A little over a week ago, I posted my preview for the Mets' 2008 team, including, of course, roster predictions. With a good portion of Spring Training now completed, there are some obvious changes to those predictions that must be made, mostly due to injuries rather than performance.
1.) Angel Pagan seems to have played himself onto this team. Rather than attempt to trade a prospect from a system that is thin in the upper levels in exchange for outfield help, it seems like the Mets' would rather ride out Pagan's Spring performance, hoping a platoon with Endy Chavez will be the short-term answer until Alou returns, sometime in May (we hope). At this point, I'd have to agree with that thought, as in order to acquire a player like old favorite, Xavier Nady, we'd have to give up a decent level minor league pitcher who is close to being major league-ready, something we can't afford right now (and, quite frankly, something we don't have much of.) Until Pagan proves his performance is an illusion, he's the man for the OF!
2.) The bullpen make-up will change a few more times before the 25 man roster is set. At various times over the last week or so, we've heard that either Scott Schoeneweis, Joe Smith or Jorge Sosa was going to be traded, either for the Tigers' Marcus Thames, the Pirates Xavier Nady, or the Orioles Kevin Millar. Not only have none of those deals happened, but a new player has emerged in the bullpen battle (as if it wasn't crowded enough already) - Ricardo Rincon - a lefty, too! Rincon, out of baseball since May, 2006, due to shoulder surgery, has been an effective reliever for almost 10 years, with 4 teams, and possesses a lifetime ERA of 3.58. If healthy, Rincon could not only make the roster but give the Mets' another situational lefty, behind Pedro Feliciano. Jorge Sosa is the only one of our relievers who can also spot-start if necessary, and to me, he's the one player who, if a starter is (heaven-forbid) injured, can stop us from needing to sign the likes of Brian Lawrence again. Smith can work on his consistency in the minors, and Show makes too much money for the Mets to be able to easily rid themselves of his contract, so unless a trade is made, we definitely have a surplus of relievers (not a bad thing, of course- in fact, quite the opposite, IF they remain effective) and, combined with some of our younger pitchers, the short-term and long-term prospects for the bullpen look pretty good right now!
3.) Jose Valentin has pushed himself incredibly hard to come back from injury, hoping to make the roster in a utility role. He played first base during Sunday's game, and while going hitless, Valentin looked good in the field and reassuring to have back on the roster, if only for the Spring. Valentin's contract grants him free agency if he is not on the major league roster by May 1st, and with injuries to Delgado's hip AND slim pickings in the free agent and trade markets, Valentin's determination might just win him the final spot on the bench after all. Another long-shot making his way back - and THAT is why I no longer purchase any of the pre-season baseball magazines, because at least 30% (or more) of their roster predictions are wrong!!
4.) O-Hern or Pelfrey, Pelfrey or O-Hern- after Pelfrey's performance on Saturday, a lot of fans are hoping that Orlando Hernandez's new pitching motion allows him to come back to the rotation sooner rather than later. Pelfrey, on the other hand, apparently was tipping his pitches (see article we posted earlier) and, if he can get through this, has the potential to be a dominant big league pitcher, based merely on the quality of his pitches and the velocity on his fastball, and NOT based on performance to date. It's nice, however, to note that we only have ONE spot in the rotation up for grabs, and that we have 4 potential aces prior to the 5th slot! Personally, I'd love nothing more than to have Pelfrey step up and claim the 5th spot, but at this point, I just want some complete rotation stability going into the season, and whoever that pitcher is, please claim that spot, once and for all, before you are needed on April 14th!
It has, indeed, been an "interesting" spring so far...let's hope that Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado return today in good form (or at least in a form where they won't re-injure themselves)!
The Red Sox - Mets game, featuring some starting pitcher I've never heard of - Johan Santana, I think - begins in a few minutes...and I'm already wearing my jersey!!!!!!
Let's Go Mets!!!