To say this team has been snakebitten with injuries over the past couple of seasons is an under-statement. As a fan, you get tired of hearing about how good the team could be if everybody stays healthy. Already David Wright is experiencing problems with his ribs and Ike Davis has valley fever. Not to mention Scott Hairston and his oblique injury that may cause him to miss the beginning of the season. Injuries are a part of the game as even on a good year, some players will miss time. That is where depth comes in; and right now the Mets have little to know depth, especially when it comes to position players.
The Mets major moves this offseason consisted of adding free agent closer Frank Francisco and set up man Jon Rauch. They finished their day of business by trading OF Angel Pagan to the San Francisco Giants for RHP Ramon Ramirez and OF Andres Torres. Other than that, the only offseason move they made was signing SS Ronny Cedeno, formerly of the Pirates.
Ruben Tejada (.284, 0, 36) takes over at SS for Jose Reyes. A lot will be on his plate this year as he may try to be somebody he is not. Terry Collins has decided to move him to the bottom of the lineup which I think is an excellent move so he can just worry about being a shortstop. Tejada will struggle if he tries to be Jose Reyes, which he obviously is not. He is a very fundementally sound player and should become a better hitter over time. The leadoff spot goes to Torres. The Mets are hoping Torres can hit closer to his 2010 form (.268, 16, 63 in 139 games) as opposed to the 2011 version (.221, 4, 19 in 112 games).
Daniel Murphy is getting the opportunity to be the everyday 2B, he will also bat 2nd in the batting order. Murphy has worked hard this offseason as a 2B (he always does) but it could be a tough task to ask him to play there all season and be healthy (he has injured his knees the last 2 years turning a double play at 2B). Justin Turner had a very surprising 2011 season (.260, 4, 51 in 117 games) and should provide some insurance at 2B as well as 3B and maybe 1B. Cedeno will back up Tejada at SS.
Injuries last season to Davis (who never played again after May) and Wright (who missed 60 games) stalled any progress the team had made after a 5-13 start. The trades of RHP Francisco Rodriguez and OF Carlos Beltran affected the team and the knockout punch was when they lost Reyes and Murphy on in the same game. Having Davis and Wright for the whole season makes them better on paper then they were last year. Losing Reyes and not having Beltran gives the team some ground to make up. Some of the ground can come from Jason Bay, who has not hit for much power since coming to the Mets two years ago. Lucas Duda played very well in the second half last season hitting .292, 10, 50 in 100 games. Josh Thole has to work on his defense, as it affected his offense last year.
The success or failure of the Mets pitching staff will be affected by the health of Johan Santana. Santana has looked to be in great shape and is determined to pitch opening day against the Braves. If Santana has no setbacks and can pitch the full season, it will give the Mets an advantage they do not have at the moment. RA Dickey (8-13, 3.28) and Jonathon Niese (11-11, 4.40) are the best of the rest in a rotation that has little backup resources. Mike Pelfrey (7-13, 4.74) and Dillon Gee (13-6. 4.43) round out a rotation that does not have a 6th starter if somebody has to start the season on the DL. Miguel Batista and rookie Matt Harvey would be the favorites to land a spot if Santana or somebody else doesn't start the season. Harvey has come into camp with the determination to make the team, but it is still very likely he will start the season in AAA, perhaps even AA.
The bullpen is improved from last year, when it blew seemingly every 8th or 9th inning lead in the second half of 2011. Francisco was 1-4, 3.55 and 17 saves for Toronto last season, missing some time with an injury. Rauch filled in as the Blue Jays closer, but had a tough season (5-4, 4.85, 11 saves). Rauch gave up 11 HR in 52 IP last year, something that needs to be better this year. I like the acquisition of Ramirez, who was 3-3, 2.62, 4 saves with the Giants last year. He also showed a little moxy when he beaned Shane Victorino of the Phillies and walked up to him afterwards, starting a fight between the two teams. Manny Acosta (4-1, 3.45, 4 sv) and Bobby Parnell (4-6, 3.64, 6 sv) should be part of the mix and Tim Byrdak (2-1, 3.72 in 72 games) did a very good job last year.
Other than Turner and possibly Cedeno, the Mets have no bench. It is not worth breaking down stats for Mike Baxter, Adam Loewen and Mike Nickeas, all of whom have spent little to no time in the big leagues. Maybe one of them can surprise. Perhaps OF prospect Kirk Nieuwenhuis can impress the brass enough to earn a spot on the team to start the season. Perhaps Sandy Alderson will see what is out there towards the end of spring training, but that is unlikely.
Vegas was down on the Mets when it came to the O/U. Only the Orioles (69.5) and the Astros (64) were given lower numbers than the Mets (70.5). Maybe Vegas is predicting the Mets will continue their salary purge and have an all-time bad season. I think they will win more than that, finishing 76-86, last place in the NL East. The other four teams in the division are better at this point. If Wright, Bay and Davis put up the numbers they are capable of, they could do better. Also, if Santana becomes Santana again, they will exceed expectations. If you are not rooting for that, root for the younger pitchers in the organization to continue to develop and maybe for the team to land a future star in this year's draft. I think they may be better than people think.