This series will evaluate one team per day, starting on January 23, 2013 and ending on February 22, 2013 (the first game of spring training). It is based on last season's performance, offseason changes since and the author's outlook for the team in 2013. Please keep in mind that rosters can, and will, change before Opening Day. We started in the AL East and now go to the NL side, starting in the East and going in alphabetical order. Next up, the New York Mets.
2012 finish: 74-88 (4th place, NL East)
RHP Noah Syndergaard, RHP Aaron Laffey, RHP Shaun Marcum, SS Brandon Hicks, C John Buck, C Travis d'Arnaud, C Anthony Recker
RHP R.A. Dickey, RHP Chris Young, RHP Mike Pelfrey, RHP Jon Rauch, RHP Ramon Ramirez, OF Scott Hairston, OF Jason Bay, OF Andres Torres, SS Ronny Cedeno, C Josh Thole, C Mike Nickeas, C Kelly Shoppach
Why they will improve this year
The Mets cut ties with a lot of failed experiments, and finally pulled the trigger on trading their ace pitcher in order to deepen the farm system. They also made a long-awaited move to extend franchise cornerstone David Wright for eight years, and to presumably build a new team around him.
It's been a rough few years for the Mets, as they seem to always start hot and then bomb in the second half. In 2012, New York was in the middle of the pack in the National League for batting average and ERA. And then the All-Star Break happened, after which they plummeted in the rankings for both. Adding Buck and Marcum should at least make a dent in that problem.
Besides Dickey and Hairston, none of the players lost will be missed terribly in Queens. With Matt Harvey and the eventual call-up of Zack Wheeler, the pitching staff has a lot to look forward to. They improved at catcher, and got a stellar prospect at the position in d'Arnaud.
In the long run, trading Dickey will be a coup for the Mets. And it could even pay immediate dividends if the prospects jump on the fast track to the show. Trimming the fat from their roster will make the Mets a team that can learn, preach and practice consistency and conditioning so that the second half of these seasons holds just as much promise as the first.
When it comes down to it, the Mets still have a good, young lineup. Around Wright, they have great talent in Ruben Tejada, Daniel Murphy, Lucas Duda and Ike Davis. Add in Buck's bat, plus a plethora of young, promising arms behind Johan Santana, and you have the makings of a team ready to play spoiler down the stretch.
Why they will regress this year
Even with a high level of potential in the rotation, the Mets are looking at a year of ups and downs from their young starters. We can count on Santana to pitch pretty well when he's healthy, but after that, is there a bona fide top-of-the-rotation starter? I don't think so.
Their two best, veteran starters are both coming off injuries, so questions abound there, too. If Jon Niese, Dillon Gee and Matt Harvey all make huge strides, I may be singing a different tune. Honestly, that seems unlikely, though one of that trio may jump to legitimate starter status (if I had to choose, Harvey).
And I really do like the Mets young—they improved or stayed equal at almost every position. Assuming a healthy season from Wright, and a slight uptick in the young guys' games, New York might exceed my expectations. Unfortunately, I don't expect much to begin with.
With the addition of Buck against the loss of Hairston, did the Mets really add any pop? Unless Ike Davis, Lucas Duda and Wright continue to mash around 20 or more homers each, I can't realistically say that the Mets will be an offensive threat. And chances are a couple of the young players will regress, as is standard.
But the biggest worry, again, seems to be the bullpen, where Frank Francisco is still slated as the closer. Bobby Parnell could be a nice replacement option for when—not if—Francisco falters. And besides pinning potential bullpen innings on Wheeler and Jenrry Mejia, where do the Mets go for help? No matter what the starters do, the bullpen might doom the 2013 Mets...again.
The outlook for 2013
Like I mentioned above, I really do like what the Mets are doing. They got rid of guys like Bay and Pelfrey who just weren't working out anymore, and have a huge contingent of solid prospects ready to make an impact. I'm especially excited to see what the young pitchers can do, and whether Tejada can continue to improve at shortstop.
Unfortunately, even if everything goes incredibly well in that department, I don't expect the Mets contending in 2013. They are on the right track, but need at least one more season to get there. If there are no major hiccups in player development, I wouldn't be shocked to see the Metropolitans at least back in the Wild Card race in 2014.
So for this year, it's the opinion of this writer that the Mets do improve, but just slightly. I think the Mets will bump up to about 79 wins, inching closer to .500. But the most important development should be the consistency across the entire season. Will they take their hot start into the second half? Or at least be watchable in the second half?
I say yes. But it's not going to be a fantastic result this year. Fourth place in the East again feels likely, though Mets fans should be patient, because a good team is on its way.
Potential changes before Opening Day
There have been plenty of rumors swirling that should make Mets fans optimistic. The biggest and most obvious one is that they engaged in talks with Michael Bourn and agent Scott Boras, who want a five-year, $75 million, B.J. Upton-esque deal.
Despite the price (the Mets would also likely surrender their 11th overall pick in the draft, something they aren't willing to do), a signing of that magnitude would be huge for a relatively weak outfield and inexperienced top of the order. It's hard to pass up Bourn, especially if the price tag comes down, but this is one of those rare teams that I think should ignore the speedy free-agent outfielder.
Of course, bullpen help is always welcome in New York, and according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, Sandy Alderson may be in the market for more relief help and a new closer. I think I speak for Mets fans everywhere when I say that theory is fully supported. Go get 'em, Sandy.
Biggest surprise: Collin Cowgill
Biggest disappointment: Johan Santana
Bold prediction: Tejada hits .310, finishes in top 10 of NL batting average
1. Ruben Tejada, SS
2. Daniel Murphy, 2B
3. David Wright, 3B
4. Ike Davis, 1B
5. Lucas Duda, LF
6. John Buck, C
7. Kirk Nieuwenhuis, CF
8. Mike Baxter, RF
1. Johan Santana, LHP
2. Shaun Marcum, RHP
3. Jon Niese, LHP
4. Matt Harvey, RHP
5. Dillon Gee, RHP
Projected finish: 79-83, 4th place
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You can follow Jeremy on Twitter @Jamblinman.