Mets Enter 2018 After Active Offseason

The Mets hope new acquisition Anthony Swarzak will provide stability to the bullpen. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Early in the MLB offseason, New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson announced that he planned to make improvements to the team without spending a lot of money or trading their top minor league talent. Considering those are the two primary methods to bring in players that are good enough to make an impact, I had practically no faith that Alderson would improve a roster that finished in fourth place last season. But, to his credit, he has done exactly what he set out to do.

It has been a strange offseason, as many big name free agents are still available with spring training right around the corner. Teams have not only been reluctant to sign players to big contracts, they’ve been reluctant to sign them at all. In a surprisingly quiet offseason, the Mets have been one of the most active teams in the free agent market, a far cry from past winters.

Alderson has signed quite a few players without doling out too much cash. The most expensive acquisition has been the re-signing of outfielder Jay Bruce to a three-year, $39 million deal. Given how productive he was with the Mets last season and how consistent and healthy he has been throughout his career, this contract is a bargain. Plus, considering the Mets traded Bruce to the Cleveland Indians last August for Ryder Ryan, they essentially sacrificed two months of Bruce for a new pitching prospect.

Most recently, the team inked third baseman Todd Frazier to a two-year, $17 million contract, another bargain given Frazier’s solid on-base percentage, defense and surplus of power. The Mets seem to finally be moving on from David Wright, who, unfortunately, will likely never play again due to recurring injuries.

Veteran first baseman Adrian Gonzalez will also be playing in Queens this season after signing a one-year deal with the Mets. Although this signing was criticized by Mets fans, I personally am a big fan of the move. Gonzalez, who will turn 36 in May, missed most of last season due to injuries. But in 2016, Gonzalez was still relatively productive as he batted .285 with 18 home runs and 90 RBIs. I don’t expect him to duplicate those numbers this season, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he could bat around .270 with a dozen dingers. Gonzalez can also mentor the 22-year-old Dominic Smith who, despite a shaky rookie campaign in 2017, the Mets hope will be their long-term solution at first base. Worst case scenario with this deal is that Gonzalez flops and the Mets didn’t waste much money on him in the process.

On the pitching side, Alderson signed reliever Anthony Swarzak to a two-year contract. He has had an up and down career, but in 2017 Swarzak posted a 2.33 ERA and 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings.

One move by Alderson that I’m not a fan of is his re-signing of infielder Jose Reyes. Although he provides some versatility, Reyes received a 50-game suspension in 2016 for a domestic abuse incident. Ever since he has returned to the team, I’ve eagerly awaited his permanent departure. Not to mention that he will turn 35 in June and may not have much left in the tank.

Although Alderson has done a good job of filling some holes on this team, he could still make a few more signing this offseason-more specifically, another starting pitcher. Although the Mets posses an array of talented, young starters, all of them have had injury issues the past few seasons. As a result, the Mets had the second-worst ERA in the league last season. They don’t need to try an acquire another ace, the Mets just need someone who can stay healthy and give the team some consistency. Both Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn fit that bill and wouldn’t cost the team much money.

The team could also use another left-handed reliever. As it stands, Jerry Blevins is the only southpaw slated to begin the season in the bullpen after Josh Smoker was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Although relievers are very unpredictable and good ones can come out of the blue, it certainly does not hurt to have an additional lefty going into the season.

However, despite the strong offseason the Mets may very well finish fourth again this season. The Washington Nationals are the clear favorites to win the division again, the Philadelphia Phillies have a lot of young talent and made some solid signings of their own this offseason and the Atlanta Braves also have a lot of young players who could burst onto the scene. As has been the case for the last few years, the team’s success hangs in the performance of their starting pitchers. Although they are all slated to begin the season healthy, it would be foolish to guarantee anything from any of them given their injuries.

With that being said, it’s very possible that this Mets team could contend for a playoff spot. New manager Mickey Callaway had a lot of success as the pitching coach of the Cleveland Indians for the last five seasons, and I have faith that he can possibly help the Mets’ starting pitchers finally reach their full potential. It also doesn’t hurt that Ray Ramirez, who had been the team’s head trainer since the 2005 season, will not be coming back in 2018. I don’t know how much blame can be put on Ramirez for the team’s injury issues, but it’s worth bringing in someone new.

I did not have a lot of faith in the Mets at the beginning of the offseason, and while I am far from confident in this team, I do think they have put themselves in a situation where they can bounce back from a disappointing 2017 campaign. They may very well have another tough season, but at this point I’m just happy that baseball will be back soon and I can get a little bit excited for the Mets in 2018.

On a finishing note, this will be my last Mets column as a member of The New Paltz Oracle. I have been writing about the team since my freshman year, and I hope any fellow Mets fans that have read along have enjoyed my thoughts on the team I love. Even if they never win another game, you can always bet that I will be following the Mets every step of the way no matter how much disappointment they cause me. Let’s Go Mets!