Springtime Storylines: Are the Mets going to be able to get anyone out?

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Between now and Opening Day, HBT will take a look at each of the 30
teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally
breaking down their chances for the 2010 season.  Next up: The Mets. Truthers, please queue up on the right; Self-hating Mets fans please queue up on the left.


The
big question: Are the Mets going to be able to get anyone out?

Johan Santana got pounded yesterday, but he’s Johan Santana so you know he’ll be OK.  Ollie Perez, John Maine and Mike Pelfrey have been pounded all spring and they don’t have any Johan Santananess about them to inspire similar optimism.  Make no bones about it: Mets fans should be worried about their rotation. The upside of their non-Santana starters is decidedly “meh” and there hasn’t been a lot of reason to bank on upside this spring. Maine is a health concern and his strikeout rates have gone down for three straight years. Perez was simply abused yesterday and has an 8.66 ERA this spring.

But it didn’t have to be this way. The Mets knew they had rotation problems that they needed to address way back in October, but they spent the winter doing just about nothing to improve matters.  Randy Wolf, Joel Pinero and any number of other available starters got nothing more than a sniff from Omar Minaya. We can talk about team health and PR and all of that, but the Mets’ biggest problem entering the season is borne of the front office’s utter failure to address the team’s biggest need: starting pitching.

But before anyone accuses me of simply being a hater, I’ll say that I like Jon Niese and think that he could be a perfectly decent major league starter this year. Perez, Pelfrey and Maine scare the bejesus out of me.

So what
else is
going on?

  • I think the offense will rebound this year. David Wright is too good to have another punchless season. The Mets “babying” him not withstanding, Jose Reyes will play games for the Mets very soon and will provide a nice upgrade over all of the non-Reyes shortstop options. Same goes for Carlos Beltran. Sure, the Mets only scored 671 runs last season, but that really wasn’t the Mets.
  • The injury story has been beaten to death, but the beatings have focused mostly on the issue of whether they were a function of horrible bad luck, organizational incompetence or some combination of both. What’s been less noted is just how poor Omar Minaya was at finding fill-ins for the injured players last season. Alex Cora is bad even for a backup, and bringing in guys like Mike Jacobs and Gary Matthews don’t inspire a lot of confidence. If the injury bug bites this team again it will be an ugly summer in Queens.

  • I don’t like the idea of Jenrry Mejia in the bullpen to start the season. This is Joba part deux. He won’t get any chance to work on his secondary pitches in that role, and given the sorry state of the Mets starting pitching I have no idea why they would go out of their way to prevent the develop one that could be pretty spectacular.
  • If the Mets don’t contend — and I don’t think they will — I think it’s highly likely that both Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel will be canned, the Wilpons will talk about starting fresh and the Mets’ chances of competing in the near term will disappear.

So how
are they gonna do?

Contrary to the sheer amount of ink spent criticizing the Mets, they are not a horrible team (a horrible organization, maybe, which is a different thing). If they stay healthy they can be perfectly respectable. But I really can’t stress how little I like this rotation, and I think it will ultimately sink them.

Prediction: Fourth place in the NL East, though if things break just so they could easily pass the Marlins for third. I think there’s about zero chance that they’ll compete with the Braves and Phillies, though.

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Mets leaning on Jay Bruce, Neil Walker as Lucas Duda insurance

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 12:  Pinch hitter Lucas Duda #21 of the New York Mets walks back to the dugout after striking out for the first out of the ninth inning against Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on May 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  The Dodgers won 5-0.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.

Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”

Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”

The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.

Jason Kipnis diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians celebrates after scoring a run on a wild pitch thrown by Jon Lester #34 of the Chicago Cubs (not pictured) during the fifth inning in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.

There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.

Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.