It should come as no surprise to anyone who follows baseball that the New York Mets are entering the 2019 season as the most improved roster in the Major Leagues. After an aggressive offseason for the Amazin’s with General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen at the helm, the Mets will enter training camp as bonafide contenders and plausible favorites to win the NL East. As the roster stands today, the New York Mets can contend in their increasingly competitive division. However, should the Washington Nationals re-sign Bryce Harper and/or the Philadelphia Phillies sign Manny Machado, then the Mets will lose serious ground in the division as the potential favorites to finish first.
As pitchers and catchers report to training camp in the coming days, the Mets front office has yet to make that final move; that last big signing to put them over he top, like the Phillies and Nationals, or the Braves for that matter, have been rumored to do. While offseason acquisitions of Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia and Justin Wilson have given the Mets a noticeable edge in the division when it comes to the bullpen, they still have not addressed their outfield situation with Yoenis Céspedes on the shelf until later this summer.
Acquiring Keon Broxton – among other veteran players to Minor League deals – will surely add depth to their bench, but neither Broxton nor Juan Lagares (currently penciled in as the Mets starting center fielder) are the kind of players who can put a team on their back and carry them to the postseason. Not signing Bryce Harper, or even attempting to make an offer to him puts the Mets in a position where they could lose ground in the standings in the latter part of the season, when certain teams are able to thrive off ‘that one player’ who can energize the players around him; like Céspedes did in 2015 following his trade deadline acquisition. Simply put, these moves, or lack of moves, puts them just in the thick of things, but not over the top or in the lead.
As far as the infield is concerned, Van Wagenen and his team have exponentially improved the potential offensive and defensive production by acquiring Robinson Cano and Jed Lowrie. That being said, is a 36-year-old second baseman and a 34-year-old utility man the answer for this year and the subsequent years to come? Granted, both players are coming off career seasons during their time in the league, but where do these moves leave 26-year-old Jeff McNeil, who was moved from second base (where he excelled at the end of last season) to the outfield?
Now, if the moves made by the Mets organization this past offseason occurred five or six, or maybe even four years ago, then the acquisition of Robinson Cano and Jed Lowrie would have been celebrated in grand fashion by Mets fans. But this is 2019 and both players are approaching the tail end of their careers, which begs the question of how much they have left in their respective tanks?
Nonetheless, it’s no secret that the Mets trump card rests in their superior pitching rotation with Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Zack Wheeler at the top of their rotation. With this trio of arms, the Amazins’ should be in virtually every single one of their regular season games, providing them with a chance to compete and win; and with veteran Wilson Ramos now behind the plate, these pitchers will finally have a strong defensive arm that will help hold runners on base. Run support for Mets pitchers, like Jacob deGrom most notably, has been a struggle for this ball club in the past so even if their starters keep them in the game, it’s still up to the hitters to carry their own weight.
So, to reiterate my earliest point, the Mets can realistically finish first in the NL East. That does not take anything away from the reigning NL East champions, Atlanta Braves who still have a young and dynamic team led by players like Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuña Jr. at the center of their lineup. They no doubt will be a thorn in the Mets side all season and will most definitely keep the postseason race competitive. Additionally, if the Nationals re-sign Bryce Harper, and/or if the Phillies sign Manny Machado, moves of that magnitude could very well rock the NL East hard enough to knock the Mets out of first and maybe even playoff contention altogether.
For now, as February begins and pitchers and catchers report to training camp in the coming days, we’ll have a better idea regarding where each of the NL East teams stand and what their lineups will most likely look like come Opening Day.