Matt Gelb here, still with the keys while Andy's on vacation. Over the course of this week, we will analyze what the rest of the NL East has done this offseason in an attempt to knock the Phillies off their three-year perch atop the division. The teams have made most of their moves, so we'll take a look at where they stand leading up to spring training.
Tuesday -- Atlanta Braves
Wednesday -- New York Mets
Thursday -- Florida Marlins
Friday -- Washington Nationals
2009 record: (70-92, 4th place, 23 GB -- 671 runs scored, 757 runs allowed)
Last season in 140 characters or less: Name a player and he likely spent time on the DL. (But Mr. Met stayed healthy.) Redding, Parnell, Figueroa, Nieve, Misch all started games.
In with the new: RHP Kelvim Escobar, RHP Ryota Igarashi, RHP Clint Everts, C Henry Blanco, 3B Mike Hessman, C Chris Coste, LHP Jay Marshall, LF Jason Bay, 2B Russ Adams, RHP R.A. Dickey,
Out with the old: 1B Fernando Tatis, LF Gary Sheffield, RHP J.J. Putz, SS Ramon Martinez, 1B Carlos Delgado, LF Jeremy Reed, RHP Lance Broadway, RHP Tim Redding, LF Cory Sullivan
Biggest move: Jan. 5 -- Signed LF Jason Bay
Because it took so long for the Mets to sign Bay with reportedly few others interested in his services, it begged the question: What was Bay waiting for? Peter Gammons said Bay would rather play in Beirut next season. At his introductory news conference, Bay maintained that wasn't true. The Mets guaranteed him four years and $66 million, so that was plenty enough to make Bay happy about heading to Queens. The native Canadian set career highs in home runs (36) and RBI (119) last season and could be the pop in the middle of the lineup the Mets sorely lacked last season. Mets fans may be upset that the team settled for Bay instead of Matt Holliday, but Bay is a durable player who should live up to his recent performance in the first two years of the contract. It's later in the deal when Bay could regress significantly.
Underrated move: Dec. 18 -- Signed RHP Kelvim Escobar.
OK, so there are few choices. (You didn't think we'd put Chris Coste here, did you?) But Escobar could prove to be a key pitcher for the Mets this season -- if he can recapture the stuff he had a few seasons ago. And that's a big if, of course. Escobar has thrown exactly 5 innings in the past two seasons. Before then, he was an elite pitcher, winning 18 games in 2007 and having a sub-4.00 ERA for four straight seasons. The Mets, among other teams, watched Escobar throw in Venezuela during the offseason and came away impressed enough to sign him to a one-year, $1.25 million deal. It's a low-risk signing and could pay off big-time if Escobar becomes a setup man to Francisco Rodriguez.
Riskiest move: Not adding another starter -- yet
Indications are that the Mets are still in the market for another starting pitcher. They would be wise to add another arm. Obviously, the rotation was ravaged by injury last season, but even if the entire current staff is healthy, there remain serious concerns (none of which involve ace Johan Santana). Mike Pelfrey had a very good 2008 but clearly regressed in 2009. John Maine has been healthy for a full season just once. Jonathon Niese has a promising future, but he is coming off a major injury. And Oliver Perez is simply a headcase. So general manager Omar Minaya would be wise to lock up someone like Joel Pineiro, Jon Garland or Jarrod Washburn to fill out the middle of the rotation.
C Bengie Molina -- The Mets reportedly will sign Molina to a two-year deal in the coming days. He would be the third catcher signed by the club this offseason.
1B Daniel Murphy -- Carlos Delgado could still come back, but at this point, Murphy is penciled in at first.
2B Luis Castillo -- He's been rumored to be out the door all offseason but the Mets have been unable to find a suitor.
3B David Wright -- He insisted Citi Field wasn't what stymied his power numbers. Still, the Mets have to be concerned about the 10 home runs.
SS Jose Reyes -- There are plenty of questions about Reyes' future. He was limited to just 36 games last season.
LF Jason Bay -- Coming off career highs in home runs and RBI, how much of an effect will Citi Field have?
CF Carlos Beltran -- Limited to just 81 games, Beltran was on pace to post his best average and on-base percentage as a Met.
RF Jeff Francoeur -- He doesn't believe in walks, but Francoeur hit .311 in 75 games with the Mets after a midseason deal.
LHP Johan Santana -- Pitching hurt, he still won 13 games with a terrible offense and compiled a 3.13 ERA.
RHP Mike Pelfrey -- He never put it all together after a breakout 2008 season. Pelfrey allowed 213 hits in 184 1/3 innings last year.
RHP John Maine -- Health is always a concern with Maine. He started just 15 games last year and never put it all together.
LHP Jonathon Niese -- Before completely tearing his right hamstring, Niese showed a bit of promise. He is just 23 years old.
LHP Oliver Perez -- Obviously, assuming the Mets sign another starter, Perez is probably the odd man out. The Phillies hope not.
Key bullpen figures:
RHP Francisco Rodriguez -- The record-setting closer saved 27 fewer games in 2009 than he did in 2008. He also became hittable.
LHP Pedro Feliciano -- He's the workhorse of the bullpen. Feliciano has pitched in 78, 86 and 88 games in each of the last three seasons.
RHP Kelvim Escobar -- A major question mark after barely pitching the last two seasons. But he could be important.
RHP Bobby Parnell -- The Mets tried him as a starter. That failed. Now he needs to refine his role as a middle reliever.
The Skinny: Last season was a lost one, about as bad as they get in New York. There is a stigma about the new stadium that the Mets will have to overcome early in the season. But if Molina and Delgado sign, the lineup could be formidable. Still, the pitching has just as many issues as it did last season and until the Mets shore up the rotation (and the shoddy defense behind it), competing will be a challenge.