PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – Here is something for the glass-half-full crowd … and something for the glass-half-empty crowd who are passionate about the New York Mets:
Five reasons for optimism
Harvey 1. Harvey is back: The strength of the Mets clearly will be the rotation, which welcomes back Matt Harvey after he missed the entire 2014 season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Jacob deGrom is the reigning NL Rookie of the Year. Zack Wheeler looked like a frontline starter in the second half. And Bartolo Colon -- who won 15 games and exceeded 200 innings last year -- and Jonathon Niese aren’t exactly slouches. The rotation is deep enough that there is no current room for Dillon Gee, not to mention prospects such as Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero and Steven Matz.
2. Bullpen is night and day: After Bobby Parnell went down on Opening Day last season and underwent Tommy John surgery, the Mets relied on Jose Valverde and Kyle Farnsworth at the back end of games during the first half. Since then, Jenrry Mejia has emerged as a competent closer. Sidekicks Jeurys Familia and Vic Black proved capable late-inning relievers by season’s end, too. Now, Parnell should be back within a few weeks of Opening Day, too, giving manager Terry Collins four credible options.
3. Wright is healthy: David Wright mustered only eight home runs in 2014 and did not play after Sept. 8 because of stretched-out ligaments that left his non-throwing shoulder loose and unstable. He didn’t have surgery during the offseason, but professes to be healthy, which ought to result in a rebound in production.
4. Cuddyer > Youngs: Chris Young and Eric Young Jr. combined to hit .217 with nine homers and 45 RBIs in 534 at-bats with the Mets a season ago. Michael Cuddyer and John Mayberry Jr., Sandy Alderson’s only offseason imports on major league contracts, have to combine to produce better than that, no?
5. The division is weaker: The Mets went 13-6 against Philadelphia and 10-9 against Atlanta a year ago. Although it will be difficult to improve on that winning percentage against the Jimmy Rollins-less Phillies, Philadelphia nonetheless should be dreadful this season. And the Braves have taken a momentary step backward to retool under new GM John Hart. Gone in trades are Justin Upton, Jason Heyward and Evan Gattis, among others.
Five reasons for pessimism
Wright 1. Wright’s in decline: It’s easy to say Wright will bounce back, but he’s now 32 years old and not getting any younger. Whether it has been the stress fracture in his back, side-muscle injuries or now the shoulder, the injuries have started to pile up. Since 2011, the captain has played in 102, 156, 112 and 134 games a season. And he now consumes 20 percent of the payroll.
2. Defense matters: Mets officials will tell you fielding prowess ought not matter since Niese is the only true groundball pitcher on the staff, but how many baseballs will get through the middle infield? And how many double plays won’t be turned with shortstop Wilmer Flores and second baseman Daniel Murphy? That’s not to mention Cuddyer and Curtis Granderson as the corner outfielders.
3. Cuddyer cannot stay healthy: Cuddyer has noted that last year’s hamstring and shoulder injuries were more flukes than chronic, but he did only play 49 games a season ago with the Colorado Rockies.
4. No leading man: Where have you gone Jose Reyes? Juan Lagares will get a shot to become a leadoff hitter during spring training, but he’s not exactly prototypical in that role. Lagares did steal bases in September when he was commanded to run by the staff, but that’s not exactly the Gold Glove winner’s game. Nor is his .302 career on-base percentage ideally suited for that role.
5. The Nats are a juggernaut: OK, we mentioned the Braves and Phillies being weak division opponents, but the Washington Nationals haven’t broken up just yet, despite the welcome departure of Adam LaRoche. The Nats went 96-66 last season and since have added Max Scherzer. In fact, barring a trade, it’s entirely possible the Mets face Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann during the season-opening series in D.C. Let’s just say the Mets’ best case for a postseason berth will be as a wild-card entry.