Here’s a bold prediction. Edwin Diaz will be better next year. The peripheral stats support that. An expectation that he won’t be better is just pessimistic. He was literally the worst closer in baseball last year. He could just be average and that would be significantly better.
You know what, that’s not bold enough. Since Diaz will be better, the Mets will be one of the wild card teams competing to get into the playoffs. Forget that, the Mets will win the National League East. Let’s get really crazy. The Mets will be World Series Champions.
Are all of those predictions really so crazy? Yes, the Mets are not the perfect Baseball team, but isn’t that the nature of the sport? Is there a team out there that doesn’t have question marks? Baseball is a game in which there are always a lot of moving parts that need to come together for a team to win a championship. The 1986 Mets were one of the most talented teams of the 1980’s. They won one championship and never made it back to the World Series. The 2015 Mets had a losing record in the first half of the year and needed the boost of several trades to push them to the World Series. That team never made it past the wild card round again. Baseball isn’t like Basketball or Football, where a star player can make significant change. A big three in baseball doesn’t mean dominance like the Miami Heat had after signing Lebron James. The 1997 Seattle Mariners had three of the greatest players in the last 30 years on its roster, Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez and Randy Johnson. It also had arguably the greatest designated hitter of all time, Edgar Martinez. That team won 90 games. Four years later, those three great players were gone and the Mariners won 116 games.
Does that mean a team doesn’t have to have good players to win? Of course not. Does it mean a team can throw out a group of Triple-A pitchers and expect that all of them are going to exceed expectations? That’s just silly. A team doesn’t have to be perfect for a bold prediction to be accurate.
Let’s look at the reasons for why the Mets could be in line to compete for a championship. The argument is multi-faceted. Have the Mets improved this offseason? Yes, the team has. By acquiring Jake Marisnick to platoon with Brandon Nimmo and thus committing to more permanent positions for Jeff McNeil (third base) and Michael Conforto (right field), the Mets have improved themselves defensively. The lineup is strong and varied, both in terms of representation on both sides of the plate and the types of hitters in the lineup. It’s a nice blend of power hitters, players who work counts and players who put balls in play. By signing Rick Porcello, the pitching staff is arguably as good as it was starting last year with Marcus Stroman in place of Zack Wheeler. By signing Michael Wacha, the team has added another quality arm to the bullpen and set themselves up better for if injuries hit the rotation. Who knows what Dellin Betances will be coming off of an injury, but an even average version of himself is better than the likes of Jacob Rhame and others. Yes, the Mets have not made the pretty move. The Mets didn’t sign Stephen Strasburg, Anthony Rendon or Gerrit Cole. The Mets haven’t traded for Starling Marte. However, what the Mets have done was target weaknesses while not weakening the major league roster or further depleting its pool of prospects.
Additionally, the Mets competition in the National League East hasn’t exactly improved either. If Josh Donaldson leaves for Minnesota, both the Braves and Nationals have taken steps backwards. Yes, the Nationals signed Strasburg, but the team already had Strasburg. It isn’t like the Nationals replaced Joe Ross with Strasburg. The only team that has improved is the Phillies, but how improved are they. Is Didi Gregorius so much better than Cesar Hernandez? The numbers last year don’t show that. Wheeler is a really good pitcher, but even with his addition, the Phillies still have arguably the fourth best rotation in the division.
This is the time for bold predictions and the Mets have every reason to feel good about where the team is and how it fits in with the other teams in their division and in the National League. Will the Baseball gods shine down on the team this year? Who knows, but isn’t that the fun of expectations? Isn’t that the joy of the offseason, that as fans, we don’t know what’s going to happen yet? It’s a new year. The Mets are in a good position for this year and years to come. With spring training around the corner, it’s time for some excitement.