Jeff McNeil, Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto
ESNY Graphic, AP Photo

The New York Mets may seem like a dysfunctional team, but their core players will eventually lead them back to the playoffs. 

New York Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen stated last week that he doesn’t expect there to be a teardown of the roster and that he believes that their core players can win a championship.

Ideally, the Mets would like to make it back to the playoffs next season. However, Van Wagenen will need to find a way to surround their current core with impact players this offseason.

Current Core

The majority of the Mets’ roster has largely underperformed this season. Which makes it a little hard to determine which players should be part of the Mets’ core. However, this season has shown which two position players the Mets will likely base their future around.

Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil have been two of the most-encouraging signs surrounding the Mets this season. Both players have exceeded expectations that were set for them at the start of the season.

Alonso currently leads all rookies in doubles, home runs, RBIs and slugging percentage for those with at least 150 at-bats this year. For McNeil, he currently leads the entire league in batting average. Both players are also under team control through the 2024 season. This makes them the perfect duo to lead the Mets back to the playoffs.

The Mets also already have a handful of complementary position players to surround Alonso and McNeil with. Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, Dominic Smith and Amed Rosario will all likely be included as part of the Mets’ core going forward.

All four players are currently in their mid-20s and they’re also still under team control for multiple seasons after this year. Conforto and Nimmo, thus far, appear to be the most valuable players from that group. If healthy, Nimmo appears to be the every-day, long-term centerfielder for the Mets

While Conforto isn’t as good as Nimmo defensively, he still has the potential to become a 30-home run hitter. He hit 28 and 27 in 2018 and 2017, respectively. Conforto has also recently started hitting in-between McNeil and Alonso, which has given him better pitches to hit. In turn, Conforto is currently hitting 6-for-14 (.429 AVG) along with a home run and four RBIs since then.

The Mets pitching staff will require far more retooling than their offense will during the offseason. After this season, the Mets will have a pair of open spots within their starting rotation. Next season, the Mets will have the option to bring back Jason Vargas to go along with Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and potentially Steven Matz.

Vargas currently has a team option for $8 million next season, or a $2 million buyout if the Mets choose to go a different way. The Mets will need to decide if they think that Vargas’ current 4.23 ERA, 1.304 WHIP, and 0.8 WAR will change next season. The fear is that Vargas could decline even further and become a major liability in 2020.

The bullpen will also need significant retooling this offseason. The Mets’ bullpen currently owns the second-worst ERA (5.41) in the National League and third-worst in the majors. Edwin Diaz has struggled mightily at times this season. His ERA has spiked from his 1.96 last season to 5.20 in 2019.

Diaz, however, is under team control through the 2022 season. This still makes him an attractive player going forward.

Jeurys Familia is another reliever who’s underperformed so far this season. The 29-year-old currently owns a 7.11 ERA, 1.89 WHIP, and 5.89 FIP. Familia is also under contract for the next two seasons. He’ll likely be a part of the Mets going forward along with Diaz in hopes that they’ll both return to their former selves.

Future Needs

The Mets currently have multiple holes they will need to fill this offseason if they’re going to compete for the division in 2020. They’ll need to acquire additional impact bullpen pitchers, another impact starting pitcher, and a few offensive pieces. These players will need to be sought out for this offseason if they aren’t acquired at this year’s July 31 trade deadline.

According to Spotrac, the Mets will have roughly $29 million coming off their books at the end of this season. This would then put the Mets approximately $80 million below the luxury tax threshold.

There’s a player already on the Mets who could provide them with that power bat that they require. But, he hasn’t been able to stay healthy over his last three seasons. If healthy, Yoenis Cespedes could allow the Mets to allocate resources towards other needs.

The 33-year-old could potentially return from injury near the start of next season. The last full-season that Cespedes appeared in was in 2016, when he recorded 31 home runs, 86 RBIs, 136 OPS+ and compiled a slash line of .280/.354/.530/.884 through 132 games.

If Cespedes can fill that hole for the Mets, they then would be able to spend the remaining payroll towards their pitching needs. For the sake of this article, let’s assume that the Mets decide to pick up Vargas’ option for next season. The Mets would then have one open spot within their rotation and potentially two if they decide to make Matz’s recent move to the bullpen a permanent placement in the future.

Mets top-pitching prospect Anthony Kay could potentially make an impact for the New York next season. The Mets 2016 first-round pick hasn’t been great in triple-A so far this season. However, a strong spring training next season could put him in the running for a spot in the rotation.

That means the Mets would then have nearly $80 million to add a quality pitcher to line up behind deGrom and Syndergaard, and another reliable bullpen pitcher who can pitch in high-leverage situations.

While this season appears to be a wash for the Mets, their current core aligns them to potentially compete for a playoff spot as soon as next season.

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