Wait ‘Til Next Year: New York Mets
While so much of our day-to-day attention in this space is devoted to the teams still battling for playoff spots, we feel as though it’s only fitting to acknowledge the teams that have been mathematically eliminated from contention, giving them a brief sendoff that should suffice until Hot Stove season. Thus, the Wait ‘Til Next Year series.
Current record: 64-81 (.441, 4th place in NL East)
Mathematically eliminated: Sept. 11
What went right in 2103: Matt Harvey, in his first full major league season, emerged as one of the best pitchers in baseball and one of the game’s brightest young stars. David Wright was again one of the most valuable players in the National League. Non-roster invitee Marlon Byrd earned a job out of camp, hit .285/.330/.518 with 21 home runs and 71 RBIs for New York and was flipped to Pittsburgh in August for a pair of legitimate prospects in second baseman Dilson Herrera and reliever Vic Black. Pitching prospect Zack Wheeler quickly established himself in the rotation after making his major league debut in mid-June. R.A. Dickey, last year’s NL Cy Young winner, fell below league average in Toronto, validating the decision to trade the 38-year-old for prospects over the winter. The All-Star game and surrounding festivities at Citi Field were a success. The Mets outscored their opponents in April, July and August, posting a combined 29-27 record in the latter two months.
What went wrong in 2013: Harvey was diagnosed with partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow in August and might need Tommy John surgery. Wright suffered a hamstring strain in early August and remains on the disabled list. First baseman Ike Davis hit .161/.242/.258 through June 9 before being sent to Triple-A for a month. Shortstop Ruben Tejada hit .209/.267/.262 through May 29 before being demoted to Triple-A, where he remained through the end of the minor league season. After a productive April, leftfielder Lucas Duda hit .226/.317/.382 and missed a month and a half with an intercostal strain. Last year’s pinch-hit hero Jordany Valdespin hit just .118/.250/.316 before being suspended for the final 50 games of the season for his involvement with Biogenesis. Travis d’Arnaud, the team’s catcher of the future acquired in the Dickey trade, broke his foot with a foul ball in April, delaying his major league debut until mid-August and has hit just .152/.230/.227 in 74 plate appearances since. Free agent starter Shaun Marcum went 1-10 with a 5.29 ERA before being released in July. Pitching prospects Jenrry Mejia and Jeurys Familia both had their seasons end early due to elbow surgery.
Overall outlook: We’ll know a great deal more after Harvey meets with Dr. James Andrews on Monday, but most likely the team’s future will be put on hold while Harvey has surgery. That will give Noah Syndergaard, who was acquired in the Dickey trade with d’Arnaud and topped out at Double-A this year, time to join Wheeler in the rotation and d’Arnaud time to establish himself behind the plate. It will also keep the front office focus on 2014 and beyond. That means the franchise should be able to avoid any short-sighted moves and continue to add to its ongoing youth movement, which is lacking in hitting prospects, something the acquisition of Herrera and the drafting of high school first baseman Dominic Smith with the 11th overall pick attempted to address. Exactly how successful that youth movement will be remains to be seen, and, like everything else with the Mets for the foreseeable future, will hinge on the health of Matt Harvey’s right elbow.