Although 2017 has been nothing short of a disaster in Flushing, the future is still bright for the New York Mets.
That might be hard to imagine, especially when the starting rotation, which was supposed to be the foundation of the franchise, completely fell apart in the first two months of this season.
While 2017 is inching closer and closer to a lost cause, it doesn’t dim the outlook on 2018 and beyond. In many ways, it could enhance it.
A crucial trade deadline for the future
By now, it’s been well-publicized how many pending free agents the Mets have.
A strong six weeks could add Matt Harvey, a free agent after 2018, to this list. If they sell (which is looking more likely by the day), the Mets will no doubt be targeting players that could help them sooner rather than later. In fact, this could be the easiest way to revamp the bullpen with high-upside, young arms.
This deadline isn’t just about acquiring new talent but also opening up playing time for players already in the Mets system.
A two-month audition for guys like Amed Rosario, Dominic Smith, Wilmer Flores, Gavin Cecchini and Brandon Nimmo will be vital for the franchise to understand what it has moving into the offseason. The Mets are at crossroads and need to see who fits on the roster and who does not.
A more balanced and younger lineup awaits
There is still much to be determined about how the Mets lineup will stack up after 2017, but here’s what we do have: Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, Rosario, and Smith. While it is uncertain what Rosario and Smith will do in the majors, that still gives the Mets four core pieces in the lineup to build off of and four players that bring different skills to the table.
Of course, they will still need answers at four key positions — center field, catcher, second base and third base. The aforementioned two-month audition will be crucial.
Can Nimmo play at least part-time in center? Is Flores an option to play full-time at second or third base? How does Travis d’Arnaud fit into the Mets future? The Mets could also keep Cabrera around, exercise his 2018 option and shift him to another infield spot. Questions will also be answered through free agency, as the Mets could have more than $60 million coming off the books and possibly more depending on what David Wright decides to do in regards to his future.
All in all, the Mets should enter the offseason with just one everyday player (Cespedes) over 30 years old. That means the roster is going to have a very different look than it does now. Youth and the related element of speed should be more prevalent in 2018 and beyond. That’s something the Mets have been lacking recently, and something that successful teams (ex: Cubs, Nationals, Dodgers) have.
The starting rotation isn’t a long-term disaster
The Mets got super unlucky with pitching injuries so far in 2017.
The mistake would be to blow up the whole thing a s result of it. As bad as 2017 has been for the Mets starters, they will still enter the offseason with the enviable position of having a glut of relatively young, low-cost starting pitchers.
Health is the great question mark, but let’s start with what we know.
Third, the Mets will still have the high-upside arms of Steven Matz, Matt Harvey, Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo. They no longer have the best young rotation in baseball, but they have pieces to work with and will start with a core of arms better than most teams.
It would be a shock if the Mets didn’t throw at least one veteran arm into the mix to give themselves some insurance. A guy like impending free agent John Lackey would make sense entering the fold, as the Mets will likely target an innings eater to save the bullpen.
Put it all together, and barring further injury, the Mets should have seven relatively young arms plus a free agent.
Going into the offseason, the Mets will have a lot of work to do.
It will probably be the most important few months of Sandy Alderson’s tenure. But they also have a strong offensive core, seven big-league rotation options, and significant money to spend in free agency.
Also consider that the Atlanta Braves, Miami Marlins, and Philadelphia Phillies look no closer to becoming contenders and that the Washington Nationals’ clock is ticking with Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy set to hit free agency after 2018. With the right moves, this Mets are a franchise that can get back into contention and make 2017 feel like a blip on the radar.