When news came down last night that Carlos Beltran was going to be sidelined for the next 8-12 weeks and probably miss the beginning of the season, my immediate concern was the Mets offense. Defensively, the Mets have at least two average options to replace Beltran in Fernando Martinez and Angel Pagan. But offensively, there is neither guy will come close to replacing Beltran's production or impact at the plate. And even though the Mets had already signed Jason Bay, the reality is that their offense will take a big hit without Beltran.
What made the Beltran news even worse for the Mets is that the number of free agent options to replace Beltran are dwindling. Marlon Byrd is off the market. Mike Cameron is off the market. Coco Crisp is off the market. So unless the Mets want to take a chance on Rick Ankiel, there really is no free agent option out there that is significantly better than Pagan or Martinez.
So if the Mets were going to stick with Pagan/Martinez in center, then where would the offense come from? As I scrolled through the free agent market last night, the one segment of the market that I felt the Mets could take advantage of was first base. With Adam LaRoche and even Russell Branyan still out there, the Mets could have signed a power hitter to a low cost contract, who hopefully would have picked up the offensive slack with Beltran out of the lineup and would not have blocked Ike Davis. With Beltran fully healthy and productive, the Mets can afford to live with Daniel Murphy at first base, but without Beltran, it's much tougher to depend on Murphy as their everyday first baseman. Murphy is a nice player, who could develop into something special, but if the Mets are serious about winning in 2010 with or without Carlos Beltran, then they will need more offensively out of first base.
But this morning, LaRoche signed with the Diamondbacks. It's tough to fault the Mets for not signing LaRoche only 12 hours or so after losing Beltran, but somewhere in his mind, Omar Minaya should be pissed that a player of LaRoche's caliber, who would have been a great fit for the "pre Beltran 2010 Mets", signed for such a reasonable amount of money and such a short period of time.
We'll see how the Mets choose to move forward. Obviously, they think that Benjie Molina will help pick up the slack offensively, but his bat alone will not be enough. It would not surprise me to see the Mets not make any major moves and simply survive until Beltran comes back, but as we saw last year, that plan is shaky.
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