There have been two big surprises about the Mets coming off their 70-win disaster of a season last year. First, the Mets and Omar Minaya didn’t do more to improve the team via trades and free agency. Second, there aren’t many position competitions on the field in spring training. We’re basically going to see the exact same team we saw last year, plus Jason Bay.
The first point we’ve argued about all winter. Some of us think the Mets should have done more in the offseason to shake up the team. Other fans have been on board with Minaya’s plan that there weren’t better players on the market than the Mets that are returning from injuries. Whether you’re on board with the plan or not, it’s finished and we’ll see how it plays out. If things don’t look like they’re working out by mid-season, it’s likely that Minaya and Manuel are finished with the Mets too.
The second point is an interesting one. You would think that a team coming off a horrible season would have plenty of competition for playing time. But the Mets appear to be pretty set at most positions and that’s probably a bad sign. It’s very likely that we’re going to see the exact same team that drove into a brick wall last year.
Here are the position battles this spring:
- Center field until Carlos Beltran gets back from injury – Angel Pagan and Gary Matthews, Jr. will compete for time in center field. It’s highly likely that Pagan will be in the lineup nearly every day until May when Beltran gets back. If Pagan plays well like he did last year, he’ll be trade bait at mid-season.
- First base – Daniel Murphy and Mike Jacobs will compete for time at first. Neither option is one that you’d like to see as a Mets fan. The chances of Jacobs getting significant time at first base are slight. My guess is that Jacobs starts the season at Triple-A Buffalo. Murphy and Fernando Tatis will see the bulk of playing time at first base this year.
- Fifth starting pitcher – There is some real competition here. That’s almost always the case for the final spot in the rotation. Jon Niese, Fernando Nieve, and maybe even Nelson Figueroa will compete for the spot. My money is on Niese to get the job if he’s fully recovered from the hamstring tear that he suffered last season. All reports say that he’s ready to pitch. Nieve and Figueroa look like swing men out of the bullpen to me.
The fifth starter is where you see competition every year for nearly every team. That’s no surprise. It looks like we need to prepare ourselves to see the same team that was an incredible disappointment last season, as distasteful as that sounds to Mets fans.