Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson certainly had an active off-season. By most accounts, his free agent signings grade out as a B for filling all the obvious holes, but not reeling in any big fish. However, if you look at it from another angle, based on his likely motivation, you could easily grade him an A.
Looking back at both last year and the 2016 season in general terms, what was this team’s undoing? Injuries. As any good general manager should, Alderson made it his priority this off-season to address the team’s biggest weakness and thus made it a priority to add stability to a team full of uncertainty. The returning roster was already brimming with talent, but also question marks as too many players either have a track record of injuries or else were coming back off an injury. What this team needed most was a few bullet proof players, solid veterans who almost never get hurt and can be relied upon to stay in one piece all season. Jay Bruce, Todd Frazier and Jason Vargas all fit the bill.
In 10 seasons in the big leagues, Bruce has been a model of durability and consistency. He’s suffered just one minor injury in the past eight seasons and in all but one of those eight seasons he’s had over 500 at bats and at least 25 home runs.
Bruce’s former Cincinnati teamat, Frazier has six full seasons under his belt and in all except the first one he’s played in at least 147 games. During those six seasons Frazier has averaged 28 home runs and 81 RBI. The most impressive stat of all? Frazier has never, not once, been on the disabled list.
While not quite as impervious as Bruce and Frazier – and really, what pitcher is these days – Vargas has been steady, reliable and mostly effective in his career. In a five season stretch from 2010 to 2015, when Vargas was aged 27 to 31, he started a minimum of 30 games and threw at least 187 innings in four of the seasons. Even in the one he came up short due to an ominous flexor strain, he still delivered 150 innings over 24 starts. Vargas’ ERA in those five seasons ranged from 3.71 to 4.25 and that’s in the American League. Following two seasons largely lost to Tommy John surgery and recovery, Vargas returned last season to pick up right where he left off with 32 starts and a 4.16 ERA.
Add these three stalwarts to the mix of talent and potential on the Mets roster and there are suddenly fewer question marks and a bit more certainty. Making the playoffs will still be contingent on the health of Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto, Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom, but missing as badly as we did last year no longer seems possible. Alderson said he wanted “another Barolo Colon type.” Perhaps he was referring to everyday players as well as pitchers in piecing together a more reliable roster.