Winter Report Card: New York Mets
With little more than a month before pitchers and catchers report, we’re checking in on how each team has fared in conducting its offseason business while acknowledging that there’s still time for its prognosis to change. Teams will be presented in reverse order of finish from 2013.
New York Mets
2013 results: 74-88 (.457), 3rd place in NL East (Hot Stove Preview)
Key departures: RHP LaTroy Hawkins, RHP David Aardsma, RHP Scott Atchison, RHP Frank Francisco, OF Mike Baxter, LHP Johan Santana* (* = free agent, still unsigned)
Key arrivals: OF Curtis Granderson, SP Bartolo Colon, OF Chris Young
The previously penny-pinching Mets were active early in the offseason, handing out free agent contracts to Granderson (four years, $60 million), Colon (2/$20M) and Young (1/$7.25M). Colon will be asked to replace the innings of injured ace Matt Harvey — who is out for the season after having Tommy John surgery — and provide a veteran presence to an underrated rotation featuring Jon Niese, Dillon Gee and 2013 rookie Zach Wheeler. Colon is a flyball pitcher who pounds the strike zone, which should play as well in Citi Field as it did in Oakland’s O.co. Coliseum; he had a 2.99 ERA in two seasons with the A’s.
Granderson and Young, meanwhile, upgrade one of the worst outfields in the majors last season and provide power to a lineup that had the NL’s second-lowest slugging percentage in 2013. Granderson will be of particular help in that area. He’s coming off an injury-plagued season that limited him to just 61 games, but in his seven previous full seasons with the Tigers and Yankees he averaged 29 home runs and a .493 slugging percentage per year.
They will also be a tiebreaker, as New York merely shared the league’s lead for most strikeouts with the Braves last season. It’s a necessary tradeoff for a Mets franchise that has hit the majors’ fewest home runs in the last five seasons. New York still has defensive whiz Juan Lagares, as well as the serviceable Eric Young Jr. and Lucas Duda to share the rest of the outfield duty.
Collectively, these three free-agent signings all fill needs at market prices, which the Mets had been unwilling to pay for years. It’s good for the franchise’s image to be active spenders, but these three should help beyond any p.r. lift they may provide.
Unfinished business: Shortstop, bullpen, Ike Davis decision
It seems like a bygone era now, but Ruben Tejada was actually a pretty good shortstop for two years, with a .287 average and .345 on-base percentage over 210 games in 2011 and ’12. Those numbers fell to .202 and .259 in 57 games in ’13, as Tejada appeared to fall out of the club’s long-term plans. Team executives have voiced confidence in him this winter, however, though one wonders if it’s because they have no other viable option, given the steep price and sparse availability of shortstops either on the free-agent market (such as Stephen Drew, who’d cost a draft pick) or in the trade market.
After several relievers left this winter, the Mets could use an upgrade, but the bullpen is an area that’s often filled last by possible contenders because of its volatility. With New York not likely to challenge for a playoff spot, it’s reasonable to try out young pitchers in the majors as relievers with designs on being more active there next winter.
Davis’ name was floated in multiple trade reports this winter but remains a member of the Mets for now. His power potential (32 homers in 2012) will still fetch some value in a trade, but he has poor contact skills (.219 average in ’12 and ’13) that could depress the value New York might get in return.
Preliminary Grade: B
The Mets are finally back on track, even if there is still a lot of work to do. After years of not generating any reasonable hope that the franchise was moving in the right direction, New York stands assured of a climb back up the win column from its 74 wins the last two seasons. If everything goes right, it may even have a winning record this year.