Call me a cockeyed optimist, but the Mets seem to have been very wise so far in the offseason. It seems that, just like with the stock market, the experts often are wrong. In truth, John Lackey was the best arm available, but he was not worth the money and years he sought. And every ne'er-do-well pitcher out there looked better than the ER we called a rotation last season.
In truth, every arm the Mets have in good shape is equal to what was available in the market. If they sign two or three high-risk, high-reward guys -- Chien-Ming Wang, Pedro Martinez, Ben Sheets and John Smoltz fit that description -- that would make them scary, because they would have a good chance of getting two in the rotation on the cheap and still have some money for the next Hot Stove. What do you say? I can take it, I'm a Mets fan. I thrive on disappointment. -- Joe H., Rocky Point, N.Y.
I'm not sure what point you're trying to make about the high-risk pitchers. The Mets have signed none of them. And the potential reward from any one of the four isn't likely to be at all comparable to his resumes. And remember, the Mets were quite interested in Lackey. The feeling wasn't mutual, though.
Warning: You may be thriving come July.
Are the Mets finished, or do you think they still will make a meaningful move? -- Edward F., Sebring, Fla.
I can't believe the current roster and the Opening Day roster will be the same. And I'm sure the Mets would prefer to make a move with everyday impact rather than stand pat. But where do they turn? The free-agent shelves have been picked pretty bare. And they have little to trade. They recognize Orlando Hudson would be the energizer they need, but they won't pursue him unless they rid themselves of Luis Castillo.
Where do you see the Mets finishing this season? In my mind, even if everyone is healthy, with this pitching staff, I don't see them finishing better than third place. -- Michael I., Woodmere, N.Y.
Predictions in the final week of January mean little. But if a prediction is what you want, the Mets seem to be a third-place team with a greater chance to finish fourth than first in the National League East. The pitching -- rotation and bullpen -- is questionable, and though they have upgraded their offense with Jason Bay, not signing Bengie Molina undermined the pitching and the run production, and losing Carlos Beltran for what appears to be at least a month will undermine their efforts to compete successfully in the first weeks of the season.
A good start isn't essential, but for a team trying to distance itself from a poor season, it is advisable.
And what do we know about the right side of the infield?
I'm having a hard time understanding the Brian Stokes for Gary Matthews Jr. trade. Can you help me out here? Why give away a bullpen arm, who I thought performed admirably last year, for a 35-year-old center fielder who skills are clearly diminishing? Angel Pagan is clearly better. Why throw away Stokes to protect against an injury to Pagan? I'd rather have a prospect play for a few weeks in that case, i.e., Fernando Martinez or someone else. -- Andrew F., Rancho Cucamonga, Cailf.
The Angels were trying to give away Matthews. Why did the Mets have to give up Stokes, an inexpensive and healthy reliever who had a good year? Sounds like another Heath Bell trade. -- Tom K., Long Island, N.Y.
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Why would general manager Omar Minaya trade a reliever with a lively arm, Stokes, who has had some success for a part-time outfielder, Matthews, who hasn't had success other than in 2006, especially when it seems our bullpen -- and pitching staff generally -- has significant holes to fill? -- Dan G., New York City
I can't explain -- or defend -- the deal. The Mets needed another outfielder the moment Beltran became unavailable. Matthews Jr. or Pagan could start and the other could serve as the understudy. Before they acquired Matthews, they said Pagan would suffice. Now, regardless of whom starts in center during Beltran's absence, the club will be paying more than needs be paid for its No. 4 outfielder and more than needs to be paid for Matthews, given how his career has declined since 2006.
In most cases, I understand what the club has tried to accomplish in a trade, even if I disagree with it. This one bewilders me.
Matthews' reputation as a defender has faded a bit. And if the Mets are, in fact, paying $2 million of the money owned him and dealing a player as well, that seems quite unwise to me. Increasing their offers to Molina and Joel Pineiro would have been wiser. That the Mets don't believe they have a young outfielder who can run down a fly ball for a month or so, it is a condemnation of their player development system.
Do you think the Mets would be better with Cliff Lee and Brandon Webb or with Joe Mauer and Carlos Pena in 2011? And what are the odds of them getting a few big free agents, so they can have a chance to get back in the playoffs for 2011? -- Tom I., Levittown, N.Y.
You must know something I don't know. How about a hybrid -- Lee and Mauer?
Odds are I have no idea what the odds are.
I respect your column and honesty. What I can't figure out is what this team is all about, its identity, if you will. I have been a loyal fan for many years, and it always seems we end up with more questions than answers. Why is that? I don't want to disrespect anyone, but what are we supposed to think? This was a thin free-agent class, unfortunately, but I thought, more than ever, the Mets needed a few big moves. I love the Mets and baseball, but I'm not about to give away any more of my money to watch this product they are choosing to put on the field. Maybe you can help change the way I feel; maybe I'm missing something. Thanks for listening. -- Bob M., Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
I'm not sure I can change your point of view. The Mets needed -- still need -- a starting pitcher. I think they're counting too much on renaissance seasons from Mike Pelfrey, John Maine and Oliver Perez. If each wins 15 -- that's a lot to ask -- then the team will prosper. But questions about their catching, second base and first base will persist.
Is there any talk about a big league team coming to New Jersey? It's torture going to Yankees and Mets games from New Jersey. -- Edward R., Bridgewater, N.J.
I live in the Garden State, too. So I get to squeeze onto two bridges in each direction. It rarely makes my day. From time to time, there have been whispers about a team moving to the Meadowlands. But any franchise moving into the Yankees' and Mets' backyard would have to have pockets that reach the floor to afford playing the indemnity rights both existing franchises would demand.
Hints: leave earlier, try the ferry, leave later (sometimes that works), swim, move, rent in Queens or the South Bronx.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.