The moment is now. The New York Mets are ready to compete. Their contention window is wide open, as they have a competitive roster in place and a core to build around in the next few years.
They have a team strong enough to compete in the NL East, and while the Atlanta Braves and the Washington Nationals look very good (so do the Philadelphia Phillies, for that matter) the Mets will be fighting for a rotation spot.
Last season, despite its bittersweet ending, helped the team consolidate Jeff McNeil, Steven Matz, Seth Lugo and Amed Rosario as key contributors. 2019 also saw the breakouts of JD Davis, Dominic Smith and, of course, Pete Alonso. Those three are very important for the Mets’ future, as they are all cheap and controllable.
Despite the Mets missing the playoffs, they proved they could succeed with last year’s roster, which is similar to the one in place for 2020. They had an amazing second half, powered by a 46-26 record.
The Mets needed a few lucky breaks with trades. Despite the Edwin Diaz-Robinson Cano deal not working so far, they acquired a cheap, valuable asset in Davis. They also needed homegrown talent, and they can brag about developing Alonso, Smith and McNeil, not to mention Michael Conforto, Rosario, Brandon Nimmo, Matz, Seth Lugo, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard.
Additionally, both Cano and Diaz (especially the latter) hold significant bounceback potential for 2020.
The benefit of developing their own players is that they will be relatively cheap for six years, which is when they enter free agency. That provides the front office with flexibility at the time of going to the open market to improve a specific area.
The New York Mets’ core
There is a strong foundation to be competitive for at least the next two or three years. And when the moment comes that the team loses one or two key players in free agency, they are supposed to have the payroll flexibility to go after a capable replacement.
Brodie Van Wagenen has the task of making the right adjustments and moves to keep the team in the hunt. He needs to do that with an eye in the future, as well. It is a difficult job, but the Mets need to capitalize on their current contention window.
Here is the roster state, as far as free agency and team control goes:
Free agents after this season:
- Yoenis Cespedes
- Jed Lowrie
- Marcus Stroman
- Rick Porcello
- Michael Wacha
- Justin Wilson
- Jake Marisnick
Free agents after the 2021 season:
- Jeurys Familia
- Wilson Ramos
- Dellin Betances (club option)
- Noah Syndergaard
- Michael Conforto
- Steven Matz
- Brad Brach
Free agents after the 2022 season:
- Edwin Diaz
- Brandon Nimmo
- Seth Lugo
- Robert Gsellman
Free agents after the 2023 season:
- Robinson Cano
- Amed Rosario
Free agents after the 2024 season:
- Jeff McNeil
- Jacob deGrom
- Pete Alonso
- Tomas Nido
- JD Davis
- Dominic Smith
- Luis Guillorme
Keeping pieces together
It is mind-boggling to think that McNeil, Alonso, deGrom, Davis and Smith will be together for the next five seasons. The starting middle infield combo will be on the team for at least the next four years: Rosario should be in his prime but Cano will be old.
Brandon Nimmo and three crucial bullpen pieces – Diaz, Lugo and Gsellman – are under control for the next three seasons. The Mets will also have Familia, Ramos, Betances (provided that the club uses the option) Syndergaard, Conforto, Matz and Brach for 2020 and 2021.
Conforto is a prime extension candidate, while Syndergaard said in the past he wants to test free agency.
One of the few negatives I see is that the New York Mets will lose half of their starting rotation after this season. Stroman, Wacha and Porcello are essentially playing on one-year deals. However, lefty prospects David Peterson and Kevin Smith should be ready to roll by the time 2021 spring comes, and Jed Lowrie and Yoenis Cespedes’ deals will also be off the books.
The Mets are in good position to make noise in the NL East for years to come.