Monday, November 23, 2015

Questions, Anyone?

The New York Mets, in a heart-breaking 4-1 defeat in the World Series, had two of their major off-season questions answered.  Unfortunately, those answers just lead to more questions ahead.

Throughout the month of August and into September, as Yoenis Cespedes tore through the National League and the NL East standings, sports-talk radio was consumed with talk of 2016.  Callers seemed evenly divided between "There's no way the cheapskate Mets are going to bring back Cespedes" and "Let's pay whatever it takes to bring back Cespedes".  Fair points, both, and hotly debated all around.

Cespedes' titanic run carried the Mets to the playoffs.  But his almost equally astounding playoff slump left a big hole in the Mets' offense.  Cespedes may very well be in line for a big payday as long as teams consider his huge production during the pennant race.  But for the Mets, the question of whether to make a long-term, big-dollar investment was all but answered during Cespedes' postseason swoon.

On the flip side, no player looked better during the first two rounds of the playoffs than Daniel Murphy.  A long-time Mets' second-baseman, perhaps no one improved his off-season stock more than the suddenly powerful Murphy.  But he, too, went mostly quietly during the World Series, reverting to the Daniel Murphy -- nice hit, no glove -- that had performed steadily throughout his career.  And much like with Cespedes, the chatter on talk radio went from "How can we live without Murphy?" to "How much will it cost to bring him back?"

The Mets took the first obvious step, handing Murphy a qualifying offer.  Murphy, in turn, did the next obvious thing: he turned it down.  As a player traded in mid-season, no such offer could be made to the unrestricted free agent Cespedes.  And with that, a Mets organization that had experienced a remarkable late-season and post-season run, begins what could be their most important off-season.

With a staff of aces that any team would envy, the Mets are poised to contend for years to come.  However, it's important to note that in spite of their spectacular pitching, for much of the season the Mets were victims of their anemic offense.  It was only when fortified by bench players Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson, and ultimately, Cespedes, that the Mets went from squeaking out the 1-0 win to bludgeoning teams from both the mound and at the plate.

Should the Mets opt not to bring back either Murphy or Cespedes, and there are solid arguments to make those cases, they need to be sure that the holes in the offense are addressed.  Whether that comes from a full season of the improving Michael Conforto or the promotion of Dilson Herrera, or an additional free-agent bat or two, it's paramount that someone does.  Sandy Alderson pulled all the right levers in late July.  He'll need an equally good December and January if the Mets expect to capitalize on their 2015 success.

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