Monday, March 14, 2011

The Core

You will often hear teams refer to their "Core" players. The guys that make up the crux of their team. Sometimes, like in St. Louis, this can be one player. Sometimes, like in the Bronx, it's a group of guys that you raised from the farm yourself. Sometimes, like in Philly, you sign half of the players in your core. Once upon a time, the Mets had a core of Wright, Reyes, Beltran, Santana and Delgado. That isn't the case anymore.

The Current Core 4:

David Wright - David Wright is still the face of this franchise. When David Wright's current contract runs out... the Mets WILL re-new it. They WILL sign a long-term contract with Wright for numerous reasons and he will continue to be a member of the core. Not only is David Wright the rock of the club but he's also the rock of the lineup. He's been healthy and productive every year since he cam up. That is not a super easy thing to achieve.

Ike Davis - The next piece of the core is not Jose Reyes or Carlos Beltran OR Johan Santana. Ike Davis is the next piece of the team. His bat is respected... though a little under-valued. (Adam LaRoche... REALLY?!?) Ike Davis has a sweet glove and a steady approach... not to mention enough power to start leading this team in HRs as early as 2011. Davis will be a Met for a long time. Yes... that means we won't be getting Pujols. Does anyone really think he'd come to Queens, given his options?

Jose Reyes - Until the day he's traded or leaves via free agency, Jose is part of the Met core. Now... I already traded Jose from my fantasy keeper league (for Elvis Andrus and Carlos Santana) as part of my personal process of distancing myself from a player I love before he goes. I just don't want another Robin Ventura or Scott Gomez situation. When Reyes shows up in a Yankees or Phillies jersey in 2012, I don't want to be TOO upset.

Jonathan Niese - Pelfrey isn't super special and Johan Santana will only be with the Mets for so long... Niese, is the core pitcher we should focus on. Now... there is nothing wrong with Pelfrey or Santana or even Dickey and Young. They just aren't going to ever be the heart and soul of the New York Mets. Niese looks like he's going to get the chance in 2011 to be the heart and soul of the New York Met's rotation. For better or worse.

Hired Guns:

Jason Bay - Jason Bay was one of Omar Minaya's WORST signings. The year the Mets desperately needed pitching... he signed a streaky hitter who's biggest success came in a park with a short (extremely high) left field fence. With all of that, I can't fault Bay for anything. He plays hard and tries his best every time he plays. If he rebounds, his bat will be a big part of the success the Mets manage, but he will NEVER be part of the Met core.

Carlos Beltran - He was once part of the core. In a contract year, playing injured, coming off injuries and switching to a new position... I've moved on. I moved on during his second year on the team, but I think most people have moved on by now. The Mets are praying that Beltran can play enough and a well enough to give them some value via trade. At this point a prospect of any caliber and salary relief might be enough. If Beltran can be healthy and the Mets are winning... I still trade him at the deadline.

Johan Santana - Santana is on the Mets beyond 2011, but he doesn't look like he will be part of the Met's future success, so I am pulling this injury waiting to happen from the core player list. Like Bay, I like Santana as a person and a player, but there becomes a time where you are not part of the team's current and future success, you merely are a talented player getting a pay-check. I think Santana is at that point.

Francisco Rodriguez - No question about playing for money with K-Rod. K-Rod wants his extension to kick in and that means he needs to pitch well. If he does pitch well, he will close games and he will be a burden through 2012. If he does not, he's gone. It's really that simple. I was excited when Francisco was signed. I can't even fault Omar on the contract too much. All I can say is, THAT, is far too much to spend on ANY closer.

Future Core:

Jose Reyes - I list Reyes twice because of the chance that Jose plays well and the Mets having money (supposedly... stupid Wilpons) for 2012. I hope Jose is back, even if it means that I'll now need to over-pay to get him back on my fantasy team. Jose on the Mets, means that he is part of the core of the team. It's really as simple as that. I very much hop I can continue to call Wright and Reyes the corner-stones of the Mets beyond 2011.

Jenrry Mejia - Mejia could come up this season, he could come up next. When he does, he might be a front-line starter or a shut-down reliever. Either way, Mejia is the best hope the Mets have of answering the dynamic pitching of Philly. Though I suppose that: Edwin Jackson or Adam Wainwright could come to the Mets on long-term deals and become parts of the core... My money is on Mejia being the biggest change to the 2012 rotation.

Fernando Martinez - Forever prospect, Fernando Martinez, just turned in an excellent spring training and was sent to AAA to build more skills and prove he can stay healthy. This young kid... with arthritis, could be the starting RF for the Mets the day that Beltran is not on the team. Now... it could be Lucas Duda or Kirk Nieuwenhuis or someone else entirely but... for now, let us assume Fernando is healthy in 2011. He is the first and best choice to succeed Beltran and if he does reach his potential... he's also going to become a core member of the team.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis - Captain Kirk has an outside chance of being an MLB CF. Why do I only give him an outside chance? Because Angel Pagan (who almost made this list) is likely going to have that position and because Kirk's defense isn't quite CF caliber. It's close and he should man CF for AAA but it's not a guarantee. It might be more likely that he winds up in a corner OF position at which point his power might look a little light.

Josh Thole - I won't deny that I value a higher batting average over additional power. I liked Olerud WAY more than Delgado and I like Thole for the same reason. I don't care if it's a single. I just want you to get a hit when you come to the plate. Josh does that. What he's adding is improved defense, better game calling and little power of his own. Sure, he's never going to sniff 20 or 30 HRs but he could become a 10 HR hitter. He also has enough pop to hit a few doubles and enough speed, that in the wacky dimensions of Citi-Field, to hit a few triples. All this adds up to a franchise catcher (in my eyes) and someone I'd place in my core.

Being in the core and being outside the core doesn't mean much. It really has most to do with a willingness for the team to trade you when the time eventually comes. Core players are harder to deal because they are the foundation you wish to build off of. The reason someone like Josh Thole makes the list while Angel Pagan doesn't is not because of the level of skill but the difficulty to replace. Here's hoping that our foundation is pretty good in 2012.

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