It is great to see a team actually trying, but the Mets might very well find themselves on the outside looking in this October
Ah, my Mets. The team I hate to love. I sit here writing this in my Mets hoodie that my brother once got for me as a gift. It’s nice, actually, and I wonder how long it will be before I stop wearing my Mets paraphernalia this season. It did not take long last year, except for the one day I wore my David Wright jersey in September.
The Mets are coming off another disappointing season that saw them win only 77 games, though that was still seven wins better than the year before. However, the competitiveness of the National League made it so that the team had the fifth-worst record in the NL. Their offense was sub-par, though not terrible like their defense, which was one of the worst in baseball.
As for the pitching, the starting rotation was pretty strong, thanks mostly to Cy Young-winner Jacob deGrom, but the back-end was pretty weak. The bullpen, on the other hand, struggled, but it is shaping up to be much better this year, especially with the addition of my fellow boricua Edwin Díaz.
Rookie manager Mickey Callaway struggled in his first season with the Mets, but it is hard to tell how much of that was him and how much of that was the meddlesome, micromanaging, insufferable Wilpons. Speaking of incompetent decision-makers, last year’s team suffered from poor management of injuries and poor decision making. In other words, the Mets Mets-ing things up.
The Mets made one major trade this offseason and made a few free agent signings of note. They acquired Robinson Canó and Edwin Díaz from the Mariners and sent Jay Bruce to Seattle in a trade that reasonable people can disagree on. Jed Lowrie was acquired in a cheap deal, though it will create problems in a crowded infield. It will not be a problem in the immediate future as Lowrie recovers from a knee sprain. Wilson Ramos should provide a nice upgrade at catcher for just two years and $19 million.
Finally, they decided to bring back Jeurys Familia for some reason. They could have had Andrew Miller for less money, one year fewer, and reunite him with his old pitching coach Callaway, but that would have made too much sense. Even coming off a down year plagued by injury, Miller struck out about 30 percent of batters faced, and his 4.24 RA9 was partially the result of a .329 BABIP.
Overall, the starting lineup looks to be an improvement both offensively and defensively. Brandon Nimmo is likely to see some regression from the his outstanding offensive season last year that saw him hit .263/.404/.483, but hopefully a fully health Michael Conforto can make up for that. He did hit well last year with a line of .243/.350/.448; however, a shoulder injury likely sapped some of his production.
Nimmo and Conforto had to play far too much center field as a result of injuries to Juan Lagares. Hopefully with acquisition of Keon Broxton and the presence of a healthy Lagares, that will not be necessary anymore.
Yoenis Céspedes played in only 38 games last year due to a heel injury, and of course Mets management continued to play him far past when they should have. He is recovering from heel surgery and will not be back until midseason at the earliest; it is entirely possible that he will miss the whole season. I am sure that the Wilpons are hoping for such, as it would mean they would get to collect insurance on his contract.
There is nothing much to say about Canó other than that he is still pretty good despite his age. I am a little concerned about Todd Frazier, though. His offensive numbers were down last year, and it was the first time the previously durable Frazier had struggled with injuries. I would much rather start Jeff McNeil at third base on Opening Day, regardless if Frazier is healthy enough. I would not count on this happening even if the coaches and the analytics group recommend it, because the Wilpons have never understood the concept of a sunk cost.
McNeil needs regular playing time, regardless of how much money some of the veterans are making. Amed Rosario had a disappointing first full season in the majors both offensively, and more surprisingly, defensively. Still, he is only 23 years old. I am afraid that the Wilpons are going to bench him if he doesn’t come firing out of the gate.
The first base situation has been well-publicized. Pete Alonso has been ready for the majors, and he is impressing a lot of people in the small sample size of fake baseball known as Spring Training. Regardless, there is no doubt that he should be a far better hitter than Dom Smith. The thing is that Smith is the far, far better defender. I think anyone would take offense first at first base, but there are real questions as to whether or not Alonso can handle the position at all. ESPN’s Keith Law graded his defense out as a 40 on the 20—80 scale. He would be perfect for DH if he were in the AL.
This crowded infield is a problem, and it is hard to trust the Mets to manage this correctly. At least it makes for what should be one of the better benches in the league.
Moving on to the rotation, their ace should still be deGrominant, and Noah Syndergaard fills out a one-two punch that should be among the best in the league. Zack Wheeler had a shockingly good season last year, so as long as he doesn’t regress too much and Steven Matz can stay healthy, this rotation should be in good shape. Unfortunately, Matz is quite injury prone, and that last rotation spot looks pretty ugly right now. Dallas Keuchel would help a lot here!
This bullpen is looking very good as is, which came as a surprise to me, mostly because decades of Mets fandom has left me quite cynical. If Robert Gsellman and/or Seth Lugo have to be promoted in order to bolster a depleted rotation, that could be a problem.
The Mets are not going to get much help from their farm system. It is a decent system right now, but they traded away most of their draft capital in the Canó/Díaz trade. It would be risky to trade their remaining top prospects, too, because if they do so and this team fails to be competitive, they could end up suffering through a brutal Orioles-like rebuild. I would only consider it at the trade deadline if the team is in real contention for the division, and even then only for a real difference-maker.
FanGraphs has the Mets pegged as an 84-win team, which sounds about right to me. Unfortunately, neither I nor the projections sees them as better than the Nationals or Phillies right now. The Mets should be lauded for their efforts to actually try to compete in today’s game, but it is going to be difficult to so much as make the Wild Card game, let alone the division. I hope I’m wrong.
This article is dedicated to my father, Luis Torres Sr., who recently passed away. He was the best father a son could ask for and will be greatly missed. He was my first little league coach (I was terrible), and he took me to my very first baseball game at Shea Stadium in 1993. We sat in the Mezzanine level. I’m pretty sure this was the game. The Mets lost, of course.
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Luis Torres is a Featured Writer at Beyond the Box Score. He is a medicinal chemist by day, baseball analyst by night. You can follow him on Twitter at @Chemtorres21.