Jerry Manuel, Omar Minaya and Jeff Wilpon addressed the media at Citi Field on Monday and delivered a unified message: The Mets were disappointed with the team's on-field performance in 2009 and are committed to doing better in 2010.
Of course, if you missed the press event, you could have gotten the gist of it from the cover of this week's issue of Duh! Magazine (as created by Norm MacDonald).
Other than the confirmation that Minaya and Manuel will certainly return in 2010, there wasn't much to news at Monday's news conference. The coaching staff will be reshuffled a bit; Razor Shines will take his complete inability to judge outfield arms to someplace where it will do less damage, Sandy Alomar Sr. will be replaced as bench coach and offered another job within the organization, and first-base coach Luis Alicea will have to look for work elsewhere.
Because, you know, it was all Luis Alicea's fault.
The story, at least the one the team wanted to communicate, was that the Mets are not satisfied with a 70-92 record and will be making changes this offseason to ensure that they perform better next season. But throughout the event, one worrisome word kept coming up: trades.
Here's what Minaya said about his offseason outlook:
We will look at pitching. It's fair to say that we will look at offense.... Within those -- offense and defense and pitching and defense -- we have to look at what's on the free agent market and what's in trades, and how can we put a winning team on the field.
Yeah, Minaya should be looking to improve all areas of his team. And yes, the Mets' defense in 2009 was bad enough that he might want to improve it twice. But the problem with making trades is that to get something of value, you have to give up something of value.
And there's little at the Major League level the Mets could trade for anything of value that they should even consider trading. Outside of maybe Angel Pagan, Jeff Francoeur, Luis Castillo and Josh Thole, just about everybody on the team's roster is at his lowest value point of the last two years. Would they really be smart to trade Mike Pelfrey after a brutal year of being victimized by horrendous defense? Should they look to move Jose Reyes after a season riddled by injury or David Wright after a 10-homer campaign?
Of course not. Sure, there are small pieces the Mets could -- and probably should -- move to rework the Major League roster, but not any that are going to yield a difference-maker in return.
To get one of those via trade, the Mets would have to trade a package of prospects, which is exactly the type of thing that got them into this mess in the first place. I got at this a month ago. The best way -- and maybe the only way -- to foster inexpensive organizational depth is to develop players internally. They don't have to be stars, mind you, just everyday guys and role players that free up payroll to be spent on free-agent acquisitions who could fill the spots the organization could not.
Outside of perhaps Thole and forgotten man Nick Evans, the Mets don't have any of those on the immediate horizon. But they're not going to get any in the future by trading away a bunch of their best Single- and Double-A players this offseason.
If there's a mantra Minaya should follow for this offseason, it's the one normally attributed to Hippocrates but actually stated by Howard Megdal via AIM a week ago:
First, do no harm.
The Mets exit 2009 with questions about the performance or health of Reyes, Pelfrey, Carlos Beltran, Francisco Rodriguez, Oliver Perez, John Maine and Daniel Murphy. Wright is coming off the worst season of his career. Johan Santana is recovering from elbow surgery. Simply put, the Mets have very, very few sure things.
Certainly some of those players will recover and exceed the low standards they set in 2009. The Mets have too much talent to expect otherwise. But if most of those guys bounce back, the Mets will be good enough to compete in their division regardless of whom they bring in this offseason. And if most of them don't, they won't be.
That's not to say the Mets should do absolutely nothing. This may turn out to be a very good offseason to sign free agents. The team has the rare opportunity to acquire Type A players without forfeiting draft picks, plus, due to the economy, there could be more non-tendered arbitration-eligible players on the market than in years past. And prices could fall.
So to best prepare his team to compete in 2010 and beyond, Minaya will have to read the market in a way he's never really proven capable of before.
This offseason, the Mets need help on offense, defense, pitching and defense, as Minaya said. The general manager's job will be to determine the best way to allocate the resources at his disposal to maximize the return in as many of those areas as possible. And he'll have to do it over the neverending drumbeat from the newspapers and airwaves and blogosphere announcing exactly what holes most need filling.
It won't be easy, for sure. And the temptation to dip into the farm system and trade a bunch of guys no one on WFAN has ever even heard of will forever lurk. But it is Minaya's responsibility to know better than the callers on talk radio and even -- hard as this is to believe -- better than the hosts. He alone is charged with constructing a winning baseball team, and he must always keep in mind what is realistic and best for his team in the upcoming year and those that follow.