Is it just me, or has this offseason felt like an eternity?
Despite the free agent freeze that has left hundreds of players without contracts going into the 2018 season, it has been a roller coaster ride for the Mets since November.
The team actually had a successful offseason after general manager Sandy Alderson said the team was unlikely to match the payroll from their 2017 Opening Day roster.
Rewinding back to that time, I was bitter and frustrated that a team that made the World Series in 2015 and clinched a Wild Card berth the following year could just stand pat and hope for their residual pieces to magically turn into a contender.
This wouldn’t have been a far fetched thought if they hadn’t traded away names like Lucas Duda, Neil Walker, Curtis Granderson, Jay Bruce and Addison Reed and nearly their entire team was going to have to bounce back from injury.
But now, I’m actually happy that the Mets took advantage of the free agent freeze and landed several players to help bolster the team. Without further adieu, let’s touch upon the moves they made and give them an offseason report card grade.
When the Mets initially traded Bruce to the Cleveland Indians back in August, I was upset. I thoroughly believed New York should have held on to him and tried to re-up a contract with him in the offseason.
Once they shipped him off to the Tribe, I thought that would be the end of it, though I vouched heavily for the team to sign him.
Luckily for them, they were able to give him a team-friendly three-year, $39 million deal.
While Bruce is an imperfect player, he has 30 home run potential, plays solid defense and gives the team a strong veteran presence in the locker room.
This was a move I was very happy to see go down and one that I believe will provide the Mets with great dividends in 2018.
Early on in the offseason, before this whole free agent freeze came to be, it seemed as though it was imminent the Mets were going to land former Indians reliever Bryan Shaw. They even extended him a multi-year deal that he was reluctant to accept.
He ultimately joined the Colorado Rockies, who have constructed themselves quite a bullpen this offseason (landing Wade Davis and Jake McGee as well). However, once he decided to not take his talents to Queens, other names started falling off the board and it looked like the Mets were never going to bolster their bullpen.
However, they wound up signing Swarzak to a two-year, $14 million deal, which if he pitches like he did last year (2.7 WAR, 2.33 ERA, 2.74 FIP and 1.034 WHIP), he will help give the Mets a strong back end of the bullpen that is also comprised of Jeurys Familia, AJ Ramos and Jerry Blevins.
New Mets skipper Mickey Callaway (who I will touch upon later) reportedly had a profound effect on Swarzak during his brief tenure in Cleveland where Callaway was formerly the pitching coach and credits him with helping turn his career around.
My only reservation with Swarzak is that, while he had a strong year with the Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago White Sox in 2017, he struggled mightily with the New York Yankees in 2016 and the aforementioned Indians before that.
I’m rooting for Tony and really hope he can repeat his success from last season. Fingers crossed.
“Flava Fraz” is a player I am so glad will be donning blue and orange in 2018. The Mets were able to add the former New York Yankee on a two-year, $17 million deal earlier this month, giving the team a much needed, strong third baseman.
While a lot of people are down on Frazier because of his low batting average (.213 last season), he gets on base at a high clip (.344 OBP last season) and has some pop in his bat.
But what I’m perhaps most happy about is his strong defense at the hot corner. It will be a welcomed site not having Asdrubal Cabrera run out there every day this year. (If it were up to me, Cabrera would be a super utility player instead of now being moved to second base, but that’s for another day).
Frazier, like Bruce, will be a strong presence in the locker room with Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto once he returns from injury, will give the team a formidable middle of the lineup.
Sandy Alderson switched stances on adding a starter multiple times this offseason, but ultimately bended and signed Jason Vargas to a two-year pact right on the heels of Spring Training.
Vargas will likely force Zack Wheeler to the bullpen, but this was a position the Mets had to shore up. Their pitching was devastated by injuries last year and led to the team’s downfall.
While Vargas won’t blow hitters away at the dish, he is a reliable starter who will go out their every fifth day and give you innings.
I, personally, would have prefered a Lance Lynn or Alex Cobb type pitcher, but I understand the Mets unwillingness to part with a second round pick and international bonus pool money.
At the end of the day, this is a move that I’m happy the Mets made and one that I felt was completely necessary.
Adrian Gonzalez and Jose Reyes
Two names the Mets have also brought in are veterans Adrian Gonzalez and Jose Reyes.
Gonzalez was signed to a league minimum contract on a one-year deal, and was brought in to help give them some depth at first base.
Dominic Smith reportedly didn’t impress Mets brass last season, as he was overweight and hit for an underwhelming average, so they decided to take a flyer on Gonzalez.
While they might have been hoping to catch lightning in a bottle, I thoroughly believe they also did it to put pressure on Smith and light a fire under his rear.
Smith has come into camp 25 to 30 pounds lighter and looks like a lean machine. While I would love to see A-Gon have a monster bounce back year, I would also love to see Smith beat him out for the job and give them a strong, young first baseman to rely on for years to come.
As for Reyes, he played too much for the Mets last year. Plain and simple. At this point in his career, he should be nothing more than a utility player and if New York uses him in that role as they said they would when they re-signed him, perfect. But if he plays in 140 games again, the Mets are in trouble.
Offseason grade: B
I think the Mets could have done some things differently (I personally would have splurged on Yu Darvish and Mike Moustakas), but hey, it’s not my money and they did make an effort to improve their team.
I think Bruce, Frazier and Vargas as well as Swarzak will really give this team a boost. As they are currently positioned, I also believe this team can compete for a Wild Card spot.
Hopefully, they don’t endure a plethora of injuries this year like they did in 2017 and the new names will complement the incumbents.
Like they did in 2015 and 2016 as well, they can also add pieces if they are in the thick of things in July and August.
It will be an interesting season and I’m very excited to see it unfold!