By Zach Gewelb
Very few MLB teams have had as many major injuries as the Mets in 2017. And while it may seem that the injuries have led to this lost season, it has allowed the team to turn its focus completely to 2018.
Steven Matz is the latest Met to go down. The homegrown lefty is set to undergo season-ending elbow surgery. And while that may sound bad, it could be a blessing in disguise. Matz had been ineffective for most of the season, and the Mets didn’t have an answer. Now they do, and they can give Matz all the time he needs to recover. Had the team been in a playoff race, maybe Matz wouldn’t get the surgery and tried to pitch through the injury.
The same could be said for injured hurlers Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler. Each started the season healthy before hitting the disabled list. Syndergaard went down at the end of April, Harvey and Wheeler in June. None of the three have returned since being placed on the DL. But that’s better than rushing back before they’re ready and risking further injury.
It became clear relatively quickly that the Mets were not going to be a contender this season. So why rush the starters back when the team can afford to give them rest and enter the 2018 season completely healthy? In fact, it can be argued that neither of the four injured starters should pick up a baseball again this season. There’s no point in any of the pitchers to risk re-aggravating their respective injuries at this time. Sure, the results may not be pretty for the rest of the season, but they were anything but pretty to this point anyway.
The injuries, both in the rotation and the starting lineup, have allowed the Mets to take a look at some younger players. Shortstop Amed Rosario and first baseman Dominic Smith have already made their big league debuts, and several more prospects figure to do the same once rosters expand in September. Again, the results may not be pretty, but it’s vital for the Mets to take a look at their younger players to see who could carve out a role in 2018.
There is an additional bonus that comes with losing: a better draft pick. The Mets currently have the seventh-worst record in baseball and have just eight more losses than the Philadelphia Phillies, who own baseball’s worst record. While being at the bottom of the standings is nothing to be proud about, it will put the Mets in a better position to draft a talented player in the 2018 MLB Draft, which bodes well for the future of the franchise.
And if the Mets can get their pitchers healthy for the 2018 season, there’s no reason to believe the team can’t be a contender. Ultimately, the Mets will live and die with their starting pitching. This year, they died with them.
But it’s not crazy to think that if Syndergaard, Matz, Wheeler and Harvey can keep their injuries in the past and stay healthy next season, the Mets will once again be a dangerous team capable of competing for a playoff spot — or even more — in 2018.
Reach reporter Zach Gewelb by e-mail at zgewe