2016 State Of NL East: New York Mets

Mar 8, 2016; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Matt Harvey (33) throws during the first inning of a spring training baseball game against the Atlanta Braves at Champion Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 8, 2016; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Matt Harvey (33) throws during the first inning of a spring training baseball game against the Atlanta Braves at Champion Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /

Our State Of the NL East series continues as we take a look at last year’s NL East and National League champions

So far, in our State of the NL East series, we have taken a look at the Braves and Phillies, two teams that are expected to finish at the bottom of the division. Today, our series continues by looking at the New York Mets. Last season, the Mets finished 90-72 (seven games ahead of the Washington Nationals) and ended up winning not only the division, but the NL pennant.

While Terry Collins’ club would end up losing the World Series to the Kansas City Royals in five games, there is a lot of optimism surrounding the Mets and their starting rotation, which features Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz.

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However, there is already some concern around Harvey. He was scratched from today’s spring start after seeing a doctor for a non-orthopedic issue. However, it does not sound like he will miss Opening Night when the Mets take on the Royals in a World Series re-match (8:30 p.m ET, ESPN)

This offseason, general manager Sandy Alderson made a couple changes to the team. With Daniel Murphy now manning second base for the Nats, their new second baseman is Neil Walker. Walker was acquired in a trade from the Pirates at the Winter Meetings for starting pitcher Jonathan Niese. Also, at the Meetings, they signed Asdrubal Cabrera to be their new shortstop.

That being said, their biggest acquisition of the offseason was keeping center fielder Yoenis Cespedes. Cespedes signed a three-year, $75 million deal in the offseason with an opt-out after this season. He was the Mets’ best hitter in the second half of the season when he hit .287 with 17 home runs and 44 RBI’s in the final 57 games.

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In addition to adding a new middle infield, New York added to their bullpen by signing Antonio Bastardo. While the Mets’ starting rotation was the talk of baseball, their closer, Jeurys Familia, had an excellent season. In his first full year as the closer, Familia was 43-for-48 in save chances and had a 1.85 ERA.

To get more information on the Mets, I interviewed Daniel Abriano, who is the co-editor over at the Mets’ FanSided site, Rising Apple. You can read our Q+A below and also listen to the interview I did with them on their podcast last night as part of their NL East preview:

Ricky: How would you grade the Mets’ offseason?

Daniel: The offseason was an A, and it’s been a while since I’ve been able to say that. Prior to the re-signing of Yoenis Cespedes, most Mets fans were understandably frustrated. But that signing (plus the two-year deal given out to Antonio Bastardo the same week) really took the Mets’ offseason to another level. They fortified the bullpen, added a second baseman in Neil Walker who should perfectly replace Daniel Murphy while providing better defense, relegated Wilmer Flores to a bench player by signing shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, retained Bartolo Colon, and then put a bow on all of it when they brought Cespedes back.

R: With Neil Walker now at second base, how big of an upgrade is he for New York over the Nats’ current and New York’s former 2B, Daniel Murphy?

D: As is noted above, I think Walker will perfectly replace Murphy. It’ll be a bit of a wash offensively, with Walker providing more power but not getting on base as much as Murphy usually does. But the bigger difference should be in the field, where Walker’s sure-handedness will be a refreshing change. Murphy worked hard to become a passable second baseman, but his mental mistakes and over-aggressive errors will not be missed.

R: After a dominant season from Jeurys Familia as the closer last season, what is the confidence in the Mets’ bullpen heading into the season?

D: The Mets’ bullpen is as good as it’s been since 2006, when Billy Wagner was the closer with Aaron Heilman and Duaner Sanchez (until the unfortunate taxi accident) setting up. Familia’s bridge should be Addison Reed and Hansel Robles, who both possess plus stuff. Beyond that, there’s Antonio Bastardo, a lefty who’s a legit crossover guy. Then there’s LOOGY Jerry Blevins. The final two spots will likely be claimed by minor league signing Jim Henderson (who has looked fantastic during Spring Training), and either Logan Verrett or Sean Gilmartin as the long-man. The Mets should also have solid reinforcements in Triple-A Las Vegas, with Josh Smoker, Jeff Walters, and others waiting in the wings.

R: With third baseman David Wright’s back condition, is there any expectations for the Mets’ captain this season?

D: While Wright’s condition is chronic, it’s manageable. And he did a tremendous job staying on the field last season after he returned. For Wright, the toughest part of this is the pre-game preparation, not the pain. An exact number hasn’t been given, but the 130-game goal for Wright has been bandied about. So, expect Wright to get his days off against right-handers most of the time (since he crushes lefties) and during some day games after night games.

R: When you look at this rotation, is it a relief to fans that there likely won’t be the talk of innings limits this year?

D: It’s definitely a relief. The saga with Harvey last season was the last thing fans wanted to focus on, and it’s nice that the only player who might have any kind of limit this year is Steven Matz. And even Matz should be able to get to 190 innings this season. It’s also exciting that the five pitchers the Mets have envisioned for their “dream rotation” will (barring injuries) finally be together for the first time when Zack Wheeler returns around July 1.

R: What has been your biggest spring training takeaway?

D: Health. During Spring Training, everything else is noise. And though the Mets have dealt with some nicks to a few of their key players, it’s expected that they’ll open the season with their ideal 25-man roster.

R: Which players would be your X-Factors heading into the year?

D: Addison Reed and Hansel Robles. I already noted that I think the Mets have their best bullpen on paper since 2006, but they’ll need Reed and Robles to harness their potential and become key cogs if they want the bullpen to reach its ceiling. Aside from Jeurys Familia, Robles has arguably the best stuff in the bullpen. So the potential for him to be a force in the late innings is certainly there.

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R: Prediction Time: Will the Mets win the NL East and do they make it back to the World Series in 2016? Why or Why not?

D: Yes and yes. And they’ll win the whole thing this time. The Mets were a deeply flawed offensive team last year until late-July and still wound up winning the N.L. East going away. This season, they’ll hopefully be getting full seasons out of Travis d’Arnaud, Michael Conforto, and Yoenis Cespedes, which should be an enormous lift. Once you reach the postseason, it’s a crapshoot, but I think the Mets’ starting rotation will again be the difference maker come October.

When I think back to the 2015 World Series, I usually remind other Mets fans that with proper bullpen moves by Terry Collins in Game 4 and Game 5, the Mets probably would’ve headed back to Kansas City up three games to two. We know what happened instead. This time around, Collins will learn from past mistakes and the Mets will achieve their ultimate goal.