For all the lip service New York Mets fans have gotten from ownership and the front office approaching and during this past offseason, the Mets of 2014 look eerily similar to the disappointing Mets of 2013. Yes, New York did add some players via free agency, which broke from the norm of the last few years during which they spent nary a dime, but a closer look reveals that not all that much has changed.
To wit, while New York did spend some money this offseason, it also coincided with the massive contracts of Johan Santana and Jason Bay coming off the books. Essentially, the Mets used that available money to sign Curtis Granderson, Bartolo Colon and Chris Young, but didn’t even go so far as to reinvest all of it on the team.
As a result, the Mets 2014 payroll is currently even lower than it was last season, something GM Sandy Alderson promised would not be the case in November.
Granderson replaces the surprising Marlon Byrd in right field, and Byrd’s season was so out of right field that the team will need Granderson to have a great season just to match that production. Even if we assume that Granderson does match Byrd’s numbers, that doesn’t make the team any better than they were last season.
Colon was signed to serve as a placeholder for the injured Matt Harvey and, while he won’t equal Harvey’s numbers, he can be an effective pitcher in his own right. Again, the problem is that even if Colon pitches admirably, the Mets aren’t going to get anything near what Harvey provided in 2013. Much of the improvement the Mets stand to gain from having Zack Wheeler in the rotation instead of Shaun Marcum could go towards covering the difference between Harvey and Colon.
The signing of Young was a flier on a player who had previously been productive, but struggled in the past few seasons. Although Young could bounce back with better health, there’s no guarantee that his performance will be any better than what Eric Young, Jr. provided for New York last season after he came over in a June trade.
In the bullpen, the Mets get back heralded prospect Jeurys Familia, who missed most of last season with arm trouble, but Familia, along with newcomers Vic Black and Jose Valverde, will face an uphill battle trying to replicate the performance of LaTroy Hawkins, who signed with Colorado this offseason.
If you look around the diamond, aside from catcher, where a healthy Travis d’Arnaud figures to be a significant upgrade over John Buck, there aren’t many areas where you can definitively say that the team improved. After much talk about improving shortstop and first base, New York looks as if they’re going to start the season with the same culprits at those positions that dragged the team down in 2013.
Unfortunately, for Met fans, this has become par for the course — say one thing, do another. The Mets have mastered the art of telling people what they want to hear, but the one thing you can’t fool people with is the product on the field. No matter how much is said or implied, how the team performs will be the ultimate barometer of success.
Given the team’s shaky track record over the past few seasons, it’s almost impossible to give them the benefit of the doubt. In Flushing, it seems that the more things change, the more they stay the same.