Apparently one of the motivators for Major League Baseball to lock out the players last December was because New York Mets owner Steve Cohen wants to spend a lot of money on his team, and the other owners thought that made them look bad in comparison. (Yes, it seems like there’s some faulty logic in there somewhere, but if I knew how billionaires’ minds worked, I probably wouldn’t be writing for this site.)
Despite the other owners adding a brand-new tier of luxury tax in his honor, Cohen went ahead and spent a lot of money on player payroll anyway. Maybe this will work better for him than it did in 2021, when the Mets’ high spending resulted in a 77-win third place finish.
Key Mets departures: Javier Baez (3B), Noah Syndergaard (SP), Jonathan Villar (2B), Aaron Loup (RP)
Baez was a midseason pickup in 2022, and while he played well, he was one of the ringleaders of the “boo the fans” effort, and probably won’t be missed by the New York faithful. Syndergaard is a former star pitcher who has basically had the past two seasons wiped out by an injury. Villar and Loup were role players, although Loup’s absence might be felt in a bullpen lacking dependable lefties.
Key Mets additions: Max Scherzer (SP), Starling Marte (OF), Mark Canha (OF), Chris Bassitt (SP), Eduardo Escobar (3B)
The Mets won the “Offseason Champs” title this year, bringing in a seemingly impressive array of new players. Scherzer and Bassitt should greatly improve the rotation, while Marte, Canha, and Escobar - a combined 57 home runs last year - are expected to bolster the lineup.
Mets’ projected lineup
|5||2B||Robinson Cano (2020 stats)||182||10||0||.316||.352||.544|
Phillies 2022 lineup
Last year, some Mets fans took umbrage when I said that their lineup contained several guys who we didn’t really know exactly how good they were, and that the Mets fans were probably overrating their offense. If any of those fans want to offer me an apology, my DMs are open.
There’s plenty of reason to expect the Mets’ offense to be better this year. Marte should improve the top of the lineup (even if at age 33, he probably won’t replicate last year’s career-best numbers), while Canha and Escobar will provide a boost for the back of the order.
While there are some questionable spots in the lineup, this should be an above average offense. It feels like the key to it being more than that is Francisco Lindor. After a string of Silver Slugger-caliber seasons earlier in his career, Lindor has disappointed in two straight seasons. You could write off 2020 to the short season, and 2021 to difficulty adjusting to a new team. (Although considering his well-publicized issues with the fans last year, it is possible that he isn’t quite built to handle a big East Coast media market.) But the Mets definitely expected more out of him.
This isn’t to say that Lindor was bad last year. His numbers were fine, especially for a good defensive shortstop. It’s a very realistic possibility that he returns to his pre-2020 offensive form, and the Mets have another great hitter in their lineup. If not, he might fall into the J.T. Realmuto category: He hits really well for his position, but maybe not the guy you want in the heart of your lineup.
Fangraphs projects the Mets to score 4.66 runs/game which would rank seventh in the National League, and behind the Phillies’ projected 4.89 value. That seems like a fair projection, because despite their reinforcements, unless Pete Alonso has another 50-home run season in him, the Mets’ hitters can’t quite match the power of Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber, and Nick Castellanos.
The Mets may be better defensively than the Phillies, because let’s face it, pretty much every team will be. But defense could be a problem for them as well. Aside from Lindor, none of their starters rate especially high with the glove.
Phillies 2022 rotation
On paper, the Mets’ rotation is the best in the division, if not all of baseball. In Scherzer and Jacob deGrom, they have two multiple Cy Young Award winners. And Bassitt, Taijuan Walker, and Carlos Carrasco look like a solid back of the rotation to go along with them.
But then you remember that deGrom was limited to just 15 starts in 2021, and for all his greatness, the team has a well-publicized difficulty winning games which he starts. Scherzer will be turning 38 this season and considering how these things often work out for the Mets, would anyone be shocked if he suddenly starts showing his age.
Bassitt is an excellent third starter, but I’m less impressed by Walker and Carrasco. Walker had an excellent start to the season but fell apart in the second half - coincidentally not long after the league started cracking down on foreign substances. As for Carrasco, his ERA has been above 5 in two of the past three seasons.
The Phillies might not have the same obvious star power at the front of their rotation, but their rotation should be a strength as well. Zack Wheeler has been one of the league’s best starters since joining the Phillies, and I’m fairly confident that Aaron Nola will bounce back from his weird 2021 season. I don’t expect Ranger Suarez to be quite as good as he was in 2021 (A sub 2.00 ERA probably isn’t happening again), but there’s also no reason to think that his season was a total fluke. Zach Eflin appears to have made a quick recovery and may have the breakout season many predicted from him in 2021. As for Kyle Gibson, he probably won’t make a return trip to the All-Star game but having a league average innings eater in the fifth spot is just fine. Depth is a question, but the starters should at the very least keep the team in the game most games.
So, while the Mets would appear to have the superior rotation, the advantage may not be as great as it seems at first glance.
Mets’ 2022 bullpenn
The Mets bullpen appears to be average. Edwin Diaz has been the closer for years now, and he’s generally steady, although he is prone to a meltdown here and there. The Mets’ biggest problem is the lack of a shutdown left-handed setup man. When facing the likes of Bryce Harper and Kyle Schwarber, you probably want an option better than Chasen Shreve.
The Phillies’ bullpen is looking shaky at the moment with Jose Alvarado and Sam Coonrod both doubtful to start the season due to injury, while something appears to be wrong with Conor Brogdon.
As for the remaining arms, Corey Knebel had a strong season last year, but he hasn’t served as a full-time closer since 2018 and is far from a sure thing. If Seranthony Dominguez can continue to look like the Seranthony of old, that will be a boon. But there’s a strong possibility that relief innings could again be an adventure for the Phillies.
Phillies 2022 bench
Jeff McNeil was an All-Star in 2019, but has steadily declined, and his power stroke has abandoned him. He may end up starting at second base in place of Robinson Cano, but he’s capable of playing multiple positions. The presence of him and J.D. Davis as credible threats off the bench give the Mets an edge over the likes of Johan Carmago and Mickey Moniak.
The Mets had a splashy offseason, but it shouldn’t be forgotten that this has not been a very good team the past two seasons. If all goes well for the Mets, they should win the National League East, but this isn’t a franchise that has seen all go well in quite some time. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time a supposed “Dream Team” fell flat.
If the stars like deGrom, Scherzer, and Lindor play up to their capabilities, the Mets should win the East. If they’re not, they will probably be fighting it out with the Phillies for a Wild Card spot.