By Zach Gewelb
With Spring Training in full swing, the MLB offseason has officially come to an end. The Mets were not the most active team in the league in terms of making acquisitions this offseason, but did well to retain some key pieces as they look to improve on 2016’s Wild Card squad.
2016 results: 87-75, second place in the NL East
Key Departures: Bartolo Colon, Alejandro De Aza, Kelly Johnson, James Loney, Logan Verrett, Gabriel Ynoa
The Mets let some of their starting pitching depth walk out the door, as Colon left to sign with the Atlanta Braves. They also moved Logan Verrett and Gabriel Ynoa to the Orioles in separate trades — both for cash in return.
De Aza was a replaceable bench piece, and while Kelly Johnson provided some value of the bench, he too is a dispensable asset.
Loney filled in admirably for Lucas Duda for most of the 2016 season and provided a solid glove at first base, but his lack of power hurt his value to the team.
Key Arrivals: None
New York did not bring in any outside free agents, instead electing to bring back their own. The key to the offseason was re-signing star outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. The Cuban slugger opted out of his contract at the end of the season and re-upped with a four-year, $110 million dollar deal.
Cespedes was the Mets’ most important offensive player in 2016, leading the team in home runs (31), RBIs (86) and on-base percentage (.354). Simply put, he is the heart of the Mets’ offense and New York did well to retain him.
New York was also smart to bring back second baseman Neil Walker, who accepted a one-year qualifying offer. Walker enjoyed a strong first season with the Mets, posting a career-best .282/.347/.476 slash with 23 home runs.
Walker battled through a back injury that required surgery in September, but is seemingly healthy after appearing in Spring Training games over the weekend. A healthy Walker is a safe bet to post another strong season, especially with free agency on the horizon.
The Mets also retained relievers Jerry Blevins (one year, $6 million) and Fernando Salas (one year, $3 million). Blevins was the team’s top left-handed pitcher out of the bullpen last season, pitching to a 2.79 ERA in 73 appearances. Salas came to Flushing in an August trade with the Los Angeles Angels and proved to be a solid addition after posting a 2.08 ERA in 17 appearances.
New York’s bullpen is still a question mark with a likely suspension coming to closer Jeurys Familia, but Blevins and Salas should help carry the team while Familia is out.
No Trade: Mets hang on to outfielders
The Mets started the off-season by picking up Jay Bruce’s $13 million option, giving the team five starting caliber outfielders — Cespedes, Curtis Granderson, Michael Conforto and Juan Lagares are the others. New York attempted to move either Bruce or Granderson this winter, but to no avail. General Manager Sandy Alderson couldn’t find a trade partner and it seems will enter the season with all five outfielders. The Mets could’ve received some value for Bruce or Granderson, but knowing this team’s injury history, it’s smart to keep the quartet despite the logjam it creates.
The Verdict: B
New York’s grade is lowered by its failure to move an outfielder, but the Mets did well to retain several key free agents — namely Cespedes, Walker and Blevins — and should be in prime position to contend for the division again in 2017.
Reach reporter Zach Gewelb by e-mail at zgewe