By Steven Inman
Every March on this site, we grade the Mets winter and it usually involves the word “incomplete”. Sandy Alderson and his front office don’t usually do enough in the offseason to have fans and media change their tune when it comes to the outlook of the New York Mets. After reaching the World Series for the first time in 15 years last season, expectations were at an all-time high for the Mets to put on the finishing touches to what could be a world champion roster. Sandy Alderson and his staff will not be getting an “incomplete” for the acquisitions they put in the blue and orange this winter.
As you know the Mets big moves this winter were the re-signings of both Yoenis Cespedes as well as Bartolo Colon. Cespedes was a key cog in the Mets revitalized offense back in July. While the slugger did struggle in the postseason, the Mets are very fortunate to have him returning to their lineup. Expect Cespedes to have another quality year in New York before trying to cash in on the open market next offseason. The ageless Bartolo Colon is returning for his third season in Queens, the right-hander was solid for the Mets over his previous contract and reportedly turned down larger offers to return to the Mets. While Bartolo doesn’t have the same potential this season that the Mets other four starters possess, Colon should be able to eat innings for the Mets this season.
The Mets most underrated move this winter was the trade that sent Jonathon Niese to Pittsburgh in exchange for long-time Pirate Neil Walker. The switch-hitting Pirate is an upgrade defensively for the Mets at second base and is a solid hitter. While Walker has never made an All-Star team in his career, the 30-year old has the potential to continue to be a top 5 second basemen in the National League this season.
Walker’s new double play partner Asdrubal Cabrera gives the Mets some much needed depth. While Cabrera isn’t the most “rangy” of shortstops, he is an upgrade defensively over Wilmer Flores. The move allows Flores to play all over the infield. Perhaps most importantly Flores can now spell David Wright a few days a week at third base. Having Flores as the primary right-handed hitter off the bench is a huge upgrade to what the Mets were throwing out there in May and June last season.
Antonio Bastardo will also be a solid late-inning option for the Mets. Terry Collins has said the 8th inning will belong to Addison Reed to start the season but if he struggles Bastardo is more than capable of getting the job done.
While the Mets spent more money this winter than they seemingly have in a decade, they did lose some key contributors from last year’s pennant winning team.
The subtractions start with Daniel Murphy, who was the second-longest tenured Met behind David Wright before the infielder left for a three-year contract with the Mets biggest rival. Murphy had the greatest postseason a Met has ever had, and the Mets certainly do not reach the postseason without Murphy. With that said the Mets made the right decision to move on from No. 28. Murphy is a good player and he should have a solid season in Washington but Neil Walker is just as good of a player as Murphy and the Mets didn’t have to commit to him long term. Throughout his career Walker has shown better power and higher on-base percentages than Murphy. The Mets also get a compensation pick back for losing their NLCS MVP.
Like Murphy, Jonathon Niese was also one of the longest tenured Mets. Niese had an up and down career with the Mets so it was strange to see the front office was able to spin him for Walker straight up. Trading Niese also freed up a rotation spot to let Bartolo Colon return. The Pirates are hoping for a breakout season from Niese after some work this spring with pitching coach Ray Searage. Niese’s contract wasn’t bad for the Mets but he was certainly expendable. The Mets being able to fill a hole like second base in the process made this move even better.
When the Mets acquired Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson back in July the club really seemed to take off. Both players played well as Mets but once Asdrubal Cabrera signed and Ruben Tejada was tenured a contract, it seemed very unlikely either Johnson or Uribe would be back. Johnson re-signed with the Braves while Juan Uribe went to Cleveland to fill the Indians third base hole.
Veteran outfielder Michael Cuddyer also announced his retirement, forfeiting a majority of his $12.5M 2016 salary. Cuddyer’s sudden retirement likely had an impact on the Mets spending.
Mets Offseason Grade: A+
Yes the Mets had a borderline perfect offseason. They filled all of their holes without trading away key prospects or tying up long-term money. The Mets were able to retain or upgrade every spot on their team. Sandy Alderson and company deserve a ton of credit for the turnaround of the New York Mets. While the Mets look impressive on the field, they must now execute as we get closer and closer to Opening Day.