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Bring on the Hot Stove League for the Mets (Part 2)

Last week I started my break-down of the Mets, position by position, taking a hack at what their starting lineup might look like or at the very least, where they might be going in 2010. To briefly recap last week, at catcher and first base, unless the Mets were to make a trade, it appears they will go with a short-term veteran at each position respectively for the upcoming season, most likely including the return of Carlos Delgado. A stop-gap solution appears very logical as 2008 first round pick Ike Davis established himself as a legitimate power threat and will start 2010 in AA, if not AAA due to 233 plate appearances already at the former minor league level.

Moving on to the other positions, it brings us to second base. With $12 million remaining on his contract, Luis Castillo is not going anywhere. Granted his stolen base game and his defense are mere shells of his heyday, we still have a hitter who understands the strike zone with three straight seasons of a greater than 1:1 BB/K ratio and knows the limitations of his game -zero power, slap the ball on the ground and beat it out or hit into the gaps in the infield as we can see from his career 3.4 GB/FB ratio. In 2008 he had a .269 BABIP, this season he had a .352 and within that we can further break that down to identify the fact that his line drive rate has been over 20|PERCENT| for the first time since 2005 and only the third time since 2002. He does though own a career .334 BABIP and given his plate discipline skills, his 2009 batting average is closer to reality than his .245 of 2008, but keep in mind that there is plenty of reason to expect continued fluctuation.

Jose Reyes has been much discussed lately as a possible catalyst, not in his usual leadoff position, but as one to be used as trade bait to revamp the Mets roster. In theory a player of his talents and skills who does not turn 27 till next season and who also has a relatively reasonable contract compared to his skills ($20 million over the next two seasons) would make very attractive trade bait. His injury, however, likely tempers some potential enthusiasm for a deal that would require multiple players who are Major league ready or are close to Major league ready and are potential stars in their own right. Omar Minaya has been known to make the dramatic move now and then, but as someone entering what could potentially be his last season with the Mets, he will likely make yet another push to compete and keep together the core of Wright, Reyes, and Beltran, and as we mentioned above, add veteran pieces in the off-season, and if still contention, in season to fill gaps as necessary.

At third base David Wright's spot is assured. However, I am waiting with baited breathe for the annual Bill James Handbook when it comes out this Fall to see the lefty/right splits with respect to Citifield's park factor.  Though when looking at most of the park factors it appears to be a pitcher's park overall, according to ESPN it's currently third in terms of allowing home runs – though this may be inflated to a good degree by the Mets injury-riddled, fly-ball pitching staff. Getting back to Wright – the issue appears to be related to a 3|PERCENT| decline in fly balls hit and beyond that a severe inability to turn that reduced number of fly-balls into home runs – dropping from 16.7|PERCENT| to 6.4|PERCENT|.

Wright has done some other fairly incredible things including an elevated strikeout rate compred to his career (25|PERCENT| to 20|PERCENT|) while producing the second best OBP of his career at .401 due mostly in part to a 26.4|PERCENT| line-drive rate and an unbelievable .409 batting average on balls in play. His batting average and 24 stolen bases have as a result maintained his value, but this is simply not sustainable in any way, shape or form and he will need to return to his better contact making skills to retain his .300 batting average in the long run. In other words, Wright has great potential to end up a bust in 2010 unless some adjustments are made and to what degree Citifield actually had an impact on Wright's game as opposed to his own changes will have weight on that as well.