The expectations were sky-high coming into this season. After making the playoffs for two straight years for the first time in franchise history, (2015 and 2016,) last year saw the New York Mets mired in injuries and team struggles. Regardless, there was a renewed sense of hope in 2018, with a healthy lineup and starting rotation, that they could contend again.
After a torrid 11-1 start to the season, new manager Mickey Callaway and company had every reason to be optimistic about the Mets’ postseason chances. They had come into April with a completely healthy, yet very old roster. The Mets were becoming a force to be reckoned with.
However, soon enough the injury bug hit key players again, Yoenis Cespedes and Noah Syndergaard, and the Mets started to struggle. The rash of injuries, combined with historically bad offensive play, led to the Mets compiling a horrible stretch of baseball during May and early June. They lost nine games in a row. They had gone from the leaders of the NL East to a team that is panicking to try and save their season.
So what can the Mets do to help fix their mess?
An easy fix would be a change in ownership that would allow the Mets to spend more money in free agency. Over the past decade, the Mets have been ran like a small-market team and as if a salary cap exists. However, the Fred and Jeff Wilpon appear to be steadfast in maintaining their ownership. Therefore, a change of is unlikely to happen any time soon. The Mets must then start to look at their organization internally and start addressing other pressing issues.
The biggest priority and first move for the Mets would be to bolster their offense by acquiring a powerful bat. Although the Mets have stated that both Jacob deGrom and Syndergaard are unlikely to be traded, they have the most current value of any other player on the roster (aside from maybe Brandon Nimmo, who is quietly having the best season of any Mets player).
The Mets could use one or either pitcher to entice teams to trade an impending free-agent or promising prospects. The Mets’ offense has lacked that consistent power bat that they hoped Cespedes, Jay Bruce and Michael Conforto could provide. Acquiring a Manny Machado this year via trade or pursuing a Bryce Harper in free agency should be the biggest priority for this year. Knowing the Wilpons’ spending habits, it’s more likely to be a trade than the Mets breaking the bank for a superstar.
Another major need for the Mets is to build an elite bullpen with a reliable closer. Although Jeurys Familia has had his moments of brilliance as the closer, he has also choked several times in key playoff situations. Even Robert Gsellman has been getting more save opportunities than Familia recently. Strong, durable bullpens are a major component to a successful postseason run and right now the Mets’ bullpen simply isn’t good enough to contend. Again, they can use one of their valuable, tradeable assets to do this.
One of the other major issues the Mets must figure out is what to do with Cespedes, who signed a three-year extension that includes a no-trade clause. Cespedes, when healthy, is one of the most potent bats in the league. Yet, he hasn’t experienced a single fully-healthy season during his Mets tenure. They need to figure out if he is a long-term solution or trade him. His contract is too hefty to consider even cutting him.
Although the Mets came close to winning in 2015, the truth is that this team isn’t the same pitching and batting wise. For a team that operates in New York, there is no reason why the team can’t shed some of the bad contracts and go after new and better ones in trades and free agency. Instead, the Mets tend to settle on cheaper veterans over premium talent. Furthermore, they haven’t been able to maximize the talent they do have because injuries keep disrupting the flow of the team.
In the end, there are several holes that can be filled by the Mets if they want to turn back into a contender for the playoffs this year. They aren’t a talentless team, but they surely aren’t in the same class as the top-tier teams, such as the Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs. Both those teams went through significant overhauls to get to where they’re at now, which is consistently contending for championships.
The Mets should be looking further than this year and more into how they can build a championship-level roster for years to come, using the pieces they currently have.