Do you like teams built around talented young power arms that could fall apart due to injury at any moment? Do you like streaky power hitters and an offense that scores the majority of its runs via the long ball? Do you like short term contracts and a hard mandate from ownership to avoid expensive long term deals? Well then you probably love the team Sandy Alderson has assembled in Queens. Pitching, power, and payroll flexibility have been three of the hallmarks of Sandy’s New York Mets. And if you’ve watched him operate over the last six years you also probably realize that he’s unlikely to change his approach for the 2017 season. That’s right folks. Don’t get excited about the prospect of the Mets adding a number of new high-priced free agents. Brace yourselves. Sandy is about to double down on the current roster.
Despite the injuries to our pitching staff of young aces, the Mets had the third ranked team ERA (3.58) in 2016. Noah Syndergaard emerged as a stud ace. Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz are all supposed to be healthy and recovered from their surgeries by Spring Training. Bartolo Colon has stated he wants to return to the Mets in 2017, and considering he was the most durable arm on the staff in 2016 (led the team with 191.2 IP) the Mets have every reason to bring him back. Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, and Gabriel Ynoa stepped up down the stretch and gave the Mets confidence in their organizational rotation depth.
Jeurys Familia and Addison Reed were arguably the two most reliable relievers in baseball in 2016. The Mets aren’t likely to shell out big bucks on a late inning reliever like Aroldis Chapman when they already have an elite back-end bullpen combo. They aren’t likely to bring in another starter when they have all the young aces due back for Spring Training and other young arms ready to step up at Triple-A. All signs point to the pitching staff remaining fully intact and mostly unchanged next season.
The Mets hit 218 homers as a team in 2016 (5th in baseball). They had four regulars who hit 20 or more homers (Yoenis Cespedes, Curtis Granderson, Neil Walker, Asdrubal Cabrera). Jay Bruce hit 8 home runs as a Met and 33 on the season. Lucas Duda and David Wright failed to amass double-digit home runs totals due to injury, but they’ve both done so many times during their careers. Travis d’Arnaud had an awful season at the plate in 2016 and struggled to throw out base runners, but it’s possible that some of that was due to the rotator cuff injury he suffered during the season.
D’Arnaud is under team control for three more seasons, and the Mets will almost certainly bank on him returning to his 2014/15 form where he showed his power potential. Asdrubal Cabrera is signed for next season and his second half power surge helped propel the team to the Wild Card game. David Wright seemingly plans to attempt another comeback and has no interest in retiring. Lucas Duda is entering his final year of arbitration eligibility and is likely to be tendered a contract. Curtis Granderson is signed for one more season, and when the Mets inevitably pick up Jay Bruce’s one year 13 million dollar option he’ll be under team control as well. If Sandy has his way, this entire group of power hitters will return in 2017.
The final characteristic of Sandy’s club is an emphasis on payroll/roster flexibility. Jay Bruce, Lucas Duda, Asdrubal Cabrera, Curtis Granderson, Addison Reed, and Jose Reyes are all likely to return next year on one year contracts. That sounds like a Sandy Alderson payroll/roster flexibility dream scenario. It will allow him to re-evaluate a large portion of the roster at the end of next season.
The only real offseason question marks surround the future of Neil Walker and Yoenis Cespedes. This is where the payroll flexibility trait becomes a double-edged sword. On the surface, it makes sense for the Mets to retain Yo and Walker. They were arguably the two most productive hitters on the roster last year. But we all know ownership is unlikely to engage in a bidding war and pay Yo the contract he deserves if he decides to opt-out of his deal. Based on historical precedent, it’s unlikely that Sandy signs Neil Walker to a long-term deal either. But his late season back surgery at least makes it conceivable that he will entertain accepting a one year $16.7 million dollar qualifying offer if the Mets extend it. If by some miracle Walker accepts a qualifying offer and ownership is willing to add a few extra years to Cespedes’ current deal to keep him from opting out, the Mets might just be able to keep the entire roster intact while also meeting Sandy’s long-term payroll flexibility standards.
The bottom line is once you take a look at the state of the roster outlined above, it becomes pretty clear that Sandy is going to double down on his three pillars- pitching, power, and payroll flexibility. They may look to trade some outfield depth for another player that fits better on the roster and to create an opportunity for Michael Conforto to play. But based on how Sandy has operated in the past, I wouldn’t expect a massive roster overhaul. He’s more likely to make every effort to bring back this entire 87 win squad and hope that the team has some better luck in 2017. And considering Sandy led this team to two straight playoff appearances for only the second time in franchise history, it’s hard for me to doubt him if that turns out to be his approach.