Both Sandy Alderson, the Mets general manager for the past six years, and Theo Epstein, Cubs president for five years, have been successful architects of their respective teams over the past two seasons. Both teams made the post-season each year, with the Mets claiming the pennant in 2015 and the Cubs winning the World Series last season.
Both Alderson and Epstein used a combination of drafting, free agent signings and trades to improve their teams. However their rosters have a distinctively different feel about them compared to each other for the upcoming season.
Alderson and the rest of the front office built a Met team heavy on veteran position players. Their likely starting infield of Lucas Duda ( age 31 season), Neil Walker (31), Asdrubal Cabrera (31), and either David Wright (34) or Jose Reyes (33) at third are all over 30. The story is the same in the outfield, with Yoenis Cespedes (31), Curtis Granderson (36) and Jay Bruce (30) the starters most of the time. The only likely usual starting position player on the team under 30 will be catcher Travis d’Arnaud (28).
In contrast the Cubs’ standard lineup will be considerably younger. In the infield, there will generally be Anthony Rizzo (27), Javier Baez (24), Addison Russell (23) and reigning MVP Kris Bryant (25). The outfield will have Kyle Schwarber (24), Jason Heyward (27) and the one graybeard, Ben Zobrist (36). The probable catcher is Wilson Contreras in his age 25 season.
However, when we get to the starting pitching rotations of both teams, we find a 180 degree turn. The Mets have a starting staff featuring young arms, with the Cubs going the opposite direction with an older, veteran heavy rotation.
Starting pitchers for the Mets, health permitting, will be Noah Syndergaard (24), Jacob deGrom (29), Matt Harvey (28) and Steven Matz (26). The fifth starter spot is up in the air, but all the contenders are in their 20s with Zack Wheeler (27), Robert Gsellman ( 23 ), and Seth Lugo ( 27) fighting for the final spot. In the 2016 draft the Mets doubled down on their affinity for developing young pitchers, they had a first round and supplemental first round pick, and both went to college pitchers, Justin Dunn and Anthony Kay.
The Cubs, as noted, will have more of a veteran presence in their rotation. Probable starters include Jon Lester (33), Jake Arrietta (31), and John Lackey (38). Two of the projected starters will be under 30, with Kyle Shanahan (27) and Mike Montgomery (28) rounding out the starting staff.
Which approach will work best in 2017? Perhaps both styles will work. Remember the old saying, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.” Perhaps it could be updated to a more feline-friendly “There’s more than one way to craft a ball club.”