That was the Mets record in the first 12 games of the season, the best start to a season ever in New York Mets history. By April 21st, the Mets were 14-6, while the team across the Whitestone were 9-9 to start the season.
And then, everything went into a tailspin (and Mickey Callaway called it). Suddenly, 11-1 turned into 17-9 by the end of April, and a 10-18 May that consisted of trading away “The Dark Knight” (er, “Harv” rather) for Devin Mesoraco, and at one point having the entire organization forget the lineup.
From that 11-1 start, they went 26-43 (including a horrific 5-21 month of June). Suddenly a season that had so much promise was an absolute grease fire, despite recovering with a 38-30 second half and seeing improved results in the rotation with a 2.97 ERA that led all of baseball.
Then, the Mets hired former agent Brody Van Wagenen as their new general manager, which received mixed reactions throughout the offseason. One offseason later, while the big move has not been made, Met fans should be very excited about the potential direction this team is going in.
What the Mets Got Right
Hiring Brody Van Wagenen
When Sandy Alderson was in charge of running the roster, there seemed to be no sort of connection between the front office and the fan base. With the Wilpons refusing to face the media most times, the Mets needed a voice that fans could turn to.
Enter Brody Van Wagenen, an agent—Jacob DeGrom’s former agent to be exact—turned general manager who seems to love the microphone. Throughout the offseason, Van Wagenen has not hesitated to speak to media on the team’s plan. He also has a semi-active Twitter account where he has posted media of Mets’ spring training and has tweeted things like “great day for baseball”. Even if Brody turns out to be a terrible hire, this hiring gives the transparency from the fan to the front office that the Mets have lacked for years.
The Edwin Diaz/Robinson Cano Trade
Brody Van Wagenen’s first move was a big one, acquiring Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano for Jay Bruce, Anthony Swarzak, Gerson Bautista, and two prospects (Kelenic and Dunn).
Edwin Diaz owns a fastball that has averaged 97.7 mph and a deadly slider, he has some of the best stuff in the game. After an amazing year where he compiled 3.2 bWAR and 208 ERA+ (1.96 ERA, 1.61 FIP, 15.2 SO/9) and saved 57 games for a Mariners team that won 36 one-run games, he catapulted into a top five reliever in baseball. Putting him at the top of a Mets’ bullpen that accumulated a 4.96 ERA (4.61 FIP/4.68 xFIP) is a great move.
That said, people sleep on the acquisition of Cano. While at the ripe, young age of 36 and still having $120 million owed to him over the next five years, he is a valuable presence in the Mets’ lineup. The durability factor still exists; in 2018, he played in all but two games that he was eligible to play, and only missed a total of 19 from 2015 to 2017. Moreover, even at the age of 36, Cano is still putting up good numbers. Last season saw him compile a .303/.374/.471 stat line (3.2 bWAR, 136 OPS+), all while playing his home games at one of the more pitcher-friendly ballparks in baseball over the last five years.
Translation: He can still do things like this:
With the designated hitter all but certain to reach the National League in the next few years, the Mets are well prepared, as they could simply move an aging Cano to the DH spot or first base (the metrics do not like top prospect Pete Alonso’s defense).
Signing Wilson Ramos
The Mets made it a priority to improve their catcher situation, which previously consisted of oft-injured Travis d’Arnaud and Devin Mesoraco, former prospect Tomas Nido, and light hitting Kevin Plawecki (who was traded to the Indians). The Mets had three options to go with: sign the top catcher on the market (Yasmani Grandal), make a potentially franchise-altering trade for J.T. Realmuto, or go with a cheaper option in Wilson Ramos. They went with the best option: the latter.
Ramos was the de facto best offensive catcher in the American League while with the Rays, earning an All-Star selection before getting traded to the Phillies. Overall between the two teams, he compiled a .306/.358/.487 line (2.7 bWAR, 130 OPS+). His defense is serviceable at best, but his bat speaks for itself.
Other Good Moves: RHP Jeurys Familia, 2B/UTIL Jed Lowrie
What the Mets Got Wrong
Not Giving Pete Alonso a Clear Path for the 1B Role
While many believe his defense is a liability, Pete Alonso is the first baseman of the future. With Opening Day just a few days away, it looks as if Pete will make the Opening Day roster, but I believe his path should have been made easier. After the 2018 season, first base seemed to be open for the Mets, especially after Dominic Smith had what I will call a lackluster season. But instead of coming out and clearing the way for Alonso, the Mets said that they will “experiment” with different players and possibly put guys such as Todd Frazier at the position. And while now, with less than a week until Opening Day, it is irrelevant because he will make the roster, the New York Mets shouldn’t have toyed with experimenting, and given Alonso a clear path for the role.
Lack of a Big Signing
As the off-season winds down, and it looks like the Mets will not make anymore signings (even though the likes of Dallas Keuchel still remain unsigned), the New York Mets will enter the 2019 season with a payroll of 159,337,876. That payroll falls 47 million dollars under the luxury tax. Based on the signings of big-name free agents (Bryce Harper, Manny Machado), the Mets had more than enough money to sign one of these players. This off-season, the Mets had a hole to fill in the outfield. Juan Lagares does not provide enough offensive value, and the Front Office came out and said that Jeff McNeil was an infielder only, and would not play outfield (we see how that turned out). Now I don’t know, but under those circumstances, Bryce Harper sounds like a match made in heaven. They have the money and the roster spot, but unfortunately, they chose to avoid that path. Now, as a Mets fan, I firmly believe that the 25 man roster on Opening Day is as good as any in the NL East and can potentially win the Division, but I would feel a lot more confident with Bryce Harper on the roster.
My Expectations For the 2019 Season
With Opening Day just a few days away, I would say it’s acceptable for me to make my 2019 season predictions for the Mets. In what will be the most competitive division in baseball, it’s hard to say where each of the top 4 teams will finish. but after reviewing the 2019 schedule, and looking at the roster, I have the Mets finishing with an 89-73 record in the 2019 season, which I believe will be enough for the division win. Now would I be surprised if they win 85, and fall a little short of the division title? Not at all. But considering rosters as they are now over 162 games, I believe that the offense can score with the likes of Philadelphia and the pitching is without question the best in the East, winning the division is not out of the equation.* I am beyond excited for the 2019 season, and as a fan of the New York Mets, I believe there is a lot to be excited for.
*Disclaimer: This record is, of course, barring injury and other factors that can not be measured before they occur
Featured Photo: Noah K. Murray/USA TODAY Sports