Five biggest issues for the Mets in 2010

Mets David Wright throws bad after striking out

Mets David Wright throws bad after striking out for the third out leaving Luis Castillo on base in the third inning. (September 22, 2009) Photo Credit: Kathy Kmonicek/Kathy Kmonicek

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1) The Mets solved this question easily a year ago by picking up the $12-million option on Carlos Delgado. But what figured to be the no-brainer move of last winter didn't turn out so great, did it?

This time around, there's no slam-dunk answer, but it probably won't be Daniel Murphy, who made 97 starts at first base this season out of desperation more than anything else. Sure, Murphy showed flashes at the plate, and even handled the position better than expected.

But if the Mets plan on being a contender in 2010 - and we're all assuming that, right? - they need a real first baseman and not somebody still learning the position. Think free agents Adam LaRoche and Nick Johnson, or if you care to dream big, maybe Prince Fielder will end up on the trade market.

Don't rule out a return by Delgado, either. If the Mets can get him at a decent price off hip surgery, he could be a cheap power source.

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2) Not only is David Wright the face of the Mets, he's supposed to be a potent offensive threat, and that obviously wasn't the case during this season.

Wright denied he was hurt and shrugged off suggestions that he was spooked by Citi Field's pitcher-friendly dimensions. But something had to be wrong - mechanically or otherwise - for Wright to hit only 10 home runs. The Mets can only hope that is an aberration and their $55-million third baseman will go back to being the same guy that smacked no fewer than 26 homers in each of the previous four seasons and a career-high 33 in 2008.

Wright was slowly making progress coming off the concussion in the season's final days and it should help that he plans to work with hitting coach Howard Johnson during the offseason.

3) It's difficult to believe that the team's medical staff from the Hospital for Special Surgery is to blame for the countless number of health issues that plagued the Mets this season. It's a world-renowned orthopedic hospital with a stellar reputation.

So why did the Mets seem to mishandle so many of their injuries?

For one, the team always downplayed the severity, and by stringing players along -- as well as prescribing too many cortisone shots -- those situations actually became worse.

The Mets have to do a better job at these decisions, whether it's being more prudent putting players on the DL -- and getting them back sooner -- or improving the communication.

They also need to rethink their conditioning and rehab programs because what they did this year clearly didn't work.

4) The Wilpons chose to give Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel what amounted to a free pass this season because of the stunning number of injuries. But that charity ended once the final out was made yesterday.

Both the GM and manager barely escaped this season with their jobs, and they now have to provide assurances to ownership that 2010 will be different from Day 1 of spring training. For Minaya, that means hiring more competent help for the front office in the scouting/development departments. Oh, and work like crazy this offseason to pull off a trade or two that will provide immediate help.

For Manuel, his days of being a players' manager are over. Always great with the media, it's time for Manuel to put his own stamp on this club, and that means establishing accountability in the clubhouse.

5) OK, so it's really more than five. Minaya needs to get another front-line starter -- if not top free agent John Lackey, then maybe someone like Joel Pineiro - a starting catcher (Bengie Molina perhaps?) and a leftfielder.

Obviously Matt Holliday would provide a badly needed boost to the offense, but as the top hitter on the market, that will be a tough get.

The Mets still have not settled on a post-Madoff payroll yet, but with $30 million coming off the books, the likely plan is to keep it in the $140-million range.

Also, the Mets need to closely monitor the rehabs of Johan Santana (elbow), Oliver Perez (knee) and Jose Reyes (hamstring). Santana should be fine, but the Mets need to recoup something from the $36 million they've spent on Perez.

They also have to make sure Reyes' running style is fixed -- or he's headed for a future of more hamstring troubles.

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