Success is all in how you define your goals. When you’re a Met fan, the standard is fairly low.

Going into the off-season, I had three overall requests – 1) Fire Omar Minaya, 2) Fire Jerry Manuel, and 3) do not do anything rash to jeopardize the future of the club. I knew 1 & 2 wasn’t going to happen, so I mostly hoped for 3. And generally speaking, I got that.

The Mets did not get dragged into the John Lackey sweepstakes. Though he is a fine pitcher, he alone was not going to change the balance of power in the NL East. And while I prefer him as a player to Jason Bay, I’m glad that the Mets didn’t bother to top the Cardinals to sign Matt Holliday at that price. And most importantly, they didn’t trade away any valuable prospects in a pointless attempt to field a “competitive”, but ultimately unsuccessful team.

Someone in the front office just came to their senses. The 2010 Mets will not be terrible, but they probably won’t make the playoffs, regardless of who they brought into the fold.

This is not to say that they’ve done all that well. The Mets still haven’t figured out how to properly spend in the free agent market. One particular move that epitomizes this opinion was the resigning of IFer Alex Cora, the team’s primary SS in 2009. The 33-year old predictably bombed to the tune of a .251/.320/.310 line to go a long with sub-par defense, so naturally, the Mets rewarded him with a $2M deal for 2010 with a vesting option for 2011 in November before the market for middle infielders dropped so low that a far superior player like Felipe Lopez signed for 1/2 that in St. Louis (sigh).

Moreover, the Mets actually thought that Gary Matthews Jr. could help them, as they traded away the expendable RP Brian Stokes to Anaheim for the man who arguably has the worst contract in baseball (Anaheim is picking up $21.5M of the $23.5M still owed him over the next two seasons so the Mets aren’t really on the hook). But regardless of how much Matthews is earning from the Mets, the so-called CFer has shown over the last three seasons that he should be at the very end of the bench at best, and not be anywhere near the conversation of who should be taking Carlos Beltran’s ABs as he recovers from knee surgery.

And even the deals that didn’t get finalized – like the reported offer to Bengie Molina for $5.5M – provide insight into what’s wrong with the Mets.

Furthermore, the rotation has some serious issues behind Santana:

  • Mike Pelfrey is a groundball pitcher who once again has to deal with an infield that can’t field groundballs. Perhaps more disturbingly, Pelf hasn’t been utilizing his sinker as much this Spring and which presumably is one of the reasons why he’s given up 8 HRs in 20+ innings. So really, it’s a damned if you do/don’t situation here.
  • John Maine’s 2009 season was mostly lost due to injury. While he’s capable of posting league average numbers when on the mound, he’s only topped 140 innings once in his career.
  • Oliver Perez.
  • Jon Niese may be the second best starter on the club, but that says more about the rest of the rotation than it does about the 23 year-old lefty.

But given better health, the Mets ought to at least be competitive. It’s sort of difficult not to be when you have a nucleus like David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, and Johan Santana to go along with Jason Bay’s bat. But there is very little to indicate that this will be the case. Already, Reyes will probably miss Opening Day due to an enlarged thyroid and Beltran is expected to be out until at least mid-May recovering from the aforementioned knee surgery. While Angel Pagan (provided he wins the starting gig over Mathews) is not a bad Plan B, no one can replace a guy like Carlos.

Until the organization stops overvaluing players like Cora, Mathews, and Jeff Francoeur, it’s going to be an uphill climb for us fans. I mean, how could it not be when your Opening Day lineup will probably have the 5-8 spots filled by Daniel Murphy, Francoeur, Cora, and Rod Barajas?

Offseason Grade: C-

Key Additions: Jason Bay, Rod Barajas, Kelvim Escobar, Kiko Calero, Henry Blanco, Gary Matthews Jr., Mike Jacobs, Ryota Igarashi, Hisanori Takahashi, Chris Carter, Frank Catalanotto

Key losses: Carlos Delgado, Billy Wagner, J.J. Putz, Brian Schneider, Gary Sheffield, Ken Takahashi, Brian Stokes, Cory Sullivan, Jeremy Reed, Tim Redding, Anderson Hernandez, Wilson Valdez, Ramon Martinez

Projected lineup, rotation and closer:

C – Rod Barajas
1B – Daniel Murphy
2B – Luis Castillo
SS – Jose Reyes/Alex Cora
3B – David Wright
LF – Jason Bay
CF – Carlos Beltran/Angel Pagan
RF – Jeff Francoeur

SP – Johan Santana
SP – Mike Pelfrey
SP – John Maine
SP – Oliver Perez
SP – Jon Niese

CL – Francisco Rodriguez

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