The New York Mets were a do-nothing team at the winter meetings, which wasn’t that surprising given the current state of the team and the state of the payroll. There is still a move (or two) to be made, but that will likely be dumping an outfielder to replenish the farm system and perhaps adding a middle reliever of marginal value.
And right now, that’s a problem.
By FanGraphs’ projections, the Nationals have a six-game edge on the Mets heading into 2017. The Nationals are one of five teams projected to win 90 games, along with the Cubs, Red Sox, Dodgers and Astros. The Mets are slotted for 84, one of eight teams pegged for between 82 and 84.
The Twitterati doesn’t like this. The Mets won 87 games last season with a depleted team, they say. What would make you think they’ll be worse?
The problem with the Mets is certainty. Beyond Yoenis Cespedes, Curtis Granderson (if he’s not traded) and Noah Syndergaard, there isn’t much you can bank on. (Bartolo Colon, now in Atlanta, was a paragon of consistency.)
A bad shoulder seemed to be an issue for catcher Travis d'Arnaud, whose slugging percentage dropped from .485 to .323 and whose caught-stealing percentage dropped from 26 to 16 percent. Maybe he’ll heal and to get back to what he was. But on a scale of 1-10, how certain do you feel about that?
Back issues limited Neil Walker to 113 games and Lucas Duda to 47. Maybe they’ll heal enough to count on them for 20 to 25 home runs in 130 games. But on a scale of 1-10, how certain do you feel about that?
David Wright has been diagnosed with spinal stenosis and had neck surgery the past two years. He hit .226, struck out 55 times in 37 games and had no way to put any zip on a throw across the diamond. Maybe he'll come back and play half a season well (and get $20 million to do so). But on a scale of 1-10, how certain do you feel about that?
We can keep going. Asdrubal Cabrera played through a knee strain. Jose Reyes will be 34, and the strains to the intercostal and hamstring come a lot quicker when you get older. Maybe they’ll both be great in 2017. But on a scale of 1-10, how certain do you feel about that?
Michael Conforto had a great month of April. Jay Bruce had a good nine days at the end of September. Otherwise, both had long stretches of major struggles. Both could be considerably better than they showed. But on a scale of 1-10, how certain do you feel about that?
And then there’s the pitching. Matt Harvey had thoracic outlet syndrome. Jacob deGrom had an elbow issue. Steven Matz seems to have continuous trouble staying healthy, the most recent issue being his shoulder. They could come back and throw a combined 550 innings next season. But on a scale of 1-10, how certain do you feel about that?
And do you feel comfortable that something won’t happen to Syndergaard beyond the bone-spur issue of 2016?
In the bullpen, where year-to-year inconsistency is the norm, Jeurys Familia is likely to be suspended for a chunk of the season. When he returns, let’s remember that he has logged the most innings of any reliever over the past two regular seasons/postseasons and has the mental hurdle of the big home runs he’s allowed to Alex Gordon and Conor Gillaspie to overcome. Familia might have the rubber arm and clear mind to be able to do that. But on a scale of 1-10, how certain do you feel about that?
You get the point. You probably didn’t put down many 7s, 8s, 9s or 10s.
The Mets certainly have the potential to be very good in 2017. But it’s foolish to think that everything we’ve listed above is going to break the right way for them. This prediction system gets that. Hence the 141 innings for Harvey, the .234/.301/440 slash line for Bruce and the 3.51 ERA for a guy we didn’t even mention, Addison Reed, who had a more-than-you-could-ever-ask-for 2016. It can’t predict more than 84 wins at the moment given all of their issues.
The Nationals have far more certainty than the Mets, between Max Scherzer, Daniel Murphy, Anthony Rendon and Adam Eaton, among others. Their biggest question mark is the health of Stephen Strasburg and the first full season of Trea Turner, who looks like he’s going to be a superstar. And remember that the Nationals still plan to add a big-time closer, which will probably widen the gap a little more.
Yes, I’m being harsh (and I’ve been wrong before -- in 2015, I wrote not to make a big trade). There’s still plenty of time in the offseason, and Mets GM Sandy Alderson can change things with a bold move or two, but given the team’s payroll constraints (caused in part by Wright’s contract), we wouldn’t feel good about that happening if given the 1-10 voting option.
At this point in the offseason, the currently composed Mets are a second-place team, in the middle of a crowded pack. Their best-case scenario might be another crack at Madison Bumgarner in the wild-card game.
The only certainty there, given the pitcher, would seem to be a rather unpleasant defeat.
Note: An earlier version of this article had the Mets with 83 wins. Fangraphs updated its projection overnight to 84 wins to reflect player movement on Saturday (Danny Espinosa trade) and thus the number changed.