The Mets won 100 games in a season (101 to be exact) for the first time since 1988 — two seasons after their most recent visit to the promised land of a World Series championship victory in 1986. No such glory was in the cards for New York during this past October, though — they got swept by the Braves in Cobb County to basically lose the division (despite being up by 10.5 games on Atlanta at one point) and then they lost a three-game series at home to the San Diego Padres to get eliminated in the Wild Card Round.
Needless to say, the multi-billionaire baseball fan owning the New York Mets decided that this wasn’t enough, and he was going to give his team a blank check in order to fix it. Boy, did they use that blank check or what?
Expectations for 2023
If you spend nearly half a billion dollars in one offseason, you are going for the World Series and nothing else. They may have lost Jacob deGrom to the Rangers, but signing Justin Verlander sure helped dull the pain of that loss. They also held on to Edwin Diaz (a.k.a. “Jacob deGrom if he was a reliever”) — though that isn’t relevant for 2023 at this point — and brought back many of the guys who helped push this team to triple-digits in wins last season. It would be a massive disappointment for everybody involved with the Mets if this team came up short in October once again.
October aside, which is pretty hard to predict, the Mets project to be neck-and-neck with the Braves for the NL East crown once again. Various projection systems have them between 89 and 94 wins, and generally either tied with the Braves atop the division (at best) or about five games behind them (at worst). They look like a pretty sure thing as a playoff team... on paper.
Lineup: Brandon Nimmo (CF), Starling Marte (RF), Francisco Lindor (SS), Pete Alonso (1B), Jeff McNeil (2B), Daniel Vogelbach (DH), Mark Canha (LF), Eduardo Escobar (3B), Omar Narvaez (C)
Bench: Tomas Nido (C), Darin Ruf (1B/OF), Luis Guillorme (INF), Tommy Pham (OF)
Rotation: Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Kodai Senga, Carlos Carrasco, David Peterson
Bullpen: David Robertson, Adam Ottavino, Brooks Raley, Drew Smith, John Curtiss, Tommy Hunter, Stephen Nogosek, Dennis Santana
Yeah, let’s not complicate things here. They have Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander at the top of their rotation. While their age is clearly the biggest concern, these are also two pitchers who have managed to elude the cold grasp of Father Time without showing major signs of getting caught. Meanwhile, Kodai Senga is projected to slot right into the rotation without too much of an issue and any team would gladly take Carlos Carrasco. The Braves may have a better and deeper bullpen but the Mets have the edge in starting pitching and have one of the best rotations in the game. Even losing Jose Quintana for possibly half the season isn’t a huge blow, as options like David Peterson and Tylor Megill probably aren’t any worse than Quintana anyway.
What makes the Mets real dangerous, though, is that beyond their top-two rotation, they also have projected top-three production at shortstop and center field, to go with other, top-five production at first and second base.
Boy, it sure would’ve been nice if that spending spree also included signing some guy named Carlos Correa to play third base for them, right? Would be a real shame to miss out on the guy who would’ve “put us over the top,” because of some concerns over his physical, right? In all seriousness, this Mets team doesn’t have a serious weakness but if there’s a soft underbelly then it’s either at third base, left field, or designated hitter. Third base definitely could’ve been solved if they signed Carlos Correa but the Mets decided to listen to the same doctor that the Giants did and now Correa’s in Minnesota again. Whoops!
More recently, though, the Mets have developed a bullpen problem that probably eclipses their okay-but-not-great options at 3B/LF/DH. With Edwin Diaz down, this now looks like a bullpen that’s maybe four-deep in quality arms, without the video game numbers for the ninth inning they were relying on. It’s hard to project bullpens, but this relief corps went from “super formidable” to “kinda weak” based on Diaz’ season-long absence. The last guy in their bullpen now projects to be a guy the Braves lost on waivers in the middle of Spring Training.
Reinforcements from the Farm
You might remember Francisco Alvarez as the guy who was called up for that fateful October series in Atlanta and put into a very tough situation. While that may not have been the best debut for the 21-year-old Venezuelan catcher, the Mets are hoping that he’ll be their reliable backstop for the foreseeable future. Alvarez is the crown jewel of a farm system that Keith Law has ranked right in the middle of baseball at 15th place. Brett Baty is also a highly-regarded prospect (who actually hit his first MLB home run against the Braves last season), in addition to other consensus Top-100 prospects like Alex Ramirez and former Georgia Tech player Kevin Parada. Ronny Mauricio seems like the top of prospect that could make a 2023 impact in general, but it’s not clear if the Mets will have room for him, pending the eventual injury cavalcade that seems to parade through Queens on a regular basis.
Mark Vientos will probably show up again in 2023 and try to show that he can do more than just obliterate minor league pitching. Eric Orze and his splitter seem ripe for a pretty quick promotion to try and stabilize the bullpen if needed, especially since the Mets appear to have ample (for now) rotation depth.
Braves history/outlook against the Mets
The Braves and the Mets usually fight each other tooth-and-nail in any given season no matter what the circumstances are, and that was especially the case last year when both teams underwent a colossal struggle for the NL East crown. It’s looking like there’s going to be another season-long battle for the divisional title this season, as Atlanta and New York figure to be the top two teams in the East once again. Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing these two teams lock horns again, and I’m honestly pretty excited to see this rivalry in particular get fired up once again. I’ll leave you with what has long endured as my single-favorite moment in the shared history of these two teams. Thanks for the memories, Kenny Rogers.
The Braves haven’t lost a season series to the Mets since their run of division titles began, though it’s been decided by a single game in the Braves’ favor (10-9) in each of the last two seasons.
The rivalry will rekindle at the end of April, when the Braves head to Queens for a four-game wraparound weekend set, April 28-May 1. After that, the Mets will visit Atlanta for a three-game weekday series June 6-8. These two teams won’t face each other in September, which is kind of a bummer. Instead, they’ll play two series in August: a weekend set August 11-13 in New York, and then a weekday set August 21-23 in Atlanta.