Bullpen Stronger, Leadoff Still Weak

The Mets made a flurry of moves last night in the aftermath of Jose Reyes‘s departure. The truth is that these are moves that would likely have been made anyway but as Mets fans the Reyes parting is the watershed event of this offseason. Everything the Mets do now will be compared (by most, anyway) to the tough loss of Reyes at the top of the lineup.

In this flurry of moves the Mets strengthened their bullpen by signing Frank Francisco & Jon Rauch and acquiring Ramon Ramirez from the San Francisco Giants in exchange for Angel Pagan. The Mets also acquired outfielder Andres Torres in the trade with the Giants.

I have no problem with the bullpen restructuring. As the 2011 season went on, and certainly after Francisco Rodriguez was traded, the bullpen deteriorated. A decision was made to build bullpen depth instead of acquiring a top of the line closer and that is definitely the right way to go. What use is a top flight closer if the rest of the bullpen can’t preserve a lead for him?

My only issue with yesterday’s moves is Torres. I understand that they probably couldn’t get any more in this trade and as far as many facets of the game go, particularly on defense, he is an upgrade in center field over Pagan. So my problem is not necesarily with his acquisition. But he is now being looked at as the leadoff hitter for this club and that’s not a good thing. He’s a career .244/.318/.403 hitter who has never hit higher than .270 in his career. He also strikes out a lot for a leadoff guy (in my opnion) 95 times in 112 games in 2011 and 128 in 139 games in 2010.

With the deeper bullpen and better defense in center field it’s possible that the Mets could be a competitive (note: I didn’t say winning) team while scoring fewer runs. But if I’m Sandy Alderson finding a more capable leadoff hitter, while not as urgent as it was yesterday morning, is still a high priority.

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Jon Rauch is becoming a journeyman pitcher in the bullpen. Good pitching is what this team needs because when you have that, you’ve always got a shot. Fill in the defensive side with AAA talent but give the Mets great starting pitching and a great bullpen.

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