Mailbag: Can the Mets be next year’s Oakland A’s?

Gabe C in New York: “I know it’s early, and we don’t really have a full picture of the payroll situation going into next season. But, I’m hoping next season we could have an Oakland-like turnaround. When I look at their team, one of the things that stands out is how their entire lineup is has 2-3 positive WAR players.

I know as a stat, WAR isn’t the end all, be all, but I think it’s a pretty decent indicator. In contrast, if you go to the Mets, we have what seems like David Wright surrounded with a lineup of marginal players.

My point is, I think with a couple low-cost additions, short-term signings like Torii Hunter, A.J. Pierzynski, as well as a few changes in the bullpen and bench, we could have a lineup with more punch and more balance. I’m convinced now more than ever that it’s all about making a roster out of 25 men, not just relying on a few. And, while this may seem to be obvious, I wish the front office and fans could look at Oakland this season as a model for what this team could going be in the short-term.”

Matthew Cerrone, Lead Writer

You’re right, according to WAR, the Mets production consists of mostly Wright (who it considers an elite player) followed by a group of average infielders, below average outfielders and starters who actually hurt the team this season more than they helped (like Lucas Duda and Jason Bay). And, frankly, this seems like an accurate description whether using advanced stats or not.

I like the idea of adding Hunter, obviously, but I’d proceed with caution. He’s 37 years old and coming off the most overall, productive season in his career. There are stats that suggest he played a lot over his ahead and benefited from a bit of luck, which there is no guarantee will continue. More important, he loves Los Angeles and their fans love him. He knows his career is winding down. The buzz from out west indicates he will seek a two- or three-year deal, probably worth around $30 million, and he’d prefer to return to the Angels, who will make an effort to bring him back. So, to get him, especially a move to the east coast, in a league he’s never played in, in a pitcher’s park, on a team with less of a chance to win than where he is now, the Mets (and most teams) will probably need to overpay. In other words, given Hunter’s age and Batting Average on Balls in Play, and given the transition he’d have to make, and the unknowns associated with that move, I don’t think he’s worth committing to for more than what the Angels will probably offer him. Plus, if Alderson is going to spend all of his off-season budget on one player – which he isn’t going to do, but if he did – I think he’d do it on some one capable of hitting more than 16 home runs.

That said, I do agree, simply fielding at least an average outfield and catcher next year, along with the current infield, young relievers and this starting rotation, the Mets can be a team capable of being .500 and (if they overachieve, like Oakland) they’d have a realistic potential to attain more.

However, they can’t consistently run out players with negative WAR, like Bay. Duda is probably a more productive player than what he showed. But, he’s young enough, and with enough potential, that I think it’s worth trying him again. But, if it doesn’t work, they need to move on. I expect more from this front office than to tolerate negative production. What’s done is done, but they need to do better doing forward – and a limited budget isn’t an excuse… just ask the A’s, Sandy’s former team.