“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”
Maya Angelou’s famous quote was commentary on relationships rather than the state of an MLB franchise, of course, but it nonetheless seems fitting when assessing the Mets’ offseason. As Brian touched on earlier this month, they’ve done what they said they were going to do heading into the 2024 season. They insisted they weren’t going to be as aggressive as they have been in free agency save a few exceptions, and that’s exactly how they’ve operated. It’s tough to be angry when we all knew what was coming, and admittedly it’s oddly refreshing for a Mets regime to have a plan and stick with it so transparently.
You could perhaps argue that they’ve been too measured in their approach, with David Stearns opting to target undervalued assets and bounce-back candidates on (extremely) short-term contracts, but there’s no doubt that he wasted little time in taking a sledgehammer to the overall roster. Whether that’s for better or worse obviously remains to be seen, but the overarching goal appears to be the construction of a roster that’s built solidly from top to bottom rather than banking on a brittle, higher ceiling with a steep drop off when things inevitably go sideways (injuries, underperformance, etc.).
It remains to be seen how effective the team ultimately is in achieving their long-term goal of building a sustainable winner, but there are still games to be played in 2024. It’s unclear what product we can expect to see on the field next season, though it would be hard for this team to be more disappointing than it was in 2023 considering the difference in expectations. Interestingly, the 2024 Mets are projected to outperform the 2023 version by quite a few wins despite the lack of flashy signings.
In case you’ve successfully wiped it from your memory for the sake of self-preservation, the 2023 Mets accumulated a total of 29.4 fWAR broken down as follows:
- Offense: 19.0 (middle of the pack)
- Total Pitching: 10.4
- Starters: 9.9 (18th)
- Relievers: 0.5 (ahead of only Oakland)
This includes the partial fWAR contributed by the team’s major trade deadline casualties before they went on to contribute to their new teams, but the net value those players provided their new employers only totaled 2.7 fWAR. Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, and Mark Canha were pretty good post-Mets. Eduardo Escobar and Tommy Pham not so much.
Interestingly, the 2024 team roster is projected to generate 39.9 fWAR, theoretically approaching 88 wins and in the thick of the wildcard hunt. Some of this improvement is expected at the plate, with the team projected to get to 25.4 fWAR mostly on the back of Harrison Bader, a healthier duo of Omar Narvaez and Starling Marte, and a belief in the improvement of Brett Baty.
The rotation is expected to be slightly improved as well, with a projected fWAR of 11.3 that says as much about the solid-if-unspectacular additions of Luis Severino, Sean Manaea, and Adrian Houser as it does about the spectacular disappointments that were Scherzer and Verlander in 2023.
The biggest projected improvement is, unsurprisingly, in the bullpen with a projected 3.2 fWAR. Just as unsurprisingly, most of that improvement is tied to the return of Edwin Diaz (2.2 fWAR). Even so, much of the improvement also stems from the projection of a collection of merely replacement-level performances in contrast to the 2023 cast of relievers that provided an abundance of negative value.
Depending on how much stock you put into projections, you don’t have to squint too hard to see the team sneaking into a wildcard spot next season. It would certainly be a team that ends up greater than the sum of its parts, but hardly the doomsday scenario many have tied to what they deem bargain hunting by a team with far more financial resources than any team in MLB history.
That’s not what we all expected under Cohen, but the reality has set in that it’s no longer feasible to win consistently by only throwing money at the top of the free agent market. Mets fans are tired of being mired in mediocrity, but turning that around requires an entire organizational overhaul that we’re in the midst of witnessing. Smart spending does not equate to the level of dumpster diving that occurred during the Wilpon era, though in the near-term it might not feel much different.
As we patiently ride along with the team in methodically working towards their long-term goals, we may just be in store for some surprise years where unfortunate injuries and underperformance are met with fun, under-the-radar contributions from unsung heroes rather than lamenting the lack of depth on the roster sinking yet another season.
The Mets and their fans are far more familiar with being the underdog than the evil empire, after all.