With Sandy Alderson and his GM counterparts still working to finalize their teams’ Opening Day rosters, it’s too early to make predictions for the 2017 season. However, let’s take a look at where the Mets stand as we approach New Year’s Day. In this edition, we’ll take a look at their pitching staff.
The Mets are built around their starting pitching. When healthy, the Mets have one of the best rotations in baseball. Of course, “when healthy” is the caveat here. 2016 ended with Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz all on the shelf, and Zack Wheeler missed his second consecutive season coming off of Tommy John surgery. Noah Syndergaard emerged as the team’s ace, but he battled through bone spurs of his own. If Thor, deGrom, Harvey, and Matz can all stay healthy and pitch to expectations, the Mets can reasonably expect to complete for the NL East crown in 2017.
As for Wheeler, it’s hard to expect anything from him given his long hiatus. Maybe he finds some success in a bullpen role, but the Mets cannot count on him for any major contribution in 2017. Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo came out of nowhere to help propel the Mets into the postseason last year. I would expect Gsellman to start the year as the team’s fifth starter, with Lugo joining the bullpen.
Jeurys Familia set the Mets’ single season record for saves last year, but his Wild Card Game performance is what Mets fans will remember the most from his 2016 campaign. Despite his postseason struggles and anxiety-filled ninth innings, Familia is still one of the league’s better closers. The Mets are still awaiting word on what punishment Familia will face for his domestic violence incident, but it’s reasonable to expect that the Mets may need to get through April without their closer. In his absence, Addison Reed will be counted on to take over the ninth inning. Reed had a career year in a setup role in 2016, finishing with a 1.97 ERA. Can he pick up where he left off last year? Even if Reed maintains his dominance and excels filling in for Familia, who will take over the eighth inning?
Sandy Alderson’s most important task for the rest of the offseason is to find a solid arm for the back of the bullpen. Reed and Familia were both overworked in 2016, and even without Familia’s pending suspension, the Mets needed another reliable arm for Terry Collins to go to in the late innings. In an ideal world, Alderson would be able to turn Jay Bruce into that reliever, but it’s unlikely Bruce (or Curtis Granderson) will get the Mets the arm that they covet. Alderson also needs a reliable lefty for the bullpen. The return of Jerry Blevins would be the best-case scenario, but if another team is willing to give him a three year contract, the Mets will be looking elsewhere.
Stay tuned for Part 2 for my thoughts on the Mets’ offense.
While watching the final minute of Super Bowl XLIX, I couldn’t help but think back to Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS.
When Jermaine Kearse of the Seahawks made a miraculous catch at the five yard line – the ball bouncing off of his leg, body and into his arms – I instantly thought of Endy Chavez, who ironically played for the Seattle Mariners last season. The Seahawks were on shaky ground, at midfield with time running out in their quest for a second straight title. When Kearse made his catch, you felt there was no way the Seahawks could lose. As a Mets fan, though, I had seen this before.
2006 seemed like it would be the Mets’ year, but injuries forced them to turn to Oliver Perez to start the biggest game of the season. Perez, acquired at the trade deadline in July, may have been the worst Game 7 starter in postseason history. Even if you somehow ignored his 3-13 regular season record, you couldn’t ignore that he was freaking Oliver Perez. To his credit, Perez did all the Mets could have asked of him, holding the Cardinals to just one run as he pitched into the sixth inning.
With one out in the sixth and the game tied at 1, Scott Rolen came up with a runner on first. Rolen hit a drive to left field that seemed like a sure goner. Endy Chavez, only starting himself due to an injury to Cliff Floyd, raced back to the wall, leaped, and somehow brought Rolen’s ball back into the yard. Instead of being down 3-1, Chavez’s catch started an inning-ending double play that had Shea Stadium rocking. When Endy “saved the day” (as Gary Cohen put it), most watching figured there was no way that the Mets could lose this game. The Mets would put a few runs on the board, Billy Wagner and the pen would nail down the final outs, and the Mets would be on their way to Detroit.
