As a Mets fan, it is most frustrating because any free agent, no matter how little the price, can be worked into the Mets roster and make the team a little deeper. And because of this lack of interest, the Mets will employ players on their team that don't belong in the major leagues. In return, there will be players who will start the 2012 season without a team. The players union should be concerned about what the Mets are doing, even though they can't prove the Mets are colluding against bringing in players.
So the Mets will go into opening day with what they have right now, exciting right? I wanted to compose a list of the top ten concerns going in to the 2012 season, but there a lot more than that. So, I had to keep it to the composition of the roster. That means concerns like David Wright and Jason Bay returning to form, Lucas Duda playing right field, Ruben Tejada playing every day at shortstop, Mike Pelfrey getting over his psychological issues and Ike Davis returning from his surgery all have to be left off this list. If I missed anything, I apologize and feel free to leave it in the comment section below. Without further due, here are the top ten roster concerns that the Mets refused to address. I will refer to this before opening day as well as at the all-star break and the end of the 2012 season and see how many of these issues blow up in the Mets face.
10. Frank Francisco as the closer: I understand the Mets could have done worse. The main reason I think the Mets upgraded their bullpen is the addition of Ramon Ramirez. Francisco has had some injury problems in his career. He had just 17 saves being the Toronto Blue Jays closer last season. That was not the first time Francisco was given a closer's job and he wasn't the primary closer. He was given the job in spring in 2010 with the Texas Rangers and lost the job to eventual rookie of the year Neftali Feliz. He spent some time as a middle reliever, so his 49-70 save completion ratio is not as bad as it looks. The bigger questions are whether he will last the entire season as the closer and if he can stay healthy for the entire season. Good chance Ramon Ramirez becomes the closer and if that happens, what kind of role does Francisco have for the balance of the next two years?
9. Jon Rauch as 8th inning set-up man: Rauch is coming off a terrible season with the Toronto Blue Jays. The optimist would point to his 2010 year with the Minnesota Twins when he was 3-1 with a 3.12 ERA and 21 saves in 53 games. But, 2011 should be a concern. He finished with a 4.85 ERA and gave up 11 homeruns in just 52 innings pitched. He's not this that old, just 33, but there were many others the Mets could have signed for $3.5 million or less. Perhaps a return to the National League will help Rauch and lets understand that there are eight bigger concerns with this team than the back of the Mets bullpen.
8. Ronny Cedeno: I didn't like the Cedeno signing from the beginning. Jack Wilson and Ryan Theriot had more versatility and if Alderson knew then that he wouldn't bring in any additional depth, a roster spot is being tied up for a player who will only be able to do one thing, back up at shortstop. Cedeno will not be an option as a pinch hitter, perhaps can play 2nd base and that's it and has little to no speed.
7. Scott Hairston- back up centerfielder: Last year, the Mets started the season with Hairston and Willie Harris backing up in centerfield and this year it will be just Hairston. They also ended up keeping Jason Pridie to play CF for the remainder of the season. With Pridie gone, the Mets have nobody else but Hairston to do the job. Yes, options like Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Matt DenDekker exist, but they are most likely to start the season in AAA unless either have a tremendous spring training.
6. Last bullpen spot: My biggest concern here is if the last spot goes to DJ Carrasco because he is making $1.2 million for 2012. Pedro Beato may need spend a little more time in AAA. Some say there is a need for another lefty reliever. If they need to give the job to a lefthander, it will be either journeyman Daniel Herrera or minor league starting pitcher Robert Carson. There is no other legitimate contenders for the position unless you want to include Garrett Olson and Chuck James. A perfect spot for the team to bring a couple of proven arms who will take a minor league contract at this point, but Sandy says the team is "all set".
5. Daniel Murphy 2B: Murphy is coming off a very good offensive season but still faces many critics. Some feel he may not be able to keep up with the .320 average and may not be the offensive player he was in 2011. Murphy's biggest concern will be his switching to playing second base full time in 2012. His last two seasons have ended because of collisions at second base turning double plays and he is not known to be the most fleet footed. I understand he is working very hard to get himself ready, but this has to be a concern. If he struggles a little bit defensively, it could effect him at the plate. If it is determined that he can't play second base, there may not be another place he can play at a regular basis on this team. If it works, his numbers should stand out among 2nd basemen in the NL.
4. Mike Nickeas- back-up catcher: I don't have a problem if Nickeas won the job in spring training, but it seems like he is getting the job by default. He's not a bad game caller, but has not spent a full season in the big leagues. Josh Thole needs to be challenged for playing time, and it does not look good if Nickeas is playing everyday against left handed pitchers. Perhaps Rob Johnson can win the job, but Thole is the undisputed best catcher on the team and will get the majority of playing time. Still options available, but the back-up catcher will be one of the team's biggest weaknesses.
3. Mike Baxter/ Adam Loewen- back-up outfielder/ first off the bench: It will be hard to see either of these players starting in the outfield if either Jason Bay or Lucas Duda get hurt. Baxter looked overmatched in AAA last season and despite a good 2011 for Loewen, he may need a little more time to gain confidence. Neither would be considered a 4th outfielder on any other team and neither give a fan confidence as a pinch hitter. Another spot where you would like to see a veteran compete, but it looks like Baxter or Loewen will be in Queens come opening day.
2. Miguel Batista- sixth starter: More speculation states that Johan Santana may not be ready for opening day. Alderson still doesn't think the Mets need a veteran to compete? Miguel Batista is a competitor. I like what he showed last season. But, at 41, I can't see him making 30 starts for the Mets this season. We continue to hear that the Mets will not rush Matt Harver, Jeurys Familia and Zach Wheeler, but there is little on this roster that gives the team insurance if one or more starter goes down. And is Santana not the one of the biggest question marks among starting pitchers in baseball this season?
1. Andres Torres CF: Some of the prior concerns have helped solidify Torres as the number one concern. He hit .221 with 4 HR and 19 RBI in 112 games with the Giants last season. He is, without a doubt, the Mets starting centerfielder. There is also nobody who will be considered to play CF unless Torres gets hurt. When he needs a day off, Hairston is the Mets CF. Jon Heyman agrees with the executive that says Torres is a fifth OF. There is hope that he will be better in the clubhouse than Angel Pagan, but that will only be evident if he is a better hitter than 2011. Why, if the price is right, would the Mets not want to have more depth in their outfield?
I'm sure there are more concerns that will effect the 2012 New York Mets. As I have said before, this team is one major injury away from playing non-major leaguers for the forth consecutive season. We all know the hope is in the future. But, lets be honest, it will a miracle for this team to be competitive. They will need everybody to be healthy, everybody to perform at the top of their game and some of the non-major league players on this projected team need to play above their heads. Good luck!