Last night, the Mets showed signs that maybe, just maybe, the road back to contention isn’t going to be that long. Big hits by prized youngsters Michael Conforto, Amed Rosario and Dom Smith, a great defensive play by Juan Lagares, four grind-’em-out ABs by Brandon Nimmo and pair of Mets rookies actually y’know pitching–as opposed to just throwing hard. Their surprise bullpen acquisition notched another save . Meanwhile in Brooklyn, their erstwhile closer gave another indication that he is all healed up. All in all, a nice tidy 4-2 over the Arizona Diamondbacks, a team desperately in need of wins. More on them shortly.
Yes, I know what the team’s collective record and individual WARs are. But let’s dream for a moment: this new shortstop is pretty good. He took a couple of hard shots off his glove but stayed focused and made the easy plays. He also brings an energy to the team. It’s a lot to put on such a young man, I know, but he can be a real difference-maker. I was wrong about Conforto. He is making adjustments and has settled in. If nothing else, he will be Sandy Alderson’s lasting legacy to this team. With Yoenis Cespedes in left and Conforto in right, the Mets have a 60-70 homerun threat in their outfield. This, in my opinion, should allow them to carry Lagares in center. A team built around pitching needs a strong up-the-middle defense. Lagares and Rosario supply 1/2 of that need. Two things about Lagares: they will need to compensate for his bat elsewhere and he should be fined and benched the next time he dives for a ball. With Nimmo around, the Mets have their 4th outfielder. Nimmo is a real throwback type of player, he reminds me (in a good way) of Hunter Pence.
I hate to root against the guy, but I kinda hope David Wright’s latest comeback convinces him that it is time to hang ’em up. The Mets will not be able to carry a David Wright at 75% capacity. There is a perfect addition available this winter that currently toils in Kansas City. He’s under 30, has plenty of postseason experience and is definitely going to test the market. Some of the teams that may be normally eyeing him might be keeping their powder dry (and their wallets full) to take a run at Manny Machado the winter after next. The Mets may have an opportunity to add the perfect compliment to the Conforto-Cespedes tandem. It also allows them to pick the best glove from their glut of middle infielders for second base.
Wow, a solid up the middle defense and power at the corners, are these the Mets we’d be talking about?
As far as the rotation and the bullpen go, by his absence alone Bartolo Colon has proven his value. The Mets need to get an innings-eating veteran to slide into the third slot of the rotation. They should have enough pieces to acquire one. How about a trade for Jeff Samardzija or Jordan Zimmerman? I’d hold my breath and pencil in Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom at the top of the rotation, and put this new pitcher in the three-spot. I believe that injuries and inconsistent play have damaged the trade value of Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, Rafael Montero, Robert Gsellman, and Seth Lugo, so while one or more may go elsewhere for this older pitcher, the rest, along with Flexen, get to complete for the final two spots in Spring Training. It would be messy, but very entertaining. A few of these guys could end up in the bullpen.
It was a long climb back from the collapses of 2007 and 2008. Most of us waited, somewhat impatiently for the resurgence, which came suddenly and just as suddenly has seemed to disappear. There should be no more waiting, no more talk of rebuilding. Look at the Diamondbacks, who in one year have risen from a disarrayed, dysfunctional organization into a team that if the season ended today, would be in the postseason tournament. Last night showed that the Mets do have some pieces in place to make a similar move. While 45+ years of living and (mostly) dying with this team have made me cynical, I still have moments like last night, where the past may not be prolog and the Mets can be winners again. Here’s to hope.