Since the day he was hired in early November, Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen has been talking about improving his team's depth.
The Mets have suffered significant injuries during each of the past four seasons. And, to Van Wagenen's point, during each instance, the Mets were left to scramble when finding a comparable solution to whomever went on the DL.
For instance, in 2017, the Mets were bobbing around .500 and still very much in contention within the NL East. However, after losing multiple players from their Opening Day lineup, the team sank like a stone on its way to losing 92 games.
"It really got to be tough," then-manager Terry Collins told WFAN that year's offseason. "You can handle it if they're only out two weeks, but they were out four months and, we just couldn't bounce back from it."
In 2015, two months before catching fire on their way to a World Series, the Mets dipped to being .500 with John Mayberry Jr. and Eric Campbell batting cleanup.
Last season, during which the Mets lost 85 games, their players stepped in the batters box 6,177 times. Unfortunately, 25 percent of those plate appearances were made by Jose Bautista, Kevin Plawecki, Jose Reyes, Devin Mesoraco, Austin Jackson and Adrian Gonzalez, all of whom combined to produce just 0.6 WAR.
"One of the things that I think this club suffered from the last couple years was putting a lot of weight into 'ifs,'" Van Wagenen explained in more detail in early-December. "If player X is healthy, if player X rebounds to have another year, if we have a breakout season from a young player. My goal is that we try to eliminate as many 'ifs' as possible."
In previous seasons, Travis d'Arnaud was the prime example of the type of 'if' being talked about by Van Wagenen. Each of the past four winters, I have written a post here indicating that, if d'Arnaud could stay healthy, he'd be ripe for a breakout season. It never happened, the injuries continued to pile up and then the Mets hired a new GM with no ties to d'Arnaud, who started his 2018 by having Tommy John surgery.
As a result, Van Wagenen locked up veteran, everyday catcher Wilson Ramos, pushing the 29-year-old d'Arnaud to being a backup for the first time in his career.
In terms of position players, Van Wagenen solved several "ifs" by simply signing Jed Lowrie, who is a terrific hitter able to play every day at either shortstop, second or third base.
Similarly, though hardly an established, productive hitter to date, trading for J.D. Davis will give Mickey Callaway another player that can play corner outfield, third and first base. He can also pitch in relief, for what it's worth...
Luis Guillorme is equally important. He's been working this winter on creating more drive in his swing. But, even if he hits as he has, he provides sensational defense at shortstop, second and third base. He's the best fielder in the organization and possibly the best fielder in the entire division. He's a valuable asset regardless of what he does with the bat.
In the outfield, Van Wagenen chose to pass on acquiring an everyday center fielder, despite showing interest in free-agent A.J. Pollock earlier in the winter.
Instead, Van Wagenen traded for Rajai Davis and platoon center fielder Keon Broxton.
Davis is expected to begin the season in Triple-A, whereas Broxton is slated to split time up the middle with Juan Lagares, who once won a Gold Glove, but has since missed 50 percent of the team's games played.
There's evidence to suggest Broxton and Lagares could combine to be a 1.5 WAR center fielder, which would have been tied for being the National League's fifth-most productive center fielder last season. Of course, had the Mets signed Pollock, they would have projected to have the best, most productive outfield in the league. Instead, after giving Pollock a four-year deal, that label goes to the Dodgers.
It's worth noting that Adam Jones is still a free agent. And, while he may not be an everyday center fielder, he can be an everyday corner outfielder and capable of occasionally playing center. If the Mets added Jones, it would mean he, Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo could rotate across the outfield each day, while moving both Lagares and Broxton to the bench.
If the above happens, Jeff McNeil -- who the team is planning to use primarily in the outfield on a near-everyday basis -- would be a bench piece.
In the end, if Todd Frazier is at first and one of Broxton or Lagares is in center field, the bench should include Davis, d'Arnaud, Broxton or Lagares, and potentially Guillorme.
It gets more fun and complicated if McNeil is playing left field because then Lagares and Broxton are both on the bench. Similarly, at any given time, McNeil can hop to third, and if Lowrie starts at shortstop or second, one of Robinson Cano or Amed Rosario will be on the bench. Or, if Cano moves to first, McNeil plays second, and Lowrie goes to third, Frazier is on the bench. And, when Peter Alonso is promoted, Frazier will definitely be on the bench.
So, whereas six replacemnet-level guys picked up a quarter of the team's plate appearances last season (to the tune of 0.6 WAR), the back end of this year's team will get less time in the box (roughly 16 percent of all plate appearances), yet is projected to deliver at least twice the production of last year's crew (1.3 WAR off the bench).
The point is, by having McNeil and acquiring Davis and Lowrie, Van Wagenen beefed up the edges of his roster and made the team's bench better than it has been during the past decade. And, even though no one player is a superstar, if anyone goes down with an injury, the Mets have multiple players capable of filling in and performing like an everyday guy.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!