The Mets have the third-best starting rotation in baseball, according to MLB executives, Buster Olney and ESPN.com's Stats & Information department.
As a result, according to Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz, the Mets are capable of being this year's 'see-saw team,' he said on MLB Network.
In Smoltz's opinion, if their starting rotation remains healthy, the Mets are more than capable of winning 92 games in 2018 after losing 92 games in 2017.
Mets GM Sandy Alderson clearly agrees, having told SiriusXM's MLB Network Radio yesterday that he does not intend to sign another starting pitcher because he believes in the current's staff's ability to remain healthy and effective in 2018...
"We're confident we're going to see a significant difference and greater health this year," he boldly told hosts Jim Duquette and Ryan Spilborghs. "The bottom line is, if they're not healthy, we're probably not going to be competitive. It's that critical for us."
Health is important and will no doubt be a major factor in the team's success. However, I'm actually more concerned about the lack of known quantities in the rotation than I'm worried about their health.
The fact is, injuries happen. They are unavoidable, though a team can take action in helping to reduce the damage. Thankfully, new manager Mickey Callaway and pitching coach Dave Eiland have already made helpful adjustments to the their staff's off-season throwing program.
Similarly, I believe they will all benefit from having hired a Director of Peak Performance to oversee the overall health of the roster However, even if injuries decrease, I'm not convinced it will be enough to flip 22 games in the standings.
In addition to better health and luck, I agree with MLB Network Radio's Steve Phillips, who said this morning that Alderson should acquire a reliable, tried-and-true, experienced No. 3 starting pitcher.
Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard are a terrific top of the rotation. It's very possible they both make 30 starts, both strike out 200 batters, and both contend for a Cy Young Award.
The thing is, as awesome as deGrom and Syndergaard are going to be, I have no idea what to expect from Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, Seth Lugo, or Robert Gsellman.
There is certainly a chance this is the season all seven men pitch to their potential, in which case the Mets will win 100 games. But, seriously, what are the chances that happens?
More realistically, at best, two will meet expectations, while the rest pitch through pain and equally bounce between success and failure. It's also possible they all struggle and again force Alderson to scramble for fill-in starters.
Or, they can sign free-agent Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn now and hit 2018 with at least three reliable starting pitchers. In deGrom, Syndergaard, and Cobb or Lynn, the Mets would not only increase their chance of winning, but they also decrease their chance of spending the entire summer stressed out about the state of the starting rotation.
According to reports and current predictions on MLB Trade Rumors, Cobb and Lynn are waiting for Yu Darvish to ink a deal before they choose a new team. In the end, Alderson would likely need to give one of the them a four- or five-year deal worth at least $14 million each season. The other benefit to signing Cobb or Lynn would be the Mets having a reliable, veteran pitcher locked in place when they're forced to negotiate with Harvey, deGrom, and Syndergaard as free agents.
The lineup and position players are equally unreliable, by the way, which is probably why Olney's group put Alderson's lineup and fielding in the lower half of the league.
There isn't a single position on the diamond for the Mets where I can confidently project a player's performance. This is very risky way to build a roster, a current GM told me earlier this winter.
"Ideally, for the lineup to work, you want at least five or six guys where, at minimum, they only need to do what they normally do," he explained. "The rest of the guys can be hope-and-potential guys, but too many players like that and you're asking for trouble."
For instance, while Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen may be older and in decline, the Giants didn't trade for them in hopes that they'd return to being MVP candidates. Instead, if McCutchen and Longoria simply repeat or even deliver slightly less than they did in 2017, the Giants will have entered 2018 with seven reliable position players. In contrast, the Mets currently have three...
Assuming they're healthy and play 140 games or so, Asdrubal Cabrera, Yoenis Cespedes, and Jay Bruce can be counted on to do what they did last season. For Cabrera, that's hit around .270, hit 15 or so home runs, and cross home plate more than 60 times. For Bruce and Cespedes, it's hit 30 home runs, have 90 RBI, and an OPS over .800. Aside from them, though, who can Alderson count on in his starting lineup? No one.
In addition to signing a reliable starting pitcher, Alderson should probably also sign Neil Walker or Eduardo Nunez to play second base and stabilize his catching situation with Jonathan Lucroy, which would up him to five reliable hitters instead of three. However, with only $10 or so million left to spend on talent this winter, I'm starting to convince myself the better move is to shore up the rotation, because it supports the team's greatest asset, which is deGrom and Syndergaard.
The point is, if money is tight, and the budget isn't going to be increased, I'd rather see Alderson stabilize and bolster his greatest strength than marginally help a weakness...
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. He recently left his position as Executive Editor and Dir. of Digital Content for SNY.TV to help sports brands build their own digital content businesses...