Mets GM Sandy Alderson -- and his players -- are confident in how successful the team can be this season. And Alderson believes that while the Nationals deserve to be favored in the NL East, the Mets can take them down.
"Look, the Nationals have a good team and I'd expect them to be favored, but we beat them in '15 with a similar cast of characters," Alderson told Bob Nightengale of USA Today. "We can do it again.''
Alderson also explained why he chose to bring back many of the players from last season's team.
"Everybody has injuries, I get it,'' Alderson said, "but not to the degree we had injuries last year. Now, it doesn't mean that everybody else performed well and we only won 70 games because we had injuries. But at the same time, what I was looking for was the opportunity to see what these guys could do when healthy, as opposed to giving up on them and letting someone else find out.''
The players Alderson chose to retain or bring back included Matt Harvey (who was offered arbitration), Jay Bruce, and Jose Reyes -- with the latter two explaining to Nightengale that they think the team will excel.
"We understand the Nationals are probably the team to beat,'' Bruce said, adding that if the Mets can stay healthy "we got a damn good chance to beat anybody.''
Reyes took it further, making a prediction.
"All I know is that if we have everybody healthy, we're going to be fine," Reyes said. "We're going to be dangerous. We'll be talking in October, you and me, just how we did it.''
And David Wright, who is hoping to contribute at some point this season, said he would put the Mets' starting rotation up against anyone's.
"It's pretty scary to think that if these guys are healthy what they can do," Wright said. "I'll go 1 through five 5, or 1 through 8, with any team in baseball. Anyone.''
The Mets, dealing with serious injuries to Noah Syndergaard, Harvey, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, Jeurys Familia, Yoenis Cespedes, and others last season, fell out of contention before dealing the majority of their soon-to-be free agent veteran players in July and August.
Danny Abriano, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Baseball Prospectus and FanGraphs both project the Mets to win 81 games this season. But they have a chance to dwarf that 81-win number if they stay relatively healthy. And if they do, the division should be in reach.
People focus so much on the uncertainty surrounding the back-end of the starting rotation (and there are lots of questions), that it seems not much is being made of the fact that the Mets' 1-2 of Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard stacks up with any top of the rotation in baseball. And with Jason Vargas added to the middle of the rotation, the Mets don't have to hope that all of their starting pitchers who were injured last season stay healthy and find their form -- only that one or two of them do.
And if the above happens, the Mets -- with a revamped bullpen that should feaure a healthy Jeurys Familia, AJ Ramos, Jerry Blevins, and free agent Anthony Swarzak -- should have one of the best overall pitching staffs in baseball.
Remember, the issue for the Mets last season wasn't their offense -- and it should be even better this season. They were middle-of-the-pack in runs scored and hit the eighth-most home runs, even though they traded the majority of their impact hitters over the summer.
Then there's the infield defense, which was pitiful at times last season but should be much-improved. Todd Frazier (who was one of the best defensive third basemen in baseball last season) and Amed Rosario will be manning the left side of the infield, and either Adrian Gonzalez or Dominic Smith will be at first base.
The Mets, with most of the same group as this year, won 90 games in 2015 while winning the NL East and reaching the World Series. They persevered through injuries to win 87 games in 2016 and reach the Wild Card game, before being decimated by injuries last season. The small amount of respect they're getting as a postseason contender this season is to be expected, but that doesn't mean it's right.
If they remain relatively healthy, the expectation is that this team should reach the postseason -- whether it's via the division title or one of the wild cards. And if they do, they should have as good a chance as any to take home the ultimate prize -- finishing the unfinished business that began in 2015.