Before the 2013 season started, most Mets fans were quite aware that the team would not be competitive. Many were perfectly willing to take another year of losing baseball if it meant that the team was moving toward eventual perennial competitiveness. What’s another losing season if it meant that the team’s top prospects were inching closer to making their debut, the young core players were continuing their growth, and Sandy Alderson started making the necessary moves to fill in the glaring holes on the roster?
Well, the prospects are inching their way closer, albeit not quite as fast as some would like. We haven’t quite gotten to the point in the season where major trades take place, but we’re close. Alderson also has the offseason to improve the team via trades and free agent signings. The problem in the Mets’ plan moving forward lies in the continued growth of the young core players, or lack thereof. In fact, several core players have seemed to regress in 2013.
Jonathon Niese, whom the Mets signed to a five-year, $25.5 million contract extension last April, has certainly not performed how the team had hoped this year. He’s currently sporting a 4.15 ERA, his WHIP has ballooned to 1.575, and his walk rate has gone up while his strikeout rate has gone down. It’s still early in the season, and Niese has time to turn it around, but there has to be some concern at this point.
When he was healthy, the 2013 version of Ruben Tejada knocked more baseballs around on defense than he did at the plate. Although many thought (though not necessarily agreed with) the team would move forward with Ruben Tejada at shortstop, Alderson made it quite clear when he revealed to Mike Francesca on WFAN that he did not view Tejada (or “left fielder” Lucas Duda) as core players. Though certainly not a surprising fact in and of itself, that Alderson was so upfront about it was a bit unexpected. Through 50 games before his injury, Tejada was hitting just .209/.267/.262 with an OPS+ of 51.
Unlike Tejada and Duda, Alderson did insist that Ike Davis was still part of the team’s core. Davis’ struggles have been well covered so it won’t be rehashed here. Still, the fact that the Mets’ first baseman of the future is struggling in AAA is enough to make any Mets fan wonder what direction the team is actually headed.
It’s been often stated that the Mets hoped to start being competitive by 2014. So who on this 2013 Mets roster makes up this supposed competitive core? David Wright, Matt Harvey, Bobby Parnell, Niese, and Davis? Maybe Dillon Gee and Daniel Murphy? Where is the rest of the core going to come from next year?
Zack Wheeler will be up, and hopes are high for the young right-hander. We may see Wilmer Flores and possibly Cesar Puello this year too, and each of these players certainly bring a bit of hope and excitement with them. But beyond that things are looking pretty grim for the 2014 Mets. Alderson sure has his work cut out for him, and we can only hope he has some magic up his sleeve.