This offseason, the New York Mets made considerable strides to upgrade their infield and overall positional flexibility. The acquisitions of Robinson Cano, J.D. Davis, Adeiny Hechavarria, and Jed Lowrie, defenders at the second base through third base positions, have provided Mickey Callaway the ability to mix and match his lineup card more tactfully. The bullpen was also bolstered by adding flamethrowers Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia and Justin Wilson who all have experience closing games. At the catcher position, the Mets have brought in another injury prone, offensive force to team up with Travis d’Arnaud. However, Met fans were left to wonder if a true-center fielder would be roaming the wide-span landscape of Citi Field or if the club would roll the dice with the trio of Jeff McNeil, Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo. I’m sure that a majority of fans thought that the Mets would have picked up a starting pitcher with a proven track record and who can slot into the rotation in the event of an injury (or more of Jason Vargas’ 2018 first half). Instead the front office elected to double down and strengthen three particular areas of the club in lieu of creating a traditionally balanced roster, which is an interesting strategy and one that may pay dividends.
The Mets have effectively given themselves a cushion around half of their roster. By doubling down in these areas, they are providing a better opportunity to succeed throughout the long season. This is in no way a slight against the starting pitching or outfield production – there are still guys by the name of Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo who are All-Star caliber players going to war on a daily basis. But in the event of an injury or down year from one of their starting pitchers or budding, corner outfielders, the club can bank on the insurance moves that they made in the off-season to carry the weight of the team in the interim.
Over the last week, Jed Lowrie and Todd Frazier have been injured, to which the extent of the damage is vague. Lowrie is currently day-to-day and could be ready for Opening Day; Frazier is at risk of a multi-week setback which will then require rehab and warm up games before being able to contribute to the major league team. Fortunately, players like Jeff McNeil, JD Davis and Keon Broxton can step up and fill the necessary voids. Now this is only a limited consolation, and certainly an optimistic view, of the injuries only a week into Spring Training. But I for one recognize the strike of good fortune where the loss of two starting players come at positions of strength. For now, we can chalk up these setbacks as standard speedbumps that are part of a long season. How the reinforcements perform in the absence of their predecessors is crucial to keep the Mets in the hunt of the NL East crown. Make no mistake, McNeil, Davis and Broxton are not season-long solutions but rather temporary stopgaps and strategic pieces to the puzzle.