To date, the Mets and Nationals have essentially moved their respective rosters sideways since the end of last season, though Washington is reportedly still trying to trade for Marlins C J.T. Realmuto.
The Phillies signed free-agent 1B Carlos Santana, but otherwise did little else to significantly improve themselves. The same can be said for the Braves, who added LHP Scott Kazmir, RHP Brandon McCarthy, andINF Charlie Culberson by trading Matt Kemp to the Dodgers.
Meanwhile, the Marlins have systematically decimated their lineup (and helped the other four teams in the division) by trading Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, and Dee Gordon out of the NL East.
The Mets were 7-12 against the Marlins last season. There is no way Mickey Callaway's rotation and bullpen will lose more than they win against the Marlins in 2018. In other words, by doing nothing other than watch Derek Jeter destroy the best outfield in the National League, the Mets are likely to improve on their 2017 record by at least five or six games next season. This is great news and totally pathetic...
In addition to benefiting from Miami's firesale and the rest of the division's lack of major action, I fear the Mets have missed an enormous opportunity to take a big step forward by adding new talent.
Instead, aside from reliever Anthony Swarzak and a past-his-prime Adrian Gonzalez, the Mets have either retained (Jerry Blevins, Asdrubal Cabrera) or re-acquired (Jay Bruce, Jose Reyes) people that wore their uniform in 2017.
It's worth noting that, while I like that Sandy Alderson added Swarzak, he's essentially replacing Addison Reed, who was an elite reliever during his three seasons with the Mets. And, while Gonzalez is a name, he is way, way beyond his prime and unlikely to match last year's first base combination (Dominic Smith and Lucas Duda). Outside of that, Bruce, Reyes, and Cabrera were all in last April's lineup. And with options dwindling and the clock ticking, it would not surprise me if last year's starting second baseman, free-agent Neil Walker, is re-signed as well...
Is Alderson's strategy to simply get his old band back together? Or, is this the only option due to cost and a lack of creativity in the market? Sadly, I don't know the answer.
I do know I can more easily accept the former, though I disagree with the approach. The latter is not just a short-term concern, it's also a long-term concern.
However, I could live with Alderson standing in front of a mic and saying, "Injuries and poor coaching decisions hurt us more than anything the last two seasons. So, we have decided to put the team back together and give them another shot to win together, but do it with significantly better support, such as revamped medical department and new manager, coaching staff, and approach to implementing data analytics."
This is a fair approach. I think it's a mistake and it's not how I would have handled the winter. But, it is fair and has the potential to work, especially given the lack of action across the division.
It's true that 2015 could have ended with a Championship had Terry Collins and Dan Warthen made different, more informed decisions throughout the postseason. It's also impossible to deny that major, season-ending injuries and surgeries derailed the 2016 and 2017 seasons more than talent. So, again, if Alderson wants to state that he believes these same 22-23 guys can swap 20 losses for 20 wins in 2018 by simply being healthy and better prepared, I'll buy it.
That said, J.D. Martinez is better than Bruce. Eric Hosmer is better than Gonzalez. Mike Moustakas is better than Asdrubal Cabrera. Jonathan LuCroy is a better fit for Callaway's staff than Travis d'Arnaud. Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb are more likely to make 30 starts than Steven Matz or Zack Wheeler. Wade Davis, Reed and Greg Holland will have more impact than Swarzak.
I'm not saying Alderson should have acquired all of the above, because that isn't realistic for any team, let alone the Mets. However, how about at least one upgrade? Knowing how competitive and intelligent and aware he is about baseball, it's hard for me to believe Alderson is truly comfortable making zero improvements to his roster coming off a 70-win season.
If he is truly comfortable and confident gluing his 2017 team back together, I have questions...
How is he reaching that conclusion? Is it what I said above? Does he believe these guys are World Series-caliber players? I know they were in 2015, so maybe Sandy is right and they can be again? If they are Championship players, does that mean 2016 and 2017 all came down to coaching and injuries?
If not, if the talent actually isn't good enough, why did the Mets lay up? The easy answer is spending. However, nearly every team is cutting payroll and they aren't all starting next year with a weakened roster. In fact, some have cut payroll and improved, which is why I don't believe money is the only reason for a lack of roster movement. Money helps, of course, but this entire winter we've seen teams pounce on opportunities to make creative, savvy trades that improved their roster and in some cases also cut payroll.
If, like me, Alderson is secretly disappointed in the team's winter, during which they simply reverted to talent they know, why? What is missing? Is it money? Is it creativity? Is it something else? If so, what can they do different to improve?
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...