A postseason littered with Mets connections is now complete. Longtime Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran fell short in his bid for a World Series title with the Cardinals. So too did Marlon Byrd and John Buck in Pittsburgh, along with a handful of other players who once called Queens home.
For the history buffs, the Red Sox lost their first two World Series games since the Mets beat them four times in 1986. Boston went on to win its third World Series title since that time -- one more than the Mets have in their history.
Now, the Mets are set to begin the task of constructing their next winner, which raises the obvious and immediate question...
The Mets desperately need outfield help, just like last year. How realistic is it to think they will sign Jacoby Ellsbury or Shin-Soo Choo?
-- John P., New York
Not very. Speaking this month with a number of people both inside and outside the Mets organization, I came away with the impression that no one really expects general manager Sandy Alderson to commit a $100 million contract to any one player -- and both Scott Boras clients you mentioned should command something in the nine-figure neighborhood.
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Though the 32 home runs Ellsbury hit in 2011 were a clear aberration, he still led the Majors in stolen bases this year at age 30, slashing .298/.355/.426. With the Rangers and Mariners both rumored to be coveting Ellsbury's services, it is unlikely the Mets will even make a play at him.
Choo, 31, is a more realistic target given his skill set -- a .423 on-base percentage in 2013 and a .389 career mark -- and projected price. It's possible Choo could be had for less than $100 million, though not for much less. Given all that, the Mets are likely to pursue him, but may quickly drop out if the bidding grows too hot. With Alderson looking to spend some of his surplus cash on a starting pitcher, a new bullpen and a shortstop, dedicating a huge chunk of money to a single outfielder is unlikely.
So no, it's not realistic to hope the Mets sign either star outfielder in this year's free-agent class -- not impossible, but not realistic. Expect the Mets instead to pursue lesser outfield names such as David Murphy, Nate McLouth or perhaps even Beltran, who is a free agent again at age 36. In terms of projected future value, there is a pretty sizeable dropoff from Ellsbury and Choo to the next-best options, so it will be interesting to see how the Mets proceed.
How did Juan Lagares not win a Gold Glove?
-- George T., New York
The fact that Lagares lost is not all that disturbing. By most measures, Carlos Gomez was by far the best defensive center fielder in baseball, making him a worthy recipient of the award.
But the fact that Lagares was not even nominated is indeed a bit puzzling, particularly considering Rawlings' new emphasis on advanced defensive metrics. Despite spending a good chunk of the year in the Minors, Lagares finished second behind Gomez among National League center fielders in UZR/150 and Defensive Runs Saved, both of them telling -- albeit flawed -- defensive metrics.
The knock on Gold Glove awards has always been their loose correlation with star power and offensive production, and Lagares simply may have been the latest victim of that. If he puts up another defensive season in 2014 like he did this year, Lagares should quickly start receiving more awards season love.
With the Blue Jays clearly one of the most disappointing teams in the Majors, any chance they clean house and unload their highest-price players like Jose Reyes? He only has four years remaining on his contract, so it's no longer onerous, and the Mets are full of low-cost DH-types like Lucas Duda and Wilmer Flores who cannot field and can be offered in trade.
-- Jon S., Washington
It's an interesting thought, and you have to think Reyes would welcome a return to Flushing considering how his last two years have gone. But it's unlikely the Blue Jays would do something like the Marlins did and give up on their win-now mentality after one lost season. Plus, if Alderson was unwilling to part with cash alone to re-sign Reyes two winters ago, surely he won't give up premium prospects to bring him back now.
Is it realistic to hope that in a few years, the Mets can have Jon Niese be their No. 5 starter behind Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard?
-- Baruch K., Queens, N.Y.
Possible? Sure. Realistic? Not as much. Though Harvey, Wheeler and Syndergaard all boast higher ceilings than Niese, the odds of all three of them reaching those ceilings while staying healthy are slim. That's why pitching depth is so important. Despite any team's best-laid plans, pitchers get hurt all the time. Others don't pan out as they're supposed to. So a left-hander like Niese, who is a proven middle-of-the-rotation starter, will be difficult to overtake on the organizational depth chart.
