For Insider members, ESPN.com held a chat with former Mets GM Steve Phillips. There was a lot of Mets talk:
Steve Phillips: Unfortunately for the Mets, they are playing in a division that really improved in the offseason. Everyone got better. They have a quality starting rotation which means they will be in most games. But I don't expect them to outslug anybody. With Piazza in the 4 spot, you know his production has gone down and there will be 40 or so games he won't even play. With Floyd in the 5 spot, he too has had a lot of injuries and has not produced in a significant way the last several years. Even with Beltran, Piazza and Floyd in the lineup, they won't score a lot of runs. Many times they won't have Piazza and/or Floyd. They will play a lot of close games, meaning their bullpen will be huge. The bullpen is their greatest weakness right now. Looper is a second-tier closer and they are holding auditions for middle relief in Spring Training. They have a lot more holes and questions than the Braves, Marlins and Phillies. I pick the Mets fourth in the NL East.
Steve Phillips: I would love to have picked them higher for my friend Omar Minaya's sake.
Steve Phillips: The NL East by far. They have the best depth and talent of all the divisions. Atlanta adds Tim Hudon and Danny Kolb to their division championship team. The Marlins got Delgado which was the single biggest differnce making move of the offseason. The Mets added the best free agent pitcher in Pedro and the best position guy in Carlos Beltran. The Nations got Jose Guillen who despite his behavior, has a very productive bat. They also stabilized the INF. It will be a dog fight in the NL East.
Steve Phillips: Someday they will. But it is not a priority for the city or state at this point. I think the Jets/Olympic stadium is the priority now. If the Mets get a new stadium, the ownership will have to fund a significant amount. I'm not sure Wilpon has do that at this time.
Steve Phillips: (Laughing) Well . . . there has been a lot made about my relationship with Bobby. But I will say he is a very intelligent baseball man. We had a lot of success together. But we didn't always have the best relationship. I do respect his baseball acumen and I'm sure he's doing well in Japan right now.
Steve Phillips: I do think they will help. I expect Reyes, if he stays healthy, to show people why there was so much hoopla around him. He is a tremendous talent and exciting player. Mets fans will finally see him produce. David Wright, like Reyes, has tremendous character to go with his amazing talent. But when you match the Mets lineup against some of the better offenses in the game, they just don't stack up. More because of the middle of the lineup than the front or back of the lineup.