After more than a week to let the World Series, yes, World Series dust settle, it is safe to say that this season was indeed a huge success for the New York Mets.
The Mets went from a 79-83 team a year ago, to National League champions, at least a year ahead of schedule, according to most experts.
The World Series champion Kansas City Royals were simply a better team than the Mets. They were better defensively, had a deeper bullpen, and a lot more experience and hunger than the upstarts from Queens.
The Royals understood what it would take to be World Champions, having been runner-ups the previous season and they came into 2015 spring training with the singular goal necessary to fulfill their dreams.
The Mets will enter the 2016 season under similar circumstances.
“We’re starting from a higher level of expectation,” General Manager Sandy Alderson said, stating the obvious. “It doesn’t guarantee anything, but at the same time, we feel comfortable with those expectations, but now we have to go out and figure out a way to meet them.”
The question, of course, is what the Mets must do in order to have similar or greater success next year and beyond.
Do not touch ANY of the young stud starting pitchers
Alderson has been quoted as saying they do not plan on moving any of their four top young pitchers, referring to the four that pitched for them this past season: Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz.
I would hope Alderson puts Zach Wheeler in that category as well.
The Mets are in a position to roll out a starting rotation filled with formidable young and reasonably proven arms the likes of which have not been seen in many years, if ever.
Alderson and the Mets dodged a bullet at the trade deadline when their attempt to acquire Carlos Gomez from Milwaukee fell through. That trade famously would have sent Wilmer Flores packing, but also inexplicably included Wheeler. The baseball Gods protected the Mets’ present and their future, as it is unlikely Gomez could have carried the Mets a la Yoenis Cespedes.
Here’s to hoping Alderson recognizes the second chance he was given and holds on as tight to Wheeler as he says he will to the other four.
Remember, the 25-year-old Wheeler pitched to a 3.54 ERA in 32 starts in 2014 (his first full season) and struck out 187 batters in 185 innings. He was considered the Mets’ second rated pitching prospect after Harvey.
Don’t be afraid to let Murphy and Cespedes walk
Yes, Cespedes carried the Mets through much of their late-season push. Yes, Murphy had a historic showing throughout the National League Division and Championship series.
But, they both are not without faults and burdensome price tags.
Cespedes, while a legitimate 5-tool player and middle of the line-up stud, is not a great center fielder, is 30-years-old and is sure to ask for huge money over too many years.
His production will be impossible to replace in the short term, but the Mets have a burgeoning young offensive star in left field, Michael Conforto, who will get a chance to play everyday in 2016. His swing and potential power has been compared to the likes of Don Mattingly and Carlos Gonzalez, so 30 home runs and 90 RBIs should not be out of the question.
Center field will be a bit of a question mark. However, the Mets could look to free agency to find a platoon for Juan Lagares, or hand the position back to Lagares full time. It was just a year ago that Lagares was coming off a Gold Glove season and being lauded as the Mets’ center fielder of the future.
He struggled with injuries this season and eventually lost his starting job, but he came on late in the regular season and postseason, providing a glimpse of what he could be next season.
As for Daniel Murphy, his postseason extreme highs and lows were actually a fitting end to his Mets career.
He was the ultimate conundrum. You loved his hitting, hated his fielding. He could win games with his bat, but just as easily (or more easily) lose games with his glove and lack of defensive instincts.
In the end, the Mets will likely determine that you cannot expect to win a championship with a (high priced) starting player who cannot field his position. You can get close, perhaps, as the Mets did this season, but you are unlikely to win it all without a solid defense, especially up the middle.
Spend money on the bullpen and follow the new blueprint
Along with the dreadful Mets’ offense pre-trade deadline, the weakest part of the team was the bullpen, save closer Jeurys Familia. Not only did the lack of a seventh or eighth inning reliever lose many a game for the Mets, it also unnecessarily taxed the young starting pitchers the organization is so invested in protecting.
Mets’ starters felt the pressure from the fans, teammates, coaching staff and themselves to go at least seven innings, if not eight. Adding a late inning reliever or two would do wonders in the win column as well as for their most valuable assets.
Based on the current free agent market, the Mets would be wise to look for insurance at the center field, second and third base positions. They would also be smart to upgrade the speed on the roster. The Mets were 29th in Major League Baseball in stolen bases in 2015. With the pitching they possess, a few more manufactured runs would come in handy.
Many fans and media may call this approach “resting on your laurels” because there is no call to frantically upgrade the roster via free agency. But, it pays to be smart, as Alderson and the Mets surely were last season.
With the Mets’ starting pitching and an improved bullpen, they should be quite formidable with an opening day lineup of:
- Curtis Granderson
- Dilson Herrera/Kelly Johnson
- David Wright
- Lucas Duda
- Michael Conforto
- Travis d’Arnaud
- Wilmer Flores/Ruben Tejada
- Juan Lagares
And, of course, the Mets can and will likely follow the 2015 blueprint of adding the additional pieces necessary at the trading deadline to ensure another successful postseason run. This time, maybe even more successful.