Breaking Up The Core

While nothing is set in stone yet, it can be said with almost certainty that a new regime will be leading the Mets to start the off-season.   One of the toughest questions this new general manager and manager combo will have to face is what to do with this team heading forward.
At first glance, the Mets may seem like a hapless and stagnant franchise. However, there is a lot to smile about looking forward.  Right now, the Mets are a mix of promising young talent and under performing veterans which will ultimately lead to their suboptimal finish this season.

One of the many ideas fans have to break the mediocrity the Mets seem to be mired in is to “break up the core” of the team.  The “core” of the Mets is arguably David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, Jason Bay, Johan Santana, Francisco Rodriguez and maybe Mike Pelfrey. This idea has floated around ever since the Mets embarrassing collapse in 2007 and I have never been completely sold on the idea.

Until now.

For years I have made excuses for the Mets’ core whether it was injuries, underperformance or bad luck. Now, after a few years of watching the Mets never reach the potential they seemed to have in 2006, I am sold on the idea that this team needs a dramatic change.
Before I give some of my ideas for breaking up this core, I have to eliminate a few players from the core that cannot be traded for various reasons.

Wright and Reyes cannot be traded. While they would of course fetch the Mets the most on the market, they are two 27-year-old studs who are productive and one of the best at their position. Not many teams have the luxury of having these kinds of players, and trading them would be a mistake. Jason Bay can’t be traded because he was injured earlier this year, and no team would take on his soon to be huge contract. So the Mets are stuck with hoping Bay has a turnaround next year (not out of the realm of possibility, Beltran had a similar situation when the Mets first acquired him).

Two names that won’t be easy to trade, but should be the main focus of the Mets’ off-season, are Beltran and Rodriguez.
A month ago, the very idea of the Mets being able to trade Beltran was ludicrous. Beltran was batting .204 in July and .227 in August, and it seemed like his knee was nowhere close to being fully healed. He was a shell of what he once was.  However, September has been a different story.
So far this month, Beltran is hitting .310 with three doubles, two triples, three home runs and ten RBI with a slugging percentage of .535 in 19 games. In those 19 games, he has hit in 13 of them and seven of those are multi-hit games. In other words, he is hitting like the old Beltran.

So some might ask, why trade Beltran if he seems to be getting back to the way he was?  My answer to that question is simple: trade him while he has value.

Beltran has never been a fan-favorite, and never truly reached the heighted expectations fans set for him when he signed his seven-year $119 million dollar deal in January of 2005, and never seemed comfortable under the microscope of New York’s media.

There is no question that when healthy, Beltran was one of the best (if not the best) centerfielder in baseball. But now he is only getting older and he is no longer the dynamic threat he once was, so trading him while he has any value at all should be the Mets’ top priority.

If I were to trade Beltran, a young pitcher would be the only true talent I would want; much more would be asking too much. Teams such as San Francisco, Boston or maybe even the Rays could be teams that could spare a young pitcher. In particular, I think the Rays might be an interesting option. If Carl Crawford leaves Tampa this off-season (likely) they may look into replacing his bat, and if the Mets agree to pay some of Beltran’s remaining salary, they could get a young pitcher to throw into their rotation.

Rodriguez is the other player of the Mets’ core that I think needs to go. If you forget his legal troubles, he is a pretty appealing trade chip. However, it is likely that the Mets will not trade the once dominant closer, but rather attempt to void his contract. After he was involved in an assault charge, he was placed on the disqualified list, which is ultimately the first step in the Mets attempting to rid themselves of the remainder of his contract. If K-Rod is no longer part of the Mets’ equation, the money saved on his voided contract could be used in other areas.

The last member of the core that has been rumored of being traded is Reyes. While before I said I would never want to trade the young shortstop, he does have an $11 million dollar option the Mets will probably pick up this off-season, but after that the Mets COULD have an interesting dilemma. Reyes would fetch a king’s ransom in a trade, and by trading Reyes the Mets could fill in many gaps they currently have. But this idea is cloudy at best. I doubt the Mets would trade one of their most dynamic and talented players, even if the price was right.

The Mets probably need more work than can be fixed in one off-season. If I had to guess, I would imagine that Beltran, K-Rod, Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo are all gone for the start of the 2011 campaign, and a complete overhaul happens over the 2011-2012 off-season.