The New York Mets are no strangers to rebuilds. Through the last 52 years, fans have endured tear-downs, start overs and what-were-they-thinkings. Results varied.
The ’86 World Series Mets had youth and Experience. Early in the decade, GM Frank Cashen knew he needed some blue-collar veterans to lead his young stars. He traded for Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter. More recently, Omar Minaya took the sexy name approach. He spent big money on K-Rod and Billy Wagner, and traded for Carlos Beltran and other stars.
The point is, the formula for creating a winner is complicated and imprecise. It’s something like one part leader, two parts fill-ins. Or maybe reverse.
Well, in Wright and Harvey, the Mets have some building blocks. Zack Wheeler and pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard are electric young arms ready to to make major contributions. The support beams are in place, now GM Sandy Alderson needs to build around them.
Ike Davis may be another piece. His power is legit, but how useful is power if you can’t make contact? In today’s superstar-or-bust society, flashy is the new consistent. That needs to change.
Winning is about consistency. Instead of reverting back to Minayan overspending, Alderson must stick to his plan and fill out his roster with affordable, reliable veterans to make the team viable by 2014. That isn’t to say the Mets can’t get involved on any of the big fish. Shin-Soo Choo’s on-base skills would be a great fit for the Amazin’s, but while the offseason headlines will be dominated by enormous contracts for Cano and Ellsbury, here are four mid-tier players the Mets should also target:
Corey Hart, Milwaukee Brewers
Boy, things can change quickly in a year. In 2012, Corey Hart hit .270/.334/.507 with 30 home runs – his fifth 20+ home run season. He’s in the last year of a team friendly three-year deal, and before knee surgery sidelined him for all of 2013, he appeared in line for a sizable contract in the offseason. It looks like he’ll
have to settle for a one-year deal to prove the knee is fine, but when he’s healthy, Hart produces (128 OPS+ from 2010-12). If Davis doesn’t produce
soon, Alderson could start interviewing for his replacement.
Omar Infante (Photo credit: Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Omar Infante, Detroit Tigers
Don’t count out versatility. Infante, 31, is a strong middle infielder, but he’s also played every other position except first base. And after five years in the NL East, the Mets should be familiar with his style. He’s a bat control, career .280 hitter who rarely strikes out. He’s no Cano, but his 99 wRC+ over the last two years ranks tenth among shortstops and sixth among second baseman. Mets shortstops have combined for an 86 wRC+ (12th in the NL) over that span. That’s a serious upgrade on a relatively cheap contract.
Carlos Beltran, St. Louis Cardinals
I know starting the All-Star game usually makes you a top-tier guy free agent, but Beltran will be 37 next April. Top prospect Oscar Taveras is knocking on the door in St. Louis, and if they were willing let Pujols walk, you can bet they won’t overpay for an aging Beltran. That’s where Sandy comes in. Wouldn’t it be awesome to see Beltran in Flushing for another year or two? Fans couldn’t appreciate how good Beltran actually was until they suffered through a year of Lucas Duda lumbering around in right field. They don’t recognize it yet, but Beltran is quietly becoming a no doubt Hall-of-Famer. He’ll get a two or three-year deal with a high dollar figure, and he should get it from the Mets.
Nate Schierholtz, Chicago Cubs
Like Hairston’s last year, Marlon Byrd’s resurgence might price him out of Flushing in the offseason. Schierholtz would make a decent replacement. The lefty-hitting, righty-throwning outfielder won a championship with the Giants in 2010, and almost again in 2012 before he was traded for Hunter Pence. Schierholtz’s raw numbers have never been spectacular, but he’s very effective when used properly. In a platoon this year against right handed pitching he’s hit at a .278/.331/.526 clip. His production against righties and his strong defense in right field fit nicely on any team, and you can never have too many of those guys. He’s also controllable through 2014. for The Cubs aren’t winning anytime soon and need to get younger. A low-level pitching prospect could be enough to pry him loose.