Everyone should know to take whatever a manager says on the first day of spring training with a rather large grain of salt. That’s even more important with a skipper like Terry Collins, who tends to say whatever he is thinking at the moment and then change his mind a few days (or even a few hours) later.
Some of Collins’ comments last week have me wondering about his thought process and expectations for the 2014 Mets team. When asked about the last spot in the starting rotation, he said:
“I’ve always said those veterans can really get you out of the blocks. Then, when those kids are ready, they’re the ones a lot of times that bring you that extra energy, especially late in the summer.”
That’s great news for John Lannan and Daisuke Matsuzaka, and not-so-great news for Jenrry Mejia. If the Mets are a “win now” team, it makes perfect sense to think this way.
But if they’re really looking at 2015 or beyond, it would make more sense to give Mejia – the guy who will still be around next season – the advantage in the competition.
Asked about who would be the team’s leadoff hitter, Collins said:
The idea of Eric Young Jr. as an ideal leadoff hitter can be left for another day. Right now, let’s focus on where he’s going to play.
Curtis Granderson and Chris Young were Sandy Alderson‘s biggest additions to the Mets lineup, so it’s safe to assume that they are going to play most days. Daniel Murphy is making $5.7 million, so he’s going to be a regular – whether it’s at second base or first. And Collins is still enamored with Ike Davis‘ home runs. Lucas Duda is also in line for playing time at first base and the outfield.
All of that adds up to bad news for Juan Lagares, the 2013 New York Mets’ best defensive player and one of the best in baseball last season. Sure, his bat wasn’t anything to get excited about in his rookie season, but at age 24, one could still expect he might improve… at least if he gets to play. A “win now” team can justify limiting his development in order to have a late-inning defensive replacement available. And according to the Star-Ledger‘s new Mets beat reporter Mike Vorkunov, that’s exactly what Collins wants to do. But a team that’s looking to the future needs to get him regular at-bats, ideally at the major league level, and if that’s not possible, then in Triple-A.
It definitely sounds like the Mets’ manager expects the 2014 New York Mets to have a chance of contending for a wild card spot, at least. It’s probably more realistic to think about 2015 or beyond, but maybe enough guys will have career years to make this season a special one.
I just hope that a couple of months from now, we’re not looking at the results of roster decisions and playing time allocations that were made based on wishful thinking.
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