By Zach Gewelb
With no turnaround in sight, it’s time for the Mets to focus their attention on the 2018 season.
The team has struggled in 2017, falling well short of expectations ahead of the July 31 trade deadline. While their actions at the deadline will paint a clearer picture of their intentions, it’s obvious what the team needs to do.
The Mets really should trim the fat off their roster. Veteran players in the last year of their contracts, like Jose Reyes, Curtis Granderson, Asdrubal Cabrera, Lucas Duda and Jay Bruce, should all see less playing time — assuming they are not traded at the deadline — in favor of the team’s younger talent.
Such a move would give the Mets a chance to evaluate whether top prospects, such as shortstop Amed Rosario and first baseman Dominic Smith, will be ready to contribute as every day players in 2018. In fact, going younger may provide a jolt of energy to the locker room and could jump-start a surprising turnaround.
The Mets can simply look to the Bronx to see how well a potential youth movement could work out. Last year, the Yankees traded away Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller for top prospects, cut bait with Alex Rodriguez and moved Brian McCann to the bench once they decided they were out of contention, making way for Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin, among others.
The Bombers performed better later in the 2016 season than they had before, despite cutting ties with their veterans, and their infusion of youth was a big reason why.
The Mets are in position to experience a similar turnaround if they follow through with this plan. With virtually no chance of making the postseason, it only makes sense for the Mets to focus on the future and see what they have in Rosario and Smith moving forward.
Aside from giving the young guys a shot, there could be an added bonus for the team if it jettisons its veteran players. The Mets stand to save a decent chunk of change by moving on from the aforementioned vets with expiring contracts.
Additionally, fans may be more willing to come to the ballpark to see the team’s top prospects play at the big league level, so the team could generate some extra revenue through ticket sales and new merchandise.
Most sensible fans understand that 2017 is a lost season and would welcome an on-the-fly rebuild. After all, the Mets wouldn’t be completely tearing things down.
The roster is in bad shape with injuries. Allowing pitchers like Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler ample time to recover, rather than forcing them back early with the false hope of contention, will benefit the team. The Mets need to do whatever is necessary to make sure everybody is healthy heading into the 2018 season, especially their starting pitchers.
This season certainly has not gone the way the team had hoped, but it can still be salvaged. The Mets need to do what’s right by giving the young players a chance to shine in the big leagues and allowing their injured arms to heal properly.
If the Mets are smart, they could turn a disastrous season into a glimmer of hope.
Reach reporter Zach Gewelb by e-mail at zgewe