As it stands, FanGraphs.com projects the Mets to be 81-81 this season, while finishing in second place in the NL East and missing the second Wild Card by four games to the Giants.
The legendary PECOTA projections, which are published by Baseball Prospectus, also has the Mets finishing .500, in second place, and missing the second Wild Card by four games.
Following back-to-back postseason appearances in more than 15 years, the Mets finished 2017 winning just 70 games -- their lowest total since 2009.
As a result, Sandy Alderson replaced Terry Collins as manager with Mickey Callaway, who has been surrounded by several new coaches. The team also made significant changes to their medical and training staff, including hiring a Director of Performance and Sports Science to help keep tabs on the team's overall health, wellness, rehabilitation, scheduling, and recovery plans.
The Mets have also given out more than $70 million in contracts to retain Asdrubal Cabrera and Jerry Blevins and add Jay Bruce, Todd Frazier, Anthony Swarzak, Jose Reyes, and Adrian Gonzalez.
It has been a very good offseason. It would have been great to add Eric Hosmer or J.D. Martinez, but, according to projections by Steamer, only the Giants did more than the Mets this winter to improve their team.
I'd happily settle for a very, very good season, though, which is well within reach by signing a reliable, undeniable No. 3 starting pitcher, such as Lance Lynn or Alex Cobb.
The buzz in baseball is that Lynn and Cobb are beginning to see interested teams offering more money per year, but for less seasons, than they had been looking to get at the start of the winter.
For instance, whereas both once had been asking for five-year deals worth around $15 million each season, teams are rumored to now be offering two- and three-year contracts worth around $18-to-20 million each season. The pitch to both men being the opportunity to be overpaid in the short term, while getting to camp now and no longer having to stress and wait on Darvish and Jake Arietta to set the top-tier pitching market...
The thing is, while I think the Mets might be willing to expand their 2018 budget to add pitching depth, I get no sense from insiders that they're willing to expand it by $18-20 million.
In other words, I expect Sandy Alderson to skip the above, also balk at Jason Vargas, Jaime Garcia and Andrew Cashner, and instead hook someone like Ubaldo Jiminez, Jeremy Hellickson, or R.A. Dickey with a minor-league deal.
The reality is that neither FanGraphs nor PECOTA see a significant difference between many of the above names, including between Jimenez, Lynn, and Vargas, all of whom would put the team's combined projected win total around 82 or 83, as opposed to the current 81...
This is because, to get over the top, the difference will almost certainly be less about the final pitcher added this winter and more about how the other 20 or so guys from last year's roster perform this summer.
Remember, though the standings say the Mets lost 92 games in 2017, the truth is that a combination of Triple-A Las Vegas, scrap-heap talent and a handful of actual big-league Mets lost those 92 games.
"You can handle it if (players are injured and) only out two weeks, but they were out four months," Terry Collins told WFAN in November about how injuries hurt his team last season. "To ask guys to fill in for the Syndergaards and Harveys, it was just a lot to ask. And, we just couldn't bounce back from it. Then when we lost Yoenis Cespedes for a long time, which was a pretty big hole to fill."
The same two systems above projected the Mets to win 87 games last season, which is the same number they actually won in 2016 that enabled them to win the top Wild Card spot.
Next week, the Mets will officially kick off Spring Training with 20 of the 25 guys that were projected to be on last season's Opening Day roster, which, to repeat, was projected to win 87 games.
The difference next week will be in replacing Lucas Duda with either Adrian Gonzalez or Dominic Smith, replacing Addison Reed with Swarzak, and essentially swapping Neil Walker and Reyes for Frazier and Amed Rosario. Otherwise, the same outfield, rotation, closer, catcher, middle relief, and bench that were projected to win 87 games last season will hit St. Lucie with a projected win total of just 81.
This is confusing to me.
In 2016, when the Mets won 87 games and the Wild Card, Bartolo Colon, Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz accounted for 60 percent of the team's starts.
With this in mind, last spring, had I told you that those same starts in 2017 would instead be made by Robert Gsellman, Rafael Montero, Tommy Milone, Chris Flexen, Tyler Pill, and Adam Wilk, how many games would you have projected the Mets to win?
Would you have said, '87,' like they accomplished with Harvey, Syndergaard, Matz and Colon? Or, would you have said, '70.' I'm pretty sure you, like me, would have said, '70.'
By the way, Jeurys Familia pitched 15 percent of the team's relief innings during the first half 2016, at which time the Mets were 46-38. In comparison, Familia handled less than one percent of the work during the same span in 2017, at which point the Mets were well under .500 and Harvey, Cespedes, and Syndergaard were already on the DL.
At the same time, while the Mets stay on field, perform to expectation and get themselves in position to win more games based on their own talent, 60 percent of the teams in the NL East are still in rebuilding mode.
Frankly, by doing nothing other than watch Derek Jeter destroy the best outfield in the National League, the Mets might have seem themselves improve by five or six games next season anyway. The Mets were 7-12 against the Marlins last season. I see no reason why Callaway's pitching staff can't flip that number in 2018.
Injuries destroyed Alderson's team in 2017, after which he further destroyed them by trading away most of his veterans. I realize injuries happen and will again happen in 2018. However, the level with which they happened to the Mets (and the amount of work that Triple-A players were asked to do) in 2017 is something no team can overcome. The people that played 162 games for the Mets in 2017 should have lost 70 games. It makes sense.
Thankfully, by adding Frazier and others, plus bringing in a new, progressive manager, a new coaching staff, a new head trainer, and finally hiring a Director of High Performance to oversee health and wellness, it's hard for me accept that what happened in 2017 will happen again in 2018.
The point is, while I have nothing against Triple-A players, I'm looking forward to actually watching Syndergaard, Matz, Cespedes, Harvey, Bruce, Familia, and the real Mets. Because, even if the statistical projections expect less, I know the real Mets have the talent to win at least 87 games (if not more). I've seen most of the same people on this year's roster do it before and, with Frazier and hopefully another starting pitcher, I expect they'll do it again in 2018.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is the host of SNY's MetsBlog Q&ACast and the lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. 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!