Iâ€™m baffled at the number of positions on the Mets that will be â€œup for grabsâ€ in Spring Training this season. Sometimes competition for a position can be a good thing â€“ it can light a fire under a player that may need the pressure to succeed. But most of the time, I believe it shows inherent weaknesses in a roster and can make a player doubt himself. Omar Minaya set out to fix the holes on the roster this offseason, but there are more positions up for grabs this season than last!
Catcher: Josh Thole or Omir Santos?
I donâ€™t understand why thereâ€™s competition at this position. I was certain that the team signed Chris Coste almost solely to mentor Thole in AAA for at least half the season. This was a notion I firmly backed at the time, and Iâ€™m still in support of this plan. Thole is a converted catcher and could use some more time learning the position in an environment with less pressure than the Big Apple. We know what weâ€™re going to get out of Santos, and I think itâ€™s fine as a short-term solution. Please Omar and Jerry, just let Thole have some more time to develop. Donâ€™t rush him.
First Base: Daniel Murphy or Mike Jacobs?
I canâ€™t even believe this is in debate, but according to Omar the two players will compete for the starting spot. Daniel Murphy may not be a superstar, but he has the potential to hit for average and play a decent first base. Mike Jacobs can hit home runs. He canâ€™t hit for average, he strikes out a ton, and word has it that his fielding is well below average. So why the need for a competition? If itâ€™s to light a fire under Murphy, then Omar must never have met the kid. Murphyâ€™s going to work his arse off to become a better player, maybe even working too hard.
Center Field (while Beltran is out): Angel Pagan or Gary Matthews Jr?
Oy vei! Gary Matthews Jr has been one of the worst outfielders over the past two seasons in all of major league baseball. He canâ€™t hit (OPS under .700 both of the last two years) and he canâ€™t field (UZR -9.3 and -14.5) â€“ he has no place starting on a team. Angel Pagan may be injury prone as well as prone to make an occasional boneheaded mistake, but heâ€™s an otherwise very solid player, despite his lack of sustained starting experience. In 376 plate appearances last season for the Mets, Pagan hit for an OPS of .837 with an UZR of 5.8. Angel Pagan with a broken leg may be a better option in CF than GMJ.
Fifth Starter: Fernando Nieve or Jon Niese (or others)?
This is actually the only competing position I understand. Fifth starter spots on teams are often in competition because so many pitchers can be close to the fifth best starter on a team. Iâ€™d be fine if Omar and Jerry pick either Nieve or Niese for the role. Nieve was extremely solid last season in his few starts with the Mets and Niese may be developing into a solid middle of the rotation guy. With all the potential short-comings of the Mets, I actually like the fifth starter options.
What I really donâ€™t understand is why Omar is adding question marks where there shouldnâ€™t be any. We know that in all likelihood the starters at catcher, 1B, and CF will be Santos, Murphy, and Pagan â€“ so why make these players doubt themselves? None of these three needs a fire lit under him; from what I understand theyâ€™re all hard-working guys who want to win.
Thereâ€™s no roster negativity going on here. Iâ€™m absolutely fine with the team using Santos, Murphy, and Pagan as starters as well as Nieve/Niese. Itâ€™s the management decisions that I seriously question. And despite these questions, I do have reasonable faith the in the end the right decisions will be made. I just hope the Spring Training question marks donâ€™t leave their mark on Jerry, prompting him to dilly-dally during the regular season at various positions. Iâ€™m a huge believe in a set line-up with stability, and the first step in getting that is deciding on the teamâ€™s starters and sticking with them.