As we prepare for the 2021 season, Diamond Digest writers will be taking a look at each team’s off-season and previewing the season to come. Today, Jonah Keehn takes a look at the New York Mets!
It would be a disservice of me to discuss the Mets offseason without mentioning the glaring scandals that occurred within the organization during it. The major one for the Mets was when it was revealed that former GM Jared Porter harassed a reporter by sending her sexually explicit picture. The Mets immediately fired Porter, but it was a stain on the organization. Then, the news Mickey Callaway also sexually harassed women came out. While Callaway was not a member of the Mets when this news was released, the Mets are still implicated in it, and it seems like they may have known about this during the hiring process and while he was employed. The Mets have to look internally and fix the hiring process to make sure that women feel safe in the organization and as fans of the team.
That said, a new era has started in Queens with Steve Cohen becoming owner. The Mets had an incredibly busy offseason, giving out many major league contracts and making several trades, including the blockbuster that landed Francisco Lindor. These new additions immediately made the Mets the favorite to win the NL East. Mets fans may be upset that the team couldn’t land one of the big three free agents, but this was one of the busiest offseasons this team has had in a long time.
2020 Record: 26-34, T4th in NL East
Team MVP: Dominic Smith
Team Cy Young: Jacob deGrom
The major question for the Mets over the past few years has been whether or not they can provide run support for the pitching staff. In 2020, they did exactly that. The Mets had a team WRC+ of 106, good for sixth in baseball. This was spearheaded by Dominic Smith, who had a team high 42 RBIs and a .993 OPS. Smith will likely play left field in 2021, as there will likely be no DH. The 26-34 record was due to a lack of pitching depth behind Jacob deGrom. Rookie David Peterson had a surprisingly strong campaign, ending as the second best pitcher on the team last year. He will look to hold down the back end of the rotation until Noah Sydergaard returns from Tommy John surgery.
Key losses from 2020: Wilson Ramos, Yoenis Cespedes, Rick Porcello
Notable Free Agent Additions: James McCann, Trevor May, Marcus Stroman, Kevin Pillar, Jonathan Villar, Taijuan Walker
- Mets RECEIVE Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco from Cleveland FOR Amed Rosario, Andres Gimenez, Josh Wolf and Isaiah Greene
- Mets RECEIVE Joey Luchessi FOR Endy Rodriguez as part of a three team trade with Pirates and Padres
The Mets arguably had the best off-season besides for the Padres this year. This is despite the fact that they missed out on the three big free agents on the market. Acquiring Francisco Lindor was perhaps the best move of the off-season by any team. Giving up Rosario and Gimenez makes sense, as they would both lose out on playing time to Lindor anyway. The Mets also gave up two solid prospects, but this package as a whole seems a bit light just for Lindor. The Mets didn’t have to part with top prospect Ronny Mauricio, nor did they have to give up another Major League ready player like J.D Davis. Additionally, the Mets were also able to gain some pitching depth in this trade by acquiring Carlos Carrasco.
Speaking of depth, that seemed to be the name of the game for Steve Cohen and the Mets this offseason. In addition to getting Carrasco for rotation depth, the Mets also signed Marcus Stroman and Taijuan Walker. Stroman, who opted out of the 2020 season, ended up accepting a qualifying offer for 18.9 million. Walker signed with the Mets on a 2 year/ 20 million dollar deal. Walker has a bit of an injury history, pitching only 14 innings combined in 2018 and 2019, but he was able to put in a full (granted only 60 game) season in 2020, bouncing back with a 2.70 ERA. The Mets also acquired Joey Luchessi as part of a three team trade and Jordan Yamamoto as a free agent to have extra starters in the organization if needed.
Starting pitching wasn’t the only area in which the Mets added needed depth. They also added bullpen and bench help. The first acquisition of the Steve Cohen era was signing Trevor May to a 2 year/ 15 million dollar deal. The Mets also signed Aaron Loup to a one year deal worth three million for more bullpen depth. The team also continued their trend of adding defensive help to their bench by handing out one year deals to Kevin Pillar, Jonathan Villar, and Albert Almora Jr., worth 5 million, 3.55 million, and 1.25 million, respectively.
In addition to adding depth, the Mets addressed their biggest hole: starting catcher. The Mets haven’t had a good option behind the plate in a few years, as Ramos struggled offensively. The Mets filled this hole by signing James McCann to a 4 year/40 million dollar deal. McCann should provide both good offense and defense behind the plate.
2021 Season Preview
1) Brandon Nimmo (CF)
2) Jeff McNeil (2B)
3) Francisco Lindor (SS)
4) Michael Conforto (RF)
5) Pete Alonso (1B)
6) Dominic Smith (LF)
7) JD Davis (3B)
8) James McCann (C)
Projected Bench: Tomas Nido, Jonathan Villar, Kevin Pillar, Albert Almora Jr., Luis Guillermo
It can easily be argued that the additions of Francisco Lindor and James McCann give the Mets a top three offense in baseball. All six of the Mets projected returning starters posted a WRC+ above 115 in 2020. McCann found his bat on the south side of Chicago, posting a 108 and 143 WRC+ over 2019 and 2020, respectively. This is mainly due to him putting it together in the BA and wOBA categories. The Mets lineup is so stacked that I have him batting eighth, and he should be the best 8-hole hitter in baseball. Francisco Lindor is a career .285 hitter and he had at least 30 home runs in each of his past three full seasons. His career low for WAR is 4.0, which came in his rookie season and over only 99 games. These two additions make an already potent offense even stronger.