Except that didn’t happen.
The Mets left the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth, and didn’t threaten the next two innings. Aaron Heilman gave up a two run bomb to Yadier Molina, and the Mets went into the bottom of the ninth down 3-1. The Mets put the first two runners on base, and then loaded the bases with two outs for Carlos Beltran. We all know how that ended.
Why in the world did Pete Carroll and the Seahawks call a pass play? Why didn’t Beltran swing? These questions – and the catches that became footnotes in heartbreaking losses – will have Seahawks and Mets fans wondering what could have been, or what should have been, for years to come.
Who will hit some homers?
Steal a base or two?
He’s certainly no stiff, but often he will whiff.
The Grandy Man.
After a lot of talk and little else this offseason, Sandy Alderson and the Mets finally made a significant move as the team agreed to a 4 year, $60 million deal with former Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson. With several large contracts finally off the books, fans have been waiting for the team to open up their checkbook and make some much-needed improvements. But until today, their only move had been the signing of Chris Young (the .200 hitting outfielder, not to be confused with the oft-injured pitcher).
So does signing Granderson turn the Mets into contenders? Heck no. He’s a flawed player and not a perfect fit. With the current roster, Granderson would project to hit fourth, and he’s certainly no cleanup hitter. But the addition of the “Grandy Man” is a start. He adds power to a team that sorely lacks pop, and the projected outfield of Granderson-Juan Lagares-Young should be one of the better defensive outfields in the league.
The key will be what Alderson does next. The Mets need to figure out their first base situation (no Lucas Duda, please), could use an upgrade at shortstop, and need to address their bullpen. With no Matt Harvey in 2014, the Mets also need to fill a spot in their starting rotation.
What tricks does Sandy have up his sleeve? Will the Wilpons allow him to do much more? We may find out as soon as next week as Major League Baseball holds their Winter Meetings at Walt Disney World in Orlando. Hopefully, the Mets bring home more than a pair of Mickey ears.
The big discussion around the Mets these days (well, other than Madoff, the Wilpons, and Finkle…I mean Einhorn) is what they will do with Jose Reyes. In his contract year, Reyes may be playing the best baseball of his career, showing everyone around the league why he is arguably the most exciting leadoff hitter in baseball. He’s hitting triples, stealing bases, and is one of the few Mets who has not been injured this year.
Coming off of back-to-back disappointing, injury-plagued seasons, the prevailing thought was that Reyes would be a goner after his contract expired at season’s end, or he would be dealt by the July 31 trade deadline before he left as a free agent. However, with Reyes showing just how important he is to the team at the plate and in the field, the Mets may consider trying to lock up Reyes after all.
Of course, with the Mets financial woes, they likely will need to clear payroll to pay for Reyes. With Santana and Bay unmovable, the focus has shifted to David Wright. Once considered the Mets’ next captain, Wright has struggled since the move to Citi Field. He has shown flashes of being one of the best third baseman in baseball, but Fred Wilpon‘s comments in the infamous article in The New Yorker were actually dead-on: Wright is a very good player, but not a superstar.
As someone who owns a David Wright jersey, I never thought I’d see the day where Wright would be dealt. He has often proclaimed wanting to be a Met for life, and he has been the face of the franchise since the departure of Mike Piazza. Wright has shown to be more durable than Reyes (this year’s back injury notwithstanding), but if you look at the big picture, who is more replaceable? If you take a long, objective look, it’s Wright.
That being said, Mets fans are hoping that Sandy Alderson and the Wilpons can find a way to keep both Reyes and Wright. But at the end of the day, will it matter? The Mets have had both Wright and Reyes on the left side of the infield for most of the past decade, and here is what they have to show for it:
First Place Finishes: 1
Playoff Appearances: 1
World Series Appearances: 0
Monumental Collapses: 2
Maybe the departure of one of the Mets “core” players isn’t the worst thing. I mean, how much worse can things get with the Mets?