The Mets, fresh off a 74-88 season, are starting spring training with faint hopes of a great season.
For the second straight offseason, the team has lost one of its best players (R.A. Dickey) though this time around they received compensation in return in catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud. Here are the team’s biggest question marks headed into 2013.
1. Does the trade of Dickey mean the Mets are throwing in the towel for 2013?
That wasn’t the driving force behind the deal, but yes, the Mets realize that the team isn’t necessarily equipped to compete with the big boys this season and thus traded one of their most prized assets at the peak of his value.
The deal was really about taking advantage of a 38-year-old’s prime—or lack thereof. Dickey’s career curve is a wild one, coming into his own at such a late age. Despite the Cy Young season at 37, it’s not a great bet that he’ll continue to be this great into his 40′s or even later 30′s.
Yet Dickey being a knuckle-baller, which usually translates to a longer yet not necessarily dominant shelf-life, made him attractive to the Blue Jays, which are clearly all-in for 2013.
The risk that d’Arnaud, who is just 23, will be a good player for years to come seems like a good one, considering the former first-round pick of the Phillies hit .333 in 67 games last season in the Pacific Coast League.
2. Who plays the outfield?
This is the long-anticipated question from the Mets following Jason Bay’s departure. Bay certainly wasn’t tearing it up, but he was physically in the outfield when not on the DL, making the outfield-starved Mets come up with someone to man left field, without making a free agency splash.
According to the team’s website, the outfield competition consists of Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Collin Cowgill, Marlon Byrd, Mike Baxter, Andrew Brown and Jamie Hoffman … yikes.
Duda, who just turned 27, looks like the biggest lock after hitting .292 in 100 games in 2011. Unfortunately in 2012, he slumped to .239. Nieuwenhuis may be next after hitting .252 in 91 games last season. The 35-year-old Byrd may be the most well-known of the group but hit just .210 last year between Boston and Chicago.
Barring a miracle, the strength of this team will not be in the outfield.
3. What can be expected from Johan Santana this season?
A fair amount of success, should the Mets monitor his pitch count.
Santana, who threw the Mets’ first-ever no-hitter last season, threw for the first time off a mound since last August on Sunday. The former two-time Cy Young award winner will turn 34 before the season starts and though he’s had a lot of success as a Met when healthy, his health he hasn’t been very great of late.
Santana’s 2012 season was cut short due to inflammation in his lower back. His season was seemingly split between his performance through his no-hitter on June 1st, going 3-2 with a 2.38 ERA in 11 starts, and then a 3-7 record with an 8.27 ERA in the 10 starts after.
What happened during the no-hitter? Santana over-extended himself by throwing 134 pitches to finally give the Mets a no-no, but the high pitch count clearly took its toll on him. None of his other starts went to even a 110 pitches and Santana, who has an ERA of 3.18 in New York, still has something left if he’s preserved correctly.
4. What can we expect from Ike Davis?
Davis should rebound in a big way—possibly an All-Star season.
Davis, the Mets’ first-round pick in 2008, struggled mightily at the beginning of last season and was hitting just .158 through June 8. He was able to rebound enough to hit .270 the rest of the way finishing at .227 with a very respectable 32 home runs and 90 RBIs.
Though that awful start ruined most of his season numbers, Davis was great in 2010 and 2011 posting a combined .271 average with 26 home runs, 96 RBIs, and drawing 89 walks in 652 at-bats.
5. Will the Mets make the playoffs this year?
No, but a playoff run in 2014 certainly is not out of the question for the rebuilding Mets.
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