The New York Mets transformed from a joke into a respectable, formidable team within a couple of months during the magical summer of 2015. After an unexpected trip to the World Series, it is now time for the kings of the National League to focus on repeating as pennant winners.
The Mets do not have bountiful room to add free agents with their bloated roster and talented core. The starting rotation will be the foundation of the team, with five young studs once Zach Wheeler returns from Tommy John surgery. Even without re-signing midseason trade acquisition Yoenis Cespedes, the Mets outfield will be solid with the rejuvenated Curtis Granderson and a full season from rookie Michael Conforto.
The infield will be flanked by veterans David Wright and Lucas Duda on the corners. The middle infield could use some work, but there is not much talent on the market. It would be unwise for the Mets to try to re-sign Daniel Murphy, even after he put on his best Babe Ruth impersonation in the first two rounds of the postseason. The Mets should replace him with someone who can play second base adequately. However, with Wilmer Flores controlling shortstop, the Mets can look internally to Ruben Tejada to handle the second sack. If either player struggles, Dilson Herrera can be called upon to play second.
Sandy Alderson should focus his attentions on bolstering the bullpen. Manager Terry Collins was hampered in the playoffs by his distrust of his bullpen to get outs. This impacted his decision making and put the team in tight spots that eventually came back to bite them.
Closer Jeurys Familia had a coming out party in 2015 with a superb campaign punctuated by his franchise-record 43 saves. Even after blowing through tough hitters in the NLDS and NLCS, Familia blew three save opportunities in the World Series, a mark never before reached in the Fall Classic. Belying the basic numbers, Familia actually pitched well in the World Series but was the victim of circumstance and a weak supporting cast.
The Mets’ setup men were Addison Reed and Tyler Clippard, with a whole crew of fringe major leaguers filling out the bullpen. Adding relief arms will not be the sexiest move, but it is what the Mets need most. If they intend to return to the World Series, which is completely plausible given their rotation, the Mets need to fix the bullpen leading up to Familia.
With just four full seasons under his belt, Reed will return to Flushing for 2014, but the Mets are unlikely to re-sign Clippard. Similarly, they probably won’t pursue a topflight free agent like Darren O’Day or Joakim Soria — both will likely demand contracts that exceed the Mets’ budget. A southpaw on the next tier down — like Antonio Bastardo, who can deal with righties as well as lefties, or Tony Sipp, who posted a 1.99 ERA with the Houston Astros in 2015 — would fit. If the Mets can make those kind of incremental improvements, they’ll be in solid shape for next season.