(Long Island, N.Y.) Take it any way you want to, but the Mets dumping Rod Barajas and Jeff Francouer recently is hopefully a sign of things to come for the disappointing organization. They will miss the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year and may finally be forced to strip it down and start over. But how far will they go?
The front office has been hanging on to the core of David Wright, Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran. All three have proven to end up with impressive stats but not come through in the clutch or be a leader in the clubhouse. If you are going to build your team around someone, that player should be able to pick up a slumping group on the field or behind close doors. This trio has proven time and time again that they will not be able to fill either role.
A winning team needs at least one player to step up and be the voice of the roster. Wright has been the unofficial person for this, but does not have the fiery personality needed for the job. Reyes and Beltran cannot stay healthy long enough to convince anyone they can become the guy to stand in front.
Wright leads the team with a .293 batting average and has 23 home runs and 90 RBI. Reyes, who is currently out for the second time this summer with a strained oblique muscle, is stuck at .287, 44 RBI and 28 stolen bases. In 48 games since returning from offseason knee surgery, Beltran has struggled with a .231 batting average and production numbers (two home runs, 17 RBI) worthy of a weak eighth place hitter.
Perhaps the best way to scrutinize a player’s production is taking a look at what he does when there are ‘ducks in the pond.’ Wright is hitting a very pedestrian .271 with runners in scoring position and a paltry .229 with RISP and two out. Reyes is hitting .286 with RISP but an abysmal .167 when there are two down. Beltran? His numbers are even worse with .211/.136 in these situational stats.
This situation is even more difficult because these men are what makes the Met marketing machine tick. Look into the stands on any given day at Citi Field and the majority of the jerseys and shirts being worn by the fans will have either #5, #7 or #15 on the back.
If the Mets are going to move any of these three, it would be Beltran. The centerfielder is entering the final year of what has mostly been a mistake of a long term free agent contract that he signed before the 2005 season. He is making nearly $20 million a year, so any taker will have to have deep pockets or the Mets will be forced to pick some of that up.
However this plays out, the Mets will not become a winner until they bring someone in who can be a leader. Especially if they insist on keeping one, two or all three of their current core. Someone who can come through when it is needed most has to be added or else this organization will keep spinning its wheels. They need to formulate a plan and either fix what is broken or start over.
These players will bring a good return, so the Mets should look into possible scenarios where they will fill some holes by getting the most for them while they are still young enough. Everyone wants to win now, but there are times when patience is the best medicine.