The Mets haven’t won the National League East since 2015, when they won 90 games and made their first World Series appearance in 15 years, losing in five games to the Kansas City Royals. In 2020 they finished just fourth in the division, but with the amount of talent on the roster & the humongous offseason they just had, they might just be expected to do what they did six years ago.
Coming in at number one…
The New York Mets.
Prior to the offseason, New York already had a talented roster, but there was uncertainty on how competitive the team was capable of being. The last four years they’ve finished fourth in the division three times and third once. That third place finish being the only time they finished over .500 in those four years. A roster that includes names like DeGrom, Alonso, McNeil, Conforto, Diaz, Syndergaard, Cano and Stroman, the Mets have been a team that is expected to win more than they have in recent years.
But, everything changed for the Metropolitans this hot stove offseason. It started with a record-setting $2.4 billion deal that saw a new owner of the team, Steve Cohen. This ended the 40-year long ownership of Fred Wilpon. And Mets fans are excited, as just days after the announcement Cohen said they were ready to spend money like a big-market franchise, according to CBS Sports. Cohen seems to be living up to this statement, as the team has made multiple big moves since he’s come in as the new owner.
Cohen, along with team president Sandy Alderson, made their first notable signing of the winter on December 2nd, acquiring former Minnesota reliever Trevor May. May has been one of the better relievers in baseball over the past three seasons, posting a 3.19 ERA & 12.2 K/9 in 113 innings of work, according to Baseball Reference. Their next big move came a few weeks later, when they acquired one of the best free agent catchers on the market, James McCann, signing him to a four-year contract. McCann was the best catcher on the free agent market, right after J.T. Realmuto, who many were wondering if the Mets were going to go after instead of McCann. But, they didn’t go after Realmuto and signed McCann instead. McCann was still a great acquisition, as he made the American League All-Star team in ‘19 and slashed .289/.360/.536 with a 142 OPS+ in ‘20. Three weeks later came the big splash: the Mets traded Amed Rosario & Andres Gimenez and two young prospects for superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor and star RHP Carlos Carrasco. They finished the offseason by adding two solid young starters in Jordan Yamamoto & Joey Lucchesi, who have been competing all Spring for the fifth spot in the starting rotation.
The big game changers are acquiring McCann, Carrasco & Lindor. Lindor is now the face of the franchise and turns a good lineup into a great one, while also adding great defense on the diamond (two Gold Gloves). Unfortunately, Carrasco suffered a hamstring injury earlier this spring and likely will not be ready for Opening Day. Nonetheless, he was a big addition to their rotation, and when healthy he is one of the better pitchers in baseball. I mentioned what McCann brings to the table for the Mets.
On paper, the Mets are a playoff team. And that’s with everyone healthy. This could apply to any team, but in the Mets case, current injured pitchers Noah Syndergaard & Carrasco are essential to how good this Mets team can be in the long run. The last time Syndergaard pitched on a Major League diamond was September of 2019. He underwent Tommy John surgery in March of 2020 and is expected to be back sometime within the next few months. From 2015-18, Syndergaard had a 2.93 ERA, 2.66 FIP and a 9.9 K/9 in 86 starts. Though he wasn’t as effective in ‘19 (10-8, 4.28 ERA & 94 ER), he’s still on the younger side (28 years old) and he’s known for being a tough and hard working athlete. Expect Syndergaard to have a bounce back year once he’s eligible to pitch.
Carrasco, as I mentioned earlier, is currently dealing with a right hamstring injury and is expected to start the season on the Injured List. There is a questionable timeline on the injury, but hopefully for the Mets he won’t miss too much time. If Carrasco can play the majority of the season and look like he did in the ‘20 shortened season (2.91 ERA (157 ERA+), 82 K’s, 10.9 K/9) , then he can be a huge asset to New York’s potential success throughout the season.
An eventual rotation that could feature Jacob DeGrom, Marcus Stroman, Carrasco & Syndergaard at some point this year, as a baseball fan, is an incredible spectacle to think about. It could be the best in the division, better than Washington and Atlanta. But for now, the Opening Day rotation will probably look something like DeGrom, Stroman, Taijuan Walker, David Peterson & Joey Lucchesi. A solid rotation, but I’m gushing at what the Mets rotation could be come mid-July.
As far as the lineup goes, they are right there with the Phillies & Braves. The meat of the lineup that will include Pete Alonso, Lindor, Jeff McNeil, Michael Conforto & Dominic Smith will be scary for opposing pitchers. Alonso is actually my pick to win MVP this year. Yes, he had a bit of a down shortened season (.231/.326/.490) compared to his 53-homer rookie campaign where he slashed .260/.358/.583, but no one was really going to expect him to duplicate what he did in his rookie season, right? Well, it is New York, and playing in that city comes with expectations. But adding Lindor to this lineup will help take some of the load off of Pete’s shoulders, and I fully expect Alonso to have a big bounce back year.
No, the Mets bullpen wasn’t great in 2020. They were mediocre at best, their relievers sporting a 4.60 ERA overall, which was 17th in the Majors. But, adding Trevor May makes them immediately better, and it seems like Edwin Diaz is looking like the closer who led the AL in saves in ‘18 (57), as he posted a career high with a 1.75 ERA last season. Diaz is super important to the their bullpen.
The Mets potential fearsome lineup & starting rotation edges them the division. And I mean EDGE. The Braves still have a great roster to compete for yet another title, and if you’re picking the Braves to win this division, I totally understand why. The Phillies and the Nationals have potential to be good teams, they’re just in a very tough division, and the Marlins are on the rise. But, the Mets take the title this year, and it will come down to the last week of the season to clinch it.
2021 Prediction: 91-71 (1st in NL East)
Key Players to watch: RHP Marcus Stroman, 1B Pete Alonso, RHP Edwin Diaz
Featured Image: Mets Instagram