If that answer came off too negative, it shouldn't have -- it's more a commentary on Niese's value than anything. Harvey has already established himself as a big league ace, and should resume pitching like one once he recovers from Tommy John surgery. Wheeler is a good bet to break out in 2014 based on what he did this season, and Mets types have been drooling all year over Syndergaard, now one of the top pitching prospects in baseball.
The wild card of that bunch is Montero, who has done nothing but put up eye-popping numbers all the way through the upper Minors. Regardless, many scouts still see Montero as a future reliever due to his lack of a reliable third pitch; this season will be a critical opportunity for him to rise above that stigma.
How would you rate the shortstop prospects in the Mets' farm system? When can one or any of them be considered a real solution to the Mets' struggles at shortstop since losing Reyes to free agency?
-- Fitni D., Keene, N.H.
This is why the Mets will spend significant time courting free-agent shortstops Stephen Drew and Jhonny Peralta this winter: despite the organization's recent emphasis on drafting and developing shortstops, the position remains a weakness within their farm system.
The Mets' top pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, Gavin Cecchini, hit .273 with virtually no power for Class A Brooklyn this season, missing nearly a full month due to an ankle sprain. The next-highest ranked middle infielder in New York's system, Dilson Herrera, is much more of a second baseman, and no other candidate ranks in the Mets' top 20 on MLB.com's Prospect Watch. (Wilmer Flores, who came through the system as a shortstop, is no longer a realistic option at the position.)
That's not to say the Mets can't develop a solid shortstop over the next few years. Cecchini is still young and talented enough to turn his career around in a hurry, as is Phillip Evans, who excited some of the team's talent evaluators heading into this season. But with no impact shortstop on the immediate horizon, the Mets must either stick with Ruben Tejada or acquire a high-priced replacement.
With the emergence of Travis d'Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki in the Mets' Minor League system, have the Mets given any thought to moving one -- notably d'Arnaud since he seems to be injury prone -- to the outfield?
-- Vincent D., Boynton Beach, Fla.
Understand that much of what makes d'Arnaud a top prospect is his position. An elite receiver, d'Arnaud drew rave reviews as a rookie for his pitch framing abilities and his work with the staff. He may not ever wield a difference-making bat, but should hit more than enough to be a solid regular. As a catcher, that is an extremely valuable skill set. In the outfield or at first base, not so much.
So no, d'Arnaud is not switching positions anytime soon. As for Plawecki, there are plenty of skeptics around the game who want to see him succeed at an age-appropriate level before even crowning him a top prospect as a catcher. (Plawecki did much of his damage this season as a 22-year-old at Class A Savannah, in a league that typically skews a bit younger than that.) There is no reason to move him at this juncture.
I get the sense Daniel Murphy is underappreciated by the Mets. As a hitter, he reminds me of Wade Boggs. Defensively, he plays a solid second base. Is he part of the future for this club?
-- Andrew C., Bayside, N.Y.
I think a lot of that underappreciation stems from the fact that until this year, Murphy never hit for much power, reached base with aplomb or played strong defense -- three of this generation's most important requirements for position players. That tied Murphy's value almost exclusively to his batting average, a stat that more and more front-office types distrust.
Yet evaluators have slowly gained an appreciation for Murphy. His ability to make contact is elite, while his durability -- 317 games and 1,309 plate appearances over the past two seasons -- is also undeniably valuable. Given the strides Murphy has made at his adopted defensive position, there is reason to believe he can continue improving that area of his game as well.
The problem with Murphy is that he will be arbitration-eligible for the second time this season, escalating his salary to around $5 million. I found it telling that COO Jeff Wilpon did not include Murphy among his list of four Mets players guaranteed spots on next year's roster, and it would not surprise me to see the team aggressively shop Murphy this winter. His value may never be higher than it is right now.