BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
(Photo credit: Bill Kostroun/New York Post)
It’s been a week now since the San Diego Padres ended the Mets season by winning the deciding game of wild-card series in three games. Mets fans are still stung about what happened after envisioning dreams of a long October run going back in the summer. Multiply that by how stunned Buck Showalter and Mets general manager Billy Eppler were just talking about it on Friday in the Mets’ end-of-season presser, and you got a long offseason ahead with reflections and regrets.
Here are some thoughts I got out of this presser:
Building through the farm system and player development: The Mets plan to make that a priority, and it should be. Yes, they will spend, but they won’t go over the budget to field a winning team. It’s bad business, and it does not really result in success. Great teams such as the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers sustain success by drafting well and developing them well. This really has to be the key for the Mets to be a championship team. They specifically need to create a culture where players have to embrace the responsibility of doing well in New York, not use the city as a burden for them to play baseball as suggested after Game 2 of the wild-card series. This may explain why they may not have gone all in the trade deadline. They want to build around the Vientos, Batys, Alvarezs and Mauricos.
Did the Mets max out in the end? FoxSports.com’s Deesha Thosar asked Showalter about what went wrong in September in the form of what he didn’t like about his team’s play in September. The Mets manager offered a vague answer by saying they did not win games. This just seems too simplistic. There had to be a reason the team looked this bad.
A follow-up question should have been this: Did the Mets max out in the end? It’s a fair question. Nothing went right for the Mets this month. They struggled to beat inferior teams, especially at home. They had nothing against the Atlanta Braves in the final weekend series of the season, and it foreshadowed what was to come in the postseason. They struggled to hit, and the starters got hit hard. A good question would have been this: Did the Mets max out to the point they had nothing in September and in the wild-card series after playing so well the first five months of the season?
How much did Starling Marte’s injury hurt the Mets in the end? It was a question that was posed to Eppler. It was a great one. There’s no doubt he was the catalyst of the Mets offense. He got on base often. He knew how to get the big hits. He extended a single into a double. He showed his value in the wild-card series. If he played in the Braves series, maybe the Mets end up with a different result in the sense they would avoid a sweep. It’s a reasonable thought.
Pitching in flux: There’s no question there will be new faces in the starting rotation next season. There’s no question there will be question marks about the starting rotation moving forward. Will Max Scherzer‘s arm give up on him? Last year it was the dead arm that hurt him in the postseason, and this year, his oblique acted up. He’s no spring chicken anymore, so health will always be a question mark for him. Who knows if Jacob deGrom is coming back? Chris Bassitt is likely going to move on to a market where he does not want to be burdened with pressure to perform and win. Taijuan Walker and Carlos Carrasco are likely gone. This means the Mets could lose four/fifths of their starting rotation this offseason, and it’s not going to be easy replacing the productivity of those guys as much as Mets fans want those guys. There are going to be unknowns when it comes to Tylor MeGill and David Peterson in the starting rotation next year.
As for the bullpen, there are always changes every year because relievers fluctuate often. One thing for sure though: The Mets can’t afford to let Edwin Diaz walk. He may not match the season he had this year again, but he’s reliable.
Trade for a starter? Eppler indicated that he is going to try. It’s something he has to do again, especially if Bassitt is gone. There has to be a veteran out there that can contribute and be a difference-maker.
What will Jake do? This is a million-dollar question. Obviously, Eppler does not know what he will do. You can say the same thing for deGrom. Everyone assumes he is leaving when in reality, no one knows what he is doing. This is a life-changing decision. Does he really want to move on from a franchise that he grew up with? Does he really want out of New York? Yes, he is going to want to get paid. If the Mets pay him the money, he will be hard-pressed to leave. It’s going to come down to how the Mets and he can come to a fair agreement. No one can blame the Mets for having any reservations to make deGrom as the highest-paid pitcher after he has been injury-prone in recent years. Remember they are already paying Scherzer two more seasons and he is going to be tendered with care. Do the Mets want to go through this? As much as we question what deGrom does, it’s easy to wonder how the Mets will approach all this. Do they want to go through the wine-and-dine stuff with him?
This writer can be reached on Twitter at: @LeslieMonteiro6