This Mets lineup is relatively simple. Put the guys who get on base the most at top and have their best two hitters hitting 3-4. Perhaps the most glaring thing about this projected lineup is that Dom Smith is slated for left field. This is obviously due to there not being a universal DH, and Smith needing to be in the lineup everyday due to his bat. Pete Alonso stays at first, and he should be able to find a consistent level of production somewhere between his 2019 and 2020 seasons. Many think he is coming off a down year, but his prorated home run total was still 43 homers.
The weakest part of this Mets team is the defense, but that is an area that was addressed with their bench depth. Pillar is one of the best outfield defenders in the game, and has earned the nickname Superman. He also posted 21 homers in 2019 and a 106 WRC+ in 2020. Villar is a super utilitly option a year removed from a 24 homer/40 stolen base season. Almora Jr. and Guillermo also should provide valuable defense, as that is why they were brought in.
Projected Rotation: Jacob deGrom, Carlos Carrasco, Marcus Stroman, Taijuan Walker, David Peterson
The Mets added significant depth behind the best pitcher in baseball. This was a must need after the complete lack of depth last year. Carlos Carrasco is a Cy Young caliber pitcher, having posted back to back 5-WAR seasons in 2017 and 2018. Cookie also bounced back from a rough 2019 season (in which he missed half of due to leukemia) by posting a 2.91 ERA in 68 innings in 2020. The Mets also will get back Stroman, who had a 3.22 ERA and 3.72 FIP in 2019, posting 3.9 WAR. During that year, he pitched 59.2 innings in Queens, going 4-2 over 11 starts. Adding Walker to be the number four starter makes this one of the most complete rotations in baseball.
The fifth starter slot is the most interesting one. First off, it is most likely going to be filled by Noah Syndergaard when he comes back from Tommy John surgery. Thor is expected to be back around the All-star break. That leaves the last spot open for competition between David Peterson and newly acquired Joey Luchessi until Syndergaard’s return. I believe Peterson will be given the first shot, mainly based off him being the biggest surprise in 2020. He went 6-2 with a 3.44 ERA, posting 1.5 WAR. Luchessi also makes for a better fit in the bullpen, especially after struggling in 2020. It would not be super surprising if the Mets do utilize a six man rotation at the beginning of the season, though.
Projected Bullpen: Edwin Diaz (Closer), Trevor May, Jeurys Familia, Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman, Joey Luchessi, Aaron Loup, Dellin Betances
Edwin Diaz is locked into the closer role after a strong showing in 2020. Yes, he did struggle, but he regained his stuff at the end of the year. Newcomer May built off a strong 2019 by posting a 3.86 ERA and 2.74 xFIP across 23 innings in 2020.The rest of this bullpen is filled with big names who also come with major question marks. Familia and Betances are good options but have lacked consistency over the past couple of years. Lugo will be back in the pen without the need for him in the rotation, which should provide extra depth. Gsellman and Luchessi are the hardest to predict whether they start in the bullpen, considering the amount of options the Mets have to complete the bullpen. However, I think these two are the most talented options and come with the added benefit that they can be long relief arms.
FanGraphs Projected Record: 92-70, 1st place in NL EAST
PECOTA Projected Record: 93-67, 1st place in NL EAST
Personal Projection: 91-71, 1st place in NL EAST
From a true talent perspective, the projections from Fangraphs and PECOTA make a ton of sense. The Mets have one of the most complete teams in baseball. Their offense is one of the most balanced 1-8 in baseball, with a deep and strong rotation and solid bullpen. I personally have the Mets at 91 wins as a realist who grew up watching the Mets. It seems that something always goes wrong, and the Mets drop a couple of divisional games that they probably shouldn’t.
That said, I still think the Mets are the best team in the division. The new additions should be able to make up the ground that they lost last year, and they now have backup options for injuries, a luxury the Mets weren’t afforded in years past. Riding behind Francisco Lindor and Jacob deGrom, the Mets should take the NL East crown for the first time since 2015. The Mets also should have an advantage come playoff time, as it is expected that the Dodgers will finish as the best team in baseball again. This means that if the Mets win the division, they should face the NL Central winner in the NLDS, which should be a more favorable matchup than either NL Wild Card team.
There isn’t much else to say about this team. It is a deep team coming off a big off-season that should make the playoffs. That said, I wanted to end on two bold predictions for the Mets.
- The Mets team MVP is…..Pete Alonso. His walk rate is over 10% and for someone who hits a ton of home runs, striking out around 25% is really good. Yes, he will probably only hit .250, but that hasn’t been a barrier for him so far in his career. As mentioned above, his ‘sophomore slump’ still would have concluded with 43 homers. He also had an OPS above .800 last season and a 118 WRC+, all in a ‘down year’. I don’t think it is hard to believe that Alonso can replicate his rookie season, where he posts more than 50 homers and 100 RBIs. Expect Alonso to lead the league in home runs this year and finish as the Mets most valuable player.
- The Mets have two top-5 CY Young finishers. This may not be super bold as the Mets already have deGrom, but the NL is stacked with pitchers so getting two in the top-5 may be hard. The Mets do have two strong pitchers behind deGrom who can win it. I think it will be Carrasco, as I think he will bounce back to when he was a 5 WAR pitcher and beyond. He also strikes out a ton of batters, which will help in CY Young voting.