Why Must Rebuilding Take Years?

The Mets horrendous start has unsurprisingly been accompanied by the outcry by various fans, bloggers, tweeters, Facebook posts, and large market publications that the end of the season is upon us, the fire sale must begin, and that as fans we should expect several more seasons of Octoberless baseball.

Let’s ignore the fact at the moment that it is currently April 22nd, and the fact that no one in the NL East has run away with an amazing month. The Mets currently stand 6.5 games back. To put it into perspective, we potentially could still have 2007 in reverse, with the Mets collapsing in April but putting together the big lead through the end of the season.

Let’s assume though that the under-performances will continue, and more injuries and setback will occur. Let’s assume where will not be meaningful games in late May, let alone September.

Why do I keep hearing it will take at least 3 years to rebuild? Why are people saying to include David Wright in the fire sale, because his prime will be over by the time they contend.

If the Mets deal Wright it should be for more than one of these reasons: they don’t believe they can rebuild without the potential prospects they get from him in return, they think he can be replaced internally or externally, he is not the right fit for Citifield (that can be debated and for a separate post), or they want a completely clean slate.

If the Mets were to have a fire sale the most likely candidates to be moved are Reyes, Francisco Rodriguez, and Carlos Beltran. Less probable candidates include Mike Pelfrey, RA Dickey, David Wright, Jason Bay and any veteran signed to a one year contract.

Of the second tier it doesn’t make much sense to deal Pelfrey and Dickey. Dickey is signed to a reasonable contract through next year and his uniqueness is very valuable. Mike Pelfrey is still signed to a reasonable deal and even if he never reaches the upper echelon he has proven to be a solid back to middle of the rotation starter. That’s not to be scoffed at. If anything, as you will read further, the biggest reason to deal him may be that he won’t be necessary as early as next year.

And did we forget Johan Santana is still on this team? Yes, there is a question of how much of the old Johan will be left, but that doesn’t mean we should assume he will fail.

So the way I see it is next year the Mets will likely have a rotation that will include Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey, Johnathan Niese, RA Dickey. That is not a bad front 4, even if Johan isn’t “Twins Johan.” The fifth starter will likely be either one of the Mets much top young prospects Matt Harvey or Jenrry Mejia, who are both tearing up minor league early in the season. Mejia was already discussed as a potential call up, and will likely see Citifield time before September. Matt Harvey, the Mets number 7 pick, has been so impressive some scouts believe he may see MLB time as early as this September and will likely be in the mix for the rotation spot.

With that said, the Mets may decide to trade Pelfrey to replenish the farm (as a young pitcher with potential and a very good contract he can get a hefty bounty – just look at what some comparable pitchers have received in free agency in recent seasons) and go the free agent or trade route for another pitcher. That path is very dangerous as you’ll be hard pressed to find a free agent pitcher that much better than Pelfrey among the 2012 free agents.

So the rotation seems solid, what about the lineup? If Jose Reyes is traded, the Mets can go internally with Reuben Tejada, who appears to be a match for Jose defensively but a great decline defensively, or possibly wait for Wilmer Flores to be ready in 2013 and go with Tejada or a free agent stopgap. Considering Flores unlikely to stay in the rotation, the Mets will have to determine if Tejada can be an MLB starting shortstop or if there is a suitable free agent. After Reyes, the next best shortstop is probably JJ Hardy.

As an aside, you have to wonder if they decide to make their moves whether Sandy Alderson can possibly convince Jose to pull a Mike Bordick. I see no reason why Reyes or his agent would be upset at trading Reyes to a playoff contender to increase his value during free agency and not come back to the negotiation table in the winter.

As for the other potential trade candidates like Bay and Beltran, the Mets have some interesting outfield options including Lucas Duda and Kirk Niuwenhies who may be able to take on a load in 2012, and there are a lot of options in the outfield for the short term. The Mets can also take a chance by moving Ike Davis to right field, he is said to have a cannon for an arm and go after Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols. With Yankees and Sox 1B situations taken care of, the two may be had, especially Fielder.

The biggest question is how much will Sandy have to spend? Obviously it will be more than the $10m that he had this past offseason, but how much more? The Wilpons financial issues keep things murky, but they appear to be moving closer to getting a minority owner, and I would not be shocked if eventually that owner becomes the majority.

The point is in April 2011 it is too early to say the Mets will be uncompetitive for years. Is the above overly optimistic? Perhaps it is, but it does not mean that it cannot happen. Just because things may be bad today does not mean it will always be so, and there are is so much in flux with the team that to assume anything, positively or negatively for next year let alone three years from now, is just plain silly. Do not let those who want you to feel negative about the team force their feelings upon you. It’s April, and there’s a long way to September. Just sit back and enjoy the ride. We’re barely an 8th of a way done.

Let’s Go Mets!

Posted by Robert Z

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