At a recent charity event, 24 year-old Zack Wheeler expressed his optimism for this upcoming New York Mets season. Wheeler explained that, “You look at our staff, and if you’re human, you can only be like, ‘Yeah, they’re going to make it to the playoffs here soon. They need a couple of bats and (will) be ready to go.’ ”
It’s hard to argue with that statement. Any team that has a starting rotation consisting of a Matt Harvey returning from Tommy John surgery, reigning-Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler, Jon Niese and Bartolo Colon should be considered a playoff-competitor. As a matter of fact, last season among the National League the Mets pitching staff as a whole ranked 5th in ERA and 3rd in Strikeouts. And while control appears to be an issue—they ranked 4th in all of Major League Baseball in Walks with 509 and 6th in Walks per 9 innings at 3.13—this could be attributed to the youthfulness if their rotation.
As for the offense, that’s another story. Last season’s installment of the Mets batted .239—good enough for 28th in all of Major League Baseball—combined with a .308 OBP and .364 SLG, both ranking at the bottom of the league. However, the oddity here is that they were patient at the plate. The Mets had a 28.8% O-Swing—which means that out of all the pitches they saw outside of the strike zone, they only chased 28.8% of them—which was the 3rd lowest total in all of baseball. This resulted in a BB% of 8.4%—which tied the Pittsburgh Pirates for the highest in the National League.
With the signing of Michael Cuddyer, it looks as if the Mets outfield has been solved—as he will Juan Lagares and Curtis Granderson in patrolling the newly shortened Citi Field. The Mets are also looking for a left-handed bullpen arm, and expect to land one by the Winter Meetings. Once the Mets find the right lefty, GM Sandy Alderson will be able to turn his full attention to his infield looking for a shortstop.
He has a few options, guys like Jed Lowrie, Asdrubal Cabrera, or Stephen Drew could all be potential free agent solutions. Another possibility could be a trade with a team who has a shortstop surplus, like that team up in Chicago who owns the monopoly on young middle infield prospects. The Chicago Cubs—who need pitching—might be enticed to part with an Addison Russell, Javier Baez, or Tommy La Stella if Jon Niese, Dillon Gee, or Bartolo Colon were brought up in trade conversation. A combination of any of those starters—and some money kicked in in Colon’s case—might be enough to pull away one of the Cubs coveted middle infielders. The Mets also have the depth to replace them, as well, with Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero waiting in the wings to fill a spot in the rotation. Another option might be that the Mets split time at short between the two guys they already have, Wilmer Flores and Ruben Tejada. They could wait until one of the pair separates himself, and if neither has by the all-star break then they could use the organizational depth they do have to make a deal at the trade deadline.
Zach Wheeler is not alone in his enthusiasm for next season. Coach Terry Collins and GM Sandy Alderson himself have already commented on their attitude towards next season which is not only optimistic, it’s a full expectation.
The Mets still have a busy rest of the offseason ahead of them, but by the looks of it the front office believes they are very close to putting a product on the field that can not only compete day in and day out—but finish over .500 and compete at a high level.
The expectation set is not unbelievable at all and, barring an injury plagued season, it’s something that is completely feasible at this point to see become a reality. After these last 6 years of Mets futility, they could be considered serious competitors going into the 2015 season.