Closer: Billy Wagner
, 34/39, 2.63 ERA in 2007
RH setup man: Aaron Heilman
, 7-7, 3.03 ERA in 2007
LH setup man: Pedro Feliciano
, 2-2, 3.09 ERA in 2007
The new guys
Given what's at stake following the collapse of the 2007 Mets and the '09 opening of Citi Field, the acquisition of Santana may come to stand as the most significant acquisition the club has made since its '83 trade for Keith Hernandez. If Santana isn't the game's premier starting pitcher, then he's second only to the Red Sox's Josh Beckett. His impact can make the Mets a sounder team that is greater than the sum of its parts. And he sure can pitch.
Schneider: A left-handed-hitting catcher is a rarity these days. Schneider isn't an offensive force, but his receiving, throwing and handling of pitchers is what manager Willie Randolph and general manager Omar Minaya coveted. And that he bats left-handed provides Randolph with the ingredients for a catching platoon, and it allows the Mets to get more from right-handed-hitting backstop Ramon Castro.
Likewise, Church's left-handed bat balances the Mets' batting order. Every opponent has more right-handed than left-handed starting pitching, so Church will play almost regularly. His presence may come as more of a right fielder against left-handed pitching. The 43 doubles and 70 RBIs Church produced with the Nationals last season would have ranked first and fourth, respectively, with the Mets -- and the 2007 Nationals were an offensively challenged team. Moreover, Church is a capable outfielder, comfortable in right, center and left.
Wise worked more than an inning on seven occasions and made 56 appearances last season. Then again, he pitched merely 53 2/3 innings, so limitations do exists with this right-handed veteran of seven seasons. He tends to be more effective against left-handed hitters.
Steven Register: The Mets selected Register from the roster of the Rockies' Class A affiliate in the Rule 5 Draft. He has credentials as a Minor League closer and a chance to find work with the Mets.
Pagan was acquired to provide outfield depth. Chances are that he'll do that in New Orleans with the Mets' Triple-A affiliate. Though a less dynamic player than Endy Chavez, he provides the same sort of reserve strength.
The numbers Stokes produced with the Rays last season are not too encouraging, but most of them came when he pitched in relief, and he is more comfortable as a starter.
Prospects to watch
Kunz was the first player the Mets selected in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft and the 42nd player chosen overall. Kunz is a hard-throwing, 6-foot-5, right-handed closer from Oregon State whom the club expects to develop quickly.
Fernando Martinez: The Mets' primary prospect among position players will be in Spring Training for the second time. His left-handed power is eye-catching. But remember not to trust what you see in exhibition games.
Returning from injury
He underwent surgery to remove debris from his right knee. He is expected to be fully recovered before camp opens.
Cold weather will undoubtedly remind Delgado of the broken bone in his left hand suffered on the last day of the '07 season. But he said last month that he anticipated being ready for Spring Training games.
How does a man who has had surgery on each knee limp? That's the idea. No limp, no pain, fewer days off needed. Beltran underwent minor surgery in October, and he ought to be pain-free.
His damaged and repaired right shoulder is a hinge critical to the Mets' bullpen. Sanchez has been throwing for weeks. Only opponents will determine how well he has recovered.
For all the public will say about Glavine's poorly timed, poorly executed final Mets start, he will be sorely missed. Before his last three starts fell flat, Glavine contributed 190 innings, posting a 13-6 record with a 3.88 ERA. The team had won 18 of 31 of his starts. Who among the current Mets starters can be expected to match that?
Paul Lo Duca:
The club wanted a more defensively intent catcher, brought in Schneider and allowed Lo Duca to depart via free agency. Veteran players acknowledged that Lo Duca's offense can be replaced, but they are concerned the team will miss his combativeness and energy. The team was lacking in those areas last season.
The acquisition of Church should offset Green's departure. Green had his moments in his brief tour with the Mets, but he ultimately was a shell of the productive player that he had been with the Blue Jays and Dodgers.
The Mets and Nationals are to play 18 times during the regular season, so the Mets will have regular opportunities to see what they traded. Milledge's future is likely to be brighter than his uneven past with the Mets.
Shea Stadium shouted "Good riddance," and the Mets unloaded him. Mota was mostly inadequate in his late-starting 2007. But it is hardly a given that the club now has a pitcher who will match the 59 innings he threw and be more effective.
The same thinking applies here. Who is to compensate for the 53 innings Sele threw?
Triple play: Three questions that need answers
How will the back end of the rotation fare?
2007 hitting leaders (min. 200 at-bats)
Avg.: Wright, .325
OBP: Wright, .416
SLG: Wright, .546
Runs: Reyes, 119
RBIs: Beltran, 112
Hits: Wright, 196
2B: Wright, 42
3B: Reyes, 12
HR: Beltran, 33
SB: Reyes, 78
2007 pitching leaders (min. 30 IP)
IP: Glavine, 200 1/3
W: Maine and Perez, 15
L: Maine, 10
Win %: Glavine, .619 (13-8)
S: Wagner, 34
ERA: Perez, 3.56
K: Maine, 180
K/9: Perez, 8.8
WHIP: Maine, 1.27
1. Whether a team can prosper with a couple of No. 2 or 3 starters is no longer the question. Now the issue is how
much the Mets get from, in order, Mike Pelfrey, Hernandez, Perez, Maine and Pedro Martinez. Each will benefit from the presence of Santana because none will be asked to do so much. As effective as Martinez was in his 2007 cameo -- and he was a revelation -- how much does he have at age 36? If Pelfrey blossoms and "El Duque" becomes a reliever, how will he handle the change of assignment? But all remaining questions involving the rotation can be answered more readily than the one that existed last week: Who's No. 1?
2. Whither Delgado?
3. How much can the Mets expect from Sanchez?
The Mets hope that a combination of confusion, trying to do too much and the resulting lack of confidence were the lone ingredients of Delgado's subpar 2007. But he was unable to catch up with wheelhouse fastballs. Bat speed seldom goes away and returns. Delgado can have more influence than any other member of the regular batting order.
The answer will remain unknown until May. By then, the team will have an idea of how much velocity and stamina Sanchez will have. If he is comparable to what he was before his 2006 taxi accident, the bullpen would seemingly be a force. If he isn't capable, the 'pen will seemingly be thin.
The bottom line
Are the Mets merely improved or vastly improved? Their defense and rotation clearly have been upgraded. The bullpen might be better. And if the other facets of their performance are improved, the offense doesn't have to be as dominating as it was two years ago.
The team's greatest strength, however, appears to be that it has no conspicuous weakness.