While the Brewers and Mets prepare for their final meeting of 2012, I traded questions with Steve Schreiber of Amazin' Avenue to discuss our respective teams and this series. My answers to his questions will appear over there at some point today, and his answers to my questions are below.
BCB: This is a Mets team that went 43-36 before July 1, but is 22-42 since. Are they a good team that's underachieving now, or a bad team that was overachieving in the first half?
SS: I think the answer is that it's a bit of both. Talent-wise, they probably weren't the 7 games over .500 team that they were through June, just as they're likely not the 20 games under .500 team that they've been the last few months. Part of their swoon is an issue of depth -- the team's lack of available cash last offseason thanks to the Madoff lawsuit handicapped them to the point where they couldn't even afford a backup catcher and had to roll with Mike Nickeas for four months. Because of that, they lacked talent and depth on the offensive side and you can add to that the fact that many of the young position players who they gave roles to have underwhelmed. I honestly don't think the team overall is as bad as they've been in the second half but it's pretty obvious that they're going to need to bring in some offense (especially in the outfield) to surround David Wright and very soon. Ruben Tejada is second on the team with 2 fWAR and that's just not going to cut it.
Follow the jump for more!
BCB: If you had a vote, would you cast it for David Wright for NL MVP?
SS: If you asked me a month or two ago, there's no doubt that I would've said yes. He was that outstanding during the first four months of the year. But the Mets have swooned and David Wright's slump is a huge part of that. His power has disappeared, his strikeouts have risen and it seems like he goes days without making hard contact. His fall has been precipitous over the last month plus and it's quite concerning, considering the Mets likely have to negotiate a long term deal with him this offseason. All in all, he's had a great year and he seems to be playing the best defense I've ever seen him play at third base over his career. However, and it kills me to say this, I would probably have trouble voting for him thanks to the awful second half.
BCB: Tell me something I don't know about Jennry Mejia, who will face the Brewers for the first time as a starter on Saturday.
SS: Mejia is fresh off of Tommy John surgery in 2011 and threw most of this season for AAA Buffalo. His velocity gets up into the mid-90's and he's got a really nice sinking fastball with a developing curve and a changeup. At 22, he seems as if he's been around forever but that's only because previous manager Jerry Manuel did his best to ruin him by stuffing the then 20-year old in the team's major league bullpen for half of 2010 after only 50 innings of experience above A ball. Honestly, we're really not sure what to expect from him. He's still building up his strength from the surgery and his minor league numbers were a bit underwhelming. In case you knew all of that, Mejia came late to baseball, as he only started playing the sport in the Dominican when he was 15 years old (fellow Mets' top pitching prospect Jeurys Familia is a similar story).
BCB: Mets catchers have combined to hit just .220/.290/.297 this season. What's happened there, and is there a plan to address it?
SS: Josh Thole has been incredibly underwhelming with the bat this year and they weren't expecting much offense with black holes Mike Nickeas and Rob Johnson as their backups for four months. Thole is one of the bigger disappointments, as he got off to a quick start in April but missed a few weeks with a concussion and hasn't hit a lick since his return on June 1st. What the Mets do with the catcher position will be interesting, as they really do not have any long term options in the system who are near major league ready. They acquired veteran Kelly Shoppach in August and he's been a welcome addition but as a guy with pretty strong career platoon splits, he's got his limitations and he's also a free agent at the end of the year. My guess is that the Mets give Thole one more year and have him platoon with Shoppach, as the free agent options aren't all that exciting and Thole will be just 26 years old by Opening Day 2013. It's not what Mets fans want to hear but I think that's the most realistic option.
BCB: Obviously the Mets are an unlikely candidate to make the playoffs in 2012. When does their window to win open again?
SS: Conservatively, you're probably looking at 2014/2015, though I am not going to completely rule out next season. The biggest issue with competing next year will be that the Mets owe nearly $50 million to Jason Bay and Johan Santana, both of whom are in the final year of their deals. If ownership does not raise payroll, they do not have much money coming off the books, which may leave them around $20 million max to fill a number of holes on the club. Along with that, the Mets don't seem to have a ton of tradable assets with which to acquire guys. From the looks of it, they need to acquire an entire outfield, some bullpen arms, and possibly a catcher and then you still have the expiring contracts of David Wright and R.A. Dickey to deal with. Looking at the positive, the 2013 Mets should have a really solid starting rotation with R.A. Dickey, Jon Niese, Matt Harvey, Dillon Gee and Johan Santana (or Zack Wheeler at some point) and they have some interesting pieces in the bullpen and the lineup. In the end, though, it seems likelier that things fall together in 2014 when they can reinvest Bay & Santana's payroll money in useful players and when the young pitchers have some more experience under their belts.
Thanks to Steve for taking the time, and don't forget to check out Amazin' Avenue for more on the Mets!