The “New” New York Mets Aren’t Necessarily Greatly Improved

Throughout this offseason, I’ll be reviewing the current status of all 30 MLB clubs, in reverse order of their standing on my 2021 year-end team true-talent rankings. Today, we continue with the No. 16 New York Mets.

16. New York Mets

Actual Record = 77-85, Projected Record = 81-81

O Rtg. = 98.2 (17th), P Rtg. = 95.8 (12th), D Rtg. = 101.4 (22nd); 21 ASB = 14th, 2020 = 15th

Remember way back when, before the current lockout, when the Mets’ went on an incredible whirlwind free agent spending binge and were briefly the talk of the baseball world? The club guaranteed over a quarter billion dollars in salary to RHP Max Scherzer (three years, $130M), CF Starling Marte (four years, $78M), LF Mark Canha (two years, $26.5M) and 3B Eduardo Escobar (two years, $20M).

Met fans were overjoyed, as new owner Steve Cohen was wielding the financial might necessary to battle the Braves and Phillies in the NL East, and the Yankees in the intra-city bragging rights battle.

What if I were to tell you that the Mets might not be all that much better moving forward?

First, let’s at least acknowledge the possibility of the exact opposite outcome, the one the Mets are seeking. A healthy, dominant Scherzer atop the Mets’ rotation alongside a healthy, even more dominant Jacob deGrom makes for one fearsome opponent for National League foes. On a per inning basis, deGrom was the best in the business last season, and though my batted ball-based metrics aren’t as high on Scherzer as more traditional ones, he was still All Star caliber.

Time doesn’t stand still in baseball, however. deGrom will pitch 2022 at age 34, Scherzer at 37, and both finished last season with injury concerns. deGrom had myriad injuries all along the kinetic chain, at one point being shut down with what was characterized as a slight UCL tear. Scherzer, as always, carried the mail, pitching enough innings to qualify for the ERA title for the 13th season in a row.

Still, his durability has waned in recent seasons. He’s completed one game over the last three seasons, and that was a 5 1/3 rain-shortened start in the 2020 opener. More famously, his “dead arm” left him unable to pitch in Game 7 of the NLCS last season, the last game of his Dodgers’ season.

Overall MLB starting pitcher durability has been waning for years now. Only 39 starting pitchers tossed the requisite 162 innings to qualify for the ERA title in 2021. That number has been halved in just a few short years. Only three pitchers older than Scherzer qualified last season – Adam Wainwright (39), Zack Greinke (37) and Charlie Morton (37). The Mets’ massive financial commitment to Scherzer doesn’t even begin until his age 37 season. deGrom is guaranteed $64M over the next two seasons, and if has a great 2022, he can opt out and pursue a more Scherzer-esque deal.

The risk/reward equation of both of these deals appear to be stacked against the Mets. Sure, everything’s peachy if they’re both awesome over 180+ innings in 2022 – but they likely won’t be. deGrom was qualitatively the best in the business in 2021, albeit over a small innings sample. Scherzer, despite a ton of Cy Young buzz, finished 7th among NL ERA qualifiers in my batted ball-based metric that encompasses both quality and innings quantity.

There’s more to building a great baseball team than a #1-2 starting rotation punch, but even there, in the Mets’ wheelhouse, are they clearly better than their main NL East contenders? The Phillies’ Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola will be 32 and 29, respectively, next season, at their career peaks, and with letter-perfect bills of health. They were my #2 and #9 NL pitchers last season. Wheeler is better qualitatively than Scherzer, and much more durable. Nola is not quite in Scherzer’s class today, but could well shoot by him tomorrow.

Then there’s the Braves. Morton is a year older than Scherzer, and is coming off of the broken leg suffered in the World Series. I’d argue that he is Scherzer’s peer in every way – but makes less than half his salary. His sidekick, Max Fried, will pitch at age 28 in 2022, and is on the ascent. He’s one of the best contact managers in the game today, but has not yet established himself as a durable innings hog on the level of the other pitchers being discussed. They were my #4 and #11 NL starters last season.

Bottom line, the Mets are paying over $75M per year for their Big Two, and they might not outpitch the staff leaders for either of their chief divisional rivals moving forward.

Then there’s the position player overhaul. Marte is the big fish here, and he is a solid all-around player. His skill set is in great demand throughout the game, and he had many suitors this offseason. The offensive component of his speed-based game has held up well – he went 47 for 52 stealing bases last season at age 32.

That aspect of one’s game can disappear overnight, however. Marte batted .261 AVG-.306 SLG on grounders last season, for a 175 Unadjusted Grounder Contact Score. Adjusted for exit speed, he “should have” hit .200 AVG-.219 SLG (97 Adjusted Grounder Contact Score). And Marte hits a ton of grounders. Without that speed premium, he’s an average offensive player at best. And publicly available defensive metrics suggest that he’s been an average defensive CF for a while now. He’d be a stellar defender in LF, but the Mets paid him to put him in the middle. Marte will be getting nearly $20M per year through his age 36 season.

