By Zach Gewelb
The Mets are finally on the right track.
While the 2017 has been a big disappointment, the Mets have elected to retool their roster and look toward the future rather than trying to put together an ill-fated playoff run.
New York traded away Lucas Duda and Addison Reed before the July 31 trade deadline, and moved Jay Bruce and Neil Walker in August waiver deals. These moves show the Mets accepted their fate as a pretender in 2017, while allowing the team to get a look at young studs Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith at the Major League level.
The results may not be pretty, but you can’t put a price on valuable big league experience for young players. Rosario and Smith can adjust to Major League pitchers and break through the rookie wall, all while preparing to be every day players in 2018. If these two can develop and reach their expected potential, the Mets will again be considered contenders next season.
As currently constructed, they are not too far off from being a playoff-caliber team. Their starting pitching has been decimated by injuries. Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, Seth Lugo and Steven Matz have all spent time on the disabled list in 2017.
Losing any one of those pitchers for an extended amount of time is a big loss; losing all of them is devastating. No team can come back from that.
But the Mets now know they need to improve their starting pitching depth. Even if the aforementioned quintet is healthy heading into 2018, the Mets should spend their offseason building their depth as insurance against another potential injury Armageddon.
The chances of the team seeing the same amount of injuries are low, but it’s still possible.
With improved pitching depth and a young positional core built around Rosario, Smith and Michael Conforto — a budding star — the Mets could be just a couple of role players and bullpen pieces away from competing with Washington for the National League East crown in 2018.
The team has already shed the contracts of Duda, Reed, Bruce and Walker, and is also set to lose Jose Reyes and Curtis Granderson when their contracts expire at the end of the year. Asdrubal Cabrera may be gone, too.
The significant shedding of payroll should give the Mets some money to spend in free agency this offseason. The team will need to add some infield depth and another reliever or two, but the foundation is there for New York to succeed in 2018. Now, it’s up to Sandy Alderson to make it happen.
Time is running out for the Mets. Their window to contend is getting ready to close, as they will soon have to make decisions on which pitchers they want to pay big money. Right now, Jacob deGrom, Syndergaard and Matz are all playing on relatively cheap contracts, which frees up payroll to be spent on other pieces. Once the trio heads to arbitration, the Mets will lose that advantage.
But for now, the window remains open, and the Mets would be wise to go all-in on 2018 before it’s too late.
Reach reporter Zach Gewelb by e-mail at zgewe