The New York Mets are smack dab in the middle of what GM Sandy Anderson calls “the window” to win a World Series championship.
If you look up and down the New York Mets’ 2017 roster, there’s no mistaking what their objective for 2017 is. They are aiming for the National League Pennant and their first World Series championship since 1986.
The Mets’ opening day lineup featured eight players all over the age of 30, a true sign of a team in “win now” mode. GM Sandy Alderson has stocked his roster with veterans to support his outstanding starting pitching rotation, which features five studs aged 28 or younger.
Alderson is somewhat correct when speaking about the “window”. They actually have two more years with their top three pitchers and four or five with the rest.
The Mets’ rotation is led by 24 year-old Noah Syndergaard, who thrilled the crowd with six shutout innings at CitiField on Opening Day. Thor, as he is known, will not be eligible for free agency until 2022. Jacob deGrom, 28, the Mets’ No. 2 starter and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, won’t reach free agency until 2021.
Matt Harvey, also 28, is overcoming several major health issues including surgery last year to address thoracic outlet syndrome. Harvey is arbitration eligible again after this season and can hit the open market as a free agent in 2019. That is, if the Mets don’t lock him up to a long term extension before hand.
The Mets’ other starters, Zach Wheeler (26), Steven Matz (25), Robert Gsellman (23), Seth Lugo (27) and Rafael Montero (26) are all still in the throes of establishing themselves although the club is high on all of them.
Wheeler is back after missing two whole seasons after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He will be the Mets’s fourth starter for the near future. Gsellman has moved into the rotation as the club’s fifth starter for the moment after a strong showing this spring.
Matz has been constantly set back by nagging ailments and is on the DL again with an elbow. Lugo is also on the DL after injuring his elbow pitching for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic last month. Matz and Lugo are expected to be back sometime in May. The Mets can survive without them for now.
Alderson has to be pleased with the way his prospects have progressed, but his position players are another story. Only two of his Opening Day starters are products of the Mets’ farm system, 1B Lucas Duda and 3B Jose Reyes, and Reyes doesn’t really count since this is his second stint with the club.
But Alderson does not concern himself with such matters. He did not add any outside talent to the roster in the offseason. Instead, he spent his money on keeping the talent he had in-house with several key re-signings: OF Yoenis Cespedes and INF Neil Walker, who combined for 54 of the team’s franchise-record 218 home runs in 2016.
Although Cespedes’ contract (three years, $75 million) appeared to be excessive to some, the Mets know he is the key to much of their success since joining the club in August of 2015. For example, the Mets won 26 of their final 37 games after Cespedes returned to the lineup from the disabled list.
Alderson made no secret his intentions of shopping the underperforming OF Jay Bruce, who he obtained in a trade with the Cincinnati Reds last summer. He found no takers and Bruce is now the Mets’ right fielder against right-handed pitching. Sometimes the best trades are the ones you don’t make. Alderson is hoping that adage holds true.
Other veterans the Mets are counting on to guide them through 2017 are shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and OF Curtis Granderson. Both have been integral in the team’s recent success. But it may be the under-30 group that will have to come up big if this club is to reach baseball’s pinnacle.
OF Michael Conforto, C Travis d’Arnaud and INF Wilmer Flores are all players the Mets are hoping can either win jobs or play major roles in 2017 and beyond. But for now, the window to win is open and manager Terry Collins, after getting the postseason the past two years wants desperately to sip the champagne of a champion.