Mets manager Mickey Callaway had his ups and downs in his first year as the team's skipper in 2018. After an 11-1 start to the season, the Amazin's looked destined for the postseason. But a horrendous June month washed away that hope, even after the team put together a strong finish to the season.
Since then, the Mets have entered a win-now mode, spearheaded by its new GM in Brodie Van Wagenen. The former agent has brought in the necessary pieces to see the Mets compete for a division title in what is expected to be a tough NL East. And they still tout arguably the best starting rotation in the game.
With Van Wagenen already stirring the pot this offseason by saying "come get us" to the Mets' rivals, Callaway has some lofty expectations on his shoulder to produce a postseason-quality club. So, with that in mind, here are some questions he should be facing from the media in his first presser down in Port St. Lucie...
1) Does Callaway have a plan for crowded infield?
Van Wagenen's offseason gameplan was to spread the wealth the Mets laid out for him instead of spending on one top free agent. In doing so, the Mets would have something they have seen on their 25-man roster in some time: Depth.
There is more than enough infielders to work with, as Robinson Cano, Jed Lowrie, and J.D. Davis among them. These fresh faces are added to the likes of Todd Frazier and Amed Rosario as well.
Cano is the obvious everyday second baseman, with Jeff McNeil jettisoned to the outfield. But what about Lowrie's versatility as not only a switch-hitter, but ability to play anywhere in the infield? What if Davis has a strong spring at the plate, and can play the corners with efficiency? Callaway should have some thought as to what his infield will look like on Opening Day, and more importantly, how he will shift it around as the season goes along.
2) Who's at first?
Speaking of infield, there's a reason why first base wasn't mentioned above because it's a debate all on its own. How will Callaway determine who gets the start at first on Opening Day?
Top prospect Peter Alonso enters camp with the ability to win the job, as Van Wagenen already said he could. However, it would almost be malpractice for Alonso to break camp with the big league club as a few weeks in Triple-A would give the Mets another year of team control.
Frazier is expected to be in the mix, though he said the transition to first isn't "set in stone." There is also Dom Smith that many forget about as he saw some time in the outfield last season. This will be one of the best position battles in camp, and maybe we can get a sense as to what Callaway is looking for as it begins.
3) How can Callaway insure deGrom isn't distracted by contract talks?
Van Wagenen was peppered with questions regarding Jacob deGrom's contract situation on Tuesday, as it has become one of the biggest topics for this year's Mets.
The Mets gave deGrom a record-breaking $17 million settlement to avoid arbitration for this season, and that was viewed as a kind gesture to acknowledge the Cy Young dominance deGrom produced last season. But it was also to buy time to work on a long-term extension, and deGrom's camp has now set a deadline on Opening Day to get a deal done.
While this goes on in the background in Port St. Lucie, it will be up to Callaway to make sure deGrom stays focused on repeating his performance in 2018.
4) Does Callaway believe Jeff McNeil can serve as an everyday outfielder?
As mentioned, Cano is booting McNeil from being the Mets' everyday second baseman, which is what he looked forward to when the offseason began. Now, McNeil enters his first Mets Spring Training having to transition into a "primary" outfield role.
He has experience in the past, whether it be college ball or minor-league stints. And he noted being "not too worried" about making the transition. The reason the Mets are pushing this hard is due to McNeil's bat being in the lineup. He had great success after coming up mid-season, and they are hopeful he can pick up where he left off in 2018.
Callaway will have to monitor McNeil's transition all spring to make sure he's ready come Opening Day. But getting his take on what his outlook is right now on the situation is something fans would want to hear.
5) What does Callaway want to improve in Year 2?
The questionable bullpen usage. The lineup card snafu against the Reds. These are just some of the hiccups that Callaway faced in his first year as Mets manager.
So, heading into 2019, Callaway likely has personal goals set for himself as well as team goals. Having spent a year in the position, he certainly learned a bunch on the fly, and with new help in bench coach Jim Riggleman, he is likely to learn even more.