Mets Black Friday shopping spree and the Atlanta Braves
You had to figure that the rest of the NL East would not simply turn over and cede the division to the Atlanta Braves again.
After 4 straight division titles plus a World Series win, it should be a straightforward process for the Atlanta Braves to reload and set themselves up for another run.
While the Braves clearly still have a bit of work to do in that arena, there’s at least one team clearly not willing to sit on the sidelines and be a spectator in 2022.
Yes… it’s the New York Mets. This is a team that required a couple of months to land a new General Manager, but is now running on all cylinders in an attempt to rebuild their squad and they had a Friday to remember on this holiday weekend.
Since the end of the 2021 campaign, here are the players that have departed New York:
- RF Jose Martinez
- SS Jose Peraza
- 2B Brandon Drury (outrighted to AAA)… that also applies to C Chance Sisco, CF Albert Almora Jr., RHP Robert Stock, and RHP Corey Oswalt. Also optioned RHP Tylor Megill.
- Free agent losses: Brad Hand, Jeurys Familia, Heath Hembree, Javier Baez, Michael Conforto, Noah Syndergaard, Rich Hill, Aaron Loup, Marcus Stroman, Dellin Betances, Kevin Pillar
So that’s a significant set of departures –or so it appears.
Among offensive players, the Mets got next-to-nothing out of this group in 2021. Baez and Conforto led the way with 2.5 fWAR (combined) and other role players like Almora Jr. “contributed” a -0.6 (yes, that’s negative) fWAR.
So… they have nowhere to go but up… and on paper, that’s what they started yesterday:
- CF Starling Marte signed. 4 years, $78 million.
- 3B Eduardo Escobar signed. 2 years, $20 million.
- RF Mark Canha signed. 2 years, $26.5 million.
In 2021, the 33-year-old Marte had a career year between the Marlins and A’s, batting .310, stealing 31 bases and scoring a 5.5 fWAR — despite an injury being involved.
Marte’s presence should solve the Mets CF problem; the question is how he’ll hold up over his age 33-36 seasons.
Canha — another former Athletic — will also be 33 by the time players report to Port St. Lucie in February, though he’s expected to be a corner guy. He’s been peaking over his last 3 seasons, averaging around a 3 fWAR, though his hitting average hasn’t been that good (.246 and .231 in the last 2 years after a .273 peak in 2019).
New York finished cornering the “age 33 market” by acquiring Escobar to fix their other persistent need: third base.
If you ignore the 2020 season, Escobar has produced at a 3-3.6 fWAR rate since 2018, slugging 23 to 35 homers each year in the process.
While that sounds good, New York has actually been better than that at the hot corner in several recent seasons… including a 4.4 fWAR in 2021.
Where New York will probably benefit the most from these signings is by having consistency and surety at each of these positions. Well… unless “Mets things” happen.
They aren’t done yet
Pitching is the next hurdle for New York. After a drain of arms going directly from Queens to Anaheim, they are trying to reverse that trend quickly:
Having seen him firsthand as a member of the Braves a few Summers ago, we’re probably more skeptical than most fans, but Gausman has certainly made himself a lot of money after a 4.8 fWAR season with the Giants (2.81 ERA, 192 innings).
Quality innings are exactly what the Mets need, and if nothing else, Gausman should probably do that for them. Get him and perhaps another front-to-middle-rotation arm (Stroman?) and they might have enough to compete.
The Mets are also said to be trying to get Max Scherzer and/or Robbie Ray, but Scherzer is definitely a longshot and Ray is going to have a lot of suitors.
So far… a decent start
The Mets certainly upgraded center field a lot. If they do get Gausman, then that’s a significant upgrade as well. Otherwise, Escobar and Canha provide unspectacular consistency at positions where question marks have been common in recent years.
The veteran leadership each signee brings should also provide a level of consistent performance that was definitely missing at Citi Field as the Summer wore on last season.
So are they better? Yes, though I still like the Braves’ chances over them at this point in the off-season since I still expect Atlanta to match or exceed some of these moves.
If the Braves can’t do that (Freeman, CF, DH), then we’ll have another conversation… and Atlanta would have tough sledding against more teams than just the Mets.
So while the Mets wowed their fans with a big splash on Black Friday… you might have noticed yourself that the best merchandise is often excluded from the flashy sales flyers.