Entering a pivotal offseason after a trip to the World Series, the Mets were in good shape. They may have been losing their long-time second baseman and explosive outfielder, but in the end, they still had a solid team built around its starting pitching. The Mets roster was fine. Right?
Almost three months later, things are significantly more optimistic. Not only do the Mets still possess arguably the best starting pitching staff in baseball, but now their bullpen has a major boost in the form of Antonio Bastardo. Bartolo Colon is back to anchor the five-spot in the rotation until the return of the Mets’ fifth ace Zack Wheeler, and, of course, their explosive outfielder Yoenis Cespedes is back. Not to mention the additions of Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker to form a steady middle infield tandem that will give the lineup a good boost.
The Mets, wholly, had a good and productive offseason, and right now, despite projections from FanGraphs, they enter the season as favorites to win the National League East, a position they haven’t been in nearly a decade.
However, as a Mets fan, it is my duty to be unresting. Therefore, this article is going to ask the constant question all baseball fans ask of their teams: what more can you do?
Well, there are a couple of things, most of them tedious. To evaluate them, let’s go through the different position groups and see where upgrades could apply.
Beginning with starting pitching,
to be perfectly honest, that’s in as good of a place as it can be. Not only does it look great on the surface, with the likes of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz, but also on the outside with so much depth. Logan Verrett and Rafael Montero will both likely start the year in Las Vegas, but they’re perfectly capable of manning the fifth starter role if called upon.
The bullpen seems strong,
but bullpen arms tend to be fickle and there’s always reasons to be concerned about durability. Luckily, Mets starters won’t often need to be taken out of games early, and if they can average six innings per start (a very achievable goal), then it should mask the bullpen thinness. However, between now and Spring Training, signing a veteran arm is never a bad idea. Tyler Clippard, a familiar face, could be a low-risk high reward signing. Another guy the Mets should 100% sign now as an investment is Greg Holland, who likely won’t pitch in the 2016 season (recovering from Tommy John surgery) but if he rehabs properly and returns to his previous All-Star form he had with the Royals, that could wind up being a steal. I’m guessing a three-year deal with a backloaded salary but plenty of incentives would get the job done right now.
The Mets have two young catchers,
the better of the two being Travis d’Arnaud, yet Kevin Plawecki isn’t a slouch himself. Plawecki’s competence and ability to start twice a week should help keep d’Arnaud healthy throughout the season. This unit is likely set.
The infield has some issues,
(backup first and third baseman, to name them), but overall it’s a solid group. It’s hanging heavily on David Wright’s health, but even if he were to succumb to injury the Mets will certainly have a contingency plan in place to replace him, whether that be Neil Walker at third base with Wilmer Flores going to second base, or vice-versa. Flores will also likely take the role of the backup first baseman, but if the organization sees midway through spring that he can’t man that position, well then they will decide on another solution. This group, based on all of the current members of it, is likely set, although a backup first baseman could be necessary.
The outfield is the strongest set offensively,
and their defense won’t be abysmal either. Cespedes is unpopular among defensive sabermetrics, but I think he’s a little underrated in center. He makes the routine plays, and while he’ll have the occasional lackadaisical error, he’ll make up for that with his bat. Conforto has a solid glove in left, as does Granderson in right, and right behind all of them is Juan Lagares who can feasibly slide into any outfield spot comfortably (though his value is highest in center). The depth behind the outfield was already signed, and Alejandro de Aza is expected to be the flexible and dependable fifth outfielder, though if that doesn’t work out fifth outfielders are fairly easy to replace.
Looking at the team from a broad perspective, it seems rock steady, deep, and talented. The offense should put up a fair amount of runs, and sky’s the limit with the rotation. Bullpen’s as previously mentioned are the toughest group to project but there are a lot of talented arms to anchor the back-end, and of course, Jeurys Familia.
From here, the Mets would be wise to pick up a few more guys on minor league deals as insurance, but other than that there isn’t much room to improve on paper, but, of course, championships aren’t won on paper.