You may have heard, you may not have.
The Mets have been spending money this offseason in trying to get their team to be better. A novel concept, I know, one we as people covering the Phillies have only recently gotten used to. Why, I can remember the days when the Phillies signing a marquee free agent meant they were signing the dregs of the free agent market, the bottom of the barrel.
These are the types of names we were forced to watch the Phillies acquire with the same kind of feigned enthusiasm as a child being forced to eat bad cooking from a grandparent.
Yes, the Mets are spending money and have built a star-studded team that might make fans with a weaker constitution a little more nervous about the matchups that are coming in 2023. But as for me - not yet. As much money as the Mets have thrown around the game these days, they still don’t have me shaking in my boots just yet. After all, it’s not the ledger books that are playing on the field, it’s the players. When you compare the players, it’s actually not as much of a difference as you think.
Start with the lineup. At first blush, yes, there is a larger discrepancy between the two. There are probably at least four, maybe five (maybe six, depending on the day) positions where the Mets have a decent sized advantage just in the starting lineup alone.
projected 2023 lineups
(depth charts courtesy of Fangraphs)
This is just one opinion, of course, this writer thinking these would apt comparisons between the two teams, but what it’s trying to do direct the attention of the people away from the checkbooks and back to the rosters. The point is to keep the focus where it should be right now - on the field.
It can be hard, but you have to forget about the payrolls of the team. Once Steve Cohen acquired the Mets, he instantly put himself into a different stratosphere among the owners. There is not another owner or ownership group in the game that is going to spend like he will. The only two that might even come close, the Dodgers and Yankees, have not demonstrated that they are willing to do what Cohen is currently doing, at least when it comes to spending money on the team on the field. The Dodgers almost look like they’re trying not to spend right now, preferring to save their pennies for the Ohtani sweepstakes next season. The Yankees have spent a little more this offseason....and still aren’t near the Mets. Sure, those team might be pouring money into off the field infrastructure (player development, R&D, etc.), but right now, they pale in comparison to Cohen on the field. So, when looking at the Mets, we have to get over the fact that the Phillies are not going to spending like that any time soon. The money isn’t your money, so who really cares what the difference is between the teams’ payrolls. Instead, shift your focus where it belongs: on the field.
On the field, the Phillies still stack up pretty well. Your perception has probably been warped a bit by the amount of money being thrown around by Cohen, but the team is still pretty solid right now. The above look at the lineups shows you there there is still some work to be done (and that Nick Castellanos really, really needs to figure it out), but the teams just aren’t that far apart.
Now, looking at the pitching side, there might not be as much of a gap as you think there. Sure the top of the Mets’ rotation is dominated by two of the top names in the game, but it’s not as if the Phillies are sending Manny, Moe and Jack to the rubber. If you want to stretch to the rest of the pitching staff, well, again, maybe the gulf isn’t as large as you might think.
2023 pitching staffs
|RP||E. Hernandez||Nelson||slight Phillies|
Again, all opinion, all subjective, but am I that far off? Are any of these comparisons so egregiously bad that they should be thrown out? At the end of the bullpen portion, the differences are so minute, it doesn’t make too much of a difference. That makes the tops of the staffs all the more important and the Phillies are, quite frankly, maybe a hair better overall than the Mets. In a shortened series like the playoffs, it might be a different story, but the Phillies have at least shown they can win those kinds of games. The Mets had their chances and blew it.
Things could change quickly. Injuries, poor performance, etc. could bite both teams early in the season. Many are quick to point at Verlander and Scherzer as ticking time bombs in terms of age and potential health concerns, but in 2023, Zack Wheeler wasn’t exactly the paragon of health. Ranger Suarez took quite a while to find his groove. Andrew Painter might end up being the best one at the back of either rotation, but how long will he actually pitch in games this season?
There are also trades, waivers, other avenues of talent acquisition that both teams could benefit from if need be. Those avenues may not be explored until both can see what they have thus far in games, so that part of the roster might be incomplete. This initial look at the two teams is probably nothing like what they’ll look like in August as the stretch run begins. Until then, though, I’ll check my fear of the Mets at the door. They’re good, very good even, but it’s not as though the Phillies aren’t.
We’ll just have to see how it all plays out.