Daniel Murphy
The Mets are high on Daniel Murphy and feel that he could step in for 2010 and not lose a beat from their previous first baseman, future Hall of Famer Carlos Delgado. I cannot disagree more. Daniel Murphy is loved by many Mets fans solely because he is a "home grown" player; it certainly isn't because of his offensive production. Just because a player comes from the Mets farm system does not mean that they are the caliber of David Wright and Jose Reyes. The Mets farm system has been in disarray since Omar & Co. took over and although he may have been the best player on the AAA team, that is not saying much. Daniel Murphy is a mediocre player at best. First base is a power position, and in order to compete, the Mets need to find a player that will produce 25-plus home runs and 100-plus RBI. Murphy is at best a .250/15/65 player. He cannot hit left handed pitching if his life depended on it, and he would be a late inning liability at the plate. All the opposing teams would have to do is bring in a left hander and the game would be over. He is also a man without a position. The Mets tried to put him in left field, and that failed. They then tried to put him at first, and although he can catch what is hit near him, he was caught out of position far too often. If you are going to have a defensively deficient first baseman, that player must be able to make up for his defensive lapses at the plate (ala Ryan Howard). That is not Daniel Murphy. For the Mets, Murphy is a bench player to come in and pinch hit against right handed relievers. Overall, Murphy is, at best, a small-market DH for, say, the Roayls, Twins, A's, etc. Maybe the Mets can look to move him to one of those teams to bolster their rotation and/or bullpen.
One option that has been floated around is for the Mets to bring in a right handed first baseman to platoon with Murphy for when the team faces a left handed starter. Two specific names that have been floated are Mike Lowell of the Red Sox and free agent Ryan Garko. The Sox tried to trade Lowell to the Rangers earlier in the offseason, but the trade was voided after Lowell failed his physical, and Lowell subsequently had surgery on his injured finger. The Mets could have him for relatively cheap, however he is a third baseman, not a first baseman. Additionally, Lowell will not be ready for the beginning of spring training, therefore he will not have enough time to learn a new position. As for Garko, he is not a very good player. He has been a lifetime back-up and the Mets should steer clear. As a matter of fact, the Mets should steer clear of a platoon altogether. There has not been a team that's had a successful season, let alone won a championship, with a platoon at a power position. A platoon brings about a few problems. First, a strict platoon will prevent each player from getting into a rhythm because each time a new pitcher comes, they have to sit. Second, a platoon would stunt the growth of a young player. If the Mets feel that Murphy will be a good player, then they need to let him be their full-time first baseman. In other words, they need to live or die with Murphy at first if he is their man. If they platoon him, they will prevent him from ever learning to hit left handed pitching. Despite this, the Mets need to move on from Murphy instead of trying to plug him into every position on the diamond.
The easiest option the Mets have for first base is to resign Carlos Delgado for an incentive-laden deal. For those of you who do not know, Delgado is coming off of an injury shortened season which ended in hip surgery. At the beginning of 2009, Delgado was on a tear. He was putting up MVP-like numbers until he injured himself. Delgado played Winter Ball this season, and the reports coming in are stating that he is not moving well at first and he has little to no range, but then again neither does Murphy. Delgado is a Hall of Famer and he was a huge reason why the Mets did so well in 2007. His bat cannot be replaced. The Mets should look to bring him back for cheap with an incentive based contract. If he winds up not doing well or gets injured again, they could always fall back on Murphy and a minor leaguer many people are overlooking, Ike Davis.
In my opinion, the most intriguing option the Mets have is outside the organization and down I-95 in Washington. Last trade deadline, the Mets were reportedly linked to possible trades for Adam Dunn. Dunn, like Delgado, is an average fielder, but there is no question about his power. He was responsible for some of the longest home runs at Citi Field last season, and he was merely a visiting player. With the signing of Steven Strasburg, the Nats are looking to get younger. Dunn could be had for a package of Jonathan Niese and Reese Havens. Adding Dunn to an already impressive lineup would make sure that there is no easy out 1-9.
Regardless of what the Mets do from now until opening day, they need to sure up first base, and in my opinion, move on from Daniel Murphy. He had his chance and he failed. The Mets should look to move him while his value is reasonably high and look outside the organization to fill their void at first.


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