Through 96 games, the New York Mets stand at 44-52 with a postseason berth still technically possible, but realistically beyond reach. It appears the Mets will finish the 2013 campaign below .500 and in fourth place in the National League East for the fifth straight season.
The mediocre play of the Nationals and Phillies could open the door for the Mets to move higher in the standings, but catching the first place Braves or winning a wild card spot will require a hot streak that channels the ‘69 Miracle Mets. Not happening, folks.
All is not bleak in Queens despite this season’s grim outlook. It’s logical to conclude that the Mets are trending upward based on developments over the past calendar year.
Think about it: on July 24 of last year, Matt Harvey was still two days away from making his major league debut. The Mets had no idea whether he was a viable starter, let alone the ace of their staff.
Now, Harvey has emerged as one of the top pitchers in all of baseball after a dominant first half of the season that concluded with Harvey starting the All Star Game at Citi Field. Harvey is a superstar—both on and off the field—who is drawing comparisons to Tom Seaver and Doc Gooden. There are plenty of questions facing the Mets this upcoming offseason, but Harvey is not one of them.
In fact, New York’s starting pitching has quickly become the strength of the organization. Top prospect Zack Wheeler finally made his major league debut last month and has flashed great potential in six up-and-down starts. The 22-year-old right-hander needs to work on his mechanics and command, but has the stuff to be a frontline starter for the Mets for years to come.
That’s not to mention the recent success of Dillon Gee and Jeremy Hefner following a rough start to the season. Don’t forget about Jonathon Niese, who the Mets have under contract through 2016, and should improve with the pressure taken off him to lead the staff next season.
Meanwhile, 20-year-old prospect Noah Syndergaard, who was acquired in the R.A. Dickey deal, was recently named the 23rd best prospect—and seventh best pitcher—in Baseball America’s Midseason Top 50 Prospects.
In the execution of his rebuilding plan, general manager Sandy Alderson set his sights on 2014 for New York’s return to contention. While much of the team’s future success hinges on the pitching staff, the Mets’ lack of major league-level everyday players is a major cause for concern.
Through July 23, the Mets are batting just .236 as a team, second-worst in MLB. The Mets also rank 26th in team slugging and 25th in on-base percentage.
They're tied for 19th with a respectable 92 home runs, but 31 of those have come from Marlon Byrd (17) and John Buck (14) who are under one-year deals and unlikely to be on the team next season. Byrd and Buck also rank first and second, respectively, for the team lead in RBI.
There’s no denying that the Mets must find long-term solutions at numerous positions if Alderson’s plan is to come to fruition next season.
Will the Mets be a contender next season?
The good news is that Alderson has stated that Mets ownership is committed to acquiring veteran talent in free agency this offseason after the burdensome contracts of Jason Bay and Johan Santana come off the books. The Mets will have between $35-45 million to spend on free agents this winter, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post.
Don’t expect to see reinforcements this summer, though. New York’s front office continues to insist that they’ll stand pat prior to the July 31 trade deadline. That means the Mets aren’t likely to trade either Marlon Byrd or Bobby Parnell before next Wednesday’s deadline.
In the upcoming offseason, the Mets need to find a franchise center fielder, which they’ve been without since Carlos Beltran was traded in 2011. Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo are both free agents at season’s end, but could prove too costly considering the Mets’ budget.
Center field is merely at the top of Alderson’s to-do list this offseason. Here’s a quick look at his punch-list:
Is Ike Davis the answer at first base?
How about Daniel Murphy at second base?
And Ruben Tejada at shortstop?
What position best suits Lucas Duda?
Davis, Murphy and Tejada are each arbitration-eligible at the end of the season, which means the Mets must decide who is a long-term solution at their position.
David Wright is the greatest position player in the team’s history, but there’s not much in the way of offensive support for the Mets’ captain.
Finally, the contract of manager Terry Collins is up at the end of the season. Collins has done a good job leading the team through their extensive rebuilding phase, but is he right the man to lead the Mets back to prosperity? New York’s front office will have to make that determination in the coming months.
The Mets have a chance to be competitive next season, but it’s going to take smart investments in position players and the continued ascension of the pitching staff for the Mets to make noise in the National League.