In a big market like New York, teams are expected to do two things; have a high payroll and win because of that payroll. The New York Mets have been the major exception to both of those rules over the past five years, and their record shows it. Since 2009, futility has characterized the New York Metropolitans and overspending is part of the blame. When Omar Minaya became the GM of the Mets back in 2004, he brought with him a ton of spending. Big name buys like Carlos Beltran and Pedro Martinez brought some success to the Mets, which led to playoff appearances but no World Series Rings. Now, there's no money to spend! But fear not because money has been freed up this off season with Johan's contract soon to be up, Jason Bay being released, and David's contract being structured to save the team money. Next off season, there will be more money to spend.
This year, big signings weren't there, but signings were low risk - high reward signings that cost little money. The only two major league contracts that the Mets have signed this winter were starting pitcher Shaun Marcum, and relief pitcher Brandon Lyon. Minor league signings included former Mets pitcher Pedro Feliciano, pitcher Scott Atchison, catcher Anthony Recker, outfielder Marlon Byrd, and submarine pitcher Greg Burke. All of these guys were good signings, and if any of them turn out to be starters, then this off season was more than a success.
The one obvious transaction this year that I have left off so far was the trade of Cy Young Award winner Robert Allen Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays for catcher Travis d'arnaud and pitcher Noah Syndergaard. Many Mets fans are still on the fence over whether this trade was good or bad. The reality of the situation is that the Mets wont be able to really compete until 2015 or so, and by then, RA would be over 40 and Syndergaard and d'arnaud will be ripe and ready at that point. This is of course my opinion on the trade, and everyone has theirs.
Shaun Marcum has pitched successfully over his entire career with a career 57-36 record and a 3.76 ERA. He has pitched for both the Toronto Blue Jays and the Milwaukee Brewers. He is a contact pitcher who throws his fastball in the mid-80 mph range. He relies heavily on his placement of his pitches, and if he misses his location, it isn't pretty. Marcum had Tommy John surgery in 2008 and has had some injury problems since. Marcum will fill in well if he can stay healthy and will make the transition from the post Dickey era a little easier.
Brandon Lyon is a righty relief pitcher that the Mets signed within the last month. He was extremely successful for the Astros and Blue Jays last year with a 3.10 ERA to go along with a 4-2 record and 63 strikeouts. He should provide a solid presence in the back end of the bullpen as either a set up man, or a closing pitcher as the season wears on.
Pedro Feliciano pitched for the Mets from 2002 until 2010 when he signed a 2 year deal with the Yankees (but never saw the field). He is a lefty specialist and pitched really well with the Mets. He owns a career 3.31 ERA and a 22-19 record. He is coming off two years of no pitching with the Yankees, but if he's healthy he has the possibility to be a really effective lefty pitcher in a bullpen that needs to prove itself. Though recently it came up that Pedro has a hole in his heart and is banned from all baseball activities for two weeks. Burke is a pitcher who has recently reinvented himself, going from a conventional type pitcher to a submarine style pitcher, but if he's effective, he can be a dark-horse for the bullpen. Atchison is also a puzzling case as he was extremely effective last year even while pitching through a terrible arm injury. He too can be effective if he is healthy.
Offensively, Anthony Recker is a career backup catcher who will probably break camp simply becasue Travis d'arnaud won't be ready. This year in the minors, Recker hit ten home runs and for a .261 average. He's not gonna amaze anyone, but should work as a suitable backup when needed. Marlon Byrd has the chance to win a starting job for the Mets outfield in right field. He had an all-star season for the Cubs in 2010 and played well for the Rangers in 2008. Byrd is trying to prove that his thirty-five year old body is still able to play in the Major Leagues. Other guys like Brandon Hicks, Brian Bixler, and Andrew Brown can compete for jobs, with one of them probably gaining a spot on the 25 man roster.
The other offensive player that the Mets acquired that intrigues me is catcher John Buck. He has shown in his career that he can play ball, he was eighth in the American League in Rookie of the Year votes in 2004 and an All Star in 2010. He is what the Mets haven't had since Paul Lo Duca, a veteran, right-handed catcher who can hit with power. Last year was a down year for him, a .192 BA with 12 HR's is not good, any time you hit under the Mendoza Line is pitiful. But both as a starter until Travis comes up, and as a backup when Travis takes the job, he will be a mentor and a good guy both on the field and in the clubhouse.
I saw the comment about Collin Cowgill and realized he was the one I forgot. Cowgill has played well so far this Spring Training and was always someone I liked ever since he was acquired. He's not a superstar by any means, but he plays hard every day, has a little pop, good speed, and good instincts. He has drawn comparisons to Lenny Dykstra. Cowgill could turn out to be the most influential player this team got this off season, he could even be the lead off man the Mets have been looking for.
I know that looking at this doesn't bring a lot of hope for most Mets fans. The reality of the situation is that a lot of things need to go right for the Mets to have a winning season and even more to have a chance at the playoffs. If half of these moves become something, which I think they will, then the Mets could surprise some people (or at least get more than their projected 68-70 wins by many) There were no major acquisitions this off-season by the Mets, but had there been, ticket prices would be $1000 for the nosebleeds. There are plenty of reasons for optimism this year and the off season shows the need for optimism, but as a Mets fan right now, thats all we can have for the year to come.