There were no loud rumblings I heard from the Mets camp when word came the Phillies had signed the premier pitcher in this year’s free agent class. But there should have been seismic tremors within the team’s fan base. Forget 2018; we’re already talking 2019.
The National League East is not a powerhouse division. The Washington Nationals will have their last hurrah and final chance to get beyond the first round of the playoffs (more on that later). The Miami Marlins will be an also-ran for any number of years. The Atlanta Braves are recovering from the scandal that ripped apart their front office but rest assured, they will be in the mix beginning next season. The Phillies just scored a major coup when they landed Jake Arrieta to lead their staff for the next three season. The Mets…yes, what about the Mets?
Unless you want to wildly believe the NL East will field two Wild Card teams in 2018, the New York Mets are now looking up at both the Nationals and Phillies, each of whom is fielding teams superior to the Mets. The Philadelphia Phillies may or may not qualify for the playoffs in 2018, but they sure as hell will make a huge jump from their 96 losses last season. How high they go from there, who knows?
Just taking a quick glance at the depth chart of the Phillies this season should send shudders up and down the National League. Come the next preseason; the team will have a boatload of money to spend on the next free agent class, which not coincidentally, includes Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg, both of whom are already being linked to the City of Brotherly Love.
The Nationals, minus these two stars, will be an aging team (Max Scherzer 34, Daniel Murphy 33, and Howie Kendrick 35), with little or no choice but to rebuild getting younger, or re-investing a ton of money trying to re-invent the wheel by stealing youth and athleticism from other teams.
So, there’s an opening here for a changing of the guard in the division. The Phillies have a plan they have already begun to execute, and the Braves will be back in the thick of things next offseason, satisfied with what they get this year while the front office rebuilds itself.
Which brings us to the focal point of this article, the Mets. Where oh where is the plan in place and ready to execute that will land the Mets in a position to emerge as serious challengers, not for a Wild Card, but for an all-out fight for a division title and the opportunity that comes with October baseball?
I have a myriad of questions about the Mets, but few if any references to a singular plan from Sandy Alderson et al. to answer them. The Mets, from my view, seem to be sitting on 2018 as a season which will be deemed a success if they can stay healthy, especially with regards to their heralded starting staff.
They’ll also be promoting Michael Conforto when he returns in May, as well as Amed Rosario, who they hope (with fingers crossed) is really worth the hype he is being given. Beyond these players, who are they? Who’s on the horizon and coming in the next year or so? Should Mets fans bank on Travis D’Arnaud in the lineup in 2020, or will they find a Gary Carter again?
There’s no tanking in New York City unless you are the New York Knicks, so that’s out if the Mets are thinking of stocking up their farm system via the college draft. So, what’s left, trades? Well, that’s a great idea if the Mets are willing to offer a Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, or Noah Syndergaard come July when the pickings are at their highest, and desperate teams in the hunt take drastic measures.
Heresy, or a plan? The Mets have had the Dream Team of starting pitching on their roster, if not on the field for how long now? And what has been its yield save for one losing appearance in a World Series.
If Matt Harvey is still on the Mets roster in August, there should be a riot in the parking lot at Citi Field. Beyond that, the Mets need to make a choice between deGrom and Syndergaard as their ace, while trading away the other for prospects or a real major league ready catcher, first baseman, and/or a third baseman to replace David Wright, who needs to be given his unconditional release as ceremoniously and as soon as possible – just so he’s outta here (sorry, the truth often hurts).
But as we have come to know with the Mets over their most recent years, the $75 million the Phillies shelled out for the services of Arrieta for the next three years has more often than not been a Neil Walker or Adrian Gonzalez, both fine players but neither of whom has the impact of any number of palyers signed by other teams this offseason.
The Phillies didn’t just spend $75 million in one swooping motion, they invested that amount, and possibly more in the years to come to acquire a top of the line major league pitcher.
And that’s where the Mets get it wrong when Jeff Wilpon makes the argument the Mets have tried the approach of spending big money to improve the team. Wilpon is right. The only problem has been the players they’ve targeted and signed have been ill-advised and genuine disasters in a Mets uniform. Exhibit A – Jay Bell. Exhibit B – Yoenis Cespedes (oh yeah, it’s coming), et.al.
Which leaves us where? Mickey Callaway will continue to hurl superlatives as he should about the team he will manage this season as seen here in this video two weeks ago, but even he should be wondering when help is on the way from the powers that be above him.
It leaves Mets fans only with the hope the franchise can come up with a PLAN which is, clear, concise, and communicable to their fan base, and one which spells out where this team is going and how they intend to get there.
Phillies fans see one. The Braves see a plan looking ahead. Heck, even the Marlins have a noticeable plan to dismantle and rebuild. Nothing is guaranteed at this level, and the deal for Arietta could fall flat on its face if one pitch and one strain on his arm caused him to miss the next 15-18 months due to arm surgery. “Stuff” happens.
But how can you fault a team who says, “Hey, we’re going for it? And here’s proof that we mean it.”
When will the New York Mets have some validity in saying the same?