By Declan Finn
The New York Mets are entering one of their biggest and most important offseasons in nearly a decade, as just a few decisions will determine whether or not they take the next step and qualify for the playoffs next year. General manager Sandy Alderson won't have to make any guarantees of winning 90 games next season, because this current team just might now be expected to do it.
That's a completely different universe for the Mets to be playing in, but that's what comes when a young team starts to build and become successful, just as the young players on the Mets did this season.
There aren't a load of bad contracts the Mets are stuck with, as just Curtis Granderson and Bartolo Colon will be getting money they don't deserve, which makes this year's edition of Pay Him or Slay Him an interesting one. Most of the current Mets are cost effective, which makes the decision to keep or cut much easier.
Make no mistake, however, this current group of Mets are missing a few pieces, namely a shortstop and outfielder, before becoming a true title contender. But the building-block pieces are there. We'll have our Mets Shopping List story up in the coming days, which will break down who the team should target in free agency. Before we get there, we have to Pay or Slay the current roster. Follow us on Twitter for the latest Mets news and analysis.
PAY LUCAS DUDA: But beware, as Duda this season was comparable to Ike Davis of 2012, when the latter hit 32 home runs and had 90 RBI. Duda hit 30 homers this season with 92 RBI. The big difference between the two first basemen was average, where Duda outhit Davis .253 to .227. That's a big difference and reason enough to believe Duda can be the team's first baseman of the now and into the future. Davis, for those wondering, had 11 home runs and 51 RBI this season with both the Mets and Pirates. He batted .233 combined.
PAY DAVID WRIGHT: Because you have to, as he's still the face of the franchise. But if you go by numbers, the decision isn't as easy as you think. Wright batted just .269 in 134 games this season, with 30 doubles, eight home runs and 63 RBI. Wright needs to put up MVP numbers for the Mets to have a shot at the postseason, and he didn't come anywhere near that this year. His low home run total should be a huge concern, as the far-away fences at Citi Field can only be blamed so much. Wright and the Mets are hoping the injury to his shoulder this season was the reason for the huge dip in numbers. If it isn't, the Mets' road to next year's playoffs will get a whole lot more difficult.
PAY CURTIS GRANDERSON: This is the one player I'm sure Mets fans would love to get rid of, but that would be just plain silly and counterproductive to the playoffs or bust season next year. Granderson struggled mightily over the first 75 percent of the season, batting under .200 at the end of May and hitting just .147 in the month of August. But look at what he did in September and you'll realize Granderson is here to help the Mets where they desperately need it - on offense. Granderson hit .299 in September with seven doubles, four home runs and 17 RBI. That is a season-long pace for 42 doubles, 24 home runs and 102 RBI. Would you take that next season? Heck yes. Of course, Granderson has to actually do it, but why not take the chance? Granderson will be paid, on average for his entire four-year deal, $15 million in each of the next three years. That's the same money per year the Yankees are paying Carlos Beltran. At least Granderson is in the lineup every day.
SLAY DANIEL MURPHY: All you ever hear about Murphy and the Mets is the potential for a trade. At this point, why not just get it over with, trade the second baseman and get something in return. Murphy is likely to get a big raise from his $5.7 million contract this past year, as he's eligible for arbitration one more time before becoming a free agent. Cut bait now and get something of value in return before he leaves for nothing after next season.
SLAY ERIC YOUNG JR.: Only Granderson had a lower batting average among regulars than Young Jr., batting .229 in 100 games. So, adios.
SLAY RUBEN TEJADA: The Mets need a shortstop next season and it won't ever be Tejada. He batted .237 with 11 doubles, five home runs and 34 RBI in 119 games. It's time for Tejada to finally be sent packing.
PAY JUAN LAGARES: A centerfielder should hit for more power than Lagares does, but you can't argue with his numbers overall this season. And his defense, which is Gold Glove caliber. Lagares hit .281 this season with 24 doubles, three triples, four home runs and 47 RBI. If he has some natural progression in all areas next season, the Mets could have found a very good player.
PAY DILSON HERRERA: Nobody can be sure if he'll be ready to take over the second base job next season, as the 20-year-old got just 59 at-bats with the Mets. He did have three homers and 11 RBI in 18 games. If Murphy's gone, the Mets could give a long look at Herrera in spring training.
PAY TRAVIS D'ARNAUD: He successfully had bone chips removed from his right elbow at the beginning of the month, which is good news for the Mets catcher of the now and future.
PAY WILMER FLORES: But the Mets need to get an upgrade at shortstop in the offseason. If they get shut out, Flores could step in and continue to mature as a player, or at least the Mets hope he will. Flores can also step in at second base if the Mets get another shortstop.
PAY MATT HARVEY, ZACK WHEELER, JACOB DEGROM: These three starting pitchers are the main reason why hope is so high for the Mets next season. Harvey is back from Tommy John Surgery, Wheeler had a tremendous second half of the season, and DeGrom should be the NL Rookie of the Year. It's a no-brainer to pay all three.
SLAY BARTOLO COLON: This was one of the puzzling contracts the Mets agreed to, giving Colon an extra year at $11 million. Obviously, the Mets should find every way possible to rid themselves of that deal, and that means through a trade. Colon isn't a bad pitcher by any stretch, but the Mets can't have one of their rotation spots taken up by someone who isn't in on the youth movement.
PAY JON NIESE AND DILLON GEE: Mainly, because the Mets aren't going to sign a big-money starting pitcher in free agency, so Niese and Gee make up a nice back end of the rotation. Neither player is part of the big picture, but could be nice stop-gaps until pitchers like the next two on our list can step up.
PAY RAFAEL MONTERO AND NOAH SYNDERGAARD: Both young starters might begin the year in Triple-A, but if Niese or Gee is traded or blows up in spring training, either could be an option in the four or five spot in the rotation.
PAY JENRRY MEJIA: He wasn't overly impressive in his first season as a closer, with 28 saves in 31 chances and a very high 1.41 WHIP after being moved to the bullpen, but he'll likely be the main guy again next year. There are three possibilities at closer for the Mets, Mejia just has the early lead.
PAY JEURYS FAMILIA: Talk around the Mets is Familia should be the closer next year, with Mejia as the eighth-inning set-up man. Either way, Familia isn't going anywhere, as he had a 2.21 ERA out of the bullpen last year. If Mejia struggles early on, Familia will be the closer before long.
PAY VIC BLACK: He may not become the future closer many thought was possible after coming over in a trade from the Pirates, but Black can be a top of the line set-up guy in the bullpen. And if Mejia and Familia both stumble as a closer, Black will be there to step right in.
SLAY BOBBY PARNELL: There's no need to keep him around with Mejia, Familia and Black in the bullpen. Parnell is not going to be the closer next season, so there's not need to take a big role in the bullpen away from the three young relievers and hand it to Parnell, who is coming off Tommy John surgery anyway. He'll be a Met next season, but he could turn into trade bait.
PAY CARLOS TORRES: He's a nice pitcher to have as a long reliever and spot starter. He did more than enough this season to earn a bigger role next year.
SLAY DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: There's no longer a spot for Dice-K, who won six games in two years for the Mets.