No phrase was used more in relation to the Mets this offseason, except for maybe “Fire Sandy” earlier in the winter and “Sell The Team” just about every single day.
If healthy, the Mets could be good. If not healthy, the Mets will likely be bad.
That may not be the in-depth analysis you’re looking for on a baseball website, but it’s true this season regarding the Mets, more than any other in recent memory.
With Opening Day less than one week away, nobody really has any clue how the 2018 Mets will fare, largely because nobody knows whether or not the injury curse will finally go the way of former trainer Ray Ramirez – out the door. Even Vegas is hedging, putting the Mets win total at 81 games.
Heading into other seasons, we at least had some expectation of how the team would do, even if they ended up over- or more likely under-performing. But this year is so hard to predict because, while on paper the Mets have a talented roster, so much of that roster is unpredictable, especially when it comes to health.
The vaunted starting pitching staff we’ve been waiting for is finally intact, even if it ironically took an injury to another pitcher (Jason Vargas) to make it happen. But expectations for a rotation of Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler have greatly diminished, thanks to the brittleness and inconsistency of the latter three.
While deGrom is as consistently good as it gets and a healthy Syndergaard should be a Cy Young contender, the team’s overall pitching success will likely depend on some combination of Harvey, Matz, Vargas, and Wheeler, which is enough to keep a Mets fan up at night. Even somewhat mediocre versions of those three would make the Mets much better than last year.
But if Harvey can find contract-year motivation, and if Matz and Wheeler can somehow stay off the DL and live up to their initial hype, the Mets starting pitching will be among the best in baseball. Then again, that’s like saying if I win the lottery I’ll quit my job tomorrow.
Similarly, the lineup has about as much potential to be good as it does to fail, even with a few givens. You can pencil right fielder Jay Bruce and third baseman Todd Frazier in for 25-30 home runs and 90 RBI each (don’t use pen yet…it is the Mets after all), which will help offset their low batting averages.
But the two main keys to the Mets offense – veteran slugger Yoenis Cespedes and budding star Michael Conforto – both face injury concerns, with Cespedes already having some nagging injuries after missing half of last season, and Conforto likely out until late April.
That power-hitting foursome can carry an offense on any given day, but taking just one or two out of the lineup could have dire consequences on the scoreboard.
While the additions of Bruce and Frazier will lessen the load, a healthy Cespedes and Conforto (after he returns) will be especially critical given that former top prospect and starting shortstop Amed Rosario is unproven as a major league hitter, and the catching tandem of Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki have not proved themselves yet.
All those uncertainties exist for the 2018 Mets, and that doesn’t even include the bullpen or defense (those are for another post). It will be fun to see how things play out starting next week. Or it won’t be fun at all if the team isn’t healthy. But as Mets fans we’re conditioned to be optimistic, so let’s just cross our fingers and believe.