All the hoopla about the offseason of the Mets is now behind us as the team gathers in Florida to begin the never-ending process of Spring Training. But this edition of the preseason promises to be anything but boring for the orange and blue.
There’s a buzz about the Mets we haven’t seen in a couple of years. Even Las Vegas is getting in on the act, predicting the Mets might be a surprise and a reincarnation of last year’s Yankees team. Whatever it’s going to be, though, it all starts here in Spring Training when some 60 players will arrive in Florida to compete for 25 jobs and a ticket to Citi Field.
New manager, Mickey Callaway, is already creating a stir with changes in the bullpen that could result in the team having no one as their official closer, a new training regimen for all pitchers, and generally for being seen on the field more than in his office. Of course, it’s always the same in the spring when everyone’s record stands at 0-0, and there are no new injuries to report. But at the same time, “upbeat” has taken on a new meaning with Callaway in charge and charging forward at a hundred miles an hour in preparing for his first season as a big league manager.
The personnel mostly remains the same from last year, adding only Adrian Gonzalez to compete with Dominic Smith at first base, Todd Frazier to fill the hole at third base in the absence of David Wright, and Anthony Swarzak, to bolster the bullpen.
Sandy Alderson added a new front office position with a long title, but basically, the idea is to have an “Injury Guru” on board, allowing the Mets to make a U-turn in the process by which injuries have been handled in the recent past. And when anyone speaks of the 2018 Mets, injuries are where it all starts, but never seems to end.
Michael Conforto, the Mets best position player last season, is not expected to make his debut before May 1. Recovering from season-ending shoulder surgery, the Mets are anxiously waiting to see if Conforto will still have the power he displayed last year before going down. Juan Lagares is another player who has missed an inordinate amount of time with this and that, and the Mets are hoping the work Lagares put in over the winter to get more lift on the ball proves to be worth it.
Potentially, the Mets have one of the best starting rotations in all of baseball. Except – add the caveat again – if they are all healthy and stay healthy. Only Jacob deGrom and his 200 innings pitched last year arrives in Port St. Lucie “healthy.” Everyone else, including Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Seth Lugo come into camp with big question marks following them around.
To make the matter even more precarious, the Mets two top pitching prospects, David Peterson and Justin Dunn are at least two years in the making before either is ready for Citi Field. Robert Gsellman seems to have lost favor with the team honchos, and if he makes the team at all, he’ll more likely be ticketed for a spot in the bullpen.
So, in many ways, it’s a dice roll for the New York Mets this season. The re-addition of Jay Bruce as a left-handed power bat will help, but only if Yoenis Cespedes can drink enough Gatorade to keep his hammies from popping every six hours, staying in the lineup and earning the full complement of his hefty salary.
The good news for Mets is they get to play nineteen games each against the Marlins, Braves, and Phillies, who at least for the moment seem destined to be looking up at the Mets when all is said and done in September. If the Mets can win 40 of those 57 games, that’s already halfway to a .500 season, something they couldn’t come close to in 2017. And from there, who knows how many wins it will take to secure a Wild Card spot in the playoffs?
Despite all the ongoing rumors, it’s likely when the team signed Frazier, that pretty much wrapped things up for the team regarding adding salary. Things won’t come easy for the Mets this year, but if they develop a mentality of a scrappy squad under the leadership of Callaway that wins 3-2 and 5-4 games instead of losing them, things can play out differently for the team this year.