This week, Terry Collins and David Wright provided their annual sound bites that they believe the Mets, yes the group that has found its way to Port St. Lucie this spring, have it in them to make a run to the playoffs. I know what your thinking. How could a team that won only on seventy-four games last season with a Cy Young Award winning knuckleballer that has since been traded, a team which features what has already been almost unanimously dubbed a comically bad outfield, and a team that finds itself entrenched in what is likely the most powerful division in baseball have any chance at pulling that off? The simple answer… They dont! However, the team that will be donning the blue and orange come mid-summer should have a much better chance as the pieces outlining “Sandy’s” team fall into place.
Finances and injuries aside, the biggest in-season problem that has crippled the Mets over the past five years has been the inevitable second have swoon. You can almost set your clocks to the post all-star break slide that sees the team lose its last grasp of postseason aspiration each summer. This season’s group has the opportunity to avoid the same fate, and here’s how that happens…
First and foremost, I don’t think this season’s outfield is all that bad, at least compared to last season’s outfield, from an offensive standpoint. Your asking a group that will likely include Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Collin Cowgill, Mike Baxter and probably Marlon Byrd to collectively give you a season that eclipses the .238 BA, .309 OBP, 55 HR, 206 RBI, and .696 OPS that last year’s crop of outfielders posted. Those numbers are not unobtainable, even for the group in camp this spring and better yet.. I’m only asking them to do it for half the season. The pursuit of legitimate outfielder was an utter failure this winter and remains the organization’s biggest issue going forward. However, if the aforementioned comically bad outfield can hold it together long enough, reinforcements could be on the way when the trade deadline looms this summer. The team’s undeniable need for at least two quality outfielders, it’s sizable crop of young minor league arms and any lingering hope for a playoff run could be enough to see Sandy Alderson pull the trigger on another blockbuster mid-season trade. However instead of bolstering the team’s farm system, this move shores up the Major League outfield and ideally fills one of those positions for seasons to come.
Such an addition, albeit theoretical, only adds to the renovation the twenty-five man roster is likely to experience this summer. Acquired as part of the trade that sent R.A. Dickey to Toronto, Travis d’Arnaud figures to arrive in Queens by mid-June. His arrival not only provides a quality backstop for the team’s biggest weapon, the starting rotation, it also figures to make a decided lefty dominated lineup, more formidable. Does he immediately blossom into the weapon the Mets envision for the next ten years? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean he won’t provide quality at bats and an added level of power this lineup so desperately needs.
Your final, and in all likelihood most anticipated arrival this summer, will be that of Zack Wheeler. Boasting a pitch selection that many deem good enough to see him quickly evolve into the team’s ace, he will cause headaches for opponents who will be seeing him for the first time late in the season. Its also important to recognize that his impending arrival leaves the Mets with an excess of major league caliber starting pitching that is always coveted at the trade deadline. That could mean the mid-summer trade of former ace and no-hitter hero, Johan Santana, who will exit Queens with the Mets paying the large majority of his salary to ensure a good return, provided he can remain healthy, further aiding the team elsewhere as the summer presses on.
You see, unlike most teams who enter the year with a roster primed for playoff glory, the Mets hopes lie in the effectiveness of players who aren’t even hear yet. When they arrive, they’ll join a roster full of other young players who, save David Wright, don’t realize they’re not good enough. With any luck it will be that naivety and maybe even some stubbornness that sees the Mets remain in the thick of things long enough for their difference makers to arrive. Unlikely? Yes. Impossible? Of course not. However, if they do experience such success, the added excitement of having things come together at just the right time could give the Mets the added momentum necessary to push through a division of much more established teams.
The Mets are not by any stretch of the imagination poised to be a contender this summer, but that should stop fans from enjoying the ride. Enjoy the knowledge that the team’s brightest young stars are on their way and poised to contribute later this year. Know that if their predecessors can stay the course long enough, the likes of Travis d’Arnaud, Zack Wheeler and maybe even a few players to be named later will be playing for a lot more than reps before this season is said and done.
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