And he’s the “good” position player signing. Canha, who will play 2022 at age 33, is what I would call with all due respect a nice complementary piece. Offensively, he’s a patient hitter who puts the ball in play and has a bit of power. His walk rate is his biggest strength, and as his physical gifts wane, pitchers will challenge him more. He’s at best an average LF, moving to what is as of now a DH-less league. $13M plus per season is an overpayment for what he offers.

Then there’s Escobar. His K rate is low for a power hitter, but his power comes from fly ball volume, not authority. He’s from the Matt Carpenter School of Hitters, and very few of those guys are productive well into their thirties. Escobar turns 33 in 2022. I have Canha’s “Tru” Production+ level at 96, and Escobar’s at 99 in 2021, with their trend lines pointed in the wrong direction.

Then there are the players the Mets have bailed on to make room for their new acquisitions. Now Marcus Stroman clearly doesn’t have the ceiling of Scherzer, but he’s much more likely to reach it. Forced to choose, I’d rather have 31-year-old Stroman for the three-year $71M deal the Cubs gave him rather than Scherzer at twice that, and as a result have another $71M laying around to pay another quality free agent. Perhaps some of the excess could have been given to Noah Syndergaard, whose comeback from Tommy John surgery will take place on the west coast with the Los Angeles Angels.

Then there’s Javier Baez, Michael Conforto and Dominic Smith, the three players losing playing time to Escobar, Marte and Canha. Baez signed for six years, $140M in Detroit. That would have been rich from the Mets’ perspective given their needs, but he did give them a second shortstop in the infield. Smith, unlike the Mets’ signings, was better than his 2021 numbers. His “Tru” Production+ level of 101 far outpaced his 86 wRC+.

And then there’s Conforto. He was one of the unluckiest hitters in the game last season, falling way short of expected levels on fly balls (94 Unadjusted vs. 136 Adjusted Fly Ball Contact Score) and liners (69 vs. 100). Overall, Conforto “should have” hit .259-.353-.453 for a 124 “Tru” Production+ level. The Mets didn’t even see fit to offer Conforto – who turns 29 in 2022 – a qualifying offer before he hit free agency. He could soon be coming to a rival NL East outfield near you.

So to summarize: if all goes well, the Mets could be really good in 2022. But in the larger picture, they took a massive risk on an old, declining star pitcher, and replaced younger, better than their mainstream numbers younger position players with older, already declining or set to decline players. The Mets may well be residing around the familiar .500 level a little while longer.


We’ve covered quite a bit of it already, but it would be remiss to discuss the 2021 Mets without mentioning Francisco Lindor and Pete Alonso. Lindor was better than his mainstream numbers last season, largely due to underperformance on line drives (74 Unadjusted vs. 101 Adjusted Liner Contact Score). A 112 “Tru” Production+ offensive level in an “off” season is pretty good for a shortstop.

Alonso has very quietly settled in at a far above average offensive level, even for his bat-first position. He doesn’t strike out much for a power hitter, or pop up much for a fly ball hitter. He put up a 138 “Tru” Production+ mark despite a very low 18.3% liner rate; expect both of those figures to turn upward in the near term.

The defensive demands on Brandon Nimmo will decrease as he moves from CF to RF in 2022, but the offensive expectations should be tempered as well. He was very fortunate on both flies (112 Unadjusted vs. 78 Adjusted Fly Ball Contact Score) and liners (132 vs. 92), and is much more of a league average range offensive player than his mainstream numbers might indicate.

The Mets are presently counting upon vets Taijuan Walker and Carlos Carrasco to fill out rotation spots behind their Big Two, but I’m more sanguine about the prospects of newcomer Tylor Megill. His K/BB profile was exceptional, and while his high fly ball rate/low pop up rate combo isn’t ideal, his 2021 contact management performance was hurt by awful luck on grounders. Hitters batted .277 AVG-.307 SLG (188 Unadjusted Grounder Contact Score) against him on the ground, but “should have” hit just .207 AVG-.228 SLG (105 Adjusted). I’d bet he’s an average range contact manager moving forward, and a solidly above average starter.

Met fans love to complain about closer Edwin Diaz, but from my perspective, he’s the least of their worries. Josh Hader is the only NL closer that is clearly better.


The Mets’ system isn’t very deep, particularly on the mound. They have a handful of strong position player prospects, led by 3Bs Mark Vientos and Brett Baty. Baty’s the better all-around hitter, but Vientos’ power upside is quite intriguing. One or both will push Escobar within a year. C Francisco Alvarez has a strong all-around game for his position, and is also a year or so from being a factor at the major league level. OF Khalil Lee was totally overmatched in a brief 2021 MLB opportunity, but could still emerge as a depth option. SS Ronny Mauricio has a high ceiling, but had a disappointing 2021 season.

Most of the Mets’ better pitching prospects are presently in the low minors, but RHP Jose Butto is the best of their more experienced guys. His fastball/changeup combo might prove a better fit in the bullpen, but he’s a strikethrower with a knack for pitching.


I doubt that there are any more large shoes ready to drop in the free agent market for the Mets. Jonathan Villar, a multipositional savior for them last season, is still available and is a candidate for a reunion.