This has been an ugly season for the New York Mets. Remember the Travis d’Arnaud game-winning home run in the 16th inning? That was April 13th! Back then, the Mets were cruising with a 7-3 record; however, an over-exhausted bullpen led to a losing streak. It was painful, but the real undoing came in the form of injuries.
Lucas Duda hyperextended his elbow. Wilmer Flores suffered from a knee infection. The most costly losses came in the form of Yoenis Cespedes with a hamstring injury and Noah Syndergaard with a torn lat. The loss of, arguably, the team’s best starting pitcher and the best hitter was bound to be catastrophic. The Mets season was essentially over before it even left its nascent stages.
The losses began to pile up and the Mets decided (what other choice did they have?) to sell the veterans with expiring contracts at the trade deadline. While many deemed the prolific amount of right-handed minor-league relievers to be a meager return, selling at the deadline needed to be done.
This leads us to today. The last month or so has been a slog with a few impressive performances from some younger players sprinkled in. This has not lead to many wins and has many looking at 2018 in a negative manner. But I am here to prove that wrong!
Just kidding, you read the title. This post plans to detail why the Mets should build their team to compete in 2019, starting with number one…
The Washington Nationals
The Mets’ divisional foes happen to be one of the deepest and most talented rosters in all of Major League Baseball, and there is no reason for this to change in 2018. Their offense is powered by MVP-caliber bats in Daniel Murphy, Bryce Harper, and Anthony Rendon. They supplement this with the returning Adam Eaton, Trea Turner, and veteran Ryan Zimmerman.
On the pitching front, the Nationals have three starting pitchers in Max Scherzer, Gio Gonzalez, and Stephen Strasburg with earned run averages under 3.00. A much-improved bullpen and a weak division make it seem like the Nationals will be headed to another extremely successful season in 2018. With that, it will be exceedingly difficult for the Mets to win the division and any playoff appearance for New York would likely start in the Wild Card game.
Readiness of the Current Core
While many see a dreadful performance on the field and immediately think a full tear-down is necessary, I cannot help but disagree. The Mets core is too strong to fully disassemble. The younger side of the core consists of Dominic Smith (age 22), Amed Rosario (age 21), Michael Conforto (age 24), Noah Syndergaard (age 25), Steven Matz (age 26) and even Brandon Nimmo (age 24). Add this to the established front-line starter in Jacob deGrom and veteran slugger Yoenis Cespedes and you have a solid core.
The issue with this core is age and injury. Smith, Rosario, and Nimmo will all enter 2018 without a full season under their belts. Syndergaard, Cespedes, and Matz should be ready for spring training but are coming off injury-ridden years. Michael Conforto may be sidelined or at least hampered for a chunk of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery. While the Mets young core has oodles of talent, that talent may not be ready to shine its brightest until 2019.
The Pitching Staff
The previously-vaunted pitching staff is now the most glaring weakness on this team. The Mets have a staff ERA of 5.04, the third-worst figure in the league. Injuries have led to the Mets consistently throwing out their ninth and tenth-string starters from the depth chart. Combine this with under-performances from young starters such as Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo and you have a rotation in shambles.
It does not get much better when we move to the pen. Starters consistently failing to go deep into games caused the bullpen to be forced into action early and often. Overwork and overall abysmal performances from Hansel Robles and Fernando Salas forced the Mets bullpen to be littered with both unproven and journeyman relievers. Other than Jerry Blevins, the only trustworthy piece, Addison Reed, was traded away at the deadline to the Boston Red Sox.
Both the bullpen and the starting rotation need new pieces to get back to proficiency. Regarding the rotation, the Mets definitely need to sign a proven starter. Ideally, the Mets acquire a strong middle-of-the-rotation bulldog like Lance Lynn or Alex Cobb, but more than likely will add a back-end starter. The bullpen is also lacking proven relievers behind AJ Ramos, Jerry Blevins, and Jeurys Familia.
An Addison Reed reunion or a Jake McGee signing is necessary if the Mets want their bullpen to be a force. The Mets also acquired a bundle of young, hard-throwing, right-handed relievers who will need some time to acclimate themselves to the highest level.
The 2018 will probably not be a major success for the Mets. There are too many holes in the pitching staff, too many unproven key starters on offense, and a powerful divisional foe in Washington. I expect some additions to be made with their limited payroll, but this will not be enough to lead the team to contention.
I believe 2019 will be the year for the Mets. A weaker Nationals team, a more seasoned core, and some free agent additions will allow the Mets to contend and progress deep into the 2019 postseason. While I am not writing off 2018 completely, I believe 2019 is much more likely to be the major success we are all hoping for.