This is the eighth edition of Hope for the Hopeless, where we will take a look at the first
ten fourteen teams in the league eliminated from playoff contention, and examine what their fans can be optimistic about after a disappointing 2013 season. Next up: the New York Mets.
Meet the Mets, meet the Mets, step right up and meet the Mets. Well, unless you're a diehard, you *will* need to step up and meet the Mets this September, because the team's recognizable faces are all gone. But considering that the Mets have finished below .500 in four straight (about to be five straight) seasons, isn't it better to move along from the familiar core of Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, Johan Santana, and Jason Bay?
Well, to an extent that's true. The team paid the non-tendered Bay and the injured Santana over $43 million to not play an inning for the club this season, and will pay them $8.5 million next year to still not play for them. David Wright is still the face of the franchise and is locked up long-term, which is a good thing, but hasn't played since August 2nd due to a strained hamstring, which is a bad thing. The team has one one of the most dynamic and talented young pitchers in baseball in Matt Harvey, which is a very good thing, but he hasn't pitched since August 24th due to a partially torn UCL, which is a bad thing. That injury could require Tommy John surgery which would put him out of action for all of 2014, which is a very bad thing.
So while the Mets do have two core players under team control for the foreseeable future, one of those two has notched under 500 plate appearances in two out of the last three seasons, and one might not pitch an inning next year. It's hard to be optimistic as a Mets fan if you keep getting slapped in the face by fate like that.
But the Mets did a good job of unloading *some* of their talent that is approaching free agency, dealing Marlon Byrd and John Buck to the Pirates in August for a pretty solid prospect in Dilson Herrera. That counts for something, I guess, considering that Buck was essentially a throw-in in the RA Dickey trade and that Byrd was signed to a minor league contract and was only making six figures.
Past all of that negativity, the Mets have thrust a lot of young talent into key roles this year as part of a sink or swim strategy that has at least given the team an idea about which players are part of their future and which aren't. Juan Lagares has stepped up in a big way as the club's every day center fielder. Despite his mediocre bat, his glove plays every day in the majors. Daniel Murphy continues to be a slightly above average second baseman. Lucas Duda can hit, but can't field. Ike Davis' second half showed what he's truly capable of when healthy. On the other hand, Wilmer Flores and Travis d'Arnaud could likely still use some seasoning, as they've struggled in their tryout in the majors.
On the mound, the Mets showed that they've got some talent not named Matt Harvey. Jonathon Niese as an acceptable middle of the rotation option. Jenrry Mejia looked electric before bone spurs in his elbow ended his year. Top prospect Zack Wheeler has had growing pains, but has improved as his year in the majors has gone on. A healthy trio of Harvey, Wheeler, and Niese could give teams problems in series without a doubt.
And then there's New York's farm system, which has improved greatly from where it was a short couple of years ago. Noah Syndergaard, the prize of the Dickey trade, has lived up to expectations and then some. Catcher Kevin Plawecki has mashed this season. Cesar Puello obliterated the ball in AA Binghamton, but was suspended for 50 games as part of the Biogenesis investigation. It's not an elite farm after graduating some talent to the bigs, but they're in a much better place than where they were under Omar Minaya.
The Mets are probably not going to contend in the NL East next year, but their time is coming. In 2015, this could be a club to be reckoned with, especially with all of the money that's beginning to fall off the payroll, which will allow GM Sandy Alderson to supplement his young roster with veterans.