Here I check to see how the 2009-2010 Mets compare to a team of homegrown Mets, as well as the 2004 squad, the last one before current general manager Omar Minaya took over.

Matthew Pouliot at NBC Sports has a series of articles on what every team’s roster would look like if they only had the guys they originally signed. In other words – no trades or major league free agent signings allowed. It is an interesting – although imperfect – way to look at a team’s drafting record. It also gives us an idea of the value that a team’s general manager provides in trades and free agency.

Here is what the Mets (ranked 20th) would look like with only home-grown talent:

Lineup
SS Jose Reyes
3B David Wright
RF Nelson Cruz
1B Mike Jacobs
C Jesus Flores
2B Kaz Matsui
CF Carlos Gomez
LF Daniel Murphy

Bench
INF Ty Wigginton
OF Angel Pagan
OF Jay Payton
OF Lastings Milledge
C Raul Casanova

Rotation
A.J. Burnett
Scott Kazmir
Brian Bannister
Mike Pelfrey
Jon Niese

Bullpen
Heath Bell
Octavio Dotel
Matt Lindstrom
Bobby Parnell
Aaron Heilman
Guillermo Mota
Joe Smith

Let’s look at how that compares to what the Mets do have (or should have if the DL bug was not rampant)

C – I would rather have Flores than the Brian Schneider/Omir Santos combo that the team employed for most of 2009. But Josh Thole looks like he is going to get a shot, which could mean a big improvement for the real Mets. And Flores did miss most of 2009 with an injury.

1B – A healthy Carlos Delgado easily tops Jacobs. But Delgado may or may not be back in 2010 and Jacobs’ power would be a welcome addition to the real team. All things considered, if Jacobs is your first baseman, you need an upgrade.

2B – Even in the pretend world, people won’t put Murphy at second base, where he belongs. Oh well, we know Matsui would not work at second in New York and Luis Castillo has had a nice bounce-back year.

LF – Murphy will probably never play the outfield on a regular basis again for the Mets. At this point Pagan or Milledge would be better choices for our homegrown team. The 2009 Mets have gotten better production out of Sheffield and others in left, while the 2010 squad will either have Pagan or a free agent/trade acquisition in the spot.

CF – Gomez is okay but anyone in their right mind would vastly prefer Carlos Beltran.

RF – Cruz would be a nice upgrade over Jeff Francoeur. Cruz has more power, is hitting with a below-average BABIP, meaning that he has room for a little growth.  Francoeur’s BABIP with the Mets is above-average, meaning he probably won’t hit this good going forward.  Finally, Cruz is a far superior defensive outfielder than Francoeur.

SP#1 – Assuming he comes back healthy, Johan Santana is a better pitcher than A.J. Burnett

SP#2 – Assuming he is healthy, Kazmir is better than whoever the Mets throw in the #2 spot. For sake of argument, I will label that pitcher on the 2009 Mets Oliver Perez, since he is the second-highest paid guy.

SP#3 – Bannister is a back of the rotation kind of guy with no upside. I love the fact that he is interested in advanced pitching statistics, but he has that and his record in day games as the only things to recommend him as a MLB pitcher. I will gladly take John Maine (Perez, too, if you want to flip-flop the order) from the current team.

Closer – Bell is good but most people would rather have Francisco Rodriguez on the mound.

Clearly, the current team (if healthy) is far superior to the homegrown squad. The two biggest upgrades would be Cruz (traded by Steve Phillips) and Kazmir (traded by Jim Duquette). Minaya is responsible for the trades of Bell and Lindstrom.

The homegrown squad suffers slightly from the Minaya administration’s reliance on free agents, which have cost high draft picks. But mostly those free agent signings (particularly Beltran and Rodriguez) have been a plus for the real team.

Just for fun, let’s look at the 2004 Mets, the last team before Minaya took over. Here are the players who played the most at each position.

C – Jason Phillips (.624 OPS)
1B – Mike Piazza (.806 OPS)
2B – Jose Reyes (.644 OPS)
3B – David Wright (.857 OPS)
SS – Kaz Matsui (.727 OPS)
LF – Cliff Floyd (.814 OPS)
CF – Mike Cameron (.798 OPS)
RF – Richard Hidalgo (.759 OPS)

SP1 – Tom Glavine (3.60 ERA)
SP2 – Steve Trachsel (4.00 ERA)
SP3 – Al Leiter (3.21 ERA)
SP4 – Jae Weong Seo (4.90 ERA)
SP5 – Matt Ginter (4.54 ERA)

This is also the team that acquired Victor Zambrano and Kris Benson at the trade deadline. The 2004 Mets finished 71-91 and during the season traded their top prospect (Kazmir) in an ill-fated attempt to make the playoffs.

When people call for Minaya to be fired, they should remember the mess that he inherited. Stars like Piazza and Reyes playing out of position, a decaying starting rotation, an offense with only four players with an OPS+ over 100 and none over 118, a farm system that just sacrificed its top prospect and which had few, if any, impact players.

I have no doubt that there are GMs out there who could do a better job than Minaya. I am just not convinced that the Mets would necessarily hire a guy capable of doing better. Overall, the Mets are better off than they were when Minaya took over and his trades and free agent signings are the reason why.

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