2018 The Disappointments
The 2018 season was another disappointment just like 2017 for the Amazin’s. The Mets finished 4th in the NL East with a 78-84 record. The off-season signings during the previous winter definitely did not pan out. Jason Vargas signed a 2 year, $16 million deal in December 2017 shortly after he had an all star season with the Kansas City Royals. Despite having a rough second half of the season, the Mets were still hopeful that his talent would result in a successful 2018 season. In 2018 Vargas was a disaster and he looked like a rookie making countless mistakes all season. Vargas ended up with a 7-9 record and a 5.77 ERA after only a 4.16 ERA in 2017. Steven Matz, the #4 starter, went 5-11 but it was not soley his fault as the Mets offense did not help their pitchers (cough cough Jacob Degrom). Matz had a solid 3.97 ERA and he showed he was an above average pitcher throughout 2018. Jay Bruce was signed for 3 years and 39 million dollars in the winter of 2017. He only had 9 HR, 37 RBI and batted .223 in an injury riddled season of only 94 games. He was shipped out this past November in a blockbuster trade with Seattle. Anthony Swarzak was signed for 2 years $14 million and he was regarded as one of the best bullpen pitchers on the market. Unfortunately he did not live up to expectations in 2018. Swarzak posted a 6.15 ERA and blew multiple save situations and lost his role mid-season. In the 2017 off-season the Mets once again signed second tier free agents because the Wilpons refuse to spend money. As usual this strategy backfired. Yoenis Cespedes was also out for almost the entire season which was huge blow since he is their best power bat. These ill conceived signings and injuries resulted in a 4th place finish. And the Mets missed the playoffs for the second straight season.
2018 The Positives
There were a few bright spots for the Mets during the 2018 season. Jacob Degrom is ELITE and he may be the best pitcher in baseball now. Despite having the worst run support in baseball and having countless games blown by the bullpen, Degrom had a career year. Degrom finished 10-9 in 32 starts with a MLB best 1.70 ERA and 0.91 WHIP. He allowed by far the least amount of earned runs in baseball with 41. He won the CY Young award with the fewest wins ever, surpassing Felix Hernandez’s 14 win mark in 2010. Degrom still has a MLB record continuing into this season having pitched an amazing 25 straight starts allowing 3 runs or less. We know Degroms off the charts but Zack Wheeler was the suprise pitcher on this staff in 2018. Wheeler was a former first-round pick by the Giants in 2009 and he was traded to the Mets a few years later. Injuries had ruined his career up until this point but in 2018 he was healthy for the entire season. He blossomed this year starting 29 games and posting a 12-7 record with a 3.31 ERA. He’s the number #3 starter behind Degrom and Syndagaard but the hard-throwing righty is on his way to becoming the elite pitcher his profile suggested back in the ’09 draft.
The Mets offense was nearly non existent after a hot April. After the all-star break, a new potential future starter got called up. Jeff McNeil the former 12th round pick of the Mets in 2013 had been the minors for years. He’s 26 years old and there were multiple infield injuries so he got his opportunity to shine. McNeil certainty exceeded expectations and he helped push the Mets to a 38-30 second half record. He displayed a disciplined bat at the plate and athleticism in the field. In 225 plate appearances McNeil hit .329 and had 74 hits with 19 RBI. He was the spark the Mets needed to start rallies. Brandon Nimmo complemented McNeil in the lineup slashing to a .263 AVG and an OBP of .404 which, believe it or not, was 4th best in the MLB only behind sluggers Trout, Betts, and Votto. It was clear the Mets have found a 2nd/3rd basemen for the roster in 2019 in Jeff McNeil.
The Seattle Blockbuster Trade and What it Means
This past winter the Mets and Mariners agreed to a blockbuster trade that had the Mariners sending former all star Robinson Cano and superstar closer Edwin Diaz, who’s only 24 years old, in exchange for Jay Bruce, Anthony Swarzak, Gerson Bautisita, 2018 first round pick Jared Kelenic and 2016 first round pick in Justin Dunn. The Mets traded two players that are years away from being in the majors, and two veteran players that did not produce in 2018 in an attempt to win now. Adding Cano who is routinely a .280-.300 hitter is a significant addition to the Mets lineup. The Mets were in need of a 2nd basemen since they realized McNeil could play everyday at 3rd base. Edwin Diaz had over 50 saves and was the best closer in the majors last year and he’s still not even making a million dollars at 24 years old. The Mets needed a closer badly after dealing Familia at the deadline in July.
There are a number of cons potential consequences to making this trade for the Mets. Cano’s contract is hefty, which has 120 million left for the next five years and he is 36 years old. How much does he have left in the tank? Only 2019 we will get an indication of what Cano can do. Trading away the 2018 6th overall pick (straight out of high school) in Jared Kelenic also carries some risk. Some scouts have said Kelenic has “superstar potential”. If Kelenic does pan out and Cano does not produce in accord with his large contract the Mets could be in trouble. In summary its clear both teams are going in very different directions with this deal.
2019 Opening Day Roster
The Mets have filled many holes on this roster with their off season moves. All-star catcher Wilson Ramos was signed for 3 years, which is a huge upgrade since the Mets catchers were nonexistent last season. Jed Lowrie was also signed for 2 years to provide veteran depth. They are lacking a true superstar bat which could be an issue if some of their younger players dont develop.. Cespedes may not return until July and no one knows if he will produce at his former injury given his long layoff.
The 2019 NL East is going be very challenging for the Mets to win because their relative lack of stars.. The Phillies just added Bryce Harper and loaded up on a ton of bats this offseason. Cy Young runner-up Aaron Nola is likely to continue to improve. The Braves are the defending NL East champs and they are one of the youngest teams and most talented teams in baseball with budding stars Ronald Acuna and Ozzie Albies. The Nationals still retained a number of talented players on their roster and Max Schrezer is sure to be hungry having finishing 2nd to Degrom in the Cy Young race. The NL East won’t be easy to win but with the Mets additions to the infield and bullpen, they are at the very least have a winning record for the first time since 2016. If everything goes well for the Mets, they can win 85 games and potentially secure the Wild Card spot but the NL is going to be very tough in 2019. In my estimation the Mets should finish 3rd in the division and have a chance at a playoff spot. Last year the Mets were 16-26 in one run games which shouldn’t happen in 2019 given the upgrades in their bullpen. The bullpen now has four strong pitchers in it with the best closer in baseball. If there are any surprises such as Peter Alonso breaking out and hitting 25-30 home runs then there could be some extra wins. With the current roster they have, they will likely see a +7 win increase from 2018.
Marlins (Who cares about them)