Many Mets fans were troubled, and even outraged by the club’s controversial decision to move defending National League Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey to Toronto. What the trade really did was outline General Manager Sandy Alderson’s long-term plan for the organization. And news flash folks, it’s a pretty good one.
Entering this offseason the only area of strength Alderson had to trade from was his starting pitching, and he almost had to move either Dickey or left-hander Jon Niese to capitalize on one of them after both delivered career years in 2012. The decision to retain Niese and sell high on Dickey was not popular, but it was prudent.
In Niese, the Mets have a 26-year old southpaw under team control until 2018, who’s improved steadily since debuting in ’08, and is coming off a season that watched him win 13 games and turn in a 1.17 WHIP. Alderson has identified Niese as the arm he wants to lead his young pitching staff into the future, and don’t look now, but the Mets are in position to soon hold one of the most dynamic rotations in the Majors.
2010 first round draft pick Matt Harvey proved he was the real deal after earning his first call-up last July, and the young arms keep coming. Right-hander Zack Wheeler, whom the Mets acquired from San Francisco in exchange for Carlos Beltran at the trade deadline in 2011, is ranked as the 6th best prospect in the Majors by Baseball America. The 22-year old should find his way into the New York rotation relatively early in the 2013 season.
Noah Syndergaard, one of the pieces the Mets received from the Blue Jays, was Toronto’s first round pick in the 2010 draft, and has moved through the minor leagues much faster than many high school picks do. He delivered a dominant campaign in high ‘A’ ball last season, turning in a 1.08 WHIP, holding opponents to a .212 batting average, and striking out well over a batter/inning and the righty should start this year in AA Binghamton, with an eye towards cracking the majors in the summer of 2014.
The biggest piece New York received in the trade that sent Dickey (and literally every catcher the Mets had that had ever caught a knuckleball, rumor has it the ‘Jays even asked for Dave Racaniello) to Toronto was 23-year old catcher Travis d’Arnaud, the undisputed top catching prospect in baseball. A knee injury was the only thing that prevented the Canadian born backstop from making his big league debut in 2012, as in only 279 at-bats he crushed 16 home runs and drove in 52, while hitting a dominant .333 and turning in an OPS barely south of 1.000. Baseball America describes d’Arnaud as athletic and agile beyond the plate with a very good arm. The youngster will certainly be the Mets starting catcher at some point in the early part of the upcoming season, and it’s entirely possible he could claim the starting job coming out of spring training.
The other intriguing piece of Alderson’s long-term plan is 2011 first round pick Brandon Nimmo, who was a little raw when he was thrown into the Mets system, but the Wyoming native can flat out play. The 19-year old turned in a strong season in low class ‘A’ Brooklyn last season and appears ticketed to start the 2013 season for the St. Lucie Mets, where the club is confident he’ll continue developing into their center fielder of the future.
As Sandy Alderson maps out the future of the New York Mets, you have to imagine he envisions a starting rotation that on paper is an extremely exciting proposition:
LHP Jon Niese
RHP Matt Harvey
RHP Zack Wheeler
RHP Dillon Gee
RHP Noah Syndergaard.
When the 2014 season begins, all five of these pitchers will have come through New York’s minor league system, and all be 27 years old or younger.
Alderson has anchors at his corner infield positions in third baseman David Wright and first baseman Ike Davis, and two middle infielders (Ruben Tejada and Daniel Murphy) who both could very well be the team’s long-term answers at shortstop and second base.
Barring some unforeseen circumstances Travis d’Arnaud should be the Mets catcher for the next decade and Brandon Nimmo should be debuting in Queens no later than the summer of 2014. Throw in young power arms in the bullpen (Josh Edgin, Jeurys Familia, Jenrry Mejia, Rob Carson) and the Mets are well on their way to soon possessing a very young, very deep team that could become a powerhouse in the National League East, especially when you consider the amount of money they have coming off the books following the 2013 season.
Between Johan Santana, Frank Francisco, and what they owe Jason Bay, New York will have over $45 million to reinvest next winter, likely in their outfield where players like Jacoby Ellsbury, Hunter Pence and Curtis Granderson are all free-agents.
Long story short, don’t panic Mets fans, and take your heads out of the oven. Better days are coming, I promise.