Monday, March 22, 2010

Carter, Figueroa: Opening Day Roster Hopefuls Worth Rooting For

In two separate articles for The Record, Steve Popper identifies two Mets who have been outplaying their competition but still manage to be on the outside looking in at a spot on the opening day roster, Chris Carter and Nelson Figueroa.

In this article, Popper talks about Carter's attitude towards having a second chance at the bigs after last year's quick stint with the Red Sox, and the dissapointment of being blocked by the Yankees on waivers after the Wagner deal last summer.  Popper quotes Carter as saying, "You get one chance sometimes...You have to take it."  So far this spring Carter has taken it, "Entering Sunday's B-squad game with a .385 average and three home runs, Carter went 3-for-3." 

To me, it would seem like a no-brainer to keep Carter over Jacobs, who has struggled at the plate and is less versatile in the field than Carter, if Murphy was having a better spring.  But the reality is that Murphy is struggling and the Mets seem more willing to enter the season with a more established player (Jacobs) ready to take over should Murphy struggle, than they are going into the season with Murphy, Carter and Tatis jockeying for playing time.  Although I don't disagree with this logic, I don't completely buy into it either.  The team has spent all spring saying Murphy is the starter and that the bench competition is just that, an open competition, but as the spring wears on and Murphy remains inconsistent it seems more and more like they had a plan from the start and it doesn't involve Murphy or Carter...

In the other article I spoke about earlier Popper discusses Nelson Figueroa and his circumstances surrounding a potential opening day roster spot.  Popper says that despite his scoreless line this spring that Figueroa's shot at making the Mets is not a good one, based on the other talent and numbers around him...

Popper quotes Figueroa as saying, "You wonder, who's the one that's holding you back; whose eyes aren't open...I think the staff who saw me day in and day out last year, they believe enough in me that I was kept on the roster, and you hope it's for a reason other than keeping me from going anywhere else." 

Figgy deserves to make this team, but at the same time I don't see where he fits in.  Personally, I think Niese is having a little more trouble this spring than I hoped he would, as is Nieve, while Takahashi has been much better than advertised and Sean Green and Parnell have struggled.  So, what do you do?

The answer SHOULD be to carry Figgy as a long-reliever, Takahashi as the lefty-specialist (despite his dominating performances) and use Nieve in the 'pen, while Niese gets the number 5 starter gig to start the season and Green and Parnell (who have options) work out their problems in the minors, or get dealt.  Green I think has lost whatever he had in Seattle, and should be dealt, while it seems more likely to me that Parnell just needs more time to develop. 

But that's probably NOT what the Mets will do.  They'll probably make Niese the fifth starter, keep Nieve, Green and Parnell in the 'pen and send Takahashi to the minors along with Figgy, as an attempt to keep all of these arms.  Bad idea, because this time, I'm not so confident Figgy will clear waivers.  Which is something he would have to do to come back to the Mets. 

All-in-all I think Figueroa has the right outlook on things, as Popper quotes Figgy as saying, "It's very hard for there to be room on opening day."  I think both these players know that, and when given their opportunities will do their best to stay there, unfortunately for Figgy, he's had opportunities and produced, and it hasn't mattered. 

Regardless, as the final push towards opening day is happening and the rosters shrink, answers will be had, and mistakes made.  Unfortunately, I think the Mets will be making two mistakes this spring, leaving both Carter and Figueroa off thier opening day roster...

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