It’s been a tough near-decade for the New York Mets. The dark days began at the end of the 2007 season, which is when they managed to blow a 7-game lead in the NL East with 17 games to go. The darkness continued into 2008, which is when they blew a 3.5-game lead with 17 to play. The darkest days occurred during 2009, which is when the team bottomed out into a 70-win season and the #LOLmets movement went into full swing. However, there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel for the Mets. Despite only winning 74 games in 2013, the Mets finished in 3rd (ahead of the Phillies and Marlins), which was their best finish standings wise since that 2008 season. With plenty of new faces (both veterans and exciting young players such as Matt Harvey, Travis d’Arnaud, and Zack Wheeler), the Mets appear to be on an upward trend. Will they continue to hold steady as the 3rd best team in the NL East?
CF Chris Young (1 yr, $7.25 MM)
SP Bartolo Colon (2 yrs, $20 MM)
SP Daisuke Matsuzaka ($1.5 MM Minor League Deal)
SP John Lannan ($1.5 MM Minor League Deal)
RP Jose Valverde ($1 MM Minor League Deal)
RP Kyle Farnsworth ($1 MM Minor League Deal)
Matt Harvey’s the big name here. As you all know, he had Tommy John Surgery back in October, and that normally means a 12 month recovery. No matter what you hear from the man himself, the chances that he actually takes the mound this season are very small. Other than that, the Mets have no big injury issues. Ike Davis was walking around in a walking boot earlier this Spring after suffering calf strains (both of his calves got strained. Yeesh.), but he should be good to go once the season starts.
State of the Squad
The Mets definitely have the look of a team that is on the rise, even if there may be a couple of holes in the infield. The star of this show is still Captain America himself, David Wright. Wright will be entering his 11th season with the Mets, and is looking to bounce back from a bit of a down season for his standards in 2013. Granted, it’s kind of hard to say that a line of .307/.390/.514 with 18 HRs and 155 wRC+ is down, but his numbers in 2012 looked much better (especially on defense). That being said, Wright will still be the best player in the Mets infield by a long shot. They’re still saddled with Ike "I Played Through Injury Last Season and All I Got Was A Trip To Las Vegas For AAA Ball" Davis playing first base and a possibly out-of-shape Ruben Tejada at shortstop, but they do have a pretty decent 2B in Daniel Murphy. One source of excitement should come from backstop, with rookie Travis d’Arnaud taking the reigns at catcher this season. The big issue with d’Arnaud is health: If he can manage to stay healthy, then the Mets may have a Rookie of the Year candidate in d’Arnaud, especially if d’Arnaud can produce with the bat in addition to his defensive skill.
The outfield actually has a position battle going on at center field, with Eric Young Jr. battling Juan Lagares for the spot. Lagares should be the logical choice to win the position, but hey, if they want to send one of the better defensive outfielders in baseball out to Las Vegas so that they can get a light-hitting/bad-defending speedster to hit leadoff for them, then that’s their prerogative. The other two outfield positions appear to be set in stone, with new addition Chris Young manning right field while the $60 Million Dollar Man Curtis Granderson takes left field. Both players are projected to be worth around 2-3 wins each in 2014, and they should be good for hitting that number. It's not a spectacular outfield by any means but it's a decent-enough one, even if Terry Collins decides to handicap them defensively by sending Lagares to Las Vegas.
The Mets’ pitching staff is going to be interesting to watch, even with Matt Harvey spending most of the season rehabbing. The Round Mound of the Pitcher’s Mound Bartolo Colon is back and inexplicably still able to produce at a decent level. He’s 41-years old and yet still as good of a workhorse as you’ll find on the market. This isn’t to say that the Mets aren’t taking on plenty of risk with this deal (I mean, look at him), but considering his production over the past two seasons, if all goes well and Colon inexplicably continues to produce at that level, then this will be a solid little move for New York and one that should at least keep the rotation above water as Harvey makes his way back from TJ surgery. The other intriguing piece of this rotation is Zack Wheeler. After a somewhat inconsistent rookie season (3.42 ERA, 4.17 FIP), the Mets are expecting big things from the young right hander. If Wheeler can reign in his control, he should end up being very valuable to the Mets' rotation. Dillon Gee has proven to be perfectly average over his career so far and appears to be perfectly average in 2014. Jon Niese has been dealing with shoulder issues that seem to have eroded all of the talk of a potential breakout for this guy. However, if he’s healthy, he’ll probably be in the same boat with Gee; pretty average but definitely capable of being productive. The fifth starter position is completely up for grabs, but be on the lookout for heavily-hyped prospect Noah Syndergaard to come up in September.
The Mets’ rotation will have to make sure that they produce, because this bullpen is not looking good outside of Bobby Parnell, who took on the closer role in 2013 and should keep it going into 2014. Parnell is easily the most reliable guy in this bullpen, which means that a young crew that struggled mightily in 2013 (accumulating a grand total of 0.1 fWAR as a unit in 2013, good for 27th in all of baseball with a collective ERA & FIP of 3.98 and 4.02, respectively) is probably going to struggle just as much in 2014.
If they had Matt Harvey, they’d be a solid pick for 3rd place. He was a 6-win pitcher (according to Fangraphs) last season before he went down for TJ surgery, and there was no reason to expect a disappointment heading into his 3rd season. Unfortunately, his 3rd season will be coming in 2015 instead of 2014, which means the Mets will have to make do with what they have. They’ll still probably retain their hold on 3rd place, but it’ll be a dogfight between them and the Phillies all season, with 80~ wins being the ceiling. They aren’t terrible, but they'll need absolutely everything possible to go their way just to be in the playoff hunt this season.