After injuries plagued a decent 2016 season, the Mets, let by their great pitching staff, will pose a threat to the top National League teams in 2017.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that the New York Mets are looking to contend in 2017. After all, in the last two seasons, they’ve won 324 games (54.6 W%), appeared in the postseason both times around, even reaching the World Series in 2015.
Will the Mets’ success continue? Can they get past their injury problems and play a whole season with their key players? Their pitching staff is entering their prime, so the need to do it is now.
New York’s 2016 Story
Fresh off a rather surprising postseason run in 2015, which was led by second baseman Babe Ru — Daniel Murphy, the Mets hoped to impress in 2016, this time without Murphy. To fill the void Murphy left, New York brought in second baseman Neil Walker in a deal which sent Jon Niese to Pittsburgh in return. The Mets also signed shortstop Asdrúbal Cabrera for additional infield depth.
The Mets started out hot, exceeding expectations. Behind Noah Syndergaard’s 1.69 ERA (in four starts) and Jacob deGrom’s 1.02 ERA (in three starts), the Mets finished the month of April with a 15–7 record, still trailing the Washington Nationals by half of a game.
Fast forward a couple of months to the All-Star Break, and the Mets were tied with Philadelphia for second in the division at 47–41. How did this happen? Well, one of their key starters, Matt Harvey, started the season horribly with a 5.37 ERA at the end of May. It got worse from there. After two starts in a row of under four innings, it was announced Harvey would undergo his second Tommy John surgery of his career.
Adding to this was the news that both rookie Steven Matz and Syndergaard were both dealing with bone spurs in their elbows. Things weren’t looking so great for the Mets’ pitching staff of youth, promise, and excitement.
That’s not all. Superstar outfielder Yoenis Céspedes hit the disabled list in August. First baseman Lucas Duda missed most of the season with a back injury, not playing any games from May 21 to September 17. Catcher Travis d’Arnaud missed a couple months, Neil Walker didn’t play a game after August 27, and captain David Wright injured himself in May, ending his season.
At this point, things weren’t looking bright for the Mets’ hopes to go far in the playoffs like they had the year before. Something needed to be done.
To replace Walker, they traded for Kelly Johnson from Atlanta, and they purchased James Loney to help fill Duda’s spot at first. They signed José Reyes, having just finished serving a suspension for domestic issues, but the team moved him to third instead of shortstop to help fill Wright’s vacancy. They brought up a bunch of pitchers from the minors to fill their rotation, including Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Rafael Montero, and Logan Verrett.
At 54–50, the Mets still felt a trade deadline move could help them reach the postseason for the second consecutive season. GM Sandy Alderson sent top prospect Dilson Herrera and 2015 third round draft pick Max Wotell to Cincinnati in exchange for Reds’ outfielder Jay Bruce, who had a slash line of .265/.316/.559 on the year at the time of the trade.
Miraculously, the Mets made the playoffs following a 15–14 August and 17–10 September, thanks to the great pitching of, you guessed it… Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo.
They were able to save Syndergaard for the Wild Card game against San Francisco, who pitched seven shutout innings in the game. Then Jeurys Familia let up a homer in the ninth, and just like that, the season was over.
The Mets didn’t do much in the offseason.
Walker accepted a one-year qualifying offer, and Céspedes opted out of his previous contract, only to resign with the Mets for four years, $110 million.
They lost secondary players including Bartolo Colón, Alejandro De Aza, Kelly Johnson, and James Loney, but that’s really all.
It doesn’t qualify as an offseason move, but New York “added” Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler, assuming all stay healthy in 2017. That’s a strong assumption, though.
What Wasn’t Answered?
Well, not much, actually. Their position players are solid, and their pitching staff, which will hopefully be healthy in 2017, didn’t need fixing at all. In my opinion, they should’ve traded Jay Bruce. Their outfield is interesting; with Céspedes, Lagares, Granderson, and Conforto, it’s hard to see Bruce getting a ton of at bats in 2017.
Other than that, while they didn’t do much, there wasn’t much they needed to do to improve their team. A healthy season will do wonders for a very complete set of starters.
The 2017 Outlook
The Mets, when healthy, have one of the best teams in all of baseball. The rotation is filthy, and still relatively young. They don’t have any big holes offensively, which is always good when you’re looking to make the playoffs.
However, you can’t expect everyone to stay healthy. Someone will get hurt here and there, and they’ll have to be able to recover.
Last year’s season was all about responding to adversity, and this year’s season should be much easier in comparison. That said, they still have the Nationals in their division, who are going to be really tough to beat out in the regular season. Backed by Bryce Harper, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and of course, former-Met hero Daniel Murphy, the Mets will likely need to win at least 90 games in order to prevent their season coming down to a single game again.