The New York Mets were very active in the free-agent market this past winter, especially compared to the types of acquisitions they made in previous years.
There are varying opinions as to whether general manager Sandy Alderson did enough to make the “Amazins” a playoff contender in 2014.
The first move he made was signing outfielder Chris Young to a one-year, $7.25 million contract. This signing puzzled some while looking at his recent statistics and a high propensity to strike out.
Those moves were followed with inking Curtis Granderson to a four-year, $60 million deal, along with Bartolo Colon’s two-year, $20 million pact.
Granderson looks to be breaking out of his early-season slump but still has work to do with the .175/.280/.289 line he owns in 114 at-bats.
Two of Colon’s seven starts are why his season statistics don’t look great, but the Mets were hoping for better than a 2-5 record with a 5.36 ERA and 1.37 WHIP through his first 43.2 innings.
Once Young’s deal was official, Dave Cameron of FanGraphs said this would be one of the best bargains of the entire winter. So far, he’s been producing.
Young’s season was delayed because of a quad injury, landing him on the disabled list for the first two weeks. Through 61 at-bats, he’s hitting .246/.313/.410 with two home runs and nine RBI.
Prior to going hitless in his last six at-bats, Young’s average was as high as .273, and he could easily have two or three more home runs, but he’s been robbed by opposing outfielders.
Signing Granderson garnered more attention. There are multiple reasons for this, but mostly because he’s expected to be the main protection in the lineup for David Wright.
Getting close to the middle of May, the Mets are one of the worst in baseball with regard to power, posting a .332 slugging percentage, including 20 home runs.
Young’s still striking out 19.4 percent of the time, but that’s the lowest it’s been since he posted a 21.1 percent K-rate in 2011 with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
He’s hitting line drives at a rate of 18.8 percent, which isn’t much different than his career mark (18.6 percent). However, he’s cut down on the amount of fly balls he’s hitting. The 0.86 ground ball/fly ball ratio is the highest it’s been since it was 0.89 in 2008.
These improvements are part of the reason his .283 BABIP is the best it’s been since he was an All-Star for Arizona in 2010.
With a desire to be more consistent, Young received hands-on training from Hall of Famer Rod Carew. His changes in approach and selectivity at the plate look to be direct causes for this production.
Comparing to his 2013 season with the Oakland A’s, he’s swinging considerably less at pitches outside of the strike zone (28.3 percent in ’13 to 23.4 percent in ’14). He's also pursuing more balls inside the strike zone (61.2 percent in ’13 to 63.6 percent in ’14).
Swinging at better pitches more frequently is leading to an increase in consistent and solid contact, likely why he’s keeping the ball out of the air better than in recent years.
The pitching staff will clearly need to carry the Mets if they plan on being successful this year. There’s hope the offense will end up improving from 2013, but that’s no guarantee. If the pitching—specifically the starting rotation—continues performing at its current level, situational hitting will become crucial.
Wright and Granderson have slowly started regaining their respective power strokes. Daniel Murphy is also on a hot streak, hitting .349 over his last 10 games. If Travis d’Arnaud and Lucas Duda can find some kind of consistency, Young becomes the X-factor.
His production in the middle of the lineup would instantly make it much deeper and more intimidating. If Wilmer Flores brings offense to the shortstop position, then they may not be as bad as we currently think they’ll be over the course of the entire year.
The front office was criticized for signing Young, but of the three major acquisitions made this past winter, he’s actually been the most consistent.
If New York hopes to be in playoff contention by the end of the summer, every player on the roster must produce at their career norms.
However, the overall success of the offense may very well lie in the hands of Young. Acquiring Granderson will hopefully replace the production lost from Marlon Byrd. If C.Y. can add more on top of that, it could be enough to put New York in the conversation for the final wild-card spot.
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