MLB owners have agreed on a proposal for a shortened season. The new plan would have both it’s good and it’s bad for the New York Mets.
On Monday, MLB owners came to an agreement on a plan to start the season. The plan would see teams play games against teams in their division and against their American League counterparts. That means the New York Mets would play the NL East and the AL East.
The new proposal would also bring a universal DH. Reports from the offseason were that the universal DH could be on its way by 2021, but now it could be here sooner. That could have ripple effects across the league.
Most importantly though, the plan is for teams to play around 80 games in 2019 with seven teams per league making the postseason. After putting together a dominant second half of the season (46-26), the Mets would have made the playoffs in 2019 under these rules.
In fact, if MLB only counted the last 80 games of the season the Mets would have won the NL East. That points to the Mets possibly taking advantage of the shortened season, right?
Not so fast. The Mets are going to have their own struggles in the proposed shortened season.
The NL East is the toughest division in sports. The Atlanta Braves are one of the best young teams in MLB, the Philadelphia Phillies are an up-and-coming team that continues to build through free agency, and the Washington Nationals just won a World Series.
The Mets were already looking at a tough schedule in 2019. Now add in the AL East and the 2020 season looks daunting. The New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays are two of the best teams in MLB. The Boston Red Sox are in a transitional phase, but they’re still a dangerous team.
The good news is the Mets will have the luxury of playing two of the worst teams in MLB. The Miami Marlins and the Baltimore Orioles are two of the bottom five teams in the league which gives the Mets opportunities to pick up wins against easier competition.
Then there’s the Blue Jays. They were one of the worst teams in MLB in 2019, but they have a strong young core. Vlad Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio, and Bo Bichette make up one of the best young infields in MLB. They’re going to be a tough team to play against.
The Mets have a tough slate of games under this proposal. It could make it incredibly difficult to make the playoffs even with four wild card teams.
The Mets are set up to handle the transition to a universal DH well. They have a number of options at their disposal that makes their team better.
Against lefties, the Mets would have the option of using Robinson Cano as the DH, moving Jeff McNeil to second base, and playing J.D. Davis at third base. That makes the defense better as a whole and adds one of the Mets’ best hitters back into the lineup.
The Mets will also have the option of using Yoenis Cespedes as a DH. His advanced age and his foot issues could limit his ability to play defense, but he still has elite offensive potential. The DH would allow the Mets to remove a lot of the risk from playing Cespedes.
The bench is deep with bats and that means that the Mets could be the NL team that benefits the most from a universal DH.
In a shortened season every game matters that much more. That means injuries are extra costly. Even players landing on the 10-day IL could be devastating. That puts the Mets in a tough spot.
They have the depth on their bench to make up for any position player injuries for the most part. The only injuries that would scare the Mets would be to Amed Rosario and Wilson Ramos. Rosario has no injury history to speak of, but Ramos has been bitten by injuries throughout his career. He was healthy in 2019, and the Mets are hoping he can maintain that health in 2020.
The real issue is the Mets’ pitching depth. Noah Syndergaard had Tommy John surgery, so he’s already out for the year. That means that Michael Wacha will take his place as the team’s fifth starter. The team has little depth behind him.
David Peterson is the closest major league pitching prospect. He’s slated to start the year in Triple-A if there’s a minor league baseball season. The Mets also have Kevin Smith who was going to start in either Double- or Triple-A. Outside of those two, the team lacks any sort of real depth options.
Thomas Szapucki isn’t going to be ready to pitch in the majors in 2020. Franklyn Kilome still hasn’t fully recovered from TJ surgery, and he wasn’t stellar in Double-A before the injury.
The Mets have a serious lack of bullpen options in the minor. Ryley Gilliams could make a major league appearance in 2020, but that’s still up in the air. Stephen Nogosek struggled in 2019 when asked. Stephen Villines fell apart in Triple-A in 2019. It doesn’t seem likely that any of those prospects are realistic options for a shortened season.
Any serious injury to any pitcher on the Mets’ roster could be catastrophic to their season. The team was blessed with good health in 2019, they were the only team in the majors who got 30 starts out of five slots in the rotation, but that luck might not hold up in 2020.
If it doesn’t, the New York Mets’ lack of pitching depth could be what sinks them.