It’s now been over three weeks since Bartolo Colon signed. Since that time, other than the daily Ike Davis rumor, it has been pretty cold on the hot stove. Once we signed Colon I’ve felt we were done with any large 2014 acquisitions, but surely I could be wrong. There are still some free agents out there, and there is no trade deadline approaching. But if I am right, and other than a flurry of dumpster diving signings what you see is what you get, I still think we have improved this team from 2013. That doesn’t make us a surefire contender, or even a surefire .500 team. But it’s a start, and it is nice to have some optimism as I open up my 2014 calendar. For the first time in years I like the projected roster more than the one left behind.
A year ago at this time our outfield was such a joke even Sandy Alderson couldn’t resist taking a shot. Now we enter the year with a proven commodity in Curtis Granderson, and a full year from Juan Lagares and Eric Young Jr. Add in our other signing, Chris Young, and the group looks very different from a year ago. Yes, Marlon Byrd exceeded expectations and Granderson might only be able to match Marlon’s production. But the other spots look much better. Last year’s team was sunk early, and the follies of Cowgill, Kirk, Ankiel, and any other shot case I forgot was a big reason why.
I also have been impressed by the type of outfielder we targeted, as both Chris Young and Granderson should be above average fielders. Lagares, we know, is a fabulous fly ball chaser, and Young Jr. makes up for his shaky instincts with world-class speed. Young Jr. is probably the worst defender of this bunch. A year ago we played Lucas Duda in left field. The year-over-year defensive improvement is enormous. Sandy Alderson had been ignoring outfield defense for years, even though we play in spacious Citi Field, and the result was a historic run of bad play in our own park. You have to be able to win at home, period, and I feel our record at Citi Field will improve greatly this year.
The infield, on the other hand, looks very much like the one we had on Opening Day 2013. Catcher will change, as John Buck is gone and prospect Travis d’Arnaud is getting his chance to play. D’Arnaud is a real wildcard for overall 2014 fortunes, with the possibility of being a significant upgrade to Buck. It’s now or never for d’Arnaud, who did not hit in September 2013. It appears a Duda/Satin platoon will replace Ike. This platoon does not excite me, but again, it should not be hard for this position to improve year over year. Davis was not bad, he was dreadful. If Duda can be mediocre first base is better than 2013.
When you get to the rotation, improvement is hard to see, due to the glaring 2014 omission of Matt Harvey. Colon will be needed to fill some of that void, but he should have help. Zack Wheeler will be around for all of 2014. Let’s not forget how long we had to wait for Wheeler in 2013. Niese and Gee are back again and the current number five starter is a mystery. Hefner is gone for the year, but so are Marcum and Laffey. Those last two will not be missed. As great as Harvey was, it is hard not to be concerned about losing ground here but if Colon comes through this should be a solid starting staff. I do, though, see that as a big 10 million dollar if.
The bullpen looks murky right now but it did last January too. As we did a year ago I expect some cheap veteran signings. Parnell is the key, if he is back we can fill this bullpen. Vic Black should be a useful arm, and forgotten man Jeurys Familia has been healthy and pitching this winter.
A few more moves would certainly help, and it is hard not to get frustrated with an ownership who will not fully commit to winning. But despite this I see improvement in this major league roster and have some honest hope that this team will be improved in 2014.