The New York Mets were an embarrassment last year.
Billionaire hedge fund manager Steven Cohen spent almost $200 million in payroll to finish 77-85, players fought with fans on social media -- and through the actual media -- and Cohen had his say publicly as well. GM Jared Porter was hired and then fired about a month later for inappropriate conduct toward women. He was replaced by Zack Scott, who was then placed on administrative leave for a drunk driving charge in September and fired in November. Manager Luis Rojas was let go and replaced by Buck Showalter, as the Mets needed to put an adult in the dugout. At least this offseason has been less tumultuous, you know, except for that whole lockout thing.
Winning cures a lot, but the Mets didn’t win enough, posting a 29-45 record in the second half of the season. They were 21-37 over the final 58 games and finished well below .500, going 30-51 on the road. Cohen’s response was to revamp the front office and dugout and to throw money at the problems on the field. Now we wait to see if it works out.
Everything about the Mets says they should be one of the majors’ best teams and that includes the offense. A lot of name recognition didn’t translate to good numbers last season, as the Mets finished 21st in wOBA at .307 with a 96 wRC + , hurt slightly by the fact that Citi Field is not a good hitter’s park. The Mets and injuries go together like cake and ice cream, which did impact last season a bit, but a lot of guys simply didn’t perform.
Of the top 15 in plate appearances, only seven posted a wRC + above league average, but only two of the top 10 in PA posted a wRC + more than 6% above league average. Peter Alonso and Brandon Nimmo were the two best regulars for the Mets, but Nimmo was limited to 92 games because of injury, which has been the story of his career. Alonso hit 37 homers and was far and away the best power producer for the team, but he was unable to replicate his monster 2019 season.
Alonso is the least of the Mets’ worries, though it will be interesting to see if the major decrease in his K% is able to hold. He struck out less than 20% of the time for the first time in his career after K% marks of 26.4% and 25.5% the previous two seasons. Nimmo will be productive if healthy. The other guys are the ones under the microscope.
Francisco Lindor was known as Mr. Smile in Cleveland, but he became rather surly and snarky with the Mets fan base last season in the midst of a down year. Lindor ran a .248 BABIP, which dragged his batting average down to .230. He hit 20 homers but came nowhere close to validating the first year of his 10-year, $341 million contract. It was Lindor’s worst offensive season with a wRC + of 103. He had hit 32 or more homers in each of the previous three full seasons. He walked more than ever and ran into some bad luck with a career-best 44.1% Hard Hit%, so a bounce-back season should be expected, though Lindor’s offensive profile has been inflated by the media. A wRC + of 120 would represent a big upgrade and is possible, but that seems like the ceiling.
There are some newcomers in the lineup such as Starling Marte, who just had his best offensive season. He posted a 134 wRC + , topping his previous high of 132 in 2014 with the Pirates. Marte ran a .372 BABIP, which was his highest since 2016, so I don’t think we’ll see a repeat performance. He’ll be an above-average hitter nonetheless. So, too, will Eduardo Escobar, with 30-homer potential and a lot of balls in play. Mark Canha will also be an above-average hitter with some pop.
One big question is what Robinson Cano will provide in his return from suspension. Cano was awesome during the short 2020 season with a .316/.352/.544 slash but struggled badly in 2019. He’s 39 years old now and will greatly benefit from the universal DH, as will the Mets, who can put a better defender out there. Jeff McNeil appears to be that guy and he, too, had a down offensive year in 2021. Health is a huge question as he had tons of injuries on his way up through the minors and more last season. He puts bat to ball, though, and can carry a high batting average and OBP as a result.
The Mets have good depth, as signings and platoons drive guys such as J.D. Davis and Dominic Smith to the bench or to part-time roles. This offense has a lot of promise on paper, but there are also a lot of guys on the wrong side of 30 in the everyday lineup. The Mets could have one of the best lineups in the NL if the guys with track records perform up to expectations, but they could also be an enormous disappointment again if injuries arise or certain hitters don’t bounce back.
If the Mets can get to the playoffs, they will be very hard to beat with the best 1-2 punch in baseball in Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer. People are also sleeping on Chris Bassitt, who was a really smart acquisition from the A’s fire sale. Health is the big question here as well, with deGrom limited to 15 starts last season and Scherzer approaching 40 years old with a ton of mileage on his arm.