New York Mets fans may not be optimistic about the 2013 season, and rightfully so.
After all, the team had the not-so-prestigious honor of being named to Jayson Stark's "least-improved" squads this offseason along with the Miami Marlins, Houston Astros, Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles.
The Mets have averaged 75 wins since 2009, and while next season's performance may pan out just as the last four have, there are reasons for even the most casual fan to be excited about in the near future.
As has become customary for the fanbase, diehards have continued to display their eternal optimism for a perennially disappointing club. Some have given up, but those who remain will be rewarded in due time.
There will be plenty of optimism in the handful of slides that awaits. Here are five bold predictions for the organization for the next three years.
The baseball world seldom sees a Cy Young winner traded in the offseason following his capturing of the illustrious award, but New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson did exactly that when he traded the beloved Robert Allen Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays for an impressive crop of prospects.
Barring serious injury or the unthinkable (numerous colossal busts), the Mets are going to be seen as the winners of this trade within three years.
Coming into last season, catcher Travis D'Arnaud was rated as the No. 17 overall prospect by Baseball America. Those claims were not unfounded, as D'Arnaud posted a .333 average and 52 RBI while showing some pop with 16 homers in 303 plate appearances.
Catchers are a tough commodity to come by in today's MLB, but Alderson was able to flip an aging ace and two below-average catchers (Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas) for the top catching prospect in the game.
Mets fans may have been pleased with that return on its own, but Alderson was able to convince the Toronto Blue Jays to include pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard, a former first-round pick.
Syndergaard set the Midwest League (Single-A) on fire last season by striking out 122 batters in just 103.2 innings while notching a 2.60 ERA.
The Mets now boast a trio of young pitchers in Matt Harvey, Zach Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard that is reminiscent of "Generation K" back in the early 1990s.
Chances are these guys will fare much better than their predecessors.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a talent evaluator who wasn't impressed with what the young Matt Harvey did over the course of his first 10 major league starts. If that small sample size is any indication, the New York Mets have found their next No. 1 pitcher.
Harvey came in with a bang against the Arizona Diamondbacks, striking out 11 batters in just 5.1 innings of shutout ball. The No. 7 overall pick of the 2010 amateur draft continued his success over his next nine outings to finish with a 2.73 ERA and 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings.
At 6'4", 225 pounds, he has all the physical tools to go with his fastball, slider, curveball and changeup, which is what makes him so promising. He has a high enough ceiling to become a horse for the Mets—an ace that consistently throws upward of 110 pitches every five days.
It is hard to complain about the New London, Conn. native with just 59.2 innings to his credit, but one of his main tasks this offseason will be to work on his control. Harvey walked at least one batter in every start last season. He issued three free passes in five games and walked five in another.
If the 23-year-old develops pinpoint accuracy, he'll become a star.
Sandy Alderson has been catching some flak lately for not signing a free agent this offseason, but the discontent is unwarranted.
It's no secret that the general manager has very little financial flexibility, but lucky for the organization, that is what he does best. His tenure with the Oakland Athletics could have been marred by stagnation due to a lack of funds, but Alderson turned the franchise around in a matter of years.
Just six years after being appointed general manager in 1983, Alderson's Athletics won the World Series. Alderson's supreme scouting and talent evaluation led to Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire and Walt Weiss all earning American League Rookie of the Year honors in back-to-back-to-back seasons.
Alderson's task in Flushing Meadows is shaping up to be very similar to the one he undertook nearly three decades ago. He clearly realizes that the current roster isn't suited to compete for a playoff spot, so he's working his magic by trading his assets in the offseason.
His laid-back demeanor and candid comments may not resonate well with every fan, but he is certainly one of the best at what he does.
We'll all realize that in a matter of years.
You know why Terry Collins has that look on his face, right? Because the New York Mets front office hasn't spent any money to bring him a top-tier free agent.
The relatively uneventful offseason was to be expected, but the Mets will have Jason Bay's stomach-churning contract off the books next season and could choose to do the same with Johan Santana.
That would leave a significant amount of money to be devoted to bringing in an established free agent next offseason. Next year's free-agent class (minus those who have been extended or otherwise) won't blow you away, but there are some solid position players and pitchers to be had.
The Wilpons need to make a ton of reparations when it comes to regaining the trust of the fanbase, and that process starts with showing that they are willing to spend money like a big-market team. This winter's method of operation won't fly a year from now.
Oh, the memories.
It's a sad day when a fan has to look three years down the line as the point when his or her team will have a shot at making the playoffs, but such is the life of a New York Mets fan.
Make no mistake about it, the Mets will toil in mediocrity over the next two seasons while prospects come together and the money begins to flow in. But there are better days to come.
Of course, a 2015 playoff run is a bold guess, but it can't always be doom and gloom when it comes to predictions for this team.
By that time, it will be almost a decade since the team last made the playoffs, making it one of the longest decades Mets fans will experience, for certain.
The franchise is working toward establishing an identity, prospects are being stockpiled and the roster and front office seem to be on board with the plan.
For now, grin and bear it.
The Mets will have their day once again soon